Sunday, 31 January 2021

What to watch in February 2021

What to watch in February 2021

With no sign of the Covid-19 pandemic abating globally, streaming services are continuing to up their game and cinemas are continuing to offer some more selective films for your enjoyment.

But that's no reason to fear going to the movies; certainly Minari and I Care A Lot are likely to be part of the awards talk, no matter what shape or form these eventually take.

Here's what else is good to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Neon NZ, and Disney + during February.

Parks and Recreation Seasons 1-7 (February 1, Netflix)
Parks and Recreation Seasons 1-7 (February 1, Netflix)

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman head up this beloved US sitcom that revels in positivity. It's about a group of people working in a government department in the US. But don't let that put you off - this is the series that surprises you, and the comedy that's packed full of heart, leading you to watch hours when you least expected it. Highly recommended. (Pair it with viewing of the US Office and you can thank me later).

Malcolm and Marie (February 5, Netflix)
Malcolm and Marie (February 5, Netflix)

Already described by the BBC as a 'vibrant and perceptive film', Tenet's John David Washington and Euphoria's Zendaya star in this two-hander about the long dark night of a relationship laid bare.

Writer director Sam Levinson ramps up the intensity after Washington's Malcolm forgets to thank his girlfriend at an awards ceremony...

Greenland (Amazon Prime Video, February 5)
Greenland (Amazon Prime Video, February 5)

Gerard Butler delivers bread and butter performance as a man trying to save his family and survive when an extinction-level event hits the globe. 

Refreshingly intimate for what is at heart a disaster movie, this B-movie flick knows what it wants to do and what it should be and doesn't shy away from it. But its aforementioned heart and willingness to emotionally invest singles it out as something different in the genre.

Minari (Cinemas, February 11)
Minari (Cinemas, February 11)

A film guaranteed to break you in more ways than expected, this take on the American immigration dream is sensational from beginning to end.

When the Yi family are moved to the middle of nowhere in the US heartland at the behest of patriarch Jacob (The Walking Dead's Stephen Yeun), the cracks begin to show. But slowly from these cracks, roots grow and shoots of a new life develop in surprising ways.

Intimate, devastatingly well done, this semi-autobiographical tale is the film to lead the awards chatter - and rightly so.

The Muppet Show (Disney +, February 19)
The Muppet Show (Disney +, February 19)

It's time once again to play the music, it's time to light the lights.

The iconic Muppet Show with Kermit and all the gang gets its first full outing on Disney + and a chance for newer viewers to see where the anarchy all began. With brilliant guest stars, and top notch work from the Jim Henson company, The Muppets were and still are iconic. 

Best you binge their fuzzy frantic antics as soon as you can.

I Care A Lot (Amazon Prime, February 19)
I Care A Lot (Amazon Prime, February 19)

Rosamund Pike heads up this twisty thriller about a woman playing the elderly care system to her advantage. And to say any more than this is to ruin the ride of what The Disappearance of Alice Creed's J Blakeson has set down as a perversion of the American dream.

Stylish, shallow, enticing and intriguing, I Care A Lot is the film you didn't know you needed to see until you did, thanks to a stunning performance from Gone Girl's Pike.

Go in blind, it's the best - and only - way.

Shadow in the Cloud (February 4, Cinemas)
Shadow in the Cloud (February 4, Cinemas)

Chloe Grace Moretz stars in this thriller that has a somewhat Twilight Zone-esque premise.

While travelling with top-secret documents on a B-17 Flying Fortress, a female WWII pilot encounters an evil presence on board.

Directed by NZ's Roseanne Liang, this action horror film is a mix of genres and a film that revels in its unpredictability according to reviewers.

Supernova (Cinemas, February 25)
Supernova (Cinemas, February 25)

Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth play a pair of older lovers faced by a difficult decision in this movie written and directed by Harry MacQueen.

Sensitively told and maybe lightly handling the moral elements of its central premise, Tucci and Firth are the reasons to see this film.

