Archive for Apocalypse

29 – Reign of Fire

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2014 by Duane Patrick

reign_of_fire_xlg Envy the country that has heroes, huh?

I say pity the country that needs them.

 

Reign of Fire, like the fire-breathing dragons, is a strange beast of an apocalyptic film, but one I fell in love with from the first time I saw it. As you have seen from this blog I do have a real passion for the apocalyptic genre, and perhaps it was this was one that was set in the UK, (even though it was filmed in Ireland) that drew me into it. This was an apocalyptic film set in my world, not in the United States, or in Australia, but it had fields and a big castle, it was my landscape, it’s what the apocalypse would be for me, however then there was the fire-breathing dragons. Reign of Fire certainly brought a new way of ending human civilization on earth.

Reign of Fire opens with a young boy called Quinn visiting his mother, and engineer on a construction site, he accidentally disturbs a fire-breathing dragon which has been sleeping below the earth, waiting for the right time to emerge again, The dragon proceeds to kill everyone at the site except for the young boy Quinn.

 Twenty years later, Quinn has grown up to be Christian Bale ( Batman!) and the leader of a small settlement in the North of England. We have the usual apocalyptic trope when he explains in voiceover while writing in his diary, the story of the apocalypse, that  the dragons reproduced with astonishing speed. Within months, there were millions, and they began laying the world to waste and feasting on the ash left over from the conflagrations they caused. The militaries of the world took up the gauntlet, of course, but there were a fuck of a lot of dragons, and they were extremely hard to kill. In the end, with most of the Earth’s land-surface already reduced to a tremendous ash-field anyway, those nations that had them resorted to nuclear weapons. Even that wasn’t enough, and by 2020, there is hardly anything left of the world we know at all. The only bright spot is that the dragons’ numbers seem to be falling off; having burned up everything in sight, the creatures are now beginning to starve to death.

     It’s that last part that is the lynchpin of Quinn’s survival strategy. He and the people he leads— something less than 100 men, women, and children— have set themselves up in a medieval castle (stone being damned hard to burn), beneath which they have dug out a network of insulated tunnels served by an ingenious water-cooling system devised by a man who once made blast furnaces for a living. Quinn’s village is more or less self-sufficient, growing their crops in fields too small to attract the dragons’ notice , and Quinn’s hope is that they will be able to hold out until the monsters’ self-created famine drives them back below the surface— as has apparently happened repeatedly in the distant past. (Among the none-too-useful insights into dragon biology that the old world’s scientists were able to arrive at before the apocalypse cranked into high gear was that the dragons had caused the Cretaceous extinction, along with other similar events.) The trouble is, Quinn’s people are hungry, too, and it is a very open question which species will outlast the other.

     Then one day, the castle receives a visit from a band of extremely heavily armed men riding a motley collection of military vehicles, up to and including a helicopter and a main battle tank. These men are, in the words of Quinn’s friend Creedy (Gerard Butler), the “one thing worse than dragons— Americans.” Specifically, they’re the “Kentucky Irregulars,” ex-military men under the command of one Denton Van Zan (Academy Award winner now, Matthew McConaughey) who have set themselves on a seemingly quixotic quest to eliminate dragons from the world. And to be fair, they really have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success as dragonslayers. The mere fact that they managed to fly across the Atlantic in one piece proves that. The day after their arrival at Quinn’s castle, the Kentucky Irregulars get a chance to demonstrate their dragon-killing technique, when one of the creatures attacks a tomato field. In the great tradition of the American military, it involves equal parts advanced technology and seat-of-the-pants improvisation, and despite an understandably high casualty rate, it gets the job done.

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 But Van Zan is playing for higher stakes. As he scornfully points out to the Brits who are so riotously celebrating his victory that night, killing off one dragon here and another there isn’t going to do the human race a bit of good in the long run. But he and his top lieutenant, Alex the helicopter pilot (Izabella Scorupco), have come armed with a theory that casts the battle against the monsters in entirely different terms. You see, neither the Kentucky Irregulars nor anyone else they’ve been in contact with has ever seen a male dragon, and Van Zan is willing to bet that Quinn and his people haven’t, either. Van Zan figures that’s because there’s only one, that dragon society is in effect a mirror image of a bee hive. He and Alex have used computers back home to analyze the dragons’ movements across the globe, and they believe not only that the creatures first appeared in London .

