Friday, 31 May 2013

Grand Designs: S10: DVD Review

Grand Designs: S10: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Is there anyone who can't know the formula to this series now?

Kevin McCloud visits people on builds and sees how their dreams cope with the obstacles which are thrown in their way. It's now 100 episodes the series has hit and it's certainly popular with its fans.

The formula's well established now and to be frank, the series is interesting if you're interested in self-builds and a look at what drives people. Other than that, it's business as usual and with no real thrills or spills.

Well put together,interesting people and projects and an ever affable Kevin make it a watchable series for the winter months.


Monster Fest 2013 preview

Monster Fest 2013 preview

Monster Fest 2013 is coming to Auckland's award-winning Academy Cinemas from June 6th.

There is a whole range of films along for the ride - and quite frankly, what an awesome ride it's looking to be. With a lot of the releases being titles which have mysteriously avoided a big screen release here in NZ, it's great to see them getting collected together and given a cinematic outing on the big screen.

The Academy's been generous enough to let me view some of the upcoming releases and I can say there's certainly a fair amount of choice for connoisseurs of the celluloid.

Thale, a Norwegian folklore horror film recalls a mix of early X Files spookiness and Norwegian bleakness as proffered up by Rare Exports. A duo, Leo and Elvis, who clean crime scenes end up at a seemingly deserted cabin in the woods (always with the cabins) cleaning up after an old man goes missing and half his body remains. When the duo discover a huldra, a sacred forest creature in the basement, it all goes a bit haywire. Mixing a few scares and some relative low budget horror, Thale is a short and relatively creepy sweet treat.
Equally impressive is James MacAvoy and a cast of unbelievably good Brit talent in Welcome To The Punch. Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, Daniel Mays and David Morrissey are stand out in this crime thriller about a former criminal forced to return to London when his son is injured. But MacAvoy's cop is waiting to grab him, three years after they first met. However, it's not as simple as it seems. Stylish, violent, and impressive Welcome To The Punch is a welcome shot in the arm of crime thrillers - and has a thrilling opening which grips.

Small Apartments sees Matt Lucas (of Little Britain fame) as the dweller in a dingy block of tenement flats. A Swiss horn blower, he spends most of his day walking around shirtless in a pair of white y fronts. One day he kills his landlord and doesn't hear from his brother (who always writes daily) and this sets off a chain of events. Eschewing real strong narrative in favour of kooky oddballs and great visuals, with a brilliant cast (Peter Stormare, Billy Crystal, Juno Temple, James Marsden, Johnny Knoxville, James Cann) this is a film aiming for cult curio and one which squarely and refreshingly hits the mark.

Manborg is a shlocky piece of Canadian action-sci-fi cross which sees Count Draculon and his Nazi forces trying to take over the Earth during the Hell Wars. (That description should be enough alone to tell you what's what in this) When a soldier's killed trying to take down Draculon, he's turned into a robot soldier, with one aim in mind - avenging his fallen buddies and saving the day. Mixing B movie action with some truly ropey FX, Manborg is a cheese-fest which looks like it's come from the bottom of the barrel. But it's got some fun moments and for low budget FX fest, you know what to expect.

Grabbers is an Irish / British monster movie, which has been building a strong cult following. When an Irish island is invaded by blood sucking sea creatures, it's up to Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley's Garda officers to help save the island - and all from a local pub. With a dash of buddy cop movie, mixed in with a pinch of the likes of Tremors and some clever jolts, it's a surprisingly watchable piece which mixes monster scares with some nice character moments. 

Dark Skies (not the much missed TV series about alien invasion over four decades) stars The Americans' Keri Russell and goes for the old there's something haunting a suburban family story which has been so prevalent in recent films. Playing on some of those primal fears and pulling together a reasonable story, it's a spooky if unspectacular watch - but one that may find you checking whether you've locked the door before you head to bed.

