Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Caitlin Stasey talks Ellie and Tomorrow When The War Began

Caitlin Stasey talks Ellie and Tomorrow When The War Began


Caitlin Stasey is familiar to many in New Zealand for her role as Rachel Kinski in Neighbours  (which screens weeknights on TV2). But now she's about to garner a new generation of fans in the film adaptation of the much loved John Marsden books, Tomorrow, When The War Began. Caitlin was in New Zealand for the premiere of the film and spent some time chatting with tvnz.co.nz's Darren Bevan about the role.

These are iconic books for many people - had you read the Tomorrow When The War Began Series of books before?

Caitlin- No I hadn't I read them. Once I was handed the script that was my first experience with these characters and the story - through a script - but I did read the books after that. I got into them right away and I think that I responded really well to the script, so reading the book was more research but essentially I loved the story. Just the fact these characters are very believable, very human.

Author John Marsden was initially against the idea of a film being made - was that daunting?

Caitlin - Yes it was kind of scary; the idea of going against somebody's wishes - you never really want to feel like that for something so iconic and so well loved. But at the end of the day, we're just an interpretation of his story and his book - we're not the final word on Ellie or Homer or on the book. We met John quite late into filming when he came to the set about 2 weeks before we'd finished - he didn't have a lot to do with the process but he was very supportive. He just was accepting that the project, while his original work, was now director Stuart Beattie's - in a way, this portion of the book isn't his story, it's very much Stuart's.

How did you get on with the rest of your cast members?

Caitlin - Really, really well. We sort of had to - we spent every waking moment together so we had to mould to fit one another both in humour and dislikes. Lincoln (who plays Kevin) I've known for the past seven years because I knew him when I was 13 and from working with him on a TV show The Sleepover Club then - and Phoebe (Tonkin who plays Fi in the film) I'd met through friends because that's the acting world - everyone knows someone who knows someone! But it was my first experience working with any of them. We all fit into our roles very easily.

There will be a lot of fan fervour for these beloved books being turned into a film - what do you say to them?

Caitlin - Just understand this is an interpretation of your favourite book; I know you'd love to see a completely faithful adaptation - and it is a faithful adaptation in many ways - but it's also going to be a different experience. You have to be open minded to see past some of the parts we left out then you'll really love it and enjoy it - see it as if it's a film you're going to see for the first time, a new Australian film. It was a very collaborative experience, Stuart was very keen to hear our views on how teens talk and behave - it was a team effort.

There's also a vein of humour running through out the film as well?

Caitlin - Yeah, there are scenes we didn't realise were funny until we saw them in the cinema - but I think the humour comes at the perfect time because they are really gruelling and tough, terrible, depressing times and then you have people like Andy (who plays Chris) who swoops in and makes people laugh with the occasional line that breaks the ice. You can laugh as well as being serious in this film.

What was your favourite part of the film?

Caitlin - Probably a lot of the stuff pre the war as it was easy to film and it didn't feel like acting as we had to be friends. We were involved in as many of the stunts as we could be and it was a lot of fun but I preferred the acting element rather than the explosive side of things. Surprisingly I'm not a fan of guns or anything like that! What's so great about this story is it's about morality, courage and what's right and what's wrong - that's what I love about Ellie - she's never 100% sure if she's meant to do these things and if it's worth it. In the end it comes down to her valuing the lives of those around her - and that is where her loyalties lie. I'm thrilled these characters are so human and that teenagers are being portrayed in such a positive light - you know, we're not hopeless and we care and are capable of doing great things.

Aside from Ellie, which character do you associate most with?

Caitlin - Probably Fi because I'm more like her than the others - I'm naïve when it comes to country life, war and naïve in a lot of respects. But I feel there's something inside both of us which is quite surprising.

So are you team Homer or team Lee?

Caitlin - Team Homer - I love his and Ellie's relationship - I just love their friendship and in the film it's entirely platonic but it's beautiful to see, it's heart warming. I love Lee - I love his still side, his brooding persona - but having heard what he does to Ellie in future books, I'm definitely Team Homer...

Will this be the start of the series - will there be more films to come?

Caitlin - I hope so that would be ideal if we can make 2 and 3 too - but we have to wait to see what the response is. I don't think we'd make more than three because the story sort of runs out after that.

You've had the Australian premieres too - as well as the New Zealand one - what's that experience been like?

Caitlin - The Sydney premiere was an absolute highlight - our first time, we were fresh and excited and it was the first time we'd seen the film in its entirety with other people, an actual audience. My closest friends and family have seen it and they've been incredibly positive - but then your family would be wouldn't they? They'll always love whatever you do.

Tomorrow When The War Began is in cinemas now.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Leon: Blu Ray Review

Leon: Blu Ray Review

Leon: The Professional - Blu Ray
Rating: R18
Released by Madman Entertainment

As Madman continues to release essential Luc Beeson films (La Femme Nikita is also out on Blu Ray), this remains one of his best.

In a star making turn, Jean Reno plays a hitman who lives a solitary life (by necessity of his career choice) - however, one day his world is overturned when Mathilde (debut performance from Natalie Portman) ends up on his doorstep.

Having escaped being killed by Gary Oldman's psychotic and corrupt cop, she needs help.

A friendship grows and Leon decides to avenge Mathilde's losses - by teaching her how to become a hit man&

Just stunning from beginning to end, Leon was one of the greatest films of the 90s - and remains thoroughly watchable from beginning to end. It's still awesome and impressive - with all the cast delivering some of their best performances.

Extras: Extended cut, theatrical release, a 10 year doco and portraits of the main actors are good solid if unspectacular extras for such an iconic film

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Ponyo: Blu Ray Review

Ponyo: Blu Ray Review

Ponyo Blu Ray

Rating: G
Released by Madman Entertainment

Finally unleashed on Blu Ray (but frustratingly not in its original Japanese form) Ponyo remains a masterpiece.

A 5-year-old boy, Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas) adopts a goldfish (the titular Ponyo played by Noah Cyrus)when she emerges from the sea one day having escaped from her father, the king of the ocean (voiced by Liam Neeson.)

