AS ABOVE SO BELOW REVIEW

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As I watched, the more it blowed. Now childish sulky comments aside. Another found footage “horror” film graces the big screen with cheap scares, poorly acted, badly written characters and a laughable premise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the found footage film genre has died a death. MAKE IT STOP! The Blair Witch Project brought something new to the horror genre. Over-hyped to the max but suspenseful and tense. Paranormal Activity resurrected that format and made it a hit yet again.

But surely movie producers must have realized by the endless sequels that followed from Paranormal that the format was being milked dry. Look, I’m an old school horror nut. The Shining, The Exorcist, Psycho managed to haunt me. While these feeble attempts at “horror” if you can call it that, on the other hand, are laughable. Well, I can laugh. It doesn’t cost me anything but at 10 quid a ticket, it’s not good enough.

From the opening shaky handheld selfie shot, I could feel my head shaking. Here we go. Our posh toff archaeologist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks – Channel 4’s The Promise) explaining everything she is doing, killing all mystery and suspense. The opening sequence was pacey but the camera work was that shaky and erratic, I couldn’t see what was going on. It was giving me a headache . . . and the camera work as well. The jumpy moments merely equating to loud bangs and screams to make sure the audience are still awake after mind numbing exposition.

It all felt like a ridiculous Indiana Jones crusade. The Mummy through the eyes of Omid Djalili with the scarab beetle in his head. That is how frantic the camera work was. I never heard so many horror movie cliches in one opening scene; “Let’s split up”, “I have a family”, “I must complete my fathers work”, oh and the infamous “Don’t go in there”. It was certainly different with an Iranian cave demolition chase but as the film slowed down (boy did it), we are subjected to none other but a quest for the Philosopher’s Stone. No, you read that right.

You’re a wizard, Scarlett. A boring fable on Nicholas Flamel dragged the film further and further. Did they not watch or read Harry Potter? You could have nicked a quick synopsis and got to the catacombs so much quicker. I could feel my eyes drooping. Our lead heroine waffles on about degrees and Egyptology waffle. Credit where’s it due; the cast do their utmost to try and make it interesting but my word . . . Dull.

Ben Feldman. Why would you leave Mad Men for this? Your first film post Mad Men and it’s this? A cliched character with a “dark past” spewing cliched tripe with an inevitable and corny romance brewing him and Scarlett. It was all so tedious. I thought I was watching a straight to DVD sequel of National Treasure. All the historical mumbo jumbo was there. There was one cool but highly ridiculous trick involving a tablet, cleaning fluid and a lighter. We need ammonia. Conveniently while breaking into a church, the janitor has left all the chemicals and lighters your heart could contend. Brilliant!

When we finally get into the catacombs (after 40 minutes), there are moments but that is being generous. When the camera man gets trapped in a tight crevice (Come on, we’re better than that), it was done quite well as he struggles and wrestles through a passage decorated with bones. For any claustrophobic, a nightmare scenario. But unfortunately, I’m not claustrophobic. There is no tension. Random characters get bumped off left, right and centre without any background, interest or concern. Suspense. Naff all. Loud noises and screams may make me jump out of my seat but what do you expect when the story has put me into a coma, near enough.

Feldman’s character with a dark past who constantly keeps reiterating that he will not go down into the catacombs; inevitably gets pushed down into the cave and what is his big secret? He’s CLAUSTROPHOBIC! Why didn’t he say that in the first place? Idiot. Oh my God, it felt like something out of a comedy sketch. The final 15 minutes certainly took it up a notch with a mad dash for survival but it felt like a terrible mish-mesh of the Death figure from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal wafting around and brooding in a chair, demented statues that were ripped off from the Doctor Who angels popping out of no where and the frenetic first person POV (that was brought back and done so much better in REC and REC 2) rearing its ugly head in an act of desperation to keep us hanging on the end of our seats.

For me, I was already on the end of my seat getting ready to leave. This only made me want to watch The Descent. A film that I felt at the time was incredibly flat and over-hyped but in comparison to this monstrosity, at least that succeeded in suspense and real scares. The ending of As Above So Below was a surprise. But it only established how ridiculous and stupid this film really was. If you are after a claustrophobic cave horror film, invest in The Descent. Hell even the second one. Just not this.

