HBO Asia’s Game Of Thrones Writing Competition and Prize

Last April, a few weeks after I officially joined Total Film Indonesia magazine as features editor (after having been their contributor for two years), I was assigned to write the article of HBO’s Game Of Thrones Season 2. And gladly I did that because I love the series, I am familiar with the works of George R. R. martin and this whole thing is like a walk in the part for me.

 

The article included  exclusive interviews with Michelle Fairley, who plays Catelyn Stark, and Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow – an opportunity given to us by HBO Asia, who kindly let us submit questions during a press junket. (We didn’t go there ourselves due to time constraints but I’m happy enough to get an exclusive so I wasn’t complaining.) So I wrote those six pages of articles, with the two interviews, included the quiz, and submitted it before the deadline and I was done. Then The Avengers happened and my life was consumed by  it and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and everything else became irrelevant.

Several days ago, my phone rang with a call from HBO Asia’s rep in Indonesia. After exchanging pleasantries, the rep then told me, “We’d like to invite you for lunch on Thursday because your article has been nominated as a winner for the Game Of Thrones S2 writing competition.” My first reaction was, “A writing competition? What competition?” (Long story short – it wasn’t that they didn’t tell us about it. They did tell us about it but the wrong person who represented us during the announcement forgot to inform the rest of us of the competition.) Despite my puzzlement, I confirmed my attendance to the lunch event anyway.

So earlier today I went there and what happened was that our magazine became the winner of HBO Asia’s Game Of Thrones S2 writing competition for magazine category. They awarded us with none other than the A Game Of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition). And, naturally, it was pure awesomeness.

I’ve heard rumors of a Game Of Thrones board game before but since games – board ones or otherwise – never interested me, I didn’t bother looking for information on it. But now that I’ve found out about its existence and held it in my hands, I have to admit that it looks mighty cool. And complicated. There doesn’t seem to be a way I can play this without my head spinning so I will just show you a few pictures of how it looks like without explaining the details.

  

Reading the back of the box [right], the gist I got was that the game is about making our way to the Iron Throne during a war between the families of Westeros. (I think as players, we represent the Houses?) But I could be wrong because I only had time to skim through the whole thing before writing this report. Seeing the pieces inside the box [middle] I felt slightly intimidated by their number – there are two boards, paper fortresses, flat pieces, character cards and lord knows what else. Don’t get me wrong – it looks fun, but also complicated.

My colleagues and I in TFI‘s editorial team will be playing this game soon (maybe after our deadline at the end of this month). On the meantime, I have to read the guidelines… and maybe find some kind of A Game Of Thrones: The Board Game 101 on the Internet. (In case you’re wondering, I’m hoping to play as House Targaryen in this game.)

Before I sign off, I want to thank HBO Asia for the prize (and the lunch and the conversation!) They really are good at building relations with their business partners. Thumbs up.

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San Diego Comic-Con: Iron Man 3 Panel (Hall H)

In case anyone couldn’t be at San Diego Comic-Con this year (like me and a million of other people), there were some interesting new developments about PHASE TWO of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In this year’s Marvel Studios panel in the famed Hall H, just an hour after Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures buzzing panel, Kevin Feige & Co. announced what will be the next step they’ll take for their post-The Avengers take.

Some of these updates are:

  • Iron Man 3 is currently filming (halfway through).
  • Captain America‘s sequel gets the title Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Thor’s sequel gets the title Thor: The Dark World.
  • Edgar Wright is working on Ant-Man and he’s taking “the Terrence Malick approach to superheroes” to explain why the progress is so slow.
  • There’s going to be a new superhero team movie, The Guardians Of The Galaxy.
  • The Guardians Of The Galaxy line-up: Star-Lord, Draxx the Destroyer, Groot and Rocket Raccoon and Gamorra)

Now, I am not there personally but I have a Twitter filled with various accounts of movie websites and I followed live-blog from this great site called Coming Soon and Super Hero Hype. Thanks to them, I got to know what happened in the footages that were shown in the panel. A certain Mr. Silas Lesnick live blogged for these two sites from the panel and he gave us a full report of what happened during the Marvel Studios panel. Check it out.

