Review: [REC] 4 Apocalypse

Director: Jaume Balagueró (Darkness, [REC], [REC] 2)
Writers: Jaume Balagueró, Manu Díez
Producer: Julio Fernández
Starring: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Héctor Colomé, Ismael Fritschi, Críspulo Cabezas
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 95 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found at Film Pulse

 


[REC] 4: Apocalypse is supposedly the final entry in the popular Spanish zombie series originally created by writer-director team Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. For the final two films in this quadrilogy, the duo decided to direct one each, on his own, with Plaza tackling [REC] 3: Genesis, and Balagueró finishing off the series. Considering the original film was released in 2007 and contained two horror mechanics that have well worn out their welcome – zombies and found footage, some might wonder if the fourth and final chapter could live up to the rest. For the most part, yes it can.

[REC] 4 begins in the infamous apartment building from the first two films, with a team of soldiers planting bombs throughout the zombie-infested corridors in order to contain the outbreak. Before leaving, the men stumble upon Ángela (Manuela Velasco), the heroine from the first film, who is mysteriously not a flesh-hungry monster. She is then transported to a research ship in the middle of the ocean where she, along with several other survivors from both the apartment and the wedding outbreak from [REC] 3, are to be looked after while a vaccine is developed. Of course, things go horribly wrong after the virus begins to spread across the ship turning everyone into ravenous killers.

The first thing one notices about [REC] 4 is that Balagueró has smartly ditched the found-footage mechanic. Plaza did the same in [REC] 3, however he opted to make his something of a hybrid, which didn’t really work in the end. Other than the occasional security camera shot, this is a traditionally shot film, and it’s the best and most-polished-looking entry in the series.

Compared to the first two films, [REC] 4 carries a much different tone and atmosphere, relying more on the location to deliver the scares. The first two films were like a frantic amusement-park ride, moving at 100 MPH and never letting you catch your breath. This one is more like Alien with survivors trapped in a claustrophobic labyrinth of air ducts and steam pipes where something could pop out from anywhere at anytime.

By this point, the overall story of the series has become slightly convoluted and is one that I’m not sure even the directors can decide on. The religious aspect that was explored in the third installment is seemingly tossed aside, and a new culprit is revealed as the cause of the infection. Although it felt like Balagueró was throwing the events of the third film completely out the window, with a series like this, the action and the scares take precedent over the plot anyway.

While not as fast and crazy as the first two, the action and horror elements in [REC] 4 are top notch. Throwing infected monkeys into the mix a nice touch, and all the make-up and gore effects looked exceptional. While the majority of the film is played straight, with little comedic levity, there are some creative, over-the-top kills that lighten the mood a bit.

I still don’t think Balagueró recaptured the magic of the first two films – [REC] and [REC] 2 – but this is a satisfying sendoff to one of the best zombie series around. The filmmakers ostensibly pulled out all the stops for budget and effects, and it was great to see Manuela Velasco back for the finale. Even for those of you feeling the zombie movie malaise, [REC] 4 Apocalypse is worth checking out.

  

Review: Selma

SelmaStill1

Director: Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere, The Door)
Writer: Paul Webb
Producers: Cassandra Kulukundis, Todd J. Labarowski, Emanuel Michael
Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Wendell Pierce, Lorraine Toussaint, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 127 min.


Sometimes there’s a sense that a movie is succeeding because of its timeliness and little more. It’s why there are instances of multiple biopics vying to be first out the door after a subject’s death but sometimes, it’s a little more abstract than that. That certainly appears to be the case with Ava DuVernay’s Selma which was in production long before the events of Ferguson ever happened but in the wake of that national disaster, Selma is likely to become a rallying cry for change and it’s a damned fine one at that.

Written by newcomer Paul Webb, Selma picks up in early 1965. LBJ is in office and he has a pretty good relationship with Martin Luther King Jr.. In one particular meeting, King pushes for change, namely in the ability of African Americans to vote. Johnson argues there are more important issues to deal with; he has a different agenda. King pushes ahead with the argument and along with the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the group take action and their next fight to Selma, Alabama. A ripe territory for a showdown.

