Brett Ratner’s Hercules may be big, dumb and predictable but it’s a hell of a fun ride. Given we’ve had several films (one of which was released earlier this year) and a television series to explore the hulking hero’s work, I was surprised to see yet another incarnation hit the big screen so soon. Luckily this version manages to put enough of a twist on the tale to warrant its existence.

Having completed his twelve fabled tasks, Hercules roams the land as a sword-for-hire. He’s accompanied by a small band of warriors who not only fight by his side but more importantly help keep the ‘legend’ of Hercules alive and well, since it’s great for business. After years of fighting, Hercules is all set to retire, when he is lured into one final job, helping the King of Thrace quash an evil warlord. Hercules is forced to look deep into his soul and decide if he is the stuff of myth or legend …

This film works primarily because it doesn't take itself too seriously. Too many blockbusters of late have been kind of depressing. Films like Godzilla, 47 Ronin, Man of Steel and even Star Trek Into Darkness whilst visually pleasing kind of forgot to be fun, which isn't that the point of these types of films? Hercules hit that sweet spot for me where the film is kind of winking at the audience without ever descending into farce. Director Brett Ratner has somewhat of a chequered past when it comes to blockbusters; for every Rush Hour there’s an X-Men: Last Stand, that being said his style suited this project. The action set pieces are well choreographed, two of which are battle sequences set during the day time which for me is always more impressive. With hundreds if not thousands of combatants duking it out, the battles had an intensity that I wasn't expecting. Smartly the film clips along at such a pace, it doesn't allow you to dwell on how silly it is, a practice I’d like to see adopted by other films of this ilk.

Dwayne ‘Don’t call me the Rock’ Johnson is in his element playing Hercules, but let’s be honest he’s basically playing the same role in just about every film nowadays. I’d love to see him doing something with a touch more dramatic weight about it, but I guess he’s got to capitalise on his body while he can still achieve the physique that he’s renowned for. The supporting cast is chock-full of characters actors such as John Hurt, Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell all of whom look like they had a ball making this film. Ingrid Bolso Berdal is fabulous as the Amazonian warrior Atalanta; she has great presence on screen and can more than handle herself when it comes to fisty-cuffs. Rebecca Ferguson plays Ergenia, heir to the Thrace throne, whilst she misses out on the action set pieces, she raised the stakes emotionally, which is just as important in film like this. I rather enjoyed her performance. I appreciated the fact that the women of this story weren’t simply swept aside whilst the men did everything, well played Hercules.

This is your perfect lazy Friday night film after a long week and maybe an ale or two. It’s a little bit silly at times but I’m sure if you set your expectations accordingly you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You know what the Rock’s cooking and you know you can’t resist it.

If you see the film and agree or disagree with my review feel free to drop a line below or pop over to our Facebook page and call me out directly WWE style!

- Stu


Thanks to our pals at Marvel, we've got 10x in-season double passes to see the upcoming blockbuster, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” finds space adventurer Peter Quill the object of a bounty hunt after stealing an orb coveted by a treacherous villain, but when Quill discovers the power it holds, he must find a way to rally the quartet of ragtag rivals hot on his trail to save the universe.

In cinemas from August 7, Guardians of the Galaxy is probably comparable to The Avengers, but in space, and a million times more bad arse! To be in the running to win an in-season double pass to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy all you have to do is watch the trailer and fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Don't forget, you can get yourself a bonus entry just by following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook!


Entries close 11:59pm on Sunday 3rd August 2014. Your details will not be used in any way other than for the delivery of your prize. Geek of Oz and Marvel do not take any responsibility for the loss, damage or delay of/to prizes sent to winners (blame Australia Post for that one). The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered upon. One entry per person, subsequent entries will be void. Prizes are not redeemable for cash or any other kind of trading currency such as creds, latinum, sen, kan, zeni, double dollars or Ankh Morpork dollars. Geek Of Oz take no responsibility for head explosions caused by utter awesomeness. This competition is only open to Australian residents. Any questions or queries can be submitted through the comment section at the bottom of screen. Good luck!
Thanks to our friends at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, we've got something very, mucho grande special to give away. 