That's not all that's on at Monster Fest - there's also the likes of Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's Mama getting an airing here (with no sign of a release boding despite taking No1 in the US Box Office), horror flick The Collection, sequel to The Collector, Father's Day, the Death and Resurrection Show to name but a few more.

Monster Fest runs at Auckland's Academy Cinema from June 6th.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Seven Psychopaths: Blu Ray Review

Seven Psychopaths: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R16
Released by Universal Home Entertainment

From the writer/ director of In Bruges, comes Seven Psychopaths.

Colin Farrell is Marty, a struggling writer who is trying to put together a screenplay but getting nowhere with it. Part of that is due to his friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), who's running a sideline, dognapping. In part he's doing that scam with Christopher Walken's Hans - but they fall foul of the fact Billy's stolen a dog from gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson).

When Charlie works out what's going on, the scene is set for a massive showdown. To say Seven Psychopaths is a darkly black comedy is a bit of an understatement.

It starts with two mafiosi types discussing whether Dilinger was shot in the eyeball and concludes in a manner which really does set the tone for what lies ahead. It's incredibly similar to In Bruges, but perhaps is lacking a bit of the maudlin tone which pervades that piece of celluloid.

Riffing on movie cliches, crime cliches and proffering up a whole heap of one-liners, this ludicrously overbaked story finds its feet and certainly runs with it, thanks in part to the performances of Farrell, Rockwell and Walken who make a farcical, if talking nonsense, trio.

It's an initially clever script too - and one which becomes self referencing towards the end (where it sadly starts to lose some of its initial gumph and gumption). And yet, Seven Psychopaths certainly manages to carry it off mashing up genres, pouring on the dark comedy as it freewheels on and piles in some surrealist sequences which are one shaggy dog story after another. For a while, at least. It's violent too and splattered with blood and gore in ways that the very darkest of crime genres should be too. However, I can't help but feel that aside from one well written female character, the other women in this are treated somewhat badly - and I can't quite work out if they are supposed to be caricatures of women within the crime genre. It's borderline misogyny in places and certainly a difficult laugh to garner from the audience. Despite throwing in dialogue from Hans which critiques the poorly written women characters and that psychos get a bit boring after a while, it's an odd mix and one which doesn't sit well with me personally.

Seven Psychopaths certainly brings the laughs and the blackness but whether you'll love it or not, depends on how much you adore the crime genre in general and if you're ready to see a derivative film which isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is.

Extras: Featurettes, interviews and deleted scenes


UBISOFT reveals its E3 line up

UBISOFT reveals its E3 line up

Ubisoft has revealed its lineup of titles for what the company expects to be one of the most significant editions of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in years. Ubisoft leads off with an invitation-only media briefing at the Los Angeles Theatre that will feature first looks at Ubisoft’s upcoming lineup, including exclusive next-generation games, innovative editions of popular franchises and new brands and titles.

Ubisoft’s conference begins at 3pm PDT on Monday June 10. Local times will be 10am NZT, 8am AET and 6am AWT on Tuesday June 11.

Following the press conference, E3 attendees can visit Ubisoft’s booth (#1023 situated in the South Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center) to check out a number of highly anticipated games, including Assassin’s Creed IV Black FlagRayman LegendsSouth Park: The Stick of TruthTom Clancy’s Splinter Cell BlacklistWatch_Dogs and more. Throughout the week, there also will be a number of special guests and live performances at the booth.

“This is a pivotal moment for the video game industry, and E3 is the opportunity for us to share our vision for the future,” said Yves Guillemot, co-founder and CEO, Ubisoft, “We have many incredible games in development, and we’re especially excited to share more on our next-gen titles, which will deliver more connected, immersive and interactive experiences to our fans.”

As the industry transitions to a new console cycle, past market trends and Ubisoft’s internal estimates indicate that within two years the next-gen consoles’ installed base could double that of the previous generation over a comparable period. Ubisoft’s cross-studio collaboration structure allowed the company’s creative teams to get an early start on the transition, with next-gen games like Watch_Dogs already scheduled for release this year and more next-gen titles to be announced during E3. 

