Showing posts from February, 2012

Midweek Movie Review: Hugo 3D

Director Martin Scorsese certainly surprised a lot of people when it was announced that he was making a family-friendly fantasy film. And a fantasy in 3D, at that! It seems like a strangely fluffy choice for the same legendary filmmaker who gave the world violent gangster dramas Goodfellas, Mean Streets and The Departed, not to mention the psychologically warped, hard-hitting vigilantism of Taxi Driver. Scorsese’s latest, Hugo, seems a thousand miles removed from these earlier entries in his filmography... and it is. However, as you watch the visually stunning movie (a recent winner of 5 Oscars) it becomes clear why Scorsese picked such a “candyfloss” genre, as well as the gimmicky format of 3D, for his latest big screen effort. And the choice has to do with the apparently forgotten relationship between fantasy and film.

Based on the hefty illustrated novel by Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the movie centres on a young orphan in post-World War I Paris. Hugo (Asa Butterf…

Trailer Tuesday: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

These days, CGI-animated films are a dime a dozen. Pretty much every major studio has their own animation division or production/distribution agreement with animation companies scattered around the globe. Stop-motion animation, however, remains the territory of a select few, with the last notable movies released in this style being 2009's Coraline and Fantastic Mr Fox.

There's something special about stop-motion though. It may not be as slick looking as computer-generated imagery, but much like a hand-written letter, you notice and appreciate the human touch (literally) involved in its creation. It's been made with love... and a helluva lot of patience.

Well, 2012 sees the latest stop-motion release (with CGI enhancements, admittedly) from Aardman Animations, arguably the most famous claymation studio in the world thanks to their Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit shorts and feature film. They also of course gave the world Chicken Run and, most recently, Arthur Christmas, whic…

And the winners are… All the results for the 84th Academy Awards

So, who are the big winners at this year's Academy Awards? View the full list and read my comments here at The

For the record, 2 films scooped 5 Oscars a piece at last night's ceremony, and having watched both movies this past week, I can say I enjoyed both of them (full reviews still to come). They both have their flaws, and personally I wouldn't call them my Best Film of the Year, but there's no denying that they're a special, lovingly made treat for moviegoers.... particularly if you have an interest in the history of cinema.

While you're checking out the list of Oscar winners, don't forget to also view the complete list of nominees for the 32nd Golden Raspberry Awards. This year's Razzies were announced on Saturday, and pay "tribute" to the worst movies to ooze out of Hollywood's bowels in 2011. Final results will be announced on April Fools' Day.

Movies out today: It's time for an action-packed weekend

It's a weekend of serious stuff (well, for the most part) at South African moviehouses, with manly men doing stuff like picking up guns, and flaming chains, and going to war... against everyone from drug dealers to Germans to, uh, the Devil himself. Can't you just smell the testosterone?

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - Of today's 4 major releases, this is probably the one comic fans and teenage boys will be most interested in. Then again it's a PG-13 sequel to a dire 2007 comic adaptation (my review) that very few enjoyed. Anyway, in Outing #2 for Marvel's tormented, anti-hero Ghost Rider, Nicolas Cage is back as the title character - known in human form as Johnny Blaze. This time Blaze, while hiding out in Eastern Europe, is called upon to save a young boy from the Devil (Ciarán Hinds). Specifically shot in 3D, by the team behind Crank. Trailer Tuesday profile here.

Critical reaction to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has been tepid at most, but then again that&…

Chronicle film review

Chronicle is the first film of 2012 for comic book geeks, as well as lovers of sci-fi and fantasy, to really rally behind. Having released just a fortnight earlier in the US, the movie arrived in South Africa atop a wave of hype. Although nobody claimed the film was perfect, and certain standard criticisms kept popping up in overseas reviews, praise was consistently high for the film. So much so that frankly, I was a bit disappointed when I finally watched Chronicle. The movie is well made and highly entertaining, to be sure, but it’s also very uneven, which stops it from reaching its full enjoyment potential.

