Monday, 31 March 2014

The Selfish Giant: Movie Review

The Selfish Giant: Movie Review

Cast: Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder
Director: Clio Barnard

There's electricity in the air in Brit film The Selfish Giant.

From filmmaker Clio Barnard who came to our attention with the Arbor, is this latest tale, based loosely on the Oscar Wilde short story of the same name.

Focussing on the sweet, yet dysfunctional, friendship of two 13-year-old boys, Swifty and Arbor (both young actors delivering stunning performances), it's the story of their lives in the grim up-north British world of council estates, continual debt and scrabbling to make ends meet.

The pair first form a friendship after being excluded from school; forced to stay away, they end up feeling entranced by the world of Kitten, a scrap dealer, whose den of inequity holds the promise of money which so eludes the duo and their families.

It's Arbor who leads the way into a world of collecting junk and trying his luck, with Swifty more interested in the horses that Kitten owns - and particularly the ones which he races on the streets in yet another example of how gypsy culture's become so prevalent within the UK.

But Arbor's a live wire in more ways than one - and when he sees there's money to be made from stealing and melting down wire, he throws the duo on a collision course with tragedy as the inevitable ante is upped and Arbor searches for a big pay off.

The sensitive gentle giant Swifty, with his love of horses, makes a perfect foil to Arbor's ADHD pill taking troublemaker. But at the end of the day, this is a story of friendship and of a relationship torn asunder either by petty jealousy when Arbor discovers Kitten favours Swifty for the racing or tragedy when the final big steal comes around with an audience inducing shock. It's sensitively told, and devastatingly painful as the final scenes play out.

It's here the young actor playing Arbor comes to the fore - his final scenes hanging around the streets are raw with pain and emotion and recall some of the behaviour of the Greeks in mourning.

Make no mistake, while this grit Brit hit is a tale of woe, it's got a vein of humour running throughout which is impossible to deny and black humour which is as hilarious as it is heartfelt. The council estates bring the miserabilism but film-maker Barnard keeps it on the right side of dry humour rather than dour depression.

You'd have to have no heart to be moved by The Selfish Giant; its two young leads are spectacular and its cinematography is stunning to view - sure, there's electricity in the air in this film - and it crackles with cinematic aplomb and storytelling genius. Highly recommended. 


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Nymph()Maniac: Volumes I and II: Movie Review

Nymph()Maniac: Volumes I and II: Movie Review

Cast: Stacy Martin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgaard, Christian Slater, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman
Director: Lars Von Trier

Cinema's enfant terrible returns to fire off another salvo of provocation and start up another round of taboo discussion.

This time round, following a series of O face posters, and a tease campaign that's been guaranteed to whip all and sundry into a frenzy, and over a more cinema friendly 4 hour, 2 volume cut (though he has worked on a 5-and-a-half-hour director's cut), he tells the tale of Joe (played in later years by Charlotte Gainsbourg and in younger form by newcomer Stacy Martin). After being discovered beaten in an alleyway by Skarsgaard's Seligman, Joe takes to telling him of her life and loves and how she came to be in said alleyway.

Nymph()maniac Volume 1 deals with Joe's more formative years, her relationship with her ailing father (played by Christian Slater) and her coming to terms with who she is.  Divvied up into five chapters in Volume I, it also looks at her relationship with her apparent love Jerome (played by Shia LaBeouf who delivers one of the worst English accents ever committed to celluloid). It's clearly aiming for the more inflammatory, as it shows a couple of young girls trawling a train for men to sleep with as a competition to one up each other and win a tub of candy. Yet, it's also incredibly playful in among the graphic moments. Seligman is to all intents and purposes a monk, who's chosen books to life and who draws various analogies with Joe's choices to fly fishing. It's hilarious at times how shoehorned in that becomes but it serves as a philosophical bent to the film as well - parallels between sex and sin are drawn, the Fibonacci numbers are mentioned in among Joe's apparent regrets as she rhapsodises over her life.

The crowning moment of Nymph()maniac Volume 1  comes from Uma Thurman's appearance as a slighted woman who brings her children to Joe's house so that they can see the "whoring bed". It's a shocking scene as it teeters on extremely uncomfortable, pathetically sad and something more volatile.

Nymph()maniac Volume 1 ends on an almost unoriginal note - before images of plenty of sex are thrown in as a trailer for Nymph()maniac Volume II. It's touches like this that leave you unsure whether von Trier's playing with you and your expectations or the marketers have decided the most provocative moments will make you feel something. But the thing is, Nymphomaniac is not actually as button-pushing or as controversial as it purports to be. It's almost as if von Trier's lost some of his bite in among the playful narrative moments and close ups of phalluses; you roll your eyes in almost boredom rather than in anger. It's the most stunning part of Nymphomaniac - that a once notorious auteur has had to rely more on the marketing than the celluloid content to shock.

