Tag Archives: sci-fi

MCM Comic Con – Birmingham – March 2016

Picture of a Raider and Moxxi from Borderlands
This is not us.

We went to the MCM Comic Con, in Birmingham on Saturday just gone (19th March).  Here are some various random observations.

Getting to the NEC Birmingham is quite easy for us – we drive over, it’s between 45 and 55 minutes depending on traffic and this time it was pretty good.  There was a queue leaving the M42, which took up about 10 minutes of the journey, but it was always flowing.  On the way back however, we noticed a pretty bad car fire on the A42, which looks like it had closed that road for some time.  Not sure by how long we missed that, but glad we did, and hope everyone involved was okay.

We parked in East 5, having pre-paid for our parking the night before.  I can’t stress enough how useful this is if you intend to go to an event at the NEC.  The queue for car parking tickets was about 100 meters long, and I suspect was roughly a 10-20 minute wait in temperatures hovering around 4C.  Car parking was £12, which is high, but it’s a captive audience.  We couldn’t book reserved / priority parking which puts you outside the event halls, I guess there wasn’t any close enough for the Comic Con event, but we’ll check again next time.

We had priority tickets for the event, it’s £5 more, but you can go in from 9am rather than 11am.  We never intended to get there for 9am (and if you do, you’ll queue even with a priority ticket), but we got there around 10:15am-ish, and walked straight in, past the 11am queuers.  I recommend this approach!

The event was in an L shaped hall and quite big; bigger than November last year which felt very cramped.  It was a little more open this time, although still quite cramped in the main section.  There were the usual selection of vendors and guests, but since that’s not why I went, I won’t comment.  We didn’t go to any of the events either, although there was an inflatable theatre in which they were taking place.  Greté was there to shop, and I was there to take photographs.

There were some really good things.Picture of Stormtroopers behind a Comic Con sign

  • There were a lot of Rey’s.  It’s great to see another interesting and dynamic character for female cosplayers to play.  Of course, gender is irrelevant (I saw at least one female Kylo Ren), but for women who want to play women, it’s great that there’s more choice, and with costumes that aren’t revealing or sexualised.  There were, as always, the usual collection of Lara Crofts, Harley Quinns, female manga characters I never recognise and Black Widows (among lots of other female characters, don’t get me wrong).  I just thought it was nice that popular media has presented another strong female role model, with any-age appropriate dress, and hope we get many more in future.  Which reminds me, there were quite a few Dana Scully’s as well come to think of it – always handy to break out a smart suit and wear an ID badge.
  • There were a lot of families all in costume, many of them with very young kids who seemed to be having a great time.  I don’t remember previous Comic Cons being quite so kid friendly.  I guess for the kids it’s normal – get dressed up as your favourite character, it’s just as we get older it becomes more nerdy and weird.  We should learn from that – nothing wrong with it at all.  I think it’s great that people felt comfortable enough to bring their kids along.
  • Lots of excellent costumes in general and clearly a lot of effort had gone into them.  There’s always the regular semi-pros, the 501st Legion, that company who pays cosplayers to dress up (can’t remember what they’re called), the guys in the Batman suits that look like they just walked off the set, etc.  I do wonder if they can be off-putting at times.  But then there were the regular broad range of almost-semi-pros, amateurs, last-minuters, threw-on-a-fezzers, wore-my-tardis-dressers, and came-dressed-as-Jessica-Rabbit-in-my-7-inch-heels-and-bearders.  It was really a great collection of people.

The not so great.

  • There was an unnecessary amount of body odour.  I know, everyone’s wearing Lycra, or vinyl, or rubber, or fur, or leather, or whatever.  But if you know you’re going to be in close proximity to a lot of people just use some antiperspirant or deodorant that day, even if you don’t normally.  I know, some folk have medical conditions, and I respect that, and I absolutely have no desire to stop those folk attending or having fun, but there are just some guys who can not be bothered to make the basic effort of wearing deodorant, and there’s no excuse for it.
  • I go to the convention to take photographs of costumes.  There are people wearing those costumes, and the costumes range in quality.  I want to capture people who’ve put in some effort and are enjoying themselves, and I work hard mentally not to judge the people I’m looking at outside of those parameters.  Clearly, I’m also human, so I naturally find some people more attractive than others, or more interesting, or whatever.  I work hard to ensure I’m not just there taking pictures of attractive women in revealing outfits – that’s not why I or they are there.  However, there are clearly some people only taking pictures of people they fancy.  I stopped a pair of ladies and asked if I could take a picture, and one of the pair stepped sideways out of the shot.  They were both in costume (the lady who stepped sideways was in a less revealing outfit than her friend).  I had to drop the camera and ask her to step back in to the frame, at the same time as her friend was encouraging her back in as well.  I don’t know if she was just shy and didn’t want to be in the shot, but I got the feeling they’d been stopped by other people who just wanted a picture of the lady in the more revealing outfit and it made me a little bit sad and somewhat angry.
  • I felt a bit sad for the two of three rows of signing tables.  Pairs of people behind a desk – ageing actor + agent, all the way along, waiting for someone to turn up so they could earn another bit of cash.  I know, it must be lucrative, and I’m being hugely hugely disrespectful.  Fans love to meet their heroes, their heroes love to meet their fans, and if you’ve got a fan base then you should turn up and everyone’s a winner, but the two times I walked through that area it just felt devoid of soul.  Sorry.

Other things

  • May the tiny kitten of joy vomit forth happiness upon you
    GenkiGear t-shirt

    Lots of vendors, the usual range of stuff, not really why I go, but it kept my wife occupied for the four hours we were there.  Shout out to GenkiGear which is where my wife spent the bulk of her cash.  She does love their stuff.  There seemed to be about a thousand versions of Monopoly on sale, one for every fandom and universe, including Firefly.  There was quite a nice little Steampunk area, although it didn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention, one guy with some amazing art there though (who’s name I didn’t take down – aha, just remembered, I think it was this guy).

  • Getting into the venue from the car park was amusing.  If you’ve been to the NEC you know they run a shuttle bus service from the car parks.  We were on a side of the NEC we’ve not been to before, and we walked from the car park down towards the road (past all the people queueing for car parking tickets, see above).  As we got to the road, we could see the bus stop to our left, but everyone was streaming over the road crossing and not far in front of us we could see some buildings.  So, sheep-like, we just followed.  Sadly, those folk were more optimistic and younger than we were – the buildings we could see weren’t the exhibition halls, and so it was the feared long walk from the car park to the entrance.  We got the bus back.  Next time, we’ll be much less sheep-like.
  • There was a mock fight between a Rey, a Kylo Ren and a Finn.  I’m pretty sure if you’ve never seen the film it counted as a spoiler – they didn’t spoil the other thing though.
  • I saw the worst Han Solo ‘look-alike’ ever, even if his costume was authentic looking, he looked like an accountant.

