Saturday, 26 June 2010

Dr Who: Dreamland: DVD Review

Dr Who: Dreamland: DVD Review

Dr Who: Dreamland
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Entertainment/ BBC

This animated treat was one of the spin offs for the gap year the BBC's flagship show took in 2009.
But fans of the show don't need to worry - while David Tennant may have been touring with Hamlet, he took time off to record the voiceover for this 40 minute computer animated adventure.
The 10th Doctor ends up in Roswell, New Mexico in 1958 - and on the eve of an alien invasion as the bug like Viperox look to steal an alien who crashed in the area (sounds familiar to fans of the UFO genre.)
However, 10's not alone - he's got two new animated companions along for the adventure.
While Dreamland may take a little bit to adjust to the chunky animation, it's a zippy paced adventure which hurtles along. The short segments of the original broadcast made this easy to digest and in its long form it's still quite the treat. Plus for fans of sci fi there's smart nods to Roswell and a cliffhanger moment that echoes Aliens in many ways.
The animators have thought big and the writer Phil Ford haven't lost trace of the smart dialogue - and once again, David Tennant looms large over this project.
Dreamland is a must for fans of the show.
Extras: A second disc collects together the UK highlights trio of episodes of Dr Who: Greatest Moments - there are 3 programmes here, all an hour long selected from episodes from the show's return in 2005. Packed with interviews from various members of the cast which have never been screened before, it's a fluffy insight into the show, its characters and its titular hero. However, that may anger purists of the show as they will argue the greatest moments have spanned the past 45 years and Doctors before Christopher Eccleston.

Rating: 7/10 

Fantastic Mr Fox: DVD Review

Fantastic Mr Fox: DVD Review

Fantastic Mr Fox
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: PG

Madcap and inspired, George Clooney stars in this version of the classic Roald Dahl tale.
Clooney is Mr Fox, who's given up his chicken philandering ways and taken a job with a local newspaper to appease Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep).
However, when farmers Boggis, Bean and Bunce move in nearby Fox is suddenly taken with the idea of one last major chicken heist to retire on. But he finds the adrenaline thrill of the theft intoxicating and soon he's upto his neck in it as the farmers fight back.
Fantastic Mr Fox is great fun - a wonderful vocal cast (including the likes of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and a brilliantly deadpan turn from Jason Schwartzman as cousin Ash) will delight you from the beginning to the end.
However, it's director Wes Anderson who's the big winner here as he rocks the stop motion animation world with this. It's beautiful watch and you really appreciate the painstaking effort put in by the animators.
Quite simply Fantastic Mr Fox is one of the best pieces of family fodder I've seen for a long time.
Extras: A doco exploring the look of FMF, a look at the cast and a short detailing the basics of the insane game WhackBat from the film are an adequate package - but are a little weak to tie in with such a great film.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 25 June 2010

Dr Who: Next Doctor: Blu Ray Review

Dr Who: Next Doctor: Blu Ray Review

The Next Doctor - Blu Ray
Rating: PG
Released by BBC/ Roadshow Entertainment

This 2008 Christmas special found itself the centre of much speculation coming after David Tennant's announcement he would be moving on from the show.
Writer Russell T Davies clearly delighted in the ambiguity of this tale which finds Tennant's Doctor on Christmas Eve in 1861 - and arriving in Victorian London, the Doc's thrown into a mystery which involves plenty of missing bodies.
Teaming with Jackson Lake (a wonderful David Morrissey), the Doc soon discovers the Cybermen are back on the scene - but he's not accounted for Lake's perception that he is firmly of the belief that he is the Doctor.
It all culminates in a rather silly pastiche of the Iron Giant with the Cyber King rising and threatening to crush London.
But it's in Tennant and Morrissey's performance that this episode succeeds. The pair offer up a masterclass in acting and along with Dervla Kirwan's evil Miss Hartigan. Coupled with the high quality of the HD with Blu Ray, this is a fairly disposable piece of Who entertainment. Which is all very well for a light fluffy Christmas audience, but long term viewing it's only thanks to the human acting of Kirwan, Morrissey and Tennant that this holds up
Extras: A behind the scenes doco and concert at London's Proms make up the rest of this disc - The Proms are worth seeing; the doco is the usual standard stock fare.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Secret Diary of A Call Girl S3: DVD Review

Secret Diary of A Call Girl S3: DVD Review

The Secret Diary of A Call Girl - Series 3

Rating: R18
Released by Roadshow Entertainment


Dr Who's Billie Piper continues to ditch her wholesome image as she takes on the role of Belle de Jour, the infamous London sex blogger who kept the tongues wagging with her online antics.
This series finds a distinct similarity with life as Billie's escort by night Belle is celebrating the success of a book deal in the eight episodes which comprise Series 3.
But Belle's struggling to keep up with three different lives - that of the escort, the author and of the everyday Hannah. Coupled with the fact she's attracted to her publishing boss, it's all getting a little steamy - in more ways than one.
Light and frothy with a salacious edge, The Secret Diary of a Call Girl - Season 3 is really a series of encounters with a bit of plot thrown here and there. But it's Piper's charms which keep the show going and stop it from delving too deeply into mere titillation from its (at times comic) sex scenes. There's some subtle character development within the series but it's a return to form for a show which suffered a crippling creative lull in its second year.
Raunchy and edgy, The Secret Diary of a Call Girl - Season 3 is a guilty treat.
Extras: Webisodes from the series

