Thursday, 31 January 2013

The French Film Festival is coming

The French Film Festival is coming

Bonjour mes amis!

Good news for fans of the French Film Festival - it's back this year - and with even more culture on show than in previous years.

The festival's gearing up for its launch tonight, but it's got a full programme this year for everyone to enjoy.

This from their blog:

"We are thrilled to fill our opening night slot with Christian Vincent’s “deliciously French” film Haute Cuisinewhich stars one of our favourite French actresses, Catherine Frot. We knew within five minutes of watching this film that it should take the limelight at this year’s festival, so we hope you’ll lap it up enthusiastically.
Another highlight for us includes Noémie Lvovsky’s run-away hit Camille Rewinds, which has just been nominated for an incredible 13 César awards, France’s prestigious annual film awards. Camille will screen as the closing night film nationwide. Other personal favourites within the festival office include Ursula Meier’s spectacular Sisterthe unsettling Oscar-nominated Canadian production War Witchand Xavier Giannoli’s “enjoyably absurd” Superstar about a man who wakes up to discover he is famous for no reason."

New Injustice Gods Among Us trailer debuts

New Injustice Gods Among Us trailer debuts

Good news for fans waiting to find out a little more about Injustice Gods Among Us.

Today, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment peeled back a layer of detail regarding the story for Injustice: Gods Among Us with the release of the newest trailer from the game.  Showcasing a variety of DC Comics heroes and villains, fans for the first time will witness the high stakes drama that unfolds through the narrative.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is an all-new game in development by award-winning NetherRealm Studios. The title debuts a bold new fighting game franchise that introduces a deep, original story  featuring a large cast of favourite DC Comics icons such as Batman, Bane, Lex Luthor, Green Arrow, Cyborg, Harley Quinn, Nightwing, Solomon Grundy, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and many others.  Set in a world where the lines between good and evil are blurred, players will experience heroes and villains engaging in epic battles on a massive scale. 

Take a look at the Injustice Gods Among Us story trailer here...

Hotel Transylvania: Blu Ray Review

Hotel Transylvania: Blu Ray Review

Rating: PG
Released by Sony Home Entertainment

In the latest animated offering for school holidays, it's off to Transylvania we go with the director of the truly awesome Samurai Jack TV series and the star of Jack and Jill, Adam Sandler.

Sandler plays Count Drac, who runs the Hotel Transylvania, a refuge for all the monsters of the world to holiday away from the hunt-them-down-and-kill-them attitudes of the humans out there.

But it's not just the monsters which Drac's protecting - it's also his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) who's turning 118 and desperately wants to fly the nest.

On the eve of Mavis' 118th birthday, Drac's gathered a whole heap of his best friends - Frankenstein, Frankie's bride, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the werewolf family - to help throw a lavish party for Mavis.

However, when a carefree backpacker, Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) finds his way into the hotel, Drac finds his over-protective grip on life slipping and soon realises he could lose everything.

Hotel Transylvania is a case of great premise, weak story.

Sandler gives a hit and miss performance with an Romanian accent which is all over the place in this flick which has a frenetic pace to no doubt cover the fact there's a distinct lack of a really engaging story. In fact, if anything, the story is similar in places to Monsters, Inc, where a human accidentally ends up in the monsters' world and they try to return them.

While Tartakovsky has added a manic touch to the animation, it's done so at the expense of the other characters - Steve Buscemi is woefully wasted as Wolfman, as are the rest of the supporting cast, who are forced to the sidelines by Sandler and Samberg's double act.

That said, there are some great throwaway sight gags splattered throughout (and a spot on Twilight parody) but despite a touchingly Gothic flashback to how Drac met his wife, this tale of an overprotective dad who has to let his daughter find her way in the world, sadly offers nothing new to the animated genre - but kids may enjoy some of the ghoulish humour on display.

Extras: commentary, mini movie, deleted scenes, music vid


Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Silver Linings Playbook: Movie Review

Silver Linings Playbook: Movie Review

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles
Director: David O Russell

Silver Linings Playbook is the first film to scoop Oscar nominations in all 4 major categories in 31 years and finally arrives on New Zealand cinema screens.

Cooper is Pat Solitano, a bipolar disorder sufferer and former teacher, who is getting out of a mental health facility, 8 months after a violent incident which saw him hospitalised and restraining orders slapped in place. Released to his mother (Animal Kingdom's Jacki Weaver) he heads up home, determined to win his wife back and resume normal life.

