Saturday, 28 February 2015

Boyhood: Blu Ray Review

Boyhood: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

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.


Friday, 27 February 2015



Call of Duty®: Advanced Warfare Havoc, the first DLC pack for Call of Duty®: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.  Packed to the brim with content, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Havoc includes four new, epic multiplayer maps, access to the versatile AE4 directed energy assault rifle, the AE4 Widowmaker custom variant, plus an exciting all-new cooperative mode called Exo Zombies.

Havoc’s four exotic and diverse multiplayer maps are set around the globe and are tailor-made for players to unleash their exoskeleton’s abilities:
·         Core: Deploy to the Gobi desert where the ravaged ruins of a nuclear fusion plant set the stage for a high-octane warzone. Take down enemies through the wreckage in long-range combat or get up-close and personal in the tunnels surrounding the central turbine. Activate decontamination drones using the map-based scorestreak to help clean out the competition.

·         Urban: Prepare yourself for brutal, high-speed combat in Dallas Ward 3, a future mega structure, funneling players into a close-quarters free-for-all. This modular compound’s verticality unleashes the exoskeleton’s capabilities. Stay focused during the timed event as blast doors alter the map’s flow and sightlines.

·         Sideshow: In the shadow of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, this abandoned inn’s open layout amplifies its creep factor. Blast your way through the clown inn with close-quarters battles or use long-range site-lines from the mining facilities and natural terrain. Use the map-based scorestreak to activate the lights, music, and magic of the clown marquee and rain down a barrage of rainbow smoke-trailed cannonballs.

·         Drift: An idyllic ski resort high in the Rocky Mountains is transformed into a festive high-altitude playground, perfect for an all-out firefight. Make your way to the highly contested over watch in the glass observation deck or take a ride on the carousel to deliver 360 degrees of carnage. Players can use the map-altering timed event to their advantage as an avalanche of snow and debris disorients players, intensifying the battle.

Havoc’s new cooperative experience, Exo Zombies, features a story told through the eyes of four employees of the Atlas Corporation.  Played by a celebrity cast consisting of John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire, RED, Burn After Reading), Bill Paxton (Aliens, Titanic, Edge of Tomorrow), Rose McGowan (Planet Terror, Scream), and Jon Bernthal (Fury, The Wolf of Wall Street), Exo Zombies ushers in a new breed of zombies and a truly unique experience in the Havoc DLC Pack.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Havoc is also included in the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare DLC Season Pass*, where fans can purchase all four epic DLC Packs planned for the year, as part of the discounted bundle – a discount off the individual purchase of all four DLC Map Packs**. The Havoc DLC Pack also includes the AE4 directed energy assault rifle and its custom weapon variant, the AE4 Widowmaker, combine a versatile firing mechanism with all-around movement speed and handling. 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, is developed by Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software specifically for Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®4, and is available via direct digital download.  A current gen version for Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system is developed by High Moon Studios. The NZ Office of Film & Literature has rated this title as R16 (Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb).

Whiplash: Blu Ray Review

Whiplash: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home ent

What drives creativity and what makes it thrive are the two potent ingredients in Damien Chazelle's intensely electrifying Whiplash, the story of Miles Teller's wannabe jazz drummer, Andrew Neyman.

He's enrolled in the Schaffer music school for the gifted, inspired by his admiration for the likes of Buddy Rich and determined to break into the group run by conductor Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) which works the competition circuit and is believed to be one of the best.

However, Neyman soon discovers that wanting to be the best isn't enough for Fletcher, and an educational game of cat-and-mouse begins with musical and personal stakes at the highest level....

Whiplash is an astounding piece of cinema, essentially a two-hander which thrives on the perverse and monstrous relationship between student and mentor. As this mental game of chase plays out, with Neyman doing whatever it takes to impress Fletcher, the film delves deeply into what students are willing to lay on the line to succeed, with the actions on the screen revealing more about the pair's psyche that reams of exposition ever would.

It helps that both Teller and Simmons are utterly commanding presences, with Simmons bringing some of the drill-sergeant intensity, volatility and utter terror that he displayed as Schillinger way back when in TV series Oz. It's simply a career best for him.

