A fitting choice for my first foray into mini-reviewing…
Nearly everything is awesome in this well-assembled toy adaptation which puts Michael Bay and Hasbro’s attempts to shame.
Although The Lego Movie treads painfully on its attempted self-worth subtext by making everyman mini-figure Emmet an all-powerful Master Builder at the last minute, the emotional heart of the final act’s revelations more than make up for it.
Fans of Traveller’s Tales, who make the Lego computer-games, will love this laugh-a-minute, sight-gag filled thrill-ride.
Morgan Freeman is brilliantly silly and cameos from DC Characters offer huge guffaws, but this film firmly belongs to our hero Emmet, voiced to perfection by Chris Pratt.
Was it impossible to see all the good winter releases? Rob has a look…
Have you seen every film you wanted to at the cinema this winter? I certainly haven’t.
Nobody seems to have told Hollywood that November is a time spent scrimping for future festive frolics, or that December is when we have the least spare cash imaginable. For some, January’s purse strings can be tight too as we wait for post-Christmas paydays or overspend on new gym memberships and never-to-be-eaten healthy foods.
Despite this, the movie industry seems to have welcomed the winter months as a secondary blockbuster season, possibly as a combination of reactionary tactics to avoid clashes with superhero summer smashes and an eagerness for award-baiting features to be as close to the Oscar nominations announcement as possible.
For geeks everywhere, November was a big month. It saw Francis Lawrence’s Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire face off against Ender’s Game for the young adult sci-fi market. Super sequel Thor: The Dark World also put in a strong claim for the geeky box office throne. Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity also continued its never-ending multiplex run. Even TV shows got involved as the huge simulcast of The Day of the Doctor screened worldwide on the 23rd.
There was a strong crop of November comedies too, particularly appealing to this writer were Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon, Mary Poppins origin story Saving Mr Banks and 1980s period comedy Computer Chess. As well as continuing its UK run,it was also a key month in the USA for Richard Curtis’ time-travel rom-com About Time.
Art house fans may have caught the limited UK release of Blue is the Warmest Color in this month too, if they were lucky.
Were they released at a less-hectic point in the cinematic calendar, many more might have also considered cinema trips for November’s horror options In Fear and the Carrie remake.
With cash reluctantly being saved for presents, parties and an industrial supply of Quality Street, this writer only managed to make it to the cinema in November for The Day of the Doctor and Thor: The Dark World. That makes a ratio of two visits compared to twelve films that perked my interest. Thankfully Gravity still seems to be on everywhere, but most of these movies are now relegated to DVD potential only.
In another month, one can’t help feeling many of these films could have done better. Overall, Ender’s Game barely scraped past its $100 million budget. Surely it could have achieved more if it hadn’t decided upon a release at the public’s busiest time of year, especially as it was after the exact same audience as Catching Fire. Can studios expect young adults to go see two similar films in the same month? Seeing as Catching Fire has quadrupled Ender’s Games’ worldwide box office in the USA alone, it doesn’t look like it.
So with ten films missed already, on trudged December, continuing to futilely flaunt films we hadn’t a hope of catching in our frustrated faces.
Cinema-goers rushed in their millions to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which topped the December box office chart, followed not-even-closely by cult comedy follow-up Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
We were well into Oscar-baiting territory too with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Nebraska, and All is Lost all reaching cinema screens in December.
Walking with Dinosaurs went up for the Christmas children’s market and was completely frozen out by, uh, Frozen.
For the slightly edgier side of our personalities, many were surely intrigued by Radcliffe and DeHaan teaming up for Kill Your Darlings. I can’t have been the only one who fancied Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake either. Well, until the reviews staring coming in.
As a sucker for most genres when the wind is blowing the right way, this writer would honestly have loved to see all of these films. If there wasn’t such a huge amount to try and fit in, Homefront and 47 Ronin would have been in with a chance too. But was there time in the midst of tight social calendars and even tighter purse strings? Not a chance. Out of these eleven films, this writer only managed to make it to The Desolation of Smaug. Disgraceful, I know.
It doesn’t seem like I’m alone either, out of all those great releases only three crossed the hundred million mark at the global box office in December. Although some managed to beat their own budgets and start making money back, some did woefully badly. 47 Ronin is still only $106 million into recouping its $175 million budget now. Did it really need to be released at Christmas time against tons of Oscar movies and two highly-anticipated sequels? Probably not.
