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.
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.
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,
What more can I say? Against all conventional thinking, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy just might be the best comic book movie ever. Well, based on the amazing trailers so far, in any case. Expectations are high for 1st August!
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.
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.
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.
When does nature become unnatural? That is the question posed by author Jeff Vandermeer in Annihilation, the first installment of a proposed trilogy (entitled Southern Reach), all three parts to be published in 2014. In brief, the story involves a team of four (a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor) who set out into an area known as Area X. The area is abandoned and cut off from the rest of civilization. They are the 12th expedition. The other expeditions have been fraught with disappearances, suicides, aggressive cancers, and mental trauma.
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.
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.
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.
I am probably going to be lynched for saying this but… I never quite got into Dr. Who. Sure, as a child of the sixties, I can remember Peter Cushing and the Daleks being on TV and found the stories twee and totally lacking any edge. The only thing I liked about the series was the theme song!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
With the Disney+ streaming being made available worldwide in February 2021, and with most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies collected in one convenient place, we take this opportunity to revisit past reviews of these geek-worthy movies. Here’s one from 2013 : Iron Man Three!
Iron Man 2 was only half a movie, in our 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 movie, Favreau passed and Shane Black came onboard.
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.