Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Star Wars: Episode VII Cast Revealed

Star Wars: Episode VII Cast Revealed

It's the news we've been waiting for for ages.

The full first cast list of Star Wars: Episode VII has been revealed...

"The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.
"Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker in the new film.

"Director J.J. Abrams says, 'We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.'

Star Wars: Episode VII hits screens on December 18, 2015

Only Lovers Left Alive: Movie Review

Only Lovers Left Alive: Movie Review

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska
Director: Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch's latest, Only Lovers Left Alive, finally arrives in the cinema after its premiere as the closing film of last year's International Film Festival.

It's the (slight) story of vampire lovers Adam (Tom Hiddleston channeling lounge lizard and Iggy) and Eve (a more animated Tilda Swinton than I've seen in years).

The duo have been together for years and have seen it all - but are currently living apart. She in Tangier, he in Detroit. He's become a recluse within the walls of his mansion, bitter at how the "zombies" have taken over the world, playing music and having Anton Yelchin's Ian running errands for him - including sourcing old guitars from rock history.

She, on the other hand, also leads the solitary life, getting blood from Christopher Marlowe (a wizened John Hurt). When she calls Adam one day, she decides to head to Detroit to be with him, amid concerns over his mental health.

Adam's elated to see her but things take a turn for the chaotic when Eve's sister Ava, a wild child (Mia Wasikowska) shows up and throws everything into turmoil.

Only Lovers Left Alive is an impeccably cool piece of cinema, with a playful tone at its heart.

Admittedly nothing really substantial happens within this tome as it unspools; deadpan comments over knowing and influencing famous people are made by the duo and that's about as exciting as it ever gets.

But it's just Jarmusch being a bit playful throughout - he evocatively manages to conjure up the worlds they live in; Hiddleston's Adam, surrounded by wires and useless technology, lives in a world of clutter. His only interactions are with Anton Yelchin's hanger-on Ian andJeffrey Wright's doctorfrom whom he sources blood.

There's dry humour aplenty in the piece as well - from visual gags such as Hiddleston's dressed up doctor wearing shades in a hospital and causing his supplier to jump to verbal jousting and acidly goofy one-liners which come out of nowhere, (the doctors in the blood bank are Dr Faust, Dr Calgari and Dr Watson) the screenplay carefully mixes cool with audience pleasing moments.

Visually impressive, moodily sombre in tone in places yet deliciously deadpan in others and with little going on outside of the atmospherics, you could be forgiven for not diving into Jarmusch's take on the vampire world in Only Lovers Left Alive..

However, it's due to the leads that it largely succeeds: Hiddleston's introspective and almost suicidal Adam, with half of his face covered with lank dark black hair and Swinton's animated, platinum blond locked Eve are eminently watchable thanks to some real onscreen chemistry. Which is just as well, because occasionally the film meanders and appears to have no overall plot or point.

All in all, Only Lovers Left Alive is a mischievous yet laid back movie, a vampire film with a more satirical than scary bite.


The Sly Trilogy: PS Vita Review

The Sly Trilogy: PS Vita Review

Released by Sucker Punch
Platform: PS Vita

Cartoony platformer Sly Cooper got a HD release a couple of years back with a wrap of all three of his games - and now it's time for these to be ported over to the PS Vita and the handheld crowd.

If you're not familiar with the game, then here's a basic overview - it's the story of Sly Cooper, a Raccoon who's got thieving in his blood thanks to the family heritage. On his adventures, he's assisted by Bentley, a turtle with brains, and Murray, a large hippo who's the brawn of the operation.

This trilogy collects together the adventures The Thievius Raccoonus, Band of Thieves and Honor Among Thieves, which sees Sly and the gang thrown into a series of capers and puzzles that you'll need all your wits to survive and succeed at.

It's all about stealth as you guide Sly around the various puzzles and baddies lurking in each game, with many ending up with a fight with a level end boss - but within each game, there's plenty to keep you amused and mini games for Bentley and Murray to be involved in as well.

Visually, the port is an impressive move across with the OLED screen giving it the vibrancy that this comic cartoon needs - the colours are bright and bountiful and look like they've slipped off the pages of a comic or a comic book on TV.

Unsurprisingly, the touch pad's also come into use for the VITA - with the backscreen being used for maps and the front to fire things and bring up Bentley's binoculars. It fits into the gaming and doesn't require too much fiddling from you to try and work it in, and with handhelds that's always a bonus.

Overall, the Sly Trilogy is a good fit for the VITA - it offers fun and thrills as well as silliness aplenty. The raccoon's there for enjoyment and the cartoon-like nature of the game means that it will appeal to all ages.


Towerfall Ascension: PS4 Review

Towerfall Ascension: PS4 Review

Released by Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PS4

It amazes me at the moment how the best games are the ones without the flashy graphics, the deep dive gameplay and the durability of a classic.

While Fez was a platforming blast from the past, this is a simple game of archery and strategy - with a hint of multiplayer thrown in if you so desire. All you have to do is fire a few arrows and see off some bad guys in Towerfall - sounds simple? Well, it sort of is, if you know what you're doing.

You've got limited arrows to let loose on the creatures heading your way, and thanks to the way the screen's set up you can go in on any angle - a la Pac-man - and disappear between levels if you so desire. But once your arrows are gone, you have the option to rush around your tomb-like location to grab them back. Simplicity is the name of the game here really - but the primitive graphics belie a game that's easy to play and an addiction that's easy to get engrossed in.

