Friday, 19 October 2018

Armageddon Expo Preview night

Armageddon Expo Preview night

The four day pop culture event Armageddon Expo is now underway in Auckland.

As well as the likes of Christina Ricci and Shannen Doherty, there's plenty of gaming and stalls to visit.

Below is some shots from the Armageddon Expo Preview night.

King of Thieves: Film Review

King of Thieves: Film Review

Cast: Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Paul Whitehouse
Director: James Marsh

As much a film about the fallout of a heist, than the execution thereof, the based-on-a-true-story King Of Thieves feels like a proposition that was better on the drawing board than on the screen.
King of Thieves: Film Review

Michael Caine is 77 year old widower Brian Reader, a former criminal who's urged by his wife to leave it all behind before her death. However, finding that there's nothing to live for, Reader pulls together a crew of former crims after he's approached by Basil (Daredevil star Cox) with a plan to rob the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit....

The thing with King Of Thieves is that it all unfurls in such a pedestrian way.

Underscored by scenes of jazzy music and digital cuts and quick cuts, the film's initially all about the subterfuge rather than anything else. It's not exactly an OAP version of the Ocean's Eleven series, but at times, it comes pretty close, thanks to a combination of one-note characters and a lack of real tension.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the back half of the film where it literally becomes about the audience watching cops listening to bugged conversations. Any sense of suspense dissipates at this stage as the big band music strikes up and the inevitable tears and fractures open up within the group.

A series of swipes at older people and their quirks seem a little more unfair towards the end and the characters simply end up shouting at each other, but Reader's earlier mournful tone as he reflects on his life is given nuanced life by Caine.
King of Thieves: Film Review

Most interestingly, Broadbent shows a crueller side oft kept buried and really plays against type - the rest of the crew are underwritten and do what they can with one-note performances. No more so than Cox whose enigma is clearly due to his character arc rather than writing (to say more is to spoil).

The one directorial flourish that Marsh brings to the table is an end sequence which displays the likes of Caine and Winstone from previous films and is a clever way to showcase their former worth.

Elsewhere, King Of Thieves may have its eye on diamonds as its central theme, but this ain't no shiner at all - it's dulled by the execution and what promised to be something different and cater to an older audience emerges as a rote formulaic and dull film that fizzles rather than sizzles.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story: DVD Review

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story: DVD Review

Known to many only as a Hollywood icon, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is one of those docos that will change your perception of her.

Prevalent in the golden era of 1940s Hollywood, Lamarr lived another life, one which she was passionate about, but never really gained the recognition for.

And it's this doco by Alexandra Dean which sets out to correct her reputation and give her the kudos she deserves as an inventor.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story: NZIFF Review

It's not exhaustive by any means - however, it is concise and well-executed; coupled with what Dean does to expand greatly on it is flesh out the belief that Lamarr died without telling her story.

Helped by the discovery of a lost interview which literally sat by the bin, the mix of archival footage, candid clips, and a desire to reclaim her reputation, what emerges of Lamarr is not just a fascinating insight, but an intriguing piece of empowerment for those fighting against the perception of belief.

With a reasonable pace that never feels rushed or hurried, yet gives enough detail to flesh out the deserved yet ignored reputation, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story has some directorial flourishes to revel in.

Whether it's animations on black and white pictures or illustrations of past events, Dean creates a wider more engaging tapestry than perhaps the one-note historical perception of Lamarr.

It's a fascinating exploration of a woman undermined and gazumped by others, but one which also demonstrates the conflict over her own doubts of her place in the world.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story may start out seeming like a hagiography, fulsome in its praise for the actress, but the smart diversion into what her true calling was and how she remained dignified when all around abused it, is nothing short of inspiring and deeply admirable. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Occupation: DVD Review

Occupation: DVD Review

There's a great deal of set-up present in Occupation, a B-movie film that in truth, feels more suited as a pilot for a low budget cable channel, rather than a proposed franchise.

With a sequel in the works already, this alien invasion film does little to rise above its early aspirations - the opening 15 minutes set up the protagonists in Australia who will come under attack.

Occupation: Film Review

There's the nuclear family, headed by Tem's just-out-of-prison dad (let's side step why the brown fella in the white cast had to be the former crim); there's the comeback rugby captain whose last tackle saw him in a coma; there's the just-found-out-I'm-going-to-be-a-dad jock, and a whole cast of other cliches coming together in a small Aussie town.

But when the town comes under attack, the disparate group must throw aside its problems and conflicts (for now, until the narrative demands they be rebirthed later) to face off against the aliens.

Occupation has some pretty damn impressive FX for the B-movie budget.

Certainly, the first scenes where the lights are glimpsed across the hills plays on the likes of Close Encounters before segueing into Independence Day as the attack begins.

While the invaders appear to be nothing more than a space-age version of Knights with some truly awful stock-standard alien heads beneath their masks, the film's motives for their invasion are so rote they date back to the likes of The Invaders TV show.

Occupation: Film Review

But Sparke's less interested in reinventing the wheel, preferring to set up a franchise and further the films than provide depth to the characters. In fairness, Morrison has genuine warmth as the stepdad who wants to protect his brood, but he, like the rest of the cast, can do little to lift the script from its depths.

