Monday, 30 September 2013

Trance: Blu Ray Review

Trance: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

James McAvoy plays Simon, a fine art auctioneer who joins forces with a criminal gang to swipe a work of art which is worth millions. But, during the heist, he gets a bump to the head which causes him to forget where the picture is. Enter criminal gang leader Franck (played with calm menace by Vincent Cassel). When intimidation and violence fails, they turn to hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help unlock the secret of where the picture is. She's an expert at putting people in trances and getting them to delve into their subconscious to get the answers they need.

But, as she begins to work with Simon to get the criminals what they want, the stakes become much higher and the lines between reality and what's in Simon's head begin to blur.

Trance is a visceral and intellectual thrill as reality blurs in and out at dizzying speed. You really will need to keep up with every little moment as it plays out. Confounding expectations and defying genres, it's an initially heady art heist thriller which switches tracks as it unfolds. With intrigue, mystery and a fairly high quotient of WTF and twists and turns,Trance is a real treat as it spools out on the screen, replete with dazzling brilliance from all involved.

Exciting, enthralling and utterly engrossing as well as rewarding, Trance is one of 2013's first great cinematic experiences. In fact, you could send it's a Trance-ending mind-bending treat not to be missed.

Extras: Deleted scenes, retrospective of Danny Boyle, short film


LG launches curved TV

LG launches curved TV

LG Electronics New Zealand (LG) today announced five new models of ULTRA HDTVs and the introduction of their revolutionary CURVED OLED TV (55EA9800) at an exclusive event attended by media and VIPs in Auckland.

Excited about the impending launch, Glen Chean, National Marketing Manager for LG New Zealand said, “We are thrilled to introduce New Zealand’s first CURVED OLED TV. Featuring an elegant curved screen, this masterpiece of technology and design will define the next step in the evolution in television.”
“LG’s CURVED OLED TV delivers a level of viewer immersion that has to be experienced to be believed. Driving the evolution of TV in a new and exciting direction, the CURVED OLED TV is proof of our commitment to providing our customers with the ultimate home entertainment experience,” he added.

LG also announced an expansion of their ULTRA HDTV line-up with five new models available in 55–inch , 65–inch and 84-inch screen sizes. The first brand to launch the 84-inch ULTRA HDTV in October 2012, LG ULTRA HDTVs deliver an incredible sense of immersion with stunningly sharp images and outstanding colour contrast. In addition to producing mesmerising ULTRA HD images thanks to screens with over 8.3 million pixels, the sets also feature cleverly designed audio systems that deliver room-filling audio with excellent clarity, providing a more complete audio and visual experience. 

“With our expansion of the ULTRA HDTV range and the introduction of LG’s OLED technology, we are solidifying our position as a leader in next generation display technology. We will continue to give consumers the best audio-visual experience and are delighted to offer five new models of ULTRA HDTVs to choose from,” said Chean.

“We’ve made it easier for consumers to access this incredible picture quality at home. Consumers will be able to select a screen size and price point that best suits their needs.”


The Curved Viewing Experience
Featuring a curved screen ergonomic design, the LG CURVED OLED TV delivers an immersive, IMAX-like viewing experience in the home, albeit on a smaller size scale. The CURVED OLED TV offers an exceptionally comfortable and enjoyable home entertainment experience, and boasts LG’s comfortable CINEMA 3D technology, with clearer, more natural images that appear so real they almost burst forth from the screen.

Advanced Audio Sound System
A transparent Crystal Clear Stand accentuates the LG CURVED OLED TV’s slim screen and also creates the illusion of images floating on air. LG has embedded innovative super-slim see through speakers in the Crystal Clear Stand that deliver crisp, detailed audio with excellent performance in the mid and high frequency ranges. In total, there are 8 speakers that provide an audio output power of 40W.

Remarkable Picture Quality
LG’s CURVED OLED TV produces astoundingly vibrant images thanks to its proprietary WRGB technology. The unique Four-Colour Pixel system features an additional white sub-pixel, which works in conjunction with the red, blue, green pixels to deliver vibrant colours and brilliant whites. What makes OLED so innovative is that each sub-pixel on OLED TV is self-lighting, delivering an infinite contrast.

Stunning Design via the Latest Technologies
Thanks to WRGB OLED picture technology, LG’s CURVED OLED TV boasts a screen depth of only 4.3 millimetres (at the thinnest section) and a weight of just 17 kilograms. The TV also incorporates a Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) back cover that further reinforces the curved screen and helps give the TV its minimalist design. LG’s CINEMA SCREEN slim bezel design serves to heighten the viewer’s sense of immersion, while also contributing to the TV’s striking aesthetics. The Smart Touch Control, located at the bottom of the screen, provides a stylish interface that replaces the typical arrangement of channel and volume buttons with a digital onscreen dial.

Indicative of its sleek and stylish design, LG’s CURVED OLED TV took home the ‘Red Dot: Best of The Best’ honour at the prestigious Red Dot Design Awards earlier this year. Respected international product testing and certification bodies, TÜV Rheinland, Intertek and VDE also recognised the superb picture quality of LG’s CURVED OLED TV.