Nymph()maniac Volume II disappoints as it runs out of steam - it goes more for graphic rather than the philosophical debate and while Gainsbourg commands the screen, the final moments, just when you think von Trier's done more to combat accusations of misogyny and that sex is art, he throws in a moment that makes you throw up your hands in frustration as the screen goes to black.

All in all, Nymph()maniac is nowhere as bad or as notorious as you'd expect - it's certainly not titillating or erotic, merely functional in parts. You may actually be more surprised by what you see, but if you're a Von Trier connoisseur, you'll definitely feel the controversial auteur isn't as bad as he could be and that's perhaps the biggest shock of the film.


Autumn Events Q&A

Autumn Events Q&A

It's almost time - with winter drawing in, and autumn firmly here, it can only mean the New Zealand International Film Festival is on the horizon. But before then is the brilliant Autumn Events (find out more about the films at the NZIFF website on
I caught up with Festival director Bill Gosden to see what's what about the event which runs from April 11th to May 18th in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier and Dunedin.

It’s back again – what’s the thinking behind this event?
To capitalise on the twin opportunities provided by some acclaimed digital restorations and state-of-the-art projection facilities in several of the country’s most fabulous cinema venues.

How much discussion goes into the programme?
First, there’s the internal conversations around the office about trying to balance and diversify the programme - and then there’s the discussions with the rights holders.

What are your criteria for choosing the films on offer?
We need to know that the digital work is top notch. That requirement has ruled out a few great films currently available in very disappointing digital transfers. Anyone who has watched the flesh tones shift around in a Blu-Ray of an old Technicolor favourite will know what I mean. Likewise, some restorations have gone back to source material and bypassed subsequent grading to devastating effect: in the Psycho transfer you never doubt that you’re watching actors under studio lights and you can see the skin blemishes through the powder on Janet Leigh’s face. No such calamities on our classic programme!

With one screening in each city, is it the feeling of making this an event?
The economies of operating in these great venues alone make each screening a luxury! And at the Civic, Auckland; Embassy, Wellington; and Regent, Dunedin, we’re returning these films to exactly the kind of venue they were designed to fill.

It’s quite the line-up of talent isn’t it? 
That’s for certain. We’re not exactly unearthing unknown gems here. What’s compelling to me is what remains fresh or striking enough in these films to retain the impact of first contact. The bravado and conspicuous risk to human life in Aguirre remain staggering and exciting. Brando’s sensitive brute still cuts to the heart. Orson Welles’ infamous “cuckoo clock” speech is forever spine-tingling in its flagrant cynicism. As for the contemporary resonance of Dr Strangelove, how galling is that? And Audrey Hepburn still looks appealing in those insanely elegant Givenchy gowns of 1956.

What do each of them bring to the big screen?
Spectacle. We chose films that expand to those grand spaces with images, and emotion.

It’s also a chance to see Miyazaki’s cruelly-robbed-of-an-Oscar last movie as well -what can you tell us about that?
He says The Wind Rises is his last, and we’re all reluctant to take his word for it, but it is most definitely a film about looking back. Dealing as it does with the aeronautical engineer most famous for equipping the kamikaze pilots of WWII, it’s also a film about recognising the inherent amorality of an ardent creative spirit. Many have found this a surprising choice of theme for Miyazaki, considering the positive spirit that has characterised every one of his key works. It struck me as a moving expression of chagrin in the face of all the evils in the world no artist can vanquish, and yet there’s a placidity about it too, a state of acceptance. It’s a troubling, beautiful film, animation for grown-ups, and not at all suitable for an Academy Award.

Astaire, Brando – who’s the best?
How opposite could two superstars be? You want romance or you want sex? Maybe you’re a greedy filmgoer like me and want both these guys. It’s amazing that two such radically different screen presences were both working in the same decade. Astaire is the debonair master of control, every tap and step rehearsed, every dance, no matter how exuberant, choreographed to stay absolutely within the frame. What can you do but sit back and revel in the romantic fantasy? With Brando the relationship is so much more intimate. You sit forward, not back. He does so little – you hear him breath and he seems to need all the oxygen in the room.

A last minute addition of a Peter Sellers classic too...
The last-minute nature of this Auckland confirmation is unfortunate, but the slot became available late in the piece. We were aware that Dr Strangelove had recently played Wellington, but not Auckland. It’s the 50th Birthday restoration and you won’t have to Google far to see how much political commentary this particular anniversary has generated.

Just finally, which of the venues is the best and why?
The one in which you are sitting.

Actually, I know I said that was the last question, but c’mon, give us an exclusive for this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival....
Everywhere I look at the moment: films about fathers and sons. Last year’s Kore-eda film was getting in early. Expect at least five of them at NZIFF 2014.

