Sunday, 19 November 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes: Blu Ray Review

War for the Planet of the Apes: Blu Ray Review

In the concluding part of the trilogy, you'd be forgiven for expecting that it would be full-on action for Caesar and his pals as the fight for the earth continued.

But, if you're anticipating being delivered apes with all guns blazing, then director Matt Reeves, the incredibly talented WETA Digital team and the ever-under-appreciated Andy Serkis have a very big surprise for you.

War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes: Blu Ray Review

In the final chapter, Caesar (mo-capped Serkis) has become a legendary figure to both the apes and humans, held in both reverence and fear by both sides. On the run and in hiding, Caesar's world is shattered when an ambush from the humans (led by Harrelson's Colonel) leads to very personal losses.

Against the wishes of the rest of the apes, Caesar heads off on a quest for vengeance, endangering the apes' future and his own...

Mixing up a degree of a simian Band of Brothers, an end-of-times Western and a psychological rumination, War For the Planet of the Apes is not your average blockbuster thrill-ride, but an absorbing conclusion to a consistently intelligent and entertaining series.

The power of this trilogy of films has been one about the clashes of ideologies, the divisive line between human and animal, and the perilous balance between descending into madness. In War For The Planet of The Apes, it's Caesar whose journey is the most important, and who stands to lose the most after deciding on a course of revenge.

Thankfully, a wonderfully nuanced turn from Serkis imbues this outing with the requisite and expected emotional depth that we've come to expect from the series. And while the signs are on the wall (quite literally throughout) of another paean to Apocalypse Now, thanks to a Kurtz like turn from an almost messianic Harrelson, those behind the script deserve to be commended for not launching into a salvo of bullets flying and explosions (well, right away at least.)

In fact, it's the almost mournful script that elevates this from the primal mud; early parts of the movie have a Western feel to them as Caesar and his small troop move on after a tension-filled action burst of a beginning. It's just as well, because the rumination-like feel of the script and execution thereof is slightly muddied by the introduction of a comedy "Bad Ape" (voiced with requisite catchphrase glee by Steve Zahn) and the need to ram home some of the inspirations for the finale.

War for the Planet of the Apes

It's to be understood why, given the almost dirge-like feel to the proceedings (not a bad thing by any step of the imagination) and how it ends up as some kind of allegory of a fight between workers and unions, Spartacus meets Shawshank Redemption and riddled with Holocaust imagery, such as ape crucifixions as well as the obligatory Ape Escape sequences.

Harrelson deserves commendation for adding an edge to his Colonel, and a tragedy to proceedings. Rather than head into OTT territory, there's a subversion of expectations in War For The Planet of the Apes that he helps deliver.

It's not that there are not meaty concepts within this film, more a feeling that morally things are grey - and once again the digital apes deliver that in spades in their performance. Even Harrelson's Colonel wryly remarks while staring down Caesar that his eyes "look almost human."

Layering both tragedy and pathos in relatively equal measure, and despite some faltering turns in the story early on, (mainly involving a Nell-like child), War For the Planet of the Apes delivers a finale that crackles with delicious nuance as it debates whether Caesar (and by extension all of us) is right to succumb to his demons.

War For The Planet of the Apes is a sublime conclusion to the franchise, and a timely reminder that combined with intelligence and digital excellence, these Apes manage to mirror our human lives and future pre-occupations  in ways that may actually surprise cinema-goers. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Wonder Woman: Blu Ray Review

Wonder Woman: Blu Ray Review

The internet's already exploded with outrage at a "Women only" screening of the latest entrant into the DC Extended Universe.
Wonder Woman: Film Review

Equally, there have already been calls to hail the two-and-a-half-hour film one of the best of the DC big screeners, thanks to its all-woman pairing of Monster director Jenkins and Gadot's Amazonian Princess.

After Suicide Squad (one complete with leering camera lingering uncomfortably on Margot Robbie's behind as Harley Quinn overtook the screen) and the all-boys fight club of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, complete with its pomposity and nonsensical plot, the DC Comics world had some way to go to catch up with the levity of its comrade-in-arms the Marvel films.

Particularly, given that current the social climate apparently sidelines women as leads and we live in a world populated by Women's Marches.
Wonder Woman: Film ReviewBy necessity an origins story (yet again), Wonder Woman, stripped of the campery of the original Lynda Carter's stars and stripes TV show, manages to bring to life a slice of wish fulfillment as America, by way of Chris Pine's spy and Wonder Woman's patented red, white and blue garb, manage to save the day in the dying moments of World War I. (And 2000AD fan boys will notice similarities to Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's superhero vs Nazis Zenith stories of 1987)

Though while DC's universe and track record of films within isn't exactly great, thanks to the assured directorial eye of Patty Jenkins (whose Monster revitalised Charlize Theron), this is one comic book origins story that largely gets the bigger picture right - and also goes some way to satiating the furore that women are under-represented on film and in certain genres.

