Saturday, 31 July 2021

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

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

As the year rattles towards its conclusion, there's no sign of the streaming services letting their foot off the pedal in terms of great stuff to watch.

Here's some of the best of what to watch on Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Neon, and DocPlay in August 2021.

The Dissident (DocPlay, August 5)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

The Dissident, from Academy Award-winning director Bryan Fogel, is a documentary thriller that plays out at the highest levels of power as it exposes the labyrinth of deceit behind Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Offering a wealth of never-before-seen footage and unprecedented access to those closest to the story—including Khashoggi’s fiancé Hatice Cengiz, Turkish police and prosecutors, and the young Saudi dissident Khashoggi was working with

A story of money, tyranny and technology run amok. Every bit of evidence points directly at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has stopped at nothing to suppress the story around the world.

A powerful, frightening look at an international cover up that illustrates that in today’s world, no one who goes against powerful forces is truly safe. 

VAL (Amazon Prime Video, August 6)

What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

For over 40 years Val Kilmer, one of Hollywood’s most mercurial and/or misunderstood actors has been documenting his own life and craft through film and video. 

He has amassed thousands of hours of footage, from 16mm home movies made with his brothers, to time spent in iconic roles for blockbuster movies like Top Gun, The Doors, Tombstone, and Batman Forever.

This raw, wildly original and unflinching documentary reveals a life lived to extremes and a heart-filled, sometimes hilarious look at what it means to be an artist and a complex man.

Cruel Summer (Amazon Prime Video, August 6)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

Cruel Summer is an unconventional 10 part series that takes place over three summers in the 90s when a beautiful and popular teen goes missing, and a seemingly unrelated girl transforms from a sweet and awkward outlier to the most popular girl in town, eventually becoming the most despised person in America. Each episode is told from alternating POVs. 

What If....? (Disney+, August 11)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

What If…? flips the script on the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways. Marvel Studios’ first animated series focuses on different heroes from the MCU, featuring a voice cast that includes a host of stars who reprise their roles. 

Star Trek: Lower Decks S2 (Amazon Prime Video, August 13)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

Your favourite scrappy undergods of the U.S.S. Cerritos returns with exciting new adventures in the
second season of animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks. 

Developed by Emmy Award-winner Mike mad McMahan (Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites) and featuring the voices of Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome, along with cameos from Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and more.

Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes (Netflix, August 18)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

British serial killer Dennis Nilsen narrates his life and crimes via a series of chilling audiotapes recorded from his jail cell. The serial killer returned to the spotlight recently with the David Tennant-led drama series.

Nine Perfect Strangers (Amazon Prime Video, August 20)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

From best-selling author Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies) based on a novel by the same name, Nine Perfect Strangers takes place at a retreat at health and wellness resort Tranquillum House which promises total transformation.

In this eight-part limited series, nine stressed city dwellers with vastly different backgrounds are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage. Their issues are very different, but Masha Dmitrichenko, the resort director (played by Nicole Kidman), is convinced that her unconventional interventions – the details of which the guests are largely unaware – will successfully cure them.

As the ten-day programme progresses, led with her aides Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Delilah (Tiffany Boone), Masha’s methods tip from unconventional to downright dangerous....

Cinema Toast (Neon, August 21)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

This anthology series pieces together footage from public domain movies to tell new and unique stories.
Weird and baffling, but surreal and entertaining, the voice talent is the show's drawcard - and its out there ethos from the Duplass Brothers production makes it something different.

Clickbait (Netflix, August 25)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

In this thriller series, eight different points of view provide tantalising clues to the perpetrator of a gruesome crime fuelled by social media.

Twin Peaks S1 (August 26, Neon)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

Still the best, the original series of David Lynch's slice of smalltown weirdness makes a welcome return to the small screen streaming world. Head back to a time when cherry pie, damn fine coffee and a smalltown murder gripped the TV-viewing world and the watercooler.

This is essential TV - no matter how many times you've seen it.

James & Isey (August 26, DocPlay)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

A Northland Celebration of Life and Aroha like no other.

