Saturday, 25 November 2017

It Comes At Night: Blu Ray Review

It Comes At Night: Blu Ray Review

Balancing tension, claustrophobia and paranoia in equal measures, Trey Edward Shults' film It Comes At Night is a chamber piece for the doomsday preppers among you.

Opening with an old man struggling to breathe before he's put in a wheelbarrow and unceremoniously rolled out by gas-masked unknowns, accompanied by a red jerry can and a gun, It Comes At Night goes for the gut-wrenching right away, a veritable sucker punch to the "This could be any of you" ethos that punctuates its survivalist core.

It Comes At Night: NZIFF Review

Revealing the gas mask wearers to be a family, headed up by patriarch Paul (Joel Edgerton, bearded and downbeat), It Comes At Night zeroes in on their isolation in a house in the woods. With his wife (Ejogo) and son Travis (Harrison Jr) in tow, Paul's family unit is embedded into this post-apocalyptic world.

But when Christopher Abbot's desperate Will breaks in to their house one night, seemingly searching for supplies for his wife and child, a ticking time bomb of suspicion and mistrust is placed within this tight-knit unit.

And things are further exacerbated when Will brings his brood back to the house....

Less an outright horror, more a creeping insidious terror, It Comes At Night is perhaps more a psychological experience than a full-on fright fest.

It helps that surrendering to Shults' rhythms is the way to settle into this sedately-paced film that lies on soundtrack and palpable tension to ratchet things up. With claustrophobic close-ups and wide shots of corridors and an ominous red door in and out of the house, the dread is easily created early on.

Shults uses his weary-looking cast to ramp up an atmosphere of unease that's as menacing as it is frustrating, though an over-reliance on differently aspect-ratioed dream sequences involving Travis' night terrors punctuate way too much of this film as it unfolds.

It Comes At Night: NZIFF Review

Bleak and desolate it may be, while relying on the hoary trope of the unseen menace within the woods and that's always at arms-length, It Comes At Night uses its sparing sense of fear to reasonably terrifying effect. Dialogue propels great amounts of the implied ambiguity within as the survivalist nightmare reaches to a crescendo.

It's not exactly the kind of film which is going to leave many feeling bright and breezy, though with the reminder of a constant fear from the Doomsday Clock edging ever closer to midnight in these current climes maybe informing the NZIFF's desire to programme this, it does seem scarily prescient.
Abbott and Edgerton make for uneasy bedfellows as Will and Paul, and Travis' mixing of sexual awakening with a creeping sense of voyeurism at the new family (in particular, the wife played by The Girlfriend Experience's Riley Keough) proving to be a heady mix of uncertainty, there's more than enough to creep out those watching.

Fundamentally slow (despite its brevity and 90 minutes run time) and distinctly unsettling, It Comes At Night may prove to be a polarising film festival experience, but its quietly devastating voyage is deep-rooted in singularly human basic instincts - and is all the more terrifying for it. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II : Review

Star Wars Battlefront II : Review

Platform: PlayStation 4
Released by EA

Back in 2015, there was a disturbance in the Force.

Like a billion voices screaming out at once both in agony and ecstasy as the next generation of Star Wars gaming was unleashed on the marketplace.
Star Wars: Battlefront II Review

Star Wars: Battlefront was like a candy rush; a heady experience that evaporated into a haze after the initial excitement at its graphical beauty settled down.

Blasted for the lack of a single player campaign and with servers that seemed to disappear a few months later, the game was a victim of its own success, after its servers were deserted and match-making for its multiplayer was emptier than a Death Star's crew forced to evacuate when it's revealed a squadron of X-Wing fighters is headed its way.

Now, nearly a couple of years later, and with EA having promised to change things for the better and apparently listening to people's feedback, the sequel has arrived.
Star Wars: Battlefront II Review

And once again, Electronic Arts is being likened to the Dark Side of the Force after earlier announcements proclaiming future DLCs for it would be free, but then showing in their BETA that progress could be bought with loot crates and in-game purchases.

It's no wonder that Lucasfilm stepped in, the internet went into meltdown and EA "took" the decision to suspend microtransactions - albeit it temporarily - for the game's launch.

In fact, the resulting furore has clouded the Force and its return more than it should have done and comes dangerously close to derailing the original intentions.

Because when it comes together, Star Wars Battlefront II offers the Star Wars fan exactly what they'd look for in a Star Wars game.