Power ups pepper the game as well, and occasionally they help, but once you bust out the multiplayer mode, you can see how the competition starts to really kick in as the pressure to grab these and arrows really starts to kick in.

Simple and playable, Towerfall Ascension isn't anything more than just good fun - its simplicity is duplicitous as you battle on. For an archery game, it really does hit a bullseye.


Kinect Sports Rivals: XBox One Review

Kinect Sports Rivals: XBox One Review

Platform: XBox One
Released by Microsoft

Here comes the first title for the XBox One which really relies on the Kinect sensor to propel the gaming along.

Sports Rivals sees you once again taking on the computer or some mates at various sports using the Kinect sensor to aid (or in some cases, fail to aid) you towards a winning path.

The game begins with the basics of setting up your champion, a start which could have been impressive if it weren't so cumbersome and slightly frustrating. (Sadly this is something which is symptomatic of the release overall). Using the sensor, you get to build your champion after selecting your gender - but despite Dr Who David Tennant's soothing tones, failure to get it spot on with the sensors could mean that you end up wanting to throw the thing out of the window. However, when it comes to the facial recognition the software is relatively spot on, using blocks to recreate you and giving you the chance to be in the action.

Once that's done, it's on to the games themselves - six of them to be precise; wake racing, climbing, target shooting, soccer, bowling and tennis. These games actually require you to get off your backside, off the couch and in front of the TV, pretending to be some kind of sporting expert. It ranges from the relatively easy - target shooting involves pointing fingers at the screen to quite difficult - the wake racing needs you to crouch, flex your hands and move your body all over the place. Bowling is also fun and brings back memories of the Wii and the fun that gave me as I fired the controller around, determined to get a strike and beat my wife.

The thing is with Kinect Sports Rivals, you will get as much out of it as you want - it's a social occasion in some ways, with a chance to get mates involved, but you need to make sure the motion sensor is at its best. All too often in this, I found myself verging on real frustration as the game didn't do exactly what I wanted to - but when it worked properly, it fires up well.

Kudos to those behind this title as they make the very best of the Kinect sensor. It's the first game to really do so and for that, it deserves to be praised.


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Carrie: DVD Review

Carrie: DVD Review

Rating: R16
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent

So, after the 1976 classic of Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie, we get the 2013 re-imagining of the Stephen King iconic story.

Kick Ass' Hit Girl, Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Carrie White, who this time around is an abused child, locked in the cupboard under the stairs by a religious puritannical fundamentalist zealot of a mother (Julianne Moore) traumatised by the birth and confused by the conception.

Shy, awkward and stooping, Carrie is an outsider at high school and encounters the first throes of womanhood in a shower in front of all her classmates. Mocked and bullied by them for her reaction, and taped on a mobile phone (one of only a few touches which suggest this film is in the modern day setting), Carrie begins to realise she has powers springing up from this life-changing event.

But along with those powers, the bullying of a group of girls increases and begins to make her life hell; with only the protection of Judy Greer's PE teacher, it's clear something's gotta give. However, a ray of light comes when one boy Tommy offers to take her to the prom (it's because his girlfriend felt guilty about the bullying) and soon Carrie starts to believe that she's normal and being accepted.

The prom comes around - and we all know what happened to Carrie at the prom....

The remake of Carrie is frightfully dull, despite the best intentions of those involved.

Chloe Grace Moretz doesn't quite give off the impression of a Carrie; she's all wide-eyed, open-mouthed, looking like she's permanently stubbed her toe as she wanders from one miserable encounter to the next. She only really comes alive and brings a few of the chills during the discovery of her powers with her mother and when asked to call upon the naively innocent girl within during being pursued to go to the prom. Elsewhere, she tries to deliver a performance that plays on the outsider but doesn't quite make it thanks to her really not looking the part in the same way that Spacek did.

That the film doesn't quite work is also due in part to the mostly stereotyped bullies, who are scantily sketched out and proffer up little character of their own, meaning there's hardly any kind of pull when the telekinetic storm is unleashed at the prom. That scene alone though is more of a performance though; Chloe Grace Moretz's almost orchestral and balletic movements seem like a show being put on as bits start flying around (a la many superhero origin movies you've seen) and the stuff hits the proverbial fan.

Equally, Julianne Moore gives relatively good unhinged as the mother who'd rather pray and banish Carrie under the stairs than connect with her growing daughter. Complete with self-harming, Moore's mother adds little to the film after a mightily impressive opening birthing scene which is truly horrific and packed with psychological damage.

Religious iconography is plastered rather scattergun throughout the film - a statue of Jesus bleeds from the stigmata when Carrie's trapped in her cupboard, one character's killed off in a crucifixion pose - and it's a little heavy-handed. A degree of subtlety, rather than plenty of slow-mo shots, would have been more effective in conveying the horror.

Overall, the 2013 remake of Carrie doesn't really succeed in bringing anything new or original to the cinematic table - it's all been done exceptionally well back in its 1976 version. This Carrie is a bit of a bloody misfire; not exactly a disaster, but not exactly a seized opportunity.

