Sunday, 31 July 2016

Cameraperson: NZIFF Review

Cameraperson: NZIFF Review

Kirsten Johnson has spent her life working on films.

From working with Michael Moore on Fahrenheit 9/11 to CitizenFour, she's been a documentarian capturing moments of life within and committing them to screen.

In Cameraperson, she's collected and strung together some of the scenes which she claims have most marked her and created a tapestry of lives, with loose threads that appear random but are cleverly interconnected.

From the scenes of getting a newborn baby to breathe in Nigeria to getting a big baby boxer to breathe before exploding after losing a fight in New York, some of the threads are more obvious than others. From scenes of children playing in Bosnia with an axe after they return from ethnic cleansing fears to her own twins playing with the camera, these recoursive snapshots of life offer tempting insights into her world from the past 20 years.

There's no timeline - and nor should there be; but what emerges is a deeply personal timeline of a life lived in the world, and of moments captured for posterity (or perhaps B-roll) that ultimately stand out. Themes of life, death and justice recur, a tacit admission that these themes are universal, but in the end, Cameraperson becomes a study of how to make documentaries and of the form itself.

And yet at times, it feels like the scenes are tantalising glimpses into stories we want to know more of -specifically, the horror of the death of James Byrd Jr in Jasper New York, whose story is told briefly by scenes of attorneys being interviewed.  Admittedly these films already exist, and it's perhaps more a testament to the powerful snippets of choice and admission that these have haunted her that they still feel so raw and numbing.

As the strands pull together and more personal moments are revealed, Cameraperson becomes a real salute to those who work in documentaries, whose cameras are an extension of their body, an extra limb to help them in the world.

Cameraperson itself may be a humble title, and the images within may be humbling, but this prosaic documentary about the documentary form is nothing short of impressive.

Aquarius: NZIFF Review

Aquarius: NZIFF Review

Sometimes, the words tour de force are bandied around performances with gay abandon.

But in the case of Aquarius, Kleber Mendonça Filho's film, Sonia Braga deserves the accolade.

Braga stars as Dona Clara, a music critic in her 60s, who stands resolute in her apartment building when all else have moved out and the developers come to tear it down. Refusing to move on after a full life in the same building, Dona Clara digs in, but not by drawing battle lines - but by simply living her life.

Reflecting on her past and living in her present, Braga's extraordinary class in the role lends the whole piece a sort of innate charm. Broken up into 3 chapters, the story follows its own lyrical beats and pace as it demonstrates a life well loved and friendships well nourished. The enigmatic Sonia Braga is a commanding presence throughout, imbuing the ageing Dona Clara with a sheen of genuine feeling that this is a life well-lived as society has changed around her.

And Filho's film also impresses too.

From the stunning seaside vistas from the Aquarius apartment in Brazil to the casual reveals about health issues or deaths, this is a film that's masterful and takes its time while spinning its observations out. Building on the life of her aunt early on and how she set the trend, it's easy to see Dona Clara's blossoming into a similar role as she fends off demands from her children to sell up and the developers, insisting that she's better leaving.

If there's to be a flaw it's the tail end of the film where the fight with the developers comes to a head with an abruptness that seems crowbarred in. Certainly, the final scene leaves you feeling the story's incomplete and unfinished, which given what you've invested in over the past 2 hours 20 mins is frustrating to say the least.

Aquarius is a lesson in class from Braga - she's the reason to see this film, a reminder that great performances are central to film. It's a pinnacle performance.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Wild: NZIFF Review

Wild: NZIFF Review

From Germany, the film Wild is likely to press a few buttons of cinema-going audiences this festival, but when it all boils down to it, this is your tried and true fable of a girl's coming out party.

Directed by Nicolette Kreibetz and with a strong central performance by Lilith Stangeberg as Ania, a 20 something office worker who doesn't fit in at the office and doesn't fit in in the city. So far, so tried and tested tale of awkwardness.

However, one day, while heading home Ania clamps eyes on a wolf, roaming around. Exhilarated and obsessed, she concocts a plan to domesticate the wolf at home - but is her embracing of the feral all it's cracked up to be....?

Wild may have taboo busting scenes and moments that will polarise and shock some of the audience, but it's kept grounded by Stangeberg's nuanced turn as the plot progresses. Sure, there are allegories here about surviving as a lone wolf in the workplace, or out in society, but this at-times-confronting piece is also hauntingly shot.

Paced nicely, and with an eddying turn by Stangeberg, as well as the wolves, the descent into the feral is made even more compelling by its execution and by Kreibetz's desire to prod and provoke rather than to abuse and antagonise.

Thematically, we've been here a billion times before in terms of sexual awakenings, and a woman's journey to empowerment and of questions about sanity.

With a brooding OST and some quite starkly exciting animal training that's clearly taken place, what transpires is not only thrilling and exhilarating, it's what festival films should do at their very best - provoke reaction, discussion and challenge views long after the lights have gone up.

Tower: NZIFF Review

Tower: NZIFF Review

The sight of an animated pregnant woman being felled by an indiscriminate and undetermined sniper atop a building lays out the shocks of this visceral and electrifying documentary that looks at the University of Texas  campus shooting (released at the NZIFF nearly 50 years after it made headlines).

