Thursday, 31 March 2016




FINAL FANTASY XV Confirmed for 30th September Release;

SYDNEY, 31ST March 2016 - Today, at the “UNCOVERED: FINAL FANTASY XV” event in Los Angeles, SQUARE ENIX® revealed that FINAL FANTASY® XV, the latest entry in the iconic FINAL FANTASY series, will release worldwide on 30th September 2016. Square Enix also announced a series of additional surprise, large-scale projects from the FINAL FANTASY XV Universe.

KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV™ is a CG feature movie, presented by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Square Enix. The animated feature weaves together the complexities of kingdoms at war, royal relationships and epic battles in a tale that will set the stage for the main FINAL FANTASY XV narrative. The film features an all-star cast with Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) voicing Regis, the King of Lucis who has sworn to protect his kingdom, Lena Headey (300, Game of Thrones), voicing Luna, the princess who has been entrusted to deliver the royal ring of Lucis to Prince Noctis, and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), voicing Nyx. The film will be released digitally worldwide before the game’s launch. The announcement trailer is available on YouTube.
BROTHERHOOD FINAL FANTASY XV is a new anime series that consists of five standalone episodes that delve into the extraordinary friendships between crown prince Noctis and his three comrades, setting the stage for the adventure players will set out upon in the action-packed RPG. The first episode is available now to stream on YouTube. Subsequent episodes will be released before the game’s launch.  All episodes will be free. The series announcement trailer is available on YouTube.

PLATINUM DEMO - FINAL FANTASY XV is a free download demo that whisks players away to the fragmented dreamscape of Noctis as a child. This storyline is unique to the demo and provides a standalone experience which will not be available in the main game.  Players can take control of young Noctis as he masters various weapons, magic skills and driving.  To overcome the many monsters within this fantastical dream world, young Noctis will have to build a bond with Carbuncle - his magical guide. Players who complete the demo will unlock the exclusive Carbuncle summon DLC for the full game at launch. The demo is available from today via the Xbox Marketplace for Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft and through the PlayStation®Store for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system. A new trailer showcasing the demo is available onYouTube.

A new trailer for FINAL FANTASY XV narrated by King Regis, titled “Reclaim Your Throne,” was also revealed, showcasing never-before-seen gameplay accompanied by music from composer Yoko Shimomura. Florence Welch of Grammy-nominated Florence + the Machine has also created her own rendition of the Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me” with SQUARE ENIX to soundtrack this new trailer, which can be viewed via YouTube.
Finally, SQUARE ENIX also announced JUSTICE MONSTERS FIVE, a pinball game for mobile devices combining role-playing elements with some of the series’ most iconic monsters.JUSTICE MONSTERS FIVE will be available to play at petrol stations in-game in FINAL FANTASY XV when it launches in September. The mobile version of JUSTICE MONSTERS FIVE will be coming soon, and players can enjoy Noctis and company’s favourite pinball pastime in solo or co-op play by downloading for free from Google Play for Android devices, the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and on Windows Store for Windows 10 devices.  Pre-registration for this game is available at the following links:
·         Android:
·         iOS:

As part of the global launch of the ultimate FINAL FANTASY experience, and for the first time in series history, the game will feature English, French, German and Japanese voice options in addition to Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles.

Related Links:

FINAL FANTASY XV Instagram: @FFXV        

Secret in Their Eyes: Blu Ray Review

Secret in Their Eyes: Blu Ray Review

Back in 2009, an Argentinian film surprised the world when it took home the Oscar beating out the favourites.

At the time, The Secret In Their Eyes was hardly well known, but it began to garner a reputation as a drama that was explosive and emotionally involving.

Sadly, the remake is unfortunately a reasonable, rather than gripping, drama.

Set against the backdrop of a post 9/11 world (making for an odd experience as prism viewing in the week of events of Paris), the narrative flips back and forth between 2002 and present day as a Eijofor's Ray investigates a murder.

13 years after the crime was never solved, Ray turns up with a new lead having devoted over a decade of his life post the case trying to get answers. Despite the protestations of DA Claire (Kidman) and because it's contra to the counter-terrorism team he worked on in 2002, Ray believes this is the lead they've been missing and could now solve the case in 2015....

