Friday, 30 June 2017

Despicable M3: Film Review

Despicable M3: Film Review

Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Minions gibberish
Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda

Third time's less of the charm for Illumination's animated antics in this latest outing for Gru and the gang.
Despicable M3: Film Review

In Despicable Me 3 (stylised as Despicable M3), Gru and Lucy (Carell and Wiig respectively) are kicked out of the anti-villains league when they fail to stop 80s obsessed former child star and wannabe crimelord Balthazar Bratt (South Park's Trey Parker) from stealing one of the world's largest diamonds.

Suffering from a crisis of faith, Gru discovers he has a twin brother, Dru (also played by Carell), who's the opposite to Gru's villain.

When the pair finally meet, Gru's jealous of Dru's seemingly successful lifestyle. But he's shocked to find out that Dru just wants to be a villain as that's all their father ever wanted for his son...

Will Gru re-embrace his dark side?

Despicable M3: Film ReviewFeeling distinctly flat and disappointingly disparate, Despicable M3 lacks the zaniess and the bite of prior outings.

While the 80s nostalgia vibe may help the older end of the audience feel a little jaded and satiated at the thought of a fourth film with the Minions.

Wiig feels particularly underused as the surrogate mother and the separate threads involving dispirited minions, the kids, Gru / Dru's antics don't quite seem to gel as well as they should.

It helps little that the animation which had such zing before looks great but delivers little in terms of memorable moments; it's slickly produced but its sweetly sentimental edges don't really bring the feels that it should this time around.

Granted, the children in the audience may well enjoy the brief interludes (though the shoe-horning in of Sing, another Illumination property is almost as bad as any product placement from Michael Bay's outings), but there aren't enough of them to keep everyone entertained.

There are flashes of visual brilliance though, such as when Gru and Dru raid the villain's lair (there's plenty of fun to be had in being bad) - and the 80s obsessed Bratt is a non-stop laugh-fest of nostalgia and desperation all wrapped up in one go, but these are fleeting moments few and sadly far in between, making you desperately miss the kinetic silliness that's been on show before.
Despicable M3: Film Review

All in all, Despicable M3 is pretty much a formulaic piece of CGI animation for the school hols - there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but the fact it betrays the very best of what the Despicable Me series could offer and distills it down into a series of mere moments is nothing short of a crying shame.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Le Ride: DVD Review

Le Ride: DVD Review

Le Ride sees Phil Keoghan take on his own Amazing Race.

Shorn of the majority of the glamorous trappings of the TV show, Keoghan's desire to demonstrate a little known Kiwi's achievements of the world stage is admirable in its intent.

For many, the name Harry Watson means nothing; but after Le Ride, Keoghan's hope of restoring his name to the annals of history may have taken a large leap. Mixing the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman ethos of the Long Way Round with a road trip in France, Keoghan and his mate Ben Cornell are determind to follow Watson's path from the 1928 Tour De France.

Le Ride

With a bike that was from the 1928 ride (ie no real gears).

While some of those roads are long gone, this doesn't stop the duo from instigating "the story that has to be told" and setting out on the trail. Mixing archive footage, present day suffering (Keoghan even insisted on keeping to the 1928 diet of bread, cheese and wine) and plenty of lashings of camaraderie and good nature, Le Ride is a journey well worth taking.

With the typical Keoghan charm in the face of growing adversity (from cracks on the bikes to being outbiked by someone in their 60s who took part in the original race), this is never less than genial - and while less is known about Kiwi Harry Watson than any other of any of our more prolific sports exports on the world stage, Keoghan and Cornell ensure that his profile is raised considerably in this piece that quietly salutes his achievements.

Le Ride's greatest achievement has come from being on the NZIFF circuit - granted, Keoghan's high profile should see many more through the doors than simply those within the biking community, but a wider audience will leave feeling they've had access to a story they would normally have never glimpsed into. 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Beauty and the Beast: DVD Review

Beauty and the Beast: DVD Review

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellen, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emma Thompson

"Tale as old as time."

Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens

Well, to be precise, perhaps 26 years ago, the ultimate version of 1740's French tale and the best Stockholm Syndrome story ever, La Belle et le Bete was released.

A Disney animated classic, there was intimicacy and warmth in the re-telling of the story wherein Belle falls under the spell of the titular Beast, cursed for all eternity. And Disney's re-tooling of the tale was perhaps the most popular, being turned into a Broadway musical in 1994.

However, the Disney remake machine, already in force with The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon (and coming soon with The Lion King, kids!) is back with another re-telling, cannibalising from their own back catalogue.

