Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As 2017 ends, and closes, it's time to both reflect and look to the future.

Whether you're spending the new year bingeing the new series of Black Mirror or reflecting on Peter Capaldi's Doctor Who exit, all the very best for 2018.

Happy New Year to you all - and remember, be kind to each other.

And even kinder to those you don't know....

Black Mirror Season 4

Saturday, 30 December 2017

20th Century Women: DVD Review

20th Century Women: DVD Review

One of the titles much requested for this year's festival and one of the earliest to be revealed, Mike Mills' 20th Century Women is a relatively joyous memoir of 1 boy growing up under the thrall of 3 women.

Set in 1970s California, the film zig-zags around the daily life of 15-year-old fatherless Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) who lives with his mother (Annette Bening) who runs a boarding house. Other inhabitants in this house include Abbie (red haired Greta Gerwig) and handyman William (Billy Crudup).

20th Century Women: NZIFF Review

Also dropping by, unbeknownst to Jamie's mother, is best friend Julia (Fanning)  whom Jamie has a crush on but whose advances are continually rejected.

Worried that Jamie's not getting the full life experience he needs, his mother asks the house guests to help impart their life wisdom - but it doesn't quite go to plan.

Reflexive, warm and gentle, 20th Century Women is a nostalgia blast about the coming of age, gaining of new insights and pushing against the times.

Most of the push and pull of the film comes from the interaction between the characters and how living and coping together shapes many of us in ways we don't appreciate until later in life. Bening's ease of presence and way with quick one-liners throughout give this an edge early on, but later, a more mournful tone means the kaleidoscope of life feels a bit more poignant than you'd first expect.

Ruminations on life through various eyes come easily throughout, but what 20th Century Women actually does is spin a web that's entrancing and engaging, if slightly forgettable - it's a reflection of the signs of the times, but also a salutation to the wisdom of those around us. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Film Review

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Film Review

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek
Director: Martin McDonagh

Revelling in the kind of dark and comedic touches that were in 2008's In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a tale for our times, and a reflection on the world we live in.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Film Review

McDormand stars as Mildred, the emotionally battered and destroyed mother of a girl killed in her small town.

With justice having eluded her seven months later and fearing her daughter's case is going unnoticed by the police as time goes by, Mildred deploys a triumvirate of provocative billboards, aimed at keeping the unsolved murder at the front of everyone's mind.

Naming and shaming the local police chief (played with mournful touches by Harrelson), Mildred finds herself in opposition with the town and in the line of the racist drunk sheriff Dixon (a brilliant Rockwell, playing fast, dastardly and loose, yet surprisingly engaging and emotional).

It's hard to give more away of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as part of the satisfaction of McDonagh's film is in the journey and the devilish edges of the dialogue.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Film Review

Whilst there are a few frustrations here and there (from the film's resolution to a few scenes such as the disrespecting of a Catholic priest for no reason other than to launch a diatribe), there is a lot to perversely revel and reflect on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Chiefly, it's the triumvirate of performances from McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell that hit a series of dizzying highs.

McDormand manages to tread a fine line between perseverance, bringing heartbreak and hard resolve to Mildred. There's never any doubt that you're on your side, and McDormand delivers a controlled pitch perfect performance that aches with loss, and teeters on extreme sadness. Harrelson and Rockwell surprise too, particularly as their law enforcement attitudes are as poles apart as you could expect.

However, Rockwell's racist drunkard, wrapped up in his momma's boy hillbilly outlook and his Archie comics, proves to be the film's surprising emotional touchstone for reasons that would spoil too much here.

In many ways, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deals with a lot of issues currently around - a sexual predator and murderer who appears to be above the law, the inherent seething racist underbelly in the police and the innocent wronged and left hanging outside of a justice system which appears to be skewed in favour of the criminals.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Film Review

And yet, deep within Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and its penchant for potty-mouth moments, there's a lot of humanity and love on show; of people coming together when divides seem too immense and of the one thing that unites us all - sadness.

McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is being touted for awards, and while parts of its heart are black beyond recognition, thanks to McDormand and Rockwell's powerfully compelling performances, this at times jaw-dropping spectacle has all the compulsion you'd need to be carried along on the darkest of rides.

Ferdinand: Film Review

Ferdinand: Film Review

Cast: John Cena, Kate MacKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, David Tennant
Director: Carlos Saldanha

Based on the Munro Leaf 1936 novel The Story of Ferdinand, Blue Sky's latest animated fare is squarely aimed at pushing an anti-conformist message to kids viewing.
Ferdinand: Film Review

Cena plays Ferdinand, a bull who'd rather smell the flowers than fight even though that goes against the grain of the farm where's he's being raised as a bull to take on a matador.

However, when Ferdinand's father is taken to the arena and doesn't return, Ferdy makes a break for it, finding a new owner in  a little girl and her flower-growing father. But one day when Ferdinand's stopped from going to the annual flower festival and despite the warnings from his owners, he makes his way into town.

Seen as a monster, captured and returned to the bull-rearing farm, it looks like destiny's taking its course - unless Ferdinand and his new goat friend Lupe (MacKinnon) can turn it around.

Lacking some of the zanier edges to keep the younger audiences amused, Ferdinand flirts with darkness as it explores some of the reality of what happens to animals and in particular, what happens in the bull-fighting ring.

While Cena makes for an affable big-lug of a character, complete with softer edges, Ferdinand's adventure never fully embraces the wacky until late in the day when it heads to Madrid, and a chase sequence which has vitality, joie de vivre and great sight gags.
Ferdinand: Film Review

But it's a long road to this point - and the filmmakers' desire to not go too dark (for obvious reasons, it's a kids' film) means they flirt with moments that consequently feel under-developed. There's a meat factory near to the bull-rearing farm, there's some shots of a matador threatening Ferdinand (in a badly edited final sequence that loses some coherency) and there's plenty of indication of how meat is murder.

Yet, despite that, Ferdinand never quite finds its feet - it knows that to keep the younger audience in check it needs some lunacy, which it gets with a bull/ horse dance-off, but it's few and far in between.

It's all perfectly affable and solidly animated, but Ferdinand lacks the wow factor, or a stronger emotional trajectory to carry it along.

Not exactly terri-bull, but a no-bull attempt at doing something worthy, Ferdinand's mixed approach to the subject means it never quite hits the marks it should do - but it will keep the kids amused, for some of its duration at least.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

Cast: Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill
Director:Hiromasa "Maro" Yonebayashi 

Likely to appeal to those who felt Harry Potter was too male-led, Mary and The Witch's Flower's the first film from the Japanese Studio Ponoc.
Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

It's the story of Mary, a young girl who's finding life in the countryside a little dull while she waits for her parents to move across to be with her. On the cusp of starting school, one day Mary heads into the nearby woods following a cat - despite her great aunt Mary's insistence on staying away from the woods.

Finding some strange flowers and a broomstick that comes to life, Mary is whisked above the clouds to a magical school, Endor College, where she's welcomed as the latest witch apprentice.

But Mary's flower discovery puts her in peril and at odds with those running the college - as well as discovering a threat to all life.
Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

It's fair to say that Mary and The Witch's Flower wears its Potter influence deep on its sleeve.

Whilst it may lack some of the warmth and emotion of the Potter series (there's not as much heart on display here sadly), the central story of Mary, with her outcast red hair and quirky ways, will give some girls a heroine they need.

However, Mary's prone to pratfalls, to mess ups and to bursting into tears which weakens the argument a little and disappoints.

In terms of the animation it's perfectly fine, but for a new studio, it unfortunately lacks the wow factor to help them set out their stall with their debut feature.

The backdrops are nicely painted and tend to fade into the background rather than stand out, and while there are some well-executed set pieces, there's little which truly jumps from the screen.
Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review

If anything, the copy of the Hogwarts style school is solidly executed - from a menagerie of creatures and critters to a Scottish groundskeeper, there's a lot here that feels familiar. And, because of that, it's a shame as Mary and The Witch's Flower has some real potential to cast some magic.

