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Cockneys Vs. Zombies (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Cockneys Vs. Zombies (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Rasmus Hardiker, Harry Treadaway, Michelle Ryan, Georgia King, Richard Brier, Honor Blackman, Alan Ford

Directed by Matthias Hoene

Distributed by The Scream Factory


There’s a very good chance many won’t agree with this assessment, but thanks to such a massive acceptance from pop culture zombies have now joined vampires as another cinematic monstrosity that has been milked to death and lost its impact. The popularity of zombie projects had been growing steadily until 2010, when The Walking Dead hit the scene and took zombie fever to a new height. Now that they’re all the rage, hardly a week goes by without some new flesh-eating flick hitting store shelves. And that isn’t hyperbole. A quick trip over to IMDb shows more than 50 (!) zombie films have been released this year alone, and there are no signs of the rapid fire pace slowing. But it should. It really should, because with a few exceptions most of the films are terrible and even fewer manage to bring anything new to the table. I’d be happy with some unique origin stories at this point, since most take the approach of not explaining how the dead came to rise up. But who cares, right? ”Just get to eating people”, most say.

That isn’t enough, though, and the onus should be placed directly on writers and directors to craft memorable tales that venture outside the norm. That seemed to be the case with Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012) thanks to a raucous trailer that presented some good situational humor alongside the de rigueur gore zombie films are required to showcase. Plus, the English still had some goodwill left over all these years later thanks to the smashing success (amongst fans, at least) of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004). Obviously something with a title akin to a Godzilla flick isn’t going for originality; it’s setting up a match and hoping you care enough to watch. There are some good moments peppered throughout, and some surprisingly nasty practical gore gags, but ultimately it boils down to how much we like these characters – half of which make it fun, the other half do their best to drag it down.

Two construction workers in London’s East End unearth an ancient tomb dating back to 1666, pry it open (who wouldn’t?), and are promptly consumed by two decrepit corpses anxious for a meal. Meanwhile, across town a group of desperate novice criminals – led by brothers Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy (Harry Treadaway), and their unstable “friend” Mickey (Ashley Bashy Thomas) – attempt to rob a bank, a prospect at which they fail miserably. It doesn’t matter much, however, since as the robbery was taking place all of London was being overrun by hordes of the undead, which apparently was accomplished in less time than it takes to watch this movie. Impressive. The group decides to make a break for the coast so they can escape on a boat, but first Terry & Andy have to stop by the retirement home to grab their grandpa, Ray (Alan Ford, best remembered as “Brick Top” in Snatch), an old-school Cockney hardass who refuses to run from danger, and his geriatric friends.

The best parts of Cockneys vs. Zombies take place at the retirement home. In fact, the film as a whole likely would have been much better had it taken place there entirely. The film goes for the low-hanging fruit of placing these aging, deteriorating seniors into situational humor scenes with zombies that are just as aged and decrepit. For example, one scene has an octogenarian making a very sluggish retreat from a zombie by way of a walker, with the flesh eater slowly ambling behind him, nipping at his heels. I’m amazed a denture joke didn’t work its way in somehow. These scenes are funny enough in their own way, but the inclusion of Alan Ford into the mix really sets them off. He’s an actor full of panache and piss, chewing through scenery like it was a hot meal. He’s criminally underused in the film, and by that I mean he should’ve been the star, not second banana to a group of dimwitted would-be robbers. But he gets his moments. Quite a few of them, in fact. And he continues to fight the good fight right up to the end. He’s the linchpin holding this film together, and is easily the best reason to watch it.

The rest of the cast is mostly forgettable. Unlike, say, Shaun of the Dead, there aren’t any characters that resonate with the audience. The ostensible leads, Terry and Andy, are a couple of never-was brothers who decide robbing a bank is the absolute best possible way to get money so they can help save their grandpa’s retirement home. Calling them dim-witted would be perfectly apt, but they play more like the dimwits of the group and less like the two leads that are intended to eventually “save the day” and all that jazz. No one else in their ragtag group stands out either, save for “Mental” Mickey who at least injects his scenes with a heavy dose of insanity and bad decision making. The rest are there to make good zombie fodder.