This time, the remake strays barely away from the formula, but adds some touches in that have enraged certain sections of the world (step forward, Russia and Alabama) but reflect the times we live in.

It's still a tale of the kindness of strangers in a way - and still front and centre of it all is Emma Watson's Belle, a small provincial town girl who yearns for a life beyond the walls of her French village. Though as her father, played with warmth and little else by Kevin Kline cautions: "Small also means safe!"

But when her father goes missing, Belle tracks him down to a castle and finds he's the prisoner of the Beast (Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens, mo-capped to the hilt and looking furry as heck). Tricking the Beast into freeing her father, but remaining his captive, Belle is encouraged by the residents of the castle to look beyond his exterior and see the heart within.

Desperate to lift the curse dumped upon them all by an enchantress, time is running out for the house's servants, all turned into various items, from Ian McKellen's Cogsworth the clock to Ewan McGregor's slightly iffy French accented candlestick Lumiere. For if the Beast doesn't learn to love and have his love returned, the enchantress' spell will doom them all to stay like they are forever.

In many ways, Disney's take on Beauty and The Beast, directed by the director of Dreamgirls and The Twilight Saga's Bill Condon, is more an adaptation of a big stage musical than the more intimate touches of Disney's animated classic.

From the opening opulence of the prelude, set deep within the walls of the castle with its stunning array of chandeliers and costumes (plenty of accolades deserve to be showered on the costume designer Jacqueline Durran for her work), everything is more, more, more. There are people bursting to the edges of the screen than you would deem possible as Steven's foppish prince is transformed to a Beast in all its Hammer Horror glory.

Post-opening titles, the film's familiar refrain of Belle soars, even if one moment within sees Watson's Belle take to the hills and bring them to life with the sound of music.

Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens

That's partially the problem with this iteration of Beauty and The Beast - it all feels so familiar, as if Condon and the crew are more interested in hitting the expected beats rather than providing the cinema with something new to revel in.

Even Lumiere's show-stopping tune "Be Our Guest" becomes an overtly OTT show tunes number, with Busby Berkeley's aqua-musicals providing the cue for the LSD style visuals as the plates, food and cutlery swirl around Belle's astonished face.(Let's not even get started on how Chip the cup's movement is very reminiscent of BB-8's rolling). And while the visuals on display are dazzling, it's almost as if those in charge had decided that more should be more in this, to try to differentiate it from its past and draw a line in the sand that this is the definitive take on the film.

If this sounds too much like a grumble, it's not - merely an observation that the charms of the animated were so successful because of their paucity.

The 2017 version of Beauty and The Beast has a lot to offer audiences seeking both nostalgia and a new generation to drag along.

Watson's book-worm Belle is a finely solid and spot-on positive addition to the Disney canon - from her protestations that she's not a princess, she's a firm, yet occasionally feisty, Belle to look upto. And while some of her facial expressions give you the feeling she's seen all this magic before in Hogwarts, her down-to-earth touches in the new back story brought to Belle are warm and tender, bathed in a pathos that may have been missing before.

Evans' Gaston, complete with boasting and braggadocio,is a pantomime villain who actually brings more of the cartoonish to life in his murderous desire to marry Belle ("She's the most beautiful girl in the village, so that means she's the best" being just one of the retro-sexist lines uttered and roundly mocked by the audience); even Josh Gad's Le Fou, who's at times camp and clearly in love with Gaston, is an oafish caricature there for comic relief and conscience in the vein of a pantomime best boy. While there's talk the progressive nature of this film has enraged some, from its gay subtext from Le Fou to Disney's first inter-racial kiss, it's good to see the House of Mouse has finally, albeit tentatively, opened its doors to the world around it.
Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens
And while some of the Pans Labyrinth- CGI on the Beast leaves a few of the subtler moments and reactions wanting, Stevens, complete with sub-woofer voice, brings levity to the lighter moments and sadness to the inherent tragedy of the Beast's trapping.

Ultimately, while the very musical 2017 version of Beauty and The Beast has some tinkerings around the edges both narratively and musically (whether the new song additions will become classics in their own right is highly debatable), and is blessed with some flaws of execution, despite this, its magical and enchanted edges will mean that families will flock in their droves to be its guest. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Cure For Wellness: Blu Ray Review

A Cure For Wellness: Blu Ray Review

Tipping its hat to horror and Gothic pretensions, Gore Verbinski's suspense-filled A Cure For Wellness soaks in mystery for 2 of its 2 and a half hours run time.
A Cure For Wellness

A pallid and drawn Dane De Haan stars as Lockhart, an ambitious investment banker, who's extorted to bring back the head of a financial company from a mysterious spa in the Swiss Alps.
With the clock ticking to return the man in question ahead of a company merger, Lockhart finds his efforts frustrated by the staff and owner of the spa who believe it's better for all if they stay and get some treatment.

