Sunday, 28 August 2011

Oceans: DVD Review

Oceans: DVD Review

Rating: G
Released by Hopscotch and Roadshow entertainment

Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, this nature doco is an outstandingly shot, relatively non-preachy primarily French piece about the majesty and bounty of the Oceans of our planet.

With laconic and sparse narrative from Pierce Brosnan, the gorgeously shot footage sweeps across and swoops in and out of the waters of the world, as our senses are bombarded with wondrous images.

Images such as sealion, marine iguanas, a sea otter smashing shells on a rock on its belly to feed- to scenes of squid fending off crab who've wandered too close to their territory.

It's an hypnotic and mesmerising snapshot of the world around us.

And a reminder of what brilliance lurks under the waters and far, far away from our eyes.

With the greatest of respect, when Pierce Brosnan's laconic voice over is ditched, then this really is when the film soars because there's nothing to beat the beautiful viciousness of nature at work.

Sometimes, all you need is what's up on the screen to take your breath away -with just the majesty of nature, Oceans is truly awe inducing as it takes in the life in oceans all over the world - including New Zealand's waterways.

Granted in a film like this, there's bound to be a message about the effect of pollution and the vanishing wildlife but unlike others of their ilk, here the directors show some restraint and don't hammer home the message. By using images from space of the effects of pollution on the waters, the message is got across simply and eloquently - once again, just a simple image paints a greater picture than a thousand words could.

Extras: None - disappointing

Rating: 7/10 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Priest 3D: Movie Review

Priest 3D: Movie Review

Priest 3D
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Maggie Q, Stephen Moyer
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Paul Bettany and our very own Karl Urban star in this latest cinematic outing.
For centuries man has been at war with vampires. And with the vamps hunting them to near extinction, there was only ever one line of defence - the priests.
But after the vamps' defeat, the priests were abandoned and reintegrated back into society.
However, when an apparent vamp attack kills the brother of one nameless priest (Paul Bettany), he has no choice but to hunt down their daughter and break his vow, risking all out war...
Priest 3D (forget the 3D as this is another of those pointless conversions) isn't a bad attempt at a western crossed with vampires.
There's plenty of imagery from the wild west (including a final set piece on a train) and the bleached look of this post apocalyptic world, along with some quite cool comic style pre titles, give it a bit of different feel. But some wonky CGI and some frankly laughable dialogue see it unable to rise from the dead.
Which is a shame as Bettany is good as the monosyllabic priest and Nikita's Maggie Q and Karl Urban also are solid as supporting cast (even if the latter chews a bit too much of the scenery).

Ultimately, a case of stylish fight scenes and a great look over relative lack of substance and OTT scenes ( eg Urban air conducting an orchestra as carnage unfolds around him), Priest hints at a sequel but it would need to deal with the flaws of the first before it could ascend to higher things.

The Guard: Movie Review

The Guard: Movie Review

The Guard
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flannaghan
Director: John Michael McDonagh
It's back to slightly scabrous ways for this comedy about an Irish Garda played with great gusto by Brendan Gleeson, who's on somewhat of a career relaunch following In Bruges.
Gleeson is Sergeant Gerry Boyle, an Irish cop who loves the whoring and the drinking but is at heart, an old fashioned copper, prone to a bit of casual racism and abuse - however, he still believes in the law.
So his relatively quiet life is somewhat ruined by the arrival of a corpse, an American FBI Agent (a brilliant turn by Don Cheadle) and an attempt to shut down a massive drug smuggling racket run in his neck of the woods.
Darkly ironic, sardonic and sarcastic, this film's essentially a buddy cop film with one major difference - Gleeson.
His perfect timing and F bomb peppered delivery gives the film the tone it needs to set it apart from the rest of its genre and while the start of the filum (to quote the Irish vernacular) feels fresh and different, it does sag a little towards two thirds of the way through.
That said, there's enough to give it the oomph it needs to race to the finish line with another great character turn from the ever dependable Mark Strong.
Cheadle and Gleeson are a great pair and a sharp script brings out their very best - even if it is some of the most un politically correct material you've heard in a long time. Although Boyle's comments during the initial FBI briefing are just frankly hilarious as he bandies around as many stereotypes as you can imagine.
However, he's not just all unPC and whoring; thanks to Gleeson's clever portrayal and some script smarts, he's got a tender side when dealing with his dying mother.

There's just something witty about this darkly black tale of The Guard and while the story runs out a little toward the end, the humour will have you smiling throughout thanks to the great buddy dynamic between Cheadle and Gleeson.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Crazy Stupid Love: Movie Review

Crazy Stupid Love: Movie Review

Crazy Stupid Love
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Prepare for a romcom with a slight twist.
Steve Carell is Cal Weaver, who's been married to Emily (Julianne Moore) for 25 years.
Over dinner one night, Emily announces she wants a divorce.
And that sends Cal's world spinning into a nosedive - from what he perceives a perfect life, Cal heads to a local bar repeatedly where he sees Jacob (Gosling) using his skills to pick up women on a nightly basis.
One night, without warning, Jacob asks over Cal and offers to spruce his image up and get him some success with the ladies.
However, Jacob's grooming turns the usually inept Cal into a womaniser&.
At the same time, law student Hannah (Emma Stone) is questioning her life with her steady but slightly dim boyfriend - she heads to the same club where Jacob's practising his womanising ways and despite her initial refusal, ends up falling for him&.
Crazy Stupid Love is a bit of a treat and a departure from the usual romcom formula.
There's a heart and humanity as well as a dose of bittersweet honest reality in this film; granted, Steve Carell once again goes for the forlorn approach and dials down his comic tendencies but thanks to a good strong script, some amusing set pieces and a twist (which you're either on board with or waving at the shark which just jumped past), this really does entertain.
It's probably because Carell and Moore create a convincing couple and convey the realities of being together for so long so well.
As for the rest of the ensemble, Marisa Tomei is simply unhinged as Kate who's Cal's first score; Kevin Bacon also plays it straight as the guy who breaks up the leading duo.
But it's Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling who impress most out of this ensemble. Stone once again demonstrates why she's heading for the stratosphere with perfect comic timing and a dash of heart; granted Gosling's smooth cad and roguish womaniser isn't much of a stretch for any actor but Gosling gives him a pinch of reality too.
Ultimately Crazy, Stupid Love is a welcome diversion from the usual sop and sappy romcoms - it's funny, fresh and real with a great cast.

