Where Shadows Lie by Allegra Pescatore – SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

Where Shadows Lie

SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire – SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

Shadow of a Dead God

SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

Shields in Shadow by Andy Peloquin – SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

Shields in Shadow

SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review


Reviews of SF/F Movies 2011

Well, working for Fantasy-Faction is a tough, tough job. Not only do I have to read tons upon tons of fantasy novels, but I also made a pledge to play more video games and watch more movies. Yes, I bet now you are feeling sorry for me and wishing there was something kind you could do to ease my pain.

Sadly, you can’t. I’ve spent the last few months watching the top 12 films that could be referred to as either fantasy or science fiction. It was a hard, hard task – but someone on the Fantasy-Faction staff team had to do it.

Why, you may ask? Well, science fiction/fantasy films tend to be either a huge hit or a huge miss when they hit the big screen. You get epic films that really do the genre justice (Lord of the Rings) and then you get the terrible, terrible films that knock the genre back 10 years (Golden Compass).

Hopefully this guide will inspire you into buying a few DVDs or hitting your local cinema sometime soon. I’m not going to give you summaries or spoilers – simply give you my lasting impressions – I think this is the best way about approaching this type of mass-review. Hope you agree. Oh, and if you have seen any of the films and agree/disagree with my mini-reviews I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch

Fantasy-Faction Score: 2/10

Remember about 2 minutes ago when I said some films knock the genre back 10 years? This could be one of them films. I can’t explain to you my disgust at this film. Basically, they trick you. They have filmed about 15 minutes of action and paid for that same amount of CGI (15 minutes total). Then, they have surrounded it by some completely bizarre, completely ridiculous story-line.

Some girl is in a mental asylum. Every time she dances she is transported into a fantasy world where she is anything from a kick-ass ninja in the past, to a steampunk/mecha type character in an alternative future.

Sounds awesome right? Well, it would be if she was there for 80%-90% of the time. Sadly, she is in this world for about 5% of the time and the rest of the time she spends in this weird asylum that is just cringe-filled to watch.

Super 8

Super 8

Fantasy-Faction Score: 4/10

Wow…what were these guys playing at? Two of the most talented producers/directors of our time and they screw a joint project up. It seems they said, “What can we do?” and Speilberg said, “Well, once I did this,” and J.J. Abrhams said: “Well, I once did this”. Then someone from the coffee-brewing crew must have shouted over and said, “Why not just combine those two ideas? No one will ever know!”

Well, sorry guys, we did. You basically took Cloverfield and you mixed it with The Goonies and E.T. Don’t deny it! You did it and it was horrible to watch.

Basically, huge train crash and some kind of monster escapes from the train. It seems the Air Force is trying to cover stuff up and then quickly weird things start happening around town. These 6 children who are filming a movie at the time the train crashes witness the whole thing and get caught up in the events. The ending can be seen a mile off and generally it’s just a lazy money-making movie. 🙁

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Fantasy-Faction Score: 5/10

Terrible movie. They basically got the biggest named stars they could think of and then went about giving them as much face time as possible, without actually forming a decent plot. The ending is confusing and seems rushed. The aliens are awful; you never bloody see them for a start. The action is few and far between. Generally an over-hyped film I am sorry to say.

Captain America

Captain America

Fantasy-Faction Score: 5/10

Worst marvel film in a few years. This film – VERY similar to Cowboys and Aliens was just too simple. The film basically got a normal person, made him a hero and made him do a pretty obviously accomplish-able task. It wasn’t a terrible, terrible movie and had it come out in 2002/2003 it would have been pretty good. But in today’s overcrowded action-hero movie market it was just too simple.

Its saving grace really was that it was just a set-up and explanation as to how Captain America, from WW2 era, got into the future to meet up with the Avengers in 2013/2014 – so that is one to look forward to.

I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four

Fantasy-Faction Score: 6/10

One of the better mid-budget films of the year. A young guy with a mysterious past comes to town. He has secrets – don’t they always? Meets a girl – unique huh? And quickly becomes an outcast in his school. When people come looking for him, his uncle wants to up and move (again). But no. No more! No more moving. He is going to make a stand! He is going to embrace these powers (such as feeling and electricity) and fight the people who look to ruin his life!

Again, not very original, but a rather decent film to watch with the girlfriend (or prospect girlfriend?). It has good effects, likeable characters and will leave you interested enough to watch a sequel (should they make one).

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides

Fantasy-Faction Score: 7/10

Better than the last one. Pirates 3 in my opinion was awful. I always worry about a franchise when the main characters begin dropping out. I wonder if they took a look at the script, tutted and walked away. However, I think with Pirates, Jack Sparrow has always been the main character and it worked pretty well without the others.