In denial about whether he needs medication to cull his manic ways, Pat sets about trying to get in touch with his wife but his plan is slightly derailed when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence on fine form), a young woman whose husband was killed and who has problems of her own.

Initially, the pair rub each other up the wrong way - but soon after, a friendship develops as Tiffany promises to help him deliver a letter to his wife - as long as he helps her achieve her dream of taking part in a dance competition.

But Pat's commitment to Tiffany puts him on a collision course with his father (De Niro) who believes (thanks to OCD) that Pat is the key to his gambling successes...

Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic drama / comedy with heart and humour aplenty.

However, it also benefits from a career best performance from Bradley Cooper, who commands the screen from the beginning and imbues his Pat with manic energy and warmth, while resisting the urge to overplay the bipolar behavioural tendencies of his character. It's this humanity, coupled with Cooper's willingness to lay it all bare, which make Pat so relatable. This is no showy, "Look at me, I've got bipolar" performance, but a crowd-pleasing, warmly comic, instantly human turn.

Likewise, Jennifer Lawrence also impresses as Tiffany, the damaged woman who has her own issues. While some of the writing leaves you a little unsure as to why she's initially attracted to helping Pat, there's no mistaking the spiky, spunky relationship the pair strike up. But she takes what essentially could be a one note character and gives it depth. Equally, De Niro, with his character's OCD tendencies, gives such a great turn you almost forget some of the absolute drivel he's done recently. All three deserve their Oscar nominations - though Jacki Weaver is a little too sidelined to shine as the family bicker, quarrel and pick at each other the way all loving families do in among the chaos of daily life.

Mixing eccentricity with a warm gooey centre, Silver Linings Playbook is a slightly off-kilter crowd-pleaser of a film which is poignant, touching. moving and yet never overly sentimental.


Step Up To the Plate: Movie Review

Step Up To the Plate: Movie Review

Cast: Michel Bras, Sebastien Bras
Director: Paul Lacoste

Food porn lovers will adore this documentary which takes a peek at the first foodie family of France, the Bras.

In 2009, Michelin star winning chef Michel Bras decided enough was enough and it was time to hand over his restaurant to son Sebastien, who'd been with him for 15 years in the kitchen.

Lacoste charts that succession plan and spends time watching from the sidelines - and what he's captured, while interesting, isn't as gripping as you'd potentially have hoped for - but it's different in some ways. From the start of the doco, the emphasis is clearly on the eye candy of the food and the mouthwatering temptation of the dishes on display.

But, while Lacoste's camera catches the intricate work needed to create one of the 3 Michelin star winning plates, it also reveals the precision and minutiae of the foodie world. Michel is, in some ways, an addict, having spent so long creating and sculpting his dishes as if they were art projects. He even tells his son at one point that a treat he'd prepped was "tasty" and that "he didn't expect that". This is a man whose blood is probably a jus of some sort and whose dedication to culinary excellence makes it hard for his son to step out of his shadow.

Divided up into the seasons of the year, the film captures the essence of what drives exquisite cooks to degrees of eccentricity and charts the relationship between the pair which is one of an extremely patient charge and chrysalis, trying to emerge from the wings and a master who's not ready yet to step away.

Rather than going for overtly over the top and pompous voiceover, Lacoste is happy to let the camera catch the tale of their relationship and in fact, all of their moments catalogue more of a family bond than countless photos and talking heads could ever achieve.

Sumptuously put together but not quite as nourishing as perhaps you'd want if you're not au fait with the subject, this doco is a gentle piece, beautifully shot and with everything needed to tantalise the eyes. It's more of a fly on the wall with subjects who are happy to let the camera sweep around them, than a definitive expose of France's most influential gastronomic family.


Devil May Cry: PS3 Game Review

Devil May Cry: PS3 Game Review

Platform: PS3
Released by Capcom

I have to confess to have never heard of Dante and the Devil May Cry series prior to this outing.

This latest is a reboot and has become the more stylised DMC, from Ninja Theory. A hack and slash'em up, it's centred around Dante, who's under attack from a series of demons who are currently beseiging Limbo City.

It begins with Dante awaking from a heavy night out, only to discover a demon's hunting him. Warned by a mysterious hooded woman figure that he's in danger, he grabs his trusty sword, Rebellion and pistols (Ebony and Ivory) and sets off to find out exactly what's going on.

Set in this parallel universe, the action of Devil May Cry is certainly full on.

Mashing buttons together, you get to perform various different hacking and killing combos as you take on various demons plaguing the world. The more incisive and violent your take downs are, the more points you rack up through the levels, thanks to an onscreen grading system which helps guide you through the kills.

