Friday, 31 January 2020

Win a copy of Maleficent Mistress of Evil

Win a copy of Maleficent Mistress of Evil

To celebrate the release of Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil on home release, thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy!

About Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies, and dark new forces at play.

Angelina Jolie and Dakota Fanning return - and are joined by Michelle Pfeiffer.

All you have to do is email your details and the word MALEFICENT
Email now to 

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Underwater: Film Review

Underwater: Movie Review

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, TJ Miller, Jessica Henwick
Director: William Eubank

You've seen Underwater before.

Whether it's the mix of The Meg's terror, or the barely disguised Alien rip off baby creature, or in the seabase under threat mentality of various episodes of Doctor Who, there's a sense of deja vu from the moment this murkily executed, frustratingly workmanlike film begins.

Stewart is Norah, a close-cropped techie type who's spent so long under the sea working on the drilling operation that she's no longer sure what day it is, or if she's awake or dreaming.

However, her tenuous grip on reality is rudely awoken when large sections of the miles-deep rig begin to fail and she's forced to run for her life. Siding with a handful of other survivors, including the rig's Captain (Cassel, largely wasted), it becomes a desperate run for life as it transpires something outside the walls, potentially shaken out from the company's deep-sea drilling, is hunting them - and won't leave anyone alive.
Underwater: Movie Review

Underwater's production values are stunning.

While the CGI creatures are a massive let down, the visualisation of the suits, the grimy walls and subterranean corridors is a claustrophobe's nightmare.

Director William Eubank makes great fist of the encroaching walls and the creaks and jolts of the underwater rig falling in around our ears. Using tightly shot close ups, or images from within the helmets, he gives the film a sense of terror, of urgency and of uncertainty which is largely lacking from a lot of the rest of the script.

Inconsistencies of the creature's behaviour, a desire to give Stewart's Norah a line worthy of Ripley and some truly average CGI work drags Underwater into the sea murk, which is a shame, as there's a kernel of a good thriller horror lurking here, a ticking time bomb of man versus nature mixed in with an "God what did we do" ethos and paranoia that's worthy of any film.

But by showing the creatures, the film squanders any good will, and despite a more muted, racked by tics Stewart showing she's never a one dimensional actor, there was truly some real potential here to uphold the despair and the fight for survival.

Underwater is serviceable enough - just frustratingly, it feels underwritten and its potential lost at sea.

Seberg: Film Review

Seberg: Film Review

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Jack O'Connell, Vince Vaughn, Anthony Mackie, Zazie Beetz
Director: Benedict Andrews

With its perils of surveillance of the innocent story, you'd expect Seberg to be a seething commentary on the contemporary ills Americans face.

But in truth, Seberg's simplicity is what cripples its tale of the downfall of Jean Seberg (Stewart, in a largely vacant shell of drama until the final third of the film kicks in).
Seberg: Film Review

Stewart is Seberg, an American actress who garnered fame through her part in Jean Luc Godard's Breathless in 1960. When Seberg is seen supporting the Black Panther movement via way of Anthony Mackie's Hakim Jamal, the FBI is ordered to wiretrap and surveil her as part of the FBI COINTELPRO programme.

As the surveillance steps up, Seberg's grip on life starts to falter, and an FBI Agent (O'Connell) begins to question whether his bosses are doing the right thing...

The drama is present in Seberg, and the stage is set for an explosive showdown that lays bare the perils of defamation, the cost of the stalking and the clash of ideologies within. Yet, by laying out broad brush strokes and having a lead who doesn't feel she inhabits the role, the fault lies squarely in the script of Seberg, which is too light and fluffy to really deliver the bite it needs.

Vaughan's pro-FBI man is merely a monster, and O'Connell's wavering is presented too simply. The conflict is nowhere explored nearly as much as it could and should be in Seberg. Presenting Seberg as Joan of Arc early on aims to show her martydom but the film does little other than to portray her as a victim throughout, which is intentional, but unearned thanks to the weak script.
Seberg: Film Review

In the final third, as the consequences ramp up, Stewart delivers something close to searing, but it's really too little too late as the muted feel hits the film and cripples it.

Seberg is nowhere near as searing as it should be, and its chance to condemn, lay blame and berate those who gifted Seberg with her unwanted paranoia is squandered, when it should have been seized and milked to maximum dramatic effect.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Win a copy of Zombieland Double Tap

Win a copy of Zombieland Double Tap

To celebrate the release of Zombieland Double Tap, thanks to Sony Home Entertainment, you can win a copy.

About Zombieland Double Tap

Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family.

Starring the original cast of Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin, Zombieland Double Tap adds in new cast member Zoey Deutch.