When Jack finds another chance to live forever – he decides the opportunity to hunt it down is too good to give up. Although at times it feels a bit too much like a camp comedy, it is highly enjoyable and has just the right amount of action and adventure to seem far, far shorter than it actually is.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers - Dark of the Moon

Fantasy-Faction Score: 7/10

Too many now. Was my reaction upon having seen it. Transformers 3 felt far, far too much like Transformers 2. In-fact, I have trouble remembering which happened in which and to be honest. It doesn’t matter – they are that similar. They switched the main supporting character around and added a few new robots, but essentially the evil ones are still trying to kill the good ones. The evil ones have massive guns and always look strongest until something awakens stronger and wins it for the goodies. I hope this formula ends soon. I really do!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Fantasy-Faction Score: 8/10

Well, Harry Potter 7 Part 1 was terrible. And let us be honest, we expected it to be. Number 6 wasn’t great and 7 Part 1 was always going to be a setup for the final part of the biggest movie franchise ever. Film 7 Part 2 though surprised even those who expected it to be good. It was better than good, it was superb. The battle scenes at the end were some of the best CGI ever and the characters really came together. It was emotional, it was action packed and it was just generally brilliant.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Fantasy-Faction Score: 8/10

Surprisingly good film. I actually loved the last Planet of the Apes film, the one in the early 2000s. I know you lot all hated it, but I liked it. I thought this one would be the same kind of thing – but no, it was completely different. What amazed me though, was even as completely different to the others as it was, it was still amazing.

The CGI was unbelievable, but more than that, the story-line was perfect. In fact, I would go as far to say that other than Source Code, this was the best storyline of 2011. The film is only an hour and a half and yet they completely packed it full of emotion and activity. Literally there is a complete transformation of all the characters and the plot shifts as far as you would expect it to within 3 hours, let alone 90 minutes. Certainly one you need to see.

Source Code

Source Code

Fantasy-Faction Score: 8/10

Futuristic sci-fi movie, but very cool. Basically, a guy can go back in time and live about 10 minutes of anybody’s life. When a train crashes and the police need to catch the person who caused it, the guy is sent back to find out who crashed the train and why – with the aim to stop another accident. He obviously only has these 10 minutes(ish) and once they are up he dies as the person did and is thrust back into the future. He must re-live this loop time and time again.
The movie was great, the effects were stunning and the acting was truly unbelievable.



Fantasy-Faction Score: 9/10

Most original Marvel movie to date. Not simple men – this time we had ‘gods’. Not based on Earth either – based on another planet/reality far superior to ours. Thor was a cool marvel character and he pushed boundaries. I personally am sick (as you can tell from my Captain America review) of these movies that Marvel publishes under their name knowing they will sell. I mean Spiderman 1/2/3 were a good example of what can happen if you keep relying on the same formula – people get bored and so do the actors!

When you walk away from Thor, you walk away thinking that Marvel has a lot more to offer than just these stereo-typical man turned hero type stories and that is rather exciting.

X-Men: First Class

X-men First Class

Fantasy-Faction Score: 9/10

Best film of the year so far. Storyline was brilliant, effects brilliant and most importantly tons of twists and turns. Although this film was another Marvel movie – which a I’ve just said, makes me nervous, it worked. Perhaps because the setting changed and we are truly interested in how X and Magneto become X and Magneto.

I walked away from this movie hoping there are more X-men movies, completely the opposite to what I was thinking following X-men 3.

Known Omissions:

Green Lantern – I was on holiday at the time it was released and missed it. 🙁
Conan the Barbarian – Not out at time of release

– – –

Well, there you have it guys! Hope you had fun reading through my praises and rants – hopefully you take two minutes to leave a comment and let me know if you agree/disagree with my scores. 🙂



  1. Avatar Leo Cristea says:

    Reading this, I am thrilled I decided to skip on Captain America. Otherwise, I agree with everything, bar giving Thor 10/10 instead of 9, as I really, really loved that movie. Also, Green Lantern was a very good film, but it didn’t touch X-Men or Thor, honestly. X-Men, I would have given a 10, too, but I am easy to please when I actually find films I want to watch!

    That, and I seem to be one of the only people who adores the Harry Potter movies, regardless of which number. 😉

    Great round up, Marc! It means I can cross a few off of my considered list, and be happy I’ve seen the rest!

  2. Avatar ChrisMB87 says:

    The only one here I would disagree with (of the ones I’ve seen) is Captain America, not that it was easily the worst of the Marvel movies from this year, but I quite enjoyed it myself. There were a few glaring issues though that both the history teacher and the writer in me had trouble reconciling…
    1) If the Red Skull had fallen out of Hitler’s favor, how was he able to maintain multiple factories and bases of operation across Nazi-controlled Europe?
    2) If the Red Skull was building “superior” weapons and training “superior” men… why were they still getting man-handled by Army regulars with Springfields and Thompson submachine guns? Aside from the fact it’s AMERICA!!!
    3) Why didn’t they give the members of Captain’s squad names? I know they have names in the comics, but for those who don’t READ the comics (read: the majority of your basic audience, or those who simply can’t afford to stock up on comics all the time).
    4) The very sudden and frantic shift of the whole middle of the film.