As you explore the world, you learn tips and tricks of vaulting through the air, flying, pulling out blocks et al to your advantage. But there are also little bits to do within each world - secret missions, missions to save various lost souls trapped around limbo (which need to be killed to be freed).

The gameplay in Devil May Cry is relatively simple to be honest - with a narrative scattered through looking at Dante's past and his timeline, there's enough to keep you invested. The emo punk Dante looks impressive and is perhaps a little too pretty boy for those who've experienced Dante before - but certainly, graphically, it handles all of the requirements of the screen time.

Devil May Cry is not without its faults though - occasionally, the camera refuses to centre where it's needed, rendering combat a little too tricky when it shouldn't be and exploring the worlds with a weird camera can sometimes be annoying as well.

The biggest mis-step of Devil May Cry though is the music. Whoever decided that heavy metal should play as you deal in combat has made a serious miscalculation. It's annoying, grating and distracting - thankfully the option is there to remove the soundtrack, for which I'm eternally grateful.

Chained combos, along with the ability to upgrade weapons and various abilities being unlocked along the way, plus three settings mean Devil May Cry has a degree of re-playability - and shows that the naysayers who dismissed the reboot may be eating their hats once they sit down and take it on.


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

This Is 40: Movie Review

This Is 40: Movie Review

Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, Albert Brooks, Chris O'Dowd, Lena Dunham
Director: Judd Apatow

They say life begins at 40, and it certainly has an impact in this latest dramedy offering from Judd Apatow.

He returns to his characters, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) who we met in Knocked Up and who are hitting the big 40. With 2 kids, debt and a bit of a mid-life crisis, life is beginning to bite quite seriously.

Debbie is the first to hit 40 and is in straight denial, with her husband Pete's birthday just around the corner. But Pete's facing financial woes with his record label, as it's failing to bring in the money or any kind of success. Add to that, the fact Pete's dad is mooching money off them, the pressure is really on. Throw in the fact, Debbie suspects young Desi (Megan Fox) of stealing from her business, they're in trouble.

So, when Debbie decides it's time to turn their lives around, physically and spiritually, it causes ructions within the family unit - and they're stretched to the limit.

This Is 40 is thematically similar in many ways to Apatow's previous, Funny People - it brings a fair few recognisable laughs with its rambling, occasionally aimless, running time. (Though there isn't the noticeably jarring thematic tone half way through this latest)

Both Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are affable enough in their lead roles and will strike a few recognisable chords with many - from the frustrations of having children, negotiating sex lives, and managing expectations, there are plenty of moments where Apatow's script is on the money and certainly capable of generating a few unexpected laugh out loud segments as it exposes some of the psychoses and neuroses of relationships. Mann, in particular, deserves praise for fleshing out the foibles into something which feels real and relatable, rather than whiny and irritating. O'Dowd brings a few laughs - as does his Bridesmaids co-star Melissa McCarthy - and Megan Fox is simply along for the eye candy quota.

Yet, there are also times when you wonder if there was any sense of what was being created in the writers' room; a daughter's obsession with JJ Abrams' show Lost seems bizarrely shoved in, repeated many times and no reason ever given for it.  Initially, John Lithgow's appearance as Debbie's father seems shoe horned in, ignored and then suddenly forms part of the denouement - it's these kinds of moments scattered throughout which contribute to the feeling of aimlessness and general narrative disparity which is present throughout the overlong, occasionally meandering, running time.

And despite all of that, there's a relevance and poignancy which will hit many in the audience - from the problems of the economic downturn to the desire to get back to what's important in your life, Apatow's certainly crafted together a story which has finally resolves itself by showing off the heart within. (Even if you do question whether they'd be able to fend off some of the money issues by selling one of their massive cars).

All in all, This is 40 is a mixed bag - you may at times struggle to care about such an affluent family's money issues given how they live, but you sure as hell will relate to the problems they have which are universal in nature, and in Apatow's hands, occasionally very damn funny.


The House at the End of the Street: Blu Ray Review

The House at the End of the Street: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Jennifer "Hunger Games" Lawrence made this low budget indie horror pre her break out in the Hunger Games series.

She plays Elissa, who along with her mum (Elisabeth Shue) move to a new home in the idyllic part of the woods. But it turns out the house next to them is a murder house where a girl Carrie Anne murdered her parents leaving only her brother Ryan alive.

Despite her mum's denial, Elissa forms a relationship with Ryan, who's the town outsider and the pair begin to bond and grow closer.

