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Avengers Blu-Ray trailer

2 Jul


The trailer for Marvel’s The Avengers Blu-Ray special combo pack is out. I bet you can’t wait to get your hands on it, either. A lot of the footage is familiar but I swear there are parts there I’ve never seen before (and I saw the film three times).

The Avengers in Blu-Ray will be out 25 September 2012.

New Dredd Trailer!

22 Jun

The first full trailer for Dredd, the film based on the cult favorite lawman Judge Dredd, is out today. Karl Urban looks pretty darn good as Dredd and he doesn’t appear once in the whole trailer without his helmet, which is a good sign. However the plot looks a little too simplistic. But it’s be too early to, er, judge.


Dredd opens 27 September in Singapore.

The Best Batman Ever

11 Jun

As the third and final installment of the Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises, is released the week of 19 July, already fans are speculating about the future of Batman in film and what direction the franchise may take.

The Batman character is among a handful of “super-heroes” that have transcended from popular culture into myth, joining the ranks of characters now forever linked to human culture. These mythic figures include the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Robin Hood, King Arthur and Hercules. It’s no surprise that since the Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, he has been interpreted by hundreds of writers, artists and filmmakers.

For my favorite versions the Batman in any medium, click here for the story published in Yahoo!

Prometheus: the Grumpy Fanboy review

10 Jun

Prometheus suffers from too many idiotic character decisions and plot holes so big, you could fly the Nostromo through them.

I had very high hopes for Prometheus. Ridley Scott’s much-heralded return to science fiction. A prequel to the phenomenal Alien series. A great cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce. It had every reason to be great. But due to poor character development and puzzling gaps in the story, the film never quite gets off the ground.

The premise is simple: scientists believe they have unearthed clues to the origins of humanity that lead them to a distant planet. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. There they encounter the remnants of an advanced alien civilization and a rapidly evolving predatory species who wants to kill everything in order to propagate. But barely 30 minutes into the film and the series of inane, almost comical, decisions by the characters begin.

The team of scientists enter the alien structure in the middle of what they establish is a hostile environment. Once inside, they notice the atmosphere is  breathable and so they remove their helmets, thus inhaling the air and allowing the fluids from the environment drip all over their faces. Later, part of the same group encounters a living alien species (which remarkably resembles a King Cobra) and their first impulse is to pet it. Needless to say, all of these decisions have disastrous results. In the scifi genre, inconsistencies like this are unforgivable. There were more honest and rational reactions from humans discovering alien life in Galaxy Quest.

The core problem is that you never get a chance to understand the motivations behind the main characters. If you don’t appreciate what motivates them, you can’t root for them (as with great heroes) nor hate them (as with great villains). The android David, played by Fassbender, consciously infects a fellow crew member with the alien DNA in order to impregnate another crew member because … uh, because what again? The only survivor of the “engineer” species (whose DNA is identical to our own and apparently bio-engineered our ancestors) is thawed from a thousand-year sleep. Without explanation, his first thought is to kill everything in sight with his bare hands.

Why did the engineers create humans? Why are they breeding the perfect predator as a bio-weapon? What were they doing on this backwater planet? Why did they leave clues behind on Earth? And what exactly was the point of Charlize Theron’s character? Prometheus raises all kinds of questions but doesn’t provide satisfactory answers. Amid the blood splatter and flailing tentacles I guess we were not supposed to notice.

Prometheus is now in cinemas. Grumpy Fanboy rating: 2.5/5

If you’re looking for a more satisfying movie experience, both the original Alien (directed by Scott) and Aliens (directed by James Cameron) are amazing in Blu-Ray. I watched them both again before seeing Prometheus, which is about the only good thing to come out of this film’s release.

ADDENDUM: My last comment was incorrect. The best thing to come out of Prometheus was the following clip, which was actually a “viral video” issued months before the film’s release. It features Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland, appearing at a fictional TED Talk in the year 2023.

Green Lantern: the Grumpy Fanboy review

27 Jun

Green Lantern, like many film disappointments of the past – Spider-Man 3, every Highlander sequel, every Alien sequel after the second and, most recently, Green Hornet – has left my fanboy psyche so scarred, I’m going to try to forget I ever saw it.

I really wanted to enjoy Green Lantern. I really did. Not only is Hal Jordan one of my favorite childhood heroes of all time, I also love the lore developed over the years behind the Green Lantern Corps itself. With today’s special effects and the success rate of recent comic book adaptations – Iron Man, the Dark Knight, Thor and X-Men: First Class in particular – this film had every reason to be great.

