Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Meg: Film Review

The Meg: Film Review

Cast: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Cliff Curtis
Director: Jon Turteltaub

The shark film is an easy hit genre.
The Meg: Film Review

In this latest, which is frankly more suited to a Syfy TV slot than a big screen release (and even that's being generous), Jason Statham is Jonas Taylor, a former diver whose life is haunted by a decision to leave some former crew members to die to save others. (Classic Kobayashi Maru type stuff.)

Retired from diving, Taylor's called back in when an exploration beneath the seabed goes awry and his ex-wife is trapped. Taking part in the rescue and still believing a massive creature lurked below despite everyone's contrary protestations, Taylor and his team inadvertently provides a chance for a megalodon shark to escape his surroundings.

Now with humanity on the lunch menu, it's a race against time to rid the seas of the shark.
The Meg: Film Review

The Meg is not smart enough to realise its trash concept and embrace it.

And while this shark tale hits every cliche with barely any relish, parts of its execution are brilliantly realised.

From the smart looking techno futuristic seabase to the submersibles, the design side of The Meg is wonderfully brought to life. And it's populated by some standout turns - primarily Cliff Curtis' de facto base leader Mac, whose grounded performance makes him the mate you'd want to call on in any given situation.

There are times when Statham plays it a little too close to zany, delivering his cornball dialogue with a little too much gusto. It would have been wiser to have played up the redemption angle of this character, mixing it in with kind of haunted turns those obsessed with either sharks or whales deliver (Jaws, Moby Dick et al), but Statham isn't too far taxed from his usual MO.
The Meg: Film Review

Disappointingly, Bingbing Li's scientist goes from strong model to weak-kneed at the sight of Statham's Taylor when he shows up, and it's poor scripting at best. Equally some of the final scenes where the shark menaces a bay full of foreigners, the racial stereotyping is dangerously close to offensive. It's very much like those are pandering to the Chinese box office, without writing for them.

The shark's execution is nicely done, and there are some reasonable action sequences early on (Taylor being hauled through the water with a rope and the creature snapping at its heels being one of the best), but Turteltaub doesn't really deliver anything other than rote shark action, a tacit admission and nod to what's expected, but nothing more.

Ultimately, The Meg, unfortunately, bites. Its cliched codswallop, along with an at times overly familiar and tedious story, doesn't do much to deliver any kind of originality to the genre - and the suspense and emotional pull when people are dispatched are solely missing.

This is one shark tale which sadly, is like a fish out of water, floundering for its life.

Monday, 13 August 2018

I Feel Pretty: Blu Ray Review

I Feel Pretty: Blu Ray Review

You can see what Amy Schumer's self-image I Feel Pretty is trying to do.
I Feel Pretty: Film Review

A wannabe self-empowerment piece about what lies beneath and how inner beauty and confidence comes from within appears to have noble aims - especially in the ever-growing feminist empowerment times we live in.

But what emerges from the flat, occasionally tedious and definitely overlong I Feel Pretty is a sinking feeling that denying Schumer that bite which helped her skewer perceptions in her comedy show for a downpat traditional rom-com was a seriously bad move and showed those involved had little to no courage of their own convictions.

Schumer plays everywoman Renee, who dreams of working at fashion magazine Lily LeClaire, but who currently resides in their off-site basement in their IT department. Depressed by models which inhabit the gym and a desire to try and change her outward appearance, Renee joins a spin cycle class.

I Feel Pretty: Film Review

However, after an accident sees her bump her head, she recovers and catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror post-workout wallop, believes herself to be truly beautiful and utterly unbeatable. Imbued with a new-found confidence, Renee sets out for a receptionist job at Lily LeClaire - however, her journey takes an unexpected turn when her self-confidence and forthright opinions are noticed by LeClaire's CEO, Avery (Williams, in a wispy, ethereal and high-pitched Monroe voice).

There are moments to admire in I Feel Pretty.

Certainly, Schumer's relatability to the audience, and the fact she's never shy about showing off a podgy stomach wrapped highly in Spanx and lacking in self-worth proves to be a welcome tonic. Certainly, an early scene where she looks despondently in the mirror at her out of shape form and tears up will hit many a chord.

But where I Feel Pretty goes awry is in its mixed message. (And its potential squandering of the fact that Renee's post-knock change of heart is clearly a breakdown, triggered by depression).

