Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Angry Birds Movie: DVD Review

The Angry Birds Movie: DVD Review

So, who remembers Angry Birds?

That game we were all so addicted to way back when and then it suddenly died a death overtaken by consoles, Candy Crush and other such time-sucks.

Well, the film version of Angry Birds doesn't care that you've abandoned it, nor does it care that it's essentially got the feel of a one-shot and gone animation, aimed squarely at throwing all its eggs in giving you a cinematic take on the game's simple MO - destroy the towers.

Long story short, Jason Sudeikis is Red, the original Angry bird, who's ostracised cos of his grumpy ways (even though he's lonely from having been bullied in his younger years). Sentenced to Anger Management by a judge after erupting during a hatchday party, he meets Josh Gad's hyper-active Chuck, McBride's explosive Bomb and Sean Penn's non-verbal Terrence.

But his world - and along with all those other flightless ones on his homeland of Bird Island -  is further threatened when a ship of Pigs turn up on their shores, headed by Bill Hader's Leonard. Everyone welcomes the Pigs except Red, who discovers a sinister plot by the porcine expedition....

The Angry Birds Movie is a hyper-kinetic, colourful mix of cartoonish one-shot sight gags that almost threatens to fall apart due to the lack of anything more than a thin or coherent thread running through.

The whole thing's essentially structured to lead to a cinematic version of a game as the residents of Bird Island take on the Pigs by hurling themselves through the air and assaulting the towers within.

It's a shame that the first half of the film is little more than a few strong gags threaded through with the thinnest story that those older members watching almost threaten to disengage.

Youngsters will adore the bright coloured animation and the vivid colours (and fans of the animated genre will appreciate the depth and detail that's gone into the creation of the critters, from feathers bristling to a furriness that's adorably executed), even if they never stop to question why these critters can't fly.

At times, during the Pig invasion, the whole thing seems to hint at an allegory for refugees, tolerance, child kidnapping and xenophobia - it never digs any deeper into this darkness, preferring to leave the allusions there for anyone who wants to draw on them.

Sudeikis is affable as Red, and much of the younger end of the audience will be drawn to the hyperactive looney tunes nature of Chuck, but simply The Angry Birds Movie's MO is to be nothing more than to shoe-horn in the game and its mechanics into the narrative.

It just about succeeds with a wilful stubbornness as it slingshots birds across the screen and shoe horns in the game mechanics - but even thanks to some truly impressive animation, it's just a little above a fleeting distraction at the movies. 

Nerve: Film Review

Nerve: Film Review

Cast: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, Emily Meade
Director: Ariel Schuman and Henry Joost

If anything, directors Ariel Schuman and Henry Joost have already plied us with the perils of the internet with the 2010 film Catfish, so it's perhaps no surprise they jump back into the online world with Nerve, based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan.

Emma Roberts is Vee, a shy wallflower of a girl who doesn't want to go to college and who harbours a crush on the high school football jock, who's never noticed her. Living in the shadow of both her boisterous BFF Sydney (Meade) and in the death of her brother, she decides after rejection to join a secretive online game of dare called Nerve.

Controlled by watchers who set dares for money, Vee is sucked into the game, initially propelled by the adrenaline of rebellion and also because of her hunky co-gamer Ian (Dave Franco). But as the games escalate and become more life threatening (shifting from kissing a random stranger to driving blindfolded on a bike in NYC streets), she finds the thrill a little too much - but she's too far in to be able to pull out...

With its neon soaked aesthetics and hyper-kinetic pace, Nerve is another cautionary tale of the internet; a kind of truth or dare game spliced through the prism of Unfriended and The Purge, with elements of Rome's gladiatorial hubris and Battle Royale thrown in for good measure.

Roberts sells the shift from wild recklessness to genuine fear as the stalker level of this warped Pokemon Go style game escalates. Her innocence gels with Franco's solid but one note performance and the pair fast become the heroes of the piece, but side characters ultimately become predictable genre tropes and wither under manufactured circumstances.

From Meade's insecure BFF, Lewis' mum who appears in 2016 to have no idea what the internet is or how banking works to the best friend crush via some of the worst iteration of internet hackers since Hackers (the collective group cries include "Let's take this game down!" and "I spend lots of time on the dark web"), the film's weaker elements come to the fore as the film amps up its adrenaline filled stunts and action sequences as it edges towards its more OTT elements.

