Showing posts from December, 2011

Drive film review

Indie crime drama Drive arrived in South Africa on a surge of online and critical hype. That is always dangerous for a film in that audience expectations can be elevated so high that they become impossible to satisfy. Fortunately, Drive is pretty damn great… as long as you go into it knowing that the film isn’t a conventional thriller. Like this year’s Hanna (my review), Drive is an unusual hybrid of art house and mainstream action cinema. Drive, however, is by far the more accessible film of the two, and emerges as one of the best cinema releases of 2011.

Now the plot for Drive is far from unique. The film centres on an unnamed man (Ryan Gosling) known simply as the Driver, who leads a car-centric life in Los Angeles: by day he works as a mechanic and stunt driver; by night he’s a heist driver for hire. The Driver is drawn to his neighbour, sweet young mother Irene (Carey Mulligan), but no sooner does he start slotting into her life than her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) returns fro…

Movie Review: Arthur Christmas (3D)

Arthur Christmas is hands down the best animated film of the year. The movie may not please the under 8s given that the humour is largely dialogue driven – and completely free of base body function jokes! – but everyone else is in for a real treat. Touching, and terrifically British (it’s a collaboration between Sony Pictures Animation and Wallace and Gromit’s Aardman Studios), I chuckled throughout the entire movie. And that rarely happens these days, with CGI-animated films or not.

Despite being a contemporary Christmas movie, Arthur Christmas avoids the frantic, gluttonous consumerism and saccharine sentimentality that Hollywood associates with the holidays. Instead, the film offers a clever combination of both high-tech and low-tech – appealing to the intellect through its colourful onscreen gadgetry and witty dialogue, and satisfying emotional needs through its examination of some very identifiable domestic situations.

Much like The Nightmare Before Christmas imagined holidays such…

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 24

And here we are: the final day of the Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness. And it makes sense to end it with the DC's "Big Three" at their most festive (I really hope they've been dishing out presents instead of stealing them?;)). Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this daily series? It was certainly fun compiling it.

That then just leaves me with one more thing to say to my blog readers and friends:
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May you have a truly special, relaxing day.

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 23

Whether you approach Christmas from more of a religious or secular side, the festive season is synonymous with families coming together... for better or worse. Here's arguably the most famous (frequently feuding) family of comicdom - putting aside their differences over Christmas dinner.

Movies releasing 23rd and 30 December

Well, since I'm possibly going to take a break from blogging for the next week or so (although I now have a handful of film reviews to write), here's what opens in South African cinemas on the Fridays of 23rd and 30th December.

23 December:

The Adventures of Tintin: Screening in 3D and 2D is this CGI-animated adaptation of Herge's beloved comic book series. Steven Spielberg directs this family action-adventure and the likes of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost provide the motion captured performances of Tintin, Captain Haddock and co. Plot-wise, the film is based on a combination of The Crab With the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure and sees the intrepid young ginger journalist, and his canine companion Snowy, caught up in a globe-trotting treasure hunt.

You can read my initial thoughts on the film, and watch the trailer here. Despite not being a Tintin fan I'm looking forward to the film, which has clo…

Girlz 'N' Games Comic #95: Arkham Women

Well you can consider this the 2011 Christmas comic for Girlz 'N' Games. I know it's not particularly festive, but, well, you remember what happened the last time I did a specifically Christmas comic? Ahem.

Anyway,I couldn't resist the opportunity to weigh in briefly on the Batman: Arkham City "BitchControversy". In a nutshell, Arkham City is a walled off portion of Gotham City, a "prison city" populated by thugs and the criminally insane. When Batman roams the streets and rooftops of Arkham City he gets called "A chicken... who should run home to his mommy." When you play as Catwoman, you regularly endure such verbal abuse as "Cat-Bitch!" and, more disturbingly, "Nice costume; now take it off!"

Arkham City has something like a 95% male population so you can kind of understand the sexualised taunts. But the disparity between the juvenile taunts of Batman and sexist ones of Catwoman is obvious, and a bit odd. Then again, …

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 22

Today it's a case of DC Comics heroes clustered around the Christmas tree. I have to admit I picked this image largely because of Superman's reaction to his lead-wrapped gift. The lengths one has to go to surprise Kal-El. Also, Black Canary, please? Show some originality. Giving Green Arrow a bow is like giving your dad soap-on-a-rope.