The Colour Refiner
The Colour Refiner enhances precision, overseeing colour consistency to ensure accuracy at even the widest viewing angles. This colour consistency is a hallmark of LG’s OLED technology, where colours remain vibrant and have 120% greater range than existing LG LED/LCD technology.

Infinite Contrast
The 55-inch OLED TV also offers an infinite contrast ratio, which maintains contrast levels even at wide viewing angles. To complement the infinite contrast ratio and enable the richest colour and deepest black expression, a High Dynamic Range (HDR) algorithm has been incorporated. This technology ensures contrast ratio consistency for rich colours.

Enhanced Motion Clarity
The response time of the LG OLED TV is 100 times faster than LED/LCD TV. This allows consumers to enjoy fast moving scenes with minimal blur. 

Smart TV Capabilities
The CURVED OLED TV includes LG’s user-friendly Smart TV platform and a host of connectivity options, including: Intel® WiDi, Wi-Fi Direct, Miracast and MHL. This enables users to enjoy the convenience of 
device pairing and screen sharing with compatible devices. The company’s Smart TV ecosystem provides access to numerous Apps and content services, and can be easily navigated using the Magic Remote.

LA9700 SERIES: 55-inch and 65-inch ULTRA HD TV (55LA9700 | 65LA9700)
LA9650 SERIES: 55-inch and 65-inch ULTRA HD TV (55LA9650 | 65LA9650)
LA9800 SERIES: 84-inch ULTRA HD TV (84LA9800)

LG ULTRA HDTVs incorporate LG’s renowned IPS panel, offering extraordinary colour expression and viewable from a wide, 178 degree viewing angle.

LG has equipped its new LA9700 Series ULTRA HDTVs with LG’s NANO FULL LED backlighting. With more than 100 (55LA9700) and 144 (65LA9700) separate dimming zones, illumination control is greatly enhanced, thus providing outstanding contrast and consistent brightness across the entire screen and enhancing the viewing experience.

Motorised Sliding Sound Bar and Breathtaking Design (LA9700 SERIES)
LG has complemented its superior ULTRA HD picture technology with captivating audio. The LA9700 TV Series feature a cleverly concealed 4 speaker motorised Sound Bar that boasts four forward-facing speakers delivering room-filling audio with excellent expression across the mid and high frequency ranges. Located behind the screen, a powerful woofer ensures strong bass performance, providing a total audio output of 50W. The impressively designed Sliding Sound Bar lowers when the TV is turned on and retracts when powered off or outputting to audio via optical output, further emphasising the slim-line minimalist profile of the set.

LG’s LA9650 Series ULTRA HDTVs feature front-facing speakers that direct the sound towards the listener, further enhancing the clarity of sound in a wide range of viewing environments. An unobtrusive chrome finish stand completes the minimalist appearance of LG’s next generation ULTRA HDTVs.

HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding)
Many in the industry believe that the major method of ULTRA HD distribution in the future will be through internet download of HEVC files. The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) approved codec, which the industry is backing as the next standard in content compression, will have faster downloads, smaller file sizes without the loss of picture quality, and will be activated in the very near future via software update. LG has incorporated HEVC playback via the USB port into the new ULTRA HDTV range, and this may eliminate consumer need to purchase a separate UHD media device in the future.

Unparalleled 2D and 3D Picture Quality
LG’s ULTRA HDTVs have screens with 8.3 million pixels and four times the definition of regular Full HDTV. What powers this superior screen resolution is LG’s Tru-ULTRA HD Engine that up-scales video content into ULTRA HD resolution.

LG’s ULTRA HDTVs can be viewed from almost any position in the room, as there is less colour variation and loss of contrast at wider viewing angles. LG’s advanced 3D technology provides a comfortable 3D viewing experience thanks to comfortable, lightweight and flicker-free 3D glasses that do not require batteries or recharging – ever.

Smart TV
All LG ULTRA HDTVs provide access to LG’s Smart TV platform offering easy access to a growing collection of Apps and content services. Its SmartShare feature allows consumers to seamlessly share content between devices such as a compatible Smartphone or Tablet to a TV.

LG’s Magic Remote is intuitive and works with simple gestures – point, draw, speak and control. Users can also use the voice recognition function by speaking directly into the remote.

Wireless connectivity options include Intel® WiDi, and Miracast for convenient screen mirroring with compatible Smartphones or Tablet PCs. The LA9700 Series ULTRA HDTVs also feature a built-in FULL HD video camera that enables motion gesture control on the TV and for communicating with friends online.

LG will be accepting Expressions of Interest in the LG CURVED OLED TV from September 11.
For details, visit
RRP:                       $16,999
LG’s 84-inch LA9800 ULTRA HDTV*
Availability:         September through Harvey Norman
RRP:                       $24,999
LG’s 55 and 65-inch LA9700 ULTRA HDTVs*
Availability:         September through Harvey Norman
RRP:                       $8,499 and RRP $10,999 respectively
LG’s 55 and 65-inch LA9650 ULTRA HDTVs*
Availability:         September through selected retail outlets
RRP:                       $7999 and RRP $9,999 respectively

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Blancanieves: Movie Review

Blancanieves: Movie Review

Cast: Maribel VerdúEmilio GaviraDaniel Giménez Cacho 
Director: Pablo Berger

Blancanieves is an incredibly brave film. 

