Screen Actors Guild Award Winners and Reactions

Screen Actors Guild Awards

The 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were this past weekend. I know I’m a few days late but here’s a quick roundup of the winners for movies and some thoughts to go with them.

Note: I’m not going to talk about the TV awards, but the coles notes version is this: Hooray for Kevin Costner, Bryan Cranston and Alec Baldwin.

Winners shown in bold a the top of each list.
You can read the full list of winners here.

Screen Actors Guild 49th Annual Life Achievement Award

  • Dick Van Dyke

I grew up watching Dick Van Dyke movies my parents had recorded off the television so this makes me smile.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

  • Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln as Abraham Lincoln
  • Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano
  • John Hawkes – The Sessions as Mark O’Brien
  • Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables as Jean Valjean
  • Denzel Washington – Flight as Whip Whitaker

This isn’t a surprise to me in the slightest. Say what you will about Lincoln but Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing playing the man. At this point I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win the Oscar.

It’s nice to see John Hawkes get the nod for The Sessions as well.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook as Tiffany Maxwell
  • Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty as Maya
  • Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone as Stéphanie
  • Helen Mirren – Hitchcock as Alma Reville
  • Naomi Watts – The Impossible as Maria Bennett

At this point Jennifer Lawrence has won the Golden Globe and the SAG award for playing Tiffany Maxwell. The Oscar is now hers to lose if it wasn’t already and I think that’s how it’s going to go. I’d love to see Jessica Chastain win because I preferred Zero Dark Thirty to Silver Linings Playbook and I think that Maya was a far more complex character to play, but Tiffany is exactly the kind of quirky, loveable, bird with a broken wing but still independent and strong, feel good, cliche character that people love.

That’s not to say Lawrence isn’t an amazing actress or that she wasn’t amazing in the film, because she was and this is one of those parts designed to win Oscars.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln as Thaddeus Stevens
  • Alan Arkin – Argo as Lester Siegel
  • Javier Bardem – Skyfall as Raoul Silva
  • Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano Sr.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master as Lancaster Dodd

Nice to see Tommy Lee Jones take home the trophy. Also cool to see Javier Bardem get the nod for his roll in Skyfall. He was brilliant as Silva and thats not the type of roll that usually gets recognized.

This is going to make the Oscar race in this category a little more interesting. Alan Arkin already took home the Golden Globe and everyone who’s nominated (swap out Javier Bardem for Christoph Waltz and its the same list) had already won to this one is anyone’s game.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables as Fantine
  • Sally Field – Lincoln as Mary Todd Lincoln
  • Helen Hunt – The Sessions as Cheryl Cohen-Greene
  • Nicole Kidman – The Paperboy as Charlotte Bless
  • Maggie Smith – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as Muriel Donnelly

No surprises here. Anne Hathaway has already taken home all the awards for this role. If she doesn’t win all the awards that are left I will be incredibly surprised.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • Argo – Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy, and Chris Messina
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Penelope Wilton
  • Les Misérables – Isabelle Allen, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Huttlestone, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Tveit, Colm Wilkinson
  • Lincoln – Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, David Strathairn
  • Silver Linings Playbook – Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver

In a year where Lincoln, a timely political story about America’s most beloved president came out I didn’t see this happening but Argo has now won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for best picture.

It’s well deserved. It’s a brilliantly crafted film from start to finish and I’m glad to see it getting all the recognition it deserves.

It’ll be interesting next month to see if it takes home the Oscar as well, since Ben Affleck isn’t nominated for best director. That might end up being this years big “wtf” moment.

Conclusions

Awards Season this year has been interesting so far. The films I thought would be a lock haven’t been winning and the ones I thought were entirely deserving but would get passed over have. The ladies categories are pretty much locked in for the Oscars at this point I assume, but the gentlemen’s categories as well as the best picture and director categories are up in the air as far as I can tell.

I like the SAG awards as well because you get films like Skyfall, which is a great film and completely overlooked by the Oscars and the Golden Globes, getting recognition from their peers. Make no mistake Skyfall was one of last years must-see movies but it’s no surprise that it’s only up for technical Oscars.

Make all the jokes you want about millionaires giving each other statues, but I enjoy watching great films win accolades (and Simon and I will be live blogging The Oscars on 24th Feb. while they air).

What are your guys thoughts on the matter? Do you agree with the wins here? How do you think the Oscars are going to play out?

Awesome: LucasFilm delays 3D rerelease of prequels to focus on Episode VII

20130128-180022.jpg

From StarWars.com:

Lucasfilm has decided to postpone this fall’s scheduled release of Star Wars Episodes II and III in 3D. Given the recent development that we are moving forward with a new Star Wars trilogy, we will now focus 100 percent of our efforts on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to ensure the best possible experience for our fans. We will post further information about our 3D release plans at a later date.

Yet another win. I’m sure they’ll keep milking existing Star Wars to death but for now they’ve decided to make something new before they do it. Hopefully Episode VII turns out good enough that when they inevitably milk it to death I’ll be ok with it.

[source: starwars.com]

Awesome: JJ Abrams still involved with Star Trek, Mission: Impossible

JJ Abrams

When it was announced that JJ Abrams had been signed to direct the new Star Wars there’s been on big question: does this mean he’s not doing any more Star Trek?

Gina McIntyre at the LA Times:

According to Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore, Abrams — who directed both 2009′s “Star Trek” and the upcoming sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness” — will still be involved in some capacity with a possible third “Trek” movie, at the minimum as a producer, if not also directing the film.

Moore also pointed out that Abrams will continue to play a role in another of the studio’s most valuable franchises, “Mission: Impossible.”

“J.J. will continue to develop projects for us including a new ‘Mission: Impossible,’ and he is committed to produce another ‘Star Trek,’” Moore said Friday afternoon.

I’m taking this as good news. I still have mixed feelings on the whole affair, no small part of which is that I’m not really sure that its right to have one guy at the helm of three major franchises (two of which are completely beloved).

That said, power to him. That much high profile work must be a good problem to have.

[source: LA Times Hero Complex]

Awesome: Searching for the Heart of Bungie

Russ Pitts writing for Polygon:

Two things become clear as we sink deeper into [Pete] Parsons’ canned presentation. The first is that it really isn’t canned; Parsons knows every intimate detail — the memories are ingrained, not memorized. The second thing we discover is that Parsons’ affection for the Bungie Pentathlon trophy wasn’t a punt after all; of all of his company’s many accomplishments, crafting the perfect, nearly-insoluble team is the one of which he is absolutely most proud.