To say more about Secret In Their Eyes is to dip your toes in spoiler territory and to those unfamiliar with the original Argentinian flick, the key part of the film is the unfurling like a narrative onion of the layers of the plot.

Slow, drawn-out and to a degree, dawdling, Secret In Their Eyes is never as engaging as perhaps it should be. Not exactly a crime thriller, this is a movie about regrets, politics, the passage of time and the horrific bonds between Ray, Claire and Juliet Roberts' detective Jess.

Against a continual backdrop of 9/11 imagery and potential overkill of the fact the terrorists are really bad people, the film's inability to escape from its inevitability hampers it. Flashbacks are fine, but the reveal early on of how that investigation plays out causes narrative impotence, garnering the film with a laissez-faire sheen that audiences won't fully invest in.

It's not helped by a lack of chemistry between Eijofor's Ray and Kidman's Claire. We're supposed to believe the duo shared a spark that was left unexplored and burned bright for 13 years but scenes with the duo don't garner the fizz or hints of a fizz that would have helped propel any potential powderkeg along.

It's a shame because Eijofor chiefly delivers some great dramatic moments; his reaction on the discovery of the body simmers with tragedy and horror; equally Roberts' grieving mum is as restrained a turn as she's ever given - but she's not on screen for as much as is required during the melancholy maudlin movie. Kidman and Molina stand out for the wrong reasons and whileBreaking Bad star Dean Norris adds a degree of humanity to the film, there's simply not enough to help you through the darkness.

Ray's direction is workmanlike with no real moments standing out - but this is a thriller that rarely thrills as it should and whose emotional candles burn on mute.

Ultimately, when the end comes, it feels more of a deflation than an elation of shock; whereSecret In Their Eyes should have raged, it merely blows pathetically in the wind when compared to the original's power and ability to shock.

Heavy Rain: PS4 Review

Heavy Rain: PS4 Review

Developed by Quantic Dreams
Platform: PS4

Enhanced for PS4 much like fellow stable mate Beyond Two Souls, Heavy Rain comes as part of a double pack that celebrates the interactive drama that's become such a common thing on the platform.

Mixing whodunnit with lots of shaking the dual shock controller, the game Heavy Rain is an interesting experience, one that would have been ahead of its time back in 2011 on the PS3, but one which feels a little slower to engage as a game on the current platform.

It's a dark game as well - one that features on a child serial killer called the Origami Killer and your chance to play as one of four characters within the game, giving you multiple perspectives on the story as it unfolds.

All four of the characters are intertwined and it's easy to see why Quantic Dreams received so many accolades for the game. It's certainly ground-breaking for the time and looks stunning back on the next gen console. While some of the game movements and controls feel a little archaic (using the R2 button to move), they're certainly cleverly executed, even if the environments control what you can interact with.

Characters feel a little robotic though and not quite as smooth as perhaps they should and the vocal capabilities of their execution don't quite gel as well.

Quick time events form the basis of large swathes of the game and they're executed reasonably successfully to the overall proceedings. It helps that they build the tension of the situation well and help to escalate the story into a level that's befitting of its B-movie intentions.

Graphically, the game looks impressive and really stands up on the PS4 front, much like Beyond Two Souls which still feels brutally expressive with the next gen grunt of the engine behind it.

If you're willing to stick with some of the plot's slightly rougher edges and the story's poorer execution of its female characters, it's easy to see why the cinematic Heavy Rain has had more than its fair share of accolades and praise. It's gritty, grimy and was trailblazing for its time - it rewards patience and sucks you into its story-telling web, despite some of its occasionally weaker elements.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Tangerine: DVD Review

Tangerine: DVD Review 

Released by Roadshow Home Ent

Sean Baker's Starlet was a sweet nugget of a film that played the NZIFF a couple of years back and had a friendship between a young girl and an elderly woman at its core. It was gentle, savvy and earnest.

His latest, shot on iPhone (everyone has to have a gimmick, right?) is a lurid blast of West Hollywood, a slice of in-your-face-life that plays up to its over-exposed sunshine beating down.

Set on Christmas Eve 2014, it's the story of two transgender BFFs, one of whom Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is fresh outta jail and looking to catch up with her beau Chester. But when pal Alexandra reveals that Sin-Dee's been cheated on, she sets out to find the "bitch what done her wrong" and deliver her justice.

