Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Red Dead Online Beta: Upcoming Features, New Free Roam Event, Autumn Update Content and More

Red Dead Online Beta: Upcoming Features, New Free Roam Event, Autumn Update Content and More

Red Dead Online Beta: The Road Ahead

With each passing week we continue to add more to the Red Dead Online Beta, and the next four weeks will bring new Showdown Modes and Racing Modes, as well as a new Free Roam Event that launched earlier today. Alongside incorporating player feedback and addressing existing issues, the beta period has allowed us to lay the groundwork for the more advanced aspects of Red Dead Online still to come. Our experience of building other online worlds has helped us create a more evolved foundation for the open spaces of Red Dead Online, but the world of Red Dead Online will evolve in its own unique direction - one in which players have greater freedom to customize their play style uniquely over time, allowing them to sink into the world and their character and feel more connected to the experience of living as cowboys, outlaws and gunslingers in the wilds of 19th century America. 

The next major update is currently planned to arrive later this Autumn, bringing a host of feature upgrades and new content including:

The Hostility System
The Hostility system builds upon the anti-griefing measures added in February with smarter and responsive features that keep players immersed in the world through confrontations and PvP action. For example, players who have damage inflicted on them by attackers will be able to defend themselves without incurring Bounties or Hostility increases. Previously, the attacker and target would be marked as an enemy - now the attacker who inflicts damage will be immediately marked as an enemy to the attacked player; players will not accumulate Hostility increases for killing other players who are marked as an enemy.

Hostility increases will not apply within structured events such as Free Roam Events, Free Roam Missions, Showdowns and Races. Engaging in player vs player behaviors related to Free Roam missions will not incur Hostility increases, however attacking other players not engaged in the activity will cause your Hostility level to rise. 

The Hostility System has many more functions and will help balance experiences for all play styles.

Offensive and Defensive Playing Style Options
Some players just want to immerse themselves in the world, riding, hunting and fishing in peace. We want to offer these options while allowing players to coexist comfortably alongside other players in the world. The Offensive Playing Style is much like the current Free Roam play as we know it while the Defensive Playing Style is a more evolved version of the Passive Mode concept, designed for Red Dead Online’s more grounded experience - giving players more flexibility in how they interact with the world and at the same time de-emphasizing hostile contact with other players.

Choosing the Defensive option introduces balances that compliment a less confrontational approach: Defensive players cannot be lassoed by rival players - although if a Defensive player lassos another player, they’ll be removed from Defensive play and incur a significant Hostility level increase. Defensive players will trade the ability to lock on to other players for the benefit that other players will not be able to lock on to Defensive players.

While Defensive players can target and be targeted in free aim, they cannot deliver or receive critical hits – if a Defensive player is attacked with a headshot, they’ll survive and be able to defend themselves via the Hostility system or escape all while remaining Defensive.  There are several other adjustments that come with the Defensive Playing Style, all of which are built to work seamlessly with systems like Hostility and Bounties to keep all players rooted in the world.

Some other new additions include:

-       More A Land of Opportunities Missions: continue Jessica LeClerk’s search for revenge as you explore between the path of a Gunslinger or an Outlaw
-       New Free Roam Mission givers and mission types: Red Dead Online is set in the years before the single player story so expect to encounter a range of new and familiar faces as you traverse the frontier
-       The Introduction of dynamic events: fight off ambushes, initiate rescues, defend folks in need and more as you travel across the world

All this, plus updates to the character creator, restructured Daily Challenges that eliminate hostile gameplay in Free Roam and introduce streaks for bigger rewards, the return of another classic weapon, the LeMat Revolverfrom the original Red Dead Redemption, and much more.

In the coming months, we will continue to add features and content that will allow players to immerse themselves in the world of Red Dead Online in brand new ways as they choose what kind of life they will make for themselves in frontier America.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice New Gameplay Overview Trailer Available

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice New Gameplay Overview Trailer Available


Good afternoon,

Intense sword combat, surprise attacks, resurrection, enemy deception and more await! Get a glimpse of the impeccable gameplay mechanics that await your discovery in this game walkthrough video.


Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice releases on 22 March


Monday, 18 March 2019

Stray: DVD Review

Stray: DVD Review

Mixing in elements of Starred Up, the landscapes of New Zealand and edges of last year's great festival hit God's Own Country, Dustin Feneley's strikingly sparse Stray is a ferocious debut.

