Saturday, 31 August 2013

ZB Movie Review - RED2, Identity Thief and Oblivion

ZB Movie Review - RED2, Identity Thief and Oblivion

This week on Jack Tame on Newstalk ZB, I talked briefly about Jobs, RED2, Identity Thief and Oblivion.

Take a listen below:

Paranoia: Movie Review

Paranoia: Movie Review

Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Richard Dreyfuss, Julian McMahon
Director: Robert Luketic

Billed as a "high stakes thriller", Paranoia is a delve into the world of greed and deception within the technology industry.

It focuses on Liam Hemsworth's Adam, a young up-and-comer in the industry who's been working at entry level at a tech company run by Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman, in cock-er-nee mood). Adam's an honest sort, but one who wants more from life, envious of how some are willing to cheat to get ahead and have achieved major wealth off of others. He lives at home with his sick father (a criminally underused Richard Dreyfuss) and is always struggling.

When he and his team are fired from their jobs, they head out to commiserate and spend up big on their company credit card. But the next day, Adam's hauled up in front of his amoral former boss and given an ultimatum and Faustian pact from Wyatt - face jail time for fraud charges or infiltrate another tech company run by Harrison Ford's Jock Goddard, Wyatt's former mentor and now business enemy.

Seduced by the wealth and possibilities, Adam's sucked into a world of corporate esponiage and is soon in danger of losing his life.

Paranoia is supposed to be a thriller, but to be frank, it lacks any real thrills or suspense whatsoever, resulting in a perfectly average, but utterly under-cooked effort.

Sure, Hemsworth finds any excuse to take his shirt off and wander around semi-naked, but the fact he's completely soulless, dead behind the eyes and lacking any real charisma means you don't actually feel for his plight or any peril he may be in.

Likewise, why tease the possibility of Oldman and Ford's characters being major rivals and have them face off each other in only a handful of scenes? And when they finally do face each other down, there's scant tension, little energy and only the slightest frisson of them wanting to tear strips off each other. Though the sight of a shaven headed Ford at the end seething and threatening to boil over brings the first sign of life to this - but it's too late by then.

Underwritten characters, lumpen direction and laughable dialogue in this derail it from the start. An initial voiceover from Hemsworth intones that "I am not going to make excuses - I asked for this" as he extols the fact the American dream has been bastardised by the corporate greed (before fully embracing said greed); another scene in the latter stages at the tech company sees one security guard screaming that they need to "get the IT guy on the line" when their systems go down. Even Ford isn't invulnerable too - he succumbs to delivering the line -"Power's the juice - get used to drinking it"

Worst though is Amber Heard's marketing boss Emma whom Adam tries to kindle a romance with. Initially frosty after a one night stand, there's the promise of some delicious banter and back and forth to give this some spark; but the writers choose to turn Heard's ball busting, no-nonsense corporate bigwig into a weak kneed, just wants a nice man to love her stereotype, who ends up resorting to batting her eyes and looking through her long hair at sad moments. The underwriting of the characters - that's the biggest crime of Paranoia, a film so mis-labelled there's hardly any paranoia around at all.

All in all, Paranoia had the trappings of some decent moments and the promise of a thriller, but it delivers up a damp squib which is memorable for all the things it does wrong, rather than getting it right. And that's enough to make anyone in Hollywood paranoid.


Friday, 30 August 2013

About Time: Movie Review

About Time: Movie Review

Cast: Domnhall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Lindsay Duncan
Director: Richard Curtis

Is About Time Richard Curtis’ directorial swan song?

The man who gave us such saccharine treats as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, Notting Hill and launched the career of the foppish Hugh Grant is stepping down?

Say it ain’t so – but it appears to be with About Time, the latest rom-com sap-fest from the Working Title fold.

So, it’s back once more to Curtis’ idealistic Britain, where London is never gloomy and the English folk eat alfresco on the Cornish coast whatever the weather. So far, so quaint and so Hollywood stereotyped….

Domnhall Gleeson (one of the Weasley brothers from the Harry Potter series) plays Tim, who discovers from his father on his 21st birthday that all the men in the family possess the ability to travel in time. All they have to do is enter a darkened room, clasp their hands together and think of the moment they wish to return to – et voila, a second chance from within their own lifetime beckons.

How does Tim use this great gift? 

Well, as Tim decries initially, “For me - it was always going to be about love” and he turns his power towards ensuring that Mary (a rather bland and wishy-washy Rachel McAdams) becomes his beau.

But Tim gradually learns that this power isn’t to be abused – and despite having every chance in the world to change things, not everything can be changed for the better and some life lessons need to be learned.

About Time is exactly what you’d expect from the Richard Curtis romcom stable. If you’re an old cynic, you’ll gradually feel the roof of your gums as you angrily gnash your teeth away as the celluloid sugar overload pours out in waves at you; otherwise, you’ll lap up every moment and laugh at every English eccentricity, ignoring the fact that Curtis is plundering from his own stockpile and trademarks to bring you a very polished, yet mawkish and sentimental film. (In fact, you can play Curtis bingo as well – as characters appear to have wondered in from other films he’s penned)

Gleeson really impresses in his first lead – even if he does have overtones of Hugh Grant’s patented stutter, awkwardness and vulnerability down to a tee; there’s something endearing about his gradual coming of age and realising that despite living each day again, it’s the extraordinary ordinariness which makes us all so special. (In case you didn’t already know and needed film to tell you otherwise)

Likewise, Nighy turns in another great character role, bringing a subtlety and nuanced heart to the father figure. It’s a performance which may have many (even the hard hearted) wanting to call their parents for a quick catch up afterwards but it’s never one that descends too far into sentimental mush, despite the plot going darker at the end.