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Brothers Bloom: DVD Review

The Brothers Bloom: DVD Review

The Brothers Bloom
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment

Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz star in this drama about a pair of con-men.
Brody and Ruffalo are Stephen and Bloom, who've spent all of their lives getting by thanks to various scams and plots. But Bloom (a light comic turn from Adrien Brody) yearns for more - he wants a real life rather than one that's the result of their continuing deceits.
One day Bloom meet NY heiress Penelope (an enchanting Rachel Weisz) and falls in love - despite their plans to scam her, the trio end up entangled in their own ways as Penelope becomes addicted to their thrill seeking ways.
However, one last heist involving a book trapped in a Prague museum and Robbie Coltrane's Maximillian could prove to be their undoing.
The Brothers Bloom is a quirky character piece which has plenty of "What the??" moments thanks to odd visual moments. It starts off with gusto but runs a little foul of itself towards the end.
However, there is quite an emotional pay off at the end - and thanks to good solid performances from all involved, The Brothers Bloom is a breezy refreshingly different film.
Extras: Featurette, deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer make me feel there's been some sleight of hand somewhere.

Rating: 7/10

The Wolfman: DVD Review

The Wolfman: DVD Review

The Wolfman
Released by Universal Home Video
Rating: R16


Released in an extended director's cut just a few months since its release in cinemas, The Wolfman remains a much maligned horror film.

In 1880s London, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) is summoned to the family home after the disappearance of his brother Ben.

Talbot is reunited with his father (Anthony Hopkins) - something that he hadn't planned on after fleeing domestic life after the death of his mother. After being called back by Ben's wife Gwen (Emily Blunt), the hunt soon turns to a funeral after the discovery of Ben's mutilated body.

Talbot begins an investigation into the brutal slaying of his brother - and even Scotland Yard's finest (including Hugo Weaving) are called in. But as Talbot digs deeper into claims an animal killed his brother, he's drawn into a dark world and finds himself facing his deepest fears.

A remake of the 1914 film, this version remains a darkly compelling and gory take on the Victorian legend. Full of spooks and shocks (as well as blood), it's great to see a Wolfman which is nightmarish as its original premise suggested it would be.

Del Toro is good as the tortured Talbot - and one scene inside an asylum where the wolf breaks out is just terrifically terrifying.

16 minutes of extra footage make this version worthwhile - and I still standby the fact this was dismissed as boring and slow in the cinema. It's actually a nice character piece which has some great set moments which really ramp up the fear.

Perfect entertainment for the dark, winter nights.

Extras: Not so exciting, deleted scenes - sometimes, there's a reason why they're deleted.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Sarah Janes Adventures S1 and S2: DVD Review

The Sarah Janes Adventures S1 and S2: DVD Review

The Sarah Jane Adventures - Series One and Two
Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: PG

Much loved former 70s Dr Who companion Sarah Jane Smith (played with chutzpah by Elisabeth Sladen) gets her own spin off series aimed at the younger end of the Who spectrum.
Writer Russell T Davies always said Dr Who was aimed at all ages; whereas spin offs Torchwood was for the older end and Sarah Jane adventures was for the younger generation.
Each series features twelve episodes broken down into six stories (except the first series which includes the pilot Invasion of the Bane) and sees Sarah Jane and her team of teen youngsters Luke, Clyde and Maria dealing with the threat of Slitheen, Sontarans and new recurring enemy The Trickster. The second series has Maria leave and the gang gets a replacement in the form of new girl Rani.
It's easy to write off the Sarah Jane Adventures as a childish fantasy spin off - but thanks to some smart writing, there's plenty to admire here. Writers have taken the everyday and put a slightly nightmarish tinge on it - for example one adventure sees the gang menaced by a clown scary enough to rival Stephen King's IT. But there's also an adult vein to the writing as Sarah Jane faces her own past and the chance to right some wrongs - the Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith (series 2) and Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? (Series 1) show some of the best and most mature writing in children's TV these days.
Extras: A clutch of special features on both sets - including interviews with Elisabeth Sladen, trailers, behind the scenes visits and many others make these sets good fun.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Jennifer's Body: DVD Review

Jennifer's Body: DVD Review

Jennifer's Body
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M

You would have thought that the combination of Megan Fox and a script from Diablo Cody, the genius who wrote Juno would be a sure fire winner.
Jennifer's Body sees Megan Fox as Jennifer a high school girl who's BFFs with Amanda Seyfried's Needy - they're yin and yang to each other. Needy's the dowdy one and Jennifer's the one who garners all the high school lads' attention.
One day, attending a concert at a local tavern, the pair narrowly escape an inferno which kills plenty of the local population.
But Jennifer returns from the night a different person - and with an insatiable appetite for seducing and boys&.in more ways than one. Needy gradually begins to realize that she needs to be stopped before it's too late.
Jennifer's Body is a strange film. It pitches somewhere between smart quippy dialogue with Cody's trademark use of hipster slang and B grade horror. Plus the camera lingers on every inch of Megan Fox's body - which will score points with certain sectors of the core teen boy audience.
But it's a slightly off key mix - and the end result feels more like a B grade horror which tries a little bit too often to be serious. It could have been a slightly more vicious satire on the high school life but doesn't quite add up. The frenemies plot works well and Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox gel together as BFFs.
Chalk this one up to a great idea and central premise which failed to live up to its potential.
Extras: 2 versions of the film - the theatrical and extended version sees an extra 5 minutes added in. Plus deleted scenes and a gag reel round off the package.

