Showing posts from June, 2013

Movies out today: Man of Steel yourself!

Three new movies open in South Africa today, with one of the new releases being one of the most highly anticipated blockbusters of 2013. I think you can guess which of the following it is...

Man of Steel:
Screening in 2D and CONVERTED 3D is this reboot of the Superman film franchise. Directed by Zack Snyder and overseen by the Dark Knight's Christopher Nolan, Man of Steel updates the origin story of DC Comics' Superman for the 21st Century. Ashamed of and alienated by his freakish abilities, young Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) searches for answers as to his extraterrestrial beginnings. He's forced to step into the spotlight when his adoptive world is threatened by General Zod (Michael Shannon), a militant survivor from his home world of Krypton. Also with Amy Adams as reporter Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Superman's biological father, and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as his adoptive parents.

You can read my full Man of Steel review here, but in short, while the film is tech…

Man of Steel (3D) reviewed spoiler-free

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

This quote isn’t entirely true about Man of Steel, the highly anticipated reboot of the Supermanfilm franchise – as well as potential launching point for a Justice League film to rival Marvel’s The Avengers. It’s just that huge explosions and mass destruction alone do not a good movie make. And as visually impressive and technically faultless Man of Steel is, it’s also utterly soulless. Those of you expecting the thematic depth and ambitious complexity of The Dark Knight are likely to be disappointed, particularly if you consider that trilogy’s writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan wrote the story and oversaw production of this comic book adaptation as well. Zack (Watchmen, 300, Sucker Punch) Snyder is in the helmer’s chair for Man of Steel, for the record.

I suspect Man of Steel can best be described as a Superman film for people who don’t like Superman, on screen or in comics. If you have fond memories…

Midweek movie-review: After Earth

Once upon a time, writer-director M Night Shyamalan was a critical darling. His 1999 feature, The Sixth Sense was a smash sleeper hit, breaking records for its time spent atop the US box office and garnering multiple Oscar nominations. Over time though, Shyamalan’s star faded with reviewers and audiences alike. Over time, his later filmic efforts, like Lady in the Water and The Happening, produced unintentional laughs, not gasps of delight and surprise. The filmmaker could still generate moments of tension, but the soul seemed to have seeped out of his work. Nowhere was this more apparent than in his going-through-the-motions adaptation of animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Still, even with a reputation in tatters, it’s unfair to dismiss every single thing a movie maker does by default. It’s easy to do that but each effort still deserves to be judged on its own merits. And while there is a lot wrong and plain dumb about Shyamalan’s new sci-fi survival thriller, After Eart…

Trailer Tuesday: 300 - Rise of an Empire

I was, and remain, a huge fan of 300 (my review) based on Frank Miller's graphic novel. From director Zack Snyder, the 2007 film depicted a slice of Ancient World history - the Battle of Thermopylae - through the filter of a propaganda tale, resulting in a hyper-stylised movie experience. God forbid you bitched about 300's lack of realism because if you did you missed the point of the film entirely.

Anyway, a sequel to 300 was really unnecessary, but hey, this is Hollywood we're talking about, and the original made a ton of cash, so next year we can look forward to 300: Rise of an Empire.

Supposedly based on Frank Miller's Xerxes, an as-yet-unpublished follow-up to 300, Rise of an Empire depicts other great battles of the Greek-Persian Wars, particularly the naval engagement of Artemisium. Unknown Sullivan Stapleton plays Athenian general Themistocles, a hero of common birth, while one of my major lady crushes Eva Green heads up the Persian fleet as its female command…

Girlz 'N' Games comic #115: Why nerds can't have nice things

Originally posted on my web comic, Girlz 'N' Games.
Nerds. The geek contingent... The Star Wars and Star Trek franchises are excellent examples of the cash that can be squeezed from this obsessive group of pop culture consumers by movie-makers.

At the same time though, films that have specifically targeted this very fussy, very critical demographic - films that have been loudly, proudly and very off-beat geek - have continually failed financially. Watchmen. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Sucker Punch... They were all box office duds. Time and time again it's been proven that passionate, largely online, fandom does not equate with profits. Although the concept of geekdom grows more and more mainstream every day, these self-identifying guys and gals are not indicative of money-making potential. Whether they rally behind a project or not, they do not reflect the public's opinion.