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 Reign of Fire makes a strong showing for itself. Its premise gives it a leg up to start with, and this is then reinforced by excellent casting and a few bits of really accomplished writing. The antagonism between Quinn and Van Zan, for example, is the best kind, the kind in which both characters have entirely valid reasons for behaving the way they do, and in which neither can claim to be entirely right about the decisions those reasons lead them to. Quinn’s wait-the-dragons-out approach really does seem to be the product of sheer wishful thinking, but he’s absolutely right in believing that Van Zan is about to bite off much more than he can chew. And though Van Zan’s is the only strategy that holds out any meaningful hope for humanity, the miscalculations he makes in carrying it out have an enormous cost which is borne principally by people who are essentially innocent bystanders. Bale and McConaughey do an excellent job with this material, so much so that it hardly matters that theirs are the only characters in the movie with any depth to them.reign-fire_l

The third act of the film is a pure homage to the final act of Jaws, just substituting Sharks for dragons, Dont get me wrong Reign of Fire has its flaws, but it is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, and also an apocalyptic film you may well get away with talking a girlfriend into watching………. Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey and Gerard Butler, just don’t mention the dragons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vwpEIIwvW8

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32 – A Carol For Another Christmas

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2013 by Duane Patrick

Carol_for_Another_Christmas

“When we stop talking, we start swinging,then we bleed. Then we got problems. Like winding up dead.”

You can imagine how hard it is to find an apocalyptic Christmas movie, this is the time of year for ‘feel-good’ classics. However A Carol for another Christmas is right up my street, written by the great Rod Serling, a man who has played a big part in my interest in the apocalyptic genre, this tv movie also stars, Peter Sellers and Sterling Hayden who earlier in the year had starred in Stanley Kubrick‘s Dr. Strangelove, and finally this movie was directed by two-time oscar winner, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, again who had earlier directed that year Cleopatra. This is the traditional retelling of A Christmas Carol, which has been adapted so many times, and with each adaptation tells a story also of the time it is made, and no more so than this adaptation from the 1960’s , instead of Victorian England’s Ebenezer Scrooge gaining a belated appreciation for the spirit of Christmas, this production would offer an isolationist U.S. industrialist who gains a belated appreciation of the spirit of U.N.-style diplomacy.

Back in 1964, the Xerox Corporation agreed to underwrite a series of made-for-television films that were designed to promote the positive humanitarian activities of the United Nations. Xerox, which prided itself as a leader in corporate social responsibility, agreed to spend $4 million on this endeavor, and that was no small sum back in 1964. A nonprofit organization called the Telsun Foundation was formed to produce these films; Telsun was an abbreviated version of “Television Series for the United Nations.”

“Carol for Another Christmas” opens at Christmas Eve in the isolated mansion of the terminally brusque Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden). Grudge’s academician nephew (Ben Gazzara) shows up to argue about Grudge’s role in canceling an educational exchange between a local university and a university in Poland. Grudge angrily believes the Cold War atmosphere should not encourage this exchange. However, Grudge is also nursing the bitter reminder that his only son, Marley, was killed on Christmas Eve during World War II.

Grudge then receives the Dickensian three ghosts treatment. The ghost of Christmas past is a World War I soldier (cabaret singer Steve Lawrence) “When we stop talking, we start swinging,” he tells Grudge. “Then we bleed. Then we got problems. Like winding up dead.” The ghost then takes Grudge to Hiroshima after the Japanese surrender in World War II – Grudge visited a hospital as part of his duties as a Navy commander and observed young girls who were gruesomely disfigured in the atomic blast. Grudge is unmoved by their plight.

Then comes the ghost of Christmas present (Pat Hingle), who is depicted as a reactionary glutton enjoying a huge dinner.  Next to his table is a barbed wire fence for a refugee camp where displaced persons live in squalor.  Grudge is appalled, especially when the ravenous ghost exaggerates Grudge’s isolationist politics.

[the Ghost of Christmas Present gorges himself at a banquet table, while barbed wired keeps out starving refugees] 
Daniel Grudge: How can you sit there and eat like that, when these people are starving? 
Ghost of Christmas Present: Oh? Do they bother you? 
[he snaps his fingers, the lights go out and the refugees disappear] 
Ghost of Christmas Present: Feel better? 