To celebrate the release of Appleseed: Alpha on Blu Ray, DVD and Digital on July 31st, we've been given 2x pieces of concept art signed by the director of Appleseed: Alpha, Shinji Aramaki!

Appleseed: Alpha is an all-new, CGI-animated sci-fi action adventure based on the popular "Appleseed" franchise by the creator of Ghost In The Shell, Shirow Masamune, directed by Shinji Aramaki and with music from the master of wub-wub, Skrillex. The film is set in a post-World War society with two mercenary soldiers - Deunan and her cyborg partner Briareos –  sent on a mission on the outskirts of their war-torn city.

To be in the running to win one of these awesome pieces of art all you have to do is watch the trailer and fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Don't forget, you can get yourself a bonus entry just by following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook!


THIS COMPETITION HAS CLOSED

Entries close 11:59pm on Sunday 27th July 2014. Your details will not be used in any way other than for the delivery of your prize. Geek of Oz and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment do not take any responsibility for the loss, damage or delay of/to prizes sent to winners (blame Australia Post for that one). The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered upon. One entry per person, subsequent entries will be void. Prizes are not redeemable for cash or any other kind of trading currency such as creds, latinum, sen, kan, zeni, double dollars or Ankh Morpork dollars. Geek Of Oz take no responsibility for head explosions caused by utter awesomeness. This competition is only open to Australian residents. Any questions or queries can be submitted through the comment section at the bottom of screen. Good luck!
So, as you probably didn't notice, there was no Image-ine All the Reviews for last weeks books. Unfortunately, this little thing known as 'real life' occasionally prevents us from spending all our time writing about comics and wishing we had a cool sidekick, and a skin-tight leather costume (well maybe that last one's just me). Anyway without further adieu, feast your eyes on this weeks tasty books from Image - Christof

RED CITY #2
Witten by: Daniel Corey
Art by: Mark Dos Santos

Chris: I feel like Red City’s really trying to be more than it is in some places. There’s clear evidence of a complex, multi-faceted universe replete with political machinations and a host of interesting alien species. It’s the kind of vast, deep setting that a great sci-fi writer like J. Michael Straczynski or Iain Banks could make a good story out of.

Unfortunately for Red City, both its story and universe are not good. Where once was an attempt at detective noir in the last issue, we now have something closer to a James Bond/Jason Bourne action thriller complete with exotic femme and car chase set piece. The ‘verse is still shallow despite the hints of depth on display, with a colourful host of characters that are as well rounded as a house brick and waaaaaay too much exposition that still doesn’t really explain anything. The story is wafer-thin, still possibly concerned with finding that Mercurian diplomat’s daughter from Issue #1 but not enough to drive it forward here.

Neither the narrative nor its backdrop are fleshed out enough to be anything more than token, and I still don’t know why I should care about main character Talmage. His banter isn’t engaging, his personality is one-note depending on the issue’s attempt at genre, and I find myself distinctly unmotivated to find out why everything’s gone to hell for him in the flash-forward that opened the series. As a story clearly reliant on a climax explaining that flash-forward and providing payoff for the journey towards it, that’s a problem.

Art by Mark Dos Santos is still the book’s solitary highlight, and he does a much better job here than last issue. Character designs are a little tighter, facial expressions are more realistic, and the alien vistas of Mars look gorgeous. This is the kind of book I’d be keener on having an artist’s edition of, minus the dialogue.

I feel I need to keep following Red City to whatever conclusion it’s headed to, just to see if it all comes together in the end. So far, prospects are not rosy.

