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.

10 new New Zealand International Film Festival flicks unveiled

10 new New Zealand International Film Festival flicks unveiled

The New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) today announced 10 international films that will screen in the World Strand of the programme with the support of returning sponsor 2degrees.
World Strand films are selected throughout the year by NZIFF’s programmers. The 10 films announced today range from Irish comedy A Date for Mad Mary, Inuit drama Maliglutit (Searchers), French drama The Midwife, to Sofia Coppola’s US drama The Beguiled, direct from Cannes and starring Nicole Kidman.

“21 countries are represented in the largest section in the catalogue. France, the UK and the US are strong as always, but Catalan cinema has delivered one of the year’s unexpected gems in Summer 1993. Our selections always pays close attention to films lavished with praise or box office success from their countries of origin, as well as films that premiered at Cannes only four weeks ago,” says NZIFF Director Bill Gosden.

The Beguiled

The 10 films announced from the World Strand of the programme:

The Beguiled
Colin Farrell plays a wounded Civil War mercenary under the care of a commune of young women, led by Nicole Kidman, in Sofia Coppola’s beautiful feminist take on Don Siegel’s 1971 Southern Gothic psychodrama.

A Date for Mad Mary
Sent only a single invitation, dry, sarcastic, maddening Mary (marvellous Seána Kerslake) sets out to find a date for her best friend’s wedding in this barbed and funny Irish romcom.

Ethel & Ernest
This animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ graphic memoir of his parents’ lives is both humble and profound, with gorgeous renderings of Briggs’ justly famous lines. Featuring the voices of Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn.

A Fantastic Woman
Rising Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (Gloria) celebrates the endurance of a woman under suspicion of murder in a film that heralds a stellar debut for transgender actress Daniela Vega.

This elegantly mounted drama explores regeneration in the aftermath of World War I through the complex relationship of a young German woman (Anna Beer) and a French soldier (Pierre Niney) brought together by shared loss.

Maliglutit (Searchers)
Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) returns with this Arctic epic about a vengeful husband who sets off in pursuit of the violent men who kidnapped his wife and destroyed his home.

Sally Hawkins delivers an unforgettable performance as Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis, irrepressible despite arthritis and a churlish husband (Ethan Hawke), in this gently flowing biopic set in the 1930s.

The Midwife
Catherine Frot stars as a conscientious midwife reluctantly reconnecting with Catherine Deneuve as the flamboyant step-mother who absconded 30 years earlier, in this lively drama from writer/director Martin Provost (Séraphine).

The Party
“This sketch of an ambitious Westminster politician and dinner-party hostess (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose life comes spectacularly apart before the canapés are even served, is a consummate drawing-room divertissement, played with relish by a dream ensemble.” — Guy Lodge, Variety

Summer 1993
Catalan director Carla Simón’s award-winning dramatisation of her own experience as a six-year-old orphan adjusting to a new life in the country features the most remarkable and mesmerising child performances in years.

The full NZIFF programme will be available online from Monday 26 June 7pm, and on the streets from Tuesday 27 June for Auckland and Friday 30 June for Wellington. NZIFF starts in Auckland on 20 July and in Wellington from 28 July in 2017.

Special events in Auckland, including Top of the Lake: China Girl and the Live Cinema performance of It with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, are on sale now from Ticketmaster.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

WipeOut: Omega Collection: PS4 Review

WipeOut: Omega Collection: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4

Released in 1995 and one of the defining titles of PlayStation's early era, WipeOut's futuristic racing and dance hall beats were utterly iconic.
WipeOut: Omega Collection: PS4 Review

Cruising around tracks, floating above the ground, and racing breakneck against other contenders (or thanks to the early use of split-screen against friends), the anti-grav racing game was nothing short of a major win for the console.

So, the Omega collection, complete with its polished look, pulls together the three different iterations of WipeOut (HD, 2048 and Fury) into one classy package that reminds you why it was so defining.