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The ghost of Christmas future (British actor Robert Shaw, wearing a white robe) escorts Grudge to the post-apocalyptic remains of his local town hall.  A raucous meeting is being chaired by a character called Imperial Me (played by Peter Sellers in his first role following a near-fatal heart attack earlier that year). This individual wears a ten-gallon hat, speaks in an LBJ-worthy twang, and bangs a huge gavel that bears the label “Giant Economy Size” while spouting the philosophy of every man for himself. “Each behind his own fence!” he exclaims. “Each behind his own barricade! Follow me, my friends and loved ones, to the perfect society! The Civilization of ‘I’!” Grudge’s African American butler shows up to make an impassioned speech about brotherhood, but a little boy holding a huge gun assassinates him.

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The film itself receives a very negative review at the time, and scanning the internet it still does, however, for me it sits well on this list, it is heavy-handed, but for me it was at a time that needed heavy-handed, it is a very bleak future that Serling and Mankiewicz depict here, there is no big change in Grudge’s attitude at the end, it feels like the apocalyptic nature of the future in this film is inevitable.  But without these heavy-handed films like this and ones that followed , perhaps the apocalypse would have been inevitable.  Mankiewicz  only uses a limited amount of big sets, but he does use them very well, the ghost of Christmas past, on a boat full of coffins of world war I dead, the ghost of christmas present eating a luxurious banquet, while the starving refugees stand on the other side of a fence, and of course the ghost of christmas future in the post apocalyptic setting of town hall, where the talking would have happened. This allows for Serling’s great script, characters debating with each other, Sterling Hayden gives a great performance as Grudge, and of course Sellers, who cannot fail when ever he is on-screen.

I may have rose-tinted glasses for any of Serling’s work, but I am firmly a fan of this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the film itself is not available on dvd, but you can watch the whole film on you tube, linked below.

Wasteland

Posted in Films Coming soon with tags , , , , on October 20, 2013 by Duane Patrick

Wasteland (2013) UK

Director: Tom Wadlow. Starring: Shameer Seepersand, Jessica Messenger, Mark Drake .

In November Wastelands world premiere screening comes to the UK Festival of Zombie Culture. This is a new post apocalyptic British film from director Tom Wadlow, the trailer itself looks fantastic, and I am really excited about seeing this one.

Wasteland-Movie-Poster-Tom-Wadlow_2

The world has been reduced to a Wasteland, where survivors of a deadly virus that has turned people into the walking dead try and hide and keep a low profile, while carving out a living by scavenging for useful items left over from the previous world. We find Scott Miller, alone and waiting for his beloved Beth to return from London where she went in search of her family. Scott is still clinging to hope that there is a chance that the world can return to its previous state. That faith is continually shaken by events in this wild and dangerous world until Scott is forced to face his fears and decide whether he is to stay where he is or seek other survivors.

Details of the Premiere are here

http://www.terror4fun.com/zombie_dayoftheundead13films.htm

34 – Last Night

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2013 by Duane Patrick

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“What I do find pathetic is people who, as soon as they hear that the world is ending, they rush out and try to hook up with someone like it was closing time at Studio 54”

Last Night is one of the films that hopefully this blog will point you in the direction of, a hidden gem. It’s a black comedy, that looks at the ridiculous nature of people and how they might deal with the end of the world, it is funny and poignant all at the same time.

I have a theory about American movies and the American mind: Americans use violence as a substitute for emotions. Canadians definitely don’t. So when Hollywood makes a movie about the end of the world, it comes in the form of conniving terrorists, invading aliens, hurtling meteors or even stomping reptiles, and it’s up to our muscle-bound, well-armed hero to shoot the evildoers down.

When Canadian Don McKellar makes a movie about the destruction of the world, the end is caused by . . . well, we don’t know what it’s caused by. It’s just coming, everybody knows it, and the question is, what does this knowledge bring out in the human psyche? How do we spend our last night on earth? We are told that the world will end, exactly at midnight, however there is no mention of how, there is clues, as in there is constant daylight now, so perhaps the earth is getting too close to the sun? It’s not important though, what we see is people’s emotions played out, and how the deal with the cataclysmic event, certain death.last-night

Part of the fun of “Last Night” is seeing how people use their last hours. Young mobs take to the street, mostly to party as if counting down the new year, but also to take advantage of the end of civilization. They overturn cars and some thrill-seekers wander around shooting people — and who’s to stop them? The government has become irrelevant and the victims are about to die anyway. We here the radio, a dj counting down his top 500 songs ever, which will end at midnight, the director David Cronenberg plays a gas employee, who goes to work diligently
to call every customer and assure them that there will be no interruption of service up to the end.