But whilst Fletcher's a truly despicable mentor, riddled with simmering ferocity that's bubbling under just waiting to explode like your worst nightmare, Teller's Neyman more than matches him with his initial wide-eyed, keen-to-learn student attitude being shaped into something more sinister by the drive to succeed. His burgeoning relationship with another student (Benoist) and his interactions with his sports-loving family merely serve to demonstrate how far detached he's become from what's normal in life.

Thankfully, both Teller and Simmons demand your attention on the screen, and in initial rehearsal scenes (where you can see the explosion waiting to happen from a mile off), you can hear a pin drop in the build up and resultant moments as the vulnerable Andrew digs deep into himself to reach the heights which Fletcher demands of him. The final sequence alone in this psychological tale is perhaps one of the finest committed to celluloid this year.

There's a whole debate about whether latent talent is to be nurtured and coaxed out or whether it is to be pushed as far as is humanly possible in a callous way; Chazelle doesn't shy from that, leaving the audience in no doubt that there are no easy answers, opting instead for ambiguity.

And there are certainly calluses on screen as well, with Teller's ferocious drumming leading to some shocking images such as bloodied hands being plunged into ice water. There's also a raw power to the music scenes as well with jazz tunes Whiplash and Caravan being brought kinetically to life as the car-crash comes into full focus. Sacrifice, self-worth, self-belief, teaching, learning and personal drive and limits are all valid themes espoused throughout Whiplash, and with no easy answers proffered.

However, it's thanks to two electrifying leads that Whiplash is one of 2014's greats; the questions over who's the bad guy here (student or mentor) furrows down deep into some serious questioning and may prove equally as intriguing, but at the end of the day, Whiplash is as an astounding, passionately claustrophobic and as raw a movie as you're likely to see.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Wahlburgers: Season 1: DVD Review

Wahlburgers: Season 1: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by Vendetta Films

Whoever knew there was a Wahlberg dynasty?

In this reality series from A&E (the people who brought you Storage Wars), the focus is on the lesser know brother of Mark and Donnie, the Boston based chef Paul Wahlberg.

Dubbed the most talented sibling by Mark, Paul's a chef whose dreams of getting his burger restaurants to work as a Boston based franchise clash directly with the family ambitions of Mark to get it global. That of course causes friction as Paul's very focussed on ensuring the business stays local so as not to lose the special touch he has with it.

Over the course of 9 episodes, we follow the Wahlberg family - and the matriarch - as they deal with Paul catering for Mark's movie premieres, scouting new venues around America, and generally japing around. Eminently watchable for the first 5 or so episodes, this series is an interesting look into the Wahlberg world. It's light and fluffy easy viewing that doesn't challenge, but like any meal, after a while, you start to feel somewhat bloated and a little sick.

Wahlburgers works best when it focuses on Paul's ideas, because Mark emerges as being slightly bratty and selfish as the series progresses.

Fun and forgettable, Wahlburgers is a tantalising look at the Boston family, conveyed under the usual A&E reality (ie occasionally feels scripted) trappings.

Extras: Featurettes and bits and pieces


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Lunchbox: DVD Review

The Lunchbox: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by Madman Home Ent

It's to the crowded streets of Mumbai we go for this latest, which charmed audiences at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Nimrat Kaur stars as Ila, an isolated wife who dutifully believes the way to her distant husband's heart is through his stomach. So, every day, she prepares a lunchbox which is duly shipped to his work for him to savour and enjoy

But, the lunchbox ends up going to the wrong place and lands on the desk of soon-to-be-retired and widowed claims worker Saajan (Life of Pi star Irrfan Khan) who's entranced by the flavours within. (He believes it's from a lunch delivery firm he's signed up to).

The pair begin sending notes to each other as each collectively reach the end of the road of their current life incarnation.

Melancholy and sad, The Lunchbox is a reserved romantic drama that pierces the pungent food preparation with occasional laughs and maudlin moments.

Never has so much been said by leads who deliver so little vocally; Khan himself is a masterclass in restrained body language, with his precise routine and concise movements conveying all the sadness you need. Kaur is initially a little more lively, cooking with the help of an unseen but vocal auntie who lives above them - but gradually, the sadness imbues her nuanced performance with a heart that's hard to deny in places.

