Saturday, 29 August 2009

Battlestar Galactica S4 Pt 2: DVD Review

Battlestar Galactica S4 Pt 2: DVD Review

Battlestar Galactica Season 4 Part 2
Starring: Tricia Helfer, James Callis, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber
Rating: Restricted to Over 13
Universal Home Video

After four seasons of tumultuous acclaim and critical praise, the updated version of Battlestar Galactica comes to an end.
Trouble is, how do you end a show which has been such a part of the blogosphere and sci-fi world for so long?
Well the answer it appears is in a slightly disappointing manner. (But to be fair, it was never going to satisfy everyone)
The final ten episodes wrap up the saga - after the last surviving humans found what they believed was earth and discovered it was ravaged by nuclear radiation, they set back out - along with their foes and uneasy allies, The Cylons - to find somewhere new to call home.
However, the psychological toll of nearing ultimate destruction and failing to locate what was believed to be Earth sees the survivors ripped apart by civil unrest as they all try to come to terms with uncertain times.
Can they find a place to call home and reconcile with their arch nemeses?
This 4 disc final season set of BSG had a lot of the weight of expectation and the hope of the resolution of the show's mythology on its shoulders.
As with many shows of this genre, it's never going to satisfy the hard core fans - although in fairness, these last 10 wrap up some of the threads which have been dangling since the start of Series 1 (who is the fifth Cylon? What exactly is the deal with Starbuck?) - and some of them are tidied up neatly while others are left without definitive resolution.
The only major disappointment with this clutch of episodes is how exactly they choose to end it - I guess there's some kind of poetic justice that the fate of the human race depends on a hybrid of a human and Cylon - but an awful out of nowhere kidnapping seems to have been shoehorned into the plot to help it finish.
That said - as a fan of the original series, it's very cool to see old school Cylons battling new school Cylons.
And for a series with a long term plan, this has stayed true throughout and never changed what its creators wanted for it.
Where I think BSG will be remembered is in its look and feel - all of the characters have a weariness about them and a humanity which has seeped through the writing all through out - as a show in its entirety it developed deep themes about man, gods, fate, destiny and saw them through to the bitter end.
It will be frakking missed.
Extras: Unrated version of episode A Disquiet Follows My Soul, A sneak peek at Caprica (the show's prequel), Video blogs, a doco

Rating: 7/10

The Counterfeiters: DVD Review

The Counterfeiters: DVD Review

The Counterfeiters

Madman Entertainment
Rating: R13


Based on the true story of the largest counterfeiting ring (Operation Bernhard) set up by the Nazis in 1942, The Counterfeiters is a horrifyingly tense tale.
It centres around the story of Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch, who after being arrested by the Germans is thrown into a concentration camp.
The former counterfeiter extraordinaire is coerced into helping them create fake US and UK money which would have been used to flood the British and American economies and bring them to their knees.
But Sorowitsch finds his life complicated by moral obligations to his fellow prisoners and work mates - as well as being given the personal challenge of creating a perfect copy of the US dollar - a currency he's never been able to perfect as a counterfeiter.
The problem is the moment the Counterfeiters manage to succeed, they'll be wiped out as their usefulness will have expired.
And so begins a cat and mouse game between both sides - but as the pressure builds, the stakes become ever higher&.
The Counterfeiters is a truly engrossing and horrific film - as any war time film is wont to be.
There are real contrasts within - from the opening moments where Sorowitsch loses all his money at a casino to the terrifying lows of being given shoes which don't fit properly and former prisoner's clothes when he's put in the concentration camp, to moments where the prisoners realize they have to co-operate or they'll be killed - either by the guards or by the other prisoners who're jealous of the relative luxury the workers live in.
A tense and deeply taut thriller, The Counterfeiters is compelling viewing.
Extras :- Interview with Adolf Burger (whose memoir formed the film)
- Adolf Burger artifacts
- Interview with actor Karl Markovics (Salomon Sorowitsch)
- Interview with director Stefan Ruzowitzky
- Theatrical trailer

Rating 8/10

Departures: Movie Review

Departures: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kimiko Yo, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takashi Sasano
Director: Yojiro Takita
It won the Academy Award in 2009 for Best Foreign Language Film and has resonated with many during its screenings at The New Zealand International Film Festival this year.
Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) is by trade a cellist in a Tokyo orchestra, complete with wife and generally happy lifestyle.
Until one day without any warning, the orchestra is dissolved and Kobayashi finds himself in need of employment.
He answers an ad in the paper for helping with "assisting departures" (which it turns out is helping prepare the dead and departed for encoffinment.)
With no other prospects Kobayashi takes the position - and starts to lie to his family about what he does.
But the strain of what he does starts to take its toll on those around him - while Daigo has no qualms about finding his job, there are those who urge him to quit such a disgraceful career.
It's easy to see why Departures took him the Oscar - it has everything that an Award winning film needs - from an emotional journey for the central character which will resound with the audience to lushly shot scenery.
There's also a lot of poignancy in Daigo's job - dealing with death on a daily basis and the stigma and taboo attached to it in Japanese culture, Daigo is torn between a job he's clearly good at and a society which frowns on the public acknowledgement of the effect of death.
And yet in places, to be honest, it feels a little manipulative as the viewer is taken on Daigo's journey and the ultimate resolution of his plight - it's an interesting tale but it seems to be designed to tug at your heart strings throughout with the plot following an overly unsubtle approach - and scenes of Daigo playing his cello at suitably odd moments.

That said, when the end comes round, it's an effective pay off to the emotional investment you've put in over the last two hours.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Fast and Furious: DVD Review

Fast and Furious: DVD Review

Fast And Furious
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster
Rating: M
Universal Home Video

The fourth outing the Fast and the Furious franchise sees the original team which launched this cars and crime saga reunited.
By bringing back the original parts (see what the filmmakers did there) it was hoped that it would ignite the box office - which it duly did.
When a crime brings back fugitive ex con Dom Toretto (the ever monotonic Vin Diesel) finds himself once again pitted against agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker)
But in a twist, the pair have to unite forces to take on a common enemy - and both realize the only way to get revenge is behind the wheel.
It's clear watching Fast and Furious that a new franchise is being relaunched - from the opening scene where Dom and his gang hijack fuel tankers, you're thrown straight into the high octane action - and a series of spectacular stunts (as well as slow mo explosions).
The film itself doesn't really concern itself too much with dialogue - which is just as well as Diesel seems to limit most of his acting to guttural muttering and glowering from time to time. Walker lends himself to sullen and sulky as the agent trying to bring down the bad guys and get Toretto brought to justice - and he just manages to pull off the moral conflict he feels.
But the real star of this film is the stunts.
Coupled with the racing scenes, this has really seen the production values bumped well above what they used to be.
The opening scene is quite a nailbiter and thrusts you slap bang into the middle of Torreto's world - I can understand why this film was such a hit in the States (and its ambiguous ending lends itself perfectly to a potential - and inevitable - sequel)
Fast and Furious will be loved by those who enjoy the high octane world of cars, stunts and girls - it ticks all the right boxes for its core demographic. And the extras are reasonable for a one disc release, covering the usual ground of behind the scenes.
Anyone else outside the genre may be simply dazzled by some of the eye popping stunt racing - but feeling a little hollow when it comes to the actual story.
Extras: Available in a 1 disc or 2 disc set; the 1 disc has commentary from director Justin Lee, Driving school with Vin Diesel, Gag Reel and filming in Mexico

