GEEK OUT!

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

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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of Frank Miller’s graphic novel opens in Singapore tomorrow. 300: Rise of an Empire is based on Miller’s as yet unpublished graphic novel Xerxes and focuses on the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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JUPITER’S LEGACY

Most PoP visitors will be aware of my ambivalence towards contemporary superhero comics. But every now and then, a series will appear that promises an intriguing take on the much maligned ‘genre’. Writer Mark Millar is a fairly big shot in the world of superhero comics and the Scot is best known for his work in The Authority and The Ultimates (not to mention Kick-Ass). Artist Frank Quitely has made his name working mainly with Grant Morrison on well-received titles like The New X-Men, All-Star Superman and We3. Last time these well-regarded creators worked together was on the aforementioned The Authority but this time, this creator-owned property gives them both a chance to let loose on the superhero mythos to fairly good effect.

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Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

Reminiscing. About superhero comic books from the 1980s. Those were the days! *Sigh*

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MOVIES TO WATCH IN 2014

What are the ‘genre’ flicks we are looking out for in the coming new year? Top of the list just has to be Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (May). Somehow managing to be a sequel to both X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class, DOFP is an ambitious endeavor, not only does it pool together two generations of X-Men characters but it is adapting one of the most significant X-Men comic stories of all time. When you also consider the stellar cast viz. Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence et al, there’s little doubt that DOFP is one of the most anticipated blockbusters in 2014.

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Keanu Reeves is back in a genre film – his first since the conclusion of the Matrix trilogy. 47 Ronin is a re-telling of the classical Japanese tale of honor and revenge as a sword (or katana in this case) and sorcery fantasy.  An additional twist is the inclusion of Kai – Reeves’ half-breed protagonist – to highlight the Japanese prejudice against outsiders and to provide a doomed romance.

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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Regular visitors will be aware that I didn’t like the first installment of this bloated adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The Unexpected Journey ironically had too many familiar elements and tropes taken from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as if director Peter Jackson was at pains to remind us of the association between the two trilogies!

(Spoilers appear below!)

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ENDER’S GAME (Directed by Gavin Hood)

I read Orson Scott Card’s scifi masterpiece when it was first published in 1985 and at the time, I was thinking that it was a superb cross of Starship Troopers and Lord of the Flies. It’s one of my favourite stories and you can imagine my emotional state as I was watching this film adaptation. Yes, I was crying like a baby. The adaptation is very faithful (I believe Card made that a condition of the option and license) and director Gavin Hood did a fairly reasonable job in getting the main plot points and themes of the book across. This achievement is aided by the strong cast with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and the young Asa Butterfield giving solid performances.

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THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Directed by Alan Taylor)

Funny how Thor (the mightiest Avenger) is probably the weakest and least interesting character amongst the stars of the Marvel Studio flicks. The first movie spent time introducing Thor and like most origin stories, the interest was kept at a respectfully high level most of the time with the key being the character development of Thor himself.

This is where the sequel falls flat. Once you understand that Thor is arrogant, brash and headstrong (and loves Jane Foster), there is nowhere else to go unless you spice things up and the writers of Thor: The Dark World fail to do that completely. Thor is utterly boring (despite Chris Hemsworth’s best efforts) and predictable – lacking any edge whatsoever. Thor’s flaws and weaknesses (evident in the first movie) are glossed over and somehow he becomes the least interesting character in his own movie.

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GRAVITY (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron)

Space. The Final Frontier.

Okay, wrong film but watching Gravity is probably the closest experience that most of us will have of being in space. And that unique experience is crucial to a complete appreciation of Gravity as director Cuaron draws on the concepts of the more familiar earthbound tales of survival (e.g. a person caught in a shipwreck or lost in the wilderness), the only difference being the setting.

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RIDDICK

To sum it all up, Riddick was rollicking good B-movie fun! What else do you need to know?