Tom Hollander deserves some praise too as the acerbic bitter twist in this Brit sci-fi Groundhog Day as a playwright around to dispense the perfect oneliner to punctuate the overly tender moments. (Don’t dwell too much on the time travel element – it’s there to service the narrative rather than be explored and once the novelty of some romantic mishaps are explored, it takes a back seat until the poignant end.)

Did it win me over? Not in the slightest, due to the fact it borrows heavily and indulges Curtis’ own back catalogue; every moment I could see coming from a mile off and there was not one single moment where there was a surprise waiting for me.  It’s a meditation on regret and the reality of growing up not a complex look at the mores and dilemmas faced by someone with great power – it’s crowd-pleasing in the extreme and hits every note that Curtis would have wanted to this time around.

All in all, About Time is entirely predictable and utter feel good fluff as the overload of cute builds to its climax; Curtis’ schmaltzy swansong is exactly what you’d expect from the man (even down to the mood setting generic piano music) and thanks to a more coherent, if overlong, script, it comes together well as the consequences of change and the relationships we share are put under scrutiny. 

About Time is perfectly pleasant cinematic stuff, not life-changing, but not too soul-destroying in its saccharine assault on the senses. 


Grand Theft Auto V trailer is here

Grand Theft Auto V trailer is here

Just launched is the brand new trailer for Grand Theft Auto V...

Los Santos: a sprawling metropolis full of self-help gurus, starlets and fading celebrities struggling to stay afloat in an era of economic uncertainty and cheap cable TV. Amidst the turmoil, three very different criminals risk everything in a series of daring and dangerous heists that could set them up for life.

ESRB Rating: MATURE with Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Nudity, Mature Humor, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol

Watch the new Official Gameplay Video for Grand Theft Auto Online - which shows how we've taken the fundamental GTA concepts of freedom, ambient activity and mission-based gameplay and made them available to multiple players in an incredibly detailed and responsive online world.

In Grand Theft Auto Online, you'll have the freedom to explore alone or with friends, work cooperatively to complete missions, band together to participate in activities and ambient events, or compete in traditional game modes with the entire community, all with the personality and refined mechanics of Grand Theft Auto V.

Access to Grand Theft Auto Online is free with every retail copy of Grand Theft Auto V and launches on October 1st. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Iron Man 3: Blu Ray Review

 Iron Man 3: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Entertainment

"We create our own demons."

So goes the very first line of this threequel, opening to massive expectations and no doubt, box office following Iron Man's last triumphant outing as part of the superhero powerhouse which was The Avengers. 

Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as billionaire Tony Stark - who, this time around, is suffering a little from PTSD following the events at the end of the alien Chitauri invasion masterminded by Loki. Well, you'd expect that from someone who escaped from a wormhole with a nuke in tow...Facing a distinct lack of sleep, Stark has been distancing himself from the love of his life Pepper Potts (Paltrow), who's working hard at Stark Industries and is choosing to dwell on building other Iron Man suits within his basement.

But when bearded terrorist The Mandarin strikes, taking down everything Tony Stark holds dear, Stark has no choice but to go back to basics to try and save the day...

Iron Man 3 is not what you would expect in terms of blockbuster outing.

Sure, Shane Black's fashioned some killer crowd-pleasing, large exploding moments of spectacle but the overall feel of this flick is somewhat of a downer, darker and slightly dour affair - despite moments of humour throughout this character piece. Stark is prone to panic and anxiety attacks - and it gives Downey Jr a new facet to play with onscreen as well as humanising the smarmy, egotistical philanthropist. But it also gives depth of vulnerability and a degree of heartbreak to his distancing himself from Potts (their relationship being the pulsing heart of this latest film) as it all plays out. Downey Jr is never anything less than eminently watchable as it unfolds, whether it's raging anger when laying down a challenge to Mandarin  and chasing after the bearded terrorist (bin Laden allegories, anyone?) or realising how mortal he is post-Avengers' incidents.

Likewise, Ben Kingsley's Mandarin character is a fabulous addition to the pantheon of Marvel baddies. To say too much about this bearded Bin Laden-esque terrorist, with his cyber-hacking broadcasts is to give too much away from the film. But he adds a menace which is befitting and the equal of Stark's theatricality as he exacts his diabolical plots. Guy Pearce brings a level of nastiness and rejected smarm as Aldrich Killian, but Rebecca Hall is frankly wasted in a role, which amounts to little more than an extended cameo. Don Cheadle gets a Lethal Weapon-esque team up with Stark toward the end of the film as Iron Patriot falls into trouble.

Despite there being plenty of unexpected moments, twists and turns, and some eye-catching action sequences, there's a horrendously saggy middle piece. Will it lead to an Iron Man 4?