For more on the Autumn Events and the times / locations of screenings, head to the NZIFF website!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Newstalk ZB Movie Review - Noah, Mr Peabody and Sherman and The Hunger Games

Newstalk ZB Movie Review - Noah, Mr Peabody and Sherman and The Hunger Games

Here's the latest batch of Jack Tame movie reviews - Noah, Mr Peabody and Sherman and The Hunger Games

Plus Jack talks his concrete obsession and puts me on the spot....

New Edge of Tomorrow trailer

New Edge of Tomorrow trailer

There's a new trailer for the Tom Cruise / Emily Blunt actioner,  Edge of Tomorrow.

The film's due out in June in NZ

Friday, 28 March 2014

First look at Batman: Arkham Knight

First look at Batman: Arkham Knight

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment have today unveiled all-new screenshots and artwork from Batman: Arkham Knight, Rocksteady Studios’ epic finale to its trilogy of Batman: Arkham videogames.  The screenshots showcase Batman and the Batmobile, as well as the new villain, Arkham Knight. 

Batman: Arkham Knight is based on DC Comics’ core Batman license and will be available exclusively for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, and Windows PC.  The game is scheduled for release worldwide in 2014. 

In the explosive finale to the Arkham series, Batman faces the ultimate threat against the city he is sworn to protect. The Scarecrow returns to unite an impressive roster of super villains, including Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, to destroy The Dark Knight forever. Batman: Arkham Knight introduces Rocksteady's uniquely designed version of the Batmobile, which is drivable for the first time in the franchise. The addition of this legendary vehicle, combined with the acclaimed gameplay of the Batman Arkham series, offers gamers the ultimate and complete Batman experience as they tear through the streets and soar across the skyline of the entirety of Gotham City.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first look trailer

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first look trailer

We are very excited to bring to you the return of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, not your favourite Renaissance artists, but your favourite mutated turtles!

Paramount Pictures is pleased to help you relive your childhood years this morning with the release of the first teaser trailer for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, ahead of its September 18 release.
Watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first look trailer below:

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Noah: Movie Review

Noah: Movie Review

Cast: Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Stone Transformer type creatures, a Lord of the Rings Treebeard style battle, a potential murder of babies and a flood of Biblical proportions.

It can only be director Darren Aronofsky's take on Noah.

Yep, water surprise.

You read that right - it's the old Bible story but through the old Aronofsky skew of perception, where the lead actor may - or may not - be facing the onslaught of madness. (Think Black Swan's psychological machinations).

Russell Crowe is Noah, who one day experiences a vision that the world is about to be flooded in watery destruction (the first of Aronofsky's brilliantly visual interpretations) and decides to build an ark to save the creatures so that the Creator (never God in this film) can start again. But his plan to help them avoid the initial floods (though, he intones, he and his family must be judged too) causes conflict within his family and also with tubel-Cain (Ray Winstone, looking drowned and like he failed a Game Of Thrones audition) who amasses an army to seize the ark and ensure their survival.

Epic in scale, it's easy to see why Noah may offend some - particularly with the introduction of the Watchers, a set of Stone Transformers type six armed creatures which are fallen angels, grounded by the Creator to keep an eye on Earth and Man.

While I distinctly don't remember these from earlier studies - or the magical and mythical - (which would have no doubt piqued my interest), they exist simply to perhaps engage the younger end of the audience and also to provide an epic LOTR style fight as they defend the ark from Tubel-Cain's masses, before exploding into Rapturous light and heading skyward-bound in a redemptive arc deemed necessary by Hollywood.

Of the acting, Crowe is difficult to read to start off with as Noah, the man whose visions cause so much conflict; initially, he's a father and a forager for his kith and kin, but as the quest takes his toll, we see one of Aronofsky's key motifs come into play - a man on the descent of unswerving belief and searching for something else, self-destructive or otherwise. It's here Crowe gets his acting chops on (even if the dialogue does fail him) and manages to provide some more depth to the wronged scavenger - even if you're never quite clear on whether his interpretation of events is right or not. That said, you can't fault Crowe's commitment to the cause.

Elsewhere, Jennifer Connelly is largely wasted as Naameh, his wife; Emma Watson looks Harry Potter-esque as Ila, Ray Winstone is half-eyed and slurring as Tubel-Cain and Welsh tongued Anthony Hopkins veers between venerable and OTT as the hermit Methuselah, who appears obsessed with gathering berries rather than playing grandfather.

