Thursday, 19 September 2019

Ad Astra: Film Review

Ad Astra: Film Review

Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland
Director: James Gray

More a Freudian rumination on masculinity that's set in space, James Gray's Ad Astra takes on the vast reaches of the great beyond and delivers a stunning piece of world-building as ever there's been on a universal scale.
Ad Astra: Film Review

A restrained and almost muted Pitt is Roy McBride, the son of an accomplished astronaut Cliff McBride (Lee Jones). Constantly living in his shadow, Roy is sent to find the missing McBride senior who's presumed lost in space somewhere near Neptune, after a series of electrical surges threatens to wipe life from the solar system.

But there's ambiguity over whether McBride senior is to blame for the surges or is trying to stop them...All of which puts the father and son on a collision course both have clearly been trying to avoid their entire lives.

Gray and Pitt conjure up a world in the near future that's as believable as anything seen in the likes of Gravity and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

With vertiginous shots early on giving way to more intimate and internal moments, Gray's film ponders on what it's like to be man, how to deal with an estranged father and how to connect to others. (There's a delicious irony the space mission is about finding life outside of Earth when it's more ground-bound matters that anchor the movie.)

Pitt's muted throughout, prone to his inner monologue rather than espousing reams of dialogue; and when the break comes somewhere in the film, Pitt delivers an emotional range that's as devastating to his character as it needs to be to the audience.
Ad Astra: Film Review

Gray's space world is fascinating - and while there are moments of action set on the moon and thanks to the unease of an unexpected mayday call, the slow calculated script and delivery thereof lead to plenty of payoffs.

It's not perfect though - while the mundanities of commercial space travel are recreated with ease (fast food companies and their neon signs sit along the likes of Virgin on the Moon), some of the script fails its women. Tyler gets a thankless role as a faceless wife (though this is perhaps the point given how Pitt's character can't connect with others in his life) and Ruth Negga shines all too briefly as the conspiracy elements of the mystery are ratcheted up on Mars.

The film delivers much subtlety on male relationships, but it's also content to dispatch some rote lines such as the double-edged "We are all we've got" to satiate those less inclined to the more thoughtful leanings of what's on screen.

Ultimately, Ad Astra works best in its first two thirds - its delivery of some answers and some leaps of logic in the latter stages cause the foundations to flounder.

However, in terms of a rumination on the folly of man, it's second to none - and one of the most arrestingly visual, thoughtful and immersive well-executed experiences that 2019 has had to offer.

Abominable: Film Review

Abominable: Film Review

Vocal cast: Chloe Bennet, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Albert Tsai, Sarah Paulson
Director: Jill Culton

Dreamworks' latest dials up the cute, channels a bit of Kubo and the Two Strings, and showcases Chinese leads - so in theory, it should be a home run.

But the tale of Yi (SHIELD's Chloe Bennet) and her quest to return a furry Yeti back to Everest at times suffers from an over-familiarity of themes and ideas, rendering parts of it too much like deja vu.
Abominable: Film Review

However, it's in the subtleties and the beautiful evocation of some of the sum of its parts that Abominable justifies itself on the big screen.

It's the visuals which soar in Abominable, not the characters. Sure, there's comedy Peng, the basketball-yearning youngster who bonds with Everest in a kind of dude-bro relationship that brings some of the funnies the kids will love; and there's a silly snake that pops up from time to time to amuse, but much of Abominable's characters are sadly forgotten when the film's over.

The aforementioned evocations of landscapes, of giant Buddha or of the lunacy of a blueberry attack from the sky soar, lifting the King Kong chase scenes early on from a kind of mental checking out that may attack parts of the audience during the film.

But when the group surf a field of yellow daffodils towards the end, Abominable finds its visual groove, a symphony of magical mixing with the mystical proving to be the bright vibrant compelling colour touch the script desperately needed.
Abominable: Film Review

Izzard is serviceable as an English villain named Burnish (a sly nod to a mix of Carl from UP and Mr Burns from the Simpsons - hence Burnish perhaps?), and Bennet has earnestness aplenty as Yi the strong and yet vulnerable heroine throughout. Animation on the Yeti is stunning, mixing Toothless visuals with white furry edges and blurring the line between pet pooch and cutesy Yeti with aplomb.