Spain's Academy Award submission is a black and white film, no doubt buoyed by the widespread success of Oscar winning The Artist. 

Set in 1920s Spain, it's the tale of Carmen, an orphan whose mother died in child birth and whose father Antonio, a famed matador, was left crippled after a bull gored him in a fight. 

Marrying his former nurse, the cruel and crazed Encarna, Antonio manages to bond briefly with his newly discovered daughter before Encarna orders their demise. Narrowly escaping Carmen teams up with a group of bull-fighting dwarves before an inevitable showdown with the big bad of the day. 

Wonderfully reminiscent of the films of yesteryear with a transcendant and magical score, which marks this film out as a potential future live cinema event, this is a silent film the likes of which have not been seen for years. It deserves to be seen on the majesty of the big screen. 

Wallowing in the medium and lavishing the monochrome, it feels like a full blooded piece from 1920s Hollywood as it takes on the Snow White legend in passing; it's romantic, eye-poppingly gorgeous and a nostalgic piece which is spell-binding and perfectly crafted.


Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Loneliest Planet: DVD Review

The Loneliest Planet: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home entertainment

Slow cinema doesn't come more divisive than this.

We follow the soon-to-be-married Nica and Alex (Hani Furstenberg and Gael Garcia Bernal as they backpack around Georgia. This is a happy couple, a playful couple and a couple whose future seems set.

However, when they start trekking deep into the mountains with a guide, it seems as if everything is going their way.

But, when they encounter another trio, something happens which shocks the foundations of their relationship and has repercussions for the three of them.

Beautifully shot, with long still frame images of the group walking against the marvellous backdrop of nature, The Loneliest Planet is an interesting rumination of what it means to be a man, what it means to be in a relationship and how one single decision can have lasting implications.

The emphasis here is on more shots of the landscape, local music and less on the dialogue which is sparse. But by hanging back, giving less, there's more of a sense of devastated frustration


Friday, 27 September 2013

Rust and Bone: DVD Review

Rust and Bone: DVD Review

Rating: R16
Released by Hopscotch and Universal Home Entertainment

Rust and Bone is from the director of the wonderful A Prophet and stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, an Orca trainer at a local Marineland Water Park. A chance meeting at a club one night means she meets drop out Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) who's penniless and landed with his 5 year old son. Despite Alain's attempts to hit on Stephanie failing miserably, the two are forced into each other's respective paths after an accident at the Water Park cuts short her career. Alain is a semi drifter, interested only in one night stands and a lack of real commitment, as opposed to Stephanie's warmer approach to life.

Faced by a life changing situation, Stephanie finds that Alain's aloofness is suddenly engaging and the pair form an unlikely relationship.

Rust and Bone is about two people dealing with their inner demons, and whilst it's been critically acclaimed, it is, in parts, somewhat aloof. Cotillard is sensational as the trainer who finds she needs unexpected support - her restrained and subtle performance conveys every necessary nuance and emotion without being showy or over-sentimental as these films occasionally have a tendency to be. Likewise, Schoenaerts' dropout may be lacking a lot of emotion and living only from day to day via violent or sexual interactions, but he's the perfect foil to Cotillard; a brutal yet downbeat man, who's trying to make his way in the world. Initially, it's hard to fathom why Stephanie calls but in the slow reveal of the film, it's abundantly clear that Audiard is once again reuniting with his themes of two disparates who find their lives intertwined.

There are a couple of gasp aloud moments within the film, which shock and rock, but there are also swathes of slow patches too. But it's a potent mix, firing together a dramatic cocktail worth drinking down - even if the narrative choices at the end are a little lacking the punch needed for a more satisfying resolution.

Ultimately, Rust and Bone is engrossing cinema, anchored by a stunning performance from Cotillard.


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors: DVD Review

Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Ent

So it's to 1967 we go for a seminal tale of the second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton which has been brought back to life using animation, given that two of the six episodes are missing.

It's also the debut of the Ice Warriors, the iconic lumbering foe which were a real step up in the creature design.

Despite being deemed a classic serial, time's not been kind to this epic, given that parts of the story feel drawn out and shudder a little under the six episode format. Basically, as humans shiver over the arrival of an ice age, a hidden Martian craft is discovered beneath the ice. As those scientists charged with trying to stop the onslaught of the glaciers fight on, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria show up - just as an evil Ice Warrior is dug up from within the ice....

The animation works well, giving more expression than has been glimpsed before on the other two outings and there's a feeling of 3D which makes you forget (to a degree) you're watching drawings.

All in all, Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors is a nice addition to the range - and the extras give it a bit more life. A making of doco, and a doco on the animation are perhaps the highlights.

Special Features: Commentaries, Subtitles, Beneath the Ice: Behind the Scenes, Blue Peter: Design-a-Monster,  Doctor Who Stories: Frazer Hines part two, Cold Fusion: Making Of , Photo Gallery, VHS Links, Radio Times Listings(DVD-ROM), Digitally Remastered Picture & Sound Quality.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

GI Joe: Retaliation: DVD Review

GI Joe: Retaliation: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Entertainment

The GI Joes are back.