Overall it was a good day out – not the cheapest way to spend four hours if you’re not interested in the events or the star signings, but not the most expensive day out either, and great to see so many excellent costumes and folk enjoying themselves.

Computer games – do you always play the ‘same’ archetype?

Many types of computer game have you taking on the role of the main protagonist.  Sometimes you get almost no choice about the kind of person you’re playing and sometimes you get lots of choice.  However, even with games such as Modern Warfare you often get a choice of weapons that can dictate your play style.  At the other end of the spectrum are games like Skyrim where you have almost unlimited choice in how you play your character.

I find that no matter which game I’m playing, I tend to gravitate towards a small subset of archetypes for my initial play through.  I may replay the game later with a different class or approach, but usually I stick to my tried and trusted standards.

I can split the archetype choices down into two basic categories.  If the game is primarily fantasy based (Dragon Age, Skyrim, Dungeon Siege III for example) then I will most often play a warrior with sword and shield.  I tend to relegate stealth, ranged weapons and magic to the back burner in fantasy games.  Sure I’ll shoot an arrow if necessary, and I can sneak if the quest demands it, but I’d rather be standing tall in the middle of the battle, crushing the enemy with my shield and beheading them with my shiny sword.

If the game is modern, sci-fi (Borderlands, Mass Effect) or post-apocalyptic (Fallout, Fallout New Vegas) then it tends to include projectile weapons (i.e. guns).  In those games, I usually always play a soldier style role with medium range high accuracy weapons by preference (assault rifles and other rifles, machine guns at a push).  I love sniper rifles in those games, or anything which lets me shoot from very long distances.  Again, I tend to avoid specifically stealthy options, close combat weapons (shotgun, pistol), melee weapons, low accuracy rifles (sub-machine guns) and the like.  If the game has powers (like Mass Effect or Borderlands) I tend not to use those either unless they’re integral to the game.

On a second or third play through I might go for rogues/thieves or magic/powers based characters, and if the game supports lots of facets I’ll often pick up rogue-like skills as secondary support skills.

But generally, you’ll find me knee deep in dead goblins waving a sword and hiding behind my shield, or ducked behind cover 300 yards from the enemy looking down the scope of an assault rifle or sniper rifle waiting for the just, the, right, moment.

I find it amusing sometimes that in fantasy games I opt for the in-close with a melee weapon option and eschew bows and long range magic, and yet in modern and futuristic games I hate melee weapons with a passion.  I’ll use the chainsaw once, for fun, but I’ll always go back to my trusty assault rifle.

2012 Movie Preview

This is my yearly round-up of ‘Genre’ movies coming out in the next year (this was the 2011 one). Genre is pretty loose and translates to ‘anything I thought sounded interesting’. It includes films that are already out in the other parts of the world but haven’t made it to the UK yet. Most of the info is gathered from a few web sites I hang out on, so it’s a really narrow subset of everything coming out but hey, watchya gonna do.

Oh, and it looks like Joseph Gordon-Levitt is officially in every movie in 2012. Or 3 of them anyway.

The Darkest Hour (January 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1093357/
http://www.thedarkesthourisnear.com/

Alien invasion movie with a Russian slant (In Russia, Invaders Alien you!) Aliens travel across the universe using incredible amounts of energy in order to invade our tiny planet and steal …. our energy. Might be nice to get another non-US-centric slant on the alien invasion trope but I wish someone would make up a better reason for them being here. Maybe they want our MP3 collection?

Haywire (January 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1506999/

Covert operative must hunt down the people that betrayed them, using deadly and impressive skills, in order to protect their family. With a twist! It’s a Woman! Oh, we did that with Salt? Well, anyway, guns, women and kick-ass moves, I’m in. Trailer looked cool too. Shallow much?

Chronicle (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1706593/

Teenagers with telekinetic powers go mad, handy-cam ‘found footage’ indie movie which sounds like it might be a nice contrast to the shiny superhero stuff littered throughout 2012. If you can stop yourself vomiting when presented with another horizon-shake-fest.

The Woman In Black (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1596365/
http://www.womaninblack.com/

Harry Potter travels to a remote location and ends up investigating mysterious goings on that hint at something dark and dangerous. Oh wait, sorry, Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe) travels to a remote village and ends up investigating something mysterious, well you get the point.

Hotel Transylvania (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0837562/

Animated comedy, a sort of who’s who of hammer horror monsters, in a hotel run by Dracula. With a love story thrown in.

Premium Rush (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1547234/

A chase movie – on a bicycle. Really. It’ll be adrenaline fuelled and full of psycholist action. Not really genre, but I wanted to be able to use ‘psycholist’ so there you go (google it).

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1071875/

Really, they’re making a fucking sequel? God help us.

Dr Seuss’ The Lorax (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1482459/

What can I say
a movie a film
with voices and action
and all nice and trim

Animation and graphics
and wonderful sights
No doubt a huge hit
with those troublesome mites

The children.

John Carter (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401729/
http://www.johncarterarrives.com/

Avatar, but the big aliens are green. Unfair? Maybe. Based on the John Carter of Mars pulp stories, the movie has dropped the ‘of Mars’ because Mars based movies suffer from the kiss of death. Much like Russian Mars based space missions. I’m not sure people will ‘get it’ but we’ll see. If it’s fun and light it might catch an audience.

The Wrath of the Titans (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1646987/

Oops, left this off the list first time around.  Should probably be called ‘The Wrath of the Fans of Clash of the Titans’.  The trailer looks good, bonus points for the trailer soundtrack, and they seem to be going full-on mythical beast war, which might work out for them.  Hopefully without the ‘constraints’ of having to remake the first one, they might achieve something more entertaining.

The Hunger Games (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/
http://www.thehungergamesmovie.com/

A book adaptation! How unique! Televised death matches, love stories, kids pitted against other kids, utopian world ‘supported’ by horrific practices? Nothing new here so I hope the implementation brings something exciting.

The Croods (March 2012 -maybe, other sources say 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0481499/

Animated prehistoric fun! With fun!

American Reunion (April 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1605630/
http://www.americanreunionmovie.com/

It’s not a genre movie, but come on! Another actual, legit movie in the American Pie series starring everyone from the original cast! How can it not be awesome? Hopefully full of knob jokes, wanking allusions and Finch having toilet incidents.

Lock-Out (April 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592525/

A Luc Besson action thriller? I need to hear no more. It’s sci-fi you say? I think I need a change of pants.

The Avengers (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/
http://marvel.com/avengers_movie

This is probably it. Make or break for Joss Whedon’s big movie career. If he pulls this off, the universe is his oyster, he’ll be able to make anything he wants until he fucks up big. But if this turns out to be a huge, complex, over-busy steaming pile of shite, then he’ll be back to having to make tea to pay the bills. (To be fair, he seems to have made 2 other movies on the sly while making this, so I guess Joss will be okay whatever happens, but a bit of hyperbole never hurt anyone). Iron Man! The Hulk! Thor! Captain America! It’s Testosterone On Speed On Acid! It’s gonna be busy, and I hope it works, I really do.

