AN OLD REVIEW – SHAUN OF THE DEAD (WRIGHT, 2004)

This is a movie I’ve been wanting to watch for a little while now, however it’s only after watching Dawn of the Dead (2004), which I reviewed on Monday, that I finally feel qualified to do so. Before that, I had very little experience when it came to zombie films and for that reason, would have approached this film with much the same attitude as an ant would approach a piece of dust…with semi-interested ease. After watching a zombie movie (that’s right fans, it was my first), I found myself wondering, “What will this film do that makes it a parody of zombie movies and yet original at the same time?” The answers to that question are what follows.

Quick Review: This is a movie that should appeal to both those who love zombie movies and those who typically don’t. It balances humour and zombie cliches in a way that is both original and insightful (for a zombie movie). It is well acted, something usually completely missing from parodies, and well directed, keeping the viewer entertained throughout. If you’re looking for some light entertainment for you and some friends then this movie is perfect. For these reasons I’m giving it a 7.5/10 – Watch It!

Taking place in suburban London, the film opens on the life of our eponymous hero, Shaun (Simon Pegg) as his life begins to slowly crumble away around him. This is further exacerbated (a nice word learnt from the film) by his useless best friend Ed (Nick Frost) as he continues to occupy floor space in Shaun’s house, playing video games and smoking pot. This depressing state of events comes to a head when Shaun’s girlfriend leaves him on ground of incompetence and Shaun proceeds to get wasted at the Winchester. Que zombies.

To call this film a parody is probably incorrect. Because while it obviously references other zombie movies in some of the shots and situations used (here my Dawn of the Dead knowledge came in handy), it does so in a way that is less comedic mimicry and more fanboy appreciation, sampling from various films rather than just the one. In this way, the movie is able to garner some artistic merit of its’ own. For those who have seen Hot Fuzz, the later collaboration between Simon Pegg and Director Edgar Wright, you’ll be familiar with Wright’s original use of jump cuts and exaggerated sound effects to transition between scenes and locations, heightening audience interest in the film in a way more mainstream Hollywood films do not. Coupled with this is the way Pegg and Wright have decided to approach the narrative of the film.

Based around your typical zombie film structure of ‘characters wake to find zombies everywhere then find someplace to hide’, the film manages to blend tired zombie cliches with original humour to create its comedy, as opposed to other such films (Scary Movie) where directors resort to a cheaper style of comedy. And that’s really what sets this film apart from other films in the same style: it actually looks like a movie that someone has put time and effort and more importantly, intelligence, to create. This can be seen in the acting of the characters, the cinematography, set design, even makeup! As an added bonus for those zombie movie fans who like their movies bloody, I think this movie actually manages to be more cringeworthy than its namesake, replacing quantity with…well I suppose you could call it quality of a gory sort.

In all, I would recommend this movie to anyone (provided their about 14 and over) as it’s one of those rare movies that manages to entertain without coming across as cheap. It is funny without resorting to overused and vulgar comedy and it is very well made. Therefore, once again, I am giving it a 7.5/10 – Watch It!

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AN OLD REVIEW – DAWN OF THE DEAD (SNYDER, 2004)

Following last weeks review, I thought I’d go for something as different as I possibly could, just to keep things spicy. And so, for that reason, we are going to be looking at a genre of film which I, quite honestly, have very little experience with. I am not a hardcore zombie nerd, hoarding every possible medium of The Walking Dead and debating the essential tools required to survive the impending zombie apocalypse. Instead, I watch films with subtitles and debate the worldly significance behind a certain filter choice over a shot of someone tying their shoelaces. For this reason, I think I approached this film with completely the wrong attitude. Having read a few reviews however, I think I’m getting an idea of what the Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) was going for.

Quick Review: If you’re a fan of the zombie film you’re definitely going to enjoy this; the gore is plentiful but not too over the top, the characters have at least more depth than the average horror film and there are some refreshingly original scenes and situations. However, if like me this isn’t usually your thing, then I advise that you still watch it but don’t take it too seriously, treat it as you would a special needs child learning to spell, celebrate every improvement, no matter how minor. For this movie I’m giving it a 7/10 – Entirely Watchable

Taking place predominantly in a suburban shopping mall in what could essentially be any American town, the movie, based on the 1978 original by George Romero, combines hardcore gore and well shot action sequences with a very subtle social commentary on the mass consumer culture of modern day North America. The film starts out with a stressed nurse, Ana (Sarah Polley), as she finishes her shift and heads home to a night of love-making with her husband. But fear not, there is no lengthy establishment of characters – the fact that she is a stressed nurse is enough isn’t it? – instead, the movie cuts to the chase almost immediately and within five minutes of the film starting, we have a dead body. Ana then staggers outside to be greeted with a world run amok, neighbours running down neighbours, children eating people, you name it. Ana then proceeds to crash her car and we’re greeted with probably the most disconcerting opening credits ever conceived in the history of film. I’ll let you experience it for yourself but suffice it to say that about halfway through, I would’ve given anything to skip it.

Then we get down to the story proper and we begin to meet the characters. Here I will say that in making this movie, Snyder did pay some attention to character development, something that usually gets about as much attention in horror movies as it would in a porno, which was very refreshing. The characters all have distinctly different personalities and we’re given some degree, however limited, of backstory to some of the main ones. However, and I know I’m probably missing the point here, the character’s always seem a little superficial and never really encourage a whole lot of audience sympathy except with the classic ‘I was a Dad before this all happened…’ and ‘I just want to give this baby the life I never had’, both of which come from different people by the way.

