Friday, 15 February 2019

Fahrenheit 11/9: DVD Review

Fahrenheit 11/9: DVD Review

In a case of it's unclear whether the world has got so crazy that it matches Michael Moore's sense of craziness, Fahrenheit 11/9 is an odd film that is wildly missold by its poster image.
Fahrenheit 11/9: Film Review

With the figure of Donald Trump swinging on the golf course as the White House explodes in the background, you'd be pushed into thinking that the documentary is a takedown of Trump. And rightly so, as Moore's seething anger has been on show for all to see.

But what Moore does with Fahrenheit 11/9 is more to build a case for how America was leading to this already and the dire state of the US political scene, and citizens' landscape.

While drawing some lazy comparisons to Trump as Hitler, the large portion of Moore's latest is more about exposing the continuing devastation of Flint, as initially chronicled in Roger and Me. Returning to the story of how the contaminated water is killing the inhabitants there, Moore tries a stunt as well with the powers that be.

Fahrenheit 11/9: Film Review

But much like portions of this documentary, it feels wildly off base, as Moore rambles through his own past, through America's disillusionments, and his quest to push back against the current - and past - regimes; even Obama doesn't get off lightly.

If anything, Fahrenheit 11/9 is more a rallying cry for the end of democracy, with a speech at the end intoning "If this is the America we're trying to save, maybe ask yourself why. It didn't need to end up like this - and it still doesn't. Evil is a slow moving organism. We didn't need comfort, we needed action. Sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to wake up and realise."

All in all, Fahrenheit 11/9 suffers from the fact reality is too devastating for Moore's formerly incisive eyes; someone more in control of their critical abilities could have shaped this occasionally overlong piece into something more lean and more damning.

As it is, Fahrenheit 11/9 flounders a little, and merely blows hot air, when perhaps it should seethe with rage. 

Thursday, 14 February 2019

A Star is Born: Blu Ray Review

A Star is Born: Blu Ray Review

In truth, A Star Is Born's fourth iteration doesn't mess with the formula of those that have gone before it.
A Star Is Born: Film Review

While Bradley Cooper's directorial turn sees him framing Lady Gaga close up and letting her stripped back voice do the soaring, much of A Star Is Born makes for queasy viewing in a post MeToo world.
Cooper is Jackson Maine, a hard-drinking pill-popping long time veteran of the music scene, a MOR artist destined to fill stadiums, but whose love for the job is dwindling as his tinnitus grows ever stronger.

One night, after a concert, Maine stops off at a drag bar looking for his next booze fix, and is wowed by the on-stage performance of Ally (Gaga) who burns the stage down with her version of La Vie En Rose.

Swooping in on her, Maine nurtures an attraction, and believes he sees a kindred spirit in Ally, whose self-destruction is at the cost of belief in herself as a singer / performer. However, with a bit of coaching and some throwing under the bus, Ally begins to blossom, as Maine's career and star begins to fall.

A Star Is Born: Film Review

Billed as a romance, and try as one might, the overriding feeling of A Star Is Born leaves a queasy feeling it's more about domestic and emotional abuse than a star-crossed romance. And an icky one about male-fuelled control as well, given how Ally is moulded by both Maine, the music industry and a controlling manager.

While the concert scenes are incredible and Cooper manages to inject some spine-tingling touches into their exuberant execution, the fairytale side of A Star Is Born feels blessed with some corny dialogue that is fudged in the exposition.

Still, it's already proven that this is what audiences lap up, and while the unevenness of events hits the film's second half, Lady Gaga's Ally truly shines when the screen needs it the most.

It's clear Cooper as the director is in love with Gaga's voice and physique, framing her in close ups and excluding others in the handheld execution, touches which enhance the sheer power of her voice.

In truth she delivers a competent performance as Ally, from wide-eyed innocent to blossoming talent to troubled wife, Gaga delivers more of a gamut and arc than Cooper's Maine does.