Frankenweenie (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1142977/

Tim Burton brings us a movie about death, resurrection, children and dogs. So, nothing really new.

Battleship (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1440129/
http://www.battleshipmovie.com/

‘Inspired’ by the game, in the sense that it has ships in it, Battleship may find itself in erm, shallow water? Maybe. Some people in big ships attack some unknown ships to work out what those ships are doing – i.e. shoot first, ask questions later.

Men in Black III (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1409024/
http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/meninblack3/

Time Travel! I predict an overly complex and untidy plot, intermixed with childish jokes about weird looking aliens, Will Smith looking confused, Tommy Lee Jones being reserved and Josh Brolin getting all the acting awards. I’m in. (Oh, and BFG’s)

Prometheus (June 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446714/

Ridley Scott wheels out an Alien Sequel that’s a Prequel that’s not an Aliens movie but contains Aliens that aren’t Aliens and some Geiger artwork. Who the fuck knows what it’ll be about – but it’s Ridley Scott, and it’s sci-fi, so a) it’s on this list and b) we’ll all see it.

Jack the Giant Killer (June 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1351685/

Like Gremlins (don’t get them wet) only bigger!  Much, MUCH bigger.  Another modern day take on an old world fairy tale, not sure from the trailer if it’s a young adult movie, comedy or action flick, but quite entertaining by the look of it.  Can’t wait to see that beanstalk erupting from the screen in 3D, no really, can’t wait.  Honest.

Star Trek 2 (June 2012 – now delayed, out in 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1408101/

Delayed for various reasons, millions of casting rumours, nothing concrete. Can J.J. pull it out of the bag a second time? Hopefully, no red matter in this one when it finally arrives sometime in 2013. Also, the rumour is this time, Wil Wheaton is doing *all* the voices, not just the Romulans. Can’t wait to hear his Kirk impression.

The Amazing Spider Man (July 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0948470/
http://www.theamazingspiderman.com/

Mixed bag – a ‘teaser reveal’ in the trailer, for a character that’s already been in 3 recent movies seems a bit weird. Recent posters seem more intriguing but I think the franchise might be in trouble, Spider Man the untold story is hard to imagine given the years of content. Good luck.

The Dark Knight Rises (July 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1345836/
http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/

Meh, I’m getting bored of the endless ‘LATEST DARK KNIGHT PHOTO’ and the stuff about Bane. I fear I may be suffering Batman fatigue. This better be more awesome than an awesome day in awesomeville or people are going to be peeved. I hope it’s just me, and that the fan base isn’t growing jaded. Oh, and Bale’s voice, /sigh, not looking forward to another 120 minutes of him chewing gravel.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift (July 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1667889/

Do I need to say anything? The only good thing will be the nut jokes.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (August 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1611224/

I’m pretty sure the title has everything you need to know.  Seriously.

The Bourne Legacy (August 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1194173/

It’s Bourne, without Bourne. Same universe (er, the real world?) but with a different undercover blackops blacklisted CIA operative who will probably have to do stuff, and put himself at risk, to save something. Without the ‘I don’t remember who I am’ schtick isn’t this just Mission Impossible: Solo or Bond #24?

Total Recall (August 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1386703/
http://www.totalrecall-movie.com/

Total Remake! Will it bring something new? Will we get a fat headed special effect saying “Twwooo weeekkkss” and giving me nightmares for 10 years? Who knows. I’m quite excited despite myself. The original, as with many of Arnie’s sci-fi movies, was heavy and lumbering despite my enjoyment of it. I’d love to see an agile, light-on-it’s-feet remake which injects some pace and intrigue into this story. Also, hoping for some hot chicks in latex to complement the plot (Len Wiseman, don’t let me down now!)

Dredd (September 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343727/

Karl Urban, keeping his hat on. So it’s already 90000% percent better than the Stallone version. I have a lot of hope for this, and I’m nervous. I want Karl to rock. I want this movie to do well.

Looper (September 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1276104/

Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the same movie. Guns, time travel, the mob, confusing paradox based plot? Yes, yes, yes and hell yes.

Taken 2 (October 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1397280/

The kidnappers are stupid and out for revenge, so they kidnap the dude that killed all the kidnappers and hope somehow to turn that to their advantage. Dumb. Anyway, people loved Taken, I felt it was weak in parts, but hopefully this will improve the position. I’ll not hold my breath.

Cloud Atlas (October 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371111/

The Wachowski’s bring their talent to a sprawling story set over six different periods in time, hoping to tie them all together into an overall tale. It’ll either tank, or it’ll be a cult hit that eventually makes billions, maybe. Oh, and check out the cast!

Gravity (October 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454468/

If I said, “The lone survivor of a space mission to repair the Hubble telescope desperately tries to return to Earth and reunite with her daughter” would you be interested? If I then said, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney would you change your mind? I might. Bit of a weird one.

Skyfall (Bond #23) (November 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1074638/

Apparently, Quantum of Solace was impacted by the writers strike, wasn’t meant to be as much of a sequel to the first one as it turned out to be, and people weren’t happy with it. I thought it was okay personally. Anyway, this one is going to be AWESOME honest with AMAZING action sequences and HOT women and INCREDIBLE gadgets. I guess 007 will find himself out on a limb, have to fight his way back into everyone’s good books and solve some entirely obvious crime at the same time (involving the theft of air, or some other easily obtained resource).

Superman: Man of Steel (November 2012 or 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0770828/

Zack Snyder – not an amazing directing record. 300 I loved, but it wasn’t widely loved by others. Watchmen was soggy in the middle. Sucker Punch took a beating (see what I did there?), and was confusing, despite the fact that I loved it (I think). Yet here he is, making a Superman-reboot reboot. Will Zack’s visual style bring us closer to a Superman we can get behind and find exciting? Can Superman ever be exciting? Will there be a love story? Does the viewing public even care any more?

Rise of The Guardians (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446192/

Like The Avengers, but the bedtime story version. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Sandman and the Tooth Fairy team up to save the world from the Bogeyman. Nice voice acting cast.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/
http://www.thehobbitblog.com/

Need I say anything? This is it. The Film He Said He Would Never Make. The Movie That We Thought We Would Never Get. The start of it all. The journey that gave us Lord of the Rings. The tale that gives birth to a legend. The story that enthralled a generation. Bilbo steps out of his front door, and nothing is ever the same again. Beards, dwarves, wizards, pipes, hairy feet and Middle Earth. I’ll be there. I’ll be there if the reviews say it stinks worse than dragon shit. I’ll be there no matter what.

Snow White and the Huntsman (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1735898/
http://www.snowwhiteandthehuntsman.com/

Continuing the trend of remaking fairy tales, which started out dark, then got Disneyfied, into dark movies, we have Snow White. A different slant, and hopefully, a female role model who doesn’t believe her own self worth is based on who she marries.  Instead, she’ll be a trained killer with ninja-like instincts.