Starting on the mystical island of Themyscira where nobody but teutonic athletic Amazons train in perpetual slow-mo and live, Gal Gadot's early Diana years centre on her world being uprooted when plucky spy Steve Trevor (an earnest, likeable and restrained Pine) literally falls out of the sky and onto the island.

Once Diana learns of the world beyond her shores from her dude-in-distress Trevor and believes there is the very real possibility that Amazon-banished god Ares, the god of War is at work in the wider world, she teams up with Steve to do her sworn duty and save the world from destruction.

Book-ended by two different action sequences (one a rote obligatory superhero CGI-heavy spectacle and clash of the titans that lacks the personal, the other an athletic and graceful balletic sequence that showcases the fighting skills complete with usual slow-mo), the film feels like a mesh of war-time adventure and expected conventions.

Playing up the comic naivety in the real world schtick, as made popular by Chris Hemsworth's culture -clash Thor in Marvel counterpart films, Gadot and Pine form an easy bond early on, and imbue their burgeoning relationship with a heart and earnestness that makes for easy watching.
(Though, in fairness, Diana's naivety begins to grate thanks to a continuing number of speeches on the horrors of war as she navigates the world). Demonstrating that comedy and humour are the best way to create heart makes for an easy bedfellow as the drama gets underway, and it helps that Pine underplays to a terrific degree, ensuring that his Steve Trevor is seen as a genuine good-guy in all of this.

Gal Gadot also impresses, even if so many of her close-ups seem to fall straight from the shooting of a pouting lip-gloss commercial.

Wisely eschewing the lecherous cameras that plagued Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad and any female in a Michael Bay Transformers movie, Jenkins and Gadot manage to bring to life an icon that's perhaps as empowering as she is important.

There's no denying that in a patriarchal hegemony, Diana, the Queen of the Amazons breaks through, but she manages to do it in such a way that it's hard now for future films to belittle or sideline female leads.
It helps that Gadot manages to deliver a turn that strips away some of the woodenness of her prior roles (see Keeping Up With the Joneses) and parts of the wooden script.
Wonder Woman: Film ReviewThis is a heroine for our times, and while there's a nagging feeling that Diana becomes slightly rote in the messy third act, there's no denying that Gadot's turn here is going to inspire many.

But if plenty of effort's been poured into Gadot's Diana and Pine's Trevor, it's clear that other parts of Wonder Woman are sadly left wanting.(Though these feel less significant than quibbles in films like Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman.)
Wonder Woman: Film ReviewDanny Huston's German villain and Dr Poison (aka The Skin I Live In's Elena Anaya, once again wearing a Phantom of the Opera style facials) are bereft of anything other than a once-over villain stereotyping, a charge often laid at both Marvel and DC's door. In fact at times, the maniacal duo are reminiscent of Rocky and Bullwinkle's Natasha and Boris in their cartoon villainy and machinations.

Equally, the rest of Trevor's squad, selected for a suicide mission in France's trenches, are fairly rote, given a few scenes of enforced bonding and ultimately add little to proceedings, other than comedy.
While former The Office star Lucy Davis proffers some comedy chops as Trevor's secretary and Diana's guide to women-in-wartime, there's a distinct feeling that bit players in this piece could have been handed more.

A good 30 minutes of the 150 minute run time could have been chopped in the edit suite, and Wonder Woman would have been a testament to oestrogen-fuelled film-making.

As it is, and thanks largely to Gadot's work, and Jenkins' smart handling of re-jigged source material, there's little denying that Wonder Woman has given very real life to the DC Extended Universe.

Here's hoping the future films continue to build on this development and this beacon of superhero light is the start of better things to come within the genre. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Human Traces: Film Review

Human Traces: Film Review

Cast: Sophie Henderson, Mark Mitchinson, Vinnie Bennett
Director: Nic Gorman

New Zealand films usually fall into one or two categories - and usually fail to offer many points of difference.

From murky history pieces lecturing on how the country wronged its indigenous settlers to some dramas that never quite make it to dizzying heights of feeling more than TV fare, the industry as a whole has shied away from mystery.
Human Traces: Film Review

Step forward Nic Gorman's elegaic, intriguing and thoroughly impressive Human Traces to pick up the mantle and throw down a gauntlet.

In this moody and evocative piece set 750 kms south of New Zealand on an island (though in truth, with its universal themes, and stripped of its accents, it could be anywhere) where Mitchinson's Glenn is monitoring the eco-system. Sarah, his wife of 30 years his junior, (Henderson, achingly isolated and bristling for a return to home-life) doesn't believe Glenn's work is succeeding; her bond in him and with him is clearly fraying when we join them.