Now with twenty-one attention-grabbing films missed, January trudged on, continuing the onslaught. While waiting for pay cheques to come in and trying to reduce Christmas debt, many more great films threatened to come and go.
Despite their fantastic marketing stunt and my love for modern horror, there was little chance of a trip to Devil’s Due from me, and the latest Paranormal Activity instalment was even more unlikely. Bottom of the horror pile though was, I, Frankenstein, released late in the month. Despite a strong marketing presence and plenty of preview and interview hype, the film became entirely unlikely to get any of my dosh after some terrible reviews dropped this week - if it was released at Halloween though, there would at least be a slim chance of me shelling out for some hammy horror cheese.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, The Railway Man, August: Osage County, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davies and The Wolf of Wall Street all hit UK screens this month as well - the attack of Oscar-hungry releases continues! Again, it would be fantastic to be able to see all these films, but finding the money on my wage would mean arriving in February with 50% less kidneys.
Indeed, a whip-round on my social media seemed to point out that my friends working in the film world are the only ones who manage to reach everything they liked the look of. Pauper fans like me missing out on shed-loads of winter releases is commonplace it would seem.
It looks like there are several factors contributing to the winter blockbuster issue. Due to worries of amnesia among the Oscar panel, award-hungry films seem determined for a late December or early January release. Nine films listed in this article, although not all were nominated, were all surely released during winter due to the Oscar nominations announcement on 16th January.
Although they feature several different genres, a sizeable chunk of the intended audience for all these films is presumably the film-literate population. Surely even the most hardened film buff must have struggled to catch them all.
Most of the non-Oscar hunters in this article have been action and adventure movies. I count seven. This seems to suggest that studios see November-January as an alternative to the summer season for bombastic spectacle.
As much as it’s great to see studios pushing out so many thrilling films, have they done particularly well in this winter setting? Although Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire have succeeded, as one would expect from popular franchise follow-ups, the non-sequels like Ender’s Game, 47 Ronin and Homefront have arguably not reached their full box office potential.
Looking at my personal choices this winter, it would seem that I’ve started saving my cinematic viewing for certain genres - 80% of what I’ve shelled out for this winter has been movies with plenty of action. Comedies and low-budget horrors are now referred to as ‘DVD jobbies’ in my household, and rarely have chance of enticing me to experience them on the big screen.
Cinema ticket prices are surely to blame in this change of behaviour. When a £30 multiplex gift-card can’t stretch to two non-Wednesday outings for a couple, I want to save cinema trips for the biggest cinematic experiences possible.
Even if EE started doing ‘2-4-1 All Days Ending in Y’, it would have still been difficult to catch all the eye-catching films this winter. This piece has documented a whopping thirty films I would have been willing to pay to see, but couldn’t due to the fact they were released all at once in the ever-expensive multiplexes during everyone’s tightest financial time of the year.
While it’s impossible to ever catch thirty films you fancy the look of during any three month period, the winter positioning significantly lessened these films chances of getting my hard-earned wonga, as I only managed to catch five of them (I finally caught Catching Fire and Anchorman 2in January, thanks to that gift card and Kevin Bacon’s generosity).
If some of these films were staggered throughout spring, surely they could have achieved more at the box office. Although Hollywood probably won’t change their behaviour until something unexpected massively flops, one thing is for sure… I’ve got a lot of DVDs to buy this year.
Did you manage to catch every film you wanted to this winter? Let me know in the comment box!
Your weekly hit of nerdy news!
This geeky week has had everything. Films cancelled before they’ve even begun, contract extensions for unpopular casting choices and one man’s decision not to star alongside a racoon in a Hollywood blockbuster. Confused? Well read on…
The big story of the week was broken by Mike Flemming Jr of Deadline through his interview with a very frank Quentin Tarantino. The fan-favourite writer-director lashed out against his own close-knit team by cancelling his next film The Hateful Eight after a mysterious script leak. With only three actors in the cast having received the script, Tarantino is urging fans to track down which actor’s agent leaked the script. One thing’s for sure, he’s pretty angry! Life lesson learnt - don’t mess with Quentin Tarantino! Heck, he probably owns a shedload of samurai swords.
Those corners of comment boxes around the web still questioning the casting of Gal Godot as Wonder Woman in Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel follow-up had better get used to it. This week Batman-News .com revealed that the Israeli actress has signed up for a three film deal. I personally don’t understand hating on a performance before it’s even been filmed – look how it turned out for all those who doubted Heath Ledger could pull off the Joker! We ended up with an Oscar-winning turn in a superhero movie and one of the greatest performances of our age. Let’s just see what she’s like when the film comes out (now not until 2016 thanks to a production delay).
