Showing posts from February, 2013

Midweek Movie Review: Django Unchained

Despite a sterling reputation, Quentin Tarantino isn’t the most consistent writer-director. Leaping around between genres, and typically juggling large casts, his experimental work is always interesting… but not always satisfying. Django Unchained fortunately demonstrates the filmmaker on form. A tad overlong, prone to obvious fan service moments and suffering from jarring tonal shifts, this Spaghetti Western-Blaxploitation-Revenge-Actioner (phew!) is nonetheless entirely engrossing. Unlike Tarantino’s last effort, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained delivers what it promises – in spades!

Starting out like a conventional Western before developing a distinct Southern flavour, Django Unchained follows the adventures of former slave Django (Jamie Foxx). Freed by German dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), Django becomes Schultz’s partner. It turns out that Django is a natural at “killing white people’, although his ultimate goal is to find and rescue…

Trailer Tuesday: Byzantium

Once upon a time, vampires didn't sparkle. Being an immortal blood drinker came with certain perks - the super strength and enhanced senses particularly - but also a number of serious, depressing drawbacks: outliving everyone you ever loved, never feeling sunlight again, suffering from permanent unbearable thirst, being unable to settle anywhere for long and having to keep a secret about your true nature from the world or suffer the dreadful consequences.

Once upon a time, this tortured but irresistibly beautiful creature was the standard type of "sympathetic" or "hero" vampire. And its existence owed a lot to author Anne Rice and her decadent Vampire Chronicles.  In turn, director Neil "The Crying Game" Jordan brought Rice's first and most famous Vampire Chronicle, Interview with the Vampire to the big screen in 1994, with the conflicted, emotionally complicated vamps played by the likes of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Christian Sla…

And the Oscar goes to...

Looking for all the 2013 Oscar results and my thoughts on them? Head over to right here. Alternatively, check out my Twitter stream from the last few hours for other random bits of commentary made during the ceremony.

Anyway, this year's stats are as as follows - and it was a pretty even spread of awards love:
Life of Pi - 4 Oscar wins (Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Visual Effects)
Argo - 3 Oscar wins (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing)
Les Miserables- 3 Oscar wins (Best Supporting Actress, Best Sound Mixing, Best Make-up
Lincoln - 2 Oscar wins (Best Actor, Best Production Design)
Django Unchained - 2 Oscar wins (Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay)
Skyfall - 2 Oscar wins (Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing)

Movies out today: Witches and witch hunters

This week at South African cinemas, film-goers have a choice between supernatural fantasy and grown-up drama. There's an exact even split between these 2 types of movies today with 4 new releases hitting our screens.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters:
This fantasy actioner was supposed to be one of the first big fairy tale 'reimaginings" of 2012- before being unexpectedly delayed for a year. That's never a good sign but, for the record, here Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play the abandoned kiddies from the Brothers Grimm tale, all grown up. They strut around in black leather, spout dialogue with American accents and exterminate Famke Janssen's band of witches with steampunk weaponry. Screening in 2D and 3D. Trailer Tuesday profile here.

Looking like a cinematic sibling to Van Helsing and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Hansel &Gretel: Witch Hunters has fared similarly "well" with critics. Sporting an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 15% Fres…

Midweek Movie Review: Mama

There’s plenty that’s interesting about Mama; that instantly elevates this vengeful spirit tale above your dime-a-dozen horror film. An unusual premise, strong performances, thematic depth and A-list involvement are a big plus. However, the film never really establishes its own distinct identity – there’s nothing horror fans haven’t seen before – and ultimately Mama feels stronger in concept than execution.

From the outset Mama is positioned more like a dark fairy tale than a conventional horror film, but with Guillermo del Toro executive producing that’s not too surprising. Anyway, a tragedy leaves 3-year old Victoria and 1-year old Lilly alone in an isolated cabin. They seem destined to die there until a mysterious, cackling presence appears. It cares for the children, and they name it “Mama”. Five years later though, the by-now-feral girls are found and hauled back to society. Their bohemian uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is happy to raise them; his rock musician girlfriend, Annabe…

Trailer Tuesday: Beautiful Creatures

A Valentine's Day opening in the US. Marketing material plastered all over the cinemas. A South African press screening with security so tight that mobile phones are banned... If the fuss is to be believed, Beautiful Creatures is being positioned by Warner Bros as the next Twilight Saga.

