Saturday, 29 April 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: DVD Review

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: DVD Review

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Much like the Underworld series, the Resident Evil movie franchise staggers on with no sign of abating, thanks largely to industrial sized box office returns.

As the sixth film in the Resident Evil seriesThe Final Chapter at least dangles the prospect of closure in audiences' faces by way of its title. (But this turns out to be a lie.)

However, in providing a generic awfully muddy and dark action zombie set film, The Final Chapter ends up feeling like a bridge too far.

Picking up right after events from Retribution, Milla Jovovich's Alice is forced into taking a chance to wipe out the T virus that mutated the world  once and for all.

The twist is she has only 48 hours to do it and needs to race across a Mad Max style landscape to head back into Raccoon City to get the antidote.

But standing in her way once again is Game of Thrones' Iain Glen's villainous religious zealot Dr Isaacs, who chews as much scenery as the undead do flesh. (However, he gets points for inadvertently invoking one of the great lines about the Winchester and a pint in one laughably cheesy shot toward the end)...

So with the clock racing and the fate of all humanity in her hands, Alice faces her last great battle...

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a muddied mess of a video game film that feels limp in comparison to the rest of its series. Thanks to a dark aesthetic and a continual desire to visually soak everything in a blackness, it's hard to remotely care about proceedings - nowhere more so than when fight sequences happen and characters are picked off.

There's no emotional gut punch to this film where there should be; and there's no feeling of closure or an epic end when there should be either. It's just a mesh of video game stylings (big boss battle atop a tank, rescue the colleagues from traps, escape the bad guys) and some awfully frenetic editing in the action sequences which mar proceedings.

Anderson's desire to put in repeated rapid cuts during fight sections leads to a feeling of choppiness and robs them of the fluidity needed to give admiration to the work going on. In this aspect, he's his own worst enemy of the film - a director with clear signs of ADD desiring nothing more than yet another angle on the same section.

Jovovich is convincing enough as Alice, and there's a certain weariness to her outlook that's endearing as the film and its fight against an evil mega-conglomerate go on. There are answers coming in this "last" part but they're not worth the investment to be frank.

However, not nearly enough has been done to flesh out the characters around her and it shows, lending no sense of suspense or tension to various quandaries and no feelings at all when they're dispatched.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is not quite in stinker territory, but it dangerously dips its toes into the water.

3D adds nothing to it, making the action murky as the talk of clones, zombies and shooting gets underway after the starting recap. There aren't enough nods to the creatures of the iconic series and while some of the earlier action sequences pack a punch, there's no freshness in this as it trudges wearily on.

To make matters worse, the ending makes it patently clear that this is not a franchise the box office wants to die and you can't help but feel cheated as it ends. But that said, there's also a palpable sense of relief it's over, because Resident Evil: The Final Chapter squanders a lot of its promise and brings you nothing you've not seen before. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Sing: Blu Ray Review

Sing: Blu Ray Review

With a note saying Sing contains 85 songs during its 110 minute duration, you could be forgiven for feigning apathy after doing the maths of how often they'd appear.

(Maths purists - it's about 1 every 1 minute or so)

But Illumination's latest animated foray manages to pack in some zaniness around the music and the relatively 2 dimensional characters in this thinly veiled tribute to vaudeville and music audition shows.

Matthew McConaughey plays Buster Moon, a koala theatre impresario whose love of the boards has seen him put on several less than successful shows. With the bank about to foreclose on his theatre and with ideas running out, Moon decides to put on a singing audition competition to attract some interest. But things go further than planned when his lizard secretary accidentally puts onto the fliers that there's a $100K at stake...

It's easy to see why Sing's crammed its run time with classic songs - it's simply because there's nothing more than a terribly basic plot to flesh proceedings out. But that's not to take away from the fun moments that permeate the screen - from auditions with endlessly familiar pop songs blasting out to wacky sight gags, there's enough to keep the younger end happy and enough to ensure the adults recognise the music.