TT3D: Movie Review

TT3D: Movie Review

Rating: 8/10
Cast: Guy Martin, a host of other TT racers, motorbikes, The Isle of Man
Director: Richard De Aragues
"There's nothing to compare it with."
How often have you heard that from anyone involved in any kind of extreme sport?
This latest sports doco looks at the legendary Isle of Man TT motorbike racing event; one which has been running for years and has claimed around 231 lives in spectacular crashes and yet doesn't see a drop off in willing participants.
De Aragues' film takes a look at the races of the 2010 event and in particular follows the tousled mop topped and lamb chopped racer, the Englishman Guy Martin, a fascinating and in some ways intimidating young character.
Martin is the classic loner - and also the classic self deprecator, full of Northern English charm and the kind of guy who'd call a spade a spade and that'd be that. When we first meet Martin, he's being interviewed in a garage pit repairing a truck - before he takes his bike out to hoon around to see what speed he needs for the upcoming race.
The following 100 minutes then chart the highs and lows of the race, The Isle of Man
Tourist Trophy described as "the greatest motorcycle road race in the world, the ultimate challenge for rider and machine."
But De Aragues has triumphed by making this film an edge of the seat, thrilling piece about freedom of choice, spirit and endurance.
Thankfully the 3D is non intrusive - it's not used to make you duck in the cinema when bikes come hurtling toward you, it's used subtly to bring depth to the proceedings and give you a feel for the event.
Sure, some of the sporting clichés are there - phrases like "If it doesn't excite you, then you're not alive and that's a fact" sit alongside the likes of "it's like being able to fly" and slow mo shots of riders in action. But I'm prepared to forgive all of those because of how gripping this actually is right from the get go.
Eschewing charm and a straight talking style, Martin's an easy subject for De Aragues to follow - but it also gives the sport a face and grounds the competition in a humanity and warmth which make it feel universal, rather than just a speed freak's wet dream of a film.
Guy Martin is an enigmatic guy - often seen being interviewed with a mug of tea in hand and prone to sleeping in the back of his van and enjoying his own company before a race, he's something of a riddle but his no-nonsense attitude has won him a legion of fans - and this film is likely to cement that reputation as it provides a fascinating insight into not only his mindset but the rest of the racing fraternity.
I realised I was gripped when I was on tenterhooks and on the edge of my seat to see if one racer had made it out alive after a crash - it's here that De Aragues gets to the knub of what makes these riders tick because of one scene in a hospital where a rider lets down his guard and finally shows some vulnerability after an horrific crash - before a bit of the bravado came back. It's a brief but telling moment and one which spoke volumes about all of those who take part in this race.
Mashing archive footage and a candid look at one competitor, Guy Martin, this doco is simply hands down one of the best sports docos I've ever seen - packed with humour, tension, suspense and humanity - and believe me when I say that's praise coming from a non sports fan.

Quite simply unmissable.

Hop: Blu Ray Review

Hop: Blu Ray Review

Released by Universal Home Ent
Rating: G
Hop is a part live action, part animated film, starring the vocal talent of Russell Brand, as EB.

A descendant of the Easter Bunny line from Easter Island, EB has a destiny to fulfil - he gets to become the Easter Bunny But selfish bunny two shoes EB doesn't want that - like any rebellious kid, he's got his own future marked out - as a drummer.

So running away from Easter Island to Hollywood via a portal, EB runs into Frank O'Hare (Marsden) a no hoper whose continual disappointment to his family has led to them intervening in his life to try and get it on track.

The pair accidentally meet - and EB throws himself into Frank's life - despite Frank's protestations to the contrary.

However, while EB is away, back at the Easter Island factory where the holiday season becomes real, the number two in charge, The Easter Chick, Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria) is plotting a chicken coup d'etat

Hop is a disappointment.

With a script that hardly packs in many laughs early on, it tries to get by on the charm and roguish caddish ways of Russell Brand and early jokes about the Playboy mansion (just think about the inhabitants if you're struggling).

The animation is charming enough (from the creators of Despicable Me, you'd expect that) but the live action scenes don't really gel. Russell Brand is typically Russell Brand and you can tell the creators have played to his strengths; James Marsden seems a little lost and brings only goofiness to the role.

Even with a cameo from the Hoff (which has more cheese on it than he likes on his burgers), it's one which the parents may find a little difficult to sit through. The kids however, will love it.
Extras: World of HOP, All access piece

Rating: 4/10 

Never Let Me Go: Blu Ray Review

Never Let Me Go: Blu Ray Review

Never Let Me Go
Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox

From the 2005 book by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go has been adapted for the screen by Alex Garland.