The parallels between Twilight and Beautiful Creatures are many and obvious. Like Twilight, Beautiful Creatures is based on a supposedly hit (although I've never heard of it!) Young Adult novel with a supernatural romance focus. Instead of vampires though, this time we're dealing with reclusive witches. In a role-reversal regarding the "teenage lovers drawn together from different, warring worlds," HE's the ordinary human while SHE's the "gifted" one. Oh, and Beautiful Creatures utilises the verdant, gothic South as its setting as opposed to the chilly, grey Pacific Coast. 

Judging by the trailer above - as well as the plot-heavy feature trailer - Beau…

Lose your heart to Oscar nominee Paperman

The 2013 Academy Awards are now less than a week away. And while Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress seem to garner the most media attention, I'm always emotionally invested in the Best Animated Film categories - Feature Length and Short.

For the longest time, growing up I wanted to make animated movies, and I still love cartoons as an entertainment medium. I've watched half of the 10 Best Picture nominees but all 5 of the Best Animated Feature Film contenders.

Anyway, last week, for the briefest of time before 3 of the 5 videos were taken down, it was possible to watch all the Best Animated Short Films online. Fortunately - though I have no idea how long this will remain available for - you can still watch the charming Paperman from Walt Disney Animation Studios.Combining both traditional hand-drawn animation and its computer counterpart, this sweet black & white short tells a tale of romantic destiny amidst the sour-faced rat race of 1940s New York.

I …

Movies out today: Yippee-ki-yay, it's a Good Day to hunt Bin Laden

The day after Valentine's Day it's almost all about ass-kicking (of the fictional and factual kind) at South African cinemas.

A Good Day to Die Hard:
You can't keep a good action hero down. So here's another - the fifth - instalment in the Die Hard film series. This time tough former cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) jets off to Russia to get his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), out of prison. Together, the 2 McClanes must stop a terrorist plot involving nuclear weapons. From, uh, the director of Behind Enemy Lines and Max Payne.

At the time of writing this, A Good Day to Die Hard had an aggregated review score of 13% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Ow. Evidently it's the worst of the Die Hards by far - loud, paint-by-numbers and not nearly as fun as it should be.

Zero Dark Thirty:
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Actress), Zero Dark Thirty is the latest drama from Oscar-winning Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow. Based on recent real-life…

Happy Valentine's Day... with some advice from everyone's favourite feline femme fatale

On this day of commercialised luuurve, here's some sensible advice from one of the most sexually charged superhero films ever made.

"It's the so-called normal guys who always let you down. Sickos never scare me. At least they're committed." - Selina Kyle, Batman Returns

Whether you're in a relationship or not, have a great day embracing your dark side and desires... And whatever you do, stay away from restaurants and florists for the next 12 hours or so. XXX.

Midweek Movie Review: Flight

Flight marks the return of director Robert Zemeckis to live-action cinema after a decade of dabbling in motion-capture animation. And it’s clear from the outset of this addiction-themed drama that the movie maker, who gave us crowd-pleasing special effects blockbusters like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump, is still in an experimental state of mind. For the most part this dramatic change in direction is still as satisfying and involving as Zemeckis’s blockbuster work. Just in a different way. Sadly though, most of the goodwill generated towards the film evaporates in the last 10 minutes or so, with the script succumbing to tedious moralising.

Flight seems to suggest that Zemeckis has entered a more “adult” phase in his filmography. How do we know this? Well, within seconds of the movie’s start we’re treated to full frontal female nudity and meet our paunchy hero – pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) – smoking heavily and sobering himself up with a snor…

Trailer Tuesday: Knights of Badassdom

Let's be honest up front here. Reign in your excitement right now because you may never get to watch horror comedy Knights of Badassdom. And I'm not just talking about watching it legally.

Shot in 2010, the film has been sitting on a shelf or the past 2 years because of apparent issues regarding the film's financial backers. In short, dodgy dealings are afoot at the indie studio releasing the film, with the result being that Badassdom's debut - in any format - has has been indefinitely halted.

This is disappointing because Knights of Badassdom is clearly geek catnip: Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage, True Blood's Ryan KwantenFirefly's Summer Glau and Community's Danny Pudi all in one film about LARPing (Live Action Role Playing). Basically, a large medieval fantasy LARP goes horribly wrong when Steve Zahn's dorky "wizard" accidentally summons a genuine succubus. Suddenly the LARPers must make the transition from playing heroes to being t…

Girlz 'N' Games Webcomic #109: Online Etiquette... Downton Style

Originally posted on my web comic, Girlz 'N' Games.

