Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Aliens game announced

Remember Alien? Remember Aliens?

Well, good news for fans of the genre who like to exercise their thumbs too.

Aliens: Colonial Marines has just been announced on PC, PS3 and Xbox.

Here's what the release says about those face huggers getting digitised....

"SEGA® Europe Ltd. And SEGA® of America, Inc. today announced that the highly-anticipated first-person shooter, Aliens: Colonial Marines™, will be launching in spring 2012 on PC, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. In partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products and developed by critically acclaimed studio Gearbox Software, Aliens: Colonial Marines will bring new levels of bone-chilling suspense and adrenaline-filled action to the renowned franchise. The game pits players against the universe's ultimate alien killing machines, the Xenomorphs, in claustrophobic environments guaranteed to produce blood curdling thrills that the movie is renowned for.

"To Gearbox Software and its peers throughout the industry, ALIENS is one of the most influential science fiction properties of all time," said Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox Software. "Aliens: Colonial Marines, designed as an interactive successor to the landmark films from Twentieth Century Fox, is a dream project about which our studio is deeply committed and passionate."

"Aliens: Colonial Marines will be THE definitive ALIENS gaming experience," said Gary Knight, Senior Vice President of Marketing at SEGA Europe and SEGA of America. "Gearbox Software are doing a brilliant job translating the thrill and horror that ALIENS stands for into an action-packed shooter experience with co-operative gameplay at its core."

Gary Rosenfeld, Senior Vice President of New Media for Fox Consumer Products added, "It's no easy task to take on one of the most influential films of all-time, but SEGA and Gearbox are not going to disappoint. This game will be a must-have for fans of the ALIENS franchise and gamers around the globe."

Aliens: Colonial Marines begins with an ostensibly abandoned ship, the U.S.S. Sulaco, recovered in orbit around LV-426. Players lead a group of highly trained United States Colonial Marines as they board the deserted craft to uncover the fate of the crew. They will have to fight to survive unspeakable horrors and their own anxieties as they chase down the truth behind a galaxy-spanning deception that places humanity at the mercy of the most murderous and deadly species in the universe. Aliens: Colonial Marines features authentic environments, such as the surface of LV-426 and Hadley's Hope, weapons inspired by the film series and is designed to provide an exhilarating and engaging new chapter in the Aliens universe."

Aliens: Colonial Marines will be available spring 2012 on PlayStation 3 system, Xbox 360 and PC.

Check out the trailer here: Be warned though - you need to be 18 or over for this frightening trailer.

Futurama: Season 6 DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

There's just something about Matt "Simpsons" creator Groening's space age comedy animated show which is so wonderfully insane and endearing.
Cancelled after four TV seasons, it lived on in a series of straight to DVD specials which sold so well, it ended up getting a new series on TV - albeit on a different channel.

This collection of 13 episodes (actually from the second half of the sixth season transmitted on TV) are a great showcase for the inventiveness of a story which centres around a 20th century pizza delivery boy who wakes up in 30th Century Earth - to be surrounded by a motley crew of helpers at a space delivery company called Planet Express.

Time travel, kids TV shows, robots mayhem (courtesy of hard drinking cigar chomping robot Bender) and general insanity are all the trademarks of this show which is often witty, clever and when it wants to be heart warming and poignant.

Stand out eps include Ghost in the Machines, a Bender centric ep and Reincarnation, wherein the Planet Express crew deliver 3 mini eps in the style of anime, Disney and videogame.
IT's this kind of freshness which makes each of the 21 min eps so much fun and enjoyable.

Extras: Commentaries on every ep, a featurette, deleted scenes - a lot of great animation stuff which will appeal to fans of the show and the genre as well


Win Win: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent

Paul Giamatti once again dons his slightly sadsack look for this indie quirky piece about a lawyer Mike Flaherty whose small business is facing a bit of a financial struggle.
Flaherty also moonlights as the coach of a small high school wrestling team - and they're struggling as well.

So, when he sees a cash lifeline from an elderly client, he decides to cash in and becomes the oldster's guardian.

However, that backfires when the grandson Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer) shows up and Flaherty's family takes him in. And when Mike realises Kyle can wrestle, suddenly it's all looking up.

But the fragile world is shaken up when Kyle's mum (our very own Melanie Lynskey) shows up, straight out of rehab...

Win Win is the definition of indie. It's from the director of The Visitor and The Station Agent and is once again another powerhouse performance from Paul Giamatti who seems to excel (and is in danger of being typecast) in these world weary character roles.

It's also wryly funny and heartfelt with great performances from Lynskey, who manages to turn a relatively loathsome character into something a little more nuanced and plausible - and Shaffer in particular who manages to get the teenage awkwardness down to an art form. He is a real discovery of a first time actor.

