Friday, 30 November 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Blu Ray Review

The Dark Knight Rises: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

It's finally here - the ending of the epic Batman franchise from Christopher Nolan.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and Batman's left Gotham after the death of D.A Harvey "Two Face" Dent. Hunted by the police and blamed for the golden boy's end, the Caped Crusader's become a myth and Bruce Wayne's not much better - a recluse living in Wayne Manor and never seen in public.

But when cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaks into Wayne's safe and ends up on his radar and when a masked terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) threatens to take over the city, Bats has no choice but to come out of seclusion and save his beloved city.

There's more to the story but to be honest, revealing some of those intricacies, details and nuances of the script would veer into spoiler territory - and being frank, this Bat-threequel is best viewed unspoiled.

Christopher Nolan has crafted an epic ending to the series - and one which is reverential to the source mythology and one which has truly raised the bar for comic book films. It begins with an audacious piece of action and the thrills never let up until the end some 165 minutes later. Visually, the film offers so much, satiating both fanboys seeking the spine-tingling moments and the casual viewer wanting a great blockbuster.

While the film's somewhat disappointing denouement may not stand up to repeated inspection and tearing apart thanks to its conventional story which is spread over a somewhat bloated middle part, two things need to be remembered - one, it's a comic book film (which is bound to have a MacGuffin or two on hand) and two, it's the performances which anchor this film from beginning to end.

Christian Bale's vulnerable Batman is a flawed hero we can readily identify with; he's a tortured soul more than ever who's to be broken spiritually and physically by what's put in front of him; but Bale brings his A game to the performance, providing the emotional intensity during some quieter scenes needed to ground this film and bring a payoff which is rich and satisfying as he becomes the Batman who's an inspiration and a symbol to others. Likewise, when he's kicking ass as the Batman; this is a guy who's given a rounded and powerful performance to a character loved by many.

Gary Oldman's spot-on as a conflicted Commissioner Jim Gordon, a man who takes up the mantle of defending his beloved city; Morgan Freeman, is well, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox - and Sir Michael Caine is venerable, vulnerable and humane as butler Alfred.

Of the newcomers to the cast, Tom Hardy's anarchist Bane (who sounds a little like your English mate trying to do a Sean Connery style impression through a Darth Vader mask) is impressive; the ferociously intelligence and physical presence are astounding and instantaneous, giving his baddie a commanding feel which doesn't let up until the end (and if you know your Bat mythology, you'll realise how important it was to get Bane so right.) The scenes when Bats and Bane go mano a mano are intense, but not in the over the top way that you may have expected. And it's a performance which is a physical one too, with the eyes conveying a lot of his emotions - Hardy's to be commended.

Equally, Anne Hathaway is perfect as Catwoman (although she's never called such on screen); her Selina Kyle is a slinky, vampy, sly character which is given a few humorous lines to punch through the occasional pomposity which is prevalent. Marion Cotillard offers up some class as a member of the Wayne Enterprises board.

But the real star of the cast is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose idealistic and very human policeman John Blake becomes a driving force for belief. His Blake has the belief which has become so jaded and lacking in both Batman and Commissioner Gordon - and his character's story arc is thrilling to behold. Gordon-Levitt continues to impress as an actor and seals his place as one of the best talents on offer with this copper.

Sure, it's a fitting send off for the film and the franchise, and to concentrate on a few narrative misfires here and there seems a little unfair because overall, The Dark Knight Rises offers up much for the movie lover; this is a Batman movie which is a grand and satisfying end to an epic series; it's an unmissable event which lives upto its hype and offers a rich spectacle - even on the small screen.

Extras: Over three hours - including the Batmobiles piece, a comprehensive look at how the film was made.


The Chernobyl Diaries: Blu Ray Review

The Chernobyl Diaries: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

In the latest horror to emerge, it's back to Russia we go.

After The Darkest Hour, it seems the area is the new black for horror movies.

A group of four - 2 brothers and 2 girls - are backpacking around Europe when one of them books an extreme tourist trip, run by a former Soviet military guy.

The trip is to visit the deserted village near where Chernobyl melted down...only, when their van breaks down, it turns out it's not so deserted after all - and pretty soon they are all fighting for their lives.

The Chernobyl Diaries is from Oren Peli who brought us Paranormal Activity and while the initial scenes of eerie landscapes and empty buildings do much to build up some tension, everything which plays out after is as predictable as you'd expect.

Lacking any real suspense and any real quality acting, its easy to see why this flick bypassed a cinema release.

While watchable enough, The Chernobyl diaries could have been more effective if it had been a little smarter on the script and a little less predictable on the frights.

Extras: deleted scenes, tourism ad, alternate ending


Ice Age: Continental Drift: Blu Ray Review

Ice Age: Continental Drift: Blu Ray Review

Rating: PG
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In this fourth outing for Diego the Sabretooth tiger, Manny the Mammoth and Sid the Sloth, as well as Scrat, the acorn lover, the world is changing forever for our trio – both literally and metaphorically.

At the end of the last film, our trusty trio were settled with families and looking forward to a more quiet life.

That's all about to change in Ice Age: Continental Drift.

When Scrat’s continual pursuit of the acorn sees him causing massive seismic schisms of the landmasses, the splitting of the continents divides Manny from his wife and daughter. Marooned on an iceberg, Manny’s sole desire is to get back to the family at whatever cost.

However, this new quest for the trio turns into an adventure of the sea faring kind when their plans to get back to land force them into the path of the maniacal monkey Captain Gutt (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) and his motley pirate crew of animals, fleeing the splitting of the continents.