As it is, it's a fairly enchanting sort of tale for 90 minutes, but its bucolic edges and Potter-familiarity (as well as dashes of Howl's Moving Castle) prevent it from truly weaving a magic spell.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Flatliners: DVD Review

Flatliners: DVD Review

Cast: Ellen Page, James Norton, Nina Dobrev, Diego Luna, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Niels Arden Oplev

Flatliners: Film Review

27 years ago, a couple of fresh faced Brat Packers made a sci-fi film that was pure hokum, but tapped into something that troubles many - and in the resulting film formed something of a cult.

Now, mixing a cast and one original together, the resultant toothless Flatliners remake is dramatically and creatively dead on arrival, feeling like a CW drama that doesn't even bother to really pack in the jump scare moments.

Centring on a group of interns, it's the same story.

Flatliners: Film Review

Page plays Courtney, who decides to embark on an experiment to see what lies beyond this world by stopping her heart and technically dying for a few minutes, before being brought back.

Dragging along Clemons and Norton's fellow students, the experiment initially promises a heady high, but soon delivers them all various nightmares.

Full of pretty people and a terrible American accent from Happy Valley ruffian Norton, Flatliners is frankly a mess.

It lacks any edge and is as flat as the ECGs in the film itself. Relying on wet bus ticket jump scares, the 2017 remake of Flatliners is creatively limp and narratively weak.

Page takes it all too seriously and becomes the science exposition nerd of the group, setting up the premise and presenting the calm in the ensuing laughable panic that sets in.

Flatliners: Film Review

There's just nothing that fires any of the neural synapses here whatsoever, and while Oplev manages to make some of the afterlife visuals feel hyperreal, it can't quite shake off the fact that it all seems like a music video for the MTV and teen-loving CW generation.

Maybe needlessly glamourising suicide and self-harm, the 2017 Flatliners is a waste of everyone's time from the cast to the audience. Slapped with a cinematic Do Not Resuscitate would be a kindness, because there's little here to engage anything of the cinema-going audience - be it in this life or the next.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Emoji Movie: DVD Review

The Emoji Movie: DVD Review

In theory, it's easy to understand why The Emoji Movie has been hailed as the second cimematic coming of the Anti-Christ.

The Emoji Movie: Film Review

Set inside a smart phone and with a plethora of product placement (Spotify, Katy Perry, Instagram) it's fair to say that perhaps the film's vision is more on the merchandise than the execution of the story.

Talking of which, The Emoji Movie centres on Meh emoji Gene (voiced with usual laconic deadpan by former Silicon Valley star TJ Miller) who's eager to impress on the first day on the job.

Gene is one of those who lives in Textopolis, a digital city inside their user Alex's phone. Despite being pigeonholed as a Meh, he can make plenty of other faces and frequently does so.

But by breaking out his panicked faces when Alex chooses to send his crush an emoji, Gene threatens the future of Textopolis as Alex plans to wipe his phone.

Facing persecution as a malfunction by the ruthless smiler icon (Rudolph), Gene begins a journey of discovery across the phone to ensure his future survival.

The Emoji Movie: Film Review

It's easy to be cynical about The Emoji Movie, a corporate by-the-numbers animation that reeks more of potential downloads than sizzling script or witty moments.

In fairness, it's actually a solid animation that squanders both its Inside Out bastardisation and its chance to mock and meta-comment on its premise.

However, there are a few moments which garner laughs.

From the mocking the elderly emoticons to ripping in to Facebook's popularity algorithm, there are some moments which really engender you to the film, but ultimately leave you wishing it could have been much more subversive than it actually is.

But that's the problem with The Emoji Movie - its tone is so bland that despite the solid animated work and the great voice cast (James Corden as the formerly popular Hi-5 emoji brings much energy and chutzpah to the digital table and it's a thrill to hear Steven Wright's weary tones on the screen as Gene's father), nothing ever really soars as it should and many scenes end in flatness.

