Monday, 30 September 2019

Win a double pass to see Gemini Man

Win a double pass to see Gemini Man

Win a double pass to see Gemini ManTo celebrate the release of Gemini Man, and thanks to Paramount Pictures NZ, you can win a double pass.

About Gemini Man

Gemini Man is an innovative action-thriller starring Will Smith as Henry Brogan, an elite assassin, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative that seemingly can predict his every move.  

The film is directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Ang Lee and produced by renowned producers Jerry Bruckheimer, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger.  Also starring are Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong.  

Gemini Man opens in theaters October 10, 2019.

All you have to do is email your details and the word GEMINI!

Email now to 

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Medi Evil: Short Lived Demo: PS4 Review

Medi Evil: Short Lived Demo: PS4 Review

Format: PlayStation

A demo is supposed to entice, to tease what's ahead, show some of the mechanics of the game and, if it's a remake, wow you with what it's done.

Medi Evil's Short-Lived Demo does some of that admittedly, but it's a bit lacking on the wow factor, frankly.

For those unaware of the 1998 original game, MediEvil concentrates on you taking control of Sir Daniel Fortesque, a skeleton that wouldn't look out of place within Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas.
Medi Evil: Short Lived Demo: PS4 Review

Set in the kingdom of Gallomere, and with an evil sorcerer called Zarok returning, it's up to Sir Dan to save the day once again as zombies and magic runs amok.

MediEvil :Short Lived Demo is sad to say, just ok.

It cruises by on nostalgia during the first level it allows you play, hacking and slashing your way through the hordes and collecting various runes to unlock gates of the next area and so on. Honestly, it's very much like a more Tim Burton Gauntlet game than anything else.

Graphically the cut scenes are cartoony, yet perfunctory. They look polished, but little else to be frank. The combat is adequate enough and the movement of Sir Dan comical as it needs to be.

Yet the most irritating thing of Medi Evil: Short Lived Demo is the camera that grates as it gyrates around the screen on a simple twist and touch. It's as bad as Spyro was, and shows really that that may have cut it back in the late 90s but right now, it's close to irritating. IT could be fixed prior to release, but whether that will happen remains to be seen - however, it's the one thing holding the remaster back.

It'd be beneficial if Medi Evil's demo showed a little more, but the single level only shows the revamp and remaster has done little but spit and polish the game.

Ultimately, the proof will be in the final release - but right now, while MediEvil for PS4 looks like it should, it's yet to convince of its necessity.

Win Men In Black International on Blu Ray

Win Men In Black International on Blu Ray

Men in Black InternationalMen in Black International is out now on Blu Ray, and to celebrate its release, thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy!

About Men in Black International

The Universe is Expanding
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. 
In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organisation.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Emma Thompson
All you have to do is email your details and the word MENINBLACK!

Email now to 

Saturday, 28 September 2019

X-Men: Dark Phoenix: Blu Ray Review

X-Men: Dark Phoenix: Blu Ray Review

Not every comic book movie works on the big screen.

Not every X-Men film has been a success, but over the past 20 years, the mutants have been ever present in a series of films that have had a level amount of hits and misses.

X:Men: Dark Phoenix: Film Review
In Dark Phoenix, the series comes to an end with a franchise capper that misses all its major moments, and delivers a movie that offers some thrills, but barely enough to sustain it.

During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean Grey (Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner) is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. 

Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet.

In all honesty, elements of Captain Marvel's all powerful deus ex machina and how to suppress it come to the fore again, and while moments early on hint at Charles Xavier's morality falling apart in a MeToo kind of nod, the film's only interested in rushing headlong to its conclusion via way of an admittedly excellent train-set final showdown.

But it's in the emotional beats where X- Men: Dark Phoenix falls apart.

A major death doesn't land like it should, and the elements of conflict feel forced rather than natural. It's the emotional detachment that harms the film the most, and while a majority of it is a film we've seen before, the latest incarnation of Dark Phoenix does little to take wings and soar as it should.

Elements of a MeToo control issue aside ("She's not your little girl anymore," one character intones at one point), the film has little to say except to try and transpose comic book panels to the big screen. By opening it up to a wider world midway through, the film loses any hope of intimacy as it looks to tick some character beats and fan hopes.