When the GI Joes are tasked with getting back a nuclear weapon by the US President, they find themselves thrown into a conspiracy when they're framed for crimes against the country. As their mortal enemies Cobra try to take advantage of the power hole, it's up to Roadblock (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and his team of two surviving Joes to expose the conspiracy, save the day and the world...

GI Joe 2: Retaliation is all guns, gadgets and gung-ho. As you'd perhaps expect from a film based on a toy franchise....And yet, the first half of GI Joe 2 is a great mix of seriousness and excellently put together action sequences. One such set piece, atop mountains and scaling Himalyan cliff faces, is simply one of the best bits of choreographed kick-ass fight scenes committed to celluloid in a long time. Director Chu uses the 3D so cleverly during it that you get a real scale and sense of depth as it plays out its thrilling premise and set piece.

But, that's the thing with this film - for the most part, with good solid characters, bad guys a-plenty and blockbuster thrills, it really does up its game and give you a damn entertaining popcorn treat. Which is why it's a real shame to note that in the last 30 minutes, the goofiness and cheesy one liners which have been so absent from the start, are thrown willy-nilly into the mix amid a hail of bullets and explosions as a new Hasbro line of GI Joe action vehicles are launched into the collective cinema conscience. Characterisation is secondary to the action in G.I. Joe Retaliation - and once you're willing to sacrifice that and go with the action, then this piece of high class hokum with its first rate action sequences will keep the big kid in you entertained for a couple of hours.

Extras: True face of evil, commentary


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Escape from Planet Earth: Blu Ray Review

Escape From Planet Earth: Blu Ray Review

Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

In the latest CGI outing, Brendan Fraser stars as little blue man, Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser). He's a brash, blue, bolshy big head Buzz Lightyear type and the hero of the Planet Baab. Much to the chagrin of his brother, Gary (Rob Corddry) who runs the mission control and saves Scorch's bacon every time. When Scorch heads to the "Dark Planet" aka Earth, he's caught by evil general Shanker Saunderson (William Shatner) after straying into Area 51 - and his brother Gary decides he must do all he can to try and save him, whatever the cost....

Escape From Planet Earth is disposably good fun which skews to the younger end of the spectrum.
With its hues of blues and occasional sci-fi nods, it's certainly fun despite being a little plot light. There's a degree of lunacy here and there as well as a menagerie of creatures is revealed in Area 51. Fraser gives good idiot as Scorch; Rob Corddry builds his growing reputation as the nerdier, brainier one of the pair - and Shatner seems to riff on his own personality / back catalogue with his portrayal of the General; but it has to be said Alba and Jessica Parker are hardly noticed in their time on screen.

Escape from Planet Earth passes by relatively quickly and with plenty of moments which will amuse here and there - with some adult nods to sci-fi to keep the older end of the spectrum amused as well as a very obvious poke at Pixar Animation, there's certainly a bit of depth here and there in this story of brawns vs brains.

As one character says at one point, "Turn off your brain and hang on", it's probably a fair analogy for anyone else along for the ride, which packs in colourful animation and a relatively lightweight throwaway story


Monday, 23 September 2013

Spring Breakers: Blu Ray Review

Spring Breakers: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by ICON And Roadshow Home Entertainment

Babes, boobs, bikinis, bongs and beer.

And then some.

That about sums up the lurid and somewhat trashy Spring Breakers, which is busting out into cinemas and is more of an experience than a fully-formed story. Opening with bright pink titles and a slow-mo, extreme close up of plenty of amply bosomed half-naked nubile young women partying with the boys on a Bacchanal-style beach, Spring Breakers is anything but subtle.

Brit, (Ashley Benson) Candy, (Vanessa Hudgens) Faith (Selena Gomez) and Cotty (Korine) are four college girls who are wanting to head to Florida for the annual American debauch-fest that is spring break. Faith is the only one who's slightly different in their group, coming from a loosely Catholic upbringing and who spends her spare time in college in prayer groups, rather than Brit and Candy who swap crude graffiti notes during lectures. When Brit, Candy and Cotty rob a local diner with water pistols, the group suddenly has enough to head to Florida - and party down, believing the booze-fest will offer them some kind of escape from their miserable existence.

However, while initially the group has fun in party central, the quartet end up in jail during a bust on a party. But that's when gold-toothed, corn-rowed rapper Alien (Franco in a loopy performance) bails them out in the hope they'll do some dirty work for him....

But fractions form within the group as the excesses of Spring Break and the reality of their lifestyle choices come crashing in.

Spring Breakers is an intriguing film; it's been a while since I've seen it now, but to be honest, I can't quite get it out of my head, which is always an interesting phenomenon for a movie. Like the ladies contained within, there's scant plot, and hardly any real characterisation from the main four girls and James Franco's dealer. I think that's intentional from Harmony Korine, but it makes it somewhat difficult to latch on to any of the emotional plight of the characters. Gomez and Hudgens do plenty to dispel their past as the teen Disney queens, but there's very little full on acting for them to do - Hudgens trashes her carefully constructed image with a part in a threesome, and Gomez drinks to excess while others writhe around on the floor, wearing very little;Ashley Benson (from TV's Pretty Little Liars) impresses. A general feeling of everything being unresolved for two of the characters annoys, given that one at least has had some investment in her journey from naive college girl to finding her faith and belief in life tested.