It's the ensemble which works well - Giamatti and Ryan impress with their humorously laconic relationship; Tambor and Cannavale are funny as the assistant coaches and as the house of cards crumbles that Flaherty's created,  McCarthy does a good job of handling the situation rather than reducing it to mush.

There's a little case of the film sagging somewhat after an hour or so -but when they throw in a frankly hilarious wrestling scene, you're prepared to forgive it.

All in all, Win Win is a breath of fresh air and a quality indie with an impressive cast.

Extras: Deleted scenes, music video by The National, Directors' insights.


Apollo 18: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

An American sci fi horror, Apollo 18's central conceit is that in 1970, when the US government announced there would be no future Apollo missions to the moon, one was secretly launched to try and place sensors on the moon to prevent any Russian attacks.

The two manned mission never returned and until now, thanks to the Department of Defence, the tapes of what happened were sealed.

But now, those tapes have been released - and the true horror of what actually happened on the moon to astronauts  Commander Nathan Walker, Lieutenant Colonel John Grey and Captain Benjamin Anderson can finally be told.

A found footage film it maybe, but this one has a good central premise and a surprisingly lo fi attitude which works initially in its favour.

Early shots around the moon capture the tech of the era well and thanks to a somewhat grainier reproduction you're never quite 100% sure what's going on. But once it's revealed what's happening, that's when unfortunately it starts to go a little awry.

Apollo 18 starts off atmospherically but about 15 minutes into the film, you start to feel like it's dragging - it's no reflection on the actors but those behind the story waste too much time trying to build an atmosphere, you end up wanting something to happen - and it doesn't.

Ultimately the film descends into traditional horror territory and while the start of the ride is entertaining and different enough, what plays out is predictable and disappointing - despite some jump out of your seat moments, this Blair Witch/ Paranormal space wannabe just doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Extras: Commentary from director and editor


Abduction: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

So Taylor Lautner launches his bid to become an action star and put those pesky werewolves from the Twilight Saga behind him.

He stars as Nathan Harper, who by a series of coincidences, discovers that he's been adopted and his parents aren't his real family.

Normally, that's cause for a serious rift - but in this case, it turns out Nathan's actually wanted by the CIA and a baddie (Michael Nyqvist) for all kinds of reasons - but predominantly, because his real father turns out to have connections on both sides.

Suddenly, Nathan's on the run with his neighbour, Karen (Lily Collins) in tow...

But the bad guys aren't too far behind.

Abduction is a fairly generic run of the mill action thriller - it's really there to try and give Lautner a new career - look he fights, look he tries to do romantic, look he's shooting moody looks at the neighbour he's wanted for years - but to be honest, it falls pretty badly short. Unless you're a Lautner fan to be frank.

It's fairly soulless and lurches from one action set piece to the next but you don't really end up caring about Nathan, his troubled past and the reason he's being hunted. And is it now the case that Michael Nyqvist is Hollywood's go to bad guy?

All in all, the teen market who lapped up Twilight will love this. Anyone else should really avoid.

Extras: Production diaries, gag reel, brief behind the scenes piece.


Monday, 30 January 2012

SAG Awards point toward an intriguing Oscars?

Awards season is well and truly here in Hollywoodland.

But with the announcement today of the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, it looks like the Oscars could be anyone's guess.

The Artist's been the number one prediction for an Oscar success - what with 10 nominations; but it looks like The Help's staging a resurgence of sorts. But it looks like Jean Dujardin's quest for Oscar is a little more cemented after another win - as is Christopher Plummer, who won the Globe for Beginners and now receives a SAG nod too.

Winners are in bold with the whole list of nominees too...

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"The Help"
"Midnight in Paris"
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "J. Edgar"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"
Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"
Armie Hammer, "J. Edgar"
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

"The Adjustment Bureau"
"Cowboys & Aliens"
"Harry Potter and the Deahtly Hallows - Part 2"
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
"X-Men: First Class"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie Or Miniseries

Laurence Fishburne, "Thurgood"
Paul Giamatti, "Too Big to Fail"
Greg Kinnear, "The Kennedys"
Guy Pearce, "Mildred Pierce"
James Woods, "Too Big to Fail"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie Or Miniseries

Diane Lane, "Cinema Verite"
Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"
Emily Watson, "Appropriate Adult"
Betty White, "The Lost Valentine"
Kate Winslet, "Mildred Pierce"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Patrick J. Adams, "Suits"
Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"
Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights"
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Kathy Bates, "Harry's Law"
Glenn Close, "Damages"
Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men"
Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family"
Betty White, "Hot In Cleveland"

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

"Boardwalk Empire"
"Breaking Bad"
"Game of Thrones"
"The Good Wife"

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

"30 Rock"
"The Big Bang Theory"
"Modern Family"
"The Office"

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

"Game of Thrones"
"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena"
"True Blood"

Screen Actors Guild Awards 48th Annual Life Achievement Award

Mary Tyler Moore

Friday, 27 January 2012

Friends with Benefits: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

Haven't we already done this before with No Strings Attached starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in the past 12 months?
Well, sort of.