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In terms of the actual narrative of the film, there are a few scenes in which I found myself nodding appreciatively. The primary ones being those involving the man atop his roof, separated from the shopping mall crew by a sea of teeming zombies and yet still managing to communicate with them and building a bond between them and the audience that actually had more weight than some of the ones formed with major characters. That said, the narrative always seemed to lack direction, consisting solely of a very linear chain of events that seemed almost isolated and never really built upon one another towards a clear goal. This was the main thing that irked me but again, those who love these types of movies with all their heart and soul will probably appreciate the way the story lulls then builds sharply before subsiding once again. And this it does very well, with Snyder and his D.P. Mathew Leonetti manipulating camera angles, lighting and sound in such a way as to subtly ratchet up the tension before fully unveiling before the audience a scene that’s more horrific than scary, which I think is what they were going for.

In all, this film delivers exactly what it promises: bloodied undead, brutal executions of both the zombies and characters alike and just the right degree of subtle humour to be found in the names of the shops in the mall and the juxtaposition of the soundtrack with the visuals.  Again, if this is your type of film you will love it and for those of you who tend to stray more towards the psychologically in-depth and emotionally challenging films, I still recommend you see it, if only for a laugh.

7/10 – Entirely Watchable

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First Review – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Daldry, 2011)

Hello all, it’s a new year and I just remembered I still have this blog. You’ll be happy to know I’ve matured greatly since my initial post and have calmed down a little, enabling me to actually provide a decent review that won’t convince you of the dangers ADHD poses to modern society.

As the first movie to be reviewed I’ve gone with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011), directed by Stephen Daldry and starring the surprisingly emotional Thomas Horn, the always loveable Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock who I feel largely indifferent about.

Quick Review: This movie is worth so very much more than the 6.8 it gets on IMDB. If you want a film that truly showcases the breadth and startling depth of emotion that can be captured by the medium, crossed with a healthy dose of excellent storytelling, look no further. You will not regret watching this movie.

Based on the novel by Jonathan Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close follows the emotional journey of nine year old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) as he copes with the death of his father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks) following the World Trade Centre attacks of September 11th. However, if you were expecting the usual tale of woe where the distraught wife tries to kill herself before eventually finding solace in something or other you would be refreshingly surprised by this film’s take on the matter. Specifically, the way it presents the issue from the perspective of a child grieving for his father, sidelining the grief-stricken mother, Linda Schell (Sandra Bullock), who serves largely to exacerbate and highlight the tempestuous grief of her son.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of this film is the portrayal of young Oskar by Thomas Horn. This tremendous performance dominates the entirety of the film and drives the story with such a precise use of emotion – usually one of the messier elements of any film – that it really does provide a convincing argument for why film is the medium best suited to storytelling (go on writers, prove me wrong!). In this role, Horn captures the unwavering love Oskar has for his father as he hunts down the lock belonging to a key found in his father’s wardrobe. In doing so, Oskar encounters a variety of down and out characters scattered around New York City, bringing a relief for their pain as they are able to relate to his struggle and gain strength from that.

In regards to the actual production of the film, Daldry proves his ability as a director, choosing to showcase the multifaceted nature of New York City in such a way as to make the audience aware that this grief generated from 9/11 is not peculiar to one little boy but is in fact almost endemic in the people who live and work in this City, who were all affected in one way or another by this event. The style throughout the film is largely restrained, allowing the acting to really take pride of place with Oskar’s voice over narration accompanying shots of the city to highlight specific features important to the narrative. In this way, the film can be said to be very precise in its storytelling, a feature that makes it easily one of the better, if not the best, film to be found in 2011.

As a last warning to those about to go and watch this film, do not relate to the mother. Relate only to the child. From reading through the comments left about this movie, it seems the reason for its undeservedly low rating is the fact that those who watch the movie either get it or they don’t. Those who get it identify with the child and are able to relate in some way to his grief, his curiosity or his dogged determination. Those who do not, identify with the mother and can only see the child as a bratty, uncaring little shit who couldn’t care less about his mother’s sadness after losing her husband. Don’t be the latter, for the love of God, don’t be the latter.

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Welcome!

Hello and welcome to The Old Review! Here I’ll be attempting to provide the most helpful, knowledgeable (sounding) and hopefully interesting reviews on already published, previewed or produced products (alliteration for the win!) Now what you’re probably wondering is “wow i could be watching porn right now instead of reading this! AND when the hell would I ever need a review about something that’s already been around for longer than my culture’s attention span should permit?” Well I’m glad you asked perpetually horny but conveniently scripted reader because now I can provide you with a list of reasons why you’re sure to love this blog. And as you probably don’t know, I sure do love a good list!

Reasons why this blog might interest you:

 

  1. Have you ever been stuck in one of those horrible situations where you desperately need to watch a movie (or read a book if you’re into that kind of thing) but the only reviews you can find on google are for disgustingly uninteresting new releases? Well fret no more! For now you can find insightful and well-researched reviews of only the best movies (and books…maybe games too if I’m in the mood) that history has been able to throw up, all gathered into a neat little package.
  2. You’re too poor to afford all those new things that shops expect you to buy these days and have instead decided to go for a reasonably priced, well researched (by yours truly) and entertainingly presented (again…by me) product that you can be sure will stand the test of time…because…you know…it’s old…
  3. And finally, maybe you just desperately want to read a review so crammed full of goodness that it makes Santa look anorexic.

 

Anyway the first review should be up whenever I damn well say it should be up! (like in a few days) however, in the mean time if any of you who happen to haplessly wonder by this lonely page and feel the burning desire to have something reviewed, just leave a suggestion in the comments. Adieu!

 

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