Rating: 6/10 

Thursday, 27 August 2009

24: Redemption: DVD Review

24: Redemption: DVD Review

24: Redemption

20th Century Fox/ Roadshow
Rating: M
Bridging the gap between Day 6 and Day 7, 24: Redemption sees Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer thrown back into the action - despite his attempts to stay out of the terrorism game which has cost him so dearly.
At the end of Day 6, Jack was left a broken man after finding his family involved in a plot against the US Government.
As 24: Redemption opens, Bauer is in the African nation of Sangala, working as a missionary and wanted by the US government for questioning over his torture methods of dealing with suspects.
However, Bauer's quest for inner peace is torn apart when a ruthless warlord begins drafting innocent children into his army.
Against that backdrop, a new female US president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is being sworn into the White House - and pretty soon, as the situation in Africa escalates, it becomes clear to the President elect that this will form the first crisis of her new reign.
24: Redemption follows the tradition of prequels for the TV series - although this is the first full length film to be released (all the other prequels have been just moments long)
It also comes hot on the heels of a season which was critically panned and badly received by fans who felt Day 6's threats and personal connections to Jack Bauer reached an all time low.
Couple that in with the writer's strike in America which stopped Day 7 (the seventh series) from being filmed, and it's clear those involved had a lot to prove.
The events still unfold in real time (this time over 2 hours) but 24 Redemption suffers from a condensed timeline.
Whereas the show's plotting allows the storylines to breathe over the course of 24 episodes, 24: Redemption suffers by comparison as it races to get it all in over 2 hours.
Granted, there are still some of the thrills and absurdities you've come to expect of the show, but a lot of this telemovie feels like a set up for the new season (which was probably inevitable) with new characters being introduced and new threats unveiled.

Extras:
- The Making of 24: Redemption
- Blood Never Dry
- Child soldiers in Africa
- 24 Season 6 in four minutes
- 24 Season 7 sneak peek
- Deleted scenes

Rating 6/10

Boosh Special Edition: DVD Review

Boosh Special Edition: DVD Review

Boosh Special Edition
Starring:
Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding
Roadshow Entertainment/ BBC
Rating M

Collecting together the three television series and a wealth of extras, over a seven disc set, Boosh Special Edition is perhaps the most definitive collection the fans could want.
The comedy sees the collected escapades of Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) as they negotiate the slightly strange, incredibly surreal world they live in.
In Series 1, they're a pair of inept zookeepers at the Zooniverse - during their time there, they end up looking for a missing diamond in the Arctic, trying to get out of limbo and generally trying to get out of countless scrapes.
Series 2 and 3 see the duo move away from the Zooniverse Universe (yes I do realize how this all sounds when it's written down) as they shared a flat with a shaman and worked in a shop.
It's an absurdist comedy to be frank - and while the first series is very, very funny - if you're prepared to let it all go with the madness and surreal nature of it all, the final two don't see them reach the dizzying heights of everything that's gone before.
That said, this is a gorgeous set with a seventh disc containing a whole raft of extras.
But the one glaring omission which would have made this perfect is the live show which has been released on DVD over here.
However, with over 14 hours of entertainment, this set is one for the fans to treasure.
Extras: An absolutely definitive collection (far too numerous to list here but including Q&As, cinema trailers, outtakes) There's around 150 minutes of stuff exclusive to this collection including the unreleased "A Journey Through Time and Space" documentary where Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt tell the story behind The Mighty Boosh in their own words; Noel's very own illustrations grace the out-of-this world packaging, booklet and collector's cards are enclosed in the collection

Rating 7/10

Dr Who: Image of The Fendahl: DVD Review

Dr Who: Image of The Fendahl: DVD Review

Doctor Who - Image of The Fendahl
Starring: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson
Roadshow Entertainment/ BBC
Rating PG

As the new series of the TimeLord continues to grow in strength and audience numbers, the BBC continues to release serials from the classic series which ran non stop from 1963 to 1989 before its revival for the 21st century.
This one from 1977 sees fan's favourite Tom Baker, he of the toothy grin and multi coloured scarf, confronted by the eerie goings on at Fetch Priory.
There, a band of scientists have discovered an ancient human skull - and it's being used by Professor Fendelman in his Time Scanner experiments.
However, as the archaeologists continue to probe deeper into the skull's history, a chain of events is set in motion which could see the end of mankind (again - will we never learn) unless the good Doctor intervenes.
Sometimes, even the most passionate of fans find it difficult to defend the cause - and unfortunately Image of The Fendahl is not of the finest serials from the show's pantheon of entries which scared so many generations silly back when special effects were nothing more than an odd looking creature painted in a funny colour.
The 4 part series is nothing to write home about - there are some interesting performances from the supporting cast (including various members of Coronation Street and Eastenders before they made it big) but all in all, the story bears an uncanny resemblance to the Quatermass and The Pit Stories.
However, it's the extras which make these monthly releases of interest - this time with some stunning restoration and some genuinely informative Production notes (and amusing commentary from the ever eccentric Tom Baker), this disc is rescued from oblivion.
Just.
Extras: Commentary - With actors Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Wanda Ventham and Edward Arthur. After Image - cast and crew look back at the making of the story. Deleted & Extended Scenes, Trailers; Photo Gallery, Coming Soon, Easter Egg, Radio Times Listings, Programme subtitles and Subtitle Production Notes

Rating 5/10 

Pan's Labyrinth/ Mongol: DVD Review

Pan's Labyrinth/ Mongol: DVD Review

Pan's Labyrinth/ Mongol
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Tadanobu Asano
Roadshow Entertainment
Rating 16

