Saturday, 30 August 2014

Wolf Creek 2: Director's Cut: Blu Ray Review

Wolf Creek 2: Director's Cut: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R18
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

Mick is back.

After haunting up peoples' worlds in the 2005 movie Wolf Creek, there's been a long drink between these films.

Based on actual events and likely to be an advertisement for the Aussie outback which no-one wants, Mick Taylor returns to scare up another set of unsuspecting backpackers. This time around, Mick initially terrorises the police as he goes pig hunting, before turning his attention to two German backpackers. When he's forced to kill one of them, another goes on the run, inadvertently bringing a Brit traveller into the horrific games and brutal fight for survival.

Wolf Creek 2 is deeply unpleasant in parts, though, it has to be said nowhere near as bad as the first film which spawned this Aussie menace. With the initial police sequence appearing to be something more out of parody than fright, it feels like the tone is a little sillier than before with Mick reduced more to a caricature than an horrific figure. After the start though, the film shifts back into familiar horror and Wolf Creek territory as the game gets increasingly more concerted and perverse.

While Wolf Creek 2 won't be for all tastes, it's certainly a horror that knows what it wants - but by throwing in sarcastic quips from Mick after his killings, it feels cheaper than before, but still as effective.

Extras: Commentary: Making of, deleted scenes


Friday, 29 August 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Blu Ray Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Blu Ray

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

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 ofCaptain 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 weakerSteve 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.

Extras: On set with Antony Mackie, deleted scenes, inside look


Thursday, 28 August 2014

CounterSpy: PS4 Review

CounterSpy: PS4 Review

Developer: Dynamighty
Platform: PS4

The Cold War is heating up again on the PlayStation 4 with the release of spy thriller, Counterspy.

In this side-scrolling stealth 2D platformer, you play a spy, slap bang in the middle of hostilities, but positioned on neither side. Briefed by C.O.U.N.T.E.R, your mission is to retrieve a series of launch codes, take out the bad guys and save the day by deactivating any potential nuclear launch.

The problem is that as well as collecting intel by searching cupboards, there are also bad guys for you to have to either take down or shoot - as well as the Nuclear clock counting down to Def Con 1 putting the pressure squarely on your shoulders.

Each time you die, the clock ticks ever closer to that launch, and if you run out of chances to run down the clock, then it's all on as there's just 1 minute for you to race through the level, silence any baddies and stop the clock.

CounterSpy is tremendous fun; the minimal visuals as you negotiate both sides of the Cold War are brilliantly realised, with your silhouetted agent slinking and grooving between targets. Employing stealth moves and tactics are really the order of the day, because each mission gets harder and each starts closer to the end of the doomsday clock.

Stealth kills work best, with the soldiers being unable to call in the fact there's a spy loose, but you have to be clever with these; moments when you wander through a camera's field without realising can raise the Def Con Level and cause all manner of chaos without you realising. Likewise, choosing to mow down all the baddies with a machine gun may seem like an obvious solution, but this does alert others to your presence.

Each level is randomly generated, which means that any game can't be cracked in the manner of a traditional platformer with no guarantees of what lies ahead. It's a clever touch, because even though there are only a few variety of levels, the fact they're not the same adds much to the game and prevents too much repetition.

Part of the thrill of CounterSpy (aside from the collecting of weapon blueprints to unlock new weapons and formulas to help you deal with enemies) is how fiendishly addictive it is - each death is avoidable and so the pull back into the game is inevitable. That's despite the glitches within.

It's not all bells and whistles though - a few moments in CounterSpy drag the game down a notch. Several times the game froze at the start of the level for no reason whatsoever, leaving the spy stranded and doing nothing and this gamer frustrated as he elected to quit the mission. Equally moments within the game saw combat moves on 3 baddies at once hit by glitches which meant the takedown cut scenes were smattered by a hail of bullets, meaning that health levels suffered for the start of the next. (Though this can play to your advantage, as you can disarm the end of levels computers by taking a hail of gunfire).

Overall, CounterSpy is great fun; a reminder that simplicity is king and that sometimes the most hours can be lost at a gaming console for the smartest of premises.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Raid 2: Blu Ray Review

The Raid 2: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R18
Released by Madman Home Ent

"It's a question of ambition"

The first words spoken in The Raid 2: Berandal - and all throughout, Evans' ambition shines on like a beacon of directorial delight.

Not long after the first Raid movie finished, shortly after rookie cop Rama (Uwais) chop-sockied his way out of a building piled high with gangsters and bad guys, the sequel takes up. Suddenly, Rama finds himself asked to help weedle out the corruption within the system and enter the world of gangsters, gang warfare and an uneasy truce that's existed for more than a decade.

Despite his initial refusal to do so, the quest to do good is irresistible to Rama - and he finds himself in a world where he's not the biggest fish and there are some pretty dangerous predators around.

The Raid 2: Berandal  is an exceptionally impressive sequel that ups the ante of the first and shows no sign of resting on its laurels.

Evans has settled for the epic, and has certainly achieved that goal more often than not throughout its slightly overlong 2 and a half hours run time. If The Raid proved one thing, it's that a single man, with his fists and a knack for taking on the system could prove to be an incredibly visceral thrill. Certainly, the second reaches the dizzying highs of the first - and then amply exceeds them.

A series of set pieces prove almost balletic in their execution - from a major fight in a prison that becomes a muddy swamp scrap for survival to a final showdown that's likely to have you punching the air, this is an adrenaline packed ride that brings much originality and freshness to the action movie. Evans has directorial flair as well - using his camera to showcase a toilet fight from above and in a bravura extended car chase sequence, a fight within the back seat of the car. He's got vision and scope for the sequel that's jawdropping and fulfilled in every frame.

