Monday, 25 June 2018

Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

Released by Bandai Namco

Platform: PS4

So, why would you want to punish yourself again?
Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

We all know how depressingly hard Dark Souls can be at the best of times, but the remaster which has relaunched is here to remind you of the fresh hell that there is.

2011 saw From Software's game vault into everyone's best of lists, and saw you die repeatedly as you made your way through an obtuse adventure, aimed at rekindling your perseverance and your desire to be repeatedly punished.

So it's fair to say that the remaster, aside from its improved frame rates and the fact it packs in the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, means you've played it before. It's a shame there's nothing radically new to be added to the mix, but in fairness, Dark Souls is a good game - but given since its launch we've add Nioh, Bloodborne and others, it seems to exist solely on the fact that nostalgia for the game is there to be used.
Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

The RPG elements still work well, and the game still appeals, but given we're about to get a splurge of new content from E3 and that new games are still around to be played (Far Cry 5, God of War's much revitalised revamp), it's hard to fuylly justify why this remaster exists.

The improvement in graphics is welcome, but given everything plays as it did before, the idea of it even existing is puzzling.
Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

Whereas other remasters have built on their previous versions, this one seems to be a bit of a soulless remaster that exists purely because a marketing team said it should.

It's not unplayable, and it's not like the polish isn't welcome, but Dark Souls Remastered needs a little more of a raison d'etre.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Onrush: PS4 Review

Onrush: PS4 Review

Released by Codemasters
Platform: PS4

A racing game that is more of a bubblegum thrill rather than a long-term proposition, Onrush is all about how it feels rather than how it keeps pulling you back in.

Simply put, this is a racing game that requires you to rollerderby the opposition, filling up your boost and giving you the chance to unleash a vehicle's special ability. Nothing more, nothing less.
Onrush: PS4 Review

Sure there are heats, there are challenges (such as Countdown, where you have to race through gates before the clock runs out on either you or your opposition) and sure there are vicarious thrills as you pile and wipeout your opposition.

Taking in elements of the PS One classic Rollcage, mixing in any variant of Mario Kart and adding in elements of WipeOut, Onrush, when it clicks, is thrilling. Codemasters have pulled together a game that is as arcade as they come, a smoothly executed ride that's a shot of adrenaline.

But, to be frank, it's all a hollow thrill.

The game's instantly forgettable after you finish, and to a degree, disposable as you play it.
Sure the graphics and playability are smooth; sure, the game's regions are nicely executed, and also look graphically impressive, and sure, there's no glitching as you hurtle around the tracks.
Onrush: PS4 Review

And yet, progression, with its unlocking of loot crates, and its collecting of XP, emotes et al, seems a bit pointless in the long run.

Online, the game flounders, and joining games and matches when it works, sees you essentially apparently joining the end of the game and wondering why the machine even bothered. IT needs a retool and the hope is that this can be the case soon, because online's competitive ability could be one to mine.

It's a shame for Onrush, because Codemasters have pulled together a game that when it works actually fires on all cylinders. But it's a bit directionless at times, and with a retool, and a tweak over what it wants to achieve, Onrush really could be a great addition to the pantheon of arcade racers.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Game Night: DVD Review

Game Night: DVD Review

Mixing irreverence with edges of drama and wrapping it up in a kookiness grants Game Night a feel of crackling edginess for a comedy.
Game Night: Film Review

Tapping into the ennui that affects the middle class and using Bateman's usual laconic deadpan ways, it's the story of Max and Annie (Bateman, McAdams) a normal suburban couple who like to gather their friends together for a regular weekly game night.

But Max's competitive and always wants to win (as shown in a charming montage early on) - however, he finds against a backdrop of fertility struggles, that his competitive edge is further enraged and engaged when his brother Brooks (Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler) comes to town.
Brooks sets a game night down for them, but decides it'll be a murder mystery with one of their number being kidnapped.

However, it soon turns out that the planned Game Night wasn't what was on the cards - and a fight for survival begins...

