Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The Favourite: Blu Ray Review

The Favourite: Blu Ray Review

Building on the comic unease that's helped Yorgos Lanthimos carve a career and saw him hit a more mainstream audience with The Lobster, The Favourite emerges late in the year as both a potential award winner and best of the year, thanks to its delicious and devilish nastiness.
The Favourite: Film Review

Set in the court of Queen Anne (Colman, delivering on multiple fronts and without ever missing a beat) in 18th Century England, it's a story of rivalry and a period piece that's clothed in black humour.
Anne is frail, and Lady Sarah (a curt and crisp Weisz) rules the country in her stead; but when her cousin Abigail (Stone) enters the court looking for work, Lady Sarah finds her world unsettled and the power dynamics changed forever.

The Favourite is a combination of a triptych of actors at their absolute pinnacle, dealing with material that's superlative.

Boiling down a microcosm of social interaction over a two hour period, filtering it through a prism of cutting dialogue and dynamics and then playing it out with gusto, The Favourite's acerbic touches make for greatly rewarding times in the cinema.

The Favourite: Film Review

Lanthimos' use of fisheye lenses and whip-pan shots within the court are dizzying and exciting, a call to arms for how period movies could be presented.

But it's his actors who make this film what it is. From the fact all of the men within the film are varying degrees of buffoons to Olivia Colman's utterly compelling turn from the start, The Favourite is a delicacy worth devouring.

Balanced with off-kilter humour, and moments that drip with double meaning, Lanthimos builds an atmosphere of uncertainty from the frailties of humanity, picking at insecurities like scabs, and exposing the wounds below.

The Favourite: Film Review

The central trio are more than worthy of praise, with the cameras lingering on moments that offer glimpses into what's bubbling deep below. This is more than a film that delights in the details, it's one which sees Stone, Weisz and Colman utterly deliver on their characters by offering so much with so little.

Colman in particular delivers a powerhouse performance of pain and conflict, as gout debilitates her and leaves her at the whims of those around her. But she has a fire too when provoked, and Lanthimos' desire to showcase it adds to the power. Stone and Weisz make for delicious sparring partners as the power dynamics shift, and the claws come out.

But The Favourite is more than a film exposing female insecurities and weaknesses; it's a portrait of strength under fire, and a towering movie that is commanding from beginning to end. 

Monday, 29 April 2019

Win a double pass to see LONG SHOT

Win a double pass to see LONG SHOT

To celebrate the release of Long Shot, in cinemas May 2, you can win a double pass, thanks to StudioCanal NZ.


Win a double pass to see LONG SHOTCharlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is one of the most influential women in the world.  Smart, sophisticated, and accomplished, she’s a powerhouse diplomat with a talent for…well, mostly everything.

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a gifted and free spirited journalist with an affinity for trouble. The two have nothing in common, except that she was his babysitter and first crush. When Fred unexpectedly reconnects with Charlotte, he charms her with his self-deprecating humor and his memories of her youthful idealism.

As she prepares to make a run for the Presidency, Charlotte hires Fred as her speechwriter, much to the dismay of her trusted advisors.

A fish out of water on Charlotte’s elite team, Fred is unprepared for her glamourous lifestyle in the limelight. However, sparks fly as their unmistakable chemistry leads to a round-the-world romance and a series of unexpected and dangerous incidents.

From the celebrated team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, creators of outrageous comedy hits including This Is The End and Neighbors, LONG SHOT also features O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Den of Thieves, Straight Outta Compton), Andy Serkis (Black Panther, Planet of the Apes), June Diane Raphael (The Disaster Artist, Grace & Frankie), Ravi Patel (TV’s Master of None) and Alexander Skarsgård (TV’s Big Little Lies and The Legend of Tarzan).  The film was directed by Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies).

Long Shot, In cinemas May 2 Rating: M

Thanks to StudioCanal, you can win a double pass to see LONG SHOT 

To win all you have to do is email your details and the word LONG SHOT to this address: darrensworldofentertainment@gmail.com or CLICK HERE NOW  

Good luck!

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Breaking Habits: Film Review

Breaking Habits: Film Review

Director: Rob Ryan

Starting off with a killer hook and a great pre-titles sequence does little for what follows in Rob Ryan's Breaking Habits.
Breaking Habits: Film Review

The idea of nuns dealing drugs is neatly encapsulated in the opening, where star of the piece Sister Kate reveals how an alcoholic woman came up to her begging for help, and how she in turn offered her the idea of marijuana.

But in truth, what follows in Breaking Habits meanders greatly, delivering little on its kooky premise other than a formulaic look at Sister Kate and her Sisters of the valley who grow medicinal cannabis Stateside, much to the chagrin of the local law.

The film offers up some kind of great confrontation between law enforcement and ideologies as America starts to struggle with the use of medicinal cannabis, and the country begins to feel over-run.

