Showing posts from September, 2011

In cinemas today: Little blue men and a bare-assed Ryan Reynolds

Of the new movies releasing in South Africa today, the following are the 2 with the highest profiles. They're also likely to be the big box office champions of the weekend, although I can't say I'm enticed to watch either. Fortunately though, after a dud September at South African cinemas, the October lineup is looking a lot more interesting. And we're just about there!

1)The Smurfs

Following in the steps of Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Smurfs is yet another beloved 80s cartoon (and older entertainment property, actually), being given the big screen adaptation treatment.

Releasing in 2D and 3D, The Smurfs is a family comedy that, like Garfield and The Chipmunks, mixes CGI-animation and live-action. It also, unfortunately, has adopted the mindset that simple, wholesome fairy tale-like creatures won't sell movie tickets. As a result, the Smurfs have become sassy, smirking troublemakers. Oh, and now they, and sorcerer nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria), are runn…

Friends with Benefits film review

From Will Gluck, the director of Easy A (my review), comes the second twentysomething casual sex comedy of 2011, following on from No Strings Attached (my review). Gluck’s new light-hearted romance, entitled Friends with Benefits, is the more consistently entertaining of the two releases thanks to its zippiness and generally unlaboured nature. However, in the end, Friends with Benefits is happy to embrace romantic comedy conventions, and in fact the whole project never attempts to add anything new to the genre mix apart from some social media and tech-related gimmicks. (Have you ever wished for a movie comedy where a flash mob and Bible iPad app feature prominently? Well, here you go!)

In a nutshell, Friends with Benefits is engaging and entertaining enough – as well as having enough saucy edge to set it apart from, say, a typically desexualised Kate Hudson romcom. This said, Friends with Benefits’ insistence in sticking to formula means that for all the chuckles and good feeling it pr…

Girlz 'N' Games comic #92: The Name Game

Yeah, yeah, I know some of you are going to complain that this Girlz 'N' Games comic has no punchline. However, the point of this one - apart from getting to draw all the caricatures - was really to generate some lighthearted awareness about some of the greatest silliness and coincidence to afflict fantasy literature... as well as its big and small screen adaptations.

I mean, hello, how stupid are the good guys really? Do they really deserve to rule kingdoms and be responsible for the lives of hundreds and thousands of people when they're such morons, obviously? Why would you trust someone unquestionably when they have a sinister (nick)name, a sinister look or sometimes a sinister combination of both? It's massively dumb. You have to wonder if these lords and heroes were ever molested as kids given that they seem to be totally without a built-in "Spidey sense" when it comes to dealing with slimy strangers.

As a side note, I find it rather interesting that those…

Trailer Tuesday: The Grey

I loves me a grim tale of survival against the odds, where Nature (in Supreme Bitch mode) ups the stakes by slathering on the vindictiveness in an already harsh setting. So count me keen for intense adventure-drama The Grey.

The Grey comes from the same creative team responsible for last year's A-Team movie, including director Joe (Smokin' Aces) Carnahan, and producer brothers and veteran filmmakers Ridley and Tony Scott. Hell, they even got their A-Team leading man Liam Neeson back to headline this tale of oil-rig workers whose plane crashes during a snow storm in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Not only do the men have to contend with injuries, the icy elements and each other as they stagger back to civilisation, but there's an ever more terrifying threat - a pack of starving grey wolves have identified the men as easy prey.

Now admittedly The Grey is being released during Hollywood's notorious "dumping" period of January and February. However, the film is a r…

It's time to play the Game of Thrones

South Africa, it is time!

Tonight on MNET at 9:30pm starts Game of Thrones, the 10-episode first season of the new epic fantasy TV show from HBO - based on George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, arguably the most important fantasy literature event of the past 2 decades... that wasn't Harry Potter.

If you loved Rome and The Tudors, with their mix of political intrigue, graphic violence, copious amounts of sex and nudity, and high profile deaths, you will LOVE this one. Prepare to watch the Great Houses of medieval Westeros war it out for control of the Seven Kingdoms.

A drama-heavy weekend at SA cinemas: Movies releasing today

It's a big week for drama and relationships at South African cinemas, with 9 new movies opening locally - and most of them of the serious, reality-based type. These include multi-award winning, education-against-the-odds tale, The First Grader (55% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes); little known dolphin rescue adventure Beneath the Blue; and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a Chinese-American novel adaptation centred on female friendship that transcends centuries (19% Fresh).

My Top 3 picks of the weekend though are as follows:

1) Abduction
Twilight's wolf boy Taylor Lautner graduates to leading man status with this action thriller. Lautner plays a teen who realises that his parents aren't his own when he finds photos of his younger self on a missing persons website. He's then goes on the run with his pretty neighbour (Lily Collins), when government agents start chasing him. Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello and Sigourney Weaver provide veteran acting…

Trailer Tuesday: John Carter

Disney's big live-action fantasy adventure for 2012 comes with a real old school pulp fiction pedigree. I mean really old school! John Carter is based on the Barsoom tales written by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs in the 1910s through 40s.

