Friday, 31 October 2014

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets: DVD Review

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

Florian Habicht's foray into the music doco genre is to be frank, a triumph.

Bookending with Common People at the Sheffield venue the band finished the tour in 2012 cleverly captures the essence and exuberance Pulp has brought to many through their energetic live shows and countless albums.

But it's the common touch and gentle humour that Habicht captures on the streets of Sheffield which serves him the best. Choosing a clever range of subjects from around the grim northern city best demonstrates both the English attitude as well as the devotion Cocker's clan inspires in all.

From the dance troupe to the harmony group, the kids who are given a chance to star in a movie to the old ladies who believe Cocker's dad is onetime warbler Joe, Florian displays once again an eye for the indomitable spirit and unflappable way the English have when given a chance to appear on screen.

But it's the warmth that propels this with Habicht's disarming technique once again rising to the fore. Cocker is not spared this approach either, whether it be filming him changing a tyre or showing his range of medical options that are at gigs in case something happens, each moment is constructed for maximum crowd pleasing effect.

However, scratch beneath that veneer and there's a hint of something more revealing; such as Cocker revealing that fame was like a bit allergy or keyboard player Candida Doyle fearing illness would cripple her chances of re-joining the band, there's something beneath the surface.

Habicht's eye for a shot never deserts him either; be it a beautiful slow mo shot of Cocker hurling toilet rolls from the stage with an impish grin or the mundanity of a news stand's billboard ( Fall woman broke every bone in her body) the canvas is richly decorated and wonderfully observed in this hash of concert footage and real life.

(One only hopes Habicht's captured all of the concert performance and intends to release it; it would make a perfect companion piece.)

All in all, Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets is a fusing of two masters; a genius fusion and meeting of like minds and possesses a joie de vivre that's undeniably essential.
 


Rating:



Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Monuments Men: Blu Ray Review

The Monuments Men: Blu Ray Review


Rating:M
Released by 20th Century Fox

Packing a powerhouse cast, The Monuments Men is based on a true story in World War II.

George Clooney is Professor Frank Stokes, who's tasked by FDR with going into Germany with a group of ragtag recruits and rescuing artistic masterpieces from the clutches of Hitler and his proposed museum of art.

But this team of seven men - from museum directors, curators to art historians - seem a highly unlikely bunch to go to the front line and face the Nazis, let alone swoop in and save art. Along with resistance from their own side, Stokes and the team have more than got their work cut out for them as the personal toll rises.

The Monuments Men may be based on a true story, but the film is an odd patch quilt of mismatched tones and ideas. In some parts, it tries to be a true war film, exposing some of the horrors of the Nazi regime; at other times, it's clearly a humour based caper as the art quest steps up and in other places, it's a typical derring do war drama that aims to tug at the heartstrings and exploits your feelings.

But tonally, the final mix doesn't quite work, leaving the feeling that the film is overall slightly flat.


It could, in part, be something to do with the structure, which splits the men up into Odd Couple groups before dropping them behind enemy lines and trying to string together a series of episodes with the slightest of connecting narratives. When the cast is reunited on screen towards the end of the film, it's clear there's a chemistry between them all which is missing when they're split; while the couples work well, the odd mismatched atmosphere doesn't quite gel together and the film ever so slightly jars.

Clooney's done a great job in recreating the atmosphere and actualities of the era and the story he's chosen to tell is one that taps into something inherent in the annals of war movies - a tale of ragtag misfits who defy the odds to beat the bad guys and sock it to ole Mr Hitler. But the execution of the story doesn't quite deliver the euphoric thrill you'd expect from a stellar cast.

Of the cast, Jean Dujardin and John Goodman work well as opposites - his French charm is counterbalanced by Goodman's almost dour delivery; Bill Murray's deadpan gels with Bob Balaban's simmering resentment. However, Matt Damon fares worst with Cate Blanchett's character, who appears to have sucked a truck load of lemons and is as tart and sour as she can muster for a French resistance fighter who's forced to work with the Nazis. Bonneville does a version of his Downton Abbey character, and it feels slight, a once over of a character whose years of regrets are hinted at but not fully explored.

That's some of the problem of the film - the characters work well as an ensemble but when split feel sketchy at best - and it's a pity as the dialogue and banter between them is actually unexpectedly hilarious as you'd want for a fish-out-of-water scenario.

Overall, The Monuments Men is a good story with an odd execution more than anything - the mismatch of tone is distracting and almost fatal at times, rendering the whole exercise a little flat. It's a shame because it's one of the great untold stories of the war time era - it's just a pity that Clooney couldn't quite bring the fire and passion of the onscreen story to life.