Two of the very finest films of the last few years get a luxurious three disc release in this "Academy Award Collector's Edition".
Pan's Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro is the tale of Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who against a backdrop of fascist Spain is sent to the countryside with her mother as they begin a new life.
But Ofelia's new life with her step father, the military Vidal (Sergi Lopez) is anything but idyllic - and as she struggles to fit in, she finds an escape through a mysterious faun, Pan, who believes her to be the long lost princess of a magical kingdom.
Mongol is the tale of Genghis Khan - the young Khan who had a mammoth destiny ahead of him - as well as personal tumult.
Nine year old Temudgin sets off with his father to search for a wife - but his destiny is brought sharply into focus when his enemies steal his bride to be.
Both of these films are masterpieces (a word so rarely bandied around) and are firmly deserving of the box set treatment - both engross you and envelop you in a world which it's a pleasure to be immersed in.
It's an interesting pairing but what they both have in common is the humanity of the central characters - Ofelia's quest is natural for one surrounded by so much violence; and young Temudgin's life shows the human side of the man seen by many as one of the most violent the world ever saw.
Both are essential viewing and are timeless - every time I watch them, despite knowing the plots, outcomes and twists, I am agog with wonder.
Recommended without a shadow of a doubt.
Extras - Mongol - The Making of Mongol; Pan's Labyrinth - director's commentary, Featurettes, Director's Notebook

Rating: 9/10

Taken: DVD Review

Taken: DVD Review

Taken

Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M

Liam Neeson stars as an extremely paranoid former US spy Bryan Mills who's now estranged from his family - after they were driven away from him by his commitment to his work.
When Mills' daughter Kim (played by Lost's Maggie Grace) asks for his permission to head to Europe on a trip, his paranoia's ramped up even further.
And things get even worse when she's kidnapped while on the phone to him from France.
He vows he will find her and sets about tracking down the gang who stole her and wreaking furious vengeance upon them.
If the only decent thing you can say about a film - be it on the big screen or the small - is that it's mercifully short, then you know it's not a classic by any stretch of the imagination.
Taken is mercifully short.
Actually that's probably a little harsh - this apparent thriller from Luc Besson will appeal to those who love the cranked up car chases, pointless scenes of violence and breakneck paced fights.
My real problem with Taken is the lack of plausibility - while the sub plot of the daughter being kidnapped and getting addicted to drugs to be sold off is vaguely believable, the fact Neeson lapses into cold committed spy mode again just didn't convince me at all as he rushes to France to track her down.
I can just about buy the fact parents do anything for their children - but that Neeson manages to circumvent the globe and wreak havoc just didn't strike any chords with me.
Thankfully this appears to be a one off film rather than launching Bryan Mills as a spy action hero a la Bourne and Bond
Extras:
- Six Inside Action scenes
- Le Making of
- Avant Premier

Rating: 4/10

Passengers: DVD Review

Passengers: DVD Review

Passengers
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Patrick Wilson, David Morse
Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M

Anne Hathaway stars in this psychodrama about Claire a therapist who is called in to help five survivors of an horrific plane crash deal with the fall out.
But as she works with them, she's drawn to one of the survivors, Eric, who's coping with the flight by being unnaturally happy and blessed with joie de vivre.
As Claire grows closer to Eric, their relationship goes from the professional to the personal - however, her investigation into the crash causes ruptions with the airline and she's urged to drop it.
As she delves deeper into what actually happened, one by one the five survivors begin to disappear - but this does nothing to dampen her resolve to discover exactly what happened.
Passengers is somewhat of a mess of a film; mercifully short and bound up by a twist which renders part of the earlier plot incomprehensible.
While Hathaway's good as Claire and Patrick Wilson is passable as Eric, neither of them can pull themselves out of the mire of a film which is predictable and flawed. The so called shocking twist can be seen a mile off - and even though the actual plane crash itself isn't too badly done, the emotional journey is perhaps not one of the most involving.
Extras: Deleted Scenes; Director and Cast Commentary; In the Night Sky - The Making and Manifest of Passengers; Analysis of the Plane Crash

Rating 3/10

Taking Woodstock: Movie Review

Taking Woodstock: Movie Review

Taking Woodstock
Rating 6/10
Cast: Demetri Martin, Henry Goodman, Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber
Director: Ang Lee
Woodstock's all the rage again forty years on.
This time, the latest from Ang Lee is based on the autobiography Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life by Eliot Teichberg which details how Woodstock actually took place.
Demetri Martin plays Teichberg, the local lynchpin of the business community of White Lake, whose parents (Goodman and Staunton) own and run a local motel.
When the Woodstock festival's moved on from its planned site, it turns out Teichberg has the only musical permit offered in the region, which he proffers up to the Woodstock Festival organisers so they have somewhere to come and play.
While his decision could be Teichberg's making, some of the White Lake community (and his parents initially) fear the tidal wave of hippies could signal the end to their lives.
Having been fortunate enough to be around the Glastonbury Festival for five years, I was able to appreciate how Ang Lee's done a great job of showing the reality of hosting a festival and the ensuing melee.
Taking Woodstock is as close to the chaos among the ideal as you're ever going to see - and how good intentions may not always mean a festival becomes reality.
Martin has an easy going charm as Teichberg who at times, appears to be the calm in the storm as the festival chaos begins - although you're never quite sure whether he's actually in control or a bystander to the festival organisers.
And the supporting cast are equally as good - even if Imelda Staunton's henpecking mother is a little too much; Henry Goodman is great as father Jake and Liev Schreiber is very good as a cross- dressing former soldier turned security guard.
Despite an initial warming to the character, Ang Lee somehow manages to wrongfoot himself by over-egging the family tension of overbearing mother and timid son and his burgeoning growth as he decides to flee the coup.
And unfortunately it's this which detracts from Taking Woodstock overall - Lee does a superb job of evoking the atmosphere of the festival spirit of peace and love by swooping in and out of the crowds.
Yet when it comes to dealing with the more human side of the story, he's hamfisted and seems to sledge hammer in some of the family conflict - whereas earlier in the film, it's been done with a subtle and understated touch (and much the better for it) - and earlier plots which show conflict in the town simply fizzle away like a damp squib.
Like any trip, Taking Woodstock has a comedown and the last 20 minutes of the film are that low as the family trauma kicks in.

Taking Woodstock deserves to be seen as no other film I've seen has yet to capture the spectacular feeling of joie de vivre you get at any festival - it's just a shame Ang Lee wasn't content to leave it at that.