Massively popular in their day, it's debatable how familiar modern audiences are with Burroughs's tales of scantily clad, sci-fi adventure. Hell, it's debatable whether audiences have ever even seen the stunning Frank Frazetta artwork based on the collected stories.

Anyway, filmmakers have been wanting to make a John Carter film since the 1930s but apart from a straight-to-DVD release in 2009, nobody has had the budget, special effects technology or commitment to make the film... until now.

Based chiefly on the first John Carter book, the highly influential A Princess of Mars, Taylor Kitsch stars as the title character, a Civil War veteran who is inexplicably transported to Mars. The planet is not as we know it, however. Rather, i…

Catch-up mini movie reviews: The Warrior’s Way, The Eagle, Hanna and Bridesmaids

I’ve just worked out that this year I’ve already watched, give or take some miscalculation, 41 cinema releases. Writing reviews for every single one of them certainly helps to keep track, and keeping notes has helped me realise that a handful of movies over the past 6 months or so have gone without Pfangirl Through the Looking Glass reviews. Here are some mini write-ups to rectify the lack of coverage – hopefully they will help with your next DVD/download decision:

The Warrior’s Way
Along with Priest (my review), The Warrior’s Way is my big guilty pleasure of 2011. With a heavy reliance of CGI-backgrounds and devastatingly choreographed wire-stunt combats, the film is hyper-stylised escapist fare in the mould of 300. It’s also probably the best video game movie not actually based on a video game. For the record, the film is a genre mash-up, with Western conventions sitting alongside those of Asian Martial Arts epics. Jang Dong-gun stars as a nearly mute assassin, the world’s greatest sw…

Movies releasing today: Romcoms, action and kiddie fare

It's about escapism for the whole family at South African cinemas today, with your top 3 new releases as follows:

Friends with Benefits - This saucy R-rated romcom is the second genre entry this year to focus on the topic of friends-turned-fuck buddies. Moviegoers probably remember the very similar No Strings Attached which released much earlier this year (read my review here). The difference here though is that the relationship-phobic couple at the centre of this unconventional relationship is played by Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Emma Stone and Jenna Elfman round out the cast.

In comparison to No Strings Attached, Friends with Benefits has a much higher rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, coming in at a very healthy 73% Fresh. Apparently the chemistry between the leads is fantastic. And as formulaic - and deliberately artificial - as the film is, it's carried along by the likeability of its leads, zippy p…

The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra

Although I came to the party late, over the past year I've become a big proponent of Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which aired from 2005 to 2008. Forget the appalling, soulless live-action film by M Night Shyamalan (my review); the cartoon was the real deal - set in a Asian-styled medieval universe where martial arts and magic mix.

The original show was set in a world divided into 4 groups: The Water Tribes, the Air Nomads, the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. Some people from each of these groups are born "benders," in that they can telekinetically manipulate their kingdom's associated element. Then there's the Avatar, a supremely powerful bender who can control all 4 elements, and who exists to maintain balance and justice in the world. On death, the Avatar is reincarnated, cycling through the different groups every generation, as every Avatar has a primary bending ability they're born with. This is important because typically the…

Midweek Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian 2011 (3D)

It’s been a few days since I watched it but I still have little in the way of feelings for the new Conan the Barbarian movie. I didn’t like or massively dislike this big screen adaptation of Robert E Howard’s fantasy tales, although my viewing companion considered it the worst fantasy adventure since Dungeons & Dragons, and wanted to walk out after the first 5 minutes. I just found the whole project to be as pointless and flavourless as its 3D conversion.

I would never say that the original 1982 Conan the Barbarian, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a masterpiece, but it had enough flavour; enough distinctiveness to stand as an entertaining example of how to do sword-and-sorcery movies properly for adults – its huge tracts of silence, its physically imposing leads, its copious amounts of bare flesh, and its general solemnity... punctuated by moments like drunk Conan punching a camel, and cannibal orgies in the villain’s palace.

By contrast, there is nothing really distinct or memo…

Trailer Tuesday: Puss in Boots

Several years in development, CGI-fantasy adventure Puss in Boots is a spin-off from DreamWorks Animation's Shrek quadrilogy - the highest grossing animated film series of all time. Despite being the fifth feature length film set in Shrek's Fairy Tale & Nursery Rhyme Universe, I'm still excited for this release, seeing as the Antonio Banderas-voiced Puss, with his comical muddle of swashbuckler and feline attributes, is probably my favourite character in the entire Shrek series.