A collision of Short Cuts mixed in with cinema verite, Tangerine is to be frank, shrill in places and an ear-drum piercingly startling film.

Baker's brilliantly caught the banter between the blaring sounds of the street and those who inhabit it, with this tale of essentially, revenge and friendship.

With everything bathed in the Hollywood glows of the sun and the way of life, it takes a little time to adjust to this flick that has a bombastic OST blaring at every available opportunity. Its rawness equally takes time to adjust given that the character of Sin-Dee appears to be naturally set to overdrive, slotting perfectly into the flick as the revenge tale plays out.

When the film slows down and breathes, it has much in common with Starlet. 

Once again, Baker's explored the bonds of friendship - despite everything that Sin-Dee goes through and is going through thanks to a philandering other half, she moves heaven and hell to get to Alexandra's spot to witness her singing because it's a pledge that's been made and an implicit and taciturn recognition that above all else on the strip, you only have your friends to rely on and a code of honor (Starlet explored similar themes)

With Baker's eye for verite, it's fair to say there will be moments of this film that will polarise some, but it doesn't shy away from a truth that's out there and rarely explored on film. It all collides at the end with perhaps some level of contrivance, but in among the sound, bluster and a ballistic lead, the ripples are potently powerful - particularly in the film's final scene, where the theme couldn't be more implicitly stated or more subtly.

Certainly Rodriguez's performance is blessed with as much vulnerability as there is bravado; and Mya Taylor's turn as Alexandra is perhaps more taciturn, but proves to be a perfect emotional foil to Rodriguez.

Above all, there's heart in Tangerine - look past the glare and blinding shrillness of the strip and those who inhabit it to get a feeling of grace, darkly comic humour as well as a simple tale of when it all comes down to it, life will let you down.

But if you're lucky, in your time of need, your friends never will.


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Being Evel: DVD Review

Being Evel: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

Evel Knievel was a presence in the 1970s, a star-spangled daredevil hero that America needed to boost its morale.

With his cane and fur-coat appearance on the Johnny Carson Show opening this doco from Johnny Knoxville, that has as much energy (and occasionally rhapsodising from uber-fan Knoxville) as you'd expect from the MTV generation, the stall is set out early on.

Knievel was a showman, a hustler in his stuntman heyday - wrapped in his white leather costume with the American flag emblazoned onto the outfit, he was the hero that America needed in the wake of Nixon and Vietnam.

But it wasn't always so - and that's where this doco gets the Knievel legend really right. By bringing us in on his past growing up in Butte Montana, (mainly via Knoxville's demonstrative and exhaustive knowledge about the man), we get an insight into the bluster that the showman concocted.

From selling the most insurance policies by working a mental hospital and constantly hustling, Rob Knievel was already on the way to creating a persona for himself and it was only his decision to jump over cougars and rattlesnakes (one of the doco's laugh-out-loud tall tales) that sent him careering off into the world of fame.

Exhaustive is perhaps the best way to describe this piece, as it concentrates on anyone who worked with or met the man and the myth of the red, white and blue suited legend. But Oscar-winning director Daniel Junge never loses sight of the man on the bike, thanks to plenty of photos, archive footage and of course scenes of Knievel performing his daredevil tasks.

Some of the footage is horrifying - in the pre-Jackass days, seeing a man hurt himself when a stunt went wrong was never as guilty a pleasure as it is now; unlike Knoxville et al, Knievel never carried out these stunts to fail or get a cheap laugh - he was embodying the real-life superhero aspirations to soar above the skies. But the shots (replayed a few times) of Knievel going head-over-the-handlebars at Caesar's Palace on December 31st 1967 are shocking as he looks like a rag doll thrown to the wind.

But it's when the braggadocio and bluster are dropped that Junge delves more into the man himself, giving us a fascinating glimpse at a man who occasionally let the show slip and let the nastier man out. Certainly the warts-and-all approach helps to demystify him without taking anything away from his achievements; these chink-in-the-armour looks are sickeningly thrilling.

While Junge propels things along as zippily as Knievel on his bike, some of Knoxville's enthusiastic fanboying and affection occasionally gets in the way as he discusses the impact on extreme sports that the legend created. But for the most part, the multitude of talking heads don't hinder this doco, thanks to Junge's steady hand, a never-ending source of material and a peek into the mind of a man who represented an ideal.