However, Ryan's keeping a secret from her....

The House at the End of the Street is your stereotypical horror movie, with obligatory jolts, shocks and fake out moments.

It's predictable, uneventful and not particularly frightening or heavy on suspense. It's also slow to get going, trying to build an atmosphere and unease and creepiness and not really achieving it.

Which is a real shame because both Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence are good in this below average fare. Their relationship feels real rather than cliched and you invest in them, making it a real sense of disappointment that the rest of the script doesn't follow suit.

Ultimately, The House at the End of the Street is your by the numbers horror, with a few twists thrown in for good measure among some bad dialogue and unrealistic moments. It's just unfortunate it couldn't have been more given the talent involved.

Extras: None


Monday, 28 January 2013

Hitchcock: Movie Review

Hitchcock: Movie Review

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette,Danny Huston, Jessica Biel, James D'Arcy
Director: Scaha Gervasi

"Good evening"

The list of Hitchcock's influence is as long and wide as his jowls. From Psycho, North by Northwest to The Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window, the list goes on and on.

This latest release details his struggles to get Psycho made, following the success of North by Northwest and is a light and frothy affair, which is based on Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.

Anthony Hopkins dons the prosthetics and curls out his bottom lip to play the portly master of suspense in this film, set in 1959, which finds Hitch mulling over which project to take on, following the major success of "North by Northwest" and stung by a reporter asking him when he plans to retire.

Various proposals come his way - including Casino Royale - but taken by a novel Psycho by Robert Bloch (and about killer Ed Gein), Hitchcock becomes obsessed with getting this project off the ground - despite the protestations of both the studio and his wife Alma Reville (wonderfully portrayed with richness by Helen Mirren).

But Hitch's a man on a mission - and he starts to risk it all by taking on this project. From mortgaging his house to self finance the flick and dealing with the censors, it begins to push their relationship to the absolute breaking point.

Coupled with starting to see Gein and suspecting Alma of an affair, the making of Psycho could be the unravelling of Hitchcock's hitherto charmed life.

Hitchcock is a knockabout film in parts which is potentially more suited to a telemovie than a big screen release.

Thankfully, some wonderful character performances elevate it from the level of the small screen; firstly, Helen Mirren, whose portrayal and portrait of a woman behind the man is nothing short of compelling, rich and watchable from the get go. How she never received some form of recognition beyond a BAFTA nomination for this is incredulous.

Anthony Hopkins is, in all honesty, a mixed bag in terms of his portrayal of Hitchcock. There are moments when he's spot on with the role, working under a prosthetic face and an enhanced girth. And certainly, there are times when he has the trademark pout spot on.

But then there are others when Hitchcock sounds like a curious mix of cockney Michael Caine put through a Welsh burr and mixed in with a fat suit. It's an extraordinarily odd sense of the man and at times, the make up and vocals become distracting. However, in encapsulating Hitch's more lecherous side, his obsessive compulsions and his propensity towards his leading ladies, Hopkins gives a never less than rounded portrait and insight into what propelled the man.

Scarlett Johansson impresses as Janet Leigh, all cheekbones and empathy; but Jessica Biel as Vera Miles feels underwritten and underused, which is a real shame given that Hitchcock felt that Miles deserted him. I never really fully got the sense of why the betrayal cut so deep. The story is an interesting look into what went on with the making of such an influential film and offers an intriguing peek and insight to those not already in the know.

While this may be more small screen, occasionally knockabout fare, the scenes where the infamous shower sequence in Psycho was shot come alive with a frisson of menace because of the work done by Hopkins as Hitchcock - and the final third of the film has some brilliant flourishes, humour and visual touches which are relatively lacking and sorely missed in the early stages. These touches only come alive because they choose to focus more on the dynamics of the relationship between Hitch and Reville and really soar because of the work predominantly done by Mirren.

All in all, Hitchcock is an entertaining, if occasionally forgettable, piece which will have you leaving the cinema and seeking out Psycho to rewatch - as well as some of Hitch's other fare. Which is no bad thing at all.


SAG Awards winners 2013

SAG Awards winners 2013

The awards season continues in America, with the reveal of who's taken home a SAG Award.

No real surprises here for the movies to be honest...

