Friday, 31 January 2014

A Million Ways To Die In The West: Red band trailer

A Million Ways To Die In The West: red band trailer drops

The official restricted trailer for A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, starring Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, and Liam Neeson has just dropped.

The movie hits cinemas May 29th

Take a look at the red band trailer for A Million Ways To Die In The West below:

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: Movie Review

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: Movie Review

Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz
Director: Christopher B Landon

So, here we go with a kind of spin off to the Paranormal Activity series, but one which has ties to the original franchise in ways you could never foresee.

It's 2012, and The Marked Ones opens with the high school graduation of Jesse, an 18 year old Latina student (played by Andrew Jacobs) about to embark on the summer break. Along with his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) the duo amuse themselves filming each other doing Jackass-style stunts and following the spooky escapades of the witch who apparently lives in the basement flat of their block.

But when she's shot dead by another of Jesse's fellow students, the pair start investigating - and that's when things take a turn for the spooky as Jesse's whole demeanour starts to change.

Initially Jesse gains super-powers as he can throw people around and do gravity defying things, but soon the darkness is all-encompassing and Hector races to save his friend from a long time curse and a very familiar coven of witches....

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a distraction from the series and franchise, rather than an advancement of the mythology that's built up around Katie (Katie Featherston) and in the previous films. Though, that said, there are subtle nods to what's gone on, as well as the ongoing mythology.

Mixing in touches of Chronicle (teen gets new powers and revels in them before abusing them), a riff on the Exorcist - involving actual eggs (Eggs-orcist anyone?) and throwing in some of the usual jolts, as well as a psychic (and vaguely psychotic) Simon Says, there are a few clever touches thrown in here and there. But after the initial teen edge is dispensed (Kids chasing girls, doing pranks etc), the film settles into the usual routine of drawing out scenes, ramping up the soundtrack before the scare punchline. Some are effective bursts and give the edge that's needed whereas others are unoriginal and expected.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones also suffers from a slightly muddier edge with time portals being thrown into the mix (and uncertainty over how they affect the ongoing story arc) and the found footage format ever so slightly creaks in places as Hector keeps the camera on all the time. Plus, at the end when they end up inside the house rather than running away, you find yourself shouting at the behaviour of the protagonists.

A couple of drip fed hints and allusions here and there to the mythology aren't really enough to sustain the interest in the Marked Ones and while there was a Japanese version of the film way back, you can see why the makers looked to extend the series in some ways.

Here's hoping that the upcoming Paranormal Activity 5 starring Katie Featherston will prove a satisfying end to the series, because the pay off now really needs to come before lovers of Oren Peli's original Paranormal Activity question their own loyalty.


Thursday, 30 January 2014

Grudge Match: Movie Review

Grudge Match: Movie Review

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert de Niro, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal, Kevin Hart
Director: Peter Seagal

It's a delicious idea - Rocky vs Raging Bull in the ring, mano a mano with only the bell to separate them.

It becomes a reality in this gentle comedy from the director of Get Smart and Anger Management.

Stallone is Henry "Razor" Sharp, a boxer who decided to retire when his nemesis, Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro in feisty frowny form) slept with his girlfriend Sally Rose (Basinger). Denied the final title fight, a rivalry's formed through the years - and when their former promoter's son, Dante Slate Jr (Kevin hart) comes to them to offer a chance of a rematch on the 30th anniversary, only The Kid is keen.

But when Razor loses his job, and has no money, he has no choice....

However, will their out of the ring rivalry cause the rematch train to come off the tracks?

Let's pull no punches here, Grudge Match is a comedy that's a little thin on laughs, but gets by on a relative charm as its old timers creak along, complete with predictable side plots - a son comes out of the woodwork, facilitating necessary bonding, an age old score over romance has to be settled and old timers set back on the path of redemption.

Seagal makes good fist of it all (from what there is to work with), as you wait for the inevitable match up at the end - Razor's home in Pittsburgh is beautifully shot against the mists and the bridge, evoking a man who's fallen on hard times.

