Month: September 2013

Earthbound (2012)

Earthbound, is a peculiar science-fiction romantic(ish) comedy, whereby Rafe Spall plays a 20-something man, believing he is a refugee stuck on planet Earth, awaiting a beacon from his home planet, Zlaxon. This post may contain a few spoilers, so be warned.

The film starts with eleven year-old Joe, watching a television show called Space Commander and playing with a spaceship, which may not seem all that different, but this circulates from stories his father tells him they are originally from a planet called Zalaxon and the last survivors of a mass-genocide operated by a ruthless leader by the name of Xalador.

On his death bed, his father Matius tells him the story he has been telling him is true. Fast forward around ten years, where we see Joe Norman (Rafe Spall) breaking into the observatory, to try and spot the beacon from Zalaxon, but unsuccessful, Joe returns home to try and apprehend what he thinks to be a burglar with a toy gun.

Joe viewing a home video later that evening, talks to his father through (what can be presumed to be alien technology) a hologram. He questions the possibility of contingency with the human race, or a suitable mate in English. This is, of course, where he meets Maria (Jenn Murray), a woman looking to sell some of her childhood toys to pay for rent.

Being ‘compatible’ mates, Joe takes the next few scenes trying to court Maria, and being successful they eventually move into Maria’s flat. Inevitably, Maria questions their relationship, as to whether their feelings are the same, when Joe decides to tell Maria the truth, that he is in fact an alien. Of course, this does not go the way Joe planned as Maria believes Joe to be crazy, especially when he cries out for Maria to see the hologram from the film reel.

Maria, flabbergasted at Joe’s announcement, tricks him into seeing a psychologist as she believes he is completely delusional. After some digging, Maria and Joe decide to visit Vera Ellis, who the film reel is addressed too, where she says there’s a chest of Joe’s father’s things in the garage. This is where he discovers a form of medication called Zalaxon, this causes Joe to spiral out of control, with a near suicide attempt. The film gets all very sad, and depressing, as Joe, has come to terms with reality, which is all disheartening.

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However, plot twist. Joe is really an alien! And everyone during the film has been working undercover and biding their time to capture Joe. I won’t spoil who is behind it all and what not, but Joe, finding out he has been tricked all this time has a new found confidence and must use his toy ray gun (that really works) to evade capture and save himself and Maria.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, admittedly it’s not the greatest sci-fi film I’ve scene, but for a film released by the Irish Film Institute, it’s enjoyable. It doesn’t have a huge run time, the story may be expected, but executed finely. The comedy part of this genre is mainly found in the first part of this film, as Joe courts, and has a lot of awkward conversations with Maria, whereas the latter half is more the science-fiction part, especially with the ‘alien’ technology and the Spire being the spaceship in Dublin.

3.5/5

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The Thing (2011)

Although they do have the same name, The Thing (2011) marks as a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing. If you’ve not seen the John Carpenter’s, I urge you to stop reading this, watch the film, and then come back, as this film will kind of give it away for the Carpenter version.

Based in the Norwegian camp that is explored during the 1982 version, the 2011 prequel does not differ much to the story line of the first. Aside from the fact the Norwegians make the initial discovery of the spaceship and the “thing” that is seen in the first film. When the Norwegians first find the spaceship, they assume there will be life within the ship, which is when they call upon Kate Lloyd (Mary Winstead Elizabeth) in help identifying anything that is found.

Rightly so, away from the ship, a creature is found in the ice frozen solid, where they decide to pry it out of the ice to take back to the camp for further investigation. After finding the creature to be out of this world, they begin to celebrate the discovery. An American member of the team decides that he wants to see this creature up close, but using shock factors and making you jump, the thing explodes out the ice and escapes. This of course cues panicking from the Norwegian crew to detain the alien.