(Though little with the Yeti is better than the opening POV escape which hints at the menace within.)

Ultimately, heading into safe territory does much to harm Abominable's chances of standing the test of time, but it's perfectly enjoyable-in-the-moment animated fare that's more interested in evocative visuals than deep meaningful storylines.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Good Boys: Film Review

Good Boys: Film Review

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Will Forte, Brady Noon, Keith L Williams, Molly Gordon
Director: Gene Stupnitsky

The sex comedy has gone about as far as it can do in modern gross out terms.

Yet, never once has it wandered into tweens' territory, something which producer Seth Rogen and his team acknowledge but dare to go there anyway.
Good Boys: Film Review

In the latest comedy to burst out of the ranks, Good Boys follows a close knit trio of young sixth graders, the self-named Beanbag Boys, led by Jacob Tremblay's Max. Friends since their younger years, the trio find themselves invited to a kissing party where Max's crush will be.

But when their plan to learn about the opposite sex goes awry , they're sent on an adventure that pushes them out of their comfort zone.

It may send the idea of naivety to the edges, and a lot of the gags may centre around the sixth graders' misunderstanding of sexual posturing, but Good Boys offers some solid laughs in among the gross out behaviour.

Once you get past the whole "should tweens be talking / doing this," there's a vein of something in Good Boys which transgresses the cute and crass with some ease. There's also something to be said for the way the film mines the inevitable peer pressure of tweens these days to understand sex and their misplaced braggadacio of understanding between friends - certainly while the laughs come from here, they also come from a place of sweetness and an inherent understanding of the pressure constantly imposed on children's lives.
Good Boys: Film Review

The trio are sweetly matched; from Tremblay's conflict over friends and girls, via loudmouth Thor's preoccupation with musical theatre to Lucas' compulsive need to tell the truth (breakout star Williams), this group feels real, and the push and pull of friendship is cleverly explored during the no-longer-than-it-needs-to-be 90 minute run time.

It will be easily dismissed as a Superbad: The Early Years, but Good Boys, while nothing superlative, deserves to stand on its own two feet, mixing drugs, sex and comedy with a nice touch of sweet observations, the film offers a solid night out with solid laughs at a universal experience.

Midsommar: Film Review

Midsommar: Film Review

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor
Director: Ari Aster

Director Ari Aster's next project after Hereditary is a descent into a psychological freefall, rather than an out-and-out freakout fest.

The ever wonderful Florence Pugh stars as Dani and Jack Reynor stars as Christian, her feckless boyfriend. When something happens to Dani (an event best left unspoiled, thanks to the pre-titles play out of dread), the pair try to get back on track.

Midsommar: NZIFF Review

Invited by Christian to tag along to a trip to a commune in Sweden where he and a handful of mates are heading for research, Dani finds her uncertainty in their relationship escalating.

It's exacerbated by the pagan rituals and lifestyle of those at the Swedish midsummer festival in Hälsingland .... but there's more going on than any of them realise.

If Hereditary was psychological terror, then Midsommar is the break-up album.

A sprawling, slow-moving descent that's in no rush to unveil its hand, the film's commitment to unsettling can be interpreted in many ways.

Whether it's a take on Americans crashing European ways of life and disrupting cultural matters, or simply a feeling of off-kilter unusual behaviours, Midsommar's desire to unnerve is there from the start - and carefully telegraphed.

Artfully executed by Aster, and beautifully choreographed by DP Pawel Pogorzelski, and blessed with a turn of frailty and subtlety by Pugh as she negotiates extreme trauma, Midsommar is more about the horrors of human behaviours than the appearance of the supernatural and what it can entail.