And yet, for Franco, the drug dealer role is one perhaps of a lifetime, a repulsive and repugnant character whose take on life is skewed by perceptions from TV shows and video games; so is Korine condemning us and the younger generation for aspiring to this lifestyle? I'm not sure, but it's a testament to his film making and the final product that I'm still as confused on this film now as I was.


Prisoners: Movie Review

Prisoners: Movie Review

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis
Director: Denis Villeneuve

From the "What would you do?" file, comes this brand new bleak thriller which is edge of your seat stuff from the moment it begins.

Hugh Jackman stars as blue collar worker Keller Dover whose motto is "Be ready"; his basement is prepped for the worst - be it hurricane or nuclear incident. But Keller and his wife (Maria Bello) are not prepared for what happens when they go to their neighbours Nancy and Franklin (Davis and Howard) on Thanksgiving.

When Keller's daughter Anna and their friends' daughter Joy go missing, their worlds are thrown into utter disarray. The only lead is a ramshackle RV seen lurking around the neighbourhood prior to their disappearance. But when the police, lead by detective Loki (Gyllenhaal in commanding form) have to let go their only suspect, the mentally retarded Alex (a creepy Paul Dano), Keller goes into overdrive, vowing to do whatever it takes to rescue his daughter.

But Keller discovers desperation has a price - is he willing to pay it?

Prisoners is without a doubt, a film of dread and utter creepiness. Proffering up suspense, masterful acting and unbelievably mysterious twists as the tale is told, it's gripping in a sickening way as it unfurls. Mainly it's due to Hugh Jackman's Keller Dover; his character is pushed to the very edge and the film begins with him reciting the Lord's Prayer, seeking guidance for the day. When it's repeated again later in the film, it's to bear witness to a man on the edge, about to make a monumental defining move, but one which feels completely understandable and horrifically relatable. Jackman brings to the screen a soaring rage-filled performance which has set the standard for the wronged man and the man seeking vengeance. But it's never a showy turn merely one that shines due to its intensity and one which fills the screen with realism.

Likewise Gyllenhaal and Dano; their performances are more dialled down than Jackman but they don't lack any less of the intensity. Certainly Dano's quiet performance as the man child accused of the abduction is totally memorable and disturbing; Gyllenhaal brings a steely yet subtle determination to the rural cop uncovering a world of horror as he tackles every parents' worst nightmare. It's also an exploration of evil begetting evil as all involved spiral deeper down into the abyss.

So it's a shame to note that despite all this praise for a grim and gritty thriller that's relentless and captivating as it unspools in Mid-America that there comes a caveat to the film - its ending. Despite the suspense that's been built up over the 140 minutes of running time, a Hollywoodesque ending which sees the normal procedures jettisoned in favour of forced drama; likewise, a final sequence which would have ended the movie on a formidably downbeat and realistic moment is tossed out (no doubt on the whim of a test audience) to satiate the Hollywood machine.

Overall, Prisoners represents a crime thriller film which owes a debt to the darkness of the likes of The Killing and The Vanishing and its ilk - it sickens as it tightens its grip on you as the emotional complexity builds to fever pitch, leaving you clenched to the edge of your seat as its powerful yet realistic story reveals its twists and turns with unnerving yet breath-taking intensity.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Company You Keep: DVD Review

The Company You Keep: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Entertainment

Based on the novel by Neil Gordon, Robert Redford directs and stars in this film about the Weather Underground, a radical protest group in America back in the late 60s plotted to overthrow the government.

When a former member of the group, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) hands herself into the FBI after 30 years in hiding following a bank robbery in which one person was murdered, local journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) finds his interest piqued. A series of clues and a tip off from the FBI leads Shepard to uncover Jim Grant (Robert Redford) a former Weatherman who's wanted for murder. But when the web starts to get closer to netting Grant, he goes on the run.

However, Shepard doesn't believe he's guilty of the crime he's accused of...

The Company You Keep is a solid, if unspectacular thriller which benefits from a truly great ensemble cast. The likes of Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper, Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick, Sarandon, Brendan Gleeson and Nick Nolte to name but a few show the depth of the cast which can give a story the venerability and reliance it needs as it unspools. It's a mix of putting 1960s idealism into a modern day setting while muddying the waters with old age - and it works well with the likes of Robert Redford at the helm. Occasionally though, it feels like these actors are simply rolled out, with little to work with - a series of extended cameos if you will. Certainly, Howard's Cornelius, an agent in charge of the hunt, seems to do little other than bark out traditional FBI cliches - and Anna Kendrick is woefully underused.

And yet, it never fully seems to grasp the mettle of thriller and give you as much tension or suspense as you'd expect as it chops and changes back and forth to Redford being on the run and Shepard doing the research. There's a real lack of suspense as the story unfolds despite some killer scenes. Restrained and reasonable, The Company You Keep is a great movie for an afternoon's viewing indoors on the small screen with its knotty conundrum of moral principles years down the line. While not quintessentially gripping Redford, it's just a shame that the source material hasn't transcribed better to the big screen, given the fact there's such a stunning cast involved.


