Apollo 18 – Review

Apollo 18 is supposedly made up of genuine footage of a secret NASA mission to the moon in which three astronauts encounter something sinister up where Wallace and Gromit had a grand day out.

Paranormal Activity has a lot to answer for. One low-budget success will inevitably spawn a herd of imitators, trying to emulate the format that produces big box office from a tiny investment and thus the found footage horror genre is reborn. Apollo 18 is not all bad, but the negatives far outweigh, and often cancel out, the positives.

On the positive side Apollo 18 tries to change the formula slightly, moving the setting from the horror of suburbia to the horror of the moon. Who isn’t scared of the moon? There’s all those… rocks. Sadly this is the only part of the formula they change, the slow burning plot of a few minor scares spaced out thinly over the length of the film, capped off by an underwhelming climax, are all too familiar. The film is so painfully slow there should be an option available to be put in suspended animation until the closing credits.

Only one scene, in which the astronauts explore a crater using an occasional flash to light their way, is particularly innovative. The intermittent illumination created some beautiful shots and allowed a sense of dread to build rapidly, you never knew what horror the next flash might reveal. Unfortunately all this good work was again undone by using the same technique twice in the film. Magicians are told to never perform a trick twice to the same audience or risk it losing the magic second time around, the same can easily be said in film-making.

Apollo 18 also deserves credit for making the footage look properly “found”; picture quality is all over the place and the presence of all the cameras is justified, which makes a nice change. If footage were ever found of a secret NASA mission then this is what it would look like. Regrettably authenticity doesn’t always make a film aesthetically pleasing or easy to watch. Faux super 8 and surveillance camera footage work well in brief segments in a film but when extended over a full feature can become tiresome. And tiresome they inevitably became. Besides, it is hard to believe that this is genuine footage when you recognise Lloyd Owen from Monarch of the Glen.

All these other factors aside, what lies at the core of a horror film is the reveal of what has been lurking in the shadows. I won’t spoil Apollo 18 for you, but suffice to say that the evil revealed to be lurking on the moon is utterly ridiculous. Really, really stupid. Unbelievably absurd.

I can’t go on, this film is just too farcical.

The Best is Yet to Come: 2011

Today we’re looking ahead at out most anticipated releases of 2011… and there’s a lot. A few glaring omissions perhaps but we have no interest in giant robots fighting.

So what can top 127 Hours and The King’s Speech?

Friday 14 January 2011
Blue Valentine
Made the headlines by getting its rating reduced in America as they claimed the sex scene wasn’t obscene just realistic. If that doesn’t tempt you how about a realistic portrayal of a marriage and career best performances?

Friday 21 January 2011
Black Swan
It’s great, powerful stuff and yet is another with more coverage of a single sex scene that the rest of the film. Portman is at her prime and Kunis ain’t too shabby either.

Friday 11 February 2011
Never Let Me Go
True Grit

A small British sci-fi with a beautifully subtle plot and the Coen brothers’ latest acclaimed production. Good Friday.

Monday 14 February 2011
Paul
For some reason sneaking out on a Monday, Pegg and Frost’s latest is funny if not up to the standard of an Edgar Wright collaboration. We saw it, reviewed it and got asked to take it down.

Friday 18 February 2011
Chalet Girl
A hopefully above average romantic comedy starring our own Felicity Jones and the slimy one from Gossip Girl.

Friday 25 February 2011
No Strings Attached
Waste Land

Natalie Portman tries her hand at a comedy about two friends trying out casual sex before Mila Kunis gets the chance. And on the same day we have one of our favourites from the London Film Festival, though most likely only at three cinemas.

Friday 4 March 2011
Rango
The Tempest

Animated comedy starring Johnny Depp as a lizard that is set to offer something better than the average animated film accompanied by the apparently less than perfect Shakespeare film featuring… Felicity Jones!

Friday 18 March 2011
Submarine
A film everyone should see as Richard Ayoade makes a strong directorial debut with a near perfect tale of young love and awkwardness.

Friday 1 April 2011
Sucker Punch
Zack Snyder kicks you in the face with amazing visuals, sexy crazy girls and general madness.

