Maggie

When I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger was starring in a zombie movie, I wasn’t interested. For me, the best zombie stories are about the surviving characters and how they deal with the dead, and by deal with the dead, I mean how they fight to stay safe and alive, not how many corpses they can kill and how big the guns and bombs they use are.

I’ve never been the biggest Schwarzenegger fan. Sure, I’ll happily watch the first two (maybe three) Terminator movies again and again, Total Recall is superb, and the first Predator movie is an eighties classic, but Arnie’s never been a personal favourite, and the thought of the ageing all-action, ex-bodybuilding, ex-politician rampaging through hordes of the living dead just didn’t appeal. When I heard more about the project – MAGGIE – I became more interested. And when I got around to watching the movie, I realised my preconceptions were misplaced. MAGGIE’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a damn good little movie (yes, little movie), and Schwarzenegger is a revelation.

As a viral pandemic spreads across America, Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) searches for his runaway daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) and finds her in the quarantine wing of a hospital. Wade brings his daughter back home to his family for the short time before the teenager begins a painful metamorphosis.

Determined to hold onto his precious daughter as long as he can and refusing to hand her over to the local police Wade edges ever closer to a time where he will have to take matters into his own hands.

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What We Do in the Shadows

final1.inddIt’s been a while since I’ve recommended a movie, and what better day to put that right than today. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere but, here in the UK, Halloween is increasingly over-commercialised and family friendly. It’s about sweets and toys and parties now, with the true horror of the season and its dark origins long-forgotten.

Today I present for you a no-holds-barred, warts-and-all documentary about that most revered and reviled of monsters, the vampire. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is a chilling and revealing peek into the dark, depraved and sordid lives of the undead. Actually it’s not. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is, in fact, that rare movie beast: a horror comedy that works. It’s bloody hilarious, actually, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it for your Halloween evening viewing pleasure.

Follow the lives of Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) – three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles – like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that beyond sunlight catastrophes, hitting the main artery, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection – modern society has them struggling with the mundane like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.

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Night of the Living Dead (1990)

NIGHT-OF-THE-LIVING-DEAD-1990-posterA couple of times recently I’ve talked about remakes of classic horror movies. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. I maintain that in order for a remake to be a critical success, it has to have a point. It might be that the original fell short in some way, or that film-making technology has advanced sufficiently to benefit the telling of a particular story. Or maybe a sociological, environmental or political change or similar has given the premise a new lease of life.

Unfortunately, the George Romero scripted, Tom Savini directed 1990 remake of Romero’s classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has very little reason to exist. I caught the remake on it’s opening weekend twenty-five years ago (twenty-five years… how did that happen?) and I took the opportunity to watch it again recently. I really enjoyed it when I was twenty, and I wondered how it would hold up today. The short answer – it didn’t. Not particularly well, anyway.

It’s a new night for terror – and a new dawn in horror movie-making when special-effects genius Tom Savini (creator of the spectacularly gruesome make-up in FRIDAY THE 13TH and CREEPSHOW) brings modern technology to this colourful remake of George A. Romero‘s 1968 cult classic. Seven strangers are trapped in an isolated farmhouse while cannibalistic zombies – awakened from death by the return of a radioactive space probe – wage a relentless attack, killing (and eating) everyone in their path. The classic for the 90s: graphic, gruesome and more terrifying than ever!

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The Fly

theflyYou’ve no doubt noticed the absence of much real news on this site recently. I’ve teased a few things (which will be announced very soon, I promise), but I’ve tried to make a point of adding more movie recommendations to help you remember I’m still here and still alive.

The classic horror movie education of my youngest kids continued last night with a screening of one of my favourite movies of all time – David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake or THE FLY.

Now I know I rant against remakes frequently, but I’m also the first to admit there’s a time and a place for film ideas to be revisited (or reimagined, or rebooted, or whatever the trendy term of the day is). I talked about one a few weeks back – Philip Kaufman’s 1979 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and no doubt I’ll cover others here too.

Cronenberg’s THE FLY is a masterful reworking of the 1958 B movie starring David Hedison and Vincent Price which was, in turn, an adaptation of a George Langelaan short story which had been published in PLAYBOY a year earlier. Here’s a brief summary of the Cronenberg version, followed by a trailer. My thoughts are after the cut.

By the way – the movie features a wonderful soundtrack from composer Howard Shore. The trailer below does not. Very little cheesy 1980’s synth pop appears in the finished film.

Seth Brundle, a brilliant but eccentric scientist, offers investigative journalist Veronica Quaife a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment has proved successful. To a point. The machinery cannot yet transport organic matter. Brundle and Quaife’s burgeoning relationship helps him rethink the problem of ‘the flesh’. After successfully transporting a living creature, Brundle attempts to teleport himself, not realising a fly has enters the transmission booth with him. Brundle emerges a changed man.