In addition to its E3 activities, Ubisoft is creating the Uplay Lounge, a space near the Los Angeles Convention Center designed to give select Uplay members hands-on experience with Ubisoft’s E3 lineup and the opportunity to discuss their favourite titles with members of Ubisoft’s development teams. Uplay®(http://uplay.comwill have pre-show coverage and a live broadcast of Ubisoft’s media briefing.

Ubisoft’s media briefing will also be available to watch live or on demand on Ubisoft’s YouTube channel ( and press partners are welcome to embed the YouTube live video feed on their site using the embed link. All of Ubisoft’s videos and trailers will be available on YouTube (

To interact live with Ubisoft during E3, visit Ubisoft Australia’s Facebook page (,  follow Ubisoft on Twitter ( and tweet using #UbiE3.

Three more films revealed for NZ International Film Festival

Three more films revealed for NZ International Film Festival

NZIFF today released three further film confirmations for the 2013 programme, including one from notorious shock programmer Ant Timpson.

New Zealand filmmaker Simon Ogston’s documentary about the Skeptics will have its world premiere at NZIFF. Sheen of Gold looks at the history and influence of one of New Zealand’s most influential Flying Nun bands. A reissue of two Skeptics LPs is planned for August from Flying Nun. 

“Director Simon Ogston continues his excavations of underground Kiwi rock, with a tribute to one of New Zealand’s most influential and eclectic rock bands of the 80s,” says NZIFF Assistant Programmer Michael McDonnell.

Incredibly Strange Programmer, Ant Timpson, confirmed his first film, You’re Next from director Adam Wingard.

“At first glance You’re Next sounds like the type of horror film you've seen numerous times before but like The Cabin in the Woods proved, a director can have a hell of a lot of fun with jaded horror fans who think they know every beat & rhythm of the genre. For the best experience, I highly recommend not watching the trailer nor reading any reviews. Bring an unsuspecting date and watch their popcorn fly when the film kicks in," says Timpson.

The first international guest confirmed for the Auckland leg of NZIFF is professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce, the subject of The Crash Reel directed by Oscar nominated Lucy Walker (Waste Land).

Further NZIFF film confirmations

Sheen of Gold
NZ 2013
The Crash Reel
Director: Simon Ogston
Director Simon Ogston continues his excavations of underground Kiwi rock, with a tribute to one of New Zealand’s most influential and eclectic rock bands of the 80s.

The Crash Reel
USA 2013, 107m
Director: Lucy Walker
Festivals: Sundance 2013
The meteoric rise, calamitous crash and remarkable endurance of US champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce are related with nerve-wracking immediacy in Lucy Walker’s (Wasteland) documentary. Kevin Pearce will attend the Auckland screenings of this film.

You're Next
You’re Next
USA 2011, 96m
Director: Adam Wingard
Festivals: Toronto 2011; San Francisco 2013
Mask clad intruders attack a family during their wedding anniversary getaway. Soon the mysterious killers learn that one of their victims has a secret talent for fighting back!

NZIFF will begin in Auckland (18 July – 4 August), open in Wellington one week later (26 July – 11 August), then Christchurch (1 – 18 August) and Dunedin (8 – 25 August) before continuing to travel around New Zealand screening in Gore, Palmerston North, Hamilton, Nelson, Tauranga, Masterton, Hawke’s Bay and New Plymouth.

The Festival has already announced ten films including NZ titles Antarctica: A Year on Ice, Gardening With Soul, Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song, The Deadly Ponies Gang; international features including Gebo and the Shadow, Much Ado About Nothing, Upstream Colour, What Maisie Knew; and international documentaries Becoming Traviata, and Dirty Wars for the 2013 programme.

Festival programmes will be available online and around town from June 25 in Auckland, and June 28 in Wellington. For Festival updates visit and register to receive e-newsletters.