Extras: Creating Carrie, telekinesis coffee shop stunt


Monday, 28 April 2014

Comedy Fest Q&A - Rhys Mathewson

Comedy Fest Q&A - Rhys Mathewson

1. Tell us the name of your show:
Hombre Lobo. Although I'm typing these answers up on my iPhone, so      it might have come out has Jumbo Kobi.

2. Which came first - the show name or the content?
Can anyone ever really tell? It's one of those "what came first, the garden centre or the cafe inside a garden centre?" type things

3. C'mon be honest...
Half the content - show title- other half of the content.

4. Any other working titles for the show?
No, but I have a whole bunch of titles for next year's show. Current front runners are "Tsar Bomba" "Nouveau Rhys" and "Woot Hang Clam"

5. How long - honestly - have you been working on this?
It started forming in my head around a year ago, but it didn't start getting worked on until the last 6 months.
Why do you keep asking for my "honest" answer? I feel like you as an interviewer, do not trust me. I feel like there are some trust issues here.

6. What's been the biggest challenge of pulling this show together?
Flying back from the UK. Boy, are my arms tired.

7. Who is your biggest comedy rival - and why?
Guy Williams. I don't really want to go into it, you should get Guy to tell you what happened. Suffice to say he knows what he did.

8. Who's your biggest comedy friend - and why?
TJ McDonald is my best comedy friend. We have a connection that no other comedian could understand.

9. Which show is your must see?
Nick Gibb - 4am Thoughts. I think Nick is the funniest joke writer in the country at the moment. Plus he's going to be my sidekick for one of the Wellington late shows, and this plug will make up for that.

10. Give us your definition of a great night out during the festival?
Having Tanukis, having a nap, doing my show, watching someone else's show, then drinking from the late show through til 5am. Then McDonalds. Far too much McDonalds. Then do it all again.
I am a Phoenix.

11. What goes through your mind, the minute before the curtain goes up?
Don't eff it up.

12. What about when you are on stage?
Trying to exist in the emotions of the jokes, being aware of how the audience is feeling and thinking, analysing the reaction to previous jokes by applying everything I've learnt from every other gig, using that analysis to correct the delivery of upcoming jokes. See, it's not so easy as talking about willies and balls.
Though there is a lot of that.

13. how easily distracted are you?
Very. I can tangent like a mutha.

14. Give us your comedy dream line up:
Jarred Christmas, Pete Holmes, John Mulaney, TJ Miller, Louis ck, Kyle kinane, Greg Fleet, Felicity Ward,  Nick Helm, Stewart Lee, Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres, Carey Marx, Phil Nichol, Flight of the Conchords, then Daniel Kitson headlining til the sun comes up.

15. Just finally, where will you be in 5 years time?
Hopefully everywhere, but that's just my messiah complex talking.

Comedy Fest Q&A - Paul Ego

Comedy Fest Q&A - Paul Ego

Tell us the name of your show:
‘AMAZINGBALLS’ (I like to use the full version of the word as it appeared in the New Testament)

Which came first - the show name or the content?
The content definitely. Then once I was content with the content I got a baby names book and chose something that matched what the show was looking like…and it looked more like an ‘Amazingballs’ than a Tobias or a Sophie.

C'mon be honest...
I’m being 100% honest not including GST, that’s as close as it gets for me.

Any other working titles for the show?
Yep, originally it was gonna be called CHOICE or HORSE but my wife didn’t like those as girl’s names.

How long - honestly - have you been working on this?
The majority of it has been honed on-stage over the past couple of years but some of it I’ve just thought of in the past couple of weeks. Plus I’ll probably throw in some stuff I haven’t worked on at all.

What's been the biggest challenge of pulling this show together?
Waiting to start! Once I had the name of the show I just wanted to do it straight away. I’m very impatient and get bored easily.

Who is your biggest comedy rival - and why? Currently it’s my 14 year old son, he loves his comedy, is better at voices than me and he has more energy. He’s tried out for the Class Comedians programme a couple of times but he’s too young yet to go through.

Who's your biggest comedy friend - and why?
Jeremy Corbett. Much as I mock him on 7Days he’s a great sounding board for ideas as we have a similar sense of humour and love silliness more than anything.

Which show is your must see?
Well I’d be an idiot if I didn’t say mine wouldn’t I?

Give us your definition of a great night out during the festival?
Thai food, couple of beers, then cram in a 7pm show, then an 8.30, then a 10pm and then a Late’n’Live.

What goes through your mind, the minute before the curtain goes up?
Did I go to the toilet?

What about when you are on stage?
I should have gone to the toilet.

How easily distracted are you?
Sorry, I was outside riding my bike, what?

Give us your comedy dream line up:
MC Tim Shadbolt followed by Craig Campbell, Ricky Gervais, Louis CK, Eddie Izzard and a baby called Charlie who bites his brother’s finger.

Just finally, where will you be in 5 years time?
About to open my new show ‘Phenomenuts’

Comedy Fest Q&A - Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

Comedy Fest Q&A - Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

1. Tell us the name of your show:
Hell Will Be Easier
2. Which came first - the show name or the content?
Name. Still working on the content.