Smooth graphics and a polished look for the ships as well as the tracks means that the game looks like a new release rather than a simple remaster - and with 26 circuits, 49 ships and 9 modes, there's certainly no shortage of possibilities for entertainment here.

Gameplay wise, WipeOut is as punishing as it always was.

WipeOut: Omega Collection: PS4 Review
This is a game that relies on skill and wits as well as knowledge of where to pick the power ups and hit the speed-ramps during tracks to win. It's not a game that you can win on a whim and luck certainly doesn't play into WipeOut's MO. In fact, in its early stages before you unlock the better ships with XP and with progression, it's nothing short of utterly frustrating as you lose in the last second or fail to qualify as you don't have enough ship power to get you where you need to go.

IF the controls are slightly opposed to stopping you from getting crab hands (the X button is used for speed, rather than the easily more intuitive R2 pad on the controller), you soon get back to old habits when racing. In fact, even the controls have an element of nostalgia to them (though RSI may strike).

But along with the pulsing soundtrack from the likes of the Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy, WipeOut Omega Collection plays like it always has. AI increases the more into the game you get, and you really do need to have your wits about you to win.
WipeOut: Omega Collection: PS4 Review

The game looks good too, with the polish and deeper rendering of the tracks all coming together in a smooth mix that make for both a nostalgia blast and a recognition of what the PS4 is currently capable of. It would be great to see a new WipeOut game on the PS4, but this collection does a lot to scratch that itch, and demonstrates that when done properly and with care, a relaunch of an old title, complete with spit and polish, can be as sizzling as the latest AAA property.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

My Cousin Rachel: Film Review

My Cousin Rachel: Film Review

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger
Director: Roger Michell

Revelling in its Gothic trappings and ambiguities till the end, the latest adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's 1951 novel benefits greatly from the presence of Weisz as its lead.
My Cousin Rachel: Film Review

Sam 'Hunger Games' Claflin plays the puppy dog orphan Phillip who suspects his cousin Rachel (a beguiling Weisz) poisoned his adopted father abroad. Further fuelled by notes discovered from him, Phillip is determined to bring her down when she moves to England and his estate.

But when Rachel arrives, she appears to have everyone in her thrall, and Phillip ultimately falls for her too, leading him to rash decisions about his estate...

While Phillip's actions seem indecipherable at best given how quickly he turns heel on his strength of belief, most of My Cousin Rachel works well as an evocative mystery.

That's a despite a condensed history at the start that's bundled up in expository voiceover and the rather workmanlike way the film's opening sections are unspooled.
My Cousin Rachel: Film Review
Thankfully Weisz's powerful yet restrained take on the Black Widow / femme fatale / power play is one that keeps you intrigued and intoxicated throughout. Using her wiles but also underplaying means there's a strong degree of ambiguity throughout and coupled with Michell's close up solo shots of the character's faces, the back-and-forth of the narrative and the puzzle grows ever more compelling as the film goes on.

Claflin plays the innocent boy-coming-of-age to a tee, though his naivete and character's flip-flop attitude are perhaps the film's down points given how rapidly he folds. He gives good wounded puppy too in certain points and it's hard not to side with him for large portions of the film; though perhaps this is My Cousin Rachel's strength.

Underneath the period detail, the sweeping countryside shots, a stoic Iain Glen as executor of the estate and beneath the maudlin melancholia of how the jealousy and suspicion tale plays out, there's a lot that actually sucks you in to its rich trappings. The mystery is well sustained and even the ending plays fast and loose with expectations of this take on female sexuality and coming-of-age.
My Cousin Rachel: Film Review

A lo-key prestige picture it may be, but thanks in large to Weisz's controlled turn as Rachel, My Cousin Rachel is beguiling cinema at its absolute best. While you may find the main reason for Phillip's headlong change of attitude utterly bewildering, thanks to both Claflin and Weisz, this subtle psychological tale is as timeless as they come.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Gary of the Pacific: DVD Review

Gary of the Pacific: DVD Review

Cast: Josh Thomson, Megan Stevenson, Matt Whelan, Dave Fane, Taofi Mose-Tuiloma
Director: Jarrod Holt, Ryan Hutchings

Gary Of the Pacific is rarely better than its opening audacious moments, where a stranded dolphin, a Pacific island beach and a subversive gag make for a shocking - albeit blackly comedic and bravura - opening.

