Thursday, 23 March 2017

Allied: Blu Ray Review

Allied: Blu Ray Review

You must remember this.

A kiss is just a kiss.

There's a great romance to 1942's star-crossed lovers flick Casablanca, and director Robert Zemeckis tries to swathe his latest, a drama about a French resistance fighter and a Canadian intelligence officer who meet behind enemy lines, in a lot of that too.

But unfortunately, this is more Casa-blankly than Casablanca.

Kicking off in North Africa in 1942, where Pitt's Max Vatan drops out of the sky, floating into the dunes like a fallen angel, the story puts Cotillard's Marianne Beausejour in cahoots as the duo plot an execution on a German ambassador.

Reuniting later in London after the mission ends, and picking up after a sandstorm tryst saw them succumb to each other, Max finds his loyalties tested with an assertion that all is not as it seems....

For a film titled Allied, there's an irony that this feels like a flick of two disjointed halves.

The first that's supposed to set up the romance and build the romantic tension and bond between Max and Marianne is a bitter disappointment, lacking in time to let moments develop and jumping around to get to the crux of the conflict.

Suffering from an exclusion of time to dwell, the time-hop serves only to stiffen the pair's relationship and point out their relative lack of chemistry, while heightening the fact the scenes that are supposed to tie us to the characters are missing as some of the emotional beats fail to hit their mark.

Which is a shame as the largely terrific and at times should be taut back half of Allied kicks it up a gear (and simultaneously shoots itself in the foot with a French set escapade that feels like something from Dad's Army and Allo Allo). Although it suffers from what's preceded it with tension without suspense and romance without heart play out, as it hurtles towards its denouement.

It's a shame because in among the stifling and stultifying story, there is some wonderfully evocative period detail and terrific costuming that is redolent of old school Hollywood romances. And certainly in the second half, Pitt's portrayal of a man struggling with the moral dilemma of love or loyalty is marvellously underplayed and relatively effective.

But what cripples Alliedis the fact there's a palpable lack of thrills, a disturbing absence of tension and suspense when there should be as it climaxes and an overall nagging feeling the whole thing is slightly underwhelming despite its old movie star sensibilities.

Hollow and unsatisfactory, Allied is dressed in such old Hollywood charm and draped in such wonderful attention to detail that you realise you've spent a great majority of the film gawking at its clothes and its setting rather than its story and the lack of chemistry between its stars.

Ultimately, that proves to be a fatal flaw in the film that aims for heart-breaking but can barely stop its audience at times from emitting a yawn.

Get Out: Film Review

Get Out: Film Review

Cast: Daniel Kaluulya, Alison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
Director: Jordan Peele

White liberal guilt plays a big part in the smart satirical take on social mores from debut director Jordan Peele's box-office bashing, genre-mashing thriller.
Get Out, from Jordan Peele

Essentially riffing on the Meet The Parents story and the Stepford Wives, Brit actor Kaluulya plays Chris, a young African-American, whose girlfriend Rose (Girls star Alison Williams) takes him to the family estate for a weekend.

Already nervous about what may lie ahead, Chris' unease is further heightened when he arrives on the estate and finds an African-American groundskeeper and an African-American housekeeper. Despite his prospective father-in-law's reassurances that he's aware how it looks, but it's not what it seems, it sets the tone for Chris' weekend.

However, things get more mysterious when an annual event on the estate sees out-of-towners arrive....

To say more about the dread-laced atmospherics of Get Out is to rob the film of the freshness that unfolds along with the unease of atmosphere accompanying it.

There's a reason Peele's subversive and sinister Blumhouse-produced debut has received such acclaim - and it's largely due to the satirical elements within, as well as the clear commentary on the times we live in and how African-Americans are treated both within society and perhaps to a lesser extent, within the Hollywood system.
Get Out, from Jordan Peele

Tapping into the unease that's currently in America, where movements like Black Lives Matter continue and where tensions continue to grow, despite calls of progression, proves to be fertile ground for Peele, and gives the film a feeling of something more below the surface.

Cultural appropriation is wrapped up within as well - and much like Scream 2's meta take on how African-American actors are treated within Hollywood's horror factory (hint - easily and quickly dispatched by the killer within the opening act), Get Out plays with perceptions with as much ease as it plays with the tropes of the thriller / horror genre.

