Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Fifty Shades Darker: DVD Review

Fifty Shades Darker: DVD Review

To be fair, no-one is expecting cinematic mastery of the celluloid domain with the erotic flick Fifty Shades Darker.

The adaptation of the first Fifty Shades of Grey mummy porn movie wasn't exactly thrilling and rendered the dangerous world of BDSM and talk thereof rather dull and flaccid.

But to say the sequel, which centres on a wounded Christian Grey determined to get Anastasia Steele back in his life, has a bit more life and a lot more kinky fuckery (to quote Ana) is to damn it with feint praise.

Sure, the terrible dialogue is ever-present, every touch leads to near orgasm and the leering gaze of the camera lingers a little too often on Dakota Johnson's shapelier assets. There are obligatory moments of Jamie Dornan sans shirt and giving that slightly constipated and pained squirrel look that he did in the first; but let's face it, that's what most of the audience coming to this weak 80s softcore rip-off are looking for.

From lingering looks, talk of nipple clamps, romps to endless changing soundtracks, and discussions of renegotiating terms, the second film is very much about The Domestication of Christian Grey, where he has to consider serious issues like trust and allowing a girl to move in, rather than deciding which blindfold and which sub to master that night.

And yet, around the edges of this creaky wannabe psychological push and pull, there are elements of a psycho-sexual thriller lurking and failing to garner enough light.

However, the tension that's supposed to be built with hints of Grey's dangerous past teased out are laughably dispatched in a piecemeal fashion that's irritating.

Two sequences that threaten danger to our protagonist are over and resolved within moments, robbing the film of any kind of drama as the duo weave their way through the sheen of masquerade balls and flirting over the coring of a capsicum. A sub-plot about Ana working for a publisher with a seedy boss feels strongly like set-up, but it's all so summarily dismissed that the episodic nature of the film fails to fire.

Ana's constant "I want you but I don't want you" flip-flopping grates on the screen as she debates and then hops into another romp - though one suspects that is sorely down to EL James' source material and her controlling desire to write the screenplay. However, Johnson brings some light to the role, and sells the continual uncertainty and actually gives a bit more to the one dimensional Ana. Even if you're still troubled by how much she refuses the sub lifestyle and then demands it before rejecting it once again...

Dornan's confined to the sidelines a little more this time around, going from a more playful Grey to a Horny looking Kato at the ball. There's a softer edge to him in the latest, which renders the stalking message and one-spanking-away-from-an-injunction Christian Grey a little more palatable in the second film.

Ultimately, a lot of Fifty Shades Darker lurches from one ludicrous moment to another, saddled with some
laugh out loud dialogue (none of it intentional), and there's no disputing the fact it's dull in parts. And there's still a shocking disparity over the amount of male / female nudity within.

Yet, bizarrely, there's also a clarity of vision here, with the sex ramped up as that's clearly what the audience wants. First time around, all the discussion of contracts and sexual fantasies robbed the film of the lusty edge - here, it's all on, with the between the sheets action being left to do the talking. There's no denying that Foley delivers it all in a manner which will titillate parts of the audience and leave them breathless as this saga of the love affair plays out.

But there's no hint of suggestion, no delicious tease of sexiness and while there's one Johnson that more than rises to the occasion this time around, giving her Ana a little more than the one dimensions set down on the page, Fifty Shades Darker remains still a damp cinematic squib. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Lion: DVD Review

Lion: DVD Review

The name Saroo Brierly may mean little to many.

But based on Garth Davis' soon to be bound for Awards season picture starring Slumdog's Dev Patel (adapted from Brierly's book A Long Way Home), this tale of the long term effects of adoption and self-worth is likely to change that.

The tale of a boy lost in India and adopted out to an Australian family won't leave a dry eye in the house, thanks to its simple ungarnishing of proceedings, and decision to hint at nastiness and to suggest mawkishness rather than revel in both things.

It starts in 1986 where the young Saroo (a stunningly sympathetic first turn from new actor Sunny Pawar, all big brown eyes and tousled hair) bullies his elder brother Guddu into letting him come with him to find work. Trapped in India's smaller outlying villages and with their mother toiling in a local quarry, the young pair are a financial life-line to staving the wolves from the door.

But when Guddu disappears having momentarily left his sleepy brother at a railway station, Saroo wakes to find himself all on his own. Inadvertently ending up on a decommissioned train that travels 1600 kilometres away from his home and forcing Saroo into a landscape where people speak only Bengali and not his native Hindi, the youngster becomes lost and in a fight for survival on the streets.