The Emoji Movie: Film Review

Piling on product placement like Candy Crush and Just Dance does nothing to endear the film too - and while youngsters may get a sugar rush from the overload of products and apps that they force their parents to buy, it's hard to justify any reaction other than that of Gene's stock and trade to the Emoji Movie.


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Terminator 2: Ultra HD BLu Ray Review

Terminator 2: Ultra HD BLu Ray Review

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. 

Watch: The arrival of the Thirteenth Doctor

Watch: The arrival of the Thirteenth Doctor

Peter Capaldi aka The 12th Doctor Who has vacated the TARDIS.
Peter Capaldi aka The 12th Doctor Who

In the Christmas special, Twice Upon a Time, Peter Capaldi's Time Lord chose to regenerate after initially refusing. And after guiding the First Doctor (David Bradley) onto his first regeneration after the climactic events of The Tenth Planet.

After a powerful speech and monlogue urging above all to be kind, Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor was gone, in a blast of regeneration energy.
Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who

Then, with a simple "Oh, brilliant" heralding the arrival of Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Time Lord, it was on to pastures anew.

Watch the Twelfth Doctor's farewell speech and the arrival of Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who, including the new Doctor Who's first words below.

The Twelfth Doctor's monologue -

"Oh there it is. Silly old universe. The more I save it, the more it needs saving. It's a treadmill.
"Yes, Yes I know they'll get it all wrong without me. Well I suppose one more lifetime won't kill anyone. Well, except me.
"You wait a moment, Doctor. Let's get it right. I've got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first. Never be cruel never be cowardly, and never ever ever eat pears.
"Remember, hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice but never fail to be kind, oh and you mustn't tell anyone your name - no-one would understand it anyway.
Except children, children can hear it, sometimes if their hearts are in the right place and the stars are too, children can hear your name - but nobody else, nobody else, ever.
"Love hard, run fast, be kind. Doctor, I let you go."

Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who

Monday, 25 December 2017

Breathe: Film Review

Breathe: Film Review

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander, Hugh Bonneville, Stephen Mangan
Director: Andy Serkis

It would possibly have benefited first time director Andy Serkis to have taken potentially another subject for his debut.
Breathe: Film Review

The wannabe inspirational true story of Robin Cavendish (played by Andrew Garfield) is perhaps a little too close to home for Serkis, whose friend Jonathan Cavendish is the producer of this film.

But then perhaps, there may not have been as much empathy and tenderness in parts of this deeply sanitised biography (and almost hagiography) of Cavendish, who was left paralysed by polio in Africa in the late 50s.

Against all medical advice, his loving wife Diana (The Crown star Claire Foy) drags him out of the clinic, respirator and all, to give him a shot at living in his trapped condition. Defying the odds, and with plenty of homecare, Cavendish begins to live a life again - and sets out changing conditions for others suffering a similar condition.
Breathe: Film Review

Intended as inspirational is no bad thing, and certainly swathes of this mix the humour of French hit The Intouchables with a sort of British stiff upper lip cum don't let the biggers grind you down ethos that in parts it's hard not to get swept along with.

Foy is the dazzling diamond of the piece - and the film's title Breathe, as well as referring to the necessity of Cavendish's condition could also refer to the life breathed into him by one woman's unswerving devotion and belief. Equally, Garfield, along with plummy English accent and confined for parts of the film to act with nothing but facials and head nodding manages to imbue Cavendish with both understandable frustration and desperation as the depression sets in.

Serkis keeps things light, starting the film with a dizzying meeting, courtship and marriage of Diana and Robin which sets the pace. Along with a dual role for Rev star Tom Hollander, there's plenty of breezy laughs and 40s style Englishness to just about keep the twee from rotting your cinematic teeth.

Along with some top down shots, Serkis keeps the tone going and the atmosphere jovial.