However their friendship is torn apart as quickly as it's begun after the seas reclaim her. But Ponyo works a way out to become human and return to her friend - yet, her desire could signal the end of the world.

The story's great and the animation looks beautiful on Blu Ray - but it's the wealth of extra features that should be the reason you throw out the DVD and upgrade to this. With intimate looks behind the scenes, interviews with the director and storyboards, plus a meeting between John Lasseter of Pixar and Miyazaki, this is essential stuff.

Just a real shame the Japanese version is not there&

Rating: 9/10

Leaving: DVD Review

Leaving: DVD Review

Leaving
Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

Ice queen Kristin Scott Thomas stars in this French film about a 40 year old woman living in the south of France - and desperate for a change.

Married to a doctor and with two kids, Suzanne's decided to go back to work as a physiotherapist; her husband gives her the nod and decides to build a consulting room in their backyard.

Cue Ivan (Sergi Lopez) the odd job man who's been to jail turning up on their doorstep.

However, soon after the work begins, the pair find themselves attracted - and unable to fight their feelings.

But what begins as an affair soon engulfs five people's lives - and with disastrous consequences..

There's an undeniable chemistry between both Suzanne and Ivan and the leads carry it off well - even getting very raunchy in places - but maybe it's this genre but I struggle to have any sympathy for Suzanne - she has everything she wants - except love admittedly.

However, it's towards the end as it starts to really unravel that she finally comes alive as a character and delivers an emotional and powerful performance.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Secret In Their Eyes: DVD Review

The Secret In Their Eyes: DVD Review

The Secret in Their Eyes

Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Home Entertainment

El secreto de sus ojos (to give it its Argentinean title) collected the Academy Award this year for Best Foreign Language Film.

Set in 1999, Ricardo Darin (a popular Argentinean actor) plays former investigator Benjamin Esposito who's retired but not been able to put one case out of his mind.
25 years ago, Esposito investigated the brutal rape and murder of a 23 year old woman - but despite pursuing several leads, Esposito and his partner Sandoval never managed to close the case.

One suspect emerges and the duo try everything in their power to get him convicted - but as Esposito recalls the case for a novel, he begins to realise that he has to reopen the case.

Not only that, but he must rediscover the feelings he buried a long time ago for his boss Irene.

The Secret In Their Eyes is a solid crime drama; gritty and involving. It also has some wonderful character moments and the partnership between Esposito and Sandoval has some brilliant quirky and humorous moments.

With sadness and tension throughout, it's easy to see why this captured the Academy's heart.

The Secret In Their Eyes will drag you in - it may take a little time to get going but once it's got its nails into you, it won't let go.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Kick Ass: DVD Review

Kick Ass: DVD Review

Kick Ass
Rating: R18
Released by Universal Home Pictures
Comic book movies are de rigeur once again - what with Scott Pilgrim Vs The World in cinemas currently - and now with the arrival of Kick Ass on DVD.

In Kick Ass, Aaron Johnson stars as Dave Lizewski, your average teenage boy who is at a loss as to why no-ones ever become a superhero. So donning an all over green body scuba suit, Dave aka Kick Ass heads out to the streets to see if he can make a difference.

And he does for about 2 minutes; before he's stabbed, beaten up and run over by a car.

This kind of sets the tone for the film - horrifically funny and amusing, things escalate for Kick Ass when the local crime lord deems it's time to shut him down.

Coupled with some very real violence (and one use of some boundary pushing language from the young Hit Girl, which offended some censors), this comic book adaptation embraces the reality of the superhero world and subverts your expectations.

Brought to life stylishly to the screen; along with a pumping soundtrack, cut scenes of fights and a truly brilliant flashback involving the best use of a comic ever committed to celluloid, Kick Ass really does reset the boundaries for the genre.

It's great fun - but even I have to admit (sadly) it won't be for everyone. That said, you really should give it a try

Extras: The 2 disc version is packed with over 2 hours of extras - including some goodies like the origin of the comic book, commentary with director, exclusive artwork - it's a real comic book lover's treat.

Rating: 8/10

It's a Wonderful Afterlife: Movie Review

It's a Wonderful Afterlife: Movie Review

It's A Wonderful Afterlife
Rating: 3/10
Cast: Goldy Notay, Shabana Azmi, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Sanjeev Bhaskar
Director: Gurindha Chadha
From director of Bend It Like Beckham comes this latest cinematic outing.
It's A Wonderful Afterlife is the tale of Mrs Sethi (Azmi) an Indian mother living in London whose daughter Roopi (Notay) is a constant unlucky in love girl.
Continually rejected Roopi stands no chance of being married off - but her mother has other plans turning to the murder of those who have disrespected or mocked her daughter.
However, she finds the spirits of the slain coming back to haunt her - as the police continue to investigate the killings.
And things get further complicated for Mrs Sethi and Roopi as Roopi falls for Sendhil Ramamurthy Raj, a DI investigating the case..
It's A Wonderful Afterlife feels like a film harking back to the 1960s - while director Chadha has said she was after channeling Ealing comedies, it's the script and some terrible jokes which don't help. Everyone gives fair performances but with such a clunker of a script, it's hard for any of them to rise out of the mire.
It's supposed to be a horror comedy - with homages to Carrie and Alien, it's clear Chadha has honourable intentions - but with a succession of unwelcome fat jokes, it's, to be frank, a major disappointment.
I get that it's supposed to reflect and to some level parody attitudes within Indian communities towards marriage (and even reincarnation) but it just doesn't rise out of clichéd humour and stereotypes which are frustrating in the extreme. And it builds and builds towards a staged but at times amusing homage to Carrie - complete with curry explosions.
Of the ghosts which haunt Mrs Sethi, UK comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar has the lion's share of the funny lines (as you'd expect) as a philandering husband whose stomach explodes at the start of the film thanks to a poisoned curry - and then spends the rest of the film with his innards hanging out.

Maybe 20 or 30 years ago this film would be welcome - but in this 21st century, it leaves as much of a terrible after taste as a over seasoned curry reheated two days after a night out on the town.

