Thursday, 31 August 2017

Matterfall: PS4 Review

Matterfall: PS4 Review

Developed by Housemarque
Platform: PS4

Side-scrolling has always been Housemarque's raison d'etre.
Matterfall: PS4 Review

After the weekly thrills of Resogun and its continually addictive ways, the studio's been constantly pursuing another such vicarious and entertaining game to help cement its name.

Matterfall is not that game.

Not that there's really anything wrong with this rushing about and shooting things game in any way, shape or form, more that repeat value is a little lacking.

Essentially in Matterfall, you get to take on hordes of robots and things shooting at you in various buildings under the guise of being a freelancer who simply goes in to tidy things up, free a few people and fire off a few rounds.
Matterfall: PS4 Review

It's as slick as you'd expect from the studio but it is missing the edge that promotes replayability.

It does also rely on your using multi buttons at several different times to ensure that you're taking advantage of all the skills you have at your disposal. From a dash move that can wipe out bullets and stop you from being attacked, to using a matter gun to fill in platforms or power lifts, the key to Matterfall is a degree of ambi-dexterity.

It's very much a game that throws a lot in your path and expects you to cope, so sometimes, the deaths seem unnecessary and particularly vindictive. But each level (of the 12 around) is achievable with a modicum of smarts and timing.
Matterfall: PS4 Review

Ultimately, Matterfall is a slice of arcade shoot'em'up that really does work for its basics and its slick looking gameplay - but under the hood, it's lacking the hyper-kinetic addictiveness that other titles have offered up. If there were to be some newer elements dripped out, it could prove to be a title that's essential.

As it is, it's currently visually impressive and enjoyable but nothing more, nothing less.

Wind River: Film Review

Wind River: Film Review

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elisabeth Olsen

Director: Taylor Sheridan

After astounding with scripts for Sicario and the much appreciated Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan slips into the directing chair for the helming of his own script for Wind River.

Centring on an Indian Reservation where the bloodied body of a raped woman is found 6 miles from anywhere and in the middle of the frozen wastes of Wyoming, Wind River follows the investigation into the crime.

With a rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elisabeth Olsen) called in from Vegas, and a US fish and wildlife marksman Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) deputised into help, the case finds the intricacies of Native American problems and guilt from the past all intertwined...

Wind River: NZIFF Review

Inspired by actual events, Wind River has some truly astonishing visuals in among the white-outs of the snow.
From Lambert's snowmobile making its way through the wastelands like an insignificant speck to blood on the ice, Sheridan's eye for scale and shocking is clearly evident.

It's essentially a tale of the evil men do and at times, Olsen's vulnerable agent is clearly out of her depth. Thrown into a case in an area she's ill-equipped for (from experience and even down to clothes), she barely gathers speed as the agent in charge, deferring to Lambert's prior skills. It's perhaps here that Sheridan's script revels more in the intricacies of the gender politics and the gender divide that's clearly at play elsewhere in the film, but it does occasionally make Olsen's character seem woefully clueless and ultimately, a bit wasted.

A little richer perhaps is Renner's Lambert, a mournful man whose mopiness masks a past tragedy. Renner makes great fist of the melancholia and feels restrained in parts as Lambert tries to fit into a community that is occasionally willing to accept him and is other times willing to cast him out. It's no surprise that he's camouflaged in the wilderness; Sheridan wastes no allusions in his script.

Underpinning all of this is a thinly veiled diatribe against treatment of Native Americans (one line asks "Why is it when you people try to help, it starts with insults") and a searing but not excoriating commentary on the social ills of such a reservation. And it's perhaps here why Sheridan's script feels lacking in power compared to the likes of Hell Or High Water that felt more precise in their barbs and more subtle in their treatment.

Wind River is unfortunately a minor disappointment from Sheridan.

Stretched out over 2 hours, the film's final reveal and treatment of its perpetrator is nothing more than the unveiling of a raving lunatic steeped in ugliness, and given the steps and themes taken through the snow-laden film to set out an icy veneer and a sliver of gender issues and native concerns, its desire to plump for the shocking yet stereotype feels like a cheap squandering of promise.

More a lilting ode than the searing story Sheridan's set out before, this icy Western does hit the spot, but Wind River never quite reaches the highs you'd expect, and despite solid work from its leads and Longmire's Graham Greene as the tribal sheriff, it's not as spectacular as you'd hope. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

McLaren: DVD Review

McLaren: DVD Review

To Formula 1 fans, there's no disputing the dominance of the McLaren racing team.

Time after time, the team's taken countless victories and launched many a driver into pole position on the track and in fans' hearts.

McLaren: Film Review

Matthew Metcalfe's documentary about New Zealander Bruce McLaren though may find it a slightly more taxing ask to push past the critical acclaim of Senna, perhaps the ultimate racing documentary ever committed to celluloid.

But for those not really in the know, McLaren's thrill of the race really does still lie in what happens on the track, rather than what goes on off it.

Unfortunately, it's here that this brisk and pacy doco ever so slightly comes up wanting.

Focussing on Bruce McLaren's early years initially, Metcalfe's movie lines up plenty of work colleagues and grease monkey buddies to extol his virtues. And they do an admirable job of passionately explaining why McLaren's attitude and ethos saw so much success on the track.