Mila Kunis stars as corporate headhunter Jamie who first meets graphic designer Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) when she's trying to get him to relocate from LA to take a job with GQ in New York. Harper's initially reticent to take the post as he's not convinced the move is the right thing for him. But Jamie takes him for a night on the town and that persuades him to up sticks and move to the Big Apple.

But Harper doesn't really know anyone and so he latches onto Jamie and the two become friends.
Who then decide a little casual sex won't necessarily be a bad thing - as long as it doesn't lead to complications....
As romantic comedies go, Friends With Benefits is a bouncy, fun, light, frothy cappuccino of the genre; it's got a pacy opening and some zingy funny dialogue - as well as young things exposing a fair bit (and butt) of flesh.

That in mind, it's actually got a fair bit going for it - in particular, Kunis who cut her comedic chops on TV sitcom, That 70s Show. She outshines Timberlake in comic timing, playful sexiness and great delivery of some punchy oneliners while batting those big seductive eyes. It's not that Timberlake's terrible, just that he's not on the same level as her when it comes to the comedy and ends up more goofy than plausible.
There's a bit of a lull when the film relocates from the fun of NY to Harper's more serious home family situation in LA and despite another brilliant turn from Richard Jenkin, the energy dip nearly becomes critical for the movie.

A good solid ensemble cast, including a cameo from the superb Emma Stone, a hippyish free loving Patricia Clarkson as Jamie's mother and Woody Harrelson as a gay sports editor at GQ makes this something a little less predictable for the rom com genre. Sure, there's a bit of dissecting of the tenets of the rom-com world by the pair as they scoff at the banalities and predictabilities of Hollywood's romantic world view (even former Grey's Anatomy starlet and now romcom stable Katherine Heigl gets dissed), but it's all part of the overall mix.
All in all, despite the blatantly shoe-horned in product placement  and repeated flash mobbing, Friends With Benefits will surprise you - it'll make you laugh when you don't expect it and actually leave you with a fluffy glow.


Zookeeper - Blu Ray Review


Rating: PG
Released by Sony Home Ent

Kevin James continues to mine his everyman shtick in this latest, a comedy about a zookeeper.
James is Griffin, who, at the start of the film has his proposal rejected by Leslie Bibb's Stephanie (the love of his life).

Cue five years later, Griffin's now head zookeeper and relatively content with his lot in life. Until at his brother's engagement do (at the zoo, naturally) his ex shows up and Griffin realises what he may have lost.

So determined to better himself, Griffin decides it's time to leave the zoo - and take a high earning job elsewhere to ensure he's not seen as a failure.

And that's the moment, the animals plot to keep him - and break their code of silence to reveal to him, and he alone, that they can talk&.

What to say about Zookeeper?

If you like pratfalls, talking animals, a creepy Asian zookeeper (step forward Ken Jeong), flat set pieces which lack fizz and sparkle, occasional laugh out loud moments and an array of stars (Stallone, Cher to name but two) talking as animals, then stop reading right here and pre-book your ticket for Zookeeper.
Granted the younger end of the audience is likely to enjoy this and there's a nice message about staying true to yourself and believing in yourself, but Zookeeper is pretty much your standard middle of the road fare.

James trades well on his everyman role once again but this time around, there's little for him to work with here - there's certainly no sophistication on display in the script but some of the younger end of the audience will love it in places (particularly the whole friendship he has with a gorilla, and a talking monkey too).

At the end of the day, if you want to see Kevin James being given advice on getting women from a group of animated animals who're prone to putting him in a succession of embarrassing situations, believe the kids will have a good time and you're prepared to leave your brain at the door, then Zookeeper is the one for your hard earned cash.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Wipeout 2048 video revealed

There can be no denying that I love the Wipeout racing games on the PlayStation.

They were one of my earliest gaming thrills on PS One - and led to hours of challenges between myself and my mates as we lived the heady days of student life and the excitement of co-op playing in its basic format.

So, it goes without saying that I'm very excited by the prospect of a return to this racing world for WipEout 2048...

A whole new batch of pics from the game has been unleashed too...

And now there's a video showing the intro movie and it comes with director's commentary as Game Director, Graeme Ankers, and Art Director, Lee Carus, give a deeper insight into the journey the movie takes the viewer on. ...

I for one, can't wait to see it very very soon.

Lord of the Rings online game expansion unveiled

What with the Hobbit on the way, it's a big year for Lord of the Rings fans.

And if there's gaming fans among you who love the online version of the LOTR games, then it's good news.

This morning, World of Entertainment's just got news that a new expansion to The Lord of the Rings Online™ will be launching Spring 2012.
The release says:

"The Lord of the Rings Online™: Riders of Rohan™, the latest expansion to the award-winning free-to-play massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) developed by Turbine. 