He describes how he meets with employees on their first day, then again, a month or so later. He describes the indoctrination, the counseling, the nurturing. He uses the world “family” — a lot, and sincerely. He tells the story of how he finally conceded the studio needed an IT department after he became too busy to troubleshoot computers and lay cables himself. He lovingly describes every feature of the studio building — custom built from the ruins of a defunct bowling alley (downstairs) and movie theater (upstairs) — not in the way of someone describing their new mansion in the Hollywood Hills, but rather the way a librarian might describe a new reading room. As if it’s not a monument to his own largesse, but rather a construction for the benefit of others.

He describes the intensive security measures: key-card coded front door; the beefy, menacing guards at the front desk; the cameras; the second set of doors guarding the stairway to the production floor and the third set of doors at the top of those stairs. And then he ushers us behind those layers of security to see what few have seen before.

Be sure to check out the embedded video as well. It’s always awesome to get a good behind the scenes look at a group doing work that you love.

[source: Polygon]

Awesome Daily – X-Men, JJ Abrams and Jurassic Park – 27th Jan 2012

Kitty Pryde, Iceman and Rogue all back for X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer announced Saturday via the twitters that Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore and Anna Paquin will all be returning to the franchise in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past film:

This is going to be interesting. Days of Future Past is a crazy time travel story which is how we have the First Class cast and the X1, X2 and Last Stand casts all together. I’m looking forward to seeing how they tie the 60s versions of the characters together with the present versions of the characters if only because of the few very subtle things that made me consider them to be different time lines. – Matt

Star Trek fan talks about JJ Abrams taking the job directing Star Wars

Jordan Hoffman at Badass Digest:

Know this: I love Star Wars. Star Trek is a key part of my life, but the other, lesser franchise is still a great deal of fun. You wanna grab beers and yap about IG-88 or Midi-chlorian counts or the lesser known works of the Mon Calamari Ballet Company? I’m down. But the thing is that Star Wars, at least for people in my age group, was something that was accepted – it was never not cool. Star Trek only became cool very, very recently. And J.J. Abrams, for better or worse, had something to do with that.
The basic gist, as Mashable quoted me, is this: I feel like J.J. Abrams took me out to the prom but left with the hotter girl.

The whole thing is definitely worth a read. He’s more upset than I am, but it does mirror my feelings on the situation pretty well.

[link]- Matt

Jurassic Park 3D Blu-Ray gets a release date

Jurassic Park is coming to theatres in 3D in April, and then it’s coming to 3D Blu-Ray. Mark April 23rd on your calendars if you want to pick it up.

If you don’t care about 3D you can get all three movies on regular blu-ray on the 26th of March.

[source: The Verge] – Matt

Awesome Daily – 26th Jan 2013

Hello! Welcome to the first Awesome Daily.

So many little things happen during the day that Matt and I want to share, but often they’re little snippets or redirects and not really suitable for a full-blown article. We’ve started putting them on our Facebook page (LIIIKE USSSSS sorry) but want to make them available to everyone. So, we’re going to try and make a single daily post of all the little bits and bobs we think are cool from the day. It could be the announcement of a new film from our favourite director, a quick iPhone recommendation or just a reaction to something we’ve heard – a quick and easily digestible slice of the day’s cool news. Let us know what you think.

Ready Steady Bang, Free game for iOS

So, let’s get started with my new favourite thing – Ready Steady Bang on iOS. It’s a free single press quickdraw game that is all about fast reactions. The single, multi and online player modes, combined with a deliciously simple graphic style, has already made this essential. Grab your gun and start taking down those pesky outlaws.

[iTunes link] – Simon

JJ Abrams Confirmed to Direct Star Wars Episode VII

It’s official folks. Press Release from StarWars.com

After a bevy of emails and phone calls, the formalities have been wrapped up, and at long last everyone can exhale and properly share the word with an excited Internet. Yes, J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars: Episode VII, the first of a new series of Star Wars films to come from Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy. Abrams will be directing and Academy Award-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay.

“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie,” said Kennedy. “J.J. is the perfect director to helm this. Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise. He understands the essence of the Star Wars experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture.”

George Lucas went on to say “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller.” He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”

To me this is good news. I’ve found his films good but, uh, safe. What I will say is that while I like what he and his team with with Star Trek, the storytelling style is likely much better suited to Star Wars which is more Science Fantasy that Science Fiction. Not that it really matters, you know I’m going to be there on opening day. – Matt

LOL: Everything Wrong With Avatar in 4 Minutes or Less

CinemaSins released the latest in their Everything Wrong With… series.

Some of these are a bit of a stretch if you ask me but its still funny.

[YouTube Link]- Matt

Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

I must admit that when I first started hearing about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters I had some moderately high hopes. You see there’s a type of movie that I rather enjoy: the popcorn flick. You know the type; it’s a bit ridiculous, lots of one liners, actors having fun. We’re not talking about high art here we’re talking about fun. Fun at the movies. If you have been following us for any length of time you know that Simon last had this experience with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

We’re talking about the type of movie where you sit down, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. I was disappointed by a couple of films that promised to be this last year. So how are we doing with the first big effort this year? Actually, pretty freaking good!

Director Tommy Wirkola’s resume isn’t that long but he’s best known for the horror comedy Dead Snow released a few years back about a group of kids being terrorized by nazi zombies. Thinking about that movie now it feels like a dry run leading up to this. Where that movie faltered mixing up the horror and comedy, this movie has a pretty good mix of action and comedy plus a healthy dose of blood and guts and gore to round things out.

The story is fairly basic. Hansel and Gretel survive the childhood ordeal slightly differently than you remember it from the fairy tale and end up orphan witch hunters who come to a town with a bunch of kids gone missing. Much anachronistic badassery ensues.

There’s not anything here you haven’t seen before though and at just over 90 minutes long there isn’t really time for anything you haven’t seen before either. This movie is short and to the point; what little back story we need is given in a brief prologue and then the beautifully animated credits and then we jump right into the story.

I think this is actually one of the films major strengths. Previous fairy tale re-imaginings I’ve seen that try to make sure you know they’re serious films end up boring. This movie doesn’t want you to be anything other than entertained so plot is kept to a minimum and action to a maximum.

And yet despite it’s predictability, it works. When things are revealed you’re not going to be surprised but I didn’t care I was busy enjoying a well staged fight, some well executed gore, or a zingy one liner.

Speaking of action and gore, there’s a nice blend of practical and digital effects at play too. Some things are obviously CG but there’s one big practical effect that I loved. I don’t want to spoil it (even though it isn’t really a secret it’s not in any of the marketing) but if you’ve listened to the podcast when this has come up you can probably guess what it is when you see it.

