GEEK OUT! HELIX S02E03 – PARALLEL NARRATIVE IS THE KEY

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Despite changing its setting completely and introducing a flashforward narrative to its plot, Helix has been slowly introducing familiar characters from the first season to the current one. This time (in “Scion”), it’s Dr. Hatake (above) – a key player first time round, to make Julia’s job of saving the Immortals that much more complicated.

Alan gets more involved in the present and the CDC team is discovering that there is more to the cult than meets the eye (duh!). There are double twists at the end – one we probably saw coming and the other that will keep us guessing till the next episode.

GEEK OUT! HELIX GETS LOST IN ITS SECOND SEASON AND MAYBE THAT’S A GOOD THING

helix-season2

Syfy series Helix is back and while it retains much of the key features of season one (i.e. deadly pathogen, CDC involvement, death, gore, immortality and conspiracies), season two differs significantly in having two separate storylines (one in the present, and one in the future). Yes, the LOST flashforward is back!

Curiously, there are a few parallels with LOST – besides the flashforwards, the CDC team is trapped on an island, there is a cult group headed by an enigmatic leader and secrets kept within secrets. Two episodes, there is much to recommend the show with — after one absorbs the disorientating changes from the season one finale.

GEEK OUT! THE BABADOOK DELIVERS GENUINE SCARES WITHIN MINIMALIST SETTING

The-Babadook-Poster

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent.
Starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman.

Who or what is The Babadook? In the context of this horror film, it is the supernatural creature that terrorizes widow Amelia and her young son, Samuel. The monster turns up mysteriously in Samuel’s cupboard as the titular character in a pop-up book entitled Mister Babadook.

From that point in the film, the Babadook slowly imposes its frightening agenda on mother and son, till it’s an open confrontation that does not – to Kent’s credit – resolve in a clichéd manner.

From the psychological angle, perhaps the monster represents unresolved issues that Amelia has failed to address, concerning the untimely death of her husband and Samuel’s father.

Within the virtually one location premise (the residence), Kent delivers genuine scares without having to resort too much violence or gore (or special effects) – the terror is induced very much by pacing, cinematography and music and for the most part, work very well.

Essential viewing for horror movie fans.

GEEK OUT! BLACK MIRROR WHITE CHRISTMAS: SMART POST-MILLENNIAL SCI-FI HORROR

WhiteChristmas

Directed by Carl Tibbets. Written by Charlie Brooker.
Starring Jon Hamm, Oona Chaplin, Rafe Spall, Natalia Tena. 

Black Mirror is one of the smartest sci-fi horror TV anthology series ever produced – “a Twilight Zone for the Twitter age” as a reviewer aptly put it. The series debuted in 2011 on BBC and thus far six episodes (three in each season) have been made covering issues relating to the impact of technology on modern life. Without wanting to spoil anything, let’s say that these six episodes are essential viewing for geeks everywhere.

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GEEK OUT! COMING MOVIES IN 2015 – PART TWO

SW7

Our look at the geek movies of 2015 continues with the 2nd half of the year dominated by the return of the Star Wars movie franchise with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. Nothing even comes remotely close between that and Avengers: Age of Ultron – which means serious moolah for Disney, doesn’t it? Not many trailers to feature here but will update as and when trailers are released. Check out Part One here.

Terminator: Genisys (1 July)

Cameron’s Terminator gets rebooted with a couple of twists & turns along the way. Most ridiculous thing is that Arnold is back as an aging robot! A non starter but might be good for (unintentional) laughs.

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GEEK OUT! LOVING THE SERIAL KILLER

You might say it began with Dexter.

Remember how it felt all those years ago when you first watched Dexter? You mean, the hero of the show is a serial killer? Mind-blowing, wasn’t it?

Considering how unique and groundbreaking Dexter was, it’s rather amazing that it’s taken almost seven years for more tv series involving serial killers to show up. In 2013, we’ve had The Following, Bates Motel and Hannibal take up Dexter’s challenge. Truth be told, it’s been a mixed bag so far from these three offerings.