This time, a single player campaign has been included and is, to a degree, thrilling.

Put in the position as Iden Versio, a leader of an Imperial Special Forces group (and a female protagonist, natch), the single player campaign takes place between the destruction of the Empire in Return of the Jedi and their subsequent re-rise in The Force Awakens.
Star Wars: Battlefront II Review

But despite a fully developed story, the campaign feels little more than a simple re-ordering of a series of sequences from the game's multiplayer and thrust into a narrative structure.

While it's done seamlessly and looks astonishingly pristine, there's still a feeling that this is a piecemeal episodic entry into Star Wars canon - and despite some excellent rendering of the in-game environments, coupled with some clunky dialogue and a feeling of deja vu, it's not quite the home run you'd have expected for a much-heralded and much-desired single player campaign.

A little more successful is the multiplayer - though even this feels hampered by some own goals that could have easily been prevented.

A raft of options and maps lie in wait, though none as thrilling as the X Wing VR mission that was released last year for the original game.

The 40 player Galactic Assault was already part of the game's beta, but remains nonetheless, a compelling multiplayer experience as you hurtle around the skies on either the good or the bad side.
Star Wars: Battlefront II Review

Like any dog fight should feel, it's thrilling, chaotic and edge-of-your seat stuff. Coupled with the chance to get lost in simply settling some grudges or following the game's various missions, it's exactly how you'd imagine feeling if you were part of the Star Wars universe.

Handling of the craft is perfect and the FX and screeching of the engines as you soar through the skies is second-to-none.

It's almost as if you're in the skies, fighting for your life and being carried along by the adrenaline alone.

Not quite as successful in this though is the chance to be a squad, supposedly giving you the option to double your points if you team up together and achieve what's needed.

There's yet to be a team up event that's worked with other players simply heading off and doing their own thing, essentially making a mockery of what EA clearly had wanted.

And plenty of these games have an inevitable points-grabbing feel, rather than a cohesive aim that results in the grandiose feeling of a team victory.
Star Wars: Battlefront II Review

With the "Plays of the Game" awards handed out after every match, it's hard to shake a feeling that people are simply after feathering their own nest and furthering their own collective gains.

Progression, star cards and the inevitable loot boxes all hamper Star Wars: Battlefront II from soaring. While EA says it's working on these issues after feedback, it still feels like more of a cash grab aimed at trying to get those who'd rather get a quick fix of skill than an earned reward from a well-trodden journey.

There's plenty of that feel of grind within the game and it does mar what could have been a truly exceptional experience.

That's the thing with Star Wars Battlefront II - it feels more like a disposable Star Wars experience, rather than a fully-formed Star Wars game.
Star Wars: Battlefront II Review

It's an excellently rendered collection of curated content, scenarios and different modes of battle guaranteed to satiate any devotee of Lucasfilm.

But it never quite feels like the Force has fully aligned again this time around.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Free Trial Starts Today

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Free Trial Starts Today

Today we’re happy to announce a free trial for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Players can now download the free trial on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC and play through the entire first level of the game. Should players choose to upgrade to the full version of the game, their save data will carry over. 
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Free Trial Starts Today

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus launched on October 27 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, to widespread praise from the critics and community. Wolfenstein II has also been nominated in several categories for The Game Awards, including Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, Best Action Game and Best Performance (Brian Bloom as BJ Blazkowicz). 

Wolfenstein II sends players to Nazi-controlled America on a mission to recruit the boldest resistance leaders left. Players will fight the Nazis in iconic locations such as small-town Roswell, New Mexico, quarantined New Orleans, and a post-nuclear Manhattan. Armed with an impressive arsenal of fully upgradeable retro sci-fi weaponry, including the all-new Dieselkraftwerk, players can unleash new abilities to blast through legions of advanced Nazi soldiers and ├╝ber soldiers in this definitive first-person shooter. 




SYDNEY, 22nd November 2017 – The expanding FINAL FANTASY® XV Universe casts its line into the world of virtual reality with today’s release of MONSTER OF THE DEEP: FINAL FANTASY XV, a brand-new VR experience for the PlayStation®VR system. Based on the mini-game from FINAL FANTASY XV, this new downloadable content invites players to head out on an angling expedition with crown prince Noctis, his companions Ignis, Prompto and Gladio and other familiar faces across picturesque locales.

