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Quite good (and also quite bad)
Many a time the problem with a movie (and 'horror' movies in particular) is that you don't care about the characters. As 'Cabin in the Woods' pointed out, the 'stars' of such films are little more than: 'Generic Blonde A,' the 'Jock, the Slut' and 'the Best Friend.' So, for a start, they're not particularly entertaining and, secondly, you don't really care about them when they meet their grisly end.
However, in 'The Attic,' the characters are actually quite well-written. The main cast are all a family, who have just moved into a nice suburban house in America. And, they're actually quite likable. They're likable, largely because they behave like a real family, i.e. they bicker and get at each other, plus no one has been written as a deliberate 'comic element.' So, in a cheap B-movie, I found myself actually wanting to watch more and really enjoying the film. Unfortunately, although the writers can definitely do 'characters' and dialogue, they're not too good at story or plausibility.
The family move into their new home, only to discover that the previous occupant is still living in the attic (and he doesn't take too kindly to newcomers in 'his' house). And that's where the story falls down. You may guess that a certain amount of murders follow and no one seems to notice. People just disappear from the property and no one really bothers to look into it. Plus the badguy himself is pretty lame and not particularly threatening.
The death-scenes are at least inventive on the low budget and some of the kills are clever (if possibly a little unrealistic). And special mention to the youngest member of the family. He's not in it that much, so he doesn't have a lot to do, but his 'one-liners' are quite amusing.
All in all, I really enjoyed the dialogue and family interaction. It was just the plot and lack of realism that spoiled it. I'd quite like to see the same family in a different (horror) situation, as they were definitely the film's high point.
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Good silly fun
After the success of 'Despicable Me' (1) a sequel was only a matter of time. If you didn't see the first, it was about - what most people would describe as - you 'pretty clichéd Bond villain,' (aka 'Gru') complete with lair and army of incompetent minions. Only his plans for world domination and chaos are thwarted when he adopts three orphan girls. If you can believe that, you probably enjoyed what followed.
Now, we find him making jelly instead of nerve gas and taking his girls to the park. However, because he's turned good, he's recruited by the good-guys to take on a 'real' supervillain. And, naturally, this time round he meets a 'love interest' along the way.
The bottom line is that the kids will love this. It kept my nine year old daughter entertained for hours. It's silly, colourful, loud, easy to follow and packed full of delightful animation and visual gags. Plus it contains a healthy dose of spoofing of Bond-type films which will be picked up by the adults.
If you have kids, they'll love it and you shouldn't mind watching it with them (a few time, too!). I have to say that, although I enjoyed it, I didn't think it was up to the (high) standards of the Toy Story and Shrek franchises. Even thought I love Steve Carell, if I had my way, I wouldn't watch this more than once. However, that's not an option as my daughter is currently wearing out the DVD in the player.
Need for Speed (2014)
What Jessie Pinkman did next...
The last time most people saw Aaron Paul was when he was victoriously driving out of a compound filled with dead white supremacists. Of course if you haven't seen the smash TV series 'Breaking Bad' that will probably mean nothing to you (but I do recommend you watch it!). However, if, like many, you enjoyed the series where Aaron Paul was an integral part, you may realise that him starring in 'Need For Speed' isn't that greater step in his acting career.
He basically plays the same sort of character with a few minor differences. This time he races fast cars, but was deliberately framed for the death of a teammate during a race and sent to jail for five seconds (okay, two years, but his sentence was severely glossed over in film-making terms!). Now he's out and racing across America for big money stakes (and trying to clear his name while he's at it).
A lot of people are liking Need for Speed with the 'Fast and the Furious' franchise. It has similarities mainly the car racing and high speed stunts in case you hadn't already worked that out! But I think there's room for both, as Need For Speed seems to manage to squeeze enough originality into the genre.
I hear it's even based on a computer game. I haven't played the game, but I'm guessing this movie adaptation is a damn sight better than Streetfighter or Super Mario Bros! If you're a fan of the Fast and the Furious-type movies and/or Aaron Paul in general, you should enjoy this. Imogen Poots is the obligatory love interest and she gets better as the film goes on. At first she seems a bit like a fish out of water (or a posh British girl trying to pass herself off as an American streets racer), but, once she drops the ridiculous sunglasses, she settles into her role a little more.
Don't dwell on some of the slight plot holes (like how Aaron Paul's best friend seems to be able to conjure up a new aircraft to get him out of danger every time), just enjoy the high-octane jousts on the road with a bag of popcorn.
Collateral Damage (2002)
Something different from Schwarzenegger? No, but never mind
This film would like to make us believe that that this is a radically different venture for big Arnie. It's not. It's pretty much the same kick-ass, kill-the-bad-guys stuff we've seen from him throughout the years, but, does that mean it's a bad film?
The critics would say yes. This film was possibly most famous for getting pushed back a year, after comparisons were drawn with the Twin Towers atrocity on 9/11. However, if you can get past that (and there aren't as many similarities as some people may lead us to believe) and just enjoy the ride, you may be in for a surprise.
