REAL STEEL

Simply put, the Shawn Levy-helmed Real Steel is a mash-up of the plots of two Sly Stallone vehicles, Rocky and Over the Top. Which is basically the underdog fighter who has to deal with his relationship with his estranged son. Only difference is instead of boxing or arm wrestling, it’s robot boxing.

Let’s pause for a while. Robot boxing? Why would that even become popular? I mean who really cares about two robots duking it out – there’s no pain and no blood – which is the usual attraction of physical contests, dating back to the age of the gladiator – so I had a hard time swallowing the main premise of Real Steel, that robot boxing is a popular sport in the time the movie is set in – the near future (as usual).

Ignoring that critical flaw, this movie is really a top notch sob-fest, an emotional manipulation from start to finish. The plot is simple enough.

Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former boxer now working in robot boxing and is basically down on his luck. His various robots lose fight after fight and he is heavily in debt. His main source of comfort is his late coach’s daughter Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) and even her support is waning. Then out of the blue, Kenton is informed that his former girlfriend has died and he needs to sign over custody of his 11 year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo) to Max’s Aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and her wealthy hubby Marvin (James Rebhorn). Naturally, Kenton is only concerned about one thing (money) and agrees to do so for the sum of $100,000. However, in the meantime, Kenton has to ‘babysit’ Max for the summer holidays whilst Marvin and Aunt Debra vacation in Europe.

Of course, you already know what will happen next. By sheer coincidence, Max is a massive robot boxing fan and through a series of more coincidences, Max acquires a robot called Atom which together with Kenton, somehow becomes a contender in the major robot boxing league! Thus, over the course of this time, the father and son begin to bond. Cue a dramatic setback – Kenton is beaten up by creditors in front of Max – and Kenton decides he cannot maintain a relationship with Max anymore. This does not last long so the duo are reunited just in time for Atom to face Zeus, the robot boxing world champion in the final fight sequence.

It’s every fight movie cliche played out over the course of the final 30 minutes but director Levy squeezes out numerous tear-jerking moments which ultimately do not amount to a hill of beans. Don’t get me wrong, if you park you intellect to one side for the duration of the movie, Real Steel can be an emotionally satisfying experience.

And with the film coping the ending of Rocky completely, can we expect Real Steel II to be far behind for the rematch of Atom v Zeus? Pure rhetorical question, I must stress.

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK

If you’ve seen and loved the movies, Human Nature, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation, because of their delightfully written stories then like me, you are a Charlie Kaufman fan. Kaufman was the screenwriter for all these films and Synecdoche, New York marks his debut also as director.

Perhaps that is why Synecdoche, New York is the most un-commerical of all Kaufman’s movies thus far (and that is saying something). Truth is, depending on your perspective, the two hour long film will probably be the best or the worst you’ve ever seen. Me? I am trying to stay on the fence of that particular argument.

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GEEK OUT!

HANNA

The title character of this adventure thriller, filmed in Europe, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a soldier; these come from being raised by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland. Living a life unlike any other teenager, her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Cate Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity. (from Wikipedia)

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THE WAKING DEAD SEASON 1

Episode 6: TS-19

It’s been more than a week since the finale of the Walking Dead aired but I am still pissed off with the really weak ending to what has been a very strong series. What was the point of the survivors going into the CDC building, enjoying certain home comforts and then fighting tooth and claw to get back into the world of “walkers” again?

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DEXTER SEASON 5

Episode 11 – Hop A Freighter

At the beginning of season five, after the death of his wife Rita, Dexter attempted to runaway from his life in Miami and start afresh. In the middle of this season, Dexter bought Lumen a return ticket home and tried to get Lumen to leave Miami and to start her life anew. Neither Dexter nor Lumen ultimately left Miami of course but in this penultimate show of the season, the new couple contemplate getting out of Miami together. The idea appeals to them both greatly.

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THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 1

Episode 5: Wildfire

Well, season 1 of The Walking Dead is all but over, with the finale to come. This particular episode I found to be extremely depressing as the aftermath of the zombie attack sinks in on the survivors. Amy is dead and Andrea mourned her, holding her throughout the night. As it turns out, Andrea was waiting for Amy to re-animate before saying goodbye and then blowing her brains out. Yikes!