Riders of Rohan expands the online world of Middle-earth where players join forces to ride into the Plains of Rohan. 

Riders of Rohan launches in the Spring of 2012 with an increased level cap, the vast plains of Rohan including iconic locations such as Amon Hen and Fangorn Forest, the new Mounted Combat system and much more!

“2011 was another banner year for The Lord of the Rings Online with consistent growth for the game, a successful unification of our European and North American services and the success of Rise of Isengard, our best selling expansion to date.” said Kate Paiz, Executive Producer of The Lord of the Rings Online.  “This is going to be another outstanding year as we celebrate our fifth anniversary and introduce a wealth of new content throughout the year, ending with our arrival in Rohan.  One of our largest expansions ever, Rohan is expected to be twice the size of the recent Rise of Isengard expansion and includes the most new game systems and technology we've introduced since 2008's Mines of Moria.”

New features will include
-  Experience the Riders of Rohan – Join with the Rohirrim and ride across the sprawling Plains of Rohan; witness the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen; forge alliances with the Ents of Fangorn; and aid Éomer, adopted son of Théoden, as he seeks to protect his homeland from the growing Shadow.
- Introducing Mounted Combat – Ride into Combat atop your loyal War-steed as you defend the people of Rohan from the forces of Isengard and Mordor. Customise your War-steed’s armour and level its skills over time to aid you in mounted defence of King Theoden’s lands. Mount your steed and gather your fellows to fight against Warbands, contingents of roving warg riders that have been scouted all over the Plains of Rohan! It falls to you to head off and defeat this new threat before they over take the land.
- Advance to level 85 – Continue your legend in the next chapter of The Lord of the Rings Online. Experience new adventures in the epic story, and gain new skills and deeds as you face new challenges on your journey to 85!"

So, what are you waiting for - grab your sword in anticipation and get ready to ride with Rohan!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Descendants: Movie Review

The Descendants

Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges

With ringing critical endorsements, Golden Globes wins and talk of Oscars for George Clooney, The Descendants opens in cinemas.

Based on a book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Clooney stars as Hawaiian lawyer Matt King. King's been an absent father to his two daughters and somewhat distant in his marriage - but after his wife's put into a coma following a powerboating accident, he's forced to abandon his role as the "back up parent" and step up to the plate.

But that's not all - King's the descendant of some of Hawaii's founders and as sole trustee, he's facing the life altering choice of whether to sell thousands of acres of land and change the island's future.

All of that takes a back seat though when he discovers his wife was having an affair.

With the help of his rebellious teen daughter Alex (a brilliant star making turn from Shailene Woodley, star of TV2's Secret Life of the American Teenager), Matt sets out to meet the man who was involved with his wife...

The Descendants is one of those films which is funny, heartwarming, and a totally unexpected gem.
With a deftly amusing script and some very wry moments, it really works astonishingly well.

George Clooney rightly deserves Oscar buzz for his charming yet vulnerable, angry, emotive and restrained turn as weary land baron Matt King. He's on a career best here and mightily impressive throughout - despite being clad in some quite hideous Hawaiian shirts. A scene where he rails at his coma ridden wife conveys all the frustration, heartbreak and anger you'd expect in a film like this where the complicated threads pull together in a tight tapestry of tragedy.

If Clooney's good, co-star Shailene Woodley is his equal; initially just a rebellious teen, she peels back the layers on the complexity of a 17 year old who's faced with her mum dying and delivers such a nuanced performance that it rises from what could have been your archetypal mopey teen.

That's the thing with The Descendants; it defies your initial expectations of yet another dysfunctional family road trip film - it manages to deliver something which is incredibly emotive, has beautifully rich deadpan storytelling and is unexpectedly funny too.


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Movie Review

The Girl with Dragon Tattoo

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer
Director: David Fincher

So, here it is, the much hyped and awaited Americanised version of the series which first gripped our nation's readers and then our nation's cinemagoers.

Daniel Craig stars as Mikael Blomkvist, the Swedish journalist and co-owner of the Millennium magazine, who is being sued as the film begins. When the court action wipes him out financially, he ends up taking on an investigation into a death of a girl 40 years ago by the wealthy Henrik Vanger (Plummer).

As Blomkvist investigates further into the murky past of the family, he's brought into contact with computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who helps him with the case.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is an electrifying take on the established film - and is exceptionally true to the book.

It's hard to adapt such a bleak and phenomenally popular book and film - but Fincher's taken the bull by the horns and given it a brave, bold new life.

But a lot of the success of this film is due to Rooney Mara's portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. While many will consider Noomi Rapace's take the definitive one, Mara's outstanding in every scene she's in, capturing the spiky fragility and power of the character so incredibly well that it's hard to pick directly between the two actresses. She's rightfully been nominated for a Golden Globe for this turn - it's such a phenomenally good take that it's captivating from the moment she appears. And it seems Oscar noms are rightfully bestowed on her too.