Gary of the Pacific

However, the new comedy from the authors of the phenomenally popular 7 Days and the cult audience-led TV comedy Hounds, the downlow project, somehow manages to squander a large portion of the promise it proffered up for the rest of its duration.

Timaru's greatest export, Josh Thompson, plays the titular Gary, a veritable schlubby loser of a guy, who, in his younger years, was dispatched from his Pacific island by his family to go to university overseas in New Zealand and bring accolades and honour to those who'd patronized him.

With the weight of belief on his shoulders from his family and the island as a whole, Gary somehow manages to dodge expectations and ends up taking a series of dead-end jobs that propel him to no glory whatsoever.
Gary of the PacificEnding up as the chief seller at an estate agent's where the employees number both himself and his clearly-not-right-for-him girlfriend Chloe (Megan Stevenson whose American shrill simply wants a Princess Di or Monica from Friends style wedding), Gary's delusions of grandeur stretch as far as believing he will take the top award at a real estate do, held at a local curry house.

With a marriage proposal gone awry, and with debt threatening to drown him, Gary is called back to his homeland in the Pacific after the news his father and the island's chief (Laughing Samoan star Dave Fane) is dying. Reluctantly, Gary returns home, the prodigal son with promise unfulfilled, but finds that his father's bestowed the honour of chief upon him on his death.

Can Gary do what's necessary to save his sinking homeland, his failing relationship and himself?

With a weak script and not enough gags to fill the relatively short run time, Gary Of The Pacific struggles by, garnering only enough good-will, in parts, because of its lead, Josh Thomson.

Whether it's baring his saggy backside within moments or gamely sorting his junk into the most uncomfortable pair of Spanx you've ever seen, Thomson's low-key wit and deadpan and desperate delivery helps keep large swathes of Gary of the Pacific afloat, but it's slim pickings, thanks to a weakly written script, populated largely by characters who are relatively unlikeable and who remain so from start to finish.

Much like Sione's Wedding and its wretched sequel, a lot's centred on both the family angle within the Pacific community, but simply put, Gary of the Pacific does little to build on this premise.
Chief offender is Dave Fane's father figure who appears ghost-like to Gary after his demise. But rather than offering sage advice, or helping Gary along the way on his journey, Fane's father exists to simply guffaw, laugh and cackle at his charge, a move that soon becomes irritating.

Gary of the Pacific

Go Girls star Matt Whelan is a weak fiancee, and foil to the relatively human Lani (first timer Taofi Mose-Tuiloma). Gary's wearied sister who's ended up at home, tending to an ill father and who's become a surrogate to the sinking isle's community.

Hers is perhaps the role that feels that most under-written though, with tensions between Gary and herself manifesting purely as sibling squabbles. There was a strong vein of comedy and emotional resonance to be mined here, but what's actually happened is the writers have gone for the lowest level and stayed there, not realising that the sibling rivalry would have yielded its best results.

Much like Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa's Three Wise Cousins achieved massively last year, the film's got the potential to resonate with its audience but it does nothing to boost its chances in the ways the prestige of those involved would hint at.

Despite Thomson's amiability and inherent desire to debase himself as the butt of the jokes wherever possible, all in all, Gary Of The Pacific is woefully inadequate; just relying on lazyish characters, poor writing and lacklustre attempts at laughs aren't nearly enough to get it through to the finish line.

