Shin Godzilla (2016)

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This is why it’s imperative to never expose your rubber duckie to radiation.

The mere fact that a movie about a massive monster wreaking mayhem upon a major metropolis begins with roughly half an hour of solemn and serious politicians blathering slightly too quickly in a series of utterly forgettable conference rooms should seem like a bleak sign. Even considering how many movies in the Godzilla series focus heavily on a human story almost to the exclusion of kaiju action, none have been quite so fascinated with the minutiae of governmental process. But this political thriller is less C-SPAN than Armando Iannucci, blending the anti-nuclear message of the 1954 Godzilla with a dry satire of the current state of Japanese politics, particularly their response to crisis. The main character is not a stalwart soldier or brilliant scientist, but a bureaucrat responsible for coordinating the reaction to a natural disaster, albeit one involving a gigantic and rubbery sea creature that spews fire and radiation. Caught between the indecision of his superiors and the call for a scorched earth response by the US-led UN, young prime ministerial aide Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) must find a way to defeat this monster with the help of a team of scientific rejects and crackpots. Continue reading “Shin Godzilla (2016)”

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Atomic Blonde (2017)

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Lorraine could only vaguely remember last night’s David Hasselhoff concert…

Atomic Blonde is another in a line of films that includes Edge of Tomorrow and Kingsman: The Secret Service, insofar as it seems to be an original, non-franchise genre movie in a sea of sequels and remakes. Like those movies, a slight adjustment of the viewer’s abysmal ignorance reveals that it is another relatively obscure comic book adaptation, based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s graphic novel The Coldest City. Set in snowy Berlin in the days before the Wall came down, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is tasked with retrieving a vital, watch-shaped MacGuffin that could reignite the dying embers of the Cold War. Given that the city is a powder-keg brimming with political unrest and sporting representatives from at least five different spy agencies, including fellow Brit David Percival (James McAvoy), French naïf Delphine LaSalle (Sofia Boutella) and CIA interloper Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman), horrific, deplorable violence and backstabbing a-plenty abound. As loyalties twist and switch, and Broughton must discover exactly who she can trust. Continue reading “Atomic Blonde (2017)”

Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)

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Pictured: One of the worst conceivable ways of breaking the ice.

If horror movies are to be believed, nowhere is truly safe. Cities are lousy with sadistically creative serial killers and sewer monsters. Suburbia is riddled with masked murderers and ironically sinister denizens lurking around the white picket fences. But perhaps worst is the great outdoors; if the vicious cryptofauna doesn’t get you, the psychotic satanic cults and clans of cannibalistic country folk will. This is, naturally, slanderous propaganda. Despite the curious voting habits of rural types, they are just people like anyone else, roughly as likely to kill and eat you as any espresso-swilling metropolitan. Tucker and Dale vs Evil seeks to redress this continued misrepresentation, perpetrated by out-of touch coastal elites, by showing the terrible consequences of this potentially fatal consequences of this baseless prejudice.  Continue reading “Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)”

Colossal (2016)

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Where’s the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom!

Some genre mash-ups seem effortless. Space is an environment perfectly unsuitable to human life and probably full of things that want to eat, brainwash or melt us, hence the ease of sci-fi/horror. A world steeped in testosterone, where every problem can be solved by the conscientious application of automatic weapons is inherently ridiculous, making action/comedy a no-brainer. A dramedy about a person dealing with addiction and failure is, surprisingly, not an apparently natural complement to an effects-heavy, destruction laden kaiju flick. Colossal is one of the most original films to come along in a while, at least partially because it has some of the trappings of a science fiction movie without really being sci-fi. The giant monster stuff is symbolic and mostly background to the real drama, though still contains roughly as much kaiju action as 2014’s Godzilla. Continue reading “Colossal (2016)”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

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The greatest friendships are built on a foundation of laughing at others’ misfortune.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been likened more to a mega-budget serialised TV show than a bona fide film series. Each installment juggles the task of telling a story of its own, while both relying upon and providing story elements from the movies before and after. This has the advantage of being able to tell longer stories with characters already familiar to dedicated audiences, in a fairly consistent world sprinkled with references and in-jokes. However, there is a significant weakness in this narrative lattice insofar as it can make the films inaccessible to casual viewers. This is an issue largely avoided by the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, easily the most remote films in the MCU. Because of their extraterrestrial setting, the original and the newly-minted Vol. 2 have the space to tell their own outlandish tales, and feel complete and self-contained. Under the direction of a filmmaker like James Gunn, they have a distinctive and irreverent style, and stand-out as satisfyingly original with a cinematic universe that can sometimes feel increasingly homogenous. Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)”

Dundead 2017 Day Four

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Given the dramatically divergent reactions elicited by The Shining, that film will be discussed at a later date in two posts, a case for the defence, and a likely scathing case for the prosecution. 