While the majority of the cast appears to try Swedish accents, Craig is the only one of the leads to consciously avoid it; it takes a little getting used to but he's as good in the role of Blomkvist, but he's overshadowed by his co-actor.

The film is as dark as it ever was; and Fincher's reteaming with the same team who created The Social Network soundtrack is a perfect match in capturing the darkness in an electronic/ techno crossover.

Overall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is an extremely powerful and confident start to this franchise - and while the investigation into the Vanger death does give the film a slightly slow pace at times, thanks to the stunning work from Mara (and to a lesser extent, Craig), it's a thrilling ride as it unspools on the screen.


Oscar nominations 2012

So they're finally here - the Academy Award 2012 nominations.

And what a list - a nod for NZ's Bret McKenzie, a 17th nomination for Meryl Streep, a first for Gary Oldman, Hugo leads the pack (but not for acting) and an overlooked Tintin misses out on an animated nod despite Golden Globe glory. But WETA scores for its awesome work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The show's on next month with Billy Crystal hosting - but for now here's the full list of the 2012 Oscar Academy Award nominations...

Best Picture
War Horse
The Artist
The Descendants
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
The Help
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Director

Michel Hazanivicus, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo, Bridesmaids
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Best Adapted ScreenplayAlexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, The Ides of March
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball
Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Foreign FeatureBullhead
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
A Separation

Best Animated Feature
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Costume Design
The Artist
Jane Eyre

Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Documentary Short Subject
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Film Editing
Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Kevin Tent, The Descendants
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball

MakeupMartial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle, Albert Nobbs
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady

Music (Original Score)
John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Howard Shore, Hugo
Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Williams, War Horse

Music (Original Song)
"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett

Sound Editing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Short Film (Animated)Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Short Film (Live Action)
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Young Adult: Movie Review

Young Adult

Cast: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt

Here comes the anti heroine.

Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, an American young adult writer whose life isn’t exactly going the way perhaps her popularity in high school might have suggested.

One day, when she receives an email telling her of the birth of her high school sweetheart Buddy’s latest baby, she decides enough is enough and sets out to reclaim him.

The only problem is that Buddy’s actually quite happily married and unaware of Mavis’ intentions….

Young Adult is an odd film – written by Diablo Cody who brought us Juno (along with Reitman), the script does sparkle with some hipster speak here and there but it’s not exactly that kind of comic film; it’s a very dry, very cynical and slightly oddball look at someone who can’t bring themselves to grow up.

However, Theron is impressive in the role – and you do end up questioning her state of mind as she vehemently pushes on to try and win Buddy back despite everyone’s warnings that he’s quite happy where he is. Theron manages to push this latest role into the “sadly deluded but played quite seriously” territory so it’s an uneasy watch at times to be frank. One scene, at Buddy’s family christening, borders so closely on an intervention into Mavis’ life that you’re not sure whether it’s tragedy or very very dark humour on display.

The hitherto only known as Remy the Rat from Ratatouille, Patton Oswalt deserves a mention too for his role as crippled Matt Freehauf, who forms an uneasy friendship with Mavis. There’s tenderness and heart to his turn as well as sadness at a life ruined by one moment in high school.

Ultimately, Young Adult won’t be to everyone’s tastes – but it’s quirky enough and well acted that it has a curio factor – and could also see some award glory for Theron’s role. There’s an uncomfortable rawness which may strike a chord with some – and others will find it a little too aloof to engage with.


Friday, 20 January 2012

New Resident Evil trailer - and new game confirmed!

It's a Resident Evil kind of day it would appear.

In a double whammy of announcements, the new trailer for the next Res Evil film's dropped this morning.

The wildly successful film franchise adaptation that has grossed nearly $700 million worldwide to the  popular video game series, Resident Evil, returns in its highly anticipated fifth installment, RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION in state-of-the art 3D.

The Umbrella Corporation’s deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh eating Undead. The human race’s last and only hope, ALICE (Milla Jovovich), awakens in the heart of Umbrella's most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Without a safe haven, Alice continues to hunt those responsible for the outbreak; a chase that takes her from Tokyo to New York, Washington, D.C. and Moscow, culminating in a mind-blowing revelation that will force her to rethink everything that she once thought to be true. Aided by newfound allies and familiar friends, Alice must fight to survive long enough to escape a hostile world on the brink of oblivion.

The countdown has begun....

Resident Evil Retribution hits NZ cinemas on October 11th, 2012.
Watch the Resident Evil Retribution trailer here.

Not to be outdone, Capcom's announced something gaming fans will be excited about too - another Resident Evil game...

