Monday, 31 August 2020

Tenet is in Auckland's IMAX cinema now

Tenet is in Auckland's IMAX cinema now

It's been a long wait for new movies since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Some have been postponed from the schedules and moved to next year, or released straight to streaming sites, so 2020 has been a difficult year for movie-lovers.

However, one of the biggest films of the year has released in New Zealand, ahead of the rest of the world.

Earlier this year, there was speculation director Christopher Nolan's Tenet would lead the most unusual blockbuster season yet.

But when the US decided to postpone their release of the film, it was questionable New Zealand would get to see it.

A decision to screen Tenet first overseas meant New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to view the new movie from Christopher Nolan.

And now Auckland has dropped down its Covid-19 Alert Level, there's a chance to see the film in its best possible presentation - the IMAX Theatre at Event Cinemas in Auckland's CBD.


Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan's latest has an all star cast including John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Michael Caine.

About Tenet

Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

With special footage shot for IMAX cinemas, Tenet cries out to be seen on Auckland's biggest screen - the IMAX theatre.

Those running the IMAX and Event Cinemas around the country have ensured cinemas are adhering to Government guidelines concerning the Covid-19 pandemic.

"To maintain a high standard of cleanliness across our locations, all cinemas are regularly cleaned and maintained during operating hours, with professional cleaning teams conducting detailed cleans every single night, in every single Cinema.

"Cleaning and sanitising processes have also been increased as well as a higher frequency of surface cleaning and sterilisation in public areas.

"Seating maps have been reconfigured to ensure adequate distance between guests in every session. Our cinemas now have a capacity limit of 100 guests. We encourage you to use your own device to book digital tickets and choose your own seats via the EVENT Cinemas App or on the EVENT Cinemas website.

Book now to see Tenet in IMAX at Event Cinemas - click here to find out more.

The above article is part of a collaboration with Darren's World of Entertainment and Event Cinemas.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Neon Movie Review - Jojo Rabbit

 Neon Movie Review - Jojo Rabbit

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.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

PGA Tour 2K21: PS4 Review

PGA Tour 2K21: PS4 Review

Developed by HB Studios

Published by 2K Games

Platform: PS4

Stepping up to the hole to get a desperately needed par on a hole that should have easily been a birdie, it only needs a gentle tap to push the ball into its natural home.

PGA Tour 2K21: PS4 Review

A simple task, granted, and one that shouldn't elude the most basic of players.

But an over-egging of the PlayStation 4's right joystick and the ball sails past the hole, a par is missed and there's a nagging feeling there should be the option to see a player swear and toss his club way into the air.

Spurned on by commentary wondering how this happened, and with Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore's breakdown in the background, PGA Tour 2K21 has a way of really getting under your skin.

It's probably due in large part to the fact this polished game is one of the most accessible golfing simulators there is out there. A lushly produced, slick-looking game that keeps the controls basic and gives you as much control of what you do with the golf club as being out on a course yourself.

PGA Tour 2K21: PS4 Review

It's what one should expect - given HB Games developed The Golf Club series and put the playing back at the front and centre of the experience. Whereas the more cartoony, but infinitely playable Everybody's Golf, made the silly sensible, PGA Tour 2K21 opens up the game to everyone and benefits greatly from doing so.

Granted, the more proficient players and the seasoned pros may be at a loss why some of the bigger names and some of the more well-known courses aren't part of this release, but to the everyman player, PGA Tour 2K21 represents a real chance to immerse yourself in the golfing experience.

From customising clothes (earned through tournaments and XP finishes) to progression, via way of some easy to follow tutorials, PGA Tour 2K21's strength lies in the solid nature of its gameplay.

In all honesty, graphically, the gameplay is nothing new. But it's golf - the sport itself has never been revolutionary; it's not about cheerleaders, exploding fireworks in the crowd or whooping crowds. This is a demure game, a game of skill and patience and PGA Tour 2K21 reflects that.

Complete with course designers and an option to retool your player, the customisable elements of PGA Tour 2K21 prove to be worthy. The further you progress, the more sponsors will become interested in you and the fairway does become your oyster.

Yet at the end of the day, it's about whether the swing makes you sing.

PGA Tour 2K21: PS4 Review

And PGA Tour 2K21 delivers on this with relative ease. While commentary occasionally may suffer from repetition and annoyance, the gameplay itself is totally relaxing, weirdly compelling and downright addictive.

All in all, PGA Tour 2K21 is as close to a hole-in-one as you can get. It rewards patience, it uplifts skill and it proves that virtual golf is still as much fun as the real thing.