Rating:

Returning GTA V exclusive content unveiled

Returning GTA V exclusive content unveiled


Ever since we announced Grand Theft Auto V on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, some of you have been asking if there will be anything extra for those PS3 and Xbox 360 players who are planning on picking up the new versions. To reward loyal GTAV fans for coming back to the newer, more detailed version of Los Santos and Blaine County, we've created an array of exclusive items specifically for these players - with each of them connected to activities designed for you to experience the game's massive world in new and exciting ways. Here are some of the new items and activities that will be available for returning players:

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503235.jpg

The Dodo seaplane: It may take a little firepower to get your hands on this highly versatile GTA classic.

New Events & Rewards
Encounter new events happening all across the world, and complete the challenges they present to unlock exclusive new vehicles like the menacing Imponte Duke O’Death and that veritable GTA classic bird of flight, the Dodo seaplane.

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503248.jpg

The Imponte Duke O'Death: As you might expect, when you first stumble upon this near-indestructible mayhem machine, trouble will follow. Deal with it judiciously and this beauty’s all yours.

Murder Mystery
As Michael, follow a trail of cryptic clues to unravel a grisly murder mystery.  Put the clues together and you'll unlock two Noir Style Filters, which will give your Story Mode gameplay and Snapmatic photos the feel of a gritty old school crime classic.

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503264.jpg

Get to the bottom of a murder mystery that strikes right at the heart of Los Santos' most cherished industry.

Weapons: The Rail Gun & Hatchet
Obliterate your adversaries with the high-powered, high-velocity Rail Gun. This piece of experimental military technology also has its own set of Shooting Range Challenges at your local Ammu-Nation shooting range. Or hack and slash foes up close and personal with the brutal Hatchet melee weapon.

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503277.jpg

The futuristic new Rail Gun unloads powerful rounds of explosive ammunition upon foes.

Wildlife Photography Challenge
There are new species of animals across Los Santos and Blaine County, and the LS Tourist Board needs someone to document them. As Franklin, catalog unique animal species scattered across the map to unlock the special Kraken Sub.

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503289.jpg

Completing the Wildlife Photography Challenge will unlock the Kraken Sub.

Stock Car Races
Win a series of new Stock Car Races to earn unique custom Muscle Cars adorned with logos from some of the companies that made this country great.

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503303.jpg

Finish first in the new Stock Car Races to earn new Muscle Cars.

Monkey Mosaics
A mysterious street artist is tagging walls all across town with his simian-inspired silhouettes. Track down and photograph them all to earn new monkey outfits (available to all players) and a special Go Go Monkey Blista exclusively for returning players.

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503318.jpg

Take to the skies in the faster and more maneuverable Xero Blimp.

New Vehicles and More
Grind up the Los Santos freeways (and over anybody in your path) with the Cheval Marshall monster truck and take to the skies in a faster and more maneuverable Blimp, compliments of Xero Gas.
There will also be a bounty of content for all players, new and returning, to discover - including a fleet of classic GTA vehicles and a few more surprises we've got planned that you’ll have to discover for yourself come game day. And as previously announced, current GTA Online players on PS3 and Xbox 360 will be able to pick up where they left off, transferring their characters and progression seamlessly to their choice of PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC (Social Club membership required).

http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1414503330.jpg

Few objects are an obstacle for the intimidating Cheval Marshall.
In addition, anyone who pre-orders the game will receive a bonus of GTA$1M ($500k for Story Mode and $500k for use in Grand Theft Auto Online).

Watch The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt opening cinematic

Watch The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt opening cinematic


CD PROJEKT RED, the developer behind the critically acclaimed Witcher franchise of games, is proud to present the opening cinematic from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the open world fantasy RPG launching on February 24th, 2015.

Foreshadowing the story of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, "The Trail" Opening Cinematic is an epic sneak peek into the adventure that awaits gamers in Wild Hunt. See witchers Geralt of Rivia and his mentor Vesemir pursue Geralt’s long lost love, the immensely powerful, raven-black-haired sorceress -- Yennefer of Vengerberg.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a story-driven, next-generation open world role-playing game, set in a graphically stunning fantasy universe, full of meaningful choices and impactful consequences. In The Witcher, you play as Geralt of Rivia, one of a dying caste of monster hunters, and embark on an epic journey in a war-ravaged world that will inevitably lead you to confront a foe darker than anything humanity has faced so far—the Wild Hunt.

The game is scheduled to launch February 24th, 2015, on Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, PC, and PlayStation®4. Visit www.thewitcher.com andbuy.thewitcher.com for more information about the game and pre-order availability worldwide.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

St Vincent: Movie Review

St Vincent: Movie Review

Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard
Director: Theodore Melfi

Bill Murray proves to be the big draw card in St Vincent, a story that's been done time and again.

A grouchy and gruympy Murray is Vincent, a hard-drinking, gambling, crank-pot of a man whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of new neighbours in the form of Melissa McCarthy's single mom Maggie and her son Oliver (Lieberher). When Oliver's bullied at school and has his stuff stolen, he ends up having to stay with Vincent while his mom finishes her shift - unamused but seeing there's a chance to make some cash from his neighbour, Vincent takes the kid under his wing - but under his own terms....