Short film finalists unveiled for NZ International Film Festival

Short film finalists unveiled for NZ International Film Festival


Six short films have been selected as finalists for the New Zealand International Film Festival’s New Zealand’s Best Short Film Competition.

The films will compete for three cash prizes, with winners to be announced at the closing night of the Auckland leg of NZIFF. The six finalists are Tom’s Dairy (dir: Oscar Kightley), Blind Mice (dir: Walter Lawry), I’m Going to Mum’s (dir: Lauren Jackson), Interim (dir: Dan Kircher), Friday Tigers (dir: Aidee Walker) and Here Now (dir: Chelsie Preston-Crayford).

The New Zealand’s Best programme will screen as part of the 2013 NZIFF and audiences will be asked to choose a winner. A jury of three will select the winners of the $5000 Madman Entertainment Jury Prize and the $3000 Friends of the Civic Award. The winner of the Audience vote in Auckland and Wellington takes away 25% of the box office from the Festival screenings in the four main centres.

Winners for the Madman Entertainment Jury Award and the Friends of the Civic Jury Award will be chosen by three judges: Metro Magazine editor Simon Wilson, Michael Eldred for Madman Entertainment and veteran film producer Bridget Ikin (An Angel at My Table, My Year Without Sex, The Rocket, William Yang: My Generation).

Guest selector and international filmmaker Alison Maclean selected the six finalists from a shortlist of 12. Festival programmers Bill Gosden and Michael McDonnell viewed 91 entries to prepare the shortlist.

 “These films found ways to open up unfamiliar worlds and make the familiar more potent. From my now slightly outsider perspective, it was thrilling to watch these shorts - so much talent and skill in every department and, in separate, unique ways, a real authorial voice coming through... I can't wait to see what these filmmakers do next,” says Alison Maclean.

The finalists are:

Tom’s Dairy (13min)
World Premiere
New Zealand 2013
Director: Oscar Kightley
A poignant and humorous short film about a young boy growing up in West Auckland in 1981.

Blind Mice (15min)
World Premiere
New Zealand 2013
Director: Walter Lawry
In the small Auckland drug scene, a young woman, Jules, finds her life complicated by an unwanted pregnancy.

I’m Going to Mum’s (13min)
New Zealand 2013
Director: Lauren Jackson
Jacob is eight years old and his parents dress him funny. Stuck in the middle of a fresh divorce he takes drastic fashion action to make himself heard.

Interim (15min)
World Premiere
New Zealand 2013
Director: Dan Kircher
A young and green police officer is implicated in the assault of an arrestee.

Friday Tigers (Nga Taika o Te Ramere) (16min)
World Premiere
New Zealand 2013
Director: Aidee Walker
When an unexpected friendship threatens Ana’s secret world, can she find the courage to deal with her past for the sake of her future?
Here Now
Here Now (14min)
World Premiere
New Zealand 2013
Director: Chelsie Preston-Crayford
Inspired by Lena Dunham's Girls, Here Now explores the dilemma of the modern day twenty-something. Tess and her friends have no problems, but are they really living?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Dr Who - The Aztecs: Special Edition: DVD Review

Dr Who - The Aztecs: Special Edition: DVD Review

Rating: G
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Entertainment

Back to 1964 for this classic slice of sci fi black and white historical Doctor Who drama.

When William Hartnell's Doctor materialises the TARDIS in Mexico in the 15th Century, they soon discover danger. And things get worse when Barbara's mistaken for the reincarnation of an Aztec high priest. As she believes she can change history....

There's a great central dilemma here and it's well played out by Jacqueline Hill and William Hartnell as the ideals clash. It's a little stuffy in places and takes a bit of time to get going - but it's certainly worth the wait.

The greatest part of this special edition is the release of the missing episode three of serial Galaxy 4 which was rediscovered after years thought abandoned. As the recreation of the missing parts showed, it's a wonder when these episodes are discovered.

