May 1st, 2015. Nuff said!
In bygone days, it was common for superheroes to be placed in life threatening situations with readers being confident that the hero would somehow escape the clutches of death. But that concept was first challenged in X-Men #137 (1980) when Jean Grey (aka Marvel Girl/Phoenix) took her own life in order to protect the universe from the Phoenix force that possessed her. In an unforgettable sequence, Jean Grey paid the ultimate price in order to save the universe.
Directed by Gary Shore.
Starring Luke Evans, Sarah Gordon, Dominic Cooper & Samantha Banks.
There was a time Dracula was portrayed as a monster. Nothing suave or romantic about him, for sure. But of course, in these modern times, the vampire has become a sex symbol and Dracula is the King of Vampires! Eschewing any reliance on Bram Stoker’s classic storyline, the producers of Untold have opted instead to create an origin story for Dracula set in the 15th century. A good idea that has seldom been examined in the movies but sadly, the execution is an absolute letdown.
WHAT GOES AROUND…
The Generation Gap! The stuff of endless arguments about who’s music was better etc etc etc. What about comic books? I personally believe that after the Marvel Age of the 60s with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, the finest era of comic books is the Eighties, when writer Alan Moore was changing the industry.
HBO’s The Leftovers has polarized both viewers and critics with an unflinching look at the impact of loss on a small community. The main supernatural factor of the series relates to the critical event of the Sudden Departure – similar to the Christian concept of The Rapture.
In ten episodes, the series delved into the response of the town folk of Mapleton, New York, the individuals most affected and the social phenomenon that developed to make sense of it all, specifically The Guilty Remnant, a cult group whose main purpose is to ensure that the Sudden Departure is never forgotten.
TIME TRAVEL: in the beginning…
All that discussion about X-Men: Days of Future Past made me think about how much I love time travel in movies. Even though it can be a major pain in the arse somethings (in the wrong hands) but overall, some of my favourite movies have involved time travel in some shape or form.
My very first exposure to this scifi concept was in the 60s when as a child, I watched two seminal time travel films on TV. The first one was of course, The Time Machine. Released in 1960, this loose adaptation of HG Wells’ classic scifi novel by director George Pal is still one of the best time travel movies (forget about that awful remake). The movie ending played on my mind as a child and I remember not being able to sleep as I analyzed the movie over and over again. Brilliant. Here’s a video review of the DVD below.
Marvel’s Original Sin mini-series wrapped up with issue #8 and raised even more questions than providing definite answers to the questions raised earlier in the series. But then, that’s typical super-hero comic book fare, isn’t it? At its core was the mystery of the Watcher’s murder, which as it turns out was brought about by Midas and Nick Fury but not in the way first suspected. The hook of the series was the discovery of hidden secrets that once revealed would have a massive impact on the Marvel Universe (where have we heard this spiel before, erm?) and to a certain extent we did. Fury – now an old man, like Captain America – acted like the Men in Black, taking care of external threats to the Earth in clandestine manner and had to take appropriate action to keep the truth from coming out. At the very end, Fury is seemingly dead (or is he?) and Bucky Barnes takes over Fury’s mantle. Presumably, this will allow Fury’s son – an African-American – to be the de facto Nick Fury in the Marvel Universe? Yup, that’s about the sum of those 8 issues. And Deodato’s art design was cool. NEXT!
THE DOCTOR IS IN
Peter Capaldi makes his debut as the new Doctor Who in the latest episode of the long-running BBC scifi TV series. The main talking point about Capaldi’s casting has been his age. At 56 years old, he is the eldest Doctor since the re-launch of the series in 2005 (after an absence of 16 years) and this episode – “Deep Breath” places a lot of weight on the age of this latest regeneration of the Doctor.
At the end of the episode, it is clear that this new direction is a wise one as it sets up story ideas especially concerning the relationship between the Doctor and current companion Clara Oswald. There are also hints that the latest Doctor may have a character twist that somewhat at odds with his previous incarnations.
The primary story itself (for the Season 8 opener) finds Doctor Who and Clara in Victorian London wherein a T.Rex is rampaging after the Doctor indadvertedly brought it from prehistoric times with the TARDIS. The duo encounter the reptilian Madam Vastra and gang, clockwork repair droids stuck in the past, not to mention a tenuous relationship that needs re-building.