It's these moments that help lift the film from the predictability that annoyingly lurks in the background. The gang warfare story feels a little cliched and has been done many times before; a slightly bloated saggy middle section creaks with pointless re-exposition and almost flatlines as it sidelines our hero for turf war and attempts to channel Shakespearean type levels of betrayal (that don't quite meet the highs). But it's to Uwais' credit that he makes every moment count, perfectly encapsulating the conflict of trying to do what he believes is right but fighting his inner demons that perhaps he's out of his depth. A nuanced and restrained turn from our hero gives the emotional edge to the terrifically engaging and adrenaline-pumped action moments.

And there are so many of those - along with  Hammer Girl (a half-blind deaf mute whose MO involves, erm, hammers), this is a film whose sequel surpasses the original and delivers more than a kick to the head - it fires a shot in the arm of action movies and audience expectations for them. Beautifully choreographed frenetic fights flow like liquid, and leave the mind boggling over how many takes were needed; but serve to show how much of a talent Uwais is.

As the body count builds in the final act, you forgive the occasional creaks, the odd moment of weird characterisation (chiefly, a hobo looking aide to one family, who kicks serious ass but also has serious daddy issues); they all fade into the distance - because The Raid 2: Berandal packs a powerfully brutal punch, delivers a clear-cut KO to the genre and makes these kinds of movies all kinds of cool once again

Extras: Commentary with Gareth Evans, Q&A, Shooting a sequel, deleted scenes, behind the choreography


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Z-Nail Gang: Movie Review

The Z-Nail Gang: Movie Review

Cast: Errol Shand, Tanya Horo, Paul Ballard
Director: Anton Steel

This week's second passion project, after the release of Kiwi film The Last Saint, is as different a beast as you can get.

Inspired by actual events from the Coromandel in the 1980s, it looks at a small community within the Bay of Plenty battling for the future of their land.

Racked with debt and preferring to bury his head in the sand, Errol Shand's surfer Dave finds his world torn asunder when a multi-national corporation, Golia Minerals, intent on mining gold in the hills, comes to town.

But his wife, Mareeka (Horo) isn't going to stand by and let the big baddies push them around - so, pulling together their community, she starts an insurrection against the corporation, creating waves and divisions not only in the town, but also in her relationship.

The Z-Nail Gang, for all its good intentions, feels unfortunately like a community piece of theatre or telemovie that's made its way onto the big screen.

Preferring to show a community of oddballs and quirky stereotypes that live in small towns, it paints a very simplistic view of life within a coastal town. While the concerns and motivations are to be applauded (the raping of our land and heritage for corporate gain), the execution of the story is mired in comedy that feels like something out of the 1970s British sitcom genre.

Aussie prospectors who let farts out every time they bend over and are bedecked in 1970s porno- moustaches from the Village People, an American corporate boss who's got a black stetson, a comedy overweight policeman who's always eating, a glasses twitching postie, an incompetent lawyer for the protesters - they're all along for this parade of stereotyped comedy cliches and The Z-Nail Gang really does suffer for it, as moments of mugging for the camera come to the fore, drowning out the quieter more empathetic moments from the likes of Tanya Horo's Mareeka.

While it's true the piece has been put together on an extremely tight budget, that doesn't necessarily mean there's a frugality of cinema on show (simply underwritten characters).

The relaxed vibe of the starting sequences, coupled with a wonderfully chilled OST, imbue this piece of Kiwiana with the effortless joy of the coastal lifestyle. And the conflict between Dave and Mareeka would have proved to be more of a fertile dramatic source for this piece, were it not jettisoned in favour of the more cartoon-like elements. It takes over an hour to get to the meaty part of the film - and a final showdown certainly reveals how situations can boil over, but it's a long slog to get there, thanks to an unsure mix of the overly comedic and far too occasionally dramatic.

The Z-Nail Gang may be a passion project for those involved, and their passion certainly comes through for the film - but as a complete viewing experience, it's unfortunately - and sadly - wanting.


The Last Saint: Movie Review

The Last Saint: Movie Review

Cast: Beulah Koale, Joseph Naufahu, Calvin Tuteao, Sophia Huybens
Director: Rene Naufahu

Book-ending the movie with Auckland's Sky Tower, this crime thriller's clearly got the perils of the big bad city on its mind.

Beulah Koale is Minka, a teenager whose life has been ripped apart by the drug P; his mother, a former addict, is struggling to get by and his father, Joe, who owns a club, is involved in gangland concerns. Forced to work with his father, Minka's introduced into a world of crime to raise the cash to keep the wolves from his mum's door - but he soon discovers that the life path he's being guided down is not the safest choice he could ultimately make.

The Last Saint, while harrowing and shocking to some, is going to be a polarising piece.

With no financial support from the NZ Film Commission, the film's been forced into more of a passion project, and it shows within every single frame of the film. With Naufahu's shaky camera, drenched yellow Auckland by night and a searing ferocity on show, there are plenty of elements to admire in this - even if parts of the film suffer from being a little too shaky and appear speedily put together.

Koale impresses as the conflicted individual Minka whose life hangs on a knife edge as the drugs ravage his own personal life and those around him in the world of crime; this is a movie which doesn't shy away from showing some of the effects of addiction - with violence threatening to simmer over at any moment for those wanting their fix, Minka's descent into drug delivery boy is certainly horrifyingly handled.