Their world is changed by the arrival of Vinnie Bennett's Pete, a DoC ranger and whose arrival, although expected, is fraught with suspicion.

To say more about Human Traces is to rip away its ingenue and its central mystery, a knotty and, for the large part, gripping tale.
Human Traces: Film Review

Gorman's twist-and-turns script pulls and pushes his actors in ways that are challenging, but it's the central premise of the story split into three pieces and scenes played again but from different protagonist points-of-view which give Human Traces its captivating USP.

Its psychological edges completely grab you in the second act, as everything you thought you knew and suspected is pulled from in front of your eyes. Cleverly disorienting audiences is part of its Rashomon effect, and while Human Traces hints at a lack of humanity on show, what envelops the central trio is explicitly human at its core.

As the gradual layers reveal themselves, Gorman sets scenes to the crashing waves, their churning and thrashing signifying a change in the emotional tides. He makes great fist of the rugged terrain of the Otago coastline, revelling in it to help convey the script's increasing confidence.

At times, Human Traces is a sparse film, but it's also one which soars magnificently as it plays out in front of audiences. Its third act may feel weaker as a denouement, but that's simply demonstrating how much that happens previously grips in a vice.

Moody, suspenseful and expertly executed, Human Traces is perhaps one of New Zealand's finest cinematic 2017 experiences.

The Beguiled: Blu Ray Review

The Beguiled: Blu Ray Review

Gifted the best director awards at Cannes for this, Sofia Coppola returns to more ethereal portraits as is her wont in The Beguiled.

Set in 1864 Virginia, 3 years into the Civil War (though, in all honesty, time and the world outside barely trouble much of what transpires), Coppola's take on the 1971 Don Siegel Southern psychodrama, which starred Clint Eastwood, is as wispy as the mist which hangs over the woods in the opening shot.

The Beguiled: NZIFF Review
The Beguiled

Colin Farrell stars as a wounded Union soldier, Corporal McBurney, found cowering under a tree by one of the young charges at the local girls seminary, run by Nicole Kidman's buttoned up Martha. At first the seven of them debate what to do with McBurney, but different feelings of repression, desire and blossoming sexuality come to the fore as time passes.

Initially deciding to allow McBurney to recuperate before being sent on his way, the chaste and secluded women find themselves all-a-fluster thanks to McBurney (and by extension, Farrell) and his rogueish charm.

Soon, however, the question becomes who is beguiling who?

Coppola's eye for the female gaze is evident throughout, much like it was in The Virgin Suicides.

By turns, light, funny and sultry, The Beguiled does much to bewitch, even if its flirtations are as passing as the breeze.

What transpires is a four-way as Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Kidman and the preternaturally youthful Elle Fanning vie for the attention. From dinners that drip with the potential of a cat fight, or the closest a finishing school will allow, to clandestine visits and impromptu liaisons, the film positively drips with sultry sensuality as it plays out.

Coppola's more interested in the female dynamic at play here and most men, bar Farrell, are framed from a distance when they appear and / or are surplus to proceedings. Sure, cannons fire and plumes of smoke appear on the horizon, but men are rarely seen at this finishing school, giving the flirtations a weight that's understandable when McBurney shows.

But as she stacks the deck with betrayal, lust and repressed desire, what she creates in The Beguiled is a similarly themed entrant as others display in her catalogue. Using a similarly ethereal lens and vision, Coppola may be making an obvious film in many ways, but its subtleties are enough to beguile the audience.

With equal amounts of humour, takes on etiquette and coquettishness, the battle of the females, and simple simmering, the film manages to cast a spell on those who view.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Justice League: Film Review

Justice League: Film Review

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot,  Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill, JK Simmons, Jeremy Irons
Director: Zack Snyder

The Avengers had it after numerous build up films, and while Suicide Squad signalled DC's intentions to let the baddies have all the fun first to cinematically buck the team-up trend, it was perhaps inevitable that the squad team up event would ultimately arrive.

And that it has now - albeit more with dramatic deja vu and some moments that genuinely engage and amuse among the appallingly executed and shonky CGI - should come as nothing of a surprise to those who've been following the rapidly-bloating superhero genre.
Justice League: Film Review

Following on from Snyder's much-derided Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the critical success of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, Justice League arrives with a degree of weight of expectation to see if DC can properly launch a squad franchise for future incarnations. (Though baffingly, Jason Momoa's Aquaman will get an origins film after this one releases).

With Superman dead after the tussle with Batman, the world's awash with chaos, with an increase in terrorist events and general hoodlums.