However, it's not quite enough.

Given Zootopia made real its anthropomorphic world with depth and insight, this tale feels lacking in anything other than a simple bubblegum formulaic animation that ticks the boxes and does little else as it zips between what feels like episodic moments stuck loosely together.

It's a shame as the vocal talent is more than sensational - McConaughey's laid back drawl makes Moon an affable and perky presence, MacFarlane's parlance is perfectly suited to a jazz playing mouse, whose rat-pack pretensions and sass are on display from the beginning and John C Reilly's perfectly cast as the slacker mate of Moon.

But it all feels so by the numbers, a medley of melodies being its only real saving grace. And to be frank, the idea of putting one last show on with a menagerie of oddballs has repeatedly been done to death by The Muppet Show.

There are no messages here other than a little self-belief and a hastily bolting on bonding between a father and son gorilla - but Sing is perfectly happy to carry on regardless.

Where it wins is once again indulging the wackiness of the Illumination brand, pioneered by Despicable Me and expanded by Minions. Simple wacky moments add a levity to the film but also serve to highlight the weaknesses in the overall story and lack of real personality.

When Moon announces his intention to put on a singing audition, there's a meta moment where one character intones "Who wants to see another one of those?"

It's a prescient moment, and if the world-weary and slightly cynical among us nod our heads in agreement, there's an almost tacit acknowledgement that younger audiences will lap up the unabashed feel-good simplicity of it all and its formulaic edges, because it all comes wrapped in a perfectly dayglo blast of music and well-visualised fluffy characters.

Sing may aspire to hit the high notes, but in truth, it actually manages to solidly hit a mid-range, never quite veering into essential territory but never quite making itself feel unwanted.

Win an Alien: Covenant prize pack!

Win an ALIEN: COVENANT prize pack!

To celebrate the unmissable big screen release of ALIEN: COVENANT, out in cinemas May 11th, you can win a prize pack!
Alien: Covenant, from Ridley Scott, in cinemas May 11

The thrilling prize pack includes:

An Alien Covenant Double pass
Alien Day poster
An Alien Covenant T.Shirt
An Alien Covenant  Mobile Phone cover


Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his ground-breaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.


Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson, Danny McBride
Rating: TBC

Autumn Events Q&A - with Bill Gosden

Autumn Events Q&A - with Bill Gosden

It's here - the Autumn Events spectacular from the New Zealand International Film Festival!
You can get all the dates of the events in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland here -

Festival director Bill Gosden was happy enough to brave a brief Q&A about the programming - so read on to see what he reckons will be worth slipping into the warmth of a cinema for as winter approaches.
NZIFF Autumn Events

Welcome back, we've missed you - what have you been doing since the end of the festival?
The lousy summer weather was perfect for getting a head start on film selection for Autumn Events and for NZIFF 2017.

Autumn events is now here, and there's a bit of difference with the regional arenas with Christchurch getting the local premiere of Pecking Order. How exciting! (And appreciate how I avoid the clucking puns)

You’ve spotted the major difference. We’d have loved to have toured the chickens, but if you’re not living in Christchurch your first chance to catch Pecking Order is on release on May 18. It’s a hoot.

The premiere of Terrence Malick's latest too - what can you tell us about this - is it Tree of Life-esque? And how stunning does it look on the big screen?
Voyage of Time

Stunning? Totally. It mixes the microcosmic and the macrocosmic to quite dizzying effect. The ‘history of life’ sections of Tree of Life only hint at the extravaganza on display here.

It seems appropriate that in these escalating times of potential nuclear war, we're heading back to the hedonism and freedom of Woodstock too...