As the story unfolds slowly, the layers peel back and the characters gradually come to life as the counselling letters fire back and forth within the chapatis and cooked offerings. The sad and reflective tone thrives on the subtlety of the actors and Batra's concentrated direction; the juxtaposition of Mumbai's bustling streets a stark contrast to the alienation of this duo.

There's a heart to this which will easily find an audience, ready to drown in the romance and the optimism that a few simple moments can make a lifetime's difference to anyone.

Quite simply, this Lunchbox is to be devoured and savoured.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Clockwork game announced

Clockwork game announced

Time-bending puzzles coming to PC, Xbox One, PS4 and mobile devices later this year.

Gamesoft, a brand new Australian development studio based in Sydney, today announces its debut game, Clockwork, published by Appsquare. A beautiful, atmospheric 2D platform adventure, Clockwork promises a touching, melancholy narrative experience supported by challenging time-manipulation puzzles.

Says Vishal Gumber, CEO of Gamesoft, "Tucked away in the busy lanes of Sydney's oldest suburb, the talented team at Gamesoft has worked tirelessly for the last eight months on this mind-boggling game.

"Clockwork is by no means an indie game, even though it is Gamesoft's debut. Our young team is ready to take on the best of AAA when Clockwork releases later this year."

Clockwork is set in the great mechanical city of Watchtower, where the last survivors of a great plague have found shelter within metal walls and metal bodies. Watchtower is divided by poverty and technology; the glittering spires of its upper tiers towering over the thrumming power plants and smoking factories of the industrial slums.

Players control a young boy named Atto who, thanks to his clockwork companion Milli, is able to duplicate himself and slip through time in order to overcome the obstacles heading his way.

Says Daniel McMahon, Clockwork's lead writer, "Clockwork is a story about unlikely friends coming together to try and fix an imperfect world in a time-bending puzzle-platforming adventure story. We want to ask players the question: What if you could go back in time, to before everything changed?"

Planned for a digital release on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and mobile platforms, Clockwork will launch later this year. 

Clockwork is being fully revealed at GDC 2015 in San Francisco on March 2-6. Media are invited to come experience Clockwork and interview the team at booth PL215.

Click to watch the Clockwork announcement trailer below:

Clockwork announcement trailer:

Gone Girl: Blu Ray Review

Gone Girl: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent

Based on Gillian Flynn's widely acclaimed  novel and directed by House of Cards director David Fincher, Gone Girl comes with the weight of expectation.

Ben Affleck is Nick Dunne, a former writer who becomes the focus of a nationwide obsession and police investigation when his perfect wife, Amy (a character and career best Rosamund Pike) goes missing. With the thrust of the media glare, public opinion and police scrutiny firmly on his shoulders, Nick's apparent innocence in this case comes heavily under question as the mystery begins to unfold...

To say anything more about this darkly twisted thriller (unless you're familiar with Flynn's book) would be unfair and would venture into spoiler territory. With the shifting narrative told in flashback from Amy's point of view and juxtaposed with the current police investigation into Nick, half the visceral thrill of this deliciously devious story comes in the playing out of the details.

A slickly cerebral and taut thriller,Gone Girl manages to inveigle its way under your skin in the most uncomfortable fashion you could imagine. As Fincher examines the facade behind Nick and Amy's marriage, unreliable narratives, questions and nagging doubts form in your mind, thanks largely in part to an understated and unshowy Affleck as Nick, the man for whom the spotlight never twists away as he veers from sympathetic to suspicious and from a career-redefining powerful turn from Pike as nice-as-pie one moment and ice-queen-the-next-Amy, the woman who seems too good to be true (and who would be suited to femme fatales, Hitchcock and one of Linda Fiorentino's finest).

Elsewhere, Neil Patrick Harris takes suave and cool to a new unexpected level - but in a twisted David Fincher way. Further solid support comes from Carrie Coon as Nick's twin sister and Tyler Perry as an all-too-familiar high profile hotshot lawyer to stir this potboiler into a seething mix.