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Seconds

SecondsA relatively obscure movie recommendation for you this week. John Frankenheimer‘s SECONDS is a bizarre and chilling film which crashed and burned spectacularly at the box office when it was released in 1966. Watching it now, you can see why. It’s an intelligent and thought-provoking movie which was one of star Rock Hudson‘s personal favourites. He delivers a great performance as an old man with a new face – a role far removed from the easy-going romantic comedies he was well known for at the time. Synopsis and trailer follows, with a few thoughts after the cut:

Banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) gets a call one day from a friend he thought was dead. It turns out that the friend is not a ghost, but was simply faking all along, and was placed into a new existence by a company who can give you a completely new face and life. Hamilton decides to undergo the procedure himself and becomes Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), an artist who lives in Malibu. He is given a manservant to help him adjust but soon finds that adjusting will be the least of his worries.

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1984

1984A week or so ago I attended a school production of 1984. With a small cast, limited props and basic lighting and sound, they did an excellent job of bringing George Orwell’s classic novel to life. As I was watching, it struck me how relevant and frightening the story remains today (in fact, just about the only thing that’s dated about it is the title) and I immediately dug out and re-watched the most recent film version starring John Hurt and the late Richard Burton. This bleak and powerful film is my movie recommendation for this week.

1984 is a remarkable novel which has, of course, had an enormous cultural impact since its publication in 1949. I could write reams about the continued (increasing?) relevance of Orwell’s nightmare vision, but this is neither the place nor the time. Instead, the purpose of this post is simply to draw your attention to a beautifully made adaptation of an extraordinarily important book. Here’s a trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.

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Grave of the Fireflies

Grave-of-the-Fireflies-1988Are you happy? In a good mood? Having a good day? If you are, you might want to give this week’s film recommendation a miss. That said, you’ll be missing out on an astonishing movie if you do. Today I’m recommending Studio Ghibli’s 1988 film, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES. It’s bleak, grim, heartbreakingly sad, and completely superb. As always, a brief synopsis is below, followed by a trailer. Hit the jump for my thoughts.

A devastating meditation on the human cost of war, this animated tale follows Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi), a teenager charged with the care of his younger sister, Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi), after an American firebombing during World War II separates the two children from their parents. Their tale of survival is as heartbreaking as it is true to life. The siblings rely completely on each other and struggle against all odds to stay together and stay alive.

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28 Days Later

twenty_eight_days_laterAs a responsible father, I think it’s important to ensure my kids have a solid all round education. As such, I see it as my duty to introduce them to cultural milestones. Last night I did just that (I am being sarcastic here, by the way), sitting down with the girls for a family viewing of Danny Boyle‘s seminal 28 DAYS LATER. It had been many years since I’d seen the film, and I was interested to see how it stood up today: what was considered ground-breaking in 2002 might have appeared cliched today. To my surprise, I think I enjoyed the movie more than I ever have done.

A quick glance at my Recommendations page revealed that I’ve never written about this hugely influential movie for this site, so I thought I’d remedy that right now. As usual, a brief synopsis and trailer follows. Click on the link for my thoughts.

An infirmary patient awakens from a coma to an empty room…in a vacant hospital…in a deserted city. A powerful virus, which locks victims into a permanent state of murderous rage, has transformed the world around him into a seemingly desolate wasteland. Now a handful of survivors must fight to stay alive, unaware that the worst is yet to come…

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The Wave

A lesser-known movie recommendation for a lazy Sunday afternoon…

thewaveMy family has a thing about Psychology. My wife has three degrees in the subject (yes, three!), one of my daughters is following in her footsteps having recently graduated with first class honours, and another of the girls has just embarked on her first Psychology qualification. Me? I’m interested too, but in a far less academic way. I’ve said it countless times, but I’ll say it again anyway – I’m a people watcher. I’m not much interested in who did what study or experiment or anything like that, I just like to sit back and watch what happens when people are forced to endure extreme circumstances (ie, in most of my books, the end of the world).

This week I want to recommend a film that should appeal to the psychology academics in your life (like my missus) as well as the dystopian thrill-seekers (like me). THE WAVE (DIE WELLE) is a 2008 German production directed by Dennis Gansel and based on a 1981 novel by Todd StrasserA high school teacher’s unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own.

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12 MONKEYS

12monkeysIt broke my heart this week to see the trailer for the SyFy channel’s unnecessary remake of the Terry Gilliam classic, 12 MONKEYS, which looked about as good as I expected (i.e. not good at all). 12 MONKEYS is a favourite film of mine, and I realised I hadn’t written about it for this site. So I’m putting that right today, and adding the movie to the Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club.

You know, of the slew of (almost exclusively inferior) remakes announced and produced over the last few years, 12 MONKEYS is one that hurts the most. And that’s ironic, because the film is a remake of sorts itself, being based on LA JETEE – a 1962 post-apocalyptic French short directed by Chris Marker, told entirely through still images and narration.

The premise of 12 MONKEYS is beautifully simple: “In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.” I’m sure you’ve probably seen it already but, if not, watch the trailer and click the link below and I’ll tell you why you should stop what you’re doing and watch the movie now.

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