As if that's not enough, Batman's wandering around in a kind of funk, awash with ennui and with hair flecked with grey - even Alfred (Irons) wryly notes at one point that one misses the days when the biggest problems they faced were wind-up electronic penguins.

Diana Prince (Gadot, a little less wooden this time around) is faring a little better, protecting those in peril and persuading Bats that they need more people on their team to help combat a growing problem, which threatens the world and as usual, involves a MacGuffin.
Justice League: Film Review

Enter Ezra Miller's Barry Allen aka The Flash, the quip machine and nerdy heart and soul of the piece. His touch of levity doesn't go too far a la Thor Ragnarok, but signals DC's intentions to perhaps add a degree of humour.

Sadly, he's the only one of the new additions who's not saddled with reams of exposition for their introduction - unlike Ray Fisher's Cyborg, and Jason Momoa's Hawaiian influenced Aquaman. Their involvement isn't so much shoe-horned in, but clearly laden with necessity that could have been cleared up in an origins film.

The main issue with Justice League isn't so much that DC's pulled together something that feels like a revamp of intentions for the DCEU, but more that due to superhero cinema overflow, feels like a rather unfortunate piece of deja vu, that suffers once again from a lacklustre villain and definite feeling of lack of threat to all. It certainly undoes some of the good work done by Wonder Woman in terms of narrative and execution.

A series of cubes that threaten the world - pretty sure that was in an Avengers film.
A series of flying insect creatures that threaten the world - again, pretty sure that was in an Avengers film as well.

The sense of deja vu in this heroes assemble film is almost stifling, it feels like much is an identikit of all-too-familiar elements and tropes.
Justice League: Film Review
Its denouement is perhaps its weakest point, a muddled mess of CGI weakness that feels dark, muddied and narratively laughable thanks to its deus-ex-machina.

And while for a DC effort, there's no denying this is a massive step-up in terms of delivery and signalling of intent, it never quite reaches any highs that you'd hope for, and settles more for a run-of-the-mill middle of the road blockbuster that's let down poorly by badly executed CGI and a rote plot.

Ultimately, while there are parts of Justice League that show the DC universe is righting itself, there are not enough of them on show in the film among the dullness that pervades. There's no denying Justice League is the creative leap that DC wanted, but there's also a persistent nagging feeling that the genre is reaching the end of its shelf life, and this should-have-been hit-it-out-of-the-park piece is more a film that never managed to convince itself to reach for greatness.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Film Review

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Film Review

As darkly black as they come and as uncomfortable as you may expect from the director of The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an unmissable experience.

In other hands this could easily have been a horror, but under Lanthimos' unswerving eye, it's his usual combination of both the weird and also the devilish, which cause you to squirm uncomfortably in your seat. As demonstrated with The Lobster and Dogtooth, Lanthimos has a way of creating a world that's self-contained and populated with a veneer that doesn't quite feel right, but feels drily plausible.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: NZIFF Review

A heavily-bearded Colin Farrell plays heart surgeon Steven, whose journey begins post-surgery discussing the banality of a new watch that he needs with his colleague. As they stalk the halls of the immeasurably clinical hospital where they work, Steven talks in a staccato robotic turn of phrase, with the inane sounding incredibly offbeat, almost as if a robot synthesiser programme has followed a series of sub-routines and thrown out something that could pass for conversation.

Steven's life appears fine - he has a wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and a daughter and son. He also has a friendship with a young boy Martin (Dunkirk star Barry Keoghan) that seems a little unusual at best.

But as the black humour and the film plays out, that relationship with Martin becomes key to proceedings as retribution, guilt and Greek tragedy begins to bite. To say more is to spoil the reveals of the film, which come gradually and powerfully as it unspools.

Lanthimos isn't interested in moralising in his latest - and it's clear that pretty much everyone has something to hide in the film, giving it a dangerous edge and a warped sense of desperation. As Martin's obsession grows, the long slow shots that Lanthimos injects into the film and the darker edges become almost unbearable, blessing proceedings with a quite horrific dread that spreads malignantly and quickly.

Many spend time remarking on Steven's hands in this film and how clean they are. It's a delicious irony that they're anything but, and with Farrell's cool veneer losing its grip the more it carries on, the film's more absurdist edges actually become more plausible and all the more horrific because of it.

If Farrell and Kidman are unswervingly staunch, it's Keoghan's malicious Martin that impresses most. With a cold, clear sense of warped logic, his path to the punishing plays out with an underplayed edge; his calmness makes everything seem that more sinister and disquieting.

