Zombies are a bit of a one trick pony, love them as I do. But the trouble with them is that they absolutely require an end of the world scenario in order for them to function which can lend a certain predicability to them. Their appearance is nearly always accompanied by the complete, or nearly complete, collapse of society and in 'Black Summer' it's no different. In the first episode we're about a few weeks into the collapse and evacuations are still going on. Tensions are high and the military are unsure of how to respond, so they're heavy handed. Citizens are terrified and distrustful. And the living dead are maniacs.
We've all been here before and multiple times in the case of people who've been watching zombie fare since before 'The Walking Dead' appeared, so there's nothing really new going on here. But 'Black Summer' - Netflix's attempt at a zombie show - does something to, er, breath new life into the a type of show that just won't quit. It's human element is far superior to most zombie material and that's where its strength lies. The living characters feel much more real than their counterparts in the Robert Kirkman comic adaptation and their actions and responses have a realistic aspect to them as well. There are no nonsense characters like the katana wielding Michone, or ridiculous psychopathic "leaders" like Negan knocking around the world in 'Black Summer'. Well, not yet anyway. Into the bargain, and not giving anything away, absolutely nobody is truly safe. Life in Black Summer's zombie apocalypse is an extremely dangerous affair and it doesn't matter how gangsta you think you are, your number can come up at any time. Also, while we are introduced to a lot of characters quite quickly, they all make sense. Even when the multiple points of view and varying time shifts are taken into account. 'Black Summer' will often show you how a series of events plays out and then show them again, in part, from someone else's perspective. This can sound awkward, but it tends to work out well.
The undead of the show are, practically, an afterthought and are actually the worst element of it, truth be told. They are, almost predictably these days, the run around screaming types that are popular with film makers that don't want to have to think of scenarios where slower zombies can get the better of their human prey. But for the purposes of this particular show they work ok, and at 8 episodes over 2 series with uneven running times there's no real space to take the necessary steps to slowly build things up. The show needs to be slam bang....oops...everything's gone to hell. So, in that respect they get a pass.
What eases them into that pass is how dangerous they are to the human protagonists/antagonists. These particular zombies (as per usual nobody calls them that) are hard to kill and whilst it's usually the case in zombie movies/shows that they'll die with enough brain trauma, delivering that trauma is difficult and will take multiple blows. Unlike 'The Walking Dead' where zombies skulls are ridiculously fragile and a harsh word can send them on their way, the zombies of 'Black Summer' require actual beatings to put down which means that a single zombie can ruin your day, but three of them means you really are done for. Plus shooting them is no easy feat either. These things are moving targets and getting something tiny like a bullet to hit home on a small target like a head proves to be impossible at times, even for trained soldiers. Coupled with the sheer panic that grips everyone when the dead start coming for them, most bullets end up flying all over the place in an arbitrary manner., which ends up only making things worse. This is one of the best aspects of the show and makes a mockery of something like 'The Walking Dead' universe where characters can perform headshots on moving targets (even while they are moving themselves) with an accuracy that would make the Sundance Kid extremely jealous.
They are also not the infected people of '28 Days Later' (not a zombie movie), so shooting them in the torso or anywhere else isn't going to do them much bother, unless something vital is hit of course and it can cripple them in some way. They are also not going to die of starvation, so a few months waiting around isn't going to yield a result either. These things are going to be around long term. This kind of thing greatly adds to the immense tension that remains constant throughout the show and it's a show that can be quite exhausting to watch. But it's exhausting in a good way. One episode basically deals with a single guy just trying to stay out of a zombie's clutches and it's one of the best zombie related things I've seen in ages. He's a bit of a dope, for sure, but you still want him to get away because you can put yourself in his place, and as mentioned earlier nobody has any real plot armour.
'Black Summer' is brought to you by The Asylum, the people who made 'Z Nation', which has astonishingly managed to lumber on for 5 series at this point. But I wouldn't let that put you off. Whereas 'Z Nation' is just flat out stupid, 'Black Summer' remains relatively serious and doesn't have the dumbed down, tongue-in-cheek, approach of the SYFY channel show. It's scenarios make a certain sense (even if there are a few areas that stretch credibility) and attempts to stick unwanted laughs here and there are largely absent. This makes 'Black Summer' a completely different kettle of fish entirely to it's sister production.