3. C'mon be honest...

4. Any other working titles for the show?
Hell Would Be Easier, Hell Should Be Easier. I was on a roll that day.

5. How long - honestly - have you been working on this?
Probably a few months.

6. What's been the biggest challenge of pulling this show together?
I haven't done a festival show for 3 years so i have a lot of material to go from. Figuring out if some of it is still topical is always a struggle. Went through a stage last year where i wrote a lot of material on Grumpy Cat who, it turns out, no one cares about anymore.

7. Who is your biggest comedy rival - and why?
Probably myself. If i put my mind to it I know I could be pretty good but I'm lazy and never really took comedy seriously enough. Hoping this show changes that.

8. Who's your biggest comedy friend - and why?
There's a lot of them. It's a pretty tight community but since I moved to Wellington i kinda lost touch with some people. I don't want to mention my favourites in case someone unfriends me on Facebook tomorrow.

9. Which show is your must see?
Brendhan Lovegrove is probably my favourite comedian in NZ,  Also went overseas at the start of the year to some film festivals with Rhys Darby,Jonny Brugh and Jackie Van Beek so I'm keen to see their shows from what they told me about them.
10. Give us your definition of a great night out during the festival?
In Wellington, go to Sweet Mothers Kitchen for dinner, go to a show then finish the night at one of the late shows at San Fran Bathouse. In Auckland, go Tanukis Cave, go to the Classic for a show then again, pick a late show. Heaps of local celebs hang out at the Classic so if you're into celeb spotting, i suggest hanging out there. I saw the girl from the Big Save Furniture ads there once.

11. What goes through your mind, the minute before the curtain goes up?
I hope I don't fuck this up. I hope there's  people there. I hope no one i knows is in the front row. I need to vomit.

12. What about when you are on stage?
Same as 11 but a bit more spewy

13. how easily distracted are you?
Very. I don't deal well with people talking during my shows. Instead of a witty comeback i either get angry or storm off.

14. Give us your comedy dream line up: 
Flight of the Conchords, Seinfeld, Steven Wright

15. Just finally, where will you be in 5 years time?
Married with kids, living in Glen Innes or something. Dream big.  

Enough Said: Blu Ray Review

Enough Said: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent

Tis a rare beast - a rom-com that feels fresh, doesn't rely on cliches and doesn't short change the characters and the audience.

It's an even rarer one that tackles an older set of protagonists, and does such a wonderful job of it. (Sure, we've had Hope Springs, but....)

Enough Said, from Walking and Talking director Nicole Holofcener, is the tale of divorced and single parent Eva (played with wonderful realism by VEEP and Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Saddled with a massive masseuse table and moving from client to client, Eva is worried about her daughter's impending departure for college. A chance meeting at a party throws her into the path of self-confessed slob Albert (James Gandolfini in his last full movie role), who's in a similar situation. Despite Eva's initial dismissal of Albert, she finds herself attracted to him and a romance blossoms.

But there's a stumble in this road to romance - one of Eva's clients is always bitching about her ex-husband and revealing the real reasons why she left . That sends Eva into a tailspin of doubt over Albert - however, there are bigger revelations ahead.

Enough Said is an absolute delight of a movie, an incisive and often hilarious insight into relationships later in life and an examination of how people's foibles can prove to be their undoing. Gently unassuming and charmingly honest, it's a film that deserves to stand on its own two feet rather than being mired in the sentiment of it being one of James Gandolfini's last before his untimely death.

Both Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus absolutely nail their roles, imbuing each with warmth and a raw honesty that's completely compelling and utterly entrancing. Gandolfini in particular displays a softer, more melancholy and self-deprecating side to his character that's so rarely been seen due to his more hard men roles like The Sopranos and his turn in Killing Them Softly. The screen crackles with their repartie and it never feels try hard or forced; ultimately their chemistry is disarming and enthralling to watch.

Louis-Dreyfus displays her usual touch of light comedy for the majority of the film and manages to fill her character with recognisable traits and touches. It helps that there's a well-observed script which dances over the material with ease, while skirting into the bittersweet territory of the flow and ebb of post marriage relationships / adult romances.

All in all, Enough Said deserves to be seen for more reasons than it's simply one of James Gandolfini's last films. It's an incisive, insightful, gently unassuming yet beautifully put together heartfelt adult romantic comedy which has a warmth running through its cinematic veins.

Extras: Featurettes (nothing radical) Outtakes reel - disappointing for a great film


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Delivery Man: Blu Ray Review

Delivery Man: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

A remake of a 2011 French-Canadian film called Starbuck, Delivery Man is a somewhat revelation when it comes to its leading man. That leading man is Vince Vaughn and in this more-or-less shot-for-shot remake of the original (under the helmship of the original director Scott). Vaughn is David Wozniak, a meat delivery man, whose heart is in the right place but who can't seem to find the right time to do the right thing.

He discovers his girlfriend Emma (How I Met Your Mother's Cobie Smulders) is pregnant with their child, but due to his flakiness and the fact he's not always there, he's potentially about to be booted out of her life. Coupled with the fact he owes $80,000 to some guys who will finish him if it's not paid up, and you can see how Wozniak isn't exactly coping with the pressures of life. But things get worse for Wozniak when the fertility clinic where he prolifically donated in his youth comes to him, revealing that he fathered some 530 plus children. And a group of those are suing the clinic to discover his identity...

Suffering a crisis of identity himself, Wozniak decides to become the guardian angel in their lives rather than fully reveal who he is....