Focussing in on Kieran Charnock's Jack who finds himself on parole for GBH, it's the story of one man's attempted escape from the confines of his own tortured demons and prison. Trapped in central Otago and taunted by something within, Jack's routine is one of isolation above all else.

But that changes when he returns home one night to find Grace (Arta Dobroshi) in the woods - in one of the film's rare scenes of action. She's seeking refuge and Jack reluctantly agrees to provide shelter...

Stray: NZIFF Review

Stray is a feature in no hurry to get where it's going and it's all the better for it.

It takes at least half of the film before the protagonists meet, and there are very few words spoken, though Charnock offers up some extreme subtleties in how he changes his interactions when there's someone else, someone unknown in his orbit.

But it's in his interactions with others that the true pain starts to emerge, and Charnock channels the unease well. Equally Dobroshi, with her unfamiliarity and unease gives Grace an edge that makes their connection understandable and natural.

Feneley's made the film a lighting dream; from the clear crisp shots of the outside mountains to moments of intimacy within the cabin, the screen is rarely looked more enticing. The South Island's rarely looked better either, a combination of both desolation, isolation, beauty and despondency all wrapped up into one big screen parcel.

Its ending may seem abrupt and potentially up for debate, but Stray's connection and capability for exploring the human connection makes this debut a tenacious one and marks Feneley out as a Kiwi talent to watch.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Overlord: Blu Ray Review

Overlord: Blu Ray Review

Drawing more in truth from Bethesda Studios' video game Wolfenstein (complete with side missions - raid the castle, kill the baddies) than Dod Sno and revelling in its B-movie aspirations, Overlord is here for nothing but a good time.
Overlord: Film Review

Even if it could, in honesty, have lost 20 minutes of its near 2 hour run time.

A truly stunning and visceral opening drops a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears US troopers into France on June 6th 1944 - their sole mission is to take out a radio tower built on top of a church so the Allied Invasion can take place.

But they're not prepared for what their small number finds in the village...

Overlord: Film Review

Overlord starts brilliantly - the tension's ratcheted up as the troops get ready to make their drop, and the inevitable plays out. Meshing the war tropes with the everyman soldiers (and their cursory dialogue to give a degree of sympathy when they're offed) works well for it - but once it hits the ground, it doesn't run, but slightly stumbles in terms of pacing.

And while the B-movie body horror aspirations are on show early on, it's a full two-thirds of the film before Avery unleashes all the monster mash elements into a series of set pieces that bring the gore and jump scares, but not the over-show.

The science falls by the way side, and the allegories over Nazis and hell (talk early on of jackals, a tracking shot of a Jesus statue burning in a fire) are ramped up. Its only interest is in dispatching the "rotten sons of bitches" and in truth, Avery does it well, neither scrimping on what's expected or overplaying what's hinted.

Overlord: Film Review

It's a mix that works largely well, thanks in part to Adepo's sensitive everyman, man-with-a-moral-compass trooper, who tries to do the right thing, but finds, that in war, that's not always the best thing to do.

The body horror ramps up for the finale, one which can ludicrously be seen a way off, and feels like a cross between Wolfenstein, creature feature and a 2000AD story, but still manages to deliver what's expected.

Overlord is very much a case of a film that does exactly what it says on the tin, even if it does feel occasionally like it's holding back as it treads a fine line on the genre tightropes it's walking. The atmosphere is sustained throughout (even though earlier mentioned expeditious trim could have helped) and to be frank, while there are threads that could build a universe, as a stand-alone, one-off Nazi-killin, war story, brothers-in-arms, supernatural mix, it all comes together for an entertaining, if disposable, good time. 

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Anna and the Apocalypse: DVD Review

Anna and the Apocalypse: DVD Review

Christmas films are a notoriously tricky beast to negotiate; either they are a syrupy sentimental mix or they're loosely connected to the season and a miss.
Anna and The Apocalypse: Film Review

So it's heartening to report that Anna and The Apocalypse is a mix of horror, High School Musical, Shaun of the Dead and Christmas edges.

A well cast, and down-to-earth Hunt is Anna, a teenager looking to get out of the small Scottish town she lives in. With a plan to take a gap year rather than go to university, but unable to tell her father (Benton) that that's what she wants, Anna's trapped.

Anna and The Apocalypse: Film Review

But she finds her world changed when a pandemic suddenly sweeps her corner of Scotland...