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

Email now to 

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

The Grudge: Film Review

The Grudge: Film Review

Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Jacki Weaver, Demian Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye
Director: Nicolas Pesce

With its split time narratives and its desire to try and do something different with Ju-on, The Grudge's 2020 outing has laudable intentions.
The Grudge: Film Review

This time around, the curse of the angry ghost is brought to America, and a cop (Riseborough, channeling Scandi chic and dour faces) sets about investigating the murders in a suburban house, that have plagued generations.

But the more she investigates, the more drawn into the world she becomes - and the more she faces the possibility she will be taken....

The Grudge has an intriguing premise - but by stretching it out across three time different periods, and chopping and changing the narrative, the film denies the movie going audience the one thing a good horror movie should give them - frights.

Less a jump fest, more a choppy psychological piece, this outing for Ju-on, which began back in the early 2000s when Ringu and its ilk were popular, feels like a frustrating exercise in tedium and endurance, a haunted house horror that barely has the frights to match its macabre machinations.
The Grudge: Film Review

Riseborough is gritty enough, but doesn't get enough to do with a script that demands she's more dour-faced than anything else. Bichir adds yet another horror outing to his CV, but his grizzled detective does little but grumble about proceedings and warn of horrors.

Weaver impresses as a suicide assistance nurse, but with the time jumps, the film loses the build up of tensions when it needs them the most, and each set piece leads inevitably to where you expect it would - and where the script has already shown you. There's little to surprise here, making the 90 minute run time still feel like time is going backwards.

Simply put, The Grudge is a drudge, one of 2020's worst and most frustrating missed opportunities.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Playing with Fire: Film Review

Playing with Fire: Film Review

Cast: John Cena, John Leguizamo, Keegan-Michael Key, Dennis Haybsert, Judy Greer, Brianna Hildebrand
Director: Andy Fickman

It's not just that Playing With Fire is bad, it's also that it's so excruciatingly bad that it extinguishes your will to get through its 95 minute run time.

From Nickleodeon, you'd expect this tale of a group of smoke jumpers, headed up by straight-laced Cena's Jake Carson, to be broad family fare. However, as this mix of Kindergarten Cop and unfunny flat oneliners proves, not everything Cena touches turns to comedy gold.
Playing with Fire: Film Review

When Carson and his team rescue a group of three kids, headed up by Deadpool's Brianna Hildebrand, from a fire, they're forced to give them shelter in the firehouse for the weekend.

But the chaos of the kids in the big house causes untold issues for the uptight, emotionally stunted Carson and his compatriots. And it's further compounded when Carson finds his chance for promotion dangling in the balance.

Playing With Fire is a mix of sentimental with the silly, but unfortunately, none of it really gels together.

Slow mo shots of the firefighters early on give way to corny gags and a plot that's threadbare at best, non-existent at worst.

Sure there's the old trope of the emotionally stunted men getting in touch with their feelings, but none of it's presented well enough to be engaging.
Playing with Fire: Film Review

From Keegan-Michael Key's over-emphatic No2 to Leguizamo's misquoting and My Little Pony watching firehouse chef, the film's desire to play silly and broad doesn't work, because the gags aren't amusing enough to anyone over the age of 5.

A lack of writing can't be substituted for what's needed within the film, and while Cena et al prove they don't care enough to debase themselves with what the script dictates, Playing With Fire is more an exercise in patience and tedium.

The problem is that the rewards for doing so just aren't nearly enough.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon: Film Review

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon: Film Review

Director: Will Becher, Richard Phelan

It's hard to explain why A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon works so well.

From its sci-fi easter eggs to its general desire to encapsulate timeless British silliness with throwaway gags (a bull in a china shop being the best), there's something about Aardman's work that just feels iconically English, yet universally funny.

While this latest may lack the heart of the first Shaun The Sheep movie, it's lost none of the madcap charm as we return to Mossingham. With a UFO sighting in the village, the farmer decides to cash in to try and make some money to upgrade his harvester.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon: Film Review

However, Shaun's already met the alien, and in true buddy movie mentality, sets out to get the little critter home before the shady government agencies capture him first....

From slapstick silliness to pratfalls, scifi gags that include ET, Doctor Who, a wonderful Hitchhiker's nod and a truly brilliant 2001: A Space Odyssey pastiche, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is family fare for everyone to enjoy.

Once again, Aardman's homed in what makes British humour so amusing, and shows once again this animation studio's spent more time than any other weaving in gags into every single frame.

Sure, under closer analysis, it does lacks the emotional edge of the 2015 debut, but it over-delivers the silliness and packs in more jokes than you can take in. A finale doesn't quite match up all the pieces, but all in all, Aardman's still delightful and determined to leave you grinning.

There's also an opening reminder of how Wallace and Gromit led the way with their Grand Day Out (even down to the robot's roots in Farmageddon), but while they may be benched due to the sad death of Peter Sallis, Shaun The Sheep has certainly got years to go - here's hoping we don't have to wait another 5 years for the next outing.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Ride Like A Girl: DVD Review

Ride Like A Girl: DVD Review

The story of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win Flemington in 2015, the horse race which stops Australia should on paper be a home run.

