Saturday, 29 February 2020

Bellbird: DVD Review

Bellbird: DVD Review

Hamish Bennett's follow up to his award-winning short Ross and Beth from 2014 is a crowd-pleasing, quietly restrained film about life on a Northland farm.

Marshall Napier is Ross, the third generation farm owner, who's left devastated after a loss and who tries to find what's next in his life. Recently returned to his life is his son Bruce (a dramatic and poignant turn from Cohen Holloway, who shines throughout), who works in the local dump but who's gradually coaxed back onto the farm and into family life in general.

Bucolic and beautifully shot, Bennett's film is a small restrained movie about relationships and reconnections, that taps into the rural way of few words.

Bellbird: NZIFF Review

If Bennett overdoes it with the cutaway shots which depict life on the farm, it's seemingly about building an atmosphere and a sense of location within Northland that goes to explain Ross' connection to the land and his community.

Suffused with charm, and lovely wry one-liners (particularly from Rachel House), Bellbird has a heart that's hard to deny, as it negotiates grief in a typical she'll be right mentality.

Its leads are where the film's strength are, and Napier deserves as much credit as Holloway, for bringing to life a Kiwi type that's prevalent in the community. In truth, it's more about what's unsaid than said as this slow-paced family drama unfolds, but Bennett's wise enough to pepper his script with heartland humour that will prove a winner with audiences.

Newcomer Kahukura Retimana also deserves mention for neighbouring Marley who injects a level of care into how he tries to look after Ross; there's much of the film which speaks to how communities try to care for their own, something city dwellers may ruefully gaze upon as they view this low-key relationship piece.

Ultimately Bellbird wins by its gentle restraint, and its affectionate celebration of the quieter moments of life, and of what comes next when the worst happens.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Ford v Ferrari: Blu Ray Review

Ford v Ferrari: Blu Ray Review

Logan director James Mangold's biographical picture Ford v Ferrari draws deep from the well of great racing sequences, but fares less well off the track.
Ford v Ferrari: Film Review

In fact, were it not for Bale's somewhat quirky character efforts, a lot of Ford v Ferrari would feel like a token underdog sports pic that doesn't quite hit some of the early promise.

For those uninitiated with the times, Ford v Ferrari is the story of US visionary designer Carroll Shelby (Damon, in broad US accent and all American apple pie approach) and his quest to get the flailing Ford motor company to be part of the legendary Le Mans race in the mid 1960s.

Fuelled by constant mockery from Enzo Ferrari, Shelby enlists unconventional UK racing car driver Ken Miles (Bale, possessing a Northern English accent and some "hey-up" mannerisms with ease) to design a new vehicle. However, Miles is not the kind of driver the Ford higher ups want - but he is the one they need to secure victory.

Ford v Ferrari is a technically adept film, but an emotionally rote and hollow one.

Ford v Ferrari: Film Review

Its last hour is where the film excels, shifting into high gear and engaging the ethos of sticking it to Le Mans pushing you right to the edge of your seat. Mangold makes the racing come alive, delivers moments that genuinely thrill and still push you out of your comfort zone even if you know the result, thanks to pacing, humour and Bale.

But the journey to the final strait is a long one, laced with unevenness as the script veers all over the place.

The film initially begins with Jon Bernthal's marketing executive Lee Iacocca, before he disappears into the rear view mirror and becomes nothing more than a speechless supporting player.

The film's subterfuge of politics and marketing shenanigans are front and centre early on, before once again trailing off.

Equally, Outlander's Caitriona Balfe's Mollie Miles, Miles' wife, circles proceedings before settling for a more thankless supporting wife position, way back on the grid.

The film's never more content than when it's dealing with its two leading men, and in fairness, it's never more than dazzling when it's centred on Bale's Miles and his elements of unpredictability.

Hurtling around tracks, mocking the man and proving once again that those on the ground know better than those in the boardroom, Miles is an electrifying character that's brought vividly to life by Bale. Without him, parts of this 150 minute film would flounder in their wake.

Ford v Ferrari: Film Review

Ultimately, Ford v Ferrari is a solid examination of two men's motoring obsession.

It may fail the women of the period massively, but it does present a film of faith, an examination of passion and a penchant for horse power when it needs to. Its ending should be commended (though it may be vilified on NZ soil for some reasons involving McLaren)for its downbeat nature, but its underdog tale gives it a solid placing on the track, but not quite in the pole position it should be. 