In truth, Anna and The Apocalypse is more a fun that's a light and fluffy genre rejoinder to both horror and the musical. Meshing poppy power ballad songs that follow the usual trick of revealing feelings, some impressive choreography and throwing in pop culture references early on, the film's clearly hellbent on being a Buffy-style musical via John Hughes' sensibilities.

However, it kind of works, with a degree of joie de vivre and Edgar Wright quick cut editing homage carrying it through.

It helps greatly that Hunt's engaging and affable, as she negotiates a moping best friend who's in love with her, an ex who's gone from nice guy to bully and a father who doesn't want to see his daughter go. There's a heart and relatability to her performance that's hard to deny.

Anna and The Apocalypse: Film Review

Occasionally, it lapses close to parody, and silliness, but in terms of the festive season, it sits nicely within the pantheon of Christmas films that are slightly awry from what's expected.

Its goofy edges and self-obsessed teens, wrapped up in their own issues, rather than the global concerns collide nicely to make a charming film that meshes genres to pleasing and surprisingly emotional effect. 

Friday, 15 March 2019

Metro Exodus: PS4 Review

Metro Exodus: PS4 Review

Developed by 4A Games
Platform: PS4

Metro: Last Light was a riveting experience.
Metro Exodus: PS4 Review

But Metro: Exodus has taken that to another level, with the latest game from Dmitry Glukhovsky's novels revelling in the atmospherics and diving deeper into the world.

Metro Exodus: PS4 ReviewIn the latest first person shooter, you find yourself as Artyom in the Russian post-apocalyptic wastelands, where shooting and horror are the only constants. As if dealing with post rag-tag humans isn't bad enough, there are also mutated horrific creatures to deal with as well.

But as if survival isn't enough, this game is not your typical run and gun and hope to survive. Pulling in elements of maintenance as well, Metro: Exodus delights in keeping you aware of the surroundings and ensuring your equipment is always in tiptop condition.

Beginning within a nuclear winter and spanning a year, it's about survival and dealing with more unstable elements than ever before as you begin to search for life beyond the Metro...

Beautifully realised and with some truly edge-of-the-seat jump scares, Metro Exodus makes a case for one of the best survivalist shooters out there - from the small details like dirt on your gas mask to some real jolts, the game's prided itself on being atmospheric in extremis, and engrossing as it plays out.
Metro Exodus: PS4 Review

There's the usual QTEs in place, and the game does style over substance at times, but that doesn't detract from what Deep Silver is trying to achieve with it. In some ways, in terms of style, it's a mix of Far Cry's New Dawn post-apocalypse world and Doom style creatures piling in on you as it swirls up stealth and gunplay in equal amount. There are a few issues with long load times here and there, but with a game looking like this, it's to be expected - though one can only hope long term, it's sorted.

All in all, Metro: Exodus is an engrossing game, one which shows that once the story mechanics are truly realised and the game elements folded in, a post-apocalyptic world can be more than its cliches would suggest.

New Avengers Endgame trailer drops

New Avengers Endgame trailer drops

A Brand new Avengers Endgame trailer has released, showing new suits for the gang and a new look for Captain Marvel.

Watch it below

New Avengers Endgame trailer drops

Destroyer: Film Review

Destroyer: Film Review

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Whitford
Director: Karyn Kusama

As thrilling as it can be to see Nicole Kidman completely transformed in this role of Erin Bell, the intricacies of what Karyn Kusama has constructed may lead some to recall the winding narrative of True Detective.
Destroyer: Film Review

Kidman is detective Erin Bell, who discovers at a crime scene that a body has a connection to a case from her past, and the possibility that a gang boss (Kebbell) she once believed dead is somehow back.

Setting out on a dogged trail, Bell finds the dots from her past reconnecting as the former LAPD detective gets more deeply involved.

Destroyer is a hard film to endure at times, such is its unrelenting commitment to bleakness.

And despite a transformed Kidman's tenacious grip on proceedings, she's occasionally  a hard emotional and unempathetic character to latch on to, no matter how intriguing proceedings are.

But where Destroyer triumphs is in layering a narrative that takes a little time to crack.

As the pieces on the board shift and re-align, things start to fall into place as they should, eventually rewarding you for your efforts. And it's here that Destroyer's strength seems to appear, thanks to
Kidman's gritty turn and the fact she's shuffling through past mistakes of her life.