Beneath Hill 60: Movie Review

Beneath Hill 60: Movie Review

Beneath Hill 60
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Brendan Cowell, Harrison Gilbertson
Director: Jeremy Sims
There's nothing worse than imagining the hell on earth that is war.
Beneath Hill 60 is the latest recreation of World War I's horrors and is based on the true story of Aussie miner Oliver Woodward (an outstandingly compassionate turn from Brendan Cowell) and his part in the war effort in 1916.
After initially being held back from the war to help mine for munitions supplies, Woodward joins the Western Front and with a successful attempt at removing an Allied threat, he and his team are pushed up the line to try and help them take Hill 60 - by working underground.
But the Germans are also keen to ensure that the famous Hill 60 doesn't fall, thus setting up a game of cat and mouse.
Beneath Hill 60 is a claustrophobic, grimy affair - as you'd expect from a film about mining and the first World War. The recreation of the trenches and the daily horrors only serve to make me appreciate how much was given at the time by those who fought.
Woodward's story at the western front is interspersed with flashbacks to his time in his homeland - and the burgeoning relationship he forms with the daughter of a neighbouring family. Sadly some of these scenes don't quite give the action in the trenches the emotional depth it needs. But there's still an everyman appeal to Woodward and his compadres.
When the action (such as it is) cuts back to the trenches, there's plenty of nail-biting moments to be had - from scenes of men getting lost in No Man's Land to German miners getting ever closer to discovering what Woodward and his men are up to. Because of the quiet character moments of this film, when the shocks come, some of them are real surprises. Much like the atmosphere at the time, there is an inevitability that something will happen and when it does, you can guarantee you'll be jumping out of your seat.
Brendan Cowell is mightily impressive as the lead character - with a laid-back humour and an Aussie battler attitude. His quiet steely determination anchors the whole picture in heart and humanity - the only minor disappointment is the relative ease in which he makes a major sacrifice at the end of the film - the lack of emotional pay-off is disappointing (although perhaps inevitable given the nature of the film).

Beneath Hill 60 is one of the better war films I've seen. It stays away from the grandiose, prolonged war scenes of some of its bedfellows and sticks more to a story painted on an intimate canvas, so is likely to resonate with many long after the very impressive and moving credits have finished.

Predicament: Movie Review

Predicament: Movie Review

Predicament
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Tim Finn, Hayden Frost, Heath Franklin, Rose McIver
Director: Jason Stutter
Adapted from the novel by New Zealand author Ronald Hugh Morrieson, this is the tale of naive teen Cedric Williamson (newcomer Hayden Frost).
Cedric is bullied at school and has an odd family life (to say the least). His father (Tim Finn) is building an enormous tower in their front yard from rubble, as he copes with the loss of his wife.
One day Cedric meets Mervyn Toebeck (Heath Franklin aka comedian Chopper) and the pair forms a friendship, with Mervyn abusing the bond to bludge off Cedric and his family.
When pasty white oddball Spook (Jemaine Clement) shows up, the trio hits upon the idea of blackmailing the locals - and Cedric's determined to use the scheme to get revenge against the Bramwells (the developers who stole his family land).
But things go more than awry.
Predicament aims for Gothic comedy and tries to reveal the seedy underbelly of the New Zealand small-town community - but it doesn't quite make it.
With scams aplenty, suspicion, paranoia and oddball characters, it is really a reviewing predicament too. Clement is great as Spook, the nasally weird character who trots out some bizarre lines here and there; Franklin is good as the confidence trickster Mervyn - who adds "old son" to every sentence - but Hayden Frost has a lot to carry with the film and sadly falls a little short of the mark.
His Cedric is a stuttering, blinking nerd who you're never really 100% behind - and when the tension and drama steps up, his character tends to resort to facial tics. To be fair, some of this may be due to the direction rather than Frost's interpretation.
What is wonderful about this film though is the look and feel - its creepy, Gothic small-town look is brilliantly evocative and a tribute to the recreation of 1930s Taranaki. Also it puts me in mind of Tim Burton's best at times.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about Predicament - I think there will be some who will adore all of it from beginning to end and there will be others (like myself) who are just a little disappointed with what's seen on the screen.

Piranha 3D: Movie Review

Piranha 3D: Movie Review

Piranha 3D
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Steven McQueen, Elisabeth Shue,Ving Rhames, Kelly Brook, Jerry O'Connell, Lots of piranha with sharp vicious teeth
Director: Alexandre Aja
Seriously - you want a plot? Most of it's there in the title...
OK - It's spring break in Arizona and with thousands of randy ready to party teens heading to town and on Lake Victoria itself, local sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) has her hands full.
But matters are made worse when an earthquake rips open a prehistoric cavern where thousands of vicious death fish live (See I told you the plot was minimal) and they plough into the Lake ready to feast.
However, Julie's woes are further compounded by the fact her son Jake (McQueen) is on the sea having fallen in with sleazy sex film maker Derrick Jones (O'Connell) who's out to exploit everyone and anything in a bikini to help make a new series of Girls Gone wild style videos during this peak time of nubile nudity.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, Jake's foregone his baby sitting duties and left his brother and sister to their own devices for the promise of some babes - let's just hope that those cutesy kids don't wander off and end up on the lake.
- This just in - That's exactly what the kids have done....
So with the promise of gore, nudity and minimal plot exposition, it looks like Spring Break is going to be one to remember.
Look, it's time to fess up - you can file Piranha under guilty pleasure and bloody good fun - if you like countless deaths, gratuitous nudity and B movie acting. It's a remake of the 1978 film (which was itself a parody of Jaws) and works well in places because you actually care about some of the characters (such as Jake and his sheriff mum).
Sometimes, cinema isn't about anything more than the pure pleasure and putting your brain in a jar outside the door and collecting on the way out - this fish porn gore combination isn't going to win any major awards but it is destined for cult notoriety with its quotable lines and high bloody death quotient.
It's a worthy successor to Jaws for our generation (admittedly without the real tension) - the Facebook short attention span generation who want everything bigger, better and nastier than before - sure some of it is pure exploitation (such as the topless paraglider who goes into the water when the camera suddenly switches to underwater 3D mode) and the carnage unleashed by feeding frenzy when the piranha hit is ferocious - those alone will satiate a certain section of the audience.
Every ingredient is there - the kids who disobey authority, the sleazy guy who's selfishly only after his own gains, the teens who choose to ignore warnings - it's like a check list of cliches but thanks to the tongue in cheek acting, you know exactly what you're getting.
Of the cast, kudos have to go to Richard Dreyfuss' opening cameo which parodies his Jaws role, Christopher Lloyd for his mad marine shop owner (sample line - "This one vanished 2 million years ago") and Elisabeth Shue for keeping a straight face when those around her are being slaughtered and dismembered by fish and idiot teens alike. Admittedly, there's some pretty gross out ways that the spring breakers are dispatched which keeps the audience's blood lust in check.
A sequel's inevitable and has been green lit - so you may as well see the start of the franchise before it's culled and the fun's drained out of it.