With drivers referred to as "the Spitfire pilots of the 50s and 60s", Metcalfe cleverly assembles archive footage and stages recreations of the era to create a tapestry of a man who went from the crippled kid with Perthes disease to trailblazer behind the wheel.

There's a great fist to be had from the recollections and recreations, but, at times, this doco doesn't give the more personal moments the chance to breathe and take on their own life during the story. It probably doesn't help that this covers a lot in its 90 minute run-time, and perhaps a more distinct focus on either the man or the team's evolution may have proved slightly more thrilling.

McLaren: Film Review
McLaren: Film Review

It's the personal side of McLaren that feels sadly wanting.

Granted, excerpts of letters back home from McLaren to his parents while he was away in the UK in the late 50s give tantalising glimpses into his psyche, and McLaren's wife (Miss Caroline Bay from Timaru) fills in some of the blanks, but there is clearly more to be gleaned from the man's personal history. A great amount of footage lingers on the daughter that was born to the racing legacy, but nothing is heard from her, a glaring omission from a voice that could have breathed life into how the family felt with Bruce always being away from home or workaholic.

And McLaren's initial health issues which saw him confined to a gurney, with weights strapped on his legs to deal with a hip issue are simply glossed over after being laid bare. It's a bit of a leap to see this and then a few frames later, McLaren's behind the wheel of a car, racing away. There's no doubting his passion, but sometimes the journey doesn't quite hit all the relevant destinations.

More successful though is the life on the track ethos and story which the film-makers are clearly more interested in bringing to light. With a frenetic speed and some in cockpit camera work, the thrill of the race-track and the adrenaline of the driving is brought vividly to life, and the breakneck danger cleverly realised.

McLaren: Film Review

But McLaren never fully glorifies the racing, and the solemnity of one driver's death, before McLaren's own untimely passing, are given the space needed to lend this movie some of the emotional heft that is lacking earlier on. Much like Senna's awful and unnecessary death that happens with a simple crunching sound in the original doco, the tragic demise of McLaren packs a powerful wallop later on. And certainly, as the engineers of the team recount the moments after his fatal crash at Goodwood Circuit in June 1970 weigh heavy with such openness and raw recollections that it almost feels intrusive to see them suffer still.

McLaren is by no means a disaster - it's a solid tale of the Kiwi mentality and pluck behind the wheel that gives voice to one of perhaps our lesser known stories and heroes. But by making this doco gloss over the moments that would more fully define the man at the centre, the film still leaves you feeling he's a nice guy, but an enigma to anyone other than those who knew him. 

The Hitman's Bodyguard: Film Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard: Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung
Director: Patrick Hughes

Apparently The Hitman's Bodyguard sat on the infamous writer's Black List since 2011.
The Hitman's Bodyguard: Film Review

Which may go some way to explain why it's nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is.

Ryan Reynolds brings his usual level of cool to the role of bodyguard Michael Bryce who's forced to slum it after a protection contract he carries out goes sour.

Sucked into an international case by an ex (played by Elektra star Elodie Yung) Bryce is asked to protect notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) who is the last hope in the trial of an international warlord, played by Gary Oldman.

But with hitmen on their trail, has Bryce been forced to bite off more than he can chew as he chases redemption and a return to the world of protection?

The Hitman's Bodyguard starts off suitably amusing.
The Hitman's Bodyguard: Film Review

A suave mickey take of a Bond style smoothy, meshed with a Hallenstein's Brothers style suit and split screen cuts, plants the film's tongue firmly in its cheek and leads you to believe the tone will be pitched somewhere between humorous and noisy.
But within moments of the titles, it becomes clear The Hitman's Bodyguard is a dumb, overblown film with no aspirations than to have its stars swear and blow stuff up (as well as include a badly timed sequence where terrorists drive into a group of innocents)

Whilst it's content to make use of the European settings to great aplomb (a shoot em up sequence in Coventry is blessed with no basis in reality), The Hitman's Bodyguard fails to bring the required banter level to channel its Midnight Run aspirations.

As it ping-pongs between having Jackson phone in his furious righteous sass and letting Reynolds look exasperated, it fails to settle or commit fully to one tone. Is it screwball or is it action or is it a subtle blend of the two?

There are some great touches inside the workmanlike formula of The Hitman's Bodyguard - the action's reasonably well put together, if overly familiar; and if you're out with a group of mates and after a few beers, this will be positively a riot fest.

But there are frustrating hints that it could have been more.
The Hitman's Bodyguard: Film Review

Thanks to its feeling underwritten, it's underwhelming at best - and the relationship and antagonism between Kincaid and Bryce offered such fertile comic territory of opposites but somehow fails to capitalise on either a Riggs / Murtagh relationship or a Shane Black caper.

All in all, Patrick Hughes proffers little to this, with talents like Hayek and Oldman being squandered in thankless stereotyped roles.

It's supposed to be entirely dumb - but with a bit more chemistry, banter and a whole heap of fun, The Hitman's Bodyguard could have been something to enjoy, rather than a formless mess that's simply average at best.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Viceroy's House: DVD Review

Viceroy's House: DVD  Review

Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Om Puri, Huma Qureshi, Manish Dayal
Director: Gurinder Chadha

Meshing Indian Summers with Upstairs Downstairs and lathering the whole thing up in a soapy vibe, Bend It Like Beckham's Gurinder Chadha chooses to recount the tale of India's partition with which she shares a very personal connection.