Searchin for the alien around the camp site, two members of the crew find it, to which the alien decides to eat one of them, Henrik drawing the short straw. The alien is subsequently burnt underneath the shack, where it chose to hide and is dead. Instead of incererating the remains of the body, Dr. Halvorson demands it to be brought inside for further tests with Finch and Kate. Kate, Adam Finch (Eric Olsen) and Dr. Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen). find out the alien, has a rather odd anatomy and had latched onto the now dead Henrik. Upon further inspection, Kate finds surgical steel set aside from the body, meaning the Alien had cast out the inorganic material.

When Dr Halvorson leaves, Kate Lloyd examines the cells of Henrik and finds the alien cells imitating Henrik’s cells, essentially becoming him. The latter half of the film is very similar to the 1982 version in the sense everyone becomes rather paranoid as to who’s what. Kate, in clear paranoia tries to distinguish between the crew members by checking the fillings, after finding some in the bathroom. This scene is very similar to the 1982 version, with the blood test.

“So I’m going to get killed because I floss?”

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Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s pretty easy to tell what is going to happen if you’ve seen the 1982 The Thing.  However, it is an apt round circle for the 1982, which gives an explanation to the ending of 1982 The Thing. However, this prequel has a lot of jumpy, shock factors when the the alien transforms and appears. Whereas, John Carpenter’s version made myself start to feel very paranoid about what is going to happen and worried, immersing myself into the film. Unfortunately, this was not bridged as I guessed who is what and when it was going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but being a prequel to John Carpenter’s film was always going to be a difficult task with what Carpenter achieved in the original. I preferred the mystery surrounding the alien, whereas in this, more of the alien is revealed in it’s true form. But alas, I’m comparing too much. Standing alone, the film is decent, inducing paranoia, but to me, predictable with who was the alien essentially.

3/5

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Hmm.. This is a post I didn’t really expect from myself, but I have to keep an open mind at times.

Now Pitch Perfect is quite entertaining, regardless of the genre. Being a college film, it doesn’t center on the popular jocks, cheerleaders or any of the popular cliques, it rather centers on the A Cappella groups, the Treble Makers and the Barden Bellas. In which we find them doing battle at the national championships of A Cappella, which was going well until Aubrey (Anna Camp) vomits everywhere on stage, meaning the Treble Makers win.

Now, begins a new year, with new faces, including that of Beca (Anna Kendrick) who has dreams of being a DJ and producing music in LA. Thanks to her father, who lectures at Barden University, Beca is forced to go to college, and when he comes to visit her in her dorm, she quickly excuses herself from the encounters and goes to the activities fair. This is where Beca first meets Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), legitimately what she calls herself, and of course the Chloe and Aubrey. Meanwhile, Jesse (Skylar Astin) and his roommate, Benji, speak to the Treble Makers, before Benji is shooed away due to his ‘weirdness’.

Beca’s father trying to usher her into enjoying herself at college, makes a deal that if she joins a club and lasts a year and she still wants to go to LA, he will fund her going there to try and make it. This is where Beca takes a shower whilst singing and is interrupted by Chloe (Brittany Snow), who confronts, naked, asking her to sing, so they can harmonise. After realising the potential, Beca is invited to the auditions of the A Cappella groups.

Set against this premise, the Barden Bellas, led by Aubrey, try to return their glory and topple the Treble Makers, however, set with a group of uncoordinated and a mixture of people, the Barden Bellas do not look set to return to their former ways. All the while the Treble Makers are storming the shows. What was enjoyable was the “Riff-Off” whereby the groups had to spontaneously sing a song from the different categories, as the Treble Makers and Barden Bellas go head to head, and Beca, in turn, seemingly starting to enjoy herself.

After getting through the regional finals, narrowly, Aubrey tries to improve the choreography, sweeps any feedback aside. When it comes to the semi-finals, Beca decides to mix up the song, but throws off the rest of the group, all the while helping the groups chances in the competition. Naturally of course, the Treble Makers are smashing the competitions. The Bellas are knocked out in the Semi-Finals, but in a turn of events, one of the groups in thrown out the competition, giving the Bellas a second chance.

Realising the second chance is a gift, Aubrey decides to get Beca to take charge, whereby they create a remix (thanks to her DJing ability) and ready themselves for the finals, where they mix it up a little bit. Of course the ending is all too familiar, which I’m sure you can guess.

