Monthly Archives: August 2012

“Doctor Who” goes to the movies…

In a bid to remind us that there’s a new series of “Doctor Who” imminent – oh really, I hadn’t noticed – dear old Beeb’s publicity ninja monkeys have posted a series of movie-style posters for this first run of episodes.

This one, for episode five – “The Angels Take Manhattan – is my favourite…

Image

Nifty, huh?  No impending dread or sense that Everything Will Be Going Wrong Quite Soon there, then…

Den of Geek has the full collection here.

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Alternate “Avengers” Awesomeness Amazes?

“And this is the bit where more amazeballs awesomosity is going to go…”

In the spirit of global collaboration and nerd-sharing, it behoves me to direct you towards io9.com, who currently have an alternate opening sequence for “The Avengers” posted on their site.  It’s a really interesting choice and I can absolutely see why it went the way of all flesh – I can’t imagine many fans digging the ‘unreliable narrator‘/alternate perspective direction that this opening implies, intriguing as it might have been…

If I know Marvel (and their dark corporate over-Mice, Walt Disney) this won’t be up for long but you will be able to peruse it at your leisure in a few weeks when Joss Whedon‘s superhero opus is out on DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download and can settle the question once and for all – how did this film and “The Dark Knight Rises” both manage to independently construct endings which pivot on wide-ranging moral choices selflessly enacted by rakish billionaires who moonlight as technologically advanced fighters of crime.

And no, h8t0rz, that doesn’t mean that Hollywood has no ideas.  Just not that many.

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“Doctor Who” season 7 premiere pics mess with your head.

 

"Roads, Pond?  Where we're going, we don't need...roads"

Photo of Matt Smith & Karen Gillan via The Mary Sue, taken by Jill Pantozzi

Yes, your nerd senses are tingling – with joy and/or delicious, delicious confusion.

BBC America stoked the nervous anticipation of global Whovians for the imminent first part of Season Seven Doctor Who by holding a splashy premiere of episode one in New York at the weekend and had Mr Smith, Ms Gillan and related peeps emerge from…DeLoreans, in tribute to both “Back to the Future” and awesome nerdery alike.

If you reside in the UK or US, you can see “Asylum of the Daleks this weekend or via the (whisper it quietly) torrent of your choice if you’re elsewhere on this blue and green marble that I call home and can’t be bothered to wait for it to show up in your neck of the multiverse.

More pictures are available at the always fantastic and thought-provoking The Mary Sue.

 

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“Resident Evil” – one film series, hundreds of dead(er) zombies, multiple opinions…

Regular readers of this blog will doubtless be aware of – and lamenting quite a bit by now – my inexcusable “Resident Evil” film fandom.

Massive, hugely absurd set-pieces wholly at odds with the original video games? Don’t mind if I do!

Given that it’s nearly September, I must forewarn the thus concerned that I may be posting a fair bit of guff and balderdash concerning the popular Paul W.S. Anderson shepherded film series. as the fifth entry “Retribution” will be in cinemas in the US on September 14 and in the UK a week later.  Expect much discussion of the heretofore hidden, unexplored nuances and deeply coded meanings inherent in the subtext of Mr Anderson’s bitchin’ Zombie smash-em-ups.  Or, like, reviews of the previous movies and junk.

Those of you likely to gag at the numerous ways in which this series of films has messed with the continuity of the games and the universe therein may wish to skip the odd post or two – I’ll try to make them obvious enough for you to be able to do that.

How we started, back in 2002 – when Marilyn Manson did the soundtrack and Michelle Rodriguez’ character popped her clogs for the first time…

Truth be told, the films and games began an inevitable process of divergence before the first movie was released ten years ago – other than the presence of the Umbrella Corporation‘s proverbial moustache-twirling villainy at the decaying heart of each plot twist, there’s been precious little to link the two cross-media properties, save for director/producer Anderson’s propensity to cut-and-paste in elements from the games which particularly tickle his fancy (uber-bad guy Arnold Wesker, Jill Valentine, Lickers and the like).

It’s this going-off-script, cavalier disregard for canon which seems to upset fans of the games so much – the “Resi” flicks would be an otherwise easy-to-ignore sequence of sci-fi/horror mash-ups , were they not performing double duty by offending fans of video games and the long-lived Capcom franchise – why does their pioneering survival horror video game sequence have to bear the unfair burden of being the poster child (in the eyes of critics) for mediocre ‘games-to-films’ adaptations?  And where’s their George A. Romero directed version of the first movie, more to the point?