But as Lockhart starts to look around, he digs deeper into the disturbing secrets of the spa - however, will he be too late?

There's a mania infecting every frame of A Cure For Wellness.
A Cure For WellnessWith Bojan Bazelli's precise and exquisite cinematography, A Cure For Wellness is infected with a starchly stiff look that manifests in every scene.

Moments are perfectly framed and add much to the overall sheen of A Cure For Wellness' frankly lunatic edges, giving the film a detached feeling that hangs heavy in the air as it plays out.

While DeHaan's growing incredulousness seems to be at odds with what you'd expect from the character, this Gothic-tinged film, with its transfixing blend of weirdness and and surreal nightmare edges is a Lovecraftian parable and dreamscape made real.

Complete with some great use of sound, the suspenseful atmosphere is ramped up to 11 and the creaks and clanks of the walls and Lockhart's crutches add a sense of a very real rhythm that comes, lulling you into an odd dreamlike mentality that helps you view the film.

As the body horror ramps up to its natural and expected crescendo, the actual denouement of the film is as utterly daffy as you'd expect. In fact, the sheer insanity of the end actually threatens to derail the film at this point, potentially derailing the meticulous work done by Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski and his team.

Large parts of the film feel like they've been ripped from plenty of other source materials (from a catalogue of horrors to elements of Scorsese's Shutter Island), and even the slow pans down the corridors recall The Kingdom, Lars von Trier's foray into TV.

A Cure For Wellness

And yet, despite the ending sequence, A Cure For Wellness remains a largely taut and well-executed trip into the fevered mind. It's a trip, to be sure, but the paranoia, suspense and madness within make it a journey well worth experiencing. 

Monday, 26 June 2017

The Great Wall: Blu Ray Review

The Great Wall: Blu Ray Review

On paper, it's easy to see why The Great Wall exists.

A Chinese director (famed for The House of Flying Daggers and Hero), a Western star (Matt Damon) and a chance to concoct a Chinese - US co-production to rake in some of the take of a Chinese box office.

After all, xXx - The Return of Xander Cage tried to negotiate similar waters.

But on screen, the CGI creature-feature feels more like a gloriously costumed B-movie that never scales the emotional heights it could have easily achieved.

Damon is William, a mercenary who's part of a band of men after the black powder for its magic properties to turn air into fire. As the group's wittled slowly down, William and his fellow conspirator Tovar (Game of Thrones' Pedro Pascal, the film's comic relief) find themselves attacked by a mystical creature and captured by the armies on the Great Wall.

Led by the Nameless Order, the duo is let into confidences when they produce the slaughtered creature and discover an endless eternal war is being fought between the marauding relentless Tao Tei and the protectors of the Wall....

An emotionless bedraggled Damon as William, complete with mumbling bizarre Irish brogue, initially does little to dispel the feeling that The Great Wall is a a CGI fest that plays up its legends element and the fantastical edges.

Characters within the film aren't exactly well developed, and certainly William's behaviour sits at odds with any decisions he makes further on in the film (largely, due to a lack of back-grounding) that propel portions of the narrative.

While the white-wash debate has dogged the film, it's perhaps pertinent to note that most of the Western behaviour is that of rapscallions and skull-duggery. From Defoe's Mad Monk-esque wannabe thief to Tovar's plunder-them-and-run ethos, only William changes his MO due to exposure to the Chinese traits of honour and trust. Sure, there are moments when the white man saves the day, but largely it's due to a shift in mind-set and needs to be viewed as such.

However, despite some truly impressive costuming and eye to detail from WETA's props to the sumptuous colourful costumes to differentiate the wall-based fighters (though reminiscent of the Power Rangers' colourings), the Nameless Order is eye-poppingly gorgeous. And shonky CGI aside, the initial attack on the Wall and the subsequent holding off of the Tao Tei is solidly executed, a visual symphony of a Cirque du Soleil themed attack that benefits more from the human touch than the endless rows of creatures surging towards it.

It's just a shame that The Great Wall doesn't embrace enough of its lunacy and premise of aliens invading the Wall of China and the end effect is an undeniably B-movie film that's soulless on the human front.