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But, what’s this film without a bit of romance thrown in there? Of course, Beca, trying to push everyone away has an admirer in Jesse, whom she works in the radio shack with, sorting the CDs. But of course, they have an altercation which leads Jesse to ignore Beca, until she incorporates the famous song from The Breakfast Club into the finale. After their performances, they have that classic scene where they both kiss in the midst of the celebrations of their finale.

And of course, this film has a lot of comedic value going for it, majority of which comes from Fat Amy’s one liners, including;

“You guys are going to get pitch-slapped so hard, your man boobs are gonna concave” 

but not only this, there is a great scene in the radio shack, where Jesse is covering his face with vinyl sleeves to make Beca laugh. Most of the comedy is just one liners, and the reactions to various things. Bumper (Adam DeVine) I found hilarious too, as Jesse describes it as organised nerd singing, thinks he’s one of the coolest customers on campus, higher than the jocks and cool people. Between Bumper, Fat Amy and the running jokes, this film is surprisingly funny.

This makes it a refreshing comedy, an easy watch, but also a fun watch. One to be shamed about if you’re a boy and enjoyed it. Also an important note is that, the film doesn’t actually ruin the songs that are sung, not like Glee at all. Nothing is too adventurous, as it’s much like High School Musical, but set in college and it’s A Cappella groups. I’m sure if you’re a fan of Glee, you’ll probably love this film. I enjoyed it and dislike Glee.

3.5/5

We’re The Millers (2013)

If you want to watch a fake, dysfunctional family smuggle drugs across the border. Then, We’re the Millers is the film for you.

David Clark (played by Jason Sudeikis) is a drug dealer in Denver, Colorado. After dealing to various people, David sees an old friend from college to whom is married with children and becomes extremely jealous when it’s clear David is a bachelor with essentially no responsibilities. Next we meet Rose (played by Jennifer Aniston), a stripper who pretty much hates her job, living in the same building as David. It is clear they both don’t get along as there is a certain hostility towards each other. Then there is Kenny (Will Poulter), also living in the same building as David and Rose, but also home alone as the moment when he says his mum went for a drink with her friend, last week. To complete this dysfunctional, fake family, Casey (Emma Roberts) is seen across from the apartment building, being mugged. David decides to help Casey, which is his downfall as he is robbed of all his marijuana, his money and savings.

When his boss, Brad Gurdinger (Ed Helms), finds this out, he kidnaps him and forces him to pick him a ‘smidge’ of marijuana from Mexico. Struggling with how to try and get it across the border, David calls on Rose, Kenny and Casey to become a fake family, The Millers. After having a shaggy dog appearance, David receives a haircut that makes him look like a American ideal of a dad, the same with the children. Brad sorts David out an RV to drive across the border with, after getting the idea seeing a family treated kindly by the police in an RV. After picking up the drugs for Pablo Cachon(an Alias that Brad is using), it turns out to be near enough two tonnes, they drive for the border, not before being stopped by a Mexican official asking for a bribe. Which turns out to be either $1000 or a sexual favour, in which Kenny is nearly the giver of the favour. Until the Mexican official explains it Pesos (which apparently is like $100).

After the border scene where some people under the RV start sprinting towards America, the comedy is very short and refreshing. Most of the comedy stems from the run-ins with the Fitzgerald’s, such as the intimate encounter they have in the tent, which is also very cringeworthy at the same time. Not forgetting the running joke with baby LeBron, which is a bag of marijuana and how Edie constantly wants to hold the ‘baby’.

The Dysfunctional Family with baby LeBron.

The Dysfunctional Family with baby LeBron.