It starts with an announcement that in 1952, a medical breakthrough means the average life expectancy now extends past 100 years old.
Then we fade into an idyllic English boarding school where we meet Carey Mulligan's narrator Kathy H as a school kid - she's been best friends with Ruth since forever. And their lives are completed by the friendship Kathy forms with Tommy (Andrew Garfield).

Gradually the bonds grow stronger between the trio - as their confined existence grows.

The children there are essentially clones, being nurtured as organ donors for those outside in the real world. In a climate of oppression, they're told never to leave the grounds, have limited social interaction with the outside world (they're taught in classes how to order tea in cafes) and are encouraged to paint for inclusion in an exclusive gallery.

But it's not good for the trio - Kathy's lost Tommy to a relationship with Keira Knightley's Ruth.

Years pass - and the three of them find their lives permanently intertwined as their inevitable path plays out.

Never Let Me Go is haunting, harrowing, depressing and yet incredibly powerfully compelling viewing.
It begins with an air of mystery and intrigue as you know there's something different about these children but the reality of what it is evades you initially.

Once the truth comes out (via a great interruption by Sally Hawkins' disruptive school teacher who's honest with the kids), it suddenly adds a level of poignancy to this forlorn trio

Essentially a three hander, this film is wonderfully acted by all three - Mulligan is hypnotic and shines as a detached forlorn Kathy, doomed to never be with her love; Knightley adds a subtlety to the manipulative Ruth and there's real anguish in Garfield's Tommy

Never Let Me Go will stay with you long after you've finished watching.

Extras: Behind the scenes, photos - not a major bunch for a good film.

Rating: 7/10 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Red Riding Hood: Blu Ray Review

Red Riding Hood: Blu Ray Review

Red Riding Hood
Rating: M
Released by Warner home Video

Red Riding Hood is the latest adaptation of the fairy tale and sees Amanda Seyfried's Valerie trapped in a love triangle with Shiloh Fernandez's woodcutter Peter and Max Irons' Henry - as well as a murder mystery, when the townsfolk she's living with in a high mountain range are picked off by the big bad wolf.

As fear continues to grip the snow-capped village, a priest (played with scene chewing aplomb by Gary Oldman) is called in to try and save them.

But as the climate of terror grows, the threat to Valerie and those she loves becomes greater - and soon she realises she's the key to saving everyone.

From its opening shot of villages in mountains as the camera sweeps across trees, it's very hard to not think about Twilight - which I guess to a degree is what you'd expect from the director of the very first film. Throw in lines like "If you love her, you'll let her go" and "I lost a sister - I can't lose you" and clearly you're in teen angst territory in more ways than one. Add into the mix a pair of boys and a love triangle - plus a wolf which looks like one of wolf pack from a certain other franchise - and you'd be forgiven for thinking you're watching a different film.

That said, while the rest of the cast are fairly wooden and stilted, Amanda Seyfried shines in this. With her big blue eyes (all the better for seeing you with, right?) and pale complexion, she stands out from the rest of the townsfolk - but physicalities aside, she also stands out with her slightly ethereal acting, bringing an air of mystery to her part as the film goes on. Gary Oldman is okay too - but he's clearly overacting in some parts which takes the edge off a little

With some striking visuals and a gothic air here and there, there's certainly something for genre fans to love - but many will feel they've seen it all before. Some may even argue they've seen it done better too.

Extras: A good bunch includes an alternate ending, commentary, gag reel, additional scenes, music videos - for once, a decent solid smattering of extra stuff.

Rating: 5/10  

Monday, 22 August 2011

Sucker Punch: Blu Ray Review

Sucker Punch: Blu Ray Review

Sucker Punch
Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

Set in the 1960s, Sucker Punch is the story of Babydoll (an innocent Emily Browning) who, framed for the murder of her sister, is committed to a lunatic asylum by her murderous father.

With five days to go before she gets a life-changing lobotomy, Babydoll retreats into a fantasy world to try and plan an escape from a fate worse than death.

Sucker Punch is an incredible film in many ways.

Incredibly frustrating, incredibly inventive and incredibly visual, it's easy to see why it doesn't quite make it.

It's stylish and astounding in spades (and the opening sequence which shows how Babydoll is committed is one of the best visually impressive scenes I've ever clapped eyes on) but narratively, it's not quite there and instead feels like a series of CGI sequences and some mightily impressive music videos.

Don't get me wrong - there are parts of this film that made my inner geek squeal with delight (impressive slow mo fight scenes, shots of 10 foot samurai warriors with red eyes being cut down by Browning's petite frame, dragons and planes, World War trenches with steampunk Nazis, an awesome OST) but therein lies some of the problem of Sucker Punch.

A film with a series of great moments strung together by some disappointing plot does not alone an outstanding movie make.

Visually amazing, thematically a little weak, Sucker Punch remains an intriguingly stylish watch.

Extras: Animated shorts, prequel pieces, behind the soundtrack - a so so bunch

Rating: 6/10 

Unknown: Blu Ray review

Unknown: Blu Ray review

Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

Liam Neeson stars in this thriller as Dr Martin Harris a man who awakes after a car accident in Berlin to find that his wife (played by the lovely January Jones) doesn't recognize him and that Aidan Quinn has taken his identity.

Despite Harris' protestations that he is the real Dr Harris, he soon finds himself on the run and trying to work out what's going on - helped by taxi driver Gina, played by Diane Kruger, Harris soon finds he's being targeted for death and the pressure's on to find out exactly why he can't fit back into his own life.