Terrible. 1/5

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MUPPETS MOST WANTED REVIEW

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Meh-na-meh-na- Muppets Most Wanted? Unfortunately this time round, Muppets Missed Something.

Before you ask, I am a big Muppet (We know that. Stop it. We’re better than that) fan. I’ve loved the TV series and the movie franchise. After the fantastic reboot, it was inevitable a sequel would be in motion. This is hilariously demonstrated in the film’s opening toe tapping musical number, “We’re Making a Sequel”. The list of unexpected cameos who pop their heads up in this film is ridiculous and unexpected, despite some being pointed out in the trailers to help flog the film. I won’t name them all because firstly it would be a long list and if not for the cameos, there wasn’t much to look forward to this time around. Don’t get me wrong, the Muppets are still funny and have their moments but the material seems to stretch on for too long and we’ve seen it done before a lot funnier before by the gang in their earlier efforts.

A silly premise of Kermit being imprisoned and replaced by his criminal Russian doppelganger, the number one criminal in all the world, Constantine with a distinguishing feature makes for a funny gag that unfortunately drags on for too long. This cues a lazy excuse for a tour around the world with slapstick and shenanigans. It was great to bring Kermit back as the leading . . . frog after the last film was about Walter. Unfortunately, Walter doesn’t really appear or make an impression until the hour mark. However, when dealing with such an array of characters, it’s hard not to isolate certain characters. An unexpected inside joke pokes fun at this. It’s not all bad. Kermit’s incarceration in the gulag allowed for a funny prison musical number with Jermaine Clement (we’ve had one half of the Conchords, why not have the other?), Ray Liotta (All my life I was always wanted to be in the Muppets. He doesn’t say that. But I wish he did), and Danny Trejo as . . . Danny Trejo. Tina Fey as the ice cold gulag warden brings the odd chuckle and her singing isn’t too bad, despite an exaggerated Russian accent.

Now as you know a certain Mr Ricky Gervais (who has not stopped tweeting about this project) plays a pivotal role as the suspiciously notorious tour manager Dominic Badguy (Bad-guy? It’s French for nice man. Nothing? Well). Gervais’ comic delivery is surprisingly stale. Never was an actor. Let’s be honest. However, his expired ‘look to the camera’ face pulling spiel actually works and his song and dance number with Kermit was a surprise. He gives it a go and pokes fun at himself, inevitably Brenting it up. If you’re a fan of Gervais, then he’s does alright. Otherwise, his smarmy presence works for the role but just doesn’t quite click or come off as funny as you’d expect. This film seems to miss that energy and chemistry that Amy Adams and Jason Segel brought to the table. I mean even Chris Cooper rapped and still pulled off the evil role.

The gags on the language barriers weren’t too bad, most notably in Berlin (Die Muppets? They hate us already). Fozzy Bear, Animal and Walter provide some of the more memorable moments. However, there’s one diva you can’t miss and that is Miss Piggy. It’s hard not for her to stand out (it’s like she’s real or something). A surprise duet with another “diva” made for a typical Muppet parody. The Muppets still bring the laughs but it seems that the human counterparts let this show down for me. I mean for the movie buffs, the Swedish Chef does a passing Ingmar Bergman reference. Straight over the little ‘uns heads but brilliantly done. The songs don’t seem to be as memorable as before, apart from the opener, they don’t stand out like the Oscar winning “Man or Muppet”. The cameos, despite being unexpected, are hardly fantastic or funny for that matter. Brings the odd smile but once you see them, they don’t do much else or stand out, bar Christophe Walz doing the Waltz. Worth it for the punditry alone. Ty Burrell (Mr Peabody and Sherman/Modern Family) is a notable exception. His Clousseau-esque detective is not bad and his rivalry with the Eagle makes for a cheeky poke at US/French relations with a compensating big badge off. A guilty gag that gets a giggle. It has enough for the little kids but for the bigger ones, to quote the opening song, “The sequel is just not as good”.

Harsh but if not for the cameos, this could have been one of their TV movie counterparts. It’s tough but you can’t help but compare to their more successful sequels, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and the Muppets 2011 movie, and feel it missed the mark. Watchable, the odd giggle. Not bad but back to the drawing board, maybe guys? 2.5/5

Currently ranks #101 out of 156!

*Please note before the film there is a good little Monsters University short called Party Central.