Combined with the ease of access to guns, and the desire to defend their crops, there's a real feeling that something is brewing here.
Breaking Habits: Film Review

But what Ryan presents is nothing of the high promised in the pre-titles.

And disappointingly, conflict resolves itself in the kind of way that feels like a child resolving a story of their own writing.

Breaking Habits is an amiable enough look at the Sisters, along with evocations of how marijuana saved some of their own, but it never really delves deep enough below the surface to provide anything of depth.

Early reveals show tragedy in Sister Kate's past, and there's a current problem holding court over them, but Ryan's so keen to flit about that the film never fully grabs you as it proceeds.

Much like a medicinal high, the rush is palpable - but the comedown as this documentary drags on is severe, and disappointingly, a bit dull.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Days Gone: PS4 Review

Days Gone: PS4 Review

Developed by Bend Studio
Platform: PS4

Days Gone is the big hope for new IP for 2019.
Days Gone: PS4 Review

But in truth, a lot of what the game does has been done before, and what emerges in the final wash, is a game that somehow lacks its own USP, despite looking mightily impressive and using a dynamic weather system to gaming advantage.

However, there are moments of open world survival game Days Gone where the mash up of Last Of Us survival and stealth, Walking Dead style zombies and camp complications, Sons of Anarchy bromance of the lead and his best mate and Far Cry series of camps and missions actually feels like it gels into something cohesive - even if it does fully lack some of the emotional heft of the great singleplayer PlayStation titles.

Beginning with the protagonist, Deacon St John, the game starts two years before you begin, showing how society began to crumble as a mysterious infection swept through America.
Days Gone: PS4 Review

St John's beau, Sarah, is stabbed by accident, and his co-gang rider Boozer is seriously injured, leaving Deeks to make an awful choice - and one that haunts him in the two years when we rejoin the game. Most of the game is about finding a reason, a reason to survive, a reason to continue and a reason to hope.

Still riding around the wilds of the Northwest, this outlaw is a loner, spending days scavenging scrap avoiding the Freakers (a zombie-style nasty) and what's left of the dregs of humanity (the human animalistic Rippers, roaming marauders and those in charge of running various safe houses).

But Deacon finds himself smack bang in the middle of humanity's best and worst again as he discovers not everything he thought he knew was true.

While Days Gone stumbles through its opening chapters, with some truly awful dialogue (chiefly between Deacon and his biker buddy Boozer and sounding like Kiefer Sutherland rejected them from episodes of 24) and interactions, some implausibly long loading screens, there are moments when the game manages to rise above its shakier edges, long loading screens and the repetitive nature of the fetch and retrieve missions.

Aside from the weapons and crafting, the Red Dead Redemption style need to ensure your bike's always in top notch form and fuelled up, the Last Of Us options to customise melee weapons and your own bike, and the back and forth between camps, the game's internal logic cannot be faulted.
Days Gone: PS4 Review

Amid the all-too-familiar conspiracy which emerges, and the inevitable tropes of the research facilities which lie scattered around the world, the Freakers are a truly terrifying enemy, something akin to perhaps some of the greatest zombies committed to a game.

Singularly, they can be dispatched with melee combat - but as a group, they're nigh on undefeatable.

Several missions see you needing to infiltrate research facilities to access various health benefits - but as these have lain dormant and unpowered for the 730-plus days since the outbreak, it's up to you to find the resources to get into them.

But giving them power fires up the automated messages which blare out from speakers and across the countryside, attracting more creatures and limiting your chances of survival. In one such mission, I neglected to turn off a speaker and thinking nothing of it, having got what I needed, I ran. But driving through later on, the sound had attracted an utterly insurmountable horde that could not be defeated - this is a world that carries on even if you're nowhere around.

With the Mad Max style Ripper gang waiting to pick you off, there's a great deal of uncertainty in the countryside, and with a soundtrack that ripples with unease, the mood created by Bend Studio is palpable.

The game looks great, and the handling of the biking is solid too, which is a plus, given how much time you spend on the road.

Littered with flashbacks, Days Gone finds its emotional core, but to be frank, it's weaker when compared to the litany of what's already passed in terms of gaming narratives. Occasionally, the review build stuttered with the scope of what the open world was trying to present, and has frozen, but hopefully early patches should remove the niggles here and there.
Days Gone: PS4 Review

Ultimately, Days Gone is a solid PlayStation exclusive, that sadly, despite all of its efforts and outside of the biker element, struggles to find its own voice.

It's not the best the platform's ever had, but it's not the worst either. It does recall large swathes of The Last Of Us, and it is perhaps a pity that it never fully emerges with a strong independent voice of its own - no matter how beautiful it looks.

It does, however, muddy the waters of survivalist games a little, making every side you encounter feeling like they have something to hide - and if the familiarity comes because of a genre which is crowded, Days Gone is a worthy contribution to the pantheon.

