Sunday, March 11, 2012

Issue 17 - My Totally Incomplete and Completely Useless Guide to This Summer's Blockbusters

It's no secret that I'm a BLOCKBUSTER ADVENTURE!! kinda gal. I was raised on Star Wars (the proper versions) and Indiana Jones (the ones without the bloody inter-dimensional alie– sorry, George, inter-dimensional beings) with healthy doses thrown in of Star Trek and Arnold Schwarzenegger blasting stuff to Kingdom Come.

I like big guns and fast cars and cool spaceships. I like it when the hero gets his princess. I like it when the good guys win.

I'm almost giddy at the thought of this summer's line-up of blockbusters. I'm like Michael Bay at a military hardware exhibition.

It's a real mish-mash: two interpretations of Snow White and the Any-Number-But-Seven Dwarfs (Disney owns the rights to the seven dwarfs), a British Spiderman, Hemsworths popping up all over the place, Men in Black III seeking to Flashy-Thingy our memories of Men in Black II, Chuck Norris, Lenny Kravitz and more Jeremy Renner than you can poke an arrow at. And let's not forget the Batman.

It's gonna be glorious.


The jury's still out on whether the world needed a Spiderman reboot so soon. Although it's been several lifetimes in the technological world, it's actually only 10 years since Toby Maguire first donned the Spandex and brought us cinema's most original smooch.

How often can you reboot something before the audience gets bored, or the fanboys start to panic about the state of their superhero's cannon?

Still, with a solid cast including Never Let Me Go's Andrew Garfield and the oh-so-watchable Emma Stone, and with 500 Days of Summer's Marc Webb (no, seriously, that's his name) calling the shots, it'll be an entirely different experience, and undoubtedly include the humour that was missing from the second and third Raimi instalments.

Here's hoping Garfield's American accent holds up to scrutiny, unlike the star of...


I love Sam Worthington. I really do. But he's the first to admit that he finds the American accent a bit of a challenge. That's why it was so refreshing to watch 2010's Clash of the Titans – dreadful post-shoot 3D conversion and all – and hear him “talk normal”. (Sidebar Rant: I've never understood the need for actors to put on fake accents when doing pieces set in different times or places. If it's set in ancient or future times, we've no idea what their accents would sound like, anyway, and if it's set in a different country – well, if the character isn't actually speaking English with a Russian accent, there's no need for the dodgy Russian accent.)

Clash didn't take itself too seriously, and neither will Wrath. We're inexplicably missing Io, and Andromeda's gotten into the bleach and too much Xena: Warrior Princess, but we've got twice the number of monsters and the grand-daddy of all the gods, Kronos.

Epically ridiculous fun.

From Worthington's Perseus to Ridley Scott's secrecy-shrouded...


If you're like me and watched all the Alien/Aliens sequels with horror – and not the good kind of horror – you might welcome the idea of Ridley Scott returning to steer the franchise back on course. Except that this won't. Because it's a prequel. And, although it's set in Ripley's universe, it doesn't really have anything to do with those aliens. Maybe. But it might explain the history of the so-called “Space Jockey” – the giant pilot whose ship became the xenomorphs' nest and the origin of poor John Hurt's chest-bursting doom. Or it might not.

At least, with an all-star cast of quality actors (including Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce), it'll be a bit harder to tell in which order the characters are going to die. If they do.

Speaking of all-star casts, get a load of this one for...


Sylvester Stallone
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Chuck Norris
Bruce Willis
Jason Statham
Jet Li
Novak Djokovic (I assure you that's not a misprint)

...and Liam Hemsworth

Never heard of Liam Hemsworth? Chances are, if you ever come in contact with any teenage girls, you soon will. Aussie hunk (we Aussies are everywhere this year), long-term boyfriend of Miley Cyrus; he was almost Thor, but lost out by mere inches to his older brother Chris. Instead, he's landed the peachy role of Gale in The Hunger Games – but more on that later.

Staying with testosterone-fuelled action for the moment, it doesn't get much better than Bourne.


While our beloved Matt Damon was off buying a zoo, someone decided it would be a good idea to make a new movie about some other dude's experiences in the wake of Jason Bourne's terminal re-assignment of the CIA's assassination squads.

