Sunday, 30 September 2018

Hereditary: Blu Ray Review

Hereditary: Blu Ray Review

Blending psychological terror, a portrait of grief and some bravura directorial touches from a debuting Aster, Hereditary is currently being acclaimed as the scariest film since The Exorcist.
Hereditary: Film Review

It's a claim which detracts from the film and which piles expectation unfairly onto the indie release - but it is pleasing to note that over the course of an extremely unsettling 2 hours, Ari Aster's debut is as exciting as it is enticing.

A tautly wound Collette plays Annie, a grieving mother who's just lost her apparently monstrous mother. As the film begins, the family is recovering post funeral, with her daughter Charlie (newcomer Shapiro) claiming to see the grandmother, and with son Peter (an utterly terrific turn from Wolff) becoming more distant. Barely supported by her husband Steve (an understated Byrne), Annie begins to experience visions and see things that shouldn't be there.

Hereditary: Film Review

Steeped in tragedy, and with some genuinely gut-wrenching moments, Hereditary works best on the angle of whether Annie's imagining it as her grip on anything begins to unravel.

Drenching everything in dread, and employing some of the usual tropes of the horror genre (long, slow pans, a rising soundtrack), Hereditary feels compulsively fresh and equally sickening. While the ending, complete with its dumped exposition and reminiscent of moments of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity's devilish cult denouement, feels a little rushed and almost laughable, the great majority of Hereditary is genuinely chilling stuff. Especially when the cards are stacked in favour of a possession tale rather than a supernatural explanation for everything.

Hereditary works best in large swathes when considered as a treatise on grief, and most of the cast play this as their raison d'etre throughout. Certainly Collette and Wolff are terrific, delivering performances which captivate as the cameras linger on them and their growing and increasingly weird predicaments.

Hereditary: Film Review

Aster's the main star here though - whether it's a clever opening shot that takes us inside a dollhouse fashioned by Annie's meticulous eye or the transition between night and day that feels like a switch flicking on, Aster's aesthetics and eye for precision demand - and command - respect.

Ultimately, while Hereditary's end will prove rightfully polarising to much of the audience, the film's overall grip and commitment to its destination demonstrate its reason to be viewed - it's genuinely the most uncomfortable you will feel in the cinema since The Babadook and is in touches, one of the unnerving experiences of the year. 

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The X Files Season 11: Blu Ray Review

The X Files Season 11: Blu Ray Review 

It's hard to know where exactly to go with the last potential season ever of the Mulder and Scully incarnation of The X Files.

From its opening episode, which dismisses the epic global cliffhanger of the last season as nothing more than a Bobby Ewing in the shower moment to the conclusion which massively sells Dana Scully and Gillian Anderson short, this extended 10 episode run is as mixed as the series has ever been.
The X Files Season 11: Blu Ray Review
Primarily the mythology episodes pull down the series with their constant adherence to arcs and themes that seem less enticing than before. While the central pull of the series seems to be finding Mulder and Scully's errant son William, there are revelations of a science-led rape to deal with.

Much more successful are the stand alone episodes which range from handling the Mandela Effect to a near mute episode that handles the damage being wrought by technology. It's here the creativity shines and the series reminds you of why it was so compelling.

Perhaps it's time for this chapter to close (words which are painful to write) as the hints of what was are so heavily outweighed by the elements of what's gone wrong this time around.

The Truth Is Out There - and it's this.

It may not be time to fully shut down The X Files, but it could be a case of hiatus which could help the show to stand on its own two feet, not crest on the waves of its own nostalgia.

Friday, 28 September 2018

RBG: Film Review

RBG: Film Review

Director: Betsy West, Julie Cohen

It's no surprise that in a post Me Too world, and a world where equality is less buzz word than enforced push for reality, that a film like RBG has blazed a trail.

Essentially, a straight down the line documentary (almost a little too dry in places to be frank), West and Cohen's look at what makes US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tick is less about her, and more about the career path she's chosen.
RBG: Film Review

A small woman, wizened in her later years, but towering in her achievements, Ginsburg's often referred to as a Witch, icon and Anti-American in the same breath. But the energy that opens this doco, which sees Ginsburg working out to a pulsing rap beat, gives way to a rather traditional down-pat experience which looks at her past, her facing the rampant sexism of the 1950s workplace, and her desire to defy the patriarchy.

Early on, glimpses of Ginsburg's life provide a time capsule of a life gone by, and of challenges still in our current day world, but what West and Cohen do is partially jettison this in favour of defining the woman through her caseloads, and her trail-blazing legal cases aimed at getting parity and justice.