But when the inevitable darkness calls, that's half the problem with Breathe.really starts to become noticeable.
Breathe: Film Review

It's very much a sanitised view of what a life-changing condition can do to those involved and Serkis relies on the japes of the darker moments to make it all feel slighter than it should. At 2 hours, there's no arguing that a maudlin and depressing feel could turn Breathe into a slog, but by going too far the other way (perhaps at the insistence of the producer and with his personal history to the subject), the film's levity becomes its undoing and the triumph is battered by a beautific desire to simply be English about it and laugh it all off.

Ultimately, Breathe may be a film about the human possibility and of endurance, but it's also won that sacrifices its smaller moments for a mish-mash of tone, even choosing to throw a right-to-die debate into the mix in its death throes.

All in all, Breathe's fallacies are greater than what unfortunately its lead actors bring to the table - and while its intentions are good and true, its cloying sentimentality and desire to breeze over reality ironically finds the film narratively gasping for breath.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Another year passes and it's time to wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Thanks for the support of this website again this year - and here's to 2018!

The most exciting thing ahead?

Twice Upon A Time - for Doctor Who.

In which we bid farewell to Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor and welcome in Jodie Whittaker as Doctor No 13!

Have a wonderful time with family and friends - in all the craziness of the season, this is actually all that matters, so relish it.

See you in 2018!
Twice Upon A Time

Twice Upon A Time

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: DVD Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: DVD Review

If the first Kingsman movie was a scrappy, yet amiable, wish fulfillment piece about a working class oik who's inducted into the spy world and saves the day, then the sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a bloated, blustering bombastic pastiche spy movie that almost squanders the love you had for the first.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle: Film Review

This time around, Eggsy (a charming yet still ruffian round the edges Taron Egerton) is back and facing more peril after the secret Kingsman organisation he works for is blown off the face of the earth by a Martha Stewart 50s-loving drug lord Poppy (a strong turn from Julianne Moore, who pitches the film more on welcome eccentric villainy than ham).

Forced to team up with the US branch, the Statesman, and with a surprise face back from the past, Eggsy and Merlin (the ever reliable and impressive Mark Strong) look to tackle the threat.

Over-long and with a midway lag that very nearly derails proceedings, Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels more like a mix of elements rather than the rip-roaring narrative success the first film was.

While Egerton's rougher edges and charm add elements of charisma, the decision to pair them up with American counterparts leaves a little to be desired, given the film's refusal to do much more with it than initially flirt with the idea.

It's a shame, because Channing Tatum's cowboy Agent Tequila has some real comedic and dramatic potential for the movie - but he's sidelined early on in a move which makes you wonder if someone didn't add the budget up correctly and couldn't cover his fee. (Mind you, all the American counterparts barely register longer than a few moments of screen time.)

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: Film Review

Thankfully Pedro Pascal (Narcos) steps in nicely as Agent Whiskey and adds a frisson of charisma that's needed - but bizarrely, the US UK relations side of Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels like a goldmine sadly left undiscovered.

As the film kicks off with its bloodless CGI-charged chase antics, it's clear bluster is the order of the day, and while the overly frenetic and quick blitz editing in the fight sequences impress, they're barely a patch away from what was rolled out during the Kingsman: The Secret Service film.

In truth, parts of Kingsman: The Golden Circle feel like a go-around and do over of the first, so if you enjoyed the puerile hyper-violent edges of the first one, it's more than likely there's plenty to enjoy here.

It's very much a case of more-is-more with Vaughn piling on the pedal and focussing less on the character more on the action.

A mountain sequence is redolent of The Spy Who Loved Me and the globe-trotting antics feel piled on, and while the overload is threatening at times, there are moments and characters within that work extremely well.

Moore makes for a good villainess, Strong is debonair any time he appears oozing charm with ease, Pascal's lasso-wielding cowboy contrasts nicely with the stiff British upper lip and Firth's dialled down turn adds an edge but strangely feels narratively robbed of any kind of need for inclusion.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: Film Review

(Not so for Elton John, whose appearance initially is an amusing punchline to a gag no-one expected, but whose foul-mouthed tirades irritate the more screen time he's given.)

At times, it feels like the kind of Bond film that Alan Partridge would make - stuffed full of elements, smut and action, a no-place-for-women other than as objects vibe and with less judicious editing than is necessary to guarantee a tight lean experience.