Extras: Commentary, docos, production notes - and a good piece of restoring the serial


Dr Who: The Visitation: Special Edition: DVD Review

Dr Who: The Visitation: Special Edition: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Entertainment

And so the re-releasing of the classic Dr Who series continues.

The latest to be given the special edition treatment is the serial from Peter Davison's fifth Doctor which is set in 1666 London as the country's gripped by the Great Plague. But there's an even greater threat lurking in the background.

A relatively straight forward story, The Visitation is 80s Who at its most brisk and historically factual. With three companions to juggle the writers cope brilliantly with the story. The period feel is brilliantly brought to life and the story is engaging throughout for fans of the sci fi genre.

As for the DVD extras, the standard is relatively high; the best piece sees Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson brought back to BBC TV centre; and another extra takes on the audio stories; they're great touches and nostalgic in look and feel which is perfect for the centenary.

Extras: Commentary, docos, production notes, easter eggs


Shopping Q and A with director Louis Sutherland

Shopping Q and A with director Louis Sutherland

New Zealand movie Shopping hits cinemas on Thursday and I caught up with director Louis Sutherland to discuss the film ahead of the Wellington premiere at The Embassy Theatre tonight.

Tell us how you came up with the story for Shopping – how do you even begin with this?
We have always drawn from our kiwi heritage when creating the foundations of a story for our films. Our Short films Run and The Six Dollar Fifty Man and now our debut feature film, Shopping, are all inspired by bits and pieces of our lives. The fact we went to the same schools and grew up in the same beach side village means we have a shared language here. We were first forced to put pen to paper for Shopping when we went over to the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and needed something to discuss with distributors and sales people in the market place. We wrote the first story outline on a 24hour flight there. The bones of the narrative were there but it was pretty bloody terrible...

The attention to period detail is stunning – how did you manage to do that?
Again it starts with a strong understanding of where the world comes from. All the details are something we both lived and breathed through as youngies (and that's a long time ago) and were something we were both quite protective about re-creating. But of course pulling that detail off and realising it 20-30 odd years later comes down to our great team. Josh O'Neill and Lucy Mclay, production designer and wardrobe designer respectively, were stellar in pulling this era off for us. The fruitiness in the frame is not only accurate to the day but also off-sets some of the dramatic tones in the film. We know they, along with other heads of departments in our team such as fantastic director of Photography Ginny Loane, had many sleepless nights on a tight budget to help bring our vision to life.

The child actors in Shopping are wonderfully natural – tell us how you managed to cast these first time actors
We like to cast our films ourselves, We street cast the young actors in Shopping from shopping malls, colleges and primary schools. We try to choose people that have come from a similar place to the characters, and have similar attributes. For young cast you really need be looking in schools and on the
streets. Nicky Caro did it with Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jane Campion with Anna Paquin and Lee Tamahori cast Tangaroa Emile. There is an overwhelming amount of talent out there that don’t realise that they have ‘it’. You just have to roll up your sleeves and find it.

How did you grow their relationship – the bond they share in the film is heart-warming, natural and inspirational – was that easy to achieve?
Like any relationship, it took time. Our job was firstly to strengthen a bond, almost like uncles to them both, so they each trusted us. Then once we’d made strong ties with them we kind of slowly grew them together. Putting our lead actor Kevin (Willy) in the driving seat whenever he was with Julian (Solomon) gave him an big brother status. Kevin was given more responsibility and in the swimming lessons for example he became Julian's rock so to speak. Julian began to look up to him,and Kevin began to grow a sense of responsiblity to
him..The relationship seemed real because it was real. Above all though it came down to casting two young people that were intelligent, brave and pretty damn good actors to boot.