Game Night: Film Review

Game Night is fresh, spiky and genuinely funny in parts.

Even if its denouement packs too many twists for general consumption and tries to be a bit cleverer than it actually is, its general desire to subvert expectations is a welcome one.

Sure, the usual messages are there - about being open with partners, honest with friends etc, but the hugging and learning portion feels earned in the final furlong - and amuses rather than overtly preaches.

It's nice to see McAdams cut loose a little and have some fun, and Catastrophe's Horganmakes an impressive big film debut , but this is, without a doubt, Plemons' film.

Game Night: Film Review

As the sadsack former member of the group and creepy divorced neighbour, this security guard is a delight as the cameras hang on his words and actions perhaps a little too long so as to make things uncomfortable and uncertain.

Daley and Goldstein's eyes behind the camera proffer up some interesting shots too - from high-in-the-sky shots which make the sets look like board games to fixed cameras in chases, the film's freshness leaps from the screen too.

Game Night: Film Review

Ultimately, the crackling Game Night may have edges of Funny Game and some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, but its quirky irreverence towards the buddy dynamic and mixing up of various genres means it proves to be a winner for a refreshing night out and proves to be a game winner. 

Friday, 22 June 2018

Tomb Raider: Blu Ray Review

Tomb Raider: Blu Ray Review

Tomb Raider has two things going for it.

Thankfully, it's not the pendulous breasts bestowed on the first iteration of one of gaming's earliest icons that gave the character the notoriety and various lads' mags covers in the UK.

Tomb Raider: Film Review

Its two things of note are Academy award winning actress Alicia Vikander's committed performance and the fact some of its action scenes are drawn from the gritty and immersive game reboot from 2013.

But, sadly it's what lies in between that saddles Tomb Raider with problems and ends up leaving you feeling that this film may be the Tomb Raider's flash in the pan (even though, Vikander's signed up for a sequel).

Rejigging plot from the 2013 game, Vikander is Lara Croft, heir to a fortune, but who's denying that because it means admitting her father (Dominic West) is dead, after he went missing seven years ago.

When she stumbles across a series of clues that apparently lead to his last whereabouts, Lara charters a boat, along with its captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) who was the last man to see him.

But the pair stumble onto an island, barely surviving a storm and treacherous seas, where a deeper conspiracy begins to which has the Crofts squarely in the middle of it.

The problem with the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider is that it largely feels like it's trying to set up a franchise, rather than concentrating fully on doing its job properly.

Tomb Raider: Film Review

Lara Croft herself benefits from the reboot, with Vikander nailing both the vulnerability and relatability that the game's reboot endowed her with, and that was so lacking in Angelina Jolie's performance.

An animated Vikander commits fully to the role; whether it's the action sequences (ripped faithfully and reverentially from the game) or the lacklustre dialogue and plot she's saddled with.

The film's lack of engaging success is not down to her - she's the best thing about this female-led blockbuster, that lacks a romantic interest or bizarrely, any other women. She has degrees of depth (especially when she makes her first hand-to-hand kill), and a frailty that the game's Croft had. Coupled with a sense of her finding herself and her place in the world, Vikander can hold her head up high and bat away the oncoming criticism.

However, it's in the other elements that Tomb Raider feels as hoary as a ripped off Indiana Jones film ever could.

Tomb Raider: Film Review

Uthaug launches the film with energy and gusto until the island chases and fights rear their head, with the wind going out of the sails the moment the adventure's supposed to start.

From clunky narrative coincidences to an over-reliance on flashbacks between Croft and her dad, from an overuse of voiceover as exposition to barely enough plot to fill the two hour run time, the film squanders some of its chances.

It's not helped by one dimensional henchmen and a weak overall villain (Walton Goggins) who's never really given the chance to cut loose as much as he could.

The conclusion of the film feels anti-climactic, a rote redoing of all the usual tropes of the genre, meshing up The Mummy, zombies, and fights that leaves you feeling as much deja vu as wishing there had been some buried treasure unearthed in the plot department rather than relying on what's been buried in a tomb.