However good it looks, you can't help but wish it had a stronger voice to shout above the crowded genre marketplace it's been launched into.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Crackdown 3: XBox One Review

Crackdown 3: XBox One Review

Developed by
Platform: XBox One

Quite frankly, Crackdown 3 looks out of place on the XBox One platform.
Crackdown 3: XBox One Review

Cartoony in extremis, with hardly any lyricism gone into its execution, visual or otherwise, the game feels out of place in this current generation.

A long time in development, the game's simple MO is a case of shooting, collecting orbs and jumping higher than you ever have before. It's not exactly taxing, nor in many ways does it remotely purport to be.

You get to play an agent in New Providence, a city that looks like it's a cartoon Blade Runner, complete with refugees circling around. Gaining powers from collecting orbs, and various agility points, you get to take out a series of bosses and unlock the world around, while fulfilling the high points of a fairly generic story that feels like it's ripped from the 1980s.
Crackdown 3: XBox One Review

And in many ways, the gameplay mechanics all feel ripped from the 1980s too - you have to collect ammo by clicking a button, rather than running over it, and you can lift and hurtle objects in the most rudimental of ways.

It all seems so familiar and yet also so depressingly unoriginal.

A mix of Saints Row silliness and cartoon edges, Crackdown 3 has potential. There's some joy to be had in the bounding around, shooting and collecting, but it's a fairly hollow pleasure to be frank.
Crackdown 3: XBox One Review

You won't sink hundreds of hours into Crackdown 3 - in truth, you may only just cobble together a few of fun before tedium sets in. Free on the GamePass service, it's probably at a reasonable price, because as a standalone release, it's got the feel of something that's sorely out of touch and ever so slightly three decades too late.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Win The Avengers collection on 4K Blu Ray

Win The Avengers collection on 4K Blu Ray

To celebrate the release of Avengers: Endgame, in cinemas now, you have the chance to win The Avengers collection on 4K Blu Ray.

It's all thanks to the great people at Sony Home Entertainment.

Relive how it all began with The Avengers, then take in the chaos the gang faces in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

And finally, get up to speed for Avengers: Endgame, with Avengers: Infinity War, as Thanos unleashes his deadly plan to cull the universe!

But, there's more - you can also take home the Captain America series on 4K too - from Captain America, to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, before concluding with Captain America: Civil War.
All of these titles include thrills, spills and Marvel action, ensuring that all fans of the series won't be left disappointed!

And if you don't win, all of these titles are available to buy in shops now!

All you have to do is email your details and the word AVENGERS, and tell me your fave Avenger and why!

Email now to  darrensworldofentertainment@gmail.com 

Good luck!

Avengers: Endgame: Film Review

Avengers: Endgame: Film Review

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson,Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, 
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

It's finally here.
Avengers: Endgame: Film Review

The end of the road for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's current phase, and the conclusion of events after Thanos snapped his fingers, and wiped out half of the world in Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Endgame arrives with such a weight of expectation one year after the tease of the end that it's hard to live upto what fans - and cinemagoers - want.

But simply put, if you're a fan of the MCU, Endgame delivers in spades - and as a casual cinema-goer there's also a lot to gain from a film that has dalliances with the epic, but never once forgets the intimate.
Avengers: Endgame: Film Review

Avengers:Endgame is not a film the creators want spoiling.

The plot has been briefly hinted at in trailers but outside of the upcoming release, little is truly known of if Thanos is defeated, or how any attempts are made.

The interesting thing about the occasionally sprawling 181 minutes that unfolds is how much a lot of the payoffs from previous films are delivered and how all the threads of the other 20 plus films join together.

While it’s no condemnation to say Endgame contains an overload of fan service and crowd-pleasing moments, what it also contains is an emotional depth and exploration of sacrifice that’s confined to the core of original characters, that cinemagoers have spent a decade with.

Avengers: Endgame: Film Review
There’s an elegiac feeling of its opening, the meditations on loss and if second chances are worth losing are heartbreakingly laid out; there’s a reaction to trauma that leaves you finally feeling Thanos’ actions in Infinity War had real consequences. Doubt, regret and angst are in order, and are deftly delivered by the human cast.

It's something the MCU has previously until now been somewhat flippant about, but this time around, there's a sense the remaining Avengers are truly broken and vulnerable.

Yet, there’s also scope and depth here which is more than alluded to - old grievances are raised again and the culmination of years of foundation laying has an emotionally resonant payoff that’s mostly worthy of the three hour run time for fans of the franchise.

Brolin once again brings greater depth to his bad guy Thanos and makes you feel like everyone has collateral and damage after he pursued his utopia. His nuanced bad guy has been a real boon for the franchise, and certainly delivers the heft needed in this chapter capper. 

This film is predominantly about the relationship between Chris Evans' Captain America and Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man. But more than that, it's about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark - something which rewards when it needs to.

In among the pleasing set pieces and odd touches of humour, there are one or two stumbles, which were perhaps inevitable during the three hour run time, and with a farewell mentality in mind.