In theory, an underdog story, a tale of female empowerment and of triumph in the face of adversity, it has it all as it goes into the starting gate, promising a powerful start and an uplifting final furlong.

But what emerges from Ride Like A Girl is a story given such a light touch that very little rarely lands as it should, despite the stoic work from Palmer, the reliable gruff from Neill as the emotionally stunted father and Stevie Payne as the real-life brother, Stevie.

The trouble is that Griffiths keeps flitting from one sequence of Payne's life to another, hardly allowing anything to resonate as it should. Equally the chauvinism and sexism that was thrown Payne's way warrants only the briefest of mentions in proceedings and certainly doesn't do much to increase the drama stakes.

Ride Like A Girl: Film Review

Where the film is more triumphant is in its execution of the horse riding sequences, capturing both the intensity and the tension of the race from within the galloping cluster. It means that in these sequences alone, there's a palpable sense of stakes and tension.

And the family story at the heart of the Payne story is the one that beats a little louder than normal - certainly Stevie Payne brings real pathos to his role, and never once does the script play to an audience's easy expectations.

Ride Like A Girl does feel, at times, like a TV movie writ large but it lacks the conviction of its desired inspirations, preferring instead to plough a conventional and extremely safe path. Ultimately, because of that decision at a script and directorial level, the film rarely raises its head from the pack and disappoints what should have been an easy win.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Picard: Review - Picard A Path that's new for Star Trek

Picard: Review - Picard A Path that's new, but pleasingly familiar in parts, for Star Trek

There's no disputing the love there is for Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as embodied by Sir Patrick Stewart.

Easily one of the most beloved captains of the Enterprise, the star of Star Trek: the Next Generation and a few films, Picard remains a central figure to the Star Trek universe, a humane and warm creation that did much to embody Gene Roddenberry's vision for space.
Picard Series 1 Review

So you could be forgiven for wondering why after seven years, 178 episodes and with a feeling that the story's complete, why there would be a return for the character and its 79 year old actor.

In truth, it's because there's more to say.

Which sounds like a trite bon mot, but science fiction is not always aware enough of when the time is right to turn the tap off. However, under the helm of some Pulitzer award winning writers, the first season of the show (Picard's already been renewed for a second season) is off to an intriguing and compelling start. (At least, from the three episodes which were open to reviewers from CBS ahead of the show's launch on Amazon Prime Video this week.)
Star Trek: Picard Review

Set 18 years after the death of Commander Data and the destruction of Romulus, Picard is now retired from StarFleet after a major falling out over the Federation's ethics in a crisis situation.

Haunted by the death of Data, and the fallout from his career-ending decisions, Picard lives on the family chateau, with his dog Number One and two Romulan housekeepers. Plagued by waking dreams that depict more than he can realise, Picard finds himself on a collision course with Dhaj (Isa Briones), a woman who comes to the vineyard for help.

To say more about Picard at this point is to remove some of the mystery, but needless to say the writers have certainly carved a curious path for the start of the series. (And by the end of the third episode, it has to be said there could be an argument for shifting the pace from "languid" to a bit more "warp drive engaged".)

Less space battles and more character study, Picard's strength is evident in the first episode - and it is once again Sir Patrick Stewart. Noble and dignified, his Picard is the moral compass we probably need in these dubious times - it's no wonder Stewart himself has said he thinks now is the best time.

With themes of immigration, racism, division and discord within current times being reflected in Picard's Star Fleet and the Federation, the series does much to offer the kind of hope Gene Roddenberry envisioned way back in the 1960s when William Shatner's Captain Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew set out.

Star Trek: Picard reviewBut if the first episode of Picard is a triumph, setting up intrigue, mystery and offering some action, the following two seem to delve more into the exposition side of things, fleshing out Picard's back story and the years after the demise of his career, and pushing his ethos of people are people to the extreme. (It's not always for the best - and certainly doesn't benefit a binge watch, so maybe it's best the show is delving out weekly portions).

Rich, deep character-driven writing gives Picard the appeal to both fans and non-fans alike. Certainly, if you've missed all 178 episodes of the Next Generation, there may be some nuances you'll miss - and at least one returning character manages to work both if you're familiar with Trek lore and also if you're not. That's perhaps the strength of Picard - a story that's open to all, with themes that are universal.

Ultimately, Picard's 10 episode first season appears to have promise - certainly by the end of the third episode, directed by Jonathan Frakes, when Picard utters the word "Engage," and gives a wry smile, it's hard not for fans of the original series to get goosebumps, and give you the feeling that after some 2 and a quarter hours, the story's finally picking up pace as it goes boldly on.

But make no mistake - at its core, Picard is about humanity, even if it's set in space.

In many ways it carries on the legacy of optimism of the first original series and subsequent spin-offs - it's massively satisfying viewing, and in times of chaos, a beaming light of hope for all our futures.