I strongly suspect that your prospective enjoyment of the series is in inverse proportion to your love of genre fare in general – if you have an uncritical love of things that go ‘Boom!’ and ‘Aarggh!’ in the night, this franchise is almost certainly up your zombie-infested alley.  If you love Bela Tarr, however, the rather more rudimentary pleasures of a Paul Anderson genre flick are almost certainly going to be denied to you.

As an object lesson in seeing how audience and critical reactions diverge on films, take a look at the professional critical response and the general public’s take on “Resident Evil”.  What I take away from those responses, other than that film critics can write and the general public has some way to go in attaining that goal, is that people don’t go to these films for the same reasons.

It’s enough for many viewers to have familiar horror tropes, action set pieces, characterisation and even plotting in place when they see a film like this one – they neither want nor expect an entry in this series to deliver anything more than uncomplicated fun and the odd jump-scare.  Critics, meanwhile, seemingly have to take a jab at video games in the body of their review – perhaps on the basis that they view them as low art and incapable of conveying anything worthwhile to an intelligent viewer or because they are aware that their reviews are being read by an ageing audience who hold the same prejudices about the medium and adaptations thereof as they do.

Milla Jovovich’s Reddit “AMA” appearance didn’t end well…

Those without knowledge of a subject matter presuming to publicly critique something in the full knowledge that they won’t have to answer criticism about it – what a marvellously tenable position from which to offer an informed opinion to an audience who will presumably take you seriously.

Expect more musings on the undead, Alice’s questionable Zombie-slaying attire, the confusing web of insanity which is the ongoing series’ plotline and the “Resident” iterations thus far in the weeks to come…

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Late Reviews: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

I, for one, welcome our new Simian overlords…

The long bank holiday weekend in the UK has meant two things.  The first is that I refrained from posting in order to enjoy the break – the second is that I ended up watching a bunch of films which had passed me by in the last year – thus giving me the opportunity to then post more reviews.   Everybody wins?

SPOILERS throughout for the film’s plot – please be advised if you haven’t seen it yet.

To the point, then – I finally had the chance to catch up with last summer’s sleeper sci-fi hit, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and it was absolutely worth the wait.  British director Rupert Wyatt‘s first major studio effort is a remake/remodel/remix of the classic sixties sci-fi “Planet of the Apes”, itself originally adapted from the Pierre Boule satirical novel, and this new version does a damned good job of updating the story to reflect our present-day societal concerns whilst still finding clever and unobtrusive ways to directly reference the original film.

My major reservation about seeing this film was purely a casting one – I’m not the biggest fan of James Franco and didn’t relish the prospect of sitting through a movie where he had to carry the bulk of the story on his shoulders.  It’s an irrational prejudice and one which I’m happy to say was somewhat undone by his work in this film, which was oddly affecting and compelling – it’s a tough ask to make a driven scientist who does some fairly appalling things during the course of the story sympathetic and understandable, but a combination of a great script from Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Franco’s subtle characterisation makes you care about Will Rodman, even when his work essentially brings about the fall of civilisation as we know it.

Still, in a planet where TMZ.com, the OctoMom dance single, “Geordie Shore” and One Direction exist perhaps it could be said that humanity had a good run and should turn things over to our Ape betters, eh?

This isn’t to say that Franco’s the only reason to see the film – he’s supported by a superb cast which includes the ever-reliable Brian Cox, Freida Pinto, David Oyelowo, a splendidly hissable, wonderfully villainous Tom Felton and a truly heartbreaking John Lithgow, playing Franco’s father in the film, whose battle with Alzheimer’s is the motivating factor which sets the plot in motion.  As for the reliably excellent and boldly innovative motion-capture-hybrid performance by Andy Serkis, I’ve written about his shamefully unacknowledged body of work before but you might want to read Franco’s generous and informative assessment of his performances over at deadline.com.

Why must we put up with such unattractive movie stars? Why?!