The film is rife with anachronism as well. The film seems set in the early 1800s but the weapons in Hansel and Gretel’s arsenal appear to be from anywhere from the 1860s to the 1920s and everyone speaks in a thoroughly modern mode of speech.

I’m sure a lot of these elements are going to wear thin pretty quick for a lot of you but they didn’t for me. Chalk it up to the films short running time or the fact that I actually like watching bad movies. Or both.

The films stars do pretty well with what their given. Jeremy Renner might be phoning it in but Jeremy Renner phoning it in is still pretty good. Gemma Arterton plays the whole thing as an over the top ass kicker and that’s actually pretty awesome. Famke Janssen isn’t amazing but her character is such a one dimensional bad guy that it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line here though is that it seems like everyone involved is in on the joke and as such it feels like everyone involved is having a blast making the movie.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this is a good movie. Quite the opposite, it’s a bad movie.

Lets be honest it’s a movie based on a joke of a title and it does get repetitive. That said, I still had fun watching it. It’s a bad movie, but it’s so bad I enjoyed it.

Rating: 6/10

Far Cry 3: Playing Outside The Box

Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3

The alternative subheader for this article was “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Radio Tower”. In a way, it would have been more fitting (along with providing me with personal amusement). I lost sight of what Far Cry 3 wanted from a very early stage, and the resulting few hours were a revelation.

That’s not to say it doesn’t try to capture your attention. Starting with a POV cutscene with you and your brother being sneered at by bad man Vaas behind the bars of a bamboo cage, your subsequent escape is a suitable launchpad for some open-world vengeance. It’s also worth noting that the voice acting and mo-cap is truly exceptional, raising the pirate leader above clichéd baddie tropes into something genuinely unsettling. Being spat headlong into the jungles of Rook Island with your brother’s gruesome death still ringing in your ears would be an obvious point where you grab all the guns you can carry and fight back along leafy linear forest corridors.

The designers of Far Cry 3 had different ideas though, and this deviation in structure is the first clue as to how the next few hours might play out. Your character is quickly taken under the wing of a local community leader who suitably outlines the Quest for the Hero and places the first gun – a pistol, of course – firmly in your hand. Once an initial test is passed (which might as well be referred to “THE TUTORIAL” by everyone involved), your new leader points you towards the house of a doctor where you can meet one of your friends. There’s also some mention of hunting and collecting and crafting but it all gets filed away behind the predicted promise of bullets and bloodlust.

It’s at this point I tried to stock up on weapons – buy what I could, note prices for upgrades, gear up for the road ahead – but soon found that I just couldn’t carry anything. Almost literally. The space in your pockets makes way for one gun, a couple of syringes (read: health packs) and flowers, but that’s it. All the things I would take for granted in an FPS such as weapon slots and ammo pouches were held back, each instead showing requirements based on one vital ingredient: animal skins. Pigs, goats, tapirs, dogs, sharks…it was a menu that demanded I go off and get lost, explore, kill, skin, and craft. I could absolutely head to the next mission marker, but it soon became apparent that I would need to expand in order to succeed.

Jason, your character in the game, is established very early on as Just Some American College Douchbag. Does this make him more relatable than a grizzled super soldier? I’m not so sure, but I was certainly maintaining this naive inexperience in my first few attempts at hunting. Shooting at pigs wildly as they scurry away doesn’t exactly carry Bear Gryllis levels of success, especially when you find yourself running directly into an enemy encampment, stabbing some guy through the neck in a panic before leaping off a cliff to escape his comrades. The Monty Python style of predatory strategy. Finally running out of bullets, I resorted to throwing a remote charge in the path of a deer before removing his skin with fire and flame. Overkill? Maybe. Effective? Definitely.

This need for skin of various types led me to a wider use of the map, searching for their silhouetted shapes in various habitats. Much of this is obscured by blackout, a result of the radio jammers similar to the one you briefly visit in the tutorials. These towers are styled very much like the high structures in another Ubisoft title, Assassin’s Creed. Once you ascend and pull out the important wires from a red box, the camera completes a wide pan and the area is added to your map. The map, once cleared, becomes either the green of free movement or red to show that an enemy camp controls the area. Often these camps are placed between you and the next radar tower, meaning their removal becomes a logical next move, and they invariably consist of small compounds with a selection of enemy types that you conveniently identify and track constantly, even through rocks and foliage. The icons that appear magically stuck above their heads tell you of their predisposed attack routine – snipers, grunts, chargers, armoured heavies; dangers that are immediately recognisable by anyone who’s ever played another FPS. These patterns become a puzzle, your attack strategy forming on the basis of how they will each react.

And so this pattern emerges, of movement, analysis, exposure, and attack. A radio tower exposes the position of an enemy camp which, when cleared, leaves a quick-travel location close to the next tower, and so on. The odd hang-glider – kindly deposited on every mountain edge by a militia group obviously into their airborne pleasure trips – merely amplifies this idea of moving against the scripted tide that normally sweeps you towards the campaign markers. As you discover more towers, it’s quickly obvious that their collective order has a combined difficulty curve. Ubisoft rightly holds back from making it too tricky (few things are more frustrating than poorly designed first-person platforming sequences) but the sequence of moves required takes on a maze-like quality that actually reminds me of Portal. The enemy camps also become harder, with alarm boxes, animal cages and spread-out enemy types calling for a carefully planned sequence of attack. Of course, there is your growing arsenal as assistance for when this all goes wrong and you have reinforcements snapping at your hells whilst being chased by a tiger, but it doesn’t give you the same sense of freedom and accomplishment.

It was after a night of just going through this pattern that I realised how well Far Cry 3 fits being played purely as a spacial puzzle. The layout of the towers and camps directly reflects their complexity and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of “just one more”. It also helps that death is totally meaningless, with a liberal checkpoint system dumping you back either at your most recent fast travel location or just outside an enemy camp in the seconds before your first shot. However, where FPS puzzles hold your attention by changing the rules after carefully setting them up, Far Cry 3 eventually falls into the trap of repetition. The island is detailed and expansive, but it starts to feel that you are completing the same actions in every scenario, albeit in a different order. It doesn’t help that Jason is apparently a “normal guy” yet can yield a sniper rifle with pinpoint precision. Even with the numerous Alice In Wonderland references pointing to the whole game being a childish fantasy, there is never any chance to connect with a protagonist who is such a superficial cypher.

The obvious move is to head back to the campaign, but this only serves to exacerbate the emerging issues. Each mission is tightly scripted and suitably bombastic, but they ultimately feel frustrating and restrictive after many hours of roaming. Unfortunately, it’s at this point where the free movement around the island reveals itself to just be smoke that conceals the cast-iron linear structure of the game’s heart. With no reason to push on solving the puzzles and no compulsion to guide your sudden action hero through his paces, Far Cry 3 becomes more about what might have been.