Unlike most horrors, Get Out deftly manages to spin both a web of unease and atmospherics simultaneously without ever losing sight of what it sets out to do. Along with a modicum of jump scares, as well as some sly humour, Get Out never threatens to topple the house of cards once the reveal comes in - many horrors tease and tantalise, but when the ultimate reveal comes of either who the killer is or what's afoot, the web collapses into a dirth of plot-holes; Get Out never once falls into that trap (even though there are a few narrative conveniences in the final moments).

With an appropriation of one of the mystical elements of Stranger Things to his own twisting, Peele, who wrote and directed Get Out, has created a film that feels both contemporary, satirically smart and timeless. Whether that's more a sad indictment and damnation of what the film has to say about the treatment of African-Americans is certainly up for debate.
Get Out, from Jordan Peele

But what's not really up for debate is how inherently smart and devilishly taut, the clever Get Out is.

From its whip-smart writing (Bradley Whitford's patriarch more than adds creepiness into the idea that he would have voted for Obama for a third time if he could and adds unease into revealing his feelings that owning African-American house workers "is such a cliche"), to its incredible sound-scape, Peele's debut captures and subverts the conventions terrifically as the story plays out.

It's best to know little about this film going on, as the less you know, the more it grabs you in its vice-like grip - and its take on 21st century liberalism may leave you a little rocked and disturbed when the lights ultimately go up. Awkwardness and avant-garde approaches to the genre and the general terror of the story's unspooling make Get Out an at times, queasily paranoid watch.

However, you'd do wisely to believe the hype, as this is one of 2017's best and smartest films - and as such, it's more than worth at least one visit to the cinema - if not more.

Life: Film Review

Life: Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson,Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Daniel Espinosa

David Bowie - or more precisely, one of his most famous musical questions -proves to be the inspiration for Daniel Espinosa's tautly schlocky horror-space flick, Life.
Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

High above the Earth in the International Space Station, a motley crew of nations is assembled, waiting to take on board a soil sample from Mars for analysis to see if anything existed.

But when the sample they bring on board does yield some form of life, it soon turns deadly threatening to kill off the six crew on board... and the future of life on Earth.

The chamber piece Life may be a spiritual successor and very reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Alien and many a Doctor Who episode where something lurks amok a base, but Espinosa's horror-cum-sci-fi cliche piece is actually startlingly effective in its execution and intense in some of its scenes.

Granted, the space staff on board are briefly sketched at best; Reynolds reprises a bit of wise-cracking edge from Deadpool as the engineer of the piece, Ferguson's gruff starched commander is all about the protocols and firewalls than the fuzzies, and Hiroyuki Sanada's pilot is given a new-born baby on Earth to raise his emotional stakes.

Perhaps more interesting is Gyllenhaal's David Jordan, a medic who's been in space for 473 days and prefers the hum of the spaceship to the evils that men do on the ground. He's afforded the deepest degree of character as the film progresses, but it's slim pickings all around.
Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

Which is potentially no bad thing for Life.

This is not a film that wants to philosophise or put a lot of scientific debate or discussion, it's more interested in firing abject terror thanks to an overly bombastic soundtrack and series of relatively taut set-pieces.

It helps the creature, named Calvin by a lucky kid that wins a competition on Earth, starts off like a gelatinous star-fish before evolving into some kind of floating turtle / snake hybrid and is a fairly innocuous but fatal critter - it's not destined for horror infamy like the Xenopmorph, but it works its terror well as the film continues.

The dialogue in part is cliche as well - from lines like "I've got a good feeling about this" to "There's zero precedence for this!" that are ripped straight of Horror Movie Writing 101 to a meta reference to Re-Animator, this is a film that proudly and honestly wears its influences on its sleeve.

As the escalating schlock of the situation sets in and the horror movie trappings emerge with relative aplomb, Espinosa keeps the film rattling along at quite a pace and never really stops to let it breathe. The result is relatively tremendous, a terror-filled ride that's worth taking in the fashion in which it was intended.

From its opening shot of a blip hurtling across the stars to its shots high above the Earth and within the Space Station, the look and feel of Life is second-to-none. With its tight frame shots of the crew within the ship and wide shots of life outside in the vastness of space, complete with an evocative orchestral score, Espinosa manages to convey a sense of the infinite with the intimate in this claustrophobic thriller.
Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

And there's a certain beauty in one of the crew being killed, hauled into a Messianic pose with blood globules floating in the zero gravity room around them - this is a film that gets the look and feel right, even if it does feel like something we've witnessed before.