Solid and relatively unspectacular, Unknown gets by thanks largely to a very credible performance put in by Neeson. His confusion and stoic insistences give the plot a but of credence and while the ending's quite a clever one and a twist with a difference, it's largely thanks to Neeson's performance that you buy into it.

Extras: Behind the scenes piece

Rating: 6/10 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Double Hour: Movie Review

The Double Hour: Movie Review

The Double Hour
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Ksenia Rappoport, Filippo Timi, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno
Director: Giuseppe Capotondi
A tense psychological thriller,The Double Hour - or La Doppia Ora-is the tale of Sonia, an apparently shy chambermaid who meets the rugged former cop turned security guard Guido one night at a speed dating event.
Pretty soon, they're in a relationship and all's happy until one day while at Guido's work, their happiness is rudely interrupted.
Following a break in, Sonia soon finds her life changed in many ways - and as the film progresses, Sonia's past starts to surface causing all kinds of issues between the pair.
Twisty, turny, haunting and stunning in places,The Double Hour surprises you at every turn - it's a slick sophisticated thriller which is to be blunt a bit of a head trip and may cause you to shout"What The?"at the screen.
It's very clever and requires you to keep up as the labyrinthe plot expands -it's complex and wonderful in places thanks to the central performance of Ksenia Rappoport.

You won't know exactly what's going on - and when the revelations come there's a collective penny dropping within the audience. Clever film making, The Double Hour is a rewarding trip to the cinema for those who enjoy psychological thrillers.

Mr Popper's Penguins: Movie Review

Mr Popper's Penguins: Movie Review

Mr Popper's Penguins
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Penguins - six of 'em
Director: John Davis
So, school holidays are under way and there's plenty of clamouring for the family dollar at the box office.
This time, Jim Carrey stars as Thomas Popper, a real estate buyer for a firm, who's a separated dad from his son and daughter.
Popper Senior spent most of his life travelling around the world and never being present for his son, so when pops pops his clogs, Popper Jr is left a crate, in which he assumes, is a stuffed penguin from his father's world trips.
Trouble is that penguin comes to life and starts wreaking havoc in Popper's house - and at a time when he's got job stresses and trying to secure a building from a cantankerous elderly buyer (Angela Lansbury), it's not exactly what Popper needs.
And things get worse, when another five penguins show - soon, Popper's personal life is on the up while his work life is taking a slide down...
Mr Popper's Penguins is fairly inoffensive family fare - with a message of holding onto your loved ones as tight as you can for as long as you can, it's clear what this at times predictable piece is trying to achieve.
Jim Carrey's got a nice vein of sadness running through his Popper and Carla Gugino makes an affable enough foil to his career obsessed business man ways.
It's probably pitched a little towards the younger end (Popper gets a football in the groin and head a couple of times) and there's some penguins with wind which threaten to turn it into Mr Pooper's Penguins at one point - but the smaller kids in the audience won't mind.
Mr Popper's Penguins isn't too bad - it's neither here nor there in terms of entertainment; there are a few moments which the kids will love (turning a museum do into a water slide scored the biggest laughs for the funny fowl and their followers in the audience) but the parents may find their patience is a little tested by this.

My Wedding and Other Secrets: DVD Review

My Wedding and Other Secrets: DVD Review

My Wedding and Other Secrets
Rating: PG
Released by South Pacific Pictures

In this rom com, Michelle Ang stars as Asian film student Emily Chu, a geek who's at odds with the world around her.

While her fellow film students are claiming their influences number the likes of Fellini, Emily's talking about how Star Wars turned her to the dark side of film making...

She's a bit of an oddball and that geeky goofy charm extends to the rest of her life

But it also puts her into conflict with her Hong Kong parents - she's seen one sister nearly disowned after she dated a boy her parents didn't approve of.

So, when she meets good ole Kiwi James ( Go Girls' Matt Whelan) and the two spark, she's well aware of the potential divisions it could cause.

However, Emily's a dreamer and follows her heart over her head.

My Wedding And Other Secrets is a charming and sweet culture clash romantic comedy. It has an innocence and character which will melt your heart.

Michelle Ang manages to bring an endearing charm to Emily and life to the story. She veers on the right side of compassionate to her eccentric spontaneity rather than irritating - and she also has sincerity for the part as she juggles her heart, what's right and the wishes of her family.

And she gels very well with Matt Whelan's awkward and nervy James.

A sweetly charming cultural rom com which perfectly matches the times we live in.

Extras: Behind the scenes, bloopers, commentary, trailer and short

Rating: 8/10 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Billy T: Te Movie: Movie Review