There are lashings of humour throughout, but as the crescendo of the creepy builds, there's more a sense of uncertainty rippling through this Wicker Man / League of Gentlemen hybrid folk horror and bucolic beastliness.

The horror comes in the consequences, and the reality of what's next - and while the conclusion may infuriate some and feel derivative to others, what Aster's done is essentially cycle back to the beginning's themes.

Midsommar is less a dream, but even less a nightmare - it's a waking breathing feeling of insomnia, and it's stiflingly good because of it.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Aladdin: Blu Ray Review

Aladdin: Blu Ray Review

As the House of Mouse continues to plunder its own back catalogue for a seemingly never-ending list of live-action remakes, Guy Ritchie's Aladdin emerges as the latest contender.
Aladdin: Film Review

Following the 1992 story down to a tee, it's the tale of street rat Aladdin (Massoud, largely wooden other than in interactions with the genie) who parkours through the bazaars picking up goods where he can to exchange for food.

When Aladdin meets Princess Jasmine (Scott, given a moment of empowerment towards the end) he's smitten. But before he can act on this, he's stolen away by the villainous Jafar (Kenzari, muted, but for reasons that are obvious next to Smith's genie) to steal a lamp from a mysterious cavern....

Guy Ritchie and the team behind Aladdin don't do anything to radically tamper with the formula, instead adding embellishments and Ritchie's patented slow-mo action sequences to street escapes.

Aladdin: Film Review

The slowing down and speeding up of portions of the action (such as it is) adds to a sense of style and individuality that 2019's Aladdin has. The arrival of Prince Ali is more OTT Bollywood reveal now, and the costuming pops with colours and vibrancy.

But the film's nothing without its genie. And in truth, Will Smith delivers a different performance than Robin Williams' iconic and much-loved Genie. Less Williams, more Fresh Prince-cum-Big Willy style, Smith's charismatic in the role, and cartoony when needed. He elevates every scene he's in, and certainly Massoud, while looking the part, sparkles more in his interactions with the genie than through the rest of the film.

It's not damning Aladdin's 2019 iteration to say it's all right - while some may lament Jafar's apparently less villainous outing this time around, it's hard to go up against the energy of Will Smith's genie and not suffer. Anything OTT for the villain would have rendered this cartoon-like and that's not what the live-action films need to be - they need to have their own individuality.

Aladdin: Film Review

At its heart though, Aladdin is a family film that hits the fun needed and is never better than its original songs like Friend in Me, which have stood the test of time.

It may not be a Whole New World for the audience familiar with the original, but it does offer a chance for a new audience to engage with it and while it's a little overlong at 2 hours, it's largely entertaining popcorn family fare throughout.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters: Blu Ray Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters: Blu Ray Review

It's sound, fury and utter levels of stupidity which are the order of the day for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a film that makes less of a case for a cinematic universe than Godzilla and his Kaiju ilk deserve.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters: Film Review

Picking up five years after Godzilla stomped through San Fran, decimating the streets and killing indiscriminantly, the film wisely harnesses its focus on Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga's parents Mark and Emma. Separated after the loss of their son in the carnage, and with a daughter (Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown) living with her mother, Mark is a lost soul.

Whereas his former wife, Emma, has developed the Orca (a MacGuffin of the highest order) used to placate the Titans roaming the earth. However, when it appears that Emma and her tech have a breakthrough, it's stolen in a shoot-out at shadowy clandestine organisation Monarch, orchestrated by Charles Dance's baddie. Seemingly intent on raising the Titans from their respective global dormancy, Mark finds himself - along with various grunts and other one-note characters - thrust into the fight to save the day and prevent a repeat of the destruction of five years ago.

Godzilla: King of Monsters is a maddeningly average, and at times, awful film.

Muddy dark visuals mar what transpires on the screen (so much so, it's on a par with Game of Thrones' dark battle for Winterfell), terribly written human characters shout and do little to advance the story other than to bark exposition.

It exists solely to provide Kaiju carnage, as the film lurches as much through its 132 minutes as Godzilla going through a sea of treacle.