It's a downright shame, to be frank, that this script wasn't even tightened up before the cameras began rolling, as banking on a few sight gags, odd one-liners here and there and under-playing the familial elements just isn't enough to do anyone in this the justice they and their talents clearly deserve.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

This Beautiful Fantastic: Film Review

This Beautiful Fantastic: Film Review

Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Jeremy Irvine
Director: Simon Aboud

Inhabiting a world where quirky abounds, fable This Beautiful Fantastic sets out its stall within its opening moments of voice-over.
This Beautiful Fantastic: Film Review

Wearied and cynically scathing, Tom Wilkinson's character Alfie Stephenson decries his relationship with Bella Brown by explaining that "she would have perished, where it not for the ducks."

What follows is the kind of romantically saccharine but harmless fare destined to do well with an audience of a certain kind as the story of OCD Bella Brown (Downton Abbey's Lady Sybil Crawley aka Brown Findlay) unfurls.

Reclusive orphan Bella, who works at the local library and is bullied by the boss, finds her world is changed when her neighbour, the curmudgeon Alfie (wonderfully portrayed by Wilkinson) enters her life.

Whereas Alfie keeps a tidy garden, Bella fears the outside and has let hers run riot (the kind of terrifying NIMBYism so prevalent in the suburbs of Britain), much to his chagrin. Things are further exacerbated when Bella's landlord shows up, demanding she clean up or be thrown out. And to make matters worse, Alfie's cook (the ever-reliable Sherlock star Andrew Scott) decides enough is enough and decamps to the neighbour rather than enduring Alfie's bullying.
This Beautiful Fantastic: Film Review

Negotiating a truce, the pair decide to help each other to their own mutual advantage with the landlord's deadline ticking ever closer.

This Beautiful Fantastic is a fable, wrapped in the trappings of a pantomime.

From the beautiful orphan princess to the ogre whose kind heart lies beneath a snarky veneer, it plays up the eccentricities of the characters to a level that's almost intolerable as it moves from narrative pillar to post.

Brown Findlay's initial OCD is sidelined and relatively forgotten as the story goes on, drowned in those around her's idiosyncracies. But she keeps a grounded approach to the story that revels in whimsy and a kind of English prissiness that is as pervasive as a weed in a suburban London garden.
There's great joy in Wilkinson's delivery of snide bon mots and cast-off comments; the curmudgeon suits him early on, before the inevitable thaw sets in. From complaining about the "horticultural terrorist" to the "unmitigated eco apocalypse" that's likely to befall him, surly suits the earlier oddities that threaten to drown the film's atmosphere.

There's a strong case to be had that Wilkinson's a veritable live action remake of the Victor Meldrew character in this, a Britain so irritated by the unimportant that it consumes him, though wisely writer and director Aboud never really imbues him with an edge of meanness.
This Beautiful Fantastic: Film Review

And once again Scott makes an argument for why every character piece should have him involved; making the acting look easy and giving the whole thing a warmth and heart that grounds the fantastical elements prove to be a great boon here.

The whole atmosphere of the ever-so slightly charming This Beautiful Fantastic is one of fluff in many ways, as the classic misunderstandings present in the narrative in the expected places and the sitcom vibe ticks off the tropes.

And yet in among the sweetness of this piece as it moves in a ramshackle fashion towards its entirely predictable denouement, it's hard to deny its watchability, given it's bathed in such a warmth that it feels like a cloud, a kind of dreamy wish fulfillment in many ways.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Street Cat Named Bob: DVD Review

A Street Cat Named Bob: DVD Review

Cast: Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt
Director: Roger Spottiswoode

It's perhaps no surprise that A Street Cat Named Bob goes for audience pleasing broad brush strokes in its tale (or should that be tail) of a struggling wannabe reformed drug addict who befriends a lonely ginger pussy.

A Street Cat Named Bob

"You're a human interest story" intones a reporter in the latter stages of this less-than-purrfect yarn.

And it's a spot-on analysis of why some audience members will find this relative kryptonite.