The film has since been universally reviled by critics. It’s not hard to sum up why: The film never takes itself seriously enough for you to relate to the lead character or feel any emotion at all. (Unless you count the gag reflex an emotion.) You never get a sense of the Green Lantern Corps’ importance or who exactly they guard the universe against. Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds) is passed on the most powerful weapon in the universe by the dying Green Lantern Abin Sur so that he can … well, we’re not sure exactly. Later we see him beat up three thugs and stop a helicopter crash. Could that be it?

For a super-hero film, too much of the story in conveyed through words rather than genuine story-telling. We hear other Green Lanterns saying over and over again what an honor and how rare it is for one to be chosen. But once on the Green Lantern home planet of Oa, his training lasts for all of 15 minutes, after which he says, “I quit” and the rest of the Lanterns appear to reply, “Okay”.

You never get a sense of dread about the looming danger. We hear that an entity called Parallax has destroyed two inhabited worlds and killed four Green Lanterns (including its “greatest warrior, Abin Sur”). Yet when he arrives on earth, Parallax appears little more than a black cloud that breaks windows and flips over a few cars. In the end he is all-too-easily beaten by the rookie Green Lantern. Why a bunch of more seasoned Lanterns were unable to accomplish the same feat is never made clear.

There is no credible transformation for Hal from failure to hero. Green Lanterns become great by overcoming fear, we understand. But since we know from the opening scene that Hal is a test pilot willing to risk stalling the jet engine on his own aircraft in order to achieve victory, conquering fear never appears to be his problem. In the end, what finally allows him to become the courageous hero is a pep talk from his girlfriend, who tells him, “You’re courageous.” Problem solved!

Green Lantern never quite takes off. Its characters are unlikable and its emotional dilemmas are contrived and superficial. The script seemed more preoccupied stringing together wise cracks and satisfying female audiences by showing Ryan Reynolds shirtless. Most unforgivable of all – at least for us grumpy fanboys – are the missed opportunities to provide nods to the source material. Of all the Lanterns in the Corps, only Sinestro, Tomar-Re and Kilowog appear. A few more familiar faces would have been welcome. It’s an adaptation that never gives its  loyal fans any respect nor provides enough opportunities to hook new ones.

Grumpy Fanboy rating: 2/5

Green Lantern is still one of my all-time favorite characters. Fortunately, if you’re looking for more satisfying on-screen incarnations of DC Comics’ emerald guardian, you can always turn to their animated features:

Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)

DC’s first full-length feature film for DVD provides a decent origin story for Hal Jordan. This is what the live-action film should have based its story on.

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011)

A collection of six stories about the Green Lantern Corps give you a better understanding of the legacy of the universe’s self-appointed police force.

 Justice League TV series (2001-2006)

Although featuring Jon Stewart and not Hal Jordan, this series best portrayed the Green Lantern Corps in all its glory. In particular, check out episodes “Blackest Night (Parts 1 & 2)”, “Hearts & Minds (Parts 1 &2)” and “The Once and Future Thing (Part 2)”, in which Hal makes a cameo appearance.

Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

Apart from being an adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s excellent comic book series, it also offers one of the most compelling Hal Jordan origin stories ever made.

Green Lantern: the Animated Series (scheduled for release in 2013)

Creatively led by Bruce Timm, best known for his work on Justice League, Batman and the Superman animated series), this upcoming series shows a lot of promise. Plus it’s the first among DC’s animated projects to go full CGI. Check out the trailer:

Space Battleship Yamato: the Grumpy Fanboy review

17 Mar

I caught the premiere of Space Battleship Yamato last night. Knowing that it was the first live action adaptation of the cult classic anime series, I was expecting it to be extremely cheesy. That turned out to be a gross understatement.

Thanks to the brilliant trailers and clips that appeared on Youtube such as the one above (I featured a bunch of them weeks ago here) I was hoping for a Japanese version of Battlestar Galactica. Instead it was more, as my buddy with whom I saw the film put it: “Starship Troopers-meets-Armageddon-meets-Korean Soap Opera”.

The acting is, expectedly, over the top. Though there are some genuinely touching scenes. The crew’s final farewells to their families are right out of the TV series and adequately moving. But too often, the film’s otherwise upbeat tempo is bogged down by unnecessarily long and tedious melodramatic scenes. All the hugging, tearful grimacing and whining inadvertently make the drama scenes comical. As if the destruction of earth and the violent deaths of comrades weren’t dramatic enough! But then again, anime isn’t exactly famous for subtle storytelling.