It aims to subvert, telling the world that not everyone at a fashion magazine has to be a supermodel, or that not every guy is the perfect chiselled jaw. It aims to celebrate the nice persona in a time when nice is being ignored and crushed. These are admirable traits - and certainly, Renee's final speech of who we are would clearly have many women punching the sky in relief - were it not for the fact it's part of a make-up product launch.

The inherent problem with the overlong I Feel Pretty is that it's never quite strong enough to dance to its own tune, selling a message that's been told a million times before - and a million times more cleverly. (Any Disney princess movie manages to hit similar highs).

I Feel Pretty: Film Review

But, as mentioned earlier, the most disappointing thing about I Feel Pretty is crushing and suppressing Amy's acerbic take on life. If she'd been at the script, there would have been a chance of a few more vicious body blows being landed on both the patriarchy and perception.

As it is, I Feel Pretty is content to simply deliver a few paltry light taps to societal perceptions, and proffer some hints at subversion. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Isle of Dogs: Blu Ray Review

Isle of Dogs: Blu Ray Review

Propaganda, genocide, Japanese homage, accusations levelled of cultural appropriation and a white saviour - Wes Anderson's latest quirk fest, the stop animation Isle of Dogs, certainly has it all.
Isle of Dogs: Film Review

Set on Trash Island off the coast of Japan, it centres on a colony of canines, cut from their owner's lives at the behest of Prime Minister Kobayashi (Nomura) after an outbreak of dog flu and snout fever. Ripped from civilisation and living a little like Lord of The Flies with pockets of rabid ruffians looking for food, a group of four dogs one day see a visitor come to the island.

This is the little pilot, a boy looking simply for his lost pooch.

Taking the boy under their collective wings, the dogs, along with stray interloper Chief (Cranston, rich and gravelly), set out to find the Little Pilot's long lost pal - as a conspiracy on the mainland develops under Kobayashi's watch.

As stop animation and as a follow up to the stirling work done in Fantastic Mr Fox, West Anderson's latest is really second to none in the animation stakes, with everything painted through with the typical Anderson whimsy and quirk.

Isle of Dogs: Film Review

It's also second to none in the hipster quirk stakes as well - and towards the end, the light  fancy edges threaten to cloy and choke rather than assume the desired effect. Plus, there's a very sudden about face for one of the main characters which comes from nowhere and tonally jars.

But in terms of engaging a quest and Samurai element to the proceedings, the group's search certainly feels formed and is intriguing enough - even if it feels like little happens and they simply trudge from one element to the next, leading to a meandering feeling.

That's perhaps the joy of what Anderson's committed to the screen here - it feels slight, and light, with rafts of once over lightly, rather than big emotional heft - which may rankle some viewers.

However, with Chief's back story and the homage to Japan and its culture, Isle of Dogs is as traditional a animal adventure as anything Disney has put out - even if there are a few darker elements.

Isle of Dogs: Film Review

The one majorly troubling part of the story is the way that Little Pilot gets sidelined later on in favour of Greta Gerwig's white saviour Tracey who breaks open the conspiracy. It's hard to justify this, or whether it's a sly subversion of the dumb American cracking open the whole plot that's within (this may be granting Anderson a little too much space).

It feels like a misfire in a film that works to incorporate its cultural elements into the symmetry and tapestry of its film (although this has seen the film have criticisms levelled at it) and really does stick out like a sore thumb.

Ultimately though, Isle of Dogs, while it threatens to collapse under the weight of the quirk and times of occasional tedium it's created, is a film that nearly hits some of Fantastic Mr Fox's animated, but not heart, highs. It may lack the spontaneity and chaos of the previous entry, and some of the lighter touches (certainly, when it does cut loose it's a lot more fun and engaging), but it's definitely proof that stop-animation isn't a dying art form - and one that deserves to be seen on the screen.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Win a double pass to see Slender Man

Win a double pass to see Slender Man

To celebrate the release of Slender Man in cinemas August 23rd, you can win a double pass!

About Slender Man

In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist… until one of them mysteriously goes missing.

Slender Man is in cinemas August 23rd

To win all you have to do is email your details and the word SLENDER to this address: darrensworldofentertainment@gmail.com or CLICK HERE NOW!