And what a plot it is – rather than the astronauts crash-landing on a mysterious planet which turns out to be (shocker!) an Earth overrun by apes in the 1968 film, this update takes a more grounded approach to the established mythology, following scientist Will Rodman (Franco) whose attempts to save his father (Lithgow) from ongoing Alzheimer’s Disease are complicated when he rescues chimp cub Caesar (a superb Andy Serkis) from certain death at his lab.  His work on an experimental  cure for his father’s condition involves testing on animal subjects, which increases their intelligence and comes back to bite him in the butt in the worst way possible…

It is this relationship between roughly plausible science and spectacle which gives the film a weight that it might not otherwise have if it were a run-of-the-mill, explosions aplenty blockbuster – we can all imagine the horror of what Alzheimer’s would do to somebody that we love and what steps we might take if we had in our power to do something that could reverse that foul and evil disease once and for all.

The film’s plausibility doesn’t stretch to its treatment of the primate characters, unfortunately – when we eventually see the hellish ‘ape rescue’ facility which an adult Caesar is incarcerated, I had to raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of an Orangutan and a Gorilla amidst the general chimp population.  Just wouldn’t happen – the animals would have torn each other apart, the facility would have shut down and the plot just wouldn’t be able to unfold in the way that it does in this film.  I attribute this wholly to artistic license and can move past it as the rest of the film is so enjoyable.

“To the Apple store, brothers! iPads for one and all!”

By the time that the set-piece depicted above arrives, and our Ape brethren have well-and-truly overrun a San Francisco utterly unprepared for an army of super-smart Simian soldiers besieging the Golden Gate bridge, I was ready to follow it anywhere that it went and eager to see how an inevitable sequel would develop the plot strands left hanging at the end of the film.

At the close of the film Caesar and his intelligent apes have escaped to the forests of California and Franco’s much-beleagured airline pilot neighbour- played by genre veteran David Hewlett – has been contaminated with a strain of virus which, we can logically deduce from the mid-credits scene, is responsible for a global pandemic which will go on to decimate the planet’s population.  We’ve not yet gone down the route of gun-wielding great Apes riding horses and rounding up rogue packs of on-the-run humans but we’re certainly a bit closer to it by the time that this film ends – I’d love to see what kind of spin Wyatt and his writers could put on the tropes established by the original quintet of “Apes” films.

If you liked the classic series, have a love of thought-provoking sci-fi and want a movie which doesn’t which doesn’t treat the audience like dolts and buffoons then this is definitely a film that you should catch up with.

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A “Rocketeer” sequel? Better late than never…

The Rocketeer” – bopping Nazi swine on the chin and narrowly evading serious rear -end charring. Now THAT’s a superhero to reckon with…

Emboldened, perhaps, by the success enjoyed by junior partners Marvel Studios with their forties flavoured action adventure, “Captain America: The First Avenger“, Big Mouse on Campus Walt Disney Studios are apparently moving ahead with a slightly overdue sequel to their 1991 comic book adaptation, “The Rocketeer.

As I say, better late than never (given the equally prolonged period between sci-fi touchstone “Tron” and its follow-up, “Tron: Legacy“, perhaps this is just the way that the House of Mouse does it), albeit an intriguing choice given that many observers may look at the gigantic shortfall between financial outlay to box office receipts for the “Tron” sequel and this year’s “John Carter” and wonder just whether Disney have the wherewithal to deliver live action sci-fi thrills which resonate for a modern audience.

For the record, I enjoyed “Tron: Legacy” well enough, loved “John Carter” and would happily adopt “The Rocketeer” and bring it up as my slightly nerdy, earnest offspring, so the news of a new film is like catnip to me.  Or whatever it is that Dog-loving people would have in place of catnip.  I digress…

Logic would tell us that Disney would keep the period setting – my teeth are positively on edge at the mere idea of a modern “Rocketeer” reinvention – but who knows where they’re going with this revamp?  If it’s not LA in the forties, I’ll be a grumpy bunny.  Or more so than usual, anyway.

A casting suggestion, if you don’t mind, for chief rocket jockey Cliff Secord and then we’ll take our leave of this retro-frippery?

This chap:

 

 

You know it makes sense.

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“Asylum of the Daleks” airdate – sooner than you think…

 

I know what I’ll be doing on September 1st 2012 at 7:20pm…

Now that I’ve been Freshly Pressed – Thanks, nice WordPress editors – I get a hint of what it’s like to write for a blog like Kotaku or The Mary Sue.   People are reading me!   Quick – look busy!

In that spirit, I’m delighted by news from dear old Auntie Beeb today, which has confirmed that “Doctor Who” will be back on September 1st for viewers in the UK and US, with the first tranche of episodes finishing on September 29th.   The season picks up again in Spring 2013 – after the Christmas special, which introduces new companion Clara, played by Jenna Louise Coleman.