Equally, Joseph Naufahu is certainly memorable as the P-addled dealer with the moniker of Pinball; though very occasionally, his turn teeters into OTT territory, though one guesses this is due to a drug addiction rather than over-acting on his behalf.

P is also the order of the day here too, with some finding this movie's intentions and execution polarising and also, at times, poignant as different sectors of the community are ripped apart.

While the human element occasionally falters (particularly during some of the fight scenes, where the over-reliance on grunting and bone-crunching sound effects becomes too much), the portrayal of a city ripped apart by a crippling drugs addiction never once veers from its target; oppressively written and impressively acted in parts, The Last Saint is to be applauded for its ambitions, even if its execution doesn't quite fully hit the mark.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Magic in The Moonlight: Movie Review

Magic in The Moonlight: Movie Review

Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Simon McBurney, Jacki Weaver
Director: Woody Allen

Director Woody Allen stays in Europe for his latest outing.

This time it's 1920s France, where famous illusionist (and monstrous man) Wei Ling Soo aka Stanley (an unlikeable Colin Firth) has been called in by his friend Howard (Rev star Simon McBurney) to debunk a clairvoyant Sophie (Emma Stone), who could be part of a scam.

Famously outspoken against clairvoyants, Stanley's determined to remove Sophie from the scene but his plans are derailed when she stuns him with the depth of her knowledge and apparent insight into the spirit world.

And his world view is thrown further into disarray when he starts to spend more time with Sophie.

Magic In the Moonlight follows a typical formula of a man being set up for a fall; with bluster and strong self belief, the skeptic Stanley goes through the motions of vehemently not believing, suddenly believing and then ultimately not believing again as he tries to negotiate his own questions of life beyond the pale.

Brash, abrasive, and generally grumpy, Firth's Stanley is a difficult man to get behind in this piece from Allen, that's about as light and unchallenging as anything he's recently put out. Add to that though, the fact that this Allen flick is as lifeless as one of the spirits Sophie's trying to channel throughout and Magic In the Moonlight starts to lose some of its real shine.

Allen's trademark talkiness is still in play, but the dialogue doesn't sparkle at all; none of the repartie or banter has any hidden levels or revelling in any kind of joy; most of Firth's renunciations and retorts are laced with a cruelty and harshness that means you fail to generate any empathy for what's transpiring. And over time, while the continual digs provide a scoffing from the audience, the overall effect is one of tedium, not medium. Even Stone feels downplayed a little as the waif-like Sophie, the psychic unable to really channel anything other than unfortunately feeling slightly miscast and out of place.

Allen uses the gorgeous setting of southern France to maximum effect but he demonstrates an over-reliance on jazz tunes to segue each scene; it's not enough to lift Magic In the Moonlight in ways you'd be hoping for; a final sequence adds in a clever use of a motif demonstrated early on and offers one delight, but an abrupt ending is shorn of any emotion or pull, with Allen leaving you with the feeling of a rushed screenplay and resolution.

Questions and ruminations on a life after may have been the thrust for this, with even potential discussions and viewpoints of cynicism and vehement denial forming more of a drive for any verbal jousting between Stanley, Sophie and even Howard, but Allen eschews all of that in favour of plenty of scenes of Stanley merely musing out loud.

All in all, Magic In the Moonlight is a film that has no real lasting magic once the lights have gone up even if it is pleasant enough - albeit frustrating - to watch transpire in parts.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

If I Stay: Movie Review

If I Stay: Movie Review

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Jamie Blackley, Stacy Keach, Joshua Leonard
Director: R J Cutler

Based on the Young Adult novel by Gayle Forman of the same name, Kickass' Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Mia, a kid growing up in a musical family.

Her mum and dad (Enos and Leonard) used to be in a local rocker band, her younger brother's into Iggy Pop, but Mia's more classically inclined, with a penchant for the cello which is encouraged not indulged by those around her.

When a snow day is called, the family heads out together for a road trip, but a road accident changes Mia's life - and her family's - forever. Trapped in a coma, Mia must decide whether to return to life or move on.

There's a mix of the quaver of notes and the quiver of hearts (as you'd expect) in this young adult outing as it follows the usual path of first love, obstacles and naivetes.

With its bon mot of "Life is what happens when you're making plans", it plunges into the traditional tropes of the genre but without any real emotion (outside of Grace-Moretz's occasionally vulnerable performance as the prodigy) and with a dollop of cheesiness and stereotyped characters sprinkled liberally within (and plucked from a range of other stories).

Grace-Moretz brings a sensitivity and tangible sense of a life on a precipice during her hospital set scenes, but the flashbacks charting her life as she waits to see if she's got into a prestigious musical college, works through the good and bad of her first relationship with soft-rocker Adam (Blakely) and generally reflects on what's gone occasionally bring the movie into a lull. She manages to channel the uncertainty of diving into any world naturalistically, but the Lovely Bones style framing starts to drag things down into a predictably syrupy mire.

That said, Cutler does relatively good work with the subject matter (pseudo sick lit perhaps) and doesn't ever let the horror of what's going on swamp the movie. But perhaps, that's also some of the real problem here - a lack of real connection and a trite fashion of dealing with a wildly sanitised approach.