Chastain, in her audition for an emotion-free Terminator, is saddled with little as the baddie of the piece, and barely hits any of the necessary strides before the script goes down the gurgler. Turner sells some of the conflict of the anger and resentment bubbling up, but in truth, little is required of her other than to look tortured in her close ups. The tragedy doesn't land as it should, and it's fatal at times. MacAvoy and Fassbender impress as ever, and Hoult manages competently with stronger material.

X:Men: Dark Phoenix: Film Review

On the visual side, the FX are superbly executed, with early scenes within space brimming with visual flair and excellence; and in the final showdown on a train (before it descends into the usual rote CGI tedium), the film finds a life that's been lacking beforehand.

Ultimately, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is an asinine blockbuster, one that fails in its MO as a franchise finale, and one that shows there was frustrating potential, if it had dared to do something different. As it stands, it's more an X marks the spot where something could have risen from the ashes of a consistently uneven series.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Apocalypse Now Final Cut: DVD Review

Apocalypse Now Final Cut: DVD Review

It's difficult to honestly appraise the differences of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Final Cut given it's this reviewer's first exposure to the movie itself.

What is clear from the sprawling epic is this is the cut Coppola wanted to have as the definitive one, and the one which he's determined will be his last and ultimate take on the Vietnam movie.

Apocalypse Now Final Cut: NZIFF Review

For those uninitiated to the story, this is the tale of Martin Sheen's Captain Willard, who's given the job of assassinating Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz, who's gone wild within the confines of Cambodia and is seen as a threat by the US Military.

Assembling a small team, Willard ventures deep into territory of the forest and the unknown.

Coppola's greatest achievement is assembling the pieces early on in the first hour into action scenes which are a visual symphony that showcases CGI is not always best. As explosions rock the jungle, choppers head over, and the camera never sways from its leads, it's clear Coppola is in his element and assemblage.

But despite heightened colours and improved audio, the film's final hour descends into discord, an anti-climactic meh of epic proportions that does little to build on the promised showdown. (A pair of 21st century eyes would notice how all the characters of colour are dispatched before the final act concludes).

It's still an impressive epic, but its unwieldly sprawl does hit it quite badly in the final third of the run. However, fans of Apocalypse Now will want to witness the film in the way its creator envisioned. 

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Beta has become the largest in Call of Duty history

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Beta has become the largest in Call of Duty history


Highly-Anticipated Beta Delivers New Franchise Highs in Most Users, Hours Played, Peak Concurrents

Call of Duty Fans Overwhelmingly Respond to First Crossplay Beta;
Title Readies for Worldwide Release October 25th

September 26, 2019 – Activision today confirmed that the recent Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® Beta has become the largest in Call of Duty history, delivering the most users, the most hours played and highest peak concurrent number of players across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC combined.

Millions of gamers downloaded and played the Beta, which ran across two consecutive weekends, beginning Friday , Sept. 13, and ending Tuesday, Sept. 24. The Beta included crossplay, enabling gamers to play together across PS4, Xbox One, and PC for the first time in franchise history.

“We’re focused on delivering the best online experience possible and that includes bringing the community together with crossplay,” said Patrick Kelly, Creative Director and co-Studio Head, Infinity Ward. “We appreciate all of the players from around the world, who played and shared feedback.  Your support is not only a driving inspiration to the entire team, but also provides us with important data and feedback which helps us improve the experience for launch.”

“The response from fans for Modern Warfare’s release next month has been incredible,” said Byron Beede, executive vice president and general manager of Call of Duty, Activision. “From the beginning of development there has been extraordinary excitement for this game.  We thank Call of Duty players and the development teams led by Infinity Ward for making this a record-setting Beta.  We look forward to October 25 when players everywhere will experience the full amount of depth and gameplay Modern Warfare has to offer.”

The Beta showcased the unprecedented depth across Modern Warfare multiplayer, ranging from the close-quarter frenetic 2v2 Gunfight play, up to and including the world reveal of the epic large-scale Ground War mode supporting up to 64 players.  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer is expected to support up to 100 players in select multiplayer experiences upon launch on October 25. Winner of the Best Online Multiplayer” by Game Critics Best of E3 2019Modern Warfare’s ultimate multiplayer playground delivers an action-packed online experience with best-in-class down the barrel gameplay, along with unprecedented depth and variety in gameplay.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is scheduled for release globally October 25, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The title features a fully-optimised PC version, developed in partnership with Beenox, which will be available exclusively on®, Blizzard Entertainment’s online gaming platform. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is published by Activision, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) with development led by award-winning developer, Infinity Ward, and additional development support from Beenox, High-Moon Studios and Raven Software.