Yet, it's Aronofsky who's the real star (and ironically, divisive presence) of this apocalyptically epic piece - his trippy execution of Noah's initial vision (all watery and floating bodies) is evocative and disturbing, suggesting a mania in his lead that's fearful and lost; equally, his peppering of the film with images of the snake, the apple and Man's destruction verges on the hallucinogenic in places; but his bravura time-lapse sequence showing the birth of creation and the Let there be light speech demonstrates a bravura flair that's only dragged down by the other flawed elements of the piece, which draws to a hysteria as the end comes and Noah threatens to teeter over into the unthinkable. At times, the bombastic score could do with being eased off as it blasts all and sundry with ominous tones that are unnecessary.

While it's clear that Noah was a passion project for director Aronofsky, I can't help but have a nagging feeling that this somewhat bloated telling of a Biblical style film for a modern day audience which veers from its subject material in some ways is likely to rankle; it appears to be a flight of schizophrenia for its director in places thanks to flawed ideas and execution, but in other moments, its visual execution and evocative displays of originality lead to plenty of impressively creative touches.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: DVD Review

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: DVD Review

Steve Coogan is hapless radio DJ Alan Partridge, who's still working at a local UK radio station pushing his own brand of banal and pedantic chat on the people of Norwich with his show Mid Morning Matters. But something sinister is afoot at the station with a corporate takeover threatening to sweep through and clear out the chaff.

When Partridge gets whiff of the fact it's either he or fellow night time DJ Pat (played by Colm Meaney) who face the chop, he does the only decent thing Alan can do - urges the new station bosses to get rid of Pat. But Pat's not taking it lying down - and comes back armed with a grudge and a shotgun at the launch of the new station.

Pretty soon, Partridge, whose star has been firmly in the descent, is back in the limelight as Pat's confidant at the siege and the police's negotiator... will Alan save the day or will the chance thrusting of him back into the media spotlight cause his ego to run riot?

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is a particularly British film, which will resonate with the ex-pat audience but will be loved for some of its comedic subtleties. And a lot of that is due to Steve Coogan's acting and the exceptionally strong writing on show, which parodies the banality of local radio ("Yesterday's meat at today's prices") and yet also deals with the seismic shifts of conglomerates taking over whole rafts of local stations in the UK markets.

Anyone au fait with Partridge will know what to expect - moments of cringeworthy asides and comments coupled with some endlessly quotable bon mots. Granted, all of those are present and correct (some with deadly accuracy) but there is also a subtlety to Coogan's performance and a slyness to the writing which almost threatens to fly over your head at times.

Whether it's a sly look or a clever one-liner, Coogan and his team of writers have nailed the transition of Partridge to the big screen. That said, while the story starts to run a little out of puff during its final third, the ratio of gags to screen time is particularly high - and an impressively fleshed out Partridge proves central to the whole story. Strong support comes from Montagu as Partridge's long-suffering PA Lynn and Colm Meaney adds a degree of volatility to the unfolding siege that's hard to ignore.

But it's Partridge's parochial show throughout - whether he's dissing Pat by saying "he's Irish, to be sure", miming in his car to the middle of the road rock of Roachford (see the clip below) or running from a one night stand by squealing that "she's a drunk racist, I can take one but not both", Coogan's timing and comic subtlety is immaculate. He also brings the inherent sadness of this character to the fore as well with one joking exchange over his final message to his family bordering on the tragic.

Belly laughs and subtle sniggers are the order of the day with Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Complete with subtle digs at the radio industry that insiders will cherish but outsiders won't be isolated by, the corporate takeover's given a slightly new twist, embracing everything that was iconic about radio in the UK in the 80s and yet cocking a snook at it. (And when was the last time you saw a film end its tension on a crummy seaside pier?)

Thankfully, Coogan et al have chosen not to rest on their laurels and rely on old material for gags despite there being a wealth of them around in the character of Alan Partridge. It's a sly move, ensuring this cinematic outing has a freshness and British comic joie de vivre that's as addictive as it is amusing.


The Wolf Among Us: Episodes 1 and 2 PS3 Review

The Wolf Among Us: Episodes 1 and 2 PS3 Review

Released by TellTale Games
Platform: PS3

TellTale Games has built itself a reputation on story telling, and that helped it to achieve wider acclaim with The Walking Dead game that was released last year (and has just had episode 2 of season 2 recently released onto the market)

So, the bar was incredibly high for The Wolf Among Us, another similar story, presented in a similar way with graphic novel visuals and point and press ways of interacting.

Based on Bill Winningham's Fables stories, the story which is currently unfolding is a prequel to that run. You take the role of Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of the town of Fabletown and who's called in to investigate a disturbance in an apartment block by Mr Toad.

However, when Wolf gets there, he finds not everything is as it seems and that it's hard for him to keep the residents of Fabletown hidden from the human world around him. Episode One, Faith, sets out the world, its inhabitants and proffers up a story that's engaging, beautifully presented and has all the grit (and language) of a gumshoe novel. As Bigby begins to trace what's going on, it leads up to a stunningly gripping cliffhanger that we've had to wait months for for the resolution.