 

So, new “Who” quite soon, then not so much for a while, with seasonal “Who” filling the void until we’ve seen off the Winter and it’s time to start geeking out again in the spring.  I can get with that schedule and eagerly await what else will be shown next year to mark the good Gallifreyan’s special anniversary…

 

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What would you do with £148 million?

It’s not a problem which many of us will ever have to deal with, I grant you, but it’s good to see lottery winners finding creative (if jocular) ways to go large with their new windfall.

If I were a rich man…

This is the dilemma affecting newly-minted millionaires Adrian and Gillian Bayford, who this week claimed a winning EuroMillions lottery jackpot of £148 million, leading music store owner Adrian to joke that he’d like to use some of his cash to persuade the classic Guns ‘N’ Roses line-up to reform.

Putting aside the sad truth that even if you paid him handsomely  to play a private gig for you the odds are that  Axl would still show up two hours late, I got to thinking about what manner of frippery I would spend my hypothetical jackpot on.

“Uncharted” on a multiplex screen? Yes please!

I’d hire out my local multiplex’s bigger screens, hook-up a games console and blast through some action games for an evening of delirious nerdery.   Or, you know, build my own cinema addition to whichever house I bought (which would, of course, be Hagrid-friendly).  Who hasn’t gone to their local cinema and thought – “You know what ‘The Expendables 2’ needs?  To be Uncharted 3 or Dragon’s Dogma instead and have me playing it”

I’ve never been a car guy, so expensive luxury prestige marques are not for me.  What’s the point in buying something that jettisons a metric ton of value once you get the keys and sit behind the wheel for the first time?  Likewise, I don’t aspire to own a helicopter or personal jet – this kind of personal transportation is more my speed….

Should be able to get the shopping in the back of that no problem…

And if money was truly no barrier to creating things that I know would please those I love…

Now to summon the pots of cash necessary to hire Southend Interactive to make my wife a bespoke sequel…

I’d hire the developers of lovely, eccentric and desperately underrated XBox 360 platformer “Ilomilo“, Southend Interactive, to code and create a sequel to their glorious XBLA title.  Because Mrs Rolling Eyeballs would quite like that, don’t you know?

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Tony Scott – In Memorium

 

Tony Scott, who died on August 19th 2012 in Long Beach, California. He was 68 years old.

If you’ll permit the indulgence, this is how I want to remember British film director Tony Scott, who committed suicide on Sunday:  On a film set, replete with his signature baseball cap, setting up some kind of practically staged set-piece, with mayhem about to be unleashed.

He was a director whose career and films arrived roughly in parallel with my love of movies – one of my abiding memories from my teenage years is of collecting tokens and sending off via mail order for a Top Gun movie poster, back when that defining Tom Cruise vehicle was the action movie par excellence of its day.

“Top Gun”, from 1986 – when films seemed simpler, even if the underlying politics were anything but.

Whilst a lot of the coverage of his death will focus on the way in which he chose to take his life, please forgive my preference to focus on his work and recommend some of his extensive catalogue of films which you might want to check out.

Scott’s movies were just that – commercial, unashamed action-thrillers and dramas.  Whilst his academic career seemingly set him on a path towards fine art, he duly found himself working in commercials – see his celebrated, iconic SAAB advert here, which largely influenced producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to hire him for “Top Gun”.   His first film was the stylish, erotic and singular vampire drama, “The Hunger“, which underperformed in cinemas and led to a prolonged return to the ad world until Simpson and Bruckheimer’s Air Force drama pitched him onto the directorial A-List.

His career from there is the very definition of diverse.  He made modern classics like “True Romance“, “Crimson Tide” or “The Last Boy Scout“, and more eccentric, darker fare like “Revenge” , “The Fan” or the unique, one-of-a-kind Keira Knightley starring, profoundly meta bounty hunter flick, “Domino”, which is the very definition of an assault on the senses.

In recent years, he had formed a reliable working relationship with Denzel Washington and their collaboration yielded such films as the aforementioned “Crimson Tide”, “Man on Fire”, “Deja Vu”, “The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3” and their last film together, “Unstoppable”.

