Film Review: Stake Land

Stake Land is a post-apocalyptic road movie, which works a little like a cross between The Road and Zombieland. It is relentlessly bleak, which can be a bit of a chore as the film progresses.

Martin was a regular teenage boy living with his family. When vampires slaughter them, like millions of others, the teenager is rescued by Mister. Martin travels with Mister, fighting back against any vampires that attack them. Mister trains Martin in combat, as they head towards the safe haven of New Eden…

Stake Land ultimately feels a bit unsatisfying. There are some tense moments and gory action sequences, but little else to sustain the film. The combination of horror and drama can work to great effect, but in Stake Land it just feels staid. There is no humour in the film, which is a shame as the mood could have done with lightening for at least some interludes. It is the comedy in Zombieland that makes it such an enjoyable watch. Eschewing this option, Stake Land is unlikely to become a film that will be revisited again and again.

The narrative is fairly run-of-the-mill, offering no surprises to those familiar with post-apocalyptic movies. The voiceover works well, but the bleakness overshadows any promise of something different. There is a lack of imagination in both the story and the characters. New characters who enter during the course of the film are never developed; presumably it is all about the journey rather than the players.

Stake Land‘s art direction is good. The de-saturation of colour is seemingly synonymous with post-apocalyptic bleakness. The soundtrack also works well, and is very effective in conveying the bleak tone. Some of the montage sequences, which feature Martin being trained, are reminiscent of The Karate Kid. It is unclear whether this is an unintentional homage or not from director Jim Mickle.

Performances are fine but unremarkable in Stake Land. Connor Paolo is appropriately cast as teenager Martin. Nick Damici is suitably sombre as Mister, while Kelly McGillis is adequate as Sister. As Jebedia Loven, Michael Cerveris is a one-dimensional villain. This is perhaps down to a lacking script, rather than the individual performance, however.

With its vile, repugnant antagonists, Stake Land’s vampires are the antithesis to the sparkly kind featured in Twilight. Sadly, Stake Land lacks the buoyancy or drive to make it a truly memorable film. Not at all a painful watch, but not a inspired one either.

Film Review: Megamind

There has been an abundance of well-executed animated features in 2010; Megamind is just the latest of these. Although the film is enjoyable and has wide appeal, it may suffer from being released so soon after Despicable Me, as the two films share some striking similarities.

Super villain Megamind has a rivalry with his nemesis Metro Man which stretches all the way back to childhood. When Megamind finally defeats Metro Man, he finds that life is much emptier without a nemesis to fight…

Megamind appears to be a little ‘by the numbers’ in a way it would not have seemed only a few years ago. This is because there have been several animated features this year particularly that mix comedy with action and fantasy in a style that will appeal to adults as well as children. So in this sense it appears formulaic, but only as it comes after the year’s several successful animated features.

Like Despicable Me, the protagonist in Megamind is very much an anti-hero. Although he is evil, we inevitably root for the humorous Megamind to prosper, rather than the stereotypically ‘good’ characters. And just like Despicable Me‘s Gru, Megamind has a change in outlook through the course of the film.

Megamind is entertaining primarily due to its good use of comedy. Megamind’s conversations with his cohort Minion are amusing; these interactions reveal both affection and gentle ribbing. Megamind makes reference to a number of films, including The Karate Kid and Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Most notable, however, is Megamind‘s hilarious spoof of Marlon Brando in Superman. Megamind parodies superhero films, offering a rather skewered version of both heroes and villains of this genre. Nevertheless, Megamind appears to offer a more realistic interpretation of how superheroes would be treated in the real world, than that of Kick-Ass, for example. Metro Man is portrayed as part deity, part celebrity – a believable reflection of the contemporary world.

Will Ferrell appears perfecting cast voicing Megamind, he bring the humour necessary for this role. Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt similarly perform well, although it does feel a bit like stunt casting, particularly in the case of Pitt. Nowadays, it seems a prerequisite to have A list names voicing animated features.

The animation in Megamind is faultless, with the backdrops of the sky appearing strikingly realistic. The 3D element is incorporated seamlessly, although Megamind is a film that would certainly be enjoyed just as well in 2D. The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring classic tracks from Michael Jackson, AC/DC and Guns n’Roses.

If Megamind had been released a few years ago, it would definitely be one of best animated films in that year. Given the plethora of superb animated features this year, however, Megamind runs the risk of being forgotten. An enjoyable watch, nonetheless.