The major annoyance of the piece is Kevin Hart as the promoter, whose delivery verges on the Chris Tucker / Eddie Murphy motormouth excesses but simply ends up shouting his lines as his scenes draw to a limp conclusion. It's excruciating in places and puts your teeth on edge.

Alan Arkin offers up his usual slice of deadpan mischievous sarcasm as Razor's dad and Basinger is bland enough as the love interest. There are the obligatory training montages and moments as you'd expect in most boxing movies - and there's even scenes of Stallone trying to emote. De Niro still packs a punch as he wrestles with an average script and some phone it in dialogue (and corny cheeseball moments)- but the scenes of him training remind you of the wiriness of Jake La Motta and his physicality is impressive also as he skips around.

The relative knock out blow comes with the fight at the end, drowned as it is with nostalgia, though it's still lacking the killer punch it really needs - but Stallone and De Niro are to be commended for slugging it out in the ring (though you do wonder how many takes it took to get in the can) but to be honest, at this stage, it just looks like two old guys going at it.

All in all, Grudge Match does make you occasionally want to throw in the towel and has you leaving the cinema like you've been punched in the head - make sure you stick around for the credits as the promoter pitches another fight to two others who may have a score to settle; it delivers more of the laughs that you'd have expected from the film in the first place.


Paranoia: Blu Ray Review

Paranoia: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Icon and Roadshow Home Entertainment

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" 

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.

Extras: None


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Riddick: Blu Ray Review

Riddick: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

In the second sequel to the thrilling Pitch Black (which bowed 13 years ago), Riddick finds himself left for dead on sun-scorched planet after being betrayed by the Necromongers from The Chronicles of Riddick movie. Firing off an emergency beacon as an impeding horde of aliens close in on him, Riddick sets in motion a chain of events as two sets of mercenaries head to the planet to kill him and claim the bounty on the head of this criminal.

On one side, there's the vile (potential rapist) Santana (Jordi Molla) and his crew of scumbags; while on the other, there's Matt Nable's Boss Johns, who's been hunting Riddick for 10 years and shares a personal connection to his prey.

While they try to track down Riddick and form an uneasy and uncomfortable alliance, Riddick's lurking in the shadows, engaged in a long term game of cat and mouse.

However, when a new threat arises on the planet which threatens them all, all three sides have to work together to survive. So, here we are with a film which in no way meets the highs of the anti-hero of Pitch Black but is a major improvement on The Chronicles of Riddick.

Vin Diesel is dialled down and damn near silent in the first part of this film, where he channels his inner Bear Grylls to survive the scorched wastelands after being betrayed by the Necromongers of the last flick. WhereTom Hanks had his Wilson in Castaway, Riddick has a dingo / hyena / leopard striped dog creature to help him get through the days as he bonds and bounds around the landscape.

But it all heads south when Riddick activates an emergency beacon and two teams of scumbag mercenaries show on the scene to claim the bounty on him. And not just on screen either - because the turgid script takes a dive and turn for the uglier. As their quarrels and mistrust escalates, the game of cat and mouse eventually escalates (after a lot of slow meandering that doesn't build on tension but serves to drag it out) before a greater menace than all of them shows up.

Visually and technologically impressive, at its leanest, Riddick is a great movie; a taut game of suspense potentially there for the taking as the aliens' marauding menace places our protagonists under siege. But no, thanks to neanderthal dialogue, and an appalling treatment of a ballsy woman in a sci-fi film (Katee Sackhoff's character is apparently a lesbian, so they just have to make unnecessary comments about it; claims that Riddick will go "balls deep" into her are just utterly disgustingly repugnant, ugly and hideously out of place despite the character being an anti-hero and criminal); add into that, an unwarranted topless shot of Katee Sackhoff and further comments here and there, it all adds up to the squandering of what real potential it could have had for a great moody and atmospheric outing. It even equates to a backward step in terms of the treatment of women in sci-fi, which is disturbing, given how much ground's been covered - and how Katee Sackhoff helped redefine that with her role as Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica.