Billy T: Te Movie: Movie Review

Billy T : Te Movie
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Billy T James, a wealth of mates and colleagues
Director: Ian Mune
"His mark on comedy is like a pen mark on a shirt - by a Vivid pen - it's indelible."
So a doco about the irrepressible and much loved Kiwi comic icon Billy T James finally hits the cinema
Te Movie is more about Billy T's life and draws inevitable parallels with Leanne Pooley's Topp Twins Untouchable Girls in terms of how it's put together.
Using archive performance footage, past interviews and current day recollections and reconstructions from colleagues, friends but no immediate family, this piece by Ian Mune is a sensitive, relatively rounded portrait of the man who clearly set the standard for Kiwi comedy (and whose groundbreaking talent and natural showmanship have yet to be matched from what I can tell.)
I should hold up my hands here and confess that I'd never been exposed to Billy T before as it's from before my time in NZ and so while that gives me a better perspective on the film making, it possibly would have disadvantaged me on what Billy T brought to the 80s Kiwi world.
Thankfully, Ian Mune uses footage of him truly rocking the house and reducing everyone to laughter to show what a talent he was - and what a stellar performer he was once he overcame his initial shyness and found his stride in the Maori Volcanics group.
He's also wisely chosen to adopt a somewhat matey approach to interviewing friends and colleagues of Billy T - a trio of bros is interviewed in a field in Auckland, quite a few other mates are interviewed near a cowshed - there's a very uniquely Kiwi and casual approach to putting together this film. Contributions also come from long term Billy T cohort Peter Rowley as you'd expect.
But it's telling that there's no real comment - other than archival footage - from immediate family and that's the one real hole and glaring omission which truly stops this from feeling like a rounded and full portrait of the man who seems to have crossed Maori and Pakeha divides and trailblazed the way for comedy on television and the stage. However, you do get a feel for a man who was a musician, a singer and comedy performer.
As for the Billy T who emerges from this doco, well, what can I say? Clearly this guy had some real talent, a drive to succeed and a selflessness which led him to overworking and eventual ill health - you'll be agog at how he bounds around the stage after having had a heart transplant and at the same time, you'll feel a real sense of sadness that he never went onto more. There's one moment where Mune gets everyone to reflect on Billy's passing and it's the only real slightly creaky moment within the film - sure, I can understand his intentions, but it's a little heavy handed and feels somewhat intrusive. Though, that said, I understand a lot of those involved with Billy never got the closure they needed after his sad early demise so perhaps this goes some way to providing some kind of relief.
Ultimately, because of the lack of immediate family, Billy T: Te Movie falls just short of greatness; don't get me wrong - Ian Mune's pieced together a warmly fitting tribute to the man who made such a difference to entertainment and Maori/ Pakeha relations.

And quite frankly, decades on, Billy T still has what it takes to reduce audiences to laughter - no matter how old or young they are in this charming doco which will have you giggling like Billy T when the lights go up.

Monday, 15 August 2011

I Love You Phillip Morris: DVD Review

I Love You Phillip Morris: DVD Review

I Love You Phillip Morris
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow

Jim Carrey stars as flamboyant conman Steven Russell in this film which is outrageous and fun at the same time.

Adopted at birth,Russell feels he's living a lie and suddenly decides everything must change-so he starts committing frauds left right and centre to pay for his life as a gay man and enjoy the extravagances.

But as ever, the law catches up with him and banged up, Russell finds Ewan McGregor's sweetly touching Phillip Morris and the two fall in love.

However, Russell's determined to get out of jail and does everything in his power to ensure Morris and he have a life together-but it doesn't run smoothly.

Light, frothy, funny and outrageous in equal measures,ILYPM is a hilarious and insanely fun ride with scenes which will shock and surprise you.

Carrey is very good as Russell but it's McGregor who's the best thing in this with his performance just endearing on many levels. OTT it may be, but it's a great piece of popcorn entertainment.

Extras: The Making of/ interviews

Rating: 7/10 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Conviction: Blu Ray review

Conviction: Blu Ray review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox

Hilary Swank stars as Betty Ann Waters in this film which is based on a true story.

Waters is a drop out who's formed a close bond with her brother Kenny (the ever great Sam Rockwell) as they've been shunted from foster home to foster home in their childhoods.

But when Kenny's arrested for murder by Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo)- and convicted two years after the crime's been committed- Betty Ann feels her life ripped from her

So, she resolves to put herself through law school with the sole aim of doing whatever it takes to exonerate her brother.

Conviction works okay as a TV movie, rather than a big screen outing.

All involved give great performances and it seems unfair to diminish the true story nature of this, but the problem is the film offers nothing new or original to many other similar stories of their ilk.

Granted, it's made perfectly adequately and sees the main duo of Swank and Rockwell acquit themselves decently - but the emotional core of the film appears to have gone AWOL from script to screen.

The moments where you'd expect your heart to leap are curiously flat and presented in a very matter of fact way; and some of the most potentially engaging drama (Waters' marriage falling apart being one) takes place off screen, robbing you of any real involvement. That and the fact that it's not explored that this woman's spent her entire life trying to save her brother and it's cost her everything and you just feel nothing but detachment from what transpires in front of you.

Extras: Conversation with the director and Betty Anne Waters offers a little insight.

Rating: 4/10 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cowboys and Aliens: Movie Review

Cowboys and Aliens: Movie Review

Cowboys and Aliens
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano
Director: Jon Favreau
In a dusty western desert setting, a man (Daniel Craig) wakes up with a jolt; bloodied and wearing an odd looking bracelet on his arm, he's got no idea who he is, where he is or what he's done.
Unfortunately, this man, Jake Lonergan, is a wanted outlaw and doesn't really have time to work it all out - he ends up in the small town of Absolution and is on a collision course with Harrison Ford's Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, a cattleman and who seems to own most of the town in some form or another.
But the pair have to put aside their potential differences and work together when an other worldly presence attacks and abducts most of the townsfolk.
And Lonergan begins to find out he knows more about what's going on than he first thought&.leading him to be Absolution's one hope of salvation.
Cowboys and Aliens is the latest adaptation of a graphic novel and a mash up of sci fi and western (though the emphasis is more on Western than anything else.)
Daniel Craig brings his usual purse lipped steeliness to the role of the mysterious loner - though I think based on this, he'd do very well as a lead in a Western; Harrison Ford is his grumpy self as the rich cattleman who, surprise, surprise has a heart of gold underneath that very gruff exterior and Olivia Wilde continues to impress by underplaying the only real female on the screen Ella. Sam Rockwell is criminally underused in the role of bartender Doc (and is a real disappointment).
Jon Favreau also brings a level of skill to the direction of this - the start of which is very well crafted - and ends up essentially just directing a western which has touches of sci fi thrown in here and there - although 30 minutes from the end it simply becomes a fight the aliens and survive kind of flick.
As for the aliens themselves, they're nothing spectacular - early scenes bring a sense of menace to their presence but once these bipedal lizards start running around like apes, they lose a bit of their panache and simply become moving blobs.
Sure, there are some parallels of the westerners being threatened by the more advanced aliens which conjure up an allegory of how the native Americans must have felt, but it's all pretty broad brush strokes and left to your assumption.
It's half of the problem of Cowboys and Aliens - while I'm not exactly raving about the film, I wasn't underwhelmed either; I was simply left feeling a little lukewarm.

