Showing posts from January, 2012

Recent graphic novel reads (January 2012 edition)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about the graphic novels and trade paperbacks I’ve recently consumed – you can blame the dense A Song of Ice and Fire books for dominating my reading time the past 6 months. Anyway, I thought it was time for a catch-up, starting with the collected volumes that resided on my bedside table during the holidays.

For the record, you can read my previous comprehensive comic review posts here (covering The Walking Dead Vol 1, Marvel 1602, Ultra, Wanted, Chew Vol 1-2) and here (Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, Pride of Baghdad, Scott Pilgrim Vol 1, Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals, Wonder Woman: Love and Murder, Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities, The Goon: Noir).

Wonder Woman: The Circle
Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth

Wonder Woman may be the first and most iconic of female superheroes, but the persistent problem she’s always faced is that she’s typically a better, more interesting character than the stories in which she finds herself.

As an Am…

Movies out today: 6 of the best, worst and mediocre

It's all about choice this weekend at South African cinemas. You want it, you got it - whether it be a Christian values drama, sci-fi horror, a cheerfully nostalgic musical (with puppets) for the whole family, a pedigreed biopic about a controversial statesman, a vigilante thriller or even an award-winning psychological drama based on an award-winning novel.

Courageous: Wholesome indie film Fireproof was a massive hit with Christian audiences, so from the same company comes another drama about ordinary men and community heroes - this time Georgia cops. The policemen of Courageous make a commitment to improving their troubled home lives, by embracing the importance of family.

Given its heavy-handed approach to promoting Christian values, Courageous won't be for everyone. This said, the film has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 32% Fresh. It's apparently not unwatchable - and manages to be genuinely inspiring - but suffers from feeling overlong and overstuffed with topics.

The Dark…

The 2012 Oscar nominations play it safe and blunted

The nominations for the 84th Annual Academy Awards were announced yesterday... producing even more disappointment and disdain from Oscar Watchers than usual. You can read Kervyn's thoughts on the nominees over at The Movies, but in a nutshell from my side, it looks like the Oscar voters have gone the completely safe, blunted route in 2012. Please note the lack of accolades for controversial, hard-hitting and much talked about releases.

After last year where I eagerly sought out 9 of the 10 Best Picture nominees, this year I've currently seen zero, and have an interest in watching less than half (this year's most nominated films, silent movie tribute The Artist and fantasy adventure Hugo being exceptions, along with War Horse and Midnight in Paris).

Anyway, obvious omissions in the major performance categories include much nominated Michael Fassbender for sex addiction drama Shame and similarly acclaimed Tilda Swinton as an ambivalent mother in We Need to Talk About Kevin. T…

Trailer Tuesday: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Although it's only been screening in limited release on the art film and film festival circuit, We Need to Talk About Kevin has become one of the most persistently discussed films since it debuted at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Now, finally, almost 8 months later, this psychological thriller is screening in South Africa.

Based on the award-winning 2003 novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin centres on successful travel writer Eva (Tilda Swinton), whose ambivalent attitude to motherhood is apparently justified when she gives birth to disinterested, difficult and highly defiant Kevin (played as a teen by Ezra Miller). Eva is convinced that her son is a sociopath destined to commit some horrible act, but her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly), hellbent on having a happy family, dismisses her views as stemming from insecurity.

We Need to Talk About Kevin has racked up a very healthy aggregated review score of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. And although not dominating the …

Monday Movie Review: Machine Gun Preacher

If you go into Machine Gun Preacher expecting another Blood Diamond – a powerful, socially conscious action-adventure set against a backdrop of African Civil War – you’ll be disappointed. If you go into the film expecting an Africanised Blind Side, a feel-good tale where persistence against the odds leads to a happy ending for the disadvantaged, you’ll also be let down. You see, true story Machine Gun Preacher seems to be squatting somewhere between the two benchmarks, and with the exception of one or two moments, this very middling movie never really satisfies. In fact, it rarely provokes a response from the audience at all.

Based on real-life events, Machine Gun Preacher centres on Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), who begins the film as a low-life biker thug, harbouring immense anger against the world. Childers is foul-mouthed, hard-drinking and a heroin addict; not to mention a lousy husband and father. Wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter Paige (Madeline Carroll ) still loves hi…

Movies out today: pistol-packing preachers, deranged surgeons, vampire babes and zoo animals

Four new releases bring the action, drama and trauma this week to South African cinemas.

Machine Gun Preacher: My pick of today's new movies is this action drama based on a true story. Gerard "This is Sparta" Butler plays Sam Childers, a biker and drug addict turned preacher and relief worker. Childers's work in Uganda and the Sudan culminates with him rescuing dozens of children kidnapped for induction by the region's militia. From the eclectic director of Monster's Ball, The Kite Runner and, most recently, Quantum of Solace.