Thursday, 27 February 2020

James Bond: No Time To Die featurette

James Bond: No Time To Die featurette

Here is a very special featurette for No Time To Die

In this piece, director Cary Joji Fukunaga takes us behind the scenes for a closer look at the production of No Time To Die, touching on how the world has changed in the five years that James Bond has been retired, and how they wanted to farewell Daniel Craig's Bond.

James Bond: No Time To Die hits cinemas April 9.

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation)
Returning Cast: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright
Debuting Cast Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Ana de Armas (Bladerunner 2049Knives Out), David Dencik (Chernobyl), Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel), Billy Magnussen (Aladdin)

Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica.  

His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. 

The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

The Current War: Film Review

The Current War: Film Review

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Languishing in release hell post the collapse of The Weinstein Company, The Current War's sat around since being finished in 2017. Now with a director's cut rearing its head, the "Inspired by True Events" film is the tale of Thomas Edison (Cumberbatch) and his passive aggressive war with
Michael Shannon's Westinghouse as the pair try to use current to light up America's towns.
The Current War: Film Review

With Edison pushing for the DC approach and Westinghouse tackling the more productive AC approach, the stakes are raised as Matthew MacFadyen's banker JP Morgan looks at who's best to bankroll - and who eventually will win the day.

The Current War occasionally proffers an argument for a better way to tell a stuffy historical period piece and a fairly traditional story.

But along with choppy editing, swirling cameras and a frenetic jumping narrative, the film is less interested in developing the depth that would be more necessary to engage an audience.

Throwing in three alternating storylines, the flow feels fractious at best, and pacy at worst. Visually the film offers new touches for traditional fare, signalling the change of the era and its usual style of biographical filmmaking. Throw in a non-traditional score that mixes electric and strings, and The Current War has a kind of visual electricity that's sorely needed throughout.

The Current War: Film Review
Essentially charting the fall of Thomas Edison, Cumberbatch is rarely challenged and goes from contempt to crook with ease; Hoult barely registers any wattage as Tesla, the script denying him much of a presence. Shannon hardly fares better, a shame given his more human Westinghouse offers a man trying to do the right thing but thwarted at every level. It's a dialled down performance from Shannon, but one that rises in the final mix.

The Current War may offer some visual shocks in its tale of electricity, but given the overall feel of the film, it teeters close to boredom as it charts a period covering 15 years. It's a shame given the conflict is one worthy of exploration - it's just obvious that this doesn't shine as brightly as it could, and settles more for flawed and interesting rather than compelling.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Charlie's Angels: Blu Ray Review

Charlie's Angels: Blu Ray Review

"I think women can do anything," Kristen Stewart's bewigged spy says at the start of the 2019 franchise reboot, seducing a potential fly in the web before launching into a curtain-inspired take on asphyxiation.
Charlie's Angels: Film Review

It's an obvious and overt meta comment to both the audience and critics of the intentions of the new Charlie's Angels, just moments before it launched into a montage of everyday women doing every day things, and simply, as the song says, putting their hands up.

Yet, it's also symptomatic of why the new popcorn blockbuster doesn't quite fly as it could, regardless of whether you're a male or female audience member.

Granted, for all the independent women out there, the story of a systems engineer (played with wide-eyed innocence by Aladdin's Naomi Scott) who finds herself ensconsced in the spy world when she discovers the technology she's developing is flawed and potentially life-ending is nothing new.

Even peppered with Banks' trademark zing and the light touch as director and writer, the film still flounders with some of its would-be peppier lines failing to hit any target and clanking to the ground.

Meta discussions about whether Ben Affleck truly is Batman raise nary a titter, and reek of a push to bring contemporary themes to the fore, just to give the film an edge, and its writer a "we can do this too" voice.

A continuing "gag" about men underappreciating and underestimating women just seems to grate (there's no bitterness on this male reviewer's point of view) rather than scythe through the ongoing chatter like it should. And most of the men within the movie are treated more as bad guys than anything more three dimensional, adding to a feeling this film, rightly so, is all about the sisters and sisterhood rather than the script.

Within the Angels themselves, Brit newcomer Ballinska stumbles occasionally, floundering with any emotional delivery of basic dialogue but kicking ass when needed. More successful is Aladdin's Scott, who gives the her newbie the innocence she needs and some life to the arc she's been dished out with.