Well, after the critical and commercial mauling that the previous movie Chronicles of Riddick received, writer/director David Twohy and star/producer Vin Diesel had to re-think and brought the franchise back to basics. Meaning that this is more a sequel to Pitch Black (2000) than anything else.

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The-Worlds-End-poster

Shaun of the Dead. Hot Fuzz. The World’s End.

The loosely defined Cornetto trilogy is concluded.

That’s about it actually. The premise in itself starts off quite intriguingly. Five friends reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier. Loads of potential – 90s nostalgia and drunken hi-jinks. Throw in Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman and things look promising.

BUT there’s actually more to their old hometown that meets the eye and the film morphs into an unlikely scifi thriller, except that it’s not very scifi and it’s definitely not very thrilling. And worse still, the humour runs dry halfway through the movie when even though they are faced literally by annihilation, Pegg’s character is determined to finish the pub crawl. Rather silly.

And don’t get me started on the ending of The World’s End.

Go and watch Shaun of the Dead again…

ROBOCOP TRAILER

After the risible remake of Total Recall, you can understand my skepticism about this new version of yet another Paul Verhoeven classic, Robocop. Judging from the trailer, it’s clear that this film is trying to find its own space within the basic framework of the original story. Too early to tell but the jury’s still out on this one…

… still there’s more …

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KICK ASS 2

I ain’t gonna sugar coat it – there is no justification for this pointless sequel, except the studio’s blind greed. I loved the first Kick Ass, I found it inventive, invigorating and highly entertaining with Chloe Moretz’s Hit Girl the icing on the proverbial cake.

Everything about this sequel is just wrong – not least the entire cliched sequence where Mindy MacCready (Hit Girl’s alter ego) attempts to lead a normal life and leaves her vigilante lifestyle behind. And when even scenes with Moretz are not able to satisfy, then it’s clear that the movie is in trouble!

There is nothing remotely interesting about the plot –  predictable and unimaginative – it plods along at a didactic pace that threatened to induce sleep once or twice. Even Jim Carrey’s Captain Stars and Stripes is unable to inject any real humour into the proceedings.

By the time, the movie arrives at its inevitable denouement – the big battle between super-heroes and super-villains – one is simply past caring – there is hardly any depth of characterization that would encourage the audience to invest any concern regarding the ultimate fates of the characters.

Avoid.

Seriously.

TRAILERS

Gravity (Opens on 3rd October)

Mexican Alfonso Cuaron earned his reputation as a leading cutting edge director with Children of Men, th etrailer for the upcoming Gravity (starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) certainly looks pretty enough but somehow Bullock’s cries for help is difficult to reconcile with a seriously cool flick. I am hoping that there’s more to the movie than the trailer suggests.

Ender’s Game (Opens on 7th November)

Orson Scott Card’s epic tale of gifted children recruited to fight an alien invasion of Earth finally hits the screen with controversy over Card’s anti-gay opinions threatening overshadow the merits of the movie itself. The trailer looks intriguing enough though…

… still there’s more …

GEEK OUT! PACIFIC RIM [REVIEW]

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is the latest in a recent line of original scifi blockbusters that more or less began with the phenomenal success of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. And if like me, you thoroughly loved the creatures in Hellboy 2, then you would have a heightened sense of anticipation for del Toro’s take on the classic ‘giant robot vs monsters’ genre.

Set in the near future (2020s), the setup is typically apocalyptic: Earth is under attack by Kaiju: colossal monsters which have emerged from a portal on the ocean floor. To combat the monsters, humanity unites to create the Jaegers: gigantic humanoid mecha, each controlled by two pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge. The war has reach a critical juncture and unless the people behind the Jaegars are able to execute one last gambit, it’s the end of the world!

Alright, so the plot’s nothing to shout about. Del Toro envisioned Pacific Rim as an earnest, colourful adventure story, with an “incredibly airy and light feel”, in contrast to the “super-brooding, super-dark, cynical summer movie”. And it shows. The characters are cyphers, the story resolution is cliched and there is no grand themes – what you see is what you get – in other words.