However, if there are things to be critical about, it would be the almost complete lack of gore in the show. Sure, there's blood, death, and horror, but you never see the effects of a zombie attack and this is where something like 'The Walking Dead' has it beaten easily. In 'Black Summer' bites are obscured and nobody gets flesh ripped apart 'Day of the Dead' style. So, from that aspect it can seem a bit tame if you're waiting around for the red stuff, and it really could do with some of Greg Nicatero's KNB magic. It's a curious omission, it has to be said, especially when one takes into account that the zombies in 'Black Summer' are driven to attack people for food. But, nevertheless, it's a small impact on its over all enjoyment and while the show can be light on plot, but it's nonetheless an exciting and interesting ride so far.
I'm gradually catching up with films that apparently everyone but me has seen, and with the Olympics coming up, I thought it was time for Chariots Of Fire. This year is also its 40th anniversary.
What an odd film, somehow managing to be both more and less than the sum of its parts at the same time. It's about two athletes of very different backgrounds who were being set up for an Olympic clash that never happened in the end, so for most of the movie the two stories are separate and run parallel to each other.
I did some reading about the events of the 1924 Olympics, and saw that the script did take some major dramatic liberties. (Spoiler ahead). One of the central plot points was Eric Liddell's refusal to race in the 100m heats on a Sunday, and this was portrayed as catching him by surprise and leading to a clash with the British Olympic Committee (including the Prince of Wales). In fact, the schedule had been published months in advance, and he had plenty of time to train for the 400m and make his preferences known.
High points: the Vangelis score is justifiably legendary, the composer somehow managing to make his synthesisers fit in to a movie set in the UK and France in the 1920s. All the main cast are very good: Ben Cross subtly portraying Harold Abrahams as a complex person struggling to fit in, Ian Holm going all East End as his trainer, and Alice Krige luminous in her major movie debut as his opera singer girlfriend.
The real star for me was Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell, in a performance that portrayed a quiet faithful confidence at most times, except when he's running like a loon. Liddell gives a short speech to a group early on, which Charleson totally rewrote from the one in the script to better reflect his character, and it's one of the most powerful moments in the film. I found myself wondering what had happened to Charleson: why didn't he become a major star? I think it would have happened had he not died in 1990.
On an isolated Irish farm, some bovine research yields unexpected results.
This was a film I had heard about back when it was originally released, but the critical panning it received put me off ever watching it. I put it on, nearly by accident, last night and the atmosphere of the opening credits drew me in. Irish horror films are usually pretty lacklustre. This film... is no exception. Ah no, it does have its moments but the plot is just too wonky to take it entirely seriously and that's a shame, because I thought with a few tweaks it could have been a much better film. As it is, the central premise of the film is left unclear, but left unclear in a way that comes off less as having to use your imagination to fill in the blanks and more as if the writers didn't really think the plot through. I don't know how to do spoiler tags on this new version of the site so read not beyond this point if you don't want things spoiled...
So, it was an experiment to increase cow fertility (ostensibly), with strange, sinister creatures developing inside the foetal calves the cows were pregnant with, but it's not made clear if these were perhaps some type of alien creature or something or if they were just a byproduct of genetic research gone bad. But if they were the latter, I don't understand why they'd necessarily be so aggressive and snappish. You get the feeling the researcher had ulterior motives he wasn't disclosing, but again it's never really spoken about. It just seemed very confused and didn't know what it was trying to be.
Just watched a fantastic movie called Pig starring Nicolas Cage proving he can still act! And you might think it's going to be another John Wick but never goes there. A very well made movie from first time director Michael Saranoski and also excellent supporting role by Alex Wolff
Might not be for everyone but I really enjoyed it.
Yeah, I agree about Pig. A really unexpected storyline. Though I kept thinking "Jesus, wash your face."
A band of muscle bound, testosterone fuelled, cliches led by Arnold Schwarzenegger are charged by a dodgy C.I.A. stooge to infiltrate some vague Latin American guerilla compound on what is ostensibly a "rescue" mission and find out that they are the ones that are in need of rescue as an otherworldly force has selected that particular jungle environment for its own hunting purposes.