That's the big question - with the Iron Man 3 ending feeling like a kind of wrap up, and Downey Jr's contract being finished with the role, you'd have to wonder if this is the end for Stark. But given this latest performance, he's irreplaceable - and Marvel would be hard pressed to bring anyone else into a role which Downey Jr has made so emphatically his own.

Extras: Marvel one shot Agent Carter, deconstructing the scenes, gag reel and exclusive look behind the scenes of Thor: The Dark World.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Evil Dead: Blu Ray Review

Evil Dead: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Entertainment

A cabin in the woods, a possessed person, plenty of gore and dismemberments, and a reboot of an iconic horror series. It could only be Evil Dead, which was filmed in Auckland's Woodhill Forest.

Jane Levy (Suburgatory) stars as Mia in this reboot of the Evil Dead franchise, which of course was originally helmed some 32 years ago by Sam Raimi and starred Bruce Campbell. Along with four other friends (including her brother David - played by Shiloh Fernandez), Mia's holed up in a remote cabin as they try to help her kick her drug addiction.

But when one of the five discovers the Book of the Dead and reads out one of the incantations out of pure curiosity, all hell breaks loose as the demons are summoned and Mia is possessed....

Evil Dead starts with a bang and gore and doesn't really let up from there.

It's an old school horror in that it ramps up the tension, plies up the horror soundtrack and ratchets the uncomfortable feeling to 11 - and then some. The idea that Mia is in lockdown and detox adds a little something to the whole possession edge of the film and makes her initial strung-out behaviour a little easier to play on.

Add in tensions between David and Mia because of family and the concoction is there for a truly horrific showdown. And in many ways, that's what you get; buckets of blood, neck-cricking possessions (a la J horror movies) and some moments where you can't bear to look at the screen.

The Evil Dead movie is refreshingly old school; not self-aware, and true to its mythology. It's also the home of some great CGI technology, prosthetics and some stomach-churningly impressive FX work as the splatter-fest begins. It also makes moody work of the Woodhill Forest location and builds on the cabin's claustrophobia. Jane Levy impresses as she gives her all on screen as the shocks and jolts begin to build up.

Bloodthirsty and brutal, it will appeal to the original fans of the series. It's also bloody good fun in an old school horror way - and with a sequel planned and more films involving Bruce Campbell's Ash from the Evil Dead franchise, now is a good time to get possessed by the obsession which has been running for years.


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Oblivion: Blu Ray Review

Oblivion: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Entertainment

Tom Cruise returns in this latest from the director of the TRON: Legacy film and those behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He plays Jack Harper, one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on an Earth which has been abandoned for years following decades of war with a group known as the Scavs. Along with Victoria, his wife (played with ice maiden overtones by Andrea Riseborough) they maintain the fleet of drones, protecting the earth from the threat of the Scavs.

Yet, when a series of drones go down, and a spaceship crashes with a beautiful survivor Julia (Olga Kurylenko) onboard, Jack finds his life changed forever as everything he knows (or thinks he knows) is blown apart.

Oblivion is an incredible piece of visual sci-fi, which reeks of epic scale. From its sleek, wonderfully realised world of day-after-tomorrow style technology to some brutally intense fight sequences (Attack of the Drones anyone?), it's one of those films which screams to be watched on the biggest screen possible.

Director Kosinski, who cut his teeth on TRON: Legacy has done an incredible job of harnessing the power of VFX - from the robot drones which hover in the sky to the ship which Cruise pilots, it's certainly up there with some of the best.

And yet, that's where Oblivion starts to falter a little. It all feels a little too familiar in places, particularly if you're well versed in various sci-fi tropes. It feels very reminiscent of many others from the genre and while it mashes a lot of those influences together, you can't help but feel towards the end, that new movie Oblivion has offered little to the genre and is ever so slightly derivative. It's very much a case of style over substance in terms of story, rather than spectacle which is a real shame for the genuine concept behind the Oblivion movie. Based on a graphic novel, there's very much the feel of a video game in this as well; mend the drones, rescue the girl, save the planet etc as each sequence segues into the next; complete with an at times OTT OST with blasting synth and drums at key moments, you can't help but feel this is occasionally console entertainment, stepped up for the big screen.

Overall, the Oblivion movie isn't a disaster by any stretch of the imagination; as the mystery initially plays out, you do find yourself drawn in, but as the pieces begin to slot together, you can't help but feel you've seen it all before - and given the concept those involved put together, it's a real shame.

Extras: Deleted scenes, making of, isolated score, commentary with Tom Cruise


Monday, 26 August 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: DVD Review

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

Steve Carell stars as Burt Wonderstone in this comedy about a magician duo (teaming up with Steve Buscemi as his partner) who have ruled the Las Vegas scene for years. The pair were childhood friends and have been performing for years but Burt's ego and arrogance is raging out of control.

When a street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey in dialled down mode) shows up, their act begins to seem rather stale - and when they're fired by the casino operator (James Gandolfini) the duo split and Burt hits rock bottom.

But, after a chance meeting with a childhood hero (Alan Arkin) he sets out to rediscover his love of magic and recapture his crown.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a little bit of a mess to be honest.