But that’s precisely the point – “what you see” is staggering! The action sequences make the film – like it or not – powerful scenes of all-out battle between Jaegars and Kaiju, that’s the main reason why Pacific Rim succeeds where other movies involving fighting robots failed big time (are you taking notes, Michael Bay?) 3D IMAX is the absolutely essential viewing option for Pacific Rim – it should be the default option – as the massive action will literally fill up your eyes with gorgeous eye candy.

For me personally, I felt like a little boy again thrilling to those old Ultraman/Godzilla/Rodan and Sinbad movies – no surprise here as Pacific Rim is obviously del Toro’s loving tribute to Ray Harryhausen, Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya – but this time the realism factor was pumped up to the max! It is difficult to describe without spoiling your fun – suffice to say that I was going – Wow! Wow! WOW! throughout each awesome battle scene.

For the true-blue geeks out there, you’re going to want to watch it again just for the action sequences!

Pacific Rim is showing in cinemas now.

 

 

 

GEEK OUT! MAN OF STEEL [REVIEW]

Reboot. Re-imagination. Re-telling.

In geek movie franchises (scifi, fantasy or superhero), going back to the beginning to re-introduce a iconic character is virtually unavoidable nowadays. In Batman Begins (2005), Christopher Nolan (director/co-screenwriter) and David S Goyer (co-screenwriter) succeeded in re-vitalizing the Dark Knight after the critical failure of Batman & Robin (1997). This success was due to Nolan’s approach to portray Batman as realistically as possible (within the context of a superhero movie) and Nolan and Goyer would bring the franchise to greater heights with Dark Knight (2008) and Dark Knight Rises (2012).

It was therefore natural for Warner Bros and DC Comics to look to Nolan and Goyer to do the same for Superman. By all accounts, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) was a massive flop and Warner Bros was keen to turn it all around for Superman with Man of Steel. Adding director Zack Snyder (300 and Watchmen) to the mix, Nolan and Goyer applied the Dark Knight approach to Superman.

And it works.

With nods to numerous scifi movies of the recent past (MatrixIndependence Day) and a healthy referencing of the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, Man of Steel is,without doubt, one of the best superhero movies ever made and provides a solid platform for Warner Bros to build up the DC Universe from its foundation.

So many high points – the brilliant cast, the thought-provoking themes, the appropriate flashback sequences, the astounding art direction, the sensational special effects and dynamic film score – but the best part of all was that Snyder, Nolan and Goyer chose not to pander to the comic book audience only but instilled a science-fictional tread that ran right through the well-written plot narrative.

Highly recommended.

Man of Steel is now showing at a cinema near you.

GEEK OUT! – STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS [REVIEW]

Let me get this off my chest right from the get-go. The best way to enjoy J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness is to watch it in IMAX 3D, switch your brain off and simply enjoy the ride. The visual spectacle should be able to remove all your concerns about plot holes, character motivations and illogical actions.

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GEEK OUT! IRON MAN THREE [REVIEW]

Iron Man 2 was only half a movie, in my humble opinion. The first half was quick-paced and exhilarating but then the wheels came off and the movie came to a tired conclusion. The sequel did well at the box office but one sensed that director Jon Favreau had lost interested in the franchise that he had kickstarted. So when it came to talk about the third Iron Man movie, Favreau passed and Shane Black came onboard.

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GEEK OUT! JACK THE GIANT SLAYER [TRAILER]

Originally entitled Jack the Giant Killer, this latest Hollywood foray into the classic fairy tale update (Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel) looks like it might actually be worth the trouble. Directed by Bryan Singer – whose last two movies Superman Returns and Valkyrie were decidedly less than stellar – the movie tells the familiar story of a young farmhand (Jack) who must rescue a princess from a race of giants after inadvertently opening a gateway to their world.

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