Orphan: Movie Review

Orphan: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Saarsgard, Isabelle Fuhrman
Director: Jaume Collett-Serra
It appears the scary kids are back.
Following hot the heels of the release of Renee Zellweger in Case 39, the latest contender Orphan arrives on the scene with its posters of a young girl, asking "What's wrong with Esther?"
Kate (Farmiga) and John (Saarsgard) are two parents trying to put the pieces back of their lives after losing a third child - however, the strain is showing as Kate also battles with going back on the booze and blaming herself for her youngest daughter Max's deafness after an incident involving a lake near their home.
So as they try to get back on track, they head to the local orphanage where they're immediately charmed by 9year old Russian girl, Esther.
Esther becomes a part of their lives - and splits the younger kids - with the elder Daniel wary and Max (Aryana Engineer) being overly welcomign and in thrall of her new sister.
However, it soon becomes clear that Esther is not all she seems&.
For the majority of its (slightly long) two hour running time, Orphan is racked full of suspense - with the sense of foreboding quite overpowering at times.
It's quite an honest portrait of a family trying to get back to a normal life - both Farmiga and Saarsgard are compelling and realistic in their portrayal of a normal couple who are stretched to the limits by what's happened.
It's also pretty damn good at creeping you out in some places and taking you somewhere you don't expect to go.
Of the younger kids, newcomer Aryana Engineer gives an impressive debut performance as Max (traumatized and empowered in equal measures)- but it's Isabelle Fuhrman who provides the requisite spooks and gives you the creeps as she skulks around on screen.
Some will find the brooding build up a little slow in places - and at times the soundtrack pulls no punches in screeching its terrifying intentions (not always to the best effect).
However, where Orphan triumphs over Case 39 (sorry, comparisons are inevitable) is in its revelation toward the end - I don't want to spoil it - but the twist is quite a smart one which director Jaume Collett-Serra just about manages to credibly pull off.

Unfortunately after the sucker punch, Orphan sadly has nowhere left to go and descends into a conclusion mired in clich├ęd horror films - but for shocks and moments where you find your nails digging into the cinema chair before the revelation, Orphan delivers in droves as it taps into everyday fears and makes them into a horrifying reality.

The Cove: Movie Review

The Cove: Movie Review

Rating 8/10
Cast: Ric O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Mandy Rae-Cruickshank, Kirk Krack
Director: Louie Psihoyos
Ok, first up, The Cove wears its unashamed activist colours on its sleeve.
It's a stunning call to action doco about trying to make a difference - and in places, it will break your heart before reassembling it into the inspired and galvanised heart of a crusader.
In the 1960s, Ric O'Barry was the world expert on dolphins - he spent years training the animals on TV show Flipper - which saw the rise of the popularity of world dolphinariums.
But one day, Ric had an epiphany - and in a moment of heart breaking sadness, he realized what he had condemned this species to.
And that's what this doco is about - for years, Ric's been trying to persuade world nations to open their eyes to what Japan is doing when it comes to the dolphins.
Enlisting the help of doco maker Louie Psihoyos and a gang of committed activists, they head off to Japan to try and capture some of the horrors which go on in a cove in Taiji, Wakayama.
Basically for years, the Japanese have denied that dolphins there are slaughtered or captured for use in dolphinariums- and activists have been unable to either negotiate their way past tight security or capture video evidence because of the rugged and hidden nature of the region.
It's no wonder The Cove has won various awards - it's riveting from beginning to end and it doesn't use heavy handed emotionally manipulative tactics to get its point across.
Yes, it is fair to say it's biased in places - and to be honest, that was only natural - but it's absolutely heart breaking as Ric eloquently recounts the moment he changed his view on dolphins and turns from their trainer to dolphin defender.
However, this is a remarkably restrained doco where you'd expect to see a stringing together of sensationalist emotional material aimed at turning you against the Japanese - this uses its power of reasoning and sense to argue its corner.
It's also like watching a live action version of Mission Impossible to protect the dolphins as you see the divers Mandy and Kirk try and place underwater microphones into the Cove's waters to capture the true sonic horror of what goes on there.
You would expect a film of this nature to have some footage which stuns you - and the final shots of what goes on at the Cove is shocking - set against a minimalist background with no music, the brutality of man versus animal is a cruel indictment of the evil we can do.
And yet, where the Cove is such a success is that it uses this footage as a footnote to its argument - it shows the Japanese are reticent to acknowledge the damage they're doing to their own people and the animal world; they refuse to face upto the facts which are presented.
Ultimately the Cove is about the bravery of someone standing up to one nation - risking their all and their lives (as well as their families) to ensure something changes.

I'm willing to bet by the end of this film, many of you will be wondering what exactly it is that you can do to make a difference - and for a small doco which is starting to make ripples around the world, it's only a matter of time before that change comes - surely, sometimes, that's what film making should be about?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Flight of The Conchords: Series 2: DVD Review

Flight of The Conchords: Series 2: DVD Review

Flight of the Conchords Series 2
Starring: Bret McKenzie, Jemaine Clement, Rhys Darby
Rating: M
HBO Home Ent/ Warner Bros Home Video

The boys are back for another slice of the Big Apple.
Following on from the end of Series One, which saw Rhys Darby's manager Murray make the big time, the Conchords are down on their luck and struggling even more to get by.
However, the laconic pair find themselves in a brand new series of misadventures and generally confused at life around them.
Coupled with Murray's ineptitude, it's an explosive comedy cocktail which is so loved by many - and rightly so.
It's possible this second season could be the last for the Conchords - and if that's true, well, there's no finer way for them to go out.
With a clutch of high profile guest stars through this season (Lucy Lawless, Alan Dale, Art Garfunkel), it's clear the Conchords' fame has spread as their star continues to soar.
The laid back pacing of the comedy and occasional cringeworthiness of the material is the best possible mix - and before you know what's going on, they've reeled you in and you're instantly immersed in their world.
Some of the Conchords' musical interludes suffer a little this time around though - possibly because of the pressure to produce a second series for an eager audience and also possibly because some of the songs in this series feel a little manipulated in rather than the slightly more naturalistic feeling of those in series one of the show.
However, there are still some priceless musical moments - including the Hurt Feelings from the episode The Tough Brets where Bret takes on the rapper community of America.
And of course, there's the sublimely hilarious episode Unnatural Love which sees Jemaine waking up next to an Australian&.
Extras: FOTC: On Air Doco, Dave's Pawn Shop Commercials, NZ Consulate meeting with Murray and Greg, Deleted Scenes and Outtakes

Rating: 7/10

24 Season 7: DVD Review

24 Season 7: DVD Review

24 Season 7
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Cherry Jones, Carlos Bernard, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: Restricted 13