Viceroy's House: Film Review

Set in 1947, and with British colonial rule in India coming to an end, Lord Mountbatten (the ever genial Hugh Bonneville) moves into the Viceroy's House in Delhi. With the responsibility of being both the last Viceroy and ensuring a successful transition, Mountbatten's got more than a little on his plate to deal with - and that doesn't even factor in the resentment harboured within India over what Britain did for years.

Added into this already politically potent mix is the inter-religious burgeoning relationship between new Hindu servant Jeet (Dayal) and Muslim Aalia (Qureshi). Threatened by arranged marriage and religious ideological clashes, the pair have to negotiate the traditions of the past and the uncertainty of the future.

Viceroy's House is a curious beast, and with its romance, a not entirely successfully executed one.

Viceroy's House: Film Review

By casting the dramatic net far and wide to incorporate the political turmoil, Chadha loses sight of the romance elements that would have played more potently to audiences. And ironically, the more powerful political story is intriguing, but feels sidelined by an overlay of themes.

Long scenes of discussions about India's future certainly do a lot to set the scene and impart the reality of the fractious nature of negotiations, but add little to the film other than a sense of historical importance and really fail to add the spice you'd expect.

Equally and disappointingly unsuccessful is the romance which seems to suffer from a choppy editing technique that forces the pair together and apart quicker than gives you chance to root for them. It's a mistake to have an unfocussed approach to all the elements of the story, particularly as the tensions escalate and the audience is asked to have an emotional stake to what plays out.

Viceroy's House: Film Review

Far more successful is Chadha's setting of the social scene and the aftermath of the Partition, and it's perhaps here that the film would have carried more heft and drama in the unfolding climate of chaos and recrimination, as the downstairs dissent grows. Complete with some excellent recreations of pomp and ceremony of the time and hints of Lady Mountbatten's desire (a wonderfully clipped and precise turn from an on-form Anderson) to overturn some of what Britain did wrong, there are elements within that could have helped Viceroy's House soar as a scathing condemnation of events and an incisive slice of political history.

Instead what Viceroy's House offers is a tonal mish-mash of shoehorned culture clash, doomed romance, redemption and a predictable turn of events that falls flat and frustratingly fails to ignite any real passions within. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Their Finest: DVD Review

Their Finest: DVD Review

Their Finest may purport to be a proto-feminist rant disguised in a down-pat traditionalist rom-com that nostalgically gazes back on the cinema, but it, unfortunately, can't help losing sight of the bar it sets out early on.
Their Finest movie

When Gemma Arterton's Welsh wife Catrin Cole comes to the ministry of war for a copy-writing job, she's put to work writing for the 'slops', the female element of informational films made to keep morale high in 1940s war-torn Britain.

Of course, she accepts this role, on a lower income than her male counterparts naturally, but finds herself involved in the making of a propaganda film about two girls who saved the day to rally the cinema-going Brits in the Blitzkreig.

(In an irony, her husband is an Italian painter, whose works are shunned because he captures the grim reality of daily bombings on the canvas and doesn't register that brow-beaten Brits don't want to revel in that and prefer the pomp and escapism of the movies' rosier view on life).

However, the Ministry of War's mantra is that the film, about a pair of women who rescued the lads from Dunkirk, should have "Authenticity and honesty" as its raison d'etre, so Catrin finds herself decamping to Devon (doubling as Dunkirk) and working with a none-too-impressed Buckly (Hunger Games star Claflin, complete with round glasses, stiffly Brylcreemed and viciously parted hair and spiffing moustache).
Their Finest movie

Initially reticent to a woman being involved in the proceedings, it doesn't take a genius (or budding screen-writer) to see how this will play out as the banter between the duo and animosity sets in.

While large portions of Their Finest have a degree of genial predictability to them, a great deal of An Education's director Lone Scherfig's period piece is wonderfully tolerable, deeply nostalgic to the old cinematic ways and equally largely amusing to any cinema-loving audience member, with a hint of reverence to the old Pathe news reels that unspooled before films of the era.

It's mainly due to the meta-touches about making cinema which are peppered liberally throughout and do a lot to genuinely carve an atmosphere of love for the cinema-making experience.

An early scene sees Cole and Buckly spit-balling story ideas around the planned journey of their protagonists in front of a blank board; and it's simply joyous to behold the quick-fire pitching in action. While cinema-lovers will get a lot from touches like this, Scherfig's adaptation of Lissa Evans' novel isn't a mutually exclusive club, with gentle broad comedy being lashed throughout.

And even though the wilting of Catrin continues through the back half of the film, and the movie follows its own sign-posted "Comic life, tragic death, tears all round" mantra and tonal jerking of the promised romance to teeth-grinding annoyance levels, some of the supporting players of Their Finest add a great deal to the unfolding screen broth.