John McTiernan's 1987 movie is full of nonsensical dialogue, macho stupidity, militaristic fetishising, ridiculous scenarios and poor acting. In fact, it's entire birth was based on a joke that was circulating Hollywood in the wake of the equally absurd 'Rocky IV'. But, unlike Stalone's movie, 'Predator' nevertheless provides so much goofy entertainment that's it's impossible not to admire. It somehow manages to overcome its various limitations to achieve 107 minutes of pure silly fun that any real critique of it is immediately redundant. And even though it's practically scriptless you still want to go where it takes you, right up to it's farcical conclusion where Arnie survives what appears to be a tactical nuclear explosion! Enough to destroy 300 city blocks, according to the sequel, but leave him unscathed.
However it's the pace at which 'Predator' gets the audience to that ludicrous destination that allows it to be taken in with a modicum of seriousness because things go by at breakneck speed and all the characters take their situation soberly which, for me, is always a win for movies of this kind. It's got a few nice grisly effects into the bargain, while never going into full grindhouse territory, and at it's heart there's a spectacular monster courtesy of the late Stan Winston who's team crafted an ugly, yet fascinating, creature that has stood the test of time.
These days, with 'Predator' being a household name, it's funny to think that at the time of its release it was met with a pretty lukewarm response even though made decent BO. But this has changed over the years and it's now considered a classic of the Sci-Fi/horror genre and quite rightly too. Today it shares a place beside the likes of 'Aliens', released the year before, and together with John Carpenter's 'The Thing' they are probably the epitome of 80's monster from space movies.
Unfortunately, and with complete predictability, this 1990 sequel just couldn't live up to the original despite having the chutzpah to set itself in a jungle of a different sort and not merely be a complete retread of Arnie's movie. This time the setting is urban as opposed to the tropical climes that Schwarzenegger and co. had to deal with.
In 'Predator 2' the Yautja (yes that's what the aliens are called despite the name never appearing in either story) has set out its hunting grounds in L.A. or rather the "future" L.A. of 1997 that immediately looks horribly dated and is even more so when viewed today. South Central has become a battleground of rival ethnic gangs who carry out open war on the city streets and are clearly immune to anything that the struggling L.A.P.D. try to do. Into this mix this particular predator has chosen to set its own tasks and is engaged in hunting down members of these gangs when he gains the attention of supercop Danny Glover, who's clearly not too old for this shit.
'Predator 2', while having good moments, fails to repeat the simple (and simplistic formula) for success that its predecessor employed and is often a laboured viewing in a number of ways. Whereas the previous film flies by, the sequel frequently feels like it's lumbering from set piece to the next and it never exhibits that pace which was so important an ingredient in the 1987 movie. Plus the film's original (and most interesting) concept of elaborating on who or what the Yautja are is utterly squandered leaving the audience just as bewildered at the end of the second story as they were at the beginning of the first.
In a way I suppose that doesn't really matter as there's not much to explain about the monster in these movies. So perhaps the lack of explanation, or even expansion, is to its ultimate benefit and in the end the movie practically requires the audience to ask no questions lest the whole charade comes crashing down.
'Predator 2' ends up just being ok in parts, while simultaneously being disappointing as a whole, and it's easy to see why it killed the series stone dead. However, flatlined franchises were never a thing to stop Hollywood and on the back of a series of relatively successful comicbook stories the Yautja would make a return in the mid 2000's fighting the Xenomorph in 'Aliens vs Predator' in an 80's monster mashup that was almost destined to happen and, in fact, was hinted at in Predator 2's conclusion.
I decided to watch the three Thor (MCU) movies, and finished the third last night. Quick impressions:
* Thor: A lot of fun and well-made, I thought. There are only two locations: Asgard and New Mexico, so not too hard to follow.
* Thor: The Dark World. It all got a bit Star Wars in places, with the starship chase scenes and a rather generic villain.
* Thor: Ragnarok. Some Mad Max vibes, and the most MCU of the bunch. More characters, callbacks to e.g. Hulk vs Loki in Avengers Assemble, and much chewing of scenery by the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett. Oh, and Korg: WTF?
There's a new movie Thor: Love and Thunder on the way, and just looking at the cast list gives me a headache.
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