For the latter hours of the game I was unable to stop myself comparing it to Just Cause 2, wishing that it could somehow absorb that game’s amazing sense of freedom and exploration. Along with Crackdown, JC2 used its game world to lure players into fun endeavours that had nothing to do with the story but existed purely to have fun. It allowed us to journey outside of the usual structure of following a set path and gave us the sense of adventure so absent from many games today. I would not be able to tell you how many hours I spent in JC2 attempting to carry an enemy to a remote mountain peak with a helicopter, or line up the perfect jump in Crackdown.

Far Cry 3 shows you down a path of humid jungles and creaking towers before bringing you back and saying, hey, there’s a way you need to play this game. It’s a shame as there’s so much potential for it to become the free fantasy it constantly teases. I wanted to get lost and have an adventure in the tangled secrets of Rook Island, but in the end, the game kept finding me and bringing me back.

Awesome Classics: Wing Commander (1990)

Wing Commander Title

I’m sitting in front of a blank screen. The computer is on, it just doesn’t display much beyond the letter C, a colon, and a blinking cursor. I type my way into a directory, load up a .exe file and wait while it performs memory checks before I get to fly off into space to shoot up the aggressors from the Empire of Kilrah.

It’s 1991, I’m 10, and I’m playing Wing Commander for what must be the one hundredth time. I don’t just mean I’ve loaded the game up that many times, I mean I’ve played through it that many times. Believe you me this is no easy feat; Wing Commander is not a short game.

It is a cool game though. Set in the 2650s Wing Commander puts you in the cockpit of a space fighter fighting an ongoing war between humanity and the Empire of Kilrah, a race of large bipedal cat people. You get to fly several different fighters over the course of the game, in several types of missions.

It plays out in full 3D space and was one of the first I remember doing so. Every fighter has it’s own cockpit details and strategies for flying combat. Each of the enemy ships (both fighters and capital classes) had their own distinct set of strengths and weaknesses as well. There’s no difficulty scale either so everyone who plays it gets as close to the same experience as can be given the fluid nature of the story (more on that in the moment). The graphics are sprites, not rasterized, however the game still looks amazing to my eye. The amount of detail they were able to cram in in an age where system resources were so limited is kind of amazing. The sound is all midi tracks, but they do sound great.

Wing Commander Rapier Cockpit

The cockpit (pictured above is the cockpit from the Rapier, the last fighter you fly in the game) is where the action happens. You go out on sorties to carry out various goals but you always get the chance to fight the fur balls. How well you fight them and accomplish mission goals dictates how the war goes in the system you are currently in and after a few missions your carrier, the Tiger’s Claw, jumps to the next system.

Here’s the brilliant bit though: if you win the current system you go one way, if you lose you go another. I have played this game dog knows how many times and I doubt I took the same route through the systems twice until I got really good at it (and even then not so much).

The game has two distinct endings (one where you win the war, one where you lose) and you can take any number of paths to get to either.

This is kind of awesome as it encourages you to accept your failures. Because you can fight your way back to the winning path at almost any point (or start to lose at almost any point) there’s no need to save your game and obsessively play each mission until you win it, just go with the flow and see how you do. You can almost count on not winning every system in fact, because there is one mission which is nearly impossible. I can only remember beating it once, but my ship was so beat up by the end that I couldn’t dock with the Tiger’s Claw, I had to eject and get picked up.

Even if you lose it’s nice to just enjoy the story; and there is a story. Between missions you go to the officers lounge and speak to two pilots sitting in the bar and the bartender. They give you some battle strategy, news on how the war is going, but all in pre scripted conversations between them and your character.

Unless of course they were killed in a previous mission. Now, other pilots don’t die unless they are on your wing, but the knowledge they have is sometimes incredibly useful. You get a new wingman in every system (and you’re usually reassigned to a new squadron/fighter) but if you’re out fragging hairballs and your wingman is killed you have to complete any remaining missions without them and you never get the benefit of their insight at the bar.

Wing Commander Medals

In addition to being transferred from squadron to squadron at the end of the mission set in each system, if you perform well enough you can also get promoted or awarded medals for valour.

The above screenshot was taken near the end of my most recent play through the game, major is the highest rank and I’ve been awarded multiple bronze, silver and gold stars.

I know there is a metric for how they are awarded but I don’t really care. They are kind of nice to receive, but they don’t affect the story. That screenshot could be in the last system to win the game or to lose. You can go the whole game without ever being promoted or awarded a medal and the story still plays out to the win or the loss.

There’s obviously a lot of nostalgia in this title for me, I’ve played it in some form since I was 10 years old. Don’t let my dad hear this, but 1990 was a long time ago and things have come a long way but I still fire up Wing Commander every now and again because I still love playing it. If that doesn’t mean it’s a great game I don’t know what does.

Wing Commander is still available, packaged with it’s 1992 sequel Wing Commander II: Wrath of the Kilrathi for Mac and Windows for about 6$ USD as of this writing so don’t take my word for it, fire it up and see for yourself what I’m talking about. You won’t regret it.

Quick Thoughts on Les Misérables, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook

I was meant to have seen a new movie this week but I’m on vacation and things got out of hand so I did not (yet).

Because I’m on vacation though I have seen a boat load of movies and thought I’d briefly talk about some of the ones I have seen, specifically the three I watched which are nominated for best picture at this years Oscars.

Les Misérables

Les Misérables

I can see why Les Misérables is nominated for all the awards. It’s a big budget production of one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Hugh Jackman is great and Anne Hathaway is amazing as Fantine and they are both deserving of their actings nominations. The entire cast is pretty great in point of fact, with the debatable exception of Russell Crowe who while he isn’t bad does appear a bit uncomfortable throughout. Maybe that makes sense for Javert but it didn’t sit right with me.

Where the film fails for me is the directing. Sure, the film looks pretty amazing and to be honest I really like the live singing aspect –if you hadn’t heard already, everyone sang their parts live on set rather than lip syncing pre-recorded performances– as it means they had more leeway to actually act out their performances rather than match what they did before. However, a great deal of the film is shot in closeup on the performers face.

I dreamed a dream, in particular, a song that would do well by some staging/movement, is filmed with Anne Hathaway just sitting there belting it out with the camera pointed at her face. Valjean’s Soliloquy is a little better in that he gets the move around but the camera is locked on his face and he’s looking right at the camera the entire time so you don’t really get to see any of what’s going on other than his lips moving.