Most of the kudos goes to Bill Nighy's ageing actor Ambrose Hilliard, a former screen star whose expressions and dismissive touches when he's offered the role of an older character, described as a ship-wreck of a man, are nothing short of sublime.
Their Finest movie

With his wry mocking of the time in the limelight and puffing of his own ego, a scene-stealing Nighy is Their Finest's MVP by far, and he relishes every single moment on screen with such joie-de-vivre and wearied delusion, that it's impossible to not love this man and revel in his on-screen time and general chutzpah.

By the same token, Rachael Stirling's lesbian "ministry spy" keeping in check the film-makers has a deliciously tart line in withering put-downs, as well as giving voice to the female movement so often confined to the sidelines on the screen adaptations of that time.

There are large portions of the character moments that hang together in a nostalgic glow, and make Their Finest feel like a film from yesteryear.

Ultimately, Their Finest works best when it doesn't concentrate on the romance elements of the film.

While these decidedly feel-good tear-jerker moments will resonate with the audience, the film's life and soul really do come from the way it celebrates cinema, and its part in the war effort and the collective morale. It’s for this that Their Finest deserves salutations, rather than the more mawkish moments that feel shoe-horned in toward the film’s muddled , and oddly messy, denouement.

The Dark Tower: Film Review

The Dark Tower: Film Review

Cast: Tom Taylor, Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey
Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Stuck in the Hollywood machine since 2007, Stephen King's The Dark Tower seems destined to be grounded as a series based on this cinematic adaptation.
The Dark Tower: Film Review

Following Jake (Tom Taylor), a kid troubled by visions of a gunslinger and a man in black following him, and plagued by apocalyptic turns of a tower being destroyed by a beam of light, The Dark Tower sees Jake thrust into the age old fight of good vs evil.

Managing to stumble his way through a portal, Jake teams up with the gunslinger (played with melancholy and rumbling voice by Idris Elba) as the Man in Black, Walter O'Dim (an almost pantomime like Matthew McConaughey) edges ever closer to tracking him down.

The Dark Tower: Film ReviewBelieving Jake to be the mystical element to help break down the Tower and destroy the world, thanks to the purity of his Shine (a nod to previous telepathy), Walter begins an almost Terminator-like quest to track him down.

After a truly epic and visually startling opening that wrongfoots any audience watching, The Dark Tower settles for a CGI-heavy fantasy movie that lacks any kind of emotional heft or feel of consequence as it carries on its adventure.

Leaving the CGI to muddle the waters, and yet somehow still managing to fudge any kind of emotional links between any of the characters, the clearly-written-for-the-page dialogue becomes almost laughable in its portentous po-faced nature.

With voiceover and dour execution, The Dark Tower is nothing short of generic, yet somehow muddled.

McConaughey, with spiky hair, goes for slick and menacing, but somehow manages to come across as formulaic bad guy and director Arcel (best known for Alicia Vikander's A Royal Affair) can't really add much to the fantasy genre in his execution.

Elba's passable as the gunslinger, but the lack of any time to develop any kind of relationship with Jake means the film distinctly lacks the feeling of any real stakes.

It wraps up far too neatly too, giving the feeling the whole film is very much a chopped and ripped from the pages kind of affair.
The Dark Tower: Film Review

The Dark Tower may be the first of a eight book series, but based on this rote execution, and despite the efforts of Taylor and Elba to make them some kind of world-hopping mismatched buddy duo, it's unlikely to spawn any more.

For which we should all be grateful.

NZIFF Festival review wrap

NZIFF Festival review wrap

Some see it as a challenge, others see it as an endurance sport to be beaten, while others simply view it as a chance to see the best from the world in the majesty of some of the nation's finest venues.

However you take on the annual New Zealand International Film Festival (and ultimately, how you cope with the demands you place on yourself), there are always delights in the darkness and shared times with audiences to celebrate.

But every year, it's the films which touch you in ways you could never expect that end up being the best surprise of the event.

And so far, the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival is continuing that trend.

From the announcing of the arrival of a major new talent in Lady Macbeth to a Thai film that turned exam cheating into an edge-of-your-seat cinematic experience in Bad Genius, there's still plenty to come and equally, much to reflect on.

Starting with Lady Macbeth, which heralded the immense talents of Florence Pugh, a young UK actress possibly last seen by many in 2014's The Falling and 2016's TV outing Marcella. The devilishly sizzling William Oldroyd helmed Lady Macbeth is a reinvention of the Russian novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.

Pugh burns up the screen as Katherine, a young bride trapped in the shackles of marriage and in a home of pure hell. With an extremely strict and brutal father-in-law and a husband who has no interest in her other than barking orders, this repressed bride finds life dull and boring, until a lust is wakened in her in the arrival of a new groomsman. 

So far, so predictable.

But where Lady Macbeth's power lies is in its leading actress' apparently innate ability to take one simple moment and turn it on its head, with either just the flicker of an eye or the evident anger etched on an apparently emotionless face. 

With a stripped back soundtrack and simple eye of precision behind the camera, Oldroyd concentrates on the moments which will bring maximum shock to the screen - be warned, there are moments that will stun you as this utterly compelling tale of barbed feminism plays out.

Equally compelling, though based on its description, not what you would expect, is Thai film Bad Genius.

Already a box office smash in its home country, and if there's any justice, destined for a Hollywood remake, this essentially heist-movie has already been granted extra sessions in Auckland. 

