Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Blair Witch: Film Review

Blair Witch: Film Review

Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
Director: Adam Wingard

17 years ago, a little film called The Blair Witch Project redefined the found footage horror genre and set the world alight in 1999.

A sequel, Book of Shadows did little to build on what the film offered in the first place (except to expand out some ideals of the first) - and now 20 years after the first film's found footage was shot, a bait and switch threequel from directing wunderkind Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest) was unveiled at San Diego Comic Con.

Previously masquerading under the title The Woods, Blair Witch once again heads back into the woods of Burkittsville and into the world of urban legend. This time, it's due to James (Allen McCune) whose sister Heather Donahue went missing first time around. When footage purportedly of Heather shows up on YouTube, James contacts the poster and asks to meet.

This leads to 4 friends, including one lifelong friend and documentarian Lisa (Hernandez), heading to the woods to see if they can find the original house and consequently, James' sister.

But this being Blair Witch, you can guess what happens next as the freaky moments begin to hit....

A lot's changed since the first Blair Witch arrived on the scene with its lo-fi skills and reasonably high concept game-changing ethos - and Wingard's smart enough, and also crippled enough, to embrace that.

This one has wearable tech (ear cams) and utilises a drone and walkie-talkies; there's talk of the dark net, and a hint of Creepypasta's Slenderman thrown in as well, but at its heart, this film is as old-fashioned and as familiar as the first one. In many ways, a lot of the film feels like the first Blair Witch, slightly re-hashed and done again; there are cracks and noises in the woods, there are those stick figures, and there's the old pesky witch again.

But just as the jaded blanket of cinematic familiarity threatens to strangle your idea of what this film's setting out to do, Wingard changes it up a little and throws in some effective jump scares that you know are coming but arrive with bone-crunching glee, before a distinctly claustrophobic finale.

It's more about the execution of some of these moments and the touches (a camera use in the Descent like finale's quite inventive) because most of the rest of it feels eerily familiar. And there's one element which is likely to provoke plenty of discussion and head-scratching confusion over timelines. (But to say more is to spoil, though needless to say resolution is frustratingly wanting)

If anything, Blair Witch plies deep into a world we now inhabit.

It's a world where the internet distorts and dissects urban legends, where internet grainy films are pored over endlessly and debated in reddit threads or forums; it's a world that's got too savvy for cheap thrills. And that was essentially what the first Blair Witch film offered - a lo-fi grainy hand-held take on a ghost story told around the camp fire. In among the truly impressive and dissonant, distorting soundscape, Wingard cleverly evokes that sense of questioning and plays on those down-the-rabbit-hole moments to provoke some thrills and expand some of the mythology that many may feel adds a sheen of freshness after the usual mundane set up antics.

And yet, if you go down to the Woods today, you're in for a familiar surprise in many ways, which is ironically, both Blair Witch's strength and its weakness. It mines some effective thrills, and some genuinely unsettling moments, but it can't quite live up to the power of the first and in parts, feels like a re-tread of the iconic horror.

Ironically, Blair Witch is hampered by the first film's collective cultural importance to cinema; Wingard comes close to replicating parts of that film's success, but it can't help but escape its feeling of deja vu when the lights go up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Win Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Win Hunt For The Wilderpeople

To celebrate the release of Hunt For The Wilderpeople on DVD and Blu Ray, I'm giving you the chance to win!

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his grumpy foster uncle (Sam Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush. 

A national manhunt ensues and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this hilarious and heart-felt adventure.

You can win a copy of the year's biggest New Zealand film that's simply a phenomenon.

Directed by Taika Waititi, Hunt For The Wilderpeople is out now on DVD and Blu Ray

To enter simply email to this address: - simply CLICK HERE and in the subject line put WILDERPEOPLE 

Win Narcos Season 1

Win Narcos Season 1


Based on the incredible true story of Pablo Escobar, Narcos is an inside look at the men who would stop at nothing to take down the notorious cocaine trafficker.

This ground-breaking series takes an unfiltered look into the war that would change the drug trade forever.

They were violent, crazy and filthy rich guys used to getting what they want… one way or another.

To enter simply email to this address: - simply CLICK HERE and in the subject line put NARCOS 

As It Is In Heaven 2: Film Review

As It Is In Heaven 2: Film Review

Cast: Frida Hallgren
Director: Kay Pollak

10 years ago, a Swedish film found itself in the unique position of resonating with audiences.