The visceral edges which channel the very best of the game's reboot, coupled with the fact it's a female-led film with an Asian sidekick means that Tomb Raider is doing some things right as it launches in an ever-changing media landscape.

But underneath the spit and polish of the regeneration, there's a nagging feeling that what passes in Tomb Raider is all too familiar - and as a conclusion cliffhanger dangles perilously in front of your very eyes, there's a worry that the bloodless, lacking-real-edge Tomb Raider reboot may be consigned to history, rather than launching a series of ever-more impressive sequels.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool: DVD Review

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool: DVD Review

Lauded for Annette Bening's performance as the fading Hollywood star Gloria Grahame, the play-like Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool benefits more from a career-best performance by Billy Elliott's Jamie Bell as her former lover Peter Turner.
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: Film Review

Adapted from Turner's memoir about the relationship, the film follows Turner's reflections on their relationship as he looks after her in her dying days.

When Grahame collapses backstage at a performance of The Glass Menagerie, Turner is called - and despite his initial reticence, he brings Grahame back to his Liverpool home - wonderfully populated by Julie Walter's spot-on mother.

As the end grows nearer for Grahame, Turner is conflicted by the bittersweet recollections - and the audience is regaled with them, taken to dizzying highs before the ebb of the crushing lows swallows all.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: Film Review

Opening with old style film credits, as the celluloid ripples through shutters, the film's very much got the feel of a two-hander play and shifts between scenes are beautifully handled as they blend into each other.

It's a biopic at heart, and while there is an argument to be made that little happens and the characters are kept at their most basic, there's also enough to be said about the arc that Bening imbues Grahame with in her twilight years and the range of emotions that Bell conveys as Turner.

As the film shifts into conventional weepie territory at the end, the tour de forces are slightly dulled by the narrative necessities and conflicts that play out.

But what transpires prior to this, is bested by a quiet intensity of Bell's portrayal as his part in a doomed relationship. It's a turn that gives Bell one of his chances to provide an extremely strong turn - and he doesn't remotely disappoint.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is never better than when it follows the giddy highs of their relationship, from the backstage betrayals to the jealousies of Hollywood's scene - there's more than enough here to give you a feeling of the time (particularly thanks to the use of actual Grahame footage).

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: Film Review

There are whipsmart tart moments in the dialogue which greatly help the melancholy feel of the film and give Bening's 50s screen siren a hint of sadness.

But in the final stretch, the film forsakes actions in favour of words, leading to the feeling of exposition in among the love story that drags the fresher approach of an older relationship down a notch.

Ultimately, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is powered by Bell's performance; it may be his co-star's twilight luvvie turn which is getting the adulation, but Bell's commitment and depth to the role guarantees the film its emotional core throughout. 

NZIFF 2018 Cannes line up confirmed

NZIFF 2018 Cannes line up confirmed

NZIFF 2018 Cannes line up confirmed

Direct from Cannes: 30 films to premiere at NZIFF 2018

Thirty films direct from the Cannes Film Festival are confirmed to screen at NZIFF 2018. Eleven are from the Competition section of the festival including Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, Jury Prize winner Capernaum and Best Screenplay winners (tied) 3 Faces and Happy As Lazzaro.

Birds of Passage, the opening night film from the 2018 Directors’ Fortnight will also be opening 
NZIFF in Auckland on Thursday 19 July. Cold War from Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida), winner of the Best Director prize, will screen as the official closing night film of NZIFF. 

“We have worked hard to bring a diverse selection of Cannes films to New Zealand screens for New Zealand audiences. It’s always a mad scramble for us, as the Cannes screenings are inconveniently close to our programme cut-off. The upside is that New Zealand audiences get to be amongst the first in the world to see the very latest and best in international cinema. Whatever its idiosyncrasies, Cannes still sets a very high bar, and this year’s selection proves it all over again,” says NZIFF director Bill Gosden. 