Tonally all over the place, it starts off as broad comedy masquerading as a family film, goes a bit darker before becoming totally predictable and utterly unoriginal. Carell's good as Wonderstone and elicits some laughs but he's never quite convincing enough; Carrey is dark as the street magician but manages to muddle his way through to his trademark gurning - and Olivia Wilde, who plays the love interest is charming enough but underused. Alan Arkin brings his trademark acerbic delivery and Gandolfini's pleasant enough, but the whole film feels like a muddle of styles and loses its way with its message.

Is The Incredible Burt Wonderstone magic? Not entirely, which given the calibre of cast, is a real shame.

Extras: Gag reel


Sunday, 25 August 2013

RED2: Movie Review

RED2: Movie Review

Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Neal McDonough
Director: Dean Parisot

RED (Retired and Extremely Dangerous) was a sleeper hit back in 2010.

Its infusion and mix of an older group of action heroes and the fact Helen Mirren got to shoot a very big gun (thus shattering a lot of stereotypes) meant that it was an unexpected worldwide box office hit.

So, perhaps a sequel was inevitable.

This time around, retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (a broodier Bruce Willis) is back and forced into action once again. Which he's not happy about because he's enjoying the quieter life with beau Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) - even though she craves the more active life and has a taste for danger since the first outing.

When former colleague Marvin (Malkovich) is apparently assassinated, (minor spoiler - he wasn't) the group is sent on a global jaunt to try and track down a missing portable nuclear device...and that sends them right to Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) a scientist from Frank's path - and also into the sights of Frank's former flame Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

With RED2, it's a case, really, of repeating the successes of before - and adding in a few more ingredients of the older generation to get a wider audience. But with a few caveats.

Unfortunately, some of the thrill of the first film was seeing Helen Mirren in action - she's largely sidelined in this piece and separated from the group, which is a real shame. Though, Mary-Louise Parker's character has come more alive in this and her need to fulfill a vicarious streak to her nature leads to some more comedic moments than perhaps you would initially have been expecting. The cattiness between Sarah and Katja is entertaining for a while but its lightweight nature threatens to topple RED 2 despite some average action sequences.

With a plot that closely follows that other uber-work of Bruce Willis, A Good Day to Die Hard, it's almost as if Bruce is suffering from deja vu here. And deja vu is present in many ways, with Neal McDonough taking on Karl Urban's role from the first, as the hard-as-nails pursuer - but there's way too much comedy in this piece to make it feel like the right mix. The problem is the characters do nothing new - with perhaps, the exception of Mary-Louise Parker who gets to be part of the spy world and get the action she so craves.

Distinctly average but fairly disposable entertainment, RED 2 is another outing for the Grey Team - and perhaps some will enjoy that. Others though will feel that they maybe need to actually stick to the concept of being Retired (but with a third installment planned, that could be a long shot).


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Love Story: DVD Review

Love Story: DVD Review

Cast: Florian Habicht, Masha Yakovenko, Florian's father
Director: Florian Habicht

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extras: Behind the scenes, deleted scenes, sort film, world premiere and phone message


Friday, 23 August 2013

Divergent Official First teaser is revealed

Divergent Official First teaser is revealed

Here's your first look at Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior in upcoming film, Divergent.

DIVERGENT is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a future where people are divided into distinct factions based on their personalities. 

Tris Prior (Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. 

When she discovers a conspiracy to destroy all Divergents, she must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late. 

Based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth

Ben Affleck is the new Batman

Ben Affleck is the new Batman

In news just to hand, Ben Affleck's been announced as the new Batman.

In a post on the Warner Bros Facebook wall...


The Oscar®-winning star joins Henry Cavill in the first ever onscreen match-up of DC Comics’ most iconic characters.

BURBANK, CA, August 22, 2013 – Ending weeks of speculation, Ben Affleck has been set to star as Batman, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne.  Affleck and filmmaker Zack Snyder will create an entirely new incarnation of the character in Snyder’s as-yet-untitled project—bringing Batman and Superman together for the first time on the big screen and continuing the director’s vision of their universe, which he established in “Man of Steel.”  The announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing andInternational Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

The studio has slated the film to open worldwide on July 17, 2015.

Last month’s surprise announcement of the new movie featuring both Superman and Batman created a wave of excitement and immediately fueled discussion and debate—among fans as well as in the media—about who would put on the cape and cowl of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego.

Snyder successfully re-imagined the origin of Clark Kent/Superman in the worldwide blockbuster “Man of Steel,” which has earned more than $650 million worldwide to date, and climbing.  The director will now create an original vision of Batman and his world for the film that brings the two DC Comics icons together. 

Affleck will star opposite Henry Cavill, who will reprise the role of Superman/Clark Kent.  The film will also reunite “Man of Steel” stars Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane.

In the announcement, Silverman stated, “We knew we needed an extraordinary actor to take on one of DC Comics’ most enduringly popular Super Heroes, and Ben Affleck certainly fits that bill, and then some.  His outstanding career is a testament to his talent and we know he and Zack will bring new dimension to the duality of this character.”

Snyder also expressed his excitement about the casting of Affleck, noting, “Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman.  He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne.  I can’t wait to work with him.”