The action is mostly well-paced, though once on the ground the tedium and over-acting kicks in once again. The good news is the ship-to-ship battle sequences are fantastic! This is some of the best CGI modeling and effects I have ever seen! For anime and sci-fi fans, it’s worth seeing just for that. Once you get past the farcical drama scenes (driven home by a Steven Tyler theme song), this is still one of the must-see fanboy films of the year.

Grumpy Fanboy rating: 3.5/5


Waiting for the Yamato

8 Jan

It’s been a month since Space Battleship Yamato, the live action film based on the beloved anime first aired in the 1970s, opened in Japan. (Many might know the series better as Star Blazers, as it was called in its US version.) The film was directed by Takashi Yamazaki (Returner, Always) and stars Japan screen idol Takuya Kimura. The trailers and clips that have leaked onto the internet look amazing and the reviews I have read promise a thoroughly fun film, whether you are a fan of the anime or not.

Here’s a clip of the opening scene:

And an extended clip showing the firing of the “Wave Motion Gun”:

Here’s the extended trailer:

As a live action space opera, the comparison with Battlestar Galactica is inevitable, as the following fan trailer nicely shows.

I’ve found English-language reviews of the film here and here. (Watch out for the spoilers.)

For fans around the world, the big question now is when — or if — the film will be shown in your market. IMDB lists the following international release dates:

Japan 1 December 2010

Taiwan 31 December 2010

Singapore 17 March 2011

Hong Kong 22 march 2011

Tron: Legacy – the Grumpy Fanboy Review

22 Dec

With today’s special effects and fascination with technology, this was an ideal time to release the sequel to the 1982 cult classic. What went wrong?

Slick designs, modern special effects and the hundreds of millions of dollars thrown behind it by Disney provided every opportunity for Tron: Legacy to be a slam dunk for any fanboy. But as much as I wanted to enjoy it, I didn’t.

Tron: Legacy is about Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of the original film’s hero Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), searching for his father who has been missing for over 20 years. His quest inadvertently takes him into the same digital world that the elder Flynn discovered almost 30 years ago. There he encounters his father’s evil doppelganger, a program named Clu, who has since conquered this world and installed himself as its absolute ruler.

For starters, the “Clu” Jeff Bridges, whose face is replaced by a younger CGI version, is unable to convey any emotion convincingly. The very first scene, which is supposed to be a touching flashback between father and son, looks instead like a boy talking to a creepy Disneyland ride animatronic. A year after the Na’vi of Avatar and nine years after we first saw Gollum from Lord of the Rings, a lifeless CGI character is simply unforgivable for a film of this scale.

Sadly, the real life actors are no less unconvincing. Jeff Bridges, who recently won an Academy Award for Best Actor in Crazy Heart, often resembles the clueless “Dude” from The Big Lebowski more than the technological visionary Flynn is meant to be. Meanwhile, Hedlund’s performance is only slightly less wooden than the CGI Jeff Bridges.

Perhaps the biggest letdown is the world of Tron itself. The modern day versions of the light cycles, the disc duels, those creepy two-legged flying  gunships, the sail-ship / cable-car thingy all looked great. Of course, after almost 30 years of advances in computer graphics, they’re supposed to. And that’s pretty much where the expansion of the Tron universe ends. We are otherwise shown the same hi-tech city in the middle of a barren wasteland as we first saw in 1982. (The only significant new addition to the world is … a bar.) Only this time, everything is in 1280 x 768, when back in 1982 it was in 400 x 320.

In one scene, father and son are talking while a roast suckling pig sits in the center of the dining table between them. Are we supposed to believe that somewhere in this sunless land of glass, steel and LED lights …  there is a pig farm? Fantasy worlds are only believable when every element within it is consistent with the rules you set for that world. And that is Tron: Legacy’s fatal flaw. We are never fully convinced that this world really lives and breathes. The story simply plods along from one slickly designed set to another.

When we had our first glimpse of Tron, computers were the domain of only a select few and digital technology was mysterious and arcane. Today technology is both blessing and curse, bringing convenience and unprecedented access to information at the expense of personal time and privacy. In the same way that sci-fi cult classics like Battlestar Galactica have been updated in the context of today’s world, I was hoping for a Tron that played with these contemporary themes. Instead we get a dumbed-down, clichéd, adventure-by-the-numbers that could just as easily have been written, well, back in 1982.

Tron: Legacy

Final word: Slick designs and special effects don’t make up for soulless characters and predictable plot. Your kids might like it, though. Get the Daft Punk soundtrack; the music (plus their cameo appearance) is the best part of the film. Rating: 2.5 out of 5.