The meshing together of the story, genres and scowling grumpy characters simply didn't gel as well as it could have perhaps done; it's difficult to empathise with them; the classic western touches (a stranger rides into town, faces trouble and a threat before riding off into the sunset) are nicely integrated and the initial alien attack channels early Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind but this straight laced film just never kicks fully into gear - there's never really a wow moment which it needs to pull you out of a 2 hour lull.

Incendies - Movie Review

Incendies - Movie Review

Rating: 8/10
Cast: Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeuax Poulin, Maxim Goudette
Director: Denis Villeneuve
It's rare for cinema to leave you speechless and a little numb by its power - Incendies is one of those films.
The Canadian French collaboration has a simple enough premise - when a pair of twins Jeanne and Simon attend the reading of their mother Nawal's will, they receive two envelopes - one for a father they never knew they had and another for a brother previously unheard of.
So Jeanne, being the more open of the two to the search into the past, heads to the Middle East to try and find out more of the family history and to try and trace the family tree which had become broken shattered. Eventually her twin brother Simon joins the search also.
However, what they find changes their lives forever.
Incendies is heart stopping cinema, and is quite frankly in places, not for the faint hearted.
An adaptation of a play by Wajdi Mouawad, it's a rich tapestry of shocks and twists - the final one of which is truly shocking by cinematic standards and really does render you stunned as the pieces of this intricate puzzle fit together.
It begins with a wailing Radiohead soundtrack as a young boy has his head shaved and stares right into the camera - it's a powerful opening which sets the pace for this tragic tale.
Both Poulin and Gaudette are mightily impressive Arab leads whose performances are so compelling throughout that you can't tear your eyes off the screen as it unfolds. Stares and silences along with lingering camera shots help build an atmosphere as their hunt unfolds.
Equally, the flashbacks into Nawal's life in an undefined Middle Eastern country are hypnotic and appalling too. Azabel gives great credence to Nawal's struggle and the horrors she faces as she's caught up in the maelstrom of a religious war.

One scene where a bus full of Muslims are held up by Christian soldiers is one of the most heart stopping scenes I've witnessed all year and the drama pulls you right in with sickening ramifications.

It's easy to see why Incendies was Oscar nominated (it lost to In A Better World) - thanks to a taut mystery and an intriguing premise, great performances and a foreboding moody story which appalls and grips in equal measures, it's one of the most impressive foreign films of the year which will haunt you from the moment you leave the cinema.

Love Story: Movie Review

Love Story: Movie Review

Love Story
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Florian Habicht, Masha Yakovenko, Florian's father

Director: Florian Habicht

Delightfully quirky, and a little bit insane, this is the latest from NZ film maker Florian Habicht who made Kaikohe Demolition and Land of the Long White Cloud. It's opening in Auckland and playing in the 2011 New Zealand International Film Festival as well.

It's a mash of genres - with a dazzling pinch of interactivity.

Love Story is made on the fly with the truly interactive feel of New York and those who live there. Basically, Habicht one day sees a woman (Masha Yakovenko) walking on the streets holding a plate with a piece of cake on it.

Spurred on by a whim, he introduces himself to Masha and persuades her to be part of his film - only, he doesn't really have a vision of where it's going and this is where the New Yorkers and his father come in as he seeks advice from them about what he should do next&

Love Story is random, nuts, hilarious and touching throughout as well.

There's a real blurring of reality though as Florian the film maker plays "Florian the film maker" (or does he?) as he directs himself in this film which takes the path chosen by the New Yorkers he randomly meets in the streets.

It's also got a brilliant turn by his dad - who tends to skype in and join the discussion at highly random times but with laugh out loud repercussions.

This wonderfully absurd and highly watchable film is rewarding, entertaining and will make you smile the biggest smile as you head out into the winter nights. It's to be commended for its light tone which shows an inventive touch at work and one who'll clearly be able to turn his hand to anything when necessary.

Plus you'll never look at romantically eating food off someone in the same way again when you see this...

Something Borrowed: Movie Review

Something Borrowed: Movie Review

Something Borrowed
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, John Krasinski, Colin Egglesfield
Director: Luke Greenfield
From the book of the same name comes a new rom com.
Goodwin stars as Rachel White, a woman hitting her 30s and still single and unmarried; her best friend Darcey Rhone (Hudson) is the complete opposite - engaged to Rachel's former college buddy dreamy Dex (Egglesfield) and about to be married.
But when Rachel begins a clandestine affair with Dex, all manner of secrets, lies and hidden truths begin to surface.
Something Borrowed will appeal to a certain sector of the audience but to everyone else, it'll be a case of eye rolling and a terrible sense of déjà vu.
While Goodwin does as well as she can with drippy sad sack Rachel, Hudson's managed to perfect the self obsessed and generally unlikeable best friend who's unaware she's being cheated on.
And that's major problem with Something Borrowed; there's no one really to root for in this. Sure, you can argue it should be about friendship but when Hudson's character is so spiteful and self centred, it's hard to argue for her and that her fiancée shouldn't cheat on her.
The only high point in this film is John Kransinski - his best friend Ethan is hilariously funny in an underplayed way dispensing deadpan lines and generally stealing the show. The negative side of that is how the story treats him with a revelation ruining any kind of decency his character may have had prior to that.
With some funny scenes (a badminton match on the beach is amusing and seeing Goodwin and Hudson pretend to be Salt'n'Pepa being the best) and a subplot involving Ethan being stalked by a cougar he can't shake, this overlong romcom seriously outstays its welcome with its 2 hour run time.

