Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

review open grave

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Two Brits, a German, and a woman from Hong Kong walk into a bar, except the bar is a forest and they don’t so much walk in as the do wake up in the middle of it. The common thread among them is that none of them know who they are or how they got there. Enter a South African (Sharlto Copley) who’s just awoken in an exposed pit filled with dead people and who, like his new friends, also has no recollection as to what the hell is happening. Low on trust, high on anxiety, and fully loaded for bear thanks to a stocked armory, the group struggles to search for clues and remember who they are and what they could possibly be doing together in the middle of the woods. Memories slowly begin to bubble to the surface, but they’re not coming fast enough to adequately respond to the discovery of bodies tied to trees with barbed wire or left hanging from the branches above. And then the crazed, zombie-like mouth-breathers attack. Details aside, Open Grave‘s setup here is familiar enough that you’d be forgiven for immediately thinking the gang is trapped in purgatory and destined to eventually realize that they all died in a plane crash or maybe a spin class accident. Thankfully though the actual story is far more imaginative and interesting. If only its execution was as successful.

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grave

Fresh off of battling Matt Damon over the future version of healthcare reform in the sci-fi epic Elysium comes South African acting sensation Sharlto Copley, who’s got another performance in a crazy looking genre picture in the bag and ready for our consumption. The new film, from Spanish director Gonzalo López-Gallego (Apollo 18, but let’s try to give him another chance), is called Open Grave, and while its new trailer doesn’t do too much to explain to us the mysteries at its center, if definitely earns it that title. This thing is chock full of rotting corpses and shoddy burial techniques. Click through to watch the ad, but be warned that it contains screaming and shooting and bodies experiencing convulsions. Skin is torn, flesh rots, and secrets abound. Is this a zombie movie? A movie about some shadowy organization torturing test subjects? Something else entirely? You be the judge.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr readies for a Labor Day vacation at a lake house surrounded by bloodthirsty sharks. Once dinner is over for the little beasties, he goes undercover in 1960s-era East Berlin to help a bunch of emotionally brittle Mossad agents to kidnap a Nazi war criminal. Unfortunately, all they uncover is dozens of hours of video recordings from a lost NASA moon landing. So Kevin decides to edit all of this footage together into a feature film and hock it to the Weinsteins, convincing them that it really happened… or did it?

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The crowded Labor Day weekend box office includes a mishmash of end-of-summer fare – some junk (Shark Night 3D), some attempts at awards bait (The Debt), even a long-delayed sex comedy (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy), but it also includes The Weinstein Company’s shoved around and mostly forgotten Apollo 18. The film’s marketing has hinged on making viewers believe that the film is “real” and crafted from “found footage,” but to pretty dubious results. I’m still not entirely convinced that Apollo 18 is an actual movie, much less one made up of real footage (and I say that as someone who knows people watching the movie as I type this). But despite all of TWC’s attempts to turn the film into an actually buzzed-about project, it looks like at least one faction of people involved with the production are hellbent on denying that the film is even remotely real – unfortunately, that faction is no less than NASA. Oops! NASA, however, is not just a bunch of cinematic killjoys. Last year alone, they collaborated on a vast number of space-themed entertainment, including almost 100 documentaries, 35 television shows, and 16 feature films. Apollo 18 was, at one point, just one of those collaborations, but now the space agency is chucking it out with the rest of the space trash, with Bert Ulrich, NASA’s liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations, telling the LA Times, “Apollo 18 is not a documentary…The film is a work of fiction, and we always knew that. […]

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We pretty much all saw the found footage trailer for Apollo 18 that crash landed last week. It taught us to fear space ghosts that knock over our flags and invade our space suits. Now we might have reason to fear for Bob Weinstein’s sanity. According to his quick quote to EW, he really, really, really wants audiences to think this movie is actual found footage from a real-life secret moon mission that ended tragically. The money quote: “People intrinsically know there are secrets being held from us. Look at WikiLeaks: There are secrets that are really true to the world. It’s not bogus. We didn’t shoot anything,” Weinstein claims. “We found it. Found baby!” The question here is whether this sort of tactic will backfire and hurt the film.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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