With interest waning after a stunning opening half hour that pits Riddick against nature and the elements, Riddick generally loses the way and the plot, falling into a horde slaughtering mentality a la Tremors that lacks in visual prowess and feels limp in terms of spectacle and emotional connection.  Instead, despite some impressive sequences and moments, it serves as a queasy, misogynistic and uncomfortable slice of sci-fi that doesn't remotely hit the mark and even scotches any chance of redemption for the film franchise.
Extras: Meet the mercs, Riddick behind the scenes


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom: Movie Review

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom: Movie Review

Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris
Director: Justin Chadwick

Nelson Mandela passed away last year, but this latest was always in the pipeline long before the death.

Based on the autobiography of the same name (Long Walk to Freedom), Luther star Idris Elba is Mandela, as we follow his journey from 1940s crusading lawyer to freedom fighter before his internment on Robben Island and subsequent release.

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is the man's story, rather than really being the story of the man.

While Elba manages to channel a lot of the man's charisma and the inflections of the voice - as well as the look of Mandela in later life - the film does little to really ignite the spark of passion of Mandela himself, preferring to follow a more leaden path in the story.

Sure, there are moments when the warts and all portrayal adds a layer that perhaps some have never seen before of Mandela, such as the womanising and disintegration of his first marriage, but even those occasional insights add little to a story that's already been told before.

One of the problems is the way so much ground is covered so quickly that it affects the narrative - for example, when Mandela is imprisoned on Robben Island, he and his fellow prisoners are told by their captors they must wear short trousers and that will never change. Cue the inevitable asking for long trousers, a request which is granted shortly after Mandela has a chat with the boss; no reason is given and viewers are left befuddled.

The problem is the story is very much by the numbers and does exactly what you'd expect while trying to cover way too much ground; while the earnest Elba and the softer Naomie Harris do a lot to carry this with grace, pose and dignity, the issue is that the film never really stirs more within you than you'd expect. Perhaps, if those involved had decided to potentially focus on one point of time and one story untold, it may have been stronger, rather than feeling like it's gone through a checklist of moments to cover.

I'm disappointed to say that I also never felt inspired by the story (though some may leave this feeling that they have been) as Mandela preaches his message of strength through unity as he was galvanised into action. It's certainly not Elba's fault at all - and there's an occasional vein of humour running throughout as well as  some real life scenes and footage being folded into the mix.

But it's curious to note that as the Oscar nominated U2 song plays over a montage of photos of Mandela, those alone do more to stir some passion within than what's passed in the previous 140 minutes. Perhaps some times, the truth itself is stronger than a fiction created on screen.


Monday, 27 January 2014

Stoker: Blu Ray Review

Stoker: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent

This psychological piece draws influence from Hitchcock and is written by Wentworth Miller,who's better known for his lead role as Michael Scofield in Prison BreakIt's the story of India Stoker, who, on her 18th birthday finds her life thrown into turmoil by the death of her father. India's been close to her father for years, and the death forces her into spending time with her mother Evelyn (a haughtily distant Nicole Kidman).

Things are further shaken up for India, when her uncle Charlie (a charismatic but creepy Matthew Goode) shows up at the funeral and moves into the home. Evelyn becomes obsessed with him and begins a relationship, but India's unsure of the new arrival but finds her interest piqued when people from around the house start disappearing...

Eerie, uncomfortable, full of great close ups and terrifically atmospheric, the director of Oldboy, Park Chan-wook has created something incredibly riveting and stylish on the big screen with this coming of age thriller, which is distinctly reminiscent of a Hitchcock piece.

It's also unbelievably stylish as well, with India's heightened senses proving to be a major part of the soundscape of the film. Every single sound is amplified and the effect is mesmerising as Chan-wook's taut thriller plays out.

With unusual camera angles and point-of-view precision shots scattered throughout, Chan-wook's made something which is disorientating and engaging. The visual and the audio are expertly used to play to our senses. One shot sees Wasikowska brushing Kidman's orange tresses and that morphs into grass blowing in the breeze - it's an audacious shot which screams style and is bravura film-making.

