HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)

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THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)

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Book based horror is an interesting and intriguing addition to the overcrowded zombie sub-genre. In this tale, a fungus has turned most of the world’s population into crazed carnivores seeking human and/or other living flesh for food. A small group of soldiers and scientists are trying to seek a cure through a group of infected children whose aggressive behavior is surpressed and only becomes volatile when they are hungry and in the proximity of prey, or the scent of the living. One such little girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is the most intelligent and controlled of the subjects…and thus of the most interest to lead scientist, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). When the “Hungries” overrun the base, a small group of survivors, including sympathetic teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) and Caldwell, take Melanie on the run to find a safe haven, as the young girl may be mankind’s last hope. Along the way they find armies of Hungries and groups of feral children like the ones back at the base. Melanie now has a choice, to help save humanity or find a home amongst her own “kind”.

British flick is a mix of Day Of The Dead and Lord Of The Flies and thus keeps us interested with it’s focus on the “second generation” children of a zombie outbreak. The film is very effectively directed by Colm McCarthy from a script by Mike Carey, based on his book of the same name. Girl creates a very sympathetic and likable character in Melanie and this has us quite endeared to her despite the fact that there is a monster lurking beneath the skin. McCarthy also gives some intensity and chills to some of the more familiar sequences, even though fans of the genre have seen hordes of hungry zombies in action before. The fact that we have some likable characters in the mix like Miss Justineau, helps involve us with scenes like the Hungries overrunning the base and when the characters are in danger. The film has some clever ideas, such as the interesting slant of Melanie basically being able to walk amongst the Hungries unscathed, as she technically is one of them and thus goes from basically a prisoner to valued member of the team. Once the film switches gears from George A. Romero to William Golding, it becomes quite interesting as Melanie starts to wonder whether this is infection or evolution and realizes that the team needs her more than she needs them. There are also some very familiar clichés such as the self-serving scientist and the soldier with a grudge (Paddy Considine) along with many familiar zombie tropes. There are, obviously, some gruesome moments and some brutality, though McCarthy makes them effective by not overdoing it with the well-rendered blood-spattering. When it comes, it’s startling. There is also a really good score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer that adds atmosphere and the film is shot well by Simon Dennis, especially effective when the film changes settings to a London abandoned and overgrown with vegetation.

Another element that makes this work so well, is the cast. Young Sennia Nanua gives a simply amazing performance as Melanie. We see a girl who is intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate to the point of total compliance with being a test subject. We watch her slowly begin to realize just how important she is and then assume a position of dominance as she comes to the realization that she may be at the top of the food chain, as both predator and leader. In all aspects of her character, Nanua is captivating and in the last act she exudes a strength that grabs you. Her relationship with Arterton’s Miss Justineau is also crucial, as she is the anchor to which Melanie’s humanity is tethered. The two actors have a genuine chemistry that makes the friendship work and the affection seem genuine. Gemma Arterton once again proves she is more than a pretty face with a strong turn as the caring teacher who sees her students as more than monsters…even to a fault. Veteran Glenn Close is also strong as scientist Dr. Caldwell. Sure the character is cliché, but the veteran actress gives her some depth, even when she becomes the cold, ruthless, scientist we expect from the role. Rounding out is Paddy Considine who is also good as the soldier with a hatred for the Hungies and who treats the children like the monsters he feels they are. The character has a bit of depth, especially when we find the root of his anger. Cliché but effective thanks to a solid actor in the part.

Overall, I really liked this flick despite feeling the zombie sub-genre needs a much needed break. The film has some familiar elements, but also does it’s own thing with a fascinating lead character in Melanie and an interesting Lord Of The Flies slant in it’s second half. We have a solid script from Carey and some very effective direction from Colm McCarthy. The cast are all very good, with young lead Sennia Nanua really making an impression with a layered and sometimes powerful performance of a unique little girl in an unthinkable situation. Not a completely original zombie flick, but one that has enough of it’s own ideas to make it effective and refreshing enough in an overcrowded sub-genre.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 girls with all the gifts.

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REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

I’d never even heard of Guardians Of The Galaxy till Marvel announced a film version of the comic. So, I went into this flick blind though, I am a big fan of director James Gunn’s Slither and was familiar with his devious and sarcastic sense of humor. And while I do feel some familiarity with the comic would help a little going in, I had a blast of a good time nonetheless.