Django Unchained (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1853728/

Tarantino’s next outing – is a Western that Won’t Be A Western. But the cast looks good, maybe I’ll give it a shot. Maybe. Perhaps he’ll just give us the end of a shoot-out in a street, and then 80 minutes of people arguing over which coffin to use.

World War Z (January 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816711/

Based on the book, the film seems to have the same premise (recounting of first-hand reports during a Zombie war). I know nothing about the book which is supposed to be very good, but hopefully the movie will be quite enjoyable. It’s almost 8 hours since we had a Zombie movie, so you know, plenty of room for another.

The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1170358/
http://www.thehobbitblog.com/

I’ll be here as well. No doubt.

Notable mentions:

Two crowd-funded movies with potential,

Iron Sky
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034314/
http://www.ironsky.net/

Lunar bases filled with invading Nazis? What’s not to like. The small budget (in relative terms) has been stretched to cover some pretty grand concepts, let’s hope it works out for them.

The Cosmonaut
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1935261/
http://thecosmonaut.co/

Another sci-fi movie funded by donations and advertising, but this one is going to be available on the Internet and not shown theatrically. The Soviets have lost a Cosmonaut en route to the Moon, but he finds himself returned to a deserted Earth.

Information for this post gathered from Den of Geek, Empire Online, SFX and IMDb.

Half Year Movie Roundup

In January I wrote a preview of what movies were coming in 2011, with a genre slant.  Quite what genre means is open to debate, but probably translates to ‘stuff that I think I might enjoy’.  We’re about to saunter into July so I thought I’d look back, see how we fared in the first six months and then in a later post, look at what the rest of the year has in store for us and how it’s changed from the January outlook.  Caveat: I have seen very few of these movies, and I’m basing these comments on reviews, reports, financial statements and stuff that I read elsewhere.

To be fair, although we’re half way through the year it’s likely that more movies will be released in the second half than than the first, so this might turn into an awfully short article.  So in no particular order (or rather, in the same order they showed up in the original post).

Sucker Punch – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/

The critics hated it and the fans were pretty disinterested.  Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rotten 22% (fan rating 53%) while Metacritic gives it 33%.  In the US it only managed second place to Diary of a Wimpy Kid in its opening weekend (~$19m).  It’s grossed around $89m against an estimated $81m budget so with DVD/Blu-ray sales it will make a profit (that was probably never in doubt).  Much of the negative criticism revolved around the lack of characters and plot along with the misogynistic imagery.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1298650/

Critic proof and proving it.  Much of the critical response was highly negative – flabby, too long, lacklustre, and yet the fans flocked to it and drove it to a $90m opening weekend in America and £11.6m in the UK.  Worldwide it’s now taken $986m, putting it ahead of The Curse of the Black Pearl ($654m) and At World’s End ($963m).  RT (Rotten Tomatoes) gave it a rotten 33% (fans rated it 63%) and Metacritic 45%.  Despite being too long it looks like Johnny Depp saved this outing, and until he signs on to #5 we might still be saved from yet more buck swashling and rum jokes.

Fast Five – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1596343/

A clear surprise, Fast Five had the potential to be the worst sequel to date of any franchise but somehow it managed to dig deep and give audiences something worth getting behind.  Even the critics liked it with an (essentially) unbelievable fresh 78% on RT, 67% at Metacritic and an opening weekend in the US of $86m.  It’s now grossed over $590m worldwide, making it the most successful of the franchise to date by a significant margin.  Bucking the trend in the industry, Fast Five shows you can make a movie part of a franchise and still pull in people and give them something to enjoy.

Thor – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800369/

I’ll be honest – I was dubious.  Doubtful.  Maybe even negative.  I was also dead wrong.  Delivering an entertaining and eye blisteringly impressive movie, Thor was proof that you can deliver dramatic action while dressed like a dork.  RT loved it (78% fresh), Metacritic thought it wasn’t bad (58%) and critical reception was generally positive.  Despite opening very early in the year Thor pulled in respectable box office cash ($64m opening weekend in the US, $436m to date worldwide against a budget of $150m estimated).  Get a quality director and a half decent script, and even super heroes can be believable.

The Green Hornet – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0990407/

It opened strongly ($33m in the US) and it’s easily covered its budget with a worldwide gross of $227m, but The Green Hornet is average at best.  Even the RT critics and RT fans agree giving it a rotten 44% and fan score of 49%.  The score seems to boil down to the movie not knowing what it was meant to be and falling squarely between serious and slapstick giving that terrible serious-stick kind of performance that makes us all cringe.

Drive Angry – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1502404/

Having made about $28m worldwide, I think we can safely say this movie flopped.  Although flopped suggests that it was alive with a chance in the first place, where-as we know better.  This fish was dead in the water at inception.  It garnered a surprising 45% on RT which I put down to excessive drug use to be frank, Metacritic gives it 44% based clearly on equally absurd chemically induced insanity.  Fans on RT were more sensible giving it only 40%.  If you need any more evidence, it opened with a $5m box office weekend in the US, dismal.

Hanna – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0993842/

I thought maybe the world wouldn’t quite be ready for 2 kick-ass kids so close together.  But apparently, they were.  Hanna did okay, not brilliantly, but definitely okay.  RT rated it fresh (71%), it opened in the US to a $12m weekend and has grossed $56m worldwide against what is probably quite a small budget (estimated $30m).  Although on average the movie scores well, it certainly wasn’t universally loved and many critics complained it was vacant, meaningless and without soul.  Since many critics are vacant, meaningless and without soul I’ll consider us even on that point.

The Hangover Part II – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1411697/

Fair to say the critics disliked it (RT 35%) but the fans came out, supported it and for the most part enjoyed it (RT Fans 62%).  The critics disliked that it was the first movie all over again while the fans seemed to be happy to accept exactly that.  Opened to another whopping $85m in the US (£10m in the UK), and has so far sucked in over $527m globally.  Undeniably financially sound, but not necessarily a winning movie.

Your Highness – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1240982/

I had high hopes but apparently, too high.  Looks like the puerile humour didn’t hold up in this gross out fantasy comedy.  With the notable exception of The Princess Bride, fantasy comedy never works – don’t they know that!  Murdered more thoroughly than a Dragon at a Knights and Wizards convention, Your Highness dredged up a terrible 26% at RT, with even the usually lenient fan reviews only getting up to 45%.  I’m sure it has moments of hilarity but the critics weren’t falling for it.  Opened to a semi respectable $9m in the US, but has grossed only $24m worldwide to date.  A royal flop.  Not even shots of Natalie Portman’s naked arse could save this script.

Limitless – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1219289/

Proving Bradley Cooper is hot property, Limitless did well enough with the critics and very well with the punters.  On a reasonably low key release it pulled in $18m in the US on it’s opening weekend and has grossed $145m to date.  RT gives is an impressive 70% (fans 74%) and Metacritic 59%.  In general it seems Bradley manages to smooth over some of the weaker elements of the script to give this franchise-free action-thriller a good run for your money.

