Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Win a double pass to see The Father in the cinema

Win a double pass to see The Father in the cinema

To celebrate the release of The Father in cinemas on April 1st, thanks to Limelight Distribution, you can win a double pass to see the movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman.

About The Father

Anthony is 81 years old. He lives alone in his London apartment and refuses all of the nurses that his daughter, Anne, tries to impose upon him. Yet such a necessity is becoming more and more pressing for her, as she can’t see him every day anymore: she has taken the decision to move to Paris to live with a man she has just met...

But if such is the case, then who is this stranger who suddenly bursts into Anthony’s living room, claiming to be married to Anne for over ten years? And why is he claiming with such conviction that they are at the supposed married couple’s home, and not his? Is Anthony losing his mind? 

Win a double pass to see The Father in the cinema

Yet he recognizes the place: it is indeed his apartment, and only just the night before was Anne reminding him of her divorce... And didn’t she decide to go and live in Paris? Then why is she now insisting that this was never the case? There seems to be something going around, as if the world, for a moment, has ceased to be logical. Unless his daughter, and her new companion, are the ones trying to make him appear as crazy? Is their objective in fact to rob him of his apartment? Do they want to get rid of him? And where is Lucy, his other daughter?

Astray in a labyrinth of answerless questions, Anthony desperately attempts to understand what is going on around him. THE FATHER is about the painful trajectory of a man whose reality crumbles little by little before our eyes.

Yet it is also the story of Anne, his daughter, who faces an equally painful dilemma: what must she do with her father? Should she take him with her, even if that means compromising her life with Paul? Does she have the right to live her own life? What happens when one must become parent of one’s own parents?

The Father is in cinemas April 1st.

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

Email now to 

The Pinkies Are Back: Film Review

The Pinkies Are Back: Film Review

Director: Lisa Burd

A typical underdog story with an uplifting ethos, Lisa Burd's The Pinkies Are Back does little to challenge the sports documentary form.
The Pinkies Are Back: Film Review

However, with an OST of stirring uplifting music, and a running thread of camaraderie, the film's raison d'etre is clearly one of inspiration with a few elements of perspiration thrown in.

Focussing on the Auckland-based dragon boating group, The Pink Dragons, Burd's film starts with the image of two women having a personal boxing class and ends up with a row of beaming faces, and a very poignant and affecting image of pink roses being scattered in solidarity on the water.

In between, it's the usual tale of Kiwi pluck and good humour as a bunch of new women are recruited to the cause of getting the Dragon boat group back out on the water.

From coach Sooupu Perese, who first didn't want to get close to the women by knowing their names for obvious reasons, to the team captain Annemarie Stevens,it's a story of pluck and heart, mixed together with a large dollop of earnestness.

In truth, Burd does little to stir the pot, or present the story in a new and different way.
Footage of dragon boat events are mixed with inspiring music under, rather than reinventing the format and the typical underdog sporting story.
The Pinkies Are Back: Film Review

But The Pinkies Are Back is blessed with an honesty that's engaging and a geniality that is relatively contagious if you're open-hearted and generous.

Stories of the cancer and largely the women sit in the background, rather than being milked to the front, but Burd wisely chops some of the best bits of the talking heads to thread together a none-too-challenging narrative.

The Pinkies are Back works best when it bathes in a day-to-day reality (the only real tension comes from a male reaction to if the ladies can use his portaloo), but it's inherently Kiwi in its outlook and is less about the condition of cancer, and more about the condition of friendships.

More heartwarming than anything, The Pinkies Are Back follows a relatively simple formula for maximum crowd-pleasing effect.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

The Grizzlies: Film Review

The Grizzlies: Film Review

Cast:Ben Schnetzer, Booboo Stewart, Will Sasso, Anna Lambe, Emerald MacDonald

Director:Miranda de Pencier

Based on a true story and holding back nothing in some of the starker and more shocking moments of teenage life in a deserted area, The Grizzlies is a film that revels in its honesty, but that occasionally dabbles very close to overplaying its hand.

Schnetzer is Russ Sheppard, a young teacher who owes the government and chooses to work at a remote Inuit school. 

The Grizzlies: Film Review

"Welcome to the edge of the world, or the end of the world," Sheppard is told early on by a colleague as he rides through the deserted village, with its teen populace gathered in groups and fuelled by a potent mix of alcohol, cigarettes and apathy.

As Sheppard tries to teach his history class, he finds a group of students less interested in his learnings, and more interested in life outside. So Sheppard decides to try and inspire the school by creating a lacrosse team.

But his efforts are initially less than successful...

The Grizzlies is to be commended for its portrayal of isolation, suicide and its use of native language. 

Opening with a shocking sequence, the film clearly sets out its stall early on, and promises to not hold back.

The Grizzlies: Film Review

But that promise is squandered with a typical and formulaic film that dips its toes into white saviour territory uncomfortably early on as Howard tries to turn these kids around.

In truth, the story is nothing new - it's Dangerous Minds in some ways but set further up north, and with a dash more bleakness than the streets.