Woodstock is so often cited as a pivotal cultural moment that it seemed worth revisiting in a present that is almost the polar opposite of the future it envisaged. The legendary performances have kept the film permanently in the Home Ent repertory, but the documentary content now feels more captivating than ever. It provides a vivid picture of a time when the American middle class was ascendant and the boomers began to feel their oats. There’s no shortage of conscious myth making going on in the film, but plenty of evidence too of some uncomfortable realities. The film’s release was a massive affair – the big sound and the multi-screens. Without those there’s no way to appreciate the original impact.
Le Roi et L'Oiseau

Le Roi et L'Oiseau has had quite a journey to the screen, and having seen, it's a gorgeous animation with all ages appeal - how would you best describe it?

Surreal is a word I seldom use, but it fits here. Children can explain the delightfully perplexing interplay of fiction and reality to their literal-minded adult companions.

Woody Allen's Manhattan too - perhaps the epitome of what he's achieved...?

It’s such a movie-movie, overflowing with references to the Hollywood past: the luminous B&W imagery, the shamelessly romantic settings – even a horse and carriage ride in Central Park - and the George Gershwin score. It’s easy to forget that it was made at a time when the world’s idea of New York City looked a lot more like Taxi Driver. But within this beautifully wrought setting and a roundelay of romantic dilemmas befitting a screwball comedy, the insecurities and missteps of the wise-cracker characters feel authentic, and ultimately quite isolating and painful. Is there another Woody Allen film where that is true?

And Werner Herzog, Judy Garland - really, we're being spoilt...

I’m looking forward very much to Fitzcarraldo. I remember we had to wait a whole year for it in New Zealand after Les Blank and Chris Simon had already been to the festival with Burden of Dreams. In the day the cool thing to say was that Burden of Dreams was better anyway, but who’d want to be without either of these ?

What's the plan for the main festival - give us a tease of what lies ahead....

Aha! It’s not too soon to say that the releases this month of Meat and Pecking Order mark the beginning of a great year for New Zealand documentaries on New Zealand cinema screens.

Get more about the Autumn Events and find the dates for the annual New Zealand International Film Festival at

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Jackie: Blu Ray Review

Jackie: Blu Ray Review

Natalie Portman shines as Jackie Kennedy in this intriguing and at times, unconventional, biopic about the President's wife after the death of her husband JFK.

In an unusual move, it feels at times like a coming of age film as Jackie negotiates the treachery of life afterwards as people swarm around her suggesting what's best for both her and her husband's immediate legacy.

The film though, begins with Jackie welcoming a reporter (Billy Crudup, based on biographer Theodore H White) to her retreat and who's clearly there to get her side of the story (in perhaps a nod to the article which appeared a week after JFK's death in Life).

But flashbacks, and present day flashes mean that Jackie's also shown gaining her White House legs as well as her exposure to television by bringing cameras into the White House to demonstrate how their home is. In a move that simulates both the desire to be accepted by the public and into the history of the White House, Portman's Jackie tentatively begins a journey into our collective consciousness.

Mixing archival footage along with Portman's powerful vocal affectations (which, admittedly, take time to get accustomed to) as Kennedy proves to be a heady mix for Jackie. With its drained aesthetics and faded looks, Larrain's strength in the film comes from the subtleties of the scenes and the rhythmic feel of the prose played out on the screen.

From blood stains on Jackie's dress to the absolutely earth-shattering visceral sound of the bullet ringing out across the motorcade when the inevitable flashback occurs, everything about this film screams detail.

It's undoubtedly a classy affair, albeit one which takes a little time to adjust to as its groove begins to wash over you with its funereal feel.

As the ebbs and flows of post JFK life come into sharp focus, the initial portrait of a fragile and vulnerable First Lady drains away to present a figure borne of fire, and bereft initially of power but content once again to rise from the ashes.

Portman commits to this wholeheartedly as a mother struggling to tell her kids what's happened, as a stateswoman determined to not be undermined and as a newly crowned widow, fighting to ensure her husband is fairly farewelled (NB - a lot of time is spent on funeral arrangements).