Not that I support the idea that only films likely to turn a profit should be made. Not at all!…

Movies out today: You're about to get sequel schooled

Three films open in South Africa today, and two of the three are sequels/prequels set in academic environments. Time to head back to school at the cinema...

Monsters University:
Screening in 2D and 3D is this first animated comedy prequel from Pixar and Disney. Set before the events of 2001's Monsters, Inc, Monsters University depicts the meeting of diminutive Mike (Billy Crystal) and brawny Sulley (John Goodman) as they compete at a prestigious scaring college. Also with the voices of Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion among others.

Monsters University is evidently loads of colourful, clever fun even if it's not particularly ambitious - preferring to coast along on the appeal of its wonderfully realised characters. It's no classic but it's quality, non-insulting family entertainment nonetheless. Currently 83% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

Spud 2: The Madness Continues:
The original Spud film, based on John van de Ruit's hit autobiographical …

Lumberjacking, or Paul Bunyan cosplay... whichever you prefer

I was away in the mountains this past long weekend, which kind of threw out my blogging schedule for the week. Fortunately, things will be back on track from Monday... but in the meantime, here's some pics of me chopping wood.

Just pretend it's a Paul Bunyan cosplay shoot or Miss June in the 2013 Women Working Outdoors calendar.

Photo credits: Pics 3 & 4 shot by Shirley Berko of

Midweek Movie Review: Epic (3D)

As of late, animated films seem to be going for the shock and awe effect. Following DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods, Epic is the second CGI-animated movie of 2013 to place emphasis on awestruck adventure, with both the characters and audience exploring a dazzling new world for the first time together. Certainly in this aspect, the latest from Blue Sky Studios – the same company behind the Ice Age films and Rio – lives up to its name. Epic is a visual treat. At the same time though, there’s the sense that the film is trying to be too many things for too many audiences, and would have benefited from a more consistent tonal focus. As it is, it feels a bit scattered and emotionally blunted as a result.

Loosely based on the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William “Rise of the Guardians” Joyce, Epic at first glance seems to be a FernGully clone. After the death of her mother, seventeen year old Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) visits her eccentric estranged father …

Movies out today: Animated adventure, crime and comedy

It's the start of a three-day weekend in South Africa, and at the movies it seems to be almost entirely about lighthearted laughs and glossy big name blockbuster entertainment for kids and adults alike.

Screening in 3D and 2D is this CGI-animated comedy adventure for the whole family. Teenage human (Amanda Seyfried) becomes embroiled in a battle between the Leafmen, the forest's protectors - headed by the likes of Colin Farrell and Josh Hutcherson's warriors - and the pestilence-spreading mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his henchmen. Based loosely on the story by William "Rise of the Guardians" JoyceTrailer Tuesday profile.

You can read my full review of Epic here, but in short, the movie is visually stunning, with incredibly well choreographed action scenes, but it's neutered by its attempt to be too many things for too many audiences. Internationally, the film has an aggregated review score of 62% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising the po…

Nation Board Game Day approaches... with great prizes to be won

Over the past few years there has been a drive to promote National Board Game Day in South Africa. Coinciding with the Youth Day public holiday on 16 June, NBGD is an opportunity to boost awareness of the hobby while giving back to the community.

Although it remains an expensive pastime of privilege, board gaming is certainly becoming a more mainstream  activity in South Africa. While the likes of Monopoly, Scrabble, Uno cards and 30 Seconds have been in households for decades, these days you can find titles like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Battlestar Galactica in places like Exclusive Books stores. The fringe is making its way to the centre.

Anyway, I'm a massive proponent of board gaming. Unlike video gaming - which comes with the very real threat of abuse and nastiness when it comes to multiplayer - the face-to-face nature of board gaming makes it instantly more inclusive and social. There may be sulking, tantrums and, erm, shattered drinking glasses but regardless, …

Trailer Tuesday: The Family

For those of you who don't know, my online nick - "pfangirl" - comes from my first major celebrity obsession: Michelle Pfeiffer (yes, the "p" in "pfangirl" is silent!).