Granted, the final section is missing one key question and it's frustrating; when seeking atonement for his behaviour, it's not asked if he pleaded for forgiveness from Shelly Saltman, whom he went to prison for assaulting - it's a minor oversight that should be corrected.

All in all, Being Evel captures the thrill of this influential man, the idea and of the zeitgeist as America tried to get back on its feet - and Junge, along with Knoxville, make a great job of covering a lot of ground in this piece.

In fact, you could say that Being Evel is wheelie good. 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Plants vs Zombies 2: Garden Warfare: PS4 Review

Plants vs Zombies 2: Garden Warfare: PS4 Review

Released by EA Games
Platform: PS4

Sometimes, games should be nothing more than simple fun.

So it is with Plants vs Zombies 2: Garden Warfare, a game which explores the decades old battle between the plants and the zombies as they face off in a battle for supremacy.

If you're familiar with the first title, you'll know exactly what to expect here - it's once again the chance to simply pit yourself against the all too obvious third person shooter, with the hook that you're a plant in a world that's not exactly rooting for your survival.

Serious ain't the vibe with this game though - it's squarely about stupidity and playability, which is widely to be commended. Granted, there are plenty of bright colours to keep the youngsters amused and plenty of shooting to keep the hardcore gamer engaged, but at the end of the day, the variety of playing options for Plants Vs Zombies 2: Garden Warfare means the title will continue with its longevity.

It's predominantly the multiplayer which keeps this title alive and the single player is fun, but it's really about taking on others and seeing if you can kill them off that the game starts to really show its raison d'etre. Each character has a different kind of attack and a different melee power, meaning that co-oping is really the only way to go, especially if you're trying to up your class and level up.

Plants vs Zombies 2: Garden Warfare won't challenge you as much as you'd expect, but it will deliver a comic gaming experience that's worth your time.

It'll take some effort to get the rewards of the more powerful weapons, but at the end of the day, when it all falls into place and comes together with a degree of strategy, there's nothing to beat it.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Street Fighter V: PS4 Review

Street Fighter V: PS4 Review

Released by Capcom
Platform: PS4

It's been a classic since first released in 1987 and now nearly 30 years on, Street Fighter is back to kick some serious ass once again.

Sadly the BETA for Street Fighter V was an unmitigated disaster. Servers couldn't handle any hint of letting people get on to the game or even let them continue should they be able to do so.

It's not like the game's exactly breaking the mould for game play - it's simply a bash and smash to victory kind of game that relies on a bit of skill, a lot of timing and an ability to press several buttons at once in a co-ordinated effort to achieve victory.

There are newbies on the ranks too - from the likes of Laura to F.A.N.G, but it's essentially the same Street Fighter mechanics you'll be used to. However, with the exception that this is the next generation of console gaming, so it looks incredible. There's a cartoon fluidity to the game's play out that is startling and the HD elements really sing, from the backgrounds and the NPCs mucking about to the simplicity of the execution of the moves, it simply looks impressive.

The fights themselves play out nicely and take a longer time to reach a conclusion, but that speaks to the maturity of the game, in that it's not just about dealing out two or three combos and then it's done, it's more about ensuring a matching of the skill levels and an implementation of a strategy.

This game though is predominantly about the online environment rather than a single player experience, which is kind of disappointing.

Each character has a few levels to play through for their own story, but it's a once over lightly approach for the game and it's a shame there's no wider narrative that goes deeper and pulls them all together. Granted, given the number of  characters, there are plenty of options for story mode, but there are all too brief moments to enjoy.

The online works fine - though even after release, there's been a bit of trouble accessing the server. It's not quite as taut as you'd expect given the success of the game and that's a shame. IT's here that the fun lies though and it's to be hoped that Street Fighter V gets more of an upgrade later on.

As an experience and a fighter, it's a great one; but as an in-depth, plough hours of your time into it, it comes up a little lacking. So far.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Tom Clancy: The Division: PS4 Review

Tom Clancy: The Division: PS4 Review  

Platform: PS4
Released by Ubisoft

Tom Clancy: The Division is an incredible open world environment.

It opens with a series of distorted cut sequences which basically give you an insight into the end of the world and how Black Friday in New York became the Patient X for a pandemic.