It's announced this morning that Resident Evil™6 is in full development and scheduled for release on the Xbox360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft® and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system on November 20, 2012 with a Windows PC version to follow.
The release says:

"Blending action and survival horror, this latest instalment in the multi-million selling franchise, is the most ambitious, immersive and feature rich title of the series to date and promises to be the dramatic horror experience of the year. Resident Evil 6 portrays a world where an escalation in bioterrorist attacks across the globe has led to widespread fear among the population.
In an attempt to quell the panic and curb the bioterrorist activity the President of the United States has decided to speak to the nation but not before the very location of the address itself comes under attack. With the President’s safety compromised the situation for the rest of the world seems hopeless.
In a first for the franchise, Resident Evil 6 sees series favourites Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield come together to face this unprecedented threat. They will be joined by new characters, each with their own unique perspective and involvement in this relentless dramatic horror experience enacted on a global scale." 

Since the landmark release of the first Resident Evil videogame in 1996, games with the Resident Evil tag has sold worldwide over 47 million units, while the live action movies starring Milla Jovovich have grossed in excess of $525 million dollars at the box office.   

Here's the game trailer:

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Movie Review

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Cast: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds

Based on the book by John le Carre and adapted for a seven part BBC series, this latest release is an espionage film which is being tipped for Oscar success shortly.

Oldman stars as George Smiley, a retired British spy who's asked to investigate the possibility of a Soviet mole high up in British Intelligence (nicknamed The Circus) in the 1970s.

The head of intelligence Control (John Hurt) believes the mole is one of the four people who report directly to him and has his suspicions given credence after the shooting of one of their own while investigating his claims.

But as Smiley begins to investigate, he discovers the conspiracy is a lot deeper than he expected and when spy Ricky Tan (Tom Hardy) returns after apparently defecting to Russia, the web grows tighter.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not a film for those who like quick fix entertainment; it's a brilliantly crafted piece of paranoia and suspicion which rewards engrossing viewing and those who like a complex plot. Perhaps, unfortunately it is a little dense at times - though that could be more of a reflection on audiences who don't traditionally lap up this kind of material.

Thankfully, riveting performances from an extremely strong cast, led superbly by Gary Oldman, mean you can't actually tear your eyes away. Each of them is given their individual moment to shine as well. Of the group, Benedict Cumberbatch's spy is the stand out performer and although the rest of the cast all get their time, it's Cumberbatch (the latest Sherlock) who really breaks through here.

The 1970s of Britain are superbly recreated with the drab browns and greys and attention to period details being spot on. It's also stunningly shot - but it's Gary Oldman who really shines in this adaptation which pours more importance on looks and stares rather than words and exposition.

Oldman brings a nuanced and textured take to the spy who was so definitively played by Alec Guinness back in the 1970s. There's also a cruelty lurking under his precise veneer which you're never quite sure is going to break out at any moment.

All in all, in a good way, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy feels like an old fashioned espionage film - it's suspenseful and masterful and an intelligent night out at the cinema. And with 11 BAFTA nominations under its belt this week, it's clearly heading for the awards.


Sione's 2: Unfinished Business: Movie Review

Sione's 2: Unfinished Business

Cast: Oscar Kightley, Robbie Magasiva, Pua Magasiva, Shimpal Lelisi, Iaheto Ah Hi, David Fane

Five years after Sione's Wedding hit the cinemas and swept to box office glory, there's a sequel (potentially the first in New Zealand cinema history).

When it ended last time, the gang of Michael, Albert, Stanley and Sefa had all found women and contentment to take to Sione's Wedding and it looked as if they were all back on track.

Now, the boys are back and reunited in a quest from their minister to find errant friend Bolo (David Fane) who's needed back in their group after an unexpected turn of events.

But as the group tries to find one Samoan in Auckland, it soon becomes clear that they're not as sorted as they thought they were.

Does lightning strike in the same place twice?

That's what the makers of Sione's 2 will be hoping when it comes to the box office but it has to be said on the basis of this film, they may be somewhat disappointed.

The Duckrockers' latest outing is an unfortunately flat, uneven and at times, unfunny affair. And before you claim it's a case of critic's tall poppy syndrome after the success of the first, it's really not like that it all.

The problem is that there just aren't enough laughs to carry the film as we follow the guys' quest to once again grow up; jokes reference living in the suburbs of Auckland's North Shore as opposed to sticking to the inner city. The one highlight is a showdown between the Duckrockers and Albert's workmates, who call themselves The Adjusters (they're in insurance) on K Road at night which is very, very funny.

Ultimately Sione's 2 is a disappointment and some of the twists and turns may leave some of the audience feeling they've been a little robbed. Granted the original fans may flock to see this - but there's a real feeling this film, despite all the best efforts of all involved, may not reach the successes of the first - and that's a real shame.


Journey 2 The Mysterious Island: Movie Review

Journey 2 The Mysterious Island

Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Hudgens, Michael Caine

Director: Brad Peyton

Back to the world of the fantasy lost island film genre we go after the success of Journey To the Centre of the Earth a couple of years ago.