Matthew Goode makes a charming and psychotic uncle, who mysteriously appears on the scene and who charms both Evelyn and eventually, India. Kidman is distant as the mother trying to reconnect with her daughter and her life; and Mia Wasikowska is withdrawn as the different-from-everyone-else India, who's waking up to the world around her. She's terrific as the lead, and her awakening is an uncomfortable experience which horrifically boils over at the end.

It takes a while to adjust to the characters' distance at the start of the film, (there's nary a hint of humour throughout) but this aloof Addams Family psycho-drama chiller-thriller is unsettling, ethereal and artistic - and quite unmissable. 


Sunday, 26 January 2014

Mood Indigo: Blu Ray Review

Mood Indigo: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

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.

Extras: The Blu Ray contains the original release of the film in its extended form, which makes for more cohesive viewing. Full marks to the Vendetta guys for giving this a release also.


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Much Ado About Nothing: DVD Review

Much Ado About Nothing: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

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, 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, Much Ado About Nothing is a zesty treat which feels fresh and sparkling.


Last Vegas: Movie Review

Last Vegas: Movie Review

Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert de Niro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Forget the Rat Pack, here comes the OAP Pack

Billy (Douglas), Paddy (de Niro), Archie (Freeman) and Sam (Kline) are old friends since they were kids growing up in the Bronx.

Now in the later years of their life, and with old age causing them various ravages - except for Billy, whose permatanned look shows no signs of him growing up - they all lead separate and distant lives. Paddy is a widower, who refuses to leave his apartment after his sweetheart's death; Archie has been crippled by a minor stroke and his family insist he takes things easy and Sam is a man who's lost his mojo, living in Florida and being slowly killed by the retirement lifestyle.

So, when Billy proposes to his 30-something girlfriend while delivering a friend's eulogy, the group's reunited for the marriage and bachelor party in Vegas. For each of them, it's a chance to regain their youth and live again - but for Billy and Paddy, there's vitriol in the air as a long time simmering tension reaches a head...

Last Vegas is quite simply, The Hangover for the OAP generation - but without the gross out laughs or the extreme debauchery. In their place is a bikini contest and an ongoing gag about a condom and Viagra.

While the quartet have an easy chemistry and a great bond - with Douglas once again showing why he's such a permanent presence on screen, the writing is nothing short of predictable and the gags incredibly lame and easily gentle. And yet, one or two of them elicit laughs - from Kline's character's quick asides (calling Billy a hazelnut) to Freeman's incredible charisma and charm, there's nothing offensive about what transpires on screen.

Sure, the character arcs and predictable denouements can be seen a mile off - from Billy's inevitable realisation and acceptance of his age, to Paddy's gradual acquiescence over Billy's snub; from Sam's realisation that a chance to play away from home is nothing but a sham given he loves his wife to Archie's journey towards taking it easy, these characters will be appreciated by the older generation, looking for some easy and gentle laughs.

Last Vegas delivers every predictable laugh you'd expect, mocking age and the ravages of time and creaking as much as the actor's joints; there's nothing new and original here. In fact, if anything it feels a little old school in many ways - but you know what, this journey to Vegas is worth the trip if you fancy watching some old pros dial it in.


Friday, 24 January 2014

Red Obsession: DVD Review

Red Obsession: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

From Bordeaux to Beijing, this 74 minute doco takes a look at the wine industry and how it's globally changing.

It's also an exploration of wine-mania, and how the new obsession and money lies in the vintage, the reviews and the lengths chateaux can go to to secure their global position. But it's also a warning message over how consumerism is taking over and how the market's more in trouble due to crashes than before.

Simply narrated by Russell Crowe, this doco has some stunningly well put together images and shots - it captures the joy that a good bottle brings to many but it also drains a little of the life out of the subject. Numerous talking heads talk while saying very little and while the scope of the story is an intriguing premise as it sways towards the Chinese influence, the execution is a little overblown and the piece a little overlong.

It'll serve as porn to anyone with a hankering for a good plonk, but the doco could have done with losing some 20 minutes - it works as a TV piece for those interested but unlike a great doco, it doesn't really inspire those who have no interest or passion for the wine other than with a good meal.