DEATH VIGIL #1
Written by: Stjepan Sejic
Art by: Stjepan Sejic

Christof: Many things come to mind when the Grim Reaper is mentioned. The sworn protector and safe keeper of all life, however, certainly isn't one of them. Welcome to the Death Vigil, a group of valiant deceased led by the one and only Reaper and dedicated to protecting all things cute and fluffy from being consumed by the primordial horror lurking in the underplane of existence. It's a premise that feels very much at home as part of Image's Top Cow imprint and I can confidently say that if you like Witchblade and the Darkness then this will be right up your alley.


That said, if you're like myself and the aforementioned books don't float your boat nor butter your crumpet, then Death Vigil may win you over yet. It's not so much the premise, but the execution that's the appeal here (Great pun... you did mean that, right? - Ryan). Sejic takes a convoluted dark fantasy concept and treats it just like a sitcom. Don't get me wrong, all the beats of the beginnings of an epic fantasy are there but it's all coated in witty Peter Parker-esque dialogue. Everyone is a lovable smart-ass and they all play off each other wonderfully.

Apart from being a funny book, Death Vigil is masterfully constructed, Sejic certainly knows how to keep a story flowing, well paced, and as always his art is gorgeous. In short: Stjepan Sejic's writing is as accomplished as his lush artwork.

So, now you have no excuse. Pick up Death Vigil #1 and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Seriously, don't let the lack lustre cover put you off, this comic is the goods. 

SPREAD #1
Written by: Justin Jordan,
Art by: Kyle Strahm

Chris: Wow.

Sorry, give me a second to collect my thoughts. Ahem…

Read it! No, seriously, stop whatever you’re doing and go buy this. Right now.

Spread’s first issue is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in comics for a while now. At first blush the story sounds like a standard apocalyptic endeavour with zombielike shamblers and a plague of indeterminate nature. There’s a solitary main character surviving this world, and everything seems to be on a straight trip to hell.

But then you open the book. And you see those opening pages, featuring the titular Spread. And, as I said before, wow.

While Spread does have the roots of an interesting story that ends up defying the zombie apocalypse blueprint, its main draw card is unquestionably Kyle Strahm’s artwork. The Spread looks like a nightmarish manifestation of the Red Weed from The War of the Worlds, a Lovecraftian horror of mouths and tentacles where mouths and tentacles should not be. The characters are all visually distinct (even if protagonist No looks like Wolverine a smidgeon). The snowy setting is a great contrast to the darker scarlet tones of the Spread. It’s a grotesquely gorgeous layout that literally dropped my jaw with its opening salvo.

Spread definitely grabbed me enough to see what happens next, and I don’t want to say too much to spoil the delights the first issue serves up. I feel like this might be something to follow in the footsteps of Saga and Revival, snagging a following as its issues come out and becoming one of the 'Next Big Things'.

Needless to say, those not of a disposition to accommodate horror so viscerally nightmarish it nearly punches you in the corneas should probably read something else. Those who are of that disposition will love the basmeezus out of it.

Also, naming a bandit archer character Amell? Ha. I see what you did there, Spread.
With under a month to go we thought that it was a good time to revisit all of the announcements from this years Sydney Manga and Anime Show (SMASH!). There really is something for everyone at this years show including some absolutely fantastic international stars!

Taking place at Rosehill Gardens on August 9 and 10, this years SMASH! is promising to be bigger than ever. Not only is this years show taking place over 2 days, but it will also deliver their largest vendor hall ever with over 170 stalls showcasing merchandise, art and food. 

SMASH! President Ray Elinon has promised double the panels, workshops and events than previous years. There's something for all areas of anime fandom with fans able to flaunt their cosplay skills on the main stage, grab a meal at the Maid Cafe, buy art and merch, take part in comps, build their own Gundam, and learn about voice acting and anime direction from superstar international guests.

-GUESTS-

Toshihiro Kawamoto is a Japanese animator who is best known as the character designer and animation director of Cowboy Bebop. 

Kawamoto also worked as the lead character designer in many other classic series including Wolf’s Rain, Ghost Slayers Ayashi, and the Gundam OVA series (Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, Mobile Suit Gundam: Last Blitz of Zeon, Mobile Suit Gundam:The 08th MS Tea). 