I already know what you're thinking about Delivery Man, because I was thinking it too when I saw its lead was Vince Vaughn. You're visualising a raucous, Wedding Crashers, brash boorish kind of film that makes jokes at every turn and sees Vaughn as lead prankster. And even worse, you'd be expecting an abomination of the rather impressive original Starbuck...

Well, you'd be wrong. This turn by Vince Vaughn is, for the most part, one of his best sinceSwingers thanks to an introspective dialled-down, slightly muted turn by the man. Wozniak is an underachiever, a brow beaten schlub whose life is lacking meaning and whose decisions are always the wrong ones. And Vaughn manages to channel all of that with a restrained, almost at times mournful, performance that has a heart and warmth that's endearing. When Wozniak tells his father he's scared he'll disappoint, there's pathos etched across Vaughn's face aplenty. There are occasional moments when Vaughn teeters on bringing out the over-acting, but director Scott appears to reign him back in. The interactions between Wozniak and his lawyer and brow-beaten father Brett (a terribly dry Chris Pratt) produce the lion's share of the laughs as the dryly farcical moments build up.

Scott also deserves praise - the script is tight, dryly funny when it really needs to be and he's helmed a ship which doesn't feel like your typical Hollywood dramedy. It's faithful to the original - and I'm guessing Scott had a great hand in that.

All in all Delivery Man more than delivers - and it produces one of the biggest surprises of the year from Vaughn.

Extras: Bloopers, deleted scene


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Mild Life Crisis: Comedy Fest Q&A

Comedy Fest Q&A –
A MILD LIFE CRISIS – each comedian in the show has answered the questions.

Brad Zimmerman

Tell us the name of your show:
1. A Mild Life Crisis

Which came first – the show name or the show content?
2. The content came first, and became the link between the three of us performers. We're all miserable old bastards (some of us before our time)

C’mon, be honest…. 
3. That was pretty honest, I reckon.

Any other working titles for the show?
4. My favourite working title is "Three Dumpy Unattractive White Guys Talk About Their Problems"

How long – honestly- have you been working on this?
5. Long enough to know it's going to rock your young world. whippersnapper. Or more accurately since last year's Comedy Festival.

What’s been the biggest challenge of pulling this show together
6. Biggest challenge has been getting the three of us in the same place long enough to hash things out. We're old, but we're all quite busy.

Who’s your biggest comedy rival – and why?
7. We're all in this crazy game together. Who has time for rivalry?

Who’s your biggest comedy friend – and why?
8. We're all in this crazy game together. Who has time for friendship?

Which show is your must see? Why?
9. Oh so many! That's what's great (and terrible) about the Festival. I really want to see what Adam Wright can do, in his first ever solo show (Adam Wright: Utopia). Also internationals like Steve Hughes and Tom Wrigglesworth.

Give us your definition of a great night out during the festival.
10. A great night out at the Festival is seeing three shows at the same venue, in one night. Local shows are often the best value for money and the best way to soak in heaps of comedy at once. (Try Kitty O'Sheas)

What goes through your mind, the minute before curtain goes up? 
11. I just remind myself that everybody in the room wants me to succeed. If I'm funny, then the audience has a good time, and I have a good time as well. We all win.

What about when you’re on stage?
12. When I'm on stage I'm thinking about how much time has passed so far, what the next few jokes are, if my closing joke is going to work, what that girl in the front row was thinking when she did her hair like that, where that guy over by the bar got his cool t-shirt, is my fly undone, why isn't that old guy laughing with everyone else, and a million other things.

How easily distracted are you?
13. If you look above, you'll see the answer is "very easily".

14. Dream comedy lineup?
Wow. Um, Louis CK, Mitch Hedberg, Sarah Millican, Hannibal Burress, Ricky Gervais, Daniel Kitson, Pete Holmes, I could list names all day if you had the print space.

Just finally, where will you be in 5 years’ time
15. In five years time, I'll be standing in the street, crying like a wuss, because my daughter just started her first day of school. She's about to be born in a few more weeks, you see... that's my mild life crisis.

Ricky Threlfo

Comedy Fest Q&A
1) Tell us the name of your show: What Brad said.
2) Which came first – the show name or the show content?
The content. We used a computer algorithm to come up with the show name. The best it could come up with was a pun.

3) C’mon, be honest…. Neither.

4) Any other working titles for the show?
The Medicine (shameless plug for my weekly show, 8pm, every Wed night at ‘Cavern Club’, Wellington)

How long – honestly- have you been working on this?
For the last 12 months . . . to the detriment of my day job.

What’s been the biggest challenge of pulling this show together?
It was pretty easy actually, no other comedians wanted to work with us. We’re that funny.

7) Who’s your biggest comedy rival – and why?
What Brad said.

Who’s your biggest comedy friend – and why?
John Doe, he's put on 15 kilograms of funny in the last 12 months.

9) Which show is your must see? Why?
Let me check the program and get back to you.

10) Give us your definition of a great night out during the festival.
Seeing our show of course!

11) What goes through your mind, the minute before curtain goes up?
We don’t have a curtain!

12) What about when you’re on stage?
Where is everybody?

How easily distracted are you?
What’s the time?

Give us your dream comedy line up:
Hannibal Burress, Paul F Tompkins, Patrice O’Neil, Bill Burr.