Weirdest car chase ever? I think this film is a candidate for that honour…

If I were going to recommend a film which shows Scott and Washington at their best, it would be the very underrated sci-fi thriller, “Deja Vu” – a mind-bending tale of time travel, terrorism and a love story which happens across multiple versions of reality.  Sort of.  It’s indicative of the way that Scott’s bravura style mellowed in recent years – the bullets still fly and the helicopters still zip around on-screen like hyperactive dragonflies, but there’s a human story at the core which makes the more elaborate action sequences somehow mean a bit more.

Period spy wranglings with Robert Redford and his latter-day matinee idol heir, Brad Pitt.

If you don’t like the sound of that, I recommend Scott’s desperately underrated and fantastic espionage drama, “Spy Game”, which applies his warp-driven visual style to the kind of low-key, introspective story which seemed apposite at the time but utterly thrives on the clash of styles.  Scott loved the inherently dramatic possibilities of a ticking clock and “Spy Game” is the very model of a story constructed around  impending cataclysm – veteran spy Robert Redford’s last day on the job is spent covertly trying to save the life of Brad Pitt, the spook he recruited whose execution is imminent.

Two arguing big lugs versus a runaway bomb the size of a football pitch – sounds like a party…

Scott’s last film is one of his best – the runaway train thriller, “Unstoppable”, marked his fifth film with Denzel Washington and one which deals brilliantly with the ticking clock motif (in this case personified by a train stuffed full of toxic chemicals, barreling almost unchecked towards a small town) present and correct and a pair of plucky, underdog blue-collar heroes in the form of Washington and Chris Pine who are the only guys who stop things from going boom.

I love movies which pit heroes against nature and eschew heavy firepower in favour of street smarts saving the day – the compelling thing about this story (nominally based on true events) is that it’s a thoroughly normal, not essentially heroic pair of guys who find themselves doing the right thing in the face of mind-boggling unlikely odds and with a boatload of personal baggage making their already crappy day worse (Washington’s seen-it-all before train driver is about to get canned by the railway company and Pine’s brash young buck is estranged from his partner and having child visitation access problems).

It’s bonkers, but oddly easy to relate to – there’s a purity about his last film which confirms that Scott was a master at diverting your attention from the cliches inherent in a premise and making the arguably shop worn story so compelling that you couldn’t deny it and were gripped throughout.

I loved a great many of his movies – he never made high art, but Tony Scott made Friday Night Movies Par Excellence,  filmic escapism which helped erase the woes of the working week for a couple of hours.  And there’s not much more that you can ask of a film director other than to make movies that people want to see, and sneak some of your personality in there too if possible.  He will be greatly missed by me – selfishly, I’ve lost one of the directors who made me love movies and going to the cinema.

 

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Pussy Riot members sentenced to 2 years in prison

 

Free Pussy Riot – lock up a real menace like Jessie J before she ruins any more Queen songs…

I wrote about the appalling treatment that feminist art-punk collective Pussy Riot were receiving at the hands of what passes for a judicial system in Russia a few weeks back, and on Friday the inevitable happened – arrested band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were handed two-year sentences for the in-no-way imaginary offence of hooliganism committed by a group of persons motivated by religious hatred.

Or, as appears to be the case, the rather more accurate crime of criticising Vladimir Putin‘s Russia and the Draconian B.S. carried out on his say-so to silence dissent in whatever form it takes.

Photograph by Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

I try to wear my atheism lightly – nobody wants a strident anti-theist blogging in their face with their best sub-Dawkins one liners annoying the crap out of all and sundry – but cases and religiously motivated legal decisions make it very difficult for me not to have absolute and complete contempt for believers who allow their personal convictions to intrude on their professional lives and directly impact those who don’t share their faith.

By all means, take the Pussy Riot collective to court and charge them with presenting a political protest – but don’t bring imaginary deities into it.  That’s just cretinous.

If your God’s so offended by protests against he/she/it, have the omnipotent icon show up in court themselves to explain just why they require such absurd overreaction to be carried out in their name.  What’s that?  You can’t get your God to actually show up?  Oh, how very convenient.

This verdict is about silencing unpopular thought, women and ideas – and non-existent, invisible, oddly diffident deities don’t really come into matters, but can be invoked by the terminally cynical to silence criticism of their fascistic approach to social control.  Let’s just get things straight, shall we?

You can follow the fight to free the band members via Amnesty USA’s site – and hope that Putin soon realises that this idiotic debacle is doing more to dent Russia’s reputation than a decade of locking up oligarchs and riding rough-shod over democracy has done to date.

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