Set in a school where money helps buy you in and keep you there, it's the extremely moral tale of Lynn, a straight A student, who's financially badly off. Approached by her best friend Grace to help her with her grades at her Thai school, Lynn's soon enticed by Grace's boyfriend into running classes to help less able students ace the tests - and with the promise of money, Lynn's soon in and enjoying it....

At its heart, Bad Genius is an old-fashioned morality tale, a story of teens seduced by the promise of easy success and of those struggling against financial hardships offered a quick way out. It's a very familiar formula, but with a look at the moral and social codes of schools wanting the best for their students at a price, it's a gripping piece of cinema that uses flashy tricks and slickly produced set pieces in an exam-room to leave you utterly on edge. It's polished and pristine, and can't be recommended highly enough.

The Farthest documentary will remind you of two things - one, the reason why the space race grips so many of us early on in life when we're dreamers and looking for answers; and secondly, it will remind you of your utter cosmic insignificance.

While a touch over-long at nearly 2 hours (clearly the director Emer Reynolds is entranced by the subjects), this fascinating re-examination of the launch of the Voyager space probes and the team behind them is nothing short of awe-inducing.

As the probes were sent out to map the wonders held by Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune nearly 40 years ago, those involved reflect on how it came together. From the Golden Record which sits within the craft spinning both messages of humanity and music to any who may receive it to the fact in order to protect part of the ship, workers had to practically deprive a local shop of their aluminium foil, this incredibly accessible and boundlessly enthusiastic documentary is life-affirming.

It's easy to see why Reynolds struggled to cull some of this down; the passion and enthusiasm which pour from the screen are contagious. Insights like The Beatles not allowing their music to be licensed for space amuse (and point to the petty battles that pale into insignificance on a cosmic scale) but a reminder of the Challenger shuttle destruction and how it sat against the pioneering spirit of both Voyager and the NASA ethos is still humbling some 30 years on.  There's no way you can't expect to leave this in awe of what was achieved in a world before live streams, the internet or computers - it's an incredible salutation to the dreamers and those who push the boundaries.

Equally pushing boundaries, though perhaps more in his own mind, Annie Goldson's captivating documentary Kim Dotcom: Caught In The Web seeks neither to praise nor damn the German hacker-turned-internet-freedom-fighter. 

With a piece which feels like it could easily be fashioned into a highly intriguing mini-series, this 2 hour doco flies by and makes the complex approachable as it re-tells the saga that played out on home soil since those ill-fated dawn raids on Dotcom's Coatesville mansion in 2012.

With unprecedented access to archives and a raft of smartly concise and engaging talking heads, Goldson begins to shift the pieces of the jigsaw together with relative ease and veritable aplomb. But her victory here is that she clearly knows all sides of this subject (being involved in media at Auckland University) and doesn't seek to create anything other than a balanced piece. Nobody emerges greatly from the deftly constructed movie - be it police, one of whose number is shown bungling even the simple task of a vaulting a gate at the mansion, the government and GCSB or Dotcom himself. 

Goldson's hinted there was so much extra material and more insights into the events that it was necessary to launch a website with greater coverage. And while the main documentary doesn't exactly present new material to those already familiar with the case, its power is that it makes those unfamiliar with it feel like they're up to speed with the complexities of it all.

Everyone's life is on hold in the quietly impressive drama Columbus.

From Haley Lu Richardson's Cassie, whose chance to go to college is on pause as she looks after her mom to John Cho's Jin whose father has had a medical event and whose estrangement has come bitterly into focus after he's called to his bedside, there's a sense of the inert in director Kogonada's subtle film. 

Using the prevalence of architecture in Columbus Indiana to frame much of what transpires, and even though the two appear to be kindred spirits, the peaceful pace and perfect slow cinema ambling of the script doesn't allow the film to fall into cliche.

With Richardson majorly stepping up and assuming the mantle of the lead in this, shouldering much of the bookish dialogue and gently truthful banter with great aplomb. There's plenty of veritas in Richardson's performance, and it's a sign once again that she's a significant young talent to watch ; this time in particular, she lends credence to the older edges of the script, but never loses the lightness of touch that a spirit desperate to fly but unable to out of a sense of duty would possess.

Equally, Cho gives something of a quiet internalised performance that's redolent of a sidelined leading man. In his interactions with Cassie, the unusual friendship blossoms thanks to the gentle pace and the languid approach that Cho delivers to his evidently angry and ultimately looking-for-redemption Jin.  There's likely to be large swathes of people who identify with Jin (and his protestations that "he never paused his life for me") - but Cho ensures Jin isn't a spoilt brat looking for love, but is more a soul in need of some kind of rebirth.

Columbus is no quirky coming-of-age tale that feels the need to populate itself with self-aware dialogue; this is earnest, honest and heart-warming fare - and because of that, it radiates from the screen. 

Win a Father's Day DVD prize pack

Win a Father's Day DVD prize pack

To celebrate Father's Day this weekend, and thanks to Universal Home Pictures, we've got a prize pack packed full of goodness for you to win!

Included in this pack are:


To win the prize pack thanks to Universal Home Entertainment, all you have to do is email the first word spoken in the trailer below and your details
 to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email FATHER!