Oh and you'll never ever be able to listen to Lakme's The Flower Duet without recalling certain moments of this film again...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Charlie Bartlett: DVD Review

Charlie Bartlett: DVD Review

Charlie Bartlett

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Robert Downey Jr continues to be the man of the moment - his laconic turn in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang sent him back into the stratosphere of acting and confirmed that despite his battles with his own demons, he's still a talent to watch. Indeed, his role in Iron Man cemented his stature, and in Charlie Bartlett, while he's only one of the supporting players, he simply blows everyone off the screen.

Anton Yelchin of Star Trek fame is Charlie Bartlett.

On first meeting, he's being kicked out of school for making fake IDs - and when he's signed up for another school run by Downey Jr's principal, you know their paths will cross at some point.

Particularly when he starts dating the principal's daughter.

There's sardonic humour aplenty - the film feels fresh, funny and darkly comic.
A wonderful treat.

Extras: Commentary with director and stars Yelchin and Kat Dennings make this great.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Harry Brown: Movie Review

Harry Brown: Movie Review

Harry Brown
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Liam Cunningham, Iain Glen, Ben Drew
Director: Daniel Barber
Crikey, if this is an even remotely accurate view of life in England these days, then I'm glad I'm here.
In what's rumoured to be his acting swansong, Caine is ex serviceman Harry Brown, who lives his life on a council estate and getting by since being recently widowed.
His one real friend in life, fellow pensioner Leonard (David Bradley) drinks with Harry but confides in him one day that he's frightened and being terrorized by the estate's hoody brigade.
When the police show up on his door - in the form of Emily Mortimer's quiet and thoughtful DI Frampton - one day and tell him that Leonard's been found in a local underpass brutally murdered, Brown realizes that the fight against the lawless has come to his door.
So he decides to take his own measures to ensure the clean up of the estate begins.
Touted as the UK's answer to Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and Charles Bronson's Death Wish, there's certainly plenty of similarities in this one man campaign for violent vengeance.
But it's thanks to Caine's studied and underplayed performance, that it's more shocking when the quiet soulless eyed pensioner Brown finally explodes into a murderous rampage.
And it's also thanks to Daniel Barber's direction, that you really can't blame him for going postal on the hooded gangs and yobs who're spreading fear around - and liberally bashing whomsoever they want. With a hand held shot opening that sees the group getting high and going on a drug fuelled rampage (which culminates in the callous shooting of a mother), there's never really any chance to offer any sympathy to these foul mouthed tykes.
Sure the message is somewhat heavy handed and the agenda somewhat liberal, but it's very hard to find yourself not rooting for Caine's Harry Brown, the vigilante pensioner who police dismiss as being behind the escalating violence. Emily Mortimer's DI Frampton is also good - with her quiet desperation at the lack of support from her superiors etched across her face. Though it has to be said she's somewhat lacking when faced opposite the towering Caine.
There's plenty of dark humour buried well within the grime and horror which unfolds on the screen; a sequence where Brown ends up buying a gun from a drug dealer is a masterclass in itching tension and uncomfortable horror; but there's also unfortunately a risible end which makes Harry Brown a slightly botched opportunity and detracts a little from what's gone before.

That said, this is Michael Caine's best performance in a while - his sad sack ex-serviceman is a simmering formidable foe for the dregs of society. But it's his moments of quiet dignity on the screen which remind you that if this really is his last role, we're losing someone monumental.

Salt: Movie Review

Salt: Movie Review

Salt
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Phillip Noyce
In the absence of any kind of new Bond film, there's always a new contender ready to step up.
This year's entry is Angelina Jolie's Salt.
Jolie is Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent whose life is turned upside down one day when, on the eve of her wedding anniversary, a Russian defector comes in from the cold and fingers her as a Russian sleeper agent.
And things go from bad to worse when Salt's accused of being the one who will kill the Russian president in America, igniting fears of Day X (a feared day when America and her allies will be attacked on all sides) coming true.
Mind you, Salt doesn't help herself by running - to try and clear her name.
Soon, everyone wants a piece of Salt - and the clock is ticking.
Salt is a thriller which doesn't thrill as much as it could. It's fine in the action stakes and kudos need to be given to those involved as the majority of the stunts are done without the use of CGI...but it's the story which has hokum written all over it.
Right - here's your warning; this is where things get a little spoilery.
If you're after a bit of a story where the plot holes are apparent but want to just put your brain in neutral, then this is the film for you.
As Salt swaps sides left right and centre, it gets a bit dizzying as you try and keep up with who she is and isn't - but it's almost as if the film makers have considered that and when she goes bad, she wears black (just like in the wild west) and when she's Russian, she wears Russian furs.
While that sounds fine, that's indicative of how the overall film is - it's not amazing and it's not terrible either - it's just ok. There's a clever idea in there about sleeper agents - and one twist did catch me unaware - but all in all, the film feels a little bit of a disappointment.
And the fact it's set up for a sequel didn't leave me wanting more (not a good sign).
The main trio of actors involved- Schreiber, Ejiofor and Jolie acquit themselves fine - they're all very dour and G man in various ways - and the whole film does take itself rather seriously. Jolie's ok when she's kicking some ass but she looks so slight that it's a hard ask to be convinced that she'd be the one to better the bad guys (or are they the good guys?).
Unfortunately Salt is lacking a little bite and tension at the end - while there are some signs those involved wanted this to be a female Bourne Identity, it doesn't quite measure up and is ultimately underwhelming.

