Sunday, 31 January 2016

Everest: Blu Ray Review

Everest: Blu Ray Review

"The mountain will have the last word."

With this year's Sherpa playing at the New Zealand International Film Festival and the recent Nepal earthquake foremost in Kiwi minds, Everest can certainly lay claim to being topical.

It's the story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, when, during a busy climbing season and in the impatience of the early days of adventure tourism, tragedy struck resulting in Kiwi mountain guide Rob Hall and two others forfeiting their lives.

However, despite the sensitive touches made to Everest's script throughout, and the lengths gone to by the writers to add shades to Hall's evidently nice guy persona, Everest is a disaster movie through and through, steeped in the traditions and tropes of many a film of its ilk before it.

Crowding on the mountain with players, 2 Guns and Contraband  director Baltasar Kormakur surrounds Jason Clarke's Hall with relatively cardboard characters and paints them with the broadest brush strokes possible (including some terrible attempts at the New Zealand accent - largely from Emily Watson, who channels South African in parts and seems to be challenging Ben Kingsley's attempts in Ender's Game). It's disaster movie 101 when broken down in to the sum of its parts - time spent to introduce characters and have them dashed cruelly by nature's force.

And yet, with sweeping stereoscopic 3D cinematic vistas conveying the scale of the mountain and some stunning shots (a peek out onto the mountain in the dark of midnight when all the stars are out is nothing short of magnificent), Everest summits the limitations of its characters to produce a piece that's emotionally draining in parts when the storm rolls in - and which almost feels intrusive in its ultimate finale and execution.

But aside from nature, Everest really peaks with Clarke's stoic performance.

His grounded and human Hall is a masterpiece of subtlety, an all-round good guy who collects rubbish from the mountain, while offering a mailman who wants to summit the peak a discount on his third attempt and a guy who when the chips are down puts everyone else first. Clarke's take on Hall works at an emotional level and transcends the written limitations of a slower first half that takes time to only build on a few character traits of those in the ensemble around Hall (witness Hawkes' mailman, Brolin's Texan swagger, Gyllenhaal's laid-back mountain guide to name but a few).

If the disaster comes in too quickly and the climbers are lost within a swirl of coats and goggles, perhaps that's symptomatic of conditions on a mountain - but it could also be some of the limitations of a script that's spent time building an ensemble of characters and which doesn't quite know what to do with them all (eg the South Africans who are so vocally against the climbers but who disappear) and there's certainly no shortage of cliched language and exhortations throughout. Wisely though, this Everest steers clear of apportioning blame for the disaster, preferring instead to signpost moments throughout.

However, there's no denying a feeling that these are real people who died on the mountain and who suffered, so moments of queasiness and unease pervaded my viewing of the film - particularly given that the movie is a Hollywood piece that proffers little hope come the end. But the palpable sense of emotion when the end finally comes is tangible and there won't be many who leave Everest feeling nothing - occasionally though, a little more subtlety, a tighter script and a little less by-the-numbers disaster flick would have benefited this already tense and occasionally coldly claustrophobic film greatly.


Saturday, 30 January 2016

Newstalk ZB - Reviewing The Danish Girl, Spotlight

Newstalk ZB - Reviewing The Danish Girl, Spotlight

The Finest Hours: Film Review

The Finest Hours: Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
Director: Craig Gillespie

It begins with barely a hiss and ends in hardly a roar.

The Finest Hours, based on a true story and from the director of Lars and The Real Girl and Million Dollar Arm, is a muted tale that hardly gets out of dry dock.

In February 1952, Massachussets, and one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast hits, ripping an oil tanker in half.

However, for Coastguard Bernie Webber (Star Trek star Chris Pine), there's a storm of a more emotional intensity raging closer to home as he heads on a date with Miriam for the first time. But when the ocean-bound problems get bigger, Webber and three colleagues are despatched from the Coast Guard to try and save the 30 strong crew of the stranded tanker as the storm gets worse...

The Finest Hours is clearly aiming to recapture some of the intensity of The Perfect Storm from back in 2000 with its digital FX and story of communities under threat.

However, what emerges is as muddied and choppy as the water from the East Coast.

With little time (bizarrely over the 2 hour run time) to create characters to care for, the crew of the tanker are simply no more than once-over-lightly stereotypes that have barely time to register before they're plunged into danger.

Casey Affleck's headstrong and calculating Ray Sybert clashes with the others on board the tanker as they believe he's more wedded to the ship than them; Outlander star Graham McTavish brings his salty sea-dog countenance to bear towards the start of the film before fading away.

