Monday, 2 May 2016

Game of Thrones: Season 5: Blu Ray Review

Game of Thrones: Season 5: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R18
Released by Warner Home Video

George R R Martin's fantasy shows no signs of slowing - but the television series does show signs of starting to strike out on its own in the latest season of Game Of Thrones.

With the novels' release pace slowing, this latest finds the Westeros tale taking original elements and weaving them into the narrative to make up for the lack of source material.

It also delivers an ending moment that's set pop culture alive in the break between the show and its latest sixth season.

With a power vacuum in place and various people trying to fill it, the fifth season of Game of Thrones is the usual mix of politics, sex, violence and shocks. From the likes of Lena Headey's Cersei, Emilia Clarke's Daenerys and Peter Dinklage's Tyrion, there's plenty afoot as the threads begin to wind closer together.

However, this season is not without controversy with its sexual assault of a main character being a litmus moment for many viewers. And it's easy to see why - sometimes, Game of Thrones prefers to present moments without judgement and that frankness causes discomfort in many.

While the journey doesn't feel as strong this year, there's no denying Game of Thrones' unending power. Though ironically, that may be the saga's problem - it potentially does need to explore an ending sooner rather than later, so that everyone feels satiated and so that the show doesn't hit a decline.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Experimenter: DVD Review

Experimenter: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Vendetta

Realising that exploring social experimenter Dr Stanley Milgram was likely to be a controversial choice, the writer, director, and producer of it all, Michael Almereyda could have been on a sticky wicket.
However, by choosing to break the fourth wall conventions in this biopic a la Bronson, he removes the controversy of the man himself and ends up providing a more rounded insight into Milgram.

The film begins with Milgram's most incendiary experiments into the human condition, wherein he managed to put two subjects - a teacher and a pupil - into a room and made them administer shocks to a stranger. Based on Milgram's childhood growing up as a Jew and being influenced by events in the Holocaust, Milgram's reasoning for his trial appears sound - what could provoke any right minded person into such horrific action?

The Milgram experiments clearly had ripples and ramifications and Almereyda's exploration and presentation of them is nothing short of a shock to the system.

By using the aforementioned fourth wall convention and using photos for backgrounds for some events and meetings, it's a bolt upright reaction to what transpires on the screen. (And even has a feel of TV series Masters of Sex about it in its recreation) - but in many ways, it's a film that defies convention for a man who ultimately defied his own conventions.

Sarsgaard is a cool crisp slice of clinical perfection as Milgram, each word carefully and theatrically  delivered for maximum impact and each dryly wry witticism despatched with ease; there's plenty of humour in this film that's essentially a snapshot of a biopic.

By keeping it free of the minutiae of Milgram's life and investing us solely in pivotal moments at certain points in time, Almereyda's concocted something smart and involving.

Exposition serves for explanation and shifts of time periods within the film, and the discussions raised within will likely provoke some incisive and robust debate as the movie ends. However, rather than bogging down the film in stuffy discussion, thanks to some excellent casting (look for the cameos who make up the subjects of the initial Milgram experiment) and a great performance from Sarsgaard and a return to form for a long time absent Winona Ryder as his wife, Almereyda provides a film that hits squarely and confidently what it wants to do.

It may skirt around some issues and some of the ramifications of the experiments (there's an unexplored inference that Milgram was being tailed and one of his colleagues dies early in age, both of these are left to linger frustratingly rather than be delved deeper into), but Almereyda's never interested in anything more than using the style and the effortless ease of his leading man to deliver a fascinating take on a thrilling subject. 

Newstalk ZB Review - Reviewing Eddie The Eagle, 25 April and Creed

Newstalk ZB Review - Reviewing Eddie The Eagle, 25 April and Creed

This week it was the turn of Eddie The Eagle under the Newstalk ZB Review spotlight.

I also took a look at 25 April, the NZ Gallipoli animated film and on DVD Creed.

Take a listen below:

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The 5th Wave: Blu Ray Review

The 5th Wave: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

Another YA outing gets a big screen event movie with Rick Yancey's alien invasion story hitting the cinemas.

And once again, all the tropes of the genre are in place, but this time around, they feel more derivative and installed into the narrative via a checklist, rather than dramatic necessity.

Kickass's Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Cassie, a high schooler whose life changes when aliens invade via a succession of attacks. After surviving electrical attacks, natural disasters, fatal disease a la Avian Flu and then body snatcher style invasion a la The Invaders which wipe out her family bar her brother, she finds herself on the run. With a desperate race to save her young brother from the army's clutches and from their weaponising him, Grace Moretz gives everything to the film and sells every ludicrously predictable turn it takes.

It's just a shame that the film gives nothing back.

Despite a stunning first 30 minutes that see the alien menace cleverly and craftily energise the story, it stalls and hits a sickening thud when it realises it needs to weave in the tropes of the genre. (Young love, life after high school seeming like the end of the world, a mistrust of authority etc etc)

After the action slows, The 5th Wave becomes an unconvincing sludge of a film that's barely able to build on the mistrust and premise. The story fractures into Cassie's search and meeting of a charisma-free dishy designer stubble potential love interest and her brother's involvement in the weaponising-our-kids-storyline - and the result is one of tedium more than anything.

Ending on a whimper and the limp promise of yet more, The 5th Wave is a frustrating experience.