Overly asinine and formulaic, Something Borrowed left me feeling like shouting Something Blue afterwards.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Horrible Bosses: Movie Review

Horrible Bosses: Movie Review

Horrible Bosses
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudekis, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Julie Bowen
Director: Seth Gordon
Let's face it - who hasn't thought of offing their boss in a moment of revenge and sweet justice after years of being ignored, mistreated or passed over?
Right, so it's just me then - well, that's pretty much the premise of this new comedy starring Jason Bateman.
Bateman is Nick Hendricks who despises his boss Dave Harken (Spacey) after he's passed up for promotion; his pals Dale (Day) and Kurt (Sudekis) who have issues with their bosses played by Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell respectively.
Perhaps Dale has it worst with his sexually suggestive and lecherous dental boss Julia (played with delicious relish by Aniston) as she's always trying to seduce him and continually sexually harasses him.
So the trio decides enough is enough and plot to off their big bad bosses to ensure their continual happiness.
But because they're inept, things go seriously awry.
Much like the film itself, to be brutally frank.
Bitterly disappointing and horribly flat at times, Horrible Bosses is crushingly unfunny which is a real shock given the talent involved. Don't get me wrong, the main trio work well and have a good dynamic but the dark comedy of this premise goes largely unexplored and becomes quite wasted as the time wears on.
Aniston clearly has fun, putting to bed the good girl image she's spent years on - and some of the language out of that potty mouthed character will surprise some and will make force casting agents to look at other darker roles for her. Spacey is menacing as one boss but Farrell's barely on screen for long enough to warrant anything more than a cameo appearance in this.
Bateman, Day and Sudekis gel well on the screen and there are some laugh out loud funny moments - but they're too few and far between for this version of the Three Stooges. Bateman and Day are the clear stand outs - with Bateman channeling his usual laconic style and Day bringing some welcome manic moments to the fore. But it's just not enough to save it.

Ultimately Horrible Bosses runs out of steam and its uninspired denouement is clearly sign posted well in advance; as an overall experience, it's one which is hollow, lacking and whilst it's not exactly a waste of all those involved, it's a shame that it couldn't be something more original and funny instead of a flat, uneven night out at the cinema.

Larry Crowne: Movie Review

Larry Crowne: Movie Review

Larry Crowne
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bryan Cranston, George Takei, Cedric The Entertainer, Wilmer Valderrama
Director: Tom Hanks
A rom com with Tom Hanks directing and starring and co-written with Julia Roberts may not sound like a hit but Larry Crowne is an absolute surprise.
Hanks plays Larry Crowne, a former Navy man who's working in a WalMart style shop. One day, however, he finds he's a victim of downsizing and it's revealed he was targetted because he had no college education and will never succeed in any company.
So, armed with that information Crowne heads back to enrol in community college - and winds up in a motivational class run by Julia Roberts' disenchanted and disillusioned teacher Mercedes Tainot.
However, Crowne finds a new lease on life - as does Tainot as the two of them rediscover what's important in their lives.
Sure, it sounds sickly and sentimental, but this film from Hanks is actually a lot of fun and an unexpected life affirming pleasure. With a quirky script and some brilliant supporting turns (particularly by Gugu Mbatha-Raw - this girl is heading for big things) it's funny, heart warming and dry.

George Takei enlivens things no end with his stuffily deadpan economics professor and gets the lion's share of the best lines - but Hanks manages to negotiate a couple of lulls in the proceedings and offers up something pleasant and thoroughly entertaining in this small nicely polished film.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Movie Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Movie Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rating: 8/10
Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, Tom Felton, Brian Cox, John Lithgow Andy Serkis
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Modern day San Francisco and Will Rodman (Franco) is a troubled scientist, working on a cure for Alzheimers disease and using chimps as well as illegally using his father (Lithgow) to see if the ALZ 112 cure works.
When one of the chimps which is showing signs of growing intelligence thanks to the trials in the lab breaks out and is killed, Rodman discovers she's protecting a baby - whom Rodman promptly takes home and raises as his own test subject.
Three years later and Caesar the test subject is also showing signs of inherited intelligence and has learned sign language - however, when Caesar attacks a neighbour protecting Rodman's dad, he's locked up in a primate sanctuary.
But it's not long before Caesar's plotting a break out from the chimpanarium his human captors have imprisoned him in...
A reboot of the Apes franchise was in no way on my radar after the somewhat messy Tim Burton/ Mark Wahlberg attempt back in 2001 - but quite frankly, this reboot is perhaps one of the best of the series - and one of the best reboots of a flagging franchise I've ever witnessed.
That's mainly, it has to be said, due to the work done by WETA in creating the chimps and Andy Serkis' motion capture suit work as the lead Caesar. We've now reached an age where digital technology can do pretty much anything and can do it astoundingly well.
While the early digital realisation of the baby chimps is something akin to a Mogwai/Ape cross and a little creaky, when Caesar ages and comes into his own, it's really an astonishingly good cinematic moment (even if early shots of him careering around a home are unnecessary and feel shoehorned in as if to show off what the tech can do) as the ape rises up and begins to emote. There's so much feeling conveyed in Caesar's eyes that you can't help but connect with the primate and his kin and for that, those involved in this film really do need huge kudos as it's never easy to get an audience to empathise with digitally created creatures.
Most of the humans are really confined to second fiddle in this to be honest and some pretty unsurprising stereotypes are rolled out as well; the boss of the genetic research company rolls out such clichés as "I run a business - not a petting zoo" and "You make history - and I make money". Coupled with Tom Felton's cruel cage master, that side of the story is somewhat predictable, clunky and a little jarring. Plus when you throw in a couple of plot holes - convenient lapses of security aid some of the narrative but will irritate some, there's clearly some further evolution of the script needed.
That said, director Rupert Wyatt (who did the superb The Escapist) is in need of praise for helming this origin story, which tips a hat to the mythology as well (if you're an Apes fan, there's some pretty sly and cool nods to the franchise in the past - look out for them, you won't be disappointed) but also for helming a terrifically well paced and reined in blockbuster. The final set piece is also to be commended as it breaks some of the conventions of Hollywood blockbusters and dials down the action which actually adds to the tension and suspense of the film.

