Sunday, 27 May 2018

Stan Walker film sweeps Doc Edge Film awards

Stan Walker film sweeps Doc Edge Film awards


Ruckus Media and Kiwi Director Mitchell Hawkes, won big at the 13th annual Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival awards this evening at Q Theatre for the moving and intimate feature film Stan and short documentary Born This Way: Awa’s Story.

Ruckus Media picked up Best NZ Feature Documentary, Best NZ Editing and Best NZ Cinematography for Stan and Best NZ Short Documentary for Born This Way: Awa’s Story. Director Hawkes won Best NZ Director for Stan.

Kiwi director Zihan Chang earned the Best NZ Emerging Filmmaker for her film Searching for the Bone People which also received a special mention in the category of NZ Competition – Short Documentary.

On the international front, Talal Derki and his disturbing yet compelling film Of Fathers and Sons won the Best International Feature Documentary. The judges made special mention of the danger that the Derki placed himself in by making this film, noting that the result is an exceptional film that balances both the subtlety and brutality of the theatre of war.

Best International Director was awarded to Hao Wu for People's Republic of Desire. Wu’s ability to present insight into the pursuit of fame in China through the eyes of three protagonists was exceptional. The judges were also impressed by the use of post-production to create a deeper viewer experience of the virtual world and 21st century China.

After a successful season in Wellington, it is now Auckland’s turn to get involved in the incredible programme of 74 films from NZ and all over the world in this year’s Doc Edge Festival.

Full list of Winners Doc Edge Awards 2017:
New Zealand Competition– Feature Documentary
Best New Zealand Feature Documentary – Stan
Best New Zealand Director – Mitchell Hawkes, Stan
Best New Zealand Editing - Stan
Best New Zealand Cinematography – Stan 

New Zealand Competition – Short Documentary
Best New Zealand Short Documentary:  Born This Way: Awa’s Story 
Special Mention: Searching for the Bone People

International Competition – Feature Documentary
Best International Feature Documentary: Of Fathers and Sons
Best International Director: Hao Wu, People's Republic of Desire

International Competition – Short Documentary
Best International Short Documentary:  Edith + Eddie
Special Mention: Kayayo, The Living Shopping Baskets

Best New Zealand Emerging Filmmaker: Zihan Chang, Searching for the Bone People 

Doc Edge Superhero: Diane Weyermann, Participant Media, USA

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Molly's Game: DVD Review

Molly's Game: DVD Review

Fusing Goodfellas and The Wolf Of Wall Street, Aaron Sorkin's take and directorial debut on the Molly Bloom story starts with an almighty bang, before settling for more conformist tropes of the biopic genre.
Molly's Game: Film Review

For those unfamiliar with the "Poker Princess", Bloom was the target of an FBI investigation over her running an underground poker empire which had members of the Russian mob attending.

But Bloom refused to give up the big names in the case, putting her on a collision course with a lawyer (Elba) and the authorities, determined to take her down.

Molly's Game, taken from the memoir Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker, starts with fire, a high stakes ticking story of Bloom's initial career as a skier, and how that fell apart when chance crippled her opportunity to take it to the next stage.

It's in the opening moments that Sorkin's penchant for sparkling dialogue combines expertly with clever editing and creates something that's tense with Chastain wonderfully espousing the words written for her Bloom.

Molly's Game: Film Review
Soon after, the polished and slick film settles for a calmer feel, one that's saddled with exposition and narration to tell the story - and while there's initial energy, the combination of that, flashbacks and sequences with Elba's lawyer Jaffey means the film loses some of its oomph.

But in the poker scenes, there's a palpable sense of tension and suspense - mostly due to how it's shot. 

With Chastain's Bloom on the edges, and her business acumen being the main driver for her dilemma, there's a definite frisson bubbling away under these scenes.

Infuriatingly though, Sorkin's desire to characterise Bloom's reason for her predicament as being due to her relationship with her father is cloying at best and irritating given how much strength and independence he's imbued Chastain's Bloom with throughout. A reliance on flashbacks punches the sentiment further in, and even though Chastain and Costner work well on screen, it feels piecemeal and trite to boil it all down to this in the denouement.

Molly's Game is never better when Chastain is prowling through the screen.

Molly's Game: Film Review
With a sense of dynamism and a feeling of utter control, this is an anti-hero that we can get behind, even if the moral compass is guiding Bloom to her downfall and her reasoning. Chastain is electric and defies you to look away when she's in full control of proceedings, and the moments the cracks and chinks in the armour show, it's horrifyingly real and frighteningly vulnerable.