Despite a crowded genre with The Hunger Games, Divergent, et al, thanks to Grace Moretz's turn and a terrific start, it could have been so much more and never once delivers anything original or compelling past its invasion schtick. It sanitises its potential brutality and its de-humanising of its lead, and therefore ultimately sells everything short that it sets out to do.

Turns out The 5th Wave from the aliens, that threatens all our lives, is actually tedium.


Friday, 29 April 2016

99 Homes: Blu Ray Review

99 Homes: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

That 99 Homes leaves you seething is a testament to the power of this drama and the moral turpitude it throws you into as this take on the American dream and the obsessions with property play out.

In an entirely relevant parallel given how over-heated the world's property markets are, Garfield is Dennis Nash, a father whose Orlando family home is foreclosed by the bank in 2008. Believing he has 30 days to fight the repossession, Nash's shocked to find the police on his doorstep the next day, demanding he, his mum (a solid Laura Dern) and his son leave immediately.

Also on the scene of the repossession is the lizard-like Rick Carver (an excellent Michael Shannon), a former real estate agent who is now head of his own realty company and who specialises in taking homes and turning profits - whatever the cost and with no regard for the emotional fall-out.

Humiliated and homeless, Nash is forced to work for Carver in a (contrived) series of events, but soon finds his desire to ensure his family has somewhere to live is over-stepping his basic humanity as his Faustian deal with Carver descends to new depths.

99 Homes is a powerful searing drama; it gives a human and inhuman face to the property crisis that beset America and that teeters on the edge worldwide currently.

Shannon's nothing short of electric and horrifying as Carver, a man whom we first meet at the scene of a suicide of an owner whose home has been taken by Carver's realty business. But in typical anti-hero stance, Carver doesn't care about the human cost of his business and Bahrani isn't really interested in fleshing out his character other than a few piecemeal scenes that give chilling insight and horrifying human touches to this monster of a man.

Equally, Garfield's Nash is played well; the conflict he feels is clearly marked early on, but the gnawing sickness of reality and desperation provides plenty of dramatic fuel as well as plenty of debate over what you would do. The line between black and white blurs easily in this morality tale, given human form and faces which can't be blocked from memory.

As this suspenseful thriller plays out and Nash dances ever closer to the devil, the intensity of the film ramps up, even if the credibility of some of the situations edge dangerously close to convenience rather than natural drama. Certainly, the balance of rational from Nash compared to Carver's clinically cold and despicable attitude is nicely struck early on, and both Garfield and Shannon's performances remain the real reasons to stay so engaged with 99 Homes throughout.

If anything though, 99 Homes is Shannon's film - it's a blistering turn that sees him blow smoke on the fire of who's fuelled this situation and Bahrani fans it by insinuating everyone is to blame, given that the banks lend more money when the home hunters are eager to gobble it up.

Ultimately, 99 Homes is a recession drama and a searing, sickening commentary that will eat at your soul long after it's done  - and thanks to its morally compromised leads, the desperation of Nash and the almost vulture like behaviour of Carver will pick at you long after the lights have gone up.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Dark Souls III: PS4 Review

Dark Souls III: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4
Released by Bandai Namco Games

You Died.

Two words you will see a lot in From Software's apparently final Dark Souls offering.

The action RPG is back and it's as challenging as ever in its latest iteration, one which may leave you with levels of frustration which border on seeing you hurl the console out of the window.

Famously hard in its earlier outings, the latest Dark Souls has lost none of the challenge that its predecessors had. Set in the kingdom of Lothric, you take on a soul trying to stop the rot of the kingdom and reverse the curse that is upon it.

If anything, Dark Souls III is as famously brooding as you'd expect, building dread into an atmosphere that's claustrophobic and as dark as the vistas around you. Combat is as epic as the previous games, relying on you to plan an attack and melee rather than just launch into it. Each attack drains you a little, so there needs to be a plan for taking on bosses or those two words will come back to haunt you with ease.

Skills and magic are there to be used too, but again, these have to be used sparingly and with a degree of smarts; replenishing these takes time and focus off you too, meaning you are left vulnerable to attacks if you're not careful.

It takes elements of From Software's Bloodborne, with its Gothic edges and its pacing as well - this is a game that feels like the series has evolved and one which still maintains the series' DNA all over it.

As the game progresses, it's clear that Miyazaki wanted this to be a more speedy affair than previous outings and there's a real sense of the pace of the game sometimes getting ahead of itself. Frustratingly even though the speed is ramped up, it doesn't stop you going back to quite a way in your quest if you die - so perhaps, the faster factor is there to prevent a degree of burn out that was experienced in prior games.

There's no denying Dark Souls III looks epic; there's equally no denying that it takes time to bed in too - you'll need perseverance to get on with this game and that doesn't come with ease. Finding a groove can be tricky as an experience, but when Dark Souls III gets it right with its atmosphere, its difficult gameplay and its claustrophobic aesthetics, it remains nothing short of a compelling game that you will sink plenty of time into.

DOOM Single player stream

DOOM Single player stream

Take an in-depth look at DOOM’s intense single-player campaign!  

It kicks off at 4am AEST / 6am NZST at and will be archived immediately afterwards so folks can watch it at their leisure. The stream, hosted by Executive Producer Marty Stratton and Creative Director Hugo Martin, will show never-before-seen levels and a variety of content.

Yesterday, Tom Mustaine and the SnapMap team took us through the wide range of co-op, single-player and multiplayer content available in DOOM’s powerful SnapMap tool. You can check that out HERE.

  Watch live video from Bethesda on