With weaker Chinese characters propping up parts of proceedings (Jing's Commander Lin starts off promisingly before being confined to the ramparts' sidelines and sharing glances with Damon's William), the film needed either a stronger script and interactions to pull it through or less reliance on the slow-mo CGI critters flying through the air approach to keep the 100 minutes alive.

With its video game ethos, wannabe epic and questionable CGI, The Great Wall hides a kernel of an intriguing and entertaining film. It's just unfortunate that the severe under-cooking of many of the elements within mean this is one wall that's actually not really worth scaling. 

Win a copy of LIFE

Win a copy of LIFE

LIFE - Release Date: June 21 (Blu-Ray & DVD)

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds star in this horror/thriller about a crew of international astronauts stationed on The International Space Station who retrieve a sample from Mars and discover that it displays signs of life.  

But when they bring a specimen into the station for observation, the alien organism breaks out of the lab and proves to be more intelligent than expected as it hunts them down, violently murdering them one by one. 

Thanks to Sony Home Entertainment NZ, you can win a copy of Life on DVD!

To win a copy of LIFE all you have to do is enter simply email your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email LIFE!

Competition closes July 13th

Good luck!

Win a copy of Gold

Win a copy of Gold

GOLD - Release Date: June 21 (Blu-Ray & DVD) 

Kenny Wells, a prospector desperate for a lucky break, teams up with a similarly eager geologist and sets off on an amazing journey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia. 

Getting the gold was hard but keeping it is even more difficult, sparking an adventure through the most powerful boardrooms of Wall Street.

To win a copy of GOLD all you have to do is enter simply email your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email GOLD!

Competition closes July 13th
Good luck!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Logan: Blu Ray Review

Logan: Blu Ray Review

Hugh Jackman as Logan in Logan
That Logan's ending makes you feel the story is incomplete is both a testament and a damnation of the latest film that arrives with the announcement that after 17 years, Hugh Jackman's hanging up his adamantium claws.

For the large part, Logan, complete with its ageing hero, shuns the majority of the X-Men world and the mutants that have spawned so many films over the past 17 years, that have smashed box offices but been received with such varying degrees of success, and diminishing creative returns. 

And confined to the sidelines (for the most part, aside from a messy third act that falls back into lazy ways), the fleeting mentions and glimpses of that world serve up a rich atmosphere to Logan that's to die for.

Limping, riddled with the ravages of old age, and forced to work as an anonymous chaffeur to hen parties and American frat boys chanting USA (heaven knows the parallels between mutants running amok and certain US policies on Mexico feel frighteningly near the bone here), Logan has shunned the mutant life. The year is 2029 and nary a new mutant has been discovered in decades.

But when Logan's approached by a woman wanting him to transport her and her young mute charge to a specific location, he finds himself drawn back into a world he'd believed he'd left long ago.

Re-teaming Mangold with Jackman, and then throwing in Stewart is a master touch in this Old country for Old men style road trip. It's the tender relationship between an ageing Charles Xavier, riddled with dementia and a deteriorating mind now classed a WMD, that speaks volumes to this film. Filled with warmth, empathy and an occasionally scratchy dynamic that feels human and as that of a carer and their charge, it's the emotional centre of the film.

Stewart's rarely been better in the role - there's a mournful regret imbued throughout and the interplay between both Jackman and him feels natural and intimate, as they both rue over the tragedies of the past and as Xavier tries to get the dying Logan to revel in some of humanity's offering.

Tying in elements of Mark Millar's Old Man Logan storyline, the grounded, almost mournful, movie has a great deal of craft and heft as it plays out. But Mangold's not afraid to let the film live up to its R-rating, with brutal action and swift dispatches in the opening moments being more than enough to satiate those who've desired to see Wolverine's anger in action over the years.

But in amongst all of this, it's the human touches which make two-thirds of Logan stand head and shoulders above what's come before and what's gradually eroded the CGI-heavy-world-being-destroyed-previous outings. A large part of that is due to Jackman's wearied and scruffy scratchy hero as he limps his way through an old time western story (in fact, Mangold uses an entire sequence from Shane to parallel the X-Men ethos and Logan's reticence to embrace what he actually is).

Sir Patrick Stewart as Xavier in Logan

From minor moments to Logan grabbing a cigar at a convenience store, to Merchant's albino mutant Caliban bemoaning the fact he'll become like a Nosferatu below deck, there's a poignancy and acknowledgement that's carried through this film and embodied by Jackman's grift and grit. There is no Wolverine without Jackman, and while Mangold's pointed out that parts of Logan owe a debt to Mickey Rourke's beaten pugilist in The Wrestler, it's Jackman whose subtle turn gives emotional heft to an anti-superhero film.