Into this world, you are thrust -  you play an agent in a group known as The Division, which is activated once the devastating pandemic sweeps through NYC on Black Friday and the world starts to collapse. Chaos envelops society and without food or water, it's every man or woman for themselves. And that's where you come in - activated from your apparently sleeper cell status, it's up to you to try and restore some calm and investigate the source of the virus.

The first thing about Tom Clancy's The Division is how wonderfully realised the environment is. From a snow covered New York City that glistens with both wonder and menace, the rendering is nothing short of perfection as you hurtle around trying to achieve main game missions or play side quests which pop up without warning.

Missions initially include setting up a base camp to ensure you have somewhere to call your own, but you're faced with looters determined to take you out at any turn and who, in the desperate throes of survival, will do anything to get by.
Combat's a little trickier too, if you're used to simply going hurtling, all guns blazing. The game is predominantly based on cover tactics and requires you to utilise all of this and protect yourself. The problem is that pressing X all the way down will guarantee you go toward a cover-based spot, but removing that halfway through, will see your player stop, stand up and get blasted or beaten. I get that it's a commitment thing, but the lack of being able to commit simply by tapping a button is a frustration, particularly if you're trying to launch directly into an attack after.
Cover shooting is not exactly the easiest either - and a few times, the agent I was in control of got caught off guard by an inability to see around corners and got his head bashed in. 

Loot collection is a little more difficult as well if combat is underway and you have to really clear the enemies away before stopping to snoop, a touch which if you're trying to gear up while in combat is another source of frustration.

Shooting takes some learning too, bizarrely. It's not just point and press - aiming carefully will do more damage than blasting blindly and blazing. That makes sense but when you're overwhelmed with combatants, it makes a showdown a little trickier and needs you to strategise rather than go nuts.

That said, The Division is quite eminently playable.

Wandering around the city proves to be fertile ground with other side missions and jobs needing doing prior to following the main narrative. 

Online the game flourishes too - it's easier to team up with agents and to execute missions within the game - match-making hasn't proved to be too much of a problem for the servers and there's little waiting to get into the action.

Equally, the quarantined Dark Zone which pits players against each other is perhaps the more challenging of the game, given how it relies on other people to play nicely or wreak chaos. It's unexpected and exciting because of it - and it soars when measured up against the rest of the game.

The Division's made great use of the DualShock speaker too, which sounds like an odd thing to say, but given you're doing missions and receiving comms, the almost metallic tones of the messages feel like you have an earpiece in and are in constant contact. It's a nice touch that helps the game reach the immersive level it needs to.

All in all, Tom Clancy: The Division feels like one of the most rounded titles releaseed with the TC moniker; its depth is enjoyable and its scope is impressive. Stay through some of the churn of the story levels at the start and the overwhelming feel of the city, its map and its ideas and you'll find a game that soars the more time you plough into it.

Newstalk ZB Film Review : Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Kung Fu Panda 3 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Newstalk ZB Film Review : Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Kung Fu Panda 3 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

This week, it was the review of long titled films.

Under the microscope were Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Kung Fu Panda 3 and on DVD The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Take a listen below:

Friday, 25 March 2016

Just Cause 3:DLC: Sky Fortress PS4 Review

Just Cause 3:DLC: Sky Fortress PS4 Review

Released by Square Enix
Platform: PS4

The first DLC pack for Rico Rodriguez is the aptly titled Air expansion pack, the Sky Fortress.

It's fitting because the rebel spends pretty much most of his time zipping through the air, taking on drones and generally wreaking mayhem.

There's a very loose plot; called in by Sheldon (either mid or post game, it's your choice) Rodriguez is gifted a Bavarium powered jet pack boost to his wing suit following a drone attack. Chasing the drone, he discovers it is part of a wider fleet powered by the eDen corporation which is intent on mining Medici's plentiful Bavarium supplies for its own nefarious ends.

Things are further complicated when a massive airship shows, forcing Rodriguez to the skies to bring them down.

The air expansion pack is a reasonable add on but it lacks a degree of the fluidity of the main game.

The wing suit now becomes slightly defunct as the jet propulsion replaces the element of skill - and even packs in a rocket and shoulder mounted machine gun. It's somewhat tricky to fly properly too and a lot of the sky bound activity saw me grappling for spatial awareness rather than a smooth flight.