This time around, when rebellious teenager Sean Anderson (Hutcherson) gets a coded distress signal from an island which shouldn’t exist, he’s convinced it’s his grandfather Alexander trying to get in touch.

But Sean’s faced with a couple of problems – a stepfather Hank (Dwayne”The Rock” Johnson) who’s an embarrassment as far as Sean’s concerned – and a lack of transport to help him get to the South Pacific.

So, when Hank helps decode the message, Sean “lets” the stepdad come along – and on the way, the duo hook up with Luis Guzman’s Gabato, the only helicopter pilot willing to fly to the island – and Gabato’s daughter -and potential love interest for Sean – Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens).

However, when the quartet finds the island, they discover their time will be cut fatally short as it’s sinking and if they’re unable to make their way off, they’ll be stranded forever….

Journey 2 The Mysterious Island skews young – a family with younger kids will definitely enjoy the relatively short outing (though the parents may find parts of it a stretch).

Hutcherson and Hudgens work reasonably well together; Dwayne Johnson has a goofy, if ever so slightly annoying, charm as Hank – even if he does try to be self effacing and ends up more irritating. When he’s butting heads with Caine’s Alexander, there’s a nice vibe between the pair, but it can’t save the film.

Entirely predictable, Journey 2 The Mysterious Island plods along well enough with a side of cheese coating its dialogue and action sequences, which never fully soar.

The use of the 3D though is utterly appalling and lazy in the extreme – one sequence where Johnson gets to show off his “dancing pecs” (don’t ask) is shoe horned in simply to have a series of objects shoot off the screen and into the audience. And that in a nutshell is what’s wrong with this – if it was a little more relaxed and less cynical, Journey 2 would be watchable to all sections of the audience.



Dr Who: UNIT Tales DVD Review

Dr Who – Unit Tales

Rating: PG
Released by the BBC and Roadshow Ent

Back to the 1970s for this hastily assembled double pack of adventures which has a tenuous connection to armed forces group UNIT at best.

In the first adventure, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith encounter some terribly animated dinosaurs roaming the streets of London as part of an invasion force from environmentalists. In the second, Tom Baker’s teeth and curls (and scarf) Dr, once again along with Sarah Jane, finds a deserted village where nothing is as it seems and androids are ready to take over as part of an evil plan from outer space.

Suitably silly in places and redolent of the 70s attitude to Who (a smattering of science, a dollop of overacting and a soupcon of insane baddies) these are relatively watchable pieces.

Coupled with the brilliant collection of extras, (including commentaries, coloured episodes from Invasion of the dinosaurs and some nice docos) it’s not a bad set as we head towards the end of the Classic Dr Who range – but probably one for the Who fans rather than the mass market.


Troll Hunter: Blu Ray Review

Troll Hunter

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

A Norwegian handheld spooky/ kooky flick, Troll Hunter follows a group of students who’re (so they believe) on the hunt for a poacher called Hans who’s supposedly taking out bears around the countryside.

Only when they follow him, they soon discover he’s a government sanctioned operative who’s actually hunting down trolls and preventing them from attacking the natives….

Troll Hunter is a giddy schlocky pleasure with some pretty good main performances from the largely unknown cast.  Sure, some of the effects of the trolls are a little ropey in places but thanks to the solid ensemble, a nice use of the handheld camera format and a bit of tongue in cheek action, it’s actually very watchable.

And you should watch it now – as inevitably a Hollywood remake is on the way too.


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Hanna: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

With a soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers, you would expect Hanna to be something a little bit cool.

And by golly, it is.

The Lovely Bones' Saoirse Ronan is Hanna, whom we first meet in an icy wasteland as she hunts a deer with a bow and arrow. As she stands over the body, she tells it "I just missed your heart."

Within seconds of that, she's being attacked by a man - Erik (Eric Bana) - who turns out to be her father, training her for potential assassin work.

When Hanna decides she's ready to head out into the real world and not the snow covered wastelands of Finland, she's soon on the run from CIA officer Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett) who'll stop at nothing to bring her in and down.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Hanna's also got an assassin (Hollander) on her tale and winds up with a free loving family on their global road trip...

Hanna is effortlessly cool and stylish - though at times, it feels a little like that's at the expense of the script.

It's almost as if someone's storyboarded some stunningly great images and ordered the director to shoe horn them in where possible. That said, while they do stand out, it's a real point of difference in this thriller which is welcome.

An absolutely pulsating and blistering soundtrack from the Chemical Brothers is brilliantly used; one sequence of a break out from a jail is akin to one of the Brothers' early music videos; it's frankly at times a welcome assault on the eyes and ears and will look like nothing else you've seen this year. It's hard to believe this is from the director who brought us Atonement and it really does show a skill at work and there's plenty on screen which you won't forget once the credits go up.
Extras: Some nice extra stuff; interviews and catching up with the Chemical brothers who made the soundtrack so great



The Change Up - Blu Ray Review

The Change Up

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent
Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave (Jason Bateman) have been buddies since they were in third grade in school together.

