Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Top-Ten for 2012

It’s hard to dispute that 2011 was a very good year for geek-a-zoid flicks–but the best is yet to come! As the year comes to a close, we felt it was only fitting to take a quick peek under-the-skirt at some of the very best sci-fi, action and of course, super hero films coming on the 2012 horizon.

1. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: (February 17, 2012) The Pontificator (TP) - Nicholas Cage returns to the big screen as Johnny Blaze and I can't wait to see if Hollywood has learned from all the other super hero success. The Devil (Ciaran Hinds) is back (just like the bad penny he is) and wants to take human form and only the Ghost Rider can stop him. This time he's in Europe, so strap on cause I have a feeling speed isn't going to be an issue. The word is that the special effects have seen some major upgrades, so here's hoping the story can match. It doesn't hurt that Idris Elba is in this as well.

2. Prometheus: (June 8, 2012) Arth Vader (AV)–the legendary Ridley Scott returns to direct another installment to his definitive Alien franchise. The prequel horror/thriller, Prometheus chronicles a team of space explorers who discover a clue to mankind’s origins on Earth, leading them on a deep space journey to discover some dark (and acid-for-blood-filled) secrets. With an awesome cast that includes Michael “Magneto” Fassbender, lovely Charlize Theron and the stunning Noomi Rapace, we will be treated to more of H.R. Giger's incredibly creepy, surrealist and fascinating Alien creations. This will be one for the record books, Ponty; “ … game over, man, game over!!”

3. Amazing Spider-Man: (July 3, 2012) TP - After seeing the trailer, I can hardly wait for this new installment of Spider-Man. Putting us in Spidey's perspective is simply brilliant and adds a new and exciting feel to the character. I admit, at first I couldn't get excited, but Andrew Garfield looks great as both Peter Parker and Spidey. Add Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey and introduce the Lizard (Rhys Ifans)...finally, and this is looking more and more like a bonafide summer blockbuster! They even completed the package with the traditional cameo appearance of Stan how cool is that!

4. The Dark Knight Rises: (July 20, 2012) AV– Holy Bat-gasm–it’s another Dark Kight flick! Christopher Nolan will bring his prolific Dark Knight trilogy to a close with The Dark Knight Rises, taking place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. The villainous Bane (Tom Hardy) descends on Gotham, forcing the Batman to resurface after being the fall guy for Harvey Dent. Christian Bale returns as Bats accompanied by franchise favs Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman and joined by the beautiful and talented Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman. I’ll admit, I’m more than a little giddy over this one.

5. Superman: Man of Steel: (June 14, 2013) TP - Even though it's not coming out until 2013, I'm "super" excited now. Why? Lets count the ways. 1.) Director of Watchmen and 300, Jack Snyder. 2.) Immortals star Henry Cavill as Superman. 3.) Russel Crowe, Kevin Costner and Laurence Fishburne all in the same film! 4.) No more Lex Luthor, we're getting General Zod right from the jump! Played by Michael Shannon, his hardcore sinister look alone has given me kryptonite goosebumps. This movie is taking everything back to the drawing board and for once...I agree with the idea. Here's hoping Warner Brothers can recapture the magic of Superman and take it to a level that exceeds every previous rendition. Up, up and away!

6. The Avengers: (May 4, 2012) AV–“And there came a day…” when the granddaddy of ALL super-hero movies hit the big screen! Banding together for the first time, Earth’s mightiest heroes, The Avengers comes to wallop a cineplex box office near you. Change your shorts now kids, this one’s got Iron Man (Robert Doweny, Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chirs Hemsworth), The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson–xoxo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and a CGI-ed Hulk (with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and–gulp!Lou Ferigno as the voice of Hulk!) who all band together under the watchful eye (pun intended) of Nick (Sam Jackson) Fury. I dare say, as an avid Avengers reader since 1975, my heart skips a beat just thinking about this one! I predict an obliterated box office to the tune of more than $400 million—Fan boys Assemble!