“It’s no accident that Cannes titles grace some of our top spots, beginning with the stunning Birds of Passage on opening night, including the deeply humane and moving Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters;  and ending with the dazzling Cold War as our official closing night.” says Gosden.
The Cannes Films are:
In Competition
3 Faces
“Charming Iranian cinema at its purest… Once more defying a filmmaking ban, Iranian director Jafar Panahi sounds the depths of traditional values in a road movie with actress Behnaz Jafari.” — Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter
Ash is the Purest White
The transfixing Zhao Tao plays a tough, resilient woman in love with a small-time hoodlum in Jia Zhang-ke’s epic gangland romance, set against China’s relentless modernisation in the 21st century.
A love triangle and mystery based on a Murakami Haruki short story, Korean great Lee Chang-dong’s (Secret Sunshine, Poetry) latest was the best-reviewed film at Cannes, an unforgettable now-or-never must-see on the giant Civic screen.

A runaway boy sues his parents for bringing him into the world in this sprawling tale of against-the-odds resilience. “Nadine Labaki’s journey through the slums of Lebanon thrills with compassion and heart.” — Anna Smith, Time Out

Cold War
Winner of the Cannes Best Director award, Paweł Pawlikowski (Ida) has crafted a brilliant, kaleidoscopic vision of 1950s Europe, bursting with music, dance and the turbulent love of two musicians caught between East and West.
Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) returns to the scene of the crime with this jaw-dropping, based-on-fact tale of a timid dog lover driven to terrifying extremes when he hitches his star to a human beast he cannot control.
Happy as Lazzaro
Direct from Cannes where it shared the Best Screenplay award for its amazingly inventive script, Alice Rohrwacher’s seductive rural fable applies fairy-tale logic to explore the troubled soul of Italy.
An exhilarating exploration of freedom under restraint from a director under house arrest, this resonant, exuberant picture of musicianship and band life is based on the lives of two stars of pre-perestroika Leningrad rock.
This year’s surprise Cannes Palme d’Or winner is one of Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s finest films, about a loving, unconventional family making ends meet on the margins of Tokyo.
The Image Book
The latest essay film from Jean-Luc Godard, still going strong, is a dense yet intellectually dexterous vision board on cinema, image-making and the state of the world.

The Wild Pear Tree, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest follows a would-be writer’s reluctant return to his small-town fold, spinning an extensive series of encounters into a typically rich, wry, melancholic mood-piece.

2018 Critics’ Week: opening film
In Paul Dano’s ace directing debut, Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal capture the cracks that occur in a marriage when a young wife kicks against the constraints of 1950s domesticity.

2018 Critics’ Week: Competition
A universally adored, very loving but somewhat clueless Portuguese soccer star is co-opted for nefarious political ends in this outrageously bonkers satire of vacuous media and surging nationalism in Europe.
Woman at War
Iceland’s Benedikt Erlingsson (Of Horses and Men) winningly mixes absurdist comedy and tense thriller, with Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir as a fearless eco-warrior, juggling environmental action and foster motherhood.

2018 Director’s Fortnight
Birds of Passage (opening night)
The ancient traditions of Columbia’s indigenous Wayuu are shaped by an ambitious matriarch to stake a place for her clan in the burgeoning drug economy of the 1970s. This spectacularly original film opens NZIFF18.
Direct from Cannes, the latest sensation from French cinema’s premier provocateur Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void) is his best yet, an exhilarating 1990s techno dance musical that spins out into collective freak-out.
Leave No Trace (previously announced)
New Zealand actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie is mesmerising as 13-year-old Tom living off the grid with her war vet father (Ben Foster) in this haunting new film from the director of Winter’s Bone.
“Panos Cosmatos’ follow-up to Beyond the Black Rainbow is a gloriously lurid mock-80s revenge quest that aims a raging, roaring Nicolas Cage at villains from another dimension.” — Katherine McLaughlin, Sight & Sound
Direct from Cannes, this charming For All Ages anime from Hosoda Mamoru (Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast) takes a richly imaginative toddler-eye view of a new arrival in the family.
In this constantly surprising, exquisitely appointed drama, a young painter secures a residency at a large family estate in the Catalan countryside to study under the ageing artist and owner she suspects is her father.
Samouni Road
A captivating portrayal of the human impact of the Middle East conflict, told with a deft mix of live action and animation, Samouni Road reveals the impact on one extended family of Israel’s brutal 2009 assault on a Gaza village.
The World is Yours
Isabelle Adjani is the safe-cracking matriarch and Karim Leklou is her son who longs for a Mr Freeze franchise and a quiet life in this Cannes hit, a rollercoaster crime caper from writer-director Romain Gavras.