Friday, 20 September 2013

Doctor Who - The Green Death: Special Edition: DVD Review

Doctor Who - The Green Death: Special Edition: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Entertainment

The one with the maggots gets a special edition release in this latest from the 1970s cupboard of Classic Doctor Who.

Starring Jon Pertwee as the Doc, it's an eco-tale of mining gone wrong in a Welsh village, where the miners have been turned green. On his companion Jo's insistence (Katy Manning in fine form), he sets out to investigate.

Doctor Who - The Green Death: Special Edition is a good solid release with a fan favourite story forming the backbone of it. But it's the extras which have been bundled onto the special edition which make this such a quality release. A documentary looking at the return of the series in 2005 is the main piece, with Russell T Davies is a fascinating watch - the Sarah Jane Adventures episodes where Jo Grant returned are thrown on too; and a making of doco add a lot to the package.

It may not be the most robust of classic Who but it is popular and does showcase a show in its stride - and its sad ending is one of the most iconic in the show.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Storage Wars: S4 DVD Review

Storage Wars: S4 DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Magna Home Entertainment

Jarrod, Brandi, Dave, Darrell, and Barry - along with Laura and Dan - are all back for another year of Storage Wars.

The show, where they bid against each other for the possessions within storage lockers is an addictive and totally guilty pleasure. Sure, you could argue this is a reality show in some ways with some of it feeling scripted in parts as they spar off each other.

There's a lack of Dave in this latest batch of episodes - while I know he had a big spat with the show's producers, it seems like he's being sidelined in these - but thankfully, a few other characters crop up here and there to fill some of the void.

But the fun of this show is predominantly what's unearthed in the lockers - be it hidden treasures or collectable trash - the fun is in the guessing and the estimating so on that front, the show scores as an education and an entertaining one at that.

While I'm not sure how much mileage is left in the show, this latest series is a welcome addition.

Extras: Extra scenes - a nice touch here and there.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Thale: DVD Review

Thale: DVD Review

Rating: 13
Released by Vendetta Films

Thale is a Norwegian folklore horror film.

It recalls a mix of early X Files spookiness and Norwegian bleakness as proffered up by way of 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. It pulls together a good atmosphere, some nice lo-fi thrills and shocks and is a curious mix of spooky and weird nature.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mood Indigo: Movie Review

Mood Indigo: Movie Review

Cast: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy
Director: Michel Gondry

L'ecume des Jours is the latest from acclaimed video director Michel Gondry whose distinctive visual style has its lovers and its haters.

Starring Romain Duris as Colin, it's the story of his doomed romance with Audrey Tautou's Chloe. Colin is desperate to meet the love of his life as all his friends are loved up; he loves the food from his cook, whom he lives with (Intouchables' Omar Sy) and his friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) has also found someone. As he intones: "I demand to fall in love too".

So, when Colin goes to a party and falls head over heels with Audrey Tautou's Chloe, their whirlwind romance kicks in. But problems develop on the honeymoon when Chloe falls sick after inhaling a waterlily seed which grows on her lung - and the romance begins to wither for Chick too.

Initially, Mood Indigo is hardly about plot and more about visuals as it brings the 1947 novel Froth on the Daydream to the screen.

In fact, to start off with, it's all too much of a quirkiness overload as all kinds of visuals jump around the place in a manner similar to Peter Gabriel's iconic music video Sledgehammer. Fruit moves all over the place in stop motion frames, and the screen creaks with visual overload as Gondry piles layer upon layer upon layer of quirk - a doorbell rings but instead of staying motionless, it sprouts legs and scuttles like a beetle around the doorframe; a piano when played spouts cocktails as well as notes, there's just no stopping to the endless assault on the eyeballs.

In fact, the initial overload is nearly all too much and quite off putting as the world around Colin begins to grow, but you become accustomed to it or mentally check out. Those who endure the film and its rather free-forming narrative will be rewarded in parts with a tragedy but also a film which frustrates as it attempts to fulfil.

The current release has lost 35 minutes from the film festival release, and while there's some discussion among critics as to whether that's any better, the latest cut of Michel Gondry's Mood Indigo feels a lot like two tonally different films harshly jammed together. Mood Indigo starts out bright, breezy and colourful but as the romance between Colin et Chloe starts to flounder, the colour of the film drains, and a reeking decay settles literally and metaphorically over it. The narrative and threads appear to end abruptly and characters suffer fates which materialise out of left-field and leave you feeling cheated as it heads towards its end.

While Mood Indigo, with its quirky visual symphony, is really a film of two halves. Neither are terrible and both have their merits. If anything, this version of Mood Indigo, with its cuts imposed for reasons unknown, represents a tantalising peek into a piece which is surreal, nonsensical and utterly original.


Monday, 16 September 2013

The Family: Movie Review

The Family: Movie Review

Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, Tommy Lee Jones, John D'Leo
Director: Luc Besson

The mobster genre gets another shot with this dark dramedy, The Family.