Rating: 5/10

Looking For Eric: DVD Review

Looking For Eric: DVD Review

Looking For Eric

Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

Looking for Eric sees the king of gritty drama making a comedy/ fantasy of sorts.

Ken Loach brings the philosophical genius(cough) of Eric Cantona to a postman whose live has gone down the gurgler since his family fell apart.

Eric, this Man United obsessed postman (played with world weary aplomb by Steve Evets) finds solace in weed and chats with the legendary Eric Cantona as he tries to get his life back on track and tries to bring the family back together.

For the most part, it works - but then director Loach, formerly the king of miserable realises he may have lightened up too much - and halfway through, a big slab of unhappiness is thrown into the mix.

The film violently switches from fantasy drama to kitchen sink melodrama mixed in with gun culture.

And it's this move which endangers the film by making it feel like two flicks tacked together - even Cantona (imaginary or otherwise) disappears when the reality hits.

It's an odd mix but Looking For Eric is strangely rewarding.

Rating: 6/10 

Friday, 18 June 2010

New Moon: DVD Review

New Moon: DVD Review

New Moon

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Pictures

The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens with a shot of a full moon and ends with Bella taking a breath - and, in between for the fans of the saga, there's everything they could want. But for those who are probably not 100% bona fide Team Edward/ Team Jacob, there could be a lot of eye rolling and wondering what on earth the continuing obsession is about.

The story takes up where Twilight left off - with Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (R Patz) deeply in love and on the eve of Bella's 18th birthday. Despite her protestations, the Cullens throw Bella a birthday party - but a paper cut sees Bella shed some blood, which sees Edward's brother Jasper try to take her life.

As Edward ends up hurting Bella while trying to protect her, he decides it's safer for him to be out of her life - for good.

Destroyed by the rejection of her first love, Bella falls apart - enter Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who plugs the hole in her heart (despite hiding a secret about himself) with companionship and sworn oaths of fidelity.

But Bella finds he's not enough and when she discovers that thrill seeking and becoming an adrenaline junkie allows Edward to appear to her, Bella chooses to live life on the edge to be with her one true love.

Danger for Bella is just around the corner though - with vampire Victoria out for revenge after the death of her mate (whom the Cullens despatched in the first Twilight) and hot on Bella's trail. A series of miscommunications leads Edward to believe Bella's dead and forces him to sacrifice himself at the hands of the vampire clan, The Volturi (a la Romeo and Juliet.)

Can Bella save Edward in time? And more importantly, will she sacrifice her burgeoning relationship with Jacob for the star crossed love of her life?

Some films are review proof - and the latest in the Twilight franchise is one of those. It soared at the box office and continues to soar on DVD and Blu Ray.
Sure, I could spend time telling you how there's a gratuitous excess of abs on slow-mo show here (both with Jacob and Edward) - but that's what the fans want to see (certainly judging by the lusty cat calls and wolf whistles at the NZ premiere); I could reveal there's some horrendously corny teen love lines - such as Edward's "You gave me everything just by breathing" to Bella, but the swoons of any audience watching this suggest to me that that's just pandering to the fans - and I could tell you that parts of the film play like music videos as the soundtrack swells over aching teens caught up in their relationship and during the Wolf Pack chasing Victoria the vampire - but again, that's what the diehard fans of the franchise want.

With the third film almost here, it's a welcome burst for fans of the saga; everyone else may wonder what the fuss is all about - and some may claim New Moon with its bustling buff bodies and lustful tones as a guilty pleasure.

Extras: A sneak peek at Eclipse among a wealth of other goodies for fans of the Stephenie Meyer series.

Rating: 7/10

Nine: DVD Review

Nine: DVD Review

Nine
Rating: M
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Daniel Day Lewis stars as Italian film director Guido Contini, the maestro of cinema Italiano, who's under pressure to create his ninth film. Contini's revered in Italy (despite a string of recent flops - a running gag in the film) but is struggling to come up with a script for his ninth outing on the big screen.

But despite seeking inspiration from the women in his life - a prostitute from youth (Fergie), his mistress Carla (a fiery sparky Penelope Cruz), his wife Luisa (an ever dependable Marion Cotillard), his mother (Sophia Loren) and his muse (Nicole Kidman), he's got nothing.

With the studio on his back, sets being built and time running out, Guido's got nowhere to hide - can he get his magic back?

Nine is a sexy, spectacularly lavish affair - with its women giving their all both vocally and physically on the screen, it seemed destined not to fail. And yet, somehow, it manages to do so.