Potentially awful? Milking the name of Bourne for all its worth? Well, yes, but considering that most of the original Bourne team is on board, and that they've had the good sense to cast Jeremy Renner, things may not be as dire as they at first seem.

Renner is coming off the back of an Oscar-nominated performance in The Hurt Locker and a highly-acclaimed performance in The Town. Most recently – and perhaps most significantly – he proved that he could hold his share of the screen against Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and gave us a wise-cracking cameo as bow-and-arrow supremo Hawkeye in Thor, in anticipation of his greater role in Avengers Assemble.

I have high hopes.

In the comedy-action line, we've got a sequel to a classic and a new kid on the block. Well, sort of, considering the new kid is actually a kind of remake but not really...

Let me explain:


If the Twitterverse and the response of amateur critics so far is anything to go by (and I'm not saying it is), this could be the surprise hit of the season. Starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as the delinquent cops assigned to go undercover as school students, it's a fair assumption this won't be quite the same as the original Johnny Depp TV series, but it seems to be hitting all the right notes with those lucky enough to score preview tickets. By all accounts it's genuinely funny and manages to avoid the usual “adults returning to school” clichés. Jonah Hill's recent Oscar nomination has undoubtedly given it an edge of legitimacy with the critics. So far, so good.

Then Empire magazine gave it 4 stars. Not too shabby at all.

So, you see, the fact that it's got Channing Tatum in it is in no way influencing my determination to go and see it. Nope. Not at all.


It's been a while since we've seen Will Smith in full comedic flight, so we'll forgive Men in Black II's misdemeanours and welcome Agents J and K back with open arms. This time it's actually K2, as a convoluted-sounding time-travel story involving Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement takes Agent J back in time to save the life of Agent K (Josh Brolin as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones).

Expect lots of jokes about 60s-era personalities being aliens in disguise and, hopefully, a catchy new song from Mr Smith.

Now, from men in black to snow white women.


An unfortunate timing clash, perhaps, but two very different movies.

Mirror Mirror features Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, a dreadful trailer and some very tired “girl power” amendments to the story so that Snow White can kick some butt. It looks pretty luscious – the costumes will be a win – and amusing in places, but also terribly pretentious. Still, who knows? One should never judge a movie by its trailer.

Snow White and the Huntsman has a similar “girl power” theme, made easier to swallow by the fact that little innocent Snow (Kristen Stewart) is actually trained up first in the art of war, by the huntsman originally sent to kill her (Chris Hemsworth). The evil queen is played by Charlize Theron and Nick Frost is a dwarf. That'll be fun.

The story pinches ideas from Stardust, as the queen seeks to eat Snow White's heart, thereby making herself immortal, and the director (Rupert Sanders) is an unknown factor, but you get the feeling this one's more in keeping with a Grimm fairytale than a Disney cartoon, which bodes well.

And now:



With Twilight fading – even the most die-hard Twi-hards have always said that the story of the fourth book cannot possibly translate well to film (we'll find out this summer what director Bill Condon has managed to do with it, as Breaking Dawn Part 2 hits theatres) – and Harry Potter enjoying retirement from horcrux-hunting, there was a significant gap in the world of teen-aged money-sucking franchises.

Enter the best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games.

And it's not what you think. When Stephen King calls your novel (as he did in his Entertainment Weekly review of the first book) “a violent, jarring speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense and may also generate a fair amount of controversy”, you know you're on to something.

Set in a post-apocalyptic America, Katniss Everdeen and her best friend, Gale, risk execution every day to hunt illegally in the woods – just to keep their families alive in their poorest-of-the-poor mining district, known as District 12. Meanwhile, in the Capitol, which is also the capital city of excess, people are so bored they spend hours dyeing their hair in the latest colour trends and getting gold tattoos above their eyebrows. And each year, to remind the beaten-down District residents that any sort of uprising would be extremely inadvisable, they take a young boy and girl from each of the Districts (1 through 12) and force them to fight to the death for a reality TV show called The Hunger Games. Of course, Katniss' younger sister is chosen for the Games and, of course, Katniss volunteers to go in her place. Fortunately, she's good with a bow and arrow. Not so much the boy chosen from District 12, Peeta. He's good with words and cake-decorating, and he's strong, but that's about all he's got going for him. Apparently, his odds of survival aren't great, but if nothing else, he is determined that the Games won't take away his humanity.