Here's the full list of 2013 SAG Award winners:


Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"
Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Supporting actor: Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln"
Supporting actress: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
Cast: "Argo"
Stunt ensemble: "Skyfall"
Actor in a movie or miniseries: Kevin Costner "Hatfields & McCoys"
Actress in a movie or miniseries: Julianne Moore, "Game Change"
Actor in a drama series: Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Actress in a drama series: Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Actress in a comedy series: Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Drama series cast: "Downton Abbey"
Comedy series cast: "Modern Family"
Stunt ensemble: "Game of Thrones"
Life Achievement: Dick Van Dyke

Newstalk ZB Movie Review - The Impossible and Django Unchained

Newstalk ZB Movie Review - The Impossible and Django Unchained

Here's the latest movie review from myself on Saturday morning on Newstalk ZB with Jack Tame in New York.

This week, I take a look at The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Take a listen below - and make sure you tune in every weekend on Saturdays from 9am.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Resident Evil: Retribution: Blu Ray Review

Resident Evil: Retribution: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R16
Released by Sony Home Entertainment

So, the fifth film in the Res Evil series hits the small screen.

Milla Jovovich reprises her role as Alice being forced to escape out of the evil clutches of the Umbrella Corporation where the T virus has run amok. So, once again, gathering together guns and some familiar faces, it's upto Alice to blast her way out and save the day - but not everything she faces this time is real....

If you're expecting plot, character and depth of exposition with Resident Evil: Retribution, I think you're at the wrong place.

However, if you're after stylish shooting of things, slow mo shots and lots of explosions, welcome on in, close the door and settle on in for a night's fun. It starts off very slickly with an action sequence played backwards and impresses visually, but to be honest, aside from a few visual flourishes here and there, it's all been done before.

It feels like a video game, and plays out like one - but to be honest, fans will adore it and with news a sixth is planned, the franchise lives on - despite continual critical panning and offering little else new or original.

Extras: Outtakes, deleted scenes, commentaries


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Looper: Blu Ray Review

Looper: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

It's Kansas, 2044 - Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe, who makes a living working as a Looper, an assassin with a twist. Basically, in 2074 time travel becomes a reality and the mob use it to get rid of anyone they don't want alive. By dropping the victim back 30 years in time, the Looper takes care of the job.

However, the future's under threat from a kingpin known as the Rainmaker, who's "closing all the loops" by systematically sending back the future versions of the assassins to be taken care of their younger selves.

One day, Joe's out on a job and the future version of himself (Bruce Willis) drops into existence, for execution.

Only older Joe manages to escape - and it's upto younger Joe to close the loop....

Looper is an utterly incredible movie - I've yet to see anything match it for intelligence, intensity and surprises  this year. The Looper trailer gives little away and really wrong foots you to a degree.

From a brilliantly realised future / day after tomorrow world which blends seemlessly into the background of every shot and gets it spot on with the look and feel of future technology through to a continually surprising storyline, Johnson hits every right note from the get go.

It helps that he's blessed by another riveting performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who under a few prosthetics oozes the gumshoe/ hitman appeal and hits the genre spot on as well as offering a mature take on his role. He's also got the steely determination downpat as the story goes on - and in his scenes with Bruce Willis, it's pretty obvious to see the future connection between the pair.

Talking of Bruce, by putting away the smirk and actually doing some proper acting for a change, Willis adds a lot to the story and gives Joe the humanity and warmth that he's lacking as a younger junkie version of himself. It's a sympathetic turn and one which may catch you off guard.

The thing with the movie Looper though is, to be honest, you're best going in to it without any idea of what lies ahead. Sure, you're promised a time travel story with some familiar ideas and ethics, but what Johnson actually delivers is rich in story-telling, blessed by great character acting and uses the sci-fi as a construct for the narrative rather than the sole purpose of it.

Looper is an easy contender for one of the films of the year - it offers a new thematic take on a few old ideas and is dazzingly original, ambitiously fresh and stays with you for days after you've seen it - something which has been so rare this year.

Do yourself a favour and see one of the best genre films for a long while.

Extras: Audio commentary, animated trailer, deleted scenes, Blu ray exclusives - making of, the science of time travel and more.


Safety Not Guaranteed: DVD Review

Safety Not Guaranteed: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

A quirky little indie film, Safety Not Guaranteed is a gentle nugget of cinematic genius.

Aubrey Plaza is Darius, a grad who's unable to get a job and ends up working as an intern at Seattle magazine. When reporter Jeff (a Mark Ruffaloesque Jake Johnson) suggests he looks into an ad in a newspaper promising to take a trip back in time, but with "safety not guaranteed", Darius, along with studious intern Arnau head to Ocean View to find out more.