Just finally, where will you be in 5 years’ time.
If the apocalypse doesn’t happen, I’ll probably be relaxing on a yacht or working on goat farm.

15. In five years time, I'll be standing in the street, crying like a wuss, because my daughter just started her first day of school. She's about to be born in a few more weeks, you see... that's my mild life crisis.

1)      Tell us the name of your show
A Mild Life Crisis
2)      Which came first – the show name or the show content?
The title
3)      C’mon, be honest….
Ok, ok… The title.
4)      Any other working titles for the show?
Well it was originally going to be called The Young Professionals Guide to a Life Crisis, my friend Jared Bosecke came up with that. But he got given a solo show so I ran with his idea to the other guys and we came up with what we have now.
5)      How long – honestly- have you been working on this?
I haven’t even started working on my material. I should probably get on to that eh?

6)      What’s been the biggest challenge of pulling this show together?
Trying to juggle my commitments between full time employment, comedy, my girlfriend and not many people know this, but I am Sheamus from the WWE.
7)      Who’s your biggest comedy rival – and why?
The audience. They’re the ones that you have to try and impress and make laugh. I view them as my competition.
8)      Who’s your biggest comedy friend – and why?
Tough to choose just one so I’ll choose the Work Stories guys that I performed with in the last two festivals, Ants, Dan, Jared and Vitale.
9)      Which show is your must see? Why?
Reginald D Hunter has been a favourite of mine for a while now. I can’t wait to see him and I think New Zealand audiences will love him. He’s intelligent, witty and has boundary pushing material. Most of all though, he’s hilarious. Also, make sure if you’re in Wellington that you check out Jared Bosecke and Alexander Sparrow.
10)   Give us your definition of a great night out during the festival
Performing your show to a sold out audience, then heading back to the San Fran for drinks and a lock in with other comedy peeps and being lead in a rendition of Piano Man by Vaughan King! Now that’s a pretty sweet night!
11)   What goes through your mind, the minute before curtain goes up?
The first sentence that I’m going to say. If I can get that out without any trouble then I tend to be all good.
12)   What about when you’re on stage?
To have fun and enjoy what you do. But also, don’t fuck it up!
13)   How easily distracted are you?
Too easily distracted, especially by YouTube! I’m usually like “Ooh, I have to watch that NOW!”. It’s generally comedy or pro wrestling videos.
14)   Give us your dream comedy line up
Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Jim Jeffries, Steve Hughes, Reginald D Hunter and Billy Connolly

15)   Just finally, where will you be in 5 years’ time

I’d like to think that I’m living off my millions that I’ve made from comedy and bank rolling the Taranaki NPC team. But in all likelihood I’ll be cleaning out cement from kiln number 2 at Holcim in Westport…Or living in Featherston? Both are pretty bad…

Brad, Ricky and Tito perform A MILD LIFE CRISIS (AKL 25 - 26 April & WLG 7 - 10 May) as part of the 2014 NZ International Comedy Festival in cahoots with Old Mout Cider (24 – 18 May).  For more info visit

Transcendence: Movie Review

Transcendence: Movie Review

Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy
Director: Wally Pfister

There are some big beefy sci-fi and existential questions under scrutiny in Transcendence.

Johnny Depp stars as Dr Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher who's part of a team that wants to create a sentient artificial machine. But his desire to do so isn't universally shared, with a splinter terrorist group (called RIFT) violently opposed to doing so.

When Caster's shot at an event as part of a simultaneous terror attack, it transpires the bullet's laced with polonium and he begins to succumb to radiation poisoning. However, this merely pushes Caster and his wife, Evelyn (Hall) ahead with their project to upload his consciousness to a computer.

Aided by long time friend, Max (Bettany), the project falters, but suddenly, Caster's consciousness takes hold, and grows, putting them all on a moral and physical collision course with the RIFT separatists.

Transcendence is a case of great ideas, great cast but terrible execution.

Pfister's eye as a cinematographer is clearly evident throughout, with some truly gorgeous shots on display, but it appears his aptitude as a director is somewhat lacking as the film lapses into cliched horror movie territory, having squandered an intellectually impressive premise.

Depp is comatose as Caster, before he actually becomes comatose as a version of 80s icon Max Headroom on a screen - he's no HAL that's for sure; Hall goes from desperate wife unable to let go to horrified at what she's created and Paul Bettany's Max is the worst offender - initially, fully on board with Caster's plan, but kidnapped by RIFT and appears to turn against him without any hint of reason other than being locked in a cage like a monkey by a Julian Assange blonde haired lead terrorist, played with dead behind the eyes by Kate Mara.

Lapses in logic and story-telling blight Transcendence, turning it from a great sci-fi premise to a schlocky B- movie fest that takes in cliches aplenty. Visually, it's mightily impressive and on an intellectual, it has pretensions above its director's grasp. For a techno-thriller, it veers more into plodding than riveting and dulls any initial interest with a lack of cohesion.

Ultimately, Transcendence is a wasted opportunity all round as it teeters into cliched sci-fi territory and revels in the hokum of science and wastes its cast instead of concentrating on solid story-telling.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Penny Ashton Comedy Fest Q&A

Penny Ashton Comedy Fest Q&A

Tell us the name of your showPromise and Promiscuity: A New Musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton

Which came first – the show name or the show content?The Title

C’mon, be honest….How dare you challenge my propriety.