It may be difficult to love, but it's not difficult to salute Destroyer for doing something that feels different, even if parts of the story are traditional in many ways. It could have done with some more urgency at times, but for now Destroyer shows that a combination of killer acting and material are no bad thing.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Hotel Mumbai: Film Review

Hotel Mumbai: Film Review

Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs, Anupam Kher
Director: Anthony Maras

Tense, claustrophobic and never once exploitative, Hotel Mumbai's recreation of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks is simultaneously nail-biting and verging on the factual.

Dev Patel is a worker at the Taj Hotel, one of those places targeted by Pakistani militants who launch a series of attacks to wreak chaos. Trapped inside and with time running out, a group of disparate guests and hotel workers try to survive.

Hotel Mumbai has a sense of claustrophobia, a sense of terror and a sense of the unending mercilessness of terrorism. As the almost robotic servants carry out their master's bidding communicated to them via phone lines, there's a true feeling of horror as the attacks take place, a relentless march against the perversion and hatred of other's ways of life.

But Maras, while delivering an almost workman-like and straight forward retelling of events, never once slips into the exploitative, giving it a feeling of something sickening growing with dread throughout.
Hotel Mumbai: Film Review

The thing with Hotel Mumbai is that the film's unswerving dedication to the unfolding reality of a terrorist attack helps it to grip, and leaving you twisting in its grimmer edges.

What Maras is smart enough to do is to realise that within the horror of every crisis, there is humanity to be found at every level.

While he does use the story of Hammer and  Boniadi's baby being trapped and separated with their sitter to promote some tension, he's wise enough to not milk it for all it's worth and just leave you teetering on the edge of your seat. Slivers of background provide enough to guide an audience in, and don't feel like sentimental set-up sap.

It's this element of sensitivity with the film's truly awful premise that helps ground Hotel Mumbai into a gripping and sickening watch.

Equally Patel and Kher show the humanity of the staff and the humility of their approach that the guest comes first, no matter what the situation. It's horrifying in many ways, but like any disaster film, it's the human elements which shine through in Hotel Mumbai to keep the light burning.

Ultimately, Hotel Mumbai's commitment to the reality of the Mumbai terror attacks means the film passes without direct judgement on those perpetrating them. There's a subtlety in the condemnation that does play out, but not an overtness - it's a key difference in making this disaster movie crowd-pleasing and turning tragedy into gripping drama.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: DVD Review

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: DVD Review

In truth, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald struggles to justify carrying on the franchise into five-films beast.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: Film Review

From the pen of JK Rowling and expanding on what was a flimsy compendium of creatures, the latest picks up the end thread of the appearance of nasty wizard Grindelwald (Depp, bleached white, and downplaying the menace for once) and ups the ante with talk of shattering the fragile peace between the wizarding world and the Muggles.

Finding himself in the centre of all this is Eddie Redmayne's awkward, but openly honest and pure-of-heart Newt Scamander, still being punished for his altruistic actions in Fantastic Beasts.

To say more, is to break the marketing omerta imposed on all reviewers, but suffice to say the problem with Fantastic Beasts 2 is that it gets tied up in its own world, starts talking only to its own and not the average Muggle who's not that keen on every throwback.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: Film Review

Character arcs feel unformed with one twist feeling unearned and emotionally underwhelming, demanding you appreciate them because you met them in the last film, rather than for their own journey.

And for a film whose subtitle is The Crimes of Grindelwald, Grindelwald himself carries out scant any crimes - although given the uproar of Johnny Depp's casting as the veiled Trumpian baddie, some may strongly disagree.

The major problem is a lot of what's delivered here is swathed in large amounts of world-building, of set-up and of promises further down the line; sub-plots swirl and float, leaving undernourished edges to waft among the murkily executed CGI.

Of the principal cast, Depp is serviceable and serves really to bookend the film; Redmayne and Waterston conjure up the same kind of tension that was last seen executed by Edward and Bella in The Twilight Saga; and Law brings a heart and earnestness to a young Dumbledore which is sorely needed to anchor the film's lack of anything else.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: Film Review

Ultimately, the Fantastic Beasts film series needs to deliver more of a case for being fantastic and bring the magic back to the world - and feel like less of an ill-conceived thinly-veiled cash grab to extend a dying franchise. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: DVD Review

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: DVD Review

Possibly the best-looking film of the year, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' fairytale approach is the one thing strongly in its favour.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: Film Review

Foy plays Clara, whose life is staccato following the death of her mother; with her father trying to ensure Christmas still happens, even though nobody is interested, Clara's given a gift from her departed mother - a locked egg that says everything she seeks is within.