Thursday, 23 January 2014

12 Years a Slave: Movie Review

12 Years A Slave: Movie Review

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o
Director: Steve McQueen

Lavished with Oscar nominations, SAG awards, PGA awards and Golden Globes, 12 Years A Slave arrives on our screens with expectations and in some quarters, a little dread over its subject matter.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (rightly nominated for glory and deserving of the win should Oscar come a-knocking) plays Solomon Northup, a talented violinist, living in Saratoga, New York in 1841 as a free man, with a wife and family. As his wife and family head away for an annual commitment, Solomon is offered work in Washington which he duly takes. However, after a night of partying with them, he awakes to find himself in chains, renamed and shipped off into slavery.

Northup's first master is a relatively benevolent one, William Ford (played with earnest by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch) but thanks to the racism on the grounds, he ends up nearly hanged and is sold on to Michael Fassbender's Edwin Epps, a cruel and sadistic man who is prone to breaking his slaves.

Thus begins Northup's quest to survive, his attempts to maintain his dignity and his desperate fight to win back his freedom amid betrayal, unexpected kindness, utterly repugnant cruelty and horrifying attitudes toward fellow human beings.

12 Years A Slave is a totally brutal film - perhaps inevitably so given its true life subject matter and that within five minutes of beginning, our hero is beaten to within an inch of his life by a paddle wielded by a new master.

Its strength though lies in the relative restraint of its film-maker, Steve McQueen and its lead actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor. While McQueen does not flinch from showing every second of the horror with the camera holding firm and forcing you to confront the violence, he shows a remarkably masterful touch at telling a story which gets so dark and sickening, you will find it hard to stomach in places.

Unlike many of his ilk, McQueen does not turn this film into a worthy piece about one of humanity's darkest days, choosing instead to blend together a movie that doesn't flinch from its subject matter, but also doesn't seek to make light of it, dish out platitudes or beset it with sentimental moments in among the bleak story.

Throughout it all, Ejiofor commands the screen, imbuing the real life Northup with a dignity and grace as he tries to survive that is all the more heartbreaking given what he had to endure. A remarkable long shot where Northup is hung out on a plantation leaves nausea in the pit of your stomach, as he scrabbles for air, looks around him and faces a desolate inevitability; but every moment of that horror is understated by Ejiofor and as a result, the audience is in total sympathy with him, aghast that around Northup, people are going about their daily business, untroubled by the life slipping away next to them.

Among the betrayals, the heartfelt pleas from a fellow slave to show her some kindness and kill her, the hardships that Northup endured, Ejiofor remains a presence throughout amid close ups and thanks to the dignity of his portrayal. While you get little insight into his psychological state throughout, his final scenes will reduce you to tears, a cathartic testament to a 2 hour portrayal that has showcased the best of humanity when it's pitted against the very worst.

Juxtaposed to such grandeur is Fassbender's cruel and sadistic Epps, a man who rapes his favourite slave and whose towering monstrousness is a blight on those around him. It's an ugly and repugnant role, which Fassbender commands and taps into something within to leave you utterly hating the man. Thanks to that unrelenting spirit and McQueen's lingering camera which circles around during some whipping sequences, you will find yourself questioning humanity and what we've done, but never find yourself brushing it off with a trite dismissal or tricked by a naively blithe moment deployed by the director to counteract the darkness.

That's really the power of 12 Years A Slave - the sickeningly visceral period piece has a way of inveigling itself under your skin, but has such a pull that it's hard to deny - if there's a more perfect, more powerful and more harrowing or sobering film up for an Academy Award this year, I've yet to see it.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Brand new The Raid 2 - Berandal trailer is here

Brand new trailer for The Raid 2 - Berandal is here 

Just launched is the brand new trailer for the Raid 2 - Berandal. Take a look below

The Raid 2 - Berandal launches in New Zealand on March 28th

The first The Raid 2 Berandal trailer is here... and it looks awesome

The first teaser art for Gareth Huw Evans' upcoming The Raid 2: Berandal is now here

With the film now in post production with an eye on a 2014 release and a teaser due in coming weeks, Evans has offered up a look at the first Indonesian teaser art for the film.