Genuine New Zealand treasures Isey and James invite us into their lives in the week leading up to Isey’s 100th birthday. Florian Habicht, the director of Kaikohe Demolition, captures a Northland celebration of life and aroha like no other in a documentary that has swept the New Zealand box office and become one of the highest grossing docos of all time.

Cruella (August 27, Disney +)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

Disney’s Cruella follows the early days of one of cinema’s most notorious and notoriously fashionable villains. During the 1970s London punk rock revolution, a young grifter (Emma Stone), transforms herself into the raucous, revenge-bent Cruella de Vil. 

A punky, spunky blast on the iconic villain, Emma Stone owns this origin tale from beginning to end.

Only Murders in the Building (August 31, Star)
What to watch in August - Netflix, Neon, DocPlay, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

Starring Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short, Only Murders In The Building follows three strangers who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one as they investigate the mysterious death of a neighbour in their New York City apartment building.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to leave Doctor Who

Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to leave Doctor Who

The BBC has announced Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall are to leave Doctor Who.

The announcement revealed the pair will go in 2022, leaving the show after a series of six episodes and three specials.
Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to leave Doctor Who

A six-part Event Serial has been announced for this autumn, and two Specials were already planned for 2022. To help mark the 100th Anniversary of the BBC, BBC One has now asked for an additional final feature-length adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor before the Doctor regenerates once more.

Chris Chibnall said :"Jodie and I made a “three series and out” pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast. So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the TARDIS keys.

Jodie’s magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations. She’s been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humour. She captured the public imagination and continues to inspire adoration around the world, as well as from everyone on the production. I can’t imagine working with a more inspiring Doctor – so I’m not going to!

For me, leading this exceptional team has been unrivalled creative fun, and one of the great joys of my career. I’m so proud of the people we’ve worked with and the stories we’ve told. To finish our time on the show with an additional Special, after the pandemic changed and challenged our production plans, is a lovely bonus. It’s great that the climax of the Thirteenth Doctor’s story will be at the heart(s) of the BBC’s centenary celebrations.

I wish our successors - whoever the BBC and BBC Studios choose - as much fun as we’ve had. They’re in for a treat!

Jodie Whittaker said "In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes. I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them. My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it and for what it has brought to my life. And I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories. We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side, and pass on the baton together. So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever.

“I know change can be scary and none of us know what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Travel Hopefully. The Universe will surprise you. Constantly.”

Thursday, 29 July 2021

The Justice of Bunny King: Film Review

The Justice of Bunny King: Film Review

Cast: Essie Davis, Thomasin McKenzie
Director: Gaysorn Thavat

The wonderfully-helmed The Justice of Bunny King is a film that handles its humanity with great aplomb.

Davis is Bunny King,  a single mother who's desperate to see her two children, who are currently in the care of the state. Separated from them, and with no permanent home to call her own, Bunny makes a living washing windows at car intersections, staying at her sister's place on a couch and trying desperately to get some kind of stability ahead of a state visit.
The Justice of Bunny King: Film Review

However, as is the wont of social dramas, things take a turn for the worse when self-proclaimed "homeless squeegee bandit…but sexy" Bunny witnesses something in her sister's home that forces her and her niece Tonyah (McKenzie, in a relatively muted part) on the run...

If The Justice of Bunny King is anything, it is Davis' film.

From the very first frame, Bunny is the heart and soul of this movie, and Davis owns every second, giving her the sense of hope and gritty authenticity you'd expect from a film like this. One that has echoes of Ken Loach and sets out to damn the housing crisis of New Zealand, as well as the Family services throughout - the film knows deep down what it wants to do and does it well, in a movie that's blessed with beautiful and bountiful cinematography.

But it's here the conflict of the film begins - in every single decision (more or less) that Bunny King makes, she's inherently in the wrong, providing an ideological conflict that's hard to shake at times. And this is not the crusade of an anti-hero by any means, more a flawed human being floundering in the face of levels of just being human.

Perhaps, it's also the fact the film humanises everyone - bar one person - throughout, meaning there is no inherent bad guy or girl - there's a system that is failing all those within it.
The Justice of Bunny King: Film Review

Whereas Loach tends to build the tension and stir the pot, Thavat's film hinges on a narrative construction in its final third that feels tonally deaf, and leaves the viewer with extreme whiplash. 

