“Dead behind the eyes” Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse review

SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (UK Cert 15)

Director: Christopher B Landon

Music: Thomas Newman

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes


Written by Adam Brannon

Written by Adam Brannon

We film-goers really can’t get enough of zombies. The brain-munching, cannibalistic horrors used to be the stuff of nightmares. But as our tastes became more extreme, the flesh-eaters managed to slip into the mainstream with genre-bending films at the forefront of zombie resurgence.

Christopher B. Landon brings zombies back to the silver screen with horror comedy, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Are we looking at a US version of Shaun of the Dead? Or something a little more dead behind the eyes? Continue reading

MM Top 5: Film in 2013

In the first edition of the MM Top 5 series in 2014, we look back at 2013 and which films stood head and shoulders above the rest. After whittling the contenders down to just five, it’s time to announce the best five films 2013 had to offer us.

5. You’re Next: August 2013: Dir: Adam Wingard
5. You're Next

5. You’re Next

The Film: In a year when horror films took a back seat to big blockbusters, remakes and uninspiring sequels, director Adam Wingard decided to think outside the box when creating his horror masterpiece You’re Next. Taking style tips from lesser films in the genre like The Strangers, When a Stranger Calls and to some extent Black Christmas, Wingard managed to create a horror film which wasn’t only downright terrifying, but genuinely funny.

Following the story of a family coming together to celebrate a special occasion, Wingard cranks up the tension three-fold when a group of masked killers start terrorising the innocent family unit. The scares come thick and fast but it is the comedic social references which really hit home. Hilarious scenes involving the family scrapping over a delightful meal are brilliantly juxtaposed to create something which simply doesn’t sit right in the mind of the audience.

Gore abound, with deliberately terrible dialogue and hideous over-acting, You’re Next is nearly perfect, however, it’s generic middle sequences stop it from placing any higher than fifth in this MM Top 5.

Success: You’re Next is a film which proves you don’t need a-list Hollywood talent, a massive budget or even a well-known director to garner box-office success. On a budget of just $1million, the movie went on to gross over $26million at cinemas across the globe.

There are rumours that a sequel is in development for release in a couple of years time, but details are still exceptionally sketchy, though this reviewer would love to see the masked murderers return in one form or another.

Receiving over 75% positive reviews from critics across the globe, it is one of the best praised horror films in recent times and fully deserves its success. For an in depth review of You’re Next, Click Here.

Click to pre-order You’re Next (UK Readers Only)

4. Iron Man 3: May 2013, Dir: Shane Black
4. Iron Man 3

4. Iron Man 3

The Film: After the huge disappointment that was Iron Man 2, director Shane Black takes over from Jon Favreau to helm the next sequel in Marvel’s biggest franchise. Robert Downey Jr continues his brilliant form as Tony Stark/Iron Man and brings to the table a much softer, more delicate side to the character than perhaps we are used to, especially considering his acid-tongue in Avengers Assemble. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts but is sorely underused once again, even though her character has been fleshed out, a little.

Set at Christmas (for some reason), Iron Man 3 follows Tony Stark as he comes to terms with his anxiety after the events in Avengers Assemble and tries to battle a foe who isn’t all he seems.

The film requires a suspension of belief, more so than any other Marvel offering and takes on a much darker, sombre tone to portray Tony’s fears and deepening depression. In fact, the majority of the film takes place out of the Iron Man suit and fleshes out Tony’s character rather than his alter ego. A risky move by Shane Black but one which works, for most of the its enormous running time.

Joining the cast are Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, a man who has a bone to pick with Stark after events which took place decades before, and a brilliant Sir Ben Kingsley as new foe, the Mandarin. Iron Man 3 is a film which took the strong points of each of the other films and apart from a few lapses, manages to remove the negative aspects. A fully deserved fourth placing in 2013’s top five films.

Success: There really is no denying the popularity of the Marvel franchise and Iron Man 3 broke many records when it was released in May last year. Ranking as 2013’s highest grossing film at the box-office, it took an incredible $1.25billion in cinemas worldwide, including over $57million in the UK, Ireland and Malta alone.

Critics were equally as impressed as the audiences who went to see the film, only criticising the lacklustre 3D which has blighted many films since its resurrection a few years ago. With a rating of 78% positive reviews, it remains one of the most highly rated Marvel films ever released, which is a true testament to Downey Jr’s brilliant characterisation and Shane Black’s new, bolder and darker direction.

Click to buy Iron Man 3 (UK Readers Only)

3. World War Z: June 2013, Dir: Marc Foster
3. World War Z

3. World War Z

The Film: Perhaps a controversial choice here as World War Z was released to a mixed critical response after its turbulent production, but what a film we ended up with. Directed by Marc Foster, who took charge of the rather disappointing Quantum of Solace, World War Z is a roller-coaster ride of adrenaline pumping action, from start to finish.