Picard airs on Amazon Prime Video, with episodes dropping weekly on Thursday.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood: Film Review

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood: Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper
Director: Marielle Heller

The latest from the director of the much underrated Can You Ever Forgive less about the US icon Mr Rogers and more about the surrogate father relationship that springs up between Hanks' seems-too-good-to-be-true TV icon and a jaded reporter Lloyd Vogel, played by The Americans' Matthew Rhys.
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood: Film Review

When Vogel is tasked with a 400-word profile piece on Rogers for a heroes issue of a magazine, he feels it goes against every fibre of his cynical being to deliver a puff piece. However, when he meets Rogers, he finds the reality of the man somewhat different to his expectations and begins to reflect on his own fractured relationship with his own father (Cooper, outstanding in a predictable role.)

It's easy to be dismissive of A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood's intentions.

Its desire to showcase a nice guy (played by Hanks in a quietly disarming role that at times veers dangerously close to feeling like a serial killer) and make you realise that good can always win out is almost cloying in its grab for sentimentality.

It helps little that at its core, this film is once again about the relationship between a father and a son - and that it does little differently with the narrative flow of what transpires, pushing Vogel more into the mentor counselling a disturbed and emotionally destroyed male.

Where it does present a point of difference is in its disarming framing of the film.

From having Rogers narrate an episode of his alarmingly honest US show and centring in on Vogel, the film wrongfoots you from the get go, drowning everything in a meta-sheen that's more creepy than charming.

Matters get more surreal on the visual presentation later on, but director Heller uses this, along with model shots of Rogers' toy village as cutaways, to disorienting affect throughout.

Ultimately, it's Rhys who deserves the most praise here, as Hanks' Rogers is more a sidelined character than the centre of a full biopic - little is unveiled of Rogers' life outside of the show other than some tossed-off tidbits that hint that his seemingly-perfect veneer is not all you'd expect.

If you're looking for an in-depth take on the man, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is not the film for that as it's more concerned with other dynamics than deeper analysis.

Just Mercy: Film Review

Just Mercy: Film Review

Cast: Michael B Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Tim Blake Nelson

That Just Mercy follows a conventional, cliched path for its tale of wronged black man seeking redemption is not a bad thing, but it lends the film a feeling of a lack of subtlety.

That it does it with Michael B Jordan leading the way, lends the film the agency it desperately wants from its beginning sequences to its obvious end, complete with its these are the people from the true story photos.
Just Mercy: Film Review

And yet in this quietly dignified story of Jordan's innocent lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who, despite the exhortations of his mother who fears for his life, heads to Alabama to try and save Jamie Foxx's Walter McMillian from death row, every cliche and every dramatic beat lies in wait and is deployed when thematically necessary.

This may sound like a damnation of the film, but in truth, Just Mercy's strength derives from knowing the journey it's on, and being determined to tell it well, wrapping the whole thing up in an unshowy bow that gives it the kind of prestige sheen that won't attract awards praise, but will render its audience distraught with parts of its power.

Nuance is the order of the day with Just Mercy, and while Foxx is reduced to a side player thanks to his character's incarceration, Jordan's evident star power shines through. Sure, his lawyer doesn't resort to showmanship or tricks and ticks to get his result, but the story gifts Jordan with enough to ensure the overriding feeling is one of dignity in the face of overwhelming odds.

You've seen films like Just Mercy before - depressingly, these stories have been around from the John Grisham days to the Netflix contemporary series, and they've been told to varying degrees of success through the years. And sure, there are montages which show researching and lawyering at work, but Just Mercy does more than enough to justify its cliches, and exposes the horror of the Alabama state to the depressing maximum.

However, Just Mercy packs a powerful punch when it's needed.

An execution sequence is utterly heart-in-mouth horrifically burned into the screen, one of the few truly memorable moments from Just Mercy's overly bloated 2 hour run time that resolutely stands out and is deeply affecting. And Blake Nelson's performance as a witness in the original case gives the film a boost as it threatens to sag in its second hour

Ultimately, Just Mercy and its depressingly familiar material is another of those has to be told tales that Hollywood occasionally does so well. What makes this one stand out though is a nuanced lead, a determination to showcase the grit under extreme pressure and the desire to lead with its earnestness.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

My Spy: Film Review

My Spy: Film Review

Cast: Dave Baustista, Kristen Schaal, Paris Fitz-Henley, Chloe Coleman
Director: Peter Segal

My Spy knows what it wants to do and it has no pretense otherwise.

Bautista is JJ, a former Special Forces op who now works in the CIA - but whose hopeless ineptitude blows their biggest operation which centres around a potential nuclear threat.

Assigned to watch a family believed to be connected to the terrorists, JJ, along with new tech support buddy Bobbi (Conchords' star Schaal, who gets some of the best oneliners and moments) believes he's been benched.
My Spy: Film Review

But when the 9 year old girl Sophie (Coleman, amiable without ever being too precocious)twigs they're operatives, she deploys blackmail to help her settle into her new school and life...