In New Zealand alone, the film spent 52 weeks in the box office charts thanks to both its feelgood factor and its word of mouth as the story of a conductor after both a second chance at life and love scored critical acclaim.

A decade on and a sequel to As It Is In Heaven has shown and with it, a collective feeling of what next for the story which felt resolved and unworthy of further exploration.

In that time, a lot has changed and quite possibly, some of the assumed character familiarity has faded. Needless to say Michael Nyqvist's conductor Daniel Dareus is no longer with us, having given up the ghost after his path to redemption was completed in the first film.

But the wild child student Lena from his choir who he slept with is about to give birth as the action picks up nine months later.

Ostracised by some for her relationship and saddled with a past, Lena decides to help drunk priest Stig to get more into his church as well as settling some old scores by showing she can put on a version of Handel's
Messiah for a grand re-opening.

Juggling motherhood as well as a potential new love interest, pressure grows on Lena to measure up to her own expectations and deal with her past. However, with the community and authorities turning against Stig, it looks like Lena may have bitten off more than she can chew.

As It Is In Heaven 2 is simply an off-key muddle when compared to the vastly superior first film.

Whereas the first had subtlety and nuance aplenty as well as warmth of character, this one jettisons all of that for a broad comedy opening, a birth in snow and a muddling priest that feels like Father Ted met with Sweden in a tonal road crash.

Once things settle, they don't get much better with the script preferring to fall into a rut that sees Lena consistently clashing with the priest Stig who then chastises her. It's a stuttering way to carry out the drama and ironically for a film about a community choir, a one note story throughout that drags the 130 minute run time to a halt.

To be fair, Frida Hallgren remains a beguiling presence as the movie plays out and is certainly worthy of stepping into the conductor's role of the film even if she has little to work with. And the script writers clearly haven't thought about how to conclude the film with a jarring character death that's supposed to hit emotionally failing to land - and the death ex machina event prematurely brings events to a close with threads left narratively unfed on the vine (closure of churches, a removal from the priesthood et al). Add to that some jarring religious imagery that borders on the blasphemous for some, and As It Is In Heaven 2 is a scathing cousin of a great film that once set so many hearts and souls alight.

Lightning very rarely strikes twice in the same place and As It Is In Heaven 2 is sadly a reminder of that fact - disappointing, difficult and out of tune, it's probably safe to say you'd be better off re-watching the original and bathing in that glory, rather than submitting yourself to this inferior and unwarranted sequel.

The Killing Joke: DVD Review

The Killing Joke: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

"First off all, before the horror began, there was a time when capes and fighting crimes was really exciting."

So begins the 26th animated DC Universe film, an adaptation of one of the most praised iconic storylines in the series - the origins of the Joker, from a 1988 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.

However, Batman: The Killing Joke is predominantly the story of Barbara Gordon's Batgirl (narrated brilliantly by Tara Strong) and her relationship with Batman.

The film starts out with more of a background to Batgirl, her abusive relationship with the Bat (he's emotionally cold and distant from her) and her quest to take down a criminal from the Mob who's obsessed with her.

But then, Batman: The Killing Joke segues into the original graphic novel and what you'd expect from the film - lifting panels from the page and transposing the iconic imagery created by 2000AD supremo Brian Bolland.

Vocally, the film's sound with Conroy and Hamill giving their usual all to Batman and Joker respectively. And Strong's particularly, er, strong with her Barbara Gordon - even if creatively the filmmakers appear to turn this Batgirl into someone who is fawning a little over the non-availability of the Batman.

It's an odd choice and along with a controversial sex scene (yep, you heard that right), the Killing Joke appears to have dangerous things to say about the portrayal of Batgirl and women in general. While it's understandable there's plenty of online commentary on Batman's behaviour after his controlling instincts kick in and he ignores after the Bat-booty call, the film's handling of Batgirl in the aftermath is weak.

And given the backstory is supposed to give some drive to Batman's desire to punish Joker for Gordon's paralysis, it's odd to note that the original novel lent more weight to that side of the story by making Joker's inherent cruelty seem more random and therefore nastier because of its cold-blooded nature. As with the novel, there are hints that she suffers a sexual assault as well which seem to be backed up in the film.

Perhaps that's some of Batman: The Killing Joke's strength - it faithfully adapts the novel in a way that enhances the original and embraces some of Bolland's original artwork.

