Pain And Gain Red Band Trailer

 

Here’s a little challenge for you: try and name a more Michael Bay trailer than this one. Struggling? No wonder. It’s probably because you can’t. Let’s look at the checklist;

  • Explosions
  • Copious amounts of slow motion
  • Gross out humour
  • Dick jokes
  • Shall we say, an appreciation of the female form
  • The Rock being so scarily huge that beast mode seems somehow inadequate to describe him. It’s safer to say that the beasts go Rock mode, I think
  • A carefully chosen rap song for the soundtrack

It has everything you could want from Michael Bay, all squeezed into 3 minutes of pure filth. All in all, this movie looks like a blast. Assuming Michael Bay can control himself and limit it to 90 minutes in length instead of padding it out with endless comic relief, this knockabout black comedy actioner about a gang of steroid-addled meatheads who plot to kidnap a wealthy businessman (based on a scarcely-believable but true story) could be one of the surprise hits of the year. The story it’s based on is incredible and definitely worth reading, Mark Wahlberg and The Rock seem perfect for their roles, and while Michael Bay often comes in for (justified) criticism about his directorial style, this is one instance where the subject matter seems to fit him perfectly. It’s released in the States on April 26th, and in the UK on April 3rd, so keep a look out for more on this in the not too distant future.

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The Asylum: Abraham Lincoln Vs Zombies

 

In Monday’s edition of The Highlight Reel, I talk at length about the infamous production house known as The Asylum. The Asylum is a place where ideas and dreams are made into living, breathing reality in less than 4 months. Now, even though The Asylum is somewhat notorious for basically piggybacking on the multi-million dollar blockbusters churned out by Hollywood by producing ultra-low budget facsimilies of those films, known as “mockbusters”, I still think there’s a lot to love about them. I go into this in more detail on the show, but in case you don’t listen (you totally should, though), a few key facts about The Asylum for you: Most of their output is based on ripping off big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. They come up with cool titles before they write the stories and scripts. They shoot these films in a matter of weeks, sometimes days, and the film is ready for release within 2-4 months. They make them for under $1m each. And, most importantly of all, they’ve never, ever lost money on one of their mockbusters.

 

Now, given that these films are hastily scrabbled together to capitalise on whatever Hollywood is doing, it’s fair to say that none of them are really rivalling Citizen Kane and The Godfather for the critics’ affections. In fact, if you go into an Asylum movie with your Film Critic hat on, and look objectively at the pieces of each movie, they’re almost all pretty awful. That doesn’t mean they can’t be worth watching, however, and several of them manage to be much more watchable that the sterile Hollywood originals that they’re based on. While many of them are just plain bad, the so-bad-it’s-good-o-meter (which I always make sure to have on me in case someone sets upon me and forces me to watch an Italian horror movie, safety first kids) measures high on a select few. I singled out Transmorphers and Snakes on a Train in The Highlight Reel, but I also gave special praise to another film which I felt was head and shoulders above the rest of their output, both in terms of pure entertainment, but also in terms of being a surprisingly good action film on its own merits. That film was Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, a film which centres on Abraham Lincoln. And zombies. You can’t say you don’t know what you’re getting.

 

Spoilers: you get this.

 

This film is based on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a film which itself sounds like it could well be a product of The Asylum, but which bizarrely tries to play the concept of the most famous US president in history slaying a bunch of undead ghoulie types as straight as possible. No such problems with Abraham Lincoln Vs Zombies, however. In films such as this, the plot merely gets in the way, so it’s best to treat it with the same discourtesy here. There’s a zombie outbreak in the midst of the American civil war, so it falls to one of history’s most famous badasses (and  allegedly the pioneer of the chokeslam, don’t you know) to take them down. So, he and a group of his aides head down to a Confederate Fort, form an uneasy alliance with some of the soldiers there, and set about killing some zombies. Those two sentences probably took longer to write than the entirety of the plot, and really, it’s pretty standard zombie movie fare if you strip away the faahbulously flaahmboyant southahn accaints, fancy-dress-shop-window outfits and hilarious glued-on facial hair.

 

And really, why would you want to do that?

But really, why would you want to strip away this?

 

Really though, that is what sets it apart. It is ridiculously silly, with the hit and miss southern accents being a particular highlight which need to be heard to be believed. It’s like your drunken friend attempting to do Leo DiCaprio in Django Unchained.  It’s not all quite so camp, however. Anchoring the film with a surprisingly distinguished turn as Abe himself is Bill Oberst Jr., who portrays Lincoln as the perfect mixture of historical figure and action movie badass. It’s hardly Daniel Day-Lewis, but it’s still a far better performance than you’d expect from any Asylum movie. His Lincoln is as likable an action hero as you could ever wish to see, wise, charismatic and handy with a scythe, which makes it all the more satisfying to watch him hacking up zombies. You really root for him as tears through the undead, and it’s amazing how much simply having a likable protagonist sets this film apart from the legions of identikit zombie movies.