Back on land others fare equally unevenly; Grainger's Miriam oscillates wildly from strong-willed woman to damsel in distress and while she captures some of the glamour of the 50s, she barely gains in screen stature despite her presence. Pine also fares unevenly with the depth of the writing and over-simplifications so it's left to a few facial tics and shaking hands to show his state of mind.

Along with the usual hoary on-the-water cliches and some truly atrocious 3D that simply serves to muddy the experience rather than enhance it, leading to scenes on the water looking nothing but a muddled mess, The Finest Hours is, unfortunately, anything but Gillespie's.

Hints of a better story float occasionally and frustratingly to the surface (a failed rescue that ripped apart the community years back, lives torn asunder by living on a coast are just two themes that causes ripples rather than waves) and the inspiration Disney wants us to feel in this ultimate denouement is lost after a sea of dour countenances and a predilection for changing scenery when the action is underway prove fatal to this sea-set tale.


Straight Outta Compton: Blu Ray Review

Straight Outta Compton: Blu Ray Review

Like any good record, Straight Outta Compton boasts both an exciting A side and a bloated B side.

The biopic of the formation of seminal 1980s rap group NWA is all street and all bluster as it predominantly depicts the rise and fall of Dr Dre, Eazy E and Ice Cube. Starting in the ghettos of Compton, the film sees Eazy E (Jason Mitchell) teaming up with Dre (Hawkins) and Cube (Ice Cube's real life son O'Shea Jackson Jr) to try and break their version of rap through the clubs that were more concerned with R'n'B - or as one club promoter puts it early on, "pussy, not pistols".

Igniting a simmering rage that underlies the streets thanks to the continual harassment of the African American community by the mainly white LA police force and against a backdrop of their own personal experiences and the Rodney King beating, NWA rises to the top.

But, along the way, tensions simmer within the group when it's discovered that Eazy E and manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti, in his second record svengali role of the year after the brilliant Love and Mercy) appear to be making more money than the rest of the band members. Most put out about this is Ice Cube, whose lyrics arguably contributed to the band's rapid ascent....

There's no denying that Straight Outta Compton is a searing biopic and depiction of the social times and climes within an America that's continually ripped by race.

But there's also no denying there's a powerful film here that soars in its first half as it charts the rise and documents the energy and electricity of the performances of the band before it becomes bogged down. The second half of the film is mired by a myriad of plot strands and too many piecemeal threads being tied together, as well as drama that's not particularly dramatic as it negotiates contract disputes with Heller et al and the appearances of the likes of Snoop Dogg. It also suffers from a melodramatic soundtrack that crashes and underscores very heavily every dramatic beat in the back half.

Equally, there are tantalising hints of life outside the group for the main trio, specifically Dre, whose family tensions are hinted at with his wife but frustratingly thrown to one side, almost as if they had forgotten about Dre. And don't even get me started on the treatment of the mainly topless sexualised women within (yet another barb to be thrown at rap music in general)

Thankfully, some incredible performances from O'Jackson Jr, Hawkins and Mitchell give Straight Outta Compton its heart, humour and braggadacio. O'Jackson Jr in particular feels like you're watching a young Ice Cube, thanks largely to the son looking like the father - and he brings an energy to the early performances, which galvanise and unite the crowd, while ignoring some of the real controversy NWA's lyrics brought to the fore.

It's probably no surprise that with Dre and Cube being producers on the film that it's somewhat of a whitewash, glossing over the meatier parts of their career, the debate provoked by their rap and while the tensions with the police give an insight into the simmering feelings of the time, it's never anything more than black and white.

When Straight Outta Compton concentrates on the electric performances of NWA and their effect on a trodden on society, it's nothing short of searing and tremendously successful - it's just unfortunately that in the best part of 2 and a half hours, the energy lags and the second half of the film is like a B-side that you'd quite happily skip to go back to the A side again.


Friday, 29 January 2016

Room: Film Review

Room: Film Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H Macy
Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Director Lenny Abrahamson and author Emma Donoghue's Room explores how life and overt circumstance makes captives of us all in this breath-taking and emotionally wrenching adaptation of her Man Booker Prize winning tome.

Trapped in the titular room, Jacob Temblay's Jack is on the cusp of turning five and opening up his perception of life to something more than the drab reality of the walls that entrench the pair because Ma (Brie Larson, so radiant and stoic in Short Term 12) decides to reveal the truth of room.

Daily routines remind of tales of Josef Fritzl and of doco The Wolfpack (in fact, it can be no coincidence Jack's tresses are as long as those NYC brethren kept within) but for Brie Larson's Joy enough is enough and after seven long years, it is time to escape.