Yet, as it plays out, it does becoming winningly engaging in its formulaic tale of sporting underdogs.

This is more due to the cast of unknowns adding a spikiness to their disaffected teens which ripples through the screen and breaks through the almost oppressively depressing feel of the film.

Schnetzer, complete with his puppy dog enthusiasm, gives a commendable performance from an all too predictable arc, but proves a genuine edge to his teacher when the story heads down familiar tropes. The idea of a naive teacher not attuned to the problem of the kids, and more in touch with his own wants is in many ways, a cliched character.

But Schnetzer just manages to turn Sheppard into a more winning character with which to traverse the terrain.

Equally successful is the mixed cast of natives, who bless the film with a level of belief that saves The Grizzlies from unabashed cliche.

While you can see the problems ahead a mile off, and de Pencier does little to detract from the obvious boiling point, the earnest and honest moments that punctuate The Grizzlies help lift it from a predictable mire to a more subtle film about a group of disaffected teens who turn their own lives around - and for this it's to inspire, and be admired. 

Monday, 29 March 2021

The Courier: Film Review

The Courier: Film Review

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel Brosnahan, Merab Ninidze Jessie Buckley
Director: Dominic Cooke

It's clear what The Courier is trying to do.
The Courier: Film Review

That's deliver a slice of a true-life spy story you'd never heard of before.

It's the take of unassuming businessman Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch, in clipped English and dressed up tones), who, through a friendship with someone he believes to be a business colleague but is in fact a spy, gets co-opted into heading to Russia in the 1960s. Befuddled as to why he's chosen, he protests he'll be caught. But as he's told repeatedly "You really are the last man we'd send."

His mission - to deliver messages to and from Oleg Penkovsky (Ninidze, easily the film's true star) at the height of nuclear tensions between the east and the west.

However, Penkovsky could be the key to ending the Cuban Missile Crisis - as the net begins to tighten around both the Russian and the seemingly clueless Brit.
The Courier: Film Review

The Courier is solid, but unspectacular fare, that does what you'd expect and little more.

Draped in dour browns of England, and washed out greys in Russia, the film's eye for period detail captures the monotone worlds both live in - but unfortunately, some of that monotone seeps out of the screen and washes over the audience.

While it's decently shot, The Courier feels depressingly formulaic as it aims for prestige picture status, but ends up hitting more like TV movie writ large.

All eyes will obviously be on Cumberbatch, but the film's true star is the relatively anonymous Ninidze as Penkosvky, a man whose gait and posture conveys more in seconds than screeds of all-too-familiar dialogue can deliver.

With a wearied look and a sense of purpose behind his eyes, it's clear Ninidze's Penkosvky is the real raison d'etre for this spy thriller and he's all the more captivating for it. That's not to dismiss Cumberbatch, who's as solid as usual, but he's acted off the screen here by a man doing less.

Where The Courier misses the mark is in the formulation of a story that seems stereotyped in some ways and surplus in others.

Brosnahan's CIA agent who helps co-opt Wynne is a once over lightly character, a woman in a man's world figure brought in for little more. Though her "what would you do when the 4 minute warning sounds" speech to Wynne over a sense of duty sees her bring a fire that the script has largely robbed her of throughout.

This tale of espionage doesn't have the bells and whistles of others of its genre, and it's to be commended for doing so; but in its execution and journey to the big screen, it's lost a little of the sparkle you'd expect, and smothered the based-on-true-events proceedings with a sheen that leaves its historical counterparts slightly bereft of the acclaim they would deserve.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

What to watch on Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime Video, DocPlay and Neon in April

What to watch on Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime Video, DocPlay and Neon in April

It's an early Easter ahead, and while most of the world is in lockdown, this does also mean an extra long weekend for people to watch whatever they want - and not worry about work the next day.

So, while we march into April, with a third of the year nearly gone, here are the best things to watch on Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime Video, and Neon in April.

Concrete Cowboy (Netflix, April 2) 
Concrete Cowboy (Netflix, April 2)

Netflix continues its new movie every week mantra with Concrete Cowboy, an intriguing looking piece, notable for Idris Elba, saddled up with a pink bandana. Sent to live with his estranged father for the summer, a rebellious teen finds kinship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys.

The Serpent (Netflix, April 2)
The Serpent (Netflix, April 2)

Doctor Who and Victoria star Jenna Coleman is one of the two leads in the limited eight part series based on the crimes of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who murdered young tourists between 1975–1976. It also stars the eminently watchable Tahar Rahim.

National Geographic: Earth Moods  (Disney +, April 16)
National Geographic: Earth Moods  (Disney +, April 16)

Escape everyday life with Earth Moods seems like the perfect sell given the likely hustle and bustle of the Easter break.
Travelling to blue glaciers, swirling dunes, bustling cities and lush rainforests as Covid-19 continues to put the downer on global travel seems to be the perfect cure.

Them (Amazon Prime, April 9)
Them (Amazon Prime, April 9)

With series artwork that very much looks like a follow on to Jordan Peele's Us, the ten episode Amazon Original appears to have some spooky promise. A limited anthology series that explores terror in America, the 1950s set first season centres on a Black family who moves from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighbourhood during the period known as The Great Migration. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next-door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.