It's a commendable approach, but in truth, shots of court backgrounds, with audio from hearings brought to life on the screen in written form, do little to breathe life into this relative firecracker of a woman, and the film suffers a slightly didactic approach for it.
RBG: Film Review

More effective are the moments when she talks about her husband Marty, whose support was unswerving, and their shared devotion which deeply humanises her. Equally, scenes of Ginsburg revelling in the Saturday Night Live skits of which she's the subject of from Kate McKinnon offer a scene of a wicked mind, freshly enticed by a present day she's helped create.

In truth, Cohen and West deliver a degree of hagiography with this, calling on the recognition of the Notorious RBG and drawing attention to the pathetic distance the US has come - but as a doco about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it feels like the portrait's not quite finished, even if the broad strokes of her work and life are in place to create an outline, rather than a fully fleshed out figure.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Night School: Film Review

Night School: Film Review

Cast: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Taram Killam, Megalyn Echikunwoke
Director: Malcolm D Lee

From no less than six writers, "comedy" Night School aims low and continues to mine low, before delivering an unearned sentimentally sappy ending.
Night School: Film Review

Hart plays Teddy Walker, a high school dropout who's living beyond his means as a BBQ salesman, and with a girlfriend Lisa clearly above his league. When a proposal goes awry, and Walker blows up the BBQ store, he realises it's time to go back to school and secure the GED diploma he never got so that he can progress in life.

But with a headmaster nemesis from his past (Killam) and a sassy teacher (Haddish) who won't stand for any of his smooth talking and desire to sail past, Teddy has his Night School work cut out.

Night School fails on many levels, but is happy to embrace as much dumb as it can to deliver what little laughs it has
Night School: Film Review

The bar's set low early on when Hart's Walker pulls out his own pubic hair at a restaurant and plants it on his food to avoid paying a hefty bill, and then it keeps just going lower.

But the broad missives aren't particularly of the highest calibre, and don't always hit the target.

While Hart and Haddish have a nice caustic rapport that inevitably softens, their banter and childish rows feel improvised enough at times to hit some of the sweeter spots needed. But there's little to build on, and scant nothing to fully develop.

There could be an outsiders' Breakfast Club to be had here, with the misfits gang in place. To be frank though, Night School's characters are less than memorable and idiotically annoying.
Night School: Film Review

However, a script that piles dumb on cliched and unoriginal doesn't help much - from the usual steal the exam heist to Rob Riggle's attempt at Tom Cruise's high rise misfire, Night School's lack of anything overtly or consistently funny really makes the film drag.

There will be audiences (possibly boozed up) who will adore this, but their adoration is misplaced.

Granted, there are some laughs to be had from Walker's one-liners, but once again Hart's comedy schtick just doesn't cut it thanks to a script that's woefully weak (even with six writers). Depressingly over-long, woefully not funny enough and as painful as nails on a school chalk board, this Night School sadly flunks out, without any chance to redeem itself.

Watch it be big at the box office.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

"Save the dinosaurs on an island that's about to explode - what could possibly go wrong?"
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Film Review

This line uttered by Chris Pratt's returning dino handler Owen speaks volumes to the simplicity of what the latest Jurassic Park movie should be doing, but which somehow manages to fail due to a script that feels rote and a sense of wonder that's missing in a series of action sequences that don't quite light up the screen.

Four years after Isla Nublar's Jurassic World was shut down, there's a debate going on whether to save the dinos from extinction after the once dormant volcano explodes into life. (One of the greater threads of the film is animal activism, and it's jettisoned early on).

Pulled into the debate by a philanthropist is Dallas Howard's Claire (returning this time less in high heels, more in combat boots). Offered the chance to save the animals as part of a military expedition, she heads to recruit ex Owen (Pratt, in a curiously muted and downbeat turn) to try and ensure that beloved raptor Blue makes it back out alive.

However, it turns out all those involved higher up aren't exactly on the level....

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a curious beast, and even in the hands of The Orphanage and The Impossible director Bayona, it never quite manages to bridge the gap between sequel to become its own thing and its need to set-up for the threequel.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Film Review

Clearly, Bayona can handle the CGI action early on on the island, with flying debris and creatures cluttering the screen with relative ease- complete with obligatory T-Rex roaring as something chaotic happens in the background.

But it's the human element that suffers, and with the creatures not feeling as fresh as before, there's a terrible sense of deja vu that hits Fallen Kingdom, crippling what becomes of its second half.

The series has always delighted in the humans, the folly of science gone mad, and the small intimate touches that bonded us to their plight and stopped accusations of their insanity. Think back to the first film and how the kids forced Sam Neill and Laura Dern together into becoming a nuclear family, with the long-suppressed survival instinct thrust to the fore.