While the redemption story of homeless James Bowen (played with twitchy about to fail edginess by Luke Treadaway) is at times as entirely predictable as you'd expect, it suffers from an episodic choppy feel as the earnest story plays out.

Given a second /last chance by Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt social worker, James is never far from slipping back into old ways due to catastrophic coincidences and bad luck (something Spottsiwoode's film actually gets painfully right.)
A Street Cat Named Bob
But when the ginger Tom shows up in assisted home without warning, a bond is formed between the two.
And the bond is further cemented when James starts busking with Bob on his shoulders, bringing him an income he'd never expected and a fame he never sought.

However, as James tries to sort his life out, demons start to emerge and threaten his road to reconciliation and redemption...

A Street Cat Named Bob is exactly what you'd expect from a family film adaptation of Bowen's successful novel of life on the streets.

However, it's because of that, that this film never quite hits a tonal consistency throughout.

Despite the film starting off fairly gritty in its portrayal of the faceless homeless masses being treated badly on London's streets, the film quickly goes for saccharine to counter some of the darkness that threatens to enter the screen.
And even later on, the film's keen to embrace a degree of Trainspotting bleakness as James goes through withdrawal alone in his flat.

But, it's almost as if the film's too scared to take the movie to a darker place - granted, its simplicity and the occasionally overt naivete of the narrative mean it has to stay under a certain level to ensure a wider audience, but Spottiswoode is ham-strung by a story that feels like Homeless 101 sanitised for the middle-class liberal masses who don't want to feel guilty in the dark of the matinee.

Far more successful is when the film concentrates on its bond between feline and master, sending James into the category of quirky that gets so embraced by the English masses. While a lot of the bonding is simply kept to endless cutaways of the reaction of Bob to something that's said, any cat owner who's felt their charge is talking to them will recognise and empathise with every moment.
A Street Cat Named BobAnd while Spottiswoode initially employs a cats-eye-point-of-view for Bob's take on the world, this directorial trick soon begins to grate.

A Street Cat Named Bob may be earnest in its intentions and true to its author's tome, but it's hampered by some weaker acting from those involved.

Chiefly, Ruta Gedmintas's Betty, a hippy-dippy neighbour who wafts through life with a flighty approach, even with her well-meaning interactions with both James and Bob.

It's very easy to be cynical about a feel-good film such as this - as mentioned, it wears its heart on its sleeve, and clearly those involved want to ensure there's a sanitised approach and presentation to the homeless and darker elements of the story.

But it's not ultimately beneficial and while what transpires on screen is less than cat-astrophic and more feel-good, it certainly doesn't give paws for thought, thanks to the darker edges that could provided a stronger narrative being held at bay and ultimately leaving you with a more muted catharsis than should be expected.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Win a copy of T2: Trainspotting

Win a copy of T2: Trainspotting

Release Date: June 7 (Digital, UHD, Blu-Ray & DVD)

First there was an opportunity - then there was a betrayal. 

Twenty years have gone by. 

Much has changed but just as much remains the same. 

Mark Renton returns to the only place he can ever call home. 

They are waiting for him: Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.

INDIE LONDON (UK)★★★★ Choose T2 because it's that rare sequel that works just as well -- and maybe sometimes better -- than the first.

SKY MOVIES (UK): ★★★★ “Fitting, entertaining, and true to itself, T2 does what all good sequels should: making a pleasure of other people's leisure.”

To win a copy 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 T2!

Competition closes June 29th
Good luck!

Win a Transformers: The Last Knight prize pack

Win a Transformers: The Last Knight prize pack

To celebrate the release of Transformers: The Last Knight, you can win a prize pack!

Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

For one world to live the other must die
Directed by Michael Bay

Starring Laura Haddock, Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner
Rating TBC

Transformers: The Last Knight hits cinemas June 22nd

To win a prize pack 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 OPTIMUS!

Competition closes June 22nd

Good luck!