While the family flashbacks have a warmth and a corny sense of life (witness a group singalong of Smashing Pumpkins' Today around a campfire in a moment Mia describes as perfect), there's little heart as the rest plays out. The one stand-out moment comes when Stacy Keach's distraught Gramps sits by Mia's bed and pours out all the pent up emotions and repressed sadness that comes in such situations, with his heartbreaking final words mustering all the emotional tone that's needed for the rest of the film. (Though, admittedly, that could send it over the edge into overly mawkish)

Along with the usual cliched lines that are made to make teens swoon, and given the success of The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay will benefit from having an already in-built audience determined to cry their way through the oh-so recognisable and relatable issues of life and love; as a story of a teen facing her own mortality, thanks to some unoriginal imagery (lights outside of the hospital, a white light in the corridors, music on speakers around the ward), it feels too formulaic - despite Grace-Moretz's charismatic performance, If I Stay is just another sanitised dollop of teen / young adult fare.


Boyhood: Movie Review

Boyhood: Movie Review

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
Director: Richard Linklater

Time is an illusion in Richard Linklater's masterpiece coming of age film.

Set over 12 years of the life of Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane in a stellar turn - how did Linklater know he would turn out exactly as needed?), Boyhood charts the boy's growth and ends with graduation from high school.

But the passing of time is not signposted, nor remarked on as lives change, circumstances become more and less complicated and life, basically, happens.

Eschewing conventional narrative tropes that usually blight these kinds of movies (parents separate, parents reconnect, everyone lives happily ever after), Linklater remains true to the often messy and unpredictable ways of life. Mason's parents, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) start the movie separated, with his dad zooming into town here and there and parenting where and when he's allowed; meanwhile his mother goes through a series of relationships that splinter under time (and dissolve off-screen) having had the seeds of discomfort sown early on.

With life evolving and dissolving, Linklater never loses his focus and eye for detail and moments as seamless time shifts take place throughout; be it the Harry Potter mania that grips both Mason and his sister Sam or discussion of the Twilight novels, the zeitgeist is certainly present throughout the 165 minutes run time, making this piece feel both timeless and yet also of the era as well. Problems are universal - girls, school choices, alcoholism - they're all there for the rich dramatic pickings

But in among the humour, there's poignancy as well; a final speech from Olivia as Mason Jr prepares to move out works on two levels; there are laughs within it but at the same time a bittersweet recognition that in amongst the various haircut changes and fashion sensibilities, life has marched on and the inevitable lies ahead; a sad admission that life, in all its forms, is to be treasured and embraced. (Even if most of the audience laughed at this, it's an indication of how wide ranging the film is and how differently it can be interpreted)

And its main protagonists fare exceptionally well too; Coltrane inhabits the role with ease from the naivete of youth to the highs and lows of life's disappointments and makes an eminently watchable lead no matter the age; Hawke is an affable easy presence and (along with Arquette) is spared the indignity of watching the relationship fall apart - and Arquette, the mother is an achingly real centre of Mason's world, as she tries to find her own identity and negotiate life.

The main thing about Boyhood though is how incredibly easy Linklater's made this all look - committing to a film for 12 years certainly is one hell of a decision (and reeks of the 7 Up series of docos) but proves to be a masterstroke in the coming of age genre.

Quite simply, thanks to Boyhood, that genre has been forever changed and its limitations blown out of the water. Do what you can to see Boyhood, it's one of the most rewarding films of the year and is as life-affirming as it is life-changing.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Inbetweeners 2: Movie Review

The Inbetweeners 2: Movie Review

Cast: Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Emily Berrington
Directors: Iain Morris and Damon Beesley

The boys are back for one last blast.

Having torn up the UK box office with their first cinematic outing (widely condemned for encouraging laddish behaviour and drunken escapades in Magaluf), a second was perhaps inevitable.

This time, when Jay (James Buckley) sends the remaining trio of Will (Bird), Neil (Harrison) and Simon (Thomas) an email bragging of his escapades during his gap year in Australia, the over-sexed trio of losers decide to go and join him.

So, putting life on hold, the mates plunge into the world of backpacking, dealing with those on a gap year and generally head for humiliation all over again.

Sad to say, The Inbetweeners 2 is not a patch on the first movie, which, while mining vulgarity also showcased the bond between the boys to excellent effect.

This latest has ramped up the gross out gags as far as they can go, so that you end up cringing in your seats. An impressively directed sequence which sees Will the victim of Neil's irritable bowel syndrome at a water park sets a new record for being both laugh out loud funny and uncomfortably excessive. Equally, an act of desperation when the boys become lost in the outback is the same mix of cringe and crude. There's plenty of swearing, objectification of women and general offensiveness on show - which you'd expect to a degree, but the writers have really gone for it this time, meaning non-fans of the show may feel somewhat alienated.

And yet, under all the low brow moments, there's a level of heart and warmth that writers and directors Beesley and Morris have brought to this that helps you through what feels like quite an episodic film. It lessens the offensive and really makes you appreciate the boys' bond and the way the writers have so excellently managed to transpose the awkward relationships of groups of boys to the big screen. Also, this time around, there's a degree of life actually figuring into their best laid plans - with not everything going to plan.

Will's flirtation with a fellow traveller, Katie (Berrington) is sweetly handled (even if she's relatively underwritten as a one-note female character) and leads to some absurdly amusing consequences; likewise, his relationship with another pompous traveller who's determined to mine his spirituality and pretentiousness of so many on a gap year trying to discover themselves is brilliantly satirical. Simon's psychotic girlfriend back in the UK gives Thomas another chance to mine his embarrassed beyond belief routine and frustration which was so perfectly honed during the TV series and Harrison's gormless one-liner Neil gets a fair share of the laughs thanks to the unpredictability of what's coming out of his mouth. But it's Buckley's character who gets the biggest journey here as his over-sexed, over-desperate and under-achieving Jay discovers more of his sensitive side and gives a sweetness to dull the offensive and non-stop lavatorial humour.