With corny cheeseball one-liners and a feeling there's nothing new here to say (even the Aussie flag hoisted high as the one-last-desperate-push into battle takes place is more laughable than stirring), Occupation unfortunately makes little case for a film series.

Despite its high gloss FX and scope, the familiar is what drags Occupation down to ground - sure, B Movie aspirations are fine, but either fully embrace them or aim higher. Sadly, Occupation does neither of these and flounders as a result. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Skyscraper: Blu Ray Review

Skyscraper: Blu Ray Review

Skewing towards memories of The Towering Inferno and Die Hard, but with an eye very much on the cheesy and disastrous, Skyscraper sees the Rock toning down some of his more natural elements for a PG13 audience.
Skyscraper: Film Review

Johnson is Will Sawyer, a former FBI Team Leader who lost the lower half of his leg when a hostage negotiation went wrong. Now assessing skyscrapers for security, Sawyer and his family are taken to Hong Kong to look at a new building, The Pearl.

However, when terrorists (led by Moller's timidly snarling Kores Botha) strike, Sawyer has to find his inner strength to save the day.

It's fair to say Skyscraper is a solid piece of entertainment, aimed squarely at the blockbuster crowd, but yet somehow doesn't quite manage to leap its problems as high as it should.

Johnson dials down his usual charisma, trying to aim more for an average Joe who's had obstacles to overcome and who's now trying to save his family. However, he carries out such super-human feats of strength (climbing a massive crane, running off the edge of said crane and powering into a building, holding a bridge together) that the everyman appeal is lost very early on.

Skyscraper: Film Review

Equally, the potential over the leg loss for empowerment which was promised in the initial trailers seems to have been sidelined for some kind of hanging-by-a-leg moment that seems more than a tad misjudged.

Whereas films like the aforementioned Tower and Die Hard saw ordinary people having to do extraordinary things, there's never really any question of The Rock caving, even though he takes a beating a few times during it. His earnestness only gets him so far, as the bloodless violence and gunplay escalates.

Campbell's solid, very much his equal (something Hollywood's suddenly more keen to show), giving her former army surgeon the pluck needed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him when necessary, even if the inability to use an iPhone seems to be more a narrative necessity than character trait.

In among the incessant dark swirling shots circling the tower on fire with CGI flames, Thurber muddies a lot of the sequences with the dark, meaning the vertiginous shots lose their head-dizzying ability early on.

Skyscraper: Film Review

It's not that Skyscraper is a roaring success, but its deep-dive more into bland rote schlockbuster territory than enticing, enthralling suspense squanders its promise and potential. It may aim for the sky, but it scrapes the bottom a little too often than is liked, with dialogue that borders on cult material, but holds back.

Ultimately, that's the biggest problem with Skyscraper - in its quest to satiate a PG13 audience and censor, it's neither one thing nor the other. It's certainly not a Towering inferno by any stretch, but its desire to not embrace what it could be, and its commitment to bland action fare means it's more a flicker than a flaming roar. 

Halloween: Film Review

Halloween: Film Review

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Nick Castle
Director: David Gordon Green

Michael Myers is back.

And you can just forget about all the other sequels spawned post the 1978 launch of the first Halloween, because this latest cares not one jot for the middling to trashy quality of what was launched after.
Halloween: Film Review

In the latest, with a script from Danny McBride amongst others, babysitter murderer Michael Myers (Castle, non-speaking and menacing in shape) is about to be transferred to another jail - on October 31st, 2018.

And this being a horror film, you can guess what happens next....

Halloween is a film of two halves.

An utterly gripping finale caps off what is a fairly average thrill ride throughout.

The narrative seems to fall into a mesh of wanting to bring some storyboards to vivid life creating more iconic images of the masked one as he goes around ruthlessly killing and putting him on the inevitable collision course with Curtis' Laurie Strode.

It's in the second half of this execution that the film's more successful, largely thanks to Curtis' performance, which encapsulates both the terror of knowing what's coming, and the bitterness of having a life ruined by four decades of post-trauma. In many ways, this Halloween is a paean to those left behind by crimes, and who have to endure - and Curtis, with her mix of resentment and recalcitrant approach, more than rises to the challenge, without ever resorting to cheap acting.
Halloween: Film Review

Equally Castle's embodiment of the unstoppable unemotional shape once again captures what an effective Boogeyman is - as Strode says " An evil like his never stops, it just grows older. Darker. More determined." Castle turns Myers into myth, and there are genuine terrors when the impassive
mask stares at the screen and menaces Strode and her daughter in the finale.

Elsewhere along the way, the film flounders, throwing together a kids in peril plot with a kids rowing over love plot that never gels, and merely provides more slashing fodder for Myers' knife to sink into. It's never interested in providing deep characters outside of the core trio, and potentially never really pretends to.

It may be evocative in parts as it crosses through the tropes and thanks to the perennially chilling song from that score, but Halloween only works best when it's stripped down to basics.

If you're willing to weather the ride, the finale more than rewards you with a housebound showdown that simply personifies the primal terror of the Boogeyman.