During attending an annual festive ball, Clara finds herself pulled into the magical world that's facing danger from Mother Ginger (Mirren). Recruited by Sugar Plum (Knightley in Marilyn Monroe squeaky voice territory) to help, Clara finds her loyalties torn as she tries to save the realms from falling into war.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms's production aesthetic is second-to-none, and is Oscar-worthy in extremis.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: Film Review

Every sequence oozes with sumptuous details, with figures from fantasy tales standing out and with each scene dripping with colour and attention to detail. It's almost overwhelming, but does go some way to setting the fantasy tone needed for the film, whose plot sadly falls flat and feels uninspired and underwhelming at best.

The message is easy to decipher from early on, and even though Foy tries, she can't quite summon enough of the depth needed to sell the lighter story to an audience. Knightley's flouncy Sugar Plum is a joy to behold, although Mirren's baddie Mother Ginger feels underwritten and inconsequential.

Ultimately, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms feels more shallow than a tale as old as time should.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: Film Review

Its fantastical visual images may capture the audience of a younger generation, but in truth, they may get restless later on with the film as it ploughs a furrow between whimsy and empowerment message.

It may have some elements of visual pleasure, but The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is more a confectionary headrush than a nourishing lasting pleasure. 

Monday, 11 March 2019

Creed II: Blu Ray Review

Creed II: Blu Ray Review

Essentially lacking the knockout blow that helped the first Creed achieve a technical win at the box office, Creed II does much you'd expect a film about pugilist pride to handle and still delivers a solid bout in the cinematic ring - even if you've seen a lot of it before in Rocky IV.
Creed II: Film Review

This time around, Michael B Jordan's Adonis Creed is on the top of the world - having won the Heavyweight champion title, and with his relationship with singer girlfriend Bianca (Thompson, making good of a role that barely calls on her for more than support and a few rote relationship scenes).

But when Ivan Drago, the song of the boxer who killed his father in the ring challenges him to a bout, Creed has no choice but to rise to the challenge, with or without the help of Rocky Balboa.

Creed II is as formulaic a sequel as you could expect for a boxing franchise that has spawned more than a few of them in its time. That's to say it very much wants to hit the beats of an expected sequel, and does so with veritable ease and aplomb.

Creed II: Film Review
However, without Coogler at the helm this time, and with a script that relies heavily on sports commentators providing the exposition via match commentary, it feels somewhat flat and lacking the killer punch, preferring instead to provide the requirements like a training montage and some inspiring speeches when necessary.

Jordan makes the best of his pride-before-a-fall arc, and there's a lot to be viewed in the hubris of the boxer and the subtext of American arrogance against Russian brute strength.

Equally Muntenau as Drago's son does much with what little he has as well, with hints of family tensions nicely put in place, and cinematography showing the icy conditions of Russia against the relationship opulence of Creed.

Creed II: Film Review

A reliance on the aforementioned commentary leads to a feeling the film's been heavily subsidised by pay-per-view channels, and robs Creed II of the kind of emotional depth and heft that was present the first time around. And what's outside the ring is more emotionally hefty than what's in - even if it does occasionally veer into heavy-handed territory.

All that said, while this doesn't quite go the full 12 rounds of cinematic excellence, it does provide a solid title card and spirited defence of the sports sequel, thanks in part to Jordan and also a taciturn Stallone as Balboa who's terrified of history repeating itself.

But with moments like an enforced family rift laid on heavier than repeated body blows raining down, Creed II emerges a victor only on a technicality, rather than delivering a knockout from beginning to end. 

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Win a copy of Robin Hood

Win a copy of Robin Hood

The Legend You Know. The Story You Don't.
Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) a war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander (Jamie Foxx) mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown.

A thrilling action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight choreography, and a timeless romance.

Thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy of Robin Hood.

To win all you have to do is email your details and the word ROBIN HOOD to this address: 

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Win a copy of Disney's The Nutcracker & the Four Realms

 Win a copy of Disney's The Nutcracker & the Four Realms

Win a copy of Disney's The Nutcracker & the Four RealmsDisney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”
The Stunning, Magical Adventure Arrives Home on DVD, Blu-ray™ and 4K UHD™  Mar.6

Featuring a star-studded cast, including Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy and Misty Copeland,
with Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman

Disney’s dazzling adventure “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” - inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale and the beloved ballet “The Nutcracker” - carried audiences along with 14-year-old Clara (Mackenzie Foy) to a magical, mysterious world with breath-taking performances by Misty Copeland plus sweets, snowflakes, soldiers, scurrying mice … and no shortage of surprises. 