I think I get what director Tom Hooper was going for, trying to make it intimate, however in the end it’s weird to think that a musical with such grandiose songs is filmed in such a small way and to be honest I don’t think it really works.

Conclusion: See it. It’s worth seeing just for the singing. Oscar is Anne Hathaway’s to lose at this point, and while I respect it’s nomination for best picture I don’t think it should win. Tom Hooper isn’t nominated for best director and I am fine with that.

Argo

Argo

I like stories about heroism, but what I love about Argo is that it’s such a quiet story about heroism. No epic gun fights, no explosions, no car chases, just the constant threat of being caught.

Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, the man who orchestrated the rescue of 6 diplomatic officers in hiding in 1979 revolutionary Iran. The idea is to get them out by claiming they are a film crew scouting exotic locations for a Star Wars rip off called Argo.

The story is brilliant from start to finish. It mixes just the right amount of humour into the dramatic script, mostly supplied by Alan Arkin as the hollywood producer recruited to help sell the idea of the fake movie to the public.

Arkin is gold here, it’s the type of role he excels at playing. He’s nominated for an Oscar and it’s well deserved.

Affleck himself is good too, playing Mendez very reservedly, reflecting a man under stress from being responsible for these peoples lives but also going through a separation and trying to maintain a relationship with his kid.

I happen to think that Affleck is a great director as well. Yes, he’s made a lot of better acting choices lately but this is his their feature film and the third time he’s hit it out of the park.

I love spy films, but in particular a spy film that’s executed in such a way to be entirely believable with real stress and peril for the characters (even when you know how it ends) is a difficult thing to pull off.

Conclusion: Must see. Irksome that Affleck, who already won a Golden Globe for directing this, isn’t nominated for the Oscar. Make no mistake, this is a much better film that the one I’m about to talk about.

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is a good movie. Maybe even a great one, and i can see why so many people are connecting with it. It’s a fantasy story, that’s why.

This is a movie that for 2 whole acts shows us characters with real problems and then in the third act everyone lives happily ever after and everything s fine and all the problems seem to be gone.

Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress and I’m going to say right now that she deserves the Golden Golden Globe she won and the Oscar I think she will win, but this is a role tailor made to win Oscars, the slightly crazy receiving sex addict “bird with a broken wing who is just quirky enough to counteract the male leads crazy” character. Hell, it might be more tailor made than the “prostitute with a heart of gold struggling to support her child in a situation that grows ever more dire with each frame that passes” that Anne Hathaway gets to play as Fantine.

Well, maybe not, but she’s still amazing and Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro both stand out as well. Make no mistake, they all acted the shit out of this.

It’s just that the third act is both entirely predictable and doesn’t really jive with the rest of the movie for me. It devolves from something interesting into a series of movie cliches. There is literally a point in this movie where I could have turned it off because I knew everything else that was going to happen.

I can see why people connect with this movie, but I don’t see why it’s nominated for best picture of the year.

Conclusion: Definitely see it. Worth it for Jennifer Lawrence alone even if her character is unbelievable. Just maybe don’t expect it to be as good as everyone told you it is.

Wrapping up

I’ve seen almost all the best picture nominees now and am starting to have a better idea what I think should win. More on that closer to the date in question. In the mean time, what did you guys think of these three films? Are they worthy of the nomination? Did any performances stand out? Comment below!

Genuinely Great Xbox Live Indie Game Alert: Grid Space Shooter

GSS

 

I’ve always been addicted to Geometry Wars in all its forms and hold up Retro Evolved 2 as my favourite twin-stick shooter. Bizarre Creations showed how to get the perfect mix, with tight controls, enemy variety and lip-bitingly tight spaces to squeeze your ship through. It’s fair to say that every GW clone that has been released since then has each fallen wide of the mark. Whether it was the pace of movement, the connection between finger, stick and ship or the design of the fighters, there’s never been a similarly-designed game that’s been able to replicate the raw thrill of Geometry Wars.

I was therefore ready to be disappointed with Grid Space Shooter. Xbox Live Indie Games have been a real mixed bag – with a few notable exceptions, it’s not been the hive of quality that was promised at the beginning. There have been a fair number of moves to cover GW’s bases, neon lines attempting to hide the lack of inspiration in design. My expectations were low.

What a beautiful surprise, then, to wade into Grid Space Shooter only to find it’s tight, frenetic and beautiful. After a gentle tutorial to cover the basics – ship choices, special weapons, controls – it’s into the first level of a series that quickly ups the ante. Enemy ship designs are distinct and varied, each having an unique look that quickly becomes synonymous with their movements and quirks. From tiny pulsing globes to giant motherships (and even something that looks like Ghostbusters’ Slimer with a shield and sword), it’s a real treat to see so many enemies on screen without performance taking any kind of hit. As the levels unfold, new weapons and power-ups appear (both for you and your enemies), until the screen is a bleeding tangle of lasers and danger.

The barrage of weapons is where Grid Space Shooter makes itself distinct from all the twin-stick shooters that have come before, even from Geometry Wars. It’s clear that bullet hell games such as Ikaruga have had an equal impact in design, as the higher levels need pixel-perfect manoeuvring skills to stay alive. It’s a testament to GSS that this never feels unfair or unresponsive, with control of your ship feeling incredibly tight yet free and glossy. Weapons come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, each with a tangible impact as they hit. My favourite is the Microwave gun. Oh yes.

Alongside the regular mode is an Arcade option that is purely about highscores on a table, perfect for a friendly rivalry. However, past the one-upmanship there’s even a two-player co-op option in the main game, screen split down the middle for maximum destruction. It’s all such an attractive package and, for just 80MSP, it’s an absolute steal.

Highly recommended, then. It doesn’t carry the immediacy of Geometry Wars’ shorter, more focused gameplay, but Grid Space Shooter brings to the table enough variety, style and prolonged excitement to actually threaten the template. Fire up the Xbox, treat yourself, and go find the Microwave gun.

 

webboxart   Grid Space Shooter, Xbox Live Indie Games, 80MSP –

http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/Grid-Space-Shooter/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550c8c?cid=RSS

 

Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty might seems like it’s come and gone already but since it finally came out in wide release this past weekend I finally had a chance to see it. It seems like the best place to start is the beginning, so lets start there.

A few years ago Kathryn Bigelow was developing a movie about the search for Osama bin Laden. To that point he had eluded all efforts to find him and the film was meant to end at the Battle of Tora Bora where they had thought he was hiding but ultimately they failed to find him.

The film was meant to end on an ambiguous note, sort of a “what do we do now?” type feel but then one day the world found out that US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, the film wasn’t reworked that much, wasn’t turned into a propaganda “America, FUCK YEAH!” movie.