Despite a progressively sillier escalation and an ending that relies on Roberts' crowd exhorting plea for the watchers to abandon their anonymous voyeurism and predictably preaching about the perils of the internet, Nerve is an energetic film with a fair degree of verve. Its kinetic pace will appeal to the screen obsessed youth and still manages to fire barbs at those youngsters who possess a mob mentality online.

There's perhaps an irony that its younger target audience who find themselves caught up in crazes like Pokemon Go and the narcissism of online will probably stream this film rather than head to the cinema, but in a world of screenagers, Nerve's cautionary edges and likeable leads, fuelled with its hedonistic pleasures, make it a surprise cinematic outing that's worth logging on for.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Captain America: Civil War: Blu Ray Review

Captain America: Civil War: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

That the latest Captain America is perhaps one of the better Marvel entrants should come as no surprise, given how strong the first two of this trilogy have been.

That it achieves this with a taut mix of action, thrills, a re-invented Spider-man and a film of some degree of consequence should be no surprise either.

But that it manages to blindside you in its final act is the real surprise of the piece, whipping the carpet with such aplomb from under your weary cynical expectations of where the story may go.

Taking a lead from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is all about collateral damage, both of the physical and emotional variety.

When Captain America's team inadvertently cause a series of deaths and destruction while trying to save the world, pressure grows to build a system of accountability for the Avengers and their ilk. But the proposed status quo fractures the Avengers, with Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark in favour of it after his conscience is pricked by a mother whose son died in the events of Age of Ultron 

However, Chris Evans' plucky straight arrow Steve Rogers isn't as in favour, fearing the bureaucracy could limit their abilities to save the world... and so, a show down is set between long time friends and new potential enemies.

Distraction is the name of a lot of the game here (complete with plenty of globe-trotting and juggling many balls in the air): and while many will head to this slightly overlong flick with the delicious anticipation of an Avengers internal clash (which delivers in a set piece that does what you'd expect), the larger joy in among all the buzz of the clearly and concisely executed CGI clashing, is that Captain America Civil War has the smarts to realise the smaller emotional moments of devastation as sides are drawn and friendships tested are where the true strength of the red white and blue lie. 

Captain America: Civil War is a film where the veracity of character moments shine and where the strength lies (something perhapsGuardians of the Galaxy realised earlier on and went to more comic extremes thereof) and not a routine rote CGI Smash-and-grab ending that has blighted the rest of these films.

It's in the heart of the film and the heart within the film that the success of this one lies - Cap's main raison d'etre is to do right by his old pal Bucky aka The Winter Soldier (Stan in an expanded role from previous outings) and his ethics come into direct contrast and clash with Stark's ideologies. The series has been building to this - and that it pays that set up off well is perhaps testament to not only the investment we've had in the characters but that also our patience to get to this point was tested too.

Both Evans and Downey Jr rise to the occasion, underplaying their hands respectively and helping ground the film in a more human edge that it needs.

It also helps that Captain America: Civil War proffers up some thrilling set pieces of action that dazzle with effortless ease, as well as some throwaway humour to enhance the engagement. 

When the visceral action is shorn of the CGI trickery, there are chase scenes that elicit gasps and dazzle with their freshness of execution - both Joe and Anthony Russo have managed to up the game once again with a clear concise vision of what the audience wants and what will engage the non-fans. (Although there is perhaps one or two mano-a-mano sequences too many).

Juggling the introduction of new characters into the MCU with ease and lack of distraction is not easy, but there won't be many who will come away feeling that the new faces are under-served (and perhaps Tom Holland as Spider-Man is the real find of the piece; a Peter Parker who is a kid from the comic-books). And don't even get me started on the energy that Paul Rudd brings to the piece with his spiky electric Ant-Man.

Daniel Bruhl also deserves commendation for his mournful role - it's a smaller, more subtle touch that he brings and his involvement in the piece provides more than can be discussed in this spoiler-free review.

That said, Captain America: Civil War is not perfect.

For a film about consequence, there are still troublingly less than realistic physical ramifications for the central gang - while there are thrills to see Cap and Iron-Man go at it, there's never really a feeling that either will fall (and perhaps nor should there be) but there is a feeling of seeding of buds of emotional unrest that will continue to ripple out.

And some characters fall by the wayside as the third act plays out, simply fading away into the peripherary as their narrative use loses traction.

Equally, at 2 hours 27 minutes, it's overlong in the final stretch but it's hard to say where the trim could have come from. This is a film that feels full, but never bloated; an important distinction as the past transgressions storylines come to a head and the Captain America trilogy wraps up.