The Nevers (Neon, April 12)
The Nevers (Neon, April 12)

In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the ‘Touched’: people – mostly women – who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some charming, some very disturbing. 

Among them are Amalia True, a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair, a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of... well, pretty much all the forces..
A scifi drama series conceived by Buffy's Joss Whedon.

America's Great Divide: From Obama to Trump (DocPlay, April 19)
America's Great Divide: From Obama to Trump (DocPlay, April 19)

An investigation into America’s increasingly bitter, divided and toxic politics. Episode One traces how Barack Obama’s promise of unity collapsed as increasing racial, cultural and political divisions laid the groundwork for the rise of Donald Trump. 

Episode Two examines how Donald Trump’s campaign exploited the country’s divisions and how his presidency has unleashed anger on both sides of the divide.
Pertinent and depressingly timely, this doco will no doubt show just how polarised the United States have become.

Mare of Easttown (April 19, Neon)
Mare of Easttown (April 19, Neon)

As her life crumbles around her, a small-town Pennsylvania detective, Mare Sheehan investigates a local murder. Mare of Easttown is an exploration into the dark side of a close community and an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present.
Starring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce 

Falcon and the Winter Soldier - season finale (April 23, Disney +)
Falcon and the Winter Soldier - season finale (April 23, Disney +)

The six episode Marvel series wraps up (already) with a no doubt explosive finale, and no doubt Marvel teasing future developments within the MCU as it continues to sprawl out across multiple formats.

Don't worry too much, though - the next Marvel TV series Loki will be along very, very soon.

The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 (April 29, Neon)
The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 (April 29, Neon)

Yet more insufferable potential miserabilism from Margaret Atwood's world as the Handmaids return.

Delayed by Covid-19, and express from the US, the latest season promises to be even more explosive as June  strikes back against Gilead as a fierce rebel leader, but the risks  she takes bring unexpected and dangerous new challenges.  

Her quest for justice and revenge threatens to consume her and  destroy her most cherished relationships. 

Tom Clancy's Without Remorse (April 30, Amazon Prime Video)
Tom Clancy's Without Remorse (April 30, Amazon Prime Video)

Creed and Black Panther's Michael B. Jordan stars in this upcoming American action thriller film directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. 

It is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy and a spin-off of the Jack Ryan film series.

No word on whether Jack Ryan will show - but as Ryan is also an Amazon Prime property, you never quite can tell.

Genius: Aretha (April 30, Disney +)
Genius: Aretha (April 30, Disney +)

Genius is an anthology series that focuses on the untold stories of the world's most brilliant innovators. 
This time around, it's Aretha Franklin's turn to get some R E S P E C T.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

The Father: Movie Review

The Father: Film Review

Cast: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots, Olivia Williams, Mark Gatiss
Director: Florian Zeller

Adapted from his own play, Florian Zeller's take on dementia is a slow-burn of a perverse psychological thriller that's steeped in its own humanity, and is content to rip the rug from under your feet without a moment's notice. 
The Father: Film Review

Hopkins plays Anthony, an elderly man seemingly living alone in a flat in the twilight of his life. The film begins with his daughter Anne (the ever-brilliant Colman, mixing both glum, anger and fear with equal aplomb) returning to the flat, to be greeted with her father asking why she had come there.

A relatively familiar conversation plays out, as Anthony dismisses the need for a carer, and a loving daughter pushes down the growing frustration at her father's indignance and apparently obstreperous stubborn wish to be left alone.

But as Anne says she's thinking of moving, Anthony's eyes well with tears and a little voice decries, almost pathetically,"What's going to become of me....?"

Seconds later, Zeller has taken an ordinary scene and without warning ripped the rug from under the viewers' eyes with a visual trick that's too spoilery to divulge - and a clever touch on the topic of dementia.

As The Father plays out, it seems it's that of an unreliable narrator, and of shifting timelines, and cracks in psyches - in many ways, it feels like a detective film as you try to piece the ends together, make sense of the puzzle and gradually get your head around this Memento-filtered dementia tale that has echoes of Michael Haneke's Amour.

And yet, for all the narrative trickery, and the scene shifts which demand your attention, there is a very human story playing out here, anchored by two phenomenal performances from Hopkins and Colman.

Hopkins easily delivers a masterclass in acting, turning from frailty to righteous anger, via impish charisma - his opening moments set the stall out, as he navigates the peaks and troughs of the emotion and depth needed with ease. For a character suffering with dementia, Hopkins, ironically, brings a lucidity to the role that's clear, concise and razor sharp in its execution.
The Father: Film Review

But equally his peer - and in a more understated and subtle way - is Colman. Her Anne is every dutiful son or daughter who ever did negotiate the ravages of the end of life, and her every facial expression is a deft touch, designed to crack open her fragile state of mind. As usual, Colman steals moments with just a few words or one look.