The Following actually presents us with an entire cult of serial killers led by the charismatic Joe Carroll (James Purejoy) and pursued by the FBI and former agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). The series started out promisingly enough but since then has degenerated into a totally implausible tale, where the FBI is constantly represented as incompetent and helpless whilst Carroll, is somewhat portrayed as an infallible super-villain! Utterly preposterous – the inherent flaw in the plot requires that Carroll never be caught which results in ridiculously unrealistic stories. What is truly amazing is that the series has been renewed for a second season already! Now that is a crime…

Bates Motel is obviously based on elements taken from Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal Psycho movie. A prequel of sorts but set in modern times (the movie was, of course, filmed in the early 60s), Bates Motel is a strange beast and so far rather mystifying. There is a general creepiness about the town in which the Bates (mother Norma and young son Norman – not forgetting older son, Dylan) reside in and there is a sense of a dark underbelly to the town in question. The leads (Vera Famiga and Freddie Highmore) do credible jobs with their respective roles and there is enough brand awareness to keep viewers interested (as evidenced by the series being renewed for a second season) but overall, I am waiting for the series to deliver a more than average impact.

Although only the premiere has aired thus far, Bryan Fuller’s re-imagining of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon holds the greatest promise of the trio. Focusing on the relationship between special FBI investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and psychiatrist Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen), there is much to admire in Hannibal. The genuine attempt made to connect the audience with Graham’s fraught psycho-analytical experiences and Mikkelsen’s deliciously dark portrayal of the sinister Lecter, makes Hannibal one of the more surprisingly successful TV series revolving around a serial killer.

With Dexter on its last legs, I am betting on Hannibal to deliver the thrills, spills and yes, the kills, in the weeks to come.

 

 

 

NEMO: HEART OF ICE [REVIEW]

Fans of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will be excited to find out that creators Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill have delivered a spin-off story not long after the end of the Century trilogy. Published jointly by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics, this is how the publishers have summarized the plot for your easy consumption —

It’s 1925, fifteen long years since Janni Dakkar first tried to escape the legacy of her dying science-pirate father, only to accept her destiny as the new Nemo, captain of the legendary Nautilus. Now, tired of her unending spree of plunder and destruction, Janni launches a grand expedition to surpass her father’s greatest failure: the exploration of Antarctica. Hot on her frozen trail are a trio of genius inventors, hired by an influential publishing tycoon to retrieve the plundered valuables of an African queen. It’s a deadly race to the bottom of the world — an uncharted land of wonder and horror where time is broken and the mountains bring madness. Jules Verne meets H.P. Lovecraft in the unforgettable final showdown, lost in the living, beating and appallingly inhuman HEART OF ICE.

As usual, Moore strings together characters from various fictional universes (in the public domain, of course) to weave his own distintive story. This time around, we find ourselves in the pulp fiction world of the 1920s, when science-adventurers captured the imagination of its reader. Moore uses his 56-page allotment economically, setting up the conflict quickly and resolving the same with a deft touch. It’s basically one big chase scene across the frozen wastes of the South Pole before both pursued and pursuers get their minds blown by the horrors torn from the pages of Lovecraft’s In The Mountains of Madness.

These frightful conjurings are brought to life by O’Neil’s wide-eyed angular illustrations. The grizzled features of Janni’s henchmen contrasted greatly with the relative youth of the young Captain. And once the crew slips into Lovecraftian territory, O’Neil is adept at delivering horrific representations of these classic monsters as well.

Good pulp-ish fun all round in the grand LOEG tradition. Not to be missed!

Top Shelf | Knockabout

 

 

GHOST CHILD [REVIEW]

Ghost Child is a made in Singapore horror film, inspired by the “Toyol” or “Kwee Kia” of South-East Asian mythology. At its Facebook page, the plot is described thus –

Struggling to accept the death of her mother, Kim suddenly has to deal with a new mother in her life. Her dad, Choon, brings home a woman one day and announces his decision to marry her. A series of mysterious incidents start to occur soon after.