This is not what Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom wants to achieve.

Its flaws in logic, its desire to set the back half into a horror movie and its nostalgic touches (that wing mirror moment, a few echoed sequences from the first film) mean the Fallen Kingdom lacks the tension it needs.

That's not to say there aren't effective scenes, familiar to Bayona's wheelhouse.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Film Review

A sequence involving a child in a bed, stalked by a creature and its talons is nightmarish, riffing on many a childish fear that monsters are coming for you at night, is tremendously effective. And Bayona makes fantastic fist of shadows and flashes of light, giving what is a rote cliche of the horror genre a fresher and compelling touch.

But it's not enough in a script which sees characters acting deliberately stupidly as the slasher / stalker movie goes on. And it's certainly not enough in a film series whose prime MO is evoke wonder. Dallas Howard's Claire even evokes that by intoning of the wonder and marvel felt the first time you see a dinosaur in the flesh - that was always the Jurassic Park's raison d'etre - a sense of wonder and marvel made real, dazzling and terrifying back in 1993.

That's sorely missing this time around.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Film Review

Most of that has been jettisoned in this latest, unfortunately, and Fallen Kingdom emerges feeling like a blockbuster that's the sum of its parts and little more. Bayona was on a tricky wicket with this one, unable to repeat the formula and yet weighed with a necessity to bridge, and as a result, clearly the majority of the film feels like set-up in extremis.

However, the desire to jettison the core reason in favour of gene-splicing shenanigans and mad villains backfires on Fallen Kingdom. A third film is underway, and those involved would be wise to either look seriously how to evolve the series.

As Jeff Goldblum's Dr Grant once said: "Life finds a way" - and the writers will need to for the 2021 Jurassic World film, rather than force the franchise into early and welcome cinematic extinction. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Tully: DVD Review

Tully: DVD Review

Forever likely to be known as the M Night Shyamalan film of mothering, Diablo Cody's Tully is a mixed bag of a film, that flounders badly in its final strait.
Tully: Film Review

Theron is largely excellent for a good two thirds of this as mother-of-two Marlo. Heavily pregnant with her third due any day, and with her brother (Duplass) claiming that something was snuffed out in her years ago, Marlo's life is pretty tough.

Ensconced in her family house, bedecked as it is in beige and with signs of age, and struggling to get by even with her husband absentee help, Marlo's given the chance to get a night nanny by her brother to help out.

Essentially the service comes in, watches the kid overnight and wakes the parent when feeding is needed - for her brother Craig, it was apparently a game-changer.

Initially reticent, Marlo grudgingly accepts - and into her life comes free spirit Tully (Davis, a gleeful blast of sunshine). Their relationship grows and a parenting groove is settled on - and to say more is to ruin some of what lies ahead.

Tully: Film Review

The problem with Tully is that largely the first 60 minutes of the film, which concentrates on the pressures of mothering, the monotony of looking after children and the growing disillusionment of life outside of the bubble, are great.

Theron's more than committed to the role, with her pale gaunt appearance, worn down by endless feeding and a second problem child, conveying more of exasperation and acceptance than could ever be done by Cody's trademark whiplash dialogue. That's not to patronise or proffer feint praise to Theron, she's genuinely watchable and empathetic as she juggles all.

Equally, the feverishly anarchic and perky Davis adds a degree of life to Marlo's life and the house that prove a welcome tonic to the grind that's gone before.

But it's in the last 30 minutes of Tully, where things of great importance happen with little to no consequence that it feels like narrative contrivance and supposed magical script wizardry writ large.

There are no spoilers here, but the denouement feels largely like it cheats the film of the grounded reality and mundanity it finds itself in, early on. It's impossible to win though, with Cody's occasionally snarky screenplay clearly mocking the perfect mothers and simultaneously bigging up those who simply accept it and get on with it (which will be a large part of the intended viewing population.)

Tully: Film Review

Ultimately, Tully becomes tarred by the path it chooses - that it does so with relative finesse for most of the journey is a good thing because when it revels in its veracity and borders closely on reality, it's a compellingly familiar watch.

It's just a real shame that Tully's divisive ending tarnishes and to a degree, belittles everything which has gone before it, slathering most of the film in a feeling that consequence is nothing but bothersome and inconsequential.

Monday, 24 September 2018

The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan, Owen Vaccaro
Director: Eli Roth

From horror and torture-porn-meister Eli Roth comes a family horror film, produced within the stable of Amblin Entertainment, and based on the 1973 book by John Bellairs.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

Vaccaro is newly-orphaned Lewis, who goes to live with his uncle Jonathan (Black, in usual OTT mode, and perhaps one of the film's little disappointments) after a car accident claimed his parents.