Zeller may be accused of trying to be too smart for his own good with The Father, but shorn of the timeline jumps and starts, as the film sheds its layer upon layer, it reveals its poignancy and simplicity of devastation.

Hopkins and Colman may indeed destroy you with their masterful performances, but combined with the clever use of lighting, subtle differences in the the decor and the wide frame usage, the film draws you in on many levels - before delivering one final utterly devastating gut punch, so familiar and so awful to so many.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Invincible: Amazon Prime Video Review

Invincible: Amazon Prime Video Review

Based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Matt Gagnon, the latest animated series to hit Amazon Prime after Star Trek: Lower Decks is an intriguing mix of cartoonery and extreme violence.
Invincible: Amazon Prime Video Review

Feeling more like a younger companion piece to Amazon's The Boys, and bedecked in an animated style that feels like a mesh of Saturday morning cartoons and Battle of the Planets, the series' first three episodes present as much mystery as they do mayhem.

Minari's Steven Yeun is Mark Grayson, the son of Superman-like protector of Earth Omni-Man (the ever impressive JK Simmons). When Mark comes of age and his powers finally come through, he steps up to embrace his destiny - with a bit of help from pops.

So far, so stereotyped origins tale.

But at the end of episode one, there's an utterly shocking twist that not only earns the Kirkman style of violence nod, but also provides a propulsive mystery through the first clutch of the episodes which arrive on March 26th.
Invincible: Amazon Prime Video Review

To say more to non-fans of the Invincible series is to betray the shock they're owed, but needless to say, there's no immediate rush to resolve the reasons why what happens happens.

Invincible's animation is a mix of 90s X-Men TV series and a sort of staccato cut and paste approach to CGI battle sequences. The fights and invasions that take place in episode 2 feel like they've been ripped from a computer simulator and set to repeat; they're not massively engaging, nor are they freshly presented. Though they are functional for the show's needs. And there's an element of 2000AD's Zenith superhero in this series which is hard to shake, but welcome anyway.

There's the usual mix of romance to be had, and the show angsts when it needs to. But some of Grayson's human characters and comrades exist merely to propel him on his journey and end up feeling underwritten early on.

There's a mightily impressive vocal cast though, and the interconnectedness of some of the voice talent may blow geek minds.
Invincible: Amazon Prime Video Review

Ultimately, Invincible's first three episodes show the scope of what it wants to do - it's not quite the right tonal mix of origins, high school romances, battle scenes and mystery you'd want for a start, but it does deserve time to stick with to see if all the elements mesh in a more cohesive way as the 8 commercial hour long episodes gel.

Invincible streams on Amazon Prime Video from Friday March 26.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway: Film Review

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway: Film Review

Cast: James Corden, Domnhall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki

Director: Will Gluck 

Almost two years to the day since the first release, Beatrix Potter's rambunctious rabbit is back in a tale that revels more in his mischievous ways but sidelines many of the original characters.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway: Film Review

Heading back to the rolling green fields of England and opening with the wedding of Gleeson's McGregor and Byrne's Bea, the second outing for the rabbit concentrates more on the notion of Peter struggling with his identity in the new world.

Whereas before, Peter was the tearaway who stole from the gardens, it's a fragile peace between Peter and McGregor. However, when a suave publisher (David Oyelowo, upping the sonorous tones and playing on his good guy reputation) tells Bea she could make more money from future rabbit books by modernising the story, the calm is shattered.

And things are further fragmented when Peter, looking to return to his rapscallion ways, falls in with a gang, led by the Fagin-like Barnabas (Lennie James), who has his eye on one big score, and who claims to have known who Peter's dad was.

There's a message of being true to yourself strewn casually through Peter Rabbit 2, but it's slightly lost in the somewhat more chaotic edges of an undercooked script.

Most of the rest of the cast are sidelined in this frivolous story, and the script's the worst for it by jettisoning them out of the picture and gifting them only one-liners or nonsense non-sequiturs within.

That's not to say that Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway doesn't have moments that amuse.

In among a contemporary soundtrack that meshes up the Ting Tings with Green Day via the vocals of a singing squirrel, there are moments that expand any potential Beatrix Potter Cinematic Universe (via way of one particularly amusing Avengers-style team-up) and proffer a few laughs.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway: Film Review

Having the script make nods to its own meta edges is fine, but that's not enough to keep the adults in the audience amused (even if the kids will be) and while the heist overtones of Peter Rabbit 2 are engagingly presented, they're not quite enough to keep all ages amused during the 93 minutes.

Gleeson dials up the pratfalls, Corden dials up the annoying edges of Peter Rabbit and Margot Robbie and Elizabeth Debicki are disappointingly dialled back in the occasionally disjointed and jarring proceedings.

The cuteness and sweetness of the original Beatrix Potter stories have been jettisoned here for more of a caper; for purists already enraged by the first film, this will be the final nail in the coffin in the treatment of their heroes' world. 