A final battle is a depressing return to the usual CGI throw-it-all-at-the-wall fare (though, in all honesty, it's hard to see what else there is that could be done). Coupled with one or two moments of excess (and one overblown statement of intent to address ongoing criticism), it's the denouement fans will want, but one that critics of the superhero genre will dismiss as once again, overcrowded and overdone. 

When it's confined within to just a few single actors, it's fair to say the denouement soars in its singular quieter moments. Even if foreshadowing robs some of the emotion from landing as it should. In truth, the moments are more about your familiarity with these characters, rather than what exactly the narrative of Avengers: Endgame delivers.
Avengers: Endgame: Film Review

Equally, despite all the promise and fanfare of the previous Marvel outing, it's troubling that one character is effectively reduced solely to a deus ex machina device in proceedings. 

There are also a few emotional moments that feel a little rushed, and didn't quite hit the mark that perhaps should have been expected.

But there are plenty of character complexities and moments that ground this superhero film in the realm of the human and our various foibles.

Ultimately, this film belongs to the original Avengers - it may be the end of Phase 3, and the farewell they've been anticipating after some 20 plus films over a decade, but it's not hindered the Russo Brothers from delivering a movie that is crowd-pleasing in extremis, one that walks a tightrope between nostalgia (thanks to plot devices) and closing a chapter from a studio that's always had its eyes on its vision.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Second Act: DVD Review

Second Act: DVD Review

Second Act: Film Review
Presumably rejected by Hallmark and Lifetime for its utterly insane twist, Second Act is a film that is crippled by its storyline, which comes straight out of 1950s America.

J-Lo is Maria Vargas, a long-suffering assistant supermarket manager in downtown New York. On her birthday, Maria is trying to secure a promotion, having spent 15 years working as the manager's right hand and set in motion some changes that would benefit the business.

But rejected for promotion, and with her relationship with her toyboy baseball coach crumbling over her desire to not have kids, she finds herself offered a job at a major cosmetics company, thanks to her street-talking friend (Remini) faking her CV and getting her an interview.

It gets worse for Vargas when she gets the job and isn't sure how long to continue the lie - setting her on a collision course with the younger elements of the firm, including the firm's founder's daughter Zoe (Hudgens).

To explain why Second Act is such a bizarro trip into 1960s world where women can have anything they want, as long as men sanction it, is to reveal its twist. Which is to rob you of a genuine "Are you kidding me" moment that cinema so rarely offers. Suffice to say, that will not happen here.

But it's enough to say that despite Lopez's earnestness and innate likeability as the everyday woman who wants it all, the film's utter unswerving adherence to something that would have been part of a Twilight Zone episode of I Love Lucy is not to its credit.

Added to this the level of mansplaining going on as well throughout, this tale of so-called women's empowerment is lacking the balls (sorry) it needs to heartily succeed and carry past an insane twist that defies logic and belief.

Second Act: Film Review

Lopez does what she can with the material on offer, and maybe the credibility is stretched as far as it can - but giving its lead a power me moment to be crippled by a pratfall seems like something from decades ago, and is as weak as it is inexcusable.

In a fantasy world context, Second Act's continual stereotyping and conforming makes it almost unbelievable to behold, and its central message of You Can Have It All, Ladies seem like something from decades long since buried, and much deliberately maligned in a more woke 2018. It's even more of a crime how it fails to execute its own concept and collapses into a pile of sentimental mush than is barely worthy of a girls-night-out film. 

Monday, 22 April 2019

The Kid Who Would Be King: DVD Review

The Kid Who Would Be King: DVD Review

There's no hiding from British films as the stench of Brexit starts to creep in.

And in Attack The Block director Joe Cornish's latest, which he wrote as well, The Kid Who Would Be King reeks of both the problems of the current United Kingdom's plight (albeit at a surface level), but also global uncertainty. Along with the aimlessness of contemporary society, Cornish has his sights squarely set on making sure the kids don't feel lost in a present of our own making.

The Kid Who Would Be King: Film Review

Throw in a message of empowering the kids against the problems of today for the future, amid the contemporary transposition of the Arthurian legends, and it's clear what The Kid Who Would Be King is trying to do.

Serkis is 12-year-old Alex, a non-consequential kid in a school in England. Mates with bullied Bedders (Chaumoo, who may leave you feeling like he's channelling Julian Dennison), Alex stands up for what's right - despite the right thing being to his detriment.

One day, while escaping the bullies, Alex discovers a sword in a stone slab at a construction site, and quicker than you can say Lady of the Lake, Excalibur or any of the Arthur lore, pulls it out.

But under the ground, Arthur's long-lost half sister Morgana (Ferguson, underused) is stirring, ready to take the world as her own, now it's in a fragile state.

Much like Attack The Block did, The Kid Who Would Be King bandies together an 80s style gang of kids (once again, multi-cultural) to save the world. This time though, they lack the killer charisma of the first, but in some ways, that's perhaps the point, as these are everyday kids, given a bit of the once-over-lightly treatment.