In among the cacophony of Calcutta, Saroo is literally lost, his tiny frame and pleas floating adrift in a sea of taller people and bustling bodies, all heading about their daily business and ignoring the plaintive cries of the child, abandoned, bedraggled and desperate to find his way home.

After time passes and the authorities fail to find his family (as Saroo simply knows his mother only as Mum), Saroo is adopted out into the arms of waiting Aussie family, the Brierlys (a taciturn and supportive Kidman and Wenham).

As Saroo grows, and becomes a man, (now in the form of Patel, who convincingly nails the Aussie accent) he finds his seemingly content existence is nagged by the ever-growing question of what happened to his family, and weighted by guilt that they must spend their everyday wondering about him.

A chance discussion at a party sends Saroo into a Google Earth filled psychological sink-hole as the desperation to reclaim his core essence takes hold and he searches the virtual world to find his home...

There are no 2 ways about it, the first half of Davis' Lion will break your heart.

Thanks largely to a simplicity of execution, the fact most of it is shot at Pawar's level, thus exacerbating the scale and distance he feels from the world around him and an eminently watchable turn from the youngster himself, the Slumdog Millionairesque trappings of the start immediately tug on the heart-strings, but wisely hold off from ripping them right out.

The emotion at the start is palpable and the tragedy of the situation plays out largely as expected, but does so tremendously affectingly.

Patel shoulders the greater burden of the film, trying to bring to life to the reality of a traumatised youth ripped from his past and denied a sense of self by circumstance. And he delivers in spades, thanks to a subtle and nuanced turn that says so much without words.

While some may critique the fact that the crippling tide of emotion creeps up with a degree of narrative convenience, Davis' sensitive script in the adult portion of Saroo's story is finely attuned to the reality and the qualities of those destined to be hit unexpectedly later in life by resurfacing trauma.

With haunting recollections of Guddu guiding him, Patel's navigation through slightly choppier personal waters is perhaps the strongest portrayal of the situation. It helps that the first half of the movie breathes in the right way, and when the necessary time jumps come, you're already completely invested in proceedings, characters and their arcs.

Kidman and Patel share some tremendously empathetic scenes that will destroy anyone invested in the story, as Saroo struggles with his guilt over his hiding of his obsession from the foster mother who's unconditionally loved him; there's a veracity in the smaller quieter moments of Davis' script that drop emotionally effective bombs throughout.

Granted, there will be some who will feel this is clearly Oscar bait from The Weinstein Company, the Google Earth dramatically convenient and the credits sequence milking it, but the truth of the movie Lion is the incredibly powerful way in which it portrays a hauntingly effective and emotionally resonant true-life tale that was 25 years in the making.

Make no mistake, this life-affirming tear-jerker is one of 2017's first essential film experiences - and an unashamed cinematic journey worth taking. 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally
Director: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg

Six years after the excreable Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides stank up the cinema, Johnny Depp's besozzled pirate buffoon Captain Jack Sparrow is back.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

This time, when Henry Turner (Thwaites), the son of Orlando Bloom's Will Turner, finds Jack, it's a desperate race against time.  Henry wants to save his father by finding the mythical Trident of Poseidon and using it to lift the curse on his seabound father, but for Jack it's a matter of life and death as he's being pursued by undead nemesis Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem, a welcome presence to the franchise).

With a crew of undead sailors on his trail, and some familiar faces along for the ride, it'll take all of Jack's wits to escape this predicament.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has moments of life that energise the flagging franchise.

But unfortunately, it also has large swathes of sequences that really stop this latest (and potentially final) entrant finding its own sea legs.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

With an overly-convoluted plot, and some murky scenes that are ruined by the curse of the dark 3D projection, the film, despite the work of its Kon-Tiki directors, struggles to really make much of a case for carrying on the franchise and yet also proffers barely any reason why this would remotely feel like closure for all bar two of the characters.
Depp once again channels some pratfalls and sight comedy as he works a pirate version of mumbling and bumbling like a Rowley Burkin QC out-take, and there's a wildly indulgent cameo from Paul McCartney shoe-horned in for no real gain, other than to tip a wink to the audience.

Coupled with a truly atrocious sequence of ginger fat-shaming, there are large sections of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales which fall flat and feel unnecessarily stale, adding to a nagging feeling that this series is definitively lost at sea.

However, there are some moments of gold within the film.