Solid support comes from Elliott who appears in a clutch of scenes as Maine's brother, and delivers more than his keeper-of-the-demons-at-the-door role would have you invest in.

A Star Is Born: Film Review

A Star Is Born is a little too overlong and indulgent to fully succeed in the romance stakes - it does bless us with a cinematic talent that's already been nurtured in American Horror Story.

But to be honest, the over-riding uneasy feeling of control, abuse and male power, along with talk of how this will be showered with Oscars sits at odds with a world one year after MeToo was born.

It may not have been Cooper's intention and audiences may be lapping this up as a star-crossed romance for our times, but A Star Is Born is an odd experience, part concert tour footage and part blast from the past promotion of male privilege. 

Happy Death Day 2U: Film Review

Happy Death Day 2U: Film Review

Cast: Jess Rothe, Phi Vu, Rachel Matthews, Israel Broussard, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin
Director: Christopher Landon

Happy Death Day 2U: Film Review
2017's Happy Death Day was a blast; a slasher that combined Groundhog Day with some genuine scares, and a character arc for its more than charismatic lead, you'd almost be surprised it was never done before.

But unlike the first, this latest sidelines the scares for a more loopy sci-fi spin on what's happening to Tree Gelbman (Rothe, easily the star of this show), who once again finds herself caught in a murderous day time and time again.

Happy Death Day 2U deserves some commendation for trying something different, and while the beginning wrong foots you - in a clever manner - Rothe soon commands front and centre of this mesh up of Groundhog Day, Scream, Quantum Leap, The Big Bang Theory, Happy Death Day and bizarrely frat movies where kids take on the dean.

The resultant mix is less a mess, more a showcase of Rothe's range as the silliness gets ramped up, pushing the slasher edges to the back (which is a real shame). Certainly, the last third of the film veers too far into dumb comedy territory as the multiverse mentality comes to the fore, and the Frat
House shenanigans take precedence.
Happy Death Day 2U: Film Review

It's almost too slapstick to hit where it should - but Rothe holds it gamely together with a depth that helps elevate the material and the icky sentimentality. (Though a skydiving scene is brilliant in its execution.)

And yet, despite this, Happy Death Day 2U deserves some kudos for not repeating itself (ironically, given the nature of the first, and the premise of the latest).

It's inevitable there will be a third genre mesh-up (Happy D3ath Day, anyone?) and it's inherent on those behind it to maybe inject some of the scares back in - unless they completely go off book for the genres in the trilogy.
Happy Death Day 2U: Film Review

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

District 9 director Neill Blomkamp partners with Anthem

District 9 director Neill Blomkamp partners with Anthem

EA and Bioware have teamed up with acclaimed director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, and Chappie) to create a live-action short film, based on the world of Anthem.

Today, Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) and Neill Blomkamp, the Academy Award-nominated director of District 9, Elysium, and Chappie, have announced that they have collaborated on Conviction, an original live-action short-film based on BioWare’s Anthem™. In Conviction, Blomkamp brings the vast world of Anthem to life with his own story set decades before the beginning of the game. This live-action short invites viewers to experience Blomkamp’s unique style of creating photorealistic visual effects and bringing them seamlessly into the real world, this time with EA’s highly-anticipated new game. 

A teaser of Blomkamp’s Conviction is now live, with the full short going live February 14 on the Oats Studios YouTube channel. In the short, people will see the player city of Fort Tarsis in the game come to life, and the freelancers that live within it. These freelancers who use Javelin exosuits, have been re-created by Neill’s team to show them in live action as they fight off the main villain and head of the evil Dominion faction, the Monitor.
Anthem: Conviction

“I was really blown away by this incredible world BioWare created the very first time I saw Anthem,” said Neill Blomkamp. “Conviction sets the stage with a narrative that touches on Anthem’s beautiful and immersive world, which is ripe for exploration by these powerful Javelins. A world where danger is lurking on every ledge and in each valley.”