It's a shame then that the final sequence in Logan, with its typical X-Men stylings and fight within a wood is the film's one weak point. A falling back into the lazy ways of mutants showing powers and deja-vu that ultimately mean the end, when it comes, lacks the emotional resonance and wallop that it should easily possess. And while Keen as the new sullen and muted mutant becomes a ferocious, almost feral, presence in a blistering action sequence, she's lost in the cacophony of an FX-heavy ending.

Logan is at its best when it stays within its emotionally intimate confines and it's this which marks it out as a superior action-film. Imbued with a heart and a pathos that's hard to shake, the thrills are more evident in the quieter moments, than in the larger scale sound-and-fury that becomes its end.

However, if this is truly Jackman's farewell to the role, then both he and Mangold can hold their heads high. They've done the mythology of Wolverine a great service with this last brutal and occasionally emotionally bleak outing - and Jackman's earned himself a place in the pantheon of iconic celluloid characters with ease thanks to this powerfully-engaging swan song. 

Pitch Perfect 3 first trailer

Pitch Perfect 3 first trailer

Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson headline the returning cast of Pitch Perfect 3, the follow-up to 2015’s blockbuster hit that took the honor of highest-grossing live-action movie-musical opening of all time. The eagerly awaited next chapter is led by series producers Paul Brooks of Gold Circle Entertainment and Max Handelman & Elizabeth Banks of Brownstone Productions. The film will be directed by Trish Sie (Step Up All In). 

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, with John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks 

Directed by: Trish Sie
Produced by: Paul Brooks, Max Handelman, Elizabeth Banks
Executive Producer: David Nicksay

Pitch Perfect 3 will be hitting cinemas on January 4 2018.

I Am Heath Ledger: Film Review

I Am Heath Ledger: Film Review

Directors: Adrian Buitenhuis, Derik Murray

Despite a major absence of anything of former wife Michelle Williams (aside from archive footage within), doco I Am Heath Ledger seems to settle more for celebrational hagiography rather than insight dealing investigation.
I Am Heath Ledger: Film Review

Which is perfectly fine because what shines through with the documentary pulled together by the team who did I Am Chris Farley, I Am Bruce Lee is that spirit that Ledger possessed before his untimely death nearly a decade ago.

While the early stages of the piece give a bit of context of why he came to Hollywood (no major desire to run away, just was determined to try it) from his family, a lot of the film contains archive footage Ledger shot from cameras or handheld as he documented everything.

Granted, parts of the doco rely on the over-wrought hyperbole of lines like "He was bigger than the world was" and "I'm not supposed to be talking to you about this", there are some insights into how Ledger pushed himself and fought actively against the stereotyping that his fame and role in 10 Things I Hate About You brought.

It's interesting to see he was riddled with self-doubt, but willing to surround himself with a pre-Entourage entourage thanks to his open house policy for creatives and acting waifs and strays. In fact what shines through is Ledger's spirit of generosity and while it's possibly fair to say those who know a little about Ledger will know all this, but to those who had a passing interest in his acting and nothing more, it's enlightening fare.

I Am Heath Ledger: Film Review
From an interest in chess to the fact he turned down Spider-Man via a revelation that he adored the Joker role on The Dark Knight Returns and that wasn't what killed him, I Am Heath Ledger showcases what was best about Ledger - his everyman generosity and approach to life.

It won't shatter many pre-conceptions about Ledger, but with the likes of Ben Mendelsohn, Naomi Watts and Ben Harper adding weight to what a good guy he was, the relatively straight I Am Heath Ledger is a celebratory trip that's worth taking, even if it does little to shake up the documentary format.

Loving: DVD Review

Loving: DVD Review

Nominated for Golden Globes and Oscars, Loving's true life tale of the divisions faced by an inter-racial couple, should be a home run.
Loving, by Jeff Nichols, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton

When construction worker Richard Loving (a simple relatively silent turn by Joel Edgerton) decides to marry Mildred (Negga of Preacher fame) out of state, his rush to matrimonial bliss sparks a degree of a witch-hunt as authorities berate them for breaking anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 Virginia.

From a late-night raid, the duo is split up and imprisoned, but it's only Richard who's freed on bail. And things are further complicated when the duo's banned from returning to the state together for 25 years....