Ultimately, Kingsman: The Golden Circle has moments of exhiliration, but feels a little too in love with itself to remain objective enough to know when to stop.

The worst films of 2017

The worst films of 2017

Much like the cream of the crop, there were some real stinkers of films this year.

Depressingly, most were sequels or franchise entrants, or films which failed to add anything exciting or new to the world of cinema.

Here are, without a doubt, the worst films of 2017.
Again, in no particular order, but all would share the top spot of crapola if it were allowed.

Rings - "The Hex files returns in the second sequel to the 2002 American horror that was a remake of 1998 Japanese scare fright. But, quite frankly, with a run time of nearly 2 hours and nary a scare at all, its return is hardly warranted."

Why Him? - " Why Him? ends up being a lazy, unfunny comedy that misses the mark so often and drags that the only nagging thought you're left with as you leave the cinema, is a resounding "Why me?"

The Mummy - "Based on The Mummy, it has to be said that Universal's plan for a Dark Universe monsters series is off to a shaky start, and unlike its titular baddie, may struggle to rise from the grave."

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

Fist Fight - "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."

Elsewhere, there were still other stinkers.

Gary of Pacific - A film so woefully unfunny, it somehow managed to make a trip to a Pacific Island feel like a terrible case of Delhi-belly.

Despicable Me 3 - A triplicate that was as yellow round the gills as its minions.

Baywatch - Always thought the beach was supposed to be a fun day out, Baywatch was not a fun day out.

The Emoji Movie - "Meh"

Chips - Should have been strangled at script birth.

Jigsaw - "Do you want to play a game?" Based on this, not a hope in hell, thanks.

Pirates of The Caribbean - Dead Men Tell No tales - Lucky dead men, many of us will live on to tell the tale of this horror.

Claire's Camera - Cameras are defunct now and this festival film needs to be digitally erased.

The Stolen - The only thing stolen was 90 minutes of the audience's time.

Daddy's Home 2 - Please, Will Ferrell, stop making movies. Until you're funny again.

Geostorm - Sadly the sub-par FX were still the best thing in this disaster movie, that thought it was Armageddon x The Weather.

A Kiwi Christmas - Robbing the joy of the festive season, this wannabe family fare was much like a Christmas family gathering - excruciating, painful and goes on too long.

The best films of 2017

The best films of 2017

Initially, it appeared that 2017 was an average year for films, with a feeling that blockbusters were overwhelming a lot of what was out there.

Not that it's a bad thing, but in seeing a couple of hundred films a year, there's occasionally a yearning to experience something different.

And while Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok will be a home box office success thanks to parts of its originality, there is still a feeling that originality chimes with cinema viewers, and critics alike.

In no particular order, here are the picks for the top films of 2017.

The Florida Project 
"While more a freewheeling tale than a specifically strong narrative story, The Florida Project's exploration of the socio-economic damage done in America is as compelling as it is depressingly vibrant."

Paddington 2
"It's easy to dismiss the likes of Paddington in the cynical CGI world we currently live in, but the fact that it takes the simple things and does them well is very much to the film's credit and definitely not to its detriment."

Human Traces
"Director Nic Gorman's twist-and-turns script pulls and pushes his actors in ways that are challenging, but it's the central premise of the story split into three pieces and scenes played again but from different protagonist points-of-view which give Human Traces its captivating USP."

Blade Runner 2049
"It's an almost insurmountable task that Blade Runner 2049 has ahead of it, given the lasting legacy Scott's first film laid down in cinema lore.

But Canadian director Denis Villeneuve pretty much nails it here, imbuing his film with both the DNA traces of the first and degrees of its own identity."

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
"You can't help but leave the animated Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie with a smile on your face."

Lady Macbeth
"A star is born in the devilishly sizzling William Oldroyd helmed Lady Macbeth, a reinvention of the Russian novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Florence Pugh burns up the screen as Katherine, a young bride trapped in the shackles of marriage and in a home of pure hell.