Pairing rotoscoping animation a la Waking Life with an oral history and interviewees from the shooting, this examination and reconstruction of the day is simultaneously compelling and horrifying, a study in the evil that men do and the way we rise and fall when tested.

There's an urgency to director Keith Maitland's story that's sickening and upsetting. Compounded with the honesty of the interviewees, it's real heart in your mouth kind of viewing.

But it's the little details which make Tower so viscerally powerful; a student goes to his friend's place with a Spider-man comic wrapped around his books, a sign of a more innocent world that was once lived in. Another talks of finding love with a boy she met after starting her sixth month of pregnancy before the inexorable evil touches their lives - it's a stark testament to this film's execution that it lingers long within the viewer.

With top drawer animation from Minnow Mountain, the whole thing flickers between shots of those on campus and archival footage of the day and gives you such a sense of being there, it's almost as claustrophobic for viewers as it is cathartic for those who were there. This is never about anything more than the victims, and an insight into their lives then and now.

However, in among all of Tower, it's the devastating honesty and candid nature of the interviewees that rings true. 

Some talk of being unable to feel like they could help victims for fear of their own deaths, while others fear nothing and run in, believing this is the moment that could define them. It's these peeks into humanity which hold Tower high (even if the back end of the film feels a little like it's hugging at heartstrings with flashes of real life) and the fact the shooter is never shown or humanised is an incredibly salient move by those involved.

Ultimately, Tower will be viewed with a poignancy in light of recent American shootings (and the decision to include those at the end seems to be a minor misstep in the film's power - it's not that a reminder isn't needed, but more that it's unnecessary, particularly since the film's worked so strongly to give voices to the victims and then at the end resorts to montages of faceless anonymous victims) and will provide an insight for those never expecting to experience something so shocking.

What's truly impressive about Tower though, is how hauntingly effective it is and how a clever execution of a difficult subject matter can be sensitively handled to leave audiences devastated so long after the fact.

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Greasy Strangler: NZIFF Review

The Greasy Strangler: NZIFF Review

Best suited to a midnight screening rather than a more temperate Thursday afternoon's viewing, Jim Hosking's The Greasy Strangler is definitively lurid and trashy.

But it's also a test of an audience's patience, with repetitive scenes, oft-repeated dialogue (from arguments) and looped soundtrack interludes.

It's a conventional story about an unconventional father and son relationship - of co-habiting Big Ronnie and Brayden, the pink wearing disco tour kings of a small town. By day, the duo lead people on tours of areas claiming that's where parts of disco were invented, or where "The Earth, The Wind and The Fire" set up shop.

But by night, Michael St Michaels' Big Ronnie has a secret - he likes to get slopped down in grease and go on a killing spree...

And things are further complicated when Sky Elobar's Brayden falls for Janet....

The Greasy Strangler certainly has the power to leave speechless and will polarise audiences.

With its lo-fi feel, its schlocky gross-out edges and its penchant for older male nudity, it's certainly there for pressing the buttons.

Coupled with the repetition of the lo-fi dialogue that taps into the clear streams of consciousness rhythms that Hosking is clearly aiming for with some of it feeling like it's barely being delivered with any hint of anything other than over-acting, there's potentially something meta going on here.

And yet, this is a film that clearly knows what it is, how low it can go and how its audience will react - either embracing all of this with puerile chutzpah or being turned off completely. There's no middle ground in this polarising piece which doesn't bother to give you such trivial things as to why this greased up monster is killing, preferring to settle for scatalogical laughs that really do mine the essences of relationships in many ways.

Slopped down in congealed gloop, St Michaels' Big Ronnie is a Swamp Thing type creature, that exerts such force, his victims' eyeballs literally pop out. When his killing's done and before heading home, he takes a trip to a local car wash run by a blind guy to clean up.

If that doesn't tell you all you need to know about The Greasy Strangler, nothing will.

Scenes dovetail into the next with the dialogue of a teen argument and always culminate in a who can shout the loudest and the rudest; if you're on board with that, then this surrealism and silliness is for you to lard it up over everyone else. It has to be said though, the romance between Brayden and Janet has a sweetness and the triangle that forms is quite cleverly put together - with more being said under the surface than is fully put on screen.

The Greasy Strangler is a perverse film in many ways, and one suspects its film making team (including gonzo supremo Ant Timpson and Elijah Wood) takes a perverse pleasure from the fact it's designed to leave you speechless. It's also probably destined for cult status with large swathes of its dialogue being written solely  for being ripped out and hurled at fans by other fans as wanton catchphrases.

It's a singular NZIFF experience, of that there is absolutely no doubt.

And given what the film-makers probably set out to do, this unconventional rom-com, typical boy meets girl, boy suspects dad is greased up killer, delivers everything it sets out to in the trashiest way possible.

Midnight Special: NZIFF Review

Midnight Special: NZIFF Review

Michael Shannon and director Jeff Nichols were responsible for a formative film festival experience when Take Shelter aired in 2011.

This time around, after more earthly concerns with Tye Sheridan in Mud, Nichols and Shannon re-team for what's essentially a sci-fi Spielbergian earth set chase story.