Releasing in 3D, like most animated movies these days, Puss in Boots is apparently not a straightforward adaptation of the well-known Puss in Boots fairy tale. Instead of our feline hero lifting the fortune's of a miller's son and outwitting a shape-shifting giant, here he is hired to save a town from the loathsome outlaws Jack and Jill - voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris. Jack and Jill have managed to harness some sort of devastating supernatural power, and it falls to Puss t…

Movies releasing today: That other horror franchise that just won't die

You know you're slipping out of midyear blockbuster season when the genre films with geek appeal start drying up. As a result this week's sole new release of interest is horror film Final Destination 5 - screening in 3D and 2D.

Only 2 years ago The Final Destination, AKA Final Destination 4, released with the promise that it was going to be the final entry in the franchise, and was therefore going out with a 3D bang (a first for the series). Well, I guess it was more profitable to keep the Final Destination movies clocking up ad nauseum - like the Saw series - because here we are again, with a new batch of unknowns trying to out-dodge Death.

In keeping with the Final Destination formula, a premonition helps our "heroes" escape a disaster - in this case a deadly bridge collapse. Tony "Candyman" Todd's creepy coroner then pitches up to explain how Death feels cheated and will attempt to claim the survivors via freak accidents. This triggers intense paranoia…

Girlz 'N' Games webcomic #91: Love-Hate

Of course this comic could apply to a thousand games, but for me, most recently, the love-hate in question was directed at action platformer Alice: Madness Returns. (Before that, the last game to really have me smashing my keyboard was Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones). Anyway…

When it released back in June, the long-awaited sequel to American McGee’s Alice racked up a lot of 7/10 review scores. And, having finished the game now, I would give it the same rating. Alice: Madness Returns isn’t amazing, or even groundbreaking, but it’s still a solid piece of interactive entertainment... and good value for money, seeing as a thorough play-through can clock in at around 20 hours. For the record, I’m not someone who refuses to play a game that scores less than 8 out of 10. In fact, I’m highly suspicious of 9/10 and full marks reviews. But I digress.

Plot wise, Madness Returns is set shortly after the events of the original 2000 game. Having been discharged from the asylum, Alice is now underg…

Trailer Tuesday: In Time

A year ago, if you'd told me that Justin Timberlake was the lead in a Logan's Run-esque sci-fi actioner, I would have immediately dismissed the film. Then the former member of boy band 'N Sync proceeded to blow me away with his electric supporting performance in The Social Network.

This said, I'm still not entirely sure about Timberlake as a serious, full-fledged leading man, but I'm willing to put my doubts aside for In Time, which was previously known during production as Now and I'm.mortal.

In Time is set in a future where Mankind has gained complete control of the ageing process. As a result, nobody ages past 25. However, in a bid to control over-population, time has become a tradeable currency. For example, a cup of coffee in an affluent suburb can cost you a couple of days. Of course, corruption has seeped into this new "time-money" system. The rich can potentially live forever while the poor exist literally day to day, scrambling desperately for …

Movie Review Monday: Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens didn’t release overseas in July to the greatest press. There was much muttering that the film was a prime example of “too many cooks spoiling the broth” as it had been cobbled together by 6 writers or more, using Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s little known graphic novel as a starting point. Some of the high profile comic creatives I follow on Twitter even went so far as to call the film “awful” and “a complete disaster.”

As a result of all this negativity, I went into the cinema with low expectations… and was pleasantly surprised. Cowboys & Aliens is admittedly nothing special – it isn’t the heart-stirring, edge of your seat adventure it could have been – but it’s very watchable, largely due to the good will generated by its cast.

Despite being a mash-up of the Sci-fi and Western genres, Cowboys & Aliens isn’t an exercise in tongue-in-cheek, winking shenanigans. The film’s serious tone is immediately established, with Daniel Craig’s Jake Lonergan waking on the…

Movies out today: Bad guys and bad girls all the way

The 3 big new releases hitting South African cinemas today are heavy on the bad guy and anti-hero quotient.

Bad Teacher is yet another R-rated comedy to release in 2011. In the film Cameron Diaz returns to the acidic humour (see this and this) that marked the beginning of her career. Here she plays a foul-mouthed, lazy, superficial and all-round awful school teacher, Miss Halsey. Think Bad Santa. Anyway, our "heroine" decides that she needs breast implants if she's ever going to hook a sugar daddy, and so embarks on a twisted fund-raising scheme. Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel co-star as Halsey's teacher colleagues and potential love interests.

Bad Teacher is 45% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, which means the film has almost split critics equally. Some reviewers are calling Bad Teacher flawed but entertaining thanks to its brashness and blatant refusal to ever "soften" its lead. Other reviewers have dismissed the film as disappointingly…