Charlie's Angels: Film Review

And easily the MVP of the piece is Stewart, even if there's a feeling that she's been held back by a script that doesn't allow her comedy chops to cut loose. Though disappointingly, hints of who she may be are confined to a look in one shot, and give a feel of a withering uncertainty to mark her sexual place in the film. Had the script afforded her a greater chance to lean more into the quips and beefed them up, she would easily have scorched the cinema screen.

But that's symptomatic of where Charlie's Angels goes wrong; it feels underwritten and undercooked.

From the lack of real energy and chemistry between this team of angels to a story that's almost irrelevant to proceedings, the movie flails and fails to find a voice of its own, even if there are touches that make the all-female led reboot worthy of some of your time and money.

Its message of sisterhood bleeds unfortunately too heavily from the screen, watering down its action movie roots, and giving you a sense that there could have been more. While the two Stewarts (Patrick and Kristen) deliver much comedy and ham, it's not enough of a frisson on screen to connect, even if the film's DNA is infused with some touches of feminism and some welcome subversions of what's transpired before.

Some diverting stunt sequences (particularly in a quarry) may distract from the weaker and confused action scenes, but this Charlie's Angels lacks the punch and pace of the reboots a few decades ago. On this outing alone, it seems unlikely these Angels will be taking flight again - despite the good intentions of all those involved.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Invisible Man: Film Review

The Invisible Man: Film Review

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Director: Leigh Whannell

Upgrade's Leigh Whannell turns his hyper-kinetic hand to another update of The Invisible Man story.

This time around, The Handmaid's Tale's Moss plays Cecilia, who's trapped in an abusive relationship with beau Adrian. Finally making the jump to escape, Cece believes her world is changed, and due to his apparent suicide, she's free.

However, she soon comes to believe that Adrian's not dead and is out to get her.
The Invisible Man: Film Review

But can she convince those around her this is actually the case?

Essentially a film about gaslighting, and one woman's fight back against it, Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man is atmospheric intrigue from the get-go.

Haunting and a grippingly bleak expose of the legacy of abuse, Whannell's script makes the most out of a harried Moss, who gives her all and revels in her misery when there's no one else onscreen. (Or is there?) Her Cecilia has enough seeds of doubt sewn to make you question whether she's right, or what exactly is going on - though admittedly, the title is The Invisible Man and not The Invisible Woman.

But it's the director who's primarily the star of the film.

Employing techniques he used to visual excellence on Upgrade, Whannell brings his  use of syncing the camera to the film's most chilling moments. Whether it's a sequence in a kitchen, or a brutal encounter within a hospital, Whannell channels a kind of kinetic brilliance that marks this revamp of The Invisible Man out when it comes to the action.

Long wide shots of empty unsettling spaces, a la early Paranormal Activity, promote a kind of queasiness as the film practically invites you to scan the screen, searching for the titular character and putting you in the mindset of unease thrust upon Cecelia.

Granted, the film's really about a woman's crusade against endless negativity and systematic and systemic ignorance, but it never loses sight of the fact that at its heart, it's about a primal horror and terror.

It's just that this terror is more psychological and excellently conveyed by Moss' character.

Ultimately, it's so engrossing and unnerving, that it may allow you to skirt over some of the script's hokier edges, occasional predictable moments and odd lapses of logic which occur among some of the more obvious jump scares.

At its heart though, The Invisible Man offers terrifying thrills among its subtle fearscape (its use of sound is superlative as well) - as much of a rollercoaster as a psychological breakdown, against all odds, The Invisible Man remains one to be seen.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Kefla joins the battle in DRAGON BALL FighterZ and new gameplay features to be added in the 3rd season

Kefla joins the battle in DRAGON BALL FighterZ and new gameplay features to be added in the 3rd season


Announced during the RED BULL DRAGON BALL FighterZ - World Tour Finals, Kefla will be available on February 28th
FighterZ Pass 3 owners will be granted two days of early access starting from February 26th.
As Season 3 begins, more features will be added to DRAGON BALL FighterZ to make the fights even more exciting.
  • The updated assists system will enable players to choose between three different Z Assists for each character before the fight, allowing players to create new combos and broaden their playstyles!
  • As the battle goes on, the last character standing will see their power increase drastically. Don’t give up until the last second!
  • In the Boot Camp mode, players will be training by other characters. This mode will allow them to discover new possibilities and push their skills to new heights!