Soon, Oliver's learning street smarts and friendship from Vincent while visiting bars and the dog track. However, it's not long before reality comes crashing in.

St Vincent won't win any awards for its screenplay, given that it's not the most original of stories or character arcs. But it's a turn from Murray, who's clearly relishing playing it fast and loose as a cantankerous grouch that makes St Vincent rise above its clearly sentimental gloopy centre.

Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd and Naomi Watts have all minor roles orbiting Murray's Vietnam vet gone bad, but all turn in solid performances to round out the cast and give the piece some quiet heart and soul.

Equally, newcomer Lieberher holds his own against Murray and proves to be the spot-on foil he needs to offset some of the crankiness on display. But, director Melfi's wise enough not to overplay the sentiment of the part from his child actor when things head into truly predictable territory.

That's the thing with St Vincent - it's an entirely obvious movie (and slightly implausible ending) that proves to be a crowd-pleasing treat thanks in large part to Murray's performance. By charting a course from unlikeable to softening his edges, Murray will help blow out any of the funk you may feel - as well as distract you from any of the predictability you see on the screen.

Rating:


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Godzilla: Blu Ray Review

Godzilla: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

It's time to do the Monster Smash again.

Set across three time periods, the 2014 Godzilla film starts with Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston's apparently crazy Joe Brody warning that a disaster is about to hit the nuclear plant he works in with his wife. Sustained seismic activity has lead to this potential problem - and soon, Brody loses his wife in the subsequent meltdown.

15 years later and Brody's son, Ford (Kick Ass's Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has now grown up and works as a bomb disposal expert. When his father's arrested in Japan for going back into the quarantine zone, Ford leaves his wife (a woefully underused The Avengers' Age of Ultron star Elizabeth Olsen) and son to go to pick him up - but soon finds himself caught up in an event which could signal the end of the world - and the return of Godzilla...

Unashamedly B-movie in its feel and story, but bang upto date in its execution, the creature feature Godzilla is a curious beast in many ways.


The director of low budget indieMonsters, Gareth Edwards, has brought the creature back to life in a film which embraces the history of Godzilla films and simultaneously updates the monster. In fact, the creatures in the 2014 Godzilla movieare perhaps rendered perfectly, with Godzilla himself almost bear-like in his reptilian appearance and true to his earlier celluloid incarnations.

Sadly, though the actual monster star of the movie appears to be sidelined in many ways - rejected in favour of a series of cliched and stereotyped characters, ripped directly from a pulpy trashy movie, with some cheese served up that's almost as large as Godzilla himself.

There's a crazed conspiracy crackpot scientist, whose warnings no-one pays heed to (a great Cranston), another scientist who spends a lot of the time aghast but who seems to mysteriously know how Godzilla works (Ken Watanbe), a stoic yet impassive soldier who finds himself in every appearance of the monster (Taylor-Johnson, relatively emotionless and unable to really centre the movie as it progresses after Cranston's searing turn) and a procession of kids and animals who are in danger.

It's these beats which pepper the relatively serious movie and which make it feel tonally a bit uneven, and crucially, add little to the overall narrative. A lack of emotional connection in among the impressive set pieces does little to connect you to the unfolding disaster. (Though the subtext is there - Ford deals with bombs in his life and yet is negligent of the human one ticking under his nose.)

That said, while the dialogue borders on the cliched and preposterous ("Nature has an order, a power to restore balance"), the restrained action more than delivers throughout as cities get smashed once again. It's the smaller moments which shine in this, the touches which embrace the creature's past heritage and the genuine chills that Edwards throws down your spine. Flourishes that recall Jurassic Park and small Godzilla easter eggs add to the feeling of a film that's occasionally derivative but respectfully willing to tread its own path.


Edwards has found a way to bring some new and intimately haunting visuals to the screen - from troops jumping out of a drop-ship skydiving into hell to jets plummeting out of the skies, the darkness haunts Godzilla the movie, with 24 hour news showing footage of creatures fighting (both an homage to old movies and a commentary on today's global eyes and ears) to great effect. The opening titles are impressive too, a mix of conspiracy theories, Hiroshima atomic bombs and censorship which set the murky tone right away.

But it's that dour feeling which ripples through Godzilla  - Edwards has negotiated a cautious way through silly and sensible, but, in among the scale of it all and with the odd intimate (and occasionally over-used moments), he somehow manages to leave you with a feeling of wanting more carnage - after all, isn't that what Godzilla does?

All in all, Godzilla deserves to be commended for embracing the creature feature of olden days, and the legend of yore - certainly, monster fans will be impressed by what Edwards has committed to the screen - it's almost a love letter to the Godzilla movies you'd have watched growing up. It's just a shame that the human elements of the movie let the side down and leave this monster lurching a little when it really should be roaring.


Rating:

Monday, 27 October 2014

Armageddon - Shots from the show

Armageddon - Shots from the show


Here are some shots from the Armageddon Expo which wraps up in Auckland today.

Hope you've had fun!