Thursday, 31 October 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate: Film Review

Terminator: Dark Fate: Film Review

Cast: Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Natalie Reyes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Luna
Director: Tim Miller

Dwelling in the past while simultaneously dismissing everything which happened post 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator: Dark Fate wastes no time in steeling itself as homage to the films, and twisting and repurposing some of the best bits of Judgment Day.
Terminator: Dark Fate: Film Review

In this latest, which sees the return of James Cameron, Reyes' Dani is the latest target of robots from the future, this time in the form of Gabriel Luna's Rev-9. Singled out for assassination, Dani finds her humdrum life in the hands of agile new saviour Grace (a strong Davis, easily the best addition to the series in a long time, androgynous, sympathetic and wearing similar gear to Sarah Connor's original white tank top) and Sarah Connor, whose life has been turned back to tragedy in the years after she and John averted Skynet's future.

Forced on the run, and with promise of help coming from a mysterious cabin in the woods, it's a fight for survival for the trio.

Terminator: Dark Fate isn't really content to go its own way.

It proffers up plenty of tantalising ideas, and gets into the action straight away with a factory-based fight and freeway chase with trucks.
Terminator: Dark Fate: Film Review

If that sounds familiar it is - later on the film chooses to use a chase sequence involving a helicopter and a Terminator pouring its liquid form through its window. It's essentially Terminator 2: Judgment Day writ large for the 2019 audience. Much of it feels familiar, in the same way that any sci-fi robot-chasing-you-to-death film is going to - there's little room for nuance character work in between fits and bursts of popcorn baiting action.

Hamilton hovers between spitting, snarling and chewing the scenery with her damaged Connor; a few quieter moments allow her some depth, hinting at the ongoing effects of being caught in this eternal hunting game and are all the better for it. Schwarzenegger dabbles in some usual humour and nostalgia moments, but is largely there for set-dressing; and Reyes' Dani oscillates wildly between being terrified to becoming her destiny. Luna has little to do other than appear relentless, and be the subject of some occasionally iffy CGI.

Thankfully, Davis as the augmented super soldier, makes a valuable case of a vital new addition to the franchise, meshing both robotic like steeliness to the cause, and moments of humanity as reality sets in. It's no shock she radiates a younger Sarah Connor's determination, and even echoes her wardrobe.

Some of the action set pieces creak from obvious CGI, and Deadpool's Miller is competent enough at rolling them out, even if occasionally they feel perfunctory and all too familiar. (No one needs to ever see a Dunkirk style Terminators rising sequence ever again) That said, some of the live action ones are never less than thrilling, and offer a strong case for the Terminator's continuing popcorn appeal.
Terminator: Dark Fate: Film Review

But the urgency of the dread fear of an unstoppable hunter on your tail has gone in this latest - and even echoes of contemporary themes such as detainee centres, electronic surveillance and immigrants try to add some urgency, they're not enough to detract from a film that pursues its core objective with dread precision, yet proffers no real reason to keep going back to a universe that seems destined to repeat itself ad infinitum.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Silicon Valley season six review - The boys are back, but not for long

Silicon Valley season six review - The boys are back, but not for long

Silicon Valley season six, now available on Neon, and on SoHo2 on Mondays at 8pm (started on 28 October) and encores Thursdays from 31 October, 11.30pm.
Silicon Valley

The end is near for the Silicon Valley boys, and to be honest, it has to be said that it was about time.

While initially Mike Judge's take on the underdogs in Silicon Valley's techland offered many laughs and a nice progression over the first few series, the show itself starting to hit a bit of a creative rut.

Each season put the Pied Piper boys in a corner, gave them seemingly insurmountable obstacles and then had them win in the final moments. It started to become formulaic, and while that bar was initially a high one, the repetition was grating.

Especially in light of real life events within the tech world, the ever-asked question about our information and privacy - everything started to render the well-written show somewhat redundant.
Silicon Valley

So, a final season was announced, and in its opening moments, Thomas Middleditch's Richard Hendricks is in front a congressional hearing talking about never taking people's data and also taking the high moral ground. But it's not without pratfalls.

However, the tone for the final season has been set - it's clearly about what lengths Hendricks is prepared to go to and at what cost the so-called right thing will come.

That's not to say that in the first three previewed episodes of season six, streaming now on Neon, the script's not above dishing out some quietly devastating moments if you've invested in these characters over the years.
Silicon Valley

A chasm's opening up within the Pied Piper gang, once so outside the establishment that they couldn't even get a look in. Now they straddle the corporate world having gone from the shoddy think tank of TJ Miller's bong-smoking Ehrlich Bachman to the endless floors of a big time building, packed with programmers and coders, all just cogs in the Pied Piper machine.

The biggest shock comes in an early casualty of a deepening split between two of the very best friends, an early sign of a rot kicking in.

Elsewhere in episode two, it's Gilfoyle vs HR, and episode three marks a very serious shift in what's been the status quo of the landscape since season one, and one that may well push Richard deeper into his uncertain position.

It's not that the three episodes of the latest season radically shake things up, more that it shows a relative change in the moral dimensions of the series. Ethical codes are grappled with at both a personal and professional level.

But the fact these are half of the final series' episodes (an abbreviated season will only have seven in total) does show that small seeds planted over the series' entire run appear to be coming to tragic fruition. It may be Mike Judge et al have learned from a rushed Game Of Thrones, but there's no sign of the series speeding along simply to hit a finale and to move pieces to where they should be.

That's not to predict tragedy - sometimes, Silicon Valley's greatest dramatic strengths have come from the fact defeat from victory, and it would be beneficial to see more of that in the final run.

Ultimately, Silicon Valley remains eminently watchable - but dramatically, it seems real life is outpacing the narrative, and even though this year's theme is about the lies we tell ourselves, the final impact of them could be devastating for Jared, Richard, Dinesh and Gilfoyle - and that's a drama that's worth investing in.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

High Life: DVD Review

High Life: DVD Review

More of a frustration than an outright success, Claire Denis' High Life is an intriguing space odyssey which doesn't quite know what exactly it wants to say.

Equal parts mesmerising and equal parts confusing to its narrative, High Life focuses on Robert Pattinson's Monte as he tries to bring up his daughter in what appears to be the confines of outer space.

High Life: NZIFF Review

But as the film progresses, the reasons for his isolation play out, leaving you with more questions than perhaps answers.

And yet some of the visuals that Denis commits to the screen convey both the isolation of the void and the beauty of it. There's a feeling science is at play here, and an idea perhaps that this is the future we get not the one we aspire to in many ways.

Slow and moody, frustratingly paced, there are many arguments why High Life is not the full package, but a mesmerising turn from Robert Pattinson gives the film the life it needs. There's a feeling of redemption from his character, given his predicament, and a broodiness in the opening sequences that doesn't quite feel right.

Yet, as the elements combine toward the end of High Life, there's a desperation and a sadness which sets in that's hard to shake off. It may be arty, it may be moody, and it may fall short of what you'd expect, but there's no doubting that High Life will provoke some form of discussion long after it's done.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Auckland Armageddon wraps up

Auckland Armageddon wraps up

Today is the final day of the Auckland Armageddon pop culture show at the ASB Showgrounds.

The event's been running all weekend and has seen cosplay, merchants, stalls and TV show guests and films stars attending from all over the world.

Here are some more shots from the event.

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