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: Blu Ray Review

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: Blu Ray Review

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.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Doctor Sleep: DVD Review

Doctor Sleep: DVD Review

A follow on to The Shining was a book nobody ordered, yet Stephen King delivered it.

And thus it is with Mike "House on Haunted Hill" Flanagan's film version of said book.

Doctor Sleep: Film Review

Picking up decades after the Overlook Hotel scarred his psyche, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor, withdrawn and dour) is stumbling around life, living his father's tortured hell of violence and alcoholism. Riding a bus to the middle of nowhere to start anew, Torrance finds himself pulled back into the world he desperately wants to avoid when his gift connects him with Abra, a girl who's witnessed a brutal murder.

But it also puts her on a collision course with a group of vampires led by Rose the Hat (an enigmatic, charismatic and magnetic turn from Rebecca Ferguson) who feed on Abra and Danny's special gift....

Doctor Sleep is sombre, evocative and at times, mournful.

It's also not its own beast, with shots recreated from Kubrick's cupboard with panache and familiarity and with a final sequence that suffers because it's a repeat of some of The Shining's best moments, given a new spit and polish.

It may be muted and contemplative, and lack its own horrors, but there are elements of Doctor Sleep to much admire.

Ferguson, channeling a kind of demonesque Stevie Nicks is a powerful presence, and a baddie who plays with your sympathies from the start. Owning the screen from the moment she's on, her lithe and charismatically terrifying demon is a human step up from anything witnessed in Near Dark, and she manages easily to con empathy out of the audience that should be opposed to her.

Doctor Sleep: Film Review

McGregor has a tougher job, selling an iconic follow on to a tortured Danny; but a quiet turn, coupled with the film's more languid approach to the psychology of what happens next, reaps muted rewards.

A more showy performer would have damaged the film's intentions, and McGregor's languid pace and style yields limited results when it should.

It's not all perfect.

Curtis is wasted in a one note role, various shocks are squandered simply for narrative speed, and yet there's a laid back pacing here that doesn't quite work.

The final sequences at the Overlook Hotel serve only to remind what The Shining offered - an abject take on terror, on a family unit imploding in the face of evil - and Doctor Sleep suffers in comparison.

Yet, while the source material may be the issue here, Doctor Sleep's commitment to its lived in characters offers limited rewards - go in expecting an all-out psychological assault like Kubrick mastered and you'll be sorely disappointed.

 It may struggle to provide iconic moments of its own, and some of its best you'll have seen before, but Doctor Sleep's atmospheric nightmare has a way of weaving into your soul when it shouldn't.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Call of the Wild: Film Review

The Call of the Wild: Film Review

Cast: Buck the CGI dog, Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Karen Gillan, Omar Sy
Director: Chris Sanders

Chris "How To Train Your Dragon" Sanders dials up the beauty of the Yukon for this relatively tried and tested formula story on owning a dog.
The Call of the Wild: Film Review

Based on the 1903 Jack London novel, The Call of The Wild follows the rambunctious pooch Buck, as he finds himself dognapped and sold into the Yukon wilds to the highest bidder. Initially falling in with Omar Sy's mail courier, and falling foul of the pecking order of the sledding pack, Buck's world appears to be a harsh one as he tries to find his place in the world.

But when he is taken under the wing of Harrison Ford's grieving prospector John Thornton, he finds a different life as he tries to help Thornton come to terms with what life has dealt him.

Essentially The Littlest Hobo mixed in with a very familiar wilderness story and poured through a prism of old time sentimentalities, The Call of the Wild has heart under an uncanny valley CGI dog.

Initially fine, Buck's transmission to the screen soon becomes a little too hyper real (a WWE move on another dog being the defining moment) - but when the film settles, it uses simplicity to convey its heartfelt message of finding your place in the world.

Episodic by nature (Buck's kidnapped, Buck's new owners, Buck's perils among the Snow Dogs) the film lags in its final third, even as it tries to find legs for the true nugget of the tale - Buck's discovery of his wilder side, and how humanity is not for him.
The Call of the Wild: Film Review

That's a big theme to rest on the film's shoulders, and it doesn't always quite pull it off.

But a grizzled and silent Ford (he's acted with a furry companion to reasonably famous effect before) brings out the film's gentler and more contemplative edge - even if that's partially ruined by Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens hamming it up as the big bad.