Drones line the skies and with drone factories being part of the Sky Fortress it's sensible to try and take them out. Equally, stronger Extractor Drones lurk around, and need despatching with a few well placed shots here and there.

The Fortress is there to be liberated and each section comes with its own challenges once freed, giving you a chance to upgrade the tech you have; and smartly the game's hidden away a few of its chaos objects, so it's not as easy to simply come in, shoot the breeze and head out as it all explodes behind you.

That said it is thrilling to swoop up and down in any degree of situation - if the game hasn't already been completed, one could imagine the edge it would bring.

It's good that this, an unlocked personal drone and a Bavarium tipped gun all carry through to the main game - though even with these advantages, combat on the airship was still a lot trickier than dealing with the general's ground idiots thanks to increased fire power.

Cut scenes are static, echoing the Just Cause comic but removing some of the charm and free wheeling lunacy of the main game. There's a sense of repetition in the tasks on the missions too - essentially clear two halves of the ship of baddies - but there are moments of lunacy too such as when you kick enemies from the sky and tack up impressive distance falls as they plummet to below.

Overall, the first DLC for Just Cause 3 is solid rather than spectacular. Niggly control issues blight the jet pack and make the game's fluidity suffer from sluggishness. There's no denying its fun, but by stripping out some of the more chaotic elements of the main game, the air expansion feels a little tied to the ground ironically rather than something that lives up to its title and soars through the air.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2: Blu Ray Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2: Blu Ray Review

Released by Roadshow Home Ent

The end is nigh for Katniss Everdeen in the final part of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games franchise.

At the end of Mockingjay Part 1, the effects of the revolt were starting to be felt and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) had found herself an initially unwilling pawn in the face of the Revolution between Panem and the Capitol.

But with President Snow (Sutherland) severely upping the ante in the fight to crush her and with Peeta traumatised, the odds weren't in her favour....

So, deciding once and for all to seize her own destiny and stop being a pawn in a propaganda war, Everdeen sets off to kill Snow and end the conflict.

It gets dark in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.

There's the endless atmosphere of solemnity that hangs over the finale and makes part of it feel like dystopia's been washed over with a relentless grey tone. And it certainly wins the prize for some of the darkest material in a YA series that's been committed to screen; one sequence that demonstrates the horror of war and the lengths rulers will go to to achieve victory stands alone as the blackest witnessed on a screen. (Particularly at a time that terrorism's hit the headlines, viewing this through the prism of Paris is an odd experience)

As ever, Lawrence gives a great turn as the wounded veteran of The Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell  and the ongoing battle to make her the martyr the cause needs; but even she can't sell some of the moments of the story with a surprising emotional scene failing to hit the mark it needed to. There's a grit and determination to Lawrence that's seen her Katniss' resolve evolve through the run of films and there's definitely a feeling of an arc that's been undergone.

Learning from the relative lag of part 1 where there was much talking about a revolution, director Francis Lawrence delivers some great action sequences, chiefly during a Call of Duty: Panem: The Hunger Games version which sees Everdeen and a squadron of troops trying to make their way through a massive minefield. Equally, a tunnel chase section crackles with a kind of claustrophobic horror seen in Aliens and the Resident Evil game and a trap is brilliantly executed earlier on, there are moments that transcend the ongoing debate and ruminations of the effects of war, which are starting to grow weary as the series ends.

Unfortunately, it's not all gold in this Hunger Games film.

Inconsistencies with Josh Hutcherson's Peeta and his post-war behaviour mar parts of the film, and the love triangle that's grown with Liam Hemsworth's Gale and Peeta simply melts away, making your investment in it over the course of four films simply feel limp.

Also, supporting characters get very short shrift as the series wraps up - and at least one death which is supposed to resonate more, fails to generate the required emotive response. Equally, the denouement of the film with its multi-endings feels too quick leaving the conflict way too swiftly given how events have transpired.

The Hunger Games franchise has always worked by way of its dystopian background, its discussion of war propaganda and its examination of people as pawns. There's been plenty of debate throughout the previous films that have coursed richly through this series' veins giving it a more adult feel than simply its love triangle.

That said, it's a shame that despite the darkness, grittiness and endless talk of how war damages our young and the dissection of post traumatic stress syndrome, there is an awfully out of place pat happy ending that feels like Suzanne Collins short-changed her characters' more mournful journey towards salvation.