Episode 2, Smoke and Mirrors, takes up that cliffhanger, but also puts you more in control of Bigby and the investigation. Whereas the first episode is a lot more about exploring, this second is more about the nitty gritty and minutiae of investigating a case and so grounds you more in the characters and developments within. You can unleash the nastiness within - as is evidenced early on in an investigation sequence which sees Bigby (and you) given the choice to beat the answers he needs out of a victim - and to be frank, delving into the darker side of the character seems right and natural as the story progresses.

Choices inform the path of the narrative and that's really what gives Telltale Games the edge they need - you'll come back to these for a second bite, another chance to go the other way and to see how that informs your overall experience - it makes for an engaging time on the console, rather than the feeling that you're constricted by the point and click nature of the game.

The Wolf Among Us is currently progressing, and if this review seems a little spoiler-lite, that's because the best way to play it is on your own, making your own choices and enjoying what transpires. It'll be very rare that any two games will be the same - and with episode two pushing the narrative further on, you'd be wise to jump into Fabletown now and play it episodically because there's something clever going on here; it's a subversion of what the gaming experience can be and it's definitely worth being part of.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

inFamous: Second Son: PS4 Review

inFamous: Second Son: PS4 Review

Released by Sucker Punch
Platform: PS4

It's your choice to be good - or evil.

The first two inFamous games were excellent fun, a heady mix of wanton destruction (if you so desired) or the chance to follow the path of righteousness as you guided Cole McGrath around the world.

But the final game in the series ended somewhat definitively, so there was no way another game could be anything but a reboot. And here it is...

Seven years on after the events that ended inFamous 2, you play Delsin Rowe, a Native American kid, who's prone to beanie wearing and street tagging. That puts him into conflict with Reggie, his brother and also the local sheriff (so, in effect, Delsin's moral compass). When a truck carrying three Conduits crashes in Delsin's reservation, he tries to help one who's trapped, but inadvertently gets given powers. Which, if you're a street kid, is a great idea - but if you're a hunted Conduit, pursued by the Department of Unified Protection (DUP), it's not such good news....

Confronted by the leader of the DUP, Augustine, Delsin's forced into a battle to save his people who are being tortured by her power. With time running out, he's got to find Augustine and save the day. Or wreak havoc, whichever you choose....

Delayed at the launch of the PlayStation 4, there was much hope for inFamous: Second Son. And a demo that I played recently seemed to indicate that action and fighting were the MO for this latest, with developers Sucker Punch choosing not to veer too far away from the things that made the other entrants into this series so damn popular.


But what the demo didn't really show was the depth of the gameplay - it certainly showed the fantastic visuals of the open world gaming, with HD and Next Gen firmly coming into its own. Certainly, visually, it's never looked more beautiful - particularly once Delsin comes into contact with fellow conduit Fetch, the neon glows look stunning. In fact, the open world of Seattle where Delsin ends up is wonderfully crafted - from night time scenes to the daytime and the Space Needle, there's so much effort gone into the world around and it lends itself to simply hurtling around the skies or running up buildings to sample the designers' delights.

Yep, you can run up buildings in this new game - with a burst of vibrant neon stripes, Delsin can circle tall buildings in one bound. Other smoke powers mean he can use vents to zip from base to top - all without a hint of a glitch in the graphics. Which is good, because there are occasionally some glitches in the game - particularly at the start. In some parts I was able to walk through solid objects ( a pole in a street, a building wall) which was a real concern. A patch appeared to take care of that, but you'll have to remember to do that at the start or you'll suffer. And conversations on screen appear to conflict too, with some over-running on each other, making messages a little garbled. (The patch didn't appear to fix that and unless you have subtitles on, it makes it difficult)

And it's the powers which make inFamous: Second Son the fun that it is - sucking up smoke and absorbing neon ( as well as one other, which is equally as fun) mean you can blast the pesky DUP as you hurtle around the city (and you'll need to do that to free districts from their grip). Combat can be quite hard with some powers not quite cutting it at the start, but again, collecting blast shards from around the city will help you boost those powers the more you play. Initial fighting is with a chain (a la God of War) but upgrading to neon gives you a kind of light sabre lance that's great to use on unsuspecting baddies.

There's a feeling of familiarity though - it's very similar to the other inFamous games but just with the next generation elements thrown in to showcase the fact that it's on the PS4. That said, you get a chance to improve Delsin's street art by turning the DualShock into a spray can which is done by turning the controller on its side, shaking and spraying. (On a side note, keep an eye out for other street tags around the city - so far I've found Sly Raccoon - but who knows what else is out there)

Side missions keep you amused as you go from district to district, but they're very familiar as you usually end up in some conflict with the DUP - thankfully though the story missions prove engaging as you choose whether to corrupt or redeem fellow Conduits. This gives the game the chance to get a second run through - and it's up to you whether you come back to it.