    So yeah… it wasn’t a good movie… and now I’m wondering why I liked it.

    Ironically, you have X-Men, Thor, and Marvel lined up exactly as I have them. Great article! 🙂

    P.S. Please no one hit me for having a soft spot for the Captain…

  3. Avatar Justin says:

    Thank you for panning CAPTAIN AMERICA which I agree sucked and for pimping THOR which I agree was amazing.

  4. Avatar Overlord says:

    Haha – Seems we share tastes Justin =)

  5. Avatar Khaldun says:

    I loved source code, but I thought THOR was a piece of garbage. The fact that a tear from a semi-unconscious odin brings the warhammer all the way across town to Thor after he is dead and basically resurrects him was just… Arg. Deus Ex Machina? The melodramatic flashback was unecessary as well. Arg. Must stop typing.

  6. Avatar Shack says:

    I loved Captain America. It felt like a true comic book movie and reminded me of the old Flash Gordon serials I watched as a kid on TV. Can’t wait to see it again. Thor was a fun near miss. I just expected it to be… bigger. Bigger in scale and bigger in action. The final showdown with the Destroyer seemed a cop out and all too easy.

    Sucker Punch. How can you go wrong with scantily clad girls with samurai swords fighting giant robots and zombie nazis? I mean I just geeked out again typing that. But they managed to oh so easily.

    Loved HP7 1&2. Beautifully shot too.

    Thought Source Code a bit over rated but loved Limitless and recommend that to anyone.

    Green Lantern was awful. I’m still trying to block that from my mind. (Not as bad as the other Green movie… the green Hornet. But close)

    I agree though that X-Men: First Class was the business. Again another I can’t wait to see again.

  7. Nice to see a good review of the new Planet of the Apes movie. I too enjoyed the first movie. Of course, I’ve long been a fan of the original Planet of the Apes films, which I watched as a kid. I absolutely loved Thor! I had heard it was great, but, of course, I was skeptical as always when there is a lot of hype. Well, it certainly lived up to the buzz, that’s for sure. I am going to see Conan today and I can’t wait. I just hope I will not be disappointed as I was with the Clash of the Titans remake. I’m not seeing it in 3D. I don’t like the extra cost and I usually come out with a headache. 🙂 I do love Jason Momoa so I guess if the film’s bad, at least I will get some eye candy out of it! Thanks for the great reviews. I have Sucker Punch from BB online waiting to watch so curious to see what I think.

    Great site too! Thanks for friending me on Goodreads.

  8. Avatar Tracy Falbe says:

    Thank you for the nice reviews of all these movies. I can’t get out to the movies very often, but I have seen Thor and found it very enjoyable. Asgard was really wonderfully done, and the Thor character developed nicely through the story. Natalie Portman was a pleasure as always too.

    I’m glad to see a good opinion of the Planet of the Apes movie. I’ll see any Apes movie, and I’m looking forward to this one. I also want to see Xmen first class. I’ve enjoyed all the Xmen films and I’m glad to hear that this one is good.

    Thanks for the warning about Cowboys and Aliens. I was rather nervous about this one. It sounds terrible but I love aliens and I deeply and truly love westerns. (You can count on me to save the ranch any day!) Putting these genres together sounded like pouring milk into orange juice.

  9. Avatar Nightshine says:

    Sucker Punch – this deserves better. If you look at the plot line and the top of the effects, it’s really bad. But it has a lot of interpretations, all giving one or another meaning to the film. Are the girls metaphors of her personality, one being brave, one the fighter, one the planner etc., or was there no asylum at all? It’s too complicated to be rated just once, I would say 5-7 opun the watcher. Seriously, the film effects are kick-ass – even if there’s not much happening, my jaw was clenched more than 5-10%.

    I Am Number Four – Was great. I hope they make a sequel, as this is a very good concept and good movie (but traditional story line). The books are on my reading list 😉

    HP 7.2 – yeah, this is a great movie. NO, it’s not even good compared to what they could have made (if you’ve read the book, you should know). What happened to the fight between Harry and Voldemort? They have clash, yes. But with no one around, and (the worst thing) he just dissolves when Nagini dies. Seriously, WTF? He has 8 pieces of his soul, when there’s one left, it doesn’t die automatically!! Also, Neville was supposed to be a HERO! Harry should sneak out, and tell Neville to kill Nagini,making him feel important and proud. He’s part of the team, but not as good as he could’ve been by far. The only thing better than the book (yes, films are more exciting and have more action/effects, but that can’t be counted comparing to the book), was *SPOILER* Snape’s love story – I cried like a child, while in the book it was too short to express his emotions. Great movie, but not compared to the great book.

    The Planet of the Apes 😀 – best film, although I haven’t watched Source Code and X-Men. The ending was so brilliant I would give it one more star 😛

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