Competition closes Sept 1st

Good luck!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

King Arthur Legend of the Sword: Blu Ray Review

King Arthur Legend of the Sword: Blu Ray Review

Playing like some bastard version of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Towers, and already a massive flop at the US Box Office, Guy Ritchie's take on King Arthur isn't quite as bad as you've been led to believe.
King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword: Film Review

It's not perfect, either, but the visceral energy and sheer chutzpah that Ritchie imbues part of this fantastical tale with a visual thrill that's hard to shake.

It doesn't start off well, with a CGI heavy Return of the King /Two Towers / Warcraft style battle atop the ramparts that sees possessed pachyderms throwing rocks and taking on hordes of bad guys at the behest of a Mage blighting the land.

But the story concentrates on Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam aka Arthur, who witnesses his father's death before being cast off in a boat for his own safety.

Growing up on the back-alleys and streets of Londinium and denying his royal heritage, Arthur's forced to face his destiny when he manages to pull the sword Excalibur from the stone.
It's this that puts him on a collision course with his uncle, the ruthless leader King Vortigen (Jude Law), who's determined to deny Arthur his birth-right.

There's a kernel of a good gritty take on the Arthurian legend here, but it's buried deeply under the relatively rote and muddied CGI that blights large parts of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword: Film Review

In particular, Ritchie's geezer take on proceedings and quick cut montage adds a level of irreverence that is welcome in among the familiar trappings of conventional story-telling.
Ritchie used similar devices in his take on Sherlock Holmes and here, the speed and energy pays off with an unconventional way of doing a conventional story.

However, it's these stylish touches which add greatly to King Arthur and almost manage to distract from the occasionally flat delivery of some clunking dialogue (chiefly and unfortunately from former model Berges-Frisbey) and some rather exposition-heavy scenes.
The film's over-reliance on slow-mo also hurts proceedings as well, with it becoming a stylistic bridge too far and a visual trick that needs dialling down to achieve greater effect.

There's also a distinct feeling that the duality of destiny for the protagonists and their journeys on them would have made for a better film, with Arthur doing all he can to deny it, and Vortigen falling further into darkness as he desperately scrabbles to embrace it.

Ultimately, though it's the jumbling of all the ingredients that make King Arthur a disappointment of a film, with supernatural elements becoming the norm over the characters. When the film moves away from those (aside from the brilliant creation of a slithering octopus-like creature that lurks in Vortigen's catacombs), the human elements aren't strong enough to spring to life from the page.
It's a shame as Maskell's innate likeability and Hunnam's oafish-ruffian-geezer energy that make parts of King Arthur bearable.

King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword: Film Review

It's just unfortunate that the weak script and a tighter edit weren't deployed to help save this from feeling like a derivative and sub-par fantasy epic that could ambles on its way and could have been so much more.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Pecking Order: DVD Review

Pecking Order: DVD Review

A new documentary slice of kiwiana, cluttered with chicken puns, Pecking Order decides to take a look at the world of competitive chicken fancying.

(Well, if Mr Farrier and Mr Reeve can do it with tickling, why shouldn't a film-maker follow more poultry ideas?)

Pecking Order: Film Review

Going behind the scenes of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon club as it faces its greatest crisis in 148 years, director Slavko Martinov (Propaganda) manages to unearth more than just foxes in the hen house.

Part of the main drive of this, is the film's portrayal of parochial pettiness as it deals with the politics of running the club, which will no doubt be familiar to anyone involved in either A&P shows or any level of community clubs and societies.

With its mother hen who's been in charge forever, the documentary finds its "villain" of the piece, in the gentlest definition of the word, in president Doug Bain, who's been in charge of the show for a very long time.

A self-professed life-member of the Club, Bain's grip on the reins is the source of provocation as others preen their feathers and, in his eyes, puff themselves up to offer a challenge to his throne. As he deals with threats, Martinov's camera captures a fascinating explosion at a meeting where Bain's weariness at what he terms the "want to bes" bubbles over. It's a telling look at the generational differences that are prevalent and is perhaps the more interesting thread of the more slight entanglements which constitute Pecking Order's DNA.

Pecking Order: Film Review

There's a degree of paranoia festering in this coup / coop in more ways than one, but Martinov's keener to ensure that the doco stays out of provocative territory, preferring instead to sit back contentedly and watch others ruffle the feathers of the patriarch, rather than set the cat among these pigeons.

It's a revealing, but unsurprising, look at those who put themselves into committees and others' politics, and does much to celebrate the mythos that youngsters won't want to be involved in the stuffier older entrenched ways of the powers that be.

Wisely, Martinov peppers the documentary with some younger faces who are entering the sport for the fun of it. From kid Rhys, complete with his rat tail, dad looking on proudly and nervously, and his ethos of "I love the spotlight of winning, it's awesome", to fellow fancier Sarah who professes a love for chickens and no more, the stark contrast of ages and attitude comes to the fore with relative ease.

Martinov's HD approach with the cameras though, bizarrely and brilliantly manages to capture the beauty of the birds, with the reds and hues of their plumage shimmering starkly in close ups on the screen.