Shannon is Roy, who, as the film begins, is on the run, sparking a manhunt when he takes his supposedly-blessed-with-super-powers young son Alton (Jaeden Liberher) from a cult compound. Aided by childhood friend Lucas (Animal Kingdom's Joel Edgerton), the search for the pair is frantic, especially when the FBI and National Security team up after some disturbing anomalies are brought to light...

There's an all pervading sense of mystery to Midnight Special that sustains large chunks of the proceedings.

Much like the brilliant Take Shelter, Midnight Special revels in ambiguity for the large part, teasing out moments and dripping out answers when least expected. But it's the human element of this chase flick that ground it so sensibly in a reality and these are excellently executed by the triumvirate of Shannon, Liberher and Nicholls.

However, the suspense is always evident and while the ultimate resolution may prove to be polarising, the relationship between father and son proves central to proceedings. Shannon is never less than watchable throughout and his love for son and reasons for doing what he does are never hard to understand.

Nicholls is also the star here, ratcheting up tension and playing with the sci-fi tropes and teases with remarkable ease. He's also got an incredible way of yanking the rug from under you, with a couple of moments smacking you upside the solar plexus.

While it's perhaps fair to say Nicholls is still chasing the high of the giddiness of Take Shelter's bravura edges, it's also fair to say that Midnight Special lacks some of the prowess of that film.

But in terms of furthering Nicholls' reputation and taking the M Night Shyamalan touches of the story and making them his own, Midnight Special is nothing short of a singular cinematic experience that revels in its tautness and never loses sight of its human edges.

Win a double pass to see Absolutely Fabulous the Movie

Win a double pass to see Absolutely Fabulous the Movie

To celebrate the release of Absolutely Fabulous the Movie on August 11th, here's your chance to win a double pass to see the movie!

Edina and Patsy are still oozing glitz and glamour, living the high life they are accustomed to; shopping, drinking and clubbing their way around London's trendiest hot-spots. 

Blamed for a major incident at an uber fashionable launch party, they become entangled in a media storm and are relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi. 

Fleeing penniless to the glamorous playground of the super-rich, the French Riviera, they hatch a plan to make their escape permanent and live the high life forever more!

Absolutely Fabulous the Movie is IN CINEMAS AUGUST 11

To enter simply email to this address:  and in the subject line put AB FAB  

Please include your name and address and good luck!

Competition closes August 11th and is exclusive to New Zealand only!

The Great Wall trailer is here

The Great Wall trailer is here

Starring global superstar Matt Damon and directed by one of the most breathtaking visual stylists of our time, Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Legendary’s The Great Wall tells the story of an elite force making a valiant stand for humanity on the world’s most iconic structure.  

The X Files: Season 10 Review

The X Files: Season 10 Review

Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent

The latest season of The X Files comes 15 years after the last and represents a tour de force to those involved.

If you were ever touched by David Duchovny’s laconic FBI Agent Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s cooly detached FBI Agent Scully and their yin and yang partnership as they investigated all things unusual in the 90s, the 6 new episodes would practically have made you wet yourself in glee.

The hook with this season was never to dwell on the fine feeling generated by the nostalgia, but to bring a new generation of fans into the fold and to see it on its way to a new lease of life.

And to a degree, it manages that by saddling the delicate balance between using the show’s alien-centric mythology and stand alone eps in this 6 part outing. While the mythology eps remain a little murky and stuffed with their own self importance, (as well as an irritatingly open final ep that lands on a frustrating cliffhanger) the stand alone eps are equally as mixed too.

More effective is Kiwi Rhys Darby’s entering into the pantheon of the quirky X Files eps with Darin Morgan’s Were-monster ep that mixes both pathos and outlandish to good results. Home Again’s bizarre killer is a welcome diversion, but an ep that starts with 2 muslims bombing an art gallery feels oddly at evens with the show’s usual sensitivities.

But if anything, the limited event series benefits tremendously from Duchovny and Anderson’s chemistry and the show’s revitalised take on its own premise, which is both nostalgic and current.

The set comes with good solid extras that include a gag reel and a look back at the reboot, that further fuel the show’s love.

If there’s to be any criticism, it’s that 6 eps are too short in many ways – and that the 2 mythology eps would have been stronger over a longer run.

That said, the fact there’s even any extra episodes 15 years on from the end and 23 years after it first started is a small miracle.

The Truth is Still out there and it’s well worth diving back into.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Operation Avalanche: NZIFF Review

Operation Avalanche: NZIFF Review

A found footage film that proves the Moon Landing was fake may sound like a joke too far, but director / star Matt Johnson’s relentlessly inventive piece is nothing but a pure blast of cinephile love and an ode to the American space race.

In 1967, it’s the height of the Cold War, and there are concerns Russia’s going to beat America into space. At NASA, there’s an even deeper fear – that a mole has infiltrated their ranks and is stealing secrets.

Enter four undercover CIA agents (helmed by Matt Johnson’s goofball) who convince NASA to let them in under the pretense of filming a documentary about NASA – and who end up pitching the idea of a spoof Moon Landing film to ensure American interests win the day. To their surprise, the CIA says yes….