PGA Tour 2K21 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and a code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review

Friday, 28 August 2020

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart debuts PlayStation 5 footage and will be a launch title

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart debuts PlayStation 5 footage and will be a launch title

One of the PlayStation's most iconic duos is back.

Ratchet & Clank will be a launch title for the PlayStation 5 in a few months' time.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart debuts PlayStation 5 footage and will be a launch title

Gamescom has debuted 7 minutes of gameplay from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

Ratchet and Clank find themselves at odds with their archnemesis, Dr. Nefarious. 

Only this time, he’s equipped with the dangerous Dimensionator, a device with the power to travel to other dimensions. 

The duo fights their way through an army of hired Goons in Megalopolis until something happens and they are ripped apart. 

Where are they now? 

From acclaimed studio Insomniac Games, enjoy a visually dazzling, interdimensional adventure, complete with familiar faces and some new allies and enemies in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – exclusively on the PlayStation®5 console.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Win a double pass to see BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC

Win a double pass to see BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC

To celebrate the release of Bill & Ted Face The Music in cinemas from September 3, thanks to Madman NZ, you can win one of three double passes!

About Bill & Ted Face The Music
Once told they'd save the universe during a time-traveling adventure, 2 would-be rockers from San Dimas, California find themselves as middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfill their destiny.

Starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter

BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC is in cinemas September 3

Thanks to Madman NZ, you can win 1 of 3 double passes!
All you have to do is email your details and the word BOGUS!

Email now to 

Competition closes September 3.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Mortal Shell: PS4 Review

Mortal Shell: PS4 Review

Developed by Cold Symmetry

Released by PlayStack

Platform: PS4

There's no denying many are saying Mortal Shell has the hallmarks of a From Software release.

Mortal Shell: PS4 Review

From the punishing brutality to the gore on display, the game certainly comes swinging from the get go.

And while it requires patience for its combat, it also needs time for its story to unfold.

When the game begins, you're essentially a wraith-like skeleton with skin on, a wafting soul with no real clue where you are, what you must do. But you're thrust straight into a series of combat pieces, aimed at getting you au fait with the basics. 

And to be fair, the basics are simple enough - the usual thrust and parry. It's familiar stuff to those who've been through a Bloodborne, a Dark Souls or, to be frank, any kind of combat game.

But Mortal Shell has one difference in combat - the chance to harden your wraith form to shield from a series of attacks. Pressing the L2 button sees you solidify, a chance to break your enemy's combat and gain an advantage.

Mortal Shell: PS4 Review

Another difference is the title allows you to possess dead bodies - the Mortal Shells of the title. Possessing those will allow you to be involved in combat and to get a second chance. If you're killed in the shell, you're kicked out and can repossess but you have to be quick. The developers have tinkered with expectations for the game and delivered something a bit different and with an edge to what's gone before.

The atmosphere and gothic edges work very well, and complete with a minimal soundscape, which works best through headphones and alone in the dark, the game hits some visual and sonic heights.

However, negotiating your way around is a bit less enlightening, and with small fonts, long loading screens, a confused feeling map and many landscapes feeling very similar, Mortal Shell loses some of the initial advantage it has.

Mortal Shell: PS4 Review

Mortal Shell may feel like a homage to what's been done before in this arena, but Cold Symmetry does revel in the fact it does it so well. 

Maybe it's a case of wraith-and-see (sorry) as to what they will do next , but for now Mortal Shell, with its short run time and familiar feel, is a solid and entertaining enough outing from a new talent emerging on the scene - and a sign that even if it is a shell of another style of game, it's still a top-notch one.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Ford vs Ferrari: Neon Movie Review

Ford vs Ferrari: Neon Movie 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. 

Monday, 24 August 2020

Loading Docs: Table for One

Loading Docs: Table for One

Table for One 

Against all odds, an ageing table tennis icon sacrifices it all for one last shot at Olympic greatness.

Loading Docs: Table for One

In her final bid for gold, New Zealand’s Chunli Li, faces the lonely road of isolation and self-funding in sport, unveiling the reality of her tireless commitment to win. 

Joining her after-hours reveals an intimate glimpse into the true sacrifice of a sporting legend whose hopes of achieving her lifelong goal begin to fade.

Director: Jenny Gao | Producer: Mia Maramara

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Loading Docs: Going Home

Loading Docs: Going Home

Going Home 

Loading Docs: Going Home

To celebrate the adventurous life of her late Uncle Clive, she takes a leap of faith and learns to fly.

A decade after his death, Ashley takes off on an emotional journey of reconnection. Following in her Uncle’s larger-than-life footsteps, she wants to do one of the things he loved most, fly like a bird. Can his memory instill Ashley with the courage she needs to reignite her zest for life, and understand his?