Heartfelt and earnest, this one last road trip benefits greatly from their chemistry - even if the conundrum at the centre of the story seems to veer away from any great rhapsodising or preaching.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Star Trek Lower Decks: Amazon Prime Video Review

Star Trek Lower Decks: Amazon Prime Video Review

Created by Mike McMahan, who wrote for Rick & Morty, you'd expect Star Trek Lower Decks to be a bit more tongue in cheek and prick the pomposity that sometimes comes with Gene Roddenberry's six-decades spanning franchise.

But it's fair to say that Star Trek Lower Decks doesn't quite boldly go where it should on the humour front.

Star Trek Lower Decks: Amazon Prime Video Review

While its opening titles poke fun and intimate the crew of the USS Cerritos aren't quite the full Star fleet deal (hitting asteroid rocks, running from fights with Borg cubes), the actual plots don't quite follow the zany ideas that are set out from the start.

Centring on a group who inhabit the lower decks and whose menial work powers the ship, Star Trek Lower Decks focuses on Jack Quaid's by-the-book Brad Boimler and the freewheeling thorn in his side Beckett Mariner (series standout Tawny Newsome) as well as the misadventures they get caught up in.

From dealing with a second contact situation to taxiing a Klingon to a meeting, it's about the menial misadventures of the group, but Star Trek Lower Decks never quite manages to catapult it into warp speed during each 30 minute episode.

It may flirt with some Star Trek The Next Generation characters and clearly owes a debt to the long-running chapter of the franchise, but Star Trek Lower Decks never quite finds its own feet in the galaxy.

Star Trek Lower Decks: Amazon Prime Video Review

But that's not to say it's without fun. The workplace comedy element works fine and the animation is fine as well - however, that's part of the problem as the show never develops legs of its own as it powers through ten episodes, and very little character development.

It's more a case of setting phasers to slightly less than stunning for Star Trek Lower Decks, but for fans of the sci-fi franchise, it may just prove to be enough. Anyone else raised on the likes and smarts of Futurama and Rick and Morty may find this space-set series wanting.

Season 1 of Star Trek Lower Decks is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

Pixie: Movie Review

Pixie: Movie Review

Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Colm Meaney, Alec Baldwin, Daryl McCormack

Director: Barnaby Thompson

If your idea of perfect denouement for a film is a slow mo shot out between gun wielding priests and shotgun carrying nuns versus mobsters in a church, then Pixie is your dream in cinematic form.

Pixie: Movie Review

This mash up of Father Ted, road trip and wannabe Tarantino really offers little else apart from an extremely charismatic lead in Olivia Cooke and a couple of cameos from the likes of Dylan Moran to make it memorable.

When a drug deal goes awry and dead bodies mount up, the local mob - headed up by Colm Meaney’s Nigella-watching bossman Dermot O'Brien - launch a search for the stolen MDMA and money. Unbeknownst to the family central to the crime is Cooke’s Pixie who’s managed to get two innocents Frank and Harland (Hardy and McCormack) caught in the web as well. All three end up on the run looking for a way to offload the drugs and start a new life.

Pixie is a fairly solid but relatively unmemorable slice of 90s Guy Ritchie styled gangster action.

With puerile edges and some questionable humour, the film feels dated at times, but offers enough of an escape from proceedings to pass its 90 minutes.
Pixie: Movie Review

It helps that a wide-eyed Cooke delivers a standout performance to keep you engaged. Self-assured from the start, Cooke’s Pixie is the jolt the film needs to get it out of the mire it occasionally lands in.

Things are also enlivened by cameos from the likes of Dylan Moran as a fishmonger-based crime boss to Alec Baldwin as a pursed-lipped priest whose desire for vengeance flows as much as his cassock does.

Pixie may be slightly underwritten in parts but it manages a passable slice of film, even if there is a feeling of 90s déjà vu peppered through its DNA.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Wild Mountain Thyme: Film Review

Wild Mountain Thyme: Film Review


Cast: Jamie Dornan, Emily Blunt, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm
Director: John Patrick Shanley

Starting like an advert for the Irish Tourism Board with its tracking shots through rolling fields and along coastlines of the Emerald Isle, John Patrick Shanley's Wild Mountain Thyme feels like a film out of time.
Wild Mountain Thyme: Film Review


It's a feeling further compounded by Christopher Walken's unmistakable New York twang given an Irish lilt as the voiceover to the film begins. There's a whimsy prevalent throughout, and while there is plenty of charm on show, the slight story is just enough to contain you for the 90 minutes run time - even if the deedle-dee-dee cliches are enough to set your teeth on end.