The initial patch also brings up the PaperTrail missions, a side game where Delsin has to follow another Conduit and work on some murders, submitting evidence which is uploaded to an online profile. While it's not exactly multiplayer (and really how would that work in inFamous), it's an engaging enough activity.

While inFamous: Second Son may appear to have a degree of familiarity in terms of gameplay, there's no denying this latest is a lot of fun. It's a solidly playable open-worlder that is entertaining, engaging and a good showcase for what the PS4 can do - from impressively detailed cut scene animation to great time-wasting, there's definitely the feeling that inFamous: Second Son is an essential title and a sign that greatness is to come on the PS4.


Full X Men: Days of Future Past trailer released

Full X Men: Days of Future Past trailer released

Mutants of the world unite, the X Men: Days of Future Past trailer is here!

The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods inX-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

The beloved characters from the original "X-Men" film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from "X-Men: First Class," in an epic battle that must change the past -- to save our future.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Movie Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Movie Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L Jackson, Anthony Mackie
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

The first Captain America movie in 2011 was an impressive introduction to Steve Rogers and his patriotic derring-do, but left the nagging feeling that maybe the Captain was a little wet behind the ears and a weak link in the Avengers' admittedly strong chain.

Thankfully, this sequel blows that perception out of the water and hits yet another major home-run for the Marvel World.

Struggling to adjust back into modern life, Rogers soon finds his life thrown into turmoil when an assassination attempt on one of S.H.I.E.L.D's higher ups takes place. Thrown into the web of intrigue and in the midst of a deepening conspiracy, Rogers is forced to team up with Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow to get to the bottom of what exactly is going on.

However, the Captain's not sure who he can trust - and when an old enemy, The Winter Soldier, shows up, things get even more complicated.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a sequel that fires on all cylinders and offers up a blockbuster experience that's simultaneously old-fashioned yet also current. Meshing superheroics and action with a spy / conspiracy is a great mix for the film and the audience alike. Throwing in references to other Marvel events so casually means that the film-makers have ensured their loyal fans aren't ignored and the casual viewer isn't alienated (even if a knowledge of Captain America: The First Avenger proves to be a bonus point).

But it's not just a clandestine conspiracy and threats of a New World Order that propels this Marvel movie to greatness - it's the richness of the development of the hitherto slightly weaker Steve Rogers. Questions over transgressions from the past, whistle-blowing, the age old debate over civil liberties and the feeling of alienation in a modern day world all give Evans a chance to flesh out the character that needed a darker moral edge, while proffer him the opportunity to question his position in it all. It also helps sell the whole lack of trust angle that's so crucial to this film working - there are enemies within this time around. Evans also impresses in the action stakes with some serious kick-ass action sequences being pivoted by the man himself (and his shield frisbee).

While some of the twists can be seen coming a little way off and are slightly predictable, the action sequences  and occasional quips more than make up for it. High-intensity, adrenaline filled and yet carefully measured, the scenes work very well - and offer something new without resorting on CGI antics to have the desired effect. A beat-down in a lift, a completely original freeway chase and an opening sequence on board a boat that would make Captain Phillips blush, all combine to provide a real tonic to the genre, while grounding it in a kind of reality that's broadly appealing.

Of the supporting (and vulnerable) characters, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow gets a beefed up role as she's sent on a road trip with the Cap, and Robert Redford's veteran S.H.I.E.L.D bigwig Alexander Pierce keeps you guessing which side he's on. Samuel L Jackson provides the requisite level of cool as Nick Fury giving the character an arc that will no doubt have reverberations for the S.H.I.E.L.D universe as a whole. Marvel universe continuity gets a nod with the introduction of Agent 13 (aka Revenge star Emily Van Camp) and the Winter Soldier himself, who appears to channel the Terminator in terms of his relentless pursuit (no spoilers here, but the mythology follows the line - even if the eventual reveal of who the Soldier is can be seen a mile off thanks to some over laboured flashbacks). A great addition to the team is Anthony Mackie, whose Falcon gets the lion share of the best lines, but who proves to be a vital asset to the team.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a blockbuster of the highest order - accessible, wildly entertaining and truthful to its own canon, it's proof the Marvel juggernaut shows no sign of stopping.

Oh, and watch out for the subtle mention of Tim Tams.... and stick around for 2 post credits scenes.


ZB Movie Review - Pompeii, Cuban Fury and Need For Speed

ZB Movie Review - Pompeii, Cuban Fury and Need For Speed

This weekend on Jack Tame on NewsTalk ZB, I was talking ancient history, dancing and fast cars

Reviews of Pompeii, Cuban Fury and Need For Speed follow here...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Blu Ray Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment

Following the massive critical and public success of the first part of The Hunger Games trilogywas never going to be an easy ask.