A Star Is Born: Film Review

A Star Is Born: Film Review

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay
Director: Bradley Cooper

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.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

PlayStation VR celebrates its 2nd Anniversary

PlayStation VR celebrates its 2nd Anniversary

PlayStation VR celebrates its 2nd Anniversary this October 13th, and Sony Interactive Entertainment New Zealand has some exciting news to share to commemorate this special event.

Acclaimed classic shooter, Borderlands 2 is coming to PS VR this December, with the game available for pre-order today from PlayStation Store. The breathtaking reimagined puzzle classic Tetris Effecthas launch date confirmed, while a free demo from Astro Bot Rescue Mission goes live this month for players to jump in and try this must-have PS VR exclusive. Finally, a new DLC pack for Firewall Zero Hour brings new items, skins and content to critical and community acclaimed multiplayer first person shooter – there is a PS VR experience for everybody to enjoy the celebration!


Borderlands 2 VR
Launching December 14, 2018, Available for Pre-Order Today
This December 14, PlayStation VR fans can look forward to the latest blockbuster experience to come to the platform with Borderlands 2 VR. Developed by Gearbox Software, Borderlands 2 VR brings the iconic shooting-looting world of Pandora to life like never before, as you virtually become a treasure-seeking Vault Hunter facing off against the galaxy’s most charming psychopathic dictator.

Gearbox has brought the acclaimed shooter-looter to PlayStation VR, so Borderland 2 fans can now fully sink their eyes into the wild and mayhem-filled world of Pandora with new VR-specific mechanics and skills!

More information on Borderlands 2 VR, head to the PlayStation Blog.


Tetris Effect
Launching November 9, 2018, Available for Pre-Order Today
Experience Tetris like you've never seen, heard, or felt it before! Tetris Effect is an incredibly unique, and breathtakingly gorgeous reinvention of one of the most popular puzzle games of all time. Pre-order starting today via PlayStation Store and unlock a PS4 theme, seven avatars and an original soundtrack sampler!


New Astro Bot Rescue Mission Free Demo
Available October 16, 2018
If you haven’t already tried Japan Studio’s latest title developed exclusively for PlayStation VR, this game is a must! Starting this October 16, you can demo the epic platformer that has been hailed as one of the best PlayStation VR titles of all time where you accompany Astro as he jumps across high-rise buildings and help him battle a boss!


New Firewall Zero Hour DLC
Launching October 16, 2018
After recently launching to critical and community acclaim, First Contact Entertainment’s Firewall Zero Hour is a PS VR exclusive team-based multiplayer shooter you just can’t miss. Starting October 16, you can also enjoy a new DLC pack that unlocks new items and skins to customize your character and weapons for a completely new style of play.

Head to the PlayStation Blog to find out more about PlayStation VR.

For the latest PlayStation news, follow PlayStation New Zealand on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Instagram.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission PSVR Review

Astro Bot Rescue Mission PSVR Review

Platform: PS4

Developed by Japan Studio

The Astro bots have until now, been an annoyance.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission PSVR Review

A clutch of chirruping characters that were part of the Playroom game launched with the PS4, these critters "live" inside your controller and exist only to showcase the use of the PlayStation's touchpad, and its cutesy edges.

But, now with the Astro Bot Rescue Mission, they come out of the domain of being inessential into something quite impressive in the VR stakes.

Fleshed out from the Robot Rescue mission in The Playroom, Astro Bot Rescue Mission sees you taking control of Captain Astro and simply put, heading into various worlds after your buddies have been kidnapped by an alien bad guy.

Plot-wise, it ain't all that and a bag of chips.

But if you were to be told this is perhaps the most inventive platformers of the year, that capitalises on what VR has to offer, you'd begin to suspect madness has set in. However, it truly is a clever use of the depth and scope the tool offers, recapturing the essentialness last seen in the release title Batman Arkham VR.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission PSVR Review

In that, the depth added to Batman's world; in this, there's no such sense of landscapes et al, but a desire to create a platformer which uses depth and scale to take you on an adventure that's as impressive as it is fun.

Astro has to rescue his buddies, negotiating landscapes and baddies in the same kind of way that was last seen in Banjo Kazooie and Pokemon Go. Booting the robots as you find them sends them flying back to your controller till the end of the level.

However, it's not as simple as going along a level, bashing some baddies and collecting the robots as well as coin tokens. The VR adds the depth to the levels, and the studio's really take on board the whole concept of it being a wrap around world. This is no flat platformer, this is a fully formed world, where up and down, and behind count.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission PSVR Review

Fellow robots may be behind you or off to the side, it's a game that really does encourage you to look around, and as well as offering you a token reward, it gives it a visual prowess that's engaging too.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a game which makes use of the best of VR, and the controller, long left redundant in your hands. It's a game which aims to delight with cute, and delivers with some sweet touches. If that sounds like praise to damn it, it's not.

VR's been here nigh on two years now, and while some game studios have embraced it, there's yet to be the ultimate experience. VR's never really been about the gaming per se, but Astro Bot Rescue Mission delivers both on the gaming front, and delivers an immersive experience which is beyond belief.