REEL TO REAL

her-movie-poster

Is Spike Jonze’s Her a geek film? One could argue that it is a scifi movie but the elements are so marginal that in fact it’s probably more of a romantic comedy-drama with superficial scifi tropes. BUT. This last week, I have been speaking to my students about the purpose of setting in a story and I could not help but be distracted by the setting of Her.

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GEEK OUT!

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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GEEK OUT!

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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GEEK OUT!

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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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! – 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! OBLIVION [REVIEW]

Truth be told, I was excited when I saw the first trailer for sci-fi Tom Cruise action movie vehicle Oblivion. It looked intriguing. Of course, a trailer really does not tell you anything about the movie itself. I was also excited by the fact that Oblivion was an original premise (based on a story co-authored by director Joe Kosinski) and perhaps was hoping that it would be as good as District 9, Moon or Inception.

It isn’t.

Ultimately, Oblivion is a huge disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is a visual treat throughout. For most of the first thirty minutes or so, Oblivion comes across like Wall-E meets I Am Legend (the Will Smith remake), updated with cool gadgets, weaponized drones, sexy encounters between Jack Harper (Cruise) and his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and menacing ones with alien beings called ‘scavengers’. The setting is a dystopian future (2077) where the earth is dying after a war with aliens (which humans won, it seems) and humans are about the leave the planet and start a new life on Titan.

However, things are not as they seem (when are they ever?) – Harper has memories of another woman (strange, as his former memories have been removed), he meets this woman when her ship crash lands on earth and Harper is captured by the ‘scavengers’ and discovers the truth.

From then on to the hackneyed resolution, the movie degenerates into a sequence of cliches, with planet-sized plot holes and pedestrian acting – Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones‘ Jamie Lannister) and even poor old Morgan Freeman – and by the time the ending comes, the promise of ‘original’ sci-fi movie genre is utterly lost. Apparently, director Kosinski himself stated that Oblivion pays homage to science fiction films of the 1970s. Seriously? Well, perhaps superficially but whilst Oblivions certainly borrows heavily from the dystopian worldview of movies like Omega Man, Soylent Green, Zardoz, Logan’s Run, Silent Running and the Planet of the Apes series, it has none of the imagination, gravitas or even consistent writing that was a hallmark of the decade.

Oblivion is now showing in the cinemas.