Fincher's also brought an insidiously stylish charm to this almost pulpy movie, and as the paradigm shifts so quickly and around the halfway mark, the creepy atmosphere is almost too much to bear as the cracks beneath the suburban veneer begin to show. Quick cuts in scenes mean you're never given chance to take in the dizzy turns, but also, you're never left behind.

Not since Twin Peaks has there been a drama about love, marriage and suburbia that's been as dark and as disturbing as this and that's largely in part to Fincher overseeing it all and your descent into moral depravity, complete with an unsettling Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross OST as this perversion of perception heads towards its final shockingly repugnant stretch.

At its heart, Gone Girl is a skewed and daring take on the trust between couples, marriage and the psychology thereof, a sly view on an unwanted "celebrity" life within the media and justice system and a shocking mystery thriller that's as button-pushing and as riveting as you can ever hope for.


The Order's Victorian London hits Ponsonby

The Order's Victorian London hits Ponsonby

Uber transports guests back in time to launch 
The Order: 1886™ on PlayStation®4

For one night only, Aucklanders can use the Uber app to transport themselves back to Victorian-Era 1886 with the long-awaited title, The Order: 1886, exclusive to PlayStation®4 (PS4™).

To celebrate the launch of The Order: 1886, PlayStation has teamed up with Uber, the popular technology company, and will pick up people with a horse-drawn carriage, themed straight out of the game.

The Order: 1886 carriage will be set up with a TV and PS4™, treating passengers to an exclusive experience of the filmic and immersive game during their ride around the Ponsonby area.

Krister Robinson, Marketing Manager for Sony Computer Entertainment New Zealand, says that the horse-drawn carriage making appearances along busy Ponsonby Rd is a great way to bring the game to life.

“This game is the perfect marriage of past, myth and modern technology. Everything in the game, from the characters, the enemy, the weapons, the setting and the technology has been crafted to bring this to life. We’re looking forward to offering some passengers a one-off travel experience that brings history – The Order: 1886 carriage – and today’s technology – Uber – together,” says Robinson.

To take advantage of this one of a kind opportunity, interested travellers need to download the Uber app, and enter the promotion code 1886UBER before or on Wednesday 25 February.1 For a chance to ride, guests should locate themselves at 5 Rose Road in Ponsonby and request their ride between 7:00pm – 8:30pm.2

The highly anticipated The Order: 1886 is a major title for PlayStation in 2015.  The third person action-adventure game sees players assuming the role of Galahad, one of the most experienced Knights of the Order, to discover history’s darkest secret. Rewrite the past in this unique vision of Victorian London where advanced weaponry is used to battle a powerful and ancient foe.

The Order: 1886 exclusively on PS4, is available now in store and on the PlayStation Network.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Oscars 2015: Winners

The Oscars 2015: Winners

The 87th Academy Awards have been doled out in Hollywood by  Neil Patrick Harris and his friends.

Best supporting actor: JK Simmons

Best supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette

Achievement in Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Foreign Language film: Ida

Achievement in Visual Effects: Interstellar
Best Animated Short Film: Feast

Best Animated Feature Film: Big Hero 6
Best Live Action Short Film : The Phone Call
Best Documentary Short Subject : Crisis Hotline Veterans Press 1
Scientific and Technical Awards
Achievement in Sound Mixing: Whiplash
Achievement in Sound Editing: American Sniper
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Patricia Arquette
Best Foreign-Language Film IDA
Achievement in Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Achievement in Cinematography: Birdman
Achievement in Film Editing: Whiplash
Best Documentary Feature: CitizenFour
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) Glory
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Original Screenplay: Birdman
Best Adapted Screenplay The Imitation Game
Achievement in Directing: Birdman, Alejandro G Inarritu 
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Eddie Redmayne

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Julianne Moore

Best Motion Picture of the Year: Birdman

Apotheon: PS4 Review

Apotheon: PS4 Review

Developer: Alien Trap
Platform: PS4

It's no word of a lie that I'm a Greek mythology nerd.

Having lapped it up at Uni and then seen it come to fruition with the God Of War series, it was fair to say that I was relatively excited for Apotheon, the platformer/ killer game that's currently available free on PS4 if you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber.