Any other working titles for the show?Indeed not, I knew it had to be immediately evocative of our beloved Miss Jane Austen and that it also had to have her name in it. Mine is secondary you understand.

How long – honestly- have you been working on this?
You seem to intimate we comics are tardy in our preparations. I began toiling on my theatrical in mid 2012. I workshopped it with the eminantly eligible Mr Ben Crowder in late 2012 and debuted it at the charming Auckland Fringe Festival 2013.  From there it toured to that other colony; Canada, where it received the most wondrous reviews that I couldn’t possibly mention as it would not be humble. (Oh if you insist; 5 Stars, CBC, Manitoba.)  Since then it is booked to appear a mere 73 times this year….. as unbecoming as it is for a lady to work you understand. I expect I’ll be tired and distinctly unmarried by the end of it all.

What’s been the biggest challenge of pulling this show together?
For the intial production I would have to say trusting in myself to write a play, having never done that before. I seriously had no clue if I could or not.  Having improvised about 40 Austen Musicals with my improv troupe I knew what japes worked well, but who knew about the rest.  It seems I can, thanks be to the heavens.  The fun part was making my bonnet with a newfangled hot glue gun, and designing my most fetching costume.

Who’s your biggest comedy rival – and why?
Emily Bronte.  That bitch has it coming.

Who’s your biggest comedy friend – and why?

My partner, Mr Matthew Harvey. He is relatively new to the world of performance and comedy, but he staged a most accomplished Fringe show of his comedy poetry that was most pleasing and had the audience in stitiches. He is there to bounce ideas off of, whether he likes it or not, and is my metaphorical standing ovation every single day.

Which show is your must see? Why?
Oliver Twisted: An Improvised Dickens. I must see it as I am also in it and it will be very hard not to see it therefore. It will ALSO be a very silly fun time involving ladies of the night and vile foodstuffs. Otherwise Tom Wrigglesworth. I saw his last show and enjoyed the humour AND the heart in it.  I read that this is similar in that respect.

Give us your definition of a great night out during the festival
A fantastic show followed by a cheeky beer, always must be beer, then chatting to people who make a living doing the same sort of stupid things I do.

What goes through your mind, the minute before curtain goes up?
This corset is very tight.

What about when you’re on stage?
I eagerly anticipate the lines are know are packed with laughs. I can't wait to get to them.  It’s also possible to think about entirely mundane things when you’re onstage like what you’ll have for lunch the next day.

How easily distracted are you?
Well in Fort McMurray Canada, I was doing this show and the 6 month old screaming baby distracted me quite a lot. So much so I kicked her out. Well her Mum. Her 2 year old sister hadn’t been too quiet either. I gently reminded said mama I am not a TV.

Give us your dream comedy line up
Bette Midler, Dame Edna, Shirley McLaine, Louis CK, Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler. It’d be weird, but the oestrogen would get me totally high in a very good way.

Just finally, where will you be in 5 years’ time
IN Auckland, still not affording a house, marrying people (as a celebrant, not a Mormon), enjoying life and probably still recovering from my 45th birthday 2 months earlier. 

Penny Ashton performs her show PENNY ASHTON IN PROMISE AND PROMISCUITY A New Musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton in Auckland Tue 6 May - Sat 10 May, 7pm. 
For more information visit

Old Mout Comedy Gala Review

Old Mout Cider Comedy Gala Review

It was a veritable smorgasbord of comics served up for your entertainment at the launch of the New Zealand International Comedy festival in Auckland.

21 in total - including the impish and anarchic host, Irishman Jason Byrne. He got off to an anally obsessed start and there were concerns that this was to be his obsession throughout, but thankfully, scatalogical humour was soon sidelined for a geniality that impressed as a host and a repartie that thrived on audience interaction and an uncertainty over what was to come next. (Complete with Wrecking Ball opening that had the audience in stitches) I'd be interested to see what a show he provides as being an MC is a completely different role to having a solo show, but with a quick wit and clever insight, he's clearly got an edge to watch.

It has to be said as well, that for the most part, the international visitors had the edge over the local comics - from the glee of Reginald D Hunter, who's making his first visit to New Zealand and seems genuinely thrilled to be here to last year's crowd favourite James Acaster (with some popular material from last year), there was a frisson of something different about them.

That's not to say the locals didn't put up a good fight - from last year's Fred Award, Jarred Christmas' obsessions to Guy Williams' taking his virtual war against Bishop Brian Tamaki into the real world, there was something for everyone at the opening. Samoan contender for any kind of Rat Pack revival James Nokise intoned how twerking was pooing in an earthquake in Samoa, before turning R&B tunes into reality. (Seriously, that guy always looks so damned smart wherever he goes). Show closer Rhys Darby got dangerously close to jazz ballet thanks to his finely honed pins and some silly physical comedy over theft and pickpockets.

It's good to see Jamie Bowen back on the comedy scene here, after a UK imposed absence which has done his brand of edginess no harm and provided material aplenty. His deduction of how life is like a box (not of chocolates though) belied a ferocious intelligence that burns still brightly.

Elsewhere, Rose Matafeo and Urzila Carlson flew the flag for the female contingent with both musing on life but on completely different tangents. Matafeo used her awkwardness to channel one of the best vibrating phones I've ever heard and Carlson put the fear of goodness into anyone ever planning to leave food on their plate again.

