Sunday, 4 December 2016

A Perfect Day: DVD Review

A Perfect Day: DVD Review

Staying in a world that's been hit by problems, A Perfect Day's aiming for black humour in the Bosnian conflict.
A Perfect Day

The Spanish film features Benicio del Toro and Tim Robbins as part of a group of aid workers trying to move a corpse from a well in a conflict zone. It's an easy task in theory - take out the thing that's corrupting the surrounding well-being of the people (an allegory not lost on the viewers) but the amount of red-tape and problems it poses for del Toro's Mambru and Robbins' B would be funny if they weren't so ludicrous.

Fortunately, director Fernando Leon de Aranoa mines the gallows humour to reasonably exasperating effect throughout; and while the idea that Olga Kurylenko's top ranking aid official would head out among them stretches credibility somewhat, the flashes of the horrors of war that are interspersed throughout ground the film in a horrific reality that never quite goes away.

The one day to go storyline for del Toro's Mambru may have been done before with the likes of M*A*S*H but not once does A Perfect Day's sedentary pace through conflict lose any of its resonance as it seeks not to lecture but to present a sobering reality that aid workers have to face.

Oasis: Supersonic: DVD Review

Oasis: Supersonic: DVD Review

For some, the Oasis boys were the be all and end all of 90s music culture.

The boorish Gallagher brothers, along with their bandmates, defined a lot of the 90s music scene and set the style for their raucous behaviour and top tunes.

But it was always Liam and Noel whose attitudes set the scene, and their clashes caused plenty of tabloid headlines and were the stuff of copy-writers' dreams. They were the yin and yang to each other, or as Noel puts it in the doco, he's a cat, Liam's a dog and never the twain shall meet. In fact, one early piece of footage talks of them as Cain and Abel, a comparison that speaks to their arrogance and belief in more ways than one.

So, this doco with its rather succinct use of voiceovers looks to explore the mythos and the inevitable car crash that Oasis were after they burned so bright and ultimately, imploded under the weight of their own legends.

Assembling pictures, footage and soundbites (that tend to favour Noel Gallagher, perhaps one of the perks of being an executive producer), Whitecross does a perfectly good job of capturing their rise from the council estates of Manchester to the echelons of performing at Knebworth. Injecting the whole proceedings with the lads' laconic humour proves to be a big boon here and gives the piece a pace that's matched only by the band's blistering performances which are scattered throughout.

From unsigned act to where they jumped on with Creation Records and their charts takeover, the doco's strengths lie in the music that's so iconic of the time and so evocative of the Manchester scene that will be so familiar to so many.

Following family spats is par for the course with the Gallaghers, though outside of the Liam / Noel fracas, there's little here that Oasis afficionados won't already know - there's no Amy style smoking gun. Though, perhaps interestingly, the revelations that Noel refused to let the Gallaghers' abusive father define either their music or their perception speaks volumes to where their swagger came from and why their defiant attitude was so successful.

As Liam so succinctly puts it at one point, Oasis were "Like a Ferrari, great to look at, great to drive and would spin outta fucking control", and this doco captures some of the anarchy of the group and the resultant ripples their music caused.

At its heart, Supersonic is about nostalgia for the band - any true fan will already know most of their history - and Whitecross and team assemble the pieces in a perfectly perfunctory and viewable manner. With the music speaking volumes and the doco making you feel like one of the lads as the hedonism and heated rows hit, it's a doco that speaks more to fans as well as anyone with a passing ear for their tunes. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Weiner: DVD Review

Weiner: DVD Review

Equally enticing and with a title that both simultaneously describes your perception of its subject and names him, Weiner is perhaps one of the stand out docos of the year.

A fascinating look at New York mayoral hopeful and Democratic congressman who torpedoed his own chances by tweeting some less than helpful pictures, Weiner manages fly on the wall mixed with schadenfreude and hubris with equal aplomb. 

While the director never really gets to ask the central question of why Weiner did such a thing, the fact the cameras continue to roll both demonstrate director Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s raison d’etre. 

Much like the fascination of a burning fire, this threatens to explode everywhere and presents more questions than answers, but it’s a documentary that demands to be seen.

Tickled: Blu Ray Review

Tickled: Blu Ray Review

The hook of Tickled is that it sets out to discover more about the slightly weird subject of fetish sport Competitive Tickling.

