I Give It A Year

I Give It A Year is a British rom-com about the troubled first year of marriage of a famously mismatched couple. He’s a slacker, she’s a career bitch, but they’re both kind of unwilling to be the first one to throw in the towel. Except for when the dashing American tycoon (for her) and the kooky ex (for him) arrive to complicate matters…

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Think of it as A Wedding and No Funeral. Rose Byrne is lovely, Rafe Spall, surprisingly, is lovelier. It’s predictable, plodding, but it doesn’t have a mean bone in its body – there are even some laugh-out-loud moments and I enjoyed it. Lots of London locations to look at. (see what I did there?)

Insidious

Insidious bills itself as a scary movie about the supernatural. No, not about how abnormally, disturbingly, distractingly beautiful a couple Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson make. Rather, there’s a nasty, aggressive ghoul who seems to be debilitating their young son.

There’s no logic whatsoever to the plot. Without giving too much away, Patrick’s mother drops a bit of a bombshell three quarters of the way through – a fairly pivotal piece of prior knowledge about the boy’s mysterious ailment that you think she probably might have shared with the poor distracted parents. But who needs logic? It’s pretty well paced, well acted (you actually care about the Bryne/Wilson unit) and it serves up some scary moments (well, until some silly bits towards the end.)

Otherwise Insidious has no stand-out locations to speak of – though IMDB mentions the Herald Examiner Building on LA’s South Broadway. I don’t remember that at all (see above re. distractingly beautiful cast members…..)

Knowing

I’ve mentioned before how I think Nicholas Cage is the great spawn of Satan, his hairplugs the horsemen of the Apocalypse. He’s as clunky and long-faced as a camel, and no director should ever, ever ask him to run and expect the audience to still take him seriously thereafter. But dammit, he still gets roles in the films I still hanker after seeing. (Aliens blow stuff up – I’m there.) So I knew it’d have to suck it up and take myself along to Knowing.

In this tale, a time capsule dug up from a high school yard includes a note that appears to give the dates, GPS coordinates and casualty rates of all major accidents over the last 50 years. Spooky. Old Nick becomes a bit obsessed by this, and tries to make sense of it all before the whole world implodes. But do you know what? the results are really not half bad. The special effects are engaging, with the kind of gasp-worthy violence you just don’t usually associate with this kind of movie, the supporting cast (including the astoundingly lovely Rose Byrne) are solid, and even Old Nick steps off the ham-gas for a moment and throws out a vaguely nuanced and interesting performance. Grudgingly I’ll capitulate; he’s good in this.

The movie is not without its flaws – some of the things these folks do are unaccountably dumb – and you’ll either love or hate the ending. But you know that’s not why I’m here. I loved the fact that Knowing has a real All-American feel about it, particularly the high school scenes, yet it was virtually all filmed in and around Melbourne, Australia. Not all Aussies loved that, of course – see this report in The Age; as the author notes, why not just set the film in Melbourne? It’s the perfect place to make a movie about the end of the world….

28 Weeks Later

As if day-to-day reality wasn’t quite scary enough, a lot of South African literature focuses on the what-ifs? of a post-apocalyptic Azania. By that, I don’t mean post-nuclear apocalypse as it might normarily apply to you good folks in the rest of the world. I mean post-liberation, post-independence, post-ANC apocalypse. Time and again, books (though rarely movies, which rely on government funding) imagine a future South Africa as a horribly failed state where corpulent, corrupt, vicious officials casually oversee a weakened and disease-ravaged populace, and where unfettered crime and violence have driven white Africans either to flee to Australia or (for those without the European passports) to barren and arid farmsteads out in the waterless bush.

I wonder if my South African alertness to the potential that ordered little life may suddenly take a very different track means that I am particularly receptive to the chilling alternatives offered by Danny Boyle’s movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. The first is set in the immediate aftermath of an outbreak of a plague-like cataclysm that turns its victims into soulless flesh-eaters that can chase you really really fast. The second – which I caught on tv the other night – takes place once the virus has been contained (with no one left to kill, the zombies starved – nice) and a mission, lead by the American military, has begun to repopulate Britain.

Both movies have remarkable, mesmerising images of a hastily-deserted London – Cillian Murphy’s solo walk through the deathly quiet streets of Westminster in 28 Days is a complete wondrous thrill to anyone who’s ever been nearly flattened by a big red bus, or (worse) by a gaggle of Italian language students in brightly-coloured backpacks. 28 Weeks Later though trumps even that imagery; beautiful, shiny, devastatingly, hauntingly empty, it films London a lot from the air (which adds to the queasy sense of dislocation.)

Says producer Allon Reich on the FilmLondon website: “The unique selling point with the 28 idea is London, it really is a character in the film. Without London, the film would be something else entirely.”

Locations include Canary Wharf (massively expanded since I lived in London), Charing Cross tube station, CityPoint, Greenwich foot tunnel, Hyde Park, Wembley Stadium, the Millennium Stadium, Parliament Square, and Shaftesbury Avenue – and it’sno mean feat that the film makers make this overcrowded megapolis seem entirely desolate. Incidentally, the escape from the cottage that opens the film was filmed at Stokers Farm, south of Rickmansworth; the waterway that Robert Carlyle’s character escapes along is actually the main line of the Grand Union Canal.

Like 28 Days, 28 Weeks Later works well – in parts. The zombies are rip-roaringly scary and the action is driven by a nerve-jarring soundtrack and the kind of grim lighting that makes you feel part of the action. Yet in this movie too, there’s that dumb child cliche again; the only two kids allowed back in Britain decide to break out of the secure compound (why?), unleashing the raging havoc all over again. It’s almost criminal that they’re the only two allowed to survive.