There may be stock standard elements of a family film here, and there may be no surprises as the sentiment's piled high enough for mush in this Yukon Tail, but The Call of the Wild may find you feeling more stirred than you would like.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Jojo Rabbit: Blu Ray Review

Jojo Rabbit: Blu Ray Review

Marketed as an anti-hate satire, and facing unprecedented levels of hype out of wins at the Toronto International Film Festival and talk of Oscar buzz, director Taika Waititi's latest, Jojo Rabbit, is more a damp quietly burning squib than sensational fizzer.
Jojo Rabbit: Film Review
Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit

It's the story of Jojo "Rabbit" Betzler (a superb turn from Roman Griffin Davis, who exudes confidence in every scene), a wannabe Hitler Youth whose days are haunted by imaginary best friend, a dimwitted Hitler (Waititi) and whose world is turned upside down when he finds his single mum Rosie (Johansson, soft and nurturing) is harbouring a Jew Elsa (a quiet McKenzie, aching with loss, fear, uncertainty and touches of bitterness) in the attic.

Confused and conflicted over what to do thanks to his core inner beliefs, Jojo finds his inner turmoil tough to deal with in the final days of the Third Reich.

While Jojo Rabbit opens with Waititi's trademark fantasy edges and comic touches, the film soon settles into something that resembles a form of disappointment as the satire fails to hit anything resembling scathing.

Jojo Rabbit: Film Review

Perhaps more a soothing bittersweet love story, Waititi's Jojo Rabbit fails to touch on anything that verges on satire's sharpness, making the Nazis buffoons, or buffoons with heart, in something that seems to resemble great British sitcom 'Allo 'Allo (certainly in the case of Stephen Merchant's appallingly Bristolian Gestapo officer).

It's a film that revels in the quirks to start off with, before settling for this more cutesy and softer approach rather than revealing the horror of what transpired.

Whether it's enough to do this because it's through the eyes of a child is debatable, but it's perhaps somewhat morally reprehensible to try and pierce current climates and leanings with its weaker message, as perhaps those involved with the film want to do.

At its heart, Jojo Rabbit lacks the courage of some of its convictions, favouring whimsy over showing Jojo struggling more with his core Nazi beliefs, and making his inevitable epiphany feel unearned.

That's not to say it's without some successes though.

Jojo Rabbit: Film Review

Davis is an incredible lead, a wide-eyed innocent who's able to carry the lighter comedic edges with ease, and who has the requisite softness for the more dramatic interactions with an equally strong McKenzie. Their relationship is obviously key to the film, and the love message that Waititi clearly wants to convey. Equally scenes with McKenzie and Johansson conversing, reflecting and hoping, are quietly enticing.

Rockwell's laissez-faire Nazi, complete with regret over an injury, is endearing, a resentment bubbling under for reasons that are again too spoilery to discuss; and McKenzie's quiet sadness as Elsa is genuinely heartbreaking, a fragility laid bare by an actress unafraid to let the silence speak for her.

There's one moment in the film that's truly devastatingly breathtaking - to say more is to ruin Waititi's directorial flair for the dramatic, but it is easily one of 2019's best on screen sequences.

Elements of Moone Boy and Moonrise Kingdom permeate Jojo Rabbit, but its reluctance to tackle fanaticism, and dogma with anything more than surface level whimsy is disappointing. Conversely, the film truly misses Waititi when he's not on screen, a sign perhaps of the confusion the tones mix.(His final appearances go someway to espousing some of the bilious hate of Hitler, and are terrifying to watch).

Jojo Rabbit: Film Review

Make no mistake, there is a darker version of this film to be made, a film that fulfills more of the promise of Johansson's lamentations that she has lost her son to blind fanaticism as she opines at one point; a film that tackles the horror of the Nazis and overcomes it with the heart of a child and their burgeoning take on reality.

Jojo Rabbit is not it though - while Waititi may have been played into a corner with the best way to develop this passion project, there's much that leaves Jojo Rabbit wanting, a film that promises so much, and buckles, sadly, under the weight of expectation and ultimate execution.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Ready Or Not: Blu Ray Review

Ready Or Not: Blu Ray Review

Ready Or Not's mix of comedy and horror sometimes treads a fine line between successful and thrilling and sometimes, it meanders too much on the wrong side - but it's never less than compelling thanks to the grit and determination of its lead, Samara Weaving.