Ultimately, for Sorkin's debut behind the camera, he's relied on what you'd expect of him - dialogue heavy (a little too so in voiceover terms) and better in characterising moments for his protagonist rather than others around.

But nonetheless, Molly's Game is a film full of high stakes, led by a dazzling queen in this card deck - it's not exactly a full house, but it's certainly one that stacks the deck squarely in the chutzpah stakes and proves an occasional wild card. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Mission: Impossible- Fallout | International Trailer

Mission: Impossible- Fallout | International Trailer

The newly launched International Trailer for Mission: Impossible- Fallout is here ahead of its release on August 2, 2018.

Tom Cruise is at it again, reprising his role as super-spy Ethan Hunt with a star studded cast of faces both familiar and new. 

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie marks the first director in the franchise to repeat, reprising his duties from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

McQuarrie assembled an all-star ensemble for this sequel, which not only brings back franchise favourites like Michelle Monaghan and Simon Pegg, but also introduces new characters played by Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett along with returning Rogue Nation breakout Rebecca Ferguson

The story of this new film finds Ethan Hunt on the ropes, as the IMF’s past good deeds come back to haunt them in the worst way.

Life Of The Party: Film Review

Life Of The Party: Film Review

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Gillian Jacobs, Julie Bowen, Debby Ryan
Director: Ben Falcone
Life Of The Party: Film Review

Melissa McCarthy's Life of the Party feels tame, uninspired and in some parts, stretched as long as a college lecture fronted by a droning professor.

McCarthy plays Deanna, a mom who starts the film dropping her daughter off for college and ends up moments later on the cusp of divorce and homeless.

Deciding to go back to college (where her daughter is) to finish the year she never completed, Deanna embraces college life - and the books - like before.

Turning into a mother for some of the sorority's lost, and dating a younger man, Deanna finds her place - before facing the obvious third act obstacles.

Despite some touches - a great double act with Maya Rudolph as Deanna's friend being the highlight- Life of the Party tries to mix awkward banter with McCarthy's knack for trademark pratfalls and physical humiliation.

Life Of The Party Film Review
It works in parts, but for large swathes of the film, the bumpy to ally mixed film hits too many lulls and cliches on the way to prove a winning formula.

It helps less that the rating tones the film down, making it hit more of a TV movie special than a riotous romp fest. But in some ways that's perhaps where the truisms of McCarthy's continued success reaches - her endless relatability to sections of the cinema going audience proving to be fertile ground for those looking to spend a dollar on women-led films, or searching for girls night out fare.

Life Of The Party: Film Review

The problem with Life Of The Party is that it's never quite as strong enough as it needs to be; it fails to hit some of the highs, while eschewing the typical teenager embarrassed by my parents trope and narrative. It also never quite hits the empowerment high it's aiming for either, preferring to be a muted call, rather than a rallying fanfare.

It strives to be different, but ultimately, Life Of The Party is a party few will fully want to attend til the end - much like any party eventually does, it rather outstays its welcome.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story: Film Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story: Film Review

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Director: Ron Howard

Solo: A Star Wars Story: Film Review
Enigma, mystery, the eternal riddle of how an iconic character came to be.

These are the things of which nightmares are made for writers tasked with origin stories.

Whether it's an infamous line, or an oblique cool-sounding reference tossed into a script as a throwaway line, it's a conundrum.

Han Solo.

The name is evocative - he's the guy who shot first, the guy who made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs, the guy who was cool and detached in those original films back in the 1970s.

But scratch beneath the surface and peer into the veneer to explore his origins and that's where the mystery starts to fade.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Lucasfilm set the directors of The LEGO Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to work. And then they were removed due to "creative differences" - causing the sound of a million geeks to cry out in existential terror at what lay ahead for their beloved smuggler.

Solo: A Star Wars Story: Film Review

In came Ron Howard to try and rescue what was there from the clutches of the Empire's vaults.

So, what we're left with with Solo: A Star Wars Story is an origin tale no one really wanted (because Han's backstory is best left to tantalising lines and imaginations), questions answered no one really asked and a story in the Star Wars universe that suggests the Empire isn't involved in everything.

Displaying some, but nowhere near enough, of the charisma that Harrison Ford delivered in the series, Hail Caesar!'s Alden Ehrenreich is Han, a scumrat who's trying to break away from his home planet of Corellia with his girlf Qi'ra (Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke) thanks to a theft of the film's MacGuffin, Hyperfuel.

Separated when their heist goes wrong, Han signs up with the baddies to become a pilot, and ends up in the trenches (the closest Star Wars has ever got to showing the gritty World War I edges of warfare) before falling in with Woody Harrelson's Beckett and his band of merry mercenaries.