X-Men: First Class – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1270798/

Another surprise in the first half of the year for me – X-Men: First Class had so much potential to fall flat on its face that it could have been known as the ‘flat on its face movie’.  Okay, that didn’t sound as smooth as I thought it might.  Despite the fears, the script (by the excellent Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz), the choice of time period and stand-out performances from McAvoy and Fassbender seem to have wowed crowds and critics alike.  RT gives it 87%, Metacritic 65% and it pulled in an impressive $55m on it’s US opening weekend (already up to $321m worldwide).

Paul – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1092026/

Well, I loved it.  Although it wasn’t trumpeted as an outstanding success, Paul is sucking in money, making people laugh and has more than easily covered it’s budget.  Despite some negative reviews, the overall RT score of 71% is solid, while the Metacritic score of 57% seems harsh.  In the US it only opened to $13m, ranking 5th that weekend (against Sucker Punch and Diary of a Wimpy Kid), but in the UK it pulled in a respectable £5.5m (~$8.9m).  Globally it’s now done okay at $94m, easily covering the estimated budget.  It’s a sleeper of a movie, and I’m hopeful DVD/Blu-ray sales will do it proud.

Green Lantern – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1133985/

I don’t think Rotten Tomatoes alone is a good measure of a film.  The rotten/fresh scores are sometimes out of kilter with the movie going public, and critic proof blockbusters can easily get 20% on RT and still make a billion dollars.  What I do think is an interesting measure is when the critics hate something (27% on RT in this case) and the fans don’t mind it so much (56% fan score on RT).  Despite that, I’m still rating Green Lantern as an overall miss.  That’s even with a friend saying she really enjoyed it – she was pretty much hypnotised by Ryan Reynolds’ ass, and so I’m discounting her view.  It’s early days, but Green Lantern opened to a decent $53m and has grossed $122m worldwide.  Why then a miss?  Because it could and should have been more.  It should be scoring like X-Men: First Class on RT, it should be raking in $80m on the opening weekend, and it should have grossed $300m worldwide by now.

I Am Number Four – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1464540/

Haven’t heard much about this, so basing this commentary solely on the numbers.  Disliked by critics but reasonably enjoyed by the target audience, I Am Number Four made a wedge of cash ($19m opening weekend, $144 globally) and probably kick started a franchise.

Red Riding Hood – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1486185/

At 11% on RT and 29% on Metacritic, Red Riding Hood is the worst performing movie out of the bunch this year.  It’s empty, vacant, banal and a failure according to the critics.  The potential fans weren’t wowed either with a 44% fan score on RT.  Financially it didn’t do too badly, a half decent opening weekend of $14m in the States and $89m worldwide so far mean it’s paid for itself, but I think it would be disingenuous to describe it as anything other than a miss.

Battle: Los Angeles – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1217613/

Title confusions aside (was it ever called World Invasion: Battle LA?), it appears as though Battle: Los Angeles was a missed opportunity.  Rotten at RT (35%) and equally weak at Metacritic (37%), reviews suggest the movie could have delivered much more than it did.  On the other hand, it apparently appeals to fans of Killzone, Crysis and other similar games and may just be too narrow for a general audience to appreciate.  Opened to a good $35m, and has easily earned back the budget with $202m worldwide so it can’t be considered anything other than a critical failure but a financial success.

Source Code – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0945513/

A half decent year for original thrillers with a near-future theme, Source Code impressed the critics and entertained people who actually pay for their tickets.  An out of this world 91% at RT puts this near the top of this years genre movies to date, and with fans agreeing (82% on RT) and the box office backing it up ($14m opening weekend, $112m worldwide vs. a low $32m budget).

Unknown – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401152/

Although it just barely scrapes in, Unknown was probably a hit.  Average scores on RT and Metacritic, and an okay performance in the box office mean we probably won’t see a sequel (Also Unknown, Mostly Unknown, What do I know Unknown) but it won’t offend and it might just pass the 113 minutes in a sort of enjoyable haze.  Another soft script saved by a hard Neeson performance.

Priest – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822847/

The critics were never going to love it were they?  It’s not their thing.  But the studio never gave me a chance to like it either because they only opened it in 3D.  No 2D showings anywhere near me (where there any at all)?  As expected it got panned (17% on RT), and the fans didn’t like it that much better (40%).  It opened reasonably well ($14m in the US) but is only just beginning to struggle past its budget (only $75m worldwide so far).  The editing seems to be the biggest issue and the movie is very short (these days) at 87 minutes.  Many people wonder what’s on the floor and if it could have been even better with a little more work.

The Adjustment Bureau – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1385826/

Turning Philip K. Dick stories into movies is notoriously hit and miss, but this effort seems to have found the right audience.  Described as intelligent, romantic and imaginative, the movie scores 72% fresh at RT (although fans gave it 68%).  Considering the budget (estimated $50) the $21m opening weekend was very healthy and the worldwide gross of $123m assures us that in 15 years someone will try a remake.  Matt Damon will have been a big draw, but people must have found something enjoyable once they arrived.


Overall then, a bit of a mixed bag.  The stand out winners so far are Fast Five and X-Men: First Class.  Thor and Paul get honourable mentions, while Drive Angry and Red Riding Hood take home wooden spoons.  Seriously, did any of you think Drive Angry would be good?  Really?

Predators

When Arnold stepped out of the jungle, covered in mud, and stabbed the alien predator thing in the face (metaphorically), he was doing so with the weight of the 80’s action movie genre behind him.  Any movie which tries the same post year 2k does so with the weight of the 80’s action movie clichés crushing them from above. The 80’s gave us the new face of the Action Movie, and then it was caved in mercilessly during the 90’s and early 2000’s by the likes of Tarantino and the Wachowskis.

In the late 90’s and 2000 onwards, the action movie had to smarten up and add something new.  And it needed to be cool, otherwise it just got slated and slotted into the ‘another 80’s cliché movie’.  But these days, it seems to be okay to relive the glory of that decade.  Sometimes you have to poke a little fun at your age (The Expendables, Red) and sometimes you need to accept the clichés and deliver some interest and excitement anyway.

Predators is an ensemble movie which takes us back to the jungle and pits a group of natural killers against the universe’s paramount hunter.  There’s no apology and in fact the whole movie setup apes the lack of depth- our ‘heroes’ are dropped into the jungle unconscious, to wake up (hopefully) as they fall from the sky, their parachutes opening at the last moment.

Nimród Antal (director) couldn’t have made the point any clearer – don’t worry about why these folk are here, don’t worry about where they came from, or who they are.  Worry about how they’re going to survive – that’s all they’re doing.