Weaving plays Grace, the new bride of Alex, the heir to a gaming family, who've made their money and whose members are worried Grace is nothing more than a gold-digger.

Ready Or Not: Film Review

On their wedding night, Grace is told it's a family tradition to play a game - and it's her random choice. She draws a game of Hide and Seek which has, unbeknownst to her, has deadly consequences...

Ready Or Not is a pulpy wannabe horror, occasionally subverting genre thrills and skirting some commentary between the rich and the poor.

Yet, at times, as mentioned, the film's not quite sure which way it wants to go under its Radio Silence directors and script.

Scenes of tension and horror are undercut by over-the-top moments of laughter as well as sentiment, which sometimes feel misplaced in the mix. The tonal jumps mix in with the utterly ludicrous plot, and while the film plays with all of them, skating between genres, its true success comes in its heroine.

Weaving is stoicism personified, a satire on the woman taking on the patriarchy (by wearing Converse under her wedding dress, natch) and dealing with the family from hell. She's never empowered enough to kill, adding a layer of the poor don't sink to the rich's level commentary within. But there's enough of her on show to make for a compelling heroine to root for from the beginning.

In an over-the-top laissez faire finale, Ready Or Not reveals its hand, and gives its cat and mouse game the cult feel it's clearly aiming for. But played more for laughs than outright horror, it sometimes makes it difficult to fully care or engage with anyone but the heroine as she tears into societal norms,

That's no bad thing, and while Ready or Not may offer some vicarious thrills, they're fleeting and the class war premise is left as nothing more than a simple and entertainingly brief rollercoaster thrill ride. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Come To Daddy: Film Review

Come To Daddy: Film Review

Incredibly Strange programmer and industry stalwart Ant Timpson's directorial debut is a strange slice of sentiment mixed with the usual gonzo horror gore you've come to expect.

A terribly haircutted Elijah Wood is Norval, a hipster musician who's called back to his father's side after a letter shows up without warning decades after they were last seen. But upon Norval's arrival, his father is a crude and unsympathetic father figure, apparently disinterested in his son, but fervently keen in abusing him and mocking his musical success and limited edition Lorde designed phone.

Come to Daddy: NZIFF Review

However, things take a turn for the dramatic as time goes on.

To say more about Come To Daddy is to rob the ride of some of the uncertain richness that's portrayed within. And that's kind of the point of most of the film, as it toys with the intimate and preys on the audience expectations.

But what Timpson's delivered, along with writer Toby Harvard, is a film that ripples in parts, and feels under-explored in others as it bends genres and audience hopes.

Shot in close up styles, and with a cast that's best described as intimate, rather than sparse, there is more of emotional heft than you'd expect as you watch Wood's uncertain Norval try to impress his father and reconnect. Wood channels awkwardness and misplaced bluster as he tries to show off, and the excruciating scene is made even stronger by some tautly shot moments and some wide angles suggesting the divide between them.

Apparently, there are autobiographical elements within, and one senses the early scenes speak to a generational gap that has been witnessed for years as families try to reconcile their hopes for their siblings / paternal relationships.

Timpson makes great fist of the claustrophobia here and there, and never loses the propensity for laughs - obvious or otherwise (a plastic bag on a beach being one of the chief examples).

But when the film moves out of the confines of its dramatic journey and into genre areas it's destined to fulfill, it loses some of the scope that's kept it together as it looks to satiate an audience seeking a gore quota and a sleaze factor.

The payoff is an interesting one, and one which speaks volumes to the relationship, but which to discuss more is to spoil - ultimately, Come To Daddy may offer a Friday night's worth of entertainment, but it's never as gory or as humorous as it could or should be.

And for that element alone, it's more of a sentimental film than you'd ever expect from Timpson et al - and all the more interesting because of it.

Win a copy of Oscar winner Jojo Rabbit on DVD

Win a copy of Oscar winner Jojo Rabbit on DVD

Win a copy of Oscar winner Jojo Rabbit on DVD

To celebrate the release of director Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit on Blu Ray and DVD, thanks to Universal Home Pictures, you can win a copy!

About Jojo Rabbit

Writer director Taika Waititi (THOR: RAGNAROK, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, JOJO RABBIT, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. 

Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.