Kroll added, “We are so thrilled that Ben is continuing Warner Bros.’ remarkable legacy with the character of Batman.  He is a tremendously gifted actor who will make this role his own in this already much-anticipated pairing of these two beloved heroes.”

Affleck recently starred in the Academy Award®-winning Best Picture “Argo,” which he also directed and produced, earning acclaim and a BAFTA Award nomination for his performance in the film, as well as a number of directing honors.  In 2010, he starred in and directed the hit crime thriller “The Town.”  His recent acting work also includes “The Company Men,” “State of Play,” and “Hollywoodland,” for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. Earlier in his career, Affleck starred in and co-wrote (with Matt Damon) “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Oscar® for Best Original Screenplay. 

The new Super Hero film is being scripted by David S. Goyer from a story he co-created with Zack Snyder.  Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing, with Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan and Wesley Coller serving as executive producers. Production is expected to begin in 2014.

The film is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Batman characters created by Bob Kane, published by DC Entertainment.

Warm Bodies: Blu Ray Review

Warm Bodies: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

In this offbeat non-traditional girl meets boy romance, Nicholas Hoult stars as zombie R, who's an oddly introspective member of the undead. He spends his time shuffling around and trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world where the population's been turned into zombies.

One day, when out hunting, R meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) and decides to save her from the masses on an impulse. Hiding her away, R begins to form a relationship with her, and it starts in many ways, to bring him back to life. But it turns out Julie is the daughter of military man, Grigio (John Malkovich) who's in charge of the safety of the rest of the planet...Coupled with the fact, a skeletal race known as the Bonies, are looking to attack anything with a vague semblance of a pulse, and R's got his work cut out.

The Warm Bodies movie is not your traditional zombie flick.

In fact, it's a smart, funny, warmly amusing sly take on the old tale of Romeo and Juliet (R and Julie??) while managing to bring something entirely different and welcome to the genre with a new and intriguing twist on the undead apocalypse.
It works in a large part, due to Nicholas Hoult's clever underplaying of the romantic lead and the story's messing with tropes of the rom-com genre. Throwing in a voiceover and subtly turning the first part of the film into a universal look at how we fail to communicate with each other (R's best friend, played by Rob Corddry, and he communicate by a series of grunts and argghs) and then goes into the eternal question of how to talk to girls, Hoult gives it his all. And it works so well in parts - that you're even able to overlook some of the holes of the plot later on (such as how the zombie hordes can suddenly all speak )

Warm Bodies is a charming piece of sincere film-making - it'll amuse and delight in equal measures and it's definitely worthy of your affections.

In fact, you could almost say it puts the beating heart back into the undead world.


Payday 2: PS3 Review

Payday 2: PS3 Review

Platform: PS3
Released by 505 Games

Ah, bank robbing.

The old heist - carefully planned, properly cased and suitably geared up, nothing can go wrong with it, can it?

Well, actually in PayDay 2, all manner of problems can beset your plans to mask up and rob the bejeebers out of everyone around.

You play one of the original PayDay crew, who's just back from vacation. Setting up in your safe house, you get a call, asking you to be back in the game - and suddenly in this co-op four person shooter, you're on your way back into a life of crime.

Negotiating your way around the computer system known as Crime.Net (either in online or offline mode) you can choose different missions to be part of. Either a simple jewellery smash and grab, a bank heist or a nightclub takedown, the choice is yours - and of course, the pay-offs range dependant on how tough the job actually is. Once you've selected your heist of choice, you're taken into the action and it's all up to you to carry it off.

And that's usually where the problems start - no matter how much planning you've done, it only takes a curious bystander intrigued by a group of men together to raise the alarm; or it could be the moment you put on your mask which sets the heist in motion and alerts the police that you're about. Throw in delays caused by trying to drill into safes (which frequently need restarting) or pesky SWAT teams trying to take you down, and the heist just can't get done in the manner perhaps you'd intended.

Pay Day 2 is simply good fun - in the same vicarious way that doing bad in Grand Theft Auto feels so much fun. The minute the mask goes on and the heist gets underway, the adrenalin starts to surge (thanks in part to a pumping soundtrack) and the game becomes an addictive thrill. Especially when the robbery fails in the last few minutes, it's frustrating in the extreme and will be guaranteed to see you re-start the level, determined to get it right this time around.

Graphically, the game is occasionally a bit of a let down as you are able to walk through bystanders, SWAT teams shooting at you and generally appearing to ignore some of the laws of physics. It's a shame and while it doesn't detract from the playability of the game itself, it's a shame not enough attention was given to that side of it all. Another frustration is an inability in offline mode to leave a mission when it's failed and head back to Crimenet. It occasionally makes you feel that you're stuck repeating the same level unless you exit the game.

Taking it online gives you more options to play with others - which is really what the co-operative level of the game is all about. Being part of an anonymous crew or friends is fun and brings a different dynamic to the game, allowing for more planning and more sensible ways of dealing to trouble makers.