Upon discovering his uncle is a warlock, and struggling to fit in at school, Lewis turns his attention to the world of sorcery and magic. But when Lewis raises a former wizard from the dead, hell threatens to break loose - and it's further exacerbated by Jonathan's desire to find an endlessly clicking clock within the walls of his house.

In truth, The House With a Clock in Its Walls feels like a mesh of Goosebumps and a carnival haunted house rollercoaster ride.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

There are some genuinely unsettling sequences set to celluloid from Roth, with the dread of the atmosphere cranked up for maximum effect. But like all of the biggest scares at a fairground, this is only material for show in a time and tested formula of good versus evil.

Partially ignoring the deeper thread of the post-traumatic stress syndrome of war (a wonderfully evocative piece hints at the turmoil facing one character, but is unexplored) in favour of more kiddy-friendly fare, The House With a Clock in Its Walls is content to avoid the issues of dealing with loss, and grief within 1950s America.

But that's no bad thing - and for a large part, the film is surprisingly entertaining, thanks to a wonderfully tart and emotionally nuanced turn from Blanchett as a witch with a tragic past. Black delivers his usual goggling eyes routine, which in truth becomes tiring midway through, and the script chooses to layer on some fart gags for puerile pleasure, which detracts from the wondrousness of what's to pass.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls

However, moments such as a pumpkin attack, and an evocation of the light of the universe are truly exciting to behold, and show that Roth, as a child film director, has enough smarts to deliver as much heart as the horrors needed to keep the tension ratcheted up.

All in all, The House With a Clock in Its Walls is a pleasantly surprising piece of family fare, that offers a tautly delivered set of purpose within its 100 minutes' run time. There's more it could have explored, and some deeper themes merely hinted at rather than fully fleshed out, but the fun parlour tricks it deploys manage to distract from the moments and themes that could have given more than just chills, thrills and silliness.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Tag: DVD Review

Tag: DVD Review

Every year, during May, a US-based group of friends come together to play a game of Tag.
Tag: Film Review

It's a tradition that's been running since they were kids - and it's based on a true story.

It sounds like a bizarre proposition, but that's the basis for Tomsic's frat-pack movie. After some 30 years of playing, one of the gang's number Jerry (Jeremy Renner, playing up his action man pretensions) has never been caught.

So Hogan, Bob, Chilli and Sable (Helms, Hamm, Johnson and Buress respectively) gather together with the sole intent of making it this time, given that Jerry is getting married...

There's little plot to Tag, a film that has some briskness of pace, lunacy of execution and is based in some premise of heart, toying as it does with male friendship through the years. (As is especially demonstrated in the real-life credits sequence, and repeated footage of them playing as kids).

However, there are some moments that stand out in this cinematic version of The Washington Post story - albeit for the wrong reason.

An entire sequence based on miscarriage is anything but funny, leaving the film with a sour taste that its initial geniality fails to shake off. It's a woefully misjudged set of moments and deserves to have been struck from the script, leading more to a shocked intake of breath, rather than a shocked laugh.

Tag: Film Review

Equally, the film's final desire to wrap everything up in a mawkish hug is just sickly rather than sentimental - and while the film's final shots really do return to the premise, the journey to get there feels cheapened by some of these moments. Contrasted with the final shots of the original gang playing the game via home movie footage, there's a meanness that pervades some parts of the film which feels definitely unwarranted.

However, Tomsic's slow-mo variations on the action sequences of people getting tagged is quite well executed, a visual bravura touch that may be overplayed, but digs deep into the silly premise of people just playing a kids' game.

Tag: Film Review

The ensemble gel well, and while Fisher's hysterical wife to Hogan may make you question her sanity, the group makes a good fist of pulling off some bromance chemistry, amid the early Bro-vengers assemble montage shots.

Ultimately, Tag brings the prats to the pratfalls, and thanks to a brisk pace, surprisingly it never outstays its welcome, delivering some unexpected LOL moments and some subtle adlibbed one-liners (mainly from Buress) that will cause more mirth than expected.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The BlizzCon 2018 celebration kicks off early with the Virtual Ticket

The BlizzCon 2018 celebration kicks off early with the Virtual Ticket

The BlizzCon 2018 celebration kicks off early with the Virtual Ticket
Blizzard Entertainment’s epic BlizzCon community celebration is less than two months awaybut BlizzCon season begins today with the launch of the BlizzCon 2018 Virtual Ticket, available to order now at The BlizzCon Virtual Ticket provides access to nearly two months of exclusive video programming, with new content hitting regularly between now and when BlizzCon takes place 2 to 3 November PDT. During BlizzCon, Virtual Ticket holders will be able to enjoy comprehensive livestreams covering all of the major news, events, and panels at the show, whether they’re joining the fun from home on—or, for the first time, directly via the Blizzard® desktop app— or watching on the go with the free BlizzCon Mobile App (available now for Android and iOS).