Ultimately, while there had been signs of apathy threatening to overtake the onslaught of Marvel Cinematic Universe films (stand by for Doctor Strange, coming soon), Captain America: Civil War emerges as a contender as one of the best of the run, thanks to character moments, limited chaos and a concisely executed and fresher vision of what a genuine action blockbuster can offer.

Win a double pass to see The Secret Life Of Pets

Win a double pass to see The Secret Life Of Pets

For their fifth fully-animated feature-film collaboration, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures present The Secret Life of Pets, a comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day. 

Comedy superstars Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart make their animated feature-film debuts in The Secret Life of Pets, which co-stars Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress and Albert Brooks. 

Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy produce the film directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2), co-directed by Yarrow Cheney and written by Brian Lynch and Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio.

To celebrate the release of The Secret Life Of Pets, which is in cinemas September 15th, I'm giving you a chance to win a double pass to see the film at the movies!

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

Please include your name and address and good luck! 

NB Competition closes 15 September- editor's decision final!

Chasing Great: Film Review

Chasing Great: Film Review

Directors: Justin Pemberton, Michelle Walshe

The ultimate film about rugby in New Zealand has already been made - and that film is The Ground We Won about the team in the heartland of the Bay of Plenty.

But Chasing Great aims to be more a film about the one man some would believe to be New Zealand's greatest ever rugby player - Richie McCaw.

And it faces a major hurdle too - it's not as if Richie himself is not an unknown figure, blessed with enigma and living life in the shadows. Most of what is known about Richie is already there in the media, as he lived the rugby life in the spotlight and in the glare of the camera both on and off the field.

So this is the nature of the challenge facing Pemberton and Walshe who followed McCaw around for a year; and in the run up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup with the hope that the All Blacks would lift the Webb Ellis trophy for the second time in a row and Richie would call time on his career.

With over 700 hours of footage on hand, what emerges in Chasing Great is predominantly more a film about rugby than the man himself - and perhaps is indicative of the fact how synonymous with rugby Richie has become (though whether that makes a great doco is, in this case, extremely subjective).

While there's use of home video footage from the McCaw family, showing a young but big unit Richie on the Otago rugby fields, in the early part of the film, there is plenty of insight into the guy that may surprise and delight his already mountainous number of fans.

From doing exceptionally well at school to capturing the moment when his family sat huddled in the front room around a radio waiting to hear if Richie gets the call up to the All Blacks, there's a degree of personal intimacy that's welcomed and offers a newer side to the man so over-exposed in the media.

But there's no escaping the line uttered at one point  - "We're an unemotional bunch, the McCaws".

And it's a flaw which shatters the second half of the film as it becomes like a sporting autobiography writ large on the big screen, as we are forced to relive the fatal loss to France in 2007, and various other games including the ultimate win in 2015 (itself a foregone conclusion that is still quite recent in our memories).

It's understandable that these moments should feature as it goes some way to explaining McCaw's mindset and shift in mental fortitude with the involvement of psychologist Dr Ceri Evans (shadowy room meetings leading to feelings of a cult-like abduction), but it still feels like a sports highlights package, with edited game moments and pumping music puncturing the changing room scenes and sporting celebrations, as well as talking heads either praising his field performance or criticising it.

There's no further insight into the man, and it's not as if pre-game brief interviews are enough to give a greater reading of McCaw.

To their credit, the directors have committed some truly impressive imagery to celluloid - from shots high over the Otago hills as Richie cruises in his glider to scene setting slow mo track shots across stadia seats, every moment sings quality and aims for epic.

But equally, there are moments writ large from the cinematic sporting cliches shot book - slow mos on the field, slow mo running through corridors et al.

Frustratingly the film ends abruptly after the victory and with the very Kiwi "Yeah I'm done" as Richie flies off in his glider. This is already the story we knew, albeit fleshed out with some younger days Richie insights - and it's tantamount to feeling underwhelming in its denouement.

Ultimately, that is Chasing Great.

If you're after a film that celebrates and mythologises the man on the field as well as wanting to relive some of rugby's spectacular highs and lows, then this is that film for you, delivered just in time for Father's Day and with the release of Richie's book.