While the end feels unnecessarily OTT with a Eureka moment coming a little too conveniently into proceedings, Espinosa and the cast are fully committed to the meshing of the horror and space genres here.

Make no mistake, Life is unashamedly a derivative but suspenseful schlockbuster that embraces its conventions with gusto.  It's actually also a tremendously slick and diverting popcorn ride too, despite its lack of more rounded human edges that kept the likes of Gravity and Alien afloat in the cold dark reaches of space.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® Remastered - Variety Map Pack Trailer

Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® Remastered - Variety Map Pack Trailer

The Variety Map Pack has arrived for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. It’s available now, first on PlayStation 4, and includes four epic maps along with 10 Rare Supply Drops.

The pack features classic maps that have been remastered in full HD glory across a range of different environments:

  • Broadcast: Based on the TV station from the campaign mission “Charlie Don’t Surf”, this map provides a unique blend of confined corridors and wide-open spaces. Outside the station, the parking lot contains long sightlines, but once inside, cramped hallways and a computer-cluttered broadcast room provide ample close-range combat opportunities.
  • Chinatown: Set in a foggy downtown district, this nighttime map is lit up by flickering neon signs and a full moon. A re-imagining of the original Call of Duty multiplayer map “Carentan”, players will need to be careful on these streets, as almost every building in the map can be occupied, providing perfect cover for enemies waiting for a chance to line you up in their sights.
  • Creek: Set in a wide-open village ravaged by combat where concealment is the difference between life and death, a gaping ravine divides this map into two. Open clearings with sheer cliff faces and ample forested cover make this map ideal for snipers and long-range firefights.
  • Killhouse: A small training warehouse filled with various building mock ups that feature soft and hard cover points. Expect fast-paced and fierce firefights for maximum close-quarters chaos.

Toukiden 2 hits March 24th

Explore a Massive Open World and Hunt Hordes of Deadly Demons
in the Action RPG Series’ Brand New Narrative, Available on PlayStation®4 on March 24th

Sydney, 22nd March 2017 - KOEI TECMO is proud to announce this week’s release of Toukiden 2, the latest entry in the gripping series of demon hunting action RPGs developed by Omega Force. Offering a vast open world, new combat elements, fresh online features for up to four players, and a brand-new standalone story, Toukiden 2 launches on the 24th with a new trailer for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system.

In Toukiden 2, players will assume the mantle of a mysterious Slayer who has awakened after a ten-year slumber to a world shrouded in darkness. Players’ battle skills and strategic acumen will be put to the ultimate test as they strive to save humankind in a vast and dangerous land known as the Otherworld, a tattered landscape divided into six distinct Ages which each represent an era of Japanese history. Repel the soul-devouring Oni alongside Slayers from around the world in the game’s rich online environment.

Alongside a fresh and captivating narrative, the addition of Western lore-inspired Oni adds intriguing new adversaries to the Toukiden series. To combat these new looming threats, two series-first weapon types make their debut in Toukiden 2: the sword and shield, a combination offering a solid blend of offence and defence, and the chain whip, which allows for fast-paced maneuvers that can quickly tear apart Oni flesh. Each armament can be used for light and heavy attacks alike, and each offers special abilities that can be combined with a versatile, world-bending tool known as the Demon Hand to balance the scales of power when battling Oni.

Defeating Oni will free souls of fallen heroes known as Mitama, who are based on Japanese historical figures and can be utilised to power-up your character, weapons, armour and the Demon Hand. New to the Toukiden series, the element of Control is also empowered by Mitama, which specialises in summoning Oni to fight for the player!

One Thousand Ropes: Film Review

One Thousand Ropes: Film Review

Cast: Uelese Petaia, Frankie Adams, Beulah Koale
Director: Tusi Tamasese

Tradition, spirituality, family ties, ghosts of the past long forgotten and haunting melancholia mixes together in Samoan director Tusi Tamasese's latest film, One Thousand Ropes.

Blending together a slow-burning concoction of humanity and redemption proves to be a fertile narrative ground for this tale of Maea (Uelese Petaia, quiet and dignified, with hints of more bubbling dangerously under).