That flaw does slightly show in the quest portion of the film as Cornish reinvents the Arthurian legends to fit his own ends. And it does feel padded in parts as it heads toward its inexorable CGI denouement. But it helps that what transpires riffs nicely on the likes of Lord Of The Rings and Percy Jackson and even has its own baddies in the form of flaming sword carrying CGI creatures.

The Kid Who Would Be King: Film Review
The Kid Who Would Be King: Film Review

Serkis makes a reasonable lead, doing the best with what he has to work with, and even getting some laughs out of lines like "I'm 12, I'm not even old enough to do a paper round" when Alex's told he is the future king. He also brings some heft to the fatherless storyline - though in truth Patrick Stewart (complete with Led Zeppelin T-Shirt) does a lot of that with his Merlin. There's a lot riding on the tales he learned as a child, and the tales he's told now by friends or by family - but Serkis translates that through the prism of an ordinary kid, trying to do the best he can.

Gently earnest, with an exhortation to listen to the kids of the present, because they are the leaders of our future, The Kid Who Would Be King wears its empowerment message with pride - but it never loses sight of the fact it's there to serve as escapist family entertainment - and does so admirably.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Shoplifters: DVD Review

Shoplifters: DVD Review

Shoplifters' tale of a Japanese family living in the slum downtrodden house is meant to shock from its beginning.

With the opening seeing a father and son stealing from a supermarket in a co-ordinated military style set of precision manoeuvres, we're thrown into the family world of the Shibatas.

Shoplifters: NZIFF Review

Living in low income and scraping by, the family's world is changed when the father brings home a little girl he sees living outside a house with no apparent parents nearby. As the girl doesn't want to go home and shows signs of abuse, despite the strain on the family, they keep her within their walls, a family giving love to an unknown.

However, that decision could prove as fateful as it will fruitful.

Subtle and perhaps aiming to provoke empathy throughout, without ever being manipulative Kore-eda's social eye on the affliction of some Japanese families is also a salutation to uncompromising love.

With her big eyes, and cute haircut, the abused little girl is never anything more than a tool to win over the audience, and to cast light on the insidious ways of abuse, so redolent worldwide that it hurts.

While there's humour in this social tale, there's also an undercurrent of anger that Kore-eda provokes in you that this family have to go through so much to just get by. But presented under a sunnier outlook, Kore-eda manages to make proceedings warmer than they perhaps should be, a chance to push a message in ways that could otherwise not work.

The Palmes D'Or winner Kore-eda Hirokazu's Shoplifting is a story that may move you, but ultimately, its last reel reveal feels cheap and easy, a narrative rug-pull aimed to disorientate and reassess.

What it actually does is make you question why some of the characters you've invested in over the past two hours don't do the one thing you'd expect them to. It's a unsettling turn and leaves an after-taste which is hard to shift (and which is too spoilery to discuss here).

While Kore-eda Hirokazu may wish to be saluting love and family in all its forms, and present a world similar to one glimpsed in Sean Baker's The Florida Project by centring on the children, Shoplifters' strength lies in its interactions within the family.

Some threads may go undernourished, and while the reveals at the end may pull together some of the looser ends, there are similar themes of family that Kore-eda has pursued before. Granted, this latest may see a more broken family than previously, but the social realism captured within is nonetheless heartbreaking throughout. And certainly the burst of consciousness and guilt is never belaboured throughout.

A thoughtful piece, but a flawed masterpiece to some, Shoplifters' strength lies in its willingness to expose the double standards of Japanese society - and ultimately, the hypocrisies and selfishness of us all. 

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Win a copy of Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse

Win a copy of Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse

To celebrate the release of the utterly brilliant Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse, you can win a copy of the Oscar-winning animated feature!

Academy Award® Winner for Best Animated Feature Film
Golden Globe® Winner for Best Animated Feature Film
Critics’ Choice® Winner for Best Animated Feature Film
Winner of Seven Annie® Awards Including Best Animated Feature


The out-of-this-world voice cast includes Shameik Moore as Miles Morales alongside Jake Johnson (“New Girl”) as Peter B. Parker, Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee) as Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen, Mahershala Ali (Green Book) as Miles’ Uncle Aaron, Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”) as Jefferson Davis, Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”) as Aunt May, Luna Lauren Velez (“How To Get Away with Murder”) as Rio Morales, Zoë Kravitz (“Big Little Lies”) as Mary Jane, John Mulaney (“Big Mouth”) as Spider-Ham, with Nicholas Cage (The Croods) as Spider-Man Noir, Kathryn Hahn (Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation) as Doc Ock and Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”) as the villain Kingpin.

Thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy of  Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse.

To win all you have to do is email your details and the word SPIDER-VERSE to this address: darrensworldofentertainment@gmail.com or CLICK HERE NOW  

Good luck!