Director: Ashley Williams | Producer: Ruth Korver

New trailer for Wonder Woman 84 arrives

New trailer for Wonder Woman 84 arrives

As part of the DC FanDome, a brand new look at the Gal Gadot starring Wonder Woman 84 has dropped.

New trailer for Wonder Woman 84 arrives

Watch the new trailer for Wonder Woman 84 below.

First trailer for the Snyder Cut of the Justice League

First trailer for the Snyder Cut of the Justice League

The first trailer for Zack Snyder's cut of the Justice League has arrived.

As part of the DC Fan Dome, the trailer was unveiled.

Snyder cut of the Justice League

Take a look below

Justice League will be released on HBO Max in 2021.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Loading Docs: One Year On

Loading Docs: One Year On

One Year On 
One Year On: Loading Docs

A year after the Christchurch Mosque terror attack, a voice for the Muslim & refugee community asks himself what more he can do.

Approaching the memorial of the 51 victims, Guled Mire prepares to step back into the spotlight. 

When the one year anniversary is overshadowed by a national health crisis, frustration starts to grow at the lack of change. 

Struggling to get his perspective heard and at a personal crossroads, Guled worries that the opportunity to confront racism and islamophobia has passed. Can he stand up once more to make a difference?

Director: Francesca Mackenzie

Producers: Nicola Bailey & Adorate Mizero

Friday, 21 August 2020

The Current War: DVD Review

The Current War: DVD 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.

Loading Docs: Siouxsie & the Virus

Loading Docs: Siouxsie & the Virus

A science superhero with pink hair wages war on COVID-19 to convince an entire nation to lockdown.

With time running out to fight the oncoming pandemic, an unconventional expert delivers vital information to a panicked public. 

Loading Docs: Siouxsie & the Virus

Go behind-the-scenes as Dr Siouxsie Wiles faces a growing media storm from the confines of her family home. 

Siouxsie & the Virus is a unique insight into one woman’s countdown to a defining moment in New Zealand history.

Director: Gwen Isaac | Producer: Phillida Perry


Thursday, 20 August 2020

Chloe Swarbrick documentary launched in Loading Docs

Chloe Swarbrick documentary launched in Loading Docs

OK CHLÖE was released online today, a film chartering millennial politician Chlöe Swarbrick as she challenges the establishment during the most important year of her political career.
Making international headlines in 2019 for her “OK Boomer” response to another politician’s heckle in parliament, Swarbrick in 2017 became the youngest politician to enter New Zealand parliament since 1975. Part of a global movement of younger generations challenging the status quo and seeking to hold those in power to account, Chlöe is uniquely navigating the system from within.
Chloe Swarbrick documentary launched in Loading Docs

The under nine minute documentary is directed by Charlotte Evans and produced by Letisha Tate-Dunning, made with support from multi award-winning short documentary initiative Loading Docs.
“Chlöe is a once in a generation individual, fiercely passionate about what she believes and advocates for” said Evans. “To have the opportunity to not only spend time with Chlöe as she navigates her role as politician, but also be granted access to her life behind the scenes, I hope is an insightful watch for any person interested in the people shaping our world today.” 

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Member of Parliament is currently running a high profile campaign in the lead up to the October 17 election, where Swarbrick will contest the highly competitive Auckland Central seat. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: Film Review

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: Film Review

Cast: James Rolleston, Rebecca Gibney, Robbie Magasiva, Cohen Holloway, Samuel Austin, Scott Wills

Director: Paul Murphy

Wrapping comedy caper with a criminal edge, Lowdown Dirty Criminals is a strong contender for a ramshackle, relatively easy-on-the-eye Kiwi take on a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-style story.

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: Film Review

Boy's Rolleston is Freddy, a pizza delivery boy who wants more from life, but who in the opening frames, appears to be in a Reservoir Dogs-style standoff with a bunch of low-lives. Using quick cuts and flashy on-screen graphics, Murphy begins to spin his somewhat shallow and scatty but amiable tale.

When Freddy and hapless mate Marvin decide they want to be small time crims, they end up in the thrall of bald-headed baddie and small time mafioso Spiggs, and on his payroll. But after a series of stuff-ups, the duo find themselves with one deadly mission - kill a man or be killed themselves.

Obviously, part of the low-rent charm of Lowdown Dirty Criminals is that this duo is beyond inept, and unable to do what's needed, so the film becomes about how they deal with the confluence of bad luck which surrounds and swirls around them as the deadline approaches.