Sometimes Always Never: DVD Review

Sometimes Always Never: DVD Review

Irritatingly quirky to start off before quickly cementing itself as something like a cross between Waiting for Godot and a rumination on fathers and sons, Sometimes Always Never is a low key delight.
Sometimes Always Never: Film Review

Nighy plays tailor Alan, who starts the film by meeting up with his son Peter (a downbeat Riley) and clearly trying to repair their relationship. (The reasons why are too spoilery to discuss here, and while it's not a massive plot point, part of the vicarious thrill of Sometimes Always Never is seeing the tiny details teased out.)

When Alan moves in with Peter, the strained bond is pushed further, but as events transpire, the truth behind it all becomes apparent...

As mentioned, the initial quirk of Sometimes Always Never greatly irritates, as if director Hunter has nothing else to lean on, but what happens is that the combination of Nighy and Riley begins to tease something out that's utterly poignant, charmingly unexpected and utterly and unequivocally moving.

Dry in extremis, the delight comes in the wordplay (in more ways than one) and the subtle nuances of the relationship between father and son, entrenched as it is in the English ways of relationships, where less is said than should be.

Sometimes Always Never: Film Review

Nighy and Riley excel in this piece which is effectively about communication, the lack thereof and what goes unsaid in relationships. It's surprisingly affecting in its little moments as Hunter assembles the pieces on the chess board of this bond, using drained colour palettes and terrible interior decor to illustrate various moments in their lives.

There's an intrinsically sad whimsical feeling to Sometimes Always Never, but it manages to leave you feeling uplifted as it skirts around David Lynch levels of obtuseness.

Sometimes Always Never is, without a doubt, one of the low-key highlights of the cinematic year.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: Film Review

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: Film Review

Cast: Zoe Margaret Coletti, Michael Garza, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows
Director: André Øvredal

Delivering some occasionally solid jump scares and yet simultaneously seeming to flounder under necessary plot devices, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is perhaps suitable more for the teen element looking to get the heebie-jeebies jolted out of them.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: Film Review

It's the story of raised-by-a-single-parent and town horror nerd Stella (Coletti) who, one Hallowe'en decides to join two friends to exact revenge on the local jocks led by 's Tommy. Ending up at a haunted house with mysterious newcomer Ramon (Garza), Stella and her pals find a book seemingly written by the town's local legend Sarah Bellows.

But the book appears to have murderous intent, as the tales begin to come true...

Meshing Final Destination with Goosebumps, and some effective chills, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark feels at times defanged from its gruesomeness thanks to its decision to try and tell a story that's clearly destined for a sequel.

That said, there are some moments that work very well, such as the Red Room sequence that seems to have del Toro's fingerprints all over it, and the upper echelons of any child's nightmare they can't escape.

Equally Harold the scarecrow appears to have potential to be one of the new horror icons, were it not for the fact the CGI team's desire to flourish it with bugs crawling out of orifices seems more corny than outright chilling.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: Film Review

While Coletti is effective as Stella, and Ramon's Garza adds stoic but undemanding support, the heroes of the piece feel like they've stepped in from an Amblin film via way of Stranger Things. They're not afforded enough time to build character and charisma before the necessities of the plot tears them in different directions, robbing them of flow that's needed as the rush to get through each episode kicks in.

Ultimately, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark isn't quite strong enough to bring Alvin Schwartz's darker edges to life or daring in its quest to get a wider audience. It's a shame because there truly could be the stuff of nightmares here - it's spooky and creepy, but that's not enough to turn this book into another series.

And that Achilles Heel's a crying shame.

The Last of Us Part II will release February 2020

The Last of Us Part II will release February 2020

A release date has finally been unveiled for The Last Of US Part II.

It will surface on February 21, 2020.
The Last Of Us Part II

Watch the brand new The Last of Us Part II trailer below.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold: Film Review

Dora and the Lost City of Gold: Film Review

Cast: Isabela Moner, Eva Longoria, Michael Pena, Eugenio Derbez, Jeff Wahlberg, Temuera Morrison
Director: James Bobin

Can you say "Not quite sure what it wants to be?"