Friday, 19 April 2019

Aquaman: Blu Ray Review

Aquaman: Blu Ray Review

The litany of DC movies is scattered with almost-rans.
Aquaman: Film Review

For every Marvel success, there’s been a thudding DC failure, a reminder that tone and story still triumph in the comic book medium.

So it’s pleasing to reveal that Aquaman goes some way to addressing prior failures, by telling a story early on that packs heart and heft, before the usual rote destructive CGI chaos steps in to clean up in the final act.

At its heart, in terms of plot, Aquaman is DC’s take on the political in-fighting last seen in Marvel's Black Panther.

Momoa is Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, a half-human, half Atlantian, who's keeping the seas safe from the likes of marauding pirates, when he finds himself hauled into a political coup after red-haired Mera (Heard) emerges from the waters of his long-lost home world.

Warning him that the war that's unfolding at the hands of King Orm (Wilson) will affect his beloved surface dwellers, Aquaman's thrown into a battle over the rights to the underwater throne and a birth right he doesn't potentially want...

Aquaman offers a Tron-like spectacle with an underwater world that's vibrant with life and teeming with visual creativity and depth. Atlantis looks like it's a lived in world, a world that breathes as it floats below, and as various sea creatures float by, with CGI in overdrive to showcase its very best.

Aquaman: Film Review

Sadly, the same can't exactly be said about the more human elements of the film which are overwhelmed by the script's over-stuffed nature.

Momoa treads a thin line between knowing cheesy dialogue and performing endless action sequences while revelling in the OTT nature; but he has the charisma for Curry (and performs enough hair flips through water to look like he's advertising premium shampoo), and lends Aquaman the kind of reverence - and occasionally irreverence - the DC material affords him.

The problem is some of what is populated around him.

With one-note characters like Mera offering mainly exposition (and a clumsy attempt at romance that should have been drastically re-worked at the script level before being committed to screen) and Orm proffering petulance and discord, the film's tonal shifts are seismic in their execution and occasionally jarring as it swims between cornball and seriousness.

Meshing the myth of Excalibur, Karate Kid training, Splash's inter-species love story with a pro-environmental message, and the politics of power and squabbling brothers that we've seen in Thor and Black Panther, Aquaman never really lays any claim to originality - nor would it expect to with some of its utter po-faced dialogue and frankly creepy digital de-ageing of stars like Morrison and Dafoe.

What Aquaman does deliver is spectacle, and radically changes the game for what's to be expected of DC films - it still has the pomposity of the dialogue of Batman Vs Superman and ends up in an utterly messy CGI fight as its denoumenent, but those troubles are inherent to all comic book films, not just the long derided DC Universe.

Aquaman: Film Review

There's a lack of emotional investment in Aquaman's central character, but there's plenty on show early on in Morrison's heartfelt turn (some of his best work yet) and pre-credits love story with Kidman's Queen of the sea. It's a welcome touch, before the continual shock and awe of the action overwhelms everything and builds to a deafening crescendo.

In terms of cache, there is no denying this is a major step up.

But Aquaman's over-reliance on CGI spectacle, bombast and underwhelming quest a-to-b type story, coupled with a lack of depth on its hero and his glistening abs, means that Aquaman is more a film that delivers on its outlandish promise, rather than holding back a little and running with what sticks to the wall. 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Red Joan: Film Review

Red Joan: Film Review

Cast: Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Campbell Moore
Director: Trevor Nunn

Inspired by a true story it may be, but Red Joan's insistence on miring everything in flashback means sadly it squanders its best asset - Judi Dench - as nothing more than a bookend to proceedings, with glimpses throughout.
Red Joan: Film Review

However, while this story begins in a leafy English suburb with Dench's Joan Stanley being arrested as a suspected informant who leaked top secret information, its flashbacks soon reveal another equally strong presence in the form of young Kingsman actress, Sophie Cookson.

Ripping back to Cambridge and exploring how Joan became affiliated with the disaffected communist movement, Red Joan seeks to keep questions in place about whether she is a willing participant in a crime or had been manipulated via love (fake or otherwise) in the past.

It's an interesting proposition, and while the relatively formulaic, almost TV-movie like telling of the story feels flat, the central performances are not. Its open-endedness is also its strength, with a final shot and simple facial smirk from Dench offering to throw everything up in the air that you've already seen in a kind of Keyser Soze-esque tribute.
Red Joan: Film Review

But where Red Joan falters is in some of the film's innate ability to play it safe.

Period details are nicely rendered, and the sense of atmosphere is palpable, but what transpires lacks some of the edge that say a pulpy thriller may have helped you get to the edge-of-your-seat and leave you questioning throughout.

Likewise, the almost minimal use of Judi Dench feels criminal; even the briefest of scenes in the present day, with her son's suspicions swirling around her, hint at a frustrating promise that narratively had to take place.

However, as mentioned Cookson's turn as the young questioning intellect caught up in the cold war and its machinations gives the film a welcome human edge. Hers is a performance that anchors the film and almost makes you forget about the bookending of its sidelined mammoth talent.