Ultimately, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a bold film - it pushes some buttons excellently, but Lanthimos knows when to hold off, when to hold his nerve and when to put the audience through the wringer. Much like The Lobster set things with a bittersweet off-kilter feel, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is truly knuckle-clenching. Like a master, Lanthimos leads us to the final destination and we arrive at it, breathless and wrought with the horror of the ride. It's compellingly grim cinema at its dark unpunishable best. 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Tulip Fever: Film Review

Tulip Fever: Film Review

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Christoph Waltz, Cara Delevingne, Holliday Grainger, Jack O'Connell, Tom Hollander, Judi Dench
Director: Justin Chadwick

Forever destined to be known as the film disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein left on the shelf for 3 years and also the first film to be released by the Weinstein Company post Weinstein's spectacular fall from grace, Tulip Fever is something of a tonal mess.
Tulip Fever: Film Review

Future Tomb Raider star Alicia Vikander stars as Sofia in this period piece set in 17th century Amsterdam as the tulip market grows feverishly. Similar to the stock market, there's a great trade to be had in bulbs and speculation, and Sofia finds herself in the middle of it when she escapes the convent she's in by agreeing to be married off to Waltz's merchant.

With pressure to conceive, Sofia is found wanting and Waltz's Cornelis decides to commission a painting of the two of them from upcoming artist Jaan (DeHaan). But an illicit affair grows between the pair, culminating in tragedy for everyone in the house - including Grainger's maid and confidante and her lover (O'Connell).

It's hard to know exactly what Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) wanted to do exactly with Tom Stoppard's mashed together screenplay.
Tulip Fever: Film Review

From period drama, romance, farce and finally on to inevitable tragedy, the film flip-flops so badly and bounces between different genres that you get cinematic whiplash watching on.

It's not like any of the cast (with the exception sadly of DeHaan and Delevingne who prove to be the weakest links here) give it anything but their best and throw themselves into it with gusto. But a lack of coherence and cohesion proves to make this narrative bulb wilt and wither as its inevitable formulaic tropes are systematically ticked off.

Inevitably what emerges from Tulip Fever is a Carry On style drama film that even Shakespeare would have dismissed as too light for his attention.
Tulip Fever: Film Review

And despite Vikander's continuing allure and dramatic chops for every role she takes, the film's fatal flaw causes the whole house of cards to come crashing down around everyone's ears.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Assassin's Creed Origins: PS4 Review

Assassin's Creed Origins: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4
Developed by Ubisoft

The tenth Assassin's Creed game to emerge blinking into the light is the first to take a break from the annual publishing release schedule - and it's actually quite an enjoyable one.
Assassin's Creed Origins: PS4 Review

Set in ancient Egypt and placing you in the role of Bayek, the game's protagonist and the people's protector as change sweeps into Egypt. But as ever with Assassin's, there's more going on behind the scenes than you could realise.

Eminently playable (though still with the quirks of glitches that always blight these games), Assassin's Creed Origins is a stealth game that benefits from a greatly wider open world that's full of side quests, characters and moments that impress.
Assassin's Creed Origins: PS4 Review

Mixing in elements of Destiny's weapons, Far Cry's progression system and previous Assassin's games, Assassin's Creed Origins manages to take all these all too familiar elements and processes them into their own beast.

With an engaging more personal story at its helm too, Assassin's Creed Origins involves you from the beginning as opposed to other iterations of the game which felt simply like they've placed you in a world and forced you to get on with it.

Weapons increase as your experience in the game does, which helps greatly, and the desire to progress is aided by the fact side quests are more entertaining than a necessary grind. It also helps that you can gain XP by smart use of the skills upgrade - upgrading more practical double points ability first rather than cooler ones actually pays off long term.

Graphically, the game looks great - even if occasionally riding your camel into walls is a real possibility and having half of it stick into the wall while the other half runs becomes a bit of a norm. The open world looks impressive and when you're raiding tombs (yes, there is that) the light flickering within and depth gives it a sizzle that looks good.
Assassin's Creed Origins: PS4 Review

With a streamlined story and a massive world to explore, Assassin's Creed Origins actually gives you more the more time you spend within. It pays off immensely and reminds you why the games in the franchise work when everything gels.

Ultimately, a year off may have paid dividends for Assassin's Creed Origins - it's one of the best without a shadow of a doubt.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Win a copy of Una on DVD

Win a copy of Una on DVD

Thanks to Madman Home Entertainment, you could win Una on DVD starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn.

Fifteen years earlier, Una ran away with an older man, Ray, a crime for which he was arrested and imprisoned. 

When she comes across a photo of him in a trade magazine, Una tracks him down and turns up at his workplace. 

Her abrupt arrival threatens to destroy Ray’s new life and derail her stability. 

Unspoken secrets and buried memories surface asUna and Ray sift through the past.

Una is available on DVD right now

To win a copy, all you have to do is email  your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email  UNA!

