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Showing posts from 2016

Holiday greetings and 2016's Movie Hits and Misses [Vlog]

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Following yesterday's glut of reviews, today is my (very brief) look back at the most memorable movies of 2016.


All in all, I think it was a pretty satisfying year at the cinema, with many high profile releases falling in the "Yeah, that was okay" to "Great" side of the spectrum. But what were 2016's standout surprises and the worst disappointments? I weigh in below.

Also, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone reading this Happy Holidays. If you celebrate it, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.


This clip should form part of The Movies.co.za's big Year in Review video, coming soon.

Recapping my writing - October through December

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Mini movie reviews: Moana and A United Kingdom

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Out now, and out tomorrow, in South African cinemas, are animated adventure Moana and real-life romance A United Kingdom. They're just two of December’s big movie releases. But are they worth a few hours of precious vacation time?

Moana (3D) – Mixes up the Disney Princess formula with mostly success


Even though Big Hero 6 and Zootopia have both released since Frozen; the latest from Disney Animation Studios, Moana, is receiving the most comparisons to the smash hit 2013 release. It makes sense. Both movies are musical adventures with distinct geographic settings. And in both, a princess must venture forth from the safety of her kingdom to save her people.

Honestly, I still think I prefer Frozen’s story more, but Moana delivers many pleasures: lush Pacific Island and oceanic animation, catchy songs, some touching moments and very strong vocal performances.

For the record, Moana has the restless title character (voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho), defying the wishes of her ch…

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Blood Ties – Past, present and future mesh in this emotionally powerful DLC

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Pre-play musings

Daddy issues.

If you want to dislike Angelina Jolie’s 2001 Tomb Raider film for one reason, it’s that the movie forced parental hang-ups into the franchise mix. Thanks to Hollywood, Lara Croft’s origin story shifted dramatically. And not for the better.

Twenty years ago, Lara Croft was conceptualised as having survived a plane crash in the mountains. The trek back to civilisation profoundly affects her priorities. She promptly abandons her life of aristocratic privilege for one of adventure – which gets her disowned by her parents. It doesn’t matter though; she achieves success by living life on her own terms as a self-made woman.


After the Tomb Raider movie was released, however, aspects of the blockbuster backstory began to surface in the games. With the release of 2006’s Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara was rewritten as a young woman who loses her mother at a young age and is raised alone by her unorthodox archaeologist father. Once her dad is also lost to his obsessive …

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie – campy hit-and-miss nonsense for fans

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This review originally appeared at TheMovies.co.za.
Long before there were Bridesmaids and Bad Moms, there were two misbehaving, middle-aged Englishwomen always ready for a good time. Never mind that their clumsy, drunken debauchery turned them into social pariahs. If there was bolly to be downed, ciggies to be smoked, ridiculous fashion to be worn and celebrities to be schmoozed, that’s where you’d find Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley).


Well, twenty-four years since the world was first introduced to best friends Eddy and Pats, nothing’s changed. Seriously, nothing. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the first feature film centred on this badly behaving duo, feels exactly like an extended version of the cult TV comedy that started it all. Except with a considerably bigger budget and considerably more celebrity cameos.

So if you enjoyed the series, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. If you didn’t, you’re not going to be converted. And …

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children film review – Rushed and unsatisfying

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This review originally appeared at TheMovies.co.za.
I admit upfront that this review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is from the perspective of someone who thoroughly enjoyed the Ransom Riggs novel on which the movie is based. I’ve heard that people unfamiliar with the book have appreciated director Tim Burton’s fantasy adventure a lot more. Regardless, even if viewed solely as a cinematic experience, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is very flawed and unsatisfying.


To outline the plot first: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children centres on teenager Jake (Asa Butterfield), who hasn’t come to terms with the death of his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp). Jake saw something in the shadows on the night his grandfather died, and this fact, combined with cryptic messages, drives Jake to the tiny Welsh island where Abe lived during World War II. There, thanks to the help of some magical time travel, Jake discovers the children’s home where his grandfather staye…

rAge 2016 report-back: cosplay, VR gaming and more

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As you may have seen in a prior post, I was at South Africa's rAge expo last weekend in Johannesburg. I was predominantly attending the event - the country's biggest electronic gaming and geek lifestyle expo - for the cosplay, and to catch up with friends and colleagues.


I had an absolute blast snapping pics of other cosplayers, taking part in a gathering of South African Tomb Raider cosplayers (to coincide with the franchise's 20 year anniversary), chatting to local game developers, getting hands-on with a number of high-profile upcoming releases, and losing my VR virginity.

Check out my public Facebook gallery of cosplay pics here.

I also ended up doing some impromptu games journalism for IGN Africa. You can find my coverage of the event here:
Hands-on with the best games at rAGe Joburg 2016Living in the future with VR gaming at rAge JoburgrAge 2016 Cosplay Gallery

See you at rAge 2016... as South Africa's official Lara Croft

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It's a dream come true. I've been selected as an official Tomb Raider cosplay ambassador for this year'srAge electronic gaming expo in Johannesburg, South Africa.

So come and say hi this weekend, 7 - 9 October at the Ticketpro Dome in Northriding.


On Friday, I'll be roaming about in lite cosplay as London Lara.

On Saturday and Sunday, however, you can find me in full, signature Rise dress primarily around the Megarom stand. Megarom is the South African distributor of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration edition (available from 11 October), and you'll be able to get hands-on with the game at their stall.

I'll also be taking part in cosplay events over the course of the weekend. Look for updates of my movements on my Twitter account (@pfangirl) or via @MegaromGames.