Despite a stunning ensemble cast, beautiful Italian scenery and some lavish musical numbers, it somehow manages to miss the emotional mark.

It's more about style over substance - but in some moments - and thanks to a feisty Penelope Cruz, you may well forget the lack of substance and just appreciate what's on the screen.

Extras: 8 Featurettes, commentary with Rob Marshall and 3 music videos - exclusive to Blu Ray there's a Screen actors guild Q &A with the cast.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Get Him To The Greek: Movie Review

Get Him To The Greek: Movie Review

Get Him To The Greek
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Jonah Hill stars as record company employee Aaron Green.
Looking for a boost for his career, Green suggests to his boss Sergio (Combs) that they get Aldous Snow (Russell Brand in a surprisingly good turn) to perform a tenth anniversary live concert.
Snow's fallen on hard times - split from his wife Jackie Q (the lovely Rose Byrne of Damages fame ) and with his last record African Child panned, he's up for one last blast. (You may also remember his hard rockin' ways from his appearance in the awkward comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.)
So Green's sent to London to get Snow to the Greek theatre on time for the gig - but along the way, Green finds his every attempt thwarted by the self destructive rocker.
Coupled with the fact Green's med intern girlfriend Daphne is about to move to Seattle, he's on the verge of a breakdown as he tries his best to please everyone.
This one gets chalked upto guilty pleasure. With its crass and boorish moments, as well as some awkward comedy situations, there's some real hilarity within Get Him To The Greek.
Russell Brand is a revelation as Aldous Snow in this - his shambolic hard rocking on-screen persona seems to be perfectly married to the off screen bad boy who caused so much outrage and furore in the UK. He's also spot on in the parodying of certain rock stars who champion causes without really having a clue - granted that may not be original in some ways, but Brand sends it up very well. He's also got the petulance of a spoilt child and his traditional bad boy swagger and is perfect for Snow.
And Jonah Hill carries off the role of the put upon assistant very well - he manages to balance the usual geek that he brings to the role with the humanity of a man on the edge - as well as negotiating brilliantly the awkward humour.
There's heaps of cameos from people within the music industry as well which will have eagle eyed music lovers drooling.
But it's the script which sizzles (written by director Stoller and Jason Segal) with hilarious unexpected one liners and (some immature) moments which catch you completely off guard and will leave you laughing.
Although it does sag a little towards the end and you can see what's coming, that doesn't detract too much from the general feeling you get walking out after it's done.

Get Him To The Greek won't be to everyone's tastes to be honest - but for a fun night out with the lads, it's the perfect film.

Psychoville: DVD Review

Psychoville: DVD Review

Psychoville

Rating: M
Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment

To those in the know, the League Of Gentlemen are comedy icons.

So when it was announced two of their founding quartet were shooting a new dark comedy series for the BBC, there was much to celebrate - and be afraid of.

Described as a dark character comedy mystery featuring the weird and the wonderful, this 7 part series involves 5 sets of characters - the majority of which are played by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton; as well as a career changing dark turn from Dawn French.

This quintet appears unconnected but each of them receive a letter which simply states "I know what you did" and they all set out to try and track down who the blackmailer is.

As all of their paths cross, it becomes clear they share something in common - and that the blackmailer may be a lot closer to home than they first thought.

Psychoville is brilliantly psychotic - it's once again proof that these British comedians are the best and darkest the country's ever turned out. The show is mesmerising and will suck you in with its gallows humour and macabre view of life.

It also scores highly for episode 4 which sees the entire League of Gentlemen team reunited in one episode, an homage to Hitchcock, which plays out in just one set - sheer genius.

Extras: Commentaries on all episodes, interviews and behind the scenes all add to the wealth of material on this two disc set

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: DVD Review

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: DVD Review

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Released by Vendetta Films
Rating: R16

So the first part of the Millennium phenomenon finally arrives on DVD.

Stieg Larsson's trio of books have captured the Kiwi minds with practically everyone reading them on buses, trains and wherever there is spare time.

This adaptation sees Michael Nyqvist playing an idealistic Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist who's called in to investigate a family crime.

Blomkvist's just lost a libel case and has plenty of time on his hands - so he's drawn into the disappearance of a 16 year old niece of a wealthy CEO from 40 years ago.

As Blomkvist digs deeper, he's followed by a cyber hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) who believes she has what it takes to help him solve the case.

However, as the case progresses, there are more skeletons in the closet waiting to come out - and both parties have plenty to lose as their respective nooses tighten.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a slow burning thriller - despite the beauty of the desolate white Swedish landscapes, there's very little beauty in the thick complicated plot. And in Lisbeth's case, thanks to abuse and some pretty horrific scenes, the darkness is as black as it comes.

It's an interesting start to the trilogy and while it may be more loved by fans of the books than the general public, now's the time to jump in and see what the fuss is about.