The game's also about levelling up - from gaining experience from each completed job to unlocking skill levels which will benefit you during robberies (including a Stockhouse syndrome where you can make hostages help you), there's plenty of reason to keep on shooting through. Obviously the tougher you become, the bigger the jobs become and the greater the result is. Add into that, the chance to develop your skills and the apparent fact different jobs offer different scenarios, dependant on how your previous robbery ended, there's endless possibilities in Pay Day 2. You also get the chance to customise your mask as well - a minor thing to be honest, but if that's your kind of thing, you'll be in criminal heaven.

Pay Day 2 is a fun game - sure, occasionally some of the missions can feel a bit repetitive, but the determination to get it completed when you're thwarted at the last moment is addictive. Once you load up this game, don't be surprised if you find yourself immersed in it for hours - and begin to unleash your inner thug as the game progresses.

Just don't take it out onto the streets, eh....


Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Movie Review

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Movie Review

Cast: Lily Collins, Robert Sheehan, Jamie Campbell Bower, Lena Headey, Aiden Turner, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Director: Harald Zwart

So, another YA series gets a big screen outing.

This latest, is the first of a six book series from author Cassandra Clare and was published back in 2007.

City of Bones focuses on Lily Collins' Clary, who has her New York world thrown upside down on her birthday. Not only does her mother disappear but she finds out she is a descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret group who are locked in an eternal battle against demons for the protection of our world.

Clary is forced to join forces with these Shadow Hunters to try and track down her mother and an object of power known as the Mortal Cup - but that places her and her long time friend Simon (Misfits' star Robert Sheehan) in peril by putting them into a world of runes, vampires, werewolves, warlocks, angels and demons - and in the midst of a war, described portentously by one character as "A war that can never be won but always must be fought..."

But it also puts Clary in a position of discovering herself and a new potential love in the form of Jamie Campbell Bower's Jace, a hooded, blonde tousled fighter for the cause.

So, once again the teen / YA / supernatural genre gets another entrant, and once again, all the teen cliches and tropes, poor dialogue, brooding,  love triangle and dodgy acting are present.

I'm not 100% sure that it's the fault of the film that's launching The Mortal Instruments series, particularly if they are following the source material, but the generally cliched tone will mean that it won't appeal to all audiences. At times, it feels like a generic piece, with a lot of familiar elements in place from thousands of films you've seen before. References to Ghostbusters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an homage to the Exorcist, a Star Wars feel, a kiss in manufactured rain in a greenhouse between Clary and Jace (hello, Nicholas Sparks) and other moments et al - there are plenty of nods to others of its ilk and the end result is that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones feels like a patchwork quilt of supernatural fantasy elements of the genre and doesn't really have a full identity of its own to stand on its own two feet.

Some of the CGI is a little off as well - with the werewolves looking slightly off kilter and feeling out of place. And a final showdown between Jonathan Rhys Meyers' boggling eyed baddie and just about everyone else goes on for way too long and places too many in jeopardy that by cutting back and forth, director Zwart loses any palpable feeling of tension for any of our heroes and heroines.

Plot threads are left dangling as well, with two major ones not resolved - though, this, I'm guessing, is intended to ensure future films are made (and is, in my understanding, in keeping with the books) but means it's a frustrating touch for the casual viewer.

In terms of the acting; Collins is okay as the lead - she does the doe-eyed girl in love well, but never quite convinces as the action heroine (though, she's a step up from a few others within her genre); Campbell Bower is a little too wooden and emotionless to feel any real chemistry between him and Collins; Sheehan impresses with some comic relief (though, to be frank, he's playing a lower level version of his Misfits character Nathan) but he's sidelined towards the end.

All in all, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie may well appeal to those teen audiences looking for a new YA fix now that Twilight has departed - but for the rest of the audience, there will be a general rolling of the eyes and a feeling that everything here's been done before. And in some cases, in a better film.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Much Ado About Nothing: Movie Review

Much Ado About Nothing: Movie Review

Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion
Director: Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon's latest, Much Ado About Nothing sees a gathering of the Whedonverse alumni in a take on Shakespeare's play which has lost none of the subtlety and fizz of the Bard's work.

Keeping the actual text in place, and tweaking only some of the minor details, it still focuses on the quarreling relationship of Benedick and Beatrice (played by Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker) and the relationship of Claudio and Hero amid modern times.

Set on a sumptuous estate (Whedon's own) this black and white adaptation is a virtuoso of subtlety and wit. The dialogues between the characters shine with nuances and revel in the language, frolicking in the back and forth of Benedick and Beatrice as well as Nathan Fillion's constable. But there's also some silly visual humour such as when Benedick finds his three friends discussing how Beatrice has fallen for him - those moments of comic capery will delight audiences.

Acker and Denisof are perfectly cast (even if Acker out-acts Denisof), balancing the moments of lightness and tomfoolery with the seriousness needed by Shakespeare's text; other players circle around them but to be honest, they barely register as highly as this duo. With perhaps the exception of Nathan Fillion.

A Shakespeare to be watched and enjoyed, Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing is a zesty treat which feels fresh and sparkling.


Batman: Arkham Origins new character revealed

Batman: Arkham Origins new character revealed

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment unveiled a new trailer for Batman™: Arkham Origins titled “Nowhere to Run.” The trailer showcases the indomitable super villains hell-bent on taking down the Bat and gives a first look at Firefly, one of the eight assassins featured in Batman: Arkham Origins, capable of raining fire from above.