If you're going to be around for anything, make sure it's the special Tomb Raider cosplay gathering on Saturday afternoon. People are encouraged to dress up like Lara, or any other ch…

The Secret Life of Pets reviewed – a cute, fun time-filler for kids and adults

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Although most of the world has seen it by now, The Secret Life of Pets finally opens in South Africa today, to coincide with the start of the Spring school vacation. Just as overseas, the family comedy is sure to be a mammoth hit. Not only did the initial teaser trailer essentially go viral, but animation company Illumination Entertainment knows what people like, and the film is preceded by a brand new Minions short – featuring Illumination’s most popular characters.


Right, but is main attraction The Secret Life of Pets any good?

Absolutely. It’s unlikely to go on the All-time Animated Classics list, but the film offers a little something for everyone – whether you’re planning a cinema outing with the sprogs, just generally enjoy animated films, or have a furkid at home.

In terms of plot, The Secret Life of Pets focuses primarily on the inhabitants of one New York apartment block. Jack Russell Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is the resident top dog, relishing the bond he has with his own…

Ben-Hur film review - heavy-handed but watchable enough

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This review originally appeared at TheMovies.co.za.
Let’s be honest. The latest (and actually fifth) film adaptation of historical novel Ben-Hur was always going to be met with scepticism. That happens when you’re essentially remaking one of the greatest movies ever made. The 1959 Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, is a joint record-holder for the most Academy Awards won, at eleven. It’s impossible to compete.


Still, it’s not exactly surprising that a new Ben-Hur was greenlit. When it comes to contemporary cinemagoers and four-hour long sword-and-sandal epics, ain’t nobody got time for that. Today’s audiences, in theory, should be ready for a fresh take on the Bible Times tale of revenge and forgiveness. Especially one that promises to take full advantage of 21st Century CGI-wizardry, and director Timur (Night Watch, Wanted) Bekmambetov’s visual flair.

If nothing else, Ben-Hur 2016 should be one wild chariot ride, right?

Eh, not quite.

Though far from a turkey, the new Ben-Hur plays b…

Bridget Jones's Baby reviewed - a charming sequel that trims the silliness

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This review originally appeared at TheMovies.co.za.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. So at the start of Bridget Jones’s Baby, we meet the title character, Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger), home alone in her London flat. It’s her 43th birthday, and she’s dancing around in her pyjamas, wine glass in hand, as she tries to vent the frustration of her perpetual singledom.


Fortunately though, for Bridget and the audience, some things have changed. This helps sequel #2 to feel like its own entity as opposed to a trying-too-hard rehash of the original 2001 romantic comedy. “Forced and tired” was pretty much the complaint made of 2004 sequel The Edge of Reason, for the record.

In Bridget Jones’s Baby, change is emphasised. Right from the start, you receive a strong sense that the world has transformed substantially over the past 15 years. Bridget now taps out her journal entries on her iPad instead of using pen and paper, landline calls have given way to FaceTime, and workpl…

The good, the fun and the exceptional: Mini reviews for The BFG, Ghostbusters and Kubo and the Two Strings

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Ah, the pleasure of once more living somewhere where three cinemas are within a 30-minute drive. Apart from Suicide Squad (read my review), I’ve managed to catch three other movies in the three weeks I’ve been back in South Africa. Here's a short rundown of each of them.

The BFG
Steven Spielberg, surprisingly, is the director’s chair for this CGI-heavy adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book. After she spots a giant sneaking around the streets of London, precocious orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is whisked away to the land of giants. Lucky for Sophie, her kidnapper is a benevolent vegetarian – a Big Friendly Giant – although that doesn’t mean she’s safe with other monstrous man-eaters sniffing about.

The BFG is very charming, and the Harry Potter-esque John Williams score only adds to the sense of magical whimsy. It also features phenomenal performance capture of Mark Rylance as the title character. It’s just that the film is, well, too lovely; too safe. Nothing really h…

Zootopia / Zootropolis reviewed: Cute. Clever. Compulsory viewing.

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This review appeared over at TheMovies.co.za. Stu Hopps: Judy, you ever wonder how your mom and me got to be so darn happy?
Judy Hopps: Nope.
Stu Hopps: Well, we gave up on our dreams, and we settled. Right, Bon?
Bonnie Hopps: Oh, yes. That's right, Stu, we settled hard. Yeah, I’m pretty sure this exchange isn’t what you expect to hear in the first five minutes of a Disney movie. But it is very much typical of Zootopia (or Zootropolis as it was released in South Africa) from Walt Disney Animation Studios. For an animated movie with cute anthropomorphic animals, Zootropolis is surprisingly edgy. It pulls no punches with the delivery of its messages about prejudice and inclusive diversity, among other things. Yet at the same time, these themes are explored without ever succumbing to heavy-handedness.


Zootropolis is massively entertaining – and in a year of Brexit anti-immigrant fear-mongering, and Donald Trump’s racist hate-spewing, it feels like the film should be mandatory viewing …

Suicide Squad reviewed: Very problematic but buoyed by charismatic stars

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Live-action DC Comics adaptations seem to be the new Tom Cruise films. In other words, critics can't wait to pummel them with as much vicious prose as possible, regardless of actual merit. For cinemagoers then, it becomes difficult to receive a fair assessment of the film’s quality.

I went into Suicide Squad with as much of an open mind as possible. I refused to believe that the film was worse than Batman v Superman, as many critics were insisting. And it turns out that I was right. It may be leaping a low bar, but heavily flawed Suicide Squad is considerably more entertaining than the theatrical cut of Batman v Superman (my review).


In essence, the film is the Dirty Dozen of superhero films. Assorted villains from the DC universe, including master hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), ferociously crazy ex-psychiatrist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), fire-powered gangbanger El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and feral cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – to name just a few – are forced…