Showing posts from August, 2011

Status update for Superman 2013: The Man of Steel

So what's up with Superman? Or, more specifically, what's up with the new Superman film, AKA The Man of Steel?

You may remember this, my initial post, after it was announced in October last year that Zack (Watchmen, 300) Snyder had just been hired to helm the film, with the "creative guidance" of Christopher Nolan and the various producers and writers who make up Nolan's much praised "Dark Knight trilogy " team.

I still maintain that a collaboration between thought-provoking, anti-CGI Nolan and CGI-enthusiast, and King of Hyper-Stylisation, Snyder is a curious thing. However, I'm VERY intrigued to see how it all turns out.

The Man of Steel is currently filming on location in Illinois. Admittedly I've been a bit slack in posting about the film until now, but I'm really not one for contributing to the rumour mill. Plus, over-reportage too early during production really spoils the surprise, and leaves the audience jaded well before they'v…

Trailer Tuesday - Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

There are certain fantasy/sci-fi blockbusters so bad that they have left me forever disenchanted with the franchise in question. After Terminator: Salvation (my review here) I'll never watch another new Terminator movie. The same goes for 2007's appalling Ghost Rider (my review).

So, no, don't expect a review for (kinda) sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in the coming months, because I've vowed not to watch this one at the cinema. However, given this blog's focus on matters of film, fantasy and comic books, this second stab at a Ghost Rider movie does at least warrant a mention here, because there may be some readers out there actually interested in it.

In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Nicolas Cage is back playing Marvel Comics' dark, demonically-afflicted anti-hero. It's currently unclear whether the new film is a straight sequel set several years after the events of the original film, or like fellow Marvel movie The Incredible Hulk, a strange sim…

Monday movie review: Super 8

Without being a reboot or remake, Super 8 is a strongly nostalgic movie. It hearkens back to a previous era, circa 30 years ago, when sci-fi films were infused with a sense of wonder. Encounters with the extra-terrestrial were still nerve-wracking but they were often simultaneously a way for distinctly normal people to come to terms with problems in their lives – losing a loved one, coping with divorce; the transition from carefree childhood to consequence-heavy adulthood.

This branch of cinematic sci-fi has seemingly withered in popularity over the decades. Cynical audiences have rejected its focus on feeling and insistence on optimistic endings; gravitating instead towards dark, nihilistic tales like Blade Runner and super-slick, CGI-heavy films like Avatar and Tron: Legacy – where visual spectacle is clearly the filmmakers’ priority above anything else. In this context, Super 8 is a breath of fresh air.

Set in 1979, with an authentic look to match, Super 8 comes across as a blendi…

Crush your enemies, hear the lamentation of their women; here are the movies opening today

You're pretty spoiled for choice at South African cinemas this weekend, with 6 new movies to choose from. Before profiling my top 2 picks of the new releases though, here's a rundown of the rest:

Disney classic The Lion King (92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) returns to the big screen in 3D - as well as Zulu at selected cinemas. There's Mandy Moore romcom Love Wedding Marriage (0% Fresh, ow!) and horror master John Carpenter's latest, The Ward (31% Fresh), set in a haunted psychiatric hospital. Finally there's father-son drama A Better Life (86% Fresh), about Mexican illegal immigrants and the lure of gangsterism in Los Angeles.

That then leaves Conan the Barbarian - screening in both 2D and converted 3D - as my first Movie of the Week. Although featuring the same name as the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer, the new Conan film is (apparently) more faithful to the pulp literary creation of Robert E Howard. Jason Momoa is the brutal Hyborian Age warrior who seeks reve…

Midweek Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is definitely one of the better of this year’s fantasy and sci-fi blockbusters. Although the film’s overall enjoyment is tempered a bit by some blatant logic gaps in its final third – coinciding with the film's culminating battle, incidentally – this CGI-saturated viewing experience as a whole is pleasantly character-focused and emotion-driven. It also doesn’t hurt that this is a Planet of the Apes film (essentially a franchise reboot and simultaneous prequel) based in our reality as opposed to a far-fetched setting with regressed hairy humans and advanced, humanoid chimps.

From the film’s outset, the audience is encouraged to side with the apes, who are tormented and cruelly used by the human race. This is especially true for the lead chimp, Caesar (Andy Serkis), whose story, or, more specifically, his treatment, is not dissimilar to that of Robin WilliamsBicentennial Man, or Haley Joel Osment’s David in A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Caesar is ult…

Trailer Tuesday: Haywire

Action-espionage thriller Haywire (previously known as Knockout) is a bit of an oddity. At first glance you might think it's some straight-to-DVD "skop, skiet en donder" flick (translation for non-South Africans: "kick, shoot and beat up" movie). After all, Haywire stars "face of women's MMA" and former GladiatorGina Carano as a deadly covert operative who is betrayed by her handler and seeks revenge, while dodging assorted agents and assassins sent to take her down.