7. The Hobbit : (December 14, 2012) TP - With the worldwide success of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, this movie has to be one of the most anticipated films of 2012. Peter jackson returns once again to take us on a wild adventure through Middle Earth. speaking of "returns", Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom and Christopher Lee are all on deck once again! This will be the first of two films with the second one coming out sometime in 2013. The magic of these movies in undeniable and it's expected that this movie will meet all expectations that the trilogy has imbedded into fans everywhere. With goblins, trolls and the dragon, Gollum and the One Ring, I can't fathom this movie being anything less than absolutely epic.

8. John Carter: (March 9, 2012) AV–ask Arth Vader about the new John Carter and a series of colorful animated question marks start swirling around his head. Almost as legendary as Tarzan, Sci-fi mage Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars is reimagined by–uhh, Disney?–for the big screen. The off-world adventures of ex-confederate soldier John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) looks awesome in the debut trailer(s), if not a little pointless. While Disney holds a long, credible history for visually stunning movies, their movies run the gamut from WOW! To WTF?!? The veteran talents of Bryan Cranston, Willem Dafoe, Lynn Collins, Thomas Hayden Church and the heart-stopping Polly Walker should help. Here’s to hoping…

9. Underworld: Awakening: (January 20, 2012) TP - Kate Beckinsale returns as the vampire Selene in this fourth installment of the Underworld movies. This time around, she awakens to find that humanity has discovered the existence of both the Vampires and the Lycans and has set out to eradicate both species. I don't expect this to be anything like Twilight and I'm glad it won't be. Selene is coming with knives, swords, guns and an array of martial arts moves to kick some serious human and Lycan butt. Hopefully it isn't all just more of the same, although that was good, and they break some new ground in every aspect of the film.

10. Men In Black 3: (May 25, 2012) AV–Director Barry Sonnenfeld (finally!) will round out the MIB franchise with Men in Black 3. The film chronicles Agent J’s time-travel to the early days of Agent K with a stunning all-star cast. The usual MIB suspects Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Rip Torn are joined by the lovely Alice Eve, silly Billy Hader, the elegant Emma Thompson and Josh Brolin as young Agent K (with voice-overs by Jones that will be both funny and disturbing). I wonder if Smith or newcomer, actress and singing diva Nicole Scherzinger will spearhead the soundtrack. Either way, MIB3 should be… (ahem) out-of-this-world fun.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Game of Shadows Plays Well

Just in time for the 2011 holiday movie blitz, the latest Holmes is a fun, convoluted and wildly unrealistic ride—sounds like another box office hit!

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): There has been so much material presented over the years for Sherlock Holmes, but there does appear to be a “canon” continuity. Sir Arthur (not our Arth Vader) Conan Doyle is the creator of Holmes and wrote fifty-six short stories and four novel’s about the character. Although this movie presents the very first meeting between Holmes and his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, it carried many elements from the real written record of Doyle’s account of the first meeting between Holmes and Moriarty. Both the book, “The Final Problem” and movie “Game of Shadows”, end with both men going over a water fall in Switzerland, seemingly to their deaths. Kudos to the writers for researching the character and not just completely making something up out of thin air.

ARTH VADER (AV): Well, Pontificator, Guy Ritchie's has done it again. By somehow avoiding the traditional 'sophomore slump' and common pitfalls of follow-up or poorly planned sequels, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows is a delightful indulgence. One would have a pretty difficult time finding parallels between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's prolifically gifted British super-sleuth and the overly-clever, itching-for-a-fight , semi-inebriated manic depressive portrayed by the living legend of acting, Robert Downey Jr. The movie, takes a grossly unrealistic swipe at history, suggesting key villain Moriarty (Jared Harris) is fixing to start the first world war more then 20 years before the the real thing. This concept blurs the already muddy historical context of arguably the most gruesome war known to man. If you're looking for historical accuracy, you will need to steer away from this film, Ponty.
Casting, Directing and Acting
AV: Returning as the perpetually perturbed Dr. Watson, Jude Law balances Downey's flamboyantly eccentric Holmes as the two struggle with the implied dissolution of their partnership due to Watson's impending nuptuals to the lovely Kelly Reilly who plays Watson's oddly attuned fiancée. Terrorist/anarchist Moriarty is a fitting adversary for the film's ridiculously convoluted story line. Also appearing in a disappointingly brief on-screen performance is the stunning Rachel MacAdams. Finally, Girl with the Dragon Tatoo's Noomi Rapace appears in an elusive role as the traveling gypsy-turned- reluctant ally, Madam Simza Heron. Despite the presence of three strong females actors, a female lead is honestly nowhere to be found. How about you, Pontificator?