Every single chicken pun's been pulled from the lexicon for use on the titles, but the thread in the film is a lot thinner than perhaps you'd have expected. And whilst there are some droll dry moments, this is a gentle doco, content to let the ebb and flow of the narrative dictate the mood and the quirks of some trickle through the execution, rather than one which sees the pot stirred with overly dramatic gusto.

Pecking Order: Film Review

The final result is that it becomes a documentary that's more about documenting, and providing a portrait of life within the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon club, rather than giving you something incisive and thought-provoking.

There are notable people within Pecking Order, and a few truisms spouted throughout that reek of the Kiwi attitude and the laconic humours that lace the land, but there are only a handful (if that) of characters that stand out, meaning the whole documentary feels ever-so slightly undernourished and too slight to be fully memorable.

It's a gentle amble down the roads of poultry politics and petty perambulations of those involved in small town club politics, and while Martinov's careful enough to throw it all through a balanced prism and not overly mock his subjects, one can't help but shake the feeling a little more bite to this beautifully shot and pleasantly constructed doco may have put a bit more meat on the bones.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D Film ReviewTerminator 2: Judgment Day 3D Film Review

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D Film Review

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick
Director: James Cameron

26 years ago, one blockbuster film set the pace for sci-fi action.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D Film Review

With packed out midnight screenings, Terminator 2: Judgment Day was one of the earlier highly anticipated event films of its time.

So James Cameron's dusted it down, given it a polish and added in some 3D to ensure it's fit for the 2017 market place.

There can't be many who don't know the film's gritty details, so there's no time to be wasted here with those.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D Film Review

Instead, suffice it to say while the film looks dated by today's standards in its ILM FX, there's no disputing the fact the Cameron helmed movie is still one hell of a juggernaut of action and humour.
Schwarzenegger hits all the right notes, and while Furlong's debut still seems as wonky as it was at the time, the overall pace and the story-telling is still top notch.

In terms of the 3D it's not done for gimmicky effect, preferring instead to be used to add depth to some of the chase sequences but not to the detriment of the original's pace and narrative.
An early sequence with the truck chase with Patrick's T-1000 chasing down Furlong's John Connor on a bike is exceptional, both in action and execution - and the 3D adds the necessary depth to the frenetic freeway action behind them.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D Film Review

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D is no quick cash in on the FX front, it's an enhancement to one fo the greatest sci-fi action films of all time. And given it's here for a good time, not a long time, you definitely need to be back for it.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

American Made: Film Review

American Made: Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Caleb Landry Jones, Jesse Plemons
Director: Doug Liman

Tom Cruise packs on the charm in this hybrid of the recent War Dogs and Narcos which is based on a true story.
American Made: Film Review
American Made: Film Review

Cruise stars as Barry Seal, a TWA pilot in the late 70s who's so bored with work, he deliberately causes turbulence to amuse and irritate in equal measure. Spotted running contraband by CIA spook Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), he's offered to come work for the good guys.

Recruited as a reconnaisance pilot snapping pictures of Central America, Seal is soon inducted into both sides of the conflict after being spotted by Pablo Escobar's rising cartel. Shot down and offered the chance to run drugs from Colombia into the US, Seal soon finds himself entangled and playing both sides for plentiful fiscal reward.

But Seal's life is further complicated when he's forced to run guns into Nicaragua at Schafer's behest after being busted with the drugs...
American Made: Film Review

Dialling down the mega-watt grin and over-enthusiasm plays greatly to American Made's charm and ensures that the unfolding story of a man trapped in his own bastardisation of the American dream.

Sure, Seal knows what he's doing and there's no Sopranos-esque anti-hero at play here - and Cruise and his returning Edge of Tomorrow director Liman are smart enough to know that holding back and concentrating on the apparently true story is the way to go with this piece.

Packing in adegree of incredulity and playing matters straight as well as threading in news reports from the time give the film a shaggy dog edge that's ripped straight from the pages of the "It's so crazy it couldn't be true."

However, it also helps that Cruise never once feels like he's acting, imbuing Seal with a degree of humanity and vulnerability as he finds himself ingratiated in the world within.

While it's fair to say some of the surrounding edges never quite rise as perhaps they are hinted at earlier on (the local sheriff, the hillbilly wastrel brother-in-law) when the action of American Made concentrates on cruise's Seal and the tightening vice of his amoral attitude the film's more than a pleasant surprise.

It's very much a romp, brought to life with the breath of its lead actor and the seamless energy of its direction - and it may actually surprise you as it weaves its tale of criminally-led derring do.
American Made: Film Review

Above all, it will remind you of the sheer charisma and power of Tom Cruise when he's not over-performing.

If anything, dialling it down and playing the role to hand instead of anything more packs American Made with a tremendous coke-fuelled joie de vivre and reason to view it.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power: Film Review

An Incovenient Sequel: Truth To Power: Film Review

Cast: Al Gore, the world, Icebergs, Paris Climate Change Agreement
Director: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk

It's perhaps no surprise to see the climate change issue rear its head again with this sequel to the Oscar nominated An Inconvenient Truth for nearly a decade ago.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power: Film Review

But in truth, unlike the previous film which packed a kind of urgency and a power, the latest from Al Gore's omnipresent crusade to quell climate change is, and it's no joy to report this, a self-aggrandising bore of a documentary.