Destined to become an annual viewing tradition for adventurers of all ages, the film arrives home instantly with never-before-seen extras and deleted scenes on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™ and DVD March 6, 2019.

To win all you have to do is email your details and the word NUTCRACKER  to this address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Friday, 8 March 2019

Puzzle: DVD Review

Puzzle: DVD Review

Generally sweet-natured, but prone to cliches like 'getting all the wrong pieces right', Puzzle's gentle domestic drama is anchored by a rather muted Kelly MacDonald and a typically charismatic Irrfan Khan.

Macdonald is Agnes, a stay-at-home mum, who never went to college and has never left home.

Surrounded by her Bible group church friends and catering to her loving, but oblivious, husband, Agnes is a shrew, ignored largely by all.

The dynamic's set early on, when Agnes is fussing around a birthday party, apparently for her husband - but a clever twist reveals the truth.

However, at that party, Agnes gets a 1000 piece jigsaw and sitting down with it one day, discovers she has the ability to piece it together easily and quickly. This awakens something in her, shaking her from her dull bubble to a degree and she heads to buy more.

Puzzle: NZIFF Review

Her interest's piqued in an ad for a puzzle companion, leading her to meet Irrfan Khan's Robert, a charming man. Hiding the visits to prepare for a competition from her husband, Agnes begins a clandestine life.

Puzzle is entirely predictable and while one of the narrative moments is a bit of a leap, the coming alive of the subdued American housewife is not a new path to tread.

But it's done with such geniality and such refusal to label all the parties as anything less than human that when the shocks come (such as they are), they do pack the required resonance.

Macdonald's dialled down housewife feels largely rounded, and the opening of this flower into the puzzle sun is handled nicely. Equally, Khan's charm and delicious way with some of the script swathes the whole thing in a reality that's both engaging and surprisingly pedestrian.

Director Marc Turteltaub is not interested in pulling any real punches (until the end, which feels a little cheap and quick) and the result is that Puzzle is perhaps more a collection of its parts, than the overall picture.

Puzzle's less a film about competition, and more a piece about finding a place in life (spot the parallels, kids) but as a gentle genial outing at the movies, it does what it needs to do - but it does little more than this, despite a very human performance from Kelly Macdonald and Irrfan Khan. 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk: Film Review

If Beale Street Could Talk: Film Review

Cast: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Ed Skrein
Director: Barry Jenkins

Based on James Baldwin's novel, and opening with a quote from him, the gorgeously shot If Beale Street Could Talk is once again proof that Jenkins knows lighting perfection from shot to shot.
If Beale Street Could Talk: Film Review

Told across different time periods, Jenkins' latest is the story of childhood friends and lovers Tish (Layne) and Fonny (James) who in the 1970s in downtown Harlem found themselves the victims of an egregious crime of the times.

When Fonny's arrested and imprisoned for the rape of a neighbourhood woman, Tish vows to fight to clear his name and get him out of jail. But their plans for a future together are derailed by constant stops and starts in the quest to reunite.

If Beale Street Could Talk is lyrical poetry personified.

Much like Moonlight did, the film takes a deep dive into its subjects, placing them front and centre of every shot, bathed in different lighting moments to evoke mood and internal turmoil and emotion.
If Beale Street Could Talk: Film Review

But it also conveys the deep love of the duo, with many shots being close ups of their face as the slow, quiet and deliberate tale weaves its web over the audience. However, it has to be said, despite the layered performances of the central leads, and the sterling work done by King in a supporting role as the mother, the film feels like it holds you away at emotional arm's length.

It's an interesting stance, with its languid pace doing much to keep the audience at bay, and stopping the anger at the injustice rising up. Sure, there are some racist cops of the period, that feel like they've been ripped from the fringes of movie Detroit; and there's some commentary on life of the time, but there's never the righteous indignation being given the chance to rise up and continue.

It's perhaps Jenkins' approach to the story which has been told time and time again; he cares not for the well-worn tropes (all of which are present and correct), but is rather more consumed with the details of the situation, lacing all of it with a trembling OST that evocatively quivers when needed.