In Anthem, players can play with up to three friends to explore and battle in a dangerous, mysterious world with great characters and a unique BioWare story. As freelancers, players don Javelin exosuits, making them powerful heroes with strong weapons and incredible special abilities to help them survive in an ever-changing, unfinished world. Players will be able to customize and personalize their Javelins with unique paint jobs and gear so they’ll have the right tools to confront almost any situation and look good doing it. As players work together to find vast ruins, defeat deadly enemies and claim otherworldly artifacts, they’ll be unlocking their own individual story fighting against The Dominion, a ferocious militaristic society.

Players can unleash their power in Anthem worldwide on February 22 for Origin for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Bohemian Rhapsody: DVD Review

Bohemian Rhapsody: DVD Review

To be honest, Bohemian Rhapsody does not, and will not, care for what critics think.
Bohemian Rhapsody: Film Review

This broad, crowd-pleasing attempt to turn Queen's life story - and ultimately, that of Freddie Mercury - into a cinematic experience, is more akin to putting an inordinate amount of money into a jukebox and blasting out Queen's Greatest Hits on repeat, with Brian May's guitar riffs ultimately numbing you into submission..

That is to say, the Antony McCarten-penned biopic is electric and offers a kind of magic only when its lead Rami Malek prances around on stage, overbite and all, effecting the mannerisms of Mercury himself and the flamboyancy of performance. It's here that Malek just about manages to transcend his "Stars In Their Eyes" moment to remind you of why these songs endure.

Unfortunately, it's all the rest of what sits in between the culmination of the Live Aid performance and Queen experimenting with their sound that feels like a bum B-side, depressingly put out solely because the label demands it.

Bohemian Rhapsody: Film Review

Racing formulaically between narrative beats, and hitting every familiar moment of a rags-to-riches story - including family tensions and subsequent resolutions, Bohemian Rhapsody suffers from plodding plotting, a defiant coyness over the star's bisexuality and rampant hedonistic lifestyle and also offers an insulting nod'n'wink at hidden gay sexuality throughout. (It's no wonder Frankie Howerd's Up Pompeii is playing on a TV early on).

In many ways, it feels like a three act West End musical in its execution (though some drone shots at the Live Aid performance at the end are thrilling, a sense of spectacle and scale evident in every swoop from the skies through the crowd and to Freddie himself on stage) and is pigheadedly determined to ensure that it provides more dancing to the crowd as it dances around its subject, and subsequently provides rarely any insight into Mercury other than what the downpat story beats demand of it.

Bohemian Rhapsody: Film Review

While Malek is transcendant at times, and occasionally sells the internal conflict of Mercury well, he's let down massively by a script that's as formulaic as it is predictable.

Ultimately, Bohemian Rhapsody is more interested in serving a crowd a slice of rock'n'roll pie than providing a full meal - heaven alone knows what Freddie would have made of it. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Just Cause 4: PS4 Review

Just Cause 4: PS4 Review

Released by Square Enix
Developed by Avalanche Studios
Platform: PS4

Just Cause 3 was a blast; a game where logic defied the odds, and where physics was a concept rather than a reality.
Just Cause 4: PS4 Review

But it was also a game that took its action movie roots seriously and progressed the story of revolution via Rico Rodriguez. Above all that it was also fun.

Just Cause 4, somewhat disappointingly, is a case of more of the same. But with a few technical issues marring the actual gameplay as well as new gadgets to tweak

This time, Rodriguez is taking on the Black Hand, a group of mercenaries last seen in the previous episodes as they sweep over Solis, a fictional South American country. But factored in this time to issues within Solis, Rodriguez has to deal with weather problems as well...and a father figure hides in the background

Just Cause 4 has a kernel of a good game within, but developers have over-complicated some of the gadgets in the hope of tweaking the system and improving on what was already done. It's a tough line to negotiate, embrace and enhance the past, but also try something new - and Avalanche don't quite get there.