Following Gore around as he jets about, takes cars and only once uses public transport (due to clogged roads), the documentary pursues Gore as he pushes once again to get those who disbelieve to believe.

In some kind of version of a Billy Graham puritannical push, the anti-climate change zealot tries desperately to convert India away from its desire to produce more coal-burning plants ahead of the Paris climate change meeting.

There can be no denial of the weather conditions and an increase in extreme weather events over the past few years, and while the science of these is glossed over in favour of footage speaking for itself (the flooding of the World Trade Centre memorial being Gore's crowning glory to naysayers who denied him in the first film)
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power: Film Review

An Inconvenient Sequel feels more like a bizarre extended 60 Minutes with Al Gore special, with Donald Trump lurking menacingly in the background.

With Gore given time to intone his desire to change the world and space to vocalise his "I feel I have failed" mentality throughout, the emphasis is on anything but the apparent urgent matter on hand - the climate itself.

It's more squarely focussed on scenes of Gore becoming emotionally and earnestly enraged at the futility of denials of others.

In one scene, where he's being prepped for an interview for MSNBC, the anchor promises they will cover climate after Gore's repeated reminders. It's the cinematic equivalent of the old man shouting futilely in a corner to himself.

It's not that Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk could have done much more with An Incovenient Sequel: Truth To Power.

The nadir comes when Gore's proposed 24 hour live broadcast from the Paris Agreement is interrupted by the Bataclan terror attacks, promping Gore to offer a heartfelt speech on the perils of terror.

There's a little too much of the spotlight being on Gore, and while occasionally the powerpoint presentations shock with their facts, there's little to justify a sequel.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power: Film Review

Gore (while verging on being Al Bore at times) spends much time talking of how the first film created an uprising, and we get to see early footage of him taking some bootcamps to inspire others from his altruism.

It would have been far better for An Incovenient Sequel: Truth To Power to focus on one of these; a groundswell common approach to the problem and the crisis; it would have granted the film a more personal touch, rather than being an almost out-of-touch film that serves only really to promote Gore himself, overplay his hand in the Paris Climate Change agreements and to push one of the wettest ever recruitment videos over the closing credits.

Sadly, despite there being elements of the climate change argument that are compelling in this film, it is predominantly just a lot of hot air that fails to inspire as it should.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Fist Fight: DVD Review

Fist Fight: DVD Review

Cast: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, Tracy Morgan, Christina Hendricks, Dean Norris, Kumail Nanjiani
Director: Richie Keen

Fist Fight with Ice Cube and Charlie Day

That it takes 75 minutes of the 90 minute comedy Fist Fight to elicit a belly laugh is a sad state of affairs.

And that its laugh comes courtesy of a rehash of Little Miss Sunshine's inappropriate talent show is to further damn this knuckle-head comedy that purports bare knuckle fighting is any way to solve conflict.

Dubious central message aside and ignoring the feeling that this is about serving Charlie Day's nice guy English teacher a lesson on standing up for yo'self to the bullies / empowerment, Fist Fight is also noteable for its return to the screen of 30 Rock alum Tracy Morgan after his 2014 accident.But even the return of this once comedy giant can't quell the depressing state of affairs that transpires when Day's down-trodden Andy Campbell gets Ice Cube's growling strict Strickland fired on the last day before schools out.

How does the intimidating Strickland respond? By challenging Campbell to a fight in the yard after school.
Fist Fight with Ice Cube and Charlie Day

And we thought they were supposed to be teachers.

So far, so puerile for these bad teachers.

But as R rated comedies like The Hangover et al have demonstrated, big laughs can be garnered from smart deployment of crude gags, recognisable, and somehow,relatable characters and some semblance of plot - even the central idea is not a cerebral one.

Fist Fight cares not one bit for these rules and sticks doggedly to its MO of Day squawking and running from his plight.

The first rule of any comedy - be it derivative or otherwise - is to ensure there are laughs. Yet while there are three scriptwriters putting their names to this, the laughs are few and far between. 

Jillian Bell channels inappropriateness as a teacher hitting on students, Cube riffs on his street image and even gets to utter his infamous and inflammatory NWA line once again, and a returning Morgan gets to go off script occasionally (with an over-riding feel that improvisation was high on the list for this loosely written piece). And Mad Men's Christina Hendricks' French teacher is psychotic for no reason - a real waste of her talents. Though on reflection, most of the players in this are doing thankless work as this patchy mess of missed moments and occasional one-liners plays out.

However, even with Day's desperately wound, utterly neurotic and screeching Campbell rushing around, there's simply not enough humour to fill 30 minutes, let alone 90 minutes. 

Fist Fight with Ice Cube and Charlie Day
Fist Fight with Ice Cube and Charlie Day

Apparently despite paying homage to Three O'Clock High, the film's writers still don't feel the need to flesh it out more, or make any of the rest of the teachers sane enough to care about or connect with.

While the promised titular bout finally arrives, it delivers only muted moments of cinematic stupidity to counter the utter screeching that's already passed. 

And it's by this stage, that, quite frankly, either copious amounts of alcohol or a punch to the side of the head and KO would be preferable to any more of this "comedy" transpiring. 

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