Sure, there's a story we've all seen here before - the mismatched adult out of their emotional depth, and the kid who's looking for a surrogate dad. But My Spy doesn't pretend to radically change the formula, only play up to it, and occasionally, openly mocking it.

Bautista uses some of the same skills as Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy and Stuber to reasonable comedic effect, but in among the pratfalls, and silliness of the wafer-thin story lies a fairly solid piece of family fare that offers a few unexpected laughs, a subtle Indiana Jones gag and a faltering slide into inevitable sentiment (but never mush).

Bautista and Schaal have elements of the Melissa McCarthy comedy flick Spy, but it's Coleman and Bautista's charming double act that may catch you off guard, even if none of it feels utterly original.

It may dip a little unevenly and lean a little heavily into its terrorism plot to power things forward, but charm gets My Spy a long way, and it never outstays its welcome.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Zombieland: Double Tap: Blu Ray Review

Zombieland: Double Tap: Blu Ray Review

It may open with a self-effacing voiceover from the familiarly neurotic tones of Jesse Eisenberg, and acknowledge that pop culture has other alternatives for zombie entertainment, but Zombieland: Double Tap barely offers much of a reason to exist other than a nostalgia do-over a decade on.

Taking place a decade after the first proffered guilty pleasures, Double Tap focuses on the core four of the group, Columbus, Wichita, Tallahassee, and Little Rock as they continue to negotiate life in a post-apocalyptic world.

Zombieland: Double Tap: Film Review

When Little Rock ups and leaves, tired of Tallahassee's fatherly yolk, and Wichita walks following Columbus' proposal, the boys are left brooding and directionless amid concerns a new super-zombie is on the rise.

However, they're both pulled into the search for Little Rock sooner than they'd think...

It's incumbent in some ways on a sequel to do something new and exciting.

Zombieland: Double Tap is more interested in repeating the vicarious highs of the first film sadly, than forging on with a new narrative. Ironically, it double dips on itself, rather than double tapping.

Sure, it deepens the nuclear family vibe of what's already occurred and extends the squabbling, but despite initially teasing the zombie elements as being key this time around, it jettisons them save for a finale action sequence that feels piecemeal and bolted on.

Thankfully, Zoey Deutch adds a lot to to the proceedings with her Legally Blonde / Cher from Clueless hybrid tracksuit clad Madison injecting much humour into the narrative which flounders for a reason to flourish other than to rehash insults and relive the tensions between Tallahassee and Columbus.

There are some inventive moments though, specifically a Graceland-set fight sequence that clearly comes from the mind of Deadpool's Rhett Reese, and which shows some flair and panache punching among the undead.

But Zombieland: Double Tap is less interested in making its putrid zombies interesting, and more concerned with referencing pop culture elements from the past decade that the original Zombieland missed or have sprung up during the intervening years.

From the Walking Dead to a Shaun of the Dead homage, this all feels like tired fare, a tale that's as decaying as the undead within.

Zombieland may have been a fresh as comedy horror, but Zombieland: Double Tap is sadly not. It's passable enough fare for a loaded night out, but stripped to its core, its raison d'etre is at best, shaky. 

Monday, 20 January 2020

The Nightingale: DVD Review

The Nightingale: DVD 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. 

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil: Blu Ray Review

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil: Blu Ray Review

The MVP of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil's slightly drawn out, thinly plotted very familiar story is not Angelina Jolie's angular angry fae, sadly.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil: Film Review

It's Michelle Pfeiffer's scheming Queen, who dominates every scene she's in with a cool menace and is in serious contention for one of the most terrifying villains Disney's ever committed to screen.

In the sequel to 2014's Maleficent, Jolie returns as the icy fae, who this time around has to contend with her adopted human daughter Princess Aurora (Fanning) consenting to marry beau Prince Phillip.

Invited to a family dinner to celebrate, and with most of the kingdom terrified of Maleficent due to a smear campaign that's passed into lore, Jolie's fae explodes when pushed to the edge. Blamed for sending Phillip's father into a coma and cursing him, Maleficent has to contend with a daughter rejecting her too, as well as discovering that she is not the only one of her kind...

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is not the strongest of films to be honest, in terms of plot, and execution.
However, it is a strong one for its messages.

It sidelines Maleficent and the wonderful Jolie way too much, consigning her screen time to too little when she should shine. Thankfully, she makes the most of her moments on the bigscreen, whether it's trying some forced humour with her sidekicks ahead of the family get together or wrestling with the discoveries she makes - the film is less without her around.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil: Film Review

As mentioned, Pfeiffer owns her role from the moment she appears, oozing malice and menace with equal aplomb, and providing the backdrop for one of the most truly horrific sequences ever executed in a Disney film inside a church.