But while Jeff uses the opportunity to look up an old flame, Darius discovers that the guy who placed the ad, is a curious oddball called Kenneth (a brilliant Duplass). Kenneth works at the local store and is convinced the authorities are following him as he nears completion of his time machine.

So, the question is - is Kenneth telling the truth or is it the mutterings of a mid American nutjob?

Safety Not Guaranteed is a real charmer of a film and an unexpected humour filled delight, which will amuse and engage your heart too.

From its start where we first meet Darius being rejected for a job right to its final shot where something unexpected happens, it's a film which confounds your expectations and surprises you.

It's a low key, lo fi indie film in many ways which hits all the right notes; part rom com, part sci fi flick, part road trip and part relationships/ hipster film, it's a mash up of many genres and all of them sensitively and sensibly handled with charm and ease.

The central premise is an intriguing one and throwing together the trio works very well; from the lazy, just out to hook up Jeff to the uptight Indian intern Arnau, mixed in with a dash of sullen sarcasm courtesy of Aubrey Plaza, the final resulting cocktail works very well.

But the film scores its major points with Mark Duplass  as Kenneth, a denim jacketed slight oddball of a man about whom you're never quite sure if he's a sandwich short of a picnic or actually onto something with his notion of time travel and reasons for it. (And his occasional resemblance to 1990s Scott Bakula in time travelling TV series Quantum Leap is uncanny at times - or perhaps, a deliberate nod). Thanks to sensitive acting and a bit of depth of character, he remains an enigma throughout and a character you can't quite get a handle on.

As one character remarks "This mission has to do with regret, mistakes and is about love" - it's an adage which helps us identify with the characters and engage with what could be a lunatic proposition.  With dashings of deadpan humour thrown in, and a final act which once again confounds your expectations by swiftly whipping the carpet from asunder, Safety Not Guaranteed deserves to be a hit thanks to its charm, performances and touchingly heartfelt and yet universal story.

Whether or not it will be depends on how much you're willing to gamble on this - my advice, roll the dice and enjoy every moment of what is one of the best character films of the year.


Friday, 25 January 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: Movie Review

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D: Movie Review

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Peter Stormare
Director: Tommy Wirkola

With a tag line "Classic tale, new twist," you'd be expecting something of a reinvention for this fairy tale that everyone's familiar with.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are Hansel and Gretel, who, traumatised by being abandoned in the woods and being suckered by a witch in the Gingerbread house, are now bounty hunters and crossbow wielding killers, determined to rid the world of witches one by one.

15 years later, with the Blood Moon approaching in the town of Augsburg, the town mayor hires the duo to find out why so many children are being kidnapped. Despite the protestations of the local sheriff (Stormare), they set about this mission - only to find a witch more powerful and more evil than they've ever faced before....

And one which could hold a secret to their past.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D is more Grimm than you could realise (and not in a good way).

Pushed back from March 2012, this latest release is, sadly somewhat of a muddled mess, which sets out to be too many things to too many people and ends up being nothing distinguished.

Which is a shame, because in amongst all the constant in your face 3D (wood, explosions, arrows all come flying towards your face), there is some promise of a decent story. Its opening titles recall illustrations from the middle ages and set the tone of a little tongue in cheek and promising blood and gore aplenty in its killings. Certainly heads explode completely when crushed, smashed and stomped in an array of red blood.

That's what it settles for with scenes leading up to bloody confrontations with witches and scant little story to propel it along. The 3D is lazily applied and goes for the school of firing stuff in your direction and from the screen into your face, which soon grows incredibly tired. It's clearly what Wirkola, who had a hand in the brilliant Dead Snow, wanted to achieve, because everything's geared towards those showdowns rather than fleshing out what goes between. There's also as much action in the woods - including more hurtling through the air on broomsticks sequences - than there ever was in action on Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Gemma Arterton is all punkish bravado as Gretel, with Jeremy Renner more of a sullen and sulky type as the brother Hansel. One neat twist on the fairy tale sees Hansel having to inject himself every few hours because of the sugar intake from his youth but it's mentioned so often that you're aware very early on that it will become a stumbling block for him. Janssen sneers and gurgles her way through as the baddest witch in town, and there are some hints of menace which sizzle on the screen early on before being squandered in a CGI trickery.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D proffers up some moments of comedy, but then doesn't have enough one liners to carry it through; and has action and guns aplenty shoehorned in to make it feel a little jarring in places; tonally, while dark, it feels like too much of a mixed bag and I can't help but feel that if those in charge of it had decided what exactly they wanted out of the film, and zeroed in on it, it would have been more successful. Hints of what the film could have been come right at the end with a pre-credits sequence which expose more character, clever effects and sharp writing with great oneliners which lift the dour tone of all that's passed. Had the film incorporated those elements, it would have been a much better outcome.