Thankfully, directors Morris and Beesley haven't completely forgotten the bromance and banter between the quartet that helped the series become such a success; scenes with just them in it sparkle and crackle with the hidden emotions that lads hide and the jibes that they throw at each other through their formative lives. They're a welcome addition because, in parts, the movie feels a little flat - especially given how the boys are split up.

If this is the end of the road for The Inbetweeners (and the creators and stars say it is), this second film is perhaps a summation of everything that made them great and also repelled others - scatalogical decadence and puerile smutty grossness with some potty mouthed laugh out loud moments.

To be honest, it won't win any new fans and even the fans of the show may find it a bit of a slog in places, but a nostalgic glow of the characters and the actors will leave you either amused or appalled.


20,000 Days On Earth: Movie Review

20,000 Days on Earth: Movie Review

Cast: Nick Cave, Kylie Minogue, Ray Winstone
Director: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard

I've never really been a Nick Cave fan.

Aside from an appearance in The X Files with Red Right Hand and Where the Wild Roses Grow, he has always evaded my radar.

But thanks to the doco / concert piece / constructed snapshot, 20,000 Days on Earth, that's suddenly all changed. Set on Cave's 20,000 Day on Earth, this piece is part psychology, part staged and all impressive. Taking in Cave as he goes about his routine in Brighton in England, this collaboration between Cave and British film-makers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard manages to capture the essence of what has always appeared to be the aloof vaguely demonic figure of Cave himself during the recording of 2013 album Push The Sky Away.

But it does more than strip away the veneer of an artist - it reveals the man within (and his pomposities). Which is exactly what you'd expect of a doco piece, except it delivers more than that, pulling together a unique look at the creative process and some insight into the man himself. Self-effacing and occasionally revealing, Cave is willing to open up the world to his enigmatic presence, as he cuts a swathe through the Brighton landscape like an eloquent Grim Reaper.

Visiting his own archives and taking in some time with a shrink, Cave peels back a few of his own layers, via photographs and concert performances with the Bad Seeds - it's a fascinating insight into a figure who's worshipped and revered by many, but it's to be remembered he only really teases out a few biographical details.

Appearances from Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue in Cave's car as he drives around the seafront of Brighton make it seem like they're fleeting memories, ghosts into his past and splinters of his own psyche as they talk the creative process and their approach to it.

Forsyth and Pollard have crafted something uniquely electrifying; blessed beautifully with rich cinematography that captures the essence of a creating music, an artist in motion and a band delivering a series of utterly riveting performances, sparsely scattered throughout.

As the final performance reaches a crescendo, the duo cut back and forth into various performances of the enigmatic Cave and his band playing the same song, and you just can't tear your eyes away from the screen as the acoustic epiphany plays out. No doubt this constructed piece of cinema took a lot of time to pull together; however, it succeeds as it feels natural, thrilling and original - a fitting tribute and peek into the tantalisingly creative (and occasionally pompous) genius that is Cave.

Ultimately, 20,000 Days on Earth will win over new fans to his cause, just in time for his visit to these shores as well as satiating the long time followers - but thanks to Forysth and Pollard's directorial touches, it also represents a redefining of the handling of a subject within a musical movie.


Friday, 22 August 2014

F1 2014 - Austria Red Bull Hot Lap

F1 2014 - Austria Red Bull Hot Lap




SYDNEY, 22nd August 2014 – Today Codemasters® released a new hot lap video for F1 2014. The hot lap is set by Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull RB10 and marks the return of Austria’s Spielberg circuit to the FORMULA ONETM calendar, which brings a classic track with dramatic changes in elevation back to top level motorsport after over a decade’s absence.

It is the first time the track has featured in an official FORMULA 1 video game from Codemasters and is one of four circuits which offer new gameplay experiences in F1 2014, including the new Sochi Circuit in Russia, the return of the Hockenheimring to the calendar which last held a race in 2012 and the BAHRAIN GRAND PRIXTM which was run as a night race for the first time in 2014.
This year, Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes won at the stunning nine-turn circuit which was based upon the old A1 ring and last hosted a FORMULA ONE race in 2003. It records some of the quickest lap times on the calendar and the undulating track features a testing combination of fast and slow corners which make for thrilling racing. The video is now playing at

F1 2014 will arrive across Australia & New Zealand on October 16th for the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, Windows PC and the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system. Codemasters will then introduce a new FORMULA 1 title in 2015 the Xbox One all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, Windows PC and for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system. With more to be announced through production for both titles, follow Codemasters F1 games blog and social channels on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Destiny: Launch Gameplay trailer drops

Destiny: Launch Gameplay trailer drops

The Destiny Launch Gameplay Trailer is now live.

There are enemies out here you would not believe, but they’ve never seen anything like you. It doesn’t matter who you are, only what you will become.

Interview with Inbetweeners co-creator, writer and director Iain Morris on The Inbetweeners 2 movie

Interview with Inbetweeners co-creator, writer and director Iain Morris on The Inbetweeners 2 movie

Iain Morris, the co-creator, writer of The Inbetweeners TV series and co-writer and director of the second film was in Auckland for the premiere of The Inbetweeners 2 and spent some time chatting about the future of the franchise, why a corpse was a threat and comedy in general...