 

You can’t really say the same of the rest of the characters. Of course, this is an Asylum movie, and the fact that it was probably written under similar circumstances to Father Ted’s Eurovision entry shows through in the films’ midsection. Anyone who’s seen a zombie movie in their life knows how it goes; the survivors barricade themselves in a safe place, and seem to be safe, until they all fall out and contrive to get themselves killed, one by one, in incredibly stupid ways. That formula rings true here too, only being in a nice, safe and secure Confederate fort, the survivors have to try really, really hard to get killed. So desperate were the writers to give their characters something to overcome, we get such hilarious deaths as a man attempting a leaping spinning Street Fighter-style move with a pickaxe, complete with slow-motion, only to fall flat on his arse and get eaten. We also get a man inexplicably climbing out onto a roof and falling off for no reason, as well as a running gentleman who flees onto some train tracks, and decides to continue running along them even as a train drives right up his backside.

 

The sweet embrace of death is unavoidable. Apart from when you can VERY EASILY AVOID IT.

 

Much of the writing is basic and contrived like this, but, as mentioned before, that’s almost a positive for an Asylum movie. A film that was written in a matter of days is hardly going to be some Tarantino-esque display of verbosity and tight plotting, so why bother? Might as well focus on what people want to see out of a movie called Abraham Lincoln Vs Zombies, and that’s exactly what this movie does right. With The Asylum, it’s all about priorities, and in this case, much of the budget was blown on reasonably stylish action (which is very cannily edited, with a creative use of offscreen space), and lots of it. In that regard, it’s a roaring success, and crucially it’s very rarely boring.

 

Ultimately, that’s all you can ask for from an Asylum movie. These films aren’t made to please critics; they’re made for film fans, by film fans. They’re hardly high art, and they’re not the most memorably bad films ever either, but they do have their own charms when done right, and I would recommend Abraham Lincoln Vs Zombies a hundred times before I pointed someone in the direction of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It’s available on DVD everywhere now, so do check it out, and keep checking back in future for more Asylum reviews. Until next time, keep emancipatin’.

 

And be on the lookout for suspicious moustaches.

The Breaking Bad Terrarium

This is pretty damn special: a miniature ecosystem, hand-sculpted to represent Breaking Bad. It’s been made by Rachel over at Face of the Earth, an artist who specialises in creating these beautiful works of art which combine sculpture with natural elements, such as lichen and mushrooms.

Rachel says of the terrarium:

This terrarium is an 11″ tall ecosystem showing a Hand Sculpted and hand painted miniature interpretation of the well known opening sequence of this fantastic TV shows first season. Lining the bottom of this open terrarium are pieces of blue sea glass, closely resembling the blue crystals “Heisenberg” cooks. Alongside the crashed meth lab is the tiniest depiction of Mr. White you may ever see, handmade at about 1/4″ tall, glasses tighty whities and all. The RV is a whopping 1/2″ long, hand sculpted and painted. The desert scene is a slight DIY project, with lichen, a petrified mushroom, stones, a tiny tree and reindeer moss to create a great little sustainable ecosystem that you can keep anywhere in your home or office. With easy care instructions, anyone care care for these tiny worlds, from the most experienced botanist to those with a brown thumb.

The low-maintenance nature of the plants mean this is the perfect terrarium for the discerning Breaking Bad fan who wants to spend $225 on an artwork, but doesn’t want to worry too much about maintaining it. It’s a small niche, admittedly.

The Highlight Reel Preview: 25th March Edition

Yet another episode of The Highlight Reel is done and dusted. As always, it airs on Monday at Sine FM, and you can listen back to last week’s show at any time at the link. Or, you could just click the listen live button and take in some of the diverse range of shows on offer at any time.

Anyway, on the show this week:

  • There’s a review of BBC 3’s zombie rehab drama, In The Flesh.

 

 

  • And there’s a special look into the world of “huge angry venemous [sic] snakes”, “Transmorphers” and much more besides, as I look into the world of the studio known as The Asylum, and the “mockbusters” that it produces.

 

All that plus a roundup of news from around the entertainment industry, including what Steve Austin is doing with his time, news on the long-awaited Veronica Mars and Alan Partridge movies, and a look at the new crime drama Hannibal. All that and more, set to a not-inconsiderable soundtrack including (but not limited to) Million Dead, Cancer Bats and the Beastie Boys. Keep checking out the blog over the week for a more in-depth look into the world of The Asylum, and tune in on Monday! Or whenever. There’s no pressure.

The new episode of The Highlight Reel starts any minute now over on Sine FM! Although you can listen back any time over the next week HERE if you’re so inclined. Anyway, not wanting to waste a post on such a shameless plug, do enjoy this video, a harrowing reminder that when your favourite actors and favourite video games combine, it’s not always quite as pleasant as it sounds. Please note there is much less mind-crumpling terror on Sine FM, so maybe tuning in would be a good idea, eh?