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Dec 212014
 

DIST9_TSR_1SHT_3

In this day and age, when computer-generated imagery (CGI) is able to create the most outrageous special effects for movies, it is ironic that instead of engendering more creativity, CGI has become a crutch for film studios/producers/directors. Thus, CGI has replaced effective story-telling, dazzling audiences with visual gimmicks that provide superficial gratification for the eye without anything left over for the soul.

Whilst CGI has certainly benefitted the super-hero movie genre the most, it has also at times marginalized the strength of super-hero stories to begin with – strong characters and plot. Recent casualties of this trend include Man of Steel and Amazing Spider-Man 2, where the sheer massive scale of the battles begins to wear on the filmgoer and taxing that tenuous suspension of disbelief. And please do not get me started on the Transformer or Hobbit movie franchise.

Invariably, scifi geeks (like yours truly) have had to search for high concept flicks with low budgets where directors & writers have had to resort to creative means to tell an effective story. Thankfully, there have been quite a few in recent years that fit this description. Here’s a handy list for your reference (not necessarily in order of merit).

District 9 (Directed by Neill Blomkamp)

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Dec 192014
 

Predestination-poster

Directed by The Spierig Brothers
Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook & Noah Taylor.

Brilliantly conceived, this film adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1960 short story “All You Zombies”, is a delightful ‘mind fuck’ movie that will have viewers rapt in attention to decipher the clues that lead to the twist at the end. Suffice for me to say that the twist involved the concept of time paradoxes and leave it at that.

On the surface, the plot revolves around a Temporal Agent’s quest to capture a murderous killer (the “Fizzle Bomber”) but of course, it is much more than that. Unlike, most time travel stories, Predestination avoids jaded cliches commonly attached to the ‘genre’ and transcends the standard tropes to deliver a thought-provoking fantastical tale.

A low budget film supported by Screen Australia, Predestination punches well above its weight shaming blockbusters like Transformers: Age of Extinction with story-telling and performances that are amongst the best of 2014. Don’t miss this!

Predestination is in cinemas now!

Dec 052014
 
(c) Paramount Pictures

(c) Paramount Pictures

Another summer, another franchise reboot. This time it’s  the turn of the Terminator movie franchise to be refreshed for a new audience, with the last movie Terminator Salvation appearing in 2009.  Based on the recently released teaser trailer below, Terminator: Genisys is combining ideas from the first two movies with certain twists along the way. Interestingly, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the titular character (albeit as an aging robot!) while Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Jai Courtney take on the roles of Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese respectively. All in, this sounds like a bad idea but the trailer at least does a good job in making the concept appealing. For now, anyways.

The film is scheduled to be released by Paramount Pictures on July 1, 2015.

Nov 282014
 

Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams

With all the super-hero properties available to Disney Animation upon the acquisition of Marvel Comics, Disney opted for an obscure book titled Sunfire and Big Hero 6. The subsequent film adaptation is only loosely based on the comic, severing all links to the Marvel Universe – except for the utterly pointless Stan Lee cameo.

When you consider that the sequel to the vastly superior The Incredibles remains in limbo, one would have thought that Disney should have left super-heroes well alone. The result is predictable – very poor superhero tale that is high on sentimentality but light on plot.

That said, one cannot fault the character designs, the top notch animation and likeability of Baymax. However, the clunky narrative, the one-dimensional supporting characters and Baymax-size plot holes prevent Big Hero 6 from being taken seriously. Obviously aimed at young children, that is the only reasonable way of approaching this dumb flick.

Nov 072014
 

interstellar

Directed by Christopher Nolan. 
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine and Bill Irwin.

Familial love. Is there anything more important than that? How about the survival of the human race? What would you do to save the world? In his latest original scifi film, Christopher Nolan takes the notion of the protagonist fighting to see his children again (last seen in Inception) to almost ridiculous levels.

Structurally, the story is rather simple. Cooper (McConaughey) is given the opportunity (in rather fortuitous manner) to save the human race from extinction but to do that, he has to risk never seeing his children ever again. Thus, throughout his mission, his main priority is returning to the Earth and his children.

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Oct 302014
 

Screen shot 2014-10-30 at AM 12.22.42

Yes, my dear fellow superhero movie geeks, the next six years are going to crazy! In the last couple of weeks both DC and Marvel have announced their schedule of movies covering 2015 to 2020 and together with superhero movies from Fox and SONY promises to bring down upon our heads the great superhero movie glut of the 21st century.

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Oct 182014
 

Death_of_Wolverine

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.

Death Of Pheonix

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GEEK OUT! DRACULA UNTOLD

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Oct 072014
 

DRACULA UNTOLD
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.

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Sep 092014
 

MARVELMAN/MIRACLEMAN:

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.

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Sep 082014
 

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.

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Sep 072014
 

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.

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Sep 062014
 

[Spoilers]

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!

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Aug 242014
 

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.

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Jul 312014
 

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)).

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Jul 112014
 

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.

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Jun 062014
 

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.

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May 162014
 

GODZILLA
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.

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May 022014
 

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.

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Apr 162014
 

ASM2Wolvie

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.

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Apr 032014
 

thezerotheorum

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.

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Mar 252014
 

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.