You can view the Batman: Arkham Origins - Nowhere to Run trailer here.

Developed by WB Games MontrĂ©al, Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline set several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City.  Taking place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, the game showcases a young and unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, players will meet many important characters for the first time and forge key relationships. 

Batman: Arkham Origins is the next installment in the blockbuster Batman: Arkham videogame franchise and will be available for the PS3™, Xbox 360®, the Wii U™ system, and Windows PC. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate™, the handheld version developed by Armature Studio, will be available for PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system and the Nintendo 3DS™ handheld system.  The game will release on all platforms worldwide on Oct. 25, 2013. 

PlayStation 4 launch date revealed - and more games for PS Vita

PlayStation 4 launch date revealed - and more games for PS Vita

Gamescon has just given fans of gaming the news they really wanted.

The Sony PlayStation 4 next-gen video game system has an official release date: November 15th in North America and November 29th in Europe.

There's also been reveals of more games coming for PS Vita - 25 of them to be precise - including:

Top-selling Borderlands 2 from 2K Games.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes from Warner Bros and Football Manager Classic 2014 from SEGA, offering continuous play between the PC and PS Vita versions.

Killzone: Mercenary, launching on 4 September 2013, demonstrated the PS Vita system's potential to deliver a home console quality first person shooter with graphics and gameplay to match.

Tearaway, launching on 22 November 2013 and winner of the E3 Critics choice award for best handheld game, showcased the PS Vita system's ability to deliver truly innovative gameplay with that distinctive Media Molecule charm.

Murasaki Baby has been designed specifically around PS Vita touch controls by start-up Italian developer Ovosonico, led by acclaimed industry veterans Massimo Guarini and Gianni Ricciardi.

BigFest, a free-to- play game where music fans are invited to create, build and manage their ultimate music festival working with real unsigned bands in a unique collaboration with online music portal Jamendo.

The highly anticipated Starbound from Chucklefish, the smash hit FEZ from Phil Fish and the sequel to one of the highest rated shooters of all time, Velocity 2X from FuturLab plus many more.

Video streaming by Ustream

Dying Light Unleashes First-Ever Gameplay Video

Dying Light Unleashes First-Ever Gameplay Video

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Techland have released the first-ever gameplay video for the upcoming action survival title, Dying Light.
In the 11-minute video, players get a look at “daytime” in the vast and dangerous world of Dying Light. During the day, players traverse an expansive urban environment that has been overrun by a vicious outbreak, and must scavenge the world for supplies and craft weapons in order to defend themselves from the growing infected population.  If players find themselves overwhelmed by infected, they’ll have to choose between fight or flight. Thankfully they’ll be able to run seamlessly around the world—from the rooftops to the ground, and everywhere in between—with the game’s free-running movement. Every choice in Dying Light has different consequences…what will you do? 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Kick Ass 2: Movie Review

Kick Ass 2: Movie Review

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Jeff Wadlow

So, here it is then, the film which star Jim Carrey refused to promote due to the violent content and a change of heart in light of the Sandy Hook massacre.

It's been three years since the first Kick Ass film swiped its way into the pantheon of comic book R-rated movies - and this latest sees Kick Ass' antics from the first flick inspiring a new wave of costumed, but ordinary, superheroes.

However, for Kick Ass aka Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) himself, life's got rather quiet and humdrum. He's hung up the green and yellow unitard and is concentrating on life as a high school student. Likewise with Chloe Grace Moretz's Hit Girl. She's trying to be part of school and put aside the costumed vigilante, adrenalin filled lifestyle.

But the reality is the pair of them are bored silly with a normal life and crave the ultra violence of the vigilante world.

Hit Girl's determined to stick with the quieter life and deal with Mean Girls style bullies at school, but when Kick Ass meets up with the sadistic ex-Mafia enforcer Colonel Stars and Stripes (an electric Jim Carrey), he becomes part of a team called Justice Forever.

Just round the corner though is Christopher Mintz-Plasse's bondage wearing super-villain, The Mother F***er, who's determined to avenge his father's death at the hands of Kick Ass, putting them on a collision course.

Kick Ass 2 is frankly, a disappointment.

After the first skirted extreme violence with satire and added a new element to the comic book genre, this latest does nothing to build on that initial promise and revels in its smackdowns.

Sure, the violence is quite full on and occasionally brutal (though it's no different from the first) but it's not as shocking as it first was and feels rather mundane as it's thrown into the narrative for violence's sake. Likewise, the vicarious thrill of seeing a young girl drop the C-bomb was something quite unheard of until Kick Ass - now, wisely, they don't choose to repeat the same trick but it means that a lot of the swearing feels a bit old hat this time around.

Most of the vigilante gang that Dave joins up with are simply dull - whether that's a comment on everyone wanting to be a superhero, I'm not sure, but they're simply faceless mannequins in spandex and masks. Only an understated Carrey brings something a little different to the dynamic with his pugilist scarred face and buzz cut - though once he chooses to indulge in his violent tendencies, any kind of character development / empathy for this born again Christian crusader goes out of the window.