Callum Keith Rennie, plays a character who wants to fulfil every sexual fantasy he has ever had, he makes a list to fulfil them, he has no trouble finding willing partners.

“Just use the Internet,” he explains. “That’s what they made it for.”

And yet, true to their stereotype, many of these Canadians maintain a sense of propriety (if not sobriety) as they seek some final fulfilment. Everyone finds some personal way to spend the end, including a tense, stunning, unforgettable finish by the lead characters. But my other favourite is a minor character who takes over a concert hall and gives the piano recital he never got a chance to give in normal life. His surprising music provides a handful of listeners a transcendent serenade for the end of the world.

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In the end, a film that began light and irony-filled has grown tremendously in intensity. The final countdown — when people presumably are doing the things that most define them, in their infinite variety, as human beings — is as exhilarating as a great action movie, yet every fast-moving second is packed with significance. It’s an amazing expression of our humanity.

I would thoroughly recommend Last Night, it’s a different kind of apocalyptic film and begs the question what would you do, to spend those final months, weeks, hours, minutes. Its full of the black humour, which apocalyptic films do best.

44 – Virus

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , on March 13, 2012 by Duane Patrick

Virus was the biggest budget for any Japanese film at the time of its release in 1980, it was made with joint funding from Canada, and was an attempt to get Japanese cinema out to the global market. It is directed by Kinji Fukasaku , who would go on to make the classic Battle Royale, (couldn’t mention Japanese cinema without getting a Beat Takeshi reference in, for my mate Archie) The cast includes, hollywood stars such as George Kennedy, Glenn Ford, Robert Vaughn, and Asian cinema star Sonny Chiba.

If you do get around to watching this film please get past the first few scenes, the introductory scenes are full of badly disguised exposition, using unknown actors, giving the wrong impression of the film that is about to unfold. Only when the virus begins to kill large numbers of people around the world, does the story take off. There are many of the apocalyptic motifs we have come to recognise in this movie the scene involving the politicians sitting in the Oval office in the white house watching news coverage of the horrifying scenes of riots breaking out around the world is a partcularly good example.

As recognisable actors appear, they are lumbered with embarrassing dialogue and melodramatic conflicts. Unlike more recent apocalypse stories which ground the story among the public, this is very Japanese in structure – where huge disasters are only dealt with by the authorities. Politicians, military, scientists receive the latest news and use cold, hard logic.

Some of the Japanese scenes are the most involving – where a hospital is overrun with people needing treatment, and the police have to burn piles of bodies in the streets, unable to cope with the mounting death toll. But these scenes are just illustrations, aside from the main drive of the story in the Oval Office.

The early exposition in the film tell us that the virus is dormant in sub-zero temperatures, this means that the scientists in Antarctica from all nations of the world are the last remaining human beings. The new World Council includes a young Edward James Olmos.The coldness of the Japanese script is highlighted when a case of rape is coldly discussed in a meeting. The ratio of 855 men to 8 women is simply unfortunate. The women will have to have babies with new multiple partners. Japanese methodology applied to the apocalypse. Many different countries are represented reasonably well, but casting the Canadian Chuck Connors as a British submarine captain is bizarre. The actor normally plays cowboys and makes no attempt to change his accent.

The overall story is realistic, doomladen and slowly paced. The vision of a world decimated by a biological warfare accident, with this being a non-hollywood offering there is a further climatic plot twist to haunt the viewer even further

I would only recommend this film to the Apocalyptic aficionados, and if you can stomach 80’s power ballads, this is a very slow-paced film , with some quite ropey dialogue, however it is interesting in the history of apocalyptic cinema, so is included for that reason,, enjoy the trailer, and love that power ballad!

45 – Fail-Safe (1964)

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2012 by Duane Patrick

And the Lord said, gentlemen, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

Fail-Safe, written by Walter Bernstein from the novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, directed by Sidney Lumet, 1964, 110 min.