It's a well put together action flick and, if you're a fan of the genre, it should keep you happy for an hour and forty minutes. Give it a chance and enjoy what Arnie does best.
Could have done with being twenty minutes shorter
Mischa Barton plays a young woman whose parents both die. Aggrieved, she renounces God's existence and challenges him to prove there's something more to life than what we know and see. I guess he does. He seems to send legions of things that bump around her flat to haunt her. Then he gets these goolies to kidnap her new - unbelievable perfect - boyfriend. The moral: never mess with God.
So, poor newly-atheist Mischa must look for her stolen bloke in a haunted apartment block where she reckons he's been imprisoned. Now, most horror films like this are about ninety minutes. This one runs at nearly two hours. And here lies the first problem. Namely, that much of the film is either pretty establishing shots/montages, or Mischa walking slowly around one empty hallway or another - sometimes something jumps out at her, sometimes not.
This film is slow. And how you perceive it will depend on how much you like it. It's the very definition of a 'slow burner.' If you're desperate for something to happen, it may well drive you mad and you'll find that absolutely nothing happens for long periods of the film. However, if you like your horror slow, creepy and tension-building, then you'll probably enjoy this.
Just don't go expecting a roller-coaster of a ride style horror film. Unfortunately, although I like to think I can appreciate a slow-burner or two, I found there was nothing new enough here to warrant watching it again. It falls into that 'seen in all before' category.
La horde (2009)
Meanwhile... in France
If you've seen the British zombie film '28 Weeks Later' you'll probably know what I mean by the title. Basically, 'The Horde' is Frances answer to Britain's 28 Days Later franchise. It's almost as if it's set in the same world (and possibly the same world where Germany's 'Siege of the Dead' and America's 2004 remake of 'Dawn of the Dead' is set).
If you've seen any of the above films, you'll probably know what to expect - running zombies (no 'Romero shufflers' here!) and shaky camera-work, depicting a dark, violent and gritty take on zombie lore. Here we meet a quartet of Parisian police officers who are taking the law into their own hands by storming a run-down tower block in order to execute some drug dealers who murdered a colleague of theirs. Sadly, all does not go according to plan, as the night they pick to exact their retribution, the undead start their rise from the grave. We never find out the cause of the outbreak, only witness the effects, as the cops and 'robbers' have to band together to survive.
It's a pretty claustrophobic atmosphere we have here. 99% of the entire film is set within the dilapidated tower block. It's violent, it's nasty and it's effectively 28 Weeks Later - the Aftermath.
If you haven't had your fill of zombie movies (and can put up with the French subtitles - also, I've watched it dubbed and that's not so bad either) then give this one a go - it's pretty good.
AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Ahh, it could have been so good
The 'Aliens versus Predator' storyline has been with us ever since the 'Predator 2' when Danny Glover huffed and puffed his way across what looked like an alien's skull in the Predator's trophy cabinet. This brief image sparked a storm among fans, whose dreams and wishes were subsequently realised by volumes of comics and graphic novels regarding the subject matter. And they were actually pretty good! Having read a fair few of them, it seemed no end to the possibilities of pitting two of the big screen's most famous monsters against each other. With so many ideas as to what could be done, how could they possibly lose?
The answer: they gave it to Paul W S Anderson. Now, Paul W S Anderson is a very competent director who can stylishly bring action scenes to life. However, his films' major flaws all are that they're 'almost great.' They're not bad. They're watchable. And that is their major crime. They leave you thinking that if you were given $60 million to make a film (in this case one starring the aliens and the Predator) then you could do better than him. And there's a reason for this - you could. And so could I.
Aliens vs Predator sports the tagline 'Whoever wins - we lose.' Isn't that the truth? The film gets its rating taken down from an 18 to a watery 12A, removing all gore and much of the suspense with it. Instead of brutal tough Predators we have a trio of young, inexperienced ones who are - quite frankly - a bit rubbish at killing aliens. Instead of the gun-totting Colonial Marines from Aliens, we have a team of bland, disposable scientists who are there simply to increase the body count. At least the aliens perform on camera, but the battles you may expect between the two races are few and far between. Also, if you saw the trailer and witnessed a million aliens tearing towards some Predators on top of an weird and wonderful pyramid, that's only a flashback. That's about the best bit of the film.
It sort of tries to tie into both the 'Aliens' and 'Predator' mythology, but fans really don't want it to. Like I say, it's not bad. I know I'm making it sound terrible, but it really isn't. It has action, special effects and, um, that's about it. It's perfect for your average sci-fi monster-munching movie. However, when you have either an Aliens film or a Predator film, people expect a little more than something that's 'just okay.'
At least it was more understandable than Prometheus I suppose.
Under the Skin (2013)
Species it is not
It's fair to say that I didn't enjoy 'Under the Skin.' Perhaps it's my fault. I didn't know that much about the movie before I saw it. I basically knew the premise, i.e. attractive female alien stalks the streets of Scotland looking for male victims.