The fact that it becomes something else and moves into darker territory is a testament to directors Dylan Reeve and David Farrier, who find themselves caught up in something infinitely more sinister than they could ever have imagined.

And the peril of a review of Tickled is that to reveal much of the plot and intricate details of within is to rob it of the singular experience which it provides and spoil the twists and turns which inhabit the journey on to its ultimate destination.

Suffice to say this - NZ journalist David Farrier, who, archive footage initially shows, has carved himself a career out of the weirder and more colourful characters and subject matter within our worlds, finds himself intrigued when stumbling across a story about people being tickled on camera.

With his curiosity piqued, David dropped the organisation behind the bizarre tickling videos a message - only to have personal abuse and hostility thrown his way. Whereas most people would have run a mile at this point, Farrier, along with his self-appointed "geeky friend" Dylan Reeve started to look more into the world.

But as they dug deeper, legal threats began to head their way....

The almost conspiracy-like doco Tickled is a masterful piece of work, and one that rises above its initially intriguing material to become something totally unexpected that sheds uncomfortable light on the human condition and avoids exploiting its subjects for easy wins and lazy grins.

With some dazzling B-roll and cutaway shots (DP Dom Fryer is really the unsung hero of this piece), Tickled looks a million dollars as it pursues its David (Farrier) vs Goliath story.

With a wry sense of humour, a mix of easy and uneasy laughs, and some taut journalism, as well as a deft employment of the number 8 wire, Farrier and Reeve's respectful tone and refusal to over-sensationalise their subject matter make the journey more than worthwhile. (And also leave you with an overall feeling of unease when it's over - it would be easy to villainise the people involved, but by employing a lighter touch, the long-tail feeling is more difficult to shake).

In pursuit of their story, both are courteous in their treatment of their interviewees and appear never anything less than sane in the face of a spiralling tale that becomes a cautionary piece for our digitally obsessed age. It helps that the core subject and people they speak to all have the quirks necessary to bring it all to light.

But as the hornet's nest is prodded, the resultant provocation and overt threats bring a menace to proceedings from the shadows that is palpable (and which suggests the doco's conclusion is by no means the end of the story). Equally, the audience's belief of what the film offers changes in a subtle and clever manner as the pieces of the puzzle come together. (Perhaps the closest cinematic touch point in a round-about way is a doco from Bart Layton that stunned audiences in 2012).

There's a real sense of suspense to Tickled, (which came to fruition via Kickstarter) and if the reveals are suspected a little early on, the resultant ripples and extent of their revelations from within the rabbit hole are deftly handled as the reality of the situation and the implications of the cyber-bullying become apparent. In many ways, this is a cautionary tale of power, a warning over the wiles of the internet and the machinations of the electronic age.

The power of Tickled the movie lies in the genial and gentle nature of those instigating the doco - and its strengths are built upon by an ease of execution which makes things all the more tense. The saying that truth may be stranger than fiction is employed here, but the reality of what the duo uncover is nothing short of disturbing and horrifying.

Surprising in many ways, Farrier and Reeve have concocted an experience that subverts expectations and yet ticks and exceeds every box of the genre, by engaging you in the subject matter, hooking you in and then leaving you on the edge of your seat, with your jaw firmly around your feet.

Tickled may have you laughing at times during proceedings, but in its resolution, the underlying cautionary feeling of discomfort (and perhaps surprisingly, sadness) is one that is exceedingly hard to shake.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Batman: Telltale Games: Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham: PS4 Review

Batman: Telltale Games: Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham: PS4 Review

The fourth installment of Telltale Games' Batman comes racing out of the block, firing on all cylinders after its previous shocking denouement.

With Bruce Wayne confined to Arkham Asylum after beating Cobblepot in public and at Harvey Dent's behest, things are looking bad for Gotham with the Children of Arkham's chaos finally materialising on the streets.

From paranoia to military guards in a police state, this latest episode is two parts tease, one part resolution in many ways.
The large tease comes from the introduction of a certain grinning "John Doe" who resides at Arkham and continues Telltale Games' trend of slightly subverting the expected character arcs of some of the more infamous members of the Gotham world.

But thanks to the story level depth and the way the narrative plays out, the dealing with the devil is actually cleverly integrated into the game. As Doe becomes Wayne's guide inside and offers help at a cost (of course), the game deliciously teases what will become one of the comic world's greatest symbitoic relationships and yet simultaneously plays on your expectations for it.