The Dora the Explorer film, with Muppets director James Bobin behind the helm, is a family friendly slice of Indiana Jones, coming of age, Tomb Raider-esque oddity.

Moner is Dora, prone to asking questions of nobody (something her father, the excellently cast Michael Pena, hopes she'll grow out of) and who has been brought up in the jungle.

When her parents decide to go on a quest to find the ancient city of Parapata, Dora is sent to the city to reunite with her cousin Diego (Wahlberg) and to experience the horrors of high school.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold: Film Review
Roundly mocked by the cliques for her perkiness and odd precocious behaviour, Dora finds herself- along with her unwilling high school compadres - thrown into an adventure when she's kidnapped after her parents go missing...

Mixing a huge dollop of self-awareness, with an irritatingly winning ever-chipper performance from Moner, Dora and the Lost City of Gold will prove successful with its audience who've grown up with the animated explorer and her wily ways.

But Bobin injects a degree of magicality into the film, peppering it with silly songs that are supposed to inform and entertain ("Can you say severe neurotoxicity? ", Dora says at one point) and which nods to the show's MO.

There are messages of self-belief, and of staying true to yourself which will appeal to the outsiders among the viewers, and there are moments, particularly during the final exploration, that are a bit scarier for younger ends of the audience, but which pay homage to the Indiana Jones-esque elements.

Ultimately, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a solid slice of family film - it's not too memorable in the wash, but with a winning Moner giving her all and keeping the energy up throughout, she's one explorer you're happy to tag along with for the adventure.

The Nightingale: Film Review

The Nightingale: Film Review

Jennifer Kent's latest after The Babadook follows similar themes.

The colonial-set Australian adventure has a fire that's hard to deny, but it also features a mother and an imperiled child, much like The Babadook did.

But that's where the similarities end.

In 1825 Tasmania, Aisling Franciosi is Clare, a thief who's in debt to Sam Claflin's Hawkins. With Hawkins abusing his power, and frustrated at his inability to progress postings in the army, Clare finds herself extremely abused and compromised at his hand.
The Nightingale: NZIFF Review

When things go devastatingly wrong, Clare is forced out on a mission of extreme revenge, and in the company only of Aborigine Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as her tracker.

It may be sadistic in its opening act, and prone to sickening moments of colonial cruelty as it reveals a necessary and honest reality, but The Nightingale presents moments of beauty in among its brutality.

Kent once again presents a story that's beautifully shot, with landscape vistas presenting both the power and terror of the uncharted outside world. Thankfully, it helps counterbalance some of the cruelty that white men do which is sadly prevalent in this piece.

It may be a Western in its approach in terms of a revenge story, however, there are moments of horror as well as Kent balances a nightmarish element of hauntings for Clare.

Franciosi delivers a powerhouse turn as a woman on a mission; whereas it could be a one dimensional role, she imbues Clare with both fragility and fire. Equally, Ganambarr gives an angry yet understated edge to the local man whose land has been attacked, raped and his family killed. There's a definite anti-colonial message here, as the evil of the English is explored (both the Irish and Aborigine abhor the English) in subtle ways.

There's no denying there are hardships early on, but stick with The Nightingale as it's both necessary and the rewards are well worth it, as the final message of personal redemption and choice burn through.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The Secret Life of Pets 2: Blu Ray Review

The Secret Life of Pets 2: Blu Ray Review

Pleasantly enjoyable whilst it's on, but forgettable the moment it's ended, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is an animation which does its zany job well and will entertain - as is to be expected of the Illumination stable.

The Secret Life of Pets 2: Film Review

The sequel to the peek-behind-the-curtain-to-see-what-our-pets-do-all-day takes its cue from a treatise more about parenting.

Faithful terrier Max (Oswalt, in laconic form) finds his life changed when his owner Katie meets and falls for someone before having a child. When the youngster shows, Max is initially reticent and hostile, but soon bonds with him before worrying about the day-to-day life he's now part of.