It's not what the Monsterverse wanted or needed; and while the parents-torn-apart trope is a well-worn one, the actors aren't given much to work with. With the exception of Bradley Whitford who relishes every syllable of lunacy dripping from his mouth, the main cast struggle through paper-thin motives and less than impressive character "arcs".

In terms of the monsters, the Kaiju and their subsequent fights are impressive - when you can make them out. Cast against dark backgrounds, and lit only to service storyboard outlines it appears, they work as forces of nature and destruction like they should. But the poor lighting of the film sees you straining, when you should be being doused in eye-popping action, not pondering if you need glasses.

Ultimately, in Godzilla: King of The Monsters, Dougherty and the gang try to have their Kaiju cake and eat it.

But by neglecting the humans to deliver only rote moments and by muddying the action, the film emerges as a gigantic bum note, a monstrous mess that does little to service the Godzilla legend and more to bury it in the sea forever.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Win John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum on Blu Ray

Win John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum on Blu Ray

Every Action Has Consequences
In this third installment of the adrenaline-fueled action franchise, super-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns with a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail. 
After killing a member of the shadowy international assassins guild, the High Table, John Wick is excommunicado, but the worlds most ruthless hit men and women await his every turn.
To celebrate the release of John Wick - Chapter 3 - Parabellum, thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy now!
John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum releases September 18

All you have to do is email your details and the word WICK!

Email now to 


Saturday, 14 September 2019

Win Aladdin on Blu Ray

Win Aladdin on Blu Ray

A kind-hearted street urchin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true
A street rat frees a genie from a lamp, granting all of his wishes and transforming himself into a charming prince in order to marry a beautiful princess. 
But soon, an evil sorcerer becomes hell-bent on securing the lamp for his own sinister purposes.
To celebrate the release of Aladdin on home release, thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy of Aladdin on Blu Ray!
Aladdin hits shops September 18!
All you have to do is email your details and the word ALADDIN!

Email now to 

Friday, 13 September 2019

Win Brightburn on Blu Ray

Win Brightburn on Blu Ray

To celebrate the release of Brighburn, out now on home release and thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy on Blu Ray!


He's Not Here To Save The World
What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? With Brightburn, the visionary filmmaker of Guardians of the Galaxy and Slither presents a startling, subversive take on a radical new genre: superhero horror.

All you have to do is email your details and the word BRIGHTBURN!
Competition ends September 27th

Email now to 

TRIALS® RISING New DLC Featuring Australia, Free Demo And New Season Available Now

TRIALS® RISING New DLC Featuring Australia, Free Demo And New Season Available Now

Trials Rising’s second expansion, Crash & Sunburn, brings players to the Southern Hemisphere

Today, Ubisoft launched Trials Rising’s second expansion, Crash & Sunburn, and a new season, Welcome to the Future, bringing two new track packs, customisation items, and a Halloween-themed event. Starting today, players will also be able to discover a sneak peek of Trials Rising for free on PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, the Xbox One family of devices including the Xbox One X, Windows PC and the Nintendo Switch™ system.

Click the image to watch the new trailer
Trials Rising Crash & Sunburn brings players on a journey below the equator to traverse the Amazon rainforest, admire Inca ruins, go on a safari and discover Antarctica. With 37 new tracks set across South America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica and two new fun bikes, players will also be able to obtain the new Jungle Explorer outfit, perfect for any adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.
Season 3, Welcome to the Future, brings a wealth of new customisation items for players’ riders and bikes. These new items will be released regularly throughout the season including two new rider outfits, the Cyborg and the Space Suit. The outfits will also be accompanied by two new bikes skins, the Robo skin for the Mantis and the Space Rover skin for the Rhino. In addition to these outfits and skins, Season 3 will also bring three futuristic style headlights and 10 new themed helmet accessories.