Competition closes August 23rd!

Mary and The Witch's Flower: DVD Review

Mary and The Witch's Flower: DVD Review

Likely to appeal to those who felt Harry Potter was too male-led, Mary and The Witch's Flower's the first film from the Japanese Studio Ponoc.
Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

It's the story of Mary, a young girl who's finding life in the countryside a little dull while she waits for her parents to move across to be with her. On the cusp of starting school, one day Mary heads into the nearby woods following a cat - despite her great aunt Mary's insistence on staying away from the woods.

Finding some strange flowers and a broomstick that comes to life, Mary is whisked above the clouds to a magical school, Endor College, where she's welcomed as the latest witch apprentice.

But Mary's flower discovery puts her in peril and at odds with those running the college - as well as discovering a threat to all life.

Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

It's fair to say that Mary and The Witch's Flower wears its Potter influence deep on its sleeve.

Whilst it may lack some of the warmth and emotion of the Potter series (there's not as much heart on display here sadly), the central story of Mary, with her outcast red hair and quirky ways, will give some girls a heroine they need.

However, Mary's prone to pratfalls, to mess ups and to bursting into tears which weakens the argument a little and disappoints.

In terms of the animation it's perfectly fine, but for a new studio, it unfortunately lacks the wow factor to help them set out their stall with their debut feature.

The backdrops are nicely painted and tend to fade into the background rather than stand out, and while there are some well-executed set pieces, there's little which truly jumps from the screen.

Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

If anything, the copy of the Hogwarts style school is solidly executed - from a menagerie of creatures and critters to a Scottish groundskeeper, there's a lot here that feels familiar. And, because of that, it's a shame as Mary and The Witch's Flower has some real potential to cast some magic.

As it is, it's a fairly enchanting sort of tale for 90 minutes, but its bucolic edges and Potter-familiarity (as well as dashes of Howl's Moving Castle) prevent it from truly weaving a magic spell.

Dragon Quest XI: DQVII Costume Announcement

Dragon Quest XI: DQVII Costume Announcement


DRAGON QUEST VIII Costume Available from Launch for all DRAGON QUEST XI Players

SYDNEY, 10th August 2018 – In celebration of the upcoming release of DRAGON QUEST® XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age™ on 4th September, Square Enix Ltd., today release brand-new screenshots and gameplay footage showcasing a special DRAGON QUEST VIII costume which will be available to all players at launch.

The DRAGON QUEST VIII Trodain Bandana and Trodain Togs will be available in all DRAGON QUEST XI players’ inventories from launch and can be equipped to the Luminary character to boost defensive stats in the early portion of the game. Players are also provided with a recipe book “Trodain’s Top Trends”, which includes details on how to improve the stats of the special costume in the later stages of the game.

F1 2018 - Dev Diary 3: Car Simulation

F1 2018 - Dev Diary 3: Car Simulation


F1® 2018 – More Than Just A Game

Latest Developer Diary Focuses On The Most Authentic F1 Car Simulation yet

SYDNEY, 10th August 2018 - Codemasters® has today released the third part in a series of developer diaries for F1® 2018, the official videogame of the 2018 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP™, detailing how the new game boasts the most authentic F1® car handling simulation ever seen in the franchise.

The third of the four part series, which is available to watch now at www.youtube.com/formula1game, reveals that F1® 2018’s car simulation and handling has significantly advanced this year, with revamped suspension and chassis physics, the addition of real world F1® data for unprecedented accuracy, new “tyre carcass” temperature for the first time, as well as manual deployment of the ERS system. The ultimate result of these enhancements is that the gamer can experience the pure sensation of the tyres tearing into the track surface, and therefore giving a realistic and relatable feeling of grip, under all wear, compounds and weather conditions.

“I believe F1® 2018 is a massive step up, because we’ve introduced so many more simulation aspects that I believe will be very well received by all the players,” commented David Greco, Senior Car Handling Designer on F1® 2018. “To choose which one is the most important and advanced is quite hard, but I would probably say it is the expanded system which enables us to simulate the tyre temperature more realistically than we have ever done before.”