Starring Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a UN operative who has retired to spend more time with his children and wife, the film follows his story as he is thrown into the middle of a zombie apocalypse, trying to find out the root of the problem by travelling to numerous countries across the world.

Yes, the plot is paper thin, but once you’re strapped in for the ride, you couldn’t care less. Pitt commands the screen and steals the show from the other, rather stilted characters which appear from time to time. World War Z is a truly astounding film, it throws the rule-book of zombie invasions out of the window and creates its own thinking. Gone are the slow, brain-eating corpses of yesteryear, in their place are creatures which move at cheetah-like speed, forming swarms of their own kind to obliterate anything in their path.

In one particular scene, mentioned in a previous MM Top 5, we see Pitt’s character on-board an aeroplane as he does battle with infected passengers. A truly horrifying, chest-pumping moment in a film filled with them.

Only the anti-climatic finale stops World War Z from placing any higher, but it fully deserves its bronze medal.

Success: A massive budget which kept increasing ($190million) rendered World War Z dead in the water before it was even released, and after a very slow start many of the nay-sayers looked like they would be right on this one, but word of mouth finally managed to spread and in the end, the film was a box-office success, grossing over $540million worldwide, much better than the studio was hoping for.

Critical acclaim was in short supply, which was partially the reason why the film suffered from a slow opening weekend, but there were people who appreciated the movie for what it was. With an approval rating of 67%, World War Z is the lowest rated film in this list, but it deserves much more than that. For an in depth review of World War Z, Click Here.

Click to buy World War Z (UK Readers Only)

2. Pacific Rim: July 2013, Dir: Guillermo del Toro
2. Pacific Rim

2. Pacific Rim

The Film: Released in July 2013, Pacific Rim was the brainchild of visionary director Guillermo del Toro and he fashioned a corker of a movie here. Taking cues from many like-minded films such as Godzilla, Jurassic Park and the Transformers franchise, Pacific Rim adds enough story and differences to make it stand out from the rest.

The film follows the story of Earth as it comes under attack from a race of monsters from deep within the Pacific ocean. These beings, the Kaiju are truly gargantuan in size and nothing our planet can do will stop them. Enter the Jaeger program, a group of enormous man-made robots designed to take on the Kaiju and destroy them before they can cause too much damage and death.

The special effects are truly revolutionary and show just how much we have come on in the last decade. From the CGI recreations of cities like Hong Kong, to the Jaegers and Kaiju themselves, everything is painstakingly detailed to ensure that these monstrous creatures and robots are as realistic as is physically possible.

With a cast of actors like Brit favourite Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam and ex-Eastender Robert Kazinsky, audiences are treated to characters who play their roles well, because they aren’t getting over the egos that some more well-known people could have put into their characterisation.

However, a first-act lull stops the film from clinching the gold medal, and finishes in second place in this top five countdown.

Success: Pacific Rim was a victim of poor marketing and suffered at the global box-office because of it. With a budget of $190million, it grossed just over $400million, well below the studio’s expectations.

It was a bitter blow for director Guillermo del Toro who expected the film to rival Iron Man 3 as the year’s biggest and best film. It certainly rivalled it in the latter stakes, with superior special effects and a greater focus on creating something which would be remembered for being exceptional and awe-inspiring.

Despite its less than stellar performance, a sequel is already rumoured to be in the pre-production stages with Guillermo del Toro returning as director. If it can be half as entertaining as its predecessor, then they’re onto a winner. For an in depth review of Pacific Rim, Click Here.

Click to buy Pacific Rim (UK Readers Only)

1. Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Nov 2013, Dir: Francis Lawrence
1. Catching Fire

1. Catching Fire

The Film: Based on the second in Suzanne Collins’ successful trilogy of novels, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was cleverly released in a fairly quiet November when the majority of the big blockbusters had already had their run in the cinematic marketplace.

Continuing the story of Katniss Everdeen as she battles the Capitol after winning the 74th annual Hunger Games tournament with her ‘fake’ love interest Peeta Mallerk, the film showcases numerous new additions to the series, from actors and actresses, to foes and arenas, everything has been updated to ensure it can stand away from its predecessor.

Jennifer Lawrence returned to the series fresh from her Oscar win alongside Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and of course the effervescent Stanley Tucci. The acting talent is sublime, with every performance being simply excellent.

Special effects were also given a much-needed boost. Those of you familiar with my opinion of the previous film will know that I wasn’t a fan of the CGI used in creating the Capitol and the ridiculously fake-looking fire. Thankfully one of those has been stepped up a gear, with the Capitol no longer looking like a Star Wars rip-off; the CGI flames still need work however.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is everything a film should be. From its detailed story to its excellent acting and decent special effects, it is fully deserving of being crowned 2013’s greatest film.