But unfortunately, if you're after a warts and all insight into the man who's been dubbed one of the nicest in sport, then you may feel it's somewhat wanting as a rounded picture.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Win a double pass to see Blood Father

Win a double pass to see Blood Father

Mel Gibson returns to the big screen with shades of Sicario and Payback in this edge-of-your-seat action thriller.

Scripted by Straight Outta Compton’s Andrea Berloff and The Town’s Peter Craig (based on his novel), BLOOD FATHER is brought to the screen by the team behind The Prophet and Rust & Bone and helmed by the César-winning French director behind the acclaimed Mesrine films.

Action and attitude meets humour and humility as Gibson stars as John Link - an ex-con trying - none too enthusiastically - to embrace life on the straight and narrow.

Eking out a meagre existence as a tattoo artist in his trailer park home, he battles with his past and his future.

When his estranged daughter, Lydia is caught up in a drug deal gone wrong, she finds herself reaching out to the last man she ever thought she’d need – her father. Only he can protect her from those who want her dead, and only he will - no matter what  it may cost him

To enter simply email to this address:  OR simply CLICK HERE

In the subject line put BLOODY MEL

Competition closes Sept 8th
Please include your name and address and good luck!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Final Fantasy XV Live at Abbey Road Studios

Final Fantasy XV Live at Abbey Road Studios

Featuring Exclusive Live Performances from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and an appearance from FINAL FANTASY XV Composer, Yoko Shimomura
SYDNEY, 29th August 2016 – Square Enix Ltd., today announced that the world famous Abbey Road Studios will play host to a special one-off concert featuring music from the forthcoming videogame FINAL FANTASY® XV on Thursday 8th September.
The one-hour concert will be broadcast from Abbey Road’s iconic Studio One, and will feature live renditions of a selection of songs from the FINAL FANTASY XV soundtrack performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with a special appearance from world-renowned composer, Yoko Shimomura.
“With so many iconic recordings taking place here over the years, performing the music for FINAL FANTASY XV in the very same recording studio is a huge honour for me and for everyone involved,” said Composer, Yoko Shimomura speaking about the event.  “I am excited to be able to collaborate with Abbey Road Studios for this performance and to share the music of FINAL FANTASY XV with everyone. I hope that music and videogame fans around the world can tune-in and join me for this incredible experience”
The show will begin at 4am AEST / 6am NZST on Thursday 8th September and will be live streamed. Full details on how to watch the broadcast will follow.
The latest instalment in the classic series, FINAL FANTASY XV is set in an enthralling world where fantasy meets reality. Players will embark on an adventure like no other. Join Crown Prince Noctis and his comrades on an epic journey of brotherhood, love and despair as they unravel Noctis's destiny and take up arms against the warmongering empire, Niflheim. With a captivating cast of characters, breath-taking visuals, open world exploration and thrilling action-packed real time combat, FINAL FANTASY XV is the ultimate FINAL FANTASY experience for both newcomers to the series and series fans alike.
FINAL FANTASY XV will be available on the 29th November for the Xbox One and PlayStation®4 system. For more information on FINAL FANTASY XV, visit:

KONAMI Announces Argentinean Teams and Pre-Order Content Details for PES 2017

KONAMI Announces Argentinean Teams and Pre-Order Content Details for PES 2017

KONAMI Announces Argentinean Teams and Pre-Order Content Details for PES 2017
Sydney, 29 August 2016 - Konami Digital Entertainment, B.V. announced today it will be showcasing all 30 teams from the first division of the Argentinian national league in PES 2017. KONAMI will feature all current kits and players from each respective team in PES 2017, allowing fans to take to the pitch by representing their favorite Argentinian clubs. Additionally, PES 2017 will feature two notable Argentinian football stadiums - Estádio Alberto J. Armando (La Bombonera) and El Monumental.

PES 2017 will feature the following 30 Argentinian teams: Aldosivi, Argentinos Juniors, Arsenal, Atlético de Rafaela, Atlético Tucumán, Banfield, Belgrano, Boca Juniors, Colón, Defensa y Justicia, Estudiantes, Gimnasia y Esgrima, Godoy Cruz, Huracán, Independiente, Lanús, Newell's Old Boys, Olimpo, Patronato, Quilmes, Racing Club, River Plate, Rosario Central, San Lorenzo, San Martín, Sarmiento, Temperley, Tigre, Unión Santa Fe and Vélez Sarsfield. Among the teams featured, KONAMI and Club Atlético Independiente have also signed a unique marketing license agreement. Weekly status and roster updates for all teams will also be available.