And it's here that perhaps the film faces its greatest hurdle - whether an audience will go along with it, or whether this undermining of the drama and its subsequent credibility issues will alienate those who were already on a knife's edge watching someone flawed continue to make bad life choices that push her to the edge.

What rises above in The Justice of Bunny King is also a sense of family and whanau, the bonds created and the bonds tested by behaviours. It's here that Thavatt's film truly soars, rendering some scenes with real poignancy and depth.

Ultimately, with a damning of the New Zealand housing system clearly targeted, and a lead whose presence transcends some of the weaker material and moments, The Justice of Bunny King shows promise for its first time director - and continues to cement Davis as an actor to keep watch on - even if its final act feels too fantastical and too out there to cling to.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Jungle Cruise: Film Review

Jungle Cruise: Film Review

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Edgar Ramirez
Director: Jaume-Collet Serra

Based on the Disney theme park ride, and proving to be as fun and as corny as the ride itself, Jungle Cruise survives solely on Johnson and Blunt's easy chemistry, and Whitehall's reaction faces and comments.

Much like the titular Disney ride, Jungle Cruise coasts by on a fantastical adventure that will be familiar to Pirates fans, Indiana Jones’ questing and CGI baddies.
Jungle Cruise: Film Review

But it manages to do so with a great deal of charisma in its two leads Blunt and Johnson. The duo has an easy chemistry that feels quippy when it needs to be, and affable enough to feel threatened when danger emerges.

Johnson is Frank, the owner of a cruise ship that coasts the Amazon while he makes terrible puns for the punters (the first nod to the ride). Blunt is Lily, a woman bucking the trends of the World War II times by engaging in such escapades as searching for a mythical cure-all called the Tears of the Moon and by wearing pants instead of societal-expected skirts.

Also along for the ride is Whitehall’s MacGregor, Lily’s brother who can barely hide his contempt for the situation but who will never leave her side, for reasons that become clearer later on (but which has landed Disney in a world of complaints over how they've muddied his character.)

However, when the trio heads further into the deeps of the Amazon, it soon becomes clear they're not the only ones looking for the mystical....

Jungle Cruise has its highs, and its lows.
Jungle Cruise: Film Review

The emphasis early on is fun - and while some may feel it's derivative of many another action fantasy franchise and steals nods from The African Queen and Romancing the Stone, the production clearly has enjoyed doing so, giving the relationship between Blunt and Johnson the life and air it needs throughout.

But if anything, Jungle Cruise is Blunt's film first and foremost.

From an opening that clearly sets her credentials out, to minor moments like when she vocally refuses to take Frank's hand to be "led to rescue", this is perhaps one of Disney's most forward-thinking heroines. Depressingly though, despite a strong start, Lily falls into conventional tropes toward the end, possibly robbing her of some of the self-empowerment.

Plemons also offers a good character performance too, giving his German Prince Joachim a comedic edge that's hard to ignore, and he makes great fist of his limited moments on screen.

Johnson's solid as ever in Jungle Cruise, milking the gags for their worth and proving to be a game companion. However, when he's saddled with backstory and exposition, the overlong film falters and splutters, landing more on rocky terrain than it should.

In fact, it's here generally that Jungle Cruise falters - the introduction of Edgar Ramirez's clutch of CQI Conquistador baddies muddles proceedings and looks murkily executed on screen, with choppy editing not helping things either. Never really emerging as a major threat, they look more like extras jettisoned to the cutting room floor from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie of yesteryear.

All in all, Jungle Cruise is a fun but flawed expedition up the Amazon. It does offer some solid hijinks and hilarity early on, but it loses its way the deeper into the jungle it goes.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Win Parasite on 4K Blu Ray

Win Parasite on 4K Blu Ray

To celebrate the release of the Oscar-winning Parasite on 4K Blu Ray, thanks to Madman Home Entertainment you can win a copy of Bong-Joon Ho's classic film.