Of course the Catwoman star's big A-list heyday is behind her, but over the past few years, when not appearing in intimate family dramas, Pfeiffer has been cornering the market in bad girls turned badass matriarchs (as demonstrated most recently in Dark Shadows).  The Family - also known as Malavita - continues this trend.

In this crime comedy actioner, Pfeiffer is wife to Robert De Niro's New York mob boss. When he turns state witness, the Manzoni family - including teenage daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) and son Warren (John D'Leo) - are forced into the witness protection programme, under the care of Tommy Lee Jones's government agent. This is all good and well, but the Manzonis are unable to change their criminal ways, forcing their relocation every 3 months. Even whe…

Monday Movie Review: Oblivion

Written and directed by Joseph Kosinski, the helmer of Tron: Legacy, Oblivion is intended to be a throwback to science fiction films of the 1970s – the Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Stepford Wives of cinematic history. And the new film certainly has that vibe about it. Fans of bustling, urban, high octane genre fare like Total Recall 2012 may be bored by the more contemplative, though not exactly deep, Oblivion. However, if you like continual twists and turns (even if they’re not entirely unexpected) the film delivers. It’s far from perfect, and you certainly won’t be thinking about it more than a day after leaving the cinema, but with moderated expectations, it’s an engaging genre entry.

Oblivion is set in the tail end of the 21st Century, after the Earth has been devastated by a war with alien invaders known as Scavengers. While the vast majority of humanity has fled to Titan, a handful of technicians like Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his team leader/l…

Movies out today: Sci-fi and spook spoofs

It's a big week for science fiction fans, with two major genre entries hitting South African cinemas in addition to a couple of comedies.

Star Trek into Darkness:
The big release for the weekend is undoubtedly this follow-up to the 2009 big screen reboot of the Star Trek franchise. Director J. J. Abrams is back, along with stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana,Karl Urban and Simon Pegg  as Kirk, Spock, Uhura and co. This time the young Starfleet crew must contend with the threat posed by Benedict Cumberbatch's rogue commander.

You can read Kervyn and Lourens's Star Trek into Darkness reviews at but in short, the sequel (screening in converted 3D and 2D) is a colourful and exhilarating midyear blockbuster... even if at times it seems more concerned with referencing classic Trek moments as opposed to advancing the plot. Internationally, the film has an aggregated review score of 87% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with a big fat chunk of critical praise goin…

Readers vs. Viewers - Game of Thrones surprises

No spoilers (I promise!), but as expected, Season 3 Episode 9 of the Game of Thrones TV adaptation produced the shocked, utterly outraged reaction that I - along with thousands of other readers of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire - expected. Unlike TV viewers, we knew what to brace for, which this gif captures so magnificently. I could watch it all day...

Having only started reading the books in 2011, I'm admittedly a relative newcomer to the epic fantasy novel series - and I still have A Dance With Dragons to complete to catch up properly - but I remember getting to the end of the A Storm of Swords chapter covered in Episode 9 and putting down the book... for two days. If TV viewers contemplated abandoning the show after the Ned Stark incident, or even Jamie's encounter with the Brave Companions, they were going to quit the series forever after a certain "celebration." It's ballsy, it's completely unexpected and it's as shocking on the sc…

Trailer Tuesday: Thor - The Dark World

Sure it became a bit overblown towards the end, but I thoroughly enjoyed 2011's Thor, certainly more than Captain America: The First Avenger. Of the two Marvel Comics adaptations released that year, I found Thor to to be more flavoursome, at least trying to do something different by adding a mythological scope to proceedings (along with a healthy dose of fish-out-of-water humour). Read my review of the original here.

Sequel Thor: The Dark World seems to be pushing the epic fantasy-meets-sci-fi element even further with more battles and considerable more off-Earth action. This time Thor's home world of Asgard, along with the rest of the Nine Realms, is threatened by an ancient, apparently unstoppable evil - orchestrated by Dark Elf ruler Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). This forces Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to turn to his greatest enemy, his treacherous adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Pretty much the first film's entire cast is back for Thor 2, including Anthony Hopki…