Younger kids may enjoy the knockabout nature of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, but for adults, this Covid-delayed sequel isn't quite the Easter bunny you'd want to see this time of the year.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Godzilla vs Kong: Film Review

Godzilla vs Kong: Film Review

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza Gonzalez, Demian Bichir, Julian Dennison, Kong, Godzilla
Director: Adam Wingard

Sometimes a film does little more than it says on the tin.

Godzilla vs Kong is one such film.
Godzilla vs Kong: Film Review

The latest addition to the MonsterVerse franchise, Adam Wingard's neon-soaked smackdown is likely to appease fans of Kaiju CGI mayhem and to be frank, hardly anyone else.

In Godzilla vs Kong, following on from Kong: Skull Island, the ape is contained but unhappy with life. Elsewhere across the globe, in a seemingly unprovoked move after years of peace, Godzilla attacks an institution, leading to fears the monster has risen up.

So in a desperate attempt to harness the energy that lives below in the Hollow Earth dimension, scientist Dr Nathan Lind (an understated Skarsgard) decides to try and use Kong to help him - but soon Godzilla is on the warpath and coming for Kong.

It's no lie to say that the human elements of Godzilla vs Kong are once again on the weak side.
Godzilla vs Kong: Film Review

There's scant little plot of any kind of depth in the latest from the MonsterVerse, but Wingard does manage to cobble together what could easily be said is one of the best looking movies of the MonsterVerse, with plenty of daytime mayhem to satiate fans.

With character split into factions, and groups, the film's choppy nature sometimes means there's a major disconnect on the emotional front ahead of the flat CGI spectacle. Wingard's less interested in mining the character elements and more in creating a big dumb, in your face blockbuster that delivers simply on a promise of two titans fighting it out (even early titles refer to them as ancient enemies before underscoring it on the screen for unnecessary emphasis.)

And in fairness, it's here that Godzilla vs Kong delivers.

Clear-cut action sequences provide the thrills, and Wingard's camera captures it all with a deft sensibility and an eye for the visuals. Unlike previous films which have concentrated on the murkier side of the showdowns, Wingard's MonsterVerse is a brightly lit affair, with a final showdown in a neon-soaked Hong Kong providing a clarity of clashes that makes it entertaining to watch.

At its heart though, Godzilla vs Kong is a hollow CGI spectacle that will appease Kaiju diehards. The overblown rubble-strewn destruction has fast become a lazy trope but here, it's a necessary one. It doesn't feel like they know how to incorporate the human characters into the action - and the film's at its weakest when it zeroes in on them.

However, it's in its quieter moments that Wingard's film finds its feet.
Godzilla vs Kong: Film Review

Whether it's the Land that Time Forgot feel of the Hollow Earth made fantastically real on the screen, the emotional depth of a girl's relationship with Kong (the more rounded titan of the film) or the truly impressive and evocative score from Tom Holkenborg amid a wonderfully visualised aesthetic, there are moments here to be treasured.

It's just a shame that in among all the fury and bluster, there's not enough of them to leave you feeling you've experienced a superior popcorn blockbuster aimed at getting the box office back on its feet after Covid-19 decimated all the cinematic titans.

Collective: Film Review

Collective: Film Review

Director: Alexander Nanau

There's no getting away from the fact that Collective is a terrifying film.

From extremely graphic and upsetting footage inside the Colectiv nightclub fire in Bucharest on October 30, 2015 which killed many to an escalating feeling of dread as Nanau goes further down a rabbit hole, Collective is truly jaw-dropping.

Collective: Film Review

Nanau's documentary starts with the details of the fire - 64 people died in it, and hundreds more were injured and taken to hospital. But months later, many of them were dead from extremely minor burns - something extraordinarily shocking, but something which is further exacerbated by journalists digging further into a story that has major country-wide ramifications.

Said journalists are members of a newspaper (of all things), led by Catalin Tolontan and as they look further into what's happening, the signs point to an endemic corruption at the heart of the government.

To say more about Collective is to reveal some of the more shocking moments that will truly leave your jaw squarely on the floor. This is a film that leaves you seething, angry and numbed by how far a collective can fail the individuals.

Nanau makes an excellent fist of the fly-on-the-wall nature of this documentary, capturing the journalists at work, monitoring the government and in a unique twist garnering a different perspective on events that devastates even further.

Collective: Film Review

It may be that there's not a real sense of closure in Collective and it necessitates further reading, but that could largely be due to the absolute heart-wrenching feeling of being invested as each sickening revelation prompts further questions of how far the rot truly goes.

There may be a bit of a dip about an hour in in Collective, but a lack of talking heads and a precisely-helmed lens makes it a searing doco that simply follows a truly awful story - and tells it in a truly compelling way.

The truth has never been so frightening.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Outriders: PS5 Demo review

Outriders: PS5 Demo review

Released by Square Enix
Developed by People Can Fly

Outriders appears, based on its demo, to have a lot going for it.
Outriders: PS5 Demo review

Chunky combat, a mix of Destiny’s looter shooter vibe, and a touch of the Outer Worlds style exploration.

Fight sequences are taut, and appear to involve swathes of others to remove. It’s a little easier in a party to take the masses out and certainly single player presents more than enough challenges for those who prefer to run and gun.