A bearded greying Robert De Niro is Mob Boss, Giovanni Manzoni, a notorious mafioso who, along with his family has been forced into the witness protection programme after snitching on the powers that be within the family. But, despite being undercover, Giovanni, his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Glee's Dianna Agron) and son Warren (D'Leo), are constantly having to move from one home to the next.

This time, the family find themselves relocated to Normandy, along with grizzled handler Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) in another attempt to settle in to a life undercover. However, Giovanni is having trouble staying within the confines of their house and decides to reinvent himself as a writer and that he will write his memoirs.

But Giovanni's unable to control his sadistic violent streak and finds his patience stretched by the French attitude to life; meanwhile, the rest of his family are trying to settle into the humdrum life - Belle's obsessed with her older Maths tutor, Maggie's bored with the snobby French attitudes and Warren's running a series of rackets within school because that's all he knows.

Thanks to one minor slip (and major coincidence) the Mob discovers where the Manzonis are hiding....

The Family is an odd mess of a film.

The mafia fish out of water plots are pitched as comedy initially, and seem to play heavily on the fact that De Niro's spent most of his life playing something to do with the mob. But there are scant laughs along the way that it makes it difficult to latch onto what exactly Besson is pitching for - sure, there are some smart, sly digs at the stereotypes of the French and the American ways of life and sensibilities that just hit the mark but they are largely sidelined after the opening 20 minutes.

And then there's the extreme violence - the brutal beatings dished out by Giovanni to a plumber who doesn't show on time and who disrespects him, Belle's psychotic smackdown of one kid who steals her pencil case despite looking like Britney Spears, Maggie's destruction of a supermarket - it's all quite jarring within the confines of what's trying to be done and adds to the confusion of the overall tone of the film.

Robert De Niro though, shows some real life in his acting, which has not been seen for years - and the meta moment when his character is invited to the local film club and ends up watching Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas suggest the film which has been struggling for a direction is about to go somewhere original. But it doesn't - it settles in for playing out all the cliches and offering no twists in its slightly overlong plot. It all results in a Besson style gun fight at the end and adds to the overall unbalanced feeling of the film.

All in all, The Family aims for dysfunctionally dark and doesn't quite go far enough; likewise, with its subtle comedy and commentary, it's guilty of holding back rather than fully going for it. Which means all in all that the tonally inconsistent mafia film The Family just needs to fuhgeddaboudit.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Identity Thief: Blu Ray Review

Identity Thief: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

Following on from this year's first mis-matched road trip movie, The Guilt Trip comes the latest contender - Identity Thief.

Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson (a likeable Jason Bateman) is an everyday American blue collar worker, who, one day finds his chance of getting a new job is being scuppered by someone who's stolen his identity and maxed out his credit cards. So, deciding, for once, to take matters into his own hands, Sandy heads from Denver to Miami to track down alterna-Sandy Patterson (Melissa McCarthy, complete with garish orange glow and horrendous clothes), who's been living the high life at his expense.

His plan? To get "Sandy" back to Denver so she can clear his name - sounds easy, but as Sandy soon discovers this plan is about to hit all manner of speed bumps.

Overlong and under funny, this latest from the director of Horrible Bosses manages to get the absolute best out of a pair of likeable leads despite giving them very little to work with. Once again, Bateman mines his very successful middle American schtick to great comic effect despite having very few lines to work with.

But once again, he proves identifiable for a lot of middle America as they get the chance to "stick it to the man". Melissa McCarthy, while initially garish and over the top, begins to grate but wisely and perhaps, unevenly, suffers from the affliction of a conscience in the final furlong of the movie. Farcical without ever being overly funny, this road trip without the subtlety may amuse some more than others, but in amongst the inevitable squabbling and moments of occasional grossness, there is some heart and emotion as McCarthy's "Sandy" gets a back story and suffers the unavoidable final act about-face.

All in all, Identity Thief is a good idea and a great premise which doesn't quite generate the funnies it needs and offers a straighter piece rather than a dramedy. It fails to deliver the laughs and despite a pair of likeable leads, it flounders with, ironically, no identity of its own to build on.

Extras: A Gag reel, alternate takes, making of, humour of Identity Thief, Easter Egg


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Quantum Leap - Seasons 1 to 5: DVD Review

Quantum Leap - Seasons 1 to 5: DVD Review

Rating: PG- M
Released by Madman Home Entertainment

Seminal TV series Quantum Leap in from the early 90s pen of Donald P Bellisario and garnered a cult following.

It's the story of scientist Dr Sam Beckett (a wonderful Scott Bakula), who theorises that one man should be able to time travel within his own lifetime. Putting that theory to the test, the good doctor sets up a machine and ends up lost in time, bouncing from life to life and as the credits say, "Striving to put right what once went wrong".

He's aided in his time travels by cigar smoking womaniser Al Calavicci (an equally wonderful Dean Stockwell) - and the problem Sam finds himself in is that he jumps from body to body, and looking at a different mirror image each time, and having a new set of problems to solve.

The show still holds up well - it's a great mix of brilliant chemistry between the two actors, an iconic Mike Post soundtrack, some good stories and a case of real heart in every moment of the way. Of course along the way, Sam bumps into some historical figures - including Buddy Holly, Michael Jackson - and he even jumps into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald (a contentious storyline) in the 4th season opener.