Shot in Wellington and with a cast of Wellington in many ways, how much did the capital play a part in the shaping of the film?
We come from the Kapiti Coast. Like any piece of geography it has its own energy and beauty. We were lucky growing up really in such a captivating place. Being able to use the coast as a backdrop to our films has been a blessing visually but also it always seems to be there for us somehow. Like we were told by Joe Nolan our first AD shooting through May in Wellington would be sketchy. ‘It’ll be sideways rain’ and as Wellingtonians we knew he was right so got all our wet weather gear ready. We can honestly say everyday we had an exterior in Paekakariki the sun shone. 70% of our film was shot outside and we were gettingot back to back to back sunsets.. Thank you Kapiti! People around the world have asked us where where we found our magical locations. We tell them ‘at home’. Film Wellington and the Kapiti Coast District council were very supportive and after having shot commercials all over the world it’s the easiest region to shoot in. Every chance we get we shoot here!

What was the first scene shot for the film?
Actually it was in Nae Nae where we found an amazing old dairy that looked just like the old one in Raumati beach when we were kids.

What was that like – getting to see the dream become a reality given that this is your debut feature film?
Bloody exciting all the way through the process. It wasn’t until we premiered in Sundance though to a room full of people that we really realised we’d done it -it's weird but that's when it hit us. Otherwise you are so busy head down, ass up you kind of don’t see the scenery passing or feel you are getting anywhere. It's just losing yourself in a very elongated journey with various creative demands.

It’s quite bleak in places, but offers up a lot of hope at the end; were you ever conscious that this story needed to have a resolution such as this?
We always earn our endings when we write. We heard some people write their ending and write toward it. We kind of start at the beginning and see where we end up - certainly for Shopping anyway. We penned about 20 different endings through the six years we wrote it. What was always important to us is that there was a feeling of hope, of achievement and change in the world of the film. We have never liked leaving the theatre feeling short changed as audience members so wanted to show our audience the same respect. This said, it's far from a classic Hollywood happy vanilla flavoured ending. That was never our intent.

What’s your favourite moment from the film – and why?
Probably many of the scenes with Kevin and Julian playing together. There are so many moments where they just shine in the film. They really free up the tone and allow us light and joy into the scenes. We loved watching them being together on set. Sometimes they made us forget we were actually making a film. They were that natural.

You’ve taken the film to Sundance, how has that experience been?
It's a real step up with a feature from winning there in 2010 with a short film. It's the biggest market and you realise pretty quickly that unless you have super heroes, a double figure body count, or an A-list american actor you aren’t going to create too many ripples. It's American-centric and so it should be as it's ultimately about their market place. We also learnt that in America we will need to subtitle this film. Apparently we have very thick accents although damned if we can hear it.
This film also went to Berlin where we won the Grand Prix (Best Film) prize in the generation section. We found the European audience to be a lot more multicultural and open to an international voice. 1200 people watched our opening night screening in Berlin and you could hear a pin drop at the climax of the film. They loved it. We really enjoyed the experience and it made us consider how we wanted to approach our next film project ‘Hell's Teeth’. More on that though in the months ahead...

You’ve had a taste of the awards life before with the Six Dollar Fifty Man, how does this compare?
Much the same really. Winning is winning eh. But where we really feel the burn is back at home. See here it's not about awards or international acclaim. It's about acceptance from our people. It's about kiwis going and watching a film we made essentially about them,. Our people's acceptance is more important than anything we could bring home from off-shore. Simple reason is because this is home, we grew up here and our kids will grow up here. Last thing we want is to have to avoid the neighbors until the next film because they think
we’re dicks...

What’s your next project?
Our next film is called ‘Hell's Teeth’. As Shopping was like our first short film Run growing up. ‘Hell's Teeth’ will be like The Six Dollar Fifty man grown up. It’s set on the Kapiti Coast again and is inspired by a friendship that Mark had. It’s a film about how a 16 year old boy uncovers his talents that lay hidden under
a painter's drop sheet in the family garage.....