Loving starts with a declaration of pregnancy and then spends the rest of the film avoiding the typical route of a civil rights story, while struggling with how to negotiate some of the tropes of the genre.

By doing so, it eschews the conventional trappings of what essentially could be a court-set series of encounters as the fight for freedom plays out in the 1960s disapproving America.

But it's also a film that takes a long time to get anywhere; and with very little drama happening due to Nicholls' somewhat muted approach to the story, it's a bit of a hard ask for the audience at times.
Complete with perma-scowl and confused looks, Edgerton proffers little emotion under his bleach-blond taciturn approach, but manages to convey a lot with looks and hints of what's going on below the surface.

Equally, Negga's quite sidelined in the first half of the film, but as the arguments rage within her and the injustice boils up, she finds a voice in the second half of the film, and as a result, her character begins to rise.

Loving, by Jeff Nichols, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton

These are the complexities of Loving and potentially why, for some, it may not be the emotional powerhouse they're expecting, with the end result feeling like the telling of a story, rather than a cathartic response garnered by other films of their ilk.

This is not to cast any darkness on what the Lovings endured and the injustices thereof, but merely, there's a nagging feeling when the lights go up that the release just simply isn't as strong as could be as director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter, Mud and Midnight Special) vision of empowerment never truly soars above its own subtleties. 

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Life: DVD Review

Life: DVD Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson,Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Daniel Espinosa

David Bowie - or more precisely, one of his most famous musical questions -proves to be the inspiration for Daniel Espinosa's tautly schlocky horror-space flick, Life.

Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

High above the Earth in the International Space Station, a motley crew of nations is assembled, waiting to take on board a soil sample from Mars for analysis to see if anything existed.

But when the sample they bring on board does yield some form of life, it soon turns deadly threatening to kill off the six crew on board... and the future of life on Earth.

The chamber piece Life may be a spiritual successor and very reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Alien and many a Doctor Who episode where something lurks amok a base, but Espinosa's horror-cum-sci-fi cliche piece is actually startlingly effective in its execution and intense in some of its scenes.

Granted, the space staff on board are briefly sketched at best; Reynolds reprises a bit of wise-cracking edge from Deadpool as the engineer of the piece, Ferguson's gruff starched commander is all about the protocols and firewalls than the fuzzies, and Hiroyuki Sanada's pilot is given a new-born baby on Earth to raise his emotional stakes.

Perhaps more interesting is Gyllenhaal's David Jordan, a medic who's been in space for 473 days and prefers the hum of the spaceship to the evils that men do on the ground. He's afforded the deepest degree of character as the film progresses, but it's slim pickings all around.

Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

Which is potentially no bad thing for Life.

This is not a film that wants to philosophise or put a lot of scientific debate or discussion, it's more interested in firing abject terror thanks to an overly bombastic soundtrack and series of relatively taut set-pieces.

It helps the creature, named Calvin by a lucky kid that wins a competition on Earth, starts off like a gelatinous star-fish before evolving into some kind of floating turtle / snake hybrid and is a fairly innocuous but fatal critter - it's not destined for horror infamy like the Xenopmorph, but it works its terror well as the film continues.

The dialogue in part is cliche as well - from lines like "I've got a good feeling about this" to "There's zero precedence for this!" that are ripped straight of Horror Movie Writing 101 to a meta reference to Re-Animator, this is a film that proudly and honestly wears its influences on its sleeve.

As the escalating schlock of the situation sets in and the horror movie trappings emerge with relative aplomb, Espinosa keeps the film rattling along at quite a pace and never really stops to let it breathe. The result is relatively tremendous, a terror-filled ride that's worth taking in the fashion in which it was intended.

From its opening shot of a blip hurtling across the stars to its shots high above the Earth and within the Space Station, the look and feel of Life is second-to-none. With its tight frame shots of the crew within the ship and wide shots of life outside in the vastness of space, complete with an evocative orchestral score, Espinosa manages to convey a sense of the infinite with the intimate in this claustrophobic thriller.

Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

And there's a certain beauty in one of the crew being killed, hauled into a Messianic pose with blood globules floating in the zero gravity room around them - this is a film that gets the look and feel right, even if it does feel like something we've witnessed before.

While the end feels unnecessarily OTT with a Eureka moment coming a little too conveniently into proceedings, Espinosa and the cast are fully committed to the meshing of the horror and space genres here.

Make no mistake, Life is unashamedly a derivative but suspenseful schlockbuster that embraces its conventions with gusto.  It's actually also a tremendously slick and diverting popcorn ride too, despite its lack of more rounded human edges that kept the likes of Gravity and Alien afloat in the cold dark reaches of space. 