Elsewhere, the story gathers apace as the finale looms - and the one stand out sequence inside the game, sees you scouring a crime scene as Batman complete with one young victim of an horrific crime scene. It's these interactions which will define how you play and which have really become key to Telltale Games' MO for the series; this is a game that delights in the little moments and finds the humanity among the cruelty and horrific by-products of the evil men do.

The game's main choice seems to hinge on a be both places at once style choice, meaning a replay to take the alternative route is on the cards - and for once, there feels like there's a real scope for either decision to have you hanging on a knife's edge as it plays out (though personally, the real Two Face has yet to manifest in any of the choices made).

If there's to be a criticism of Batman: Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham, it's perhaps that the flow between chapters of the story doesn't quite gel as much as in prior outings; each ending jars rather than pulls you into the next portion of the story, and technical issues meant the game completely froze in the final showdown, necessitating an entire system reboot which was a surprise.

Telltale Games to tackle Guardians of The Galaxy

Telltale Games to tackle Guardians of The Galaxy

Telltale Games and Marvel Entertainment Announce
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series
for 2017

Five-Episode Game Series Based on Marvel's Iconic Characters 
to Premiere Next Year

SAN RAFAEL, Calif., Dec. 1, 2016 - Award-winning developer and publisher of digital entertainment, Telltale Games, along with Marvel Entertainment, today announced an interactive episodic game series based on Marvel's iconic sci-fi franchise Guardians of the Galaxy. The first of five episodes in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series will premiere digitally in 2017 on consoles, PC, and mobile devices. 

"The energizing blend of humor, emotion, teamwork, and full-on sci-fi action-adventure of the Guardians provides an enormously satisfying space to explore through Telltale's unique style of interactive storytelling," said Kevin Bruner, Co-Founder and CEO of Telltale Games. "In Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, players will take on multiple roles within the ragtag band of heroes, and take the pilot's seat in directing their escapades around the universe. We are always honored to be working with the best creative partners and storytellers in entertainment, and working with Marvel on this series leaves us excited to share what we've been developing when it premieres in 2017." 

"With story at the core of everything that Marvel creates, who better to team with than master storytellers Telltale Games," said Jay Ong, Senior Vice President, Games & Innovation, Marvel Entertainment. "Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series fully showcases Marvel and Telltale's rich legacy of storytelling, and fans will find themselves immersed in an original, character-driven narrative. As part of our strategy to establish a new standard for Marvel games, this is certainly among the great titles to come."

The series will also be coming to retail as a special season pass disc, which will include the first episode in the season, and will grant access to the subsequent four episodes as they become available for download via online updates. Specific platform details are yet to be announced.

For more information on Telltale Games, visit the official websiteFacebook, and follow Telltale Games on Twitter @TelltaleGames.


Take home The Last Guardian Prize Pack

Take home The Last Guardian Prize Pack

To celebrate the release of The Last Guardian, which gamers have been waiting for for years, PlayStation NZ is hooking you up with the chance to win a The Last Guardian prize pack!

You can win a copy of the game, a beanie, pin and T Shirt to celebrate The Last Guardian's entry into the world!

About The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian is the latest work of the game designer, Fumito Ueda, who has created the beloved and award-winning titles ICO and Shadow of the Colossus for the PlayStation 2 system. 

It is an action-adventure game where the player will take on the role of a young boy who goes on a journey along with a mysterious and gigantic creature, Trico, feared as a man-eating beast. 

The two will adventure through treacherous ancient ruins and gradually deepen the bond between each other, facing many difficulties on the way.
  • In a strange and mystical land, a young boy discovers a mysterious creature with which he forms a deep, unbreakable bond. The unlikely pair must rely on each other to journey through towering, treacherous ruins filled with unknown dangers. Experience the journey of a lifetime in this touching, emotional story of friendship and trust.
  • An Unlikely Companion: Discover a fantastical beast named Trico who will act as companion and protector, forging a bond that drives an emotional and harrowing journey.
  • Truly Unique Gameplay: Take control of an ordinary young boy who must communicate with his gigantic companion in order to overcome obstacles and survive mysterious dangers.
  • A Beautiful Fantasy World: Through advanced lighting and particle effects, detailed environments, and lifelike character animation, The Last Guardian transports players to a breathtaking world filled with crumbling ruins and mysterious secrets to discover.