Sunday, 25 June 2017

Loving: DVD Review

Loving: DVD Review

Nominated for Golden Globes and Oscars, Loving's true life tale of the divisions faced by an inter-racial couple, should be a home run.
Loving, by Jeff Nichols, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton

When construction worker Richard Loving (a simple relatively silent turn by Joel Edgerton) decides to marry Mildred (Negga of Preacher fame) out of state, his rush to matrimonial bliss sparks a degree of a witch-hunt as authorities berate them for breaking anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 Virginia.

From a late-night raid, the duo is split up and imprisoned, but it's only Richard who's freed on bail. And things are further complicated when the duo's banned from returning to the state together for 25 years....

Loving starts with a declaration of pregnancy and then spends the rest of the film avoiding the typical route of a civil rights story, while struggling with how to negotiate some of the tropes of the genre.

By doing so, it eschews the conventional trappings of what essentially could be a court-set series of encounters as the fight for freedom plays out in the 1960s disapproving America.

But it's also a film that takes a long time to get anywhere; and with very little drama happening due to Nicholls' somewhat muted approach to the story, it's a bit of a hard ask for the audience at times.
Complete with perma-scowl and confused looks, Edgerton proffers little emotion under his bleach-blond taciturn approach, but manages to convey a lot with looks and hints of what's going on below the surface.

Equally, Negga's quite sidelined in the first half of the film, but as the arguments rage within her and the injustice boils up, she finds a voice in the second half of the film, and as a result, her character begins to rise.

Loving, by Jeff Nichols, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton

These are the complexities of Loving and potentially why, for some, it may not be the emotional powerhouse they're expecting, with the end result feeling like the telling of a story, rather than a cathartic response garnered by other films of their ilk.

This is not to cast any darkness on what the Lovings endured and the injustices thereof, but merely, there's a nagging feeling when the lights go up that the release just simply isn't as strong as could be as director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter, Mud and Midnight Special) vision of empowerment never truly soars above its own subtleties. 

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Life: DVD Review

Life: DVD Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson,Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Daniel Espinosa

David Bowie - or more precisely, one of his most famous musical questions -proves to be the inspiration for Daniel Espinosa's tautly schlocky horror-space flick, Life.

Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

High above the Earth in the International Space Station, a motley crew of nations is assembled, waiting to take on board a soil sample from Mars for analysis to see if anything existed.

But when the sample they bring on board does yield some form of life, it soon turns deadly threatening to kill off the six crew on board... and the future of life on Earth.

The chamber piece Life may be a spiritual successor and very reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Alien and many a Doctor Who episode where something lurks amok a base, but Espinosa's horror-cum-sci-fi cliche piece is actually startlingly effective in its execution and intense in some of its scenes.

Granted, the space staff on board are briefly sketched at best; Reynolds reprises a bit of wise-cracking edge from Deadpool as the engineer of the piece, Ferguson's gruff starched commander is all about the protocols and firewalls than the fuzzies, and Hiroyuki Sanada's pilot is given a new-born baby on Earth to raise his emotional stakes.

Perhaps more interesting is Gyllenhaal's David Jordan, a medic who's been in space for 473 days and prefers the hum of the spaceship to the evils that men do on the ground. He's afforded the deepest degree of character as the film progresses, but it's slim pickings all around.

Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

Which is potentially no bad thing for Life.

This is not a film that wants to philosophise or put a lot of scientific debate or discussion, it's more interested in firing abject terror thanks to an overly bombastic soundtrack and series of relatively taut set-pieces.

It helps the creature, named Calvin by a lucky kid that wins a competition on Earth, starts off like a gelatinous star-fish before evolving into some kind of floating turtle / snake hybrid and is a fairly innocuous but fatal critter - it's not destined for horror infamy like the Xenopmorph, but it works its terror well as the film continues.

The dialogue in part is cliche as well - from lines like "I've got a good feeling about this" to "There's zero precedence for this!" that are ripped straight of Horror Movie Writing 101 to a meta reference to Re-Animator, this is a film that proudly and honestly wears its influences on its sleeve.

As the escalating schlock of the situation sets in and the horror movie trappings emerge with relative aplomb, Espinosa keeps the film rattling along at quite a pace and never really stops to let it breathe. The result is relatively tremendous, a terror-filled ride that's worth taking in the fashion in which it was intended.

From its opening shot of a blip hurtling across the stars to its shots high above the Earth and within the Space Station, the look and feel of Life is second-to-none. With its tight frame shots of the crew within the ship and wide shots of life outside in the vastness of space, complete with an evocative orchestral score, Espinosa manages to convey a sense of the infinite with the intimate in this claustrophobic thriller.

Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson

And there's a certain beauty in one of the crew being killed, hauled into a Messianic pose with blood globules floating in the zero gravity room around them - this is a film that gets the look and feel right, even if it does feel like something we've witnessed before.

While the end feels unnecessarily OTT with a Eureka moment coming a little too conveniently into proceedings, Espinosa and the cast are fully committed to the meshing of the horror and space genres here.

Make no mistake, Life is unashamedly a derivative but suspenseful schlockbuster that embraces its conventions with gusto.  It's actually also a tremendously slick and diverting popcorn ride too, despite its lack of more rounded human edges that kept the likes of Gravity and Alien afloat in the cold dark reaches of space. 

All Eyez on Me: Film Review

All Eyez on Me: Film Review

Cast:  Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper
Director: Benny Boom

Tupac's legacy feels slightly squandered in this over-long formulaic biopic that seems more interested in hitting Tupac moments than going deeper.
All Eyez on Me: Film Review

A charismatic Shipp Jr channels the looks of the late rapper with ease as the film jumps back and forth in his timeline detailing Shakur's childhood, rise to rapper and struggle with the criticism aimed at gangsta rap.

Framed under the auspice of an interview from Clinton Correctional in 1995, Boom's film suffers from plenty of chopping and changing around early on, as the film sets out its intentions to capture the key moments of the life rather than to assemble a more coherent narrative and pertinent overview of Shakur's life.

With commentary on the injustices in Tupac's life, the mistreatment of African Americans and lots of angry outbursts from his mother (played by The Walking Dead's Michonne), the film seems to be aiming for incendiary but never fully catches fire.
All Eyez on Me: Film Review

In fairness, during the scenes of musical excellence, Bloom turns up the dial to 11 and the film crackles with the kind of electricity that's needed and was seen in the likes of Straight Outta Compton. But these are too few and far in between over the bum-numbing 140 minutes run time.

As the rise to Death Row Records settles in, it becomes clear that the script's less interested in providing fully fleshed out characters and is more interested in assuming characteristics and stereotypes for the likes of Sugg Knight and Snoop Dogg.

Ultimately, this slightly hollow and pedestrian approach to what really should have been a home-run means that All Eyez on Me ends up being something where you'd rather avert your eyes elsewhere. Time-hopping doesn't help generate a sense of emotional depth and ultimately when the end arrives, there's little to no feeling on the audience's behalf as it transpires on screen.

With little sense of flair, and a script that makes Tupac's life seem more disjointed (and in the case of legal arguments, more brief and simplistic than it is) All Eyez on Me fails to engender a sense of inspiration in its subject.
All Eyez on Me: Film Review

Cars 3: Film Review

Cars 3: Film Review

Cast: Owen Wilson, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo,
Director: Brian Fee

That a large thread of Cars 3 is spent with Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen's dilemma over how to stay relevant in the face of zippier competition can't be lost on those of us who feel that Pixar's Cars franchise has critically struggled.
Cars 3: Film Review

Never quite firing on all cylinders, the series is back to relative amiable form in this latest which sees Lightning McQueen's old racing ways fail to have him against new tech and cars like Jackson Storm (Hammer). In a nod perhaps to how Formula 1 these days is all about the technology rather than the driving, McQueen's forced to go back to basics and attend an upskilling centre run by Fillion's Sterling and under the tutelage of Cruz (Alonzo).

But will it be enough to help McQueen to both move on and win again?

There's a definite feeling of passing the torch here in the overly literal trappings of Cars 3.

With a nod to the past and Paul Newman's racer as well as the embracing of the newer way of doing things, and avoiding the fear of the new, Cars 3 hits the ground running, even if it does feel like it could ease up on some of the messaging that's ramraided home repeatedly.
Cars 3: Film Review

However, its desire to champion women and give girls the feeling of empowerment is something akin to what Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman has already achieved this year. By forcing Cruz to embrace her dream and never settle for second best, the film's desire to ensure the right message gets out there is both bold and admirable.

Sure, the racing looks slick and there's an undeniable sheen in the polish that the animation carries, but there's little else under the hood for Cars to roll out except its amiable intentions and fair aspirations. Everything looks great and there's no sign that Pixar's decided to drop the quality for the third of the series in terms of the animation, but the relatively straight story-telling means it's one of the more humour free entrants into Pixar's canon which is a real shame.
Cars 3: Film Review

All in all, Cars 3 is nothing more than pleasant - with its simple story worryingly showing there's maybe less in the tank, but its important message it gets the job done on the track but it's far from the convincing victory it really should have been.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Hotel Coolgardie: Film Review

Hotel Coolgardie: Film Review

Director: Pete Gleeson

Likely to do for Aussie outback pubs what Wolf Creek did for Australian outback tourism, docoHotel Coolgardie follows two Finnish backpackers who wind up working at the titular pub after losing all their cash in Bali.