About Parasite
Win Parasite on 4K Blu Ray

The history making black-comic thriller from acclaimed director Bong Joon Ho. 

The first foreign language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture; a must-see, meticulously crafted social satire - available for the first time in stunning 4K.

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

Email now to 

Competition closes August 12, Editor's decison final.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Doctor Who Series 13 will be one long adventure - Game of Thrones star joins the sci-fi series

Doctor Who Series 13 will be one long adventure - Game of Thrones star joins the sci-fi series

Doctor Who Series 13 will be one long adventure - a narrative stretched over the entire season - it has been revealed at today's San Diego Comic Con at home.

New companion John Bishop joined TARDIS stalwart Mandip Gill and the Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker along with series producer Chris Chibnall to promote the upcoming series which will air later this year.

The show's stars also revealed that Game of Thrones star Jacob Alexander will be joining the sci-fi series as major new character Vinder.
Doctor Who series 13

“Before we started making it, there were times when we thought we were going to be unable to do the show under covid conditions this year... there were two ways you could go,” Chibnall said. “You could go ‘let’s do lots of tiny little episodes in one room, with no monsters,’ or we could throw down the gauntlet and do the biggest story we’ve ever done. We’re going to go to all kinds of different places, we’re going to have all kinds of characters and monsters, and it’s all going to be part of a bigger whole. It’s definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve done since we’ve been on the series.”

“It’s felt really emotional to come back,” Whittaker added, “because we’re the lucky ones who get to go to work... but it also means this feels so precious, and so fun, because of what we’ve all come out of. In that, it’s always a little bit method, whatever you’re going through you can bring into your character. So whatever huge, emotional challenges we go through, I’m lucky that I can throw that into the Doctor—because it’s always required for the Doctor.”
Doctor Who Series 13

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Tenet: Neon NZ Film Review

Tenet: Neon NZ Film Review

Christopher Nolan's high-concept action-filled Tenet is a blockbuster to see on the big screen.

That's not an exhortation - more that the film's been primarily made for the big screen experience, and certainly for the biggest screen with extended action sequences filling every inch of what is on offer.
Tenet: Film Review

Nolan's been sparse with details of the plot, but David Washington plays an unnamed CIA agent who is called upon to stop a Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (played with devilishly dead eyes by Kenneth Branagh) from ending the world. 

So far, so run-of-the-mill spy thriller.

But Nolan then peppers the script with talk of entropy, backwards-moving bullets and time-shifting scenes and further muddies the water with a never-ending series of set pieces that each try to outdo each other with visuals and action.

The thing is with Tenet is that it's muddled in exposition serving as a bridge in between each action sequence.

Early on, one character says to John David Washington's The Protagonist "Don't try and understand it."

To be frank, it's a missive from Nolan that could also apply to the audience as the movie spools out.
Tenet: Film Review

On an emotional level, Tenet is less interested in providing something to grab onto. Whereas Elizabeth Debicki's gangster moll Kat appears to exist purely to service an abused wife storyline, there are hints of attraction between The Protagonist and her, but they exist only in passing.

More effective is the relationship between the Protagonist and Robert Pattinson's initially mysterious Neil. Pattinson delights in delivering one of the strongest performances he's mustered in a while, slipping into the intrigue and action with ease. Washington and he gel well, whereas solo, Washington's Protagonist is left to spout reams of exposition and supposition of what lies ahead. It's in the verbiage that Tenet gains its pomposity.

But at the end of the day, Tenet is all about the action.

Nolan delivers overly choreographed sequences of utter jaw-dropping consequence that are heavily scored by a bombastic and edge-of-the-seat score. An opening sequence inside a concert hall sets the tense atmosphere in motion, and the film very rarely lets up from then on.

It's here that Tenet more than delivers, shifting its pieces around the cinematic table with masterful ease - it's easy to understand why Nolan refused to compromise on his delivery of Tenet into the multiplex and it's easy to let the action wash over you.

There are hints at the end of a potential sequel, but it's hard to see how Nolan could top himself in terms of visual thrills and action sequences.