Based on the Greek pottery look, the game sees you taking the role of Nikandreos, a Greek warrior ablaze in a world where the gods have forsaken those around them. But thankfully, armed with hubris ( a common Greek tragic element) and a killer eye for slaughter, Nikandreos won't take this lying down and deigns to take Zeus and his fellow gods to task over this abandonment.

And that vengeance quest isn't limited only to Earth either with Nikandreos completing a succession of tasks before being granted access to Mount Olympus to try and save the day.

Unique graphics give Apotheon a 2D edge that's simply never been seen before as the carnage begins. Using ancient weapons like knives and spears, as well as arrows, there's also crafting to be done to help Nikandreos achieve his goal. Collecting gold coins from the fallen, smashing urns to reveal treasures and helping you power up the achievement chain all pays dividends - as does learning to use your weapons properly.

The problem with Apotheon comes occasionally with the combat; with clubs and spears not hitting their targets when you're next to someone, there's an element of frustration to what you can and can't do in close proximity. It's particularly noticeable in fights with bosses as well, where precision is needed as you leap about. While I get that spears would be no use if you don't use them properly, the push to continually train you to get it right can lead to plentiful encounters with death.

Equally, interacting with objects and people has to be spot on as well, meaning that the controls can be fiddly at best and downright annoying at worst as you try to pull all the elements together to get it to click into place.

That said, Apotheon is a game to delve into; the blood spurts as it would be depicted on the pottery and the game actually sticks closely to Greek mythology which is pleasing to say the least. Sure, there's slaughter, but there are also Homeric odes to read on the way to the killing floor. For a free title with PS Plus, there's certainly much to be appreciated here; don't let the simplicity of the style (and the occasional niggles) put you off - this game is indeed worthy of the gods.


Sunday, 22 February 2015

A Walk Among The Tombstones: Blu Ray Review

A Walk Among The Tombstones: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

Mixing 70s detective ethics and visuals with a bit of the ole Neeson Taken "special skills" DNA, A Walk Among The Tombstones (from the Lawrence Block books) is a curiously dark beast.

Neeson is Matt Scudder, a former hard-drinking cop on the New York streets in the 90s who's forced to turn his life around after a street shoot-out. Years later, with Y2K hanging over the nation's conscience, he's working as an unlicensed PI when he's approached by drug dealer Kenny (Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens) to help him solve the kidnapping and murder of his wife.

But, as Scudder investigates, he discovers a murkier world within.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is very much Taken, PI - but without the action.

Taking its cue from 70s detective noir films, writer / director Scott Frank's crafted together an at times nasty piece that feels like it's a mix of this genre and Scandi-noir. In among the grime and run-down city vistas, something insidious is lurking and Frank's brought a lo-fi low key feel to this which, at times, borders on plodding and a little dull.

So, to combat that, Frank's relied on Neeson's usual brand of stoically grim countenance and innate likeability to see you through the darkly grim proceedings. Neeson's watchable throughout - from the start when he's dispatching justice to those who've robbed a bar through to the final scenes of claustrophobic tension (via a series of talky sequences), you're simply drawn to the character and his innate struggle to make his way through the murk of the world. Though, it has to be said, at times, Neeson feels like he's sleepwalking given how relatively emotionless he is on screen, and how nasty the sociopaths are that are committing these crimes.

There's also some light relief in the form of a street kid TJ (Astro) whom Scudder decides to befriend and protect and with whom he shares some laconic banter. In among the Sam Spade references and bleakness, this ray of light is a welcome, if occasionally over-used, touch.

As the urban decay and moral decline reaches a peak, there's a final act shoot-out which feels symptomatic of the potboiler that Frank's tried to stir and which doesn't quite come together as it should (with Frank freeze-framing the action at moments to fit in with a voice-over about the 12 steps programme).

However,  the slightly overlong A Walk Among The Tombstones doesn't quite hit the retro film noir highs it's going for - but it does prove to be a nostalgic reminder of what used to be.