Extras: Trailers, a peek at the 2nd film, The Girl Who Played With Fire, image gallery and music featurette are relatively weak fodder given how popular the series is becoming.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The A Team: Movie Review

The A Team: Movie Review

The A Team
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Quinton Rampage Jackson, Patrick Wilson
Director: Joe Carnahan
Some 27 years after the TV Series first debuted, The A Team finally make it to the big screen.
In this latest version we're treated to the rebirth of the series (a kind of origin film) and we see how the A Team came together.
The team first forms in Mexico - with "Hannibal" Smith (Neeson) enlisting the help of Face (Cooper), BA Baracus (Jackson) and Murdoch (Copley) to escape. The quartet form a close bond and become a clandestine unit for some successful 80 odd missions together.
But the one mission which changes their lives sees them as soldiers in Iraq and assigned by the CIA and their lackey (Patrick Wilson) to take back a US dollar bill printing press snatched by the remnants of Saddam's Iraqi guards.
However, the A Team finds themselves framed (as the infamous TV series opening goes) and they set out to clear their names and catch the bad guys.
But with the CIA and Jessica Biel's Captain Sosa out to shut them down, they could have bitten off more than they can chew.
Well, well, from a slightly underwhelming trailer, I have to admit this is a pleasant surprise.
The A Team remains faithful to fans of the show and yet manages to reinvent it for a new generation. A wonderfully action packed opener sees the gang thrown together and introduced in a clever piece of plotting - and from there on, you're charmed by all four main performances.
Each of them has retained the essences of what made the original series great - while Neeson may growl a little once too often, it's good those in charge have decided to stick so closely to the personalities perpetuated by the likes of George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Mr T.
For an action film, there's just the right amount of action too - it doesn't dominate the story - and even offers up some new takes on the stock action sequences.
But it's the chemistry between Cooper, Neeson, Copley and Jackson which really make this work - there's the whole feeling of camaraderie between them (and BA and Murdoch still squabble as much as they did before) which helps you through a plot which may be obvious to those who've seen a lot of films.
It's pitched clearly at the family blockbuster crowd with some comedy thrown into the relatively straight mix - and as the kids reviewers agree, for the most part it works.
16 year old Connor found he couldn't make out some action scenes but thought Murdoch was the best character because he was totally insane - although he was still clever and a team player. But the whole brotherhood teamwork shone through for him.
Younger brother Jackson loved the whole thing with a good story, great action and snappy dialogue. He also liked the bit with a falling tank too.
So this new version of The A Team is to be applauded; a faithful, straight and relatively intelligent action thriller which will appeal to fans new and old.
We love it when a plan comes together.

PS Watch out for blink and you'll miss it cameos from two of the original A Team too...

Dr Who: Peladon Tales: DVD Review

Dr Who: Peladon Tales: DVD Review

Doctor Who - Peladon Tales

Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: PG

So it's back to the 1970s for this double outing for Jon Pertwee's Doctor.

These two tales have been thrown together on one release as they're both set on the planet Peladon - in the first, The Curse of Peladon, The Doctor and Jo (Katy Manning) arrive at a time when Peladon is being considered for entrance into the galactic federation. But it appears someone will stop at nothing to ensure this doesn't happen.

In the sequel (of sorts) The Monster of Peladon, set 50 years after the first, the Doc returns - this time with new companion Sarah Jane Smith - to find Peladon torn apart by squabbling and with an ancient beast threatening to drag them back to their savage ways.

Each of the Peladon Tales releases sees the Doc facing off with his old nemeses the Ice Warriors - and for the first time in colour.

Both these adventures are pacy and zip along relatively well - given how time isn't always kind to early Doctor Who. It's also a great reminder of how popular and good Pertwee was in the role.

Extras: Once again, it's the set's extras which shine out rather than the stories themselves. For a two disc release, there's plenty to ponder on with commentaries from those involved (including the late much missed producer Barry Letts), a two part retrospective looking back at the making of these, a look back at the Ice Warriors, and a short piece from Katy Manning aka Jo Grant remembering the partnership she had with Jon Pertwee in her run of stories.

Rating: 7/10

The Informant: DVD Review

The Informant: DVD Review

The Informant
Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

The Informant! is the tale of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) a rising executive at the American agricultural firm during the 1990s.

Despite doing well within the company, Whitacre ends up blowing the whistle to an FBI agent (Scott Bakula) about apparent price fixing within the market instigated by the very people he works with.

However, as the FBI dig deeper into what's going on, Whitacre reveals more about the company's involvement with lysine, an additive used in the commercial livestock industry.

And that's nothing in comparison to the odd behaviour exhibited by Whitacre the closer the FBI gets&

Based on an apparently true story, there's a feeling of growing incredulity the longer the film goes on. Matt Damon's Whitacre is clearly a conflicted and bipolar character, whose tormented inner monologue at key moments see him ruminate on the minutiae of life - one side comment sees him wondering how polar bears learnt to cover their black noses when hunting given they had no concept of black and white.

It's a dark comedy that Steven Soderbergh's created in places - but with tremendously solid performances from the likes of Damon and Taranaki's very own Melanie Lynskey (who plays Whitacre's long suffering wife), you're never quite 100% sure where to laugh - or even if you should.