Shot in a high quality version of the handheld/home camera style – utilised in the likes of The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, amongst others – Chronicle steps away from established superheroes of the printed page to instead centre on ordinary, flawed people who, in our reality, find themselves dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

In Chronicle those…

Midweek Movie Review: My Week with Marilyn

There are chiefly 2 reasons to watch Marilyn Monroe biopic My Week with Marilyn. The first is for its 2 Oscar nominated performances – Michelle Williams (Best Actress) and Kenneth Branagh (Best Supporting Actor). The second, particularly of interest to cinephiles, is the chance to briefly relive Hollywood’s Golden Age, and meet some of its greatest figures, portrayed by recognisable contemporary talent. In this regard, My Week with Marilyn is a treat. However, for all the surface pleasure this star-struck drama provides, ultimately that’s all it offers. The film has nothing really new to say about the enigmatic legend of Marilyn Monroe, and noticeably lacks both dramatic and emotional oomph.

Based on the memoirs of British filmmaker Colin Clark, My Week with Marilyn focuses on the short period in 1956 that Clark (played as a young man by Eddie Redmayne) crossed paths on an English film set with Marilyn Monroe (Williams) – already by then the most famous actress in the world, and a desp…

Girlz 'N' Games webcomic #96: Priorities

And we're back to producing new Girlz 'N' Games comics... after a shortish break in transmission.

Life has been pretty manic since returning to reality post-holidays - what with day job demands and new blogging commitments (check out However, I'm hoping that from here onwards comic updates will become increasingly regular again. Especially since I just shelved an in-progress strip that has been sapping my motivation, and acting as an all-round block to new comic creation, since early January. I may take another stab at it soon, to try and get it working to my satisfaction, but we'll see. I think I probably do need a break from it to instead produce what actually does come to me naturally.

Anyway, there's not much to explain about this first Girlz 'N' Games comic of 2012. I think there are plenty of mild mannered geeky types out there who will endure all manner of bullying, swallow multiple insults and just generally turn the other cheek.…

Movies releasing today: Local comedies face off against international hits

Four notable new movies open in South Africa today, and it's a case of 2 "local is lekker" comedies vs. 2 international releases that arrive on our shores atop a wave of hype. Who will be triumphant during the weekend box office wars?

Chronicle: Hands down my pick of the weekend is this sci-fi thriller that promises a more realistic take on the superhero genre. Shot in the "found footage" style associated with the likes of Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, Chronicle centres on a trio of teenage boys who develop amazing abilities after exposure to an alien object. Of course, being teenage boys, they hardly use their powers for altruistic purposes, and events swiftly take a dark turn. Shot partially in South Africa, strangely enough. Trailer Tuesday profile here.

Is Chronicle worth watching? Well, Kervyn certainly believes so, and you can read his review here on The For the record, overseas the film is is sitting with an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes …

Movie Review: The Iron Lady

Normally, a movie centred on politics has no appeal for me whatsoever. You have only to turn on the TV news or visit a current affairs site to get your fill (very quickly) of the apparently power-hungry, pompous loudmouths who will shamelessly chop and change alliances and opinions simply to advance their careers. This, of course, when they’re not sniping at each other, abusing their connections and snoozing in parliament. So to spend a chunk of money, as well as 2 hours of your life, watching a film about politicians may seem like a complete waste of time.

With all this in mind, you might expect Margaret Thatcher movie The Iron Lady (official blog) to be an utter bore. The thing is, though, this biopic isn’t boring at all. If you’re looking for in-depth analyses of events like The Falklands War and 80s IRA terrorism, you’ll be disappointed. However, for a movie centred on politicians, The Iron Lady is amazingly watchable, snappy paced, well acted... and quite touching at times. It’s a…

Midweek Movie Review: Safe House

When it comes to depicting other countries, Hollywood tends to adopt a kind of “stereotype shorthand” – a highlights package approach as it were. So, if the action takes place in Rio, for example, there are typically shots of Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach, and the film’s hero inevitably encounters street kids or finds himself in a labyrinthine favela. If the film is set in Paris you’ll see the Eiffel Tower, or some other iconic building or monument, as well as, say, a creperie or sidewalk coffee shop. Well, action thriller Safe House adopts this same shorthand style in depicting Cape Town… as well as the French capital actually.

Granted there’s no shot of Table Mountain (surprisingly), but it’s like the makers of Safe House went “What do you think about when you hear ‘South Africa’?” In the aftermath of the successful 2010 World Cup, the answer is evidently “soccer, townships and strikes” because all 3 of these elements feature during Safe House’s strong action sequences. Of co…

Trailer Tuesday - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Well, seeing as it's Valentine's Day, it seems appropriate to talk about the things we love; the things that fill our heart with joy; our precioussses. And I must confess I got a real case of the warm fuzzies while watching the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (official blog here).

