Devils of War (2013): Get Ze Cliche

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Written and directed by Eli Dorsey, Devils of War is his first feature film. One can only hope that he has learned his lesson with this film and either changes his career choice or makes a better feature film next time.

Starring Sunt Coordinator/stuntman Jerry L Buxbaum as the “legendary” leader of a four man team that is, unsurprisingly, full of three more “legendary” men. Buxbaum can be said to be the biggest name in the film. His elite team has been tasked by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) himself to extract a mole from the occult headquarters of Hitlers paranormal Nazi division.

In a race against time and demons, the small squad must rescue the mole and stop evil from winning the war.

I am sure that this must have seemed like a good idea on paper. Hell, just re-reading my short synopsis of the film makes it sound better than it actually is.

There is no doubt in my mind that this film was most likely intended to be a parody or a satire of old war films like The Dirty Dozen or The Guns of Navarone but with a supernatural twist. Unfortunately the film is so bad, it isn’t funny. It is just horrendously awful.

The lines are leaden and so full of stereotypical clichés that it hurts the ears to listen to them. The acting is so wooden that a tinker-toy could have acted rings around any chosen member of the cast. The story, which as I said above, wouldn’t be bad except for the dodgy effects, plot holes, poor cinematography, ridiculous script and bad acting, could be a good one

I will say that there are a couple of instances where the special FX is fairly impressive, but only in a couple of places does it rise above mediocre. The explosions are obviously CGI as well as some of the sets. Again, I had the feeling that this “obvious” CG schtick was on purpose as part of the “gag.” It just doesn’t work.

From obvious clinkers like the lead character referring to an aluminium warehouse as a castle and the actors playing the Nazi occult specialist Thorn and the two scientists looking like the geeks that hang around the Radio Shack store or PC World in the 21st century, this film was so bad I felt cheated at the purchase price of three pounds sterling (or about 5 bucks).

I had no idea that they had silicone in 1944!
I had no idea that they had silicone in 1944!

There were some laughably bad lines (generally from the Nazi members of the cast) that did bring the odd snort of laughter from me while watching. Lines like: “Get ze Girl!” and “Bring me ze virgin.” Not to mention, “She got avay.”

Sure, we know that “movie German’s say Zis und zat, und ze, but not quite zo cartoonish-ly.

I could write on for another 500 words about how bad this film actually is, but, I will stop fairly quickly. I don’t want to run this into the ground here. I do want to point out that with the availability of digital equipment that is being used widely in the Independent market right now, there was no reason for the film to look bad as well.

Amazingly, IMDb gave this film a score of 2.8! I can only assume that Dorsey or someone on the production side of things handed a few bucks under the table to give the movie some kind of score.

My final verdict is not 2, not 1, not any stars out of 5. I can only feel that this film might find an audience amongst the more “drug induced” viewers. Because the only way that this film could be entertaining would be if the target demographic was the “high-as-a-kite” clubs of the world.

Avoid at all cost and if it is offered to you for free?

Pay to watch another film!

The "tip-off" should have been the fact that the film is referred to as a "Cult Classic" on the cover!
The “tip-off” should have been the fact that the film is referred to as a “Cult Classic” on the cover!

Bunraku (2010)

A little deviation from the world cinema train. Bunraku feels like it should fall under that category. Here’s a link to the trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVabHV…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): Hail Caesar

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Rupert Wyatt,  Rise of the Planet of the Apes  is nothing short of magnificent.  My daughter and I saw this at the cinema and let me tell you, getting to watch  Andy Serkis as Caesar, was worth the price of admission.

Since I’m going to be writing about this film, I’ll explain now that I’ll be referring to it as just Apes from now on. And that honestly is my only complaint about the film. The length of it’s title. Apart from that, the film was nigh-on perfect. So perfect that I did not hesitate to buy the Triple Play Blu-Ray DVD the second it hit the stores.

Of course Andy Serkis was not the only performer who gave a sterling performance in Apes. The cast itself was of a high calibre and also well worth the price of admission. James Franco (Spider-man 1,2,and 3), Freida Pinto (in her third film), John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad in Shrek, Harry and the Hendersons), Brian Cox (in just about every movie made in the last twenty years) and not to forget Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films. It seems that acting snotty is Felton’s speciality.

I am sure that there are some other films that have been remade as much as the Planet of the Apes, but off-hand I can’t think of them. Of course having just written that, I remembered that The Hulk at the very least ties with Planet of the Apes in terms of re-makes.

Planet of the Apes (1968 film)

The first Planet of the Apes was made in 1968 and it was a”Landmark” film.  Starring Charlton Heston, It featured full frontal male nudity, it featured state-of-the-art prosthetic masks and make-up for the ‘apes’, and it had no less than five sequels.In 20o1 it was re-made by Tim Burton with a stellar cast. And now we have a “re-boot” version that pretty much trumps the other two versions of the film.Planet of the Apes (2001 film)

The plot does vary from the original, so here it is in a very condensed form.Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist. He has been working on a cure for alzheimer’s, which his father Charles (John Lithgow) suffers from. Will has been experimenting on apes and has come up with a formula that increases their intelligence and overall ability.When the company that Will works for put on a presentation of his progress, Will’s prize ape (the female ape that has responded the best to the formula) goes berserk.