All in all, Red Joan's commitment to the straight storytelling serves it fine, but with a little more flair and more uncertainty, the sense of panache in this wartime tale of love and betrayal, both personally and at a country-wide level, could have helped it into some truly sterling stuff.

Missing Link: Film Review

Missing Link: Film Review

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Zach Galifianakis, Stephen Fry, Timothy Olyphant
Director: Chris Butler

Meshing a whole range of genres, Laika's latest sees them build on the work done with Kubo, Coraline and The Box Trolls to produce something that while it lacks as much heart as their previous work, it still raises the game in the animated front.
Missing Link: Film Review

In a take on the new world versus the old world, Jackman plays Sir Lionel Frost, an explorer and monster hunter who longs to be accepted into the inner circle of explorers run by Stephen Fry's puffed up Lord Piggot-Dunceby.

When Frost receives a letter purportedly giving him the location of the Sasquatch, he sees this as his chance to cement his place and show the naysayers. But it turns out the Sasquatch is the one who got in touch with him to seek his help.

Dubbing his find Mr Link, Frost sets out to help...

Missing Link is a curious film.

It lacks the derring do of the kind of adventure films you'd potentially expect, eschewing that in favour of something that's old school in many ways.
Missing Link: Film Review

There are elements of a western here as Frost rides into a deserted town with bar fights on the menu; and there are components of classic Laurel and Hardy as the Odd couple of Link and Frost go on their journey, thanks to Link's taking everything Frost says literally - and which delivers some of the biggest laughs of the film.

With his benign face and innocence, Galifianakis' softly spoken Link is a fragile character given a heart that's hard to deny. There's silliness at times, called for by the script, and it works nicely, thanks to Jackman's somewhat stiff delivery as the explorer who's lost his place in the world, in pursuit of what he feels matters to him. The duo make a good pair, and it's at the expense of Saldana, whose character feels a little shoehorned in and sadly sidelined.

While part of the problem with Missing Link is that the threats just tangibly disappear at times, Laika's animation does much to paper over those narrative cracks. It may not be the traditional stop motion, given it's run through a computer, but there are elements of Aardman Studios here and the kind of beauty that was part of Kubo and The Two Strings (one of the most underappreciated animations of past years).

Laika's commitment to indigenous faces also shines again in the latter part of the film, and subtle touches make this an animation fan's dream as the different cultures merge.

There may be moments when the younger kids will get restless, but Missing Link is not above a dismissive raspberry to punctuate proceedings, nor is it opposed to some silly wordplay and sight gags that will be adored and amuse.

All in all, Missing Link may at times feel like it has some links of its own missing, but the overall chain is tight and strong, proving that Laika's branching out into wider stories is only a good thing.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse: Blu Ray Review

Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse: Blu Ray Review

Another Spider-Man origin movie, I hear you cry?
Spider-Man: Into The SpiderVerse: Film Review

Well, let's be honest, you've not seen a Spider-Man story like this slice of animation excellence.
Centring on Miles Morales, a mixed-race, relatively normal 13-year-old kid (voiced with heart by Shameik Moore) from Brooklyn, this computer animated tale spins a story when Morales is bit by a radioactive spider while underground with his uncle Aaron (Ali).

Things are further complicated for Morales when he sees Spider-Man killed by Kingpin (Schreiber) as an out-of-control experiment threatens Manhattan. As if that wasn't bad enough, Morales finds himself landed with another group of Spider-Men from different universes pulled into the conflict by Kingpin's quest...

If the multi-verse aspect of this film looks confusing, it's not. And to be frank, it's the least enticing part of Spider-Man: Into The SpiderVerse, a film which smashes the visual medium to pieces with originality and flair.

Using 3D animation on 2D backgrounds takes a little to get used to, but to anyone who's played anything from the Telltale Games back catalogue, the format and concept is very familiar.

Except what the directors also do is use the visuals and the tenets of comic books to induce a kind of sensory overload throughout. Visually, this film has style, and really does much to redefine the comic book animated movie genre, much like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm did years ago.

Spider-Man: Into The SpiderVerse: Film Review

It starts with a voiceover saying "Let's do this one last time," a tacit nod to how often we've heard this story, but with clever twists, that same voiceover is given a thrilling new spin.

With meta touches and cheeky nods, as well as a heartfelt ode to Stan Lee, Spider-Man: Into The SpiderVerse may lose some of its emotional way in the final run, and may be a little long, but it's a thrilling reinvigoration of a story told a multiple amount of times, and a positively dazzling reinvention of how comic book movies should be translated to the big screen. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: DVD Review

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: DVD Review

Lee Israel won't be a name familiar to many.

But thanks to an exceptional turn from a downbeat Melissa McCarthy, a few more people will be aware of what the literary faker did.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Film Review

A failing writer facing extremely hard times and needled by Tom Clancy's success, Israel's unable to sell her agent (a tart Curtin) any ideas, but hits on an apparent goldmine when she discovers a letter from a subject she's researching.