It’s strange to imagine that arguably the very best movies based on Stephen King’s work do not strictly fit into the horror genre at all, especially given his reputation as an author. The Shawshank Redemption is still the highest user-rated film on IMDb’s Top 100, and while it certainly isn’t the best film ever made, it’s not an immediately absurd choice for the accolade. (Incidentally, The Green Mile is ranked at no. 36, far above the first King-horror The Shining at no. 60, which debatably has more to do with Stanley Kubrick than King himself.) A little further down the list at a respectable no. 192 is Stand By Me, based on King’s 1982 novella The Body. Set in 1959, four friends make a pilgrimage to see a real dead body, and discover some important things about themselves and each other. While not at all a horror movie – being a major outlier at Dundead by featuring only one corpse – there are heavy and frightening aspects to the story beyond its mouldering cadaver. There fears here are of a more mundane sort, whether they are personal, existential or physical.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Four”

Dundead 2017 Day Three

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Written with the insightful input of fellow Dundead 2017 survivor, Claire Grey.

If Salem’s Lot suffered from a glaring lack of Stephen King’s influence, Firestarter contains a veritable smorgasbord. King is fond of writing supernaturally-gifted children, particularly when they wreak terrible vengeance upon those foolish enough to anger someone with magical powers. 9-year-old Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) follows in the fine tradition of Carrie White as a girl who can cause incredible destruction with a mere thought, though she is considerably more innocent and less bitter in spite of her tragic past. After the murder of her mother, she and her father Andy (David Keith) are pursued and eventually captured by a shady government organisation controlled by Martin Sheen’s Captain Hollister, who hopes to turn the little girl into a living weapon. Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Three”

Dundead 2017 Day Two

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Written with the insightful input of fellow Dundead 2017 survivor, Claire Grey.

Egomaniac, of all of the new films screening at Dundead 2017, was the one that I was anticipating most eagerly. Horror and comedy make very comfortable bedfellows, perhaps because both rely upon some kind of transgression to elicit an emotional response from their audience, whether terrified screams or gales of laughter. Both genres catch us in a visceral way and, in the case of horror, sometimes sufficient brutality can be so absurd as to be paradoxically hilarious. A quote, from Mel Brooks’ The 2,000 Year Old Man, illustrates this perfectly: “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” Egomaniac takes a recognisable situation for many creative types and ratchets it up to a ridiculous extreme. When horror filmmaker Catherine (Nic Lamont) attempts to get her pet project, a romantic comedy set during a zombie apocalypse, off the ground, the incredible condescension and asinine meddling she encounters drive her to full-blown psychosis. She murders every one of her collaborators and films her sanguine breakdown as her latest masterpiece.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Two”

Dundead 2017 Day One

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After a creditable slightly-above-average placing in the annual Dundead Film Quiz (team name: The Dank Tower), the festival began in earnest with Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy, a tale of family strife, satanic possession, and sick guitar riffs. Strange things begin to happen when the Hellmans, dad Jesse (Ethan Embry), mum Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), move into their new dream home. Jesse, an artist, is beset by an irresistible urge to paint grotesque images, and his obsession starts to take a dire effect on the family. When the house’s previous occupant Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a strangely innocent man tortured by sinister, whispering voices, begins to take a special interest in Zooey, the rifts in the family threaten to become truly lethal.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day One”

Best of Dundead 2016 – Southbound (2015)

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The anthology horror has made something of a resurgence in recent years with films like V/H/STales of Halloween and The ABCs of Death. In any such collection there will be stronger and weaker segments, some good enough to justify a film’s whole existence, some sufficiently terrible to sink the entire movie. Southbound achieves an impressive balance of quality, perhaps never achieving excellence but never tripping itself up. Watching the film is rather like enjoying a marathon of decent-to-great episodes of The Twilight Zone, albeit all set in the same haunted and arid wasteland. At Dundead 2016, much fanfair was made about Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, which ultimately turned out to be an okay movie rather bafflingly lauded as fantastic. In my own case, Southbound was superior, gripping and imaginative and unsettling. Continue reading “Best of Dundead 2016 – Southbound (2015)”