Endlessly clever and draped in 70s aesthetics with Super 8 footage and an infectious joie de vivre, Operation Avalanche is a film within a film conspiracy and it damn well knows it. But the meta doesn’t become so smart that it’s alienating – in fact, it’s anything but.

By taking the time to build character early on and set you a little off expectations by dishing out off-kilter moments and genuine laugh out loud moments at the geeky group as well as the premise that the CIA would allow a crew to blunder around filming, Operation Avalanche works incredibly well.

Unless you’re a diehard conspiracy theorist, you will love the flourishes in this gonzo film, and to be honest, nobody’s trying to convince you this found film footage is real but that’s not really the point of Operation Avalanche.

Effectively mining the special FX with ease and without obvious joins, there are authentic feeling moments which provoke marvel on a technical level – via Shepperton Studios and Stanley Kubrick. However, it’s not just these moments which stand out in Operation Avalanche.

Johnson’s created a group of likeable guys, spearheaded by his own giddy boy’s own chutzpah and it’s infectious. So much so that the final act of the film becomes a tensely filled nail biter of a finale creating as real a sense of terror as any decently done spinetingler of found footage horror can muster.

By never losing sight of the humanity in this space race shaggy dog story, Operation Avalanche is terribly evocative and effective. Clever and intelligently plotted within its layers within layers, it may be the smartest mass appeal found footage the New Zealand International Film Festival audience has seen.

Unless it proves to be true.

Jason Bourne: Film Review

Jason Bourne: Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Riz Ahmed, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel
Director: Paul Greengrass

Solid, yet formulaic and workman like, the latest Bourne is anything but spectacular.

In the latest non-essential part of the series, which unpicks all the neatly tied up threads of the series, Damon is a dogged Bourne, a machine-like automaton of assassination that's lacking any kind of real dialogue whatsoever.

When former comrade Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) finds Bourne and tells him there's more to his past than he actually realises, Jason Bourne is forced on to a quest to make those pay for the truth...

Nearly 10 years have passed since the The Bourne Ultimatum, and in a world where Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and security have become major issues, it feels like Jason Bourne does a token amount to address such things this time around.

Even with the apparently personal level of this mission this time around, Bourne himself may pull no punches (as a Greece-Albanian fight club sequence demonstrates) but the script is lacking in any kind of real elements of either mystery or urgency.

Throwing in Riz Ahmed as the head of a Facebook style company for little reason other than to facilitate the finale is a missed opportunity; it's a disposable plot thread which dangles undernourished on the narrative vine. 

And unfortunately, despite the re-teaming of Greengrass and Damon to the series, there's much of Jason Bourne which feels similarly wanting and in parts, and sees the film fall into an entirely predictable rut of action and flashbacks.

Despite getting things underway with a simmering riot bubbling out of hand and a hunt for Bourne in Greece at the start, the story loses its impetus soon after as Matt Damon's scarred Jason Bourne walks from place to place, avoiding the bad guys. It's repetitive and hardly builds tension at all as Vincent Cassel's Asset tries to hunt him down at the behest of Tommy Lee Jones' hang-faced CIA director.

The action sequences are assured and measured, but never fully thrilling (with the exception of the aforementioned Greece sequence). Greengrass is more than competent in their execution, with his shaky cam and quick cuts pervading proceedings, but never threatening to derail them. It's a shame that the Vegas finale feels like a rote chase, with car-nage aplenty and muted thrills, rather than edge of your seat stuff.

Fortunately, the addition of Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee, an analyst whose motives are questionable gives the film a bit of spark and stoicism that it needs (as well as a puncture through the old boys club mentality that pervades Bourne). And Damon himself, looking aged and still capable of taking the physical workload, does great things, giving his character a wearied edge of someone lost in the world and trying to find his place within it.

But that's the thing with Jason Bourne; in among the talk of assets, chases, betrayals, fake outs and action, nothing ever feels fresh or enticing in the self imposed sense of seriousness and the idea of solely providing a blast of Bourne nostalgia. 

Fans of the series may get a kick out of the franchise's return, but that's possibly about it. (Also, the fact these former CIA assets don't quite know how to disguise themselves in crowds simply beggars belief...)

Ironically, for a film about an amnesiac assassin, the whole thing about Jason Bourne is that it's instantly forgettable the minutes the lights go up - it's formulaic where it should be fresh, and in parts, flat where it should burst with energy.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Play 5 New GTA Online: Cunning Stunts Races Today + New Vehicles, Bonuses and More

Play 5 New GTA Online: Cunning Stunts Races Today + New Vehicles, Bonuses and More
Today, five new Stunt Races join the roster of GTA Online: Cunning Stunts, taking you and your appetite for high-flying, daring, stunting action everywhere from the peaks of Mount Chiliad to the shores of Vespucci. And next week, the official launch of the Stunt Race Creator tool will harness the talents of the amazing Creator community to usher in a whole new era of player-made mayhem. Check out a brief overview of this week's new Stunt Races below, and read on for details on three new vehicles, this week's bonuses and more.