Rating: 7/10 

The Strength of Water: DVD Review

The Strength of Water: DVD Review

The Strength of Water

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment

Sensationally simple and heartbreakingly direct, Strength of Water is perhaps one of the best New Zealand films I've seen.

Set in the Hokianga, it's the story of two 10-year-old twins Kimi and Melody whose lives are irrevocably changed by the arrival of drifter Tai to their small community.

A terrible accident follows and the community is ripped asunder by the shocking turn of events.

It's hard to say too much about this without spoiling it-but what I can say is although the cast are relative newcomers and first timers, Strength of Water is a stunning debut for those involved-Hato Paporoa's performance as Kimi is the stand out of the film- just the right amount of sadness, cheek and loneliness for the character and his life.

Director Armagan Ballantyne's captured perfectly the beauty and desolation of the coastal villages- the whole film is beautifully shot- a story of bonds, community and heart, Strength of Water achingly raw and is not to be missed.

Rating: 9/10

Away We Go: DVD Review

Away We Go: DVD Review

Away We Go

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Pictures


You would think that a film that's essentially a pregnancy road trip wouldn't be a winner.

However, this latest from Sam Mendes has everything a decent small film needs in spades.

John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph star as Burt and Verona, a pair of thirty somethings who are still trying to find their place in the world.

One night, in possibly the most original way ever, the pair discover Verona is pregnant - and armed with that news, they head to tell Burt's parents the joyous news. (Verona's parents died when she was in her twenties)

But when they tell the grandparents-to-be, Burt's ma and pa (Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels) announce they're leaving the country.

This sets off the feeling that Burt and Verona need to find a home to settle down in as they were only living where they were because of his parents.

So armed with a growing belly, the duo head to various friends scattered across America to see if they can find somewhere new to live before the baby is born.

Away We Go is warm, wry, witty, whimsical and very unexpectedly funny thanks to some humour and deadpan moments from star John Krasinski (from the US version of The Office).

But the second the humour smacks you across the face, director Sam Mendes spins the world on its head and leaves you close to tears - and it's Taranaki's Melanie Lynskey who as a college friend of the duo is responsible for the melancholy.

That said, Mendes and the script don't wallow in it - it's the low-key warmth and the stunning performances by the leads which bring you back down to earth with a jolt.

Away We Go was one of the most under appreciated films of 2009 - it's time you picked up a copy of it and realized why it's so loved by a passionate few.

Rating: 8/10 

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

9: DVD Review

9: DVD Review

9

Released by Madman
Rating: M

In the latest computer animation to hit the big screen, 9 tells the story of the world after the machines attacked the humans. In a devastated land, a sack puppet with the number 9 wakes up and suddenly discovers that he is not alone.

After being attacked by a beast, and reunited with others of his type (all numbered from 1 onwards), 9 begins to realize that he holds the key to getting answers about what happened - and how they can live on.

9 is like a cross between PlayStation's Sackboy, a puppet and the Terminator - it's an odd film with a very interesting central premise - and talk of the soul. But Shane Acker's film doesn't do as well as it could.
Part of the problem with 9 is the story - while it's a nice idea, it soon becomes a little too stuck in its own groove. Characters are abducted time and time again and it gets a bit repetitive.

The performances are all perfectly fine - Elijah Wood has the right amount of mirth to be our eyes in this world; John C Reilly provides enough humour and pathos as 2 and Jennifer Connelly is on feisty form as 7, a fighter who left the pack to try and save the world.

Overall 9 looks fantastic on BluRay but with a bit more attention to the story, it could have been so much more than a sweet animation.

Extras: Deleted scenes, Commentary, on tour with Shane Acker and the original short which inspired the film make a decent package.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 7 June 2010

An Education: DVD Review

An Education: DVD Review

An Education
Released by Universal Home Video
Rating: M

An Education arrives on DVD having been feted through the awards season.
It's the story of Carey Mulligan's Jenny in 1960s London who's on the verge of finishing school and embarking on the next stage of her life, which is likely to be university if everyone around her is to be believed.
However, Jenny one day meets David (Peter Sarsgaard) a thirtyish man who offers her another way of life - that of swinging London. So throwing much caution and abandon to the wind, Jenny joins David and his friends for a bally good time.
But David is of course only intent on one thing - seducing her and soon Jenny finds her world around her is falling apart.
An Education is a fairly average coming of age film based on Brit journo Lynn Barber's memoirs of the time.
There's one thing though which elevates it above the normal straight to DVD fare - Carey Mulligan.
This teen actress is simply brilliant as Jenny; she wonderfully encapsulates her dilemma about entering this world and the headiness of teen years where rebellion is always the norm. But thanks to a stunning performance, Mulligan manages to help paper over the cracks in the film's plot; whether it's watching it with 21st century eyes, her life seems destined to go awry but it's due to her onscreen presence that the film manages to triumph.
Alfred Molina and Peter Sarsgaard offer adequate support but are simply acted off the screen by Mulligan - trust me when I say this girl is destined for big things.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Up In The Air: DVD Review

Up In The Air: DVD Review

Up In The Air

Released by Universal Home Entertainment
Rating: M


George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a corporate gun for hire who is called in when the bosses are too cowardly to cut loose their staff.