Sounds like Z-grade dreck, right? Well, adjust your expectations because Haywire also stars Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton and Michael Douglas. Oscar-winning (for Traffic) Steven Soderbergh - who also helmed the likes of Out of Sight, Oceans EleventhroughThirteen and Erin Brockovich - is in the director's chair for this globe-trotting spy tale. It's A-list all the way, baby!

Admittedly Carano's acting skills are untested -…

Movies out today: Bringing the extraterrestrial hoedown

Five new movies hit South African cinemas today but I'm pretty sure only one will be of interest to my regular readers.

Out of interest, though, those other four releases include:

Selena Gomez's mistaken identity comedy Monte Carlo, for the tweens (38% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) 3D animated Finding Nemo rip-off Sammy's Adventures: The Secret Passage for the kiddies (40% Fresh)Acclaimed South African revenge tale Retribution, for adult fans of serious film festival fareAnd the similarly "heavy" Incendies, a multi-award winning drama about Canadian twins who uncover family secrets in Lebanon (92% Fresh).
That then leaves Cowboys and Aliens as this week's geeky pick of the week. Loosely based on the little known graphic novel of the same name, Cowboys and Aliens - as its title suggests - mashes Western and Sci-fi genres together in this tale of feuding New Mexico settlers who have to band together to defeat technologically advanced aliens. Daniel Craig is an amne…

Board game movies (maybe) heading your way

It's unofficial board game week on Pfangirl Through the Looking Glass, seeing as I've already profiled upcoming game-to-film adaptation Battleship and got to play the marvelously fun cooperative demon basher Arkham Horror - set in the Lovecraftian pulp horror universe - for the first time.

Recently though, there's been relatively disappointing news for lovers of old school, non-electronic gaming. Or, more precisely, for board game lovers intrigued by the prospect of seeing the pastime leap onto the big screen with a bang (Box office hit Jumanji, though board game-centred, was actually based on a book).

Toy and game company Hasbro has been rolling in dough since The Transformers movies, and is clearly keen to keep dipping its toes in the Hollywood pond. After all, if a film based on a theme park ride could spawn a billion dollar franchise, who's to say that movies based on board games couldn't do the same? To that end, Hasbro formed a 6 year, multiple film developm…

ThunderCats 2011: First Impressions

ThunderCats, ho!

Earlier this year I wrote with some curiosity, and definite apprehension, about the planned reimagining of classic 80s animated series ThunderCats. Well, having now watched the first 4 episodes of the new ThunderCats, Cartoon Network’s latest show – which started airing weekly from 29th July – I can happily comment “So far so good.”

Granted it normally takes about 5 episodes of any TV series for the show to get over its wobbly first steps and hit its stride, so perhaps I’m passing comment a bit prematurely. However, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve watched so far. The new ThunderCats isn’t AMAZING by any means – neither was the original if fans look back on it with honesty now – but it satisfies my wants in that most crucial of areas: it’s not insulting to now-adult viewers who enjoyed the 80s cartoon.

Whereas Hollywood is often happy to piss on the nostalgic memories of children of the 80s by doing things like transplanting the pastoral Smurfs to New York City for sla…

Trailer Tuesday: Battleship

Right, we've had films based on action figures, films based on theme park rides and, now, films based on board games (pretend for a minute that the Clue(do) movie was never made back in the 80s).

Battleship, based of course on turn-based strategy game, looks to be Transformers by way of Top Gun. Taylor (Gambit) Kitsch stars as brilliant but rebellious naval officer Alex Hopper, who is on the wrong side of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), especially after becoming engaged to Shane's daughter (Brooklyn Decker). Hopper has a chance to prove himself though when international naval exercises off Hawaii trigger a battle between the fleet and a vastly superior alien craft that jams all radar and traps the ships under a giant dome. It's a case of sink or be sunk.

I think it's safe to consider Battleship a replacement for the (for now) concluded Transformers film series, filling the market gap for big dumb blockbusters where the human characters are cartoon archetypes and the film…

Shocking cinema conditions

South Africans are pretty lucky when it comes to cinema-going... barring the few noticeable incidents (read my posts on last year's 3D glasses rip-off and IMAX SA's closure).

There are enough loyalty programmes (Clicks ClubCard discounts, Discovery Vitality, Fanatics) and weekly specials (Half-price Tuesdays at Ster Kinekor, Woza Wednesdays at Nu Metro) that it's quite easy to enjoy the latest movies at the country's 2 big cinema chains without ever paying full price - up to R55 for a normal film, and up to R70 for a 3D movie. Such cinema discounts are non-existent in a good many other nations.

This said, if you're paying a premium price for a premium experience - and you know you're at a premium spot when it costs R15 just for 500ml of bottled water! - then you expect the cinemas to be in excellent condition. Two weeks ago I watched Super 8 at Pavilion Nu Metro. This was the shocking state of Cinema 6. And this when the Pavilion cinemas underwent extensive re…

Movies releasing today: Time to monkey around

Hands down my pick of this weekend's new movie releases in South Africa is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. According to multiple accounts, for the second time this year 20th Century Fox has actually produced a franchise reboot/origin tale (the first being X-Men: First Class) that actually delivers the entertainment goods while demonstrating a surprising amount of intelligence.