Take a look at the first The Raid 2: Berandal images here.

You're Next: Blu Ray Review

You're Next: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R18
Released by Icon and Roadshow Home Ent

Adam Wingard's You're Next is a gory treat. It centres on a family who've come together to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of their parents in a deserted country mansion. Partners are brought along for the weekend and tensions rise to the surface between brothers and threaten to bubble over.

But those have to go on the back burner when a group wearing animal masks start picking off their victims one by one. The only problem with their Extreme Makeover: Home Invasion plan is that one of them (played by Home and Away's Sharni Vinson) has a talent for fighting back....

You're Next is a delicious treat, delivering fresh and suspenseful thrills on the horror front, before also dishing out some laughs here and there. Overall though, it's a clever and bloody inventive look at the horror, with Wingard eeking out as much tension as he can here and there as the showdown goes on.

Crowd-pleasing and also jump out of your seat jolting are the order of the day - and You're Next delivers on the promise of thrills, twists and suspense. It's one of the freshest films in the horror genre this year and it's not to be missed.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

American Hustle: Movie Review

American Hustle: Movie Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Director: David O Russell

So, here comes the Oscar favourite - already laden with awards via the Golden Globes, the SAG awards and blessed with Oscar nominations, it clearly is the one to beat.

Director David O Russell re-teams with his actors from The Fighter (Bale and Adams) and his Silver Linings Playbook team (Cooper and Lawrence) to tell a story, some of which "actually happened", according to an onscreen caption at the start.

It's 1978 America and Bale is Irving Rosenfeld, a pot-bellied con artist with a garish comb-over, an affinity for Duke Ellington and an ability to get anything out of any situation. Teaming up with Amy Adams' Sydney Prosser (who's desperate to get out of her current life situation), the pair start a series of loan scams.

But, when they're busted by Bradley Cooper's curly haired, overly eager FBI Agent Richie DiMaso, they're offered a way out - if they can line up four further arrests. With no other option, Irving and Sydney (posing as a member of the English aristocracy) set out about their latest scam, but end up trying to bring down the mayor of New Jersey (played with big hair by Jeremy Renner), thanks to DiMaso's over-enthusiasm.

Soon, all of the players are in deeper than they expected....and not everyone is who they seem to be.

American Hustle is a good film with more comedy than perhaps you'd be expecting (though if you'd been expecting a shaggy dog style story, you could be right) - its over-the-top nature is evident in many places, and tonally, occasionally that wrongfoots the audience.

Lavished with Oscar nods for acting, it's fair to say that really Christian Bale and Amy Adams only deserve the nods, with their time on screen blowing everyone away. From the start, Bale convinces as the film opens with a slow long scene with his distended belly proving to be the focal point before he exerts massive effort to create the perfect comb-over. Equally Adams impresses with a character that's lost and desperate to get out of the con world but who appears to be even more lost the deeper in she gets and more determined.

Both Lawrence, as Irving's young wife and who behaves like a brat (and brings some very funny moments) and Cooper don't come close to matching the others; Cooper in particular seems to be OTT - and even Jeremy Renner puts them to shame with a quietly dignified turn as someone who's trying to do the best for his people underneath a massively coiffed do. When his fate is revealed, he looks like a wounded puppy dog in a quiff - perhaps it's more beneficial that he feels more downplayed than the rest of the cast.

Over-use of voiceovers initially leads to a feeling of dizziness and along with swooping, swirling cameras, American Hustle starts to feel like a scam on the audience, aimed at disorienting and confusing as the story unfolds; it's almost as if Russell is pulling the strings and will stop at nothing to stop you keeping up.

In fact, American Hustle is really a case of a simple story being put upon layer upon layer; at its heart, it's about the pursuit of the American dream, and dressed up with some of the worst wigs and cleavage you've ever seen. A vein of humour runs throughout this garish vision of the 70s (with its Mafia overtones) thanks to Louis CK's police boss who's trying to spin a story to Richie.