It is very hard to talk of Fail-Safe without also mentioning Dr. Strangelove. Fail-Safe has always existed in the shadow of Dr.Strangelove, which I will look at in future weeks. The similarities between the two films caused a legal storm at the time, because the basic plots are indeed copies of each other (to put it diplomatically). I am glad that audiences over the years have recognized Dr. Strangelove for what it is — an absolutely unique work of genius — but I was also deeply impressed with Fail-Safe, which is a tight story, well directed and boasts great acting. Both movies do good work in emphasizing the profound lunacy of nuclear war.

The films were put into production and released only two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, this was the height of the cold war, tensions were at their height between America and the Soviets, this is represented with themes in this movie, there is never a Soviet character seen on-screen, however we do hear their voices, there is always a ‘do we trust them element’ and a really nice scene in the film is when an American general talks to his russian counterpart over the phone, they talk of both being in England during the second world war, where they would have been on the same side, and as they speak, the American General flicks through his counterparts file, putting a face to the voice.

The film’s plot deals with the chances of accidentally starting a nuclear war, through mechanical and human error, it also deals with the first strike mentality and could you successfully win a nuclear war. There is no score for the film at all, its shot in black and white, and intentionally minimalist sets, like a stage play. There is no establishing shots, of outside the buildings, and after an initial party scene,there is no shots of normal life, this goes against a lot of the apocalyptic motifs we have already seen, and will discuss again and again, the director Sidney Lumet, uses similar techniques in other films such as twelve angry men, and dog day afternoon. Lumet knows how he wants things to look, and he sets up the shots and the actors to reflect the action, something that can easily be missed in today’s movies. As the tension and suspense grows, the shots become closer, tighter. Cuts between scenes become quicker. Every aspect of filmmaking is accounted for in this film.

The acting especially makes it worth watching. Walter Matthau, usually seen in comedic roles, is exceptional here as a war-hungry political professor. Henry Fonda, a Lumet favourite, is excellent in his role as the President, playing him with a president-next-door kind of appeal that you have to see to understand, who has to make the toughest of decisions. There are some Twilight Zone favourites of mine in here also making their big screen debuts, Frank Overton and Fritz Weaver, their story in this film could well have played out as a Twilight Zone episode on its own, you would not be surprised if Rod Serling was to appear in the corner giving a narration.

This is not a happy film, and it goes against the typical conventions that you’ve come to expect from your typical war film, or Hollywood production in general, the ending is still as unexpected today as it must have been then. The pacing, directing and acting make this a must see apocalyptic film, and I would highly recommend seeing it before the world ends.

A brilliant 1960’s trailer for Fail-Safe, I love this style of trailer

A trailer showing some of the scenes

46 – When Worlds Collide (1951)

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , on February 15, 2012 by Duane Patrick

Waste anything except TIME. Time is our shortest material.

How about an oscar winner this week? This came from the great year for sci-fi, that is 1951, along with The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Man in The White Suit this made for a classic year, and this could well be described as the grandaddy of apocalyptic cinema. To our modern-day honed senses, this may seem quite dated now, but this was made only 6 years after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this was the world we were moving into, the potential for an apocalypse. This story was actually written in the 1930’s however Cinema is at its best when it takes stories and adapts them for the age they are made in.

The film as religious undertones, and starts with a biblical reference talking of god looking upon the earth and destroying it with a flood, and Noah building his Ark. In the story here we have scientists predicting a planet and its sun will pass through our solar system, and on its course destroy the earth. throughout the film we witness man’s greed and also the dark way that he will cling to life, this is certainly one of our apocalyptic motifs, seen in many films after.

What makes When Worlds Collide stand out is the special effects, there is a two-minute sequence in the film using models, we see the destruction of earth, culminating in a tidal wave washing through New York, inspiring many a Roland Emmerich shot in years to come. As I have already said this film can be quite dated in places, the laughable love triangle, even more so when the scientists go to the United Nations, they are laughed out the building by other countries, this results in them building their own ark, which is only built by white people, and eventually the passengers of the ark which fly to the new world are all white, some have argued that this is a sign that the producers believed in ethnically cleansing the world, for me, I believe it is just a sign of the times, its 1951, we only have to remember how much controversy was caused in the 1960’s when Gene Roddenberry cast a black woman in Lieutenant Uhuru, one of the main protagonists and an officer in Star Trek

At 82 minutes When Worlds Collide is an easy way to pass some time before the apocalypse, and it earns its place on this list as the grandaddy of apocalyptic films, this film has inspired many movies down the years and stories. The special effects certainly make this worth a watch, the film is due to be remade later this year, which just adds to the interest.

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