This latest entry in the decades-old Planet of the Apes franchise seems to be, at its core, a cautionary tale about science in a similar vein to this heartbreaking true-life tale. Set in our contemporary reality, James Franco 's experimental Alzheimer's research gifts chimpanzee Caesar - portrayed by Andy (Gollum, King Kong) Serkis using motion-capture technology - with human-like intelligence. Mistreated by people, and stranded between the world of Man and Ape, frustrated Caesar seeks revenge.

My interest in Rise of the Planet of the Apes has been piqued since the release of this emotion-led trailer…

Girlz 'N' Games webcomic #90: Year of the Asshole

A surprising trend emerged during this year’s midyear blockbuster season (more commonly identified with the North American Summer). And that’s how often movie audiences were called on to like, admire and celebrate heroes who act like A) Assholes, B) Dickheads and C) Douchebags.

Of course, in reality many of history’s most respected figures haven’t exactly been shiny, principled paladins in all areas of their lives. This said, Hollywood doesn’t normally encourage audiences to think highly of characters who hurt or sacrifice innocents, or the inconsequential, for personal gain. Even antiheroes are typically on the side of the little guy.

Well, the “likeable hero” rule went out the window this year at the movies.

In a film entirely populated by unsympathetic characters, we were introduced to Green Lantern Hal Jordan blowing off another one night stand, forgetting his nephew’s birthday, and, most importantly, deliberately getting his wingman “killed” during a combat simulation (read my Gr…

Girl Gamers column: "She's the Best!"

Yesterday was National Women's Day in South Africa. In keeping with the theme of celebrating women's contribution to society - or, more precisely, leveraging off the public holiday - here's a link to my latest "Girl Gamer" column over at Lazygamer, South Africa's premier gaming news and reviews website.
"She's the Best!"

You can read my other Lazygamer article contributions here:

Girl Gamers UnmaskedGirl Gamers: Casual vs. HardcoreCouples Gaming: Getting StartedBeware the DecepticonsGaming's 10 Hottest Male CharactersGirl Gamers: Easy to be Out and Proud?

Fun for Tuesday: Nicky Fury is recruiting

It's a public holiday in South Africa today so I'm taking a break from blogging.

However, to keep comic fans and movie buffs entertained during my absence, here's a very funny, very well done College Humour parody that sees Samuel L. Jackson's SHIELD director Nick Fury, expanding his search for superheroes beyond the expected spots and expected characters.

Movie Review Monday - Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is a pretty solid comic book adaptation. However, following on already this year from superhero films Thor, X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern, Captain America is deprived of a sense of freshness. Feeling vanilla for the most part, the film doesn’t do quite enough to distinguish itself from its 2011 genre predecessors, and in terms of comparison to this year’s other big Marvel Comics adaptation – before all heroes ensemble in The Avengers next year – Thor is more entertaining, and offers more onscreen fun.

Coming across as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade meets GI Joe by way of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Captain America is the most comic book-feeling and looking of the pre-Avengers films. It’s also a mixed bag of positives and negatives.

Plot-wise, Captain America provides what you’d expect of a film based on the comic, and more specifically the character’s WWII origin tale. Frail and sickly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is Determined – wi…

Movies opening today: It's Captain America time, baby!

It's all about gung-ho World War II superheroics at South African cinemas this weekend. However, before I squee about Marvel's latest comic-to-film adaptation, you might want to know about today's other new releases:

Soul Surfer is an inspiring true-life tale, with spiritual leanings, about surfer Bethany Hamilton (played by AnnaSophia Robb), who loses her arm in a shark attack, and has to reassess her dreams. Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood and Craig T. Nelson also star. Soul Surfer is 50% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. The film has been compared to heartwarming football drama The Blind Side.

The Conspirator, directed by Robert Redford, is a historical courtroom drama - and true story - starring Robin Wright, James McAvoy and a host of other famous faces. Set in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Wright is the only women in the group of eight accused of plotting the murder. McAvoy is the Civil War veteran charged with…

Calling all Cape Town gamers and geeks. Dragonfire is here

Last month Joburg role-players and tabletop gamers got their game on at ICON, South Africa's biggest gaming and comic convention. Back in April, Pretoria locals unleashed their inner geek at UPCON. And now, it's the turn of Cape Town.

Durban of course, as the handsome but hopelessly lazy stoner bro' of South African cities, has no cons, comic stores or role-playing societies. Anyway...

Dragonfire is South Africa's oldest gaming convention and takes place every year on the weekend closest to August's Women's Day public holiday. This year's con theme is Lost in Time.

Dragonfire obviously isn't as large scale as ICON, but there will be traders present, anime screenings and all kinds of gaming to be enjoyed - including card games, board games, wargaming, LARPs, and, of course, good ol' pen-and-paper RPG modules. Casual play, demos and competitive tournaments are all on offer.

You can find thefull timetable here on the Dragonfire official site.

Although parti…