He continued: “This year, the way the car feels, with the ‘Force Feedback’, and how it all works together, we are very close to what I want from a simulator. In over 20 years of my career between sim racing and real motorsport, I have always come across questions like: ‘one title is more simulator than another title, because it’s very difficult to drive?’ With my real motorsport experience, I can say that real racing cars are made to have a lot of grip. To me, a simulator is not how easy it is to drive or how easy to make it spin. To me, a simulation is how many real-life, physical components we simulate, and especially this year, there are not many features that I can think of that we don’t simulate. To just call it a game to me is not enough anymore.”

F1® 2018 features all the official teams, the drivers and all 21 circuits of the thrilling 2018 season, including Circuit Paul Ricard and the Hockenheimring. As well as the current season’s offerings the game includes 20 iconic cars from the history of the sport. F1® 2018 will release onto PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, the Xbox One family of devices including the Xbox One X and Windows PC (via Steam) worldwide on Friday 24th August 2018.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Watch the Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay trailer

Watch the Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay trailer

We’re thrilled to share the Red Dead Redemption 2: Official Gameplay Video, shot entirely from in-game footage in 4k.

Watch the Red Dead Redemption 2: Official Gameplay Video


Captured entirely from in-game footage, watch this introduction to Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay in 4K.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming October 26, 2018 to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems.

Players can pre-order here.

NZIFF 2018 - Festival director Bill Gosden's exit interview

NZIFF 2018 - Festival director Bill Gosden's exit interview

Hey Bill, how are you?
Basking in the success of our final day in Auckland, notably the near perfect performance by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Peter Scholes. Carl Davis’s score is notoriously difficult – full of explosions, lightning bolts and sudden tempo changes that have to be meticulously synchronised with the picture. I doubt it has ever been performed better. And the digitisation of the 2013 restoration looked glorious on the Civic screen.

How's your festival been?
Busy as always, but buoyed by crowds and lots of good feedback about the movies.

We're moving into extra time in Auckland - and of course, Animation Now - what's the feeling about how this year has gone?
Records have been broken. We are very happy. 

You've kicked off Wellington too - and off out to the regions as well, what are the films that have seen plenty of bums on seats here that people shouldn't miss?
Shoplifters, Three Identical Strangers, McQueen, Leave No Trace are four big hits with seats still available almost everywhere else.

A lot of the "outer" regions have been busy to full in Auckland - the expansion plan's worked well hasn't it?
Yep. Unfortunately there’s not a cinema on the North Shore with the capacity of the Hollywood in Avondale.

What's been the film you wish more people would have seen?

What's the 50th been like for you? The poster gallery is something quite beautiful and the clippings are pretty insightful as well - have you had time to reflect?
Yes. I’ve thought long and often about the myriad people who have been such a crucial part of the festival over the years I have been involved. Many are still very much with the festival,  notably Roger Horrocks from the founding committee, and projectionists Don Howie,  Dennis Keith and Bruce Blakeley.

What's been the best Auckland moment?
Final Night. As an elated audience left The General a new one arrived for Sign O’ The Times.

What's been the best - and worst - piece of feedback you've had up here?
Best: lots of love for the festival.  Worst: People complaining that we did not show Three Identical Strangers often enough.

When do we get a coffee table book of the pre-film announcement boards? 
When we can clear publication rights on all the imagery.

Has the diversity this year in terms of retro films as well seen more bums on seats?
Big audiences for Monterey Pop, Orlando, The Swimming Pool and Wings of Desire.  And audiences for the other films, while not huge, seemed appreciative. Liquid Sky was the most divisive, though the accusation that it takes gender warfare lightly seems like a misreading of the era to someone like me who was there. 

What's been the one film you wished you'd seen with audiences but Q&As like this dragged you away?
Burning. But I can see it in Wellington. Yay.

Which are the films that have been box office successes?
Leave No Trace, McQueen, Shoplifters, Three Identical Strangers, Celia, Yellow is Forbidden, Burning, Birds of Passage, Cold War, The Guilty.
Three Identical Strangers
Three Identical Strangers

Do you have any plans to reinstate the Autumn Events?
Hoping so.

Just finally, now Auckland's done, what's the one thing you're looking forward to doing most - away from film of course?

And even more finally now, what plans for year 51?
Support from Creative New Zealand this year enabled us to run a filmmakers’ workshop with Debra Granik, so I am hoping we can build on that. I would always love to expand the Live Cinema programme.