The casting was superb. Robert Downey Jr was excellent as Sherlock Holmes. His portrayal of the sleuth is the best I’ve ever seen as he nails the furious and scattered, yet precise genius, of the character. Jude Law was also great as Dr. John Watson in what I see as an excellent departure from the short, round tradition of the character. The big surprise was Jared Harris. Professor James Moriarty needed to be sinister, scary and every bit the equal and opposite of Holmes...and Harris nailed this.
Special Effects
TP: Spectacular. The special effects bring this movie right in your face in the most wonderful way. The use of slow motion with normal speed filming is simply brilliant. The best part of it is that it isn’t overused, but used precisely at the right times to highlight the action and heighten the effect. The fight scenes are specifically enhanced by this technique.

AV: Pontificator, I too found the over-the-top, special-effects-laden story-telling technique quite enjoyable. Ritchie's vision–which feels oddly misplaced–is terrifically realized. Holmes' pre-cognitive ability to foresee the outcome of an impending conflict is fun and well-handled. With the use of eye-numbing freeze-forward film techniques, the movie also has no shortage of gun play, fisticuffs and a surprisingly reserved number of explosions. Though I will admit, the real indulgence of the Sherlock Holmes movies is the still-shot-into-woodcut illustration effect in each movie's closing credits. Now, I am sure it is some Adobe After Effects filter applied in post-production, it is so beautifully done, I almost wish the film's transitions would have been handled the same way.

Taking A Deeper Look
TP: It’s all here...drama, comedy and action. They even threw in a healthy dose of mystery as icing on this very tasty cake. Any movie that has all these qualities and delivers them well will have wide audience it’s a no-brainer this was a winner. It was made all the better for me because this movie made me doubt what I should never have doubted...namely Holmes himself. Moriarty was every bit the villain he should have been and to see Holmes operate from a disadvantage was s great story twist to present from. The interaction between Watson and Holmes was powerful and accented the real danger of the mind of Moriarty.

AV: It's hard not to dislike these movies–but what the hell, I'll give it a shot! Throughout the movie I feel like I am in a time warp. I am watching Victorian-era English characters tool around in pre-20th century Europe with the sensation that the storytelling technique is too fast-paced, too laden with effects and honestly, downright too cool for this movie. Don't misunderstand here, old friend, because I love the ride it takes you on but I honestly can't help shake the feeling that the whole film is just a bit... off.

Looking Ahead: Sequels
AV: What would a trilogy be without an impending third installment? Of course they will make another one, this movie is busting up the holiday box-office and is another runaway smash hit. Hollywood's slave-to-the-almighty dollar personae will not allow the powers that be avoid making another Holmes installment. I just can't help but ask... why? Having said that, I look forward to be dazzled by another senses-stunning foray into the action-packed world of industrialized, post-Victorian era England.

Of course there could be a third installment...but I have to wonder where they can go from here. I’m seeing Moriarty as the pinnacle of villainy and a very hard act to follow...unless, well...I’ll leave my speculation in the wind and defer to the mind of Vader.
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows: I loved the first movie and this one was even better. The story was top rate, the action was spectacular and the elements of humor and mystery made it easy to follow the clues to the eight and a half blocks this movie busted.

ARTH VADER rates Sherlock Holems: Game of Shadows: The half-baked script, delightfully over-the-top special effects and overly complex–if not implausible–story don't seem to derail the runaway train of success that is the Sherlock Holmes holiday franchise. On the surface the movie is fun, fast and deliciously overindulgent, and despite its flaws–and Ponty, there are some noticeable flaws–I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it and if you are looking for a good time without too much reflection, then this movie is worth a seat and a bag of popcorn–and I am willing to drop seven and one half busted blocks to back it up. Whatever you do, stay for the closing credits.

Oh, and you might want to bring a little ibuprofen, just in case.

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows:
8/10 Busted Blocks