(Although having watched Salt, I've learnt how to turn an ordinary office chair into some kind of rocket launcher - so my colleagues had best watch out...)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Dr Who S5 Vol 2: DVD Review

Dr Who S5 Vol 2: DVD Review

Doctor Who Series 5 Vol 2
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Another month, another set of Dr Who releases.
This time, in this 3 story set - Matt Smith's 11th Doctor faces off against one of the iconic monsters of the revamped show which came back in 2005 - the Weeping Angels.
And given how their creator Steven Moffat's now running the show, you wouldn't be surprised.
The main bones of this release is the two part adventure where the Doctor investigates the return of not only the Weeping Angels (those stone statues which terrified Carey Mulligan in Blink) but also the enigmatic River Song (Alex Kingston).
This two parter's packed with some suspenseful and terrifying moments - such as Karen Gillan's Amy being terrorized by an Angel in a way very similar to The Ring horror film. It's also impressive for deepening the mystique of Song and her connection to the Doctor as well as forwarding the ongoing series arc about time being forgotten.
It's also a bit lusty here and there too - with sexy flirtation being a big part of the end - and that's where third adventure, The Vampires of Venice comes in as the Doc's forced to make Amy realize how happy she is with her fiancée Rory. So he whisks them off to Venice where they end up looking into what may be vampires.
All of these episodes have a gusto and joie de vivre and are pleasant enough watching for all the family. Matt Smith once again delivers in spades and all of the supporting cast add their considerable weight to the stories.
Extras: Monster files takes a look at the creatures from these adventures - part of the ongoing basic extras package.

Rating: 7/10

The Deal: DVD Review

The Deal: DVD Review

The Deal
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Seven years after it was made, this telemovie about the Tony Blair/ Gordon Brown friendship and power struggle is released.
Touted as the Prequel to the Queen (which is a little odd to say the least), Michael Sheen once again dusts his off smile and polishes his teeth to play UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
It's set in 1980s Britain, which is in the vice like grip of Thatcher's reign and tells of how David Morrissey's Gordon Brown met with Blair - forced into sharing an office in London, the pair become friends (initially under duress) over policy and a life in opposition.
But the times, they are a changin' with the wind of change blowing through the corridors of power - and the politics of ambition begin to force the pair apart.
Stephen Frears done an admirable job pulling this together - with the use of archive news footage from the time which has Morrissey and Sheen cut into, as well as footage from political rallies, it does well to evoke the times of Tory Britain.
Sheen's reliably good as Blair once again - and David Morrissey's portrayal of the gruff intensely private Gordon Brown is a real revelation.
It's interesting to see how the pair grew apart and how Brown's decision to bide his time cost him his real chance to lead Labour to victory.
And yet, as a movie for the masses, this is sadly lacking. There's much to admire in this telemovie if you're a) an English ex-pat or b) a politics student.
But I'm afraid, outside of those two parameters, many will pass this by in favour of more blockbuster fare.
Extras: None

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Solitary Man: DVD Review

Solitary Man: DVD Review

Solitary Man
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M
Michael Douglas once again reprises his rogueish cad act for his part as Ben Kalman, a New Yorker who's had it all - and blown it.
Once a car dealership owner, this ladies man has destroyed his life through bad choices - but appears to be in the throes of pulling it back again.
He's now with Jordan (Mary Louise Parker) and using her connections in the car world to help get himself back on his feet.
And Ben's also agreed to try and help Jordan's daughter get back into his former Uni - by taking her to the interview.
However, a leopard can never change his spots and after a night of guilty pleasure, Ben's about to lose it all again.
Solitary Man is an average sort of film - it gets by on the fact that Douglas rolls out his well worn schtick as that caddish charmer (which we're likely to see again in Wall Street 2) and some solid performances from the supporting cast (Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg, Danny DeVito).
But overall, it's a little plodding and hard to root for a guy who keeps screwing it up - even when it's played so well by Douglas.
Extras: None

Rating: 5/10

Alice In Wonderland: Blu Ray Review

Alice In Wonderland: Blu Ray Review

Alice In Wonderland

Rating: PG
Released by Disney DVD

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton reteam once again - this time it's for an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland.

Mia Wasikowska is 19 year old Alice, a girl who's facing the possibility of being married off to a man she doesn't love and on the verge of enduring a life she really doesn't want.

As she runs off to consider the proposal, she falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in Wonderland.

However, on her entrance to Wonderland, she finds she has a destiny to fulfill - she must free the land from the tyranny of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter) and restore happiness to the land she visited as a child in her dreams.

But with the Red Queen on the war path, and the evil Jabberwocky to be unleashed, Alice is facing a whole heap of trouble.
Burton's created a nightmarish version of Wonderland - full of odd colours and architecture which seems perfectly in tune with his vision; there's some great images - such as Alice negotiating a raft of heads the Red Queen's had cut off and cast in the moat around her castle. It seems as if technology's finally got to give Burton the chance to create the vision he's always hinted at in previous films - and he's relished the opportunity to create a memorable Wonderland.

Ultimately, this Alice In Wonderland is an insight into Burton's mind - it's zany and visually crazy in parts; however, due to a bit of a lack of an emotional connection, it's a little bit sprawling at times and doesn't quite live upto its initial promise.

Extras: The Mad Hatter, Finding Alice and Effecting Wonderland - all behind the scenes docos

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 16 August 2010

Daybreakers: Blu Ray Review

Daybreakers: Blu Ray Review

Daybreakers

Rating: R16
Released by Sony Home Pictures

This latest entry into the vampire genre is set in 2019 and sees the world swept with the vampire pandemic. With pretty much everyone overtaken by the desire and necessity to consume blood, real stocks of the red stuff are in short supply.