All in all, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best blockbusters of the season; it's a thrilling, emotion filled and intelligent ride which reinvigorates the franchise and has got me salivating for a potential sequel.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Dr Who: Frontios: DVD Review

Dr Who: Frontios: DVD Review

Dr Who - Frontios
Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Ent

Heading back to 1984, this four part adventure from Peter Davison's tenure in the TARDIS sees the Doc having to deal with the threat facing the last surviving humans on a planet far far away.

But the TARDIS team soon find out there's more than just one threat as a series of parasites known as the Gravis and the Tractators are out for survival too.

Redolent of the blight of the scripts in the 1980s, this serial is nothing sensational for the range - it's perfectly watchable if you're a Who fan but it's not exactly welcoming to non fans of the Time Lord.

The baddies are well realized (particularly the moments when the good guys are pulled underground) and there's some good solid acting on show from the likes of Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Janet Fielding and Jeff Rawle, but this tale isn't going to set the world alight.

A reasonably light smattering of extras by the range's standard complete the package, but there's a sense there's very little to add to a story which doesn't stand out from the Classic series.

Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, isolated score and a making of the story - about average for the range.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 1 August 2011

Game Review: Street Fighter IV - Super Arcade Edition

Game Review: Street Fighter IV - Super Arcade Edition

Street Fighter IV: Super Arcade Edition
Released by Capcom
Platform: PS3

Sometimes, in the world of gaming, if it ain't broke, you don't need to fix it.

That's certainly the case with this release which essentially takes the smackdown, smack'em in the face world of Street Fighter and injects a healthy dose of gameplay within.

With 39 fighters to choose from, each with their own signature moves and moods, there's certainly no lack of choice when it comes to choosing your weapon of street bound destruction.

Throw in an online multiplayer mode and there's definitely plenty of fist fights and showdowns ahead. It takes a little time to adjust and learn the combo moves you need to succeed but this is part of the fun of a game like this - adapting to the circumstances and reacting to the challenges in each fight as the time ticks down.

With backgrounds which are a little 3dimensional and give a street fight feel, there's something nostalgic and simple about this game - it doesn't really need whistles and bells to grab your attention - essentially, you need to win a fight over three rounds. It's as simple and as much fun as that.

Kicking ass and progressing through the levels, you have to adapt to survive and that ensures you can't get lazy on the technical front; you need to learn combos, assess the dangers and react to newer foes.

Ultimately, whether it's one player, two player or the multiverse, Street Fighter IV Super Arcade Edition is just good ole fashioned fun - the kind you used to lose all your pocket money to down in the arcades.

Rating: 7/10 

Limitless - Blu Ray review

Limitless - Blu Ray review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment

What if you could find a drug which stimulated all of your brain?

What if you were that dude from the Hangover aka Bradley Cooper and someone presented this premise to you?

Cooper stars as out of work, down on his luck writer Eddie Morra, who's dumped by his girlfriend Lindy (Abby Cornish) because he's going nowhere.

On the very same day, he bumps into his former brother in law whom he's not seen for nine years - and on his advice, Morra takes a techno wonder drug NZT48.

Soon, Morra's finished that book he's been working on for years, made a killing on the stock market and generally stimulated his life more than he could ever have expected to.

When he learns the drug could kill him, Morra's in dire straits...

Limitless has some impressive moments; Cooper does well as Morra, the man who becomes addicted to the drug and improving his life. He brings the behaviour mannerisms of any addict to life and yet manages to keep this druggie affable and watchable.

Director Burger also starts off well - using some clever lighting techniques and camera ideas to reflect the highs of taking the drug (everything becomes crystal clear and bathed in a yellow light).

But then he blows it - as Burger soon himself becomes addicted to the thrill of using the same psychedelic tricks over and over and over again; any subtlety and appreciation for the novelty is pounded out of you with their repetition. It's akin to your senses being visually pummelled repeatedly with a very blunt object.

Throw into the mix some frankly ludicrous plot developments (Morra encourages his girlfriend to use the drug to think her way out of a tight spot - even after he's learnt how dangerous the drug is) and you begin to realise Limitless has found its own boundaries

Extras: Behind the scenes piece, alternate endings and commentary

Rating: 6/10

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