But, with closely framed shots and POV shots of Jack (no doubt to keep the book's young protagonist's central viewpoint), this is no score-blasting, heart-pumping rush for freedom, this cinematic tale is a sickening edge of your seat set-up with taut directing guaranteed to leave you with a knot in your stomach as it plays out.

However, much more than that, Room is actually a story of the lengths a mother will go to for her daughter and what love will do to make the world a better place.

Which is perhaps just as well, given how harrowing the film's subject matter is and how easy it would be to dive down that rabbit hole and never surface. There's an implied dark side of Ma's captivity and it's briefly touched on, but lurks repugnantly in the background with Ma's scenes with her father (William H Macy, who appears all too briefly and who adds a lot via a subtly heart-breaking turn).

And while the occasional over-use of Jack's voiceover teeters dangerously close to grating (and channels Karel Fialka's Hey Matthew's youngster), it is down to both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay that Lenny Abrahamson's Room soars from beyond its four-walled compounds and constraints.

It helps the director is able to choreograph the room in different ways that give you a different take on the space each time and the camera's masterfully employed at all times conveying both the claustrophobia and the hope that Ma's swathed Jack in.  It speaks to the strength of the adaptation that the film is one of two halves and while the first half is more powerful, the second lacks none of the resonance it needs.

But Room is nothing without both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.

Channeling both a vulnerability and a strength, Larson is intoxicating from beginning to end as this initially harrowing chamber piece expands its scope beyond its walls. Spinning around her is Tremblay's Jack and it's no wonder that accolades are piling up with this child, as he manages to carry the film and instill the audiences with a sense of hope that's needed to get through the wrench of the darkness.

There's no denying that Room is heart-stopping cinema - it's edge of your seat drama, both heart in mouth sickening and an emotional gut punch. But thanks to its actors, it's more than a drama that demands a lot of its audience; it provides a cinematic ride that's as richly rewarding as it is emotionally exhausting.


The Elder Scrolls Online: Introduction to Thieves Guild

The Elder Scrolls Online: Introduction to Thieves Guild

Overnight we released an all-new video, screenshots, and additional details for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited’s upcoming DLC game pack, Thieves Guild.

Join the Thieves Guild of Abah’s Landing to become the newest recruit in their organization of pickpockets, burglars, robbers, and thieves. The latest DLC game pack for the award-winning The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited takes you to Hew’s Bane – an all new zone to explore located in the southern peninsula of Hammerfell. Combined with new story content that will bring you back to all your favorite areas of Tamriel, Thieves Guild offers unexplored delves, powerful group bosses, and much more!

Thieves Guild will launch on PC/Mac on March 7th, Xbox One on March 22nd, and PlayStation 4 on March 23rd. Thieves Guild is included with an active ESO Plus membership or will be available for 2,000 crowns via the ESO Crown Store. 

Additional DLC Details:

Brand New Story ContentHelp restore the Thieves Guild in Abah’s Landing, currently besieged by the mercenary force known as the Iron Wheel. After a high-stakes heist gone horribly wrong, the Iron Wheel will stop at nothing to destroy the Guild. Hours of story content await as you solve the mystery of the Iron Wheel and restore glory to the Thieves Guild.

New Criminal Activities.
Leveraging ESO’s Outlaw Refuges, Thieves Guild quests take you all over Tamriel to engage in – and profit from – criminal activity such as stealing, looting, and pickpocketing. Heists, a new quest type, allow you to hone your thieving skills by adding trespassing and stealth/hiding mechanics that enable you to break into warehouses and homes in Abah’s Landing to relieve merchants and citizenry of their goods. Beware of the guards!

New 12-Player TrialWith both Normal and Veteran difficulty modes, the Maw of Lorkhaj 12-Player Trial will test your allies and your courage. Breach the gates of an ancient Khajiiti shrine, and confront the ghostly legions of Namiira in eerie lamp-lit corridors - complete with ruthless new enemies, terrifying bosses, and a wealth of treasure from the depths of Oblivion.

All-New Skill LineWant to enhance your character with all-new thieving, sneaking, and stealing-related passive skills? You’re in luck! The Thieves Guild in Abah’s Landing will teach you these skills as your progress through the ranks of the organization.

Thieves Guild-Exclusive Rewards and ItemsEarn new items through in-game quests and browse Thieves Guild-themed items coming to the Crown Store soon.

GTA Online Updates Today: Drop Zone Adversary Mode plus New Sultan and Banshee Customizable Wide Body Race Cars

GTA Online Updates Today: Drop Zone Adversary Mode plus New Sultan and Banshee Customizable Wide Body Race Cars

Freefall your way into Drop Zone, the latest addition to GTA Online on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. In this new Adversary Mode, teams of paratroopers jump from Cargobobs hovering high above, then race to the ground to seize and maintain control of a small, exposed patch of terra firma. No man is an island here - you and your squad mates will need to attack and defend as a unit. 