Cinema De La Plage
Le Grand Bal
Filmmaker Laetitia Carton draws us into the beating heart of the traditional dance festival that attracts dancers and musicians from across Europe every summer to Gennetines in central France.

Midnight Screening
This snowbound endurance thriller, shot spectacularly on location in Iceland, stars Mads Mikkelsen as the sole survivor of an air crash, stranded somewhere in the barren wastlelands of the Arctic.

Un Certain Regard
An ingenious and twisted blend of crime drama and supernatural romance, this thrillingly unpredictable Swedish film from the writer of Let the Right One In delivers a fresh spin on Nordic mythology.
Ukrainian documentarian and writer/director Sergei Loznitsa takes a sprawling dark comedy, with a vast ensemble cast, to evoke purposely manufactured social breakdown in the Donbass region of his homeland.
El Ángel (NB: not screening in Auckland)
Co-produced in style by Pedro and Augustin Almodóvar, this provocative true crime drama explores the short violent career of Argentina’s most infamous and longest-serving convicted killer, a baby-faced teenager.
Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont won the award for best first feature at Cannes with this empathetic, emotionally rich portrait of a 15-year-old trans girl who aspires to become a ballerina.
Fresh and brave, Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu’s tender, exuberant teenage lesbian coming-out tale has been banned in Kenya and celebrated in Cannes.
The Harvesters
Set in the conservative Afrikaner farming country of South Africa’s Free State, this brooding drama pits the teenaged son of a deeply religious family against the adopted brother he believes will usurp him.

NZIFF is run by a charitable trust and encourages lively interactions between films, filmmakers and New Zealand audiences in 13 towns and cities around the country. The full NZIFF programme will be available from Tuesday 26 June for Auckland, Friday 29 June for Wellington, Monday 9 July for Christchurch and Monday 19 July for Dunedin. NZIFF starts in Auckland on 19 July, in Wellington from 27 July, in Christchurch from 2 August, and in Dunedin from 9 August in 2018.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review

Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review

Director: Kate McIntyre Clere, Michael McIntyre

It's probably easier to title doco film Kangaroo: A Polemic given how the directors are clearly pulling the animal activist angle, aiming to enrage and engage the world over treatment of the kangaroo.
Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review

It's the national icon of Australia - from their airlines to their football teams, the roo is symbolic of the nation. But according to the directors, the relationship in reality is different to the idealised one swathed in nostalgia and patriotism.

Starting with nighttime footage of a spotlight shining on a kangaroo, then a series of shots ringing out, it's clear the directors are going for the jugular, not messing around with emotional manipulation and aiming to shock.

Complete with music from a horror film, building to a crescendo before the crack of the shot rings out, it's fairly obvious the tone the directors want to strike with this piece - and while that's understandable, it's not exactly like this doco is as balanced as you'd hope for. Though, in fairness, as they uncover the levels of mistreatment and the combination of food implications and national pride / denial over what's going on, anyone who proved to be pro-the kangaroo culling may find themselves targetted.

However, it's telling that some of the language borders on hyperbole, with a plague proportions line bandied around repeatedly, with no scientific qualification for the claims.
Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review

But Kangaroo - A Love/ Hate Story does raise some shocking issues, exposes some divides within our trans-Tasman cuzzies and proffers up more questions than answers.