So, Iain, everyone wants to know is there a third Inbetweeners on the way?
No definitely not - I know we said that about the second one, but we hadn't intended to do that at all and the response was so great, that people kept saying to us "Are you going to do another one?" and we'd say no, they'd say "Why not?" and you'd go "dunno" and they left feeling really disappointed. So this film was kind of the response to that.
It took us three years to come up with something that we felt was right. Damon (Beesley, co-writer and co-creator) and I were "Look let's just think about doing a second one, let's just investigate maybe the possibility of where it could happen, what could happen and what the storylines could be" and when we started doing that, we were like, "Ok maybe there is a film here.."
Even after the first one, we weren't like "we've got to do a sequel", it was more let's see if we can find something worth doing. But because of that, the film feels like a last hurrah - we're throwing everything at it. You've got to know when to leave it - it's the right time to leave the party, we don't want to overstay our welcome.

The guys were quite reticent to get involved - was it a case of showing them the script after it had been done?
Yeah, I think Damon and I had a long think about it, then we talked to them, theoretically and the truth was after a few months, they all missed each other; they are really close friends and obviously when they're not forced to be together, they hang out like friends. But like all friends who live in different places and are busy, they missed each other. Then we had a long, very bad script, which they very sweetly read and helped us with and I think that kind of did it for them and they thought it was worth doing it. I think they missed it - we certainly missed them and we just realised that very few times in your career do you get something that you love doing and people love and want more of. It felt like it's kind of totally the wrong thing to do to not respect that. We are incredibly lucky and fortunate to be where we are and I think we all appreciated that.

Do you think that this is due to the UK model of comedy, the 6 episode series rather than the US 22 episode series?
Do you mean people are still keen because there aren't so many of them?
Yep, and not sick of it because they're doing 6 - 7 months of it
Yeah, I think so, I think it probably helps. I wish there were 400 episodes of the Inbetweeners and I wish they were like the Simpsons and they were that good. But there are not, because we wrote every single one and that's how we did it. I don't know necessarily that it's a better model than the American model but I guess you have people who've created the show all over every single episode. But then if you look at Veep, they're making 12 episodes of that and they've got different groups of writers on that and that show is phenomenally good I think. Similarly, like Larry Sanders and Seinfeld, The Simpsons' quality is pretty high - and I think if you get it right, you can. If you don't, it's not right.

Were you keen to direct the second film, having stepped back from the first and having directed the final episode of the series?
We weren't really, not from the start. I think then it got to the stage where we were like we just wanted to challenge ourselves. We didn't want to repeat ourselves and the process, we wanted to try to make it more difficult for ourselves. Life's short and you want to do those sorts of things so that was why. As we were, we learnt a lot and hopefully it was okay.
The boys were unbelievably unsupportive and literally took the piss constantly about us doing it in front of everyone - including the crew the whole time. So that made it more challenging but it was great fun. Ben Palmer, who directed a lot of the series and the first film was incredibly collaborative and let us sit next to him on set so we learnt a huge amount from him, which was great.

You shot in Australia, so would you make the jump to film in New Zealand?
I'm desperate to make films here. One of my best mates is Taika Waititi, I had lunch with him yesterday and I'm in awe of everything he does, I love his films so much. I'm still good friends with Bret and Jemaine. (Of Flight Of The Conchords) I'd love to come here and make something with them. I went to stay with Bret in Wellington a year ago and he showed me all the Wellywood stuff and the studios, and it's incredible. It's an incredible set up. The trick is to find a film that I can make in New Zealand because I can't imagine anything better than shooting here.

Have you seen Taika's new film, What We Do In The Shadows?
I saw a rough cut of it for notes about a year ago and gave him some thoughts - I'm excited to see it and will probably go tomorrow night. He's a genius, a stone cold genius and Jemaine is amazing and I'm just thinking it will be a brilliant film. I mean how they did it with low budget and stuff, that's one of the reasons I love New Zealand, is that the idea that a film like that can be made and supported here, it's so brilliant.
What We Do In The Shadows

You've had that kind of home love with The Inbetweeners though - does that give you a bit more pressure?
The first film was quite interesting because I think everyone thought it would be shit, because they were thinking of films that had been made from sitcoms in the 1970s whereas we were thinking of it more like In The Loop, the film from The Thick Of It. And then there was the pressure but more to prove people wrong whereas this one, it was three years later and everyone was like "Oh obviously they're making a sequel to the film, and obviously this will be fine because all films based on sitcoms are fine". We were like "Wait a minute, three years ago, you said it was going to be terrible!"I felt an enormous amount of pressure then and I still do really, the box office numbers come in and you're competing against yourself really.
The first night's figures (from the UK) came in and they said it's the highest ever British box office opening for a comedy ever and I was like "Wow, oh it's a record. Who did we beat?" Erm, The Inbetweeners 1 - so we had that record already.. we were beating ourselves and losing against ourselves. I think it was an enormously pressured experience but we were lucky to have surrounded ourselves with people who were brilliant; our first AD and director of photography were particularly brilliant and the boys were very supportive in their own way; our editors are brilliant.