Jack's back in another pulsating series of perennial favourite, 24, the seventh day of torture, twists and trouble.
After the incredible disappointment of Day Six where the peril seemed to be apathetic writing off screen and Bauer's family onscreen, the pressure was on to ensure Day Seven didn't repeat the dizzying lows of the previous one.
And this time, it doesn't disappoint.
You know the formula - over 24 episodes, each lasting an hour, Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer is faced with a variety of plots, terrorism, deaths and shocks as he tries to save the day.
Four years after CTU (the Counter Terrorism Unit) has been disbanded, Jack's facing a senate hearing - however, his time of snarling in court doesn't last long as he's pulled in to help the FBI face one of the worst terrorism threats ever.
Only this time, ghosts from the past and threats from the present cause absolute mayhem for Bauer (Sutherland is never anything less than gripping as he deals with twists and turns left, right and centre) - and as the clock edges ever closer to the end of the day, it could finally be curtains for one of the greatest heroes the spy genre has ever seen.
24 Season 7 is a welcome return to form for the show which was, to be honest, starting to lag and appeared to be running out of creative juice.
However, this time, the threat of average seems to have lulled the writers and producers to pull out all the stops - with plenty of tension throughout each episode (and relatively no lows) this Day of 24 is perhaps one of the most dazzling yet.
There's rumours Day 8 could be Bauer's last - and it's incomprehensible to think the show will go on without him - but if this really is the case, it's nice to see the show which so radically shook up episodic television when it first erupted on the screens in 2001 could be going out on a high.
With an interesting mix of extras including audio commentaries on selected episodes, and the usual deleted scenes (well, the ticking clock has to stop somewhere), the 6 disc set of 24 Season Seven should be an addition to any fan's shelf - or a great introduction to those who've not experienced the thrills of Jack Bauer's life.
And yes, I have no idea why he never stops to eat or go to the toilet either....

Rating 8/10

The Boat That Rocked: DVD Review

The Boat That Rocked: DVD Review

The Boat That Rocked
Starring:
Bill Nighy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Darby, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd, Kenneth Branagh
Universal Home Video
Rating: M

The swinging Sixties get yet another revisiting in this comedy "romp" from Richard "I'm single handedly responsible for Hugh Grant" Curtis.
It's 1966 when British radio wouldn't play much music to a public which clearly was living the pop music boom.
So the pirate radio industry is singlehandedly led by Radio Rock, a boat in the North Sea which doubles as a radio station complete with a gang of ramshackle DJs and a never ending supply of records, booze and babes.
18 year old Carl is dragged onboard to spend time there after his mother decides he needs straightening out (though quite why a pirate radio station replete with immature jocks and all manner of debauchery is the best place is anyone's guess)
However, Carl's not prepared for what's ahead as he's thrown into a world of hedonism and swinging sixties love and rock and roll.
But it's not all plain sailing for Radio Rock - Kenneth Branagh's evil Minister Dormandy is determined to scupper the scourge of the airwaves and rid the radio of the pirates.
The Boat That Rocked isn't a bad film - it's clearly in need of a bit of trimming and could have done with a beefier plot befitting of its truly excellent ensemble cast and superb soundtrack, which brilliantly evokes the sixties.
Unfortunately what emerges from Curtis' script is a somewhat bloated and beached affair which sees continual shots of people dancing by the radio and the antics of the DJs reduced to extended comedy moments.
I don't doubt the crew had a blast making this film - but without much of a story to go on, you can't help but feel that you're a little excluded from the fun and frivolity.
Extras: 11 deleted scenes, and commentary by Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd, Hilary Bevan Jones and Richard Curtis.

Rating: 4/10

Inglourious Basterds: Movie Review

Inglourious Basterds: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Melanie Laurent
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Is this the Tarantino film which will divide the fans and the critics over the wunderkind's abilities?
Set in an alternative World War 2, where Germany still invaded, Inglourious Basterds is essentially two stories intertwined into a common narrative.
The first is that of Shosanna, (Melanie Laurent) the only Jewish survivor of an attack led by Nazi Colonel Landa (an absolutely stunning debut by Christoph Waltz).
After narrowly escaping with her life, Shosanna finds herself running a cinema in France where Hitler and the rest of the high rank and file of the Third Reich are to attend a premiere.
At the same time as Shosanna plots her revenge, Lieutenant Aldo Raines and his motley crew of Nazi (or as he says in his southern Tennessee twang, Nah-zee) hunters are in league with the British and a German double agent and plotting to kill Hitler at the very same premiere - as well as killing Nazis wherever they find them (after having been dropped into France to wreak havoc on the Nazi regime)
So the traps are sprung - but will any of them bring about the end of World War 2?
Inglourious Basterds is a curious beast - it will be the Tarantino film which the diehard Tarantino fans will adore but may leave others lost as to the ongoing appeal of the man who revolutionized films with the likes of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.
Tarantino has grown as a director - sure, he's still referencing and homaging his favourite film genres (Basterds is in part spaghetti western, part Mel Brooks, and the Dirty Dozen) and providing long scenes of stretched out dialogue (which all end in graphic violence) as well as running strands of narrative into a giant patch work screen quilt.

But some are going to find this film a little drawn out in parts (dare you even whisper it, slow)- and an odd sum of all of its parts.
Personally, I felt its best scene was its opening one - as Landa quizs a French farmer about hiding Jews over a glass of milk in occupied France. The dialogue and sense of dread during this section of the film had everyone in the cinema on the edge of their collective seats.
If the one great thing to take from this film is Christoph Waltz's debut movie performance as the lead Nazi, then that's enough for me - his Landa is oozing slime and menace mixed together with a multi lingual charm. You're never quite sure when he's about to explode - and when he does, it's equally mesmerizing and shocking.
Maybe that's part of the Basterds' strength - it has some stunning character performances (leaving aside Brad Pitt's Aldo Raines - which seems to have come directly from a comedy or an outtake of O Brother Where Art Thou? - and Mike Myers who appears to channel Austin Powers as a top UK official).
But more than the character moments, it has some of the most gorgeous long shots committed to the screen; sweeping camera movements and Tarantino's trademark 2 hander scenes where character swap dialogue and deep rooted opinions - it's clearly a director who's still in love with creating beauteous moments of cinema.
And once again, he uses music sparingly to great effect - with long scenes simply using the dialogue to bring them to life before the music kicks in as a precursor to some violence.
Ultimately Inglourious Basterds will spark plenty of debate after you leave the cinema - as some claim, it's an intelligent antidote to a summer which has seen many in-your-face action flicks; whereas others believe Tarantino has lost the plot.