Enter Ethan Hawke's Edward Dalton, a haematologist working for Sam Neill's Charles Bromley. Bromley owns a human farm which is keeping the vamp population in blood - but it's running low and Dalton's desperately trying to find a substitute for human blood.

However, when Dalton literally runs into one of the last surviving groups of humans, he finds out from Willem Dafoe's Elvis that there is a cure for vampirism and one which could free them all from their misery.

Daybreakers is an intriguing entry into the vampire genre with a solid central premise - the idea of vampirism being a condition which is parasitic and debilitating was explored in the brilliant Let The Right One In. So in terms of bringing something new to the table, Daybreakers doesn't quite make it on that front - but what it does manage to do with its pale sharp colours is create a Blade Runneresque world with a tinge of Nightwatch about it.

A minor misfire, Daybreakers has missed opportunity written over it - and while the teen audience will love the gore element of it, some will feel with a little more love, this could have been the start of an intriguing new franchise.

Extras: Trailer, commentary, poster gallery - nothing earth shattering

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Crazy Heart: DVD Review

Crazy Heart: DVD Review

Crazy Heart

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

It was the film which saw Jeff Bridges finally take home a gold statuette - and man, what a performance he gives.

Bridges is Bad Blake, a 57 year old washed up, living the twilight of his life country singer playing bowling alleys and bars in deserted American villages. But Blake's loved - while his fans appear to be in the final years of their lives, wherever he goes he gets a rapturous reception - as well as some very pleased to see him groupies.

Blake is the archetypal bad boy of the country scene - battling alcoholism, refusing to write new material and a little envious of the success of his protégé Tommy Sweet (a pony tailed Farrell), he's clearly in need of redemption.

That salvation comes in the form of Jean (Gyllenhaal) who turns up one day asking for an interview - however, a burgeoning relationship blossoms - has Bad finally found what he needs to turn his life around?

It's not a new story in many ways - it's the same thing the screen's seen many times before. However, what elevates Crazy Heart is Jeff Bridges. His grizzled, weary rocker is so well played, you'll forgive the script for its at times unoriginal route.

Coupled with some great music, this toe tapping tale of redemption is perfect for the wintertime blues.

Extras: Disappointing - only deleted scenes. Would have been great to have had something a little more for a film which gave Bridges the recognition he's long been owed.

Rating: 8/10 

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Dr Who: Myths and Legends: DVD Review

Dr Who: Myths and Legends: DVD Review

Dr Who - Myths and Legends

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment

Three classic 1970s Who tales from two different doctors find themselves bundled in one package with the slightest tie in.

The trio of releases this month deals with the Myths and Legends aspects of the show - for a sci fi show, Who was never ashamed to adapt some of the greatest legends to fit in with its central premise.

Starring Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor, The Time Monster ropes in Atlantis as the Doc deals with yet another threat from his nemesis The Master; with Tom Baker's fourth Doctor, we get a retelling of the Minotaur tale in the ham infested Horns of Nimon and a trip to the Underworld in erm, Underworld.

There's nothing inherently wrong with these stories - Baker's efforts are not the best acted and Horns of Nimon veers dangerously close to pantomime at times thanks to some of the OTT performances from all involved. But they don't represent the best of what the show had to offer - and with classic releases nearing the end of the range, it's inevitable there would be some which don't live upto the mark.

However - the same can't be said for the extras on the set which are once again excellent. The centre piece is a documentary about the close relationship between Dr Who and kids show Blue Peter in which the linking of the series is closely examined. It's a great device and a doco which has been a long time coming. Coupled with commentaries from some of the main actors in this triumvirate of stories and the ever informative Production information subtitles which light up the screen, these three extras (of a wealth of many) bring the release out of the mire.

Rating: 6/10 

Gentlemen Broncos: DVD Review

Gentlemen Broncos: DVD Review

Gentlemen Broncos

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

So the director of Napoleon Dynamite returns with this film.

Set in mid town America, Michael Angarano stars as aspiring sci fi teen author, Benjamin Purvis, home schooled and naïve in the ways of the world. Sent to a writers' camp, Purvis meets his hero, esteemed sci fi author Ronald Chevalier (FOTC's Jemaine Clement) and enters his manuscript (the terribly titled Yeast Lords) into a competition to win a deal.

However, Chevalier is struggling to find inspiration for his next book - and so, inspired by Purvis' Yeast Lords, he promptly plaigarises the whole thing.

But at the same time, Benjamin's sold the story to some local (terrible) film-makers and when their movie comes out, a creative showdown's on the way.
Gentlemen Broncos goes for quirky and ends up with severely irritating - it's only thanks to the performances of Jemaine Clement and Sam Rockwell that I carried on to the bitter end of this. I can see what the writer and director were trying for but the whole puerile tone stops it ever getting off the ground.

Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes and doco behind the scenes

Rating: 3/10 

Friday, 13 August 2010

Gallants: Movie Review

Gallants: Movie Review

Gallants
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Teddy Robin Kwan, Wong You Nam
Director: Derek Kwok Chi-Kin, Clement Cheng Sze-Kit
Wong You Nam stars as loser Cheung in this chop socky old school kung fu martial arts film which is part of the Hong Kong Film Festival.
Cheung is a dweeby kind of guy - the kind who would practice kung fu when younger but would still get beaten up - and has been beaten up both physically and metaphorically in his life ever since.
Cheung's sent to the backwaters by his bosses to help with real estate deals and get the land ready for redevelopment - however, he ends up being bullied and befriends those who run the Master Law teahouse which is in the bad guys' sights.
So, it becomes about regaining honour and nobility as Cheung ends up taking part in a martial arts tournament&will he be able to save the day?

Gallants has an old school feel to it - which isn't a negative thing at all; it simply feels like a nod to the past and with the zero to hero angle, it's quite a welcome piece of comic fun.