There are overtones of refugees here, overtones of humans pillaging and destroying the species of the earth and expressions of the horrors of exterminations and genocide - all relatively dark themes for a family friendly film. And director Joachim Ronning subtly blends them in to weave a film that may be solely headed just for a CGI fight sequence at the end, but that truly does pierce the heart with its horrors.

There's nothing new here in truth, but that's not to deny the impact of what transpires.

It's just a shame that this Twice Upon a Time yarn holds off from wielding its greatest asset - here's hoping a further sequel makes Maleficent as magnificent as she deserves.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Hustlers: DVD Review

Hustlers: DVD Review

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer
Director: Lorene Scafaria

Hustlers: Film Review

Based on a New York magazine article, Hustlers' tale of empowerment of ladies and taking back what's theirs should in theory, be a home run.

Set against a backdrop of a group of strippers headed up by matriarch Ramona (JLo, in no nonsense taking mood) Constance Wu stars as Destiny, a new-to-town stripper, who's taken under Ramona's wing.

When the financial crisis of 2008 hits the strip clubs and stops the ladies from earning the coin as the businessmen stay away, Ramona and Destiny hit upon a new scam to make money when times get tough....

Hustlers is a fine film in parts (specifically its aesthetics), but one that fails to fully seize on what makes a story like this soar.

Hustlers: Film Review

While it could be seen as a female POV counterpoint piece to Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street, Hustlers' prime failure is in fully setting up the friendships and family elements early on which would inform the emotional bond you feel to the characters when times get tough.

It's a relatively fatal flaw, in among the incessant gyrations and tasteful nudity that never once falls into male gaze territory (thankfully).

The shallow skin-deep approach informs much of the aesthetics of the club, as well as the approach to the characters - motivations are about as fleshed-out as the fully-covered ladies and Scafaria's failure to demonise anyone makes for an intriguing lack of moral compass as the movie plays out.

It's particularly noticeable and pertinent in the final third of the film, which meanders and drifts into duller territory as the narrative framing devices push the story into a she said, she said approach necessary for the magazine interview format to play out.

Hustlers: Film Review

Wu is fairly solid in this, but talk of Lopez for Oscar glory for her role as Ramona is misplaced at best - her Ramona is a variation of any strong women role she's had before, but unfortunately, there's not enough dramatic meat in the Hustlers' bones to really justify it.

When the end comes, you may be surprised how hollow it feels and how emotionally lacking it is - if anything, this is the ultimate scam perpetrated by Hustlers, a film so wrapped up in all its own take on capitalism and family that it falls apart under any kind of prolonged scrutiny.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Gemini Man: Blu Ray Review

Gemini Man: Blu Ray Review

Gemini Man: Film Review
Gemini Man feels like a film that could have come from the 90s.

And in fairness, it should, quite frankly, have stayed there.

A muted Smith plays Henry Brogan a hitman with 72 kills under his belt and an inability to look himself in the mirror. Deciding to retire, Brogan finds himself hunted and on the run by his former employers - and someone who could be as deadly as he is...a younger version of himself.

Gemini Man tries to tick the action boxes and while some of  and while some of the action thrills (specifically the first chase between the two) a lot of the film falls into the uncanny valley and digital incoherence.

Smith’s younger version flips and parkours like it’s the 90s, bordering between laughable and laudable effects work from WETA digital.

Looking like a cross between Fresh Prince and Smith as Ali, there’s a visual reality that feels like a cross between ground breaking and PlayStation cut scene. Technologically it may be a marvel, but saddled with a dull script and a level of conspiracy incoherence that feels like it’s from the X Files, Gemini Man thuds to the ground with a real crash.

Gemini Man: Film Review

Muting Smith's charisma may help some of the drama, but given how flat the script is, it’s a fatal flaw.

Owen is saddled with little except grim faced exposition, Winstead fares little better with a role that requires nothing - only Benedict Wong emerges with some comedic touches that lightly improve proceedings

In many ways, Gemini Man feels like Enemy of the State and an attempted meditation on an identity crisis, but with a clone edge. 

It’s just a shame that this Gemini Man is less interested in making you see more double, and leaves you more likely to see red.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Dogman: DVD Review

Dogman: DVD Review

A brutal yet intensely intimate piece about the corruption of crime, male friendships and the pecking order of society, Matteo Garrone's thriller Dogman is about as far from the glamour of crime as you can get.

Marcello Fonte plays Marcello, a dog groomer in the middle of a seaside estate that never really came to fruition. In among the uncompleted construction and the grim vistas, Marcello's a popular man with his shopworker colleagues.

But the area has a problem in the form of towering man mountain, Simone (a hulking Edoardo Pesce), who terrorises the neighbourhood and is a volatile presence. However, Marcello, used to taming ferocious animals in his grooming parlour (as witnessed by an opening sequence where a snarling pitbull refuses his washing advances before ultimately submitting to a shampoo, followed by a blow dry of the jowls) believes Simone to be his friend. It's a relationship of subjugation and domination, that's corrosive yet compulsive for both parties.