Chiliad (Super)
Mount Chiliad has inspired artists, hippies and death cults for generations, but until now it's offered precious little for the key Los Santos demographic: reckless Super car enthusiasts. All that changes with this towering Stunt Race over the iconic peak of San Andreas.

H200 (Sport)
After a long day in the office hoping the IT guy won't check your search history, there's nothing more invigorating than the touch of the ocean breeze and the smell of salt water as it washes over a race track and floods your engine. Stunt Race for Sports cars. Pro tip: bring your bikini bottoms.

Over the Bridge (Bike)
Sure, 2000cc superbikes weren't designed to spend this much time flying through the air above industrial docklands, but every step of evolutionary progress is tough on the pioneers. Jump-heavy Point to Point Stunt Race.

Vespucci (Super)
The Los Santos coast
line is about so much more than golden sand, contaminated water and steroid abuse. It's also a perfect backdrop for laps of a winding Stunt Race where any mistake will send you and your million dollar Super car to the bottom of the sea. Hey, it beats the Ferris wheel.

The Wave (Bike)
Who said you have to 
venture out into the middle of the Pacific in a force ten gale to feel so seasick you want to die? That special inside-out feeling is available right here on this coastal Stunt Race for Bikes.

Three new vehicles, the Bravado Sprunk Buffalo, MTL Dune and Vapid Contender, have also been added to GTA Online today. Tackle Stunt Races with Sprunk guzzling pride in the branded livery-clad Buffalo, or dial up your friends at Pegasus to motor through the Blaine County off-road in the MTL Dune. The Contender offers formidable size and balanced suspension to tackle a variety of terrains - an asset for active Executives and VIPs.

PREMIUM RACE: H200 (Friday 7/29 - Sunday 7/31)
This weekend's Premium Race is the new "H200" Stunt Race for Sports class cars. Ante up and try to take down all comers in a mad dash for that GTA$100,000 top prize.

From Wednesday July 27th through Friday July 29th, ALL Stunts Series Races will dish out Double GTA$ and RP. In addition to being accessible from the pink Stunt Series blips on the map, you can jump into the Stunt Series directly right on the GTAV loading screen. High rollers, keep an eye out for a Premium Race this weekend, where you can ante up and try to take down all comers in a mad dash for that GTA$100,000 top prize.

You can add to your racing wardrobe this week with the flamboyant Gold Jumpsuit, available just by logging in to GTA Online at any point between now and Monday, August 1st. Add some color to your fleet with 20% off all vehicle Resprays and Neons. And for those who like to grab sustained air-based transportation, the Buckingham Nimbus Jet and Volatus helicopter are both 30% off at Elitás Travel. 

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 launch on Playstation®4 and Xbox One

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 launch on Playstation®4 and Xbox One

Super Hero action RPGs also return to Steam for Windows PC

Activision Publishing, Inc., in collaboration with Marvel Entertainment, is this week making the classic Super Hero action RPGs Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 available digitally on the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and Xbox One for the first time, as well as once more on Windows PC via Steam. The pair of critically praised titles can be purchased separately or together in the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Bundle today via the PlayStation®Store and Steam, and on July 28 through the Xbox Games Store.

Featuring a cast of over 22 playable characters, the first Marvel: Ultimate Alliance lets players create their own teams of heroes from the Marvel Universe, or recreate their favourite existing ones, like the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four and more. Experience a story starring more than 140 legendary characters, including Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor, Loki, Wolverine, Doctor Doom, Ultron and many others. Customise and upgrade these mighty squads of champions to unleash upon the single-player campaign, or in cooperative and competitive online and local multiplayer for up to four players.

Set within the climactic events of Marvel Comics’ Civil War story arc, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 throws players into the struggle for or against the infamous Superhuman Registration Act. The missions, challenges, and threats players face are affected by which side of the conflict they choose. Like its predecessor, the game lets players assemble and level up their own Marvel Universe dream teams from over 24 playable characters, each with specialised abilities that can be combined for amazing results. Play alone in single-player, or battle together in online and local co-op with up to four friends.

Both Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 are rated M (moderate violence).

KONAMI and FC Barcelona announce three-year agreement as PES 2017 publisher becomes Premium Partner of Catalan giants

KONAMI and FC Barcelona announce three-year agreement as PES 2017 publisher becomes Premium Partner of Catalan giants

KONAMI and FC Barcelona announce three-year agreement as PES 2017 publisher becomes Premium Partner of Catalan giants

Sydney, 27th July - Konami Digital Entertainment B.V., creator of the award-winning PES series of football simulations, has announced a top-level partnership with FC Barcelona, the first of its kind for a video game publisher.

"This is a real statement of intent for us,” explained Tomotada Tashiro, President of Konami Digital Entertainment B.V. “By working closely with a team of Barcelona’s stature we can introduce the PES series to a huge global fan base. This partnership will deliver access to the very best players in the modern game and to one of the world’s most respected and ambitious clubs. The PESseries is famed for its realism and control, so the fit between such a skilled team and a game that celebrates such ability is perfect.”

KONAMI and FC Barcelona has entered a Premium Partner agreement, which will see KONAMI granted extensive access to the club’s stars and have a visible presence within the match day experience. KONAMI will have a prominent advertising presence within and around the club’s Camp Nou stadium, and will also receive exclusive rights to recreate FC Barcelona’s legendary home within its PES titles, starting with PES 2017 and within all related PES-branded releases, including mobile titles.

