Showing posts from January, 2013

All about Video Game Arcades

Following on from yesterday's review of new animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph, today I'm directing you the way of a This fascinating Verge article on the rise and fall of the video game arcade.

The post is a tad on the lengthy side but it's well worth taking the time to read. What is especially interesting is how history repeats itself. Time and time again anything that brings children and teens together, and consumes large chunks of their time, is demonised.

Although the article refers specifically to video game arcades in the US, there's no denying the concepts international popularity. I certainly spent many years pumping coins and tokens into arcade machines. Ah, the memories of favourites like Pac-ManPooyan, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Golden Axe. Sunset Riders, Asterix  and many, many more. Such a pity that those few arcades still around today are more about ball-tossing and mole-whacking while the video games are in appalling condition if not…

Midweek Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph (3D)

Movies based on real-life video games franchises have a lukewarm reputation at best. Films centred on fictional games have tended to fare a bit better – think Tron and The Last Starfighter. Either way, the game adaptation genre levels up with Wreck-It Ralph, the latest CGI-animated comedy from Walt Disney Animation Studios (as opposed to Disney subsidiary Pixar).

Colourful, funny and smart, Wreck-It Ralph stands head-and-shoulders above recent animated films targeted at the entire family. Although gamers in the 20-40 age bracket will probably receive the most pleasure playing spot the classic video game reference, Wreck-It Ralph isn’t just superficial pop culture sight gags. The film’s surprising amount of heart and likeability sneaks up on you. Even the littlies in the audience, who will probably have little to no experiences of gaming arcades, should remain engaged thanks to the unblunted storyline and bright, exciting setting.

In terms of the plot, Wreck-It Ralph takes a cue from…

Trailer Tuesday: Mama

If you're an acclaimed, up-and-coming actress, you have to appear in at least one horror/supernatural thriller soon after a role that spectacularly wins the critics' love. Well, that seems to be the trend - see Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence in House at the End of the Street, Cate Blanchett in The Gift, Halle Berry in Gothika... or is that Catwoman?).

 Anyway, recent Globe winner, and current Oscar nominee, Jessica Chastain is sticking to tradition and ticking off a few other genre boxes. On the verge of walking away with the Best Actress Academy Award for Kathryn Bigelow's controversial CIA-flick Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain is popping up on the silver screen again - for the eleventh time in just over two years in fact! - in Mama.

Executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, Mama is a feature film debut for Andres Muschietti, a Spanish filmmaker expanding his own horror short here. Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is Lucas, a man reunited with his two young niece…

Monday Movie Review: Les Miserables

When you adapt a stage musical for the big screen, there are really only two ways that you can differentiate it from its source material – go big or go in close. In other words, expand the world beyond the restrictions of a stage, or zoom in on the actors and their facial expressions in a way that not even theatre patrons on the front row would experience.

And although there are certainly moments of the former in Les Miserables, director Tom (The King’s Speech) Hooper is all about the latter. At times it feels like 80% of the film has been shot in close-up. This makes it easy to appreciate how the all-star cast are putting their heart and soul into the production – unusually, the singing was recorded live on-set – and it’s powerful stuff. However, this approach does rob the film of kinetic energy. If your idea of a musical involves chunks of acting punctuated by lively choreographed show tunes (think The Sound of Music, Grease, Oliver! or Chicago), where dance visually enlivens the s…

Movies out today: Bad guys, antiheroes and award nominees

It's a super weekend at the South African box office. Four new movies open today and apparently you're in for a treat with every single one of them. Watch away!

Currently up for seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture), the multi-award winning Argo mixes thrills and comedy to tell an amazing true story. Ben Affleck - who also directs - plays a CIA agent charged with getting six US citizens out of Tehran in tumultuous 1979. The best bad idea? Masquerading as a Canadian filmmaker who needs exotic locations for his new sci-fi adventure. Also with Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and many more familiar faces.

In his review, Kervyn at The was blown away by Argo's skillful transition between clashing tones, and all-round sense of craft. International critics agree. With an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96% Fresh, Argo is smart, exciting and unquestionably one of the best, most entertaining movies of 2012.