Dogman: NZIFF Review

It's an assumption fed by Simone's cocaine habit, and Marcello's desire to feed it, despite the money for the transactions stopping long ago, and Simone's use of bullying to get what he wants.

With the neighbourhood determined to rid themselves of Simone, Marcello finds his relationship with the brute pushed into more dangerous territory than expected.

Dogman's feel is one of a simmering powderkeg, as you wait tensely for the eruptions to come.

But Garrone (Gomorrah) wisely piles the stakes high, while keeping the drama low. The explosion never comes in the way you'd expect, and yet throughout the audience spends its time willing Marcello to tear of the shackles of this oppression and strike back.

Here's the thing with Dogman though - it's all about a wry examination of relationships.
From Marcello's bond with Simone, to his loving relationship with his estranged daughter via the bonhmie dealt upon him by his fellow shopkeepers, Marcello appears to be aware of what the order of things is and also inherently what the right thing to do is.

When Simone is attacked, Marcello's instinct is to do what he can to save him, fundamentally knowing this is what is to be done, even though the right thing would be to let him die. Equally, when Simone suggests a plan that's fuelled by greed and will impact others, Marcello's reticent fearing for his friends, and also his place in that society.

Fonte imbues his scrawny and weedy Marcello with a tragic pathos throughout - as Garrone lingers on his face (a cross between Peter Lorre, Klinger from M*A*S*H and Steve Buscemi), the conflict is etched deeply within. Physicality plays a large part here from Fonte's almost weedy like posture and appearance to Pesce's towering brute, the contrast could not be more evident - likewise with outlooks.

However, what Garrone does well in Dogman, is to show a man wrestling with his place in the system, a man who shouldn't really take any more and a man whose loyalties are stretched in ways unexpected. This is the tragedy of the slow-burning piece, the price of personal corruption, and the personal cost of crime - it's a searing look where no one is perfect, nobody is innocent, and ultimately, everyone pays the price.

Dolittle: Film Review

Dolittle: Film Review

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Harry Collett, Carmel Laniado, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley
Director: Stephen Gaghan

Leaning heavily into the eccentricities and the weird Welsh whisperings of the titular character, the CGI heavy Dolittle comes across as a strange mix of Willy Wonka-cum-Jules Verne-cum Aladdin that never quite settles on a tone.

A wafer thin plot involving the grieving recluse being forced out of hiding to try and help save a terminally ill Queen Victoria is just the jumping off point for Downey Jr's Dolittle to head off with a menagerie of creatures and a potential apprentice in tow.

But the film is also there to give the man who imbued Iron Man with such gravitas a chance to make gorilla noises as well - it's that kind of movie.

In truth, it's not a mess, more an incoherent folly that dogs Dolittle throughout.

While the talking animals will amuse the kids, what they're saying will amuse the adults less, given most of it is relatively flat comedic fare that lands with nary a punchline.

The CGI is on overload, and maybe a little more breathing space would have given the frantic fare a bit more of the emotional appeal that it needs to counter the general broadness of the comedy and the attempted hits.
Dolittle: Film Review

Downey Jr's Welsh accent isn't entirely convincing to start off with, and there's definitely a feeling some of it was redubbed afterwards, but it's the mumbling, withdrawn approach that ever so slightly holds this hero back from fully grasping the screen. He never seizes the moment, and while there's some Chaplin-esque clowning to be had, there's no defining moment for this incarnation of Dolittle.

Yet, there's also an other worldly old time quality to Dolittle, a film that wafts by insubstantially on more innocent fare (witness Sheen's cartoon pantomime villain) and feels  like it's from yesteryear as it flits quickly and awkwardly from one scene to the next.

Ultimately, this Dolittle is less a case of the man who could speak to the animals, more a case of should he have done so in the first place.

Bombshell: Film Review

Bombshell: Film Review

Cast: Charlize Theron, John Lithgow, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Kate McKinnon
Director: Jay Roach

The most high profile of the post MeToo filmmaking choices, Bombshell is certainly a stylish and spirited affair, that's as interested in making sure you can't tell it's Charlize Theron under the make up as it is exposing the horrendous lascivious advances of John Lithgow's slimy take on Roger Ailes.

Mixing the kind of take that worked with Vice and the fourth wall breaking of The Big Short, director Roach tells the story of inside Fox News and Gretchen Carlson (Kidman, in a distracting chin) who sued sexual predator Ailes for harassment when he sacked her.
Bombshell: Film Review

Combining and intertwining the stories of other women at Fox News - chiefly Theron's astounding take on Megyn Kelly and Robbie's composite cypher Kayla, a researcher who rose through the ranks after an appalling casting couch moment from Ailes - Roach's swift trawl through the worst of what was on offer is as shocking an affair as it is necessarily confronting.