It remains to be seen whether the necessary dulling-down of the violence for ratings purposes also dulls the story, but they've certainly got the casting right. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. Lawrence became the critics' darling after her turn in the hard-hitting Winter's Bone, and should be more than capable of making Katniss the gutsy, somewhat conflicted character that she is in the novels. The aforementioned Liam Hemsworth is Gale, whose role will increase in the second and third movies. It's a fairly easy ride for him – he's got the right physicality for Gale, and if he's anything like his older brother, he won't find the role particularly challenging. It's Josh Hutcherson, as Peeta, who is the unknown factor. To date, Hutcherson's biggest movie has been Adventure 2 The Mysterious Island, but we won't hold that against him. Peeta is one of the most original heroes around – but it could all go to pot in the wrong hands. He's a speaker, not a fighter, with the ability to manipulate an audience, but he's an honest soul; he's a baker, a cake-decorator and painter, and he spends half the movie being looked after by Katniss, but he's as brave as they come; he's the moral backbone, but he'll stop at nothing to keep Katniss alive. If Hutcherson pulls this one off, he'll deserve a huge round of applause.

The cast member I'm most excited about? Lenny Kravitz as Katniss' costume designer for the Games (and secret sympathiser), Cinna. Absolutely perfect casting. I hope he wears his wings.


WHAT?! Only number 2?!

Yes, indeedy. Batman has always been my most-beloved superhero (mostly because he is not, in fact, super), but I'm being completely truthful when I say there's still one movie I'm more excited about.

Every man and his guinea pig loved The Dark Knight, and I was no exception. I'm going to risk the wrath of all the internet-dwellers, though, by saying I enjoyed Batman Begins more. So I'm interested to see where this one sits in relation to the other two.

It's safe to say that it's the most-anticipated movie since Return of the Jedi, which immediately makes you wonder whether it will live up to expectations, but's Christopher Nolan. And Christian Bale. And Gary Oldman. And Tom Hardy. And you can't say that's not awesome.

Will Nolan kill off Batman? Bruce has at least two formidable opponents this time – Bane (Hardy) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) – so he may well do. We will have to wait until July 20 to really know for sure.


I. Can't. Wait.

I was already over-excited about the idea of an Avengers movie, where Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo – hell yes, Mark Ruffalo!!), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and various other Marvel characters team up to save the world from some evil genius – in this case, Thor's own brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

But then they announced that Joss Whedon would be writing and directing, and I nearly went into some kind of nerd-sugar coma.

Despite the inevitable jokes about this being the only Marvel movie to be canned half-way through filming (two of Whedon's TV series, Firefly and Dollhouse, were canned prematurely, only to become massive post-mortem hits; although in contrast, Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons), Whedon is definitely a safe choice here. His sharp pen and sensitive camera are exactly what this movie needs. The wrong tone could turn this kind of concept into a disaster of epic proportions, but Whedon's scripts don't pander to the audience – they are witty, intelligent and moving. So it's about darn time someone gave him something to work with. (Incidentally, Whedon has written another interesting-looking movie that's out this summer – The Cabin in the Woods...starring Chris Hemsworth. I told you the Hemsworths were everywhere, didn't I?)

Representing the female of the species, we've got good old Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Natalie Portman's character, Jane, is still kicking about somewhere, but we'll have to wait until Thor 2 to see her again. Presumably, Thor can't make love and war at the same time.

We can expect some fun exchanges as giant egos clash and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) – and let's not forget Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson – has to control all those superpowers together in one room.

There are many unanswered questions: who gets on well with each other? who gets it on with Black Widow? who wants to kill who? who kills Loki? does the Hulk go mad and kill them all? who knows? All we do know is that Thor's contractually obliged to come back for two more movies...but that doesn't necessarily stop Whedon killing him off. He's tricky like that.

So there you have it my totally incomplete and completely useless guide to this summer's (or winter's, if you're Down Under) blockbusters.