Friday 8 April 2011
Attack The Block
Joe Cornish made a film with a slightly bad sounding premise. Can Cornballs make a bad synopsis into a great film?

Friday 15 April 2011
Scream 4
Winnie the Pooh
Your Highness

A triple whammy in mid-April. First the fourth in the Scream series starring the cast of the entire TV alongside the usual faces. Then we have a hand animated Disney film about everyone’s favourite bear and a medieval comedy starring future Mrs Mild Concern, Zooey Deschanel and with her third film in four months, Natalie Portman.

Friday 22 April 2011
Source Code
Duncan Jones tries to top Moon with sci-fi action thriller involving confusing time travel in which Jake Gyllenhaal consistently fails to find the bomber on a train.

Friday 29 April 2011
Thor
Michael Gambon directing a comic book movie? Surely worth a look. Oh, hello Natalie Portman.

Wednesday 18 May 2011
Pirates Of The Caribbean 4
They’ve promised to keep it simple this time and have lost the less interesting characters, we’re excited.

Friday 15 July 2011
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part II
Because Part I was so good this can only be the peak of the Potter series.

Friday 29 July 2011
Captain America: The First Avenger
It might be terrible but is the lead-in to The Avengers which might also be terrible. Wait, it could be good too!

Friday 5 August 2011
Rise Of The Apes
John Lithgow and James Franco! And monkeys!

Friday 19 August 2011
The Inbetweeners
Super 8

The spin-off from E4’s best output and J.J. Abrams top secret new film. Funny and surprising… and deeply shameful.

Friday 26 August 2011
Final Destination 5
Guilty pleasure alert… I like to see people die in ridiculous ways…

Friday 2 September 2011
Friends With Benefits
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Mila Kunis gets to do the friends having sex comedy to see if she can top Portman. Portman doesn’t care after having so many other films out.

Friday 7 October 2011
Johnny English 2
“It’s only a bit of poo.” Heh.

Friday 14 October 2011
Footloose
The Thing

A musical remake of a personal favourite and a prequel starring Ramona Flowers. It could be a glorious pair or a double disaster.

Friday 21 October 2011
Paranormal Activity 3
With no new Saw film this is all we have for Halloween. Boo!

Wednesday 26 October 2011
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
Because the best British writers all seem to have had a hand in the writing of this particular film. Wright, Moffat and Cornish? Wow.

Paranormal Activity 2 – Review

With a bigger budget and the pressure of building on a successful predecessor Paranormal Activity 2 tries too hard and fails to engage and scare.

The more camera angles we’re given the less time we have to focus on a particular frame and get all paranoid about what is about to happen. While the first film slowly crept up on you, the sequel is constantly try to grab your attention.

Also the amount of exposition is completely unnecessary as we don’t need to know what’s going on; that is why it is scary.

On the plus side the film has a few big scares and it fits the first quite neatly. The dog is a particular highlight.

Where this film will succeed is when watched alone at home when it’s dark outside and you’ve got the windows open. In a cinema the audience gets restless and giggling can ruin the effect.

No third film please.

Cameron Vs Cameron

Avatar has finally done as predicted and knocked Titanic off the top spot for highest grossing film of all time. Cameron has beaten his own record and will probably be smug forever more. For me this feels like a hollow victory of style over substance, one that tells the studios that fancy effects and endless marketing makes for a guaranteed success. Which perhaps it does.

Looking at the figures a different way, Avatar‘s budget was so massive that it needed a record breaking box office to bring about a reasonable percentage return on the studios investment. If claims of a $500 million total production and marketing budget are to be believed, Avatar only made less than four times the investment it cost. The real winner is Paranormal Activity.

Paranormal Activity was made for a meagre $15,000 and made over $140 million dollars meaning a whopping percentage return on investment of 472,962.70% (as shown here). I’m not an expert on investments but this looks like a case for smaller films with viral marketing to get a bigger return for your money. It is worth noting that the second most profitable movie of all time, based of percentage return on investment is The Blair Witch Project. Obviously not every film can have a micro budget but those that do should not be overlooked as they are far more profitable than effects laden epics like Avatar.