Sorry for the large gap between comic updates. I've just started a new day job and I'm still adapting to its demands.

Anyway, apologies aside, this comic was admittedly inspired by PVP's recent strip centred on much loved British costume drama Downton Abbey. I'm certainly a fan of the TV series. It's just such wonderful (mostly feel-good) escapism, removing the viewer from frenetic, crass contemporary life and plunging them into a world where manners, rules and appearances are paramount. Could you imagine if online discussions regarding gaming - or, more specifically, women and gaming - were just as "proper."

P.S. There were a lot more characters I wanted to introduce to the conversation thread depicted in this comic. Alas, the likes of Thomas and Mrs Hughes (one of my faves) had to be chopped to prevent the strip becoming too unwieldy.


If you got a kick out of this Girlz 'N' Games …

Movies out today: Mostly for the grown-ups

Four new movies open in South Africa today, and while the majority of the fare is geared towards adults, there's some amusement for the kiddies as well.

Producer Guillermo del Toro lends his name to this horror film about a man (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who tries to rehabilitate his abandoned, feral nieces with his reluctant girlfriend (Jessica Chastain). However, a spirit is jealous of the new family unit. Trailer Tuesday profile.

Although far from flawless, Mama is apparently an effective, stylishly shot genre entry - ideal for people who prefer creepy atmosphere to buckets of gore. The film has an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 62% Fresh.

Movie 43:
Shot over several years on and off, Movie 43 is an R-rated sketch comedy starring most of Hollywood. Largely spearheaded by Peter Farrelly, the film has 14 directors and includes performances by everyone from Anna Faris to Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville to Naomi Watts.

Despite sounding promising on paper, Movie 43 is an earl…

The Death and Return of Superman

Following on from yesterday's Man of Steel trailer profile, let's keep things on the subject of Superman today with this comical 16-minute examination of the famous 1992-3 story arc that killed off and resurrected the iconic character... and forever altered how seriously we take superhero deaths.

Written by and introduced by Max (Chronicle) Landis, look out for familiar faces in the video including Elijah Wood, Mandy MooreSimon Pegg and Katee Sackhoff.

Trailer Tuesday: Man of Steel

Unquestionably one of the most highly anticipated films of 2013 is Man of Steel, a reboot of the cinematic Superman franchise. Delayed by 6 months from its original December 2012 release, the superhero movie is now positioned as one of the blockbuster biggies of the US Summer.

Man of Steel is intended to replicate the style, tone and (hopefully) success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, centred on fellow iconic DC Comics character Batman. In other words, audiences should expect a  "darker," "more realistic" Superman. This said, it's not so much that Superman has had his powers toned down. Rather, he's functioning in a universe where his attitude, and that of the public, is different from what we've seen onscreen before. Instead of Supes reveling in his godlike abilities, and humanity gazing up at him in open-mouthed awe, everyone is terrified. Superman included.

There's enough evidence in this first full trailer, as well as the earlie…

Blast from the past: Turtle Power!

After all the gaming nostalgia on the blog last week, here's another blast from the past.

My mother was cleaning over the holidays, scrounging around in boxes, and in the process a couple of my old toys returned to me (the action figures are still stored safe and sound).

Dating all the way back to the great Teenage Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles craze of 1989-1991, these guys are still amazingly in one piece and fully functional. Remember these? Did you own any of the vast assortment of TMNT merchandise back in the day?

Movies out today: US Presidents, Russian nobles and surfing icons

Five new films open in South African cinemas today, including 2 that are up for multiple awards at this year's Academy Awards.

Leading this year's Oscar race with 12 nominations, and a ton of other awards, is this historical drama from director Steven Spielberg. Daniel Day-Lewis plays America's greatest president in the last 4 months of his life - while he struggled to end the Civil War and abolish slavery (by getting the Thirteenth Amendment passed)... as opposed to slaying vampires. Ahem. Anyway, the all-star cast includes Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, David Stathairn, James Spader and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

A 2 and a half hour movie centred on people discussing 19th Century politics and human rights? It hardly sounds enthralling, and yet Lincoln is apparently just that. Sporting an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 90% Fresh, Lincoln is well crafted, thoughtful, surprisingly witty and, of course, brilliantly acted. Read Kervyn's full review