Machine Gun Preacher hasn't had the greatest critical reception. Reviewers have complained that despite Butler's admirable commitment, the fragmented film never gets to satisfying grips with Childers, his motivations and the unbelievable-but-true situation in which he found himself. 29% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Still, I'm going to give this one a chance.

Underworld: Awakening: Screening in 3D and 2D, thi…

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Film Review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a solid popcorn flick. The film certainly has its flaws, but as a period-set action mystery – and sequel to 2009’s “brains AND brawn” reimagining of Sherlock Holmes (my review) – A Game of Shadows manages to deliver the entertainment goods pretty consistently… if superficially. But then again, were we expecting anything more?

Plot-wise, A Game of Shadows feels superior to its predecessor. Although mystery solving takes a backseat to fist fights, chases and explosions in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes franchise, this time around there is far less convolution as brilliant eccentric Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his capable straight man Dr Watson (Jude Law) attempt to stop a string of terrorist attacks and assassinations that will have devastating consequences for peace in Europe.

For the record, A Game of Shadows dumps its predecessor’s dabbling in the pseudo-occult, to instead focus more on Victorian era technology and politics. The looming…

Trailer Tuesday: The Darkest Hour

At first glance, sci-fi thriller The Darkest Hour sounds like it could be a bit of alright.

The film refreshingly removes the "When Aliens Attack" action from the United States and transplants it to Moscow instead, for shots of an imposing city that cinema audiences rarely get to see on-screen.

The plot also sounds intriguing - in The Darkest Hour, instead of the usual greys and multi-limbed monsters without immune systems, invisible aliens descend on Earth to satisfy their hunger for energy. In the process they put the disintegrator tripods of War of the Worlds to shame. And instill some self-sufficiency in a band of shell-shocked twentysomethings (mostly Americans) who discover that the stealthy extra-terrestrials can be detected by their tendency to trigger electrical appliances. Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor and Max Minghella star.

The Darkest Hour is produced by Wanted and Night Watch's Timur Bekmambetov, and regardless of the uneven nature of his fini…

Movie news for Monday

To start off the new week, here's a collection of recent posts that I've written for new South African cinephiles site The Movies, as well as other miscellaneous bits of news related to recent blog posts here.
First up, here are all the freshly announced results from the 69th Annual Golden Globes last night. The Globes are normally a good indicator for the Academy Award results, and although no one film dominated at the Globes this year - the awards were surprisingly widely spread - family drama The Descendants (2 wins) and Silent Movie era romance The Artist (3 wins), are looking good for Oscar gold. Meanwhile, I think it's fairly safe to say that 2012's Academy Awards won't be captivating the public imagination much - this year there are few popular crowd-pleasers, or controversial star-saturated flicks, for ordinary moviegoers to rally behind.

Star-studded male strippers movie Magic Mike is one of my Top 25 movie picks of the next 6 months. New photos from the fil…

Movies out today: bad cops, bad financiers, bad cults and bad weepies

Four new movies open in South Africa today. I can't say any of them really falls into the Must-see Category for me, but different tastes for different folks I suppose.

31 Million Reasons: Along with Afrikaans romantic musicals, crime dramas seem to be South Africa's big cinematic flavour of the moment. 31 Million Reasons is yet another one. Set in Durban, the film offers a fictional twist on true events - a 1997 robbery in which R31 million was stolen. Jack Devnarain plays a dirty Indian cop who orchestrates the biggest heist in the city's history. However, he and his accomplices think they're only stealing R1 million, and the massive, unexpected score threatens to tear the gang apart.

As with most South African movies, 31 Million Reasons is releasing without much critical buzz... just the usual marketing hype. Judging by the trailer though, the film looks watchable enough, if nothing new.

Margin Call: Here's one for thinking adults. With an all-star cast that incl…

25 Movies to look forward to in 2012: January to June

Disclaimer: The original version of this post first appeared at

Right, we've done my movie awards for 2011. Now it's time to look ahead at the notable new releases of the next 6 months. Please bear in mind that release dates are subject to change, and the list includes a handful of flicks that have already opened overseas but have yet to reach South Africa.

And yes, upfront I'll admit that a number of 2012 biggies didn't make my list for various reasons. Look out for kinda pointless sequels Underworld 4, Ghost Rider 2, Wrath of the Titans, Madagascar 3 and Ice Age 4, as well as the 21 Jump Street remake, curious mash-up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, long delayed Joss Whedon horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods and star-saturated skit comedy Movie 43. The following though are my personal picks for the next 6 months:

We Need to Talk About Kevin:
Based on the award-winning novel of the same name, Tilda Swinton stars in this British-American thriller about…