Suzanne Collins' dystopian take on a world where youngsters from Districts are forced to kill each other while the richer watch on was a stunningly good first film, that wrapped up social discord with an impressive heroine.

In the second film of The Hunger Games trilogy, Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen, the winner of the 74th Hunger Games and champion of District 12. But it's not easy being the apple of the eye of the oppressed masses, and Everdeen's victory in the games, coupled with the way she's united the downtrodden, marks her out as a target as society teeters dangerously on the verge of collapse. Especially when the Districts of Panem begin to rebel against years of being beaten down.

Things take an even worse turn for Katniss when thanks to President Snow's interpretation of the rules of the Hunger Games, a new and more deadly version of events requires them to re-enter the arena with other previous winners and once again, fight to the death....

Greyer, grimmer, darker and even more dystopian than before, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an almost unrelentingly bleak second chapter of the series. Jennifer Lawrence is a more damaged Katniss, traumatised by her role as a killer in the arena, and troubled by ghosts from the past of both kills and colleagues. (A sly commentary on how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects those whom we send into war - no matter what their age.) So, it's bad enough that she has to live the games' victory over and over in the Victory Tour, and Lawrence brings a troubled touch to her performance; her very first shot sees her crouching ready to strike, with what could be sweat or a tear dripping down her face. Lawrence once again rises to the rich emotional beats of the story and the grit at the centre of this tale of the cost of independence and fanning the flame of revolution.

Having not read the source material, I did have some concerns this latest would be a rehash of the first in terms of dumping the tributes back into the arena and getting them to duke it out again. While to a degree, that would seem a fair criticism, there's much more build up and seething bubbling unrest to get through into the pre-amble before we're dropped gladiatorially into the arena. There's a slightly more expanded role (and pre-requisite shirtless scene) for Liam Hemsworth this time around in the Catching Fire movie, but once again Katniss and Gale's supposedly epic romance doesn't quite hit the mark, faltering in the face of the challenge from Josh Hutcherson's Peeta, who brings into play the pair's inter-dependence as well as the  growing existence of his own feelings toward Katniss. 

Coupled with the fact that some of the other tributes are unfortunately so weakly sketched out that you care not when they fall, some of the emotional beats of the story don't hit the target with the strength of one of Everdeen's arrows. The film prefers to concentrate on the dynamics within Peeta, Katniss and their uneasy alliances - it's a move which just works but doesn't quite give you the massive emotional pull you need and were given in the first Hunger Games movie. Newcomers to the group - Jeffery Wright, Sam Clafin, Jena Malone and Phillip Seymour Hoffman - are given indication they will play greater roles in the finale, but provide solid starting appearances. It's more nature which is the danger this time around - both metaphorically and literally.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fireis more about the enemy within and the politics of life; be it President Snow's implied threats (masterfully seethed by Donald Sutherland), Effie's continued orchestrating of the pair's public appearances, Katniss' own demons (exemplified by Lawrence's restrained yet emotionally rich turn) or the politics of beating down the masses, and dealing with traumatic scars, all of which are bled out into an ominously brooding and at times, distinctly dark, teen blockbuster.

The look and feel of the second Hunger Games movie is one of desperation - even the lush jungle where the Tributes are forced to re-fight for their lives is a place scarred by combat and doesn't breathe new life into the broodingly oppressive and bleak tone of the film. Even the garish OTT costumes have been dialled down in tone and gone are the bright colours, swapped for duller colours, symbolising the troubled world around.

A few shots of the rather Messianic Everdeen are laid on heavily during the action (she's the saviour of the masses dontcha know), and the symbolism is so overt, it's hard to ignore. But the ending of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire leaves you feeling you've seen something special; while it doesn't expand the Panem mythology much further than the first and ends on a downbeat note heading into the final sprint, it's certainly exhilarating to watch it unfold. That's mainly thanks to Lawrence's complex portrayal of a heroine, morally troubled by her place in the world and fighting the pull between teen idealism and a growing awareness of the horrors of the real world around her.

It's another year to wait for the first part of the Hunger Games finale Mockingjay, but given Jennifer Lawrence has breathed so much life and vulnerability into Katniss Everdeen, it looks like the odds are forever in the favour of this franchise continuing to be so successful.


Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Butler: Blu Ray Review

The Butler: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

In The Butler, Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, an African-American butler in the White House. Gaines served 34 years in the employ of various presidents. It begins with Gaines reflecting back on his life as he waits to meet Barack Obama.

Taking in his father's death at a cotton plantation and then being taught the ways of servitude before ending up in Washington after being hand picked by a White House head-hunter. Gaines finds his place in the serving world and forms a relationship with fellow butlers (played by Cuba Gooding Jr and Lenny Kravitz).