But much like Wolf Creek, it's no less hellish for the duo in Pete Gleeson's fly-on-the-wall piece that shows tolerance is always on the slide as these so called "fresh meat" take to life behind the bar in a baptism of fire that would see many an HR rep running for the hills, unable to sway those perpetuating the sexism and abuse within.

Hotel Coolgardie

And yet, despite the crassness of the Aussie locals, there's something eminently watchable about the proceedings as it reveals the reality of small towns, where everyone knows your business, where drunk patrons do their best to sleep over with the staff and where there's apparently no such thing as a free ride.

Horrifying on many fronts, Hotel Coolgardie's strengths are its honesty; none of what transpires feels less heart-in-mouth than a horror in many ways, but what Gleeson's managed to do is show the reality of a small town and the sociological traits that lie within; many of which will feel familiar to many in New Zealand no matter how much they may feel shame or deny it. No male in this piece comes off well at all - and the girls' saintliness is only further excelled by the way they deal with what goes on.

Though one suspects tourism to the Coolgardie area won't exactly be on the rise after this hits the circuit.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Win double passes to see Spider-Man Homecoming

Win double passes to see Spider-Man Homecoming

A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming. 

Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). 

Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man

But when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.

Spider-Man Homecoming is in cinemas July 6th - so get ready for web-slinging action!

To win a double pass all you have to do is enter simply email your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email SPIDEY!

Competition closes July 6th
Good luck!

Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel
Director: Michael Bay

Transformers: The Last Knight is relentless.

But in a way that makes your eyes bleed at its bloated spectre as it hovers over you in the cinema and sits on you like a succubus, sucking the very life from you until you yield.
Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Granted, it's a Transformers film and Bay's not exactly set the bar high before, but in this latest, which starts off in medieval times before heading to modern times where Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yaeger is the world's only hope, sense is not really present.

Loosely, the Decepticons are searching for Merlin's staff which was gifted to the wizard by a Transformer way back when. Believing that staff could help Cybertron regenerate, the race is on. But Transformers have been outlawed on Earth and are being hunted in some form of Skynet style crackdown.

However, Yaeger and his merry bunch of rescued robots (who all live in a scrap yard, called Auto - subtlety ahoy) set out to save the day. But when it appears Optimus Prime has turned against them, it looks like it may all be over...

To be fair to Michael Bay, Transformers: The Last Knight delivers its sense of scale with utter gusto as it tries to power through the endless bloat that is its 150 minute run time.

Opening with a medieval fight that is both Battle of the Bastards and King Arthur all rolled into a degree of epic flair, slow mo and with added Stanley Tucci as the wizard, Transformers: The Last Knight sets out its stall well initially, before caving to the usual problems that blight a Michael Bay action film.

Transformers: The Last Knight: Film ReviewShifting to present day times where Wahlberg's inventor is pulled into a conspiracy involving Laura Haddock's polo-playing Oxford professor, who may be descended from a magical line of Witwickys, and Anthony Hopkins' bat-shit Basil exposition Sir Edmund Burton (who has a robot butler voiced by Downton Abbey's C3PO type butler Jim Carter).

It's here that sense really does check out of Transformers: The Last Knight and what transpires is akin to car porn, mixed with explosions, slow mo and a feeling that limitless audition tapes for army recruitment are being shot. Bay has an eye for wanton destruction and for maximising the carnage on the screen.

But what he still doesn't have is an eye for character, with once again women being nothing more than objectified (though it's nowhere near as bad as it's been in previous films) or for dialogue being delivered with anything other than shouting and bellicose intonations. Hopkins however, deserves special mention for a combination of both rambling his lines together with such gusto and scene-chewing that his live-wire insanity becomes contagious and gives the film the edge that's needed throughout.

The main problem with the formulaic Transformers: The Last Knight (complete with Optimus AWOL for most of the film) is that it also lacks the fun as endless scenes of action simply segue into another - and with the robots doing their usual one-liners this time, the film feels like it's lacking the fun and going through the motions as it splices Top Gear with robots, Terminator with Robocop, and Skynet with Stand By Me early on.
Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review

Granted, it's apparently Bay's last outing in the series, and there's a sense that he's gone all out with with the spectacle and sacrificed it for all else.

As Mark Wahlberg's Cade brilliantly announces early on "I don't do this for the money, I do it for the higher cause"; a mantra that perhaps Bay himself possibly believes as well as he allows the daftness to unfold without any hint of earlier deftness bleeding through.

But respectfully, given the low bar this latest has set in terms of story-telling, one would respectfully ask that it's perhaps time to rest the robots, and to reboot the franchise with more of an eye on character and narrative, rather than simply the spectacle of what children would come up with when faced with both a sugar-fuelled imagination and a line of Hasbro toys at home.