Living in a simple life in a run-down empty house in Wellington, and working daily at dawn in a bakery before providing Samoan traditional massage to pregnant women, Maea finds himself trapped in a modern world that appears to be turning its back on his old ways.

From old ways of kneading dough to old midwifery, Maea is stuck dealing with the consequences of how he's handled life - and haunted by a warrior-like spirit lurking in the corner of his house that he believes he freed during a massage session.

Things further reach breaking point, when the bakery he toils at brings in a machine to keep up the pace and Maea continues to lose business to the local church and their midwifery ways.

When his pregnant daughter (Shortland Street's Frankie Adams) returns home, beaten and battered by her partner, Maea finds his quest for redemption inadvertently renewed - but will the sins of his past ruin what's left of his future?

One Thousand Ropes is gloomy, bleak and slow-moving - and all the more powerful because of it.

It also has something of a commanding presence in among the darkness as Tamasese weaves intricately and carefully laid out details into the fabric of this Samoan story that the audience will have to work with to get the most out of. He did something similar with 2011's The Orator, which delivered an emotional punch of some considerable heft.

While One Thousand Ropes occasionally teeters on leading a little too slowly towards its denouement, its stripped back paucity and ominous foreboding build a terrifically-laced atmosphere that washes over those willing to spend a little patience in the cinema. It's already had good reviews out of Sundance and also the Berlinale Film Festival, and it's easy to see why.

Themes of redemption and reconciliation co-exist and coagulate in the mix, as the a-lot-said-but-little-spoken forlorn film plays out. The pay-off is tangible too, and while Tamasese leaves a lot for the audience to connect the dots, the selective way the emotional moments land and the truths are revealed deliver maximum impact as well.

Predominantly, this is due to Petaia's dignified turn, one which is understated and subtle. Etched on his face, the man once known as The Lion and who's encouraged to smash the perpetrator of his wife's beating lumbers with the guilt of the past and teeters with fragility on the brink of giving in. This is a turn that delivers so much by doing so little.

There's some terrific imagery too - from the succubus-like Seipua haunting Maea and strangling him to Maea's incessant kneading of the dough demonstrating his volcano-like emotions bubbling under, Tamasese does a lot with lingering slow shots, filling the frames of the film and providing more than screeds of dialogue ever could.

If you succumb to the rhythms and the slow-creeping power pace of One Thousand Ropes, the end result is quite unsettling and powerful. Weaving together both myth and personal tragedy are a potent mix for Tamasese, and despite the sedentary pace potentially putting some people off, it actually works in ways you could never expect.

Evocative, haunting and hard to shake, One Thousand Ropes is a timely reminder, once again, that small-scale intimacy works infinitely better than big screen bluster.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Innocents: Film Review

The Innocents: Film Review

Cast: Lou de Laage, Agata Buzek
Director: Anne Fontaine

The fact The Innocents (Les Innocentes) is based on a true story makes its harrowing nature, at times, a little harder to bear.

Set in post World War II Poland, the film concerns itself with the jaw-dropping horrifying events at a convent. Our heroine is young female French doctor Mathilde (de Laage), who's working with the Red Cross.

Asked to enter a nearby convent, she finds a young girl in labour - and from there, the situation starts to unfold in as much gripping as terrifying ways as it plays out.

With some striking imagery, the director of Coco avant Chanel, hides some of the horrific darkness on offer here; scenes of white crisp snow at the convent mask the true nature of what lies within. And from dawn prayers and hymns, the sound of a woman's cries is utterly shocking.

The sound in The Innocents is utterly mesmerising; from the sound of cloister bells ringing clearly out, to quiet moments within, the atmospherics are completely entrancing.

It's fair to say that what unspools in Les Innocentes is not the easiest of watches, but Fontaine sensitively handles the mix of sexual violence and unspeakable horrors in such a way, that what actually transpires is as powerful as it is difficult to view. If many question their faith in the film, undoubtedly others will question theirs with what plays out

This tightly written and prestigely-acted piece knows never to revel in its horrors, both that men do and the life post a war inflicts on others, but it also knows that the silent power comes from within.

So, with a respectful score, and a lack of overbearing bluster to push home its message, The Innocents emerges as something quite unusual - a film about a rare set of horrors that ends up being more moving than you'd expect given its deeply troubling and real subject matter.