This year’s festivities are already underway, with the premiere episodes of multiple original BlizzCon video series available to view now on the official website and through the app—some available free, and all unlocked via the Virtual Ticket. BlizzCon attendees and Virtual Ticket holders can also help shape the show by voting for what they’d like to see on stage in a series of interactive BlizzCon Build-a-Panel polls. In addition, starting today BlizzCon ticket and Virtual Ticket holders will receive the first of this year’s commemorative BlizzCon in-game items: a diabolical legendary skin for Overwatch®’s Sombra that channels the iconic Demon Hunter class from Diablo® III.

The celebration continues 3 and 4 November AEDT/NZDT, as the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket also grants complete livestreaming access to the main event at the Anaheim Convention Center, including the BlizzCon All-Access channel, which acts as viewers’ tour guide through the two-day convention; the legendary cosplay and talent contests (and more) during Community Night; the closing-night festivities; as well as coverage of the panels and other activities from all three main stages—Mythic, Legendary, and Epic—on the BlizzCon show floor.

“We created BlizzCon as a celebration of our global community, but not everyone can travel to the show, so the Virtual Ticket gives us a great way to bring BlizzCon to gamers around the world,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We have a lot of exciting activities and surprises planned for BlizzCon ticket and Virtual Ticket holders in the coming weeks and at the main event—we can’t wait to share everything we have in store.”

With the BlizzCon 2018 Virtual Ticket, Blizzard gamers from around the world will:

  • Never Miss a Moment: The opening ceremony and esports are free, but the Virtual Ticket is the only way to watch the Mythic, Legendary, and Epic stages live from home, so you won’t miss any of the developer panels, Community Night contests, or epic closing festivities. Go even deeper with the BlizzCon All-Access Channel, complete with exclusive developer interviews, commentary, and more.

  • Explore Original BlizzCon Video Series: Unlock full access to unique BlizzCon programming that takes you behind the scenes at Blizzard and beyond the walls of the convention center. Discover Blizzard history inside The Vault, explore artists’ creative process in Drawn to Adventure, and much more. New episodes debut regularly in the weeks leading up to BlizzCon—some available free, and all unlocked via the Virtual Ticket.

  • Snag Epic In-Game Loot: Between now and the start of BlizzCon, unlock a treasure trove of commemorative in-game goodies for World of Warcraft®StarCraft®IIStarCraft: Remastered, Heroes of the Storm®Hearthstone®, and Diablo III. Kick things off with a legendary Overwatch Demon Hunter skin for Sombra—available in-game starting today.

  • Help Shape the Show: Don’t just watch BlizzCon—participate in it, too! Build a BlizzCon panel alongside others from the Blizzard community, then watch what you help created come to life live during the main event. (Build-a-Panel voting will be available for a limited time—visit to learn more and keep up with the results.)

  • Watch On-Demand Replays: Miss a revelation during a World of Warcraft or Overwatch developer discussion? Does one of your must-see Hearthstone panels conflict with a can’t-miss StarCraft II match? Relive your favourite moments on demand with the Virtual Ticket at or in the BlizzCon Mobile App through 31 March, 2019 AEDT/NZDT††. The Virtual Ticket also unlocks access to a wide variety of panels and original video series from the BlizzCon 2017 video archives.

Get Gear Bonuses: Order a Virtual Ticket, and you’ll get a $10 discount off this year’s BlizzCon Goody Bag, available for pre-order today while supplies last at You’ll also get early access to the BlizzCon 2018 online merchandise sale so you can pick up sweet swag in advance of the show—more details will be announced in the weeks ahead.

International viewers will also have the option to listen to select BlizzCon Virtual Ticket broadcasts, including the All-Access Channel and content on the Mythic stage, translated live into seven languages: Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese. In addition, VODs of select content on the other stages at BlizzCon will be available subtitled in Latin American Spanish, European Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Korean, and simplified Chinese in the weeks following the show.

Visit the Blizzard Shop to learn more and purchase this year’s Virtual Ticket ($69.95 AUD/$79.95 NZD), and keep an eye on to vote on the best moments from past BlizzCons and stay up-to-date on the latest BlizzCon news.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Winter has returned to Hearthstone with the Days of the Frozen Throne in-game event!