The cover mechanic works well and the UI is easy to follow - though there’s no sign of adaptive triggers in play on the PS5 demo, which is a disappointment.

The mix of supernatural powers to take down the enemy is easily executed, and the benefits of doing so are great, given how quick the cooldown period is.

The areas in the demo seem reasonable enough though whether the trench war vibe that pervades the demo and the prevalence of the cover-shooter game does provide some worry that this is all it has to offer.
Outriders: PS5 Demo review

Missions appear to be the usual fare - go here, secure that / free this person - they’re all much of a muchness in the FPS genre and Outriders doesn’t appear to shake that up much in these early stages.

The game looks beautiful though - an early electrical storm swirls with ethereal deadliness and light hangs in the air throughout this section. The colours pop with overworldly edges.

However, they’re short lived, given most of it takes places in trenches or underground - here’s hoping there’s more colour in the final product.

While outriders plays well, there are a few head scratchers in the demo that could trigger warning bells.

There are way too many cut scenes early on. Setting the tone is fine, but when it comes at the detriment of the game and causes play to continually halt, its a bit of a worry. It’s more noticeable in latter sections where you wait for a scene to load, walk through an area and then have to endure another scene or a loading screen.

The stop start nature of it all is unnerving to be frank, and even with a next gen console, it’s jarring- and a bit slow.

But given the look and feel of Outriders gets a lot right, there’s plenty of promise for the April 1 release. Here’s hoping these are minor blips, and the main game will offer months - if not years - of server-filled play.

Outriders releases April 1.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

New Zealand International Film Festival Delays 2021 Opening To Align With Cannes

New Zealand International Film Festival Delays 2021 Opening To Align With Cannes

Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival has confirmed its dates for 2021 and the festival will now take place from late October this year.

The film festival normally opens in July/August. In light of the severe impact of Covid-19 on live events, the New Zealand Film Festival Trust and management have been carefully considering the national film festival’s shape and timing for 2021.
As anticipated, the 2021 festival will return to a fully cinema-based event to take place in 30 cinemas and venues in 13 towns and cities nationwide including the festival’s four flagship venues – The Civic in Auckland, The Embassy in Wellington, Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch, and Dunedin’s Regent Theatre. In Auckland, the film festival also returns to SkyCity Theatre.
Two critical factors are behind the decision to move to dates later in the year: the timing of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and supply of high-profile international films.

Festival director Marten Rabarts said that presenting the 2021 festival from October to early December would ensure audience confidence.

“The Government's rollout projections indicate that vaccinating all border and MIQ workers will soon be complete, and this critical step will effectively ringfence our ports and borders. By late October/early November, the Ministry of Health confirms vaccination against COVID 19 will have been made available to around 80 per cent of New Zealand’s adult population.

“This wide roll out ensures audiences can feel safe coming back into cinemas and also reduces the likelihood of the crippling lockdowns we've experienced in the past months.”

Additionally, the move also considers the recently announced postponement of the Cannes Film Festival from May to July. “As a vital source of many high-profile festival titles, the later dates for NZIFF 2021 will allow us to select films from a delayed Cannes in addition to Venice and Toronto festivals which take place in late August/early September.
“By moving our dates, we can confidently expect to present the world-class film festival our audience expects and deserves. We can’t wait to be back in cinemas and venues around the country and satisfy what we know is a growing hunger for the very best of world cinema.”
The dates for 2021 will also see a condensing of the film festival across the country. “In the past, the festival has had a very extended run-time, opening in Auckland in July and running right through to October in some centres,” Mr Rabarts said.
“Historically, this arose primarily to accommodate 35mm print traffic of films that often had only one travelling print imported by the festival to service all cities and regions. With digital projection, we can now present the same festival almost simultaneously nationwide to create a truly national film festival.”
NZFFT Chair Catherine Fitzgerald said the 2021 festival will include gala opening nights, Q&As with filmmakers and other live events.
“We know our loyal film festival fans will be thrilled to hear this news today, and we’re especially pleased that we will be back in full festival mode for 2021 to mark the festival’s 50th anniversary in Wellington.”  
Ms Fitzgerald adds the decision to move the festival by three months for 2021 follows a string of postponements and delays of events in New Zealand and globally.
“Sydney Film Festival has also just announced a three-month delay, and many film festivals around the world have either been cancelled or forced online. We believe we are taking the best course of action having the good fortune in Aotearoa of a really viable window to present the film festival opening up in the spring.”
The film festival will open in Auckland on Thursday 28 October, followed by Christchurch on the following day, with Dunedin and Wellington to follow a week later. The remaining nine centres span November and the first week of December.
Mr Rabarts said that this move to later dates is a one-off for 2021, and he anticipates the festival will return to its usual July/August timing in 2022.
Confirmed venues and dates for the 2021 film festival are:

Nobody: Film Review

Nobody: Film Review

Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, RZA, Christopher Lloyd, Aleksey Serebryakov
Director: Ilya Naishuller

"Just a bit excessive, but glorious."
Nobody: Film Review

These are the words spoken in the final act of Ilya Naishuller's pulpy and tautly-executed dadsploitation thriller Nobody - and they're joyfully prescient and gleefully knowing about what has transpired for the past 80 minutes.