It's fair to say that of the leads, Theron and Robbie are compelling.

Thanks to a transformational piece of make up work, Theron is unrecognisable as Kelly, the anchor whose views have bordered on racism and who's been happy to whip the arguments up when needed (a side barely explored in the script); but there's no doubt that as she parades around the screen initially, breaking the fourth wall, Theron deserves every accolade she's being afforded for this portrayal.

Equally, Robbie's Kayla is heartbreaking to watch - from innocent career-climber to deeer-stuck-in-the-headlights victim, Robbie gives her cypher character a heart and an arc to invest in.

In truth, Kidman's largely sidelined, but makes the most of her brief appearances as the chief instigator of the complaints that would bring Ailes down.

But in handling Carlson - and wider elements - is where Bombshell's script falls drastically short.
It ignores the fact Fox News has peddled fear and hate through the years, skates over the more dubious elements of Megyn Kelly's character and views and really presents a paper thin view of proceedings to give an air over definitive style over substance.

It may deliver a polished film that's about solidarity and the truly ugly side of Roger Ailes (Lithgow is fantastic throughout, a repugnant no-holds barred take on the man) but Bombshell never quite lives up to the title it aspires to. Sure, it's an explosive film in parts, but overall, it's a muffled muted bang that it delivers.

Bad Boys For Life: Film Review

Bad Boys For Life: Film Review

Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano,
Director: Bilall Fallah, Adil El Arbi

17 years after Bad Boys 2 exploded onto screens, the apparently final outing for Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's buddy cops series has arrived.

In all honesty, it may have been better to be shelved than to try to relive and recapture some of the former glories of the franchise.
Bad Boys For Life: Film Review

In this latest, Mike Lowery (Smith, still looking flash as the Miami cop) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence, appearing in some scenes like he's struggling) are forced to reassess their lives when the past comes calling - and brings with it the Grim Reaper.

With one apparently last score to settle, the duo's forced back into a world not all of them want to be in...

Bad Boys For Life's elongated script drawing out moments doesn't help matters here.

It's rarely better than when both Smith and Lawrence are allowed to get back to their bickering best, but even that feels a little muted in parts, when really it should have soared higher because of the obvious chemistry between them.

Sure, there's a tale here of personal demons coming back to haunt and of looking to family and friends as being more important than your legacy, but Bad Boys For Life doesn't really build on that promise, preferring to go with racial stereotypes for the villain that's as outdated as ever in the current climates (but which some Trump supporters will adore, and those still smarting from Rambo's outing last year will groan at) and action that's solid but never spectacular.

As mentioned, Lawrence looks in parts like he's struggling to deliver a flat script, and where there should be comedy, there are, aside from one genuine laugh-out-loud moment from within a plane, warning signs of tumbleweeds lumbering into view.

Had 20 minutes of the Gemini Man style script been excised and the pace tightened along with some of it being beefed up, Bad Boys for Life would have been passable action movie fare.

As it is, it's less than memorable thanks to feeling stale and forced, and in parts more risible than it should be - instead of sending these bad boys off into the sunset, Bad Boys For Life has seen them hobble into retirement like some lame mules desperately in need of being put into pasture.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Win a double pass to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Win a double pass to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Win a double pass to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
To celebrate the release of the Oscar-nominated A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, thanks to Sony Pictures NZ, you can win a double pass.

About A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.

After a jaded magazine writer (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is in cinemas January 23.
All you have to do is email your details and the word BEAUTIFUL!

Email now to 

Win a double pass to see The Grudge

Win a double pass to see The Grudge

Win a Bad Boys For Life prize pack
To celebrate the release of The Grudge in cinemas, thanks to Sony Pictures New Zealand, you can win a double pass

About The Grudge

Directed by Nicolas Pesce, THE GRUDGE stars Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin with Lin Shaye and Jacki Weaver.

With a screenplay by Nicolas Pesce and a story by Nicolas Pesce and Jeff Buhler, THE GRUDGE is based on the film “Ju-On: The Grudge” written and directed by Takashi Shimizu.

THE GRUDGE is produced by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Taka Ichise and is executive produced by Nathan Kahane, Erin Westerman, Brady Fujikawa, Andrew Pfeffer, Roy Lee, Doug Davison, John Powers Middleton and Schuyler Weiss.

The Grudge is in cinemas January 30

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

Email now to 

Win a Bad Boys For Life prize pack

Win a Bad Boys For Life prize pack

To celebrate the release of Bad Boys For Life in cinemas January 16, you can win an amazing prize pack from Sony Pictures New Zealand.

Inside the pack is
  • a T shirt
  • a hoodie
  • a cap

About Bad Boys For Life

The Bad Boys Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are back together for one last ride in the highly anticipated Bad Boys for Life.

Bad Boys for Life is in cinemas January 16

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

Email now to 

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