A late sequence where Depp, Thwaites and Scodelerio are pursued by a combination of ghost pirates and ghost sharks showcases what has made portions of the series so endearing. With its mix of quick quips, speedy wordplay, and a sense of derring-do, amid large lashings of spectacle, this is one piece that really stands head and shoulders above and showcase exactly why when Pirates is given some levity, it's got wind in its dramatic sails and a heart and soul which are hard to beat.

But there's not enough of this ensemble action to power the film along, with Depp's Sparrow at varying points being the lead or circling the action; it's this inconsistency that lags throughout and marks the writing of this one as a bit lazier and a little weaker than is to be expected.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

Bardem and Rush bring the dramatic edges to the fore and their gravitas and dignity stop the whole thing from falling into chaos; unfortunately, Thwaites isn't strong enough to leave a lasting impression as Turner's son and Scodelario's scientist woman, labelled a witch, is given a fair bit to do at the start and has some great scenes where she holds her own, but becomes lost at sea in the latter sequences, before being saddled with an unlikely coincidence too far.

For a fifth outing in the franchise, this isn't as bad as some of the others which have sailed into multiplexes from the series, but at the end, with a few loose ends wrapped up, it does feel like it's not disingenuous to say it's time to put this pirate to rest, before all goodwill generated is drained quicker than a quart of rum amongst a group of swashbucklers.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Doc Edge Festival preview

Doc Edge Festival preview

The 12th Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival hits its home straight with the Auckland leg of the festival starting this week.

Over 49 films and 20 shorts are being showcased in the annual event at Auckland's Q Theatre, which will have its gala opening with Whitney: Can I Be Me? documentary maker, Nick Broomfield in attendance.

As ever, there's a wide variety of films on show, and some shorts that have had airings already, but many that are definitely worth re-visiting.
Whitney: Can I Be Me?
Whitney: Can I Be Me?

Whitney: "Can I Be Me?", the opening night film, will be a draw card for the many fans of the songstress whose life started out in the gospel world, but whose rise to fame and subsequent fall was due to the power of her voice.

Starting with the 911 call on February 11th 2012, the film seems to be going for a chilling vibe, but draws its own strength from the unseen footage Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal have secured. Taken from a 1999 tour of Hamburg, the behind the scenes, unfettered nature of that footage says more about Houston than anything else could.

Whether it's holding the audience expectations in her hands before belting out the final bars of I Will Always Love You to giving you an insight into the pressures on the star, the film's shiny surface is all about Houston and a clutch of people around her.

The back half of the doco becomes more compelling as you see Houston fall under the influence of malevolent forces, but one can't escape the feeling that Broomfield's insight into the star isn't as in-depth as Asif Kapadia's excoriating and emotive look at Amy Winehouse, which truly set the bar for music docos.

That said, fans of Whitney will appreciate and be lining up for its premiere in Auckland.
Mattress Men
Mattress Men

Elsewhere, the Irish recession and the impact on society forms the surprising backbone to the immediately quirky looking Mattress Men.
Mattress Mick is an internet sensation, a sort of grey-mop haired potential embarrassment of a man whose business has been transformed by the power of the viral video.

But the charming and actually heart-breaking doco is more than a laugh at the man involved; it's a poignant heart-breaking demonstration of how the economic times we live in are destroying the souls of those on the front line.

Choosing to follow Mick's co-worker Paul Kelly, a man who feels he deserves more credit than he's getting for his role, the film has elements of I, Daniel Blake via way of The Office's tragi-comedy as darker forces threaten to overwhelm. And while there's a definite feeling that it's a testament to the power of positive though, this doco quickly moves past the quirky to embrace the humanity of those facing darker times.

It helps that it's set to the background of a terrible music video being made (Mattresses, Back To The Future, a Shaft star who's cringe-worthy), this is one of the surprise stand-outs of the festival, a salute to the common man, and proof that life finds a way.

Thank You For Playing is not an easy sell. Playing for free at the festival and with the subject in attendance, this story about a video game's genesis has its foundations in heartbreak.
Thank You For Playing
Thank You For Playing
That Dragon Cancer is a game that will be known by some, but not others; dealing with the death of a child from cancer, it's a game about the universaility of grief and the journey, but its foundations come from father Ryan finding out that his son Joel has the disease.
There are moments when it's not an easy watch, and the frank honesty can occasionally be emotive kryptonite, but that is all to the documentary's powe. Ryan makes the film feel honest with the good and bad being captured during the process, and while it'll take a hard heart of stone to avoid misty-eyed syndrome, Thank You for Playing deserves commendation for never once being mawkish, sentimental or milking its audience.