Rico's trusty grappling hook has the ability to be updated with the chance to launch tethers with balloons on them to hoist people up and cars as well; or thrusters to do much the same. They're nice additions to have but difficult to execute in combat in reality. There's little time to quickly equip them and fire them off unless you plan ahead.
Just Cause 4: PS4 Review

The reality is that Just Cause 4 feels like a progression of the third instalment; the flight abilities with wingsuits and parachutes still work incredibly well, shifting you around the world with speed and panache.

And the open world has potential but the place feels a little empty in places, with large swathes of fields having nothing but combatants within. Bolstering the army of rebels is one of the sole causes of the game, causing regions to be gradually liberated, and squads to push back the Black Hand factions.

It takes a little time to master the map skills, and the upgrade system as well; it's not intuitive and does feel a little over-complicated in parts. Extreme weather is nicely executed, but it's seldom the game-changer you'd be expecting, given the fanfare that comes with it.

Once Just Cause 4 has some of your time, you begin to realise the game's core mechanics are the same they have ever been - destruction is the name of the game still, and Just Cause 4's commitment to OTT set explosive pieces brings the fun that you'd expect.

There's a lot of repetition in the side missions and the main story as well, so you'd be forgiven for simply tooling up Rico and heading out into the world to see what happens - it's never as exciting as you'd expect and the feeling of deja vu is disappointing in some ways.

Ultimately Just Cause 4 does what it says on the tin - nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Border: Film Review

Border: Film Review

Riffing on the actual borders of a country and also the borders of what lengths humanity will go to, Swedish drama Border is a curio of a film, anchored by a tenacious lead.

Based on a short story by Let The Right One In's John Ajvide Lindqvist, it's the story of Tina, a misfit integrated into society, who literally has a nose for trouble, but who sits on the fringes of the outside world.
Border: NZIFF Review

Working as a border agent, and with an ability to sniff out guilt on people, Tina's a loner, separated by her looks from others, and with a father whose spiralling illness and dementia is further heightening her feeling of separation.

However, one day when Tina sniffs out another like her at the border, she finds her world changed.

Border is an intriguing mix of supernatural edges and drama as well as an interesting look at identity.
Eva Melander imbues Tina and her overbite neanderthal look with a great deal of heart and hesitancy.

Sniffing the air, second guessing herself and also using a sixth sense to connect to animals around her, Tina is a character out of place, but Melander's portrayal of her is never anything less than a lost soul trapped in a world she appears at odds with.

Themes of identity and embracing your own imperfections sit alongside Border's darker grittier edges (the likes of which are sadly spoilers to discuss) but director Ali Abbasi keeps the mystery rattling along - but never at the cost of the "human" element.

While the back third of the film suffers a little from some of its reveals, the tenacious performance of Melander helps overcome some of the narrative foibles, added in by a series of writers (including Holiday's director Isabella Eklof) and expanding from the original story.

At its heart, Border is about the borders between light and dark; but equally, it's actually more about the borders of the self and identity.

It's one of the more genre audacious films in the festival and proffers an intriguing insight into another world - and our own humanity. 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Mahersha Ali
Director: Robert Rodriguez

Little more than the sum of its hollow parts, Alita: Battle Angel is a spectacle bar none.
Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

Sat with James Cameron for the best part of two decades, the CGI movie, which meshes cyberpunk with Young Adult sensibilities (not always successfully, one may add) is an interesting start to the beginning of a hopeful franchise.

Taken from the Manga source material Battle Angel Alita, Waltz is Dr Dyson Ido, a cyber-surgeon in a city several centuries in the future. Finding a cyborg with a functioning heart in the scrapyard, Ido rebuilds her in the hope that she will live again.

But when Alita (Salazar, recently seen in Bird Box) comes around, she has no memory of who or what she is. Hunted for what she represents, Alita finds her world turned upside down as she regains flashes of who she is.
Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

It's fair to say that Alita: Battle Angel looks incredible.

The mix of the CGI realisation and the integration of technology with human edges is nothing short of flawless, and Salazar brings life to the CGI character lead, lending a heart that's needed.