Teaming up to pull a job on a flying train (one of the film's stand-out action sequences, that packs Western vibes into a snowy landscape and never loses the thread in among the pace), Han does all he can to get back to Qi'Ra and the life he used to know.
Solo: A Star Wars Story: Film Review

It's fair to say that Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn't really feel like a Star Wars film.

In fact, for the most part of it, the sparkle you'd feel and giddy high you'd encounter for being part of this world feels absent, with those in charge hoping the thrills would come from the fact a line was referenced, or you see how Chewbacca and Han actually met - it's a perfunctory take on the legend, and one can't help but feel shortchanged in some of the execution.

It's to be commended for trying to widen the universe without always having to tie back into it (something the countless novels and stories have always done) and the how-he-became-a-smuggler isn't quite told in the way you'd expect.

Glover manages a perfect Billy Dee Williams impression, but his Lando isn't quite the high-stakes scoundrel we'd expect, and most of the performance feels bathed in the "cool" that's currently surrounding Glover, rather than anything else.

Equally, it has to be said, that while Ehrenreich comes occasionally close to matching some of what Ford did as Solo thanks to hints of where his future lies, the cocky edges aren't on show, and even hints of them are missing. He feels like he's come from a Western, and is trying to impress as Solo, but the script doesn't quite serve him as well.

In fairness, Han and Chewie's relationship - along with Phoebe Waller-Bridge's L3-37 robot and Lando - are where the film really does hit its straps. Playful, earnest and with heart, these fire unexpectedly off the screen from the moment they're seen - and really make parts of Solo: A Star Wars Story stand out. It's a shame there's not more of this, as when they come, they're joyous.

Unfortunately, Clarke and Ehrenreich have little chemistry, and what little they can muster pales into insignificance with the ease of what Carrie Fisher and Ford achieved. For an emotional centre, it's sorely miscast and deeply uninvolving.
Solo: A Star Wars Story: Film Review

Ultimately, Solo: A Star Wars Story feels muted, and struggles with some lulls; it doesn't help that most of the mystery of Solo is unravelled in other's hands, leaving you the feeling none of his hinted-at reputation was earned, merely given, which is a crucial difference in such a character, whose reputation is key. 

What emerges from the spinoff space saga is a feeling that it feels like a project that floundered to find an edge, a piece of fan service that tries too hard to hit its core audience in the intergalactic feels (You want a Cantina style scene? Sure, we'll give you that) and which which tries to subvert expectations, but never quite gets there.

Solo: A Star Wars Story may never reach the pantheon of the greatest Star Wars films, and its perfunctory execution and lurching-from-one-sequence-to-the-next don't do it any favours. 

In this galaxy far, far away, the stars don't appear to shine as brightly.

It may have been doomed from the start, thanks to the weight of what happened in 1977, but it certainly shows that not everything in this endless galaxy needs to be explained, and that sometimes, a hint of mystery should be - and indeed is - more than enough to sustain a legend for cinematic eternity.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Sinner: Season One: DVD Review

The Sinner: Season One: DVD Review

Rating: R16
Released by Universal Home Ent
The Sinner: Season One: DVD Review
Jessica Biel stars in the adaptation of Petra Hammesfhar's novel about a woman who, one day on the beach, cracks and stabs someone to death.

As the police delve into the killing, mysterious secrets and a conspiracy emerge...

Biel and co-star Bill Pullman make for harrowing partners in this thriller, which has twists aplenty and is willing to reward those who stick with its slower moments.

Whilst the book's darkness may have been toned down for the TV show, there's still a feeling of claustrophobia and unease as it plays out - and Biel commits fully to the role, with Christopher Abbott proving to be a worthy foil and a growing less-recognised talent.

Ultimately, The Sinner takes its time to grip, but finally does when it all comes together.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Client List: Season 1: DVD Review

The Client List: Season 1: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Entertainment

The Client List: Season 1: DVD ReviewJennifer Love Hewitt stars in a vaguely salacious series about the pressures faced by an American family.

She's a mother, who facing financial problems, turns to the oldest game in town (in some ways) in a massage parlour to help make ends meet.

Seduced by money and placed in an enviable position, The Client List is about as provocative as you'd expect from a Lifetime series, so it's more about the dilemma faced by Love Hewitt's character.

It's not a strong series, but does offer some sincerity in the form of Love Hewitt, who sells the role with conviction, even if the scripts don't.

Over 10 episodes of the first season, The Client List hits some of the stops you'd expect, but its soapier edges make it less of a compelling drama than it could be - it's simply one which relies on the charms of Love Hewitt to sell it with conviction.