Trying to sell it, but upon being told she can get more for more personal letters, Israel hatches a plot from desperation and begins faking literary letters. Enjoying the spoils of her lucrative market, and finding her voice for the first time in years, Israel ends up enlisting Jack Hock (Grant, in flamboyant mode) to help with her scam.

However, the authorities are edging closer to being onto her game.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a great reminder that McCarthy can do more than simply broad comedy; in this one, there are signs of repressed anger and frustration that she channels well by underplaying, rather than her usual modus operandi of broad comedy laughs and easy hits.

As a result, Israel is a deeply empathetic character, even though what she's doing is so obviously criminal; along with Nicole Holofcener's script, which gives scenes the zing they need, lots of Can You Ever Forgive Me? works well.

Grant's never been better - imbuing his rascally coke-dealing flamboyant with flourishes that mean every single scene he's in is a joy to behold; and he spars well with McCarthy.

But this is McCarthy's film without a shadow of a doubt; her quietly frustrated take on it all lends the film an edge of engagement and a warmth to undercut the prickliness that lies within. There's an outsider vibe to both Lee and Hock, but rather than make them victims, the actors and script embed them in proceedings and give them a life beyond the text.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Film Review

There's a delicious irony that McCarthy brings her best work to someone channelling someone else, but Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a surprising film that enchants, amuses and engages - it's some of McCarthy's best work yet. 

Monday, 15 April 2019

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part: Film Review

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part: Film Review

Vocal cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Richard Ayoade
Director: Mike Mitchell

Everything's not quite as awesome in the latest LEGO Movie.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part: Film Review

And quite frankly, that's a disappointment.

Five years since everything worked out for Emmet and the gang in Bricksburg, there's trouble ahead - with DUPLO invaders from outer space hitting them, and stealing everything. When Lucy (Banks) is kidnapped, along with Batman, Unikitty and Benny, it's up to Emmet once again.

Feeling flat and less inspired than the first, with more of the gags feeling laboured and distinctly lacking, the film starts with an extended riff on Mad Max: Fury Road, and barely takes off from there.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part: Film Review

It doesn't help that the film seems to lack the energy and anarchy of the first, being content to flit in and out of the real world that was set up in the first film. It's a tonal disaster on that front, as whereas the original twist was inspired and creative, this reeks of feeling like a narrative crutch, and delivers a weaker emotional heft than first time around.

That's not to say there aren't some bonuses. Certainly, Haddish adds some sparkle as Queen Wat'evra Wa'nabi and Banks builds on the great character from before. But the punchlines and obvious nature of what's going on spoil the feel of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part: Film Review

What sparkled the first time around as a tale of play, friendship and freeform anarchy, disappointingly feels pointless, dull and with musical numbers that don't stay in your head long after the film's done.

Ultimately, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is several bricks short of a cinematic picnic; it lacks the inspiration and while passable enough fare under pressure, it feels like just a LEGO Movie, and one that doesn't build on the brilliance of the first.

I Used to be Normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story: DVD Review

I Used to be Normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story: DVD Review

The pantheon of boybands is never ending.

Screaming girls, packed together in throngs, crying and loudly adoring their wannabes.

They're an easy target for mocking, for those outside of the current obsessions of the popworld.

And yet, director Jessica Leski's affectionate doco, which began life on Kickstarter, seems to douse its subjects in a universal appeal that it makes their obsessions seem normal.

Centring on four different fans - 16 year-old Elif, who's a One Directioner, Dara, 33, who's a proclaimed Take That fan, 25 year old Sadia, a US Backstreet Boys fan and 64-year-old Susan who was there at the start of the trend with her Beatles love - Leski's piece becomes more of a rounded piece as it goes on.

It begins with the obvious, with all of the quartet explaining their loves for their musical heartthrobs, but yet as it continues, I Used to be normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story actually shows the dichotomy of society and what these women face thanks to their obsession.

I Used to be Normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story: NZIFF Film Review

For Sadia, it's moments of self-examination after going on a Backstreet Boys' cruise; for Dara, it's self-reflection on who she is, why she still needs boybands; for Elif, it's a sign of her growing and tragic divide with her life choices and her family and for Susan, it's a reminder of good times had and friends lost.

It's a clever touch deployed by Leski, who could so easily have over-indulged in the cheesiness proffered by such subjects of adoration. However, even though Sadia's practically drooling at Backstreet's video Quit Playing Games with My Heart, what you begin to see is her coming-of-age via her idols in a Muslim world that's strict.

And the conflict Elif faces with her family is heartbreaking as the chasm opens.

Leski's strength lies in never mocking her subjects, and never mocking the crucial growing up experience that is fan adoration.

As a result, the success of the pace, coupled with the nicely put together archive footage and open moments of their subjects means I Used to be normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story proffers an inclusive exploration of Boybands, their eternal appeal and their fans' formative experiences.

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