But potentially, a lot of the back half of the film is weaker anyway, with the set-up being the more interesting elements of Batman: The Killing Joke; as with most comic books, denouements tend less to hold water and flounder in the face of such story-telling odds. Flashbacks weave into an origins story for the Joker as per the original, and Hamill engenders his Joker with the definitive touches.

All in all, even with the controversial elements and an ending that is up for discussion after these two yin and yang nemeses share a joke, the over-riding feeling with Batman: The Killing Joke is that it's an animated tale that is more Batgirl's story.

Whether that's a good thing, or whether the joke's on the audience, time will perhaps tell. 

New Fifty Shades Darker trailer arrives

New Fifty Shades Darker trailer arrives

The brand new trailer for Fifty Shades Darker, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson has just dropped.

It comes after the new New Fifty Shades Darker poster released.

The Magnificent Seven: Film Review

The Magnificent Seven: Film Review

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Byung-hun Lee, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Rote and without a hint of much of his own style, The Magnificent Seven somehow manages to feel like a weaker carbon copy than a redo of the 1960s classic.

This time around, Denzel Washington leads the pack as Sam Chisholm, a newly sworn warrant officer. Riding into town with nary a comment but with every head turning as a black man heads down their street, Chisholm is asked by widowed Emma Cullen (a largely underused but pleasingly effective Haley Bennett) to avenge her husband's death and free their mining town from the tyrannical grip of Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard).

Gathering up a motley crew of multi-racial misfits (one of the more revisionist edges that Fuqua gifts the reboot), Chisholm and his man saddle up for a fight.

The Magnificent Seven is nothing in comparison to the 1960s John Sturges' western which housed the likes of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen et al.

Mixing in characters that feel under written and giving them stock-standard scenes where they literally say they are bonding is not a key to emotional success when the final shoot out begins.

Equally, it doesn't help that the bad guy of the piece looks dead behind the eyes and appears indifferent to these meddlesome seven in the final wash; in fact Sarsgaard looks like he's stepped in something again and is wasting his time wiping it off.

Using Sergio Leone style close ups, hints of the original theme and gifting everyone a posturing close quarters pose, the movie feels like Fuqua and True Detective writer Nic Pizzolatto have created a carbon copy of a western but forgot to add the heart and soul of what made The Magnificent Seven work in the first place.

At least 50% of the Seven are fleshed out - though a personal connection to Bogue is hardly necessary - but yet all of them manages to feel like a lazy once over. From wise-cracking Chris Pratt's card-dealer sharpshooter to Ethan Hawke's former Confederate sniper and now traumatised gunslinger to Sensmeier's Indian whose perfect face paint is more charismatic than anything he does, Fuqua's eye is not on character but on execution of action.

And to be fair, even though he uses some of the familiar Equalizer traps and tricks to help the group despatch the baddies, the shoot-out at the end feels like waves of faceless bad guys being despatched by a group who you can barely keep up with. It uses all the tenets of a Western stand-off; from guys falling off roofs to confusion, but it hardly warrants the long build up to the pay-off.

It's a shame because the start channels the old John Ford westerns with shots of great sweeping countryside, snatches of a great James Horner OST, hints of the old Magnificent 7 theme and the tried and tested cinematic formulae to help set it all up. And when Denzel rides through town, you can cut the tension with a knife. But the set-up also becomes The Magnificent Seven's weakness as the script uses Pratt's outlaw charm as a crutch and D'Onofrio's size and shape as he quotes scripture in a high voice to propel it - and it's not enough.

And the final shot with its almost painted on coda is frankly close to insulting and an execution of a terrible pun on the title which is unwarranted and unwelcome.

Ultimately, the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven comes up wanting - it strives for epic Western, but falls short. Despite its competent and workmanlike handling on-screen and its intentions, it's less Magnificent, more Meh-nificent.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Nice Guys: DVD Review

The Nice Guys: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

A veritable shaggy dog crime story, The Nice Guys sees Iron Man 3 director Shane Blackgiven carte blanche to run riot on a canvas that's decked out in 70s life writ large on the big screen.

Gosling and Crowe star as down on his luck PI Holland March and literal heavy weight street enforcer Jackson Healy respectively, whose paths cross when Healy warns March off a case he's investigating.

But forced to team up by a twist of fate, the duo end up looking into the death of a porn star in 70s Los Angeles and finding their initial line of enquiry leads them deep into the heart of a conspiracy.

