Showing posts from August, 2012

Movies opening today: From sci-fi remakes to Sugar Men

Opening wide in South African cinemas from today are the following 3 movies:

Total Recall:
The classic Arnie and Paul Verhoeven sci-fi actioner receives the 21st Century remake treatment. This time Colin Farrell is the disgruntled blue-collar worker of the future who gets more than he bargained for when he signs up for memory implants. Suddenly our hero is revealed as a spy (or is he?) on the run from the likes of Kate Beckinsale and Bryan Cranston. Fortunately he has rebel Jessica Biel on his side. Loosely based, like its predecessor, on Philip K Dick's short story. From the director of Underworld and Die Hard 4.

While Total Recall 2012 doesn't insult fans of the original (makers of the RoboCop reboot, take note!), it's evidently only so-so in quality. Fantastic action sequences and an excellent first hour of world-building can't make up for the film's general blandness, as it lacks both heart and humour. Rated 31% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.


Warrior bears and the Mists of Pandaria

A tad on the "old news" side by now, but a fortnight ago the cinematic trailer for World of WarCraft: Mists of Pandaria - the fourth expansion for the world's most successful (if rapidly declining) MMORPG - was released.

Whether you play WOW or not; enjoy video games or not, the below clip is worth watching. Not only does it stay true to the top-notch technical standard Blizzard sets for its opening clips/cinematics (check out a bunch of others here!) but it also demonstrates a perfect balance of action and light-heartedness - while still doing enough to distinguish itself from Kung Fu Panda.

And in case you need a little context before watching, Mists of Pandaria sees the warring Alliance (Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Draenei, Worgen) and Horde (Orcs, Undead, Tauren, Trolls, Blood Elves Goblins) stumble onto the lost continent of Pandaria, an Eastern-style world populated by neutrally aligned, humanoid panda people, who are highly skilled in martial arts... an…

Trailer Tuesday: Butter

I don't know why exactly but I have a special fondness for comedies that focus on absurd, unconventional and/or pointless competitions... and the people who take them deadly seriously. Think mockumentaries like dog show-centred Best in Show and beauty pageant black comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous; or even warring cheerleader tale Bring It On, which is an especial guilty pleasure of mine. Hell, I even usually enjoy the juvenile ones, like Blades of Glory, Dodgeball and Balls of Fury.

Bearing all this in mind, I'm naturally excited for Butter, which features a group of people competing for the title of Champion Butter Carver at the annual Iowa State Fair. This group includes driven, deranged Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) who believes victory in the competition will open the door to political power; vengeful stripper Brooke (Olivia Wilde) who has seduced Laura's dissatisfied husband, a legendary butter carver (Ty Burrell); and young orphan Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who is a butter…

Monday Movie Review: The Expendables 2

There was something “off” about the first Expendables film (my review) – something unnecessarily mean-spirited and unlikeable. Perhaps it was the racist treatment of Jet Li’s character? Maybe it was the relentless and increasingly tedious, grim-faced brutality? Or it could have been the general unsportsmanlike nature of it all – with our heroes frequently double- and triple-teaming to beat the stuffing out of a single, nameless thug. The Expendables was a 2-star movie, if that.

Well, I’m pleased to report that The Expendables 2 is an entirely different kettle of ageing action icons. Clearly Sylvester Stallone and co. have learned from their mistakes, and taken fan fantasies to heart because this is the movie that its predecessor should have been: silly, self-aware, stuffed with (hopelessly unsubtle) in-jokes and loads of fun.

Chuck Norris actually making a Chuck Norris joke? You got it! Plenty more screen time for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis (who cameoed in the first film)?…

Movies out today: Talking teddies, Apocalypse and Rome romance

You're spoiled for choice at South African cinemas today, with 6 new releases spanning multiple genres.

My personal pick of the week is the live-action debut of writer-director-voice artist Seth (Family Guy, American Dad!) MacFarlane. A little boy's wish brings his teddy bear to life, but 27 years later John (Mark Wahlberg) still refuses to part ways with vulgar Ted (MacFarlane)... much to the concern of John's long-term girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis).

With an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 70% Fresh, Ted is apparently one of the strongest comedies released this year so far. The laughs aren't always consistent and the bromance plot is pretty predictable, but there's a lot of heart mixed in with the boy-men shenanigans. And consistently smart dialogue never hurts.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World:
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley made an odd pairing in this quirky romantic comedy about the impending end of the world. With 70 days until life on Earth…

Midweek motivational quotes... courtesy of Superman: Earth One

So, I just finished reading J. Michael Straczynski'sstandalone 2010 Superman graphic novel Superman: Earth One. Until I have time to write a full review I'll just say that the thing that most struck me about this "relatable" 21st Century take on the Man of Steel is the dialogue.