Meanwhile, Snowball the rabbit (Hart, in usual frenetic form) is now convinced he's a superhero, and is recruited by Haddish's pooch Daisy to help rescue a tiger, imprisoned in a circus.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 feels like a series of moments and mini-sequences strung together throughout, rather than a fully cohesive whole. It gels at the last minute, but it's a long journey to get to some semblance of a narrative.

That said, the journey to get there is pleasantly amusing, with sight gags and silliness the order of the day.

The Secret Life of Pets 2: Film Review

There's an emotional core for Max, and some learnings for youngsters in the audience about trusting yourself (Ford's gruff farm dog Rooster is nicely positioned, a mix of tough exterior and necessary emotional coldness) and for parents to trust their judgements as well.

Disparate threads resolve in a way that feels light, rather than subtle and nuanced, but frankly, kids in the audience won't care as there's enough to amuse, and adults won't mind as the film zips along at a pace that's both episodic and frantic.

Animation purists will find nothing new here, both in terms of visuals or also in terms of deeper meanings, but there's a passing joy to be had with The Secret Life of Pets 2 that renders this trip to the cinema something worthwhile while it passes, but fleeting the moment it's over.

Win a double pass to see Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Win a double pass to see Dora and the Lost City of Gold

To celebrate the release of Dora and the Lost City of Gold, releasing September 26, and thanks to Paramount Pictures, you can win a double pass!

Win a double pass to see Dora and the Lost City of GoldAbout Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents, nothing could prepare Dora (Isabela Moner) for her most dangerous adventure ever – High School. 

Always the explorer, Dora quickly finds herself leading Boots (her best friend, a monkey), Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), a mysterious jungle inhabitant (Eugenio Derbez), and a rag tag group of teens on a live-action adventure to save her parents (Eva Longoria, Michael Peña) and solve the impossible mystery behind a lost city of gold. 


Dora and the Lost City of Gold, releases September 26

Monday, 23 September 2019

Emmys 2019: The full list of winners

Emmys 2019: The full list of winners

The full list of winners is:

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Tony Shalhoub - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Alex Borstein - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Harry Bradbeer - Fleabag

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Bill Hader - Barry

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Outstanding Competition Series
RuPaul's Drag Race

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series
Patricia Arquette - The Act

Outstanding Supporting Actor in Limited Series
Ben Whishaw - A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Director for a Limited Series
Johan Renck - Chernobyl

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series
Craig Mazan - Chernobyl

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series
Jharrel Jerome - When They See Us

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series
Michelle Williams - Fosse/Verdon

Outstanding TV Movie
Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Outstanding Limited Series

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series
Last Week Tonight

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series
Don Roy King - Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Variety Talk Series
Last Week Tonight

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Peter Dinklage - Game of Thrones

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Julia Garner - Ozark

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Jesse Armstrong - Succession

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Billy Porter - Pose

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Jason Bateman - Ozark

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jody Comer - Killing Eve

Outstanding Comedy Series

Outstanding Drama Series
Game of Thrones

Wild Rose: DVD Review

Wild Rose: DVD Review

You've seen Wild Rose before.

Wild Rose: Film Review

Its underdog tale of someone hoping to fulfill a dream against all the odds is not a new one. In fact, it's a cinematic staple, one as inherent in the multiplex as popcorn, phone users and people talking.

And yet, in Jessie Buckley and Julie Walters' hands, this film emerges from the distinct shadow of familiarity to be an emotional piece, that pivots midway through into something that's more about what it takes to get to where you should be.

Buckley is Rose-Lynn, a Glasgow fire-cracker, a love of country music burrowed deep under her ginger bangs and in the white cowboy boots she's never out of. Just released from a 12 month stint in jail, Rose is determined to get to Nashville to realise her dream of becoming a singer.

But there are two things standing in her way - the first is an electronic tag, and the second is her kids, which she feels are holding her back, and who've been thrust upon their grandma (Walters, in fine honest form) during her incarceration.

So, forced into taking a cleaning job with local stay-at-home businesswoman Susanna (Okonedo, benevolent, but underwritten and under-used), Rose-Lynn tries to cope with the reality of life, and the pursuit of a dream...

Wild Rose is a conventional film that veers nicely into non-conventional territory when you're about to write it off.