There's a goofiness and a Shane Black meta approach that nearly overwhelms The Nice Guys, covering its smarts and dumbness in equal knowing nods and winks that at times, detracts from what's going on on the big screen.

Swathed in gorgeous period detail (from the 70s fashion to billboards forJaws 2 and Airport 77), this is a film that gets great parts of its execution spot on, even if the central story is as thin and its ultimate reveal as obvious as you'd suspect.

Fortunately though, the chemistry between the mismatched duo is impeccable.

Gosling demonstrates a gift for goofier physical comedy and pratfalls that's well utilised - but Black's smart enough to have ensured that the sensitive yet easily scared March is no dumb klutz caught in the middle of it all (even if the power of coincidence propels large swathes of the actual plot along for great stretches of it for no real reason other than to ensure the narrative continues). Equally, March's interactions with his slightly smarter than him daughter (played with a great amount of heart by Rice) are charming and round off March's character nicely.
But if Gosling's jokier edges are as successful, it's due in large part to Crowe's heavier set straight guy.

As Healy, with a substantial bulk around the stomach, Crowe's weariness and hinted-at-back story is used lightly and consequently more effectively, as he moves into the family unit of March and his daughter.

It gives him greater dramatic weight, but also feels perfect for an enforcer lost in a city that's on the edge of change. (And  the allegory of being stuck in a smog ridden LA is not lost on the guy, who's clearly choking for resonance in a changing world and who opines poignantly at one point that "just for a moment, I felt useful").

However, The Nice Guys is a film that's never below peppering its dialogue with laugh-out-loud zingers, physical comedy and typical Black dialogue and banter between the leads to power proceedings.

(Even if Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Black's treatment of the women in this time period is slightly off-putting and panders to lazy sleazy stereotypes, his encapsulation of the era is spot on and perhaps in channeling that vibe, and under today's watchful eyes, potentially is why its anti-PCness stands out a little more).

Ultimately, The Nice Guys is an impressively retro throwback to the buddy-cop movies of yesteryear and is buoyed by some meta touches and some sizzling comic chemistry. It's just a shame that the film noir central story is merely the garnish on the side of this dish, rather than the dramatic meat to nourish what is a good time at the cinema.

New Fifty Shades Darker poster drops

New Fifty Shades Darker poster drops

The brand new poster for Fifty Shades Darker, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson has just dropped.

It comes ahead of the new New Fifty Shades Darker trailer release tomorrow.

Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom: PS4 Review

Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4
Developer: Koei Tecmo

Manga series Attack on Titan is phenomenally popular.

Based on the story of a group of fighters taking on monsters who invade their land (a sort of giants vs humans tale), Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is a re-telling of the first season of the anime which has been made into 2 live action films.

Following the pace and action of the series, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom: follows fan favourites Eren, Mikasa as they try to defend their town from the rampaging giants who are determined to break down the walls and bite their heads off.

Coming in 3 different sizes and with a couple of different classes, the Titans are a heady and overwhelming bunch to take down initially. Firing Spider-man style metal wires catapults you through the air toward  your prey at speed and then once your focus is on certain areas, a perfectly timed pressing of one button will subjugate them and see you scoring points.

It's quite difficult to master the controls during the tutorial of the game, but once you find the rhythm it becomes second nature as you flit between Eren and Mikasa on the battlefield with the rest of the 104th battalion whose MO is to defend homes and avenge lost loved ones.

Powering up is always recommended as well. Slaying some Titans will see materials dropped and this can help with the upgrades. The Titan-slaying gear; the Omni-Directional Manoeuver Gearblades, and scabbard can be enhanced at the camp between missions on Single and Multiplayer modes, improving movement speed, blade durability and improved anchors to improve their chances against the Titans.

From there, the game is a repetition of battles in different environments as the gang rush to defend bases or each other in the wake of the Titans' attacks. It's eerily addictive once you're into it, and while the Japanese language and English subtitles unfortunately cause a real distraction on screen while you're in the middle of a battle, most of what transpires is beautifully fluid and compulsively easy when you get a rhythm going.

Precision is the name of the game - one wrong move can see a Titan grab you in conflict and squeeze the life from you. But equally, when there are several Titans in an attack on screen, the focus can be difficult and often saw Eren attacking the wrong one, meaning conflict was unnecessarily longer than it should be.

The campaign levels bring a variety that make Attack on Titan Wings of Freedom worth pursuing and some side expedition missions add a frisson of extra short burst thrills. Flying through the air and being covered in Titan blood may sound gory, but this really does capture some of the excitement of the Manga series and may prove a great jumping in point for newbies.