Saturday, 21 February 2015

Newstalk ZB Audio - Film Review of Jupiter Ascending, The Interview and The Judge

Newstalk ZB Audio - Film Review of Jupiter Ascending, The Interview and The Judge

Here's the very latest Newstalk ZB Review

I talked to Jack Tame about Jupiter Ascending, The Interview and The Judge

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Film Review

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Film Review

Cast: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Richard Gere, Tamsin Greig
Director: John Madden

There was always going to be reservations about checking in for a second time to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The OAP themed first outing was perhaps a massive success thanks to its gentle humour and the sum of its parts rather than its fresh and original idea. So, a second return visit would pose more of a challenge to fulfill the larger cast's dramatic ambitions and to welcome newcomers into the fold.

This time around, Sonny (an energetic Dev Patel) is trying to expand his hotel business while contemplating the finer details of marriage to his impending wife Sunaina. Meanwhile Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) are part of the local workforce and wondering if their relationship is meant to be; Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are looking at being exclusive and Madge (Celia Imrie) is facing a double hit of commitment; negotiating Sonny on his way is Muriel (Maggie Smith) who's now the co-owner of the hotel.

But problems arise when Sonny's potential investor sends an unknown hotel inspector to check them out at the same time as newcomers Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) show up... will the strain be too much?

To say The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a disappointment is perhaps an understatement and is also perhaps underselling a film which will be so popular with so many.

It feels incredibly lazily written, and despite being breezily directed in parts, it's overlong and unnecessarily drawn out.

Sure, there will be fans who'll lap up the gently predictable humour and react to moments where Muriel is asked by an American if her accent is Australian and watch as the second chance love story between Evelyn and Douglas evolves into a twilight of their lives love story.

But the film feels dramatically sold short. Set ups for consequences emerge only to be cast asunder because the dramatic conclusions wouldn't suit the film's outlook on life; too much happens off screen (to discuss would be to stray into spoilers) and it sells the characters short and the audience's involvement and investment is wasted.  Its strength may be its cast, because it certainly isn't the writing for this second outing in the Indian hotel.

There are some joys to behold; for the first half of the film, Sonny's boundless energy leads to several amusing moments and watching Judi Dench and Maggie Smith's characters banter back and forth is akin to a BAFTA celebration, but the weaker sub-plots as the writers try to cast their nets to all of the cast make it feel stretched terribly thin.

Gere and Greig have very little to do - with Gere simply going more for the charm and charisma but ending up a little smarmy; and Greig is more-or-less sidelined as the ensemble cast get their time in the twilight sun. A series of repeated gags pepper the film and leave it feeling as tired and worn out as perhaps some of the relics on the screen.

But, I don't doubt this will be a success with its target audience and it's nicely filmed using India's vistas (and very little else) and put together with a cast who give it their all.

The problem with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is it just feels incredibly unadventurous as it tries to negotiate the final stages of life and love; it's afraid to show any dramatic consequence and feels frustratingly limp in comparison to the first.

In short, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one hotel I couldn't wait to check out of.


The Oscars 2015 Winners

The Oscars 2015 Winners

The Oscars are upon us, so as everyone does at this time of year, here are my predictions for who's going to walk away with the statues on the big day in Hollywood in the main categories.

Best Picture
American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

WINNER - Boyhood

Best Director
Alexandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

WINNER - This one's tight between Linklater for a body of work and Inarritu for something different; and I wouldn't be inclined to rule Anderson out either for the same Linklater reasons. Ultimately, though, I think the winner on the night will be Richard Linklater

Best Actor
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

WINNER - I think this is Eddie Redmayne's Daniel Day Lewis moment. He's got the momentum from the previous awards ceremonies, so I think the tide of support is on his side. I'd really like to see Michael Keaton win it though as he actually showed the fire in the acting gut that's been hiding for a while. But I don't believe the Academy will go with it (I'd love to be surprised) 

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

WINNER - Again, I think the tide of previous wins and a body of work will give it to Julianne Moore (for one of her weakest performances though) However, I'd love to see Reese or Rosamund pick it up as like Keaton, they did something unusual with their craft.

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

WINNER - Vern Schillinger. Erm, I mean JK Simmons - an excellent searing turn and a strong category but Simmons deserves this.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

WINNER - Much like Highlander, there can be only one - and for this one it's Patricia Arquette. Not to disrespect the actresses in this category, but for my mind, most of these nominations were a surprise given the fact it feels like a weaker year for women. I think Patricia Arquette will take home another for Boyhood.

Over to you - what do you reckon?

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