Anchored by a performance from Buckley that's as honest as it is earnest, Wild Rose overcomes some of its narrative flaws because of its lead. It helps that the well-written rounded take on the cliche is given more of a life thanks to Buckley's mix of vulnerability and hard-as-nails approach, which, to be frank, borders on the selfish, making her a hard case to cheer for.

Wild Rose: Film Review

And yet, in moments between Buckley and Walters, Wild Rose's true raison d'etre comes to the fore - a reconnecting of family, of hopes and dreams, of life and reality, and of generations wanting the best for their next. There are moments of rare honesty in Rose, a mother who doesn't yet want to be, but who is, and in Walters, a mother who hasn't got what's she wanted in her daughter.

It's here that Wild Rose soars, in among its country soundtrack, in its examination of two women orbiting each other and clashing. While Rose's interactions with Susanna seem oddly undercooked and character intentions lost in a fog of under-writing, her interactions with her mother are deep, intense and honest.

The rebel at Wild Rose's heart may hold dear a country adage of "three chords and the truth", but the honest truth is this tried-and-tested formula film is really about the relationships between women, rather than a simple second shot at glory film - and for that, it deserves to be shouted with as much gusto as Rose-Lynn musters behind the microphone on stage.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Maiden: Film Review

Maiden: Film Review

Director Alex Holmes' crowd-pleasing tale of the battle of the sexes and the triumph of women breaking through in the traditional male sport of the sailing is a triumph from beginning to end - even if it doesn't break the mould in terms of presenting a documentary.

Using archival footage from the Whitbread Round the World Race from the 1989-1990 race, Holmes threads together a tale of how Tracy Edwards' determination changed the face of the race, as well as the perception of a generation.

Maiden: NZIFF Review

In the 80s, racing was the sole guardianship of men; but Edwards had a fire for being a sailor, even if the media and the sport had other thoughts. Initially starting off in a kitchen (the sexism outrage is palpable throughout), Edwards soon realised the only way to be taken seriously was to get her own crew and her own ship.

But even though every step of the way was problematic for Edwards, Holmes threads together a stirring tale that creates a crescendo of inspiration that soon becomes a tidal wave of empowerment.

Whether it's using the dry wit of those interviewed or footage where various sexist commentators are laid bare, Holmes' tale never stops short of thrilling. When stripped down to its bones, Maiden is the classic sporting tale of the underdog, but what it delivers more of, is a rousing call for change at the time, and a celebration of what Edwards and her crew managed.

However, Maiden is never preachy, and it wisely shows Edwards in her flaws - but throughout the disasters, it's the determination which shines through. Don't be surprised if you leave Maiden feeling inspired to make a change - or embarrassed at what we used to be.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum: Blu Ray Review

John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum: Blu Ray Review

Keanu's back picking up his besuited assassin John Wick just moments after the end of John Wick 2, where he was declared excommunicado and a multi-million dollar bounty placed on his head.
John Wick Chapter 3

With everyone apparently after him, Wick has to try and clear his name, and set the record straight as he deals with the consequences to his actions...

For the first half of the film, John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum is a taut, inventive brawler that finds new ways to breathe life into the genre.

Its commitment to bone-crunching beat downs delivered with tightly choreographed almost balletic fights are visually and kinetically thrilling.

But when the film tries to incorporate a mystical and mysterious edge, striving to flesh out the nefarious High Table organisation, it wallows in its pomposity, much to the detriment of why Wick worked before - a man on the run, or a man desperate to get out. It meanders when it should be sleek, and goes for lazy gunplay in one elongated section, when stripped back offers more pleasure.

In fact the fleshing out of the universe is almost criminal, a wider context not needed within the framework of why these films work.

Add to that a need to throw in some comedy with potential assassins turning out to be fans of Wick and the film testers dangerously into unwarranted self-knowing, winking territory .

It’s fatal to the vibe that’s gone previously and does little to stop the script dipping into campy one liners and dialogue delivery.

John Wick: Chapter 3

Reeves however excels, his Wick looking beaten, fragile and trapped when needed- but reeves digs deep to allow Wick the physical and emotional heft to fight back.