There's some great fight scenes which feel like they're from a computer game but updated with freeze frames and slow mo - and there's a frenetic energy to the editing which seems the film jump from place to place in its plot with ease - and thanks to some of the comic acting, it feels nostalgic rather than mocking.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: Movie Review

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: Movie Review

Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Rating: 9/10
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick
Director: Edgar Wright
I've always believed (and secretly hoped) that the Geek would inherit the Earth.
And man, after this I'm not disappointed or giving up on that hope at all.
Based on the comic book series of the same name, Michael Cera stars as Scott Pilgrim, a slightly loserish 22-year-old who's directionless and a bit aimless and devastated after splitting from (read: dumped by) his girlfriend a year ago.
So when he meets Ramona Flowers, a hipster girl (Winstead), he's desperate to win her heart.
However, what Scott doesn't realise is that this girl comes with some serious baggage - seven exes who will kill Scott rather than let him steal her heart.
Throw into that mix the fact Scott's band Sex Bob-omb are competing for a contract and the boy's certainly got a lot to deal with.
The tone is set right at the beginning of this film with the Universal logo being given an 80s style gaming makeover, Scott Pilgrim wears its geek openly and proudly on its sleeve.
Cera is pitch perfect as the main character with his deadpanning delivery and timing, he's instantly engaging and incredibly amusing (although some may argue he's not stretching his career by playing a variant of every other role he's ever done) and will win you over, not just with the impressive fight scenes (you would really never peg him as an action hero).
All of the cast are great in this - Winstead brings warmth to her role as Flowers and Routh, Schwartzmann and Chris Evans really deliver as part of the evil ex brigade. But it's the initial Bollywood style fight of Satya Bhabha's Matthew Patel which is just genius. Credit also needs to go to Kieran Culkin as Pilgrim's wiseass room mate.
Eschewing pop culture references left right and centre, this comic book gaming crossover is a real treat from Edgar Wright (the genius who was part of the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz UK comedies). It's hard to describe exactly how it takes the worlds of both the comics and 80s style fight games and brings them to life.
But with pop up style subtitles cropping up on screen, laugh out loud funny moments, Batman style fight scenes (Thwok and Kroww spring up during the scraps and you almost expect a Kazam and Adam West to show up) and frenetic cutting back and forth, it really is like a comic book has been brought vividly to life on the big screen.
Oh and the moment the Vegan police show up is just brilliant.
Once again, Edgar Wright's demonstrated why he's one of the coolest, most inventive and visionary directors in the business - the energy which is liberally sprinkled all over this film stops it ever hitting a lull.

Scott Pilgrim is effortlessly cool and endlessly entertaining - go, get your geek on.

The Collector: Movie Review

The Collector: Movie Review

The Collector
Ratng: 5/10
Cast: Josh Stewart, Andrea Roth, Madeline Zima, Michael Reilly Burke
Director: Marcus Dunstan
In this latest torture porn horror flick, Stewart is a former con man turned handyman Arkin who's spent the long months working at a swanky country home owned by the wealthy Chase family.
However, when Arkin hears his ex-wife's only got a few hours to pay off some debts, he decides to rob the Chase household and make sure she's safe.
But he comes unstuck when he heads to the home and finds the owner and wife chained up and bloodied - it appears someone else has already got designs on the home - and the family.
Not a film for the faint hearted, this moody and sadistic film is from one of the minds involved in the Saw franchise - that alone should be enough to tell you what's on the cards&.limbs being sliced, traps around a home and an unhealthy obsession with gore.
Sure, there's not much sense in a film like this (how did the wacko find the time to set so many traps around the house in just a few hours....does he have a group of helpers to call on?) but with The Collector, you're not there for the deep productive narrative. Stewart is fine as the hunter turned hunted who finds traps within traps as he tries to flee from the nightmare.
The Collector is adequately made, extremely well lit and quite horrific piece of film at times - it's evocatively tense and may well see you watching from behind your fingers. Granted it's not the nicest of films - but for those who want to have their fill of blood and gore, it's going to score quite a few points.
I'm not 100% sure why films like this continue to be made - each one tries to outdo its previous franchise entrant or competitor in terms of devious traps and kills but still there's clearly an audience out there for these types of films.

There's also the ending which sees it being set up for a sequel...maybe Jigsaw's now got himself some serious competition.

Dr Who: S5 Vol 1: DVD Review

Dr Who: S5 Vol 1: DVD Review

Doctor Who: S5 Vol 1

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Entertainment

When David Tennant announced he was stepping down, there were fears that would be the end of the revamped Dr Who - but as ever, with this show, reinvention keeps it fresh.

Further consternation was caused when it was revealed the youngest ever actor Matt Smith would be taking on the role.

So to say there was a lot riding on the new series - along with new head writer Steven Moffat was an understatement.

But what a start to the new series - this volume collects together the opening trio of adventures for the 11th Doctor and his new companion Amy Pond.

The Eleventh Hour which introduces Matt Smith is the best of them - a thrilling rollicking ride which shows why Matt was born to play the role - with a spot on performance and a commanding presence from the off, it's easy to see why he was picked.

Sadly The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks suffer in comparison to the opening adventure - the latter with its reinvention of the Daleks as multi coloured eye sores - there's nothing wrong with these tales but they don't sparkle as well as the Eleventh Hour.

Although Karen Gillan does well as the new companion and is at times, a bit wide eyed, it's a winning partnership and with hints of a season wide story arc, there's plenty of intrigue ahead.

Extras: The Monster files - a series of specially shot looks at the baddies of this adventures finally lift these releases simply out of the vanilla status.

Rating: 7/10

Grand Designs Series Six: DVD Review

Grand Designs Series Six: DVD Review

Grand Designs Series Six

Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Kevin McCloud once again returns in the show which never ceases to amaze would be home dreamers.

The formula of the show is a simple one - Kevin follows the ups and downs of the ambitious couples who have a vision for a property. And every time, the couples face some kind of obstacle in their quest for home perfection.