Comic book fans on the Marvel side were surprised to hear Stan Lee speaking publically about not making one of his trademark cameos this week. He revealed in a great Dweebcast interview that he won’t be appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s riskiest movie yet, because they’re not his characters. Fair enough. Expect to see Stan the Man enjoying it in cinemas like the rest of us then! The film, with an amazing cast including Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Zoe Salanda, John C Reilly and Bradley Cooper as the voice of a raccoon, probably didn’t have room for Stan anyway, but is sure to make a lasting impact either as a massive hit or a very brave flop. It has a budget the size of Avengers Assemble but no mainstream big name characters – what could go wrong?
As The Hunger Games: Catching Fire draws its cinematic run to a close, the publicity wheels started whirring this week for the next instalment. On Thursday, the first poster landed on The Hunger Games Facebook page for the upcoming sequel The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. That’s right it’s getting the Harry Potter/Twilight two-part finale treatment, but if Catching Fire is anything to go by, it’s sure to be excellent. The series so far has given us brilliant drama, sheer suspense and one of the greatest female characters of our age. Fans of the books know to expect a darker third instalment as the revolution against the Capitol heats up, and I’m sure we can expect some more excellent performances too.
A particularly juicy casting rumour also dropped for Ron Howard’s Dark Tower adaptation this week as Ain’t it Cool News revealed that Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul has had ‘a ton of meetings’ about appearing as drug addict and cocaine smuggler Eddie Dean. Sounds like a bit of crack casting to me. Pun intended. On a serious note, this series is notoriously complicated and will be very difficult to adapt – a popular actor with experience of bizarre plots with plenty of drama can only be a good thing. Sign him up Ron!
Despite that slice of fried gold, my personal top rumour this week falls to a different sci-fi galaxy, one that’s far, far away. Latino Review, who have had decent big scoop form in the past, claimed this week that Star Wars, now owned by Disney, are set to collaborate with Pixar for a new Star Wars animation – what great news!
What could their focus be? How about an R2-D2 and C3PO spin-off from the team who brought us Wall-E? What’s not to like! Or why not some epic force-sensitive family feuds realised by the team who brought us The Incredibles? That’s sure to be… Incredible! Better still… X-Wings: From Above the World of Planes… OK, I’ll stop.
What would you like to see in a new Star Wars Pixar movie? Have I missed your favourite story this week? Do you know who leaked that script?! Let us know in the comments below!
Come back next week for more news, rumour and speculation from the world of geeky film and TV.
Photo credit: Dweebcast’s interview with Stan Lee.
NB: This was written as a trial for a recurring blog on Huffington Post UK, and they liked it! Will share the follow-ups on my Twitter @robleane - come follow and keep your eyes peeled for more of the same!
The phrase ‘geek comedy’ threw me slightly in my anticipation of this film. Let it be stressed that Michael Cera and Jonah Hill-style laugh-out-loud raucous is not what you are going to get from Andrew Bujalski’s latest offering. You’re still getting funny, but you might need to engage your brain slightly to enjoy this picture.
Computer Chess is a period piece set at a computerised chess tournament in the 1980s, long before the phrase ‘geek chic’ had even been fathomed. These are genuinely awkward, sometimes difficult to watch, characters, many portrayed by non-professionals from the real computer programming world. Laughs aren’t built by gross-outs or virginity-losing gags (well, except one or two), they are conjured by socially inept moments, unlikely meetings, surrealism and great writing.
If you can’t stomach the surreal, this is definitely a film to miss. If you can enjoy some off-the-wall oddities though, this could stand amongst your favourite new comedies. Veering off from the documentary-esque starting style, some of the most memorable moments of this film come from its tangents into the weird and wonderful, including a late night programming freak-out, doped-up trippy conversations and the film’s bizarre, endlessly re-interpretable ending.
A particular stand-out performance in this ensemble-cast of unknowns would be Myles Paige as the homeless-in-the-hotel gag-machine Michael Papageorge. His night-time endeavours to try and find a room, encountering hippies, angry hotel staff and an abundance of cats in the process, are some of the true highlights of the film. A talk from the producer after the film revealed that Paige is a non-professional actor, and spends his real life living as a Harvard-graduate-turned-chocolatier, a suitably unbelievable back-story for this enigmatic performer.
If you like the sound of this curve-ball comedy, definitely try and catch this film upon it’s UK cinematic release 22nd November onwards.