All in all, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is perhaps one of the bigger surprises of the gaming year. It may not be perfect in some ways thanks to occasionally interrupted combat and stilted forced interactions between characters, but when you're soaring through the air in battle, it's thrilling and original.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Secret Life Of Pets: Film Review

The Secret Life Of Pets: Film Review

Vocal cast: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper
Director: Yarrow Cheney, Chris Renaud

It's the eternal question of every pet owner - what do your animals do during the day while you're out?

While the reality is potentially a tad dull (clever money is on sleeping and eating), animation house Illumination's The Secret Life Of Pets posits the theory that they have great adventures.

Set in New York, it's the story of terrier Max (Louis CK), who believes he's the luckiest dog in the city, thanks to the bond he shares with his owner Katie. But when Katie brings home a new dog in the form of Duke (Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet), Max finds his world upended. Determined to be top dog, Max tries to lose Duke on the streets; however, it goes wrong when the duo lose their collars and end up in the grips of animal control...

Essentially as light and fluffy as the animals within, The Secret Life Of Pets is a fairly safe, solid bet for some family entertainment at the movies.

If you're after deep emotional connection with the furries on display here a la The Incredible Journey, then you're looking in the wrong place.

Packed full of sight gags, some cinematic references and a gratuitous plug for upcoming Illumination flick Sing (seriously, subtle is not the place for Illumination) The Secret Life Of Pets is a singular story stretched a little thin in parts across New York and Brooklyn, but still likely to amuse its core audience.

While the dogs have it ruff (sorry) in the film, and there are elements of Toy Story / only child syndrome at play here, the focus is solely on providing visual gags, some laughs and a degree of insight into pet owners and their pride and joy.

Leading large parts of the laughs is a psycho bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart) the leader of the Flushed Pets, a group of abandoned animals. For once Hart's OTT delivery and lunatic edges are perfectly suited to the white ball of fluff on the screen.

While some may cry there could have been a touch more innovation in the story (it's a tried and tested formula complete with tragic back-story for the abandoned animals) and that the film wears its influences on its sleeve (an Alien gag, a Lost World cracking windscreen, Puss in Boots cute eyes, some Looney Tunes moments), The Secret Life Of Pets proffers up as fun and fluffy a piece of entertainment as the cast of critters within.

Granted, it's instantly forgettable as it races through its zany pace and some of the best gags were spooled out in the trailer that showed the animals kicking back when the owners leave, but The Secret Life Of Pets is a furry family sized piece of entertainment that won't melt your heart with its emotional journey, but will see you leaving the cinema with a renewed fervour for your own animals.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ride Along 2: DVD Review

Ride Along 2: DVD Review

Released by Universal Home Ent

Following the massive success of 2014's Ride Along, it was inevitable the sequel would show.

In the latest to toy with the mismatched buddy cop dynamic, Hart's Ben Barber remains a cop on probation, despite his dream to make detective. When Ice Cube's James is asked by his sister, Ben's fiancee, to take him to Miami ahead of his wedding on a lead in a drug-ring case, James begrudgingly accepts.

Following leads in the party town brings the less-than-dynamic-duo to computer hacker AJ (Community and The Hangover star Ken Jeong) who reveals that a local businessman is behind the ring and corruption is rife.

Tagging along with Olivia Munn's no time-wasting homicide cop Maya, Ben and James soon find themselves knee deep in trouble...

Flat and lifeless (with a bizarrely suspense and action-free pre-credits sequence), Ride Along 2's script is muted; an almost bizarre juxtaposition to the flashy, trashy exterior shots in Miami that pepper most of the film. (Complete with writhing bikini bods for the more puerile members of the audience).

From banal bickering between the pair to banter so inane from the "comedy" motormouth Kevin Hart it makes you want to pull your brain out through your nose (in case you forgot to check it at the door), Ride Along 2 simply grates.

Trying to replicate the buddy cop genre and ripping off parts of a Lethal Weapon film with its protect the rat storyline, this tired film lacks any pizzazz thanks to its over-scripted dialogue.

Ice Cube strives for straight arrow to Hart's incessantly chatting; with all his scowling and talk of the Po-lease, the script fails to hit any beat, even when Hart's Ben is proved right and the incompetent foolish Ben is given a few moments here and there to shine.