Straczynski puts some powerful words into the mouths of characters... particularly sage soldier-turned-farmer Jonathan Kent. Not only do the following quotes penetrate right to "core" of Superman - what he believes in; what he stands for in the minds of Metropolis residents and readers alike - but even transplanted from a comic context to our reality, they're inspiring. Enjoy.  

"When we say I won't take this anymore, that's when we know who we are and what we'll tolerate. Until we're tested, we don't know those things. That's when we wake up. That's when we know who we are. That's when people will show up and take your side... when you deci…

Trailer Tuesday: Antiviral

If you haven't had breakfast or your mid-morning tea by now you may want to delay it for a bit... You're about to lose your appetite. This is because today we're looking at the stomach-churning trailer for sci-fi horror tale Antiviral.

Coming from Brandon Cronenberg, one of writer-director David Cronenberg's brood (ha!), Antiviral looks to be both trippy and terrifying... and is therefore likely to have very limited appeal. The Canadian film is set in a near future where society's obsession with celebrity has mutated into something sick. Pretty much literally. This is a world where people pay to be injected with the harvested (and copy-protected) diseases of their favourite celebrities, "straight from the source". Yes, including STDs. A bit more covertly, knife and fork in hand, you can dine on the muscle tissue of your favourite star, which has been cultivated in a lab.

Freckly Caleb Landry Jones (Banshee from X-Men: First Class) plays Syd March, a mor…

Batman rebooted!

On Friday last week, all of the main contributors to The (myself included) took part in a roundtable discussion about what we would like to see from a post-Nolan Batman film - if/when the inevitable reboot is commissioned. Who would play Batman? Who would direct? And what would the story be?

You can read our Dark Knight ponderings and fantasies here.

Monday Movie Review: Brave (3D)

Not only is BravePixar’s first family adventure with a female lead but it’s also the first film from the celebrated animation studio to fit the “magical” folk tale mould. Understandably then, expectations around the movie were high. And while Brave is certainly watchable, unfortunately it doesn’t deliver the full Pixar dazzle.

To describe it another way, Brave doesn’t display any of the Pixar inventiveness that makes you chuckle, or sends your heart soaring. You know, the intricately thought-out world creation; the surprisingly sly satire of our world; all the unexpected narratives (superheroes sent into hiding by endless lawsuits; a robot trash compactor that craves love; monsters that harvest children’s screams as a source of energy). There’s none of that engaging novelty in Brave.

Instead, the film feels more like a product of Pixar’s parent company, Walt Disney Pictures. Or, more specifically, it feels like one of those animated movies immediately preceding and following Disney’s…

Movies out today: Skop, skiet and.... dance

Grizzly action heroes and lithe young dancers are duking it out at the South African box office from today. It'll be interesting to see who emerges victorious (I suspect the Step Uppers), but either way  it's all about energy and adrenaline this week.

The Expendables 2:
The macho band of mercenaries is back for this explosive, deliberately overblown tribute to 80s action movies. Subtitled Back for War, The Expendables 2 sees Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and young Liam Hemsworth join Sly Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews, while fan-favourites Arnie and Bruce both get bigger roles as well. Van Damme is the villainous Vilain (yes, that's right) up to no good with 5 tons of Plutonium.

The first Expendables was more tedious and brutal than fun (my review), so its sequel promises to rectify this failure, while just generally ramping up the intensity all-round. Currently sitting with an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 64% Fr…

History rewritten in Girlz 'N' Games comic #103

Originally posted on my web comic, Girlz 'N' Games.
Several months down the line and The Iron Lady is still one of my favourite films of 2012 (the movie released locally in February). The touching but controversial biopic was nominated for 2 Oscars – Best Actress, Best Make-up – and won in both categories, but I couldn’t help imagining a very different kind of film if its makers had been inspired by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (itself based on the alternate-history-mash-up novel of the same name).

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has already paved the way for a now-in-development movie that depicts Isaac Newton as an ass-kicking, counterfeiter-busting detective (yes, seriously!). And given the fact that Hollywood these days can’t even wait 5 years to reboot a franchise, well, I don’t think a new, more commercially-minded Maggie movie is out of the question.