Beginning in October, a seasonal event will bring Halloween flair to Trials Rising in the form of spooky customisation items available in the gear store or in Halloween event crates. Riders can also seek out the Jack-o’-lanterns hidden across various tracks to unlock an exclusive helmet.

Trials Rising is out now for Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC and UPLAY+, Ubisoft’s subscription service. Crash & Sunburn, the second expansion, is now available for standalone purchase for $17.95, and is also available as part of the Expansion Pass for $29.95 or a UPLAY+ subscription.

For the latest news on Trials Rising and other Ubisoft games, please visit To try the free demo, please visit



Supernatural Action-Adventure Game Now Available at Physical and Digital Retail; Photo Mode, Expeditions and Expansions Coming Soon

Sydney, 12 September 2019 – Global videogame publisher 505 Games and its partner, internationally renowned developer Remedy Entertainment, Plc. today announced a host of upcoming post-launch content for the award-winning Control. Critics are calling Control, which launched globally* on Aug. 27, "one of the best games of 2019" (TIME Magazine) and "a game we'll be talking about for generations" (GamesRadar); the "visually stunning" (Entertainment Weekly) Control is "Remedy at the peak of its game" (VG247).

Upcoming content for the renowned supernatural action-adventure game includes:
  • Photo Mode: Remedy is working on the much-desired Photo Mode, arriving this fall free to all players, which will enable players to take awesome snapshots of Jesse in the Oldest House. 
  • New Game Mode: In December, the Expeditions game mode will be released, offering challenging new end-game content in which Jesse must help Security Chief Arish explore the mysterious Formation and its strange surroundings. Here you will face some of the greatest challenges the Oldest House has to throw at you. Expeditions will be free to all players.
  • Expansions: In 2020, two full, paid Expansions will be released, The Foundation and AWE. Both will offer new story missions, teams, enemies and game mechanics, and will take place in new locations within the Oldest House.
    • The Foundation will delve into the history of the Oldest House. At the request of the ever-mysterious Board, Jesse must explore what lies beneath the Bureau as she returns order to the Foundation and the Oldest House itself.
    • The second Expansion, AWE, will take Jesse into a new area of the Oldest House, the Investigations Sector, where the Bureau closely examines Altered World Events.

The PlayStation 4 Digital Deluxe Edition includes both Expansions, as well as an extra side mission, "Isolation" and an additional exclusive outfit, Jesse's Urban Response Gear. For players who have already purchased the main game for PS4, the Season Pass is now available for pre-order, and also includes both expansions (upon release).

Each Expansion will also be available to purchase individually at release, and the Season Pass and individual Expansions will be available for purchase on Xbox One and PC, following the PlayStation 4 Expansion 1 "The Foundation" release. The AWE expansion will release on all platforms on the same date.

About Control
Set in a unique and ever-changing world that juxtaposes our familiar reality with the strange and unexplainable, Control is a third-person action-adventure game combining Remedy’s trademark gunplay with supernatural abilities. 

After a secretive agency in New York is invaded by an otherworldly threat, players will take on the role of Jesse Faden, the new Director struggling to regain Control. This sandbox-style, gameplay-driven experience built on the proprietary Northlight engine challenges players to master a combination of supernatural abilities, modifiable loadouts and reactive environments while fighting through the deep and mysterious worlds Remedy is known and loved for.

Control on PC is one of the first games to support multiple ray-traced effects, including ray-traced reflections, contact shadows, and indirect diffuse lighting. Control on PC also supports NVIDIA DLSS. For a limited time, gamers will receive Control with the purchase of an eligible GeForce RTX GPU-equipped graphics card, desktop or laptop; more details here.

*Control launched on Aug. 27 in the Americas, Europe, the United Kingdom and other supported territories on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for physical and digital retail, with a simultaneous launch on the Epic game store for PC. It launched the same day in Korea for PS4 and Xbox through publisher H2 Interactive, for digital and physical retail. The game will launch later this autumn in Japan, through publishing partner Marvelous. A digital and physical PS4 release in South East Asia, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, will be published by Huya; release date to be confirmed.