Success: It was a film which was predicted to top the billion dollar mark; though it didn’t quite meet analysts expectations it still bettered the previous film’s takings. On a budget that had almost doubled to $140million, it’s box-office gross is a staggering $806million and still growing as the film remains in cinemas now.

The sequel, Mockingjay, will be in theatres in November this year and is already hotly tipped to become 2014’s highest grossing film, in a year which may prove tough with the release of Transformers 4 this summer.

Catching Fire is truly a film of epic proportions and its critical response rating of 89% positive reflects its standing in the market place. For an in depth review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Click Here.

Click to pre-order The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (UK Readers Only)

So there we have it, 2013 has been ranked, what do you think? Head on over to the 2014 Film Tracker to take a look at what’s coming over the next 12 months.

If you don’t agree with my thoughts, as always, leave a comment in the section below, I read and reply to each and every one!

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MM Top 5: Movie Plane Crashes

The MM Top 5 series returns after a two month break, and kicking off as we mean to go on, this edition looks at the top 5 Movie Plane Crashes. Starting from this week, there will be a new layout to the series with each nominee being separated into categories to describe the film, why it has placed in its respective position and other features depending on the topic. Plus, check out our new hyperlinks, clicking on the name of the nominee will take you to an outsourced page to give you even more information on each item for a truly interactive experience. Enjoy!

Oh, and please be aware, there will be spoilers!

5. Knowing: 2009, Dir: Alex Proyas
5: Knowing

5: Knowing

The Film: Knowing was released in the spring of 2009 to a mixed reception by critics and fans of lead actor Nicolas Cage. However, its lukewarm response was overshadowed by some impressive box office takings, over $180m worldwide on a relatively modest budget of just $50m.

Cage starred as Jonathan Koestler, a widowed, single father of one living in the sparse town of Lexington, Massachusetts who notices some strange patterns in the numbers found in a time capsule dug up by his son at school. As time goes on, Koestler notices that these digits foreshadow certain disasters, past and present.

The Scene: Stuck in traffic, Cage gets out of his vehicle to talk to a police officer, who suddenly turns and runs away. After looking behind him, Cage’s character sees a large jetliner as it slams through a set of power lines and cars as it explodes at the side of the road.

If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the sight of people running engulfed in flames is enough to make some people turn away from the screen. It is a truly terrifying sequence and one which serves as the highlight of a much understated but ultimately average Nic Cage action adventure. Sorry Nicolas, but 5th is where you place in this edition.

Click to buy Knowing  (UK Readers Only)

4. Final Destination: 2000, Dir: James Wong
4: Final Destination

4: Final Destination

The Film: Final Destination is a rare thing, a horror film which manages to do everything right. Creating a new premise which had never been done before, it revitalised a seriously flagging genre and captivated blood lovers across the globe. Its success has been truly unbelievable, with 4 sequels and a rumoured 5th on the way, the series has grown from strength to strength, as long as you forget the 4th instalment that is.

The first film, released in 2000 was ridiculous fun. Its cringe worthy dialogue and vomit inducing death scenes perfectly captured 21st Century horror. Starring Devon Sawa and Ali Larter, it followed a group of high-school students and their teachers after they survived a horrific plane crash, but one-by-one, death picked them off and sent them on their way in a series of ludicrous scenes not afraid of using the blood effects.

The Scene: A turbulent take-off leaves passengers on board flight 180 with white knuckles, but sighs of relief are heard all around when things start to even out again, but it doesn’t last long. Suddenly, the plane shakes violently, with cabin lights constantly flickering on and off.

As oxygen masks descend into the cabin, a severe explosion tears through the aircraft, causing the seats to break free from their mounting, which sends them into the night sky. Finally, the camera switches back to the airport where horrified passengers see the plane explode, with the resulting shockwave shattering the windows. This was a brilliantly choreographed scene which still serves as one of the series’ highlights.

Click to buy Final Destination  (UK Readers Only)

3. Con Air: 1997, Dir: Simon West
3: Con Air

3: Con Air

The Film: Con Air remains one of the finest action films ever released in cinemas and has a cult following with many throughout the world. It was released as a summer blockbuster which had to compete with the likes of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Titanic, it performed moderately well at the global box office, earning over $220m on a budget of $75m.

Starring Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich and John Cusack as well as a host of other big Hollywood names, Con Air followed the story of some of America’s most dangerous criminals and parolee Cameron Poe (Cage) as they travelled to a new maximum security facility. However, things don’t run to plan as the criminals hijack the plane, sending the viewer on a terrifying journey to see whether Poe will get his parole at all!

The Scene: Trigger-happy Agent Malloy, played by Colm Meaney, is in pursuit of the hijacked plane in an Apache helicopter. Arming the aircraft, Malloy looks for a target lock when Nicolas Cage’s character radios through to say that he’s taken control of the plane. Malloy stops his attack but it’s too little, too late, after firing at it numerous times, the plane is heading for the ground.