Du Vernay’s film isn’t simply a retelling of the events leading up to what happened in Selma. It’s also a portrait of a man who has been fighting for a long time. A man who is tired; a man who feels defeated; a man who leads but does not go on alone. Webb’s portrait of King gives the good with the bad. The film shows King to have been a great preacher, a man who could mobilise masses, but it also doesn’t shy away from King’s troubles; his infidelities, his indecision, his feeling of defeat and fighting an unwinnable fight. Mostly it creates the picture of a man who led a movement but who was only human. A man who relied on the supported by the people around him to succeed.

Would you like to know more…?

BAFTA Nominations (2015)

Wes Anderson is the man in Britannia today, leading the BAFTA nominations with eleven nods for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Birdman and The Theory of Everything each gather ten nominations.

Nice to see Nightcrawler getting some love but a bit strange Selma is nowhere to be found and Timothy Spall not given a hat tip for the titular role in Mr. Turner.

Any other glaring notables you can see?

Best Film
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game
The Theory Of Everything

Best Director
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
James Marsh – The Theory Of Everything
Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

Best Actor In A Leading Role
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory Of Everything

Best Actress In A Leading Role
Amy Adams – Big Eyes
Felicity Jones – The Theory Of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Best Actor In A Supporting Role
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Actress In A Supporting Role
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Rene Russo – Nightcrawler
Imelda Staunton – Pride
Emma Stone – Birdman
Would you like to know more…?

DVD Review: Vengeance Road (aka American Muscle)

Director: Ravi Dhar
Screenplay: John Fallon
Producers: Jeffrey Giles, Michael Lurie
Starring: Nick Principe, Robin Sydney, Todd Farmer
BBFC Certificate: 18
Running time: 74 min.

 


Vengeance Road (altered from its more confusing U.S title American Muscle) lost a lot of its luster the moment our anti-hero John Falcone bangs his first broad. We’re told (on the film’s marketing) that Falcone has spent ten years in jail has now has 24 hours to claim his revenge on those who wrong him. The thing is, the film never really bothers with the semantics so if it hadn’t been for me double checking the synopsis on the IMDb, I wouldn’t have had a clue that Mr. Falcone had a set time frame. The film seemingly cares little about details.

As Vengeance Road unfolds, we are handed a unsurprising revenge movie chock full of phoney cgi blood and bullet holes and grisly meat shouldered men who all look like Stone Cold and/or Bill Goldberg. These men are covered in a golden shower of mediocre fucking and fighting that do little to tease anything out of those darker recesses that lay dormant in many a viewer’s mind. To the films credit, it only clocks in a hasty 74 minutes, however, this time could be shorter if you’re unable to deal with the screenplays flat dialogue or how these should be wrestlers spew it into the air.

There’s very little else I can say about Vengeance Road. Those who are deathly into the neo-grindhouse may find more in this than myself. However I found little in this film to recommend. I found Vengeance Road, much like the film itself found it’s scantily clad females. Disposable.

  

DVD Review: The Rover

Director: David Michôd (Animal Kingdom)
Writers: David Michôd, Joel Edgerton
Producers: David Linde, David Michôd, Liz Watts
Starring: Guy Pearce, Chan Kien, Robert Pattinson, Tek Kong Lim, Scoot McNairy
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 103 min.

 

FILM:

EXTRAS:


The Rover is a brutally grim apocalyptic thriller set 10 years after a “collapse” which ravaged Australia, possibly the world. As we enter this world, we see Australia as a sparse and deadened wasteland ravaged by the titular “event”. The collapse could possibly refer to an event that has occurred within Eric (Pearce); the protagonist of the feature. If the exterior event displays the degradation of the materials we currently take for granted, then the insular collapse inside Eric is a crumbling of character and spirit. Despite this, there is a defiance within which we don’t fully understand until the film’s final moments. The final act by Eric will frustrate, upset and maybe even hearten. However for a film goer like myself, writing this a day after viewing, it may also be difficult to forget.

The Rover is a lean cut of a film. There’s little in terms of plot to really grasp on to, and that works to its favour. Pearce’s Eric is drowning his demons in a bar before three thieves make off with his car. By chance, he captures the lead thief’s brother (Robert Patterson) and the two of them work towards finding the trio and the missing vehicle.