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 21

Shazam! Today the "magical Superman", Captain Marvel dishes out some DC Comics stocking fillers for his superheroic buddies. As a sidenote, I really can't understand why they haven't made a new Captain Marvel film by now? A dorky kid who speaks an acronym and becomes a powerful adult superhero? That's tons of light-hearted (or risqué) comic potential right there.

Trailer Tuesday - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

I honestly wasn't the biggest fan of 2009's Sherlock Holmes, which reimagined Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic English sleuth as equal parts action hero and - more traditionally - a bohemian private detective solving crimes for kicks.

Don't get me wrong. There was much that I loved about the film, from Guy (Snatch; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) Ritchie - particularly the fantastic Oscar-nominated production design and Hans Zimmer score, as well as the bromance chemistry between Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Jude Law's suave, surprisingly competent Watson. All these positives though were negated by a plot that sought to make a rather simple mystery appear far more complicated than it really was. Much like my main gripe about the first few Pirates of the Caribbean films, Sherlock Holmes seemed unnecessarily padded with convoluted scenarios and characters running back and forth between the same locations. Read my full review here.

Of course Sherlock Holmes was a…

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 20

There has been a distinct lack of X-Men action on this countdown to Christmas so far (well, apart from Wolverine's 2 appearances here and here). So today we make amends, with all the greats in their 90s (and Animated Series) glory.

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 19

Some comic heroes "fit" naturally into Christmas scenes and scenarios. Others don't.

A good example of the latter is vicious vigilante, and comicdom's dour king of torture porn, Frank Castle (AKA The Punisher). Still the contrast makes for some beautiful, dark art... which mature audiences are sure to appreciate.

A look at the Last Airbender graphic novel

A couple of months ago, I wrote a pretty extensive blog post about Legend of Korra, the sequel to beloved martial-arts-and-magic animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Included in the post was mention of an upcoming trilogy of graphic novels, entitled Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, from Dark Horse Comics.

Well, Part 1's 80 pages of Team Avatar goodness will be available from 7 February. Part 2 releases on 12 June. For the record, the comic miniseries is written by award-winning comic creator Gene Yang - in close consultation with the Nickelodeon show's scribes Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko - and it seeks to bridge the gap between the original series and its follow-up, which is set 70 years later.

If you're an Avatar fan you can consider the following something of an early Christmas treat (if you don't mind a sneak peak at the comic's contents before it physically lands in your hands). For everyone else, beware huge series spoilers if you…

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 18

Here's a Christmas themed comic cover that takes us all the way back to the Golden Age of Comic Books. For those that don't know, that's the original Flash and Green Lantern there with Wonder Woman, and those characters remain separate from, and very different to, their more well known Silver Age "descendants."

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 17

Following on from yesterday's Advent Calendar post, and staying with Batman, here are 2 contrasting comic panels and pages with a festive theme. One shows the Dark Knight in typical bullying Grinch mode; the other, more surprisingly, has Bruce Wayne at his most jolly (and retro stylish).

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 16

Keeping with Batman, here's another festive scene, drawn/painted by Alex Ross, with the Caped Crusader in full-blown "brooding loner" mode.

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 15

Sticking with the ladies of DC, and as a little reminder that it's less than 10 shopping days to Christmas, here's a page from the classic Batman: The Animated Series/The Batman Adventures tale, The Harley and the Ivy. In this special Christmas story, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy kidnap billionaire Bruce Wayne, and force him to fund their mall splurge. As you can see in the panel below, Batman hates being dragged clothes shopping as much as any normal guy.

Anyway, you can read most of the comic here, here and here. Alternatively, you could even watch a good chunk of the segment online, lifted from the Holiday Knights episode.

Movies releasing for the long weekend

It's a public holiday in South Africa tomorrow, and many cinemas around the country are actually screening the weekend's new releases from today. Given the glut of debuts last week, today there are only 2 notables... and they're both sequels of sequels.

1) Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: Ghost Protocol is the fourth entry in in the Mission: Impossible film series that kicked off back in 1996 - and is based on the popular, 60s TV series. Once again Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his teammates (Simon Pegg, Paula Patton) from the Impossible Missions Force are the victim of high level political intrigue and betrayal. Forced to go rogue to uncover the truth behind a deadly terrorist bombing, Ethan and co. struggle to decide if they can trust fellow agent Jeremy Renner. Acclaimed animator Brad (The Incredibles) Bird is in the director's chair for this espionage action thriller.

