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.