If you do that, and if you settle back to enjoy an action movie which knows that’s all it is – then you should enjoy this.  A collection of unlikely heroes who slowly get hunted and killed by the Predators.  Surprise alliances, surprise treachery and some madness along the way.  The action is exciting, the dialog is kind of interesting and Laurence Fishburne turning on all he has for the lone survivor stint adds some grit.  Adrian Brody pulls off action hero better than I thought he would.  A simple complaint is that although I don’t think anyone should artificially bump up or down gender roles in a movie, would it have hurt to have a few more women in the pack of killers?

The surprise turn is from Topher Grace but I’ll leave you to guess why.

The pace is quite tight, it doesn’t try to tease us with aliens we’ve already seen, and it adds plenty of fun.  Predators is better than I expected, and as good in it’s own way as the original movie it makes reference to.

What’s coming in 2011?

Here’s my quick list of genre, almost genre, geek or action movies that I’m aware of coming up in 2011 or 2012.  A few times during the year I’ll have a scour through IMDB, Empire Online, Den of Geek, and see what’s coming up.  I mail the list out to a few people.  I’m sticking it here as well in case they can’t be bothered to read the mail.

Sucker Punch (April 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/
* http://suckerpunchmovie.warnerbros.com/

Steampunk, guns, dragons, robots, hot women, giant samurai, zombie nazi’s.  What’s not to love?  From Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead) it’s super glossy and super stylised.  I just hope the deep dramatic plot and character development shine through.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1298650/
* http://disney.go.com/pirates/index-on-stranger-tides.html

Well, it’s Pirates 4, no Orlando Bloom, and we have Penelope Cruz. But, we also have Ian McShane!  If they can get a tight story and wrap Johny Depp’s performance around it, like they did in the 1st one, we might have something worth watching.  If it is as loose and flabby as the third one, then we’re in trouble.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1399103/
* http://www.transformersmovie.com/

Optimus gets a trailer!  Bay promises that this time there’ll be more robots fighting robots, rather than robots sinking aircraft carriers and destroying pyramids.  I suspect there’ll be plenty of US Marine Heroic Man Vs Robot action as well.  Megan Fox (Mikaela) is out and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Carley) is in.  No doubt there’ll be some deep and meaningful storyline to cover the Sam – Mikaela relationship breakdown and the arrival of Carley.  I’m personally hoping that takes up the first 90 minutes with the last 20 focussing on the robots blowing up something big.

Honorary non-Genre inclusion: Fast Five (April 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1596343/
* http://www.fastfivemovie.com/

Follow-on to Fast & Furious, which was the follow-on to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift which in turn was the follow-on from 2 Fast 2 Furious which was a follow-on to the original The Fast and the Furious.  Cars! Men! Women! Thievery! Mad Driving Skillz! Rubber! And it’s number 5, see what they did there?

Thor (April 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800369/
* http://thor.marvel.com/

Natalie Portman gets top billing – that can only be bad.  Giant hammers, mythology, white supremacist storyline, giant blonde heroes, smashing and bashing!  Biceps!

The Green Hornet (January 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0990407/
* http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/thegreenhornet/

Voted most unlikely super hero ever, Seth Rogan stars as The Green Hornet.  He’s lost some weight and gained some gravitas, but will he be the first dope smoking green hornet?  Surely it should be “Seth Rogan stars as the Purple Haze Hornet”.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (November 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1324999/

Because it’s in vogue to split your book movies into 2 now.  You might as well – doubles your income but only costs you a single movie option in the negotiations.  With a built-in audience this will do well, despite the writing being as anaemic as the main stars.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (July 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1201607/

The end – the finale – the last one – there will be no more (maybe).  This is it – Harry vs. the World.  It’s everything you’ve been waiting for if you’re 14 and read the books while you were about 7.  I kind of got bored after the one before the one before this one (keep up at the back) but I’m sure we’ll end up with them all on DVD.  Voldemort meets his match.

Drive Angry (February 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1502404/

Nic Cage, in a genre action movie.  This can only mean one of two things.

1. it will be awesome beyond your understanding
2. it will suck like an open chest wound (thanks Bin for that, I still love it)

There will be no middle ground of mediocre, or average, or okay.  Either your eyes will burn from hatred or burst with love.

“A vengeful father chases after the men who killed his daughter.”

Captain America: The First Avenger (July 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458339/
* http://captainamerica.marvel.com/

Adding to the stable of movies that make up The Avengers, Marvel bring us Captain America.  Personally, I’m dubious.  Thor I can almost buy, but Captain America?  It’s a guy with a shield?  I suspect this is one for the comic fans mainly, and patriotic American types.  Maybe Sarah Palin will endorse it.  But it’s necessary if Marvel are going to deliver their Visionary Avengers Movie.

Hanna (April 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0993842/

So if you felt really uncomfortable watching Hit Girl shoot people in Kick-Ass you’ll want to give this a miss.  14 year old Hanna turns out to be an assassin, raised by her CIA father and sent on a critical mission.  She kicks ass (see what I did there?) while being hunted by people with their own agendas.  It’s like Leon but in reverse.

Additional Honorary Non-Genre Comedy: The Hangover Part II (May 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1411697/

Because who didn’t love the odd paced, odd placed, original?  The boys travel to Thailand for a quiet pre-wedding brunch, hilarity ensues.

Your Highness (May 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1240982/

Trying to do comic fantasy movies is doomed to ultimate failure, for thou canst never beat The Princess Bride (inconceivable!)  However, some shmuck is going to have another go.  Danny McBride co-stars, Natalie Portman (she’s getting around) is seen wearing a thong in the red-band trailer (or big knickers in the non-red-band trailer) and it doesn’t look *too* bad.  But, the jury will be out and it’s got big shoes to fit in.

Limitless (March 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1219289/

Copywriter turns into superhero – sounds like a script writer’s wet dream (search replace script writer with copywriter to make sure it doesn’t sound like I wrote it, mwahahahaha, mwahahahah).  Looks high-brow, we’ll see if it turns out to be high-frown (!?)  It’s got Robert De Niro but sadly that’s no longer the marker of a good film.  Bradley Cooper is having a good few years as well (Hangover, A-Team, this).

X-Men: First Class (June 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1270798/

Meh, another super hero origins movie.  The film industry is doing what the comic industry has done for years – take the same old super-heroes and regurgitate them over and over in slightly different latex outfits to shore up sales.  We’ll see if the public buy it.  I’m not interested.  It does have Kevin Bacon in it though, making Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon even easier to play.

Paul (February 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1092026/

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s latest effort, Paul is the endearing story of two comic book geeks who travel across America only to run into an alien at Area 51.  With comedy.  Like E.T. only funnier.  Hopefully.

Cowboys & Aliens (August 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0409847/

I think the title really gives the whole thing away.  From Jon Favreau (Iron Man/Iron Man 2, Elf!) and a personal project of his, this comic book adaptation brings together Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in what fanboys are referring to as ‘Indiana Jones meets James Bond’, for some reason.  Also has Sam Rockwell, and the elf-like, ethereally beautiful Olivia Wilde (Thirteen from House).  Oh, it’s about aliens invading, and being fought off by cowboys, with the help of an alien.  So basically, like Outlander, but in the West rather than Norse.