From consumers saying their pets devour kangaroo meat to claiming that they're not sure about it, it's obvious that a discussion needs to be had over harvesting of kangaroos, the fact the National Heart Foundation's given the meat a health tick and that legislation is as effective as a wet bus ticket.

More interesting, the directors don't hold back from showing what's on offer.

From the opening shots of the hunting to some truly disturbing shots of what is done to the creatures and a land-owner discovering what looks like a massacre, with limbs and fly-ridden heads on the ground, Kangaroo - A Love/ Hate Story does expose the cruelty that's going on unnoticed.

Equally shocking is footage of a land-owner who's purchased land for protecting the roos and who is living in fear after her farming neighbours head out nightly to shoot the animals as they are legally allowed to do so - even if they're not on their own land.

Unlike Trophy, which screened at last year's New Zealand International Film Festival,  Kangaroo - A Love/ Hate Story may not have the balance of a difficult topic mastered, but it does, however, effectively pour fuel onto a fire that clearly needs to be talked about sooner rather than later in a nation that is so clearly unaware of what's going on.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Insidious: The Last Key: Blu Ray Review

Insidious: The Last Key: Blu Ray Review

A final outing for the Insidious series sees the Blumhouse pile it low, return it high creativity hit a bit of a dead end.

Centring on the series' resident psychic Elise (Lin Shaye), the latest sees her called back to her family home to deal with the ghosts who are once again haunting the house. But unsurprisingly, she has her own demons to deal to as well.

Insidious: The Last Key: Film Review

Set up with a great prologue that delves deeper into Elise's background and shows that the cruellest of spirits actually dwell in the real world, the film decides to then settle for the usual mix of genre shocks and soundtrack related bumps as it continues its tale.

With a mix of comic relief thanks to two of Elise's sidekicks (one of whom looks like a schlubby Vincent Vega), the film tonally doesn't quite seem to know what exactly it wants to be.

Jumping back and forth between flashbacks to Elise's monstrous father, and then moving into family troubles in the present, complete with low rent atmospherics, Insidious: The Last Key doesn't seem to know what to do with its 74-year-old lead (a welcome change to the usual female in danger fare).

It's a shame, because at its heart, Insidious: The Last Key has a series of haunting moments (albeit mixed with a very bizarre Room-like twist) and the soundscape is certainly menacing enough, when it doesn't rely on the OST to provide all the bumps for the things in the night.

Insidious: The Last Key: Film Review

Shaye does various degrees of horrified as she wanders through a basement, but ultimately, Insidious: The Last Key doesn't really do or offer anything interesting with its histrionics and and tropes.

The most insidious thing about all this is how much it simply goes through the motions and wastes what opportunities it actually has to be a game changer. 

Further New Zealand Films Confirmed to Screen at NZIFF 2018

Further New Zealand Films Confirmed to Screen at NZIFF 2018

She Shears - NZIFF Film release

Three New Zealand documentaries have been added to the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) line-up for 2018.
Celia, a documentary tribute to Celia Lashlie by former current affairs journalist Amanda Millar, and She Shears, the debut documentary by Jack Nicol about women competing for world titles in the male-dominated industry of sheep shearing, are confirmed to have their world premieres at NZIFF. The New Zealand premiere of Dog’s Best Friend by director Eryn Wilson will screen in Auckland and Wellington.
“The staunchest, inspirational and most vocal of prison reform advocates Celia Lashlie left us far too soon in 2015. Thankfully her friend Amanda was there to capture her final interview which forms the heart of the documentary about Lashlie and her legacy. Further inspirational women can be found in She Shears, Jack Nicol’s observational look at the world of competitive sheep shearing, where women compete alongside men to be the best in their profession. Eryn Wilson’s documentary, set at an Australian animal rehabilitation centre, proves you can actually watch a bad dog turn good,” says NZIFF Director Bill Gosden.