There's no doubt Tenet is a spectacle, and an at times extremely entertaining one. Just don't scratch below the surface, because emotionally Tenet is lacking. And while that may not be a key factor for those seeking out blockbuster entertainment, for all of its top notch bells and whistles, it does have you leaving the cinema feeling a touch confused and wondering if that was it.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Occupation Rainfall: DVD Review

Occupation Rainfall: DVD Review

Lacking the relative depth of the first film from 2018 which somehow punched above its weight and scored an unexpected sequel, Occupation Rainfall follows the guns and grunts as they continue to take on the invading Greys aliens.
Occupation Rainfall: Film Review

The fight's now been going on two years on after the first saw a ragtag group of survivors banding together to lead the uprise - starting in Australia (of course).

This time, meshing a buddy-one-more-mission brief into its sci-fi B-movie trappings, the film largely follows army grunt Matt (Ewing) and his unwilling alien partner nicknamed Gary (an anagram of the Greys, the invading race and used as a derogatory term) as they try and track down the mysterious alien device Rainfall.

But also hot in pursuit are the aliens...

There’s no way that this movie as anything but an unabashed love letter to the cheesy blockbuster.
Occupation Rainfall: Film Review

The film cost only $25 million to make and quite frankly, it’s stunning what Luke Spake has managed to achieve with the money as it really does all show up on the screen, thanks to some inventive CGI work and some obligatory all guns blazing action sequences.

But it’s more in the human element that this Independence Day blockbuster ripoff falls down a little with Platt this time concentrating more on shifting sequences between action scenes rather than delivering the depth of character that came in the first film first time around.

That’s not to say the Occupation Rainfall isn’t bad as sci-fi extravaganzas go for a small screen.

This one is likely to find a second life thanks to its Netflix deal. 

It certainly won’t find the bums on seats in the blockbusters in the cinemas even with the Covid epidemic because there are no distinguishing moments to really make it stand out from the rest of its ilk and genre. There's nothing new here, but there certainly is more than enough effort to make it admirably.
Occupation Rainfall: Film Review

While Temuera Morrison is a calming presence, he’s infinitely better than the script would offer him  - but a moment of principle when facing a mob delivers a timeless message from the film and grafts his appearance a credibility it needs.

As the two hours plays out, it feels like the film is outstaying its welcome and failing to build the foundations of anything other than leading to a sequel-baiting ending.

It seems churlish to mock the veritable spirit behind Occupation Rainfall - but script elements like the Alien Nation buddy plot, the comedy banter of Ken Jeong and Jason Isaacs’ alien and the overall storyline, tropes and themes feel like they’ve been done a million times before - and where the budget will allow it, a million times better.

But Occupation Rainfall is the very essence of a cinematic battler and while it may end on a frustrating note, you can’t half help but hope this franchise may overcome the odds so heavily stacked against it in terms of familiarity to ride again - whether you want it to or not.

Friday, 23 July 2021

New Dune trailer arrives

New Dune trailer arrives

New Dune trailer arrives

The main trailer for the new Dune movie has arrived.

Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) directs Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “Dune,” the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal bestseller of the same name.

A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

The film stars Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name,” “Little Women”), Rebecca Ferguson (“Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”), Oscar Isaac (the “Star Wars” franchise) Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (“Milk,” “Avengers: Infinity War”), Stellan Skarsgård (HBO’s “Chernobyl,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), Dave Bautista (the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, “Avengers: Endgame”), Stephen McKinley Henderson (“Fences,” “Lady Bird”), Zendaya (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” HBO’s “Euphoria”), Chang Chen (“Mr. Long,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), David Dastmalchian (“Blade Runner 2049,” “The Dark Knight”), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Netflix’s “Sex Education”), with Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years,” “Assassin’s Creed”), with Jason Momoa (“Aquaman,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), and Oscar winner Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men,” “Skyfall”).

Villeneuve directed “Dune” from a screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Villeneuve and Eric Roth based on the novel of the same name written by Frank Herbert. Villeneuve also produced the film with Mary Parent, Cale Boyter and Joe Caracciolo, Jr. The executive producers are Tanya Lapointe, Joshua Grode, Herbert W. Gains, Jon Spaihts, Thomas Tull, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert.