Better Call Saul's Bob Odenkirk stars as Hutch Mansell, a man ground down by routine and monotony who's become a Nobody in his home life and in his auditor role at a manufacturer's office. His lowered status takes a further beating when he refuses to intervene in a break-in at home, leading to mockery from his son, neighbour and colleagues.

When Hutch finds out a valuable item from his young daughter's been taken, he sets out to get justice, a break in his psyche fuelling his long pent-up rage. But he targets the wrong people and soon a clutch of Russian gangsters are on his tail - however, Hutch has a secret past nobody knows of - and a set of skills nobody would have expected this downtrodden suburban dad to possess....

There's a tautness of execution to Nobody that makes its John Wick-style violence feel like an 80s revenge thriller. 

But there's also a wry and comedic thread coursing through its veins, which helps the film feel a little more grounded, and believe it or not, ultimately more crowd-pleasing - especially in its warehouse Equalizer-echoing final act.

It helps that Odenkirk is a very affable presence on screen, and a very plausible later-in-life action hero. 

From selling the monotony of his life to the moment that breaks his character, Odenkirk is always understated, helping sell some of the more ludicrous edges of this unabashedly popcorn beat down. And he's never ferocious either, meaning there's more menace when he's called to exude it.

Director Naishuller puts together some well-choreographed action sequences that don't overstay their welcome and aren't too excessive in their brutality, though they are occasionally riddled with both ass-kickings and humour. Not once do they venture into overkill territory, something that keeps Nobody feeling like it has real stakes, despite its Don't get mad, get even edges.

You can tell Naishuller's taken some of the elements of Hardcore Henry's brutality and fused it with surprises to get the late night audiences on side - it shows, and that's no bad thing.
Nobody: Film Review

There's little deep to be had in Nobody, but there's tremendous joy in the way Odenkirk sells its premise, and how Naishuller helms the whole affair.

If the story hints at more, that's perhaps not a bad thing, but any sequels would have to work their socks off to reach the levels of surprise and adrenaline that Nobody achieves.

Perhaps this is best as a one and done, but my word, what a one and done to experience.

The Mauritanian: Amazon Prime Video Film Review

The Mauritanian: Amazon Prime Video Film Review

Cast: Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Levi
Director: Kevin Macdonald

In truth, The Mauritanian is a film we've seen before.

A tale of a wronged man, imprisoned and trapped within a system that doesn't seem willing to give him a chance, it's rife for all kinds of award-bait performances.
The Mauritanian: Amazon Prime Video Film Review

Adapted from his own book Guantanamo Diary, The Mauritanian is the tale of Mohamedou Ould Salahi (A Prophet's Tahar Rahim), a man taken off the streets and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay without charge in 2002, in light of the 9/11 attacks.

When Jodie Foster's dogged attorney Nancy Hollander hears of the case, against the wishes of her own legal firm, she decides to defend Salahi on the principle of constitutional law. 

However, the US government strongly believes that Salahi is one of the masterminds of bin Laden's plot against the World Trade Centre and so a legal battle begins...

While it's solidly acted, and plotted hitting all the usual notes and tropes of the genre, The Mauritanian never quite hits the highs it should.

Perhaps it's due to the fact that while threatening to be some kind of modern day take on A Few Good Men and many other legal dramas, there is nary an antagonist in Macdonald's film that's given much time on screen or a chance to pit or debate opposing ideologies in the court room.
The Mauritanian: Amazon Prime Video Film Review

It's here that The Mauritanian sadly falters, as it starts to hit some of the cliches of the genre.

From dialogue that you've heard before ("Since when have you cared what the firm says," Foster's attorney is asked) to murky talk of conspiracies, The Mauritanian seems more insistent on ensuring it notches up every familiar post of the legal genre as it spins through its 129-minute run time.

And yet, it is blessed by one great performance - that of Tahar Rahim as Guantanamo Bay's imprisoned Mohamedou Ould Salahi.

Imbuing Salahi with humanity (perhaps unsurprisingly Salahi is an executive producer and his memoir it's drawn from), and a charm even in the darkest moments, Rahim makes his character leap from the cliched traps which have narratively been set along the way. From a gentle flirtation with Woodley's naive lawyer to a touching scene where Salahi sways in an outside cell remembering the sound of the beach, Rahim is never anything short of magnetic and elevates the by-the-numbers material.

Macdonald provides some electric moments behind the camera as well.
The Mauritanian: Amazon Prime Video Film Review

Whether it's the initial camerawork low-tracking through the Gitmo corridors to showcase the claustrophobia to the horrifying extended sequence of the sensory torture Salahi was subjected to, there are moments that shine and lift The Mauritanian up.