John Wick: Chaper 3 - Parabellum isn’t a full disaster. It’s a film of two halves and those involved in future elements would be wise to step back, regroup and reassess why the series was working and to build on those foundations, and stick to the basics, rather than trying to flesh it all out.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Rambo: Last Blood: Film Review

Rambo: Last Blood: Film Review

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Montreal
Director: Adrian Grunberg

Appallingly xenophobic and grubby, Rambo: Last Blood is an action film that doesn't need - or deserve - to exist.
Rambo: Last Blood: Film Review

Stallone lumbers on as John Rambo, 10 years after he was last seen, a Vietnam vet who doesn't want to kill and who now lives on a horse ranch in Arizona. Looking after his daughter's daughter Gabriella, Rambo is thrust into a quest for revenge when Gabriella goes to Mexico, is kidnapped by a cartel and traded as a sex slave.

And all when she's about to leave for a bright prosperous future in college...

Needless to say revenge follows.

Rambo: Last Blood paints a dangerous picture of Mexico in these current climes.
Rambo: Last Blood: Film Review

It villainises everyone who's seen south of the border thanks to one note characterisation and stereotyping to the max. Everyone is a horrendous caricature, aimed at fuelling the fire that is the tension between America and Mexico that has been exacerbated by the current US President Donald Trump. Rapists, criminals, corrupt police - they're all here for the potential political rallies, and there's even a scene of the wire wall between the two countries being ridden rough shod over.

The majority of the problem of Rambo: Last Blood is the lack of characterisation around Rambo - the film exists solely to deal out various forms of despatching the bad guys in the final act. And while the tunnel-set finale works reasonably brutally and well, there's little to no joy seeing the bad guys go down as they are so one-note and exist only to be killed off.
Rambo: Last Blood: Film Review

Stallone exudes something earlier on as a calm and peaceful Rambo, who is rocked by PTSD and haunted by those he couldn't save. But as the odds stack up, thanks to a rote sense of direction Adrian Grunberg brings to the table, there's little sense of Stallone's Rambo overcoming the odds, more that it will happen and that's it. Even the two women who star in the film (Vega and Montreal) are given little to do except be victims - neither get chance to exact their revenge; only the men can do it.

Lacking hardly any redeeming features, Rambo: Last Blood is a film nobody wanted to see for this four decade old hero. A final montage of cuts from Rambo films from the decades prior only serves to show what a mess the film has made of the legacy and why some things should be left alone.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Ad Astra: Film Review

Ad Astra: Film Review

Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland
Director: James Gray

More a Freudian rumination on masculinity that's set in space, James Gray's Ad Astra takes on the vast reaches of the great beyond and delivers a stunning piece of world-building as ever there's been on a universal scale.
Ad Astra: Film Review

A restrained and almost muted Pitt is Roy McBride, the son of an accomplished astronaut Cliff McBride (Lee Jones). Constantly living in his shadow, Roy is sent to find the missing McBride senior who's presumed lost in space somewhere near Neptune, after a series of electrical surges threatens to wipe life from the solar system.

But there's ambiguity over whether McBride senior is to blame for the surges or is trying to stop them...All of which puts the father and son on a collision course both have clearly been trying to avoid their entire lives.

Gray and Pitt conjure up a world in the near future that's as believable as anything seen in the likes of Gravity and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

With vertiginous shots early on giving way to more intimate and internal moments, Gray's film ponders on what it's like to be man, how to deal with an estranged father and how to connect to others. (There's a delicious irony the space mission is about finding life outside of Earth when it's more ground-bound matters that anchor the movie.)

Pitt's muted throughout, prone to his inner monologue rather than espousing reams of dialogue; and when the break comes somewhere in the film, Pitt delivers an emotional range that's as devastating to his character as it needs to be to the audience.
Ad Astra: Film Review

Gray's space world is fascinating - and while there are moments of action set on the moon and thanks to the unease of an unexpected mayday call, the slow calculated script and delivery thereof lead to plenty of payoffs.

It's not perfect though - while the mundanities of commercial space travel are recreated with ease (fast food companies and their neon signs sit along the likes of Virgin on the Moon), some of the script fails its women. Tyler gets a thankless role as a faceless wife (though this is perhaps the point given how Pitt's character can't connect with others in his life) and Ruth Negga shines all too briefly as the conspiracy elements of the mystery are ratcheted up on Mars.

The film delivers much subtlety on male relationships, but it's also content to dispatch some rote lines such as the double-edged "We are all we've got" to satiate those less inclined to the more thoughtful leanings of what's on screen.