As commentary on the time, and the period as well as the crimes, If Beale Street Could Talk falls short - but what it does provide is something more mellow, more intimate and perhaps more astounding because of it.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but If Beale Street Could Talk is a masterclass of how to make a film and a well-worn subject look incredibly good, deeply rich and resonant, even if it does feel emotionally aloof.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Captain Marvel: Film Review

Captain Marvel: Film Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why Marvel's latest solid outing Captain Marvel doesn't quite fly in the way that perhaps you'd be expecting.
Captain Marvel: Film Review

Is the fact that in a decade and twenty films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is the first with a female lead, giving the film a kind of timely resonance that's culturally mirrored in the Time's Up movement?

Or is the fact that a deeply feminist film of a woman hero who's been told to suppress her emotions as they don't make her strong suffers from an abundance of mansplaining and on-the-nose music cues?

Whatever it is, Captain Marvel's Brie Larson deserves the accolades, even if the material isn't quite up to her stellar standards.

Larson plays amnesiac Carol Danvers, who we join in space as she's briefed on a mission to infiltrate Skrull (who look like 80s comic Eagle's Doomlord) territory and retrieve a Kree spy. But when Vers, as she's initially known, is captured by Mendelsohn's Talos, she glimpses a prior life, setting her on a collision course with both 1990s Earth and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Jackson).

Captain Marvel is an intriguing non-linear film and uses a softer methodology to impart yet another origin story.

Ahead of Avengers: Endgame, it's more of a necessity than a creative gamble, and because of that there are parts of Captain Marvel which feel uneven and even, whisper it, uncertain.

Larson's ferocity works best when she has something to work with. And while the trope of the amnesiac superhero trying to remember who they are is an all-too familiar one, there are moments when Danvers feels more hollow than she should be, and beholden only to what others make her.

Certainly, it's a problem for any film introducing a character with literal deus-ex-machina powers and how to make them realistic and relatable.
Captain Marvel: Film Review

Larson gives her all, and the film's spunk comes from uniting her with Fury in 90s US (even if the film's heavy-handed inclusion of 90s throwbacks groans from excessive over-use), setting up the usual fish-out-of-water shenanigans and then immediately smartly side-lining them. Jackson clearly has fun here, and Larson helps him come to life in some scenes that crackle along.

Rising above the script's duller edges, Larson gives the film an emotional core that's a hollow cypher at the start. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in scenes with her former fellow pilot, played by Lashana Lynch. Their understated interplay feels warm, human and rife with a history that's hinted at rather than explicitly explored.

Equally successful is Mendelsohn's Talos, a Skree baddie who has depth and nuance (and an Aussie accent through the prosthetics).

While the final act has Doctor Strange level of trippiness and spectacle, sillier edges start to filter through as the "Without us, you're only human" message threatens to overwhelm what is, at times, underwhelming.

What cripples portions of Captain Marvel is that the makers are so determined to proudly fly the banner for "the message" that they occasionally take a sledgehammer to crush open a nut.

A fight scene to Just A Girl negates some of Danvers' power and feels like a back-handed compliment, whereas a sequence of Danvers' repeated rising up against various knockbacks could be dismissed as manipulative and over-stated when taken out of context.

But placed within an audience of young boys and girls, this moment, coupled with the fact that Captain Marvel is retrofitted into continuity and is shown to be more powerful than any of the Avengers brings an important and timely message home with some subtlety - for girls robbed of cinematic figureheads and for boys who need to see the woman can be more powerful.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Far Cry: New Dawn: PS4 Review

Far Cry: New Dawn: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4
Released by Ubisoft

17 years after the end of Far Cry 5, when the world went boom in a nuclear dawn, a new world has arisen.
Far Cry: New Dawn: PS4 Review

Confined underground, the residents of Hope County have lived in bunkers awaiting the time it's mostly safe to emerge in the post Joseph Seed world. And so it is that Ubisoft returns to Montana for the spin-off to Far Cry 5, a game that in all honesty, does little to mess with the formula, but tinkers around the edges to engage you further.

As usual with Far Cry, you are the protagonist, facing off against a hopelessly written antagonist -
and given a bit of grind work to do to unlock perks, and upgrades for weapons.

The chief antagonists in the post-apocalyptic world are the Highwaymen, a group of gaudy gangsters who are largely dressed in motocross gear and led by vicious twins Mickey and Lou. Your mission is to pull together a resistance, build up your base of Prosperity, explore the world and of course, save the day.
Far Cry: New Dawn: PS4 Review

The interesting thing about Far Cry New Dawn is that the tinkering around the edges actually engages, even if occasionally it feels repetitious.