Behind the scenes, Villeneuve reteamed with two-time Oscar-nominated production designer Patrice Vermette (“Arrival,” “Sicario,” “The Young Victoria”), two-time Oscar-nominated editor Joe Walker (“Blade Runner 2049,” “Arrival,” “12 Years a Slave”), two-time Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert (“First Man,” “Blade Runner 2049”), and Oscar-winning special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer (“Blade Runner 2049”). He also collaborated for the first time with Oscar-nominated director of photography Greig Fraser (“Lion,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”); three-time Oscar-nominated costume designer Jacqueline West (“The Revenant,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Quills”) and costume designer Robert Morgan; and stunt coordinator Tom Struthers (“The Dark Knight” trilogy, “Inception”). Oscar-winning and multiple Oscar-nominated composer Hans Zimmer (“Blade Runner 2049,” “Inception,” “Gladiator,” “The Lion King”) is creating the score.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Present a Legendary Pictures Production, a Film by Denis Villeneuve, “Dune.” The film is slated to be released in select theaters in 2D and 3D and IMAX and on HBO Max on October 22, 2021.

The film has been rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins: Film Review

Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins: Film Review

Cast: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Samara Weaving, Iko Uwais
Director: Robert Schwentke

Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins is not the kind of film that really commits to anything.

Bloodless despite katana being wielded and plenty of people being sliced or shot in the head, the film's inherent desire to neither be fish nor fowl means it does a huge disservice to both its scowling lead Henry Golding and the toyline it clearly exists to promote.
Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins: Film Review

The story begins with the younger version of Golding's Snake Eyes witnessing the death of his father at the hands of an unknown killer. Vowing vengeance for the murder, Snake finds himself mixed up in the world of the Yakuza years later, working to get scraps of information where his father's killer could be.

But caught in the clash of warring Japanese clans, Snake finds a new family with Andrew Koji's Tommy who takes him under his wing after he saves him. However, Snake Eyes finds himself questioning loyalty and family on his journey to vengeance.

Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins is so stultifyingly dull throughout that it makes it hard to care about any of the proceedings.

Golding scowls and growls his way through some choppily-edited action sequences and what little cliched  dialogue there is in the first place. He may have charisma a-plenty in Crazy Rich Asians, but RIPD director Schwentke knows that it isn't what's needed here and suppresses any of that throughout.

Murky action sequences and dour atmospherics do little to enhance the Snake Eyes experience, and while the film finally feels like it comes alive in the last 20 minutes, you're left wondering why you should even bother to invest this late in the day. Throw in the arrival of GI Joe's Scarlett (played with gusto by Samara Weaving), a COBRA conspiracy and hints of the groundwork being laid for a sequel, and it's clear the film could have done with a harder edge and a tighter script to steer things through its 2 hour run time.
Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins: Film Review

It's not aided by some utterly laughable CGI anacondas that even Jon Voight would have trouble mustering the energy to sneer at - there's just no panache to be had in anything happening here. And any film that utterly squanders the skills of Iko Uwais' martial arts prowess, as is done here, is utterly disgraceful.

It's hard to believe GI Joe fans will be wowed by this origins tale given how Snake Eyes spends the entire film with his face visible and his voice audible - the chances of a sequel feel slim as fans and non-fans will feel massively short-changed by it all.

A severe waste of two hours of your life, Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins may be an attempt to reboot the GI Joe franchise, but this turgid, lifeless attempt at an "action movie" fails utterly, totally and miserably.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: DVD Review

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: DVD Review

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

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: Film Review

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

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

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

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

Lowdown Dirty Criminals: Film Review

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

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Cousins: DVD Review

Cousins: DVD Review

If discordant narratives and ebb and flow story-telling is your thing, then this adaptation of Patricia Grace's 1992 seminal novel will be for you.
Cousins: Film Review

For some, the constant jumping between narratives will prove a major distraction and a potential roadblock to the emotional connection needed for a story. 

Cousins is the story of three Maori cousins Missy (House) Makareta (Grace-Smith) and Mata (Heke) , separated by life and circumstance. Loosely the film looks back at their past and how they came to be apart, and Makareta's quest to get the family back together.