Anthony (Dornan, serious faced and furrowed brow) lives on the farm owned by his father (Walken) and next door to Emily Blunt's Rosemary, who's hopelessly in love with him - and has been for years. 
They are star crossed lovers of the most shallowly written kind.

But Anthony is oblivious to this - and yet matters come to a head when his father decides to sell the farm onto his American son (Hamm, in an entirely serious role) because he believes it's best for the future.

To say that not much happens in Wild Mountain Thyme is a major understatement.
Wild Mountain Thyme: Film Review


While the film looks pleasant, and the actors are perfectly fine (aside from some crimes committed against accents and some truly unfathomable conflagrations of circumstance), there's a genuinely off-kilter mood that pervades much of the proceedings, as if the whole village has been coated in a kind of localised mania that only residents can be affected by.

It means that there are odd lines and declarations uttered by characters throughout, which make the film feel like it's either not taking itself seriously or has gone a little crazy on the narrative front. 

Either way, once you surrender to Shanley's adaptation of his own play, the rhythms make Wild Mountain Thyme an almost OTT surreal experience that's not been seen in cinemas for a while. And that's before the final revelation as to why Anthony has shied away from Rosemary's desperate desire for affection.

Whether that's a good thing or bad thing is entirely up to you.

All in all, Wild Mountain Thyme plays to some Irish stereotypes, but this romcom's surprising rhythms and solid execution make it a film whose lunacy is almost forgiveable - but sadly, it's also one whose accent crimes and narrative logic will live on in infamy.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

The Marksman: Movie Review

The Marksman: Film Review

Cast: Liam Neeson, Jacob Perez, Teresa Ruiz
Director: Robert Lorenz

In truth, The Marksman isn't a sloppy film.

It's just that it's largely unremarkable, another entrant into Liam Neeson's desire to make action films before he claims to retire one more time.

The Marksman: Film Review

In this latest though, there are signs that even Neeson's wearying in some of the action sequences as old age catches up to him.

Neeson plays Jim, a recently widowed Marine Force vet, who's behind on ranch payments and facing foreclosure. Every day is spent patrolling a nearby Arizona border fence with Mexico, and every day Jim's heartless enough to call in those trying to make their way across the border, but decent enough to give them water to stave off death.

When Miguel (Perez, largely unchallenged and unchallenging throughout) and his mother flee from the Mexican cartel, disaster strikes. Orphaned Miguel's dying mother makes  Jim promise he'll look after the boy - along with a sack full of cash.

With the Mexican cartel chasing after Miguel and desperate for revenge against Jim, the pair must hightail it from Arizona to Miguel's US-based family before it's too late...

Solid, but unspectacular, The Marksman offers formulaic rote thrills for the genre.

The Marksman: Film Review

As previously mentioned, Neeson looks wearied and almost exhausted at points of this film, and the growling gruff dialogue afforded him does little to elevate the film beyond its trappings.

Director Lorenz puts together a fairly cohesive film that's relly lacking in the script department as the duo hotfoots it away from by-the-numbers-Mexican villains.

It's depressing in parts to feel like Neeson is simply phoning in the latter parts of his career with an unending stream of variations on his Taken character, but the Marksman does little to alleviate such feelings, and sacrifices character for caricature instead.

Full marks go to the English mechanic whom Neeson's character crosses later on, and whose willingness to simply dismiss Jim's desire for an urgent repair to a shot up vehicle solicited mirth where there shouldn't have been.

Worthy only for an interesting argument over gun ownerships and laws, The Marksman's failings fall squarely on the script's shoulders. It misses the mark way too often and while it's packaged together in a reasonable manner, this made for late night TV movie is a relatively soulless and unemotive slog that really deserves little place in Neeson's catalogue of diminishing returns.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Another Round: Movie Review

Another Round: Movie Review

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe
Director: Thomas Vinterberg

The re-teaming of star Mikkelsen with his The Hunt director Vinterberg produces somewhat more demure results than the tension of the 2012 film.