Once again, director Gilbert Chan takes on a horror film with local flavour and like 23:59 before, largely succeeds in connecting with its target audience (i.e. teenagers). The film manages to be effective in terms of delivering scares (without almost any gore whatsoever) due to dynamic editing and an excellent sound design. In addition, the lead actors (Chen Han Wei 陈汉玮, Jayley Woo Jiaqi 胡佳琪, Carmen Soo 苏慧敏) have done enough to establish sympathy so that their horror is shared with the audience.

Story-wise, much is unexplained – which is either puzzling or mysterious, depending on your perspective – but at least there are no lulls in the narrative whatsoever as any excess is trimmed to a minimum to keep the action moving. On that score, the film succeeds.

Check out the trailer below.

Ghost Child opens in cinemas on March 7th.

GEEK OUT! EVIL DEAD [TRAILER]

Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead is/was a genre-defining horror classic with some of the grossest scenes ever committed to celluloid (tree rape, anyone?). This remake updates the original with Fede Alvarez at the helm and has Raimi and Bruce Campbell on-board as producers. Does it have any chance of coming close to the beloved original? Watch the redband trailer and make up your own mind. Not for the faint of heart – you have been warned! Hitting cinemas in April 2013.

 

I SAW THE DEVIL

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

I must admit that I am a relative latecomer to Korean film. In fact, the first Korean film I ever saw was Oldboy. Seriously, that movie blew my mind and remains in my opinion one of the best movies ever made. So when I saw that I Saw the Devil also starred Oldboy actor Choi Min-sik, I just had to take a look and I was not disappointed.

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GEEK OUT! PROMETHEUS

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

With John Carter, The Avengers and MIB3 out of the way, the serious contender for your hardcore scifi fan attention arrives in 5 days time as Prometheus opens in Singapore on 7th June. Marking director Ridley Scott’s return to scifi, Prometheus promises to be an epic horror-adventure flick to keep your senses and your mind engaged.

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LET ME IN

If you watched Let Me In without knowing anything whatsoever about the original Swedish film, you’d definitely walk out of the cinema hugely impressed and touched. However, if like me, you have seen Let the Right One In, you’d be scratching your head as to why this remake needed to exist at all.

Of course, I was expecting the worst – Hollywood remakes of non-US films tend to sentimentalize and smoothen the rough edges – but in this case, director Matt Reeves has created a faithful adaptation of the original source material. In terms of tone and atmosphere, it is almost identical to the original. The winter wasteland, the stark horror and the understated acting, for instance.

What Reeves does amp up slightly is the romance between the lead characters Abby (Chloe Morentz) and Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and also, makes it emphatically clear that Abby’s ‘father’ (Richard Jenkins) is actually Abby’s companion (in the same way that Owen will become at the end). IN the process, making the movie more definitely, the passing of the torch – so to speak – from the ‘father’ to Owen.

Other than that, there are no surprises whatsoever and anyone has seen the original will find nothing new in Let Me In. So I ask again – what was the point of this exercise? Hurm.

[amazon-product alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″]B004BLJQOK[/amazon-product]

GEEK OUT! SUPER 8

Super 8 Trailer

First proper trailer for the Spielberg-Abrams secret project is now out! And doesn’t it look like am 80s alien/monster movie, directed by Spielberg? Not sure quite what to make of it… should be interesting in any case.

 

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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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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GEEK OUT!

There were only two superhero movie in 2010 viz. Iron Man 2 and Kick Ass (while Scott Pilgrim vs The World is based on a comic book, it certainly is not a traditional superhero movie). The former was a box office smash while the latter was a critical success. If you think the age of the superhero movie is over, think again.

In the years ahead, there will be many more superhero movies released and GEEK OUT! will attempt to give you the skinny on what is what is not as far as these upcoming movies are concerned.