With four teams and up to 16 players zeroed in on the target area, this mode is fast, chaotic and prone to huge swings in fortune. First team to hold the drop zone for a total of two non-continuous minutes wins. There are five Drop Zone maps, each requiring a unique approach to deal with changes in terrain and cover. These can be found at Pillbox Hill, Richman College, Elysian Island, the Mirror Park cul-de-sac and the Sisyphus Theater. 
Now at Benny's: New Vehicles and Upgrades
Benny is branching out with new upgrade types for two new Sports cars. Pick up the Karin Sultan and Bravado Banshee at a low entry price in the updated Stock section
Bring these rides to Benny’s garage for upgrades into high-performance, wide body race cars - the Karin Sultan RS and the Bravado Banshee 900R and tap into a range of upgrades exclusive to Benny’s. When fully modded, the Sultan RS and the Banshee 900R can even compete with top tier Supercars like the Zentorno and T20.
Stay tuned for details on our upcoming Event Weekend, which includes a Double GTA$ & RP Playlist, in-game discounts and more. Plus, keep an eye on GTA Online next month for some items you’re sure to fall in love with...

Rise of The Tomb Raider hits PC

Rise of The Tomb Raider hits PC

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SYDNEY, 29TH January 2016) – Square Enix® and Crystal Dynamics®, developers of the critically acclaimed reboot of Tomb Raider in 2013, announced today that Rise of the Tomb Raider® is now available for purchase across Australia & New Zealand. The PC version, led by Nixxes Software, will bring stunning visual improvements to Lara Croft®'s continuing adventures, including 4K resolution, advanced graphics, and new Pure Hair technology.

After uncovering an ancient mystery, Lara must explore the most treacherous and remote regions of Siberia to find the secret of immortality before a ruthless organization known as Trinity beats her to it. Faced with the mysterious Remnant leader Jacob, the constant threats of Trinity's leader Konstantin, and driven by her Father’s unfinished legacy, Lara must become the Tomb Raider she is destined to be. To date, Rise of the Tomb Raider has received 64 “Best of” nominations and won 27 awards; now leads the DICE awards with 9 nominations; and, is one of the highest rated titles of 2015.

The highly anticipated PC release is enhanced with new technical features to create an even more immersive experience. By partnering with NVIDIARise of the Tomb Raider will utilize a very high-end ambient occlusion technique, HBAO+ that reduces artifacts and produces richer and more detailed ambient lighting. Objects and buildings are significantly enhanced at farther distances thanks to the increased geometry processing power in PC. The beautiful yet hostile environments come alive with new weather effects and dynamic foliage that reacts to Lara’s movements.
To learn more about Rise of the Tomb Raider, please visit the official website and follow the game on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

People, Places, Things: DVD Review

People, Places, Things: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

The gentle indie People, Places, Things is the latest film to showcase Jemaine Clement's softer side, while still revelling in the quirk.

He stars as Will Hall, a graphic novelist, newly single and trying to negotiate life with two young daughters, a lack of time to see them, while teaching a class on drawing. When he decides that he wants to see more of his girls, he finds himself out of his depth; and to further complicate matters, he ends up back in the relationship game...sort of.

With quirky dialogue, a touch of the melancholy and a very softly spoken Jemaine Clement,People, Places, Things is a lo-fi indie that has the charm, even if parts of its narrative feel like they have been thrown in for quirkiness' sake and to ensure the story goes on the right track for the audience's sake, rather than the characters.

But with a veracity and insight, there are moments to cherish such as the truth bombs dropped over the end of relationships - "She stopped talking and I enjoyed the silence too much" being one of the more candid moments that bristle with a stinging openness through the script.

Clement plays lost rather than man-child, and is never anything less than mopily plausible as the befuddled romantic lead who ambles from one moment to the next (even taking a moment to sass the American perception of New Zealand being solely about hobbits). Even if ironically, he ends up being the one with the most  direct method to cut through life despite his earlier flailings, he makes Will a savvy individual who knows what the right thing to say is when the right moment comes along.

If anything, this piece is more The Unbearable Cuteness of Being, with cartoons helping with the narrative and helping set the back-story in a gently winsome way.

However, People Places Things succeeds in cutting through the usual romantic gloop and delivering an experience that is pleasant, pertinent and knowing.


10th French Film Festival launches

10th French Film Festival launches

This year is going to be a big year for the French Film Festival.