Whereas Mitch became a failed actor and womaniser, Dave worked hard all his life, married, had kids and is working for a law firm.

However, Dave's not happy with his life, believing Mitch has the perfect carefree existence; ironically, Mitch believes Dave has the perfect life, with adorable kids and a loving wife (Leslie Mann). So when the pair go out drinking one night and end up peeing in a fountain, they wish they could swap places.

And in a flash, that's exactly what happens - but, surprise, surprise, both of the guys learn the lives they're so jealous of, aren't exactly as rosy as they imagined.
The Change Up is a body swap comedy from those behind Wedding Crashers and The Hangover. So, pretty much, right there, you should know what to expect - moments of guilty, gross out humour and nothing too sophisticated.

The tone is set in the beginning sequence when Bateman's Dave is woken at 3am by babies needing a nappy change - and it goes horribly wrong...Throw in formulaic comedy and you've pretty much got this film down to a tee - except for a few redeeming factors.
Jason Bateman finally plays against his usual laid back roles and has a whale of a time as Mitch; likewise Ryan Reynolds impresses in his performance as Mitch/Dave; both the leads bring smart assured performances to what is a very traditional, and formulaic body swap film. Olivia Wilde continues to carve her way towards a prosperous screen career with her role as Dave's sexy colleague and Leslie Mann does well as a quietly desperate housewife.

Sure, the inevitable moment comes when the duo have to grow up/ face their deep epiphanies, but thanks to a fairly mediocre script which uses their plights as a construct to hear some home truths, you can see what's coming a mile off.

Extras: Deleted and extended scenes, gag reel and commentary.


The Smurfs: Blu Ray Review

The Smurfs

Rating: G
Released by Sony Home Ent

The Smurfs are somewhat of an institution - so the idea of seeing them redone for a big screen release is one that may give some fans of Peyo's original cartoons a bit of a nervous shudder.  Small creatures of blue with white pointy hats, they live in an enchanted forest away from human contact - but always with the threat of evil wizard Gargamel (a brilliant Hank Azaria) trying to track them down.

So one day, after a series of mishaps when Clumsy Smurf accidentally reveals the location of their perfect village to Gargamel, a handful of them are forced to flee through a portal to New York - and into the life of uptight father to be Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris).

And while Patrick's pregnant other half Grace (Jayma Mays) is happy to embrace them, Patrick isn't too pleased to welcome Smurfette, Poppa Smurf, Clumsy et al into his life.

Things get even more complicated when Gargamel heads through the portal too trying to track them down...

Will they ever be able to return home? Will they be able to fight off the wizard? And will Patrick avoid being fired from his job by Cruella de Vil like boss Odile (Modern Family's Sofia Vergara.)
The Smurfs is a lot of family fun - and much more bearable than you'd believe of a computer animated film about small blue people. There's a cartoony feel to it in places - but not one which makes it feel childish and silly; it's more of a joyous self knowing celebration. Katy Perry's Smurfette even reveals at one point, that she kissed a Smurf and she liked it.

There's a playfulness to the script and sure, there's a schmaltzy message for Patrick's father to be and some extremely gratuitous product placement, but The Smurfs is a solid family outing and proffers up a lot more fun than you'd ever expect from a group of blue people.

Extras: Bluepers (get it) Music, Game, doco - plenty to keep the littlies amused.


The Guard: Blu Ray Review

The Guard

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

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.
Extras: Behind the scenes featurette, deleted and extended scenes and short film

Buck: Movie Review


Cast: Buck Brannaman, Robert Redford

A doco about a horse whisperer, Buck was one of the sleeper hits of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Now granted a wider release, it’s the story of Buck Brannaman, who has an incredible knack with the horses – and it’s got to be seen to be believed.

Essentially, this doco follows Buck as he goes about his “horse clinics” which he tours around America, basically doling out advice to horse owners who’ve got troubled animals or who are difficult to tame.

It’s a quite bizarrely moving piece and is simply astonishing the first time you see Buck walk into a ring and up to a horse which just minutes previously has been kicking and bucking. There’s something instinctive about Buck’s presence which instantly soothes these animals and puts them at ease.

But as one comment in the doco hints at it’s almost as if the animals can associate with this wounded animal; because Buck’s had a troubled past.

As that unfolds, you could be forgiven for thinking that Meehl’s milking that angle of this story – were it not for the fact, the gently unassuming Buck’s telling us about frightful things and abuse from his childhood.

That’s the thing with Buck – it has a charm which is striking from the get go; and even with the likes of Robert Redford praising Buck’s mentality and attitude (he helped train and work with the horses on the Horse Whisperer), there’s nothing to beat the quiet dignity of the man himself.


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