Players can put their fishing skills to the test in Story Mode, which places them in the middle of an exhilarating, action-packed showdown with a menace lurking in the depths, or take in the sights, sounds and scenery of Eos through a variety of challenges in Free Fishing mode. With 13 different rods to use, 61 lures to choose from and over 100 varieties of fish to catch, players can look forward to a gratifying journey ahead to becoming Eos’ greatest Lord of the Lures.

Now in GTA Online: Hunter Attack Chopper, 16 New Transform Races and More

Now in GTA Online: Hunter Attack Chopper, 16 New Transform Races and More

Now in GTA Online: Hunter Attack Chopper, 16 New Transform Races and More
Calling the FH-1 Hunter an attack helicopter might be misleading, because this thing is in a class of its own. Its unique rocket barrage alone is enough to eviscerate an army of foes, and that’s before you consider your buddy's contributions at the helm of the gunner-operated Turret. Can you hear it? The sweet cacophony of exploding aircraft and Homing Missiles whizzing through the sky. Your enemies should be so grateful. Pick up your FH-1 Hunter today from Warstock Cache and Carry.
A whopping 16 new Transform Races have arrived in GTA Online, serving up more thrills and spills for those willing to risk life and limb for glory. Competing in any Transform Race between now and November 27th will also grant you Double GTA$ & RP, so hit the Stunt Tubes and earn big while you can.
To get right into to any of the new Races, hit the links below to bookmark them on Social Club and get instant access the next time you hop in game. From the game, tap the boot button from the loading screen or hit any one of the Transform Race Series icons scattered across the map to jump directly into a Series featuring these new Transform Races:
Whatever you make of Jock Cranley's politics, we can all agree that stunt jumping in Southern San Andreas wouldn't have been the same without his trademark, bulge-hugging attire. Grab yourself a piece of history with the White Jock Cranley Jumpsuit - a free in-game unlock for all who log in to GTA Online between now and November 27th.
Give your fleet of racing vehicles an edge or simply satiate your lust for petrol and burnt rubber with these discounts on cars and automotive upgrades, going on all week long. And be sure to stay tuned for some big discounts coming later this week for Black Friday.
  • Progen Tyrus (Super) – 25% off
  • Dewbauchee Rapid GT (Sports) – 25% off
  • Engine Upgrades – 25% off
  • Handling Upgrades – 25% off
  • Brakes – 25% off
  • Transmission – 25% off
  • Turbo – 25% off
  • Suspension – 25% off
  • Spoilers – 25% off
Prepare to slam that throttle in this week's scheduled Premium Race and Time Trial events. Through November 27th:
  • Premium Special Vehicle Race - "Redneck" (locked to Rocket Voltic)
  • Time Trial - "End To End"
Launch Premium Races through the Quick Job App on your in-game phone or via the yellow corona at Legion Square. The top three finishers will earn GTA$ and you'll get Triple RP regardless of where you place. To take a shot at the Time Trial, set a waypoint to the marker on your in-game map and enter via the purple corona. Beat par time and you'll be duly rewarded with GTA$ & RP.

The Stolen: Film Review

The Stolen: Film Review

Cast: Alice Eve, Stan Walker, Graham McTavish, Cohen Holloway, Richard O'Brien, Jack Devonport
Director: Niall Johnson

The NZ set Western has had middling success so far.

From the enigmatic Slow West to the downright average Good For Nothing, it's a genre that clearly has some legs in.
The Stolen: Film Review

Hoping to cash in on that, are Niall Johnson and writer Emily Corcoran, who've used the Canterbury coasts as their backdrop to the story of Alice Eve's Charlotte Lockton at the end of the 19th Century.
Relocating out to New Zealand with her husband and being trained to use weapons to survive in the wilds, Charlotte gets a rude awakening when they're robbed at midnight, her husband killed and her 3-month-old son kidnapped.

Receiving a ransom note 3 months later with a picture of her son, Charlotte sets out on a dangerous mission to rescue him.

Less Unforgiven, more unforgiveable, The Stolen's problems come from a patchy script, some wooden dialogue and some truly underwritten characters.