The one time the film has some natural charm is toward the end during a wedding sequence that showcases the brother-in-law family vibe to better effect rather than the film's detriment and proves that a less strictly enforced script and looser attitude would have benefited it greatly.

Olivia Munn's fairly wasted as a ball-breaker cop whose pristine business veneer shatters when Cube's cop asks her to the wedding (cos you know, women just go weak for lurve stuff) and Bratt musters enough slime as the suave corrupt rat. But it's Jeong who shows a bit more range in the Joe Pesci role going for more dramatic before resorting to his trademark shrieking.

Story keeps proceedings on the straight and narrow with only one sign of directorial flair - the chase sequence in Miami, which is brought to life through Ben's Grand Theft Auto game obsession and becomes a race of pixels rather than the tired usual tropes of cars thudding into each other.

In one sequence, Ice Cube's James intones to Hart's Ben "Do you even listen to some of the sh*t that comes out of your mouth?" and somehow manages to encapsulate how the audience will feel as this tired unoriginal sequel plays out. Equally, when AJ forces Ben to eat food from a trashcan, again there's a feeling that the audience will associate with this regurgitated fare that sticks in your craw.

Sure, Ride Along 2 ain't exactly striving for Shakespearean heights, but in its quest to provide something formulaic, it ends up unlikely to stand out from the masses. Depressingly, this is the film which beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the US Box office, so a third outing seems more than likely - but frankly, this is one ride that deserves stopping so we can all get off.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Bigger Splash: DVD Review

A Bigger Splash: DVD Review

There's nothing worse than a gatecrasher.

And in I Am Love director Luca Guadagnino's latest, a remake of the French 1969 thriller La Piscine, even though the gate-crasher is a tremendous Ralph Fiennes, the after effects of this arrival fail to really lift the so-called sexual thriller.

Swinton is Marianne Lane, a Bowie-esque rock singer, who's recuperating from throat surgery that's rendered her all but mute. While she's factored in some serious R&R with her current beau, Paul (a wearied and disconnected Schoenaerts), the peace is rudely shattered by the arrival of Lane's former manager and one time lover Harry (Fiennes), who shows with his newly-discovered daughter Penny (50 Shades of Grey's Dakota Johnson) in tow.

And it's not just the fragile peace that's ripped asunder with this visit, as old feelings between Lane and Harry simmer away; coupled with the Lolita-esque trappings of Penny as she eyes up Paul, nothing will ever be the same again.

It may be beautifully shot and evocatively dressed in the Italian countryside but Gaudagnino's latest is nothing more than an arthouse snooze-fest that does little to indulge the brain as much as it does to indulge the senses.

It's fair to say that were it not for Fiennes' overly boisterous and frequently hilarious (not to mention constantly naked) performance, A Bigger Splash would fall considerably flatter than it does.

Fiennes breathes life into the relative caricature of the man whose dancing to the Rolling Stones' Emotional Rescue proves that he does indeed have the moves like Jagger - albeit on the dad front. But Fiennes brings a positively lustrous and infectious energy to the screen that's missing when he's not there.

Swinton's a degree of class, giving her relatively mute songstress a sophistication that's needed and she manages to do so much with so little; equally, Johnson proves to have some cinematic balls giving her Penny the dangerous edge of flirtation that comes so often on holiday.

Unfortunately, Schoenaerts has neither the lustre or life to bring anything to the table as the damaged Paul - even in flashbacks, where Swinton's character comes alive, he brings hardly anything to the table, which ensures the denouement of this so called Dangerous Liaisons piece is lacking the emotional intensity which is required to ignite the powderkeg that's supposed to have been smouldering.

Instead, it's a damp fizzer of a film, that wallows wilfully and indulgently in its arthouse trappings and rarely rises above its jealousy soaked aspirations.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: PS4 Review

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: PS4 Review

Developer: Eidos Montreal
Platform: PS4

Mixing Metal Gear Solid with cybernetics seems a good and heady combination for Deus Ex Mankind Divided.

Tapping into a healthy mistrust of the machines and their augmented place in society, the follow up to Deus Ex Human Revolution is a thrilling trip into the day after tomorrow world ethos with Adam Jensen.

Set in the year 2029, Jensen's part of an anti-terrorist group deployed to deal with a clutch of augmented terrorists threatening the fragile peace. But Jensen also has a side mission to crack the conspiracy rippling through the augmented world and the shadowy cabal controlling things.