Competition closes November 16th

Win Your Name on Blu Ray

Win Your Name on Blu Ray

To celebrate the release of the anime smash hit at the box office, Madman Home Entertainment is giving you the chance to win Your Name on Blu Ray.

Mitsuha and Taki are two total strangers living completely different lives. 
But when Mitsuha makes a wish to leave her mountain town for the bustling city of Tokyo, they become connected in a bizarre way. 
She dreams she is a boy living in Tokyo while Taki dreams he is a girl from a rural town he's never been to.
What does their newfound connection mean? And how will it bring them together?
Your Name is available in shops to buy now.
To win a copy, all you have to do is email  your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email NAME!

Competition closes November 16th

Ingrid Goes West: Film Review

Ingrid Goes West: Film Review

Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Wyatt Russell
Director: Matt Spicer

A satire on the social media loving generation and a dark drama as well, Ingrid Goes West is the cautionary yet all too familiar tale of Ingrid (Parks and Rec star Aubrey Plaza).
Ingrid Goes West: Film Review

Obsessed with a woman she's never met other than through Instagram, Ingrid's institutionalised after pepper spraying the woman at her wedding because she never received an invite. Upon release and with the spectre of her mother's death licking away at her background, Ingrid forms a new obsession with Elizabeth Olsen's Taylor, an Insta-celebrity whose life appears perfect.

Ingratiating her way in, Ingrid becomes firm friends with Taylor after moving out west to be near her....

In many ways, Ingrid Goes West is a Single White Female for the Insta-generational millennial on the go.

For those opposed to social media, it's a satire on the reality behind the filters, and while it loses its bite later on (bar its last scene), the film's desire to showcase the vacuousness of Taylor's life with Ingrid's borderline depression is a strong step for the Hollywood game to take (particularly in this ongoing war of Influencers and strategies).
Ingrid Goes West: Film Review

As the soulless and lost Ingrid, Plaza is perfect, both encapsulating he dizzying highs of the social recognition and the gnawing desperation of the ignorance; she pulls off this indie with veritable aplomb and makes Ingrid both a nuanced, empathetic and yet obscene human being as well.

A breezy Olsen makes Taylor both empty enough and appealing, and while Russell gets some good lines as her beleaguered husband, who wants the earlier version of his wife back before she was an internet celeb, Straight Outta Compton star O'Shea Jackson Jr brings subtle life to the neighbour who's got an attraction to Ingrid.
Ingrid Goes West: Film Review

While Spicer makes the film quite dark at times, this BFF dramedy has some serious bite and commentary to the social media generation and the divides within. A warning perhaps to the vacuous generation and the phone-obsessed millennials, it may fall short in its final 20 minutes, but all in all, Ingrid Goes West deserves to get more than just a social media thumbs up.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Blade of The Immortal: Film Review

Blade of The Immortal: Film Review

Director: Miike Takeshi

For his 100th feature, director Miike Takeshi has reached for the epic, and ended up in the cartoonish.
Blade of The Immortal: Film Review

With plenty of choreographed samurai mayhem and blood and slicing a-plenty, it's the story of Kimura Takuya's Manji. Manji's cursed to live as an immortal after being healed by a witch following a fight to take down those who killed his sister in front of him.

Opening with a 11 minute pre-titles sequence that sets the stall out with gusto (fights and humour, including a line about how something's not a rice ball, but a horse turd), give you an indication of what lies ahead in this 141 minute film. Though, as the film goes on, it does feel like it needs more of this.

Hired years later as a bodyguard to someone called Rin who looks uncannily like his sister, Manji has to slice and dice his way through retribution, conspiracy, revenge and superstition.
Blade of The Immortal: Film Review

Based on a Manga series and with an ethos that's more crowd-pleasing than arthouse fare, Blade of The Immortal is a film to wallow in rather than to over-analyse.

In many ways, Miike's 100th film is a traditional film; one with minimal dialogue that concentrates on the action and gives those who love the genre exactly what they'd want - and more.

A little long in the tooth in parts and with perhaps one too many slow narrative bits to balance out the action, it's more a film of atmospherics that genre fans will lap up and adore, rather than attracting new admirers to the cause.
Blade of The Immortal: Film Review

But its ethos of revenge and vengeance is a universal one to savour and Miike's desire to expertly capture everything as it unfolds means that it's certainly going to have a cult appeal and be adored by those who already love the genre.

Daddy's Home Two: Film Review

Daddy's Home Two: Film Review

Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow, Linda Cardellini
Director: Sean Anders
Daddy's Home Two: Film Review

There's a moment in the ill-conceived and pathetically executed sequel to Daddy's Home where Linda Cardellini's character says she'll "leave you two morons" to it.

That's a general feeling as the lack of laughter malaise falls over you like soft snow in the weak sequel to the already pushing it first film from a couple of years back.