Unfortunately, the final effect of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D is like the comedown of a major sugar rush a few hours earlier - moments of joy, mixed with moments of discomfort in the pit of your stomach.


The Watch: Blu Ray Review

The Watch: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In this latest aliens invade comedy, we find ourselves back in middle America.

A dialled-down Ben Stiller plays Evan Trautwig, a local guy who lives in Glenview, Ohio and who's terribly proud of his community. He's head of a stack of different hobby clubs, works as a manager of a local supermarket after years of slowly climbing up the ladder and is proud of what he's achieved and the people he lives with.

But when the night guard of his store is murdered, the uptight Evan decides to step up to show his love for the community and form a neighbourhood watch.

Having recruited only three others - boorish Bob (Vaughan), a rejected trigger happy wannabe cop (Hill) and a mild mannered, socially awkward Brit, Jamarcus (Ayoade) - the whole thing appears to be more of an excuse for lonely guys to socialise rather than patrol the streets, despite Evan's best intentions.

However, when the four of them discover that aliens have invaded and are about to take over Glenview, it becomes more of Evan's mission to try and convince everyone outside the watch and save his beloved community.

What to say about The Watch?

If you're after a slightly vulgar, occasionally puerile and hit and miss laugh out loud experience, then this film is for you.

Sure, this kind of film's been done plenty of times before (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Men in Black et al) but the central ensemble cast seemed to promise more than they actually delivered. On paper, it's a dream team - Stiller, Vaughn and Hill have great comic chops and CVs and the adding into the mix of the brilliant Ayoade seemed to hint at freshening things up between them all.

Stiller's the straight man to Vaughn's overprotective, just-wanna-hang-with-the-guys boor; and Hill adds a level of funny with his edgy, rejected cop who threatens to overflow into violence. But the star of the film (and who gets the admittedly slim lion's share of the best lines) is the IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade who punctures and peppers the "comedy" with moments of awkwardness and unpredictability. Sadly, though, there's just not enough of those scattered through the film - although it is a star debut.

With horrendous product placement once again on show and the film really reneging on the promise of a group of mismatched guys coming together and enforced bonding, The Watch proves to be a picking at low hanging fruit kind of film - and if you're in the mood for that (or have a teenage boy mentality to cope with the vulgar jokes) then it's the film for you.

Everyone else will just want The Watch to disband and never reform.

Extras: Gag reel, Alternate takes, casting the alien, deleted scenes - ruder, cruder and lewder special features apparently


The Last of Us Demo Details revealed

The Last of Us Demo Details revealed

God of War: Ascension Players Gain First Access to The Last of Us Demo on PSN 

New Zealand, January 25 2013: Sony Computer Entertainment is giving players who are itching to get their hands on two of the biggest titles for 2013, exclusive first access to The Last of Us demo with the purchase of God of War: Ascension. 

Once purchased, fans will simply have to load their God of War: Ascension disc into their PS3 and find The Last of Us listing on the main menu. There, players will find details on how to access The Last of Us demo, for free, as soon as it becomes available.

More information on exact details of the demo will be released by Naughty Dog at a later date on the PlayStation Blog. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Rock has a message for NZ

The Rock has a message for NZ

New GI Joe: Retaliation footage is due to be screened in front of Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters in 3D when it opens on Thursday next week.

Paramount Pictures, MGM and Skydance Productions, in association with Hasbro, will release a
4-minute preview of the highly anticipated “G.I. JOE: RETALIATION” in IMAX 3D, RealD 3D and
digital 3D theaters in advance of Paramount and MGM’s “HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS.”

This first-look at the film will play across the globe beginning January 24 th and run throughout
“HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS” theatrical engagement.

Based on the best-selling HASBRO characters, this follow-up to the 2009 release of “G.I. JOE:
THE RISE OF COBRA,” which grossed more than $300 million worldwide, is di Bonaventura
production and is presented by Paramount Pictures, MGM and Skydance Productions, in
association with Hasbro.

In this sequel, the G.I. Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra, they are forced to
contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence. The film
stars D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson,
Elodie Yung, Channing Tatum with Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson. Directed by Jon M. Chu,
and produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Brian Goldner of Hasbro, from a screenplay by
Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, based on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe® characters.

“G.I. JOE: RETALIATION” is in cinemas everywhere March 28th, 2013.