Not only is it in its 10th year, but the festival organisers say that in the months after the Paris attacks, the need to show French life is more important than ever.

Festival director Sébastien Donnadieu launched the event at last night's Auckland media screening where the audience was treated to Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert's latest film Valley of Love.

The full programme will be unveiled at 7.30pm on Thursday Jan 28th.

The Alliance Française French Film Festival 2016 will launch with the International Première of Rosalie Blum
Celebrating 10 years of bringing the best of French cinema to New Zealand, the Alliance Française French Film Festival is delighted to reveal the Opening and Closing Night titles for the 2016 Festival.

Opening Night

Launching in Wellington on 17 February, the Festival is delighted to host the International Première of Julien Rappeneau’s Rosalie Blum, starring Noémie Lvovsky. Selected as the official Opening Night title, Rosalie Blum will kick off the 2016 Festival in each participating city.
Based on the award-winning series of graphic novels by Camille Jourdy, Julien Rappeneau’s enchanting directorial debut is a warm, witty and impeccably performed comedy about a random encounter that has unexpected and far-reaching consequences. 

Closing Night

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Marcel Carné’s death, the 2016 Festival will close with his 1939 masterpiece Daybreak. Starring the illustrious Jean Gabin, Daybreak is an iconic film, and this brilliant restoration of the French classic is a must-see.
The film begins with a gunshot and a body falling down stairs. The man responsible – François (Jean Gabin) – locks himself in his room, alone with his memories, as the police surround the building and wait for dawn to storm it.

The full AF FFF 2016 programme will be revealed on Thursday 28 January, with tickets on sale through Festival screening venues.

Festival website is

The Alliance Française French Film Festival will run from 17 February - 13 April 2016 in 12 cities across New Zealand.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

LEGO Marvel's Avengers launch trailer

LEGO Marvel's Avengers launch trailer

All New LEGO Videogame Starts off 2016 in Epic Fashion, Celebrating The Avengers with Blockbuster Moments from Six Marvel Studios Films and Fan-Favourite Content from
Acclaimed Marvel Comics

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, TT Games, The LEGO® Group and Marvel Entertainment today announced the launch of LEGO® Marvel’s Avengers, an all-new action-packed Super Hero adventure that allows players to relive the most amazing moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe through six Marvel Studios films, while also experiencing classic Avengers characters and content from acclaimed Marvel Comics. Developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is now available for the PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment systems, PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system, Xbox One, Xbox 360, the Wii U™ system from Nintendo, the Nintendo 3DS™ family of systems and PC.

LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is the first videogame to feature storylines from the critically-acclaimed film Marvel’s The Avengers and its hit sequel Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultronas well as playable content based on additional Marvel Studios blockbusters, including Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s Iron Man 3, Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World and Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

“LEGO Marvel’s Avengers celebrates the thrilling world of Avengers as only a LEGO game can,” said Tom Stone, Managing Director, TT Games. “Players of all ages will be able to experience their favourite Marvel moments in a brand new way, through six different blockbuster films across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while also exploring an incredible amount of classic Avengers characters and content from famed Marvel Comics, all with our unique LEGO style and humour. It’s an epic combination for fans and newcomers alike.”

“Both the LEGO and Marvel brands appeal to fans of all ages through a multitude of retail, media and interactive channels,” said Peter Phillips, EVP/GM, Interactive & Digital Distribution, Marvel Entertainment. “With the incredible success of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, focusing on Marvel Cinematic Universe characters and stories in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers was a natural fit for fans and the business."

In LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, gamers can play and unlock more than 200 characters, with over 100 new characters that have not appeared in a LEGO videogame before. For the first time, players can execute incredible Avengers Team-Up Moves resulting in incredible combos when using core Avengers, including Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man.

LEGO Marvel’s Avengers also features a unique take on open world gameplay, with eight different environments to explore within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the expansive streets of Marvel’s New York, as well as Asgard, Barton’s Farm, Malibu, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Base Exterior, Sokovia, South Africa and Washington, D.C. Players can freely roam around these open world locations using brand new gameplay mechanics, allowing Hulk to super jump off skyscrapers, Quicksilver to speed run over water or even play as giant characters, like the menacing Fing Fang Foom, who can grow to the size of tall buildings. Open World Manhattan will also be available on handheld consoles for the first time so fans can enjoy the sprawling concrete jungle on the go, anytime, anywhere.

Scarlett Johansson film causes controversy over casting

Scarlett Johansson film causes controversy over casting

Take a listen to my interview with ZB over the casting controversy with Scarlett Johansson over Ghost in the Shell currently filming in Wellington.