About these New Zealand films:
Director/Producer: Amanda Millar
Amanda Millar’s moving documentary celebrates the enduring legacy of Celia Lashlie, a passionate advocate for social interventions that equipped those long deprived of choice with the tools for responsible decision making.
“Every child is born pure and filled with their own pure brand of magic.” — Celia Lashlie

Dog’s Best Friend
Director: Eryn Wilson
Producers: Gareth Wallis, Eryn Wilson
A surefire fix for animal lovers and a valuable sketch for skeptics, this warm doco from Kiwi director Eryn Wilson offers us intimate access to an Aussie rehab centre for troubled dogs.
“The only reason I’m on this earth is to be with dogs. This is all I know. This is all I’ve ever known. This is all I want to know.” — Jacob Blake Leezak, Canine Behaviour Expert Dog Psychology Centre founder

She Shears
Director: Jack Nicol
Producers: Georgina Allison Conder, Ainsley Gardiner
Presented by Miss Conception films, who focus on female-led stories, this fresh dispatch from the heartland introduces two legendary shearers – and three in the making – as they head for black-shirt glory at the Golden Shears.
“I always try to make it not guys vs. gals, just competitors vs. competitors.” — Emily Welch

NZ films at NZIFF are proudly supported by Resene. NZIFF is run by a charitable trust and encourages lively interactions between films, filmmakers and New Zealand audiences in 13 towns and cities around the country. The full NZIFF programme will be available from Tuesday 26 June for Auckland, Friday 29 June for Wellington, Monday 9 July for Christchurch and Monday 19 July for Dunedin. NZIFF starts in Auckland on 19 July, in Wellington from 27 July, in Christchurch from 2 August, and in Dunedin from 9 August in 2018.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Red Sparrow: Blu Ray Review

Red Sparrow: Blu Ray Review

Based on the first of Jason Matthews' trilogy of books, Red Sparrow unfortunately struggles to make a real case for further escapades to be filmed.
Red Sparrow: Film Review

Lawrence stars as ballet star Dominika Egrova, whose career is cut short by a tragic accident - though it seems suspicious, the first of Red Sparrow's weaker attempts to set up ongoing mystery and subterfuge.

When her shady uncle (Schoenaerts, surely no coincidence that he looks like Putin with his pushed down hair and pallid complex) approaches her offering a chance of money, she's thrust into the world of espionage, via way of training in Sparrow school.

Headed by Rampling's icy matron, Sparrow school dehumanises its subjects and teaches them to use themselves as weapons in the fight for the motherland and against the invaders.

Soon, Dominika is assigned her first task - to infiltrate Joel Edgerton's CIA Agent Nate Nash's world as part of an international sting.

Extraordinarily stretched out into an over-long 135 minutes, Red Sparrow struggles to engage from the get go.

Red Sparrow: Film Review
When viewed through the current prism of social concerns, it's a queasy watch with Lawrence's character feeling manipulated throughout, even though there's talk of her having free will to decide what to do.

It's never the case though, and with men who are varying degrees of creeps pulling the strings and sexually manipulating her, it's an odd feeling to sit through. It helps little that Lawrence delivers a cool, fierce and detached turn, with her aloofness proving as hard to thaw as the Russian snow which peppers some of the shots.

There's a steely feel to Lawrence's performance throughout, and in some ways, it's about a woman learning about control and growing, but it doesn't stop it feel less uncomfortable as time goes on. And while the end twists hint at more, the barbed treatment throughout makes it a difficult watch.

Edgerton has a grounded humanity to his role, but he and Lawrence fail to fire up the screen and consequently, parts of Red Sparrow feel robbed of the push and pull and tension that a good, gritty complex spy thriller should impart.

Red Sparrow: Film Review

There are moments of good characters which shine through - Rampling's stoic turn in particular stands out, and there's a feeling of nuance and backstory which could easily lead to more.

Ultimately, the anti-climactic end of the Red Sparrow throws a shed-load of plot at frustrated and numbed viewers. While it doesn't pander to basil exposition to engage its audience, and tries for complex, what evolves is more muddled and muddied than anything.