Showing posts from March, 2011

I Am Number Four film review

You will LOVE sci-fi flick I Am Number Four... if you’re an undemanding 12 year old that is. Based on the youth novel of the same name by Pittacus Lore – a pseudonym for writers James Frey and Jobie Hughes – I Am Number Four is clearly intended to be the first instalment in a hit new movie franchise for teens. The problem though is that the film lacks a strong individual identity, resulting in a very “average” cinema experience. It’s harmless and inoffensive, but at the same time it’s also not much else of anything really – and it’s an especially huge letdown if you consider big names like Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg are behind the project.

Directed by Disturbia’s D. J. Caruso, I Am Number Four centres on John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), a lonely fifteen year old who has lived his whole life on the run. You see, John is actually an alien, and one of the last nine “gifted” survivors of his home world Lorien, which was destroyed by malicious invaders known as Mogadorians. Evacuated from …

Trailer Tuesday: Captain America - The First Avenger

About bloody time! While the trailers for comic-to-film adaptations Green Lantern and Thor have been out for months (note to self: profile them at some stage, finally), it's been a long wait for fans eager to catch their first proper look at Captain America: The First Avenger. Well, the trailer finally debuted last week, and I'm happy to say the project is looking pretty good.

I've written quite extensively about the Captain America film before (here, and here). However, just to recap the basics: Based on one of the oldest Marvel Comics characters (dating all the way back to 1940, Captain America tells the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a weak and sickly young man who achieves his dream of joining the US army when he is accepted for an experimental programme. Rogers is transformed into super soldier Captain America, the pinnacle of human physical capability, and the US Military's greatest asset. And Cap is much needed when cunning Nazi agent Red Skull (Hugo Weavin…

Girlz 'N' Games comic #86: Fantasy vs. Reality

When I first watched the trailer for Ubisoft’s We Dare, I thought it was some kind of parody. A big fat joke. I mean, come on, a group of twentysomethings harnessing the power of the Wii (or PS3 Move) for a swingers’ party? Young disturbingly giddy professionals nuzzling a controller, stripping and spanking each other while their cartoon avatars eat apples, limbo and fly through hoops? Clearly the whole project – much like its trailer – was made while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenics.

Because, who really is the audience for this thing? Sure, Ubisoft is calling it a light-hearted party game for adults, but it looks so juvenile. You might as well regress to junior school and play "spin the bottle". I mean if you’re going to make a sex game for adults, make an explicit sex game for adults. Don’t hide your intentions behind content and gameplay so inane that it lands a 12+ age restriction – which only adds to the controversy about We Dare’s easy accessibility to ch…

Comedy, sci-fi, romance and drama at SA cinemas today

Five new movies of note open today in South Africa - catering for all audience wants.

Never Let Me Go may come across as a pretty standard love triangle if you're just judging it by its poster (which features stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield). However, dig a little deeper and it emerges that the film is based on Kazuo Ishiguro's multi-award winning novel of the same name - which deals with the topic of cloning for organ donation. It turns out our young friends and lovers are being raised purely so that their "originals" can extend their lives. So Never Let Me Go is thematically a lot heavier and more unconventional than it first appears. On many film critic' Top 10 of 2010 lists, the movie is 69% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Sticking with sci-fi and sci-fi literature there's I Am Number Four, based on Pittacus Lore's popular youth novel. Alex Pettyfer is Number 4, a super-powered alien whose quiet life on Earth is shattered when the be…

Gaming's 10 hottest male characters

I did a little freelance work this week for South Africa's top gaming site, Lazygamer (which is now providing game content for the massive group, out of interest). Basically they wanted a female perspective on the hottest male characters of gamedom.

You can read my Top 10 list here.

Recent graphic novel reads (March 2011 edition)

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these recap-and-review posts about the various graphic novels and trade paperbacks I’ve read recently. Here’s an update following on from this post in December last year.

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
It’s always worth paying attention whenever legendary comics-scribe-turned-ultra-successful-author Neil Gaiman returns to the medium that truly launched his career. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? can be considered Gaiman’s answer to Alan Moore’s famous tale, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? – which provided one final, nostalgic and touching look at the Silver & Bronze Age Superman before he was erased by John Byrne’s 1986 character revamp. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? does much the same thing, but with Bruce Wayne’s Batman when he was “killed” in 2009.

In Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, various heroes, villains and allies gather at Batman’s wake. Everyone has a different idea of the Dark Knig…

Trailer Tuesday: Source Code

Oh boy, judging by early buzz, sci-fi thriller Source Code could be this year's Inception - a brainy techno-blockbuster that keeps you mentally stimulated, and constantly teetering on the edge of your seat.

Sounding like a combination of Deja Vu, 12 Monkeys, Groundhog Day and maybe even a touch of Battlestar Galactica, Source Code is essentially a time travel mystery. Jake Gyllenhaal's airforce captain, Colter Stevens, is recruited for an experiment (known as the Source Code) where he is inserted into the body of another man 8 minutes before that man dies in a horrific train bombing. It's up to Colter to identify the terrorist responsible for the attack, meaning Colter has to repeatedly relive the 8 minutes preceding the incident. His observatory mission is complicated though when he finds himself falling for fellow commuter Michelle Monaghan. Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright round out the cast as officials running the Source Code programme.

Source Code is the latest film fro…

Movies releasing for the long weekend: Werewolves, cowboy chameleons, distressed lovers, economists and dancing Irishmen

Given it's a long weekend in South Africa, the cinema chains are releasing a glut of new movies to keep the whole family entertained, Friday to Monday. I'll get to my picks of the week in a moment, but first here's a rundown of the other new releases.