In these six episodes, there's a mix of development dreams - from the gothic to the futuristic, each one of them remains an intriguing look into what people can do - and why they do it.

However, it's due to McCloud that this show remains such a success - with his easy going and non intrusive technique, he really allows you to see all aspects of the build and confides his fears for what's planned.

Grand Designs remains a popular show and while there's an initial disappointment that this is such a short series, for fans (and dreamers alike) there's plenty to enjoy here.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Dream Home: Movie Review

Dream Home: Movie Review

Dream Home
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Josie Ho, Eason Chan
Director: Pang Ho Cheung
For those who thought owning a home was a killer, then this film takes that to the logical extreme.
Also part of the Incredibly Strange section of the New Zealand International Film Festival this year and now screening as part of the Hong Kong film Festival, Dream Home is the story of Ho's Cheng Lai-Sheung, who's desperate to own a prime piece of housing in downtown Hong Kong.
But with financial worries and an ever increasing possibility of a recession, Lai-Sheung's dream is fast becoming a thing of the past - so she does what any (ir)rational person would do when facing a reality they can't cope with...she goes on a killing spree to get what she wants.
Dream Home is a film chocked full of sex and gore and uncomfortable shocks here and there. It's not a bad taste film by any stretch of the imagination but is one that you may want to leave your inhibitions at the door to.
Effectively played by all involved, it's quite the tense horror as Lai-Sheung sets about ensuring she can secure the dream home she's always wanted in life - and will stop at nothing to secure. That said, there's also a dark vein of humour pulsing throughout in places.

It's a stylishly s(l)ick piece of cinema which will unsettle in places and will satiate those who like a bit of a blood and guts cinema at the end of a long week - with the fact it says it's based on a true story, there will be some who'll question if property is really worth going that far for.

Herb and Dorothy: DVD Review

Herb and Dorothy: DVD Review

Herb And Dorothy
Rating: G
Released by Madman Entertainment
If you like art you'll love this.
Herb and Dorothy is the tale of two art lovers in New York who shaped a generation and managed to amass one of the most encompassing contemporary art collections.
Cameras follow the Vogels as we see them tour gallery openings, attend launches of artists and talk to the artists whom the Vogels championed and believed in right from the get go. We also trace their history of meeting, their courtship - and family's reaction to their collection which began to take over their Manhattan apartment.
It's an interesting tale as it traces their interest in conceptual and minimalist art - and shows how passion can eclipse anything else.
The pair are likeable and lovable - and you'll be seriously impressed with Herb's eye for what makes or breaks a collection. But what truly emerges is a couple whose love for each other and whose shared passion has created such an amazing collection and insight into how a movement began.
Although it has to be admitted for those who're not in the know about art, you probably won't change your mind - although listening to the various artists talk about how the Vogel's love for their work made such a difference, you'll be glad someone knows how to champion a cause very early on.
Extras: Trailer and deleted scenes make up the package - but there's very little else to say or add from what's on the screen.

Rating: 6/10

Dr Who: Space Museum/Chase DVD Review

Dr Who: Space Museum/Chase DVD Review

Dr Who - The Space Museum/ The Chase

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow Home Entertainment

It's back to 1965 and the very first Doctor in this double release set which continues to see Classic Dr Who released on DVD.

In The Space Museum,a vast museum of relics - along with their own future selves - causes problems for the TARDIS crew and in The Chase, the Daleks once again return as they chase the time travellers through the vortex and stop at nothing in trying to exterminate their enemies.

How much you'll appreciate these releases depends on how much of a Who fan you are - and how far you're willing to suspend disbelief. With 60s Who, it's about forgetting we have great technology these days which brings the stories to life with effects - in "those days" it was about having this original show on TV the likes of which had never been seen before. Sure it's slightly slow and not as pacy as you'd like - but it's as inventive and imaginative as ever.

Extras: A great bunch once again off set any minor niggles with this release - a look at the departure of characters Barbara and Ian, a look at the appeal of the Daleks and a tribute to William Hartnell are just three of the plethora of features on the set.

Rating: 6/10

The Boys Are Back: DVD Review

The Boys Are Back: DVD Review

The Boys Are Back
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
From the Academy award nominated director of Shine, Scott Hicks comes this wonderfully underrated drama starring the ever suave Clive Owen.

Owen stars as Joe, a wise cracking sports journalist and absentee father (due to work) in south Australia.

He's got a pretty sweet life; a wife Katy (Laura Fraser) whom he adores and a six year old Artie (a brilliant, crowd winning performance from Nicholas McAnulty) whose hedonistic enthusiasm for life keeps him on the move.

But when his wife suddenly dies, Joe finds himself having to run the house and is forced to reconnect with his son. That's not the half of it though - as his teenage son Harry (McKay) from his previous marriage is heading over from the UK to stay.

Suddenly Joe is facing responsibilities and emotions he'd long forgotten&

Based on the memoir by Simon Carr, The Boys Are Back was criminally ignored on its general release in cinemas. It is a sensitive look at a father's relationship with his sons, brilliantly handled by director Hicks and masterfully performed by McAnulty and Owen.

With its low key warmth and heart, as well as heartbreak, I think it's fair to say that you'll be hard pushed to find a more poignant film about the complicated relationship between a father and his son.

Extras: A Little lacking here - just deleted scenes and a photographic journey.

Rating: 8/10  

The Cake Eaters: DVD Review

The Cake Eaters: DVD Review

The Cake Eaters

Rating: M
Released by Arkles Entertainment

Kristen Stewart (sort of) sheds her Bella from Twilight image in this bittersweet story of love.

Set in small town America, Stewart plays Georgia, a teen with Freidreich's Ataxia, a progressive degenerative disease of the nervous system.

Georgia suffers with a slurred speech and a stuttering walk - but one day, while at a car boot sale, she meets Beagle (Aaron Stanford), the son of a local butcher. Beagle's family has been torn apart by their mother's death and his long errant brother has also just returned to town - to a wall of bitterness and anger at his absence during the family loss.

This quiet low key, character driven indie would probably have been consigned to TV movie status (and has sat on a shