zondag 30 november 2014

Today's News: some catching up required

It's been a busy week what with Sinterklaas and the news surrounding the Jurassic World trailer (and that other trailer too, which I won't mention here since it's been picked apart frame by frame everywhere else already), so here's a belated crop of this week's news from my hand:


The more I see of this movie, the more I want to see it in theaters. I know I shouldn't get my hopes up since it's by all accounts a rather generic raunchy Hollywood comedy starring all the usual suspects, but still it has piqued my interest. It probably has something to do with my fascination - coupled with a healthy dose of abjection - for dystopian societies, even though this one is sadly all too real. Everything we hear about North-Korea, and not everything being as trustworthy as it is considering the various ideologies at work, makes it sound a very incredulous yet all too actual place. I would never want to live there, but it's so shady and abhorrent there's this vast web of projected fantasies and horror stories surrounding it that remains intriguing. Of course this movie doesn't pretend to tell the truth about the nation, nor does the country ever tell the truth about itself. But it's so inherently 'other' that it's hard to deny its fascination. Even when that's exploited for stereotypical Hollywood jokes. This trailer made me snicker on more than one occasion. Some of the jokes might very well hold an uncomfortable and alarming truth though. But then, so did The Great Dictator in its days, even though the truth in hindsight was far more sinister than the fiction and in many ways, painfully unfunny. It's unlikely The Interview will ever be considered as great a classic as that film, but it's definitely in the same league, though obviously more contemporary.


Why the heck not? As Skyfall showed, the rebooting has already progressed quite far in the 007 franchise, now that old characters appear in new guises (M, Q, Ms. Moneypenny). Much as keeps happening to the protagonist himself in fact, and that has worked out pretty well so far. Why would the same principle not apply to Bond's primary nemesis Blofeld? There's no reason it shouldn't. Of course, the studio has its mind firmly set on a powerful actor who can elegantly balance the precarious line between too realistic and too campy, which is the route the franchise currently seems to be taking, as Skyfall indicated (strong drama and character conflict, but also an outrageous villain and a pit full of Komodo Dragons). Christoph Waltz perfectly fits the bill. It's not the first time he plays an evil character who feels both all too frighteningly actual and totally over the top (e.g. Inglourious Basterds), so he knows the drill. It'll be delightful to see what the new look of the character will be. I doubt the bald head and the facial scar will be as overtly present as on previous incarnations. Probably a toned down version of that. And will the cat stay? If not, it'll definitely be referenced. It should.


For some reason, this just can't excite me. I can't quite put my finger on it, since it has some things going for it that I like, including a full scale alien invasion. Maybe it just looks too generic, maybe the jokes and the bleeding heart message are too bland. Maybe I'm kinda done with Jim Parsons playing a social outcast, even though this is not our society for a change. It could be the trailer just gives away too much of the plot for me to care about the final product. Perhaps the aliens look too much like cuddly toys aimed for selling to kids. I shouldn't judge ahead so strongly, I know, but on all accounts I'm guilty as charged. Wouldn't be the first trailer for which I did so this week, though that other trailer got it worse. Probably because it gave away so little of the plot by comparison.


This movie, too, doesn't excite me that much, but in this case I know where the fault lies. It feels repetitive. It's from the same comic book writer as Wanted, and it has a lot of striking similarities with that title. Both feature secret organisations fighting to keep the world in balance. Both recruit an unlikely regular guy as their new agent and pin a lot of hopes on him because he looks so ordinary  but he's oh so special. Both star some grand actors to suck us into the world of the piece. Both feature all kinds of outrageous gun fights and assorted action scenes. The only thing Kingsman apparently doesn't have that Wanted did, is a strong female character - 'twas Angelina Jolie in Wanted's case - learning the upstart the tricks of the trade and giving us a good butt shot in the process. This time we have to make do with the very British Colin Firth to introduce both the young protagonist and us, the audience, into this crazy world. These posters indicate there's still room for some neat female butt though. No firing curved bullets this time, but there's room for other far-out stuff like a hit woman with robotic legs. And what's with the pug? Truth be told, I didn't care much for Wanted, so this movie will be hard pressed to do better.


Don't. Just don't. Please. This movie featured a solid plot that didn't seem to leave much room for more, unless it's more of the exact same. And I don't need a plot regurgitated for me to appear in a new guise for a younger generation. The only way this could be a sequel is if it featured recurring characters, and so far the old cast doesn't seem eager to jump on the same bandwagon again to sing the exact same tune. Even the studio itself seems a little hesitant on this one. First, the production was rescheduled to a full year later. Second, the number of sequels has been lowered from two to just the one. What does that tell you? It just seems nobody's heart is in this. The original 1996 movie really does suffice. If the studio truly does feel like making more dough on this title, just re-release it for its 20th anniversary (preferably not in 3D, but that's not a likely scenario these days). That's really all the celebration we need, for it's still a great thrill ride of a blockbuster flick.


Well, that just looks adorable! Not that I expected otherwise from Aardman, but am I glad their style remains consistent. From the looks of it, it's not the fairly basic plot that counts here, it's the fun to be had out of it, coupled with the wonderful style of animation Aardman always delivers. I do have this unshakeable feeling it looks aimed a little too much at a younger audience, which may mean there won't be a subtitled version in Dutch theaters, only a dubbed one. That would be a damn shame, so I hope it proves untrue. I for one am definitely up for more delightful British humour, preferably in their own language. Then again, language? The trailer doesn't offer any actual lines of dialogue. Nor does IMDb have a cast list available, as if there's no voice acting present. If that's the case, I need not worry about shitty dubbing at all, and everybody is happy. Excellent solution to save on dubbing and subtitling costs, Aardman!

zaterdag 29 november 2014

Sinterklaas 2014

We're celebrating Sinterklaas early this year. Like I did the last two years, I gave my sister another season of Game of Thrones (or at least, I will, as I'm taking the risk of posting this before actually giving the gifts, because I have time to spare), accompanied with a rather lenghty piece of poetry, and here it is:

Voor Saskia

Ook dit jaar wordt de traditie voortgezet
En doneert Sint je hier de boxset
Van 'n heel seizoen Game of Thrones
Zodat jij kan kijken naar al dat schoons
Dat de hele wereld in de greep heeft
En zich nog wel 'n paar jaar voortsleept
In het derde seizoen mogen we kijken
Naar de immer groeiende berg lijken
Die de Oorlog der Vijf Koningen veroorzaakt
Maar al door één koning is gestaakt
Toen die gruwelijk werd vermoord
Op bevel van diens broers' kille woord
Want Stannis duldt geen tegenspraak
Maar is toch in het slop geraakt
Toen in de strijd om Blackwater Bay
Z'n vloot zonk naar de bodem van d'zee
Nu is hij danig in mineur
En om te verdrijven de sleur
Verbrandt hij de verraders levend
Zodat de Rode God hem kracht zal geven
Maar zal die godheid zelf niet beven
Voor de macht van die andere zeven
Die in Westeros de hoofdreligie vormen
Waaraan hun aanhangers niet wensen te tornen
En zelfs koning Joffrey zich naar moet schikken
Terwijl die toch al wat moet slikken
Van zijn ijzige oude opa, de nieuwe Hand
Die feitelijk bestuurt het ganse land
Want de baas is nu Lord Tywin
Die krijgt lekker altijd zijn eigen zin
Omdat de eigenlijke macht ligt bij het geld
En anders gebruikt hij gewoon geweld
Z'n zoon is al verwijderd uit z'n positie
Misschien maar goed ook, in zijn conditie
Want met 'n halve neus is 't moeilijk speuren
Naar de verraderlijke kleuren en geuren
Van menig castraat en intrigant
Die wil overnemen het hele land
Als er dan nog 'n volk is om te besturen
Want de heerschappij valt te bezuren
Als de White Walkers de Night's Watch uitroeien
Omdat Jon Snow liever lag te stoeien
Met die lekk're roodharige meid
Die hem ontnam z'n maagdelijkheid
En nu met een groot leger ontheemden
Het lot van de Muur komt ontvreemden
Gelukkig is Jon aan het infiltreren
En kan hij moog'lijk het tij nog keren
Als hij zich van Ygrittes boezem kan ontrukken
Anders gaat hem dat dus niet lukken
En ligt bij Bran de laatste hoop
Heden is hij op de loop
Voor de dwaze Theon op de vlucht geslagen
Die onderhand alweer is verslagen
Door Ramsey Snow, de enge psychopaat
Die hem 't hele seizoen lang martelen gaat
Hoort allemaal bij deze show
't Blijft immers een serie van HBO
Komt ook bij het scheiden van romp en kop
Zoals gebeurt met die arme koning Robb
Want dat was een veel te goede knul
En meneer Martin vindt goedheid maar gelul
Dus wordt zoon evenals vader onthoofd
Terwijl ook z'n moeder van 't leven wordt beroofd
Zijn koninkrijk door Lord Bolton wordt ingepikt
En z'n volk voor de Lannisters zwicht
Maar er rest nog hoop in Essos
Want daar gaat Daenerys helemaal los
Om zich aan haar nieuwe missie te laven
Het bevrijden van alle slaven
Want slavernij zal zij niet tolereren
En dus moet en zal zij domineren
Over het ganse Slaver's Bay
Maar haar draken zitten daar niet mee
Als zij reduceren de stad Astapor
Van rijk en groots naar geblakerd en dor
Zal Yunkai hetzelfde lot ondergaan
Of kunnen haar huurlingen verslaan
Des prinses' achtduizend koppen
Of weigeren zij haar te stoppen
En sluiten zij zich bij haar aan
Om met zijn allen naar Westeros te gaan
En daar terug te pakken de Ijz'ren Troon
Voor haar goedheid haar verdiende loon?
Maar gebeuren kan er nog van alles
Om haar goede intenties te verknallen
Want de serie loopt nog wel 'n paar jaar voort
En menigeen zal er nog worden vermoord
Maar jij hebt al gelezen alle boeken
Dus dat hoef je niet meer op te zoeken

Janos Sint en Hot Piet

I better start thinking about the poem for Season 4 next year, if it's gonna be as long (if not longer)...

Happy Sinterklaas everybody!

woensdag 26 november 2014

Jurassic World: official trailer released!

And so it's here. The trailer arrived three days earlier than announced, but I can't say I mind.

I have reservations about this. I won't deny I'm quite excited, but there's also a bunch of story elements I knew would be involved that I'm worried about, since the trailer confirmed their presence.

Even though a lot of it is obviously digital (as is usual in trailers, since the movies they promote are still a work in progress, so I'm not gonna whine about that), I will say it looks pretty spectacular. There's a working park now, it has been in operation for a while, and everything seems to be running smoothly. The park looks state of the art and few people wouldn't want to visit something grandiose like this. There's monorails and gyrospheres and all types of futuristic gadgets, but at the same time iconic imagery like the Main Gate is present. That in itself recalls the folly of people making past mistakes all over again, considering the events of the previous JP films, which are not ignored since this is indeed a sequel of sorts, rather than a total reboot. Of course, cynics will say the set-ups offer little new narrative possibilities and they're not wrong, as in the end, it's still mostly about people running from hungry dinosaurs. Hollywood after all engages in the same type of recycling the JW scientists apparently do, but it's been that way for decades.

Of course, the primary new ingredient comes in the shape of a new dinosaur. An engineered dinosaur, that didn't ever exist before man went and created it. An actual theme park monster, called a Diabolus Rex (shitty name, I know). It's supposedly created to make for a more exciting attraction, as if ordinary dinosaurs aren't exciting enough. This troubles me somewhat, though it also sounds intriguing. On the one hand, the notion of the hubris of scientists to mess with nature's creations in order to spawn something that fits human desires is both straight out of the original book by Michael Crichton - where it goes even further in discussing the possibilities of cloning tiny and cute herbivores to make pets for people! - and right up Jurassic Park's alley of its main 'don't play God' philosophy. Hopefully the ethical debate involved in creating a tailor made dinosaur in a lab is seriously addressed, for it is indeed a fascinating and contemporary topic. However, it basically allows for dinosaurs to be turned into stereotypical 'movie monsters' even more than the Hollywood industry already emphasized them as. In comparison, both the first and second Jurassic Park movies had the decency to handle dinosaurs mostly as real animals. Dangerous and unpredictable animals of course, but still recognizable as not behaving all that differently from most present day animals.

On the other hand, the exact same notion is twisted the opposite way in this trailer's display of the Velociraptors, which are actually trained by the protagonist (Chris Pratt). These are not the highly intelligent vicious killers that assumed the spotlight in the previous movies as nearly psychopathic killers. Rather, they're simply predatory animals that can be tamed if raised by humans from birth, much as what happens to the likes of everyday dogs and cats, or even lions and tigers. Though on the one hand I applaud this concept of literally humanizing the otherwise lethal and too often demonized Raptors, I'm also quite hesitant about Pratt using them as his personal hit squad. Nevertheless, in this case a species of dinosaurs invariably portrayed as murderous monsters is shown as not being so black and white 'evil', but more relatable than we would have thought possible from the previous trilogy of films.

Then there's the Mosasaurus. It's staggeringly huge, probably for dramatic reasons, unless the final plot will reveal its size was genetically modified to make for a good sensational show, too. The gimmick of its eating Great White Sharks appears to be a typical 'because it looks cool' rationalization on the writers' part. I can live with that, even though I consider the idea of endangered species being served as food abhorrent and ridiculous. But who knows, maybe they have a lab on the island for the sole purpose of cloning Mosasaur snacks. Introducing a species of marine reptile largely feels like a gimmick. We've had the flying kind of prehistoric critter in the previous installment, now it's time for the aquatic type to make for diversity, is probably the studio's line of thinking. Fine, but please don't make it feel like a gimmick only. Add a bit of substance to it. And bother to explain where they found its DNA. Judging from its humongous size, I wouldn't be surprised if the plot makes good use of this beastie to defeat the rampaging D-Rex, as of course nothing else could kill this highly intelligent raving creation of science gone wrong. Doesn't matter, as long as it looks cool.

There's a lot of possibilities for the plot of Jurassic World to go south, from the looks of it. But if handled well, these same dubious plot elements could truly add to the franchise. On a more basic level, at least I like the look and feel, combining old and new, clearly revealing director Colin Trevorrow is a fan of the original. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, even though I'm not as wowed by this first trailer as I hoped I would be. Jurassic World is still a place I would visit instantly if given the chance, and of course the same goes for the movie. Nevertheless, I cannot help but remain skeptical. But I never for a second thought this film would ever come close to the original Jurassic Park anyway, and I'm not gonna hold that against it.

I mean, which dino fanatic could turn down a beautiful vista like this?:

maandag 24 november 2014

Today's News: 'twas a slow week of it

What with all the reviews and such, it took me a while to get around to posting new news (aside from that little item yesterday, but that wasn't news to my mind, it was a gift from the gods), but then, last week wasn't particularly noteworthy in that regard. Here's the entire crop of the previous week:


This show is starting to look increasingly epic. Just the way I like my historical drama on telly. Of course, with a modern twist here and there: I doubt any naked sword fights took place during Polo's actual visit, but I'm not complaining. It appears Netflix has a solid first entry into the historical epic on its hands with Marco Polo, likely to rival HBO's quality programs - Deadwood, Rome, Boardwalk Empire - that dabble in the same genre with such notable success. The only thing that bothers me somewhat is the overuse of spoken English. More actual Chinese (and/or Italian for that matter) would have been appreciated to add to the levels of authenticity (especially when actors from those parts are cast), but that goes for any similar show produced in the English language by rival networks, too. Otherwise, this is definitely a series to look forward to.


I'm less impressed by this one. The twisty crime thriller has kinda become a staple in recent years, most of these copying Tarantino's flicks. Son of a Gun apparently does not, judging from this trailer, but otherwise hardly appears innovative. Except maybe for its status as an Australian entry into the genre, can't recall too many of those. Casting Ewan McGregor as a bad guy - with beard, like some sleazy Obi-Wan Kenobi - is a more inspired move though, as he's not often seen in such a capacity, almost playing against type. But the notion of this top dog criminal taking a youngster under his wing for his own shady purposes rather than for his new buddy's benefits is hardly the stuff of novelty, nor is the secret agenda the teenager cherishes to get out on top himself against all odds. I'm reminded of the French film Un Prophete, for example, which featured a very similar story line, minus all the action. I guess there's only so much you can do with prisons and break-outs in whatever country. It's just the way you spice things up that makea any difference.


It had to happen sooner rather than later. With all the dystopian movies currently hitting Hollywood's primary audience where it counts the most - their wallets - it's no surprise the granddaddy of all imperfect society stories is slated for a reprise. The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, they all took a page or two from Orwell's (in)famous reflections on ruthless governments absolutely controlling their populace. There's also a lot of sexual material present to appeal to the audience's hormones. Problem is, the original 1984 is a much more adult story, centered around adult protagonists. I doubt the studio will change that core aspect of the story to appeal to the spectators currently gobbling up dystopian fare en masse, nor do I think a serious director like Paul Greengrass would let them. However, just the notion of a society where everybody is under total control of the government's watchful eyes might bring to mind to more mature audiences who don't know jack-squat about Orwell's visionary writings the similar young adult flicks that are doing big business at the boxoffice at the moment. They might turn it down just on its dystopian qualities, ranking it as just another Hunger Games copycat (what do people know, eh?). Or the subject matter might just be too dismally bleak for them, which it just happens to be (nor should that be tampered with). However, I hope adult and younger audiences alike give it a chance, as this particular story remains as urgent thematically as it was at its inception in the late Forties.


Janis Joplin is something I know jack-squat of, admittedly. Popular musicians, be they from the Sixties or from more contemporary times, just have never particuarly held my interest. Too busy with watching movies to care about music, I suppose. I only knew Joplin died of an overdose (had to learn it from Austin Powers, I'll have you know). I wouldn't ever recognize her songs. I do know Amy Adams is a fine actress though, so that at least is one thing this biopic about the ill-fated songstress has going for it. I also know director Jean-Marc Vallee has a knack for historical drama, which the story of Joplin's life (and more so, her death) can be called after fifty years. So the motion picture adaptation of Joplin's life and times at least seems to be in good, Academy Award nominated hands, I'd say.


Get out your handkerchiefs, everybody! This video is quite a tearfest. It seems to have been made as much for the fans of both Middle-Earth franchises as for the people involved in making them. We're treated to footage from all six films, most of it fondly remembered, other bits eagerly anticipated. We also get to see a lot of folks hugging each other on set, bringing to mind those good times for those lucky few who helped bring the two trilogies to life. Over all of it Billy Boyd's singing is heard. I don't find the music or lyrics nearly as moving as the imagery, I must confess. The text isn't that much different from the likes of Into the West or May It Be, which graced two our of three Lord of the Rings movies, nor does the melody sound that much different or inspired to my ears. Nevertheless, the message is clear: this is indeed a goodbye, as we're on the threshold of the last (Peter Jackson) directed Tolkien adaptation, and that's a bittersweet thought indeed. Of course, remakes of both projects are bound to occur some time in the future, but for now, it's a sad thought that it will finally end here. It's been a great journey though, one that will forever be cherished for decades to come by the generations that grew up with it. So, from the bottom of my heart: thank you, Peter Jackson and the entire cast and crew of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies!

zondag 23 november 2014

It's finally happening!! Jurassic World is coming...

Breaking news, as far as I'm concerned. I only had to wait 13 years for new JP footage after all...


Normally I tend to look at teasers and trailers with a more dispassionate, objective viewpoint. In this case, I simply can't. I can only hope my faith in director Colin Trevorrow is not misplaced. He's still inexperienced, as this is his first Hollywood movie. But from the looks of things, he's a fan too. And this little teaser sure is for the fans. Thanks, Universal Pictures!

Now if only the toys look half as promising. The first Lego Jurassic World dinosaur sure looks sweet:

2015 is gonna be a year to remember...

zaterdag 22 november 2014

Today's Review: White Bird in a Blizzard

Wrote another review for MovieScene this week. After all, I had some catching up to do in that department:


From director Gregg Araki, we both got what we expected and we didn't, in this film's case. White Bird in a Blizzard contained all his usual themes - surrealism, teenage social issues, sexuality, death - but it lacked his usual energetic visual style. It never got recognizably 'Arakiesque'. Usually it's a not a bad thing per se when you can't tell who the director is from looking at the picture, but in this case, it's no flattery at all. White Bird is a visually unimpressive, bland picture that in many ways feels like a missed oppurtunity on this director's part. You might say he preferred to stick to the source material, this being an adaptation of somebody else's novel, but considering he did change a fair amount of things already, it would also have suited him to get the film more in line with his signature style to feel less detached and make us care more about the characters.

At least performances are good throughout the piece. Shailene Woodley makes a better impression than usual. However, it's Eva Green who steals the show while playing her mother. That too, doesn't help the movie much, as it's not her show (hence the proverbial 'stealing'). In fact, it's much more about her absence than it is about her presence, but when she graces the screen, the movie lightens up considerably. Green does an excellent job portraying a seemingly perfect house wife, sizzling with the frustrations of a wasted life and unfulfilled desires just underneath the facade. Her unhealthy relationship with her daughter makes for the most emotional scenes, thoroughly uncomfortable yet mesmerizing to behold. However, the moment she's out of the picture, literally and figuratively,and  the story fully centers around Woodley's character just hanging out with her friends, having sex and going to college, our attention wanes. And then it uneasily evolves from a typical coming-of-age drama into a thirteen-a-dozen thriller in the second half and all the predictable dirty secrets come out. But we care too little, too late at that point.

White Bird in a Blizzard will always be compared unfavorably to that other adaptation of a literary work Araki directed, Mysterious Skin. That movie too featured all his themes (including a visually sober look), but fared a lot better combining teen angst, creepy sexual relations and a thriller component, as the movie unraveled in a way that did make us interested in the questions of what happened to whom. White Bird in a Blizzard sadly feels repetitive and redundant on Araki's resumé. But at least Green is not at fault.

donderdag 20 november 2014

Today's Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

It's been (quite!) a while, but I finally got around to visit another press screening for MS and post the result here:


This film series doesn't seem to get any worse, despite all the young adult franchise trademarks trying to put a dent in its reputation. Splitting a book into two movies was obviously a financial move on the studio's part, and undoubtedly will pay off big time. However, that doesn't hinder the movie from being a solid piece of work, despite not being a whole story. It's best compared to the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which underwent a similar theatrical treatment and enjoys equally similar themes in its story of teenagers on the run for a ruthless government. Plus, it's on the same level of quality. Character development is at an all-time high in Mockingjay - Part 1, thanks to a plot that doesn't leave much room, or need, for big bombastic action scenes or endless droning about which bland boy Katniss likes to kiss most, though there's still a few of those interspersed here and there. Politics and intrigue are thriving, as Katniss finds herself in the company of new allies who are not all that different from the Capitol regime she just escaped, in their unrelenting zealousness to bring the dictatorship down. Thanks to the talented cast - mainly, Jennifer Lawrence and all the experienced veterans featured in way too small parts: the rest of the younger cast leaves less of an impression, as before - and a director who once again shows he knows what he's doing, the movie forms a compelling continuation of Catching Fire as well as a great set-up for the finale. It comes complete with a cliffhanger that makes you want to check out the ending at the earliest opportunity. Which unfortunately you won't get for another year's time. Job well done, then.

And boy, did I have fun this last week mocking people for having seen this much anticipated film a week earlier than everybody else. One of the most appealing aspects of press screenings but not one of the most laudable character traits of those who visit them, I'll freely admit.

maandag 17 november 2014

Today's News: Fifty Shades of a Wonder Woman

Here's the second batch of last week's reported news:


I find the whole notion of an apparent necessity to score a superheroine picture a female director more sexist in itself than the supposed lack of superheroines. As if male directors are totally incapable of understanding female sensibilities! However, I agree the lack of female directors as a whole begs an explanation, and I have none to give. Their numbers are surprisingly low, especially in but not limited to Hollywood. So it's not surprising there's only so many directrices to pick from for Wonder Woman. Warner's list of choices was basically a list of all women who directed an action flick in the last two decades, and it was still quite a short list at that. I think they made the right choice though (if the deal doesn't fall through, which it still might). These days, television directors making the switch to the big screen (and vice versa, too) is much more accepted than it once was. And of course in such a scenario you want a director who worked on the most acclaimed and popular shows. So finding someone who directed episodes of the current 'Big Three' - Breaking Bad (which is not so current anymore, I'll grant you that), The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones - is basically striking gold. With such a rich texture of compelling drama and genre aesthetics under her belt, Wonder Woman is likely to be a smooth ride for Michelle MacLaren. And hopefully she'll get a chance to direct a male supercharacter movie as well some day, just so we know female directors understand male sensitivities too.


Speaking of sexist, this is a part of the female mindset the appeal of which I will never understand. Call it male narrowmindedness if you must. This seems like total melodrama, and not the least bit sexy. But of course, I'm not the target audience, and from what I gather so far the target audience itself has a hard time explaining why they remain so drawn to Fifty Shades of Grey itself. If you call it a subconscious female desire for male domination, you're a chauvinist pig, but I still can't see much in this other than that. But I'm not supposed to: this is female pornography, a deep felt sense of eroticism enticing to women but wholly unintelligible to men. Or so it's written off. Doesn't stop me from watching the film upon its release, needless to say while bringing along a healthy dose of male scepticism. But at least this is one ruthless hype I simply cannot be drawn into, thanks to my gender.


Oh, very sensitive! Casting a German to play a bad guy in a movie about WW II hero Captain America! The previous German villain at least was played by an Aussie actor. That's Australia, not Austria, mind you. But hey, at least he ll get the accent right. He might actually even talk German, which would make sense. That is, if he's indeed playing a German character, which is likely but by no means certain. There's still a large rogues' gallery for Cap to pick baddies from, and not all of them (but still many) are of the Germanic persuasion. My money is on Baron Helmut Zemo, in this case. Brühl has that air of aristocratic sophistication with a hint of megalomania to him, though maybe that's just me seeing more in him than there is; which only means he's a good actor, a fact we already were made aware of before on numerous occasions. Or maybe Marvel will surprise us and Brühl will play someone totally different. After all, rumours suggest his character is also a Doctor Strange nemesis, which narrows it down considerably (and effectively rules out Zemo, alas). No common foe that is of major significance to both good guys springs to mind, but then, I'm not all that acquainted with the good Doctor. Maybe Brühl's participation to Captain America: Civil War will be limited to a bit part, setting him up as a major antagonist for Doctor Strange to do battle with later on. After all, Iron Man is supposed to be the primary antagonist to Cap in Civil War. Marvel could just be throwing us off-track again. Wouldn't be the first time (nor likely the last) a terrific actor is cast for a small cameo in one character's motion picture only to appear guns blazing at a later date in another's. But hey, it's the guessing game that makes for half the fun.

zondag 16 november 2014

Today's News: a threesome of trailers with a bit of casting

Time is always against me, so it has taken me a bit longer than I had hoped to get going with posting news again, though admittedly, there wasn't that much of it anyway this week:


Das ist ja spitze, toll und hübsch! I absolutely adored the first Iron Sky (Nazis on the moon, can't go wrong with that notion!) and though I didn't think its ending allowed for a sequel - it's a bit of a downer, you know - I'm pleasantly surprised to see the writers, total fanboys as they are, came up with a neat new direction for the franchise. Nazi lizard people riding dinosaurs! Apparently, things only get crazier and I'm loving it. You can't ask for a better trailer to convince people to put money in your project (as it still is in no way sure whether the budget necessary for The Coming Race will be reached). If this trailer doesn't pull folks over, they must really hate Nazis. Or dinosaurs. In all honesty, I must hesitantly admit I haven't donated (yet)... What with the Holidays and all types of social events like birthdays and marriages just around the corner, this isn't a particularly convenient time for me to part with more dough. But that doesn't mean I won't contribute to the cause financially at some later date, when it's more opportune. I'm not a hypocrit. I support national-socialist reptilians taking over the planet! I sincerely want this movie to get made, I really do! So if you people reading this have some cash to spare, you know what to do with it.


Jared Leto as the Joker? It's not the first name that springs to mind when asked who I could see in that role. However, neither was Heath Ledger's initially (heck, no!) and that sure turned out alright. I happen to know Leto is perfectly capable of portraying a wide range of emotions and characters, and I've also seem him unpredictably unstable before ('twas in Lord of War, I'll have you know). So I'm willing to cut him some slack, particularly with an Oscar for a serious role under his belt (again, a Heath Ledger type situation: hopefully Leto has learned to stay way from drugs via Ledger's example, and his own in Requiem for a Dream). The question is more whether I think it's a good idea to introduce the new DC Cinematic Universe take on the Joker in the baddies ensemble flick Suicide Squad, rather than in the next Batman flick, as most people would have expected. I don't actually, but I understand DC doesn't want to wait that long to get audiences reacquainted with an iconic villain like this, as the next Batman film proper isn't scheduled for release until at least 2019. Plus, doing the unexpected thing always has been the Joker's forte.


Looks rather bland and predictable, to be honest. But then, what more can be added to everything that has already been said and seen about World War I? It was a bloody mess that never should have happened and a dark mark on humanity's track record, period. Of course, personal perspectives (be they from notable historical characters or common souls) could still be worthy of our attention. This one, from an early feminist point of view, doesn't seem particularly inspired. Similar stories have been addressed ample times. Atonement for example, or some plot lines in Downton Abbey. Of course, the need to warn us against the horrors of war remains, as does underscoring the notion that women are equal to men. I'm sure Testament of Youth will strongly remind us of both factors, though judging from the trailer - which you never ought to do, but usually can't be helped anyway - not without sitting through a good two hours of bland melodrama first. Good cast though (particular the female roles), I'll give 'em that.


Also doesn't exactly get me stoked, this teaser for Insurgent. The film already has the issue going against it that its predecessor, Divergent, didn't exactly agree with me. Of course, it did with the millions of paying teenage girls - I'm none of these three categories - who happily devoured both novel and motion picture, so I doubt the future of Insurgent looks in the slightest bit troubled on my account. But still, this isn't exactly an adequate teaser by most standards. It feels more like a fragment from a scene from the film, randomly picked and stripped of all context and emotional investment that should make us give a damn. Just seeing Shailene Woodley hallucinating about her mom (if that's what's going on, since I can't tell, nor do I care at this point) isn't enough to pull me or many others apart from the fanbase in. I guess I'm really just more of a Hunger Games guy anyway, though I hate taking sides between popular franchises aimed predominantly at young adults. Though naturally I'm always very much in favour of taking the sides of good films over bad ones, and I wish more teenage girls would share that sentiment.

dinsdag 11 november 2014

Jurassic Park III: Tapejara

Year of release: 2002

Description: this Pterosaur “stands” in a neutral position, except for its wings which are somewhat folded upwards. The creature sports quite an interesting paint job: the head, body and wings are mostly coloured in slightly shiny dark green. The underside of the creature is grey, from the base of the neck all the way to the upper legs. About one third of each wing is white, with the rest being light green with slightly darker tones of green mixed in. The front side of each arm is also painted in this lighter green, with a row of spots of the same colour adorning the wings. A yellow stripe runs on each side of the head, from the neck upwards till round its black eyes. The beak and, tremendously large, crest sport beige spots. The claws are black, both on the fingers and toes. A black JP III logo can be found on the underside of its left wing.
A dino damage wound is located on its back: it’s red with a little white button in the middle, suggesting muscle tissue with a small piece of bone exposed. Pushing this button activates a shrieking noise, repeated once, as if the creature is yelling in pain. A second sound is made by pressing the head downwards, thus also causing the toothless mouth to open. This noise sounds more like an attack cry.

Analysis: just when you thought JP III Wave 2 would have no surprises, this baby comes into view. This is by far Hasbro’s most daring and original figure: I reckon few people have ever heard of a Pterosaur called Tapejara (though it had a small appearance in a Walking with Dinosaurs episode). Why Hasbro suddenly decided to be original and produce this splendid figure is beyond me, but we should be glad they did, because it is one of the best figures in the entire JP III toy line.
Still, it’s mostly a rehash of the Wave 1 Pteranodon figure (which was also a great sculpt). It’s got the same features and unfortunately also the same sounds, though in a better sound quality. It’s not a repaint, though you might be inclined to think so at first. The body, legs and even the head sculpt differ from the Pteranodon’s body parts.
This Pterosaur’s action features are the same as those of the Pteranodon. First, it’s got a biting action produced by pressing the crest forwards, also causing the attack roar. Second, it’s got a dino damage wound on it’s back, and as is Hasbro lore it cannot be covered up, so it’s unfortunately got a permanent hole in his back. The pain shriek is also the same. Third, it’s got wings that can move in almost any direction, providing a wide range of possibilities. Fourth, its legs are poseable as well.
Though the features of this sculpt may not be new, they at least work fine. After all, why change a winning formula? The Tapejara is at any rate in no way inferior to the equally successful Pteranodon. It also sports a wonderful paint job despite the abundance of green.

Playability: this figure provides for a wide range of playability options, mostly because of it’s almost omni-directional wings and it’s neutral position. The attack feature also works properly and the sound quality is pretty good. Keep in mind this is an electronic figure, so you shouldn’t handle it too roughly.

Realism: there were no Tapejaras in JP III, so Hasbro deserves some credit for producing this unique sculpt. Unfortunately this is the only truly original figure in the toy line. It’s not entirely paleontologically correct, but that goes for most dinosaur toys and thus doesn’t hurt the toy in question. It’s quite oversized compared to the human figures, since Tapejara only grew to a wing scale of about 6 metres, while this one appears to be at least 10 metres. I also think it’s got too many toes (5 on each foot) though I’m less sure about this being inaccurate. And lastly I doubt whether Pterosaurs were able to bend their arms like this toy does.

Repaint: no. You may very well be inclined to think it is a repaint of the Wave 1 Pteranodon, particularly the head, but close examination says otherwise. There are a lot of small differences. This figure would not be repainted for any following toy line either.

Overall rating: 8/10. Though it’s a very original toy this is not the case for it’s action features, but it’s still one of the best figures in the toy line and certainly recommended. It’s somewhat harder to find than the Wave 1 toys, but not excessively so. It’s also rarer in overseas territories, though still findable. At least it’s well worth tracking down, even at higher cost. Let Tapejara surprise you of Hasbro’s occasional original craftsmanship too!

zondag 9 november 2014

Today's Column: what rhymes with 'Netflix'?

This month's column of mine:


Call it petty whining, but each year I'm having an increasingly hard time finding suitable birthday and Sinterklaas gifts for my ever more demanding loved ones. DVDs are just an outdated medium by now, while few of them ever bothered to make the switch to Blu-Ray at all, rather than sticking to watching things online only (if at all). Sure, you can play a DVD on (most) computers, but it's not the same. Plus, watching things on computers and assorted mobile devices certainly saves shelf space (though of course it doesn't look nearly as sophisticated to visitors!). Point is, I fully agree with all the advantages the digital realm offers. After all, if people stopped watching DVDs, consider the production costs, both financial and material, that would be spared. Fewer DVDs sold means fewer resources wasted on an ever more declining medium. I'm all for that - and the same with books and CDs, naturally - yet I'm so stuck in my own routines that I can't switch to the same life style myself. I just love the feel of a DVD/Blu-Ray, the notion of owning something tangible forever, rather than saving ones and zeros in code on some digital plane, or just plucking things online whenever I feel like it and deleting them when I'm done, like a fleeting dream not long remembered. I applaud my friends and family for their modern mindset, but they can't expect everyone to think alike. So I'll continue to give them DVDs as long as that option is open to me, even though I know they have no particular desire (or space) to own them. I cannot help but stick to what I know best. But if my friends and family can't accept that about me, I guess they'll just have to chalk it up as a bad habit of mine.