In this latest, it's coming up to Christmas time (much like Bad Moms Christmas) and Ferrell's baby Brad and his co-father Dusty (Wahlberg, initially sneery but eventually lost) decide the kids are suffering being buffered between parents.

So in the spirit of the holiday season, they decide to hold a together Christmas - which is then scuppered by the arrival of Dusty's absentee macho father Kurt, who's apparently a NASA shuttle pilot. When Kurt mocks Dusty for his softer approach to parenting and scoffs at Brad's wimpier father (John Lithgow), the rivalries between the pair are stirred up again.
Daddy's Home Two: Film Review

Daddy's Home Two is a weak, unfunny film that provides zero laughs unless you're completely off your face on seasonal cheer. It's a family feud that lacks passion.

It has a truly bizarre finale, which tries to celebrate the joy of going to the movies and has everyone singing Band Aid's ode to famine, Do They Know It's Christmas, in a foyer.

In between that, there are barely any laughs to fill even the worst Christmas crackers on sale.

Standard, formulaic and in parts a retread of the first, the film's got nothing of a heart and very little in terms of memorable. Firing slapstick at Ferrell seems to be lazy this time around, and the moments that are supposed to see you spluttering merely see you end up yawning.
Daddy's Home Two: Film Review

Gibson adds a bit of energy to this, but even his presence can't add much to Wahlberg and Ferrell's apparent coasting through the script.

There's a bizarre pro-NRA gun moment in the film too which seems desperately at odds given America's record with shootings this year and feels ill-conceived and executed.

All in all, Daddy's Home Two is a series of episodic psychological battles which give you little and feel like they've been contrived by committee rather than anything else.

It's a very average, very middle-of-the-road fare, that depressingly may amuse some.
But in many ways, Daddy's Home Two is one hell of a turkey that sticks in your throat like other leftovers at this time of the year.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Only The Brave: Film Review

Only The Brave: Film Review

Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell
Director: Jospeh Kosinski

In many ways, lots of Only The Brave shouldn't work.
Only The Brave: Film Review

It's cliched as hell from the dialogue to the direction, it suffers from Hollywood's strangulating true story codas where the real images are plastered over the screen moments after it ends in a music montage, and its story is entirely tragic and predictable even if you don't know the Granite Mountain Hotshots tale.
And yet, Only The Brave still somehow manages to be quite moving and earnest as it lumbers to its disastrous denouement.

It's largely thanks to a genuine performance from Josh Brolin, as the leader, Eric Marsh, of a municipal group of firefighters in Arizona who desperately want to be verified so they can be part of the fire season rotation.

Miles Teller plays junkie Brendan McDonough whose redemption arc begins after he ends up jailed and high and a first-time father. Deciding to turn his life around, he approaches Brolin's  Eric to see if he can join the team.
Only The Brave: Film Review

So far, so cliched.

And if you add to that, the fact that Brendan doesn't gel with the team - notably Kitsch's Mac, plus the clash of families and their men in danger and whether it's worth it, you can feel the hoary old tropes burning as hot as the flames on the screen.

Yet, due to an earnest and compassionate turn from Brolin, the flames are less about fire-fighting and more about kindling the flames of bromance as this two-and-a-quarter hour ode to fallen heroes unspools unshowingly and with heart-on-sleeve.

But with the central relationships feeling real, and the dynamics successfully explored and barely exploited, Kosinski's solid, never spectacular, direction somehow means that Only The Brave creeps under your skin as it moves to its inevitable end.
The universal appeal of the main members of the cast and anchored by Brolin's prophet-like turn, the tragedy bites hard at the end when it comes as it must.

Sure some of the dialogue is a bit lacksadaisical and some of the women suffer appalling characterisation (with the exception of Jennifer Connelly as Marsh's wife) but the heart of Only The Brave means it lingers long after the film's finished (even if the deliberately cynical coda cloys at you).
Only The Brave: Film Review

The low-key reverence in which the film holds its fallen is evident at the end, but the perfectly-paced journey via the mens' sincerity means that Only The Brave gives you relatability and some truly gut-wrenching moments of moving pain when it all ends.

Against all the odds, and with everything screaming unoriginality in this tale, Only The Brave manages to make you care terrifically about those caught up in this Arizona nightmare - it's the film's smartest strength and its strongest reminder of the power of the ordinary man.

Win a double pass to see Professor Marston and The Wonder Women at the cinema

Win a double pass to see Professor Marston and The Wonder Women at the cinema

The true story of the unconventional life of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist who invented the modern lie detector test and created the character of Wonder Woman in 1941.  

Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth, also a psychologist and inventor, and Olive Byrne, a former student.  