Have you been to LFF? What were your highlights? Let me know in the box below!
The second instalment of Marvel’s new live action series Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. easily surpasses the somewhat jarring opening episode.
Taking a leaf from the Fight Club storytelling guidebook, we jump straight into the peak of the episode’s excitement with a lovely bit of non-linear storytelling foreshadowing the impending damage to Coulson’s team’s beloved ‘bus’ (their snazzy S.H.I.E.L.D aeroplane).
What comes next (after we’ve jumped back to the start of the narrative) is thoroughly entertaining storytelling laced with more razor sharp humour, including the inevitable clash between the brawn and the brains of the team - ‘in English!’ demands Agent Ward, clearly fed up with scientist duo Fitzsimmons’ techno-babble.
However, the episode isn’t without it’s negatives. As the stakes get higher when the 0-8-4 - the item of unknown origin which gives the episode it’s name - turns out to be a Hydra-style tesseract-esque weapon with more power than a nuclear bomb, no one seems to have any loved ones or families they might want to alert. To this viewer, this seemed like a spot of poor writing, neglecting the opportunity to showcase some real emotion in the characters.
Also, despite the action-packed opening and a brief gunfight in Peru, we spend a huge amount of the episode on ‘the bus’ which screams of budgetary restraints.
The writing team are definitely playing the long game though, and more hints of the mystery behind Coulson’s revival and Skye’s ongoing communication with the anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘Rising Tide’ group has left me eagerly waiting the next episode. On top of this, those dissatisfied with the lack of links to the MCU will have greatly approved of Samuel L Jackson’s comedic appearance at the end of the episode.
What did you think of the episode? Will you be tuning in again next time? Let me know in the comments box below!
Def-Con 2 was a charity mini-con in Totton run by a group called SO16 Troopers, and it was an absolute pleasure to attend on the Saturday.
All proceeds for guest entry and Sci-Fi celebrity signatures were split between children’s cancer charity Clic and the Piam Brown Ward, the Wessex Regional Paediatric Oncology and Haematology Centre treating children in Southampton who suffer from various forms of cancer.
It’s no doubt that these good causes are what made this event special, there was a great feeling that every signature bought was a good deed done and you could tell that Chris Barrie, Danny John Jules and Robert Llewellyn (pictured), three quarters of the principal cast of Red Dwarf, as well as Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) were proud to be a part of this event and were meeting and selling to as many people as possible to support the cause.
The event was absolutely jam-packed, in fact I would go as far as to say it is by far the most people I have ever seen in Totton. Merchandise fans, intrigued members of the public, whovians in abundance and some absolutely brilliant cosplayers. Personal favourite was this homemade Predator costume by Andrew Myler:
Although the official total raised has not yet been announced, the success of this event is absolutely undeniable.
It is clear that the powers-that-be in Totton are very keen to welcome back the Sci-Fi community. Hints on the SO16 Troopers Facebook page (linked at the top of the article) suggest they are in talks for monthly charity events and possibly even a convention themed on The Walking Dead!
Like their page and have a look at the charity pages I linked to as well. The Sci-Fi community coming together for charity, what more could you want?!
Were you at the event? Let me know your favourite moments below! Who was your favourite cosplayer?
In the wake of the box office hulk-smash that was Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Marvel Studios are now attempting something that only their bitter rivals DC have tried in recent years - live action comic book TV.
But with the odd twist that it doesn’t seem overtly.. comicy. Whereas Smallville was crammed full of references to Superman’s rouges gallery and wider universe, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to suffer from it’s limitations.
Predictably enough, budgets cannot allow for an appearance from Tony Stark or Black Widow every week, and what the audience gets instead leaves a lot to be desired. ‘They’re using Extremis technology … Y’know.. like in Iron Man?’. Yawn.
As a Marvel fan who has been spoiled recently, seeing a host of superheroes share a screen, seeing a screen with none of them on it is slightly disappointing. Though it is something we will have to get used to if we hope to enjoy the show on its own merits.
Indeed, there is a lot to enjoy in this episode, not limited to the particularly snazzy reveal of Coulson’s beloved retro vehicle’s full potential in the last five minutes.
The action sequences hold up and the trademark Whedon humour is squeezed in by the bucket-load, despite the occasional misfire (‘Poop with knives in’, what were they thinking?!).
Due in no small part to this comedy factor, the characters became interesting enough that I will be tuning in again to see where their adventures take them. Keep your eyes peeled for more reviews!