Additionally, users who pre-order PES 2017 will receive the following bonus content: TOTY
1 random player among the 11 TEAM OF THE YEAR 2015 (Lv.30) *Players may change subject to events such as transfers.
Special Agent×1
Coming Soon
FC Barcelona Agents 80+
2 Player from FC Barcelona who has an overall rating of 80 or more (Lv. 30).
FC Barcelona Agent 75+
1 Player from FC Barcelona who has an overall rating of 75 or more (Lv. 30).
PES 2016-17 Special Agent
1 player (Lv.30) who has an overall rating of 80 or more can be obtained.
Start Up Agent×4 (GK, DF, MF, FW)
1 Lv. 30 player for each core position (GK, DF, MF, FW)
10,000 GP x 10 WEEKS
10,000 GP* will be presented for 10 weeks when you register and start myClub PES 2017. *GP are Game Points that are presented in-game and can be used to improve and enhance your team, such as signing players and managers.
Theme (Sony Exclusive)
PES2017 Theme
*For full details, visit
PES 2017 is founded around the ‘Control Reality' ethos, elevating the series’ award-winning gameplay to a new level through incredible new control elements and a new standard of visual realism, without sacrificing what made PES successful in the first place: playing a match with your friends. The industry-leading Fox Engine is again central to elevating the series to new heights, with KONAMI focusing on first touch, the making and receiving of passes, and adaptive AI to elevate the game’s acclaimed realism.

PES 2017 will be available for PlayStation®4, PlayStation®3, XboxOne, Xbox 360 and PC September 15. View the latest trailer at

KONAMI Signs Partnership with Club Atlético River Plate for PES 2017
Sydney, 29 August 2016 - Konami Digital Entertainment, B.V. announced today that is has entered into an exclusive marketing license agreement with Argentina’s Club Atlético River Plate (River Plate) for PES 2017. The partnership will allow KONAMI to promote River Plate through its marketing and promotional activities for PES 2017, as well as feature River Plate’s current kits, players and iconography within its games, including the club’s official stadium, El Monumental.

Club Atlético River Plate is an Argentine sports club known for its professional football team, which has won the most domestic competitions in Argentina with 44 titles in Primera División and 2 second division championships. River Plate has also 15 official international titles, making it a total of 59 titles won in the top division and 2 Segunda División championships since its establishment in 1901.

PES 2017 is founded around the ‘Control Reality' ethos, elevating the series’ award-winning gameplay to a new level through incredible new control elements and a new standard of visual realism, without sacrificing what made PES successful in the first place: playing a match with your friends. The industry-leading Fox Engine is again central to elevating the series to new heights, with KONAMI focusing on first touch, the making and receiving of passes, and adaptive AI to elevate the game’s acclaimed realism.

Daddy's Home: DVD Review

Daddy's Home: DVD Review

Released by Universal Home Ent

Mining the Step dynamic has already proven fertile ground for Will Ferrell.

In the 2008 comedy Step Brothers, along with John C Reilly, Ferrell managed the fine line between sentimental and argumentative as the blending of two families took place.

But with Daddy's Home, Ferrell has managed to completely miss the comedic mark.

Ferrell plays Brad, a jazz radio station worker and step-dad to Linda Cardinelli's Sara's two young kids. Desperate to hear them utter the words Dad, Brad's world is turned upside down with the arrival of their leather-clad muscle bound biological father Dusty (Wahlberg, in reasonable comic form).

What starts off as genial jostling and an attempt to accommodate Dusty gradually sees Brad reach boiling point as Dusty starts to get his feet under the familial table...

Daddy's Home is excruciating, to say the least.

The best gags - all 3 of them - are to be found in the trailer of this weakly written and flat comedy that has neither the punch lines nor the sense of sparkle to carry it along.

Half the problem is at a script level where any such issues should have been ironed out; a lack of punchlines in relevant places doesn't help matters either as scenes limp to an end rather than a hilarious conclusion.

Ferrell plays mild-mannered fine and admittedly provides some laughs in some of the film as he tries to overcome his insecurities, bring his one-up-manship game and be the dad he's always wanted to be. There's some chemistry with former Other Guys co-star Wahlberg and Wahlberg at least appears to be having some fun flexing his comedy chops and flaunting his dance moves at the end. But there's little to no sparkle in the pacing of the story and its execution; it's almost as if someone's looked at the template of the Competitive Dad in The Fast Show and tried to bring it up to date.