Bingham spends 100% of his life in the air and on the way to one sacking after another - and he's happy with it his non-committal lifestyle, living out of a suitcase and out of emotional harm's way.

So when his boss (Jason Bateman) brings in Natalie Keener (Twilight's Anna Kendrick), he's appalled to discover her solution is to ground the staff who do the sacking and get them to do it via webcams.

However, Ryan becomes determined to show her a little something about life and takes her across America so she can see how it's done - and how he does it differently.

Up In The Air wears its heart on its sleeve - if you're fairly film savvy, you may see some of the twists coming; however, even if you're a film cynic, there is still plenty to enjoy with the snappy dialogue and smart humour.

Extras: Deleted scenes, commentary and a few others make up this package

Rating: 7/10

Cold Souls: DVD Review

Cold Souls: DVD Review

Cold Souls
Released by Madman
Rating: M

Paul Giamatti (complete with sad sack eyes and jowly cheeks) plays Paul Giamatti, a fictionalized version of the actor, who's struggling with his part in Uncle Vanya. Clearly Chekhov's play is resting heavy on him - and one day, he sees an ad for a Soul Storage place which piques his curiosity.

So, with the ad's slogan "Is your soul weighing you down?" he heads to see if he can find some relief.

What he actually finds is a surgery which can remove souls and hold them in special units (or if they want to avoid tax, can be shipped to New Jersey) to give their owners a new lease of life.

Giamatti undergoes the treatment - and things get more complicated for him when a soul trafficking group from Russia ends up stealing his soul to satiate a Mafioso style don's girlfriend. Giamatti ends up facing the possibility of heading to St Petersburg or remaining soulless for the rest of his life.

What can you say about Cold Souls? It's slightly odd, slightly heart warming and entirely different. Once again, Giamatti shows why he's a talented actor and wins over the audience with this existential type role which could have backfired.

It's an interesting premise which is well executed (aside from feeling a little long at the end) but Cold Souls offers up some interesting ethical and soulful dilemmas.

Rating: 6/10  

Sherlock Holmes: DVD Review

Sherlock Holmes: DVD Review

Sherlock Holmes
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M

A Holmes for the new generation.
Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law - along with director Guy Ritchie - bring a new take on the Sherlock Holmes/ Dr Watson dynamic which for years has had a measured and slightly stuffy feel.
Upon arresting the nefarious Lord Blackwood (the ever brilliant Mark Strong), Holmes is riddled by taunts from Blackwood that this is only the beginning of the game.
When Blackwood appears to come back from the dead and starts haunting London, Holmes begins to realize there's more afoot - and sets out to try and crack the riddle.
But on the domestic front, Holmes is about to lose Watson to marriage and is distracted by the return of old flame Irene Adler (a wasted Rachel McAdams) - can he crack it all and save the day?
This new Sherlock Holmes is slightly disappointing as it's more about relaunching the franchise rather than providing a solid story. The plot's somewhat muddled and is more about setting up a sequel rather than giving the series a good solid start thanks largely to another crowd winning performance from comeback kid Downey Jr.
The end result means that some of Ritchie's more dazzling moments are crippled; a great action sequence and excellent way of showing how Holmes cracks problems are nice touches to the genre but this is a slightly missed opportunity.
Extras: Sherlock Holmes Reinvented looks at how the franchise was relaunched.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 4 June 2010

Under The Mountain: DVD Review

Under The Mountain: DVD Review

Under The Mountain

Released by Sony Home Entertainment
Rating: M


In this version of Under The Mountain, (a little removed from the iconic eighties television series) teen twins Theo and Rachel (Tom Cameron and Sophie McBride) are growing apart after the death of their mother.

The psychic bond shared by the pair is under strain as Theo refuses to face the reality of the situation - however, the pair stay with relatives in Auckland and discover their future lies in helping Mr Jones (Sam Neill) defeat the Wilberforces before they unleash the power beneath the volcanoes and destroy the world..

Personally I think it's hard to really appreciate Under The Mountain out of context of New Zealand - the whole production is clearly a NZ venture; from the sweeping panoramic shots of Auckland and the NZ countryside to a very funny aside about the reality of calling in the New Zealand Army, Under The Mountain is steeped in Kiwiana.

It's also perfect for the small screen - while there's nothing inherently wrong with the effects, that, coupled with the scenery, make it a good ride on the telly.
While Neill, and Oliver Driver do well with their iconic roles, there is a moment when Under The Mountain slightly fumbles the ball.
That comes after the 60 minutes mark - after building an incredible atmosphere of menace and threat, it all becomes a little unstuck and the ending is somewhat rushed and a little muddy. A moment of sacrifice from a major character unfortunately doesn't ring as emotionally true as it should and it clouds the film's denouement.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Amelia: DVD Review

Amelia: DVD Review

Amelia

Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: PG


Hilary Swank stars as the symbol of optimism and hope to many during the great depression in this latest attempt to bring Amelia Earhart to the screen.

Earhart's story is obviously one which is well known given how her final flight turned out - although the mystery behind it has never been solved, there's been endless speculation about what exactly happened when she disappeared.