Not only does she scare the hell out of the attendees but she has to be killed by a guard before she can harm anyone. Will’s boss, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders the rest of the apes destroyed. While cleaning out the female ape’s ‘cage’ they find that she went mad because she thought her baby was in danger.

Rather than destroying the baby ape, Will takes him home to raise him and provide some sort of companionship for his father. Will discovers the the baby ape, who his father Charles names Caesar, has the improved intelligence of his mother.

Charles’s condition is getting worse and in desperation Will starts giving his dad the formula that was used on Caesar’s mother. He improves dramatically, but the change is only temporary. When Charles is accosted by a neighbour, Caesar protects Charles and savagely attacks the neighbour.

Caesar is then put into an animal shelter run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his son Dodge (Tom Felton). Meanwhile, Will has perfected the formula that he first used and has gotten permission to continue experiments with a new group of apes.

That is where I have to stop because I don’t want to  be accused of spoiling anything. I will say that you will be on the ape’s side for most if not all of the film. There are places in the film where you just want to cheer, rage against the character (human characters), bang your fist in frustration, and sit on the edge of your seat in suspence. You will laugh and if you don’t cry a little, you will at least get a lump in your throat.

The use of Motion Capture in the film has been improved and the CGI is faultless. I did not at any time  think that the apes were not real. The smoothness and the reality of the fx were perfect and really helped you get carried away with the film.

I will leave you with one bit of advice: Do not miss this film.

Chronicle (2012): With Great Power Comes Great Problems

Directed and co-written by Josh Trank (Max Landis was the other writer on the film) Chronicle is a brilliant example of what film making should be.  The three actors who play the main protagonists in the film, Michael B. Jordan (Steve), Alex Russell (Matt), and Dane DeHaan (Andrew) really sell the film. It is not surprising though, Jordan and DeHaan have both been working for a while in the business and Jordan has been popular in television for some time now. Russell is the youngest in terms of screen time, but it does not show in his performance.

The Readers Digest version of the plot is as follows:

Andrew has started filming his life. Although as we initially get to know Andrew, we can only wonder why? Andrew is one of life’s social outcasts. His life, pretty much sucks. His mother is dying slowly and painfully from cancer. His dad is drinking to dull the pain of the expense of caring for and the eventual loss of his wife. Unfortunately a by-product of dad’s drinking is physical and verbal abuse of Andrew. At school Andrew is pretty much friendless except for his cousin Matt. He is a figure to be picked on by bullies and shunned by the girls in his school.

His cousin Matt invites Andrew to a Rave. The idea is for Andrew to meet more people and work on his social skills. Alas, Andrew meets the same personality types in the Rave as in his school. He is thrown out of the Rave along with his video camera.

He is approached by Steve, a friend of Matt’s, who asks Andrew to come and film something that he and Matt have found. What they have found is a hole in the ground that contains a large crystal-like object that exudes light and a humming sound. The three boys are affected by this crystal thing and it affects the camera as well. After apparently passing out the boys leave the crystal and the hole.

The boys discover that they can do special things since their encounter with the crystal.  Andrew who is filming everything, records the new ‘powers’ that the crystal has given them. The boys have seemingly developed super powers. They can fly, are pretty much impervious to pain, and can use telekinesis to control and move objects. Out of the three boys, it turns out that Andrew is the most capable and the strongest.

Andrew begins to change. Matt talks him into entering the school’s talent show. Andrew will use his powers to put on a magic act. Steve and Matt both help Andrew. The goal is to improve Andrew popularity at school. The plan seems to be working great until they go to a party after the talent show. Andrew disappears upstairs with a girl to ‘pop his cherry’ and it goes very badly. Andrew vomits on the girl and himself. Humiliated Andrew leaves the party.

Andrew’s Mother is getting worse and his father is becoming more abusive. These combine to make Andrew’s mood very dark indeed. He decides, in the depths of his misery that he is a Apex Predator and that he can harm or kill who ever he wants to.

This film caught my attention from the first frame and did not relinquish it until the final credits rolled. Trank and Landis have created a brilliant picture of what life is like from the viewpoint of a loser. They also show that being a loser has a lot to do with your state of mind, not just your circumstances. Andrew is one of life’s losers, so much so that even after he gets ‘super-powers’ he is unable to rise above the set backs he is presented with.

Andrew is so full of rage at the way his life is, he cannot accept that he alone change it. It makes his character just as doomed as if he had never gotten his super powers. Both Steve and Matt try repeatedly to help Andrew overcome his social ineptness and increase his popularity with everyone. Unfortunately Andrew is so bogged down in his misery that he never really stands a chance.

The film is brilliantly shot and the CGI is perfect. The scenes where the boys are first learning to fly and then mastering the skill of it are amazing. The entire film is helped by the Blair Witch  and Cloverfield approach. We the audience see everything through the lens of Andrew’s camera and it is done so well that we can really identify with Andrew and his frustration and anger. If I had to hazard a guess, I think the message that the film is trying to convey is this: No matter how much power you have, it means nothing if you can’t rise above yourself.

Chronicle is a brilliant film that enjoyed a positive reception from both critics and the audience. I would highly recommend seeing this just for the flying scenes alone.