A good start, overall.
MARVEL STUDIOS: PHASE ONE & TWO RETROSPECTIVE
Ten films that re-defined the super-hero movies. Next – The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Can hardly wait!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Directed by James Gunn. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.
I must confess that when Marvel first announced a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I was incredulous. How could they possibly make an obscure team operating in outer space work? However, from the moment I saw the first proper trailer, I just knew that GOTG might well be the best comic book movie ever. I loved the way James Gunn approached the movie – as a fun, light-hearted romp of epic proportions. Using classic pop songs also did not hurt its appeal as its soundtrack (eg. 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love”, The Raspberries’ “Go All the Way” and Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)).
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldham & Keri Russell.
The original Planet of the Apes film might well have been the first scifi movie I had ever seen back when I was abut seven. I quickly became a fan and watched every single sequel and even the TV series obsessively. PotA was a cautionary tale about man’s self-destruction and the rise of the intelligent apes to replace man as the dominant species on Earth. The franchise lost steam around 1975 but was revived in a risible remake helmed by Tim Burton.
Back in 2011, the franchise was rebooted with director Rupert Wyatt taking a different narrative starting point, in effect re-writing the origin story of the entire premise. Personally, I thought that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was competent but nothing spectacular, although the motion capture work (especially by Serkis – as ape leader Caesar) was ground-breaking, to say the least.
EDGE OF TOMORROW
Directed by Doug Liman. Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt & Bill Paxton.
Based on the Japanese scifi novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow tells the story of Major William Cage (Cruise) who is pitted into combat with alien forces against his will, is killed only to find that he is re-living the day of his first battle again and again. Eventually, he enlists the aid of Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Blunt), a Special Forces soldier and together they hatch a plan to defeat the alien invaders against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Movie buffs will instantly recognize the influence of Groundhog Day and classic scifi tropes in Edge of Tomorrow but this familiarity does not diminish the sheer enjoyment and entertainment the movie provides. Told from Cage’s perspective, it is easy to identify with the Major’s disorientation and disturbance when he realizes the gravity of the situation he is in but finding an ally in Vrataski propels the narrative with purpose and destiny. There are enough twists and turns along the way to keep things interesting without resorting to sentimentality although the soft denouement was probably necessitated by commercial concerns.
Edge of Tomorrow is essentially a vehicle for Cruise and Blunt to demonstrate their abilities and commitment to the roles. Cruise does what he does best – projecting the likable leading man that he obviously still is whilst Blunt is indomitable in her characterization of the super-soldier icon (“The Angel of Verdun”/”Full Metal Bitch”) for the human cause . The chemistry between the two leads is strong without being outstanding with Blunt stealing virtually every scene she appears in (as she did in Looper). Doug Liman’s direction is taut and direct, with practical special effects working well, whilst the creature design for the Mimics (the alien antagonists) is certainly intriguing,
One of the must-see scifi movies of the year!
Edge of Tomorrow is showing at the cinemas now.
What more can I say? Against all conventional thinking, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy just might be the best comic book movie ever. Well, based on the amazing trailers so far, in any case. Expectations are high for 1st August!
Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston.
Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich re-imagined the legendary Japanese monster as a female creature attacking New York City to nest its young. Based on the trailers, it did seem that Edwards’ Godzilla might follow that same path. But thankfully, Edwards movie takes a totally different tack and by the end, Godzilla is considered the “King of the Monsters” and a “saviour” of sorts.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and Emma Stone
Based on the trailers & promotional materials, the producers of Amazing Spider-Man 2 had indulged in misdirection to suggest that Spidey would be fighting THREE villains in this film viz. Electro (Foxx), Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti). In that respect, there were concerns that the film seemed too similar to Sam Raimi’s flawed Spider-Man 3 which was bogged down by THREE villains as well.
SPIDER-MAN VS X-MEN
Super-heroes are massive. Especially Marvel super-heroes. Both Fox’s X-Men and Sony’s Spider-Man franchises have been incredibly lucrative: X-Men has grossed $1,065,460,187 and Spider-Man, $1,375,853,166. And this May, the two franchises go head to head, who will come out tops? Our bet is on X-Men: Days of Future Past (which opens in Singapore on 22nd May). The star power on the movie will more or less guarantee box office success, and based on the final trailer below, might have a good story behind it as well.