But as she staggers out into the cinematic light and from the screen, Portman emerges as the character building her own myth; it's clear to see why she's been nominated for an award in this almost chameleonic turn.

While there are moments when it feels showy initially, once the bluster is stripped away, the ebbs and flows of the character portrayal are laid down and the bombastic OST silences itself, Jackie becomes a clear portrait of power, led by an utterly commanding turn.

Chilean director Pablo Larrain's film frees itself from the shackles of a conventional biopic and emerges as a hauntingly different and striking way to tell a story that's so familiar to so many. And with a central powerhouse of a performance, it lingers long in the mind after the lights have gone up.

Call of Duty WWII is revealed

Call of Duty WWII is revealed


Franchise Returns to its Roots in the
Definitive World War II Gaming Experience, Friday, November 3 

Multiplayer Features Boots-on-the-Ground Combat with All-New Ways to Play and Engage;
Pre-Order Now and Get Access to the Private Multiplayer Beta, First on PlayStation®4

Brand New, Unique Take on Nazi Zombies Cooperative Mode Brings an Original Storyline and
Heart-Pounding Experience to Call of Duty

April 27, 2017 – Call of Duty® is making a dramatic return to the greatest military conflict in history and where the franchise first began, World War II.  On Friday, November 3, Call of Duty®: WWIIplayers will enlist in an unforgettable journey of brotherhood across the European theatre in a mission vital to the success of the Allied powers.  The all-new Call of Duty delivers gritty realism, authenticity and cinematic intensity on an epic scale.  In addition to the game’s boots-on-the-ground combat, Multiplayer offers a host of new mode, system and gameplay innovations across iconic map locations; while an all-new Nazi Zombies Cooperative mode unleashes a startling, new storyline and adrenaline filled experience.  Published by Activision and developed by Sledgehammer Games, Call of Duty: WWII defines the World War II game experience for a new generation of consoles.

“More than two and a-half years ago we made the decision to return this franchise to its roots, and Call of Duty: WWII does so in epic fashion,” said Eric Hirshberg, Activision CEO. “The team at Sledgehammer Games is delivering an authentic, gritty, cinematic experience that honours both the epic scale, and the human struggle of the greatest war the world has ever known.  This game will let longtime fans experience World War II like never before, and will introduce this historic conflict to a whole new generation of gamers in the process.”

Added Glen Schofield, Studio Head and Co-Founder of Sledgehammer Games, “the story we’re telling is unlike anything that we’ve tackled before.  It’s such an amazing journey of common everyday people who became heroes. We want to respect this great generation of soldiers, tell a realistic story set in a true inflection point in human history, and deliver the best experience of our careers.”

Call of Duty: WWII takes the franchise back to its roots in a bold cinematic experience that captures the unforgettable heroism of the soldiers who fought together in a war that changed the world forever.  Activision’s gripping new title is an honest portrayal of World War II from the perspective of the famed 1st Infantry Division, with an ensemble cast of global and diverse characters. Through stunning visuals and intense audio, players storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, march across France to liberate Paris and ultimately push forward into Germany in some of the most monumental battles of all-time.

Call of Duty: WWII Multiplayer combat immerses players in grounded, fast-paced action featuring an arsenal of authentic weapons and equipment, set in some of the most iconic locations in World War II’s European theatre.  Multiplayer also delivers a new approach to character and create-a-class through Divisions, War, an all-new narrative multiplayer mode of play, and Headquarters, a first of its kind for the Call of Duty social community, designed for players to interact and socialise with friends.  The definitive World War II next generation experience also introduces Nazi Zombies, an all-new cooperative mode featuring a unique standalone storyline set during World War II that’s full of unexpected, adrenaline-pumping action.  Look for more information about Multiplayer at E3 and the Nazi Zombies cooperative experience at a later date.