As the jet approaches Las Vegas, the pilot informs Cage that the plane simply will not make it to the airport, and they’ll have to emergency land on the strip. Exciting!

The plane passes over the crowded streets of Las Vegas, clipping the Hard Rock Casino’s giant guitar logo before colliding with the ground as well as several different vehicles, trees and street signs. It’s all rendered in truly terrible CGI, but is an amazing scene to watch nonetheless.

After a bit of a bump, a flash and a sparkle, the aircraft comes to rest, with notably less in the way of wings, tail and fuselage than it started with all those hours ago. It’s an exciting sequence that allows the viewer to truly escape into the film, but the shoddy CGI stops it from clinching the silver medal in this MM Top 5.

Click to buy Con Air  (UK Readers Only)

2. The Grey: 2011, Joe Carnahan
2: The Grey

2: The Grey

The Film: It is possible that The Grey is perhaps the most understated film of 2011. Starring Liam Neeson as the central character, the film grossed less than $100m at the worldwide box office yet remains one of the finest thriller creature features ever released. Director Joe Carnahan utilises some breath-taking scenery to great effect and the story is as deep as you would want it to be for the genre.

Neeson plays deeply troubled John Ottway, a sharpshooter working in the Alaskan wilderness, protecting a team of workers who are hunting for oil. On the last day of work before the holiday season, the plane which carries the team to civilisation crashes, stranding them in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a pack of wolves. For an in depth review of The Grey, Click Here.

The Scene: In a scene which for me clinched it as the best movie plane crash ever until the winner below stole the crown, Liam Neeson’s character John Ottway is relaxing on his journey back to civilisation when all of a sudden, an explosion rips through the cabin knocking some passengers out and causing others to freeze in panic. This part of the sequence is exceptionally tense and makes the audience feel incredibly claustrophobic as the plane tears through the sky, wind and snow rushing past the people on board.

Once on the ground, the surviving members of the team realise they have landed in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Ottway knows this isn’t good and sure enough, each of them is picked off by a pack of hungry grey wolves, leaving only a couple of members hiking to safety. The entire film is an absolute rollercoaster ride of tension and relentless claustrophobia, but the plane crash sequence is truly horrifying and fully deserves the silver medal in this fortnight’s list.

Click to buy The Grey  (UK Readers Only)

1. World War Z: 2013, Dir: Marc Forster
1: World War Z

1: World War Z

The Film: World War Z was a film plagued by production problems, constant reshoots, recasting and soundtrack issues, so even making it to the cinema was an achievement for director Marc Forster. What is an even greater achievement however is at how damn good this film is.

With Brad Pitt at the helm and a supporting cast which includes Peter Capaldi (the new Dr Who), World War Z has cemented its place as one of the best films of 2013. Predicted to be a worldwide flop at the box office, it actually did rather well, grossing over $530m on a budget just shy of $200m.

Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, an ex UN advisor now living as a full-time parent in Philadelphia. After an unnamed virus takes over billions of people across the globe, turning them into blood thirsty zombies, Pitt is thrown back into the ring to try and find out just what was the source of the epidemic. For an in depth review of World War Z, Click Here.

The Scene: As Lane and his injured soldier partner Segen board a flight to leave the hordes of zombies attacking Jerusalem, they relax and finally think their ordeal is over. How wrong they are! A stowaway zombie boards the plane and begins infecting members of the crew and some unlucky passengers.

Realising there is no way out of the predicament they are in, Pitt’s character throws a grenade, which then explodes, blasting a huge hole in the side of the plane. As zombies and remaining passengers are sucked out of the disintegrating aircraft, Pitt and his partner strap themselves in and brace for the emergency landing. Utilising the rolling Welsh hills as a backdrop, the plane comes into land in excruciatingly impressive fashion, colliding with coniferous trees and breaking up into several pieces. It is one of the finest films of 2013 and its plane crash will no doubt go down in history as one of the most tense, electrifying pieces of aviation disaster cinema ever. A fully deserved gold medal in this MM Top 5.

Click to buy World War Z  (UK Readers Only)

An Honourable Mention

Jurassic Park III – 2001, Dir: Joe Johnston

Cast Away – 2000, Dir: Robert Zemeckis

United 93 – 2006, Dir: Paul Greengrass

Which do you think was best, or perhaps none of those float your boat? Vote in our fortnightly poll and share your views in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

World War Z: Review [2013]

Brad Pitt has become one of Hollywood’s best loved actors over the years and it isn’t difficult to see why. His chiselled good looks, slick blonde hair and quiet confidence have all ensured he is never short of work. Here, he teams up with director Marc Forster who helmed the disappointing James Bond sequel, Quantum of Solace, in the latest zombie film to hit the screens; World War Z, but is it any good? Continue reading