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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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VIDEODROME

If you’ve been following my recent movie review tread (and if haven’t, why not?) Videodrome continues in my look back at sc-fi movies that explore the concept of reality vs delusion (which began with the Inception review). Directed by acclaimed iconoclast David Cronenberg and starring James Woods and the gorgeous Debbie Harry, Videodrome (released in 1983) looks positively dated (due to technological advances) but its themes and concepts are still relevant.

IMDB synopsis –

Sleazy lowlife cable TV operator Max Renn discovers a snuff broadcast called “Videodrome.” But it is more than a TV show–it’s an experiment that uses regular TV transmissions to permanently alter the viewer’s perceptions by giving them brain damage. Max is caught in the middle of the forces that created “Videodrome” and the forces that want to control it, his body itself turning into the ultimate weapon to fight this global conspiracy.

As with most movies, Videodrome begins very promisingly but alas loses steam somewhere to the end and becomes somewhat incomprehensible as well. Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that most of the plot narrative is an elaborate hallucination in Max Renn’s damaged mind. And so what may be perceived as a weak plot may actually be lack of understanding on the part of the audience. Again, that may be the point of it all.

But this is Cronenberg after all, so there’s more than enough sex and gore to satisfy fans of both sci-fi and horror. Cronenberg is really after one major theme – does video ultimately alter our perception of reality? As I mentioned earlier as Videodrome was made in 1983, much of the tech looks very archaic by modern standards and thus would be ripe for a remake where Cronenberg’s theme is even more valid. True to form, Universal has snapped up the rights to do so BUT will this remake even come close to being as disturbing as the original. I seriously doubt so. In the meantime, get your minds scrambled once again…

Buy at Amazon

AMERICAN PSYCHO

Continuing on with the theme of movies asking the question, “what is real” is a film that is not science-fiction but screws around with your perceptions nonetheless. That movie is American Psycho (2000), directed by Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale.

First, the IMDB synopsis.

Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated and intelligent. He is twenty-seven and living his own American dream. He works by day on Wall Street, earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. At night he descends into madness, as he experiments with fear and violence.

Set in the late 80s/early 90s, American Psycho (based on the novel written by Bret Easton Ellis) focuses on the then thriving yuppie culture to deliver a pointed attack on greed and selfish behavior, bringing it to a psychotic conclusion in protagonist Patrick Bateman (Bale in a star turn).

For the first three-quarters of the film, the narrative whizzes by sharply as we follow Bateman through his schizophrenic existence – investment banker by day, serial killer by night. As the plot thickens, it seems that Bateman might be exposed for the monster he is but inexplicably, all evidence of his life of crime seems to have vanished.

Did it all happen in his head only? That ambiguity is never clarified even as the film ends with Bateman’s blank stare… rather brilliant, I might add.

Bale is the main attraction here and the rest of the cast (Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon) is rather incidental. Particularly amazing are the moments he actually recites detailed reviews of his favorite music i.e. Huey Lewis & the News, Genesis and Whitney Houston. Hilarious and creepy, all at once! Lovely!!

Not for queasy stomachs but if you love black comedy and can appreciate a little gore for what it is, then go for it…

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JENNIFER’S BODY

A tween horror flick made by people who really should know better.

Written by Diablo Cody (Juno, United States of Tara) and executive produced by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), Jennifer’s Body is really too clever by half, trying to be a shocking, funny satire (whilst being a vehicle for Megan Fox) and failing miserably. Sure, a proper analysis will discern that Cody’s script is multi-layered as it comments on high school relationships and such but the narrative pace is too pedestrian and predictable to carry through these concepts.

The main problem with the film is that whilst there are genuine witty moments in the dialogue, it’s just not scary enough and the low gore level will disappoint hardcore fans. Plotwise, this plays like a B-movie from the 70s (especially the rock band bit) with modern irony thrown in for good measure. The performances are mostly even, although Fox is (as always) only a pretty face and she cannot seem to transcend that.

So watch it for Megan Fox, if you must. Watch it if you like witty, ironic dialogue but please don’t watch it if you’re doing it for the horror.

Amazon