"Ultimately though, It is a nightmarish yet somehow episodic meshing of phobias and primal premises wrapped up into one effectively retro package, guaranteed to haunt you."

Elsewhere on the list, and worthy of commendation for 2017

Waru, NZ's 8 director take on child abuse

Gods Own Country, a stunning debut worthy of more than its lazy labelling as the Brokeback Mountain in the UK's peaks.

Bad Genius, a thrilling fun ride of exam cheating that was a heart-stopping joy from beginning to end.

The Big Sick, Silicon Valley's Kumail Nanjiani imbued this flick with a great dose of heart and humour.

War for Planet of the Apes, a great end to one of the great trilogy reinventions of our time.

Raw, a cannibal coming-of-age movie to get your teeth into.

Get Out, a damning yet funny indictment of racial politics, all slyly wrapped up into a a simple tale of meeting the in-laws.

Logan, the R-Rated Wolverine we've all wanted, and the capper that delivered what Jackman promised through the years.

Split, a James McAvoy thriller that showed M Night Shymalan was still capable of delivering a twist that stunned.

Moonlight, the Oscar winner that signalled change.

Wonder Woman, the first sign that DC films could do women justice and never compromise a second of their comic book roots.

Columbus, a low-key relationship drama that had heart - and a brilliant lead from Haley Lu Richardson.

Coco, a Mexican themed animation about the Day of the Dead that teemed with life and gave wondrous voice to a simple story.

Colossal, an Anne Hathaway indie that had Kaiju themes, but also universal ones as well.

A Ghost Story, like Malick's Voyage of Time in many ways, but with a ghost.

The Killing of A Sacred Deer - by turns twisted and dark, yet devilishly delicious.

Baby Driver - Edgar Wright's heist movie that plays like a LP and sticks in your mind like an earworm.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

The Hero: Film Review

The Hero: Film Review

Cast: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman
Director: Brett Haley

Mixing melancholy and offbeat humour as well as a great deal of heart, The Hero centres around Sam Elliott's gravel-voiced one time Western actor Lee Hayden.
The Hero: Film Review

With a career that's been defined largely by one great role in a film called The Hero, Hayden's world has been reduced to doing voiceovers for BBQ sauce (in a nod to perhaps UK comedy show Toast of London).

Estranged from his daughter (Ritter) and separated from his wife, Lee's life is hit by an unexpected terminal cancer diagnosis, Lee's spending time brooding and smoking weed with former fellow actor Jeremy (Parks and Rec's laconic Nick Offerman).

But when he meets Laura Prepon's Charlotte by chance and an acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award goes unexpectedly, his apparently over life changes in more ways than one...

The Hero's laid back ageing premise may hit differing audiences in differing ways.
The Hero: Film Review

However, Elliott's nuanced and rugged turn as Lee is emotionally resonant no matter how you view the film and its cliches.

Regardless of whether some of the film's plots follow an all-too familiar trajectory, there's something in Elliott's compellingly understated performance that's simply captivating.

Prepon plays enigmatic too, but there's a real sense of these two connecting despite a major age difference potentially in their way. Thanks to some sensitive direction, it just about works when, against all the odds, it really shouldn't.

Whether it's being lost in ruminations on his life, or being lost in a haze of drugs around Charlotte, Haley's script manages to coat everything in a forlorn fashion that plays to Elliott's silent strengths.

And there's something about this veteran actor that just fits the part.
The Hero: Film Review

There are elements of this which may seem almost autobiographical in many ways as the older generation of actors tries to find a place in Hollywood, and rides a revival, and at times, to be frank, the script treads an all too familiar line, but there's just something about this low-key indie from Sundance, with its drawling lead that makes The Hero a success in ways it shouldn't be.

Friday, 22 December 2017

LocoRoco 2 Remastered: PS4 Review

LocoRoco 2 Remastered: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4

The roly poly blobs are back in the sequel to the musical, slightly infantile and occasionally irritating LocoRoco Remastered that dropped earlier this year.
LocoRoco 2 Remastered: PS4 Review

The latest doesn't see much of a variation on the themes of the first.