The film opens with a young boy, Peter Quill being abducted from Earth by a space ship and then fast forwards 26 years later with Quill (Chris Pratt) now a renown thief who calls himself Star Lord and runs with a group of space pirates know as the Ravagers. He steals a mysterious orb which is also on the wanted list of a vicious Kree usurper called Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) and when he tries to sell it without involving the Ravager’s leader Yondru (Michael Rooker), he also earns a price on his head. And when he collides with Ronan’s assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and bounty hunters Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) and the plant-like Groot (Vin Diesel) all four land in jail. It is there they bond over common issues and enemies and hook up with their eventual 5th member Drax (WWE Superstar Dave Bautista) and the Guardians Of The Galaxy are born! Now they must escape from prison and somehow keep the orb out of Ronan’s hands as he seeks to use it’s powerful contents to lay waste to anyone who stands in his way, including the Nova Corp home world of Xandar and even the powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin) himself.

Yea, Guardians is a little plot heavy but, makes it work in just over two hours. One of the few flaws I had with it was, that the plot is a little complex in terms of characters, which there are a lot of, and backstory, which is kinda rushed through in quick exposition sequences. The first half hour is a bit clunky as we have five main characters and two or three villains to introduce us to and the flick tries to get this origin stuff out of the way as quick as possible to get the story moving. And this first segment is a bit too fast paced for it’s own good. But, once the heroes bond inside the Nova Corp prison and form a misfit group with a mission, the flick accelerates into a incredibly fun, and hysterically funny at times, sci-fi adventure that is one of this Summer’s best movies and one of the most outright entertaining movies Marvel has put out since The Avengers. Director and co-writer, with Nicole Perlman, James Gunn has shown us his audacious, mischievous and deviously sarcastic sense of humor in his previous films and here he delivers some really funny lines and scenes that test the boundaries of Marvel’s PG-13 movie universe while not disrupting the dazzling and action packed space opera going on around it. He keeps the film moving like a rocket, though a little too fast at first as said, and there are some truly dazzling action and battle scenes throughout. And the best thing of all, is the film also has some nice emotional resonance to go along with the one-liners and space battles and the film has a huge heart to go along with all the CGI wizardry. The characters fast become very endearing and the villains are strong and help add weight to the story. There are dozens of bizarre and unique characters that populate Gunn’s vision of the Guardian universe and the production design reminded me of the classic Heavy Metal comics when it was in it’s glory with artists like Moebius. I really loved the look of the film and the FX were flawless and amazing. Top that off with another strong score by Tyler Bates supported with a great assortment of classic tunes and you have a real blast of a movie with a refreshingly mischievous and rebellious edge to add contrast to the other Marvel films in this ongoing series.

There is a large cast and all of them do good work at bringing their colorful and offbeat characters to life. Pratt makes a strong ‘bad boy’ hero and is a nice addition to Marvel’s canon and is nicely flawed reminding one of a less genius and far less polished Tony Stark. Saldana is a strong and passionate Gamora and has a nice chemistry with Pratt and the others. Bradley Cooper steals the show as the voice of Rocket Raccon and he has some of the film’s best lines and delivers them with some deft comic timing. Diesel’s Groot has only one line the tree creature can utter and gets the point across and adds a little different tone and inference to that line each time he says it. Rounding out our heroes is a surprisingly very funny Dave Bautista. The WWE Superstar gives some hilariously dry line readings as well as creates a very noble and imposing warrior in Drax. He shows much more range then some of his other roles. As for the rest, Pace makes a very threatening villain in Ronan, Karen Gillan made a strong villainess in his assassin assistant Nebula and Rooker is top notch, as always, as the out for himself Yondu. Add to that, eccentric character appearances by Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly and Glen Close and you have a deep cast that really make the offbeat characters come vividly to life whether it is a large role or little more then a cameo… and let’s not forget Josh Brolin giving a lot of weight to Thanos, who is to play a far larger role in future Marvel films.

To finish up, I had a blast with one of the most audaciously fun and uniquely toned and designed space operas in some time. It’s a refreshingly different entry in the Marvel film series but, somehow fits right in. It starts off a little awkwardly with a lot of backstory and characters to establish but, ones it gets going it’s a roller coaster ride of sci-fi action and fun, that isn’t afraid to test the boundaries of Marvels family friendly movies. A real blast and probably the most fun I’ve had in a movie since The Avengersand not to mention a dynamite soundtrack of classic tunes that are perfectly used and placed throughout. Highly recommended!

… and, obviously stay through the credits!

3 and 1/2 Gamoras.

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