Call of Duty: WWII pre-orders at participating retailers includes access to the Private Beta, available first on PlayStation®4, scheduled for later this year.  Call of Duty: WWII is available for pre-order in the following editions:

  • Base Edition and Digital Base Edition – Suggested Retail Price AUD$99.95 / NZD$109.99.
  • Digital Deluxe Edition – Season Pass** and more, AUD$149.95 / NZD$169.99.
  • Pro Edition – Season Pass**, collectible SteelbookTM and more, AUD$139.95 / NZD$159.99

Check local retailers for availability of all Call of Duty: WWII Editions.

**Season Pass purchasers receive 2018 Call of Duty: WWII Season Pass content.  Season Pass content is not final, is subject to change, and may not include all downloadable content available for the game.  Season Pass content may not be available in all countries, and pricing and release dates may vary by platform. Season Pass content should be downloaded from the in-game store only; do not purchase separately, or you will be charged again.  Season Pass content may be sold separately.

The title is published by Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI), and developed by Sledgehammer Games. For the latest intel, check or follow @CallofDuty and @SHGames on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.  Call of Duty: WWII is scheduled for release on PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC.  The title is not yet rated.

Colossal: Film Review

Colossal: Film Review

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell
Director: Nacho Vigalondo

"If the trick's good enough, f**k the story".
Colossal movie with Anne Hathaway

It's a line uttered by Jason Sudeikis' Oscar in this film from TimeCrimes director Nacho Vigalondo, but in every case of Colossal, it's the complete opposite.

While the trick - an alcoholic woman Gloria (Anne Hathaway, replete in Rachel Getting Married slight Goth mode) feels she has a connection to a giant monster terrorising parts of Seoul when she heads back to her home town - may be what drags people to the cinema, the story's plenty good enough to stay for.

Realising she's at crisis point, and kicked out by Tim (Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens), Gloria heads to her parents' place to try and sort herself out. She finds herself reconnecting with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis, a veritable nuanced acting revelation for those used to his corn-bread comedy routines) and working in his bar to make ends meet. But with the world news overtaken by a story of a monster destroying parts of Seoul, Gloria begins to explore what connects her to the monster - and what secrets at home could have led to its manifestation in the first place....

While parts of the audacious premise are left fully explored and a few of the side characters a little wanting after their initial use, large swathes of the quirky yet familiar Colossal hit the mark.
Colossal movie with Anne Hathaway

In a weird way, this monster mash is more The Kaiju Are Alright and rom-com-drama than a straight out slice of sci-fi. Hathaway's banged and muted Gloria is a dysfunctional mess, a vision of alcoholism writ large, and she's played with singular aplomb and vision by the actress who adopts a less-is-more approach to the character and her arc of strength within.

But it's Sudeikis who truly shines here, flexing large those acting muscles that were really last on display in 2015's Sleeping With Other People and which give him more berth than just a comedic actor. His Oscar is the epitome of small-town mentality, deep-seated resentments and jealousies writ large, while self-loathing takes over and replaces any promise that may have been harboured within.
Colossal movie with Anne Hathaway
A meshing of a beguiling story about control, the monsters within, small-town bitterness and jealousies, Colossal is more a character piece than anything, and a fascinating concept made real and fresh on the big screen. With plenty of suspense and mystery about the initial idea, the film opens like an onion to reveal layers within and layers which aren't directly connected to the thoroughly original premise.

Be warned though - this is no mesh of Pacific Rim or the Godzillas - these are merely incidental pieces of the puzzle.

At the end of the day, though, there's plenty of relatable humanity on show in this emotionally raw and truthful tale that just happens to have two monsters central to its core; fused with some extremely impressive acting, and teased out with flashbacks, the creeping sense of intrigue gives way to something more obvious but nonetheless powerful.

Colossal could well end up being one of the films of the year; it's got originality writ large on it, and thanks to Vigalondo's assured execution and armed with Sudeikis and Hathaway's strong acting, its character-driven edges help elevate it from the usual dross of romantic entanglements and add an element of pure cinematic ingenuity.