One other documentary looking to start a conversation and probably likely to succeed so is the relatively short 2016 TV doco Making Good Men.

Not many may know that Hobbit and Arrow star Manu Bennett and former All Black Norm Hewitt were victim and bully respectively back in the day. Threatened by Manu's joining of Te Aute college he was at, Norm powered into Bennett and beat him to within an inch of his life.
Making Good Men

After years of their respective journeys taking them on different paths, both Hewitt and Bennett had a chance reunion in a Koru lounge.

The doco gives each the chance to recollect their stories and their various prior lives before it all happened with pieces to camera.

It's here the film's strength works as the unflinching raw honesty is hypnotic and challenging.
But the main power of this piece is that it may make many re-think their life choices, and begin to muse whether they were smart decisions as this anti-violence piece plays.

There's a wide range of topics covered in the festival - for cinephiles, there are films that look at the shower scene in Psycho, to examining the role of Indian movie houses; for those concerned about our times, there's the effect of screens on our society and there are stories of Syria and refugees as well.

If anything, the 12th Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival feels like a very contemporary festival that deals far and wide with its subject matter, and will provoke plenty of discussion once the lights have gone up.

The 12th Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival kicks off in Auckland from May 24th to June 5th.

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier' Reaches Season Finale on May 30

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier' Reaches Season Finale on May 30

Critically Acclaimed 
'The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier' 
Reaches Season Finale on May 30

Series Concludes with Episode 5: 'From the Gallows'
Arriving For Download on Tuesday, May 30th

Fellow Survivors,

Today we can share the official release date for the critically-acclaimed The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier's upcoming Episode 5: 'From the Gallows.'
Beginning Tuesday, May 30th, players can download Episode 5: 'From the Gallows' on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam, iOS, and Android-based devices. The episode will also download for all users of the special Season Pass disc for consoles, which includes the critically acclaimed two-part premiere episode and grants access to all subsequent episodes in the five-episode season for download as they become available. 

Episode description: In Telltale's most tailored episode to date, Richmond teeters on the brink of collapse as chaos reigns from all directions. The lives of its citizens and all those closest to Javier hang in the balance. The decisions you've made and bonds you've nurtured across the season will determine which characters now trust Javi to safeguard all they hold dear as the crisis pushes every relationship past its breaking point...


The Walking Dead: A New Frontier acts as both a new beginning for players fresh to the series and unfamiliar with Clementine, as well as a continuation for players who have experienced Seasons One and Two. Players new to the series are able to start a story that is tailored to this new beginning. Players continuing onward from prior seasons have multiple options for quickly configuring their tailored backstory, or importing past save files from various platforms.
Episode 5: 'From the Gallows' is rated 'M' (Mature) for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, and Strong Language by the ESRB. Future content in the season is yet to be rated.
To date, The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series has sold more than 50 million episodes worldwide, earning more than 100 Game of the Year awards from outlets including Metacritic, USA Today, Wired, Spike TV VGAs, Yahoo!, The Telegraph, Mashable, Polygon, Destructoid, and GamesRadar. It was also the recipient of two BAFTA Video Games Awards for Best Story and Best Mobile Game. 
The Walking Dead is set in the world of Robert Kirkman's award-winning comic book series and offers an emotionally-charged, tailored game experience where a player's actions and choices affect how their story plays out across the entire series.

Tekken 7 - Everything will end in death

Tekken 7 - Everything will end in death

Everything will end… in death

Leading interactive entertainment company BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe is today releasing a new TEKKEN 7 dramatic story trailer showcasing the feud of the Mishima family and its footprint on the rest of the world. From honor, duty, vengeance, all their fights are personal. In a final showdown filled by blood and anger, what began in death will end…in death: 

In TEKKEN 7, all fights are personal! Prepare to enter the ring as TEKKEN 7 will be available for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, and STEAM® for PC on June 2nd 2017. To find out more about Tekken 7, please head over to the official website

Win a double pass to see Baywatch - The Movie

Win a double pass to see Baywatch - The Movie

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Baywatch is coming to cinemas June 1st!

BAYWATCH follows devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) as he butts heads with a brash new recruit (Efron). Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay.

“Baywatch” has not yet been rated

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 BAYWATCH!

Competition closes June 1st

Good luck!