BlacKkKlansman: Film Review

BlacKkKlansman: Film Review

Cast: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier, James Badge Dale
Director: Spike Lee

As much a blaxploitation piece cum shaggy dog story as a "Is that really true?" story, BlacKkKlansman is as exaggerated a story piece as it is unsubtle.
BlacKkKlansman: Film Review

Director Spike Lee shines in large swathes of the film, but the final 4 minutes, which chooses to insert real life Charlottesville footage into proceedings, shows how cancerous the insertion of real-life footage is proving to be in dramas and documentaries.

BlacKkKlansman is the story of a rookie Colorado Springs cop, Ron Stallworth (Washington, in a mesmerising and yet grounded turn) who in the 1970s wanted to join the police force. After being subjected to a rather degrading interview, Stallworth finds himself working the evidence room, but pushes his bosses to join other divisions.

That's granted and he's sent undercover to a Black Power meeting on a surveillance job. It's here that he meets Laura Harrier's Patrice and finds himself going deeper into the movement than he expected as he wrestles with the idea that he can change their world outlook from within.
BlacKkKlansman: Film Review

However, things get spookier for Stallworth when jokingly one day he decides to call the Ku Klux Klan and gets co-opted in. But, he can't attend meetings so he sends Detective Flip Zimmerman as his body double (Driver, in a suitably stoic turn) - but things get more complicated the longer the ruse goes on...

"Dis joint based on some real fo'sure shit" is Lee's opening gambit - and once past the use of Gone With The Wind and Alec Baldwin's weirdly out of place ranting, BlacKkKlansman becomes a film that feels like Superfly got mixed in with the DNA of a buddy cop movie and a undercover cop falling in love film that you've seen a million times before.

However, that's also where Lee's ability to subvert your expectations works best - he shuns the cliched and presents a film that crackles with contemporary commentary (Make America Great, America would never elect someone like that are lines mentioned a few times in throwaway lines) and seethes with indignation when it should.

Which is why it's a shame that later in proceedings, this black humour film where no one is really laughing drops the ball in favour of less subtle forms of visual protest. A sequence involving Harry Belafonte recounting a real life racist situation as he addresses Black Power activists and the aforementioned Charlottesville footage feel like a hammer being used to crack a nut.

Perhaps there's an argument stating that desperate times resort to desperate measures, but it's infinitely irritating to see a master craftsman like Lee stepping back from letting his work do the talking.
BlacKkKlansman: Film Review

It's the only thing which derails Lee's BlacKkKlansman - perhaps if he'd been reined in a little, the glorious dialogue, utterly ludicrous reality and the subtleties would have been more powerful; instead, the over-egging leaves a bad taste in your mouth, a feeling that Lee's vitriol has got the better of his creative edges.

Washington is mightily impressive, imbuing Stallworth with both heart, indignation and naivete; equally Driver's turn shows why his dependable performances are becoming the most important assets he brings to films he's in.

Sure, there are shocks throughout, and rightly so, but Lee never presents the KKK as anything other than inept, crippled by their bigotry and sidelined by their stupidity of belief.

Ultimately, for the most part, BlacKkKlansman is a film that ripples with unease, humour and gallows jokes in a mix that proves potent. It's just a shame that the hammer - nut approach employed at the end makes you feel like it's less Fight The Power, more Shout the Power down and then keep doing so.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider - Video Vignettes

Shadow of the Tomb Raider - Video Vignettes

New Video Series Highlights Key Gameplay Elements

Square Enix®, Eidos-MontrĂ©al™, and Crystal Dynamics® have launched a new video series for Shadow of the Tomb Raider™, with each video focusing on a key feature of the game.
Serving as a tantalizing preview of the new gameplay coming in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the series showcases elements such as combat, environments, tombs, traversal techniques, and more. 

The latest entry in the series, “Combat Tactics,” spotlights the wide range of guerrilla techniques Lara has at her disposal as she races to stop the Maya apocalypse. Lara can strike suddenly and disappear like the jaguar, perch in the jungle canopy and wait until the perfect moment to take down a foe, use mud as camouflage, instill fear in her enemies, and more.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider will be available on the Xbox One family of devices including Xbox One X, PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, and Windows PC/Steam® on September 14th. Fans can also pre-order to play the game early on September 12th.