And the result is pretty spectacular.

Zero Dark Thirty is a spy film but not what you’d normally expect from a spy film because the main character, Maya, isn’t jumping from rooftop to rooftop or saving the world from a mad man or ferreting out a mole, she’s diligently and tirelessly searching for a single man, using all the resources available to her.

As if we needed reminding of the situation, the film starts with a black screen with radio communications playing from 11th September 2001, something I found particularly effective. I’m not American but I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when it all went down, as I expect all of you do as well.

The film then plays out the entire ten year search in all its gritty, gruelling and bureaucratic detail, spearheaded by Maya.

To say it’s an effective movie would be the understatement if the year. Simultaneously showing what they had to do, including torture, ground work, and long sleepless nights shows the toll on us all through Maya, and Jessica Chastain weathers it like a champ. She’s already won a Golden Globe for the role and she deserves her Oscar nod more than anyone else I’ve seen so far for the upcoming ceremony. Make no mistake, the Oscar is hers to lose.

Everything in this film is utterly compelling, and when we finally get to the final act where the raid on bin Laden’s compound by Navy Seals the idea that realistic military tactics and execution thereof isn’t filmable in a meaningful way is shown to be false. In fact any time anyone says this to you from now on just tell them to watch Zero Dark Thirty.

This film deserves to win all the awards it’s nominated for. It probably won’t win them all, but it should, and in addition to everything above this is because it tells us what happened but doesn’t tell us how we should feel about it. The torture and humiliation is on screen, but there’s no heavy handed speech about how it’s terrible but necessary or how it is destroying the country’s soul or any of that. Just, here it is, feel how you feel.

That, in and of itself with such talked about yet delicate subject matter, is a pretty major achievement.

Rating = 9/10

Review: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad

Ryan Gosling. Sean Penn. Josh Brolin. Emma Stone. Robert Patrick. Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Pena. Directed by Reuben Fleischer in a post World War II cops vs. Gangsters story. This is a movie I wanted to see from the moment I heard about it.

Set in Los Angeles and facing off against famed mob boss Mickey Cohen, the players form an elite and off the books squad of cops who at the behest of the Chief of Police (played by Nick Nolte) take the battle against organized crime right to the head honcho. They hit him hard and where it hurts.

Does this sound familiar? Yeah, it sounds a lot like The Untouchables. Too bad it’s nowhere near as good as The Untouchables.

Now hold up a moment, that’s not to say that this is a truly terrible movie, just that’s it’s also not a very good one. The problems are twofold, first there’s the issue of balance.

See, half the time it seems to be a serious cop drama complete with “are we doing the right thing?” moments and the rest of the time it seems like it’s trying to be Dick Tracy 2, complete with characters who are either stereotypes or caricatures (more on that in a moment).

Seriously. Sean Penn plays Cohen so over the top that he’s kind of hard to take seriously and Troy Garity is his main henchman who has a scar over his face that damaged his eye, and is credited as “One Eyed Assassin”. Meanwhile, Josh Brolin is the tough as nails, uncompromising lead detective and Ryan Gosling is the morally grey detective who needs to decide if he’s really in the game or not. The problem here is that the movie never commits to one tone. Is it light and fun or is it dark and serious? The answer is neither because it seems to try so hard to meet in the middle.

If any of this is starting to sound familiar again it’s because of the second problem: there’s pretty much literally nothing here you haven’t seen before. There’s two deaths on the squad and normally I’d consider that spoilery, but if you can’t tell which ones it’s going to be after each of their first scenes (and what the immediate follow-up is going to be) then you’re probably watching a different movie than I was.

The film has other problems as well. A one liner here and there is good, several one liners during every sequence is silly. The rest of the dialogue is pretty bad too, even the lines that sounded cool in the trailer fall flat in the movie itself and they’re trying so hard to be cool that no one gets any real development. Everyone ends up just being a pastiche of others you’ve seen before. The Hard Ass, the cowboy, the tech guy, the minorities struggling for acceptance, and the old man police chief.

Worse yet, none of the actors really have any chemistry together. Sure, Josh Brolin and Mireille Enos has some, but the home story is a sub plot and Josh Brolin talking to almost anyone else feels forced. Even Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone don’t really seem to connect despite having done so in other films.

There’s a lot to like here in the small details. The movie looks amazing, from the sets to the costumes to the hair and makeup, everything looks pretty spectacular actually. The story itself isn’t bad, and we all know Reuben Fleischer loves his slow motion shots. In the end though, the looks are just window dressing, the story is told with little nuance and terrible dialogue and the slow motion (and sped up) stuff just makes the pacing of the big final action sequence fall to pieces.

The scenes that do play well are the action scenes (not sped up or slowed down) but they almost feel like a different movie.

Gangster Squad was one of my most anticipated films of the year. Maybe because of that context I am being hard on it, but I don’t think I am. It seems to be a movie that was made to make a great trailer. Lots of one liners to choose from, beautiful people in beautiful clothes on beautiful sets, and lots of action (and it really does have a great couple of trailers). The problem is that they didn’t seem to be able to figure out what kind of movie they wanted to make or how they wanted to play it and the result is that the finished product is just a hot mess.

2013 Oscar Nominees, Reactions, and a Few Predictions

It’s that time of year again: Awards Season. The Golden Globes are on this weekend and this week the nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards were announced.

My reactions to the nominations are varied, but as per usual I’m more surprised by what’s not on the list than what is.

I’m going to be up front about this too: I still haven’t seen all the films that are nominated, so my opinons here are a little skewed, so I’ll stick to talking about the ones I know (where I can).

The 2013 Oscar Nominations and my commentary thereon:

Best Picture

  • “Argo”
  • “Django Unchained”
  • “Les Miserables”
  • “Life of Pi”
  • “Amour”
  • “Lincoln”
  • “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

My initial reaction here is that they can have as many as ten nominations, they’ve nominated nine films and The Master isn’t on the list. I mean, love it or hate it, The Master is the type of film the academy usually goes all in on.

Also, and while I personally didn’t care for it, I’m a little surprised that The Dark Knight Rises isn’t on here in recognition of the trilogy that Christopher Nolan put together. I mean, they did it for Peter Jackson, why not Nolan?

I honestly don’t know what I’d pick from this list, I still haven’t seen Les Miserables, Django Unchained is amazing but Silver Linings Playbook is pretty much exactly the type of “quirky people” movie that actors love playing and love voting for, so we’ll see.