Druk (to give it its proper title) concerns itself with four teachers who're in the middle of their lives and the middle of a crisis. Chiefly, there's Mikkelsen's Martin, a teacher whose class is rife with indifference to his educations and whose home life is being wrecked by his nighttime working wife and sons who barely have their noses out of their phones.
Another Round: Movie Review


When a colleague tells him of the Finn Skarderud thesis of drinking, which claims humans were born with a blood alcohol count of 0.05% lower than it should be, the four posit an experiment - to boost that limit up during daytime hours and see how effective their lives could be...

What follows is perhaps inevitable but nonetheless more pathos-filled as Martin and his friends become fuelled by alcohol and by a new joie de vivre.

There will be many a male who's affected by this tale of a loss of self-confidence and joy in mid-life and anchored as it is by Mikkelsen, the film becomes a tragic look at the seductiveness of alcoholism. 

From his saddened eyes delivering the truth of his life at a restaurant early on to the impish charm on display while he's drinking at school, Mikkelsen's subtle work pays off, where Vinterberg's film doesn't.

Outside of the four central characters, Vinterberg is loathe to sketch out more details of the supporting players - Martin's wife is fairly distant, leading to some feeling his actions are justified; and one of the other's wives who's discussed initially as perfect is turned into a shrew, nagging at her husband for supplies while she looks after their young children.
Another Round: Movie Review


But in fairness, it's Martin's mundane life that Vinterberg's script is more interested in and the brutality of the reality of a binge-drinking culture that soaks up children and Denmark's ethos from the get go. 

The problem is that despite showing the seductiveness of the low level buzz and opening with scenes of youths swayed by binge drinking and taking part in a school competition, Another Round never really condemns the culture, nor promotes it. 

Its inability to state a position on day drinking does make it hard to see what the overall point is, other than to say stability is bad, and alcohol can help but don't overdo it and wrap it all up in a weirdly life-affirming take on existential crisis. 

These are not compelling messages, nor are they new, but were it not for a truly compelling Mikkelsen at the centre of all of this, Another Round wouldn't be the unusually watchable fare it is.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Win a double pass to see PIXIE at the cinemas

Win a double pass to see PIXIE at the cinemas

To celebrate the release of Pixie at the cinemas from January 28, thanks to Paramount Pictures New Zealand you can win yourself a double pass!

About Pixie

PIXIE is an Irish Black Comedy starring Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Life Itself, Me Earl & the Dying Girl); Ben Hardy (Bohemian Rhapsody, X-Men: Apocalypse) and Daryl McCormack (Peaky Blinders). 
Win a double pass to see Pixie


Written by Preston Thompson and directed by Barnaby Thompson and set in modern day Ireland, PIXIE  follows Pixie O’Brien as she masterminds a heist to avenge her mother’s death, but must flee across Ireland from gangsters, take on the patriarchy, and choose her own destiny.

Pixie is in cinemas from January 28

Dawn Raid: Film Review

Dawn Raid: Film Review

Director: Oscar Kightley

Dawn Raid is the exuberant bust of energy that cinema in 2021 needs.

Director Oscar Kightley delves deep into a bountiful archive to bring to life the story of Dawn Raid Entertainment, the music empire that was born on the streets of South Auckland.

Helmed by a friendship forged on the streets and in a local college of Brotha D and Andy Murnane, Kightley's doco tells the story of the rise and eventual fall of the empire, but also fashions a time capsule of how the local music scene was changed forever by the foresight of the duo.

Starting off selling T-shirts at the local market after US rap invaded these shores, D and Murnane realised local voices weren't being heard and decided to change that - giving rise to the likes of Aardhna, Deceptikonz, Adeaze, Savage and Mareko.
Dawn Raid: Film Review


What emerges from this well-fashioned piece that uses archive footage to deftly weave a story is something about New Zealand's desire to seize on an idea and take it as far as they could.  There will be few who won't leave Dawn Raid feeling their ideas of entrepreneurship and creativity can't grow because of these two's dreams and business acumen.

There are plenty of vignettes thrown in here, and both Andy and D make such good bedfellows that there's one heck of a story here to be told, and a pair of narrators to do it.