From clearing an outpost to deciding whether to let it loose to your enemy again before trying to take it back, New Dawn brings a harder edge to some of the proceedings, forcing you to rethink some of your actions and strategies. It's a clever touch that adds much to the game, and makes you think tactics, rather than just killing.

It's also good that New Dawn has a few familiar faces throughout to make it feel like the world's still there - and while the more colourful edges of pinks and graffiti hide some of the darker edges of the story (survivors eating dog meat etc), the familiarity of the world from Far Cry 5 is a nice touch. But equally, if you didn't play that, it's not alienating.
Far Cry: New Dawn: PS4 Review

On the down side, parts of the game do feel repetitive, meaning missions are a necessity rather than a joy. And micro-transactions are a disappointment too.

The twins are such blank slate characters, not a patch on prior villains from the series, making every encounter feel rote and yawn-worthy.

Ultimately, Far Cry: New Dawn works if you want to put your mind at the door and fight on for what you're after - it offers hope for the future installments, and is still worth immersing yourself within.

Riverdale, Beverly Hills 90210 actor Luke Perry dies

Riverdale, Beverly Hills 90210 actor Luke Perry dies

Riverdale and Beverly Hills 90210 actor Luke Perry has died.

He was 52.
Riverdale, Beverly Hills 90210 actor Luke Perry dies

The actor had suffered a massive stroke last Wednesday, and unfortunately didn't recover.

The same day he fell ill, it was announced Beverly Hills 90210 would be returning with the original cast.

The Prodigy's Keith Flint has died

The Prodigy's Keith Flint has died

Shocking news out of England this morning that The Prodigy's demon-haired front man Keith Flint has died.
The Prodigy's Keith Flint has died

He was just 49.

It's believed he took his own life over the weekend, according to Liam Howlett of the band.

The band fell into infamy in the 90s with songs like Firestarter, Breathe and the notoriously banned Smack My Bitch Up,

Monday, 4 March 2019

Win a Marvel's Captain Marvel prize pack

Win a Marvel's Captain Marvel prize pack

To celebrate the release of Captain Marvel, in cinemas March 7th, you can win one of two Captain Marvel prize packs!

Each pack contains
  • 1 x Captain Marvel Hat
  • 1 x Captain Marvel Notebook
  • 1 x Captain Marvel Backpack

See one of the universe’s most powerful heroes in cinemas nationwide March 7th, 2019 

Brie Larson stars as Captain Marvel, in the latest film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Go Higher. Further. Faster.

To win all you have to do is email your details and the word MARVEL to this address: 

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Robin Hood: DVD Review

Robin Hood: DVD Review

This is not the story you know.

So intones the voiceover that bookends the 2018 version of Robin Hood, a quite frankly baffling piece of film that seems intent on making a Call Of Duty version of the myth, and setting it against a backdrop of 80s rock video pyrotechnics.

Egerton is Robin of Loxley, a Lord of the manor of Nottingham, whose life is changed when he's drafted up to the crusades and torn from the love of his life Marian (Hewson, at times channelling a younger Emily Blunt). On returning injured from the Crusades, Robin (Rob to his mates, bizarrely) finds he's been declared dead - and teaming up with Foxx's John, he begins to rob from the Sheriff of Nottingham's war taxes to help.

But John advises him the best way to upset the apple cart, is to cosy up to the sheriff...

Robin Hood: Film Review

The 2018 version of Robin Hood is a film that's more about the fast cuts, and action than the subtlety and nuance of other versions.

Mixing comedy as well, Robin Hood feels like a hybrid of so many different elements from its Iraq war style Crusades opening through to its death-metal pyrotechnics; nothing quite gels as it should.

And while Egerton delivers a variant of his Kingsman character, and gives The Hood some vigilante justice elements that wouldn't feel out of place in a CW series, there's very much a feeling of Foxx playing Alfred to Egerton's Bruce Wayne in the start of Batman Begins.

There's a hint of Bathurst playing fast and loose with style here and trying to set up a sort of Robin Hood cinematic universe (implied by its end), but what transpires is a film that flounders for any identity of its own, other than a downpat action wannabe.

It's set up well as an idea, but Robin Hood fails to hit the mark as much as it should, making it feel like a splendid misfire more than anything else.