Blue Valentine is a Oscar nominated indie drama about a young couple, once passionately in love, whose marriage is painfully dissolving. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star. 87% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Comedy Just Go With It has Adam Sandler recruiting his office manager Jennifer Aniston to act as his ex-wife. This is after his hot new girlfriend Brooklyn Decker finds the wedding ring he uses as a pick-up tool, and assumes he's cheating. 18% Fresh.

Freakonomics: The bestselling pop-economics book gets the movie treatment in this collaborative documentary effort from the makers of Super Size Me, Jesus Camp, The King of Kong and more. 66% Fresh.

Lord of the Dance 3D: One of the world's most popular theatrical producti…

127 Hours film review

Make no mistake about it. 127 Hours is not a movie for everyone. If you’re at all squeamish then I guarantee that you will have a hard time watching this adventure thriller, based on unbelievable true events. This said, while I doubt you’ll want to rewatch it, 127 Hours is fascinating and completely engrossing piece of cinema. If you can stomach the last 15 minutes – Saw has nothing on 127 Hours! – you’re in for one of the most grueling, most courageous stories of survival ever filmed.

You can easily think of 127 Hours as the more lively cousin to 2007’s Into the Wild. After all, both biographical tales centre on massively independent young men in love with the remotest natural regions of the United States. Prizing their self-sufficiency and loner status, they deliberately disconnect from their families, only to find themselves trapped and regretting their selfish behaviour. In 127 Hours, James Franco plays adventurer Aron Ralston, who finds himself stuck in a crevice in Utah’s arid Ca…

The King’s Speech film review

Biographical drama The King’s Speech is this year’s big Academy Award winner, taking home 4 of the most high profile Oscars – for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. This character-driven tale has also been a surprisingly massive hit with audiences, despite the fact that it’s leisurely paced, and heavily traditional in execution. The King’s Speech is certainly a classy production, although its main strength lies not in its straightforward story, but rather the wonderful performances of its cast.

Set in the 1930s and 40s, The King’s Speech tells the real-life story of Britain’s Prince Albert (Colin Firth), whose lifelong stammer has made every one of his public appearances torturously embarrassing. Having tried everything, Albert’s concerned wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks out unconventional Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Things won’t be easy however. Before he can effectively treat Albert, Logue must break through the s…

Trailer Tuesday: Rango

Once upon time there was a very strong distinction between (Western) animated movies and live-action cinema. Big name, serious directors would give the former genre a wide berth seeing as it was "kids' stuff" - colourful, crowd pleasing, simplistic.

In recent years though such attitudes have changed. Forget the introduction of the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars. In the past 2 years, both Pixar's Up and Toy Story 3 have scored "serious" Best Picture nominations alongside the acclaimed likes of The Hurt Locker and The King's Speech. Meanwhile, during the past half decade, high profile live-action directors like George Miller, Robert Zemeckis, Wes Anderson and Zack Snyder have all steered the development of ambitious animated movies: Happy Feet, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, Fantastic Mr Fox and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.

Clearly A-list filmmakers have realised the exploratory power and potential of animation as a storytel…

Movies releasing today: Aliens, demons & that Bieber kid

If you're not in the mood for a 3D Justin Bieber (God help us all), a local rugby drama, a mother-daughter AIDS tale or the latest improv experiment from Mike Leigh, then let me direct you to the 2 most high profile, geek-friendly movie releases of the weekend.

Battle: Los Angeles: This sci-fi action film, also known as World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles, pits the US military against a massive alien invasion. Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez head up the cast, while South African director Jonathan Liebesman has promised Battle: LA is no Independence Day, despite the obvious similarities. Rather, it's intended to be a gritty urban war movie - like Blackhawk Down - where the enemy just happens to be extraterrestrial.

Profiled as part of this blog's Trailer Tuesday here, Battle: Los Angeles is currently a mediocre 37% on review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes. Evidently the film is a prime example of "sound and fury signifying nothing" - where the special effects …

The Fighter film review

Inspired by a real-life underdog tale, boxing drama The Fighter can probably best be described as Rocky meets Jerry Springer – with exceptional performances. It’s an odd combination but it makes for arguably the most all-round entertaining of this year’s big Oscar nominees. For the record, The Fighter was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won two, for Best Supporting Actor Christian Bale and Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo.

The Fighter centres on boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) whose loyalties to his large working class family mean that he’s missed out on several career opportunities, and has frequently found himself in mismatched fights, boxing for a paycheque to please his manager mother Alice (Leo) and older brother, and trainer, Dicky (Bale) – a former boxing contender and current crack addict. After one too many disappointments, and with the encouragement of new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), Micky attempts to cut loose from his family and take one final shot at a tit…

Trailer Tuesday - X-Men: First Class

I've spoken before about how superhero films are at a crossroads. There are so many of them these days that, for the distinct fantasy genre to survive instead of sinking into "samey" mediocrity, the filmmakers will have to step up creatively, and differentiate their offerings. The easiest way they can do this is to set the action against a different, unexpected backdrop: outer space, the realm of gods, a different time...

In fact, in 2011 two of Marvel's big movie adaptations - Captain America: The First Avenger and today's profiled flick X-Men: First Class - are both separating superheroes from present day and plonking them squarely in the past, to leave their costumed mark on history as we know it. While Cap is set in the 1940s World War II period, First Class will take place during the turbulent early '60s, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Of course it has to be admitted up front that there are a lot of comic fans nervous about X-Men: First Class…