But frustratingly, Kightley occasionally appears to be a little too much in the story's thrall, teasing out moments of conflict within the story and hinting at problems rather than expanding them and getting all the viewpoints. (Though given media coverage of the area and perceptions usually mean South Auckland is handed a bad name, it's perhaps understandable to see why).

A throwaway line from Murnane early on talks about how he should have kept family out of business, but Kightley doesn't follow that up; equally the inevitable tax issues faced by Dawn Raid and their artists feeling lied to is glossed over. 

There's a little too much of a one-sided narrative being told here, and no matter how entertaining that is, it's behoven of the documentary maker to explore all sides.

Dawn Raid may be an oral history and one of New Zealand pluck and enterprise, but there are holes which should have been plugged - the fact Aaradhna was the only female artist in their repertoire is never questioned is just one, but there feels like there could have been a deeper documentary to have been had with just a little more digging.

That said, what Kightley's committed to the screen is an enjoyable 90 minute ride - the highs of realising the dream easily outweigh the lows of the failure and the seismic changes of fortune. Maybe it's deliberately life-affirming and was never intended to be otherwise; at its core, Dawn Raid is a story of heart and told with heart. 

And for that, it can't be faulted.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Greenland: Blu Ray Review

Greenland: Blu Ray Review

Wisely eschewing the whole big budget bloat-fest of the usual disaster movies, Ric Roman Waugh's Greenland is a decidedly more low-key affair with flashes of CGI brutality.

Butler is John Garrity, who's estranged from his wife Allison (Firefly's Baccarin) following an argument too many. As Garrity tries to get back in his family's good books, the world faces the arrival of a comet called Clarke that is on a collision course with Earth.

Greenland: Movie Review

As fragments begin to reign down, scientists, who initially believed the arrival would only be minor, discover the comet will actually cause an extinction level event, destroying civilisation as we know it.

Racing against time, the Garrity family try to outrun the end of the world...

Greenland is the kind of disaster film that's rarely seen in these days of B-grade blockbuster spectacle, where the FX outshine the human cast and the story.

While it may be a little overlong in its 2 hour run time, and while the script does occasionally overplay the whole end-of-the-world element in a promise of hype that's never quite met amid some final third padding, the film's strength is its focus on the human side.

Never shying away from the Garritys and their domestic problems, as well as the idea of overcoming personal adversity in the face of disaster, Greenland uses its sense of growing dread to focus on the parental problems and the issue of dealing with others misbehaving as societal unrest grows.

Butler and Baccarin make a plausible pair, and the script doesn't demand too much out of them as it plays out. But they make the disaster relatable, and a script that delivers moments of emotion such as when others are left behind, pleading for their lives, certainly does leave a lasting impression and emotional toll on the audience.

Greenland: Movie Review

Waugh, who directed Butler in Angel Has Fallen, delivers the chaos in an orchestrated and calm fashion, which works in Greenland's favour - as the sense of dread grows as time starts to run out.

Sure, there are a few set pieces and explosions, the majority of which would have been seen in the trailer, but this is not really where Greenland is directing its energy - instead, Greenland is a rare beast of a disaster movie that uses the global crisis to deliver a personal story that has Miracle Mile edges and a highly watchable central core of characters that you end up caring about, despite the broad character strokes and the familiarity of the story.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Dark Waters: Neon NZ Film Review

Dark Waters: Neon NZ Film Review

Todd Haynes' safe and formulaic legal chiller Dark Waters is a solidly told tale, albeit one that never quite finds a way to rise into the upper echelons of drama, despite the presence of Mark Ruffalo.

Ruffalo is Robert Bilott, a newly-minted partner of a US legal firm that defends industrial companies.

Dark Waters: Film Review


When a farmer (Camp, in one of the more lively and complex roles of the film) shows up on his doorstep wanting to fight those who he believes have poisoned his land and his cows, Bilott finds himself torn between duty and a light familial connection to what's going on.

But as Bilott begins to investigate the malfeasance of local industrial giant Dupont (with Alias' Victor Gerber as their figurehead), he discovers the case has much more horrific wider consequences.