For those of you who are too lazy to look at the live blog report to find out (shame on you, though! They’re worth scrolling for!) I’m copy-pasting the footage breakdown. (This also serves as my personal archive… just so I can compare what happens in the footages to what happens in the actual clips or trailers that will come out in the future.) Please be aware that this is not my live blog text. It belongs to Mr. Silas Lesnick and the websites above.

Ant-Man test footage breakdown:

The costume looks a lot like the IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN costume.

The face is completely covered, so we don’t know who the actor is.

It’s a black suit with red highlights.

The scene is a hallway with two guardians (maybe shield agents?) guarding a door at the end.

on the opposite end of the hallway is a vent and, at it, stands Ant-Man at only a few inches high.

He leaps down and we see him running down the massive hallway.

Suddenly there’s a flash and he’s full sized, charging the guards.

He leaps and flashes again. He punches one at his tiny size and one of the guy’s teeth goes flying out of his mouth as he crashed into a panel.

Ant-Man slides down the tie of the other man and returns to full size, flipping him over.

He gets in the door, apparently an elevator, at full size and, with another flash, is gone.

The title comes up, just plain ANT-MAN.

Iron Man 3 footage breakdown:

We begin in Stark’s lab. He’s talking to “dummy” and his suits of armor, telling them he’s about to introduce them to their badass baby brother.

He asks Dummy to play some seasonal music and he turns on a techno version of Jingle Bells.

Stark stands, posing and flexing. Suddenly a piece of armor shoots across the room.

One by one, his armor form, flying at him as he wills it to.

One hits his crotch, through, and he doubles over.

Another slams into his back and he falls, but jet-propels himself back up.

The last piece is the faceplate and, as it comes at him, he flips, propeling himself off the crowd with one hand upside down while the mask comes on.

We see another scene with Favreau as Happy talking to Stark through a video chat.

“You can’t talk to me like that,” he tells Stark good humoredly, “I don’t work for you anymore.”

“That’s because you quit!” says Stark.

He says he can’t deal with Stark being off with the Superfriends these days.

We see a bunch of footage — Guy Pearce’s character — The Iron Patriot armor.

“Some people call me a terrorist,” says a voice (I don’t think it’s Kingsley).

“I consider myself a teacher. Lesson number one: There is no such thing as heroes.”

We see a bunch of helicopters firing on Stark’s house, blowing it off the edge of the cliff.

Inside, every suit of armor is destroyed.

Iron Man falls into the ocean as wreckage comes down on top of him.

Cut to…

Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin.

It’s the costume from the comic almost exactly.

The footage ends and they’re even calling him the Mandarin now.

Mandarin is wearing at least four rings.

And he cocks a gun in the shot.

(Really, many thanks to Silas Lesnick – whoever he is – for typing all of that up.)

During the panel, I noticed on Twitter that “Ant-Man“, “The Winter Soldier“, “The Dark World“, “Ben Kingsley” and “Phase Two” were trending worldwide. I don’t know if my Twitter was faulty during the WB/Legendary panel, but I didn’t notice any of the things from their panel was trending worldwide, except for the Godzilla remake, directed by Gareth Edwards. (I could be wrong and I hope I’m wrong because everything about The Hobbit and Pacific Rim were absolutely awesome and fantastic.) But this, I think might be an indication of just how big still the hype of The Avengers is.

Marvel’s Phase Two is something that’s been bandied about in the past few month since The Avengers played in cinemas and we all know that movie is so far the biggest movie of the year. So many rumors were circling… and now we’ve got confirmation on a few things. Naturally, all the fans are excited about this. Meanwhile, Zac Snyder’s Man Of Steel may have come up with some amazing footage as well, but I’m guessing there’s now a bigger anticipation for movies about Marvel superheroes than about DC superheroes. (But this is a discussion for another time.)

