The Colony

Canadian movie The Colony is set in the year 2045, when climate change has decimated the planet and the survivors huddle from the new Ice Age in underground bunkers (or “colonies”). One day, (spoiler alert) the Colonists from Bunker 7 receive a distress signal from over at Bunker 5, and a small, mis-matched group heads out to investigate. When they find what the problem is, they come home again, and then they are attacked by cannibals and then those few who remain alive leave the Bunker altogether.

The Colony_2

So while it’s all well and good to see the Canadians playing the US at their own (low-budget, CGI gorefest) game, the point is, it is their game. All of the ideas here are poached from other tales you’ll have seen somewhere else American before. It’s not badly acted or anything. Locations are atmospheric too – it filmed on an abandoned NORAD base in Canada’s North Bay. It’s just the plot; it reminded me of nothing more than that old nursery rhyme about the Grand Old Duke of York and his ten thousand bored men – an exercise in futility.

The Grey

The Grey is set in the aftermath of a devastating plane crash, deep in the Alaskan wilderness. The handful of oil men who’ve survived the initial impact find themselves in the heart of wolf territory, and the enraged pack seeks to drive off the intruders, picking off the stragglers like so many wounded caribou, one by one. As they dwindling survivors stagger across the frozen wastelands, the film would like you to believe that its actually about humanity, and the differing responses and adaptations each of the characters make to retain theirs….

But is it? Well, frankly, no. While it’s really well acted (Liam Neeson STILL has a special set of skills), the CGI wolves are History Channel terrible – even when they are scooting around in a blizzard at the periphery of ones vision, they still look animatronic. Also wolves just don’t behave like that. I know we’re supposed to suspend disbelief and everything, and the filmmakers at least make a pretense of justifying the behaviour with the human incursion into wolves’ territory, but I’m just not big on imposing human characteristics (Shakespearean levels of revenge, for instance) on wild animals. And as for the humanity bit? Well, forgive me for being pissy, but: one conversation about belief doth not a spiritual journey make.

In spite of the Alaskan setting, the film shot on Hudson Bay Mountain, near Smithers in British Columbia, including scenes at the Smithers regional airport – apparently because the wilderness in Canada was closer to town. Given that the shoot required everything from the aircraft fuselage, office containers, generators, fuel, crew and all equipment to be pulled on sleds by snowcats and snowmobiles from a parking lot 20 minutes away from the location, this makes sense – another bit of evidence of the cost-risk issue at the heart of all production decisions. The Location Guide has more in a detailed story on how the production was achieved – including the challenges of filming in sub-zero temperatures.

Inception

OK, so you gather I’ve been somewhat excited about Christopher Nolan’s new movie Inception. But does it live up to its hype? Answer: Yes. And no.

Yes, in that it’s a visually astounding piece of art – parts of Paris rolling up and over itself is a stand-out, and the gravity defying-bits you’ve seen in the trailers: mindblowingly awesome. But no, too, in that it’s hard enough for most filmmakers to weave one or two complex parallel plots together, but Nolan attempts five – a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. Within a dream. Get it? That’s an awful lot to hold together, and to his credit he does just about manage it. But we spend so much time marvelling at the spectacular visuals of set-piece after set-piece, all the while trying to keep track of the intricacies of the plot, that there’s little chance to engage with any of the characters or their emotions. So: wondrous to watch but tedious too, both a masterpiece AND a clunker: how about that for alternate realities?

As for locations, Jerry Garrett again has a lot of interesting stuff, here on the ski resort that’s the penultimate dreamscape…..

The Fortress Mountain ski resort has fallen on hard times, since its use in the 1988 Winter Olympics in nearby Calgary. Alberta’s provincial government closed the resort in 2008 over unpaid taxes and other bills. By 2009, it had degenerated into just exactly the kind of seedy, forelorn, eerie aerie that Mr. Nolan loves to film (remember “Batman Begins”?). Set builders enhanced the area’s cement-gray buildings with an austere fortress of the mind (miniature models of it were what was later blown up)…..

Whiteout

I once met a smug Canadian who told me there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. It was minus 15 at the time, and whilst I did think about viciously punching out her smarmy lights, I was really too cold and too frakkin miserable to bother. And yet, inspite of the fact I absolutely don’t do cold in person, contrarily enough, I’m quite taken with the idea of it on celluloid. And Whiteout is more wintry than most.

US Marshal Carrie Stetko (the kind of stiff and permafrosty Kate Beckinsale) is the US Marshall at the American base in Antarctica, a post she’s taken in order to escape a traumatic incident in her past. As winter closes in, and the rest of the base evacuates before a terrifying blizzard, she’s held back by the discovery of a mysterious body on the ice and the small matter of an pick-wielding psycho who’s out to fillet her.

All in all it’s a servicable-enough thriller but the best bits are taken up by the dramatic, ice-bound locations. In this case Quebec and Manitoba stand in for the great white continent – and in particular I feel duty bound to mention the town of Gimli.

So, as if to prove that “Winter Wonderland” is in fact an oxymoron, I’m off to watch the creepy 30 Days of Night now.