Sightseers at an Alien Uprising

Sightseers and Alien Uprising are currently available on instant Netflix

Alien Uprising

 

Alien Uprising (2012) – Rated R

One night five friends are out drinking, the next they’re struggling to survive in a landscape controlled by alien invaders in this sci-fi chiller. Anarchy is in the air as an enormous spacecraft hovers overhead and order breaks down on the ground.”

One Line Review: Absolutely awful, abominable atrocity.

OMG. Writer/director/producer/actor Dominic Burns has a terrible case of Attention Deficit Disorder. He is unable to focus on a single scene for longer than a few seconds. Initially I thought it was because he was filming (badly) a montage of the dance club but he can’t even focus on that. He cuts back and forth from the incomprehensible past to the equally incomprehensible present. Burns is also a bit of an egomaniac, plastering posters of his Airborne movie throughout the film.

The camera jitters all over the place, particularly during the sex scenes. Speaking of which, he cuts back and forth during two simultaneous sex scenes, splicing in footage of another friend throwing up in a toilet.

There is much to be said about taking an intimate approach to a global problem. It worked really well in Signs. Here though you’ll want all the characters to die long before the aliens show up.

The actors are pretty terrible though I will say it was probably a smart move to cast Bianca Bree as the hottie. She is quite attractive but, more importantly, she is Jean Claude Van Damme’s daughter. My guess is that is why he is in it. Speaking of nepotism, Michael is played by Pierce Brosnan’s son, Sean.

I can’t really blame the actors though as it is the completely haphazard way the film is thrown together that is the worst offender. There are innumerable nonsensical flashbacks/dream sequences/visions, even the film isn’t sure what they are.

A note to whoever titled this piece of cinematic garbage: Uprising has a meaning (an act or instance of rising up) – try to at least have your title make sense.

People Watch: Julian Glover and Sean Pertwee show up as voices of doom, each for about half a minute. I have to think that they were sentenced to community service or something.

Sightseers

 

Sightseers (2012) – Not rated

Newly coupled Chris and Tina embark on an RV road trip to take in England’s unique sights and rolling countryside. But as events and people inadvertently raise Chris’s ire, the trip takes a gory wrong turn.

I think you’ve found your ouevre, Chris.”

I love Ben Wheatley. His first film, Down Terrace, was a hysterically funny sendup of the British crime film albeit in a very low-key, dry humor way. He wrote, directed, and edited both that and his second feature, Kill List. Kill List is a bit of a mash-up between a hit man film and a horror movie. It is very funny, though not as good as Down Terrace. Kill List is currently available on instant Netflix.

Ben Wheatley directs and edits here but Sightseers is actually written by the two lead actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. Sightseers has the same sense of humor. Wheatley’s films are made on a very small budget with no big name actors, explosions, or special effects yet are very professional.

I do have to warn that they are quintessentially British. There is no effort to broaden the appeal of these movies for American audiences. Wheatley makes very personal, humorous films and I’m very much looking forward to his latest endeavor, A Field in England.

If I seem vague about Sightseers, I am. The film is very good but most of the fun are the turns the story takes and I don’t want to spoil those. The evolving relationship between Chris and Tina, both of whom have rather severe mental problems, is the other highlight of the film.

The Genius of Ben Wheatley – Kill List

Ben Wheatley’s first two feature films, Down Terrace and Kill List are currently available on instant Netflix. His third film, Sightseers, is just starting to see U.S. distribution.

Ben Wheatley’s genius is not in the enjoyability of his films. His particular genius is an ability to populate his films with real people, (forgive the expression) warts and all. He avoids making his characters archetypes but it does mean that they are difficult to like as they are terribly flawed.

One-Line Review: Sophomore effort lacks humor of debut but rewards patience with chills.

Kill ListKill List (2011) – Not rated

“In this white-knuckle crime flick, out-of-work hit man Jay teams with his partner, Gal, for a three-contract job that rapidly turns from routine to obscene as the call of duty takes a twisted toll on Jay’s sanity and sense of control.”

Wheatley continues to serve as director, writer, and editor but drops the producer credit from Kill List. The accents of the two main characters are both different (from each other) and, at times, indecipherable. Kill List is also a lot less humorous than Down Terrace but no less violent.

Kill List essentially boils down to “what if we had a retiring hit man movie that turned into another type of movie”. I won’t say what because of spoilers but it is a very interesting concept with one heck of a payoff in the final act. As with Down Terrace, Kill List rewards patience. Hardly anything happens for the first forty-five minutes as characters are established.

Kill List is not the ensemble piece that Down Terrace was. Neil Maskell is the star and carries the film as semi-retired hitman Jay. Michael Smiley, so good as Pringle in Down Terrace, has a much bigger role here as Gal and is quite excellent. MyAnna Buring (Sam from The Descent) is quite lovely and good as Shel. Her looks would have taken me out of the picture had it not seemed, plot-wise, as though she was Jay’s trophy wife.

Kill List is highly recommended for a slow burn but Down Terrace is the better and more accessible film. Watch Down Terrace all the way through and if it is your cup of tea, move on to Kill List.

People Watch (Down Terrace edition): Besides the aforementioned Michael Smiley, Robin Hill, Karl in Down, is Stuart. Mark Kempner, Councillor Berman in Down, plays the Librarian. Robert Hill, Bill in Down, plays the High Priest. Sara Dee, voice of a radio reporter in Down, plays a news reader. Gareth Tunley, Johnny in Down, plays the Priest. Whew! Wheatley also uses much the same cast for Sightseers.

The Genius of Ben Wheatley – Down Terrace

Ben Wheatley’s first two feature films, Down Terrace and Kill List are currently available on instant Netflix. His third film, Sightseers, is just starting to see U.S. distribution.

Ben Wheatley’s genius is not in the enjoyability of his films. His particular genius is an ability to populate his films with real people, (forgive the expression) warts and all. He avoids making his characters archetypes but it does mean that they are difficult to like as they are terribly flawed.

One-Line Review: Delightfully dark low-key debut rewards patient viewing.

Down TerraceDown Terrace (2009) – Rated R

“Just released from jail, father-and-son crooks Karl (Robin Hill) and Bill (Robert Hill) attempt to keep their two-bit illegal enterprise from crumbling while ferreting out the snitch who squealed on them to the cops in this British black comedy. The suspects include Karl’s wife (Julia Deakin) and pregnant gal pal (Kerry Peacock), a hit man (Michael Smiley) and a reviled family friend (Tony Way). As the double crosses multiply, so do the laughs.”

Ben Wheatley serves as writer, director, editor, and producer on Down Terrace. Down Terrace is basically a one-location play, set in Karl’s house. The house and surroundings are well-utilized for this low-budget production. As with Guy Ritchie’s early movies, you may have to turn up the volume and pay close attention as the accents are a bit difficult to comprehend.

There is a general malaise to the characters in Down Terrace that extends to the film itself. Essentially nothing happens until the halfway mark of the film yet there is an early hysterical passive-aggressive dinner that rings horrifically true. Down Terrace rewards patient viewing with loads of hilarious low-key black humor in the second half.

None of the actors look or act glamorous which is a big plus. They all seem like real people, i.e. the characters they are playing. If I had to single out two of them (yes, that’s ironic), it would be Julia Deakin (Shaun of the Dead) as Maggie and Michael Smiley as Pringle, the enforcer.

Down Terrace is highly recommended BUT requires a thorough attentive viewing – no playing on your iPad while watching!

People Watch: Yes those are father and son playing father Bill (Robert Hill) and son Karl (Robin Hill). Both also appear in Kill List and Robin helped write and edit Down Terrace.