Winter has returned to Hearthstone with the Days of the Frozen Throne in-game event!

Winter has returned to Hearthstone with the Days of the Frozen Throne in-game event!

Well met!

Next week, Hearthstone’s champions rise again as Death Knights during the Days of the Frozen Throne event! From 20-24 September AEST/NZST, players can visit the Tavern to discover seriously cool bonuses as part of this limited time event celebrating the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion.

  • New Tavern Brawl – Duel of the Death Knights:
    • Both players begin the game as a Death Knight in this frigid Tavern Brawl! The decks are also chock-full of frosty Knights of the Frozen Throne cards to battle to the… undeath (?).
  • Loot Giveaway from The Lich King:
    • All players who log in during the event will receive a free Golden Happy Ghoul card. Even Death Knights need a little happiness every once in a while… right?
  • New Legendary Quests:
    • Players will have the chance to complete two special quests that reward 300 gold each, for a total of 600 gold!
  • Bundle Up Bundle:
    • Feeling chilly? Then check out the Bundle Up Bundle – 30 Knights of the Frozen Throne card packs from $26.95 AUD and $31.99 NZD!

For more details, take a look at the blog post.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

A Simple Favor: Film Review

A Simple Favor: Film Review

Cast: Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick, Henry Golding
Director: Paul Feig

Better known for his comedies like Ghostbusters, Paul Feig turns his directing eye to an adaptation of the 2017 novel from Darcey Bell.
A Simple Favor: Film Review

Attempting to make it film-noir, but still imbuing it with comedic sensibilities and campy touches, A Simple Favor is the story of vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Kendrick, by far and away the best thing in this film) a nerdy widower and mother-of-one who strikes up an unlikely friendship with upmarket fellow Emily Nelson (Lively, suitably bitchy when needed, but unable to fulfill some of the film's requirements).

Entranced by Nelson's drink-during-the-day mentality, Smothers and Nelson become BFFs. One day, however, when Smothers is left to pick up Nelson's child, she doesn't return, prompting fears she's gone AWOL in the most sinister of fashions....

As Stephanie investigates, she begins to discover something sinister...
A Simple Favor: Film Review

A Simple Favor works on some levels, and fails on some others.

The aforementioned comedy touches don't quite gel with the desire to go a bit darker here and there, and Kendrick's Nancy Drew type digging is sometimes foiled by an unevenness of tone, which, while not fatal to proceedings, can occasionally deliver a whiplash which is hard to shake.

Thankfully, Kendrick holds a lot of this together, going the full gamut from nerdish outsider caught up in the bitchiness of small-town school-gate gossip to empowered crusader, inspired by Emily's laissez-faire dismissal and attitude to life. Kendrick more than delivers, peppering her preppiness with the kind of touches employed in Pitch Perfect.

Lively isn't quite as strong, and while Emily's boozy detachment is a hard one to play, she doesn't quite hit the convictions needed late in the piece. Equally, Crazy Rich Asians' star Henry Golding delivers a too-nice-to-be-true turn that complements, but doesn't elevate what's going on.
A Simple Favor: Film Review

Ultimately, the outlandish twists of the noir and the comedy slightly foil some of the final suspense, and there's a little too much garbled exposition at the end delivered without breath or pause.

These are minor niggles though, and there's much to be said for the stylish execution and the sassy French OST.

A Simple Favor is a smart watch in places, but the tonal mixes, while never fatal, do make the overall effect less powerful than it could have been - and it's saved solely by an exceptional Anna Kendrick.

Mirai: Film Review

Mirai: Film Review

Director: Hosoda Mamoru

Apparently inspired by director Hosoda's observations of the interaction of his own kids, Mirai is the tale of sibling jealousy.
Mirai: Film Review

Kun is the apple of his parents' eye - or so he believes. The four-year-old thinks the world revolves around him, but finds his view shaken up when a younger sister is born into the family.

Riddled with jealousy at his parents' loss of time for him, Kun's resentment of baby Mirai reaches fever pitch, and he hits the child with one of his beloved bullet trains. Struggling to find his place in the world post baby, Kun finds a magic world in his garden, as the importance of a sibling is demonstrated to him.

Mirai's touches are sweetly despatched, as the darker edges of the tale come to light.
Mirai: Film Review

It's one of seething inadequacy from the whining baby Kun; but despite Kun's apparent anger toward his situation, the Ghosts of Christmas Past / Future style visitations show really what could lie ahead for him as an older brother.