“We are delighted to have signed this agreement with KONAMI, who is now an official Premium Partner of the Club" added Manel Arroyo, FC Barcelona Vice-President of Marketing and Communications. "KONAMI is a strategic partner that will allow us to bring FC Barcelona to millions of users of its game. We hope to see the club, the players and Camp Nou, perfectly recreated in the next and future versions of the PES series."

FC Barcelona was founded in 1899 in Barcelona, Catalonia. The team is widely known to fans by their nickname ‘Barca’, and since their formation has won the UEFA Champions League five times, the Spanish League 24 times, and many other honours. FC Barcelona is one of the best-supported clubs in the world, with almost 145,000 Socios, (members) and the top sport club on social media, with nearly 250 million followers. FC Barcelona will also be represented faithfully within the series, with KONAMI’s proprietary Team ID and Player ID systems used to ensure the PES side perfectly reflects the overall and individual playing styles of the Catalan side and its many stars. The club’s famed ’offensive, playing style will be fully implemented, as will the club anthem ’Himno‘. Konami will also be using advanced 3D photo-scanning techniques to implement the faces and expressions of key players, and will also release in-game versions of the club’s historical kits for use in the games. There will also be special promotions within its hugely popular myClub mode that will allow fans to add Barca stars such as Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez to their home-grown squads. In addition PES 2017 will include FCB Legends also available in myClub.

Doglegs: NZIFF Review

Doglegs: NZIFF Review

The idea of a film about a disabled Japanese wrestling league may provoke reactions within the audience, but Doglegs is a sensitive and intriguing peek into a world hitherto unwitnessed.

And given the tragic events in Japan earlier this week when a care worker stabbed at least 19 disabled people in a centre west of Tokyo, this film’s taken on another level.

Director Heath Cozens follows a few founding members of the Doglegs wrestling group, set up by a collection of self-described misfits. Becoming a lifeline for the marginalised, the group would settle scores between each other in the ring (and in one clash, two rivals clash over a woman) and gradually became a close knit community.

It’s into this world that Cozens ventures, following the likes of “Sambo” Shintaro who has cerebral palsy and who wants to retire. But not without one final fight against a long term rival – the able bodied Kitajima. And in a twist that shakes Shintaro, Kitajima says he will fight but only the winner will be allowed to retire.

Elsewhere, there’s another fighter whose path of self-destruction is tragic and disturbing. And into that mix, is footage over years thrown in of the wrestlers taking on each other and empowering themselves but potentially likely to unsettle viewers.

What Cozens has managed to do with Doglegs is concoct a doco that forces you to make your own decisions and judgement as the story transpires and may see you shrinking away uncertain on how you feel.

But Cozens has equally managed to handle the situation with sincere aplomb; there’s no judgement here and there’s clearly been a desire to let the camera capture it warts and all. So what emerges is an intriguing look at pride, pathos and shame within the Japanese culture.

Shintaro becomes the clear focus of the majority of the story – and it’s hard to see how he can ever win against an able bodied opponent determined to humiliate him in the ring. In many ways, it’s a traditional underdog story with non-traditional contenders.

However, by focussing on life outside of the ring (Shintaro’s quest for love, his relationship with his mother and with others in the Doglegs group), what comes from it all is a film that is a conflict; it has a bizarre joie de vivre and will leave a divisive feeling in viewers.
Are the audience of the fights laughing at the contenders or are they enjoying the sport? Cozens makes no judgement on them, and perhaps it may have been interesting to get their point of view into proceedings, but he does nothing to humiliate his subjects or glorify them either.

It’s a smart move to make Doglegs so non-exploitative and challenge perceptions, but it is perhaps one of the more unsettling films at the festival this year – but as an insight into a different world and ruminations on people’s place in the world, it’s a fascinatingly assured movie that earns your respect with its honesty and sincerity. 

Personal Shopper: NZIFF Review

Personal Shopper: NZIFF Review

Olivier Assayas reteams with Kristen Stewart after last year's NZIFF outing The Clouds of Sils Maria, a surprising film that won the erstwhile Twilight star a prestigious acting award.

This time, Stewart plays Maureen, a twin whose other half Lewis has died from a heart condition which she shares. However, Maureen is a medium too, who spends her night trying to contact her dead brother, believing his spirit still to be in the house.

By day, Maureen is a personal shopper for a model, who's never home and who exchanges notes with her charge. But Maureen's unhappy with her lot, decrying that spends her days "doing bullshit".

Her life changes though when she encounters a spirit in the house - and then starts to get anonymous texts...

Mixing a concoction of atmospheric ghost story (via the likes of The Others and The Orphanage) with a psychological sideline in stalking proves to be an intriguing proposition for Personal Shopper. It's a film that very much benefits from Stewart's performance and subtleties.

As the medium  negotiating the spiritual world, she's very much a Ghostbuster, desperate to connect to ensure closure as she begins to give way at the edges. Spending nights alone and days equally alone in her haute couture job, her dissatisfied detachment from the world around her is well played by Stewart, who uses fraying mentality and fragility to beneficial effect. She conveys the degradation of her mental condition with the slightest of tics, twitching fingers et al.