It seems like there's a real camaraderie between you and the boys?
Oh, they are unbelievable; the four of them together are a nightmare, but they are brilliant;they're incredibly funny. When there are car shots and it's just the four of them, they are amazing; genuinely so. A lot of it is drawn from our own experiences but they are very easy to write for; it had been a few years off, so initially Damon was like "How do we do this again, how do we..."
Iain and Damon Beesley
All we did was a good read through early on with us and we were like "Oh that bit may be funny, but that's not how they do it" and they were finding their characters again too. Unlike the first film, we watched back the first series to think about this film, and it's closer to that first series than it is to the last film in many ways. It's about expanding your personality and it doesn't have a happy ending like the first. It seems to be truer to life. Like university, the opening sequence is based on my life; I went to a party and I'd been told it was fancy dress. Then, when I got there, they were like "We've tricked you" and I was Ok... Like Will, I thought this is where I get carried shoulder high because I'm so witty and brilliant and erm, that was not the case!

The opening sequence made me think I was watching a different film. It's audacious and different...
Thank you. We realised we were back after 3 years and we wanted to do something big and we also were just thinking about how to open a film. I think intellectually, it's a weird thing because if it hadn't been for the TV show, you wouldn't know what it was and you'd be confused I think. But I believe that you've bought a ticket that says The Inbetweeners and then you've gone to a screen that says the Inbetweeners, so you're watching that film and then you get that opening, so you have to play with expectations I think. But also you're just settling into your seats for the film and we wanted something different. You can have them walking down to an helicopter for an opening shot, which is what the original opening was, but Momaco, the production company, when they started talking about it, we thought Let's just try it. We were watching a lot of True Detective at the time as well which has got a title sequence that's a work of art - maybe titles sequences are cool again. These films just kind of start and we though it would be a cool thing to have. I'm glad you picked up on it though, as we spent a lot of time working on it and I'm still on the fence with it. It was audacious as opposed to 100% successful.

You shot in Australia at the same place as The Rover, Marree - how was that?
All of Australia was great; Wet'n'Wild where we shot on the Gold Coast was incredibly helpful to us despite what the final product was! We were very secretive about what we were doing and when they saw it at the end, they were "Oh, this happens all the time, we've got a button that just clears it all out!"
We had to shoot before the park was open so all of their staff were there at 4 in the morning, that was great but Marree was something else entirely. It was like a dream, shooting there. You had a totally empty location; logistically I didn't have to worry about getting there. There was a point though when I was driving the boys out there when I became hysterical though. It's a 2 1/2 hour drive after a 2 1/2 hour flight from Adelaide so it's properly remote. And about an hour in, I knew trucks were coming in from Melbourne and from Adelaide and that we were doubling the size of Marree and I just thought " This is not how a proper director does it" This is like making a film on the moon and setting it on the moon...they get lost in the outback in the film and so you'd better find a place in the was 50 degrees some days; but the people who run that pub in Marree are exceptional, incredibly welcoming and friendly, so that when we came back after shooting it, it was exciting. I found it genuinely quite moving when I left Marree - I love this place and it was weird. There is no way I will not go back to that place in my life. It's about as alien a spot on the planet - I felt really at home there. In the mornings we'd drive out, the sun was coming out over the Outback, it was beautiful. What a place....I've got to see The Rover yet, and David Field who was in that, is in our film too.

Criticisms about the gross out humour have been levelled at the film - The Daily Mail has slammed it; how do you feel about that?
Well, I think, if the Daily Mail likes it, then we've probably done something wrong! I don't pay attention to anything else it says, so we've had good reviews in the likes of The Times and The Telegraph and I think they get it. People in general get it. Weirdly cinematic experiences aren't about beautiful shots, to me they're about really laughing hard in a cinema with 400 other people which you don't get if you watch a TV show.

You were mercilessly teased on set - how did that make the directing experience?
Whatever you imagine, times it by 10 - (James) Buckley's a comic genius and very quick - as is Joe Thomas; you think Blake is sleeping but he has killer one-liners but Simon Bird is the worst, because what Simon Bird does is he's like a little stirrer. He stirs it all up, gets it going, then he stands back and pretends he's totally innocent. It took us about a series to work that out. He's the one that starts it all then the others carry it on.
We were trying to set up a shot, having a discussion with the DOP in Byron Bay, I was having a conversation with him about alienation and why I thought it was important and I could hear the four boys standing next to me saying "If we dug up a corpse from a graveyard, it could direct this film better than Iain. Shall we just get a scarecrow?" I'm trying to block that out while they're a foot away from me. Like an abused spouse, they can do whatever they like to me because I'd be back saying "I love you..."

The Inbetweeners 2 hits New Zealand cinemas on August 28th.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Digital Nationz reveals unreleased games preview details

Digital Nationz reveals unreleased games preview details

Preview biggest range of unreleased games at DIGITAL NATIONZ
Assassin’s Creed Unity/Rogue and Far Cry 4 at DIGITAL NATIONZ 2014!

This year’s Digital Nationz (DNZ) has New Zealand’s biggest gaming line up ever! The 27-28 September event at Auckland’s Vector Arena features a huge selection of unreleased games available to preview and play along with a LAN championship, world class speakers and pre-release technology products, showcasing an amazing breadth of content.

Gaming titles this year include Assassin’s Creed Unity, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Far Cry 4, Alien Isolation, Fifa 15 and The Crew with more to be announced in the next few weeks making it the biggest range of unreleased games in New Zealand so far. DNZ will be the first place in New Zealand to experience these killer titles.

DNZ is premiering its first LAN event, incorporating the Big Pipe LAN Party and the Logitech G Power Pro Championships. Up to 500 players are able to compete in the championship for more than $30,000 worth of prizes. Nine games will be included in the Championship LAN, including favourites League of Legends and DOTA 2. Championship LAN tickets are available for $89 and $69 for the Big Pipe LAN Party.