What I want to say is that this Marvel Studios panel has convinced me that they’re taking solid steps in the right direction for The Avengers sequel. (Some people would argue against The Guardians Of The Galaxy but I have a different opinion. And I’ll also discuss this another time because I’ve no time right now.) No matter what will happen with The Avengers 2 – which Joss Whedon is still isn’t sure about directing at this point – I think we’ll get some great films on the meantime.

“Can hardly wait” seems to be an understatement after Marvel’s Hall H panel.

Brave: Film Review

TWELVE FILMS LATER, Pixar finally has what its partner, Disney, has owned for years – a princess. That being said, Pixar is still Pixar and not Disney, so the princess doesn’t get a handsome prince on a white horse that slays monsters for her and becomes her true love. In fact, that’s the one thing Pixar’s princess Merida (voiced by the charming Scot Kelly Macdonald) is not ready for. As a result of her reluctance to marry, she fights with her mother who is intimidating like a bear. Literally.

In what becomes the movie’s central comedic element, said mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), then transforms into a real bear and caused a whole fur of problems for the family. Although in some moments, Brave is terrifyingly dark – especially in 3D; it’s so dark behind the 3D lenses that the many of the animated details are lost – the entire story concocted by Brenda Chapman & Co. are actually hilariously absurd and fantastically entertaining that tears will run down your cheeks as you laugh endlessly for 90 or so minutes. Plus, the voice actors are great – when else can we get an entire movie spoken in Scottish accent?

Mind you, this is no Toy Story or Up, but the contemporary humor is fresh a la Ratatouille. If this makes Brave less ‘Pixar’ for some people, look for Finding Nemo elements in Merida and Mom’s fun and action-packed mother daughter adventure. The fantasy factor is also strong enough to match WALL-E’s level of science fiction goodness, although there’s no masked propaganda in this one.

Bonus eye candy is the charming short animated movie La Luna that precedes the movie. This is one attractive Pixar package that, like it or not, has redeemed them from the sin of Cars 2.

THE VERDICT
This is Finding Nemo princess-style – Pixar continues to wow with a female heroine, Scottish actors and crazy humor that makes up one complete entertainment package. 

*

The Indonesian version of this review will appear in Total Film Indonesia Issue #33, out in July 2012.

The Avengers: Film Review

The Avengers

One big happy superhero family

EARTH IS UNDER SIEGE. The culprit: an ambitious god with a truckload of daddy issues, leading an alien army from a universe far away. Who’re you gonna call? Definitely not the Ghostbusters.

First of all, you should call Nick Fury, the one-eyed director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who bears an uncanny resemblance to Samuel L. Jackson. Then you better hope he still has a couple of cell phone numbers on his phone. For example, Tony Stark’s – that is, “genius playboy billionaire philanthropist” – number and Steve Roger’s, who is – wait. Steve doesn’t have a cell phone. He just woke up from a 70-year hyper-sleep on ice and doesn’t really know how to work one out yet. So who else can he call? Bruce Banner who’s on a self-imposed exile in India? Natasha Romanoff who’s under cover in Russia? Or that guy who likes to perch himself on high surfaces, watches you like a hawk-eyed stalker? Or maybe Fury should start a sacrificial ritual and hope that thunder god Thor would deign Midgardians with his presence. The point is, everyone he’s got who can fight off this alien army is separated all over the globe. And they don’t get along. At least at first.

Bringing them together is a massive undertaking for Fury, but  it’s an even bigger responsibility for Joss Whedon, the Nick Fury of the  Marvel Studios’ latest superhero venture, The Avengers. Imagine – he has to put together 10 famous names from 5 previous films that were worked on by a dozen of other filmmakers in order to A. save  Earth from idiotic superhero films (yes, Green Lantern, we’re looking at you); and B. smash the summer box office.

So, did he manage? Yes. In fact, HELL YES. Not only that, Whedon may have created a new benchmark for comic book superhero movies. (Do excuse us, Nolan.)