Sequences in the home at the start of the film are well orchestrated by Assayas who creates a soundscape and atmosphere that's easy to buy into - even if occasionally frustratingly, he decides to cut a scene short by fading to black unexpectedly. But the unease and discord that's unleashed on Maureen early on is nothing compared to how suspenseful a text conversation becomes in Assayas' hands.

With the deftness of simply holding the camera on the phone as messages fly back and forth with various pauses, the whole thing becomes a bizarre masterclass in the art of suspense as this portrait of grief and yearning for more (both in this life and the next) unfolds.

Stewart's unease is palpable within the looping rhythms of tedium within her day and while some may feel in comparison to the broader emotional strokes that Assayas achieved in Clouds of Sils Maria this is lacking. But that's to dismiss Stewart's presence throughout and to do a disservice to Assayas' tale of disconnection.

It's essentially a spooker of a film, a film that builds to crescendo within its oeuvre and a film that defies convention or easy definition.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie: Film Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie: Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Kathy Burke
Director: Mandie Fletcher

There is perhaps something commendable about the way the Ab Fab film arrives decades after the show finished.

And given it opened big in wake of the BREXIT decision at the UK Box Office, there's still clearly an audience desperate for the nostalgia, the light-hearted silliness and for the beehived Patsy and the deluded Edina.

Tottering around the semblance of a plot too thin to ultimately bother with (loosely, the duo go on the run after Jennifer Saunders' Edina knocks Kate Moss into the Thames, drowning her), the film's MO is to simply provide a nostalgic blast of Ab Fab, an extended episode of the TV show stuffed full of cameos (some of whom are too young to have remembered the original.)

It's fair to say the jokes are spread pretty thinly from the get go, but Joanna Lumley as Patsy utterly owns her time back on screen with every scene devoured by her snarling, smudged lipstick look. Her opening sequence where she's injecting Botox as part of a morning routine is everything you'd expect from the character 

Saunders does her usual pratfalls and selfish antics as Edina, a monstrous mum clinging desperately to the ghost of PR past and unwilling to go into the dark of the night unless she has champagne and her hare-brained friend with her. There's the inevitable sappiness too that always hit parts of the sitcom with the relationship between her and daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha).

There's no disputing the slapstick caper could do with a swathe more laughs as parts of it feel scrappy and underwhelming, but there's equally no denying that the film is faithful to the show's ethos of excess and no learning policy. 

It carries on wilfully and regardless in gloriously OTT fashion, and while the model cameos may feel reminiscent of Zoolander 2 given their volume, they serve little purpose other than to exist. Perhaps the best of them come towards the end at a swimming pool in Cannes, revelling in the anarchic sense the show used to have and embracing the zaniness of a Brit-com on the continent that fuelled so many 70s TV series' movie outings.

The catch with Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is that the film's broadness will appeal probably more to fans of the original show; its faithfulness and desire to resurface all the characters from the 90s sitcom is laudable, but its desire to wilfully ignore the satire it could hit in a world where we all do our own PR online is a minor disappointment. (There are several jabs at the UK media obsessions and 24 hours news which provoke a guffaw or two - a scathing admission from Saunders perhaps how times have changed.)

This tale of women behaving badly may be a film of indulgence and cameos, but it lacks the sparkle of a Bolly in many ways. That said though, fans of the original series will adore its reverence to the source material and think it's still Absolutely Fabulous.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

LEGO® Dimensions™ Expansion Packs Revealed for November 2016 Release

LEGO® Dimensions™ Expansion Packs Revealed for November 2016 Release

LEGO® Dimensions Expansion Packs Revealed for November 2016 Release

Holiday Assortment Includes Fantastic Beasts, Sonic The Hedgehog,
GremlinsE.T. and Adventure Time

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment at San Diego Comic-Con revealed details around six highly collectable expansion packs for LEGO® Dimensions, the LEGO® toy and videogame hybrid, that will be available in the Wave 7 product release on November 18, 2016.  Led by the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Story Pack and the Sonic The Hedgehog Level Pack, the new packs broaden the selection of the world’s most popular entertainment brands allowing players to customise their experience by mixing and matching favourite characters and universes with full compatibility.  LEGO minifigures included in all of the wave 6-9 expansion packs will come with special, golden Toy Tags which unlock a Battle Arena within the Adventure World of the corresponding entertainment brand. All-new Battle Arenas will offer first-to-LEGO videogames competitive split-screen local gameplay for up to four players. Each Battle Arena has four gameplay modes and comes with its own traps, special powers and interactive environments that make every battle arena unique.

The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Story Pack will provide a complete movie-based gameplay experience with six action-packed levels and new LEGO Gateway bricks to build the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) atop the LEGO Toy Pad.  Players can build the Newt Scamander LEGO minifigure and help him find his escaped magical creatures in New York City and use a variety of spells, including DiffindoReparo and Lumos.  The pack will also come with a 3-in-1 Niffler which can be rebuilt into the Sinister Scorpion and Vicious Vulture. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Story Pack will be the exclusive construction toy offering this holiday for the exciting expansion of J.K Rowling’s Wizarding World.