All in all, American Hustle is all about the spin; ultimately shallow and blessed with some great performances, it's an intriguing choice for such awards success, because whilst it's still a solidly showy film, it's not a totally superbly engrossing one, with costumes, scenery and era recreation taking centre-stage.

The Con is perhaps, on.


Minecraft: PS3 Review

Minecraft: PS3 Review

Platform: PS3
Released by Sony Computer Entertainment

I'm a Minecraft novice.

Yes, the pixelated rather basic graphic game passed me by - I was aware of its appeal, given the millions of units it had shifted, but the basic concept and gameplay had gone way over my head. I had friends who were addicted to it, and who couldn't explain their addiction.

But basically, having spent time with this, I now understand.

Minecraft sees you thrown into the world of randomness and given the chance to create whatever you want. In a nutshell, the game grows by giving you the chance to build blocks and things around you, or dig down for the chance to experience the world below and mine.

Put even more simply, you get out of it what you want - there's no story, there's no level by level aim, there's simply the option for you to play solo or with others. In survival mode, you learn quickly that you need to build a shelter at night and ensure your own survival as skeletons, creepers and zombies head your way, determined to hobble your survival chances. If you get through the night by using daylight wisely to chop down trees and dig dirt to craft together blocks, then the world is your oyster.

The first real challenge with Minecraft is working out exactly what you have to do - unlike the PC version, you're given the info you need to craft the items you need (in the PC Version of Minecraft, you have to guess what's needed for all the stuff you need) and it makes life easier and the chances of survival increase. It also means you can concentrate on what you're doing and plan a strategy.

There's also a creation mode as well, where you can indulge your building fantasies and your desires to create worlds around you. This works well if you go online with friends and all work together to make your dreams of architectural bliss a reality.

Graphically, Minecraft is nothing sensational - it's basic, but a solid port over of the PC version - and it's faithful to the original. The comparison that's been made is one of LEGO sets - you own the world around you and the building blocks are there for you to use.

The only limit with Minecraft is your imagination - and perhaps, the numbers of hours in the day.


Monday, 20 January 2014

The Railway Man: Movie Review

The Railway Man: Movie Review

Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Irvine, Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky

The rather nasty side of war gets a face in this adaptation of the autobiography of Eric Lomax.

Colin Firth dons the glasses and takes the role of Lomax, a former British officer who suffered horrifically as a prisoner of war, forced to work on the construction of the Thai / Burma railway (the Death Railway) during the second World War.

Deeply traumatised by these events in 1942, Lomax is one of many Brits unable to open up over what happened; but his world is changed when he meets Nicole Kidman's Patti, on a train and their relationship blossoms into marriage. But the demons of the past come back to haunt Lomax and Patti's determined to help however she can.

The only one who can rid him of the psychological scars is Lomax himself - and when he finds out that his tormentor is still alive, he faces an awful decision - go back and face the past or live with the effects forever.

The Railway Man is haunting and harrowing, but incredibly powerful stuff despite its somewhat plodding nature.

Tonally, it starts off as a slightly quirky and humorous affair as Firth's Lomax meets Patti on the train, with the British humour present and correct as the flirty yet banal banter about England's greyer towns gets underway. But once the marriage is done, the demons, along with the bailiffs, come knocking at the door and the film shifts its focus to a more dour and darker tone as the horrific reality of the Death Railway is told.

Firth is mesmerising in this - going from lively soul to tortured sallow and sagging wreck as the PTSD kicks in; a younger version played by Jeremy Irvine embodies the stiff upper lip mentality so prevalent during the 40s but it's a hard watch seeing him gradually beaten down during the time on the Death Railway.

Teplitzky could have done with easing up on the score during the flashback sequences as the OST is overpowering and unnecessary as the anguished cries and beatings play out in front of you. The tension's built by a screeching soundtrack, rather than crafting together such powerful imagery from the shocking reality of what occurred. Equally, Kidman is empathetic to start with but her character soon becomes surplus to requirements and is there simply to service the narrative as Uncle (Stellan Skarsgard) tells Lomax's story.