Family affair

That The Avengers is a crossover film has already put it on a league of its own, although that doesn’t mean it is without a few complications. On one side, The Avengers already has a tried-and-true fan base from previous films (Iron Man 1 & 2, Thor, Captain America). Whedon himself  also comes with a loyal fan base that follows him from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Firefly and other cult projects. So if the cinemas are brimming with Marvel fans and Whedonites, it’s no surprise, and this way the movie is ensured against box office failure. On the other, Whedon still has to find a red thread that binds the six Avengers together without pissing off these people. And therein lies the challenge.

As it turns out, however, we need not worry – for this director who came into the project without a blockbuster hit in his resumé has done the impossible and emerged as the victor. First, he did it by putting his ego aside. Whedon reportedly consulted with Thor director Kenneth Branagh and Iron Man director Jon Favreau in order to align his Marvel world with its previous incarnations. Second, he imbued the script with his brand of Whedonesque genius. This means getting Robert Downey Jr. to mock Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston for doing a round of “Shakespeare in the park – doth mother know you weareth her drapes?” It also means Hemsworth got to say “he’s adopted” when Scarlett Johansson pointed out how many people Hiddleston had killed. All Whedon, all genius.

And how he wove the strands of tales that had previously existed through his heroes is an admirable feat. From RDJ’s Tony and Chris Evans’ Cap bickering like a kid and his uncle over career choices to Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk solving their differences through fists of fury, as well as Black Widow and Hawkeye’s palpable sense of unresolved sexual tension, Whedon made them all work against the backdrop of the imposing S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier and office politics. He’s a like a teacher without a pet – zooming in equally on each of the characters and giving them all an equal chance to shine. And if Fury has to wait until someone’s life is taken away until everyone finally comes together, this is also a testament to Whedon’s bravery for taking risks in order to build a solid story about how 6 individuals could slowly become a team. That, or this is simply a 6-person dysfunctional family. Either way, Whedon has found a way to make the audience root for them. So if any studio wanted to produce their own crossover film, Whedon’s The Avengers is now clearly the standard to follow.

Go green

What’s great about The Avengers is that Whedon presents them the way Marvel comic writers and artists present Earth’s mightiest heroes on paper – colorful, action-packed and using frames that replace comic book panels. To enjoy the Avengers’ kick-ass journey is to read a Marvel comic crossover event – pick one, any one – with fanboy-level focus and enthusiasm. This proves that not everyone has to take the dark and serious path to make a critically acclaimed and universally popular comic book movie. Sometimes, keeping the fantasy elements alive and bringing on an alien army to wreak havoc on Earth is what it takes to win the box office race.

Even The Avengers’ villain Loki is a proper comic villain, with huge ego and even more gigantic penchant for melodrama. He’s not Joker or Lex Luthor, but he’s like a disturbing green fly (with golden horns) that can withstand the most extreme ways of extermination. In other words, highly annoying. His and his writers’ is the direction we should be applauding the loudest.

Speaking of green, it’s about time that Bruce Banner and the Hulk gets a proper screen treatment. It’s safe to say that this is the Hulk that should’ve been around all along. We absolutely cannot resist pumping our fist in the air when we saw that Ruffalo nailed both of his characters. Needless to say, the next thing to anticipate is the next solo Hulk movie – it should be the definitive one.

Considering all of this, how appropriate is it that the climax of the film is determined by green versus green? Loki versus Hulk. Green god versus green rage monster. And the winner is… SMASH.

THE VERDICT
Whedon’s vision and humor serves this epic crossover event without losing its characters’ personalities. Thanks to bromance and Hulk smash, Marvel’s domination soars to new skies.

TALKING POINT
The US military – who apparently likes to lend a helping hand in creating action movies containing military action – allegedly refused to assist with the Avengers production. They thought S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Chitauris were unrealistic enough to merit their services. And yet they helped Battleship. Irony, much?

*

The Indonesian version of this review has appeared in Total Film Indonesia Issue #31, out in May 2012.