Jojo Rabbit is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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

Email now to 

Competition closes February 29

The Legend of Baron To'a: Film Review

The Legend of Baron To'a: Film Review

Cast: Uli Latukefu, John Tui, Nathaniel Lees, Shavaughn Ruakere, Jay Laga'aia
Director: Kiel McNaughton

Ambition on a budget meets a degree of heart and family legacy in director Kiel McNaughton's debut.

It's the story of Latukefu's Fritz, an Aussie-based businessman who needs to sell the old family home in New Zealand to finance a deal back home. Landing in his old cul-de-sac, he finds some things have changed since the days when his wrestling father, Baron To'a, ruled the roost.
The Legend of Baron To'a: Film Review

But when a local gang makes off with his dad's prize wrestling belt, Fritz's uncle refuses to sell the home until it's returned - sending Fritz on a collision course with his own personal and troubled history.

The Legend of Baron To'a starts with two of the actors (Latukefu and Tui) apologising to the Tongan King for what they're about to see, but exalting him that they wanted to show a true to life story.

In truth, the cul-de-sac where the story takes place could be anywhere where bad apples have set in and the rot's begun, and where family and community have been torn apart by crime and deliquency.

On that front, McNaughton and his writing team have seized on a vein of veracity that's got plenty to be mined for dramatic effect.

Yet in parts, The Legend of Baron To'a lacks some of the dramatic KO that it's clearly going for - largely in part due to the writing of Latukefu's Fritz. Prone to going all Beautiful Mind and writing on windows, Fritz is a hard character to really care about, despite the Robbie Magasiva-like Latukefu's best acting intentions. And certainly when the chips are down, there's more a sense that he was entitled to what was coming, rather than favouring this underdog.
The Legend of Baron To'a: Film Review

A cartoon-like element underpins some of the brutal beatdowns, with not one ounce of blood spilled throughout, despite some of the violence on show - it's moments like this that take the film out of the reality and grittiness it aspires to.

And yet, in its flaws, this genial pic packs in heart when it needs to - particularly with moments of Tui's To'a, a legend in his own cul-de-sac. Glimpsed in flashbacks and in old videos of wrestling, it's clear there's a legacy here, and Tui makes the absolute most of the limited screentime.

Equally, Laga'aia's subtle and simple portrait of the long-time dweller offering advice to the newcomer is a stellar performance, one doused in subtlety. Laga'aia lifts some of The Legend of Baron To'a's shortcomings when it truly counts. Billed as a comedy, the laughs are, to be frank, in short shrift, and The Legend of Baron To'a is more a family dramedy than anything else.

With fight scenes that resemble UK's World of Sport Wrestling TV series, McNaughton makes great fist of the small spaces to bring the action alive, clearly channeling Tongan Ninja and Kung Fu Hustle.

Overall, while The Legend of Baron To'a may lack a few killer KO moves throughout and would have benefited from a tighter script, it does proffer a solid night out for NZ cinemagoers.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Richard Jewell: Film Review

Richard Jewell: Film Review

Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm
Director: Clint Eastwood

If Richard Jewell achieves anything, it'll be proof that the best performances come from unshowy actors determined to fall into their roles and make the best subtle use of their time on screen.

Eastwood's tale of one man caught in a maelstrom is perfect for his ageing Libertarian views, as he aims a salvo at the media and pushes the old ways of the American dream.
Richard Jewell: Film Review

Hauser plays Jewell, a vulnerable oaf caught in his belief of authority and his inability to see the system is out to get him and manipulate him when he's accused of bombing Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

With his profile fitting the FBI's suspicions he's not the hero he's hailed as after he saved many in the park, Jewell finds his life - and that of his mother's - caught in the headlights.

Richard Jewell benefits from terrific turns from Hauser as the wronged man, Rockwell as the lawyer who decides to take the case after years of friendship, and Bates' silently-stoic-but-ultimately-rising-to-the-occasion mother.

When it concentrates on this triumvirate, the film packs a power punch that's subtle, unshowy and ultimately engrossing.

Which is why it's a shame that those swirling around Jewell's escalating plight, and those plotting his downfall, are nothing more than once-over-lightly stereotypes and caricatures.

From Wilde's contentiously sleazy reporter Kathy Scruggs who's made to trade sex for scoops (something the film's been slammed for) to Hamm's just bad FBI agent who was caught off guard when Jewell discovered the bomb, the film's outer edges damage the relatively engrossing tale that ensues.