While the countryside looks great and Johnson makes great fist of the juxtaposition of both the rugged terrain and the contrast of Eve's porcelain English rose look.
But it's not enough to make parts of the film feel like a slog - even for a relatively short 90 minute run-time.
The Stolen: Film Review

The tarts-with-hearts that Charlotte journeys across town with are given the most broad-brush cursory backstories with which to work and consequently, there's little to engage with when the inevitable peril sets in.

Chiefly Stan Walker feels majorly under-utilised and predominantly bookends the film with a character that suggests there could have been much more.

Richard O'Brien's Irish barkeep is another oddity in a film which mixes so many different accents in, you can be forgiven for thinking it's not set in New Zealand.

Complete with overbearing OST that blasts out any moment and drowns its emotional edges, The Stolen feels like it's punching above its weight.

Ultimately, with an improbable twist set down in the final furlong, The Stolen's whole feeling is one of something that's betrayed the promise of its mightily impressive premise.

It's disappointing as the setting and the story idea, which could have been better propelled along by revenge and a smash-the-streotype-female lead feels more like it's been squandered.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Big Sick: Blu Ray Review

The Big Sick: Blu Ray Review

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, Holly Hunter
Director: Michael Showalter

With a strong footing in truth, The Big Sick's rom-com cum cultural clash love story has rightly sent the genre back into fresher territory.

The Big Sick: Film Review

Silicon Valley's Dinesh aka Kumail Nanjiani stars as a version of himself in a story ripped from his own life.

Wannabe stand-up Kumail is working in a club one night, when he's heckled by Zoe Kazan's Emily. Intrigued, Kumail ends up striking a relationship with her after the show. Despite trying out an awful chat-up  line with Emily, the pair connect and end up in an easy relationship.

However, what Emily doesn't know is that Kumail's Pakistani family is trying to set him up with other women in an arranged marriage, via a series of dates which happen at family meals. (In one of the more excruciating touches, the women his parents have selected for him just happen to drop by during meal-times for an appointment.)

When this revelation hits the pair, Emily splits from Kumail, leaving him devastated. But things get worse when he gets a call to say Emily's seriously sick in hospital...

In many ways, The Big Sick is your typical romantic comedy.

Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl and problems and obstacles persist in the course of true love. So far, so tried and tested formula.

The Big Sick: Film Review

However, what The Big Sick brings to the table is a large degree of freshness, some genuinely funny moments and some sweet insights into the cultural clashes which are, of course, inevitable.

And really, at its heart, this is not a film that defies convention.

In fact, the only defiance is Kumail's insistence on going against his family wishes and avoiding spending time praying in the basement, choosing instead to play games on his phone, until his allotted time has passed.

Yet, being grounded in so much truth and veritas, (unsurprising as it's ripped from Kumail Nanjiani and Emily's real life romance), what The Big Sick manages to do is breathe some life into a genre that's been stale for a while and subverts expectations of those going into it.

Nanjiani brings his usual deadpan flair to the delivery, but thanks to a cleverly written script that fizzes with life and reality, there are some truly amusing moments. Mainly due to the ease of banter between the two and a slight subversion of the usual gags you'd expect about cultural stereotypes.

From a great gag over Kumail's Uber-career to the genuine warmth these two share, there are very much the signs that The Big Sick is keen to inject some humour where it's never been before.

It's not entirely perfect though.

The Big Sick: Film Review

At just a shade over 2 hours, there could have been some excising on the script front (a slew of comedy bar scenes seem a little unnecessary) to ensure the perfect mix, but it's a minor complaint.

The other interesting angle The Big Sick brings is that at its heart, it's a two-pronged relationship comedy.

Not only does Emily and Kumail's relationship take up the time on screen, but there's also a large amount of the film which is devoted to Kumail's relationship with his potential in-laws, played by a terrier-like Holly Hunter and an easy-going career best Ray Romano. There is also the battle between Kumail's family and their desire to do right by tradition and his desire to break away from that. (Interestingly, the final resolution doesn't quite provide all the answers and really does feel like there are more questions than answers.)

As Emily's parents battle their wariness and try to protect their daughter from the indirect charm offensive launched by an awkwardly bashful Kumail, what also emerges is profoundly sweet and utterly charismatic despite its inevitable outcome.

There's a great deal of earnest charm about The Big Sick and it's difficult to be profoundly cynical against its intentions. But in crafting a rom-com that's genuine and earnest, The Big Sick succeeds in being a genre best and ensures the entirely over-stuffed category is given a new lease of life.