Street Fighter V Story Details and New Post Launch Plans Revealed

Street Fighter V Story Details and New Post Launch Plans Revealed

Sydney, Australia – January 27, 2016 – Today, Capcom provided new details on the story elements that will be included in Street Fighter V. When the game releases on February 16, players will have the opportunity to play through individual character stories that provide important background information on each of the characters, their roles in the game, and their relationships with other fighters. The character stories have a recognizable throwback art style created by Bengus, a famous Japanese illustrator who has worked on a variety of past Street Fighter projects.

The character stories serve as a compelling prologue for the Street Fighter V cinematic story expansion, which will be released in June 2016 as a free update to all players. The story takes place between Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter III and bridges the events that happen in between the two stories. This is the first time in franchise history that fans will be able to play through this type of cinematic story experience in a Street Fighter game.

Upon completing the character stories and other single-player content at launch, Street Fighter V players can earn enough Fight Money to purchase a new character, and possibly more depending on skill level. Capcom is timing the release of the in-game store to coincide with the first post launch content drop in March, giving players plenty of time to accumulate Fight Money through the various single-player modes prior to the store opening. When the game first releases, there will be no downloadable content to purchase using earnable Fight Money or real currency (known as Zenny). 
The first post launch content for Street Fighter V will be released in March.
Additionally, Capcom confirmed today that a fourth and final Street Fighter V beta will run from January 30-31 as a bonus to all fans and supporters. For more details on this last online play session before the game releases on February 16, stay tuned to Capcom-Unity.

The Tomorrow Children: PS4 Beta Preview

The Tomorrow Children: PS4 Beta Preview

Platform: PS4
Released by Q Games

The closed beta of the Tomorrow Children is an oddly beguiling affair.

Mixing the red peril with Minecraft leanings and a hefty dosage of Jigsaw, this beta from Q Games was open for a few hours over the weekend to the invited and was encouraging others to get involved.

And when you consider the premise and the idea of communism, the fact it’s an online open world sandbox seems delightfully and wilfully, amusingly wry.

Set in a world where the Soviet Union has somewhat gone awry and the world’s become enveloped in a kind of dystopian void, it’s wilfully perverse when it comes to its game mechanics and raison d’etre.

You play a child, whom you later learn is a Projection clone and is therefore able to function within the white wide expanse known only as the Void. Armed with only a satchel, you stumble around the void until a TV set on a stick rises slowly from the white nothingness….and a disembodied address comes your way, with some instructions and some vague level of menace. It’s like Jigsaw from the SAW movies has been trapped within the TV screen and is working on bringing the Russian world back to life.

Basically, in a nutshell, it’s up to you to re-build the world and create a glorious utopia again – and the ethos of sharing plays a big part in that. As the TV set receded into the distance, a massive structure rose up out of the ground and the glorious leader granted me a pick-axe to smash my way into the building and to do his bidding.

What transpires though is that you need to have some inkling of how to solve some basic puzzles and employ some lateral thinking as too much time in the dark sees your projection clone start to twinkle with green static. Given a portable lamp is a clever touch, but how to use that when you have to carry metals from within and with only one set of arms is a puzzle that may take an ounce of simple thinking to solve.

Here’s the interesting thing about The Tomorrow Children though; it seems to thrive on a pool of economies rather than a one for themselves ethos. The metals I gathered were taken out of the complex and dumped into an area that was marked “Storage” – before I was granted access to the subway and a personal upgrading for the work I’d done. It’s quite clear the Red philosophy permeates every pore of the DNA of this game.

Taking you on the subway to what would appear to be the hub of the game brings you into an area that resembles, in part, a monopoly board. Divided up into portions and with bits going on around you, there’s plenty to do as you start to absorb yourself into this world.

From the wry Russian humour to the fact you’re told to "Line up", there’s an air which pervades The Tomorrow Children that a few hours didn’t really give it justice to crack.

There were a few people around in the game, but I did struggle a little to communicate with anyone and people would appear atop of me in areas when I least expected it, a touch which needs to be ironed out.

Communication is going to be key with this game if we’re all working off the Communism / One team one dream vibe and while there are signs of that starting to gel, I’d hope the final version envelops more of that and makes it easier. You can praise or chastise colleagues but I saw little reaction to my approval / disapproval of them.

Equally, the Void itself seems to have no rules.

The voice tells you not to wander off too far into it, and if you do head off into the distance, the ground starts to sink like white quicksand and you are absorbed within. But, you don’t actually die – merely get boosted back up, which seems odd given the menace that’s presented with the threat.

And there are creatures waiting to attack you – the Izverg seemed determined to make my life a misery. Attacking one seemed to link it as an albatross around my neck and it would merely follow me and attack. Even if I was in the middle of another interaction with someone else – which is more than a mild irritation given how I was unable to continue with what I was doing.