With a series of others to negotiate a way through and no-one seeming exactly who they are, the world set up is a perfect one. And it's well complemented by the levels of enhancement that Jensen goes through and the weaponry he can use to help instigate a stealthy takedown here and there.

From augmented vision to powerful deployment of a cybernetic arm, there are plenty of skills to master as the game plays out and these can be used in ways that may surprise. Plus, combined with the fact that missions don't have to be done a certain way adds to the clever touches of the game - and it's certainly enough to push re-playability as you power through the narrative.

Deploying cover moves, working sensibly to take down enemies and generally having to think a little ahead is fairly de rigeur for games of this ilk, but Deus Ex: Mankind Divided makes it simple to execute and rewarding when it pays off.

Ultimately Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an exciting addition to the Deus Ex series and one that works well with its Prague set storyline of oppression and mechanical apartheid. Equally, its crisp visuals and eye-popping worlds make it visually worthwhile to wile away the hours - there's a real Blade Runner-esque quality to parts of this game.

Simply put, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is well worth investing your time in; along with an online competitive mode Breach, there's more than enough to capture your attention and more than enough proof this series still has much further to go.

Sherpa: DVD Review

Sherpa: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Transmission Home Ent

Jennifer Peedom's documentary on the Sherpas and Nepal is inevitably infused with a bittersweet touch, and is a scathing look at the unfolding industrial dispute on Everest.

Armed with a camera crew and with the intention of giving the Sherpas the moment to shine she felt they had been missing all these years, she couldn't have foreseen the tragic events that would brutally interrupt the 2014 climbing season - and after completing editing, the earthquake that struck almost exactly one year on.

However, before the tragedy comes the majesty of the mountain, thanks to opening shots that are pristine and clear and which cauterize the eyes with white. As the wind blows against the Everest that we are so accustomed to, which reaches out into the heavens, it soon becomes clear that the serenity is only in the sky.

In 2013 the discord on the ground threatened to boil over with a fight brewing between the Sherpas and those climbing the mountain being the final straw. It was this in mind, and Peedom's perception that the Sherpa race has been ignored despite doing the majority of the work that set the documentary in motion.

But what emerges from Peedom's utterly thrilling and yet equally sickening piece is the bitter curelty of timing. Against a backdrop of whether the Sherpa are working too hard to capitalise on a season that grants them ten times the average wage and ensures their families have food, nature intervened on 18th April 2014, bringing an avalanche that killed 16 Sherpa and setting the debate into a chain of urgency that's as fragile as the snow hanging on the side.

Wisely choosing to follow Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa whose next climb up Everest will mark his 22nd and a world record, as well as Himalayan veteran Russell Brice who carries out commercial ventures with his crew in mind, Peedom's created a documentary that soars as high as Everest itself and scales the heights of cinematic greatness.

It may be concerned with matters thousands of metres above ground, but Peedom's non-intrusive eye keeps our feet squarely on terra firma and deals us with the cold hard facts of the inequality of the sherpas; namely, that they have to travel 30 times a season through a moving ice-fall to ensure that those who've paid the big bucks can make one simple trip to the base camp and summit the top.

Sherpa is never anything less than shocking as it exposes the widening gap between commercial venture and human life and there won't be many who don't fall squarely into the Sherpas' camp after the tragedy unfolds (that an American client claims terrorists have pushed them off the mountain when the Sherpa essentially strike fearing for their lives speaks volumes to their plight and the Western perception of entitlement).

Granted, Peedom's firmly in the Sherpa camp, but even she could have never predicted the sickening urgency that the doco takes when the wall of white comes down (and in its most harrowing moment, covers a camera clearly from the Sherpa team walking the crevices).

Her seamless weaving of the now and then of the Himalayas creates a rich timeline, but never loses its focus on the human faces of what is essentially commercial law. Even the Nepali government gets a serve over their apathy in the face of tourism woes, something this polemic subtly plants in your mind.

The inequality may be a slap in the face to those who remember Tenzing Norgay's smiling face, but by revealing the years that have been cruel to the race after this, Peedom's created something that's sickeningly gripping and viscerally raw from beginning to end - and which captures an unfolding tragedy in an entirely riveting way but which never loses sight of the human cost or gets caught up in the post-tragedy hysteria.

Sherpa is formidable film-making, one whose ending will be changed in light of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake but one whose ethical and moral issues will resonate with many for years to come thanks to Peedom's unswerving eye and concise skill.