Cousins: Film Review
It's churlish to knock the work done in Cousins, but the overly melancholic tone and dissonance makes it hard to fully engage throughout. It's not helped by the time shift jumps - certainly later on, when certain moments needs an emotional heft, Cousins is found wanting because of a lack of time spent in a timeline.

And yet, with strong work from the likes of Scotney as the mid-life Mata and Heke whose face is lined with so much life and worry, Mata emerges as perhaps the stronger of the trio, but even then parts of her story require some leaps of faith from the viewer.

That said, Gardiner and Grace-Smith have assembled a portmanteau approach that covers a lot of ground (perhaps one of the failings here) and created a movie that will appeal to the arthouse crowd, more than a wider audience.

It's not to damn Cousins to say that it feels like the kind of film that will become part of a New Zealand curriculum but the film feels of this country rather than of a more universal appeal. A tighter focus on the later parts of the lives told in the stories may have helped.

Its tale of identity and family, as well as shameful elements of New Zealand's past and systems are all worthy narratives to pursue, and Gardiner and Grace-Smith do it with such finesse throughout.

There is a mournful melancholy tone throughout Cousins, one that's hard to shake and get joy from - but the wahine story is told with such compassion, empathy and soul at times that some will leave emotionally bereft from; yet others will leave feeling the lack of catharsis was not quite worth the journey taken.

Monday, 19 July 2021

Earwig and the Witch: Blu Ray Review

Earwig and the Witch: Blu Ray Review

Released by Madman Home Entertainment

Those looking for a magical timeless experience for Studio Ghibli's first 3D computer animated outing will be bitterly disappointed by Earwig and the Witch.
Earwig and the Witch: Film Review

In truth, the story is fairly knockabout, and the animation fairly solid, but despite concerning itself with witches and sorcery, there's a certain amount of magic missing from this story, which feels slight, and abruptly truncated.

It's the story of Earwig, who's abandoned at an orphanage by a red-haired woman, who's on the run from 12 other witches. Promising to return once she's rid herself of them all, Earwig grows up alone in the orphanage, enjoying the run of the place and charming the officials, as well as conning potential foster parents into leaving her behind.

But one day, when a plump woman with wild blue hair shows up, Earwig's luck is up and she is forced into a new home, and as like Cinderella, forced into an apparent lifetime of servitude.

Upon learning her new patron is a witch, Earwig tries to convince her to help her learn, but the quest leads more into self-discovery than potions and sorcery.

Earwig and The Witch is passable enough, but there's a certain timeless quality lacking.

It starts off promisingly, with a motorbike chase hinting at danger and excitement, but the moment Earwig's dropped off, the film settles into a narrative malaise, proffering more a run-of-the-mill broad tale of orphaned kids aimed more at a younger audience than a story that would appeal to all ages.
Earwig and the Witch: Film Review

Earwig's tone is all over the place, but gradually, the film settles for a Saturday morning kids caper of a film that looks like the plot was as computer generated as the story was. It's not to belittle what's put on the screen in any way, but when compared to the echelons of Studio Ghibli's rich animation past, it feels slight.

It's a feeling compounded by an infinitely abrupt ending that narratively doesn't really bother to fill out the back story it's tried to create early on. And the ending hints at a sequel that doesn't really feel deserved, or that it will ever be committed to screen.

Musically, the film leans into a 60s psychedelic vibe that's very welcome, with Hammond organs providing the backbone to the somewhat groovy soundtrack. It's a sign that Studio Ghibli and From Up on Poppy Hill's Miyazaki are trying something a little different, and while it may not entirely work and ultimately will date its piece, it's a pleasant touch.

While the broader edges of Earwig and the Witch feel suited to a younger audience, all in all this slice of animation feels like a missed opportunity to proffer a mission statement for Studio Ghibli's 3D animation plans - it's more a misfire than a surefire hit, which is a crying shame for a studio that's already carved a place in animation history. 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Cranston Academy: Monster Zone: Film Review

Cranston Academy: Monster Zone: Film Review

Vocal cast: Jamie Bell, Ruby Rose, Idzi Dutkiewicz
Director: Leopoldo Aguilar

A fairly jolly romp, running at an unobtrusive and lean 85 minutes, Cranston Academy: Monster Zone will keep the kids amused for long enough - even if the adults find the animation somewhat wanting, and the story somewhat lacking.