And while occasionally the film goes for the gross out slapstick and oddly underwritten characters (with one of those bordering dangerously close to racial stereotyping), its short run time, and endless energy and penchant for the puerile, coupled with a very likeable Rolleston rediscovering the form he lost in Pork Pie, make it a sordidly scrappy, yet undeniably entertaining watch.

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: Film Review

Coupled with some laugh-out-loud one liners and a playing-against-type Gibney clearly having a ball as kingpin the Upholsterer, the film's vicarious pleasures and goofy charm keep it going into the final strait.

There may be elements of a NZ version of Pineapple Express and every other inept criminal story you've ever seen, but thanks to the use of small locations, a tight script, and injection of energy and charm, this gun-toting screwball caper is a relative cinematic local diamond in among a recent collection of celluloid rough.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Fast and Furious: Crossroads: PS4 Review

Fast and Furious: Crossroads: PS4 Review

Developed by Slightly Mad Studios


Released by Bandai Namco

The Fast and Furious genre should be an easy one to adapt for a console generation.

After all, its cartoony approaches to violence and action, coupled with outrageous stunts, makes it prime fodder for some disposable racing-led fun.

Fast and Furious: Crossroads: PS4 Review

Yet, even with its vocal touches from franchise stalwarts Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, Fast and Furious Crossroads feels like a rushed PS3 game pushed on to a next gen platform.

Thanks to uncanny valley graphics and dialogue that's as flat as pancake, the opening sequence of the action film turned game isn't off to the strongest start. Dom Toretto and Letty are on the case of an informer, who has a tank and a desire to speed away. It all leads to a conspiracy involving an international terrorist group known as the Tadakhul.

Using trademark harpoons, wheel spikes and defying gravity, the franchise's penchant for the ludicrous is there from the get go - but after letting you cycle between Dom and Letty, the game switches to two relatively dour other characters , Vienna and Cam, who have little edge.

Fast and Furious: Crossroads: PS4 Review

Weirdly for a racing sim where you're able to achieve Need for Speed levels of utter carnage on other cars (sometimes at the lowest speed), you yourself can garner barely a scrape, careering as you do off walls, fences, other parts of the road and other drivers. There's little consistent realism here, and in among the less-than-impressive graphics, the cons pile up much more than the pros.

Racing between points A and B and using some quick time events, and button-mashing, Fast and Furious Crossroads is less a Fast and Furious experience, and more a drive-by massacre, with issues accentuated by the brevity of its total gameplay.

The game lacks the necessary campaign to pull it through, and while there are hints of what it could be thanks to the range of talent involved, what's committed to the console screens is more a car crash than a pole position playing experience.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Skully: PS4 Review

Skully: PS4 Review

Developed by Modus Games, Finish Line Games
Platform: PS4

For those gamers of a certain age, the words Marble Madness will strike fear into hearts and cause basic RSI flashbacks.

Having to roll a ball around a series of vertiginous alleyways and being prone to gravity, the arcade game was a massively frustrating and thrilling experience from the 1980s.
Skully: PS4 Review

The moment Skully begins, there are echoes of Marble Madness 

Mixed bizarrely with the golem properties of Knack, Skully is a curious platformer that's crippled by its camera, but soars when the rolling gameplay comes together.

On a mysterious remote island, a skull washes up on shore and is reawakened by an enigmatic deity. 

Dubbed Skully, the newly reanimated being has been summoned to intervene in a war between the deity's three siblings, whose quarrel jeopardizes the island they call home.
Skully: PS4 Review

It's a simple enough story, and Skully delivers it quite well in terms of the basics, as you roll through rather linear levels.

However, as the camera occasionally impedes your view, the rolling can be limited to where you can barely see where you're going to go next. And given some respawn points are quite few and far in 
between, the frustration levels are likely to rise substantially if death comes and it's not your fault.

But the whirling camera can be used to your advantage.

As you roll your skull around curved areas, the camera can be whirled around so you never once lose your line of sight - it's dizzying stuff when it works.

Equally, the idea of turning Skully into a golem monster via clay pits is nicely done too - the fluid gameplay of the clay creatures means that any gamers of any level can pick up and play.
Skully: PS4 Review

However, given some of the leaping around is extremely hard to do, precision timing is needed and the gameplay is from time to time punishing, it's possible younger minds may not have the staying power to see the game through. But the response time of the controls is impressive and rolling feels fluid enough.

Which presents somewhat of a quandary for Skully - older players may feel the game's somewhat archaic mechanics aren't enough for what they need.