While the film's to be commended for never sanitising its message and staying true to its series, the overlong The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 certainly lacks the emotional heft a finale should have.


Sherpa: Film Review

Sherpa: Film Review

Jennifer Peedom's documentary on the Sherpas and Nepal is inevitably infused with a bittersweet touch, and is a scathing look at the unfolding industrial dispute on Everest.

Armed with a camera crew and with the intention of giving the Sherpas the moment to shine she felt they had been missing all these years, she couldn't have foreseen the tragic events that would brutally interrupt the 2014 climbing season - and after completing editing, the earthquake that struck almost exactly one year on.

However, before the tragedy comes the majesty of the mountain, thanks to opening shots that are pristine and clear and which cauterize the eyes with white. As the wind blows against the Everest that we are so accustomed to, which reaches out into the heavens, it soon becomes clear that the serenity is only in the sky.

In 2013 the discord on the ground threatened to boil over with a fight brewing between the Sherpas and those climbing the mountain being the final straw. It was this in mind, and Peedom's perception that the Sherpa race has been ignored despite doing the majority of the work that set the documentary in motion.

But what emerges from Peedom's utterly thrilling and yet equally sickening piece is the bitter curelty of timing. Against a backdrop of whether the Sherpa are working too hard to capitalise on a season that grants them ten times the average wage and ensures their families have food, nature intervened on 18th April 2014, bringing an avalanche that killed 16 Sherpa and setting the debate into a chain of urgency that's as fragile as the snow hanging on the side.

Wisely choosing to follow Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa whose next climb up Everest will mark his 22nd and a world record, as well as Himalayan veteran Russell Brice who carries out commercial ventures with his crew in mind, Peedom's created a documentary that soars as high as Everest itself and scales the heights of cinematic greatness.

It may be concerned with matters thousands of metres above ground, but Peedom's non-intrusive eye keeps our feet squarely on terra firma and deals us with the cold hard facts of the inequality of the sherpas; namely, that they have to travel 30 times a season through a moving ice-fall to ensure that those who've paid the big bucks can make one simple trip to the base camp and summit the top.

Sherpa is never anything less than shocking as it exposes the widening gap between commercial venture and human life and there won't be many who don't fall squarely into the Sherpas' camp after the tragedy unfolds (that an American client claims terrorists have pushed them off the mountain when the Sherpa essentially strike fearing for their lives speaks volumes to their plight and the Western perception of entitlement).

Granted, Peedom's firmly in the Sherpa camp, but even she could have never predicted the sickening urgency that the doco takes when the wall of white comes down (and in its most harrowing moment, covers a camera clearly from the Sherpa team walking the crevices).

Her seamless weaving of the now and then of the Himalayas creates a rich timeline, but never loses its focus on the human faces of what is essentially commercial law. Even the Nepali government gets a serve over their apathy in the face of tourism woes, something this polemic subtly plants in your mind.

The inequality may be a slap in the face to those who remember Tenzing Norgay's smiling face, but by revealing the years that have been cruel to the race after this, Peedom's created something that's sickeningly gripping and viscerally raw from beginning to end - and which captures an unfolding tragedy in an entirely riveting way but which never loses sight of the human cost or gets caught up in the post-tragedy hysteria.

Sherpa is formidable film-making, one whose ending will be changed in light of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake but one whose ethical and moral issues will resonate with many for years to come thanks to Peedom's unswerving eye and concise skill.

It's jaw-dropping stuff, and not always for the reason you'd expect. Unmissable.

Autumn Events Q&A with Bill Gosden

2016 Autumn Events Q&A with Bill Gosden

The Autumn Events kicks off in April; a chance to revel in some of New Zealand's best cinemas and some classics as well as some incredible premieres.
Film Festival director Bill Gosden fronted up ahead of the event.

Welcome back - it feels like we've only just bid farewell to the NZIFF for 2015 - are you excited to be back on the scene and the screen?
You bet. Programming the Embassy, Civic and Regent: what’s not to like?

With bad weather coming, there's no better time to be back in the cinema and some of the main centres' iconic venues - what's been the best film you've ever seen at these venues and why?
Ever is too big a word, but here are three that leap to mind: Elvis, That’s The Way It Is at the Civic; Only Lovers Left Alive at the Embassy; Housebound at The Regent.