This year DNZ also invites more than 10 speakers from around the world to share their knowledge with show-goers. The first selection of speakers confirmed for the LG DIGITALKZ speaker sessions are: David ‘DJ’ Johnson, Lead VFX artist at Infinity Ward, Jason Sussman, Environmental Artist at Bungie Studios, Fletcher Dunn from Valve, Josie Nutter, Software Engineer & UX Specialist at Technical Illusions, Dr Michelle Dickinson from the University of Auckland and Dmitry Selitsky from Thought Wired. The LG DIGITALKZ sessions will cover everything from game development to controlling apps and smart devices with mind control.

Technological advancements being achieved on a weekly basis and one of the most important areas of development and growth is electric vehicles which will feature at DNZ with its first electrical vehicle showcase. Three electric cars will be on show: the Tesla Roadster, Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV as well as a working drivetrain system to show the inner operations/workings of an electric vehicle.

“This year we are packing the show with content! DNZ will have a massive line-up of playable unreleased games, an array of impressive international speakers as well as new exciting technology and our first ever LAN competition. And this is just our first announcement, we have plenty more to come!” says Peter Hall, DNZ Event Manager.

Tickets are now on sale with prices starting from $19 for an adult general admission one day pass and $14 for a concession pass for under 15 year olds, students and over 65 year olds. A booking fee applies and pre-event tickets are available online from, or at the door during the event weekend.

Speaker Bios:

David ‘DJ’ Johnson, Lead VFX Artist at Infinity Ward
David Johnson is the Lead Visual Effects Artist at Activision/Blizzard’s Infinity Ward Studio as a hands on artist as well as supervisor/coordinator to multiple ATVI studios. David has 15 years of computer graphics experience, of which 13 has been dedicated to video games. David has shipped a remarkable 15+ video games and contributed on some of the largest names in video game history including the Call of Duty and Halo franchises. The combined revenue of games David has worked on exceeds 3 Billion Dollars, and have broken multiple records for units sold. David is an active VES member as a Board of Directors alternate, and member of the education and membership committees.

Jason Sussman, Environment Artist at Bungie Studios
An Army veteran from Dallas, Texas, Jason Sussman brings 14 years of gaming industry experience to his role as Senior Environment Artist on Destiny. Of those 14 years, eight years have been spent at Bungie, creating single player and competitive multiplayer maps, and DLC environments for Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo: Reach. Currently, Jason designs and creates destination environments for Destiny’s Mars location.
- Destiny (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox360, PS3)
- Halo: REACH DLC “Nobel Map Pack” (Xbox360)
- Halo: REACH (Xbox360)
- Halo: ODST (Xbox360)
- Halo 3: DLC Heroic,Legendary,Mythic map packs (Xbox360)
- Halo 3 (Xbox360)
Jason will be found around the Big Pipe – Media Design School stand to do more Q&A’s when he isn’t speaking and is coming courtesy of Media Design School.

Josie Nutter, Software Engineer and UX Specialist at Technical Illusions
Josie Nutter is a software engineer and UX specialist with almost two decades of experience in the video games industry. She has a B.S. in Human Centered Design and Engineering from the University of Washington, where she received the Undergraduate Award of Excellence for demonstrating special strength in innovation. Coming from a background in gameplay and tools programming at companies such as Crystal Dynamics, Snowblind Studios, and PopCap Games, she is now working on the software side of castAR (projected Augmented Reality) for Technical Illusions after helping launch a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $1M.]

Dr Michelle Dickinson AKA Nano Girl, University of Auckland
Michelle has a talent of being able to break pretty much anything put in front of her, which is lucky because that’s her job. As the director of New Zealand’s only Nanomechanical testing laboratory Michelle gets to make and break things on a daily basis.
With regular slots on National television and radio, Michelle is passionate about explaining complex concepts in everyday language and strives towards breaking down the barriers created by high walls of scientific and technical jargon. Lots of people collect things and Michelle likes to collect certificates, including one that says PhD and a couple of other postgraduate qualifications, the desire to keep learning and challenging herself never stops. With an internal compass that seeks out adrenaline and adventure, Michelle is often found salinating her skin while kitesurfing, exfoliating her fingertips on a rock climbing mission, or creating tree bark skin impressions from a mountainbike ride. Michelle tries to break all the stereotypes that are traditionally associated with the tech field, by bringing her high energy personality, an enthusiasm for gadgets and a style of presenting that will make you want to join in too!

Dmitry Selitsky, Founder and CEO, Thought-Wired
Dmitry founded Thought-Wired with the vision of making the world accessible to everybody. On their journey to develop assistive solutions based on direct brain interfaces and principles of user-centred design, thought-wired gained invaluable knowledge and expertise for working with the newest interfacing technologies. Now they want to share that knowledge with you.

Fletcher Dunn, Valve
Fletcher has been making video games since 1995 and has around a dozen titles under his belt on a variety of gaming platforms. He worked at Terminal Reality in Dallas, where as principal programmer he was one of the architects of the Infernal Engine and lead programmer on BloodRayne. He was a technical director for The Walt Disney Company at Wideload Games in Chicago and the lead programmer for Disney Guilty Party, IGN's E3 2010 Family Game of the Year. He now works for Valve Software in Bellevue, Washington. Oh, but his biggest claim to fame by *far* is as the namesake of Corporal Dunn from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Fletcher Dunn will be found around the Big Pipe – Media Design School stand to do more Q&A’s when he isn’t speaking and is coming courtesy of Media Design School.

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