While there were some insights into the human condition (mainly from abroad) - UK Stalwart and top performer Steven K Amos rued the role of spokespeople , John Gordillo talked gay marriage and generational misunderstandings, US comic Reginald D Hunter got inside the Oscar Pistorius case in a way no-one else had - others settled for the smaller details in life.

UK comic Carl Donnelly mused on how a crumpet nearly killed him but veered off into a discussion about who drills the holes in the top and Brit comedienee Sara Pascoe talked irrational fears to comic ends. Aussie Steve Hughes very nearly lost the audience with a few edgy comments about the missing flight MH370 but showed how his dangerous skewed view on life can be a good thing if you like darker moments.

Aussie comic (and Super Mario Bros impersonator) Sam Simmons' bread obsession nearly got the better of the audience in a few moments of complete absurdity and Tom Binns as psychic Ian D Montford brilliantly and perfectly managed to send up those who make a living from psychics and their general vagueness. But audience interaction with 2 people left you wondering if he had some real skills on this front or whether they were plants. Still, he marked himself out as one to watch.

Paul Ego, Ben Hurley, Marcel Lucont and Nick Rado completed the line up too; all offering something different and providing more comic for your dollar seemed to be the way forward for the night, occasionally leading to a feeling that the bird was over-stuffed with goodness and that 4 minutes for each was just not enough.

There are certainly plenty of offerings in Auckland and Wellington over the next few weeks as the festival kicks in and it's worth getting in among the mix to get a giggle or two as the dark nights draw in.

For more on the NZ Comedy Festival and to book tickets, visit their website.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Half of A Yellow Sun: Movie Review

Half of A Yellow Sun: Movie Review

Cast: Chiwetel Eijofor, Thandie Newton, John Boyega
Director: Biyi Bandele

Based on the novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the story of Half Of A Yellow Sun concentrates on four people trying to live their lives during the Nigerian war of 1967-1970.

The film focuses on two sisters, Olanna (Newton) and Kainene as they are caught up in the conflict. Olanna's move in with her professor lover (played by 12 Years A Slave star Chiwetel Eijofor) brings about repercussions that none of them could have expected as the explosions of the coup outside match the emotional bombs going off at home.

Half of A Yellow Sun is one of those movies that's earnest in intentions, expertly well crafted, but feels occasionally aloof in its execution.

Using archive newsreel footage to serve as exposition for what's going on around them, Bandele chooses to let the people live in the moment rather than spend time setting the scene. The resulting shocks therefore feel a little calculated and serve to punctuate the narrative rather than help it along - a wedding is interrupted by shelling bringing horror into what should be a happy moment.

As the melodrama increases, there's the feeling that none of the characters are eminently likeable or leave you feel you should support them as the horrors of civil war come closer to home; it's a curious feeling and one that's more about how unlikeable people deal with difficult circumstances, but it does leave you wondering about its resolution. Talking of which, an out of left field end jars a little as it bookends the events in the Nigerian conflict.

Heartfelt, earnest and at times, a little slow to progress, Half of a Yellow Sun feels simply like a series of mounting tensions that are punctuated by little to no resonance - each character's motivations for their behaviour are too OTT to leave you caring - and for a film where the horrors of war match the horrors of home, it's a queasy unsatisfying mix.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Lego: The Hobbit: PS4 Review

Lego: The Hobbit: PS4 Review

Released by Travellers Tales
Format: PS4

And so, the LEGO train keeps on rolling.

This latest sees Peter Jackson's miniature heroes miniaturised even further, with an adventure that encapsulates the whole of the Hobbit films so far - with DLC promised for the final flick when it arrives.

Following the movie more or less word for word, the humour of the LEGO stories is there for all and sundry to keep up with - once again, you get to play the entire cast of the films as they try and free their kingdom from the wicked dragon Smaug.

The platformer has a few new touches this time around - particularly for the Hobbit. One of these is you get to pick up collectibles around the lego world to trade in to make bits for doors or hooks and keys which are needed - it's a nice touch which adds a bit more than the usual collect all the studs, minikits and other such items. The other new touch is a chance to buddy up with another player to smash items or to work as a team when it counts - again, it's a smart way to deepen the LEGO experience and one which suggests Travellers Tales isn't trying to rest on its mighty laurels. You also get to build LEGO models within the games, under a timer, to collect studs all together and this component is also in the LEGO Movie Videogame - it's one that requires a brief bit of getting used to, but adds a nice touch as you still get to "build" LEGO as it were.

The Hobbit has all the touches of the Tolkein game you'd expect and there's a sheen to it on the PS4 that makes it look flashy and cutesy. Particularly the opening sequences where Bilbo meets the dwarves one by one, (which are faithful to the film) but they have the kind of kiddie appeal that's hard to deny.

Minigames within, collecting bits and bobs - really the LEGO MO hasn't changed much with this title; the battles are a little larger and the chances to buddy up are a welcome relief. The crafting element has added to it as well, giving you a bit more to do, but all in all, the LEGO Hobbit doesn't deviate too far away from what it's supposed to - it brings fun and games to the LEGO world, mixes in a dash of Tolkein and provides an unexpected journey into fun over the Easter holidays.


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