But the moment when Lomax finally meets his torturer in modern day is utterly electrifying and you can hear a pin drop in the audience; sure, it's exactly what you'd expect, but it's not until that point that you realise how invested in these characters you are. And the confrontation isn't as clear cut as you'd believe with both Firth and Sanada giving such nuanced and downbeat performances that you simply can't tear your eyes away.

The Railway Man is one of those films which provides a harrowing insight into a world that none of us these days would ever come close to experiencing. It's just a shame that some minor mis-directions in the story telling rob it of the cathartic feel and tone of forgiveness that's required after nearly 2 hours of aching pain. There's no denying its power lies in Firth's portrayal but an easing back from Teplitzky could have given this piece a subtlety that was undeniable. Instead, it simply strives for obvious tonal choices and offers up something which is more fleetingly affecting than haunting you for long after you've left the cinema.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

What Maisie Knew: DVD Review

What Maisie Knew: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

Based on the book by Henry James, but re-versioned for the cinema and modern day, What Maisie Knew is a powerfully perfect piece of film.  Told from the point of view of Onata Aprile's young Maisie, it's the story of a child, pulled from pillar to post by divorcing parents. She's a rock star Susanne (Julianne Moore) and he's Beale, an art dealer (Steve Coogan) and their continual batting back and forth of Maisie, under proclamations of love is heartbreaking to bear.

When the pair inevitably split up, both get new partners - Beale takes the nanny Margo with him and ends up marrying her and Susanne winds up marrying on a whim to Alexander Skarsgard's Lincoln. But poor Maisie ends up going back and forth, taken in by various promises and let down by all prospective parents but never losing her prospective enthusiasm and hoping for the possibility of love.

When she starts to bond with the laid back Lincoln, a calming influence in her life, Susanne's insecurities come to the fore and things threaten to boil over which could have emotional consequences for Maisie.

What Maisie Knew is one of the finest dramas for a while. 

Haunting and emotionally gripping, the slow burning heart of this film is anchored by a wonderful performance from Onata Aprile's Maisie; a perfect encapsulation of a young soul lost in life already and who never loses optimism. Neglected by her parents, and loved really only by Margo initially, she saves the joy for the nanny and bonds subtly and in a heartfelt manner with Skarsgard's Lincoln. The duo have a wonderful chemistry and the relationship of protector and charge is beautifully played with adorable soul and simple sensitivity by both Skarsgard and Aprile. Underplayed and never exploited, it's a natural relationship which shines in among Coogan and Moore's utter loathsome selfish behaviour.

If anything, What Maisie Knew belongs to Skarsgard and Aprile - and while the story plays out exactly how you may expect, it's only because you're hoping for a perfect resolution for Maisie, a kind of wishful fulfilment which we perhaps seek for the young in our own lives. There's a tremendous poignancy here which proves difficult to ignore.

Utterly affecting and ultimately rewarding, What Maisie Knew is essential viewing.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Newstalk ZB movie review - Jack Ryan, Nebraska and We're The Millers

Newstalk ZB movie review - Jack Ryan, Nebraska and We're The Millers

We're back for 2014.

The weekly movie reviews with Jack Tame have resumed on Saturday mornings.

So, listen in here to get my reviews of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Nebraska and We're The Millers.

The To Do List: Blu Ray Review

The To Do List: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

A sex comedy from a female point of view is to be applauded and this latest with Aubrey Plaza starring certainly has some laugh out loud moments.

Plaza plays straight A student Brandy Klark, who's about to hit the college scene, despite being unaware of the ways of sex.So, with pressure from her friends to get some experience before she goes to college, she creates a list of sexual experiences and sets about completing them like some kind of assignment.

The To Do List brilliantly recreates the 90s era, with a stonking soundtrack, but its humour is somewhat lacking in any kind of sophistication or originality. Plaza's well versed at giving some deadpan delivery and injects a bit of heart and humour into this, despite the film running out of steam well before the halfway point.

The coming of age film doesn't skip on the raunch, but rarely delivers on the laughs (though Clark Gregg's confused father adds some great moments) and the whole film ends up feeling a little bit of a disappointment.

Extras: Commentary, deleted and extended scenes and gag reel are just some of the backbones of the extras


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