Not forgetting the dysfunctional family, as they travel together, they have their ups and downs, mainly downs, as they struggle to pose as a family, for example, Casey being a teenager and running off with a guy that has ‘No Ragrets’ tattooed across his chest, to which David and Rose become concerning parents. Later, after Kenny is bitten by a tarantula in the genitals in a very cringey scene, but is key as David, becomes highly agitated and wants to quickly leave to make it to his bosses house for bigger payoff. This is a dramatic turning point as David decides money is more important than the relationships he has gained through this trip, as Rose decides to stay with the children, taking a maternal stance on the situation.

One grievance with the film I must admit is the fact that Casey’s story is never truly told. The rest of the ‘family’ has a backstory so to speak, but Casey constantly being called a runaway, is never explained why this is, as she tries to explain, before being interrupted on several occasions. Apart from this, the film is a great, easy-watching comedy that is nothing too experimental. The ending is also quite nice, but expected, much like the rest of the film, aside from David getting his own back on his boss Brad.

3/5

Left to right: Courtney, Norman, Alvin, Neil and Mitch

ParaNorman (2012)

Set in the little American village of Blithe Hollow, resides a young boy named Norman. Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is not like other children, he can talk to ghosts, which is evident in the first minutes as he’s talking to his dead grandmother.

With the motto of ‘A Great Place To Hang’ Blithe Hollow seemingly likes to celebrate it’s witch hunting history. It becomes apparent that Norman is a bit of a social outcast, as he is seen talking to the ghosts as he walks to school, but as soon as he comes into contact with some adults, he is immediately shying away from them.

This is no different at school, Norman has ‘Freak’ scrawled on his locker and is pushed over before school. Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasses) shows up and makes it apparent he is the bully of the school, of course, Alvin is a stereotypical bully who is really dumb, to the extent where he can’t spell his own name. Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) who was across the hall scrubbing ‘Fatty’ off his locker, rushes up to Norman after school and when told that Norman likes to be alone he replies

“I like to be alone too.. Lets do it together!”

clearly not grasping Norman’s hints. After this, the two children are interrupted by the man, who is rather creepy, that was seen earlier looking at pictures of Norman, when he says he can talk to ghosts, like Norman, and that he needs to pass on his message before it’s too late. Mr. Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman), ends up dying (wouldn’t you know it) and is left with the option of haunting Norman to  get his message across. Norman feeling uneasy about the situation, is comforted by his grandmother’s ghost which causes him to be proactive and to try and stop the Witches curse.

When reading at the graves, Alvin stops Norman is the process, after being interrupted during his dancing (which is rather hilarious) which causes the seven cursed zombies to rise from their graves. After finding out Norman has disappeared, Courtney (Anna Kendrick) goes to Neil’s house to look for him and encounters Mitch (Casey Affleck) and becomes all weak at the knees for Mitch, and end up looking for him. They find Norman and Alvin running away, but they also see one of the zombies, this spooks everyone and they speed off, leading the zombies to Blithe Hollow after them.

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The children try to find out the Witches burial place so they can stop the curse, but Norman has a flashback to the trial of the Agatha Prenderghast where he learns that Agatha (the witch) was just a little girl. Norman then confronts the zombies and learns that the zombies mean no harm, just simply want to be sent back to the grave and want the suffering to stop.

After receiving help from the Judge Hopkins zombie, Norman goes to the site of the witches grave, where Agatha is. Norman eventually wears down Agatha in her witch form and manages to talk to her as a little girl and learns that she just simply wanted to cause suffering to those who caused her so much suffering. She is coaxed into stopping her attacks on Blithe Hollow and she eventually leaves in peace, the same with the zombies.

One of my favourite comedy moments in the films is the guy by the vending machine, as he waits for his snacks he starts screaming and wondering whether to run or wait for his snacks, this coupled with just simple comedy effects, such as Alvin’s mannerisms and Neil’s lines. But not only this, but the tiny references plotted about, such as Neil wearing a hockey mask waiting for Norman.

It’s a change of pace for the usual children’s comedies, but it’s not too confusing as the story is quite apt for the run time, for me, it didn’t seem to drag on at any point. This film has an interesting change from the usual zombie films, as the zombies help rather than hinder the plans of Norman. A very easy watch for the older generations, but also a fun watch for all ages.

4/5