Go and see it yourself - and make up your own mind.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Wallace and Gromit: DVD Review

Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death

Roadshow Entertainment
Starring:
Wallace and Gromit
Rating G
Rating: 8/10
More animated brilliance as Wallace and Gromit return to the small screen after their Curse of the Were-Rabbit feature film.
This time, the pair have started their own bakery "Top Bun" whose slogan is delivering from Dough to Door.
Business is booming - but poochy pal Gromit is deeply worried about the news 12 bakers have been dispatched to the great bakery in the sky during the past year.
Wallace, however, is unconcerned by the news; preferring instead to go dough eyed in love with Piella Bakewell, the new woman on the block.
But when Gromit digs deeper, he discovers Piella's not all she's cracked up to be&.and the pair face a new danger.
A Matter of Loaf and Death continues the tradition of brilliance (and bad puns) from Aardman Animation.
The sheer imagination with which Park and his co-creators bring to life this duo's world and adventures gets ever more astounding.
A behind the scenes doco shows just how well this is story boarded - but the work which goes on behind the camera at all levels is just astonishing.
Their eye for detail during the film - and cinematic references (which this time include Aliens, Hitchcock and Batman) make the whole 30 minutes short zip by - although there must also be credit given to those behind the story as the narrative flows seamlessly from beginning to end.
Funny, warm and touching, A Matter of Loaf and Death will keep kids of all ages amused for an hour or so - not just for the short but for the extras which keep on piling on the hilarity.
Extras:
- The Making of A Matter of Loaf and Death
- 10 Cracking Contraptions
- 10 Cracking Contraptions - behind the scenes
- When Wallace Met Harvey

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Bottle Shock: DVD Review

Bottle Shock: DVD Review

Bottle Shock
Cast: Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Freddy Rodriguez, Rachael Taylor, Eliza Dushku
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment

Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman stars in this true story about vintners, wine snobbery and how the wine world changed back in the 1970s.
Rickman is Steven Spurrier, who, stuck in France and tired of the wine snobbery of those who've been in the wine industry for years, heads to America to see if there are any wines out there waiting to be discovered.
He ends up in California's Napa Valley and meets Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) a struggling vintner whose Chateau Montelena is on the brink of collapse. Initially skeptical about Spurrier's motives and with no sign that his Woodstock hippy son Bo Barrett (Star Trek's Chris Pine) is ready to take over, he's not sure he wants in. Throw into the mix Chateau Montelena's foreman Gustavo (Six Feet Under's Rodriguez), a wannabe winemaker and an intern Sam (Rachael Taylor) and you have a fruity bouquet.
However, what transpires over the film's 1hr 45minutes, changed the history of the wine industry forever - and opened up the market to more than just competition.
Bottle Shock (terrible title - even though it has wine making connoitations) is a gentle piece with a great ensemble cast which looks great in its locations and vineyards. Pullman and Rickman are clearly head and shoulders above the rest; but Pine et al do well with what could so easily have become predictable and unoriginal.
Though there's some question about what actually happened (the real Spurrier's taken exception to the story), it manages to be a pleasant day's viewing - it won't exactly set the world alight, but if you're after a gentle character piece, then Bottle Shock is your vintage.
Extras: Deleted scenes and a featurette about the Chateau Montelena Winery complement the package

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Let The Right One In: DVD Review

Let The Right One In: DVD Review

Let The Right One In
Starring: Lina Leandersson, Kayre Hedebrant
Rating: M
Rialto Home Cinema

The Vampire genre is pretty quickly becoming a crowded one thanks to the Twilight phenomenon.
However, this superior film deserves a place on any self respecting cinephile's shelf - even if it is next to the Lost Boys.
Set in the chilly sheer white world of Stockholm, it's the tale of 12-year-old Oskar, who's being bullied at school and ignored at home.
Gradually, he retreats into a world where he plots revenge on the bullies - and despite the domestic conditions, he's fiercely intelligent and is interested in crime scenes and murders (your average pre-teen healthy interests).
One day he meets Eli, a young girl with whom he forms a friendship - but of whom, he knows very little.
However, as the partnership begins to blossom, each of them open up more and begin to reveal the truth about who they really are.
Let The Right One In is a superior entry into the vampire genre - it's a classy, slow burning affair which centres itself on moody shots, stark contrasts (plenty of blood on deep white untouched snow), and a lot of suspense.
It's also a very intelligent piece - whereas Twilight romanticises the notion of the vampire, this film sees them as parasites, forced to feed where they can and only to satiate a never ending hunger - it's vampirism as a curse, rather than a gleeful alternative to life.
Without a doubt, this film is gripping, beautiful yet violent and a masterpiece.
Extras: None

Rating 8/10

Case 39: Movie Review

Case 39: Movie Review

Rating: 4/10
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Kerry O'Malley, Bradley Cooper, Callum Keith Rennie

Director: Christian Alvert.
Well, well, it appears creepy kids are coming back again in Hollywood.
In Case 39, Renee Zellweger's social worker Emily Jenkins is overworked and over caring about all the cases she investigates.
And just when her workload threatens to fully take over her life - both professionally and personally - she's given one more case to look at on top of her 38 case strong workload - the eponymously titled Case 39.
But this case is the straw which breaks Jenkins' back - troubled 10-year old Lilith Sullivan (Ferland, soon to be seen in the Twilight Saga ) whose parents are, in her own words, trying to kill her.
So Jenkins manages to get the girl away from her potentially murderous family - and into her own care - however, that's where the trouble begins - as it appears Lilith's parents may have had justifiable cause for trying to despatch their demonic daughter.
Case 39 is a standard by the numbers kind of horror - there's a few shocks and jolts here and there but all in all, it's a little of a disappointment.
It's no wonder this has been bumped back and forth in the release schedules - and was first talked about back in 2006. Zellweger looks pained throughout - and while she puts in a reasonable performance as Jenkins, she's saddled with a bit of a dog of a script.
The supporting cast are all satisfactory - although it's Jodelle Ferland's performance as troubled ten year old Lilith which stands head and shoulders above the rest - she channels just the right kind of spooky and creepy and somehow manages to out act some of her onscreen co-stars (Bradley Cooper I'm looking at you)
Case 39 is a reminder of why some horror films don't always work - it's a lazy script and while it sets out to be shocking in places (as you may have seen from the sponsored scene put on Facebook of the child being put in the oven), it doesn't manage to scale the heights of what it wants.


Monday, 17 August 2009

Transporter 3: DVD Review

Transporter 3: DVD Review

Transporter 3
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Natalya Rudakova
Rating: M
Icon Home Entertainment

Jason Statham (aka Britain's action hero answer to Bruce Willis) is back as Frank Martin in the third high octane fuelled portion of the Transporter series.
He's a courier with the will to get done what needs to be done - and this time, the former Special Forces mercenary is going to need all his nous about him.
He's forced to deliver Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), a kidnapped girl - but with a twist; if he moves more than 75 feet away from his car to avoid delivery, a bomb on his wrist will explode.
There's not really much plot at play here - and to be honest, this film really isn't about reems of exposition - it's about things exploding, cool car chases and really really bad guys.
And Jason Statham ripping his shirt off to have a bit of a fight.
But then if you're a fan of this series, you'll already have this DVD and will have enjoyed it multiple times - it all looks perfectly good on the small screen but as far as I'm concerned it feels a little soulless.
Although having said that, there's a very, very cool chase scene which sees Frank taking to a BMX to catch up with his car before the explosion goes off - and that's probably the most original part of the whole 1hr 45mins.
Extras: Commentary with director Oliver Megaton.