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
  • Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”
  • Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
  • Denzel Washington – “Flight”

I’m kind of shocked to see Bradley Cooper on this list, but then again as I mentioned before Silver Linings Playbook is pretty much the type of film the Academy goes in for. Denzel is a bit of a wild card to me, he was great in Flight but I didn’t expect to see him here.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Hugh Jackman are completely not surprising: They’re both great actors and they’re both in great films.

I have a feeling that Day-Lewis or Jackman will take this category but I actually hope for Joaquin Phoenix. The man is completely transformed for his role in The Master. His slight slur, his ability to go from calm to explosively violent in a heartbeat, and even his hunched posture, the man disappeared into Freddie Quell.

And of course the lingering question: where the hell is Jamie Foxx’s name?? Or John Hawkes? Geez!

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
  • Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of Southern Wild”
  • Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

To be fair, I haven’t seen Amour, Beasts of a Southern Wild or The Impossible yet so I have no idea who is going to take this. I do, however, love the idea that either Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence might win since I honestly think they were both robbed in the past (Chastain in The Help and Lawrence in Winter’s Bone).

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Alan Arkin – “Argo”
  • Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
  • Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
  • Christoph Waltz – “Django Unchained”

Interesting fact: All five nominees here are Oscar winners already. Interesting Fact: Leonardo diCaprio has not won an Oscar before, was the scene stealing standout of the show in Django Unchained, and isn’t on this list.

Now, i don’t mean to demean any of these guys work but at the same time I do mean tot point out that Leonardo has been fucking robbed this year.

As to who will win? I’m pulling for Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His work in The Master is stellar and he deserves to go home with his second trophy for it.

I’m going to say something that will make me sound like a fanboy now: I think Bruce Willis should be on this list for Looper. If you don’t believe me just go watch it again and pay close attention when he goes after his first target.

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams – “The Master”
  • Sally Field – “Lincoln”
  • Anne Hathaway – “Les Miserables”
  • Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”
  • Jackie Weaver – “Silver Linings Playbook”

Here’s a category where I think the younger actresses are going to battle it out. Amy Adams is phenomenal in The Master and Anne Hathaway sang “I Dreamed A Dream” on screen, live. Completely different roles to be sure, both both are great.

Not to sound like I have Django on the brain, but Kerri Washington could likely have done with a nod here. Hell, so could Emily Blunt for Looper.

Best Animated Feature

  • “Brave”
  • “Frankenweenie”
  • “ParaNorman”
  • “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
  • “Wreck-It Ralph”

Pixar has a nomination and usually that’s enough to secure themselves a win, but Brave –while great by normal standards– was just ok by Pixars usual standards.

I’d really like to see this go to Wreck-it Ralph.

Best Director

  • “Amour” – Michael Haneke
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” – Ang Lee
  • “Lincoln” – Steven Spielberg
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

I haven’t seen enough of these to comment. Lincoln was incredibly directed but I’m not so sure about Silver Linings Playbook. Maybe David O. Russell is nominated because he probably should have won for The Fighter.

No Tarantino? No Rian Johnson? No Ben Affleck? No Kathryn Bigelow? What the hell? And what about Paul Thomas Anderson? You’re telling me that the three main actors from his film had oscar calibre performances and he had nothing to do with that? Riiiight.

And again, a little surprised to not see Christopher Nolan on this list for the same reasons I mentioned above.

Best Original Screenplay

  • “Amour” – Michael Haneke
  • “Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino
  • “Flight” – John Gatins
  • “Moonrise Kingdom” – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal

This is the one that Tarantino will win. I can’t see how he wouldn’t given that he was snubbed on the Best Director list. But where is Rian Johnson on this list? She should be here for the same reason Tarantino is.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • “Argo” – Chris Terrio
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” – David Magee
  • “Lincoln” – Tony Kushner
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

I’ve only read the source material for one of these and I haven’t seen the movie version of it yet so I’m gonna keep my trap shut.

I’m going to wager a guess that either Silver Linings Playbook or Argo takes it.

The Rest and Closing Thoughts

That’s really it for the major categories, the rest are mostly technical. It’s nice to see that Skyfall picked up a nomination in the original song category, I loved the song and I hope either it or Everybody Needs A Best Friend from Ted takes it home.

It’s more than a little strange to see The Master left off the cinematography list, it’s being snubbed for best picture is one thing, it was easily the most stunningly shot film I saw in 2012.

I’m a bit sad to see that Looper was passed over entirely. It’s incredibly well written and it’s cast are are great. I know that the academy doesn’t usually go in for genre film but still. Great films deserve recognition. At least give him the screenplay nod!!

Last year I live blogged the ceremony and, barring any unforeseen circumstances I’ll be doing the same thing year, so check back here on 24th of February!

Matt’s Most Anticipated of 2013

2012 was one of the best years for film that I can remember and I’m honestly hoping that 2013 meets or beats it in terms of number of quality releases, and more importantly in the quality of those releases. There’s a lot coming out this year so here’s the ten that I am looking forward to most.

I’m listing these in order of release and not order of anticipation, partly because I find them hard to rank but mostly because I am looking forward to them all for different reasons.

And with that, here are the movies I am most looking forward to this year.

Gangster Squad (11 January)

Gangster Squad

I’ve actually been waiting for this since last year since its original 2012 release was pushed after the Aurora Shooting.

Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Sean Penn in an old school cops vs. gangsters film is a hard recipe to screw up. I love the cast, I love the premise, and while director Rueben Fleischer has only made a couple of films, they were both good and he’s made a host of music videos and commercials which were also good.

I worry about the re-shoots that happened following Aurora last year but not very much considering the scene had just been relocated and re-staged rather than excised entirely.

The Place Beyond The Pines (29 March)

The Place Beyond The Pines

Yes, another Ryan Gosling movie. It’s true: I’m a fan of the baby goose. More than that though, I’m a fan of Ryan Gosling because he’s a great actor.

Gosling previously teamed with director Derek Cianfrance in 2010s Blue Valentine and in that film both Gosling and co-star Michelle Williams knocked it right outta the park. Seriously, if you haven’t seen that movie just go find it and watch it (but be aware, it has some hard to watch scenes).

Ryan Gosling playing a stunt bike rider robbing banks to provide for his son while being chased by Bradley Cooper as a cop mixed up with some crooked colleagues? It’s an intriguing set up and one I can’t wait to see.

42 (12 April)

42

I’ll admit this one is a bit of a wild card pick; chalk it up to my love of baseball. On the other hand this is the story of a modern American legend in Jackie Robinson and it’s being directed by Brian Helgeland, the guy who wrote L.A. Confidential, A Knights Tale and Mystic River. There’s a lot to like about that fact alone but when you add in Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey (the guy who dared to sign Jackie Robinson in an era when racism was still an OK thing) things get more interesting.