Alita's wide eyes may suggest innocence and be in keeping with anime's trademarks, but it also helps the character stand out from the crowd, as she's forced to deliver some truly groan-worthy dialogue, ripped from the pages of a pulpy Young Adult novel, via some Nicholas Sparks style imagery.

Waltz adds humanity to his doctor, ensuring that the paternal relationship hits the right notes, even if it follows down the well-worn paths of any father-daughter movie.

It's Alita's mix of familiar that stops the film from feeling truly original; from elements of Rollerball crossed with Transformers, portions of the City that Never Sleeps Spider-Man DLC, via Detroit:
Becoming Human, Ghost In the Shell elements, to a love story in among separated societies that was part of Mortal Engines, there's an incredible sense of deja vu on show here, coupled with a feeling that the story's as low stakes as it could be, with frustrating hints proffered of what could come in a future instalment.
Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

Whether that does eventuate will be another matter entirely, and certainly in the film's back 20 minutes, the feeling of resolution is frustrated by out-of-character character behaviours that don't gel and jar the flow.

Ultimately, Alita: Battle Angel is a worthy attempt at something new and is visionary in its visual execution once again (as you'd expect from Cameron et al) - but once again, a sci-fi epic is frustratingly hamstrung by its human edges, and its lack of commitment to tone that leaves Alita floundering for a USP in an ever-crowded pantheon of franchise wannabes.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

This Week in GTA Online: The Schyster Deviant Muscle Car, Schyster T-Shirt Unlock, Double GTA$ & RP Opportunities, Weekend Bonuses and More

This Week in GTA Online: The Schyster Deviant Muscle Car, Schyster T-Shirt Unlock, Double GTA$ & RP Opportunities, Weekend Bonuses and More

Southern San Andreas’ roads get a little beefier with the arrival of the Schyster Deviant muscle car, now available at Legendary Motorsport. Players can also log in anytime this week to receive a free Schyster T-shirt, along with opportunities to receive GTA$50,000 and rare vehicle manufacturer and DJ T-Shirts for each delivered Business Battle Crate.

Double GTA$ & RP opportunities abound this week in the new RC Bandito Races and likewise for those looking to settle scores in Trading Places (Remix). Nightclub owners will also receive a 2X Boost on Nightclub Popularity from Nightclub Management missions during the same period, along with a doubling of Nightclub Income.

Players can continue earning a GTA$250K reward for logging in each weekend this February, with the possibility of being awarded up to GTA$1M in total.

Please see below for further details, including discounts on select Properties and Vehicles and more.

Once upon a time the Deviant was considered an underdog in the muscle car field. But in the land of opportunity, an underdog is only a genetically-engineered monstrosity in waiting, and that’s something Team Schyster know all too well. Revamped, remodeled, re-engineered and released on the unsuspecting streets of Los Santos, the Schyster Deviant is back with a point to prove - available now at Legendary Motorsport. 
Challenge miniscule racers at major stakes with Double GTA$ & RP on the recently released RC Bandito Races all week long, then settle the age-old conflict between Beast and Juggernaut to earn double rewards on Trading Places (Remix) for the same period.
Pack the house at twice the speed this week with a 2X Boost on Nightclub Popularity gained from Nightclub Management missions. You'll also rake in Nightclub Income at twice the usual rate - just be sure to empty your safe when it reaches capacity.
To celebrate the release of the Deviant, Team Schyster is awarding all players who log in this week with a freeSchyster T-shirt
And for a limited time, successfully delivered Business Battle Crates have a chance of awarding a cool GTA$50,000, along with a hand-picked mix of rare T-Shirts from your favorite vehicle manufacturers and After Hours DJs.
Play GTA Online any weekend this February to earn a GTA$250K reward the following week, up to GTA$1M for the month. So if you played at any point between February 1st and 3rd, be sure to jump in this weekend to claim your first GTA$250K cash drop.
Make the most of this week's Nightclub bonuses with a suite of After Hours discounts to get you up and running: 
  • Nightclubs & Renovations – 30% off
  • Nightclub Garages – 30% off
  • Nightclub Warehouses – 30% off
  • Nightclub DJs – 30% off
  • Maibatsu Mule Custom – 30% off
  • MTL Pounder Custom – 30% off
And save big on a host of bleeding-edge machinery through February 13th - stage your hacking operations from the safety of the Benefactor Terrorbyte or reign supreme in the Arena with the MTL Cerberus:
  • Pegassi Oppressor Mk II – 25% off
  • Benefactor Terrorbyte – 35% off
  • Benefactor Terrorbyte Add-Ons & Renovations – 30% off
  • Annis ZR380 – 25% off
  • MTL Cerberus – 25% off
  • HVY Menacer – 35% off
  • B-11 Strikeforce – 35% off
For more information on all the latest GTA Online bonuses and coming events, head to the Social Club Events page.