Will Manny get back home?

Ice Age: Continental Drift is really a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it when it comes to the CGI film world.

The madness and zaniness of the series is still there and the children in the audience will certainly love the fast paced silliness of the story – as well as the antics of Sid the Sloth and that most memorable of animated animals, Scrat.

But this tale of the importance of family is really nothing new. 

At the end of the day, they’re all being forced to grow up in some form or other and learn a life lesson or two. Sid gains a grandma (voiced by Wanda Sykes) that none of the rest of the family want; Manny clashes with his young daughter Peaches because he’s over protective and she’s growing up and wants to hang with the cool kids; and all of them learn the lessons of being true to yourself.

This series has been phenomenally popular and I get the sense that really, the creators are loathe to let it go – but even the most cynical and hard hearted may be won over by the pure nuttiness of what’s on the screen at times and won't be bothered by the weak plot and episodic feel of the action.

Scrat’s antics alone serve as lunatic interludes to parts of the action – and he certainly gets a lot of laughs for doing very little and is a truly enduring cartoon character who has roots in the greatest Warner Bros cartoons. (I'm sure he'd use ACME to get that acorn if he could).

Elsewhere, the film belongs to Leguizamo’s Sid whose continual nonsensical outbursts bring the unexpected laughs. Plus some smart visual gags make it worth concentrating on.

A lot of new characters and creatures emerge in this latest outing, which is formulaic at times and which occasionally feels a little cluttered with a lot of action unspooling in the first 10 minutes alone – it can be hard to keep up with this icy entourage but the kids (who it’s really aimed at) will love it for its zaniness and won’t care about the relatively thin plot.

Extras: The story so far, singlong songs, Silent scrat movie


Thursday, 29 November 2012

I, Anna: Movie Review

I, Anna: Movie Review

Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Hayley Atwell
Director: Barnaby Southcombe

It's back to the noir world for this thriller with an older cast (something of a rarity these days).

Charlotte Rampling stars as Anna Welles, an older woman whom we first meet making a phone call (how quaint - someone actually using a phonebox). It then shifts back to a grimy London and a speed dating singles night out for the older crowd.

Anna meets Ralph Brown's George before heading back to his tower block to take the relationship further. But we next glimpse Anna stumbling from the tower block and a murder investigation begins to unfold. Headed by Gabriel Byrne's DCI Bernie Reid, he's looking into the death of Anna in someway implicated in this? Intrigued by their first brief meeting, Reid begins a romantic pursuit of Anna - but is his investigation crossing over some boundaries?

Grimy, murky, overcooked and overwrought, I Anna is a thriller which really only benefits from its lead actors. Rampling and Byrne make an affable pair and give credence to a story which takes its time to get going. As the layers of the narrative onion peel back, you may well be left crying - for good and bad reasons.

While there are several claustrophobic shots and flashbacks which help tell the story, there's really little meat to these bones as the mystery unfolds. A weary looking Gabriel Byrne brings a dogged cynicism to his leading detective, while Rampling's nuanced and subtle performance hints at tragedy lurking in her past and potentially, her future.

All in all though, I, Anna is a bit of a muddled mystery; one which could have been more if the script had been a little deeper and engaging. Instead, what remains is a piece which looks murky and grainy with a cast whose excellence is barely tested.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Red Carpet pictures

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Red Carpet pictures


Here's a selection of pictures from the Wellington world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from on the red carpet.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey press conference

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey press conference


A busy old day down in Wellington as we head to the world premiere of The Hobbit: An UInexpected Journey a little later.

Just a quick chance to share some pictures from the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey press conference with you:

Don't forget to head back here at 3.50pm for the Live stream from the red carpet.



The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey World Premiere Red Carpet show

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey World Premiere - Live from the red carpet

It's finally here - the day of the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


 And we're bringing you the live footage from the red carpet today. Included in this will be a live performance by Neil Finn, who will sing "Song of the Lonely Mountain" from the official Hobbit soundtrack.

Key cast are expected on the carpet too - which all kicks off from 3.50pm NZT.

In attendance will be Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, the Company of Dwarves and Hobbit director Peter Jackson.

2) *Event timings:
3:50 pm NZDT – Show Opening  / Welcome
4:00 pm NZDT – Neil Finn Performance (*set includes a performance of “Song of the Lonely Mountain” from the official soundtrack)
4:30 pm NZDT – Talent arrivals, red carpet interviews & crowd interaction
6:30 pm NZDT - Official Speeches
7:00 pm NZDT – End of Show
 **PLEASE NOTE: These event timings are approximate.
But, because, sometimes it takes a little longer to write these blog posts, I will be posting via Twitter - and you can keep up with my tweets from everything to do with the Hobbit premiere below -

So, join the world premiere for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey right here!

    Tuesday, 27 November 2012

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Photocall

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Photocall


     With the majority of the cast flying into Wellington today, here's a series of shots of the Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey cast for you to enjoy ahead of the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Wednesday, November 28th!

    Cast includes the likes of Martin Freeman, Aiden Turner, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Jackson, Royd Tolkein,Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis in attendance:

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - World Premiere - 1 Day to Go

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - World Premiere - 1 Day to Go

    With one day to go until the world premiere of The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey, the remaining cast members have flown into the capital for the party.


    Here's pictures from the photocall today with the likes of Martin Freeman, Aiden Turner, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Jackson,  Royd Tolkein,Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis in attendance:

    Monday, 26 November 2012

    More pictures from Wellington for The Hobbit premiere

    More pictures from Wellington for The Hobbit premiere


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