All in all Skully's a fairly pleasant way to pass a few afternoons - long term, the seeds of something brilliant are here, but they've yet to fully germinate. But there's enough of a premise and a twist to keep even the most jaded of gamers engaged.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Ad Astra: Neon Movie Review

 Ad Astra: Neon Movie Review

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

Ad Astra: Film Review

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Astra: Film Review

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 14 August 2020

Hustlers: Neon Movie Review

 Hustlers: Neon Movie Review

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.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Last Christmas: Neon Movie Review

Last Christmas: Neon Movie Review

A contrived and loose retelling of a Christmas Carol, Last Christmas draws inspiration from the Wham! song of the same name.

A game Clarke pratfalls and perks her way through the story as Kate, a mess of a girl, dressed permanently as an Elf and awash in one night stands, homelessness and booze, following recovery from an illness.

Last Christmas: Film Review
Down on her luck in London, Kate spies the suave Tom (Crazy Rich Asians' Golding, who gets to be charming and pointlessly pirouetting around London for no real reason) and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship.

She the cynic, he the optimist, encouraging her to look up at the sky - even though her first doing of this results in pigeon poo in the eye - much like the film for the audience, to be frank.

You can see where Last Christmas is going a mile off - it's the kind of candy covered schmaltz soaked affair that would work well in the festive season, when you're stranded with family, boozed up and don't want to talk to them.

Throwing in Brexit jabs via way of London patriotism, mocking the homeless for being quirky, and plastering the film with shots of London streets in the winter, it's a shock there's no Hugh Grant cameo or Love Actually crossover in among the syrupy sentiment.

And yet, were it not for a duly game Emilia Clarke, Last Christmas would be a real festive turkey.

(It's hard to credit Golding with anything other than being smooth or suave as that's what the script demands of him, and he delivers with warmth and ease, giving Tom and Kate's bond a nice glow.)

Clarke however is called on to shoulder the burden of a cloying script that continues to one-up itself for weak gags, goofy edges and generally being underwritten. And she delivers her hot mess with warmth, chutzpah, and the kind of commitment that's needed to sell the sentiment and holes. (Of which a lot emerge in the final act).

It's the latest film to be fashioned around music, from Blinded by the Light to Yesterday, and while they all suffer from the necessity of shoehorning the music in, Last Christmas does a little the same, but can be forgiven on some level, because of the time of year it's aiming for.

There's a cheesy cornball edge to Last Christmas, but it's sadly not enough one way or another to push this into so-bad-it's-good-territory. Instead, it just is, and were it not for Clarke, the film would have crumbled into a bad Christmas hangover. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Joker: Neon Movie Review

Joker: Neon Movie Review

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix. Robert de Niro, Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron, Frances Conroy
Director: Todd Phillips

Intense, haunting, disturbing, unsettling, uncomfortable, uncompromising, deeply indebted to Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and King of Comedy, Hangover director Todd Phillips' take on Joker is nothing without Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck.
Joker: Film Review

An alienated clown who's trying to get by in a struggling Gotham that's grappling with a descent into garbage strikes and class divides, Fleck is hanging on by the skin of his teeth, scrabbling from day-to-day with a world he's growing ever-more distant from and from humanity on every level.

Fleck's grip on reality is further tested by his relationship with his ailing mother (Conroy) - though there's some light in the form of a neighbour (Deadpool's Beetz) and in local talkshow host Murray Franklin (De Niro riffing on his own Murray Pupkin), both offering Fleck a connection to life and a future.

But as the class war and societal concerns strike, Fleck finds himself at a personal profound crossroads...

Joker is less a comic book film, more an intensely choreographed dance into madness and destruction, that forces you into sympathies for the devil.
Joker: Film Review

Central to the maelstrom is an emaciated Phoenix, his whole frame racked by the condition that forces him to laugh when it's less than ideal, and whose laughs teeter dangerously close to sobs of desperation. Lithe, lissom and genuinely haunting, the incendiary Phoenix owns the screen from the moment the film starts to the time it ends.

While there are nods to the wider universe, Joker is less about the clown prince, more a damning indictment of a man falling apart with parallels to the politically uncertain times we currently live in.

It's here that Phillips and Phoenix team up to make something that's an unravelling in our narcissistic times, a dangerous mirror to edges of our society that may galvanise some more than it should or ought to. There are plenty of scenes of Phoenix's Fleck struggling - be it up endless flights of stairs, or sitting in empty rooms, Phillips doesn't scrimp on the visual imagery.
Joker: Film Review

It's not all perfect - some of the supporting characters feel underused in the extreme slow burn of Phoenix's spotlight; much of the feel of the film is ripped from Scorsese's grimy playbook and there are questions over the mental health portrayal within.

But Joker is visceral and uncomfortable in the way cinema can get under your skin; this character study is one of the year's compelling best, a sickening portrait that's unsettling and unnerving. 

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