Thomas Haden Church provides a few guffaws as Brad's blustering radio boss who's full of irrelevant stories - but his screen time is limited.

Ultimately though, Daddy's Home is a film which suffers because the funny just isn't there; it's too tame to be an R rated laugh-fest and too flat to be a family comedy. Plus, unbelievably at just over 95 mins long, it still feels too bloated.

There is a saying that sometimes you save the best till last, but with this Boxing Day release, it's clearly not the case. Daddy's Home is another embarrassment to Ferrell's CV and a comedy that forgets its simple MO - to provide laughs.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

13 Hours: The Soldiers of Benghazi: DVD Review

13 Hours: The Soldiers of Benghazi: DVD Review

With a more restrained touch and a degree of maturity, director Michael Bay's more excessive touches appear reined in in this film based on a true story.

When a US ambassador's compound is over-run in Benghazi after several waves of terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2012, it falls to six defence military contractors to try and save the day.

But, as this sat in direct opposition to orders from their CIA chief, the men felt doing the right thing was more important than bureaucracy, and put their lives on the line for 13 hours.

With the likes of American Sniper and Lone Survivor blazing the trail for homegrown hero stories, and coupled with the master of Bayhem at the helm, you'd expect that 13 Hours would be an all guts, all glory, guns blazing type of affair.

But what Michael Bay has done - despite characterisation of the men being more than a little lacking - is craft something tense which transcends its Call Of Duty: Benghazi potential and which delivers taut suspense that's as close to enthralling as any base under siege story can match.

Sure, it hits the tropes and cliches of the genre thanks to scenes of the guys bonding and reaching out to loved ones just prior to fateful events going down as well as its occasionally cliched dialogue, but as it ratchets up to its sickening end, it remains a compelling watch.  It's largely thanks to a controlled level of chaos and a major dose of mistrust that you're never quite sure who's on the right side as the team of six snake their way through the streets - the powderkeg does blow but Bay manages to prolong it to keep you guessing where and when it will go off.

As the leads, The Office star John Krasinki (all buff and beardsy) and James Badge Dale imbue their weary contractor characters with an appeal that will see you empathising with them and hoping they make it, despite their having cursory slight back-story.

But it's Michael Bay who delivers the biggest surprise here with his usual patriotic and jingoistic fare, all wrapped in a hyper-real colour palette and complete with compulsory final shot American flag motif in place - dialled down a bit more than usual. Granted, the men hardly stand apart from each other and when the emotional moments inevitably come, it makes it hard for them to be sympathised with as you're not sure who's been taken down.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi may be close to war porn at times, but it never falls short of delivering a tense experience that's heart in its mouth gripping from the moment the action begins.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Newstalk ZB Review - Talking Bad Moms, Ben-Hur and Stranger Things

Newstalk ZB Review - Talking Bad Moms, Ben-Hur and Stranger Things

This week, talking Bad Moms, Ben-Hur and Netflix show Stranger Things with Jack Tame

10 Cloverfield Lane: DVD Review

10 Cloverfield Lane: DVD Review

"People are strange creatures - you can't always convince them safety is in their best interests".

It's this line from John Goodman's character that really sets the tone for the mystery that is 10 Cloverfield Lane, a film described as a blood relative to 2008's Cloverfield by JJ Abrams, rather than a direct sequel to the handy shaky-cam, found footage monster flick.

If anything this subterranean set film is best described as a taut chamber piece that you're better off knowing little about before viewing.

Loosely, Winstead is Michelle, who at the start of the film, is desperately scrabbling around, packing a bag and leaving her other half, for reasons unknown. Fleeing in her car, Michelle's involved in a car accident and wakes to find herself in a dingy room, her leg shackled to the wall, and with no idea where she is or how she got there. So far, so Saw (or so Room).

Enter into proceedings, Goodman's twitchy doomsday prepper Howard whose reasons for dragging Michelle down to the bunker appear to her to be less than clear. Also in this bunker is John Gallager Jr's Emmet, who's injured and appears to be captive too....

10 Cloverfield Lane is a masterful execution in suspense and a masterclass of Hitchcockian nail-biting drama in a three-hander setting.

Taut and lean, its strengths really are in the way it plays out, as well as the performances of both Goodman and Winstead. As Michelle does, the audience is drip fed potential reasons for her predicament and as a result, the ensuing paranoia is built as we gain empathy for her plight and her mistrust. There's a duality of trust at play here and no one knows who is telling the truth, even though at various stages, we swing the pendulum of doubt either way.