Green Lantern (June 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1133985/

If you thought 2010, or 2009, or 2008 were the year of the Super Hero movie, you were wrong.  2001 to 2020 are going to be remembered as the 20 years of the Super Hero movie.  The Green Lantern stars Ryan Reynolds as, erm, The Green Lantern, who gains a mystical green ring that gives him super powers and makes him one of an elite group of protectors of something critically important which must not be discussed.  And he then does Good Things[tm] for the benefit of all mankind.

I Am Number Four (Feburary 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1464540/

Some teen flick about some hot kid who turns out to Be Different while also Being Awesome and proves that you can Be Different and still Be Liked, teaching all kids an important lesson while glossing over the deep prejudice towards Good Looking People.  Or something.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (December 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1229238/

A lot could change before the end of 2011, but at present, this is the fourth MI movie, it does star Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, but so far only has Simon Pegg returning from any of the previous movies (that I can see).  No real plot details yet, rumours are a ‘handing over’ of the role from Cruise to to someone else.  But who knows.  Maybe by the time we get to December it’ll all be different.  I bet though, there’s some secret mission to retrieve someone/something that involves jumping out of tall buildings.  So, I’m in.

The Wolverine (April 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1430132/

It’s not a sequel to Wolverine, oh no, it’s just another part of the story, we promise.  Hugh Jackman getting his jacket off and cutting holes in things with his finger nails.  Hopefully it’ll have more jeopardy than the first one and so be worth watching.  Oh you want the plot?  “Wolverine travels to Japan to train with a samurai warrior.”  So like the Karate Kid, but with more Adamantium.

Red State (March 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0873886/

A Kevin Smith horror movie, low budget, high production values.  It’s Kevin Smith, there’ll be bad language and witty one liners, but a horror movie should be an interesting stretch.  I don’t do horror – but I’ll make an exception in this case.  Kevin wrote the script for this, unlike Cop Out for which he was just director.  Reviews look good so far.  Edit (4/1/2011) : Bad choice of word – there are no reviews, since it’s clearly not been shown (it’s due to show at Sundance at the end of January).  Feedback / comments / previews / choose a word that works better.

Sherlock Holmes (no title yet) (December 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1515091/

Robert and Jude are back in the sequel, and I hope it’s better than the first, which was good, but there was room for improvement.  I love the mix of modern and historical, loved the banter, and loved the story.  Fingers crossed this is worth seeing.

Red Riding Hood (April 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1486185/

Girl meets boy, girl’s family disapprove, boy might turn out to be werewolf, hilarity and complications ensue.  Anyway, two words – Gary Fucking Oldman.  Worth watching it just to watch him at work.

World Invasion: Battle LA (March 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1217613/

Renamed movie (was Battle: Los Angeles) can be described in only one line (from IMDB) which both tells you everything you need to know, and why you should watch –

A Marine platoon faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles.

Marines – check.
Aliens – check.
LA backdrop – check.

Ooh-rah!

Source Code (April 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0945513/

Interesting premise – a soldier wakes up in the body of an unknown man, and has to work out who is *about to* bomb a train.  If you watch the trailer you see him waking up again and again ala Sam in Quantum Leap, each time remembering a bit more and having to work harder to find out who does it before it happens.  Like Groundhog day married Quantum Leap and had Deja Vu flavoured babies.

Super 8 (August 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1650062/

JJ Abrams top-sekrit not-Cloverfield movie.  Train wrecks, nasty monsters, and TOP SEKRIT PLOT.  Here’s the IMDB overview “Next Summer, It Arrives.”

See, capital I in It.  Clever JJ.

The Apparition (September 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1433822/

College kids release evil spirit who then haunts them.  No gin involved.  But, looks like some skimpy underwear involved so that’s okay.

The Smurfs (August 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472181/

Blue! Smurf-tastic.  Coming next smurf, this smurf movie of smurf is smurftastic in all smurf ways, and will smurf your smurf more than ever before.  Smurf.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (June 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1302011/

Fat is Back!  All the fun of Jack Black without having to look at his ugly face.

Unknown (February 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401152/

Liam Neeson gets to play another brooding man in a suit in this thriller.  He’s been in a coma, someone else is pretending to be him, no one believes him, confides in a woman, sets out to prove he is who he says he is.  Top man.

The Three Musketeers (October 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1509767/

Milla Jovovich in a corset.  Sold?  I was.  Also, men with swords, buckling swashes and doffing hats.  Periodtastic action.

Sadly, has Orlando Bloom in it.

Priest (May 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822847/

Didn’t I already send an e-mail about this?  Paul Bettany (who is a king among men) plays a priest, in some weird future society with vampires, who sets out to rescue someone.  But who cares why, did you see the bit about FUTURE APOCALYPTICAL SOCIETY WITH VAMPIRES?

Rise of the Apes (August 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1318514/

Since it’s technically impossible to ruin a movie as efficiently as Tim Burton ruined Planet of the Apes in 2001, for which I’m still refusing to forgive him, this ‘how they became the talking apes we know and love’ prequel must theoretically be worth watching.

Also, Tim Burton had fucking nothing to do with it – so that’s good.  Andy Serkis gets to play a hunched humanoid with dodgy interpersonal skills.  Again.  Typecast much?

Anyway, I actually quite like the premise, “An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.”

Real Steel (October 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433035/

Sci-Fi Boxing Drama – Transformers meets Rocky.  With family relationship issues thrown in for free.

Now (September 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1637688/

I like this one – it sounds original.  Everyone lives to 25, after which you can live for ever, as long as you can pay to remain 25.  The rich are immortal, the poor have to beg, borrow and steal to make it through another day.  I’m not even biased that it stars Olivia Wilde (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1312575/), although that certainly helps.

Conan the Barbarian (August 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816462/

If I have to describe this, then I clearly didn’t mean to include you in the distribution of this e-mail, forgive me.  For everyone else – CONAN!  With RON PERLMAN! And staring Jason Momoa as Conan (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0597388/).

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_c3ZUAeRf9HI/TEEaLPRIQ1I/AAAAAAAAAHs/6Wi5R_2KZ_Y/s1600/The+Barbarian+Jason+Momoa+as+Conan.jpg

Stop drooling at the back.

The Adjustment Bureau (March 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1385826/

With any adaptation of a P.K. Dick story you can be sure of two things,

1. it will involve paranoia
2. it will be confusing

Let’s hope Matt Damon can keep our interest during this latest adaptation of the master of paranoia’s work – “David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself-the men of The Adjustment Bureau-who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together.”