David Michôd’s second feature is much more of a mood piece than a solid set adventure. The film is far more interested in the brittleness of those who have lost everything, than a clear destination. An underlying tension pulses through much of the scenes. We find Pearce’s Eric already nearing the brink of being mentally shattered. The theft of his vehicle only pushes him further down the decline. The word hardened doesn’t give the man justice. Pearce again shows the type of intense performance that, we sometimes forget that he’s very good at (the last thing I saw him in was the forgettable Iron Man 3 )
Would you like to know more…?

Friday One Sheet: Maps to The Stars

Forget it Jake, it’s Tinsel town. David Cronenberg’s latest, a dark Hollywood satire called Maps To The Stars, gets a noir influenced poster; all smoke visages full of scheming and pensive anger. Somehow this film has eluded me in its Canadian release both at TIFF in 2014 and in commercial release a few months ago. The film is gearing up for its US release, so expect to hear more about the film in the coming weeks. For now enjoy this classic styled one-sheet specific to the upcoming American roll-out. If there is ever a Faye Dunaway biopic to be made, Julianne Moore makes a startling case for it here.

Blindspotting: East Of Eden and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

BlindspotEastOfEden3

 

There are some who believe that Good and Evil are two very distinct objectively defined entities and that things and ideas are black or white, true or false, moral or immoral. Some would say that thought could be extended to define people in these terms and to categorize them in one of two camps: “Pure as the driven snow” and “Face of an angel” OR “Pure evil” and “Rotten to the core” (phrases we all use to describe people with no middle ground). Of course, these are a fool’s definition and try to provide easy answers to explaining behaviours that please or enrage us. The “truth” is that it all depends on your perspective and viewpoint. The landscape is made up of thousands of shades of grey and they are all relative. And speaking of relatives…

BlindspotEastOfEden6
BlindspotWhosAfraidOfVirginiaWoolf2
BlindspotWhosAfraidOfVirginiaWoolf4

The sibling rivalry within East Of Eden and the spousal feuding of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf traverse many degrees of that light to dark spectrum between good and evil. Hurting the one you love is always a complicated and confusing thing to do and that’s certainly the case in both films. You could be forgiven, however, if you didn’t see a lot of shading in that good/evil spectrum during the onslaught that is Virginia Woolf. From the first words spoken, it feels like a two hour blitz of spiteful bile and vituperative arguments. Most of the insult flinging occurs between the middle aged George and Martha, but they aren’t shy in sharing it and spreading it around. George (Richard Burton) is a History professor who lives within the campus grounds with his wife Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and after an evening at a school social (with a few drinks) they set about their favourite sport – a little verbal sparring with each other. It seems to begin harmlessly – a barb here, a curt word there – but as it escalates, one can tell this is much more than just tiredness and booze stirred together into a cranky cocktail. It seems to be their lifeforce. The only way they can get through the day at this stage of their lives together is by tearing each other down. Even the moments of true passion which still exist between them can’t stem their craving for a verbal attack fix. “I disgust me” says Martha, sounding every bit like a drug addict. And when the young couple Nick and Honey arrive for some nightcaps (Nick is a new professor that Martha flirted with at the social event), the mixture of booze and disgust becomes downright toxic for all.

Would you like to know more…?

My Movie Moments of 2014

MovieMoments2014-LEGOMovie

 

A cobbled together list of some of my favourite moments from 2014’s films as well as older ones I saw for the first time this past year…

 

2014 films:

MovieMoments2014-Noah
  • - The story of creation in Noah – beautifully composed as it also worked in evolution and epic timescales into the mythology of the story.
  • - “SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!! SPACESHIP!!” – The LEGO Movie.
  • - The Grand Budapest Hotel – every perfectly centred frame.
  • - Those final credits of 22 Jump Street – they’re funny cuz their true…
  • - Being in the same theatre with Caroll Spinney (the puppeteer of Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch) and James Randi within the same week during Hot Docs.
MovieMoments2014-Nightcrawler
  • - The breathless car chase in Nightcrawler.
  • - The bracing last 10 minutes of Whiplash.
  • - The wonderful sing-a-long in A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (more fully described here).
  • - And then followed later in the film by the gut punch…
  • - The docking scene and entry into the black hole sequence from Interstellar.

Would you like to know more…?