Soul Sacrifice: PS Vita Review

Soul Sacrifice: PS Vita Review

Released by Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PS Vita

It's been a wee bit quiet on the VITA front for a little bit, but it looks like that's about to change as winter rolls in.

A Vita version of the Jak and Daxter trilogy's coming soon and I'm sure there'll be some reveals at E3 2013 - but for now, it's time to content yourself with a game of sorcery and really nasty looking creatures. Plus a talking book, called Librom, with some funny looking eyes.

As the game begins, you find yourself in a cell, and are potentially about to be consumed by an evil sorcerer named Magusar. When your cellmate is consumed, it looks as if all is lost - until a book ends up in your cell and begins talking to you offering you a shot at salvation and giving you the powers you need to take down Magusar.

The shot includes taking part in a series of mini combats with one other sorcerer within the pages of the book and building up your repertoire of armour and weapons. But you also face choices - you can sacrifice the creatures you combat to boost either your magic (dark sacrifice) or your life force (light sacrifice).

Soul Sacrifice is another of those bite size games, whose episodic feel makes it suitable to the portable environment. Each level takes a few minutes to complete as you play through the challenges of the journal and fight your way to the knowledge needed to save the day. Through combat and reward, you build up what you need and learn as you go.

Graphically, it's fine, nothing sensational for the OLED screen but it certainly looks slick and is playable enough without sacrificing game play time for loading up the different levels. A constant ability to save means that you won't find yourself battling for ages with no chance of retaking up the fight afterwards.

The Librom character is quite fun - an ominous voiceover adds to the level of menace from a talking book - and the short nature of Soul Sacrifice renders it relatively playable. It's nothing fabulously new for the VITA - there's hardly any use of the VITA's extra features, but it's good fun for a few hours here and there.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Great Gatsby: Movie Review

The Great Gatsby: Movie Review

Cast: Leonardo di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher
Director: Baz Luhrmann

So, with much pomp and ceremony, director Baz Luhrmann's take on F Scott Fitzgerald's book (and the fifth movie to be made since 1926) arrives.

It's late in the 1920s and on Long Island where we join Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway, who's recovering in a sanitarium and recounting the story of millionaire playboy Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and how their paths crossed at the height of the roaring twenties.(1922 to be precise).

Carraway's cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) also shares a connection to Gatsby - five years ago, they were in love when he disappeared at war. So, she married Joel Edgerton's Tom Buchanan, and apparently moved on. But when Daisy reconnects with Gatsby, it throws all manner of spanners into the lavish works with Tom suspecting her of an affair, even though he's cavorting with another woman (played by Isla Fisher).

The Great Gatsby movie is all manner of spectacle and unfortunately, all lacking in real soul.

It starts off with real energy and sumptuous excesses as a visual symphony explodes before your very eyes. Using CGI and plenty of shots of a camera pulling away, Luhrmann sets a wonderfully evocative film as Tobey Maguire's haunted and laconic (almost stoned) voice-over plays out.

Through dizzying shots, Luhrmann cramming as many people as he can into any given party scene and ramping up an old school soundtrack with current musical sensibilities, his sense of delivery as a director borders on the OTT in places. Luxurious elegance crams every corner of every frame and opulence flows from the screen as the 3D use falls into place and the myth of the mysterious playboy Gatsby is fuelled. Plus Luhrmann uses lines from the text to sing out from the screen, which is evocative, innovative and respectful of the source material.

And yet, once the scene is set and the reveal of Gatsby himself is done (a scene where a grinning Cheshire cat style DiCaprio turns around as fireworks go off in the background is so crammed with cheese you can almost taste it), the fizz and sparkle of this spectacle goes limp.

It's no criticism of the acting on show, more a realisation that once the pomp and vulgar opulence have faded, the human element needs to come into play and it simply becomes a story of a thwarted love and a condemnation of the American Dream in the 1920s and the excesses of the times for the rich. Di Caprio impresses as Gatsby, as he struggles to put on a performance as the rich millionaire playboy; Maguire looks laconic and a bit disinterested as Carraway, the narrator of the piece; Joel Edgerton manages the best he can of a one-note character and Carey Mulligan is fairly wispy and ethereal as Daisy, managing to not entirely convince as a love interest.