All Eyez on Me: Film Review

All Eyez on Me: Film Review

Cast:  Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper
Director: Benny Boom

Tupac's legacy feels slightly squandered in this over-long formulaic biopic that seems more interested in hitting Tupac moments than going deeper.
All Eyez on Me: Film Review

A charismatic Shipp Jr channels the looks of the late rapper with ease as the film jumps back and forth in his timeline detailing Shakur's childhood, rise to rapper and struggle with the criticism aimed at gangsta rap.

Framed under the auspice of an interview from Clinton Correctional in 1995, Boom's film suffers from plenty of chopping and changing around early on, as the film sets out its intentions to capture the key moments of the life rather than to assemble a more coherent narrative and pertinent overview of Shakur's life.

With commentary on the injustices in Tupac's life, the mistreatment of African Americans and lots of angry outbursts from his mother (played by The Walking Dead's Michonne), the film seems to be aiming for incendiary but never fully catches fire.
All Eyez on Me: Film Review

In fairness, during the scenes of musical excellence, Bloom turns up the dial to 11 and the film crackles with the kind of electricity that's needed and was seen in the likes of Straight Outta Compton. But these are too few and far in between over the bum-numbing 140 minutes run time.

As the rise to Death Row Records settles in, it becomes clear that the script's less interested in providing fully fleshed out characters and is more interested in assuming characteristics and stereotypes for the likes of Sugg Knight and Snoop Dogg.

Ultimately, this slightly hollow and pedestrian approach to what really should have been a home-run means that All Eyez on Me ends up being something where you'd rather avert your eyes elsewhere. Time-hopping doesn't help generate a sense of emotional depth and ultimately when the end arrives, there's little to no feeling on the audience's behalf as it transpires on screen.

With little sense of flair, and a script that makes Tupac's life seem more disjointed (and in the case of legal arguments, more brief and simplistic than it is) All Eyez on Me fails to engender a sense of inspiration in its subject.
All Eyez on Me: Film Review

Cars 3: Film Review

Cars 3: Film Review

Cast: Owen Wilson, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo,
Director: Brian Fee

That a large thread of Cars 3 is spent with Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen's dilemma over how to stay relevant in the face of zippier competition can't be lost on those of us who feel that Pixar's Cars franchise has critically struggled.
Cars 3: Film Review

Never quite firing on all cylinders, the series is back to relative amiable form in this latest which sees Lightning McQueen's old racing ways fail to have him against new tech and cars like Jackson Storm (Hammer). In a nod perhaps to how Formula 1 these days is all about the technology rather than the driving, McQueen's forced to go back to basics and attend an upskilling centre run by Fillion's Sterling and under the tutelage of Cruz (Alonzo).

But will it be enough to help McQueen to both move on and win again?

There's a definite feeling of passing the torch here in the overly literal trappings of Cars 3.

With a nod to the past and Paul Newman's racer as well as the embracing of the newer way of doing things, and avoiding the fear of the new, Cars 3 hits the ground running, even if it does feel like it could ease up on some of the messaging that's ramraided home repeatedly.
Cars 3: Film Review

However, its desire to champion women and give girls the feeling of empowerment is something akin to what Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman has already achieved this year. By forcing Cruz to embrace her dream and never settle for second best, the film's desire to ensure the right message gets out there is both bold and admirable.

Sure, the racing looks slick and there's an undeniable sheen in the polish that the animation carries, but there's little else under the hood for Cars to roll out except its amiable intentions and fair aspirations. Everything looks great and there's no sign that Pixar's decided to drop the quality for the third of the series in terms of the animation, but the relatively straight story-telling means it's one of the more humour free entrants into Pixar's canon which is a real shame.
Cars 3: Film Review

All in all, Cars 3 is nothing more than pleasant - with its simple story worryingly showing there's maybe less in the tank, but its important message it gets the job done on the track but it's far from the convincing victory it really should have been.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Hotel Coolgardie: Film Review

Hotel Coolgardie: Film Review

Director: Pete Gleeson

Likely to do for Aussie outback pubs what Wolf Creek did for Australian outback tourism, docoHotel Coolgardie follows two Finnish backpackers who wind up working at the titular pub after losing all their cash in Bali.

But much like Wolf Creek, it's no less hellish for the duo in Pete Gleeson's fly-on-the-wall piece that shows tolerance is always on the slide as these so called "fresh meat" take to life behind the bar in a baptism of fire that would see many an HR rep running for the hills, unable to sway those perpetuating the sexism and abuse within.

