GEEK OUT! THE WALKING DEAD – THE TROUBLE WITH NORMAL

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Our gang of survivors begin to settle in at Alexandria but our favourite characters are waiting for the pin to drop. Who can blame them, after all the trauma that they have been through in the last five seasons? Halfway through this transitional episode Carl tells Rick that he is worried they would get ‘soft’ if they stayed in Alexandria and by the end, Rick is confident that being ‘soft’ is no longer a part of who they are and rather ominously declares that if the inhabitants of Alexandria are not good enough, then they would take over.

There are signs of tensions even in this superficially placid surroundings but one feels that Rick and company are well suited to handle any challenges and ironically, they might prove to be the biggest threat to the well-being and security of Alexandria.  A great turn of events and change of pace that as usual keep the proceedings intriguing. Kudos!

GEEK OUT! HELIX – STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

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The 2nd season of Helix has done very well in shifting focus on different characters and casting as protagonists and antagonists in equal measure depending on particular perspectives. Amongst Alan, Peter, Michael and Amy it was never clear who was the actual villain of the piece. But finally, the role has settled on Michael. Yes the placid, seemingly even-tempered cult leader is actually a 400 year old immortal, who has lost touch with his humanity decades ago and despite appearances to the contrary, appears to be aware of every single machination within his community. Enough to be constantly ahead of the game, so to speak. Rather masterful writing, I must say. Discovering the truth, the CDC team now have to thwart Michael as he executes his horrible endgame.

That all said, it is strange that Julia’s story seems to have fall out of the narrative almost completely. What happened in the 30 years later timeline? Will we get back to that? Too many questions in that respect. But definitely worth finding out!

GEEK OUT! THE WALKING DEAD – IN RICK WE TRUST

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Possibly one of the best Walking Dead episodes in recent memory and it was achieved without having to kill a major character! All it did was examine the question of trust in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. After having suffered at the hands of the Governor and the cannibals of Terminus, it’s easy to understand Rick’s reluctance to trust anybody. But what if someone comes along and tells Rick and group that there is a relative paradise waiting for them? Too good to be true? When does playing safe become dangerous? For Michonne, that time to trust a stranger like Aaron is now, and finally Rick has to decide whether he can do so and put his children potentially at risk.

It’s as simple as that but of course, it isn’t simple at all and the tension and drama flows from the audience asking the same question that Rick does – can we trust these people? Well, can we?

GEEK OUT! HELIX – SLOW DOWN WORLD I WANNA GET OFF!

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Definitely the most intense season 2 episode thus far as Amy ramps up her plans to get away from Brother Michael and the island. One cannot blame her considering the outrageous revelations made concerning the relationship between Brother Michael and herself. The most unlikely villainess but kudos to the writers for making it so. The CDC team is not in good shape either as the mistrust bred amongst them threatens to destroy them, even as Alan Farragate plays his role as agent provocateur to perfection.

On Julia’s side, the writers chose to tell her story not from the ’30 years later’ perspective but a background tale on what happened after Julia joined the Ilaria Corporation. Disorientating to say the least. Not sure why the writers decided to make that jump as it does not seem to add anything to the ‘present day’ narrative whatsoever. Am just wondering how long it will take for Brother Michael and/or the CDC team to figure out that Amy is behind everything.

GEEK OUT! HELIX – THE PLOT … ER … THICKENS

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Alright, so we are spoiling season 2 episode 5 with the above image which reveals that cult leader Michael is actually an immortal. But of course, that was hinted by the scores of portraits on his wall and the different generations of women advisors (they are all his daughters apparently). So, is Caleb (from the 30 years later storyline) also Michael’s son? Who knows? This revelation needed to come as the plot lines were steadily going nowhere.

As it was, the fact that certain cult factions were working against the CDC team without any consequences or concern from the ‘benevolent’ Michael seemed a tad too convenient. So maybe this revelation accounts for Michael’s constant placid demeanour. Elsewhere, Alan and Peter sort out their differences without satisfactory resolution with Peter once again keeping his cards close to his chest. Sure, I understand that secrets keep a story intriguing but too much is not a good thing either. In any case, we need some answers and soon.

GEEK OUT! THE WALKING DEAD – THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

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After the traumatic episodes on both sides of the mid-season break, this episode caught up with our merry band of survivors to find them struggling with a crisis of faith. Season 5 has seen more death, more disaster, more peril than ever before. Inevitably, the question must be broached – what’s the point of going on? Why not just give up? For Maggie, Sasha and Daryl, it seems as if their will to live has gone, even as Beth and Tyreese have gone. The pain is difficult to take and it does not help that the group is exhausted running out of food and water as they make the long trek to Washington D.C.

Quite like episode 9, there is a lyrical, poetic quality to “Them” as the group’s grapples with their biggest challenge – not walkers and not evildoers but themselves. After all, if you cannot convince yourself to keep living, then the battle is already over. This is encapsulated by Rick when he says – “… we are the walking dead” even as the group shelters from the storm. However, moments later when the will to survive is given the ultimate test, the group collectively brave the storm and live to fight another day. Kudos to the writers for giving us yet another deep episode without compromising on zombie kills.

One of the best series on TV now. But you knew that.

GEEK OUT! HELIX S02E04 – A HOLDING PATTERN

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Remember when I said the strong point about the second season of Helix was the two parallel storylines? (present and future) Well, that only holds true if the storylines keep things interesting. And while more information was given about the disease (something to do with bees), the future scenario was awfully cliched even if it contained a kickass fight between Hatake and Julia.

The whole plot with Hatake seemed irrelevant even if his re-appearance initially suggest exciting possibilities. No answers there whatsoever. The episode ends with a cliffhanger as two characters from both timelines lay dying in a pool of their own blood. Yeah yeah nobody’s going to die but at least there’s incentive to tune in to episode 5. Just about…

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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