Chadwick Boseman is a relative newcomer here, but if this works out this could be a star turn for him and I’m always interested in seeing that.

Iron Man 3 (3 May)

Iron Man 3

I’m a huge Marvel geek and I’m a huge fan of their grand experiment to bring comic book continuity to the big screen. If you’ve been paying attention you may have already gotten this impression.

Robert Downey Jr. is among the best cast of the Marvel Heroes currently on screen and it’ll be a pleasure seeing him as Tony Stark again. Hell, even in the kind of boring Iron Man 2 he was fun to watch and with Shane Black directing and Don Cheadle returning as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine one can only assume that there’ll be some great “buddy cop” kind of sequences as they battle the armoured bad guys.

Sir Ben Kingsley is playing the Mandarin, a character with supernatural powers in the comics, so it will be cool to see how they reconcile that with the technological world of Iron Man (that is, does he even have his powers or are The Ten Rings from Iron Man all he controls or will they be technological or what?).

Another exciting tidbit is that the story is based on Extremis by Warren Ellis, which is one of my favourite Iron Man stories and sees Tony Stark go through some interesting stuff.

Plus, this is the first film in Marvel’s second phase so I’m looking forward to seeing if I can pick out any world building or portents that’ll give me an idea what they’re planning for Avengers 2.

The Great Gatsby (10 May)

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an American classic, a fact that even though I am a Canadian I can certainly appreciate. I’m not going to sugar coat this though: I’ve never actually read it. I’ve always meant to but for some reason it’s just never happened.

Now there’s this, Leonardo DiCaprio re-teaming with director Baz Luhrmann in what looks to be a perfect part for the former and potentially the best looking film from the latter. The film is full of talented people not the least of which is Carey Mulligan who has shone brightly in everything I’ve seen her in, even as Sally Sparrow in Doctor Who.

Plus, if it turns out to suck I won’t have to be bothered by how the movie was a crappy adaptation of the book.

Star Trek Into Darkness (17 May)

Star Trek Into Darkness

To say I am anticipating this film is an exercise in understatement. Understand that I am a life long Star Trek fan, some of my earliest memories are watching The Original Series with my father. I’ve seen every episode of every show (including the animated series) and every movie. In 2009 JJ Abrams brought Star Trek back to the big screen in a big way and I fucking loved it.

Long story short: if this list were ranked, Star Trek Into Darkness would be #1 on the list.

I happen to think that the previous film was nearly perfectly cast so I seriously can’t wait to see the whole crew back again. Yes, even Chris Pine. More importantly, I can’t wait to see Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain in this. So far I’ve only really seen him play good guys so it will be nice to see him put on his evil face. The man is a hell of an actor and this will very likely be a hell of a film.

There’s so much more I could say here, but the bottom line is this: is it May 17th yet???

Much Ado About Nothing (7 June)

Much Ado About Nothing

So apparently while filming last years The Avengers Joss Whedon called up a bunch of his friends and shot an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in his own house over 12 days or so.

Let’s rephrase that: the guy making the biggest film of last year made an indie Shakespeare adaption in his home in his spare time. That alone is pretty cool.

But this is also Joss Whedon we’re talking about here. Love him or hate him he’s certainly done some interesting stuff and is really good at managing large casts. I’m also just curious to see what he does with Shakespeare and how he worked his house into the film.

Plus, this is full of his buddies like Nathan Fillion (playing Dogberry), Amy Acker (Beatrice) and Clark Gregg (Leonato).

So basically it’s a bunch of awesome people doing a version of a play by the greatest playwright ever as adapted by a fantastic director. So where do I sign, exactly?

Pacific Rim (12 July)

Pacific Rim

Let’s see, director with a crazy and unique visual style? Check. Giant Monsters? Check. Giant Robots fighting those monsters? Check. Two people whose minds link via a computer voiced by the same actress as GLaDOS from Portal? Check. A cast including Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam? Check.

I dunno, maybe this movie wasn’t made for me specifically but there’s certainly a lot of boxes checked off here.

Plus, it’s a disaster movie where people are fighting for humanity as a whole to survive (check) against ridiculous odds. I’m sure that the giant robot that turns the tide will be obsolete or broken or something too but cliches done well are still entertaining as hell, and Guillermo del Toro is a pretty great director so I have little doubt he can pull this off.

The Worlds End (25 October)

The World's End

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright are finally going to release the third in their “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” each of which has been an homage to a certain type of film so far (if you’ve been hiding in cave these last few years, Shaun of the Dead was zombies and Hot Fuzz was buddy cop action).

In addition to apparently featuring the mint chocolate chip cornetto, apparently the boys will be on a massive pub crawl towards The World’s End Pub and the world might actually be ending while they do it. That description alone is enough to get me in theatres but rest assured the film will be full of their signature comedic style and mile a minute on the nose pop culture riffs that made the previous two films (and the series they did, Spaced) so laugh out loud funny.

Enders Game (1 November)

Ender's Game

I am of the opinion that if you have never read Orson Scott Cards phenomenal book Ender’s Game you should probably stop reading this right now, go find a copy and read it. There’s even a fantastic graphic novel adaptation if you’re so inclined. I’ll wait here while you do that.

All done? Good, then I don’t have to spoil anything. Now do you see why a movie version of this could be amazing? Harrison Ford as Commander Graff and Sir Ben Kingsley as Mazer? Asa Butterfield as Ender himself? There’s not a lot to dislike here. Well, except that Gavin Hood is directing, but remember that while he did direct X-Men Origins: Wolverine he also directed (and won an Oscar for) Tsotsi, which is an amazing film.

What’s Missing?

There’s certainly a lot more than 10 films coming out this year and more than 10 that I am quite looking forward to. Thor: The Dark World (8 Nov) and Elysium (9 Aug) both only missed being on the list by the skin of their teeth –if I wasn’t a baseball fan you can bet one of them would have made it– and then there’s the Spike Lee remake of Oldboy (11 Oct), Man of Steel (14 Jun) trying to get Superman right for the first time in decades and Tom Hanks playing Walr Disney in Saving Mr. Banks (20 Dec) and Movie 43 (25 Jan) doing it’s best to offend, well, everyone it seems.

It definitely looks like it’s going to be a good year for genre film in particular this year, which means this is going to be a good year for nerds like me.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention The Wolverine (26 Jul) or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (13 Dec) and that’s because while I am looking forward to both of these I’m not really excited to see either. That might change once I see some trailers though so time will tell.

Sometime toward the end of 2013 I plan to revisit this list and recap whether I was excited to see the terribly great or the greatly terrible. In the mean time, what are your most anticipated films of the year?