The show was pegged as a cult sci fi show of its time, and while occasionally it shows signs of dating here and there, it's still a tremendous collection which mixes social commentary with bloody good cult TV.

While the lack of extras on the discs of the series other than the first series is a real shame (there's still no sign of a good documentary wrapping up the show and looking at its appeal / sci-fi legacy), its effect is eternal. It's family entertainment at its best - and I can't recommend it highly enough.


Friday, 13 September 2013

Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song: Movie Review

Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song: Movie Review

Cast: Christopher Landon and Derya Parlak 
Director: Tim van Dammen

Rock operetta meets the trailer park in this latest ambitious, light and fun re-telling of the tale of Juliet and her Romeo.

Set in Verona caravan park, it's the story of Romeo and erm, Juliet and their star crossed love, a story told a million times before and which has been given a spit and polish for this Kiwi version. The music came first this time around as composers/producers Michael O’Neill and Peter van der Fluit set Shakespeare’s text to music, mixing in styles such as rap, ballad and rock.

Constantly surprising, director Tim van Dammen's clearly drawn heavily from his music video directing background and the whole piece comes together with such toe-tapping gusto that it's impossible to deny. With the talent miming to other voices, the occasional misfire with the voice matching/ miming drips through, but all in all, it's an extremely enjoyable affair. Christopher Landon and Derya Parlak play the titular lovers with such aplomb that you can't help but be swept along with the story. Plus, given the fact they don't look out of place by the beach (Summer Bay Shakespeare anyone?) doesn't hinder the proceedings at all. 

The music's fabulous and ramps up the style pretty high in this take on Shakespeare's 400 year old story as the glorious re-versioning plays out. Ambitious and exciting, this Romeo and Juliet is something uniquely different; constantly surprising and always inventive, the operetta has an energy which is hard to ignore. A caravan roof doubles for a balcony and a wood just outside of the camping ground provides some truly memorable scenery as the declarations of love are unveiled.

Shakespeare's text may have been remade repeatedly - but this Kiwi view of it shows off a clever twist on the stuffy text - it's a music video rock operetta with a high dose of energy and directing gusto.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters: Movie Review

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters: Movie Review

Cast: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddaro, Douglas Smith, Brandon T Jackson
Director: Thor Freudenthal

2010 saw the first Percy Jackson film unleashed onto the public. It was a great mix of Greek mythology, modern day humour and a major first to have a dyslexic hero on screen.

And now, the sequel's finally arrived in the cinematic form of Rick Riordan's second book, The Sea of Monsters.

This time around, Logan Lerman's Percy Jackson is feeling a little like he's a one quest wonder as the Half-blood offspring of Poseidon. When the camp that they inhabit comes under attack and the barrier separating them from the rest of the world is threatened, Percy's rival Clarisse (Leven Ramblin) is sent to recover the Golden Fleece and save the day.

But Percy, determined to live up to his name and face his prophesied destiny, grabs his friends Grover (Jackson) and Annabeth (Daddario), along with his newly discovered Cyclopean brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) and sets out to retrieve the fleece himself.

However, that quest means he has to cross the Sea of Monsters (aka The Bermuda Triangle) and face all manner of perils....

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is a fairly reasonable family piece of cinematic entertainment.

It starts off quite well, setting up a nice mix of creatures and mythology before ever so slightly losing its way after Percy leaves the camp the gang all call home. Whereas the first film relied a little more on the Greek mythology theme, this latest appears to have all but dispensed of that side of things and gone for a more formulaic family blockbuster film which is light on scares, and more on action.

That's not a bad thing - but it's a mixed bag at times. While Lerman and Daddario have charm eminating from their characters, they're clearly getting a little too old to play them as they look less fresh faced than in the previous outing. But they give it their all - and Lerman certainly manages to gallantly convince of his own crisis of self-belief.

Some of the creature work is fantastically well realised (even though there aren't perhaps enough monsters in a movie with the subtitle Sea of Monsters) but some of the work done when the trio are riding on creatures or being tossed around is a little wonky to say the least. That said, a final bad guy / boss battle at the end is stunningly original as it dissolves around our heroes while fighting them. Along with an animated sequence which is essentially coloured stained glass and tells the myth of the Titans versus the Olympians, there is some truly wondrous VFX at play in this film - despite the odd misfire.

As for the human talent, the best of the bunch is a cameo from Nathan Fillion as Hermes (who works for the postal service - geddit?) who steals his scenes. Thanks largely in part to a wonderful gag about much missed TV series Firefly, the film could have benefited more from his presence throughout. Alas, not this time around. Stanley Tucci is mischievous and bitter as Dionysus and Anthony Head brings some venerable acting to a centaur, meaning the adults are matching the kids throughout.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is pacy enough blockbuster entertainment which has a charm but lacks a certain emotional pull throughout. There's never really any feeling of a threat to Percy and his crew - and according to the Percy Jackson readers who went with me, fans of the books will be disappointed that large chunks have been missed out left, right and centre.

As family entertainment goes, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is perfectly serviceable and utterly forgettable the minute it's over. If a third film goes ahead (as is hinted at the open ending), there really does need to be a little more magic in this franchise to make it stand on its own two legs.


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