Ultimately, Ad Astra works best in its first two thirds - its delivery of some answers and some leaps of logic in the latter stages cause the foundations to flounder.

However, in terms of a rumination on the folly of man, it's second to none - and one of the most arrestingly visual, thoughtful and immersive well-executed experiences that 2019 has had to offer.

Abominable: Film Review

Abominable: Film Review

Vocal cast: Chloe Bennet, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Albert Tsai, Sarah Paulson
Director: Jill Culton

Dreamworks' latest dials up the cute, channels a bit of Kubo and the Two Strings, and showcases Chinese leads - so in theory, it should be a home run.

But the tale of Yi (SHIELD's Chloe Bennet) and her quest to return a furry Yeti back to Everest at times suffers from an over-familiarity of themes and ideas, rendering parts of it too much like deja vu.
Abominable: Film Review

However, it's in the subtleties and the beautiful evocation of some of the sum of its parts that Abominable justifies itself on the big screen.

It's the visuals which soar in Abominable, not the characters. Sure, there's comedy Peng, the basketball-yearning youngster who bonds with Everest in a kind of dude-bro relationship that brings some of the funnies the kids will love; and there's a silly snake that pops up from time to time to amuse, but much of Abominable's characters are sadly forgotten when the film's over.

The aforementioned evocations of landscapes, of giant Buddha or of the lunacy of a blueberry attack from the sky soar, lifting the King Kong chase scenes early on from a kind of mental checking out that may attack parts of the audience during the film.

But when the group surf a field of yellow daffodils towards the end, Abominable finds its visual groove, a symphony of magical mixing with the mystical proving to be the bright vibrant compelling colour touch the script desperately needed.
Abominable: Film Review

Izzard is serviceable as an English villain named Burnish (a sly nod to a mix of Carl from UP and Mr Burns from the Simpsons - hence Burnish perhaps?), and Bennet has earnestness aplenty as Yi the strong and yet vulnerable heroine throughout. Animation on the Yeti is stunning, mixing Toothless visuals with white furry edges and blurring the line between pet pooch and cutesy Yeti with aplomb.

(Though little with the Yeti is better than the opening POV escape which hints at the menace within.)

Ultimately, heading into safe territory does much to harm Abominable's chances of standing the test of time, but it's perfectly enjoyable-in-the-moment animated fare that's more interested in evocative visuals than deep meaningful storylines.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Good Boys: Film Review

Good Boys: Film Review

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Will Forte, Brady Noon, Keith L Williams, Molly Gordon
Director: Gene Stupnitsky

The sex comedy has gone about as far as it can do in modern gross out terms.

Yet, never once has it wandered into tweens' territory, something which producer Seth Rogen and his team acknowledge but dare to go there anyway.
Good Boys: Film Review

In the latest comedy to burst out of the ranks, Good Boys follows a close knit trio of young sixth graders, the self-named Beanbag Boys, led by Jacob Tremblay's Max. Friends since their younger years, the trio find themselves invited to a kissing party where Max's crush will be.

But when their plan to learn about the opposite sex goes awry , they're sent on an adventure that pushes them out of their comfort zone.

It may send the idea of naivety to the edges, and a lot of the gags may centre around the sixth graders' misunderstanding of sexual posturing, but Good Boys offers some solid laughs in among the gross out behaviour.

Once you get past the whole "should tweens be talking / doing this," there's a vein of something in Good Boys which transgresses the cute and crass with some ease. There's also something to be said for the way the film mines the inevitable peer pressure of tweens these days to understand sex and their misplaced braggadacio of understanding between friends - certainly while the laughs come from here, they also come from a place of sweetness and an inherent understanding of the pressure constantly imposed on children's lives.
Good Boys: Film Review

The trio are sweetly matched; from Tremblay's conflict over friends and girls, via loudmouth Thor's preoccupation with musical theatre to Lucas' compulsive need to tell the truth (breakout star Williams), this group feels real, and the push and pull of friendship is cleverly explored during the no-longer-than-it-needs-to-be 90 minute run time.

It will be easily dismissed as a Superbad: The Early Years, but Good Boys, while nothing superlative, deserves to stand on its own two feet, mixing drugs, sex and comedy with a nice touch of sweet observations, the film offers a solid night out with solid laughs at a universal experience.

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