In among the propaganda films and the Russian ethos, there’s an inkling that The Tomorrow Children is something different and is shaping up to be an indie that’s more than just quirk.

But there’s a lot going on and I really did enjoy the sort of minimalist vibe of it all. I’ll be interested to see where the full game goes and given that you can share resources with others, there clearly has to be some demarcation of what happens if you steal from others / don’t share. Sure, there are rewards for working together but it’s interesting to see what may happen if you go off brief.

Intrigue is the name of the Tomorrow Children and quite frankly, based on the few hours I spent in the closed beta, I’ll happily dive in when it gets released.

If the glorious leader deems it worthy of my presence that is….

The Tomorrow Children has yet to receive an official release date

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC is born

Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC is born


New Company joins the forces of PlayStation® Business Units to Deliver Unprecedented Experiences to Users Worldwide;
Effective Friday, April 1, 2016

Tokyo, Japan, and San Mateo, Calif., January 26, 2016 – Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) and Sony Network Entertainment International LLC (SNEI) announced the formation of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC (SIE), a new company that joins the forces of all business units belonging to SCE and SNEI, including hardware, software, content and network services operations.  SIE will be headquartered in San Mateo, California, the United States, while also establishing key global business operations in Tokyo and London, beginning Friday, April 1, 2016.

         “By integrating the strengths of PlayStation’s hardware, software, content and network operations, SIE will become an even stronger entity, with a clear objective to further accelerate the growth of the PlayStation® business,” said Andrew House, President and Global CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and Group Executive in charge of Network Entertainment of Sony Corporation. “Along with our business partners, SIE will develop pioneering services and products that will continue to inspire consumers’ imaginations and lead the market. We will work hard to maximize corporate value by coordinating global business operations across San Mateo, Tokyo, and London by leveraging local expertise.”
  • Background and Purpose behind Establishment of SIE LLC
            SCE, established in November 1993, first launched the original PlayStation® system in Japan in December 1994, bringing a completely new market of entertainment through gaming.  Since then, SCE has continued to innovate and introduce unprecedented features with every generation, including the current PlayStation®4 system, and has revolutionized the world of computer entertainment.  Furthermore, SCE has delivered compelling gaming experiences to users worldwide on each PlayStation platform through features that are available on the high-performance hardware developed by the company, and brought to life by the wide variety of highly acclaimed software titles from SCE Worldwide Studios and third party developers and publishers.

       SNEI, established in April 2010, has been providing a robust portfolio of unparalleled network services through the premium entertainment service brand, PlayStation™Network (PSNSM).  SNEI’s offerings include game-related services, such as PlayStation®Store, a premier destination for users to purchase digital games and other gaming content; PlayStation®Plus, a membership service that provides a wide array of exclusive gaming features and content; and PlayStation™Now, a streaming game service that allows users to enjoy a wide range of PlayStation®3 games on various network-enabled devices.  Other innovative network services available on PSN include PlayStation™Vue, a pioneering cloud-based TV service that reinvents the television experience; PlayStation™Video, a video-on-demand and transactional service that enables users to enjoy an in-depth catalog of movies and TV shows; and PlayStation™Music, a music listening destination that offers Spotify’s best-in-class music experience.

          Since its launch in November 2013, PlayStation 4 continues to demonstrate record-breaking global expansion and growth, while PSN, which began full scale operation in November 2006, continues to expand with new offerings reaching millions of users every day.  At the same time, the market environments of hardware, software, content and network services are ever evolving, and it has become important for both SCE and SNEI to unify their business strengths under one entity with a single focus, ensuring PlayStation continues to offer ground-breaking entertainment experiences to consumers around the world.

           Through the formation of SIE, the companies combine resources across their hardware, software, content and fast-growing network businesses, positioning the company for enhanced competitiveness, continued expansion and market leadership in all areas. SIE will better respond to the needs of consumers and the evolving digital market to deliver unparalleled interactive entertainment experiences under the PlayStation brand.
  • Corporate Strategy and Financial Target
      Key corporate strategies of SIE are: retain and expand PlayStation user engagement, increase Average Revenue Per Paying Users (ARPPU) and drive ancillary revenue.  SIE will vigorously expand the PlayStation business by delivering an integrated experience built around best-in-class games and network services to consumers worldwide.

          Furthermore, as the Game and Network Service segment within Sony Group, SIE will work on expanding sales and operating income, and continue to target 1,400 to 1,600 billion yen for sales, and 5 percent to 6 percent operating income margin for the Fiscal Year ending March 2018.
  • Outline of SIE LLC

Girlhood: DVD Review

Girlhood: DVD Review

Released by Madman Home Ent

Bande de Filles has a star-in-ascendance in its lead actress the young Karidja Toure.