Rating: 3/10

Flashbacks of a Fool: Movie Review

Flashbacks of a Fool: Movie Review

Rating: 4/10
Cast: Daniel Craig, Felicity Jones, Harry Eden, Eve, Emilia Fox, Jodhi May, Miriam Karlin
Director: Baillie Walsh
Daniel Craig stars in this film about a fading actor who's squandered every chance he's ever had while living in America - and while trying to live the rock star lifestyle he's become accustomed to.
Craig is Joe Scott, who in the opening act of the film hears of his best friend's death and the death of his own career within just moments.
Pushed over the edge by this turn of events, he heads down to the beach and simply floats off - as he does this, he flashes back to his life in a British seaside town, where he was seduced by his mother's friend.
However, the tragedy of what happens there in his earlier life comes to explain why he became what he did - and also facilitates a return home to the UK.
Flashbacks of A Fool is a bit of a serious mis-fire - Craig's performance is pretty damn good though as he channels the reasons for his rockstar lifestyle and regret over his earlier behaviour when he was growing up.
The problem with this film is it's extremely slow to get started and it's hard to really care too much about Joe Scott, who doesn't really care too much about himself - although, that's part of the reason he is who he is - and the general pacing of the film early on doesn't lend itself to enticing viewing.
The flashback itself is far too extended as well (overall the film clocks in at just under 2 hours) and with a tighter reigning in of the script, it could have been a much more effective story.
While the sexual awakening and recollection of Scott's earlier life are done adequately, the shock of why he left the UK when he did is perhaps the best part of the film - although it's a little incredulous, it's quite an explosive jolt to the senses.
The young actors do well to convey the awkwardness of youth growing up in small UK seaside towns with nothing to do is except experiment with their sex lives - and Craig does well as he wallows in a sea of regret and unhappiness.

Ultimately Flashbacks of A Fool needed to exercise a bit more control at the earlier stages of development - instead of appearing like a bit of a hangover after a good night's partying.


Thursday, 13 August 2009

District 9: Movie Review

District 9: Movie Review

Rating 9/10
Cast: Sharlto Copley, an entire cast of relative unknowns
Director: Neill Blomkamp

It's very rare in this game for a film to slip under the radar without masses of pre-publicity and end up surprising those who watch it.
District 9 is one of those films.
Basically aliens came to Earth one day 20 years ago - and instead of landing in Manhattan or New York, they landed in the skies atop Johannesburg in South Africa.
The huge alien craft sat in the skies - and it was only when the powers that be broke into the ship that they found millions of aliens alive and malnourished within.
So while the equivalent of the United Nations discussed what to do with these refugee creatures (affectionately given the racist term "prawns" because of their appearance), they were brought down to earth and put in slum areas, segregated away from the rest of humanity.
As private company MNU (Multi National United) investigates the alien technology to no avail, it's decided to rehome the Prawns from their settlements (it's in their best interests apparently) which have now become riddled with crime and Nigerian gangs.
District 9 follows the unraveling of events as a doco crew follows MNU worker Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) who's given the job of overseeing the evictions - and who inadvertently sets in motion a series of events which change the equilibrium of the last 20 years.
It's very difficult to discuss this astonishing film from Blomkamp without spoiling it too much - so consider this your warning - read on at your own peril.
District 9 was "produced by Peter Jackson" and is a Wingnut films production - and quite frankly, it's one of the smartest pieces of sci fi based film I've seen for a while.
It's hard to pigeonhole is as one particular genre - it's sci-fi, it's guns and explosions, it's unexpected humour, it's geek overload in places, it's Predator, it's reminiscent of Black Hawk Down, Aliens, Robocop - and amazingly, it's buddy cop movie a la Fly - but none of it is derivative
What Blomkamp's come up with is a real mash up of genres - and with a lead who's pretty damn impressive for a first time actor and with rumours most of the dialogue was improvised, it's even more impressive.
The film's initial doco style as a crew follows the start of the MNU led evictions soon passes - and the film abandons its cinema verite ways to follow what exactly happens to Wikus.
There's a sense of foreboding and dread at the start of the film as it becomes clear Wikus has played a major part in what's about to unfold - and there's a real dread as the convoys roll into District 9 where the "Prawns" are and the evictions are put in place.
It's only a matter of time before the touch paper's been lit and soon tempers boil over - and yes, many will draw the parallels with Apartheid and South Africa (as well as what happened in District 6 there) - but District 9 is about more than that.
There's satire as Wikus finds himself hunted thanks to the intervention of the 24 hour ever present media which follows every single event on the day of the eviction.
But at its heart, District 9 is about humanity - what it is to be human, how far you will go to fight for that when you're ethically and morally compromised.
Eventually Wikus finds his rights crushed and threatened in the same manner in which he treats the Prawns (after an encounter with some alien biotechnology) - and as his father in law sells him out for greed, it's downright black and further proof of how depressing the human race can sometimes be.
The only (very minor) disappointment is the last few minutes - which screams "sequel" over all it (even though it's alluded to earlier on) and is a reminder really of why sometimes one, no matter how big it is, is enough.

District 9 is a real jolt to the senses; packs a surprise in virtually every frame - there's so much to engulf yourself in - and most of the major questions are left unanswered (where did the Prawns come from is just one of them) - but in a day and age when movies sometimes often fail to dazzle and be inventive, this original flick is head and shoulders above anything else I've seen on the big screen this year.

Sunshine Cleaning: Movie Review

Sunshine Cleaning: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin
Director: Christine Jeffs
A film about cracking into the world of crime scene cleaning sounds like an interesting premise - and one which is currently not flooding the silver screen.
Sunshine Cleaning from New Zealand director Christine Jeffs is certainly fresh in places - and irritating in others.
The ever wonderful Amy Adams is Rose Lorkowski, a single mother whose son is forever getting into trouble at school.
Her unreliable sister Norah (Blunt) is flaking from one job to the next - the pair basically want a get rich quick scheme to pull their life out of the mundanity which has befallen them after high school promised so much.
Rose is having an affair with Steve Zahn's cop and he suggests one day there's good money in the forensic clean up business.
Throw in an oddball father (Alan Arkin) and you have pretty much a recipe for some quality screen time.
And to a point you do.
But the central characters Rose and Norah (and to an extent Alan Arkin's character) are quite irritating after prolonged exposure - riddled with neuroses and character quirks, which had they been underplayed would have been endearing.
Unfortunately after about 20 minutes, they're simply annoying.
Sunshine Cleaning feels in parts a lot like Little Miss Sunshine - which is no bad thing - and it has a lot of humour throughout - Blunt and Adams are good in their respective roles but their characters feel a little too stereotyped at times - Adams' Rose is having a lazy affair with a cop; Blunt's Norah is too kooky (witness her following a daughter whose wallet was found at a crime scene).
And the pair's secretly troubled parental relationship is a story thread which could have been seen coming a mile off.
Overall, Sunshine Cleaning feels a little bit too forced at times - whether that's the fault of the screenplay or the director I'm not 100% sure.