But smartly, Goodman's Hector is not just a one dimensional nutbar whose underground plans and murky reasonings make a kind of unnerving sense to the audience. The way the needle keeps flipping back and forth between believing him and distrusting him is sparingly but effectively used and is redolent of the lean story-telling on hand.

Thanks to Goodman's relative underplaying of the role (essentially a psychological bully who may or may not be blessed with a dose of veracity) coupled with his implied menace and Winstead's rounded pluck as she goes through her arc of vulnerability to strength, 10 Cloverfield Laneemerges as a thriller filled with dread that rewards as the onion peels back its layers. Hell is very much other people as they say, and in this Fallout Shelter-esque claustrophobic flick, that's evident from the nail-biting beginning.

It helps that the Twilight Zone-esque post Cold War vibe is severely amped up by a mood-ratcheting score from The Walking Dead's Bear McCreary, leading to an atmosphere of unease, mistrust and even in its most domestic scenes, distinctly unsettling overtones.

If the final act hints at more and sees the expected route taken for a Cloverfield film, then the tense and nervy journey there is nothing short of compelling as the mystery box is opened wide.

Unsettling, unease and uncertainty are redolent throughout and Trachtenberg manipulates these well throughout the lean run time (even if there are some mysteries which are never fully resolved). It's dramatic and rare to see a film these days surprise, but thanks to grounding 10 Cloverfield Lane in a relatable humanity and spinning the dial of doubt while simultaneously dredging every last drop of tension, it's one of the best genre films of the year.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ben-Hur: Film Review

Ben-Hur: Film Review

Cast: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Pilou Asbaek, Rodrigo Santoro
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Already a critical and commercial flop abroad, the 2016 remake of Ben Hur arrives on these shores with more a whimper than a roar.

For those not au fait with the 1959 11 Oscar winning original which starred Charlton Heston, it’s the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince played by a Rufus Sewell like Jack Huston and Roman Messala, his adopted brother, played by Toby Kebbell.

When Ben-Hur takes the fall when accused of sedition and his brother does nothing to save him, Ben-Hur’s thrown on a slave ship and shipped off. But events conspire to return Ben-Hur back to the lands of Jerusalem and into a conflict and quest for revenge.

The 2016 version of Ben-Hur is already headed for a $100 million US flop at the box office and for the large part, it’s easy to understand why.

With its lack of a major star in the lead to bring some kind of presence (Freeman appears only as a dread-locked supporting player), it’s down to Huston to carry the piece, and unfortunately, he lacks any of the star presence required. His Judah is so saintly and well-intentioned, that he lacks anything other than blandness on the screen and it’s hard to care for a character whose lack of emotional range is his sole defining characteristic.

Mind you, Kebbell’s barely much better as Messala, looking for the most part like he’s simply seen the script moments before and then thrust in front of a camera. It’s no help the film spends an inordinate amount of time setting up the conflict between the two using clunky dialogue and heavy exposition as well as flashbacks to try and build the rift between the pair.

But neither hold the dramatic heft necessary to shift away from their default Smell the Fart Friends acting philosophy setting pioneered by Joey Tribbiani.

And matters aren’t much improved by Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus, who appears when the film needs an even more saintly presence than Judah. His first, which sees him doing carpentry in the market, slows proceedings and even veers dangerously toward guffaw-provoking territory. It’s here the film heads towards preaching a forgiveness ideology that becomes its raison d’etre as the denouement rumbles around.

If the script had spent a little more time building in some of the more moral areas needed, such as fleshing out Messala’s conflict over the family, it may have been more successful.

Instead it relies on an impressive below decks ship conflict and the inevitable chariot race to save the day. While the ships’ fracas is simply executed (though overly dark), the chariot race is a thundering creation that lacks any real emotional heft with the inclusion of other competitors who you ultimately don’t care about. Symbolism is overt with Messala riding black horses and Judah riding pure whites just in case you’re not sure who you want to win.

It’s perhaps sad the director of the excellent Night Watch film Timur Bekmambetov is attached to this – there’s little sign of any directorial flair here and the workmanlike pace coupled with undercooked script proves relatively fatal in the final wash.

The 2016 version of Ben-Hur lacks any emotional connection and while it tries for epic in places, it’s not a catastrophic mess of Biblical proportions but more of an epic fail, a chariots of dire.