Yes, in exactly 10 months we'll be able to return to Middle-earth, and in a weird way it feels like going home for Christmas - a return to all that is nostalgically good and familiar. With just that little bit of deep, soul-stirring moodiness thrown in for good measure.

A live-action movie adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic children's fantasy tale has been a long time coming. Regardless of the massive critical and commercial success that greeted Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy - based of course on Tolkien's epic, adult-orientated sequel to The Hobbit - legal and financial squabbles have for the past decade or so kept timid hobbit Bilbo Baggins from…

Happy Valentine's Day

Whether in a relationship or not come 14 Feb, I'm not the biggest fan of Valentine's Day. The discrimination against singles; the mad mall frenzy that puts the sensible under self-imposed house arrest, and the more adventurous in long standing queues outside restaurants. And, well, I certainly don't equate Romance with waiting all night for some overpriced "special" meal, which is also being dished out to the other 100 diners squashed elbow-to-elbow into the eatery.

Cynical I know, so please excuse me...

What I do propose this Valentine's Day - instead of all the madness - is a simple alternative: concentrate on yourself and just do something you personally love... whether it be indulging in a favourite hobby or activity, devouring your favourite food or just hanging out with your Companion Cube.

Now's your time to have a Me Party!

Movies releasing in SA today: Bring on the action, drama and fantasy

After a few dud weeks of new releases, today is a bumper day for South African movie fans. Four high profile films open locally (2 of them 2012 Oscar nominees). Bring on the pedigree. Bring on the quality.

Hugo: Shot specifically for 3D, and screening in both 2D and 3D, is this family fantasy adventure... from director Martin (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) Scorsese of all people. Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the film centres on an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives behind the walls of a train station in 1930 Paris. While he collects parts to build his inventor father's (Jude Law) unfinished automaton, Hugo encounters the likes of Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen and Christopher Lee.

Hugo is the most nominated film at this year's Academy Awards, competing in 11 categories. The film has received widespread acclaim, racking up an aggregated review score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently it's elegantly made, rich in wonder and a beautifu…

Midweek Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

When reviewing David Fincher’s American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was always going to be difficult avoiding comparisons to its outstanding Swedish predecessor, from 2009 (my review here). Keeping the contrasts to a minimum, I can say though that both films are equally excellent and are definitely worth watching, even though they have different strengths.

Based on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is equal parts mystery thriller, harrowing drama and sordid serial killer tale, with a dash of pitch black humour thrown in for good measure.

Daniel Craig plays Michael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist hired by elderly industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the decades-old disappearance of his niece – which he suspects was orchestrated by a family member. Apart from the intellectual challenge, the appeal of the task for Blomkvist is guaranteed money when he needs it most, as well as a chance to lay low at the Vange…

Trailer Tuesday: The Woman in Black

Many a long running film franchise has hobbled the careers of its stars... particularly when that series made them household names in the first place. Certainly the big question since the credits rolled on the 8th and final Harry Potter film was whether its young leads would continue to find work post-Potter. Or would they forever just be bright-eyed Harry, Hermione and Ron - all the way into saggy, bloated middle age?

Well, Daniel Radcliffe's first grown-up role is certainly a departure for the 22 year old English actor. Radcliffe may still be contending with the supernatural in The Woman in Black, but there are no masochistic house elves and eccentric wizards here. Radcliffe's latest effort is a horror film, based on the gothic novel by Susan Hill, which has gone on to spawn a very long-running theatrical production, a TV movie and 2 BBC radio plays.

In The Woman in Black, Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who has recently lost his wife during childbirth. Still grie…

Movies hitting SA cinemas today: mediocre crime thrillers, an Oscar nominee and a Razzie contender

Right, 4 new movies open in South Africa today, as well as a recording of live theatrical production Nataniel: Combat. These though are the notable new feature releases:

The Descendants: Based on the novel of the same name, family comedy-drama The Descendants is one of this year's big Academy Award contenders - racking up 5 nominations including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor. Set in Hawaii, the film sees George Clooney star as a father who must handle a family estate and reconnect with his difficult daughters after an accident leaves his wife in a coma.

The Descendants, from writer-director Alexander Payne, has been lavished with praise. The film has an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 90% Fresh. Apparently its gentle, gratifying cinema for grown-ups - touching, perfectly balanced in terms of tone, and brilliantly acted. It clearly runs the risk of being over-hyped though.

Jack and Jill: Given the critical reaction to this comedy when it released overseas b…