There's some further darkness in Mirai, with a heartbreaking scene of a child clearly in trouble after Kun's visit and subsequent trashing of the house. And the lessons doled out are a little on the heavy-handed side and obvious to anyone with an eye for them.

However, given this anime is aimed more at a family audience, Hosoda's sweeping touches can be forgiven within the simplicity of the story.
Mirai: Film Review

Mirai won't possibly win over everyone, and it lacks the timelessness of some other anime, even though there's a universality of theme at play here - but for the start of the school holidays and with an ever-growing awareness of the genre, its messages may be timely in today's world.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Disobedience: DVD Review

Disobedience: DVD Review

For all the theology opening and the deep soaking of Jewish tradition in Disobedience, it has to be said there's scant depth to what Disobedience unspools in terms of character.

Rachel Weisz is Ronit, the black sheep of the Jewish family whose return is necessitated by the death of her father. But many are unhappy to see her back in England's drab and dreariness including Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and his new wife Esti (Rachel McAdams).

But Ronit's return rekindles something in Esti - and soon the perils of the outsider are thrust deep within the community, threatening to reignite both old passions and even deeper hatreds.

Disobedience: NZIFF Review

Drab, dreary backgrounds pepper the dour proceedings to start off with - London's backdrops stultify and threaten to overcome Ronit's natural incandescences, a woman who threw off the shackles of tradition to the disappointment of all around her.

Certainly, the hints are laid early on, in some naturalistic dialogue that drops emotional bombs later on as the intense recoupling rebirths.

Director Sebastien Lelio gives life to the struggles of the outsider, but Disobedience rarely feels more than a chamber piece between Esti and Ronit; and with the third wheel of Dovid thrown in for good measure. It lives and breathes like a play, as it piles up small emotional stakes building them into greater barriers as time goes on.

Largely restrained, Disobedience benefits from tasteful touches, and passionate clinches - even if occasionally, they feel borderline to voyeuristic, something which in truth is more the fault of an audience investment in the outcasts storyline. The sense of longing, the sense of connection and the sense of duty all swirl in one potent mix, and while Disobedience's palette is one of dour dismal skylines, what bubbles beneath is fiery and difficult to quell.

But Disobedience never fully breaks out to rage against the patriarchal society, the Jewish clasp thrown down upon these women - it's a frustration muted into a quiet scream as events transpire, and while the film is perfectly adequately explored and extolled, it never once finds the emotion to send it soaring high and beyond - despite the threesome offering some truly strong performances.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Square: DVD Review

The Square: DVD Review

Provocative, confronting, and yet also unexpectedly amusing, the NZIFF's opening night film and the 2017 Palme D'Or winner The Square, from Force Majeure director Ruben Ostlund, is something else.

A satire on social reactions set within an art museum, it follows the museum's director Christian (Claes Bang) as a series of events are set in motion after the theft of his mobile phone. With a new exhibit set to launch, Christian should have his eyes and attention on what's ahead, but is dangerously distracted by the inane.

As events spiral, Ostlund's film teeters dangerously once again on a precipice between commentary on others and our social interactions - and as a result, it offers up some truly astounding moments of awkwardness and the surreal.

The Square NZIFF Review

There's no denial that the loosest of threads pulls the rest of the film together, and there are moments that make The Square feel like a confrontational series of sketches that very occasionally feel disparate and in danger of breaking off like an iceberg from the main narrative.

It helps little that the film's punishing 140 minute run time becomes a slog in the final hurdle and certainly even though The Square's lost 20 minutes in an edit, a few more cuts could have helped the searing truly soar high above the cinematic stratosphere.

And yet, when Ostlund turns his precise eye to social commentary, there's nothing more piercing.

With Sweden's streets littered with beggars and with cries of Help Me resounding in many of these scenes, there's a humility and an horrific mirror cast upon society and their trivial concerns. The public and the private are meshed and simultaneously ripped apart under his precise directorship.

If Force Majeure's focus was solely on the family and the dynamic post the event, The Square's broader and wider ambitions occasionally threaten to stop it from achieving glory as it loses its edge towards the end.

But on the way in this high wire act, one scene stands alone - a sequence in a high society dinner event for the museum that's terrorised by a performance artist behaving like a gorilla. Simultaneously amusing and utterly terrifying, this moment of Ostlund's film is electrifying. It's here that the societal commentary comes into play and that Ostlund makes you shift uneasily in your seat.

And it's for moments like this, as well as surrealist broad comedy that The Square commands to be seen - it's confrontational, outrageous and it's out of nowhere attitude at times mean it's as unpredictable as it comes. However, in the wash, it may see you asking some serious questions about how we are wanting and examining its commentary on what society reacts to and ignores - it's here The Square's power is compelling. 