Dark Water is a solidly told film, anchored by the mutedly dogged performance of Ruffalo and supported by the growing outrage of Camp.

Yet, in telling it in a non-showy way, and scattering it across the timeline (A narrative necessity given how long Bilott's case has been going against Dupont), the film occasionally stutters to raise some real drama. It prefers a more quiet outrage that boils under as the reality of Dupont's shenanigans are gradually exposed.

There are moments that chill, and revelations that abhor, but Haynes' delivery of them is more restrained than perhaps it could be, as the effects on communities and even the world comes to light.

There are also times when the exposition floods some of the legal proceedings and montages of lawyering - and certainly Hathaway feels wasted after early promises threaten to expose the sexism within the boys' club industry.

Yet for all its dialled down touches, Dark Water does present a compelling story - albeit one that is good, rather than great.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Win a double pass to see Music at the cinema

Win a double pass to see Music at the cinema

To celebrate the release of Music, in cinemas January 28, thanks to StudioCanal New Zealand, you can win a double pass.

About MUSIC

Zu (Kate Hudson) is a free spirit estranged from her family who suddenly finds herself the sole guardian of her half-sister, Music (Maddie Ziegler), a teenager on the autism spectrum whose whole world order has been beautifully crafted by her late grandmother.
Win a double pass to see Music


With a history of addiction issues that have challenged her self-worth and reliability, Zu can barely take care of herself and she struggles with the new responsibilities her sister brings. 

But Music has the watchful loving eye of her local community, and Zu soon learns that life’s obstacles can be made easier with a little help from their neighbour Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.). 

The musical drama explores the tenuous bonds that hold us together, and imagines a world where those bonds can be strengthened in times of great challenge: love, trust, and being able to be there for each other is everything.

Music, a film by Sia, is in cinemas January 28.

Underwater: Neon NZ Review

Underwater: Neon NZ Film 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.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Queen & Slim: Neon NZ Film Review

Queen & Slim: Neon NZ Film Review


Cast: Daniel Kaluuya,  Jodie Turner Smith 
Director: Melina Matsoukas

Queen & Slim: Film Review
Queen and Slim desperately wants to be a classic, a "black Bonnie and Clyde" as they even refer to themselves but in truth the rambling drama feels more like a missed opportunity than a gritty timely social commentary.Kaluuya and Smith are strong enough as the two leads and the film early on has a kind of intimacy that a good relationship drama requires as we first meet the pair on a first date.


Queen & Slim: Film Review
Soon after that, their date takes a disastrous turn when they're pulled over by a police car....

However, the film's leaps of logic and suspensions of disbelief prove almost fatal after the initial horror of the police assault takes place. 


Shot in an almost verite style the unfolding drama grips as the duo are caught in an all too familiar scenario, and one that would provide a rich source for drama.

Yet once they set out on the run, the detours prove to be more of a distraction and threads of the two being the touch paper for a societal revolution jar more than cohesively gel.

Though the divisions between the community over whether to support or condemn are a worthwhile thread, they’re always secondary to the proceedings with the film's style being the sole raison d’être as it plays out amid moody shots, music-video stylings and intriguing camera angles.

There’s an easy charm and charisma to Kaluuya's character as he negotiates his way through the maelstrom; equally Smith goes from spiky to soft and back again with speed and the emotional whiplash is giddying, but finally satisfying.


Ultimately though Queen & Slim is more about style than great substance; sure, there's some commentary going on under the hood, but this is far from the classic it could be - despite the work of the talented cast, thanks to a messy approach and a need to fine tune the script.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

The Invisible Man: Neon NZ Film Review

The Invisible Man: Neon NZ Film Review

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.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

The Rental: Film Review

The Rental: Film Review

Cast: Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand
Director: Dave Franco

Dave Franco dabbles very dangerously into white middle class privilege with The Rental.

By picking up the tensions between two sets of couples on a weekend away, adding in some evident sexual tension as well as imposter syndrome and then sprinkling the whole affair with some elements of Jordan Peele’s Us, the pot is ready to simmer over.

And in truth, it sort of does.

The Rental: Film Review



But it takes a while to get there and even longer to show its hand.