And as if that wasn't enough, there's a special message from the Rock aka Dwayne Johnson for fans...

Bernie Blu Ray Review

Bernie: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Entertainment

Jack Black reteams with Richard Linklater in this latest film, a tale that loudly proclaims "What you're fixing to see is a true story."

Set in small town Texas, Black stars as the slightly effeminate Bernie Tiede, a local mortician and all round good guy - the kind of guy who'll go the extra mile to ensure the widows are all happy after the event by delivering flowers, hugs and the personal touch.

Plus, his dedication to his community sees him delivering everything they need - and more thanks to an over generous personality.

But when Bernie befriends the nastiest  (and latest) widow in town Marjorie (played with relish by Shirley MacLaine), the friendship pushes Bernie over the edge and he commits murder.

Jack Black impresses mightily in this straight role, finally showing some depth of performance which has hitherto evaded his career. His subtle dialled-down performance (as opposed to the usual OTT he brings) means his character feels multi dimensional and real;  MacLaine, by contrast, is monstrous, imbuing her widow with spite and nastiness. McConaughey spins out another lawman, taking on the role of a district attorney with a determination to catch whoever killed Marjorie.

Bernie's an odd film - Linklater uses plenty of talking head interviews from locals in the small town of Carthage to get into the mentality of what actually went on. Plus, the fact it's based on a true story adds a frisson of something deliciously different.

Bernie is charming and memorably warm - a subtly blended mix of small town ideology and dark comedy.

Extras: True story feature, Amazing Grace performance by Jack Black, Featurette on real life people, deleted scenes, trailer.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Last of Us: Special Edition info released

The Last of Us: Special Edition info released

To celebrate the launch of the eagerly anticipated new title from the makers of Uncharted™ 3, Naughty Dog Inc., Sony Computer Entertainment Europe will be releasing two Special Edition packages for The Last of Us™. Fans will be able to choose between The Last of Us: Ellie Edition and The Last of Us: Joel Edition, each packaged in a unique canvas wrap, and filled with exclusive physical and downloadable content.

·       The Last of Us mini artbook: explore the world of The Last of Us through some of the remarkable artwork that gave shape to the game
·       The Last of Us: American Dreams Issue #1: the first in a series of comics created in partnership with Dark Horse to delve into the backstory of Ellie. The version included features a variant cover found only in these special editions
·       Exclusive game pack: The Ellie Edition showcases the character Ellie on the game pack artwork, while the Joel Edition will feature Joel’s face
·       Collectable poster: an exclusive screen print effect poster of each character can be found in their respective editions
·       DUALSHOCK®3 skin: skin your PS3™ controllers with Joel or Ellie, depending on which edition you decide to order
·       Survival DLC Pack
o   Multiplayer Bonuses:
§  Bonus XP
§  Melee booster
§  In-game currency
§  Customizable character items
o   Bonus Joel and Ellie skins available once the single player game is completed
·       Sights & Sounds DLC Pack
o   Official Game Soundtrack by Academy Award winning musician Gustavo Santaolalla
o   PS3® Dynamic Theme
o   PSN Avatars: Winter Joel & Ellie
·       LittleBigPlanet™ Sackboy Skins: voucher codes for a downloadable Joel skin or a downloadable Ellie skin for your Sackboy character depending on which special edition you choose

The Last of Us launches globally on 7th May 2013, The Last of Us: Ellie Edition and The Last of Us: Joel Edition are available to pre-order now. New Zealand pricing to be confirmed soon.

The Thick of It: Series 4: DVD Review

The Thick of It: Series 4: DVD Review

Rating: R16
Released by BBC And Roadshow Home Entertainment

Armando Ianucci's brilliantly savage satire returns for a run of 7 episodes, demonstrating why the best things come in small packages and why the BBC can only do the very best in intelligent comedy.

Government embarrassments, U turns, ministerial mess ups, deals and rows - all of these are on the agenda as the latest batch of the the political comedy unwinds. Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker is now in opposition but no less savage and vitriolic.

Ianucci's once again crafted a wonderfully severe documentary style which oozes intelligent, wit and rewards patience and smart investment into the characters and the worlds within. Anyone with a hint of political nous will recognise the machinations, back stabbing and verbal jousting which takes place throughout.

Put simply, if you're a fan of comedy done well and intelligently, then you can't afford not to own The Thick of It: Series 4 on DVD. Simply brilliant, utterly quotable and side splittingly raw and funny, it's a must see.

Extras: Deleted scenes, commentary


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