Wonder Woman was a powerful role model, representing feminist ideals shared by Elizabeth and Olive.  
Professor Marston and The Wonder Women

But the comic lead to controversy that would impact the three lovers for the rest of their lives.

Professor Marston and The Wonder Women is in cinemas in 4 main centres – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Starring Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote.

Professor Marston and The Wonder Women releases 16th November.

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

Include your name and address and title your email MADAME!

Competition closes November 16th

Win a copy of Baby Driver

Win a copy of Baby Driver

Baby Driver is a 2017 action film written and directed by Edgar Wright. 
It stars Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Bernthal.
The plot follows Baby, a young getaway driver, who is coerced into working for a kingpin.
Baby Driver was co-produced by Working Title Films and Big Talk Productions, and was distributed worldwide by Sony Pictures and by TriStar Pictures in the US, while the independent studio Media Rights Capital provided archive footage possession for the film's US release. 
Baby Driver

It premiered at South by Southwest on March 11, 2017, and was released theatrically on June 28, 2017. 
The film received critical acclaim and has grossed over $118 million worldwide.
“An awe-inspiring piece of filmmaking from Edgar Wright that plays out as a musical through the lens of an action thriller. Sweet, funny and utterly original — you won’t see a film like it this year.”- Empire
' To win a copy, all you have to do is email  your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email BABY DRIVER!

Competition closes November 23RD

Win a copy of Cars 3 on DVD

Win a copy of Cars 3 on DVD

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. 

To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. 

Cars 3

Proving that #95 isn't through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage! 

To win a copy, all you have to do is email  your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email CARS 3!

Competition closes November 23rd

Win a double pass to see Daddy's Home 2 at the movies

Win a double pass to see Daddy's Home 2 at the movies

In the sequel to the 2015 global smash, father and stepfather, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) have joined forces to provide their kids with the perfect Christmas.

Their newfound partnership is put to the test when Dusty’s old-school, macho Dad (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s ultra-affectionate and emotional Dad (John Lithgow) arrive just in time to throw the holiday into complete chaos.
Win a double pass to see Daddy's Home 2 at the movies

Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, John Lithgow & Mel Gibson

To celebrate the release of Daddy's Home 2 at the movies from November 23rd, you can win a double pass!

Daddy's Home 2 is rated M

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

Include your name and address and title your email DADDY!

Competition closes November 23rd

Jigsaw: Film Review

Jigsaw: Film Review

Cast: Callum Keith Rennie, Matt Passmore, Laura Vandervoort, Tobin Bell
Director: The Spierig Brothers

Seven years after the last outing for the slightly insane and warped logic of John Kramer, the Saw series returns with an attempt to dust off the legacy and restart the whole thing as we get asked to play a game again.
Jigsaw: Film Review

This time around, and once again treading familiar ground, Daybreakers and Predestination directors The Spierig Brothers bring their take to the grubby grimy series.

A group of apparently unconnected people, five in number, wake up inside a barn, with Ned Kelly-esque buckets on their head and chained to a wall. As the chains fire up, they're headed towards buzzsaws whirring violently away. Suddenly, the voice of John Kramer offers them a chance to redeem themselves....

Elsewhere with the discovery of the bodies, a group of detectives begin a quest to try and save them before it's too late.
Jigsaw: Film Review

With its truth will set you free ethos and its emphasis a little more on redemption, Jigsaw goes back to the series' roots in some ways, as the twisted games play out.

It's good to see that rather than simply concentrating on the torture porn, Jigsaw presents a course of logic that at least makes some sense to the reason why Jigsaw came to be - rather than simply imperil people for no real reason.

The problem is that due to lack of any reason to care about the five placed in danger and a distinct lack of tension makes Jigsaw difficult to invest in; the traps this time feel rote and lack a degree of deviousness that previous installments had going for them.

A lot of time is spent in a medical lab as well, giving this a feel of CSI: Saw rather than anything else. And despite a twist at the end (unsurprisingly), Jigsaw feels slightly redundant if it's trying to reboot the franchise and kick it all off again.
Jigsaw: Film Review

Ultimately, like most Jigsaws over time, this one is missing a few pieces, meaning that the final product feels unfinished and only hints at what could have been.

Win a copy of Spider-man Homecoming!

Win a copy of Spider-man Homecoming!

To celebrate the release of  Spiderman: Homecoming out on October 11(Blu-Ray & DVD), you can win a copy here!

About Spider-man Homecoming

Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May.

Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man.

He also tries to return to his normal daily routine -- distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighbourhood superhero.

Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

To win a copy thanks to the Sony team, all you have to do is email  your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email SPIDEY!

Competition closes November 20th

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Cars 3: Blu Ray Review

Cars 3: Blu Ray Review

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.