It's not a bad film - it's just with such an original premise, it could have been so much more.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Coco Avant Chanel: Movie Review

Coco Avant Chanel: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Alessandro Nivola, Benoit Poelvoorde
Director: Anne Fontaine
READ AN EXCLUSIVE Q & A WITH COCO AVANT CHANEL STAR AUDREY TAUTOU HERE!
Having conquered the New Zealand International Film Festival - and the hearts of TVNZ fashionistas Michiko Hughes & Clifton Piper , this biopic about the early life of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel now finally opens nationwide (although the South Island has to wait until August 20th for its release).
Audrey Tautou stars in this tale of how Chanel overcame the adversities in the early stages of her life to become the icon we all now know.
It's quite a somber take as we first meet Chanel as she's abandoned at an orphanage in 1893 in France with her sister - and she desperately waits for her father to return.
However, when that doesn't happen, Chanel resigns herself to a life of hardship in France - and quickly discovers she's going to have to assert herself in a man's world.
Coco Avant Chanel is an interesting look at the designer and the hurdles she had to overcome - and at times, maybe it's because of viewing it with 20th Century eyes, she doesn't always come across as sympathetic - she's fairly ruthless and could be viewed by some as manipulative as she tries to claw her way into society and to be taken seriously.
However, on reflection, this was the only way open to Chanel - and she's quite right to use it to her advantage - because based on the man who serves as her patron, Etienne Balsan, is nothing more than a boor and a beast who demeans Chanel at every turn.
And while Tautou conveys the steeliness well, she also manages to portray subtle peeks into Chanel's frailties and grief at key moments during the film.

None of this is more evident than when she begins her relationship with the Englishman affectionately known as Boy Capel (Alessandro Nivola) - it is here that we get more of an insight into the human behind the tragedy - and an understanding of what shaped the woman who would define fashion for so many.

Even though there are some slow parts, it's Tautou's film though once again - but overall, Coco Avant Chanel is an intriguing look at what made the icon - and while the fashions are ever present in her early life, there's an emotionally satisfying pay off at the end as we see her creations take to the catwalk.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Coraline: Movie Review

Coraline: Movie Review

Rating 7/10
Vocal Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David
Director: Henry Selick
From the director of James and The Giant Peach, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and MonkeyBone comes Coraline, based on a book by renowned fantasy writer Neil Gaiman.
Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) has moved to a new apartment with her mother and father (Teri Hatcher from TV2's Desperate Housewives and John Hodgman) - but she finds that her parents are too busy to get her settled in.
To her amazement during her exploration of the new drab home, she finds a locked door - which, when opened takes her through to an alternative version of her current life.
The trouble is, in this alternative world, her Other Mother and Other Father are much more attentive and she starts to feel maybe she should stay with this family (even though everyone in this world has buttons for eyes).
But she gradually begins to discover that not everything is as it seems in the new world&.can she escape back to her old life before it's too late?
There's much to love in this latest animated outing.
Coraline is a beautiful piece of Gothic tinged work - full of dark greys to start off with, its colour schemes are resplendent on the big screen.(Even more so in digital 3D)
They're vibrant and vivid to show the contrasts in Coraline's world and life - Coraline herself wears a bright yellow coat in her humdrum world - and when she goes through to the Other World, the garden comes to life with plush colours (blues, purples, reds) which really light up the screen.
It's a dark, cleverly animated fable which will scare some smaller children and is a cautionary tale (in some ways) of Mother Knows Best.
Coupled with its ethereal soundtrack (which is wonderfully evocative) and beautiful surroundings, it's quite the treat to behold - and with the added subtleties of the 3D, it really brings the worlds to life.
The stars of the show - outside of the score and animation - are Teri Hatcher and Dakota Fanning; Hatcher in particular is both motherly and sinister and works hard to bring the Other Mother to life.

Coraline is a gothic horror film for children and adults alike - and it should be cherished and enjoyed - even if it does scare the little horrors senseless in places.

Separation City: Movie Review

Separation City: Movie Review

Rating 7/10
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Rhona Mitra, Danielle Cormack, Les Hill, Thomas Kretschmann, Jodie Rimmer, Alan Lovell
Director: Paul Middleditch
"A film about falling out of love for the first time."
In this Kiwi film from renowned writer Tom Scott, all aspects of relationships are pored over - good and bad.
Political speech writer Simon (Joel Edgerton) and Pam (Danielle Cormack) are in suburban hell - their marriage is suffering because of their stifling lifestyles.
Elsewhere Berliner Katrien (Rhona Mitra) has followed her husband Klaus (Thomas Kretschmann) to New Zealand but has quickly discovered he has a wondering eye.
When Katrien's introduced into Pam's social circle, she soon takes Simon's eye - and the sexual tension in the room could cause an explosion...
But will Simon turn his back on his marriage for, what he believes, is his last chance at happiness?
It's of note that despite being a Kiwi venture, Separation City has a rather international cast - its male lead is Australian, its lead actress is English - in fact Tom Scott has made no secret of the fact they cast the net far and wide for people to be involved. And it's great to see.
Mind you the whole film has a distinctive Wellington feel - as it's shot around parts of the capital and in Parliament - it's a real ode to the beauty of the city.
There's a lot to admire in Separation City - it has some genuinely funny laugh out loud lines - most of them courtesy of Les Hill's journalist Harry whose sardonic - and realistic - approach to life is the perfect tonic for Joel Edgerton's dreaming would be stray Simon.
There's also much mockery of the touchy feely approach to life - a men's group consisting of a core group of dysfunctional guys provides a lot of the humour as they bemoan the fact that staying monogamous makes life so difficult (again Les Hill has the lion's share of the best moments during the groups)
But there's also a deeper analysis of the sometimes difficult nature of enduring relationships- Scott's perfected a frank and funny look at how long term lives together sometimes don't always work out and always need working on - it's this rare reflection of the truth of love which makes Separation City so recognisable - and not just on a New Zealand canvas; this truly has an international story.
It's great to see a New Zealand production which has a global approach with universal themes woven into a promotion of the best of Wellington.

Separation City is a fresh, breezy comedy - which some of us may find is a bit close to the mark on the relationship front - be careful though, if you do see it with a loved one - you may see a little more of yourself on the screen than you'd like.