Monday, 17 September 2018

Johnny English Strikes Again: Film Review

Johnny English Strikes Again: Film Review

Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Emma Thompson, Jake Lacy, Olga Kurylenko
Director: David Kerr

How you will feel about Johnny English Strikes Again largely relies on how you feel about Rowan Atkinson's inept spy.
Johnny English Strikes Again: Film Review

Because, to be frank, this latest which sees English pulled out of retirement after a series of cyber attacks exposes all England's current secret agents, doesn't exactly do much to shake up the Johnny English franchise at all.

But what it does do, is allow Atkinson once again to showcase his rubber-faced propensity for physical comedy, like some kind of clown from a bygone era channeling Mr Bean and a James Bond cross.

However, much as it may pain some with its corny execution and its entirely predictable turn of plot and surprise, Johnny English Strikes Again is actually refreshingly retro in its delivery of sight gags, and silliness, both of which are dispatched by director Kerr and lead star with relative unflappable aplomb.
Johnny English Strikes Again: Film Review

The resurgence of the old school is apparent throughout, both from the physical prop based humour served up by Atkinson to a series of running gags about English being out of touch from the rest of the world - from the advent of iPhones to EVs, to gags about having to sign a health and safety release for use of a gun to a brilliantly written sequence using VR and real life, there's a real feeling of 60s Get Smart mentality about this, rather than the self-knowing, self-referential Austin Powers.

Even Harry Potter gets a nod, with English now serving as a teacher in a spy school, awarding house points for to the best little would-be spies.

And largely, thanks to the quick pace, it works - though in parts, it does feel like a series of sketches thinly pulled together by some overall plot. But you can't deny the childish glee of what transpires in Johnny English Strikes Again, only the hardest of hearts would fail to be moved by the goofy unending silliness of it all, even if it does feel like the world's moved on since the 2011 sequel, Johnny English Reborn.
Johnny English Strikes Again: Film Review

It may be a bit beneath those who can't see past their own snideness, but to be frank, Johnny English Strikes Again doesn't care for your snobbishness, or for a strong script or for the world which has turned repeatedly in its wake. In many ways, it's the antithesis of Mission: Impossible - Fallout, but ironically, both can co-exist at opposite ends of the spectrum.

It exists purely to amuse, not to score Oscars, and while it's affable and forgettable, its nostalgia for an England of yesteryear and a spy world of inherent silliness rather than Bond-style pomposity means that it feels like a cinematic cuddly jumper, well-executed and comforting - even if it does feel like an 80s TV sketch show throwback.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

KINGDOM HEARTS: VR Experience Announced

KINGDOM HEARTS: VR Experience Announced

Fans Can Relive Some of their Favourite Memories with Unique Interactive
Music Experience This Holiday Season

SYDNEY, 12th September 2018 – Leading up to the Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix Ltd., and Disney unveiled the KINGDOM HEARTS: VR Experience at the PlayStation® LineUp Tour in Japan. This brand-new, free PlayStation®VR experience will immerse fans in the KINGDOM HEARTS universe like never before and allow them to relive some of their fondest KINGDOM HEARTS memories.

Developed by Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. and SQUARE ENIX, the “Virtual Reality Projection Mapping” project expands the visual experience and invites fans to fully immerse themselves in a 10 minute interactive video featuring music from the KINGDOM HEARTS franchise. Fans can also unlock new content by simply playing through the KINGDOM HEARTSvirtual experience.

Related Links:
Instagram: @kingdomhearts

Road to Life is Strange 2 - Mini Documentary

Road to Life is Strange 2 - Mini Documentary


Hey guys,

The Life is Strange 2 Episode 1 release date is coming up at the end of the month at September 27th!

We’re really excited that the first episode of our all-new story of road trips, brotherhood, and coming-of-age is almost ready to land in the hands of players all over the world. We hope that the journey of Sean and Daniel Diaz will be just as great of an experience for you as it has been for us here at Square Enix and DONTNOD Entertainment.

In preparation for release, we wanted to give you one last sneak peek at Episode 1, and tell you a bit more about the thinking behind the direction of Life is Strange 2. So today, we are releasing ‘The Road to Life is Strange 2’, a short documentary about the making of Life is Strange 2, featuring exclusive never-before-seen footage of the game, a great look behind the scenes, and comments from Co-Creators Michel Koch, Raoul Barbet, and Jean-Luc Cano, as well as other key figures in the development team.

Watch The Road to Life is Strange 2 Short Documentary here:

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