THE ZERO THEORUM
Directed by Terry Gilliam. Starring Christoph Waltz, Lucas Hedges, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis and Matt Damon
Director Terry Gilliam has called The Zero Theorum the final part of a dystopian satire trilogy or “Orwellian triptych” begun with 1985’s Brazil and continued with 1995’s 12 Monkeys. This time round, the story centres on Qohen Leth (Waltz), a reclusive computer genius working on a formula to determine whether life holds meaning. It’s clear to anyone who has seen these three movies that Gilliam shares the same concerns that Orwell had – the oppression of the individual by totalitarian organizations, the loss of personal liberties due to the role of technology in enabling oppressive governments to monitor and control their citizens.
Billed as the biggest superhero movie ever produced, Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past packs two generations of X-Men in a loose adaptation of Uncanny X-Men #141-142 (1980). Based on the two trailers already seen and the previous X-movies, it’s obvious that changes to the original stories is a given. The most one can hope for is that director Bryan Singer keeps faith with the core of the original stories, does not include too many lame characters (like X-Men: The Last Stand) and keeps the plot convolution to a bare minimum. Here’s the latest trailer for your viewing pleasure.
Opens 22nd May.
We are coming close to a steady release of anticipated geek flicks as the traditional summer blockbuster season eases itself over the horizon. Here are trailers for four of the movies geeks might want to check out in the coming weeks.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The sequel to 300, Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel opens in Singapore tomorrow. 300: Rise of an Empire is based on Miller’s as yet unpublished graphic novel Xerxes and focuses on the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. Noam Murro is the director whilst Snyder is involved as co-writer and producer.
Check out the latest trailer below.
A book about superheroes from one of the most iconoclastic of comic book writers, Grant Morrison. To sum it up, Morrison provides an analysis of over 70 years of the superhero mythos whilst at the same time dovetailing the subject matter into some kind of meta-autobiography.
To be honest, I was less than impressed when Marvel Studio first announced its intention to make a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The original concept art that accompanied the press release (above) certainly did not help the cause. The main concern was Rocket Raccoon (an intelligent, anthropomorphic raccoon, who is an expert marksman and master tactician!) and the feeling that if the film-makers got Rocket wrong in making him believable, then that would destroy the movie’s credibility.
Of course, so far Marvel Studios have not failed to deliver with each of its films and in bringing in James Gunn (Slither, Super) to helm the first movie adaptation of Marvel’s outer space characters, it revealed an intention to tap into the director’s distinctive quirky style. And this is clearly evident from the first full trailer which presents a comic tone that works very well. I especially like the way that everyone makes fun of Star-Lord’s name.
And… Rocket looks awesome. Take a look!
Guardians of the Galaxy opens on 1st August. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bastita, Bradley Cooper & Vin Diesel.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR
I suppose I am a bit late to DC’s New 52 concept which rebooted the company’s entire superhero line but the very idea repulsed me back then, so you will forgive me if I decided not to indulge when it all went down in 2011. The direct-to-video animated movie, Justice League: War, represents the first movie adaptation of the New 52 series (in particular, Justice League) and thus, I thought it would be an appropriate time to give my 2cts worth on this latest reboot.
If you have never watched Paul Verhoeven’s classic RoboCop (1987), then you might find this reboot to be entertaining fare. Nothing special but passable movie entertainment nonetheless. Whilst the original film came across as a visceral satire of the role that powerful corporations play in the USA and worldwide, Brazilian director Jose Padilha’s re-imagination renders any such social-political commentary inert and most of the time, his RoboCop comes across as safe, family-friendly entertainment.
MAGIC WORDS: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF ALAN MOORE (by Lance Parkin)
It’s difficult for me to be objective about the writer Alan Moore. After all, the man had been responsible for many of my favourite all-time comic book stories viz. Watchmen, From Hell, Marvelman/Miracleman, V for Vendetta, Top Ten, Saga of the Swamp Thing and so on. Apart from Philip K Dick, Alan Moore is my favourite writer. Period.