Dan Stevens’ insufferable prig of an alpha male never seems worthy of support, and Franco delivers signs early on of what is going to happen, leading to a feeling of predictability when it does. But by adding in the requisite tensions and suspense as well as swathing the whole thing in guilt and paranoia, the films potboiler reaches the necessary temperature before going off on a tangent.

Franco’s smart enough not to overplay his hand and he’s astute enough behind the camera to keep things on an even keel before the big reveals.

It’s not quite as effective as it could be, given you’re waiting the horror edged to make their presence known, but by using atmospheric careful build ups, The Rental delivers on its promise and premise.

The Rental starts streaming on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 22nd January.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Hitman 3 | Launch Trailer

Hitman 3 | Launch Trailer

Hitman 3 | Launch Trailer
HITMAN 3 Launch Trailer Revealed

 

Prepare for the dramatic conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy

with IO Interactive’s latest look at Agent 47’s next adventure

 

 HITMAN 3 is the dramatic conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy and takes players around the world on a globetrotting adventure to sprawling sandbox locations. Agent 47 returns as a ruthless professional for the most important contracts of his entire career.

 

Supported by his Agency handler, Diana Burnwood, 47 joins forces with his long-lost friend Lucas Grey. Their ultimate mission is to eliminate the partners of Providence, but they are forced to adapt as their hunt intensifies. When the dust settles, 47 and the world he inhabits will never be the same again.

Featuring 
music by Bjarke Niemann and vocals by Mindy Jones, the HITMAN 3 launch trailer gives players a fresh new look at the game’s varied locations, gameplay opportunities and thrilling narrative.


HITMAN 3 will be available on 20 January 2021 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.

Non-Stop: Neon NZ Film Review

Non-Stop: Neon NZ Film Review

It's to the skies that Liam Neeson takes in this thriller, which promises twists and turns and suspense aplenty amid the Seatbelts sign being switched on.


A grizzly and wearied looking Neeson plays Bill Marks, a burned out veteran of the Air Marshals service, who's assigned to a flight but would rather be in his car, drinking. Troubled and definitely not a people person, Marks views his time in the air as a necessity and a distraction rather than a chance to save the passengers within from any incoming threats.

Though, his day takes a turn away from the routine when he receives a page on his secured network pager, telling him that unless he pays $150 million, someone on the plane will die. And he has just minutes to sort this - now, the clock is ticking and everyone on a crowded transatlantic flight is a suspect....

Non-Stop is a thrill ride that gets some parts right, and other aspects wildly wrong.

With shades of Passenger 57 in terms of idea, there's plenty of meat on this premise to be explored - and Neeson does a great job of selling it, committing wholeheartedly to the at times, creaking story. Along with Downton Abbey's Lady Mary (aka Michelle Dockery) as an airline stewardess and Julianne Moore as a mysterious woman sat next to Marks on the flight, the cast is incredibly solid and convincing as the story takes a turn for the absurd when the motivation for the hijacking is revealed.


Occasionally the sense of paranoia is ramped up with shades of Flight 93's passenger heroics thrown in for good measure as those seated in economy rise up and revolt against Marks' apparent paranoid delusions; and Neeson plays those scenes well. The tension's quite well held together initially as you try and work out who is responsible for what's going on - and to be frank, every possible twist is exploited and turned about as far as it can go for the benefit of the film. There also moments when Neeson exploits those particular action acting skills that he so honed on the Taken films to ensure there's an ass-kicking ahead when it's needed in among the ludicrous dialogue and growing absurdity of the situation.

Eventually though, there's an unbeatable element of silliness which creeps in - Marks makes a ludicrous offer of international travel for all for a year and a couple of other things happen which will make you guffaw, but all in all, the high flying Non-Stop just about holds it together with its 80s action thriller vibe, complete with stereotyped characters. (Just you wait until the scene where American news media gets hold of the story that an Irishman has apparently hijacked a flight...)

It just about - but barely - works due to Neeson's committed performance and playing it diabolically straight, leaving you questioning whether he's telling the truth as the layers of the puzzle are revealed; he makes the irrational seem totally irrational as the exposition comes flying thick and fast. Granted, the final reveal is a bit of a contrived out of left-field let down.