Throw in Confederate flags, a scene of the US flag being waved in full camera that Roland Emmerich would be proud of and the whole mix starts to feel a little queasy, a touch of retro jingoism of the worst order.

Ultimately, Richard Jewell deserves to be seen for Hauser and Rockwell's performances alone, their character moments dazzling quietly under the ensuing heavy-handedness that Eastwood and his writer deploy.

It may be following Eastwood's desire to laud the common man caught in the unstoppable force of
the Government crusade his latest films have pushed, but the more powerful moments of Jewell, thanks largely to Hauser's understated and overwhelming performance, soar high above some of the other misdeeds of the rest of the film.

Helen Kelly - Together: Film Review

Helen Kelly - Together: Film Review

Director: Tony Sutorius

Director Tony Sutorius' portrait of renowned union advocate Helen Kelly is deep on inspiration, but low on full details of its subject itself.

Pulling together elements of the last year of her life, Sutorius prefers to concentrate more on the ripple effects of Kelly's life, rather than an in depth look at what motivated her, her background etc.

There are elements of this mentioned early on, as Kelly details some of her family life, her father's advocacy and the fact she was determined to be following in his footsteps. But largely, Sutorius chooses to concentrate on her fight against bureaucracy, her fight for the families of Pike River, of logging accidents in Tokoroa, and generally on the elements that just saw her intrinsically fighting for the everyday worker.
Helen Kelly - Together: Film Review

It's a pleasant enough affair, put together with heart and sensitivity, but one which unless you're interested in the birth of union moments and butting heads with bureaucracy, one which feels like it's not quite as wide a portrait as it could be.

Where it is successful is in Sutorius' desire to show that everyday ordinary decency is still evident in the face of insurmountable odds. From getting inside Pike River via some astounding footage to capturing Kelly dealing with chemo and union quibbles, there's a sense here that inspirational was what was aimed for - and there's no denying a legacy.

It's just that Helen Kelly Together feels more like a rallying call for general humanity rather than a portrait of its person, and while that's no bad thing, it does feel like the spotlight deserved to be shone a little more on Kelly.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Street Fighter V: Champion Edition out now

Street Fighter V: Champion Edition out now

A close up of a logo

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New Version of Acclaimed Fighting Game Includes 40 Characters, 34 Stages, 200+ Costumes and More!

Champions will rise! Capcom, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games, have announced Street Fighter V: Champion Editionthe most robust version of the acclaimed fighting game, is now available for PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and PC. Also announced over the weekend, Seth embodies a new physical form and joins the Champion Edition roster as the 40th character for Street Fighter V players to add to their collection. A new Street Fighter V: Champion Edition launch trailer featuring Seth and other iconic fighters is available now.

Street Fighter V: Champion Edition includes all content (excluding Fighting Chance costumes, brand collaboration costumes and Capcom Pro Tour DLC) from both the original release and Street Fighter V: Arcade EditionChampion Edition adds each character, stage and other content that released after Arcade Edition and through the launch of this new version, including Seth. In total, this robust edition of Street Fighter V features 40 characters, 34 stages and over 200 costumes. Fighters can select their character and battle their way through a variety of exciting single-player and multi-player modes designed for players of all skill levels, including Cinematic Story Mode, Arcade Mode, Team Battle, Ranked Match, Casual Match and more.

Also available from today, Seth has been added as the 40th character to appear in Street Fighter V; this master move mimicker returns with a new physical form in Champion Edition. The boss character from Street Fighter IV, Seth’s biological brain has been paired with Doll Unit Zero as the intelligence continues to seek new data and install moves from the fiercest fighters in the world. New players can experience Seth now as part of Street Fighter V: Champion Edition and current players can acquire Seth separately, also for 100,000 Fight Money (in-game currency).

Street Fighter V: Champion Edition is available now physically and digitally on PlayStation®4 and as a digital download on Steam. Current owners of any version of Street Fighter V can purchase a digital Upgrade Kit, offering instant access to all unowned Champion Edition content.

The initial Street Fighter V purchase is still the only one that consumers need to make to ensure they always have the most up-to-date version of the title. All game mode additions and balance updates are free for owners of any Street Fighter V version. Additionally, all DLC characters remain earnable completely free of charge through completing various in-game challenges and receiving earned in-game currency, called Fight Money. For those who can’t wait, in-game content can be obtained instantly using real money. Certain additional content can only be acquired using Fight Money, which can be earned through normal gameplay.

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