Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Last Castle

Avuncular liberal Robert Redford plays an avuncular and liberal US Army General, who's sentenced to a military prison after disobeying orders - presumebly in an avuncular and liberal way.

Unfortunately the military prison is run by an autocratic disciplinarian played by James Gandolfini. Initially intent on quietly serving his sentence Redford's bleeding heart is moved to lead a prison coup by the brutal treatment meted out to inmates in Gandolfini's care.

During the revolt Gandolfini calls in a helicopter to help restore order in the prision yard where the rebellion is taking place.

The prisoners, anticipating this move, secure a grappling hook to the chopper and an imprisoned pilot shins up the chain and takes control of the helicopter after a brief onboard scuffle.

On a nearby guard tower a sadistic prison officer finds himself face to face with the helicopter's pilot. The guard makes to shoot the pilot who spins the tail rotors of the chopper round, making mince meat of the officer, destroying the tower and the rear of the chopper.

Without a rear rotor the helicopter spins round out of control before crashing into the ground. The selflessly compassionate Redford is the first to act and helps the pilot from the chopper which has already caught fire. Moments after they're clear the helicopter explodes.

Verdict

The helicopter creates some impressive destruction prior to its crash. It's also nice to see the wounded chopper, without it's tail rotor, spin round out of control.

Tantalisingly, after it crashed into the ground, it looks like the helicopter isn't going to explode, however, the camera shot lingers just that moment too long, and sure enough, up she goes.

Artistic merit

More attention is spent on blowing up the guard tower and the chopper's dramatic crash landing than the actual explosion. By now the chopper is already in several pieces following its collosion with the guard tower and plummit into the ground. There's barely enough left of it to blow up. As they make their escape from the wreckage, Ruffalo and Redford both flinch in time honoured action movie style as the whirlybird finally goes up.

Relevance to plot

If anything it's TOO relevant. The helicopter makes several conspicuous appearance earlier in the film, and Yates (played by Mark Ruffalo) is clearly defined as a pilot for it not to prove relevant at some point in the film.

Exploding helicopter innovation

None. Director Rod Lurie fails to break any new ground in the art of exploding helicopters, however, it could be the only prison movie which features an exploding helicopter.

Positives

The prison movie genre is not fertile ground for exploding helicopter fans. An otherwise predictable prison flick is definitely improved by the chopper fireball.

Negatives

Unfortunately, after the excitement of the destruction of the guard tower and the damaged helicopter's crash, the final explosion of the helicopter is disappointingly routine.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Sub Zero

The world is threatened when terrorists steal a mysterious cube-like device which controls a powerful, laser beam firing, satellite.

However, when making their escape with the gizmo the terrorists have the misfortune to crash on one of the world’s highest mountains, K2.

Keen to regain their cutting-edge weapons-tech, world powers assemble a team of elite climbers and scientists (with incredibly dodgy Russian accents) are assembled to recover the cube.

For some reason - I’ll confess this low quality film didn’t have my full attention - the mountains neighbouring K2 are fortified with artillery guns.

As our team of heroes climb the mountain a saboteur intent on stopping them fires the artillery guns to start an avalanche. Along with creating snowy chaos the artillery also takes out a helicopter that happens to be hovering nearby with a direct hit.

Verdict

Perfunctory. The helicopter explodes in ‘blink and you’ll miss it fashion’. Completely consumed in a brief orange glow, there’s no outward explosion of wreckage.

Rather than get the hell out of Dodge, the helicopter pilot who is hovering in front of the guns as they start firing - decides to slowly manoeuvre round in front of one of them to conveniently enable its conflagration.

Number of helicopters

1

Relevance to plot

Entirely pointless. In classic exploding helicopter fashion there’s absolutely no reason why a helicopter had be destroyed in this scene.

Whilst there’s no doubt helicopters would be used by any military force operating in these mountains, there has to be a question mark as to whether they would be able to fly at this sort of altitude.

Artistic merit

Dismal. The director - schlock master Jim Wynorski - disappears the chopper in a moment of z-grade CGI. It’s far more rewarding to spend some time browsing Wynorski’s eclectic CV, which takes in exploitation titles like The Witches of Breastwicke, The Bare Wench Project and The Hills Have Thighs to schlock like Ghoulies IV, The Return of Swamp Thing and Chopping Mall.

Exploding helicopter innovation

The highest recorded altitude for a helicopter explosion.

Positives

Pointless and unnecessary, the exploding helicopter does at least tick a box in this otherwise poor film.

Negatives

Brief and unsatisfying.

Review by: Jafo