Fans can also add the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Fun Pack with a Tina Goldstein LEGO minifigure. She can cast Aguamenti to help solve puzzles and Protego to keep her safe from enemies. Players in need of rescue can build the 3-in-1 Swooping Evil which can be rebuilt into the Brutal Bloom and Crawling Creeper.

The Sonic The Hedgehog Level Pack includes a complete level of Sonic The Hedgehog gameplay where players can race as the Blue Blur at lightning speeds through some of his most iconic locations including Green Hill, Emerald Coast, Labyrinth and many more. Players can build the Sonic the Hedgehog LEGO minifigure and use his Acrobat ability to swing off poles and avoid the Badniks, then use his famous grind rails move to make a quick escape.  The pack also includes a 3-in-1 Sonic Speedster which can be rebuilt into Blue Typhoon and Motobug, and a 3-in-1 The Tornado which can be rebuilt into Crabmeat and Eggcatcher.

Players wanting to bring Gremlins to life in LEGO Dimensions can add the Gremlins Team Pack which includes popular rivals Gizmo and Stripe LEGO minifigures. Gizmo’s Combat Roll and Dash Attack abilities can be used to get him out of sticky situations and Stripe uses his claws with his Vine Cut ability. Players can rebuild the 3-in-1 R.C. Racer vehicle into the Gadget-o-matic and Scarlet Scorpion and the 3-in-1 Flash ‘n’ Finish into a Rampage Record Player and Stripe's Throne

The E.T.™ The Extra-Terrestrial Fun Pack includes an E.T. LEGO minifigure with Illumination and Fix-It abilities, as well as special Stealth and Telekinesis skills to make his way around the LEGO multiverse.  Players can build E.T.’s iconic Phone Home device, then rebuild it into the Mobile Uplink and Super-Charged Satellite for additional in-game abilities.

Developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. LEGO Dimensions is now available for PlayStation® 4 and PlayStation® 3 computer entertainment systems, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Nintendo´s Wii™ U system.

LEGO DIMENSIONS Videogame software © 2016 TT Games Ltd. Produced by TT Games under license from the LEGO Group. LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Brick and the Knob configurations and the Minifigure are trademarks and/or copyrights of the LEGO Group. © 2016

Go behind the scenes of South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Go behind the scenes of South Park: The Fractured But Whole


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – July 27, 2016 – During the “South Park 20” panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Ubisoft released a new behind-the-scenes video for South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The video gives viewers an inside look at how the teams at South Park Studios and Ubisoft San Francisco are collaborating to create the new title. 

Developed by South Park Digital Studios and Ubisoft San Francisco, The Fractured But Whole has expanded with more places to explore and greater freedom to customize each players’ character. An all-new combat system offers unique opportunities to master space and time while on the battlefield, and a revamped looting and crafting system gives players the freedom to craft their own equipment to aid them in battle.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on December 6, 2016.

First look at Trainspotting 2

First look at Trainspotting 2

They're back!

Director Danny Boyle, reunites with the original cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle.  T2:Trainspotting.

The Rehearsal: NZIFF Review

The Rehearsal: NZIFF Review

Eleanor Catton's first book gets the big screen treatment with this Emily Perkins/ Alison McLean cinematic outing, starring national treasure James Rolleston.

Rolleston is Stanley, a naive newcomer to the bright lights of the big city and who's got a desire to end up on the stage. In his innocence, Stanley falls for a 15 year old schoolgirl called Isolde (Ella Edward). But Isolde's sister is part of a national scandal having been seduced by her much older tennis coach.

However, this soon proves to be inspiration for the drama school he attends after they're all chopped up into groups and deconstructed as both actors and at times, human beings. Drawing on his beau's sister's predicament, Stanley finds himself treading a dangerous path. between what's right and what right for his career....

The Rehearsal is a stiffly starch kind of film.

Its coldness is at times, off putting, and there's certainly a lack of engagement with many of the characters around the peripheries. One key moment in the story is supposed to resonate but because it comes so far out of leftfield (and is even remarked on by the brute of the head of the school played by Kerry Fox as coming out of nowhere), you don't feel anything at all - which is somewhat of a fatal move.

While The Rehearsal's swathed in ambiguity, its aloofness at times makes it hard to guess what exactly is going on and why some relationships either flourish or continue.

Consequently, while the audience is made to work for parts of the film's rewards, some may feel the effort is not worth it. Secrets may abound, but in this Lolita in the suburbs story, the opaqueness is almost oppressive.

Fortunately, blessed with a James Rolleston performance that's at both ends of his character's spectrum, there is a slightly commanding presence on screen that makes the Rehearsal worthwhile. Rolleston has the power to know when to dial down the acting and equally when to ramp it back up and makes some of his scenes all the more delicious for it (certainly in one sequence with Kerry Fox's character).

But overall, The Rehearsal is a muddled film of execution and one that may lack the broader appeal despite its oh-so-familiar story. It's not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination, and perhaps its refusal to conform makes it laudable, but by the same token, it makes it less embraceable.

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