Hotel Coolgardie

And yet, despite the crassness of the Aussie locals, there's something eminently watchable about the proceedings as it reveals the reality of small towns, where everyone knows your business, where drunk patrons do their best to sleep over with the staff and where there's apparently no such thing as a free ride.

Horrifying on many fronts, Hotel Coolgardie's strengths are its honesty; none of what transpires feels less heart-in-mouth than a horror in many ways, but what Gleeson's managed to do is show the reality of a small town and the sociological traits that lie within; many of which will feel familiar to many in New Zealand no matter how much they may feel shame or deny it. No male in this piece comes off well at all - and the girls' saintliness is only further excelled by the way they deal with what goes on.

Though one suspects tourism to the Coolgardie area won't exactly be on the rise after this hits the circuit.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Win double passes to see Spider-Man Homecoming

Win double passes to see Spider-Man Homecoming

A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming. 

Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). 

Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man

But when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.

Spider-Man Homecoming is in cinemas July 6th - so get ready for web-slinging action!

To win a double pass all you have to do is enter simply email your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email SPIDEY!

Competition closes July 6th
Good luck!

Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel
Director: Michael Bay

Transformers: The Last Knight is relentless.

But in a way that makes your eyes bleed at its bloated spectre as it hovers over you in the cinema and sits on you like a succubus, sucking the very life from you until you yield.
Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Granted, it's a Transformers film and Bay's not exactly set the bar high before, but in this latest, which starts off in medieval times before heading to modern times where Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yaeger is the world's only hope, sense is not really present.

Loosely, the Decepticons are searching for Merlin's staff which was gifted to the wizard by a Transformer way back when. Believing that staff could help Cybertron regenerate, the race is on. But Transformers have been outlawed on Earth and are being hunted in some form of Skynet style crackdown.

However, Yaeger and his merry bunch of rescued robots (who all live in a scrap yard, called Auto - subtlety ahoy) set out to save the day. But when it appears Optimus Prime has turned against them, it looks like it may all be over...

To be fair to Michael Bay, Transformers: The Last Knight delivers its sense of scale with utter gusto as it tries to power through the endless bloat that is its 150 minute run time.

Opening with a medieval fight that is both Battle of the Bastards and King Arthur all rolled into a degree of epic flair, slow mo and with added Stanley Tucci as the wizard, Transformers: The Last Knight sets out its stall well initially, before caving to the usual problems that blight a Michael Bay action film.

Transformers: The Last Knight: Film ReviewShifting to present day times where Wahlberg's inventor is pulled into a conspiracy involving Laura Haddock's polo-playing Oxford professor, who may be descended from a magical line of Witwickys, and Anthony Hopkins' bat-shit Basil exposition Sir Edmund Burton (who has a robot butler voiced by Downton Abbey's C3PO type butler Jim Carter).

It's here that sense really does check out of Transformers: The Last Knight and what transpires is akin to car porn, mixed with explosions, slow mo and a feeling that limitless audition tapes for army recruitment are being shot. Bay has an eye for wanton destruction and for maximising the carnage on the screen.

But what he still doesn't have is an eye for character, with once again women being nothing more than objectified (though it's nowhere near as bad as it's been in previous films) or for dialogue being delivered with anything other than shouting and bellicose intonations. Hopkins however, deserves special mention for a combination of both rambling his lines together with such gusto and scene-chewing that his live-wire insanity becomes contagious and gives the film the edge that's needed throughout.

The main problem with the formulaic Transformers: The Last Knight (complete with Optimus AWOL for most of the film) is that it also lacks the fun as endless scenes of action simply segue into another - and with the robots doing their usual one-liners this time, the film feels like it's lacking the fun and going through the motions as it splices Top Gear with robots, Terminator with Robocop, and Skynet with Stand By Me early on.
Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Granted, it's apparently Bay's last outing in the series, and there's a sense that he's gone all out with with the spectacle and sacrificed it for all else.

As Mark Wahlberg's Cade brilliantly announces early on "I don't do this for the money, I do it for the higher cause"; a mantra that perhaps Bay himself possibly believes as well as he allows the daftness to unfold without any hint of earlier deftness bleeding through.

But respectfully, given the low bar this latest has set in terms of story-telling, one would respectfully ask that it's perhaps time to rest the robots, and to reboot the franchise with more of an eye on character and narrative, rather than simply the spectacle of what children would come up with when faced with both a sugar-fuelled imagination and a line of Hasbro toys at home.

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