Bell is Danny Dawkins, a genius student who's more in line for bullying at his school than for getting plaudits for his scientific edge. But when he's summoned to attend elite science school Cranston Academy on a full scholarship, his world is changed for the better.
Cranston Academy: Monster Zone: Film Review

However, Danny finds himself the outsider in the school, mocked for being part of a "pluck a child out of the academic gutter" programme by his teacher, and hated by his roommate Liz (Rose) who doesn't want him around.

When the pair team up for a class project, they inadvertently unlock a portal to another world that unleashes a clutch of monsters into their world...

Younger kids will enjoy Cranston Academy's array of critters when they finally show up - but adults will find themselves thinking they've seen a lot of it before in the form of Harry Potter, Professor Xavier's School for Gifted mutants and The Land Before Time.

It's genial and colourful enough, even if its leads are somewhat on the blander side of the character spectrum. The introduction of Idzi Dutkiewicz's Mothman, things take a step up for the more manic - and is a welcome touch.

Half human, half moth and with a desire to romance every single light he finds in the world, this Lothario Light Lover adds an element of zaniness with his Mexican mad rantings. 

It's here that the film distracts from its somewhat basic chunkier animated style, which in truth feels like something from a children's computer animated series like Brum rather than a more cohesive CGI film for audiences brought up on the likes of Dreamworks and Pixar.

But in truth, it sort of works fine - and while it's forgettable enough the moment it's ended, Cranston Academy's monster-filled hijinks will amuse when it needs to and will keep younger audiences enthralled thanks to the colours and occasional bouts of silliness.

Saturday, 17 July 2021

French Exit: DVD Review

French Exit: DVD Review

As ever a sad and solemn movie as you will see, French Exit sees Michelle Pfeiffer's broke socialite Frances Price take a torch to her New York world and drag her son with it.

When Frances is told her money is running out, and she has no choice but to sell everything, she decides to follow a whim from years ago and take an old friend up on a deal to borrow a French apartment. Whisking her old-before-his-time son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges, a muted yet tacitly bland turn) along on her departure, the pair relocate and try and get on with life.
French Exit: Film Review

But for Frances, it's the end of a final chapter, ("It's the coda" she magnificently declares at one point); whereas for Malcolm, it's about finding his way from his meandering life and into a new one. However, despite the duo not necessarily wanting it to, the flat soon becomes a refuge for others...

French Exit is a film where nothing much massively happens.

However, in its low key farce and general insouciance, Pfeiffer rises to the top, as a not particularly nice individual who's reticent to let her facade drop. In truth, it's easy to play nasty, but Pfeiffer imbues Frances with a flicker of something else, a touch of humanity in the awfulness that makes her such a compelling playmate.

Hedges is relatively blank throughout, giving his Malcolm a sort of listless approach to life that sparks well with Pfeiffer's cool and seemingly destructive mother. 

The film does become a little overstuffed with oddballs as it plays out, and while the laughs are there, there's an air of melancholy running deeply in this movie's veins - a sort of "where do the broken-hearted and lost souls go" approach that will either drive you nuts or see you claim this movie will become beloved.
French Exit: Film Review

In truth, it's somewhere inbetween.

As the pudding starts to feel over-egged with hollow characters, you come to realise how much more deeply you care about Frances and Malcolm, even if you don't massively like them. The ambivalence within French Exit is also, conversely, its strength.

As the ghastly and gauche Frances obviously softens as the story demands it, Pfeiffer lets down enough of her guard to show that under the fur coat armour and the seemingly-nasty quips, there is someone worth caring about - though she never slips in anti-hero antics or OTT territory.

French Exit is a curio, admittedly, but give it time to work its charms and its rhythms will wash over you - and you'll appreciate how vital Pfeiffer is to proceedings.

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