Against this backdrop of serving eight Presidents from 1957 to the 1980s,The Butler also focuses on the tempestuous Civil Rights movement and race relations as Gaines negotiates his own family woes - from a growing alcoholic wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) to a politically active son Louis (a tremendous performance by former Spooks star David Oyelowo), who can't stay away from the fight for the African-American quest for independence.

Lee Daniels' The Butler is of the ilk of The Help; it showcases an ugly chapter in America's history and attempts to use Hollywood to bring to life certain moments which have been swept under the carpet. Based on the life of Eugene Allen, it's nothing short of unsubtle in places to be honest; once again, the message is repeatedly sledge-hammered home when a simple more understated approach would have worked wonders.

Whitaker is venerable as Gaines, and Winfrey is stoic as his wife; but Lee Daniels' The Butler belongs more to Oyelowo who captures the antagonism of the father/ son / Civil Rights conflict perfectly and subtly with a performance that's captivating in among the sentimental, plodding mush of the predictable story.

It's weird as well as thanks to the various castings of the different presidents (Robin Williams as Eisenhower, John Cusack as Nixon, James Marsden as JFK, Alan Rickman as Reagan), you start to become distracted by who will be next in the presidential parade.

Overall, Lee Daniels' The Butler is one of those kind of cloying, race relations, Oscar-baiting films which is servicably made, but lacks the tenacity to bring the subtlety at strong moments, resulting in the direction feeling more heavy handed than anything. It's a shame because after a while, the plodding nature of parts of the film begin to grate and irritate, rather than inspire and appal as it should do.

Extras: Doco, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, gag reel, music video


Friday, 21 March 2014

Muppets hit Disney Infinity

Muppets hit Disney Infinity

It’s Time to Play the Music, It’s Time to Light the Lights with the
Disney Infinity “Muppets Challenge” Toy Boxes

“Muppet Babies” Toy Box

Let’s get things started with the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational and Muppetational Disney Infinity Toy Boxes yet! 

To herald the highly-anticipated theatrical release of “Muppets Most Wanted” in April, players were tasked with using Muppets-themed items such as the Muppets Townspeople from the Toy Box Vault and the Electric Mayhem Bus Power Disc to create one-of-a-kind experiences. The top Toy Box of the week is “The Muppet Show” featuring appearances by Kermit, Waldorf, Animal and more.

This week’s episode of “Disney Infinity Toy Box TV: The Official Weekly Web Show” features the weekly top five countdown, Toy Box tutorials and social media spotlights:

To download screenshots of the “Muppets Challenge” Toy Boxes, please visit:

Winning submissions include:
1.      The Muppet Show- As guest star you must help Kermit, take Waldorf/Statler to the VIP box, paint Miss Piggy and find Animal's drum set.
2.      Muppet Babies- Join The Muppets adventures! Find Animal Idol and save Piggy on the Death Star. (Hint: Escape through the trash chute!)
3.      Chef's Cuisines- The Swedish Chef has prepared quite a feast! You decide to race through his kitchen instead. Ready, set, BØRK BØRK BØRK!
4.      RainbowConnection- Why are there so many songs about rainbows? Enjoy a race from Kermit's swamp to the streets of Hollywood!
5.      Most Wanted- Inspired by Muppets Most Wanted.  Goal: Escape prison and get the real Constantine. Rules: Don't change weapons and no flying.

Watch_Dogs news...

Watch_Dogs news...



To view the trailer click image below:


Auckland, New Zealand — March 21, 2014 — Today, Ubisoft and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe announced that Watch Dogs, the highly anticipated open world action adventure title, will offer additional content only available on PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®3.

The exclusive content includes four extra missions, representing one hour of exclusive gameplay, as well as a unique ‘White Hat’ Hacker Outfit.  By playing this additional content, players will have a deeper knowledge of DedSec, a key and powerful faction in the Watch Dogs universe. Once complete, a Hacking Boost named Superior Capacity is acquired which gives players one additional Battery Slot.

The scenario takes place after Aiden Pearce, the vigilante hero of Watch Dogs, catches the eye of DedSec, a notorious hacker group fighting for freedom and security in the digital age. Aiden receives an encoded message asking him to help some members of this organisation who want payback. Pearce must use his knowledge of Chicago’s complex ctOS network to discover digital vulnerabilities in Umeni Technologies’ security network and earn his reward.

Watch Dogs will be released worldwide on May 27, 2014 on PlayStation®4, PlayStation®3, Microsoft Xbox One® the all-in-one games and entertainment system, Microsoft Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system and Windows PC. The Wii U™ version will release at a later date.

Stay connected to Watch Dogs by visiting the official websiteFacebook page and Twitter account.

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