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DEXTER SEASON 5

Episode 9: Teenage Wasteland

Rita’s daughter Astor comes back to prove that Dexter CAN be a good father and consider the interests of others above his own (or so ghostfather Harry tells us). Debra meets Lumen (that is going to come back to haunt Dexter for sure). Jordan Chase discovers that Dexter and Lumen are responsible for the deaths of Boyd and Cole. Dexter uncovers a link to the origins of Jordan Chase. Liddy begins to take a deeper interest in the activities of Dexter and Lumen even as Quinn tells him to let Debra and him alone.

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THE NEXT THREE DAYS

THE NEXT THREE DAYS Directed by Paul Haggis Screenplay by Paul Haggis

Starring – Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Ty Sympkins, Olivia Wilde, Brian Dennehy, Lennie James, Helen Carey and Liam Neeson.

Let me just say that I’m not a fan of remakes but Paul Haggis at the reins of this one, made me give it a chance.

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DEXTER SEASON 5

Episode 8: Take It!

My goosebumps moment in this episode was when Dexter went to comfort a distressed Lumen by placing his hands over her hands cupping her ears. The way Lumen and Dexter looked at each other – the connection from which she had a first proper period of sleep – was so touching. That to me made more sense than the couple consummating their relationship in bed. Yeah, I am a diehard romantic. Sue me!

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THE EVENT SEASON 1

Episode 8: For the Good of Our Country

It’s amazing how fast this show is deteriorating. As if to show that last week’s low was no fluke, here comes the latest episode to annoy us all. I mean, how difficult is it to just say to the President – “Eli Dempsey was behind the plot to kill you”? No, instead the VP Jarvis took an eternity to say anything and was conveniently killed off by a bomb in a van that just drove up. Not only that but the manner in which Jarvis gave the Secret Service the slip was simply ludicrous. C’mon!

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THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 1

Episode 3: Tell It To the Frogs

So finally, deputy Rick is reunited with his wife, Lori, and son, Carl and the dynamic of the survivors’ camp changes completely. Of course, we know that in Rick’s absence, his good friend Shane has been getting it on with Lori. This affair (as it turns out to be) is kept secret from Rick and the couple have a special reunion that night.

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THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 1

Episode 2: Guts

And with this 2nd episode, the TV series (written and directed by Frank Daramont) is already miles ahead of the comic book. Make light years in fact. In the comic book, Glenn meets Rick Grimes and the two of them hightail it out of Atlanta in a flash but here, that escape from Atlanta takes up an entire episode’s worth. Like I said, light years ahead.

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DEXTER SEASON 5

Episode 6 – Everything Is Illuminated

Ah, so it took the writers six episodes to bring us the Dexter-Lumen Batman-Robin dynamic. Finally, Dexter realizes that he has to help Lumen in taking revenge on her rapists in a slight twist on the I Spit On Your Grave scenario. As seen all too often in Season Four, Dexter is interrupted in mid-kill and his best laid plans go awry. How he manages to keep everything hush hush with the police around the corner is clever but also preposterous.

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DEXTER SEASON 5

Episode 5: First Blood

After Lumen Ann Pierce (Julia Stiles) finally puts her trust in Dexter with the revelation about her other abusers, we assumed that Dexter would aid Lumen to avenge herself on them. Even the episode name seemed to suggest something of that nature. However, as it turned out, it’s nothing of the sort. Again, Dexter’s emotional involvement (this time with Lumen’s plight) somewhat muddles up his critical thinking and he almost kills yet another “innocent” man.

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THE EVENT SEASON 1

Episode 3: Protect Them From the Truth

The Event is fast challenging Fringe as the sci-fi TV series to replace LOST in TV geeks’ affections. Well, of course, whilst Fringe is in its third season, the Event is only at its third episode but is proving no slouch at developing multiple plots, puzzling mysteries and numerous twists and turns along the way.

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