Great, I thought a modern day Species, but with Scarlett Johansson. How could it fail? I does. I guess.
I wasn't expecting wall-to-wall action and car chases. I was kind of hoping for a more gritty, realistic take on the old female-killer alien scenario. However, what I got was an art-house flick with moments of weird horror.
I like to think I can appreciate 'the weird.' I don't just watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen! I like movies that try to take the story in a different direction, or use subtleties like metaphors and symbolism. Unfortunately, although Under the Skin has both of them, it uses them to the extreme and completely forgets to put a story in there. You just get Scarlett Johansson, driving round Scotland, picking up blokes and then killing them in a slightly surreal, sci-fi way. You don't know why and you don't really ever find out. It just happens. And, to make matters worse, it happens slowly.
Ever shot, although brilliantly framed and beautiful to look at (making good use of Scotland's panoramic views and scenery) goes on way too long. You get thirty second shots of someone walking up a hill. This wouldn't be so bad if it only happens the once, but it's pretty much an example of how the film pans out. It just gets boring after a while. Seriously, if you're watching this on DVD, I recommend having the remote control in one hand to fast forward it. There's no dialogue through most of it, so it's not like you're going to miss anything. It'll just speed up people walking about the place.
Yes (and this is probably more applicable to the lads), Miss Johansson DOES get naked in the film. I'm guessing that no matter how little story there is, that fact will always help get people (mainly men) to watch it.
All in all, you're left with a well-shot, high concept film that could have been really good. It didn't have to be Species to be good. It had enough of an idea what it wanted to do to be good in its own right. However, the cranked up the weird levels and never bothered putting a story (or much explanation) in there. I've since looked up what the film was about on the internet. I was kind of right, but I didn't know it was based on a book and, as always, by all accounts the book is much better and explains things much clearer.
Special mention to a truly disturbing scene that comes about half way through involving a child. Certainly horrific and completely without the help of any alien presence.
The Sacrament (2013)
A 'found footage' film that is just about... watchable
I hate 'found footage' films. There's simply too many of them these days and they're all basically the same. Just because 'The Blair Witch Project' revitalised the genre, it seems that every wannabe film-maker is trying his hand at one. Let's face it... they're cheap and easy to produce, not really relying on fancy special effects for scare tactics.
Personally, I think all 'found footage' horror films should come with a warning on them, letting us the viewing public know that we're in for ninety minutes of shaky camera footage with actors whispering directly into the camera from right up close during alleged times of tension. In fact, if 'The Sacrament' did have a label on it saying that it was 'found footage' I wouldn't have watched it in the first place.
However, I did. I mainly watched it because it had Eli Roth's name attached to it and I still think he has some good stories left in him (even though I haven't really enjoyed much he's done since Cabin Fever). And, amazingly it's watchable. That would be how I describe it watchable. Not good, just watchable. And, based on how much I hate 'found footage' films, 'watchable' is a reasonable compliment.
We get the same old documentary film-makers travelling to some cult's commune in the middle of nowhere to track down one of their lost relatives. Guess what... all is not what it seems. I won't go into detail, as you can probably already guess what sorts of perils they run into. You get the same shaky camera-work, chases through woods, characters sticking their faces right up close to the camera and filming themselves.
Nothing new, but, when compared to all the truly horrendous 'found footage' rubbish infesting DVD bargain bins, at least I managed to sit through this one without turning it off halfway!
Better if you're expecting a 'made-for-TV' type movie
Four Weddings and a Funeral. The Inbetweeners Movie. Notting Hill. Shaun of the Dead. All well-received British comedy films. Sadly, 'Magicians' will never really be mentioned alongside those greats. The short reason: it isn't as good, or as clever as any of them. However, that doesn't mean it doesn't have a certain kind of charm.
Yes, it's the 'Peep Show' film. Only it's not. It just has the two main stars from the (hilarious) cult TV show, David Mitchell and Robert Webb in the lead roles. And, not only content with starring the two Peep Show stalwarts, Magicians is also written by the team behind the TV show. Many may have thought, how could it fail? But it does. Just.
Despite Mitchell and Webb basically playing the same characters from Peep Show, but with different names, Magicians falls short on laugh out loud moments. And that might come as a surprise as it's a relatively short movie. You also get a lot of other well-known comedy faces all popping up along the way. Some are used to their potential, others don't come close.
I've seen a lot of hate online for this film and, although I can see where it comes from, I don't completely share their sentiment. It's not THAT bad. Yes, it doesn't come anywhere close to Peep Show and falls even further afield from what it could achieve, based on the talent linked with the film.
What you get is an adult comedy which has a few laughs along the way and is a bit predictable. If you've got nothing else to watch and this happens to be on the telly (and you're a fan of Mitchell and Webb) then give it a go. It's the sort of film you'll appreciate more if you haven't had to pay to watch it.
Keep your expectations low and you should get more out of it.