She plays troubled teen Marieme, who's facing an uncertain future thanks to suffering grades, a bullying brother and no chance to break out from looking after her younger sister and brother. Wrapped up on the outskirts of Paris in a council area, things are looking extremely dead-end - until she falls in with a trio of other girls around her age, headed up by the sassy and determined Lady.

However, one incident later and Lady's star is in the descent, thanks to the savage nature of the streets. This gives Marieme the chance she potentially needs to make something of her life.

This coming of age flick is utterly mesmerising, as mentioned, thanks to the lead Toure, who at once is fragile then turns ferocious at the drop of a hat. Yet, she never once loses her vulnerability as she broaches the opportunities womanhood is bringing her and that life is throwing her way.

But that's half the power of this subtly underplayed piece; it's a lament to the loss of youth, a paean to the negotiations we all make with ourselves as we try to forge our own identity and take our own steps to the next stage of life.

Deeply textured, extremely subtle and entirely captivating, Girlhood aka Bande De Filles is definitely worth your own time. It's not a showy film by any stretch of the imagination but the subtle changes in  Marieme's character from clothing to the way she holds herself represents all that is right with this film - it does the small things brilliantly and by the end you're entirely captivated by an extremely natural Toure and her fragile big brown eyes, and rooting for her to make something out of the drab world she's come from.

Bonds of friendship ebb and grow stronger within Girlhood - one moment sees the friends tell Marieme that she's screwing up, but give her the power to be able to make that mistake and come back to them - it's a powerful message that speaks with universality. The celebration of these bonds and these friends form the central basis of the burgeoning of age and Marieme's being "strong and alone" as one character remarks only serves to reinforce that notion.

Moving, powerful, strong and bravura, Girlhood is utterly unmissable 

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Walk: Blu Ray Review

The Walk: Blu Ray Review

Released by Sony Home Ent

Essentially a paean to the Twin Towers, Robert Zemeckis' The Walk rarely builds on the story of Philippe Petit so tightly unwound in thrilling doco Man On Wire.

For those uninitiated in Petit's story, the Frenchman made world headlines when back on August 7, 1974, he walked between the newly constructed North and South towers of the World Trade Centre. Without any kind of safety net or without any other reason other than the ones cited by those who are asked why they climb mountains.

But given that the planned high-wire act was illegal, Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) had to plan his coup - and recruit accomplices to the escapade.

So, all the elements are in place for a high stakes heist and a thrilling film.

However, what Zemeckis delivers is more of a zany caper film that revels in the showmanship of its subject and plays a smoke and mirrors game with its protagonist. Distracting us with unoriginal 3D at the start as various juggling batons and balls are thrown through the screen and employing a narrative device where Petit narrates his own story from atop the Statue of Liberty, The Walk is more concerned with making a big top sideshow of the whole affair rather than letting the action and the story speak for itself.

And it's horrendously distracting to be continually taken out of the moment as this balancing act progresses and the reliance on this narrative tic grows.

Swathed in his black outfits, Gordon-Levitt's Petit borders on irritating as he prances around, an arrogant protagonist determined to get his way and achieve his dream whatever the cost. Softening his arrogance a touch is Annie, played with a degree of charm by Charlotte Le Bon, but even she can't cut through the hyperbole and the dramatic verbal flourishes the script has bestowed on Petit.

Complete with swing music and big beat sounds, The Walk has caper coursing through its very veins - and the stakes are reminiscent of an Ocean's 11 with key moments precipitating the drama and throwing obstacles in the way - an accomplice who's scared of heights, a nail on a construction site, they're all on hand to punctuate the drama and provide the suspense. But they sit ill at ease with the comedic tone that's gone prior.

And yet, the quieter moments when Zemeckis eases off the silliness actually soar.

The recreation of Petit's first steps out on to the wire and we see everything melt away around him so that all there is is the wire and the clouds speaks volumes to his reasoning for doing what he does. Finally, Zemeckis gets that a picture paints a thousand words and it's here the film captures the essence of Petit's derring-do and the core of his character, with some jaw-dropping moments that will cause issues to those of a vertiginous nature.

It's a high-wire balancing act, sometimes, this version of The Walk.

At times, it seems interested in following Petit's folly - but throughout, the film, from its very beginning shot on the Statue of liberty with the Twin Towers in the background to the golden fade out shot of those two monuments, it actually ends up being more of a love letter to the towers and everything else - including Petit's high-wire show - is purely and sadly incidental.


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