Friday, 8 February 2019

The Front Runner: Film Review

The Front Runner: Film Review

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, Sara Paxton, JK Simmons
Director: Jason Reitman

It's perhaps pertinent that Reitman's film about Senator Gary Hart (Jackman, dialling down his usual dazzling charisma) deals a lot with the so-called intrusion of the press rather than the actual scandal which subsumed the man.
The Front Runner: Film Review

Jackman is Hart, who after a failed campaign in 1984, comes back to try again. Entering the Democratic Presidential Nomination race as the clear front runner, Hart looks like he could be the change that's needed.

But backstage, in the journalism world, accusations begin to swirl ever more strongly of the possibility he's having an affair - and emboldened by a tip off to a local paper, the desire to hold him to account begins to grow stronger as the debate over to whether to ask him divides newsrooms.

It's an interesting discussion about where scrutiny ends and where intrusion begins, and certainly drawing from the source material that covers such a debate, Reitman's film feels more weighted to ethics than the actual drama of what's transpired.

But in some ways, it's also emboldened by a dawdling journey that takes it away from the norm.

Questions over Hart are never clearly answered, even though they're defined, and Jackman's downplaying of the senator certainly helps to create a murkiness and uncertainty over who's right or what actually happened. Reitman's smart enough to only hint at what transpired - and certainly with Paxton's turn as the mistress thrown to the lions, there's always a feeling that the scales are tipped against Hart. But it doesn't quite lend the film to the concept of must-see drama; more overly long set up piece.

However, Jackman plays it well; snapping with intensity as the degrees of arrogance within unfurl - and thanks to an unfussy direction from Reitman, the film's strength lies in its relationships, not its extra-marital ones.

Ethics certainly provoke interest, and while the film's less dramatic than you'd expect, it's still a slow-burning engager at times. JK Simmons delivers strength in a part that becomes less and less as the film plays out - the weariness of his face tells more than a blustering soliloquy could.

There are moments when characters and events feel side-lined but the aforementioned unfussy approach to the story lend it a thoughtful credence and quality of debate over intrusion that plays on the mind after it's finished.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Win a double pass to see WHAT MEN WANT

Win a double pass to see WHAT MEN WANT

To celebrate the release of WHAT MEN WANT, in cinemas February 14, you can win a double pass.

About What Men Want

Win a double pass to see WHAT MEN WANTAli Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is a successful sports agent who’s constantly boxed out by her male colleagues.

When Ali is passed up for a well-deserved promotion, she questions what else she needs to do to succeed in a man’s world... until she gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts!

With her newfound power, Ali looks to outsmart her colleagues as she races to sign the next basketball superstar, but the lengths she has to go to will put her relationship with her best friends and a potential new love interest (Aldis Hodge) to the test.

WHAT MEN WANT is the latest comedy from director Adam Shankman (HAIRSPRAY) and producers Will Packer and James Lopez (GIRLS TRIP), co-starring Tracy Morgan, Richard Roundtree, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Josh Brener, Tamala Jones, Phoebe Robinson, Max Greenfield, Jason Jones, Brian Bosworth, Chris Witaske and Erykah Badu.