Wreck-It Ralph:
Screening in 3D and …

Visiting Vietnam (Part 1 of 3)

In September 2012 I headed off to Asia for the first time as a tourist, visiting Vietnam with group tour company On The Go. There were nine of us on the 10-day Very Vietnam Tour, which took us from capital city Hanoi at the top of the country all the way down to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, the economic centre of Vietnam...

In 3 posts I share my vacation experiences as well as information that should be of use to would-be Vietnam visitors.

Why Choose Vietnam as your Destination?

It’s different
First and foremost, Vietnam is a great alternative to Thailand, which for many years now has been a go-to destination for Western tourists craving a mix of exoticism, adventure and luxury on a budget.

Vietnam is growing in popularity for both Western and Eastern travellers but it’s not yet as commercialised a tourist destination as its neighbour nation. Heading to this Liberal Communist nation will still earn you bragging rights for visited someplace “different.” And although this is more important …

Trailer Tuesday: Pacific Rim

The best way to describe upcoming sci-fi actioner Pacific Rim is that director (and co-writer) Guillermo del Toro has evidently tossed together Real Steel, Transformers, AvatarGodzilla, Robotech, EvangelionGears of War and, erm, Power Rangers in a blender and let rip.

Despite overseeing dozens of films over the past few years, and withdrawing from a handful of high profileprojects, Pacific Rim is Del Toro's first time back in the director's chair since 2008's Hellboy II. And the results look epic. This said, your feelings towards giant robots and monsters may determine whether you find the film spectacular... or spectacularly silly.

Let's be honest here. Pacific Rim is tailor-made for geeks and that highly profitable teenage boy demographic. Screening in converted 3D - and IMAX 3D overseas - it's clearly a high-concept movie designed for the eyes; not the brain.

Plotwise, Pacific Rim is unapologetically ridiculous. After an inter-dimensional portal opens in th…

Monday Movie Review: Life of Pi (3D)

James Cameron and Martin Scorsese, step aside please. Your, to date, most artistic and effective use of 3D has just been topped by acclaimed director Ang Lee with his Life of Pi adaptation. Yes, Lee has created the most strikingly beautiful 3D movie of 2012... if not to date. This said, while it’s easy to lose yourself in the dream-like visuals, Life of Pi – which is nominated for 11 Academy Awards this year – is surprisingly not as emotionally affecting as it promises to be. You expect to be blubbing at the end and yet you’re left scratching your head over what exactly the film is trying to say.

Based on Yann Martel’s award-winning novel, Life of Pi is a fantasy-infused adventure that follows the title character (Irrfan Khan) as he recounts his unusual biography to a writer (Rafe Spall) on the hunt for a life-changing tale. It starts out cutesy and idiosyncratic, depicting Pi’s childhood at an Indian zoo and his fascination with God and the world’s major faiths. Things take a darker…

Movies out today: slaves, starving proletarians and soccer stars

Catch two Oscar nominees and one... erm... Razzie candidate at the South African box office from today.

Django Unchained:
Director Quentin Tarantino is back with this 165-minute Spaghetti Western set in America's Deep South. Jamie Foxx is Django, a slave freed by Christoph Waltz's dentist-turned-bounty hunter. Working as partners, they swear revenge on Leonardo DiCaprio's brutal plantation owner, who has Django's wife (Kerry Washington).

Nominated for five Academy Awards and many other awards - plus the recent winner of Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor and Screenplay - Django Unchained has an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes review score of 89% Fresh. Like Tarantinto's last effort, Inglourious Basterds,  the film's brash fusion of history and escapist entertainment may not be for everyone. It's apparently very violent, energetic and at times completely insane. Oh, and it may overstay its welcome a bit.

Les Miserables:
Lovers of movie musicals take note. The…

Midweek Movie Review: Pitch Perfect

The easiest way to describe musical comedy Pitch Perfect is that it’s Glee by way of Bridesmaids and Bring It On. If you have nothing but contempt for the Step Ups and High School Musicals of the world, you should probably stay away because although the witty new movie pokes fun at the genre, a great deal of viewing pleasure still comes from the musical arrangements. In fact, if it wasn’t for its catchy soundtrack and cast of comically- and vocally-gifted young performers, Pitch Perfect is pure formula.