Kawamoto made his first debut in Yasuhiko’s 1986 film, Arion, where he was supervised by Yoshinobu Inano and mentored by lead character designer, Sachiko Kamimura. 

In addition to this, Toshihiro Kawamoto co-founded animation studios, Bones, with fellow Sunrise staff members Masahiko Minami and Hiroshi Ōsaka in 1998. His prolific status in the animation world is evident as he recently provided character designs for Noragami and Tenkai Knights; and key animation for Eureka Seven, Heroman, Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Fullmetal Alchemist, Towa no Quon and Space Dandy.

Kotono Mitsuishi is a voice-actress with a career spanning over 25 years, and is considered one of Japan’s most prolific and influential voice- actresses. 

She began her career by joining the Katsuta Seiyū Academy upon graduating from high school, and her debut role was Tomoyo in the OVA Ace o Nerae! Final Stage. 

Some of her best known roles include Koume Sawaguchi (Blue Seed), Mai (Darkside Blues), Murrue Ramius (Mobile Suit Gundam), and Misato Katsuragi (Neon Genesis Evangelion). 

But it was her work as the voice of Usagi Tsukino in the anime adaptation of Sailor Moon that launched her career in the early 90s. To this day, her role in Sailor Moon remains one of her most iconic roles, and she will be reprising that role in the Sailor Moon reboot later this year. 

REIKA, one of Japan’s top-ranking cosplayers,  is well-renowned for her elaborate hand-made costumes, and accurate portrayal of male characters. 

From anime to gaming characters, Reika’s popular cosplays include Jinguji Ren (Uta no Prince-sama), Hijikata Toshiro (Gintama) and Levi (Shingeki no Kyojin). In addition to this, she has even cosplayed the entire ‘Generation of Miracles’ from Kuroko no Basket by herself. 

Cosplaying at a high-quality level, it has earned Reika a reputation in the Japanese pop- culture world, ultimately making her a celebrity-cosplayer with fans across the globe.  Reika has made major appearances as guest cosplayer in Singapore, US, Romania, China, and Philippines, and it will be Reika’s debut appearance at SMASH! 2014 in August.

-EVENTS-

Aspiring cosplayers will be delighted to hear that SMASH! will be hosting two major cosplay events: the annual Madman Cosplay Competition and the Australian Preliminary Competition of World Cosplay Summit 2015. The WCS Australian Preliminary Competition lets cosplayers enter as a team of two with the winning team winning a trip to Japan to represent Australia in the official World Cosplay Summit 2015

Last but not least, Madman Entertainment present the Sword Art Online Exhibition which features original artworks from the popular anime series, including character designs, concept art and storyboards. Don't forget to get in early to get your hands on some seriously tasty SAO merch!

SMASH! is a two-day convention on August 9 and 10 at Rosehill Gardens. Pre-purchased tickets are now on sale until July 31 from $25 - $50. Door tickets may also be purchased on the day from $30 - $55. For more information go to www.smash.org.au
Need something to tide you over until the release of Attack on Titan collection 2, maybe something a little less gruesome? Grab yourself a copy of Blue Exorcist: The Movie for some light-hearted, gorgeously animated fun.

We head back to the angelic surroundings of True Cross Academy, where Rin and the gang are still training to become fully fledged exorcists. Preparations for a traditional festival are interrupted by a phantom train (I'm pretty sure CityRail has those!) leaving Rin, Yukio and Shiemi to sort things out. Of course, Rin does more harm than good, albeit through the best of intentions, and winds up babysitting the cutest little demon you've ever seen.

Blue Exorcist has been one of my absolute favourite series of the last few years. Both the manga and subsequent anime series have been top notch in terms of both story and visuals so it should be no surprise that the movie is every bit as fantastic. Capturing the general aesthetic of Kazue Kato's source material, the animated series was gloriously rendered by A-1 Pictures and it should come as no surprise that the feature film looks even better. The series looked gorgeous so a feature film budget can only bring goodness to the screen.