Non-Stop is very much like a plane journey - it's a claustrophobic thrill ride if you're prepared to check your brain at the departure gate; strap yourself in for the long haul and expect a lot of turbulence on the way. It's highly implausible and utterly ludicrous in parts - and the ending makes you feel a little like you were put in economy after being treated like business class for parts of the ride.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Dredd: Neon NZ Film Review

Dredd: Neon NZ Film Review

In this radically gritty reboot of the iconic and long running Brit sci-fi comic book 2000AD series, our very own Karl Urban (a lifelong fan of Dredd himself) dons the helmet of Judge Dredd and heads out into Mega City One to dispense justice for Dredd.

On a routine day out bringing law to the lawless, Dredd is called on to evaluate rookie judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to see if she's good enough to make the grade. Anderson's failed the aptitude tests but is one of the strongest psychics ever seen.

So, the duo is paired up and by Anderson's choice, take on a triple homicide inside the Peach Trees mega complex.

But when they get there, they find the 200 level block is under the control of cold hearted bitch Ma-Ma (Game of Thrones' Lena Headey) who immediately locks everything down and orders the judges executed.

As if that wasn't bad enough, a new drug called Slo-Mo (which makes the user feel like time's moving very, very slowly) is infiltrating Mega City One - can Dredd and Anderson make a difference - and more importantly, stay alive?

Firstly, a confession - I've been a life long fan of the Dredd comics and 2000AD as a whole. So it's probably fair to say that I had high hopes for this (given the debacle that was the Stallone version years ago) - and I can safely say, they've been met - and exceeded.

The main reason is Karl Urban. His screen Dredd is everything and more I'd have wanted for the gritty, urban and violent reboot. Urban's got Dredd down to a tee - from the stony faced chin and sneer to the gravelly, enforcer (almost Robocop-like) voice of Dredd.

 It's a perfect version of the law dispensing judge -and more than fans could have ever hoped for. Credit has to go to Urban, who owns the role from the get go and who knows the source material as well as having been there from the start - having seen this reboot, it's hard to now imagine anyone else as Dredd (and yes, I am talking about that version that should be erased). 

But Urban's also to be praised for bringing a bit of humanity to Dredd with humour; he clearly shows this is a Judge not to be messed with, but a bad ass with a way with an occasional quip.


Meanwhile, Olivia Thirlby is the perfect foil to Dredd - her Anderson is vulnerable, human and gives us the ideal way into Mega City One and the way of the Judges. 

Her character has hints of an arc (as much as you can in a film where two people shoot their way out of a building) and a backstory which would give some exploration in any future films. 

Lena Headey has little to do as MaMa except be a cold, evil sneering presence but she makes the most of her onscreen time and has the cruel veneer down to a tee.


Likewise director Travis and writer Alex Garland have done a great job of bringing a high octane, gritty feel to the film; with measured bursts of violence, and an opening sequence which establishes Dredd more than any pointless exposition ever could, it's certainly stylish despite the occasionally sparse level of the script.

Equally, the scenes where the 3D brings the film to life are the Slo-Mo drug taking sequences; thrilling, hypnotic, visceral and with heightened colours, they're definitely eye catching and probably one of the most original things you'll see on screen this year.

While Dredd certainly hits the right notes for the comic book fans (certainly, the fan pleasing nods within structures will give 2000AD fans a tingle of nerdy excitement), there are moments when some parts of the audience may feel a little left out or if they've seen The Raid or Die Hard, a sense of deja vu.

A lack of real strong plot is not a major distraction but becomes evident occasionally (and the rookie out with Dredd story is a familiar one from the comics), as does the over-use of zoom ins on Anderson's spider-sense like psychic abilities, which due to over-reliance loses its novelty.

At the end of the day though, this reboot deserves to be seen by many; sure, it's violent but it's slick, original and probably the closest thing to a live action comic book of Dredd you'll ever see. I hope it gets the mass market appeal it needs to ensure a sequel, because there's plenty of exciting potential here.

Thrilling, high octane, and visceral, Dredd 3D is anything but Dredd-ful. In fact, it's actually completely awesome.

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