It's jaw-dropping stuff, and not always for the reason you'd expect. Unmissable.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Win a double pass to see DON'T BREATHE

Win a double pass to see DON'T BREATHE

To celebrate the release of the US Number 1 Box Office smash, Don't Breathe, I've got double passes to see the film!

About Don't Breathe

A group of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they'll get away with the perfect heist. They're wrong.

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

Written by: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues
Produced by: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Fede Alvarez

Executive Producers: Nathan Kahane, Joe Drake, Erin Westerman, J.R. Young, Mathew Hart

Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto and Stephen Lang

Don't Breathe hits cinemas September 22nd

To enter simply email to this address: - simply CLICK HERE and in the subject line put BREATHE 

Please include your name and address and good luck! 
NB Competition closes 22 September- editor's decision final!

Win a Bridget Jones's Baby prize pack

Win a Bridget Jones's Baby prize pack

To celebrate the release of Bridget Jones's Baby in cinemas September 22nd, I'm giving you the chance to win big with double passes to see the comedy and a Bridget Jones's Baby bag!

Oscar® winners RenĂ©e Zellweger and Colin Firth are joined by Patrick Dempsey for the next chapter of the world’s favorite singleton in Bridget Jones’s Baby.  Directed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’s Diary), the new film in the beloved comedy series based on creator Helen Fielding’s heroine finds Bridget unexpectedly expecting. 

After breaking up with Mark Darcy (Firth), Bridget Jones’s (Zellweger) “happily ever after” hasn’t quite gone according to plan.  Fortysomething and single again, she decides to focus on her job as top news producer and surround herself with old friends and new.  For once, Bridget has everything completely under control.  What could possibly go wrong?

Then her love life takes a turn and Bridget meets a dashing American named Jack (Dempsey), the suitor who is everything Mr. Darcy is not.  In an unlikely twist she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch…she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby’s father.

The much-anticipated third installment of the Bridget Jones’s franchise welcomes fellow Academy Award®winner Emma Thompson to the cast.  Longtime collaborators Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title Films produce alongside Debra Hayward.  Universal Pictures will distribute Bridget Jones’s Babyin North America and select international territories. 

Bridget Jones's Baby is in cinemas September 22nd.

To enter simply email to this address: - simply CLICK HERE and in the subject line put BRIDGET. 

Please include your name and address and good luck! 

NB Competition closes 22 September- editor's decision final!

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS - Official "Legacy" Trailer

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS - Official "Legacy" Trailer

The brand new UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS - Official "Legacy" Trailer has dropped.

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS hits NZ Cinemas on December 1

PlayStation 4 Pro and slimmer and lighter PlayStation 4 unveiled

PlayStation 4 Pro and slimmer and lighter PlayStation 4 unveiled

Following the PlayStation Meeting 2016 held today at the PlayStation Theatre in New York, Sony Interactive Entertainment has announced the following:

PlayStation 4 Pro
·         PlayStation 4 Pro delivers enhanced experiences through improved image processing capability and support for 4K quality
·         Allows games to deliver graphics with far more detail and unprecedented visual precision
·         4K video playback support to deliver 4K streaming video services such as Netflix and YouTube
·         Support of HDR imaging technology, enabling reproduction of brightness and darkness while realizing a much wider range of colours
·         Available in New Zealand from November 10, 2016, NZD$639.95 RRP

Slimmer and lighter PlayStation 4
·         New form factor reduces size by more than 30% and makes console 25% lighter in weight than previous models
·         Increased energy efficiency, cutting power consumption by more than 34%
·         All PS4 systems including the new slimmer model and PS4 Pro will support HDR imaging technology via an update
·         500GB PlayStation 4 available in New Zealand from September 16th, 2016, NZD$489.95 RRP
·         1TB PlayStation 4 available in New Zealand from September 29th, 2016, NZD$569.95 RRP

From New York, Michael Ephraim, Managing Director, Sony Interactive Entertainment New Zealand commented:

“As Andy House said, our vision is to present a clear choice to the gamer and we are steadfast in our commitment to being the best place to play. Today’s announcements are testament of this.  With PlayStation 4 Pro, we look forward to introducing our players to our most powerful home console with the offering of the first class 4k and HDR technology. At 30% reduced size, the new model PS4 offers great value for the gamer and will also join the HDR revolution from next week. With the news we’ve unveiled today and PS VR launching on October 13, there’s never been a better time to join the PlayStation community.”

Here's an idea of how the new TOMB RAIDER will look in 4K