It's not just the visuals that shine in this film but also the characters. We get to see even more of Rin in this film, a side of him that we haven't seen before. Sure, in the series he was always loyal to his friends and family, but in this instance we see an emotional side that extends to a complete stranger and a demon, no less. This, of course complicates things between he and his exorcist brother, but a complicated relationship is a telling sign of character development. In fact, it saddens me to think that these characters, brought to life from page to screen, will no longer develop in the form of anime unless a subsequent movie or series is green lit. We also get to see a little bit more of True Cross Town which hints at being a legitimate, bustling metropolis with it's own history and traditions.

Of course, what would a story about exorcists be without some stunning fight scenes? Well you're in luck. The fight scenes may not be quite as plentiful as you'd expect, but when they occur they're a thing of beauty. The demon train scene in particular is fantastic and comes across like a fantastical homage to old school Western film train chase scenes of yore (that's right, I said yore). As previously mentioned, the animation perfectly captures Kato's beautiful landscapes and religiously inspired architecture in epic scale. True Cross Town really does feel as though it is a city capable of housing tens of thousands of people. While it may not be a glaring inclusion, this aspect of the production breathes life into every aspect of the film.

- Ryan 
Blue Exorcist: The Movie is available on Blu Ray and DVD now!

The great irony of comic books is that although they're constantly disregarded as childish and 'for kids', there is very little in the modern comic book store that is actually suitable for children. Between Batman punching the criminally insane, Wolverine carving up bad guys like Christmas turkeys and Hitgirl dropping an 'F-bomb' in every panel, there's not much on the shelf made with younger readers in mind. Well, Winter City Production's Patrick Purcell and artist Diego Toro aim to change that with their latest offering, Mechanical Knight.

Most Australian comic book readers will know Winter City Productions for their namesake title 'Winter City', a gritty and gruesome tale about a mass murdering vigilante known as the Winter Reaper. Although this probably goes without saying, Mechanical Knight goes in a completely opposite direction.
Where  Winter City takes cues from series like Batman and Spawn, Mechanical Knight takes its own from animated series such as Ben 10 and Generator Rex. It's light-hearted, energetic and very much has the younger reader in mind.

What  stood out to me about Mechanical Knight #1 is that it's very much a book that knows what it is. Although I loved the crap out of this book, there is no illusion in my mind that the target audience is young males, the 'Ben 10 crowd' if you will. It's obvious that this book has been tailor made for it's audience and hungers for commercial success. And I say, more power to it! Just as indie comics has a place for off-beat, obscure stories that the big publishers won't touch,  there is also a place for more commercially minded titles such as Mechanical knight.

Mechanical Knight follows Marcus, son of Hector, a young, athletic boy who wants nothing more than to be a champion boxer like his father. The only problem is that Marcus is rather weedy and although his technique is perfect he's no match for a much stronger opponent, William 'the Bull' Bartak. However, just before William can deliver the finishing blow a mysterious meteor crashes to earth. It makes for an alluring set-up which plays out like the opening 10 minutes of your favourite Saturday morning cartoon. Plus when I reached the issues closing page I was hit by the nostalgia of my favourite show cutting to commercials as a kid.

Deigo Toro's energetic art really adds to this cartoon feel. His line work is sharp, simple and full of personality containing a certain Humberto Ramos vibe. His sequential storytelling is also very strong, the opening pages in particular being quite busy yet still easy to read and follow. Add to this the rich and moody palette of colourist David Aravena and you get a book that sings off the page.

Throw in some gentle moral lessons about the importance of strength of character and heart, not just physical strength, and you have yourself an all ages book that ticks all the boxes. Seriously, this book knocked it out of the park for me and I cannot wait for the second installment.

Mechanical Knight is available digitally through comixology or on the shelf of your local comic book store.
 
  - Christof