Internationally, Ghost Protocol is screening in conventional cinemas and IMAX - to really maximis…

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 14

Anyone else think this panel comes across like the start to some femslash scenario? Unsurprisingly, a quick "unsafe" Google search reveals that Barbara Gordon and Kara Zor-El are a popular fantasy pairing - that I'm sure many guys (and some gals) wouldn't mind finding in front of the fireplace this Christmas.

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 13

From yesterday's dark extreme to its goody two-shoes antithesis... It's the Cap!

Trailer Tuesday: The Raven

No doubt inspired by the success of Guy Ritchie's adrenalin-charged Sherlock Holmes reimagining, The Raven also brings together 19th Century literature and crime solving for a fictionalised take on the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life.

Coming across like a blend of From Hell, Sleepy Hollow, The Bone Collector and a historical take on Saw, The Raven sees seminal writer Poe (John Cusack) drawn into a crime investigation when a series of gruesome murders are committed in Baltimore - and they're blatantly based on his Gothic horror stories. Poe has an additional incentive to succeed in this bloody game of cat-and-mouse: his beautiful young wife Virginia (Alice Eve) has been targeted by the clue-dropping serial killer. Luke (Immortals) Evans plays the police inspector assigned to the case.

Directed by V for Vendetta's James McTeigue - and also apparently featuring a masked, knife-wielding character - The Raven certainly has potential. Especially if it depicts the murders …

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 12

If you're completely allergic to anything Christmas, then this pic may display festive spirit that's more to your liking. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything less from Todd McFarlane, given his Twisted Christmas figurine collection.

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 11

Taking a break from superheroes, today's festive comic pic comes from one of the biggest indie comic success stories of recent years - Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory. I'm a big fan of this quirky series, which mixes crime, comedy and psychic cannibalism. Seriously...

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 10

From "cartoony" Marvel to similarly "cutesy" DC today...

Movies releasing today: Santa, stars, stuntmen and screaming

The South African Summer school holidays kick off today with a glut of new movies. Of the 4 high profile new releases, there's something for everyone, from the kiddies to the cool kids; romcom fans to horror aficionados.

From Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation comes festive-themed CGI comedy Arthur Christmas, screening in 2D and 3D. James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy provide some of the voices for the film, which centres on the bumbling younger son of Santa Claus and his attempts to prove himself as a viable head for the family business.

I confess I had zero interest in Arthur Christmas until the release of this hilarious teaser trailer. My attention was then completely hooked when the film achieved a surprisingly stellar Rotten Tomatoes rating of 92% Fresh (i.e. 92% of critics reviewed the film positively). Apparently Arthur Christmas takes the tired topic of holiday spirit - done to schmaltzy death by Hollywood - and freshens it up with wit, intell…

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 9

To round off this working week, and keeping with Marvel Comics, here's some of that stable's superhero greats given a "cartoony" Charlie Brown Christmas treatment. From Chris Giarruso, via Popped Culture.

Advent Calendar of Comic Awesomeness: Day 8

Now this is more like it... After yesterday's uncharacteristically jolly Logan, here he is in conventional scowling mode. The pair-up with Spidey below isn't quite as amusing as this one, however.

Film Review: Puss in Boots (3D)

Puss in Boots certainly isn’t the best animated film of 2011. Its action set pieces aren’t as jaw dropping as those in Rango (my review), and it doesn’t have the heartstring tugging of Rio (my review) or even Kung Fu Panda 2 (my review) – this year’s other big DreamWorks Animation release. This said, Puss in Boots is the supporting character spin-off that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (my review) should have been: a fast-paced action-adventure that’s free from bloat, doesn’t skimp on magic, and is as feather-light as its feline hero’s ginger fur.

Despite a surprisingly risqué (but very funny) start, Puss in Boots is suitable for audiences of all ages. In fact, refreshingly free of fart and poop jokes, the film’s only real concession to littlies (or anyone else) with an unsophisticated sense of humour is a squeaky voice sequence. Puss in Boots doesn’t aim low for laughs; instead it’s a remarkably, and consistently, witty piece of family entertainment.

As an offshoot from th…