The film does succeed (mostly) in that sense. There’s a lot of practical effect here, with some truly nasty gore gags that’ll keep ardent fans of the ol’ classic pull-apart feasting style happy. I only wish the entire film had maintained that aesthetic, as there are almost as many bad CGI moments that look straight out of something SyFy produced. Films should choose a style and stick with it. If you want to impress viewers with practical work then do whatever you can to make every scene of bloodletting a tangible one. If you feel like doing it on the cheap and going all CGI, then run with that. But when films decide on a combination of the two it usually ends up pleasing no one. It’s jarring to see a real FX gag in one scene, and then immediately follow it up with some terrible computer imagery. There’s no synergy there.

Ultimately, Cockneys vs. Zombies is a film content with coasting along thanks to the minor novelty of its title. No new concepts are introduced, and much of the proceedings feel like Shaun of the Dead-lite. Gut-munching gags can only take a movie so far, and with only scants bits of humor derived from the senior center to buttress the story there is much meat on these bones to satisfy for the remaining minutes. It’s a marginally fun romp through London’s East End; an easy viewing that isn’t a total slog to get through but it doesn’t hold much in the way of repeat viewings.

The recently released blu-ray comes home courtesy of Shout! Factory with a splendid audio/video presentation alongside a smattering of extra features. The 2.35:1 1080p image is highly proficient, sporting a crisp appearance that delivers fine detail in spades. The film was shot digitally, so it would be right to expect a pristine image virtually free of grain or obtrusive noise elements. It does look like the color palette has been de-saturated a bit, resulting in a dull, gray quality to the picture. While this has the negative effect of muting colors and not allowing for much to “pop” off the screen, it benefits the zombie mayhem by allowing all the bits of blood and gore to stand out amongst all the action. Very little of the film takes place at night, too, which allows for strong lighting that bolsters definition. For a low-budget production the wise stylistic decisions, and slick cinematography, makes this look like a bigger picture. The audio is no slouch, either. The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track displays impressive fidelity that makes the most of the multi-channels afforded to it. The bass track is particular is positively booming with the roar of gunfire and howls of the undead. There is good separation here, allowing the many effects employed during action-heavy scenes to remain discrete and audibly clear. Many of the film’s effects deftly pan between speakers, creating an immersive soundfield on par with more expensive films. I’d say dialogue is clear and distinct within the mix – and it is – but a Yank like me sure had one helluva time deciphering those thick-as-a-brick Cockney accents. Thankfully, Shout! has included English subtitles so you can keep up with the plot.

On the supplemental side of things, we start off with a pair of audio commentaries. The first features director Matthias Hoene, who uses his track to explain some of the deeper meanings behind the film, script changes, casting, as well as many other technical details regarding the production. It’s a bit stuffy, but there’s some worthwhile info in there. Second up, writer James Moran steps in to deliver his thoughts on the project. He’s a bit self-deprecating, critically examining some of his writing decisions and wishing he’d amended a few of them. Original Look Behind the Scenes is a nearly-30 minute featurette that covers a number of the film’s aspects, including a look at the characters, how they filmed the bank robbery, designing the care home, practical FX, and much more. There is also a reel of deleted scenes, running for around six minutes. These are available with optional commentary by either director Matthias Hoene, or writer James Moran. Finally, the film’s trailer wraps things up in the extras department.

Cockneys vs. Zombies offers up a somewhat unique take on a now-old hat premise by pitting the walking dead against a ragtag group of survivors. If only they’d kept the focus on Alan Ford and his aging compatriots, then this could have been something more enjoyable. As it stands the film is an effortless watch with a few laughs, but most of the humor is lost under thick accents – or it’s simply “too British” for most across the pond to connect with. It earns equal amounts of applause and derision for utilizing practical effects alongside CGI enhancements that simply don’t gel on screen. If you haven’t hit “zombie fatigue” yet, this might be worth checking out. But if you’re dead tired of the same old-same old, this isn’t going to galvanize your interest.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Matthias Hoene
  • Audio commentary with writer James Moran
  • Original Look Behind the Scenes
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • Digital Copy

    Film:

    2 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish
    4.0

    Summary

    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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    Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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    Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

    Directed by Johnny Martin


    When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

    Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

    Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

     

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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    Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

    Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


    The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

    The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

    The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

    From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

    The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

    Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

    The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

    • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
    2.0

    Summary

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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