But they're too few and far inbetween, and the film never quite hits the inspirational model it's perhaps aspiring to; whether it's because the catharsis of the film rarely feels earned enough or the conflict is too tamely aspired to, The Mauritanian ends up being simply a worthy film that's watchable enough, but frustratingly, nothing more.

The Mauritanian begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on March 24.

Olija: PS4 Review

Olija: PS4 Review 

Developed by Skeleton Crew Studio
Released by Devolver Digital
Platform: PS4

One man made Olija, a pixel game about a man shipwrecked and trying to find his way back.

One man - and it's quite the achievement.

Olija: PS4 Review

Olija is about Faraday, lost in a mysterious and dangerous land. Traversing its 2D edges, Faraday encounters many strange creatures, lost people and also a harpoon. A deadly harpoon that can be harnessed to wreak havoc and spear enemies from afar while allowing you to vault into them.

It's very much a modern version of the Odyssey, with nasty creatures like blobs to get in your way - as you try to head back home, using your harpoon to warp around the world, and get into places that you couldn't reach before. 

Combat in Olija is fairly frenetic and relatively fun, as you beat the critters up and then avoid getting hit. Supercharged repeated hits give you a chance to unleash a mega-attack, and it's all over, rover. 

It has to be said that the pixel style is a bit of a mixed bag.

Olija: PS4 Review

At times, the 2D nature of the game works very very well, looking a lot like bizarrely, the old Commodore 64 game, Bruce Lee. But occasionally, it also hinders the game as well. A lack of defined faces or even limbs, sometimes means the game feels like its own blob. Climbing up and down ladders and so forth makes Faraday look a little much like a heap of pixels, rather than a fully formed individual.

All in all, Olija takes a little to get used to - certainly from its mapping possibilities, the game is a bit trickier to negotiate. But stick with Olija - much like its singular titular hero, the herculean effort put in by one man at Skeleton Crew Studio makes it well worth a brief investment of time for its short run.

A review key for Olija was provided by Devolver Digital for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: PS5 Review

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: PS5 Review

Released by Square Enix
Platform: PS5

The Lara Croft reboot series has been a brilliant shot in the arm that the game needed.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: PS4 Review

The first re-energised Lara and gave her an origin story that was intriguing and engaging; the second built on the promise of the first and added puzzles and tomb raiding to the series to show the foundations were more than solid.

But with the third, the pressure's really on - because most of the new dynamics have been put into place prior and there's nowhere to hide.

In this latest, and set after events of Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Lara's quest against Trinity, the shadowy organisation that's been haunting her life, steps up. Set in south America in the legendary city of Paititi, Lara has to stop an apocalypse after things go slightly awry.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: PS4 Review

Camilla Luddington returns to the role of Lara, giving the latest a feeling of a trilogy of work (and certainly an ending hints at this being the conclusion of a cycle, rather than a direct continuation) and a sense of a character arc.

Much of the emphasis lies on tomb raiding this time around, and exploring caves, and the darker visuals which sometimes make gameplay a little harder to stand out are mostly gone in the new PS5 upgrade, which looks stunning and better than the original. 

There's a little less emphasis on combat this time around, and really the focus is about rounding Lara out to be more of a tomb raiding individual than just a cypher for actions and moments.

It does mean that parts of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider feel a lot like stuff you've seen before - but the character work that's put in doubles down on ensuring there's less sense of ennui than could become evident after a while.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: PS4 Review

While there may be edges of Indiana Jones about Lara's escapades, Luddington and the writing team go into overtime to ensure that she never loses her voice in the melee, and as a result, while the game may suffer from a feeling of over-familiarity, it's still a solidly executed and enjoyable, if slightly unspectacular, episode in the ongoing retooling of the Lara Croft series

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

The Brickman: Awesome at the Auckland Museum exhibition has been running since the start of December 2020.

And around 100,000 people have attended the exhibit to marvel at the works of Ryan 'Brickman' McNaught, one of only 14 certified Brickmen globally.
Brickman Awesome at Auckland Museum

The latest exhibition has been extended through the next school holidays over Easter and will run until May 2nd, with more people getting the chance to see some of the LEGO exhibits that Ryan has spent hours upon hours designing, drafting plans and creating.

And one of the world's tallest exhibits, made from 450,000 LEGO bricks and at over 7 metres tall, is the NASA SLS rocket.

Newest to the exhibition and capitalising on New Zealand retaining the America's Cup, is a replica of the Team Emirates NZ boat.

It's not just about the builds though, as a video presentation gives you some insight into the work needed to create these pieces as well as some hidden Easter eggs you may miss within the detailed builds.

And there is also the chance for little hands to build their own creations, with plenty of LEGO stations around the site.

The exhibition operates a controlled entry policy, so tickets and times must be booked. All details can be found for bookings or

Here are some of the sights of Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum.

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

Brickman Awesome: At the Auckland Museum

The writer was given access to the Brickman Awesome exhibit by Auckland Museum. 

Very latest post

New Tales from the Borderlands: PS5 Review

New Tales from the Borderlands: PS5 Review Developed by Gearbox Published by 2K Games Platform: PS5 New Tales from the Borderlands follows t...