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1293847/

They should have called this xXx 3 Dropping Vin was Stupid.  Vin tried to distance himself from each of the movies he starred in, instead going on to produce their sequels (The Fast and Furious, xXx, etc.) and the sequels tanked.  So he’s decided if he wants to make money, he should maybe continue doing the thing that made him money in the first place.  So he’s back in both his major franchises, and you can bet there’s a third Pitch Black coming soon with him in it.  In xXx Vin is back as Xander Cage, and he’ll do silly stunts in order to achieve impossible goals.  Yay.  Also, he plays D&D so we need to support him.  Also, is Samuel L. Jackson up for the ‘most supporting actor roles in history’ Oscar?

Contagion (October 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1598778/

Matt Damon (again) in a remake by any other name of Outbreak.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (October 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0983193/

Tintin!  The Thompson Twins!  Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg (hardest working British actor OF ALL TIME).  Tintin!

The Eagle (March 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034389/

Roman soldier seeks golden emblem – please send contact information if you have located it.  Honour at stake.

Red Dawn (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1234719/

Chinese and Russian soldiers invade a town and are repelled (we presume) by some local teenagers.  Like ‘home alone’ the party version.

Immortals (November 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1253864/

Clash of the Titans, without the Titans, and with different Gods, but otherwise, the same, but hopefully better, but then it does star Mickey Rourke so it could go either way.

The Thing (October 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0905372/

Prequel to The Thing.  I still think they should have called it ‘The Other Thing’, or ‘The Second Thing’ or ‘Another Thing’.

National Treasure 3 (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1197627/

Not much detail yet – but yes, apparently, they do think they can make another one.

The Killer Elite (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1448755/

Assassin movie – with Clive Owen.  And De Niro.  AND JASON STATHAM!!!  I’m buying my tickets RIGHT NOW!

I don’t know the plot, I don’t care, it’s got The Stath.

The Witches of Oz (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592287/

If I told you almost anything about this movie, you wouldn’t be interested.  But I can tell you one thing that ensures you’ll see it.  The single most important thing.  The critical thing.  The One Thing.

The Wizard of Oz is played by – Christopher Lloyd.

See, told you.  See you there.

Wanted 2 (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1262421/

James McAvoy is back – but we’re not sure if anyone else is and so we’re not sure if it’ll be worth seeing.  All the best characters died.  To be fair, ALL the characters died.

Fright Night (October 2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1438176/

Yes, they remade it.  With fucking Colin Farrell. And David Frigging Tennant.    I refuse to watch it.  I will watch the original 20 times before I watch this steaming pile of childhood memory robbing garbage.

I’ll probably buy the DVD though.

Zombieland 2 (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1560220/

Still in development, so late 2011 or early 2012.  I’ll be there though.  Who wouldn’t?

Red Sonja (2011)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800175/

The girls get Conan and the boys get Red Sonja.  Sadly, she’s played by Rose McGowan so it would be like having a fantasy involving your frumpy ugly maths teacher – in other words, pointless.

The Avengers (May 2012)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/

The ensemble Super Hero movie Marvel always wanted to make will finally arrive.  Maybe.  Finally.  Perhaps, in 2012.  Iron Man! Thor! Captain America! The Hulk! Black Widow! Hawkeye! War Machine!   All together, on the big screen, at once!  Because you know, we love movies with so little focus on one character that they turn into a soup of explosions and shitty dialog.

Other 2012 highlights,

The Dark Knight Rises (i.e. Batman 3)
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1345836/

Not much detail yet.  I hope Bale drops the STUPID voice.

Battleship
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1440129/

A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals.

This can only be so terrible as to be awesome (it’s ‘inspired’ by the game, in case you’re wondering).

Star Trek 2
* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1408101/

No title, but the whole cast is back, let’s just hope they drop the red matter bullshit.  We don’t need any origin story, so I’m hoping for 90 minutes+ of tachyon beam based fun.

Spider-Man reboot

Meh.  Why?

Superman re-reboot

Meh.  Why?

Gamer

I had mixed hopes for Gamer.  On the one hand, movies about computer games tend on the whole not to be very good, on the other hand it had a pretty good pedigree and some of the clips from the trailer looked promising.  The premise is simple, through the use of nano technology the human brain can be modified so that a person can be controlled remotely.  Some people will pay for the ability to control people, and those who are controlled can get paid.  The Sims made real.  Alongside that, criminals on death row are offered the chance to be controlled in live first-person-shooter style games, with the promise of surviving 30 games giving them their freedom.  The technology was developed and is sold by Ken Castle (played by Michael C. Hall) who is now a multi-billionaire.

Our grisly combat-savy hero (Gerard Butler) has survived 27 or so battles controlled by a young male gamer.  As he nears his 30th match, things take a turn south.

One could be forgiven for thinking this was a remake / reworking of The Running Man.  Certainly there are many similarities, prisoners given a chance at freedom for the entertainment of the masses, those in charge of the game being corrupt or manipulating the outcome and media interest in the whole thing.  In fact, there are plenty of comparisons to be made to the recent Death Race movie as well.  Given the plot in general isn’t that original, the movie really needed to bring something else to the table.

The pop culture references are entertaining, with the look of the Society game clearly modelled on many current real-world MMO’s, and there are a few pokes and prods at the mindsets of a certain type of game player.  The dialogue is okay, it’s no where near as cheesy as I feared, and the pace clips along pretty well.  The characters are interesting, but not very deep, and there’s a definite sense of having seen much of this film before elsewhere (the anti-establishment hackers in Johnny Mnemonic for example).  The action scenes are brutal (you’ll recognise the writers/directors from Crank and Crank 2) but give you a good sense of being inside a first-person-shooter.

The first two thirds of the movie are the strongest, sadly once our hero inevitably comes up against the bad guy, all sense of danger is lost and the story becomes almost a parody of itself.

Gamer was mostly enjoyable, and I’m glad I saw it, but I think it was a huge missed opportunity.  It could have been a classic, a solid action sci-fi movie with something serious to say about where culture is heading with on-line gaming.  But I don’t think the writers/directors quite had the balls to pull it off.  Maybe the screenplay was better and it lost something on the way to the screen, but the movie misses the mark too often.  Which is a shame, because it deserved to be and had the root of something much bigger than it turned into.

Books!

Have read both The Naming of the Beasts (Mike Carey) and The Ghost Brigades (John Scalzi) recently (as in, over the last couple of days).  Both very different books, but both excellent.  The Carey book is, well, hard to put into a box. Maybe urban fantasy, maybe urban private detective fantasy, maybe just urban, whatever it is it’s the fifth in the Felix Castor series and well worth reading.  The books can be a little bleak at times because the subject matter is a little bleak, but the payout is worth it.  The Scalzi book is clearly sci-fi with a solid emotional backing, and is the second in the series (although not a direct sequel).  It’s engaging, and packed a bigger emotional punch than the Carey book for me but that’s because it tugged at all the tight emotional triggers.  I’ve reviewed them both over on Grete’s BookThing website (the links above take you there).