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MV5BMTk4ODgxMDU0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTg0NzcyMDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_What’s it all about?

The Last Days of Mars, according to IMDb, is about

A group of astronaut explorers [who] succumb one by one to a mysterious and terrifying force while collecting specimens on Mars.

In other words: Martian Space Zombies!

Why did I want to watch it?

One of those things really. I was doing something in the kitchen and was flicking through the movie channels to see if there was anything worth watching while I was doing whatever it I was doing and came across a zombie-type attack on Mars. I just love films (and books for that matter) set on Mars so it was a no-brainer to find out when it was being shown next and to record it.

What did I think of it?

If you’re going to watch this sort of thing then a gloomy, wet and windy Sunday afternoon (as it is slowly getting dark) is the perfect setting for a small horror film.

And it wasn’t too bad; a good cast (Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams and Elias Koteas for a start), a surprisingly claustrophobic setting (small base on big empty planet), people who’ve been stuck together for six months and keen to get home, and the Unexpected Thing That Happens just as they’re getting ready to leave.

Which of course isn’t that unexpected. As soon as someone breaks protocol to keep their major discovery to themselves you know it’s all going to go pear-shaped. Have none of these people seen Alien?

Things I learned from this movie:

  • never, ever trust anyone who says “Just trust me on this one”
  • the team member with the previous unspecified traumatic incident that no-one talks about is probably going to come through in the end
  • someone will always state the obvious e.g. “this just doesn’t make sense” as previously thought-to-be-dead person comes back to life
  • the person who appears not to be seriously injured almost certainly is, and will go to great pains to hide the fact
  • it’s a good idea to check that everyone, but everyone, is accounted for before you go into the apparently abandoned main base, in the dark

Like I said, not too bad, half the team trying to be stoic under significant provocation while the other half is falling to pieces all over the place. And they were all a bit horrible to Olivia Williams’ stroppy female scientist who might have been a pain but who was absolutely right at every single stage.

And I thought the climax was a bit of a cop-out. I think the director was trying for something open and ambiguous, leaving it up to us to decide what was going to happen, but it all seemed a bit too much of a “not sure how to finish it, let’s just do this” ending.

But seriously not that bad, and a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Assuming you like Martian space zombies, of course 🙂

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MV5BMTg0NTgxMjIxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM0MDY1OQ@@._V1_SX214_Zombies have never been a favourite horror thing of mine but they have clearly taken over from vampires and I find myself reading a lot of zombie-focused books these days, but the films, well that’s a different matter. I’m not always good with gore. Often, just not always.

What’s World War Z all about?

Let’s turn to our friends at IMDb:

United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

If I was a person who quibbles I would point out that he is a former UN employee but I try very hard not to be that person. Though I usually fail.

Why did I want to see it?

Well I read the source novel a few years ago (you can find the review here on my other blog) and Silvery Dude started watching it but only made it through the first twenty minutes (far be it from me to suggest he might be a wuss), though his description made it sound very cool. And it was a sunny Saturday, ripe for horror even of the slick and not too grungy sort.

So what did I think of it?

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  It bears only a superficial resemblance to the source material but that was always going to be the case, and it was a bit disconcerting seeing George Square in Glasgow pretending to be Philadelphia given that I used to walk through there twice a day on my way too and from uni.

I liked the way the film just launched into the story without the usual disaster movie setting up of character back story so you can worry about which ones are not going to make it. There were some very nice jumpy moments and it moved at a cracking pace. Brad Pitt is as always a personable screen presence, believable as a UN worker and good at the whole compassion thing. The zombies are pretty cool and they swarm effectively, and the world gets saved from Cardiff (well, nearby anyway). Nice cameo from Peter Capaldi reminding us all just how sinister he can look without really trying (and he’s one of the good guys). Very enjoyable.

But *whispers* the book is better, go read it.

paranorman-posterI like creepy films that are aimed at kids. The Nightmare Before Christmas (one of my all-time favourite films). Coraline. Frankenweenie. And so on.

So when Silvery Dude recommended ParaNorman he did so on the basis of firm evidence and I was happy to have a look, and I’m glad I took his advice because this is just a lovely film

Norman is a bit unusual because he can see and communicate with the dead (particularly his grandma, the wonderful Elaine Stritch) and hasn’t kept this talent to himself, so his mother worries about him, his father is exasperated, his older sister treats him with contempt (though as an older sister myself I think I remember that being part of the job description) and all the kids at school make fun of him. But he is the only person with the skills to cope when the witches curse which has historically hung over his home town turns out to be real, and a group of zombies is unleashed.

Like I say I thought this was a lovely film, not to demean it in any way, it’s just that there are lots of super-positive things in it, especially in the way Norman resolves the whole crisis, makes friends with Neil who is also tormented (in his case because he is fat, but manages to maintain a phlegmatic outlook and is very sweet) but all the while continues to be himself (and looks like doing so once the trouble is over and everyone gets back to normal). Even the school bully comes out pretty well. And as for the witch, well that’s another thing altogether.

And it’s always good to see a rampaging horde of bloodthirsty townspeople brandishing  the modern equivalent of a pitchfork.

One to be added to the Halloween watch-list.