Equally Mintz-Plasse's turn as the fetish-wearing and lisping supervillain falls short of a truly diabolical nemesis and proffers up, quite frankly, a whiny little b*tch bad guy who's throwing tantrums rather than throwing barbs at the good guys.

More interesting is Hit Girl / Mindy McCready's coming of age quest to try and fit in with the perils of high school as she tussles internally with whether to deny her destiny (a key trope of most comic books); but sadly, the pay-off for this is a gag that involves vomit and diarrhea. To her credit, Grace Moretz emerges with credibility in tact here, bringing a turn which soars way above the material.

Most of the film sees the Mother F***er sidelined from taking on his nemesis and simply recruiting misfits to his evil gang - until it all culminates in a final showdown which resembles an over-exuberant and violent cosplay outing at the likes of Comic-Con or Armageddon. As the fight progresses, there are sparks of the darker, slightly nastier edge to the violence and it's close to leaving a sour taste in the mouth.

And that's where Kick Ass 2 becomes a disappointment - it lacks some of the smarts that helped keep the first film on the right side of guilty pleasure and clever subversion of the genre. With a fractured narrative, and with the fact the energy and sense of urgency are all missing from the fight sequences as the gangs take on each other in a particularly costumed showdown a la West Side Story, this sequel fails to match up to - or exceed - the first.

All in all, a group of lads and comic fans will enjoy Kick Ass 2 due to some puerile one liners and moments of vulgarity - but the hedonistic highs of the first are MIA in the sequel, adding to a rather mixed cinematic feeling once the lights go up.


Monday, 19 August 2013

Dr Who: Spearhead from Space: Blu Ray Review

Dr Who: Spearhead from Space: Blu Ray Review

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Entertainment

So, here it is.

In the 50th anniversary year, the first ever Blu Ray release for the classic Doctor Who range - and it's a classic serial which brought in a whole new era for the show.

Spearhead from Space sees the introduction of Jon Pertwee's dandy Doctor and also ushered in the colour years - much has been made of the change of pace all round and the Earth bound setting took a little while to find its feet but this serial has promise in spades and introduced the iconic Autons to the canon of Dr Who monsters.

Much has been made of this serial before - a confident start and a great introduction - but in its high definition outing, Spearhead from Space looks incredible; colours that were not there before are abundantly obvious and look fresh (an extra reveals the extent of the clean up of the print), giving the piece a more cinematic feel than it had before.

The extras from the DVD are ported over, and the doco looking back at Jon Pertwee as an actor is a great wee piece, full of charm, character and brilliant history of the man.

All in all, Spearhead from Space represents a step up for the classic range of Doctor Who adventures and we'll have to see where it goes from here.


New Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug poster

New Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug poster

There's a brand new Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug poster courtesy of Empire magazine.

The poster shows Smaug (or rather his eye) facing down Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits cinemas in December.

Newstalk ZB Movie Review - We're The Millers and Elysium

Newstalk ZB Movie Review - We're The Millers and Elysium

This week on NewsTalk ZB with Jack Tame, it was all about strippers and spaceships.

Not combined (though that would make an interesting film) - but the latest from Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis in We're The Millers and Matt Damon in Elysium.

Click on the headphones below to take a listen

Sunday, 18 August 2013

NO: DVD Review

NO: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

It's to 1988 we go with this official entrant for the 2013 Oscars from Chile.

Bernal plays Rene Saavedra, an ad man brought in to try and help ensure the oppressed people of Chile vote No in a referendum called by Augusto Pinochet. The referendum is urging the people to vote Yes to allowing Pinochet to stay in power, as calls grow outside of Chile to get him out of government and to free the people.

But Saavedra helps concoct an advertising campaign through the 15 minutes the opposition is allowed nightly on the TV during the 27 days campaigning window.

However, as Saavedra and his team, with limited resources, manage to start to get the message of No out there, the net around them grows tighter as intimidation and scare tactics really kick in. But, with an apathetic populace, can Saavedra and his campaign manage to do for Chile what's not been done for years? No is a curious beast of a film.

Shot on a 1983 U-matic video camera, it certainly evokes the era, with its grainy fuzzy visuals and browns and drab colouring. It also takes a little while to get used to such a look but given that it's mixed with action from the 80s, it's a bold directorial choice and one which does stand out.

In among the commercials of the time (some of which are quite comical), there's the real sense of the birth of dirty politics and marketing tactics to sway a populace and it's a fascinating document on that and potentially the start of viral marketing in many ways.

But No is also a slow, long and at times, laborious film which could have lost some of its overall run time. Bernal spends a lot of the time looking a little aloof and it takes a while to warm to his character - not through any acting issues but simply because the film's not really a character piece at all, more an examination of what happened.

A few powerful moments shine through - such as a group of mothers who sing and dance while intoning their sons are among the "disappeared" - and there's a complex but realistic relationship between Saavedra and his politically opposite counterpart who happens to be his co-worker in an ad agency.

All in all, No is worth a watch - but it never quite gets under your skin in the way you'd expect - but as a document of the time, it's a morally interesting debate and a fascinating examination of how governments should never underestimate the power of the people when it comes to politics.

Just say Yes.


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