P.S. I would totally watch Margaret Thatcher: Undead Eradicator, as well as it sequels Coal Mine, Cold Flesh and I-R-A…

Trailer Tuesday - Oz: The Great and Powerful

For a while now, Hollywood has been obsessed with dishing out explanations: Why did Michael Myers become a masked maniac pursuing his own sister? Where did the Wicked Queen come from and what's the source of her power? How did Charles Xavier end up in a wheelchair?  What's up with the xenomorph and mysterious Space Jockey? Soon, whether we care or not, we'll also bear witness to how Mrs Bates warped Norman's psyche, why Malificent is such a bitch to Sleeping Beauty (my post on the matter), what exactly happened at the Overlook Hotel... and how a dodgy carnival magician from the American Midwest ended up as the all-powerful Wizard of Oz.

Coming from Evil Dead and Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, Oz: The Great and Powerful is yet another in a string of big budget reboots, reimaginings, spin-offs and prequels. Former Raimi collaborator James Franco replaces first choice Robert Downey, Jr. as the title character: an ambitious but ethically challenged man by the name of Osca…

Movies out today: Action and women-centric entertainment

Actually, the following new cinema releases have been out since yesterday to capitalise on the Women's Day public holiday in South Africa. And unsurprisingly, given the focus of yesterday's holiday, most of the new movies are headlined by women and lean towards traditionally female concerns.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter:
If you're not in the mood for tough minded heroines and chick flicks, the most high profile, high concept debut of the weekend may be up your alley. Screening in converted 3D and 2D is this big screen adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's historical mash-up novel. In this movie mix of action, horror and real-life history, we bear witness to the secret vampire-slaying life of America's 16th president (played by Benjamin Walker). Dominic Cooper and Mary Elizabeth Winstead also star. Trailer Tuesday profile.

Coming from the director of Wanted and Night Watch, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter promises to be packed with visual spectacle. However, despite…

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

It’s something of a challenge to talk about horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods because to get maximum enjoyment out of it, you should really be clueless when entering the cinema, and just go along on its wild, witty ride. It helps too if you’re a long-time fan of horror movies, because a good chunk of the fun while watching comes from playing “Spot the influence.” The Evil Dead. Hellraiser. It. The Ring. The Howling. Resident Evil. The Strangers. Hell, even the Cthulhu mythos pops up for some screen time...

Distinctly postmodern and self-referential in nature, The Cabin in the Woods is stuffed with nods to its influential genre predecessors. At the same time, co-writers Joss Whedon (who produces the film) and Drew “Cloverfield, Lost” Goddard (who directs it) have been clever enough to realise that identifying influences alone does not an entertaining movie make. From their dozens, if not hundreds of sources, these geek gods have crafted a horror film that – just like its protagonis…

Midweek movie review: Haywire

It’s taken almost 7 months for espionage actioner Haywire to reach South African shores. Released during the post-festive season glut of thrillers and Nicolas Cage throwaways, Haywire’s distinguishing feature is the fact that it centres on an ass-kicking female character, and stars Mixed Martial Arts fighter Gina Carano. And while this casting means the film delivers on its promise of a physically credible action heroine, director Steven Soderbergh’s latest effort disappoints in other areas. Tonally flat and plotted by numbers, Haywire feels as wooden as its leading lady.

On a base level, Haywire is just fine. The storyline is appreciably straightforward, with none of the last-minute twists we’ve come to expect of its genre... even if the film does adopt a contrived flashback format to introduce our protagonist and her motivations. In short, Mallory Kane (Carano) is a former-marine-turned-freelance-operative, chiefly working for Ewan McGregor’s Kenneth, who in turn accepts outsourced…

Trailer Tuesday: Skyfall

It took a while but James Bond will soon be back on the big screen in Skyfall, marking the 23rd official film outing for Ian Fleming's debonair, martini-loving British spy, as well as the 50th anniversary of the beloved cinematic franchise.

With development delayed by MGM's bankruptcy woes, it's been 4 years since the dud Quantum of Solace (my review) debuted, undoing a portion of the excitement and general audience goodwill generated by 2006 franchise reboot Casino Royale (my review).

With Casino and Quantum's 2-part storyline wrapped up, Skyfall offers a new tale: a disinterested James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes off the grid after a disastrous mission with junior MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris). Bond is forced to come out of hiding though when the Secret Service's headquarters are bombed, the identities of all its agents revealed and MI6 head M (Judi Dench) hauled in for review. Villainous Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) is responsible, and he has a deep personal vendet…