Using L1 and R1 you roll and jump your LocoRoco around various worlds, collecting fellow Locos from the berries from flowers, growing your number and avoiding the pesky black Moja as they try to swallow you up.

This latest sees tweaks on the theme, as the world around them is more musical than before - now collecting musical notes give the LocoRoco a chance to boost collectibles around the game as well as a rhythm mini-game.

They don't add heaps to it, allowing upgrades but unless you're dead-set on collecting the music notes early on in the level, most of these tend to hit the required amount towards the end, rendering the reasoning redundant at best.
LocoRoco 2 Remastered: PS4 Review

There are a lot more Moja around the game as well, obscuring notes, obscuring the landscape and affecting creatures within. But a few bounces from the LocoRoco get rid of them, so they are more a temporary pest than a long term pain in the backside.

This latest will see you using a lot more of the environment to help you take on the Moja, and it's good to sink into a rock and then use it to nut against other baddies around.

There are plenty of collectibles too, from Mui Mui parts to notes, there's more than enough to keep you involved in the game.
LocoRoco 2 Remastered: PS4 Review

And while it plays fluid and seems like Rayman's more colourful and blotchy cousin, LocoRoco2 Remastered's reason for being is slightly dampened by a feeling of repetition rather than reward and something that's adding a lot to the universe.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Changeover: DVD Review

The Changeover: DVD Review

Cast: Erana James, Timothy Spall, Melanie Lynskey, Lucy Lawless
Director: Miranda Harcourt, Stuart Maconie

Mixing elements of The Tattooist and bizarrely, Twilight, The Changeover is the cinematic version of Margaret Mahy's Carnegie Medal winning book that dabbles in the supernatural.

The Changeover: Film Review

Set in post-earthquake Christchurch, it's the story of school girl Laura Chant (a subtly nuanced Erana James) whose life has been wrecked by both the quake and personal circumstances.
With her mother (Melanie Lynskey) working long and late hours, Laura's forced to look after her younger brother Jacko.

But having premonitions something bad is about to occur to Jacko, Laura finds her worst fears confirmed when she meets Carmody Braque (Timothy Spall, suitably sinister and vaguely paedophilic) in the containers of downtown Christchurch.

When Jacko's given an ink stamp by Carmody, he mysteriously falls ill and Laura begins to suspect the worst.

However, she discovers there's more afoot in Christchurch than she realises....

The Changeover makes great fist of its post-earthquake Christchurch to give the Mahy novel a redolence that's both poignant and able to convey the turmoil in Chant's life.
The Changeover: Film Review  Liquefaction bubbles up among the cherry blossoms of the town and when James intones that "the earthquake broke the city, and it broke my family", you can feel the melancholy seeping in.

Equally, the use of Bic Runga's Sway and Melanie Lynskey's sweet sing-along to the classic and containers and the rebuild ground this film firmly in the south island, but yet timelessly in the appeal.

Unfortunately, some of the clunkier dialogue between Laura and her beau (who's clearly been cast more for his looks than acting prowess) give The Changeover a horrible tingling feeling of a return to the corny overwrought dialogue of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga.

Saddled with reams of exposition about the supernatural, the film almost falters despite the directors' visual flourishes of the manifestation of the supernatural coming-of-age edges.

Equally unhelpful is an underwritten Lawless, whose screen time is squashed and whose presence is wasted.

The Changeover: Film Review

But thanks to a sinister Spall, who channels both Childcatcher and slimy paedophilic edges as the bad guy, and an extremely impressive turn from newcomer James, The Changeover manages to stay afloat when other elements conspire to attempt to drag it down like a witch under water.

If anything, The Changeover will play to an audience under-served from the New Zealand film market for many years and bravely tries to position itself as something of a teen film with weightier darker issues around the edge. It sort of works and channels an era of yesteryear, but it's largely thanks to the truly impressive talents of James, whose natural presence and expression of the usual teenage tropes helps mark The Changeover out as something worth taking a punt on for an afternoon out.

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