You should know the drill by now. Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a disinterested college freshman who would much rather be in Los Angeles pursuing a career as a DJ. Eventually her professor father (John Hickey) strikes a deal with her – if she embraces campus life and commits to a society for a year, she can drop out of school afterwards. One club is as good as the next and soon she’s a member of the Bellas, an all-female a cappella group (i.e. they sing without musical accompaniment).

Once …

Trailer Tuesday: Evil Dead (2013)

Warning: The trailer you're about to watch is VERY disturbing. And the similarly age-restricted feature trailer, even more so...

 When it comes to reboots and remakes, no movie genre contains more than Horror, particularly over the past decade. Joining the reimagining ranks in the first half of 2013 is Evil Dead, a 21st Century treatment of Sam Raimi's cult, career-launching classic.

You should know the plot by now, especially since it was so central to last year's part-parody The Cabin in the Woods (my review): A group of twentysomethings (played by largely unknowns) are vacationing in a remote log cabin when they find a musty old book. They read incantations from it, and accidentally summon a malevolent entity. Cue the Evil Dead franchise staples: Demonic possession, tree rape and self-inflicted body mutilation...

Frankly, I'm not at all opposed to an Evil Dead remake. For one thing, the "bad stuff happens in the woods" concept has been terrifying people ar…

This year's geeky bday haul

Apart from kitchen implements, this year's birthday produced the following pop culture loot...

I've never really had the space to collect action figures as an adult, so New 52 Justice League Wonder Woman here became my third ever figurine - joining the Silk Spectre and Kratos.

Here's what my home workspace looks like with the new addition.

And the nominees are...

The nominees for the Best and Worst Movies of 2012 were revealed this past week with the announcement of the 85th Academy Award nominations and 33rd annual Golden Raspberries, respectively. The Oscar award show will be held on 24 February (hosted this year by Seth "Family Guy" MacFarlane), while the Razzie winners are set to be announced this year on 23 February.

I don't have much to say about this year's Oscar nominations. I enjoyed Life of Pi but didn't find it nearly as emotionally affecting as it should have been. Steven Spielberg's historical epic Lincoln currently seems the film to beat, with the highest number of nominations this year (12). However, as excited as I am to see Daniel Day-Lewis playing one of America's greatest presidents, I don't know if I can stomach 3 hours of arguing over 19th Century US government policy? *yawn* The same goes for 3 hours of desperation and high intensity singing, sans intermission, in Les Misérables

For th…

Movies out today: LA Untouchables and French Intouchables

After the release of all the festive season blockbusters, we've got a couple of quieter weeks before the high profile Oscar nominees are unleashed. As a result, today there are only 2 new movies hitting South African cinemas.

Gangster Squad:
From the director of Zombieland comes this high-style crime actioner. Set in Los Angeles during the 1940 and 50s, the film sees Josh Brolin lead a band of cops (including Ryan Gosling, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Patrick) against Sean Penn's freshly arrived East Coast crime boss. Also with Emma Stone and Nick Nolte.

Currently sitting with an aggregated review score of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, Gangster Squad is apparently sleek, glossy and far, far removed from reality. It's fine for some bloody escapism but if you're looking for another LA Confidential, this one is way too lightweight.

The Intouchables:
Screening in limited release is this French comedy-drama about the life-altering friendship that develops between a qu…

Pfangirl's best and worst films of 2012

Right, I do one of these every year: a quick review of all the movies I watched during the previous 12 months. In 2012, that was 60 cinema releases. And in summary, there were many good films released in 2012 but very few exceptional ones.

Just as a foreword, although some of the films on this list are technically classified as 2011 releases, they only reached South African cinemas in 2012 and therefore qualified for this year's list.

Also, when you watch enough movies, it’s inevitable that you become a bit jaded given that so many are just so forgettably average. As a result, I tend to favour films that manage to stand out from the blandness by provoking some sort of emotional reaction from me. Very often these movies aren’t flawless, but I remember them fondly and would happily add them to my DVD collection... more-so than many more acclaimed films on this list.

P.S. Craving a second, third or fourth opinion about the best and worst movies of 2012? Read what the various contri…