The story's told in flashbacks as we see Earhart taking her final flight, the 1937 round the world attempt from which she disappeared - book ended with her first meeting with publisher George Putnam (Richard Gere) the film attempts to build up a picture of the woman who meant so much for so many in difficult times.
And yet it fails to soar - or even take off as it follows an entirely predictable path. Yes Swank really does look like Earhart but in all honesty, Amelia just doesn't gel together; the story's a little flat and it's hard to emotionally engage with Amelia herself and sympathise with her plight as she tried desperately to pioneer her way in the skies.
Which is a real shame.
Extras: Deleted scenes which don't really add much to the overall disappointment.

Rating: 4/10

Whip It: DVD Review

Whip It: DVD Review

Whip It

Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M


Drew Barrymore is the one behind the camera for the majority of this her debut.

It's a coming of age story starring Juno's Ellen Page as Bliss Cavendar, a young girl in a mid American town who wants to get away. Her mum insists she enters beauty pageants and Bliss goes along with it because she doesn't want to hurt her feelings.

However, one day Bliss comes across the world of roller derby. Bliss decides she will join the local downtown Austin team, The Hurl Scouts, and becomes Babe Ruthless, the team's latest addition.

But she can't tell her folks and soon Babe Ruthless becomes a star - and Bliss is left facing a very real choice.

Whip It is wonderful - a deft directing debut from Drew (who appears as a fellow roller derby player) which charms and makes the simple soar.

There's a simplicity of story with Whip It - it wears the cliche on its sleeve (although the ending is anything but) and thanks to some good solid performances, you will find yourself walking out with a big grin. It manages to nicely capture the frustrations of small town America as well as the desperation of wanting to shine at something rather than a family tradition.

Whip It has heart and soul aplenty - there's an exuberance to this tale of girl power which will affect you more than you want to admit.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Sex And The City 2: Movie Review

Sex And The City 2: Movie Review

Sex And The City 2
Rating: 4/10; but 6/10 for the chick flick film sector
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth
Director: Michael Patrick King
Ok, so let's get the reviewer disclaimer out of the way.
I am not the target market for the Sex And The City gals. Furthermore, what I know about fashion could be written in very large letters on a very small postage stamp.
What I say about this film won't stop quite a few of the female persuasion gathering up their friends and heading out for a girl's night out - and I'm comfortable with that.
So back to the film itself - it's two years after Carrie (SJP) married Chris Noth's Mr Big and the gang all reunite for their friend Stanford's wedding. Kristin Davis' Charlotte is now a full time mum, getting by with the help of her Irish nanny (Alice Eve); Cynthia Nixon's Miranda is getting no respect from her legal career and putting her family second; and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is struggling to fight off the menopause and clinging on to her ways of cougardom.
But at the wedding, events conspire to put doubts in all of their minds - neurotic Charlotte starts to worry that her nanny will steal her husband; Miranda worries that her job is going to cost her her life; and Carrie starts to question whether life with Big is as perfect as she expected and that his stay at home lifestyle isn't truly what she wants.
So, Samantha comes to the rescue and offers the girls an all expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi - and with each of them trying to avoid something in their life, they head there for sand, sun and sex. (Well, some of them)
But things are further complicated for Carrie when she bumps into former flame Aidan (John Corbett) and old feelings are stirred up for the one who got away...
As I've already explained, this film will appeal to a certain section and is review proof - and I knew that as I went in - but it's fair to say Sex And The City 2 will prove a crippling disappointment to fans of the series.
With a series of very humdrum moments, predictable rows and kitchen sink dramas, it's clearly not meant to be anything substantial but I have a feeling it may have detracted a little from the magical escapism and some of the characters with whom many have an affinity.
Granted, each of the girls is given a story which makes them identifiable to the audience (though I find it hard to have sympathy for Carrie whose main complaint is she's turning into Mrs Married), it becomes more about escalating farce -particularly the scenes in Abu Dhabi in the final section of the film.
But much like some of the fashion in the film, it's more about style than substance.
And talking of the fashion, there's plenty of it on display. In terms of spectacle, this is a post-recession opulence fest as every extravagance is rolled out to satiate the senses. Sure, the majority of the outfits are outrageous and impractical, but isn't that half of the fun of this hyper-reality fest?
I could rail about the fact that any pretence of a plot simply goes AWOL towards the end (and minor spoiler here - the story between Aidan and Carrie is unresolved) and that also sections of the Abu Dhabi story seems to be a training video to all Americans about Muslim tolerance, but I have a feeling many will cry "So what?"
Of the main quartet, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon come off best - there's a quiet desperation and humanity about them dealing with the reality of their life as a parent; Sarah Jessica Parker does the best she can with material that makes her flouncy girly character look like a spoilt brat and Kim Cattrall hams it up in places to comic effect.
There's some quippy one liners, an amusing 80s flashback sequence and a great Liza Minnelli cameo - but it's not enough to sustain a second outing for Carrie and the gang.

At the end of the day, the real question is how fans of the girls will feel when they leave the cinema - and I have a nagging feeling that many will see this Sex And The City sequel as lacking that substantial sparkle that the last film gave them.