The Great Gatsby is more a case of style over substance I'm afraid; it's a film of scale, but one which is built on very little foundation. It's hard to care for or even about any of the characters in the central story as the doomed love story plays out. Interestingly unlike the characters in Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge, you don't connect in the same way and it renders the final feeling as one of indifference and detachment rather than romantic longing. Maybe it's a flaw of not having read the book that I don't get that these characters are supposed to be wrapped up in all their own worlds (even though Carraway hints at how sickened he is by life).

Shallow and a little hollow, The Great Gatsby movie is impressive in places and aesthetically astounding - but it can't match the ambition of its director and its first half in terms of narrative.

A sudden change of pace and direction in the second half leaves you a little floundering and hoping that the overlong production would come to an end. Despite the wondrous costuming and period detail, the charm of Di Caprio and his acting, not once was my heart touched - and for a doomed love story that is the Great Gatsby movie, that's a fatal flaw.


Monday, 27 May 2013

Shopping: Movie Review

Shopping: Movie Review

Cast: Kevin Paulo, Julian Dennison, Jacek Koman, Alistair Browning
Directors: Mark Albiston, Louis Sutherland

From the writers of the award nominated The Six Dollar Fifty Man comes the first foray into feature film making.

It's New Zealand 1981 - a time of racial tensions between the Samoans and New Zealanders. Brothers Willie and Solomon are caught up in the middle of this in their own ways. Solomon, the youngest of the two, is lost in a world of his own and knows only the guiding light of his older brother, Willie. But Willie's on the verge of making his way into the real world, starting with driving lessons from his father Terry.

However, when Terry lets Willie down over the lessons, Willie's relationship with his father is strained. Tempted into a world of theft after a chance encounter with charismatic thief and immigrant Bennie (Koman), Willie discovers a family bond, lacking in his own life.

With the possibility of this surrogate father taking him in, Willie's keen to do anything to impress - but his immersion into Bennie's world sets him on a collision course with disaster.

Shopping is an at times, bleak and darkly put together film festival-like tale.

Beautifully shot (on the Kapiti coast) and wonderfully evocative of the era (the attention to period detail is stunning), it's a tale which takes a little while to unfold but when it finally does so, does very well.

It helps that the two young leads are gifted natural actors; Paulo, a first time actor, imbues Willie with a nuanced performance that's subtle and restrained. He manages to convey the inner turmoil and the mix of confusion and anger well without any real over-acting. Likewise, the young Dennison helps build a realistic bond with his brother which feels natural and warm.

Inevitably, the film follows the NZ norm and uncovers some nasty home truths of beatings and so on, but rather than over-indulge in that side of it, the story wisely veers away from indulging in the domestic issues (which aren't quite as strong as the other story threads) and concentrates on Willie's inauguration into the thieves' world. Though, it has ventured to the Sundance Festival this year and played there, which is extremely commendable.

A mix of meandering narrative in the early stages and tension set the scene well and when the final explosion comes as Willie's two worlds meet, you are gripped by what unfolds as the misery comes home to roost with a real blow to the senses.

Thankfully, the film wisely ends on the relationship between the two brothers - and it's a good choice to help cinemagoers leave with some form of optimism. Because the main heart of the film is this bond and it's in those moments that it brings something unique and magical to the screen.


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Sunday, 26 May 2013

Cosplay from Armageddon Day 2 in Hamilton

Cosplay from Armageddon Day 2 in Hamilton

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Lance Henriksen at Armageddon in Hamilton

Lance Henriksen at Armageddon in Hamilton

The star of Aliens and the much missed and brilliant TV series Millennium, Lance Henriksen was at Armageddon in Hamilton this weekend and gave a great panel.

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