It's a great line up again - and you've come with perhaps one of the most anticipated NZ Films of the year in the form of Tickled to open the festival - how does it feel to open with one of your own countrymen's efforts?
Super happy.  Dylan Reeve and David Farrier can be my countrymen any day. There’s something indelibly Kiwi about their refusal to be dazzled by the legal threats flying their way as they press on undaunted to expose “bullies with too much money”.

The premieres proved to be fertile ground in the past - what can you tell us about Where to Invade Next and one of my most anticipated films, The Witch?
The first is Michael Moore’s smartest film ever imho, a feel-good parade of governmental social welfare programmes, represented by some very funny and articulate beneficiaries and proponents. It’s a much saner promotion of democratic principles than beating up corporate flunkies. The Witch is a truly remarkable horror film. It takes its own good time to work its antique black magic, but leaves us drenched in Puritan dread of the devil and his minions.

And it's great to see Amy Berg back after the amazing reception of West of Memphis with Janis: Little Girl Blue...
I understand that Amy has been working on the Joplin documentary for a long time. (It must have provided welcome respite from paedophiles and redneck prosecutors.) She has accumulated a wealth of material, not just the performance footage which remains as thrilling as ever, but the memories of many of those closest to Joplin, and a trove of her personal correspondence.

Animation is always amazing on the big screen; there's something magical about it being at the Civic - tell us why you chose the wonderful Iron Giant to return?
Because, as you said, it’s wonderful!  Sneaking off to see this new, slightly extended cut at Toronto last year was a pleasure I denied myself in deference to the new films on offer, so I am making up for it now. Besides, how many American ‘family’ movies have hipster-artist heroes and dare to say that guns are bad for you?

Is it hard to select the classics? We've got the sumptuous The King and I, Ran, The Philadelphia Story to enjoy on the big screen - do they still give you tingles?
Every one of them.  Watching the restoration of Ran  on a suitably giant screen I wondered why so few filmmakers working on such an epic scale had learnt from Kurosawa’s minimalist use of music and effects.  The chaos unleashed on screen is all the more disturbing for the pin-pointing of particular details in the soundscape and Toru Takemitsu’s  equally Spartan score.

The way that The King and I induces shivers could hardly be more opposite: music to the max. Maybe I’m just looking for a key to unlock the highly misleading intimation of intoxicating grown-up romance provided to my infant self by the cover of the soundtrack LP. It features the iconic moment when the barefoot Yul Brynner and satin-gowned Deborah Kerr begin to dance. Richard Rogers’ score draws a breath then breaks into a gallop, the camera cranes to take in the joyous swirl of movement: I still haven’t figured out if it’s even possible not to swoon.

And Fargo too - it's the film that's made 2 TV Series and is really ultimate Coens - is it still kind of funny looking? 
It should be looking better than ever in the 4K digital restoration. My own favourite Coen Bros movie by far – because Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson  lends it such  generosity.  Only Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski gets close.

Putuparri and the Rainmakers seems like it could be an intriguing journey into a nation's psyche?
And a privileged one.  We see the elders of Putuparri’s tribe discover their ancestral spring in the vastness of Australia’s  Great Sandy Desert, then enact a ritual rainmaking. Putuparri shot this footage 20 years ago, but it’s like seeing something that could have been shot tens of thousands of years earlier. The footage itself became vital evidence in a land rights claim, and the film traces the fortunes of that claim and its impact on three generations of Putuparri’s people.

Stop Making Sense is Talking Heads and a rather classy choice...
Just like an Arts Festival gig: you’ll want to dance but there are seats in the way. Byrne was always such a visual performer and this collaboration between Talking Heads and a little known director by the name of Jonathan Demme upholds its reputation as the perfect concert movie.

The Bolshoi Ballet looks intriguing too - beauty from quite a dark place with the attack on the director?
Now that the Bolshoi Ballet has entered the league of world famous cultural institutions beaming HD performances onto the arthouse screens of the word, this may be the perfect backgrounder. It is as much for Russia watchers as ballet watchers.

And just finally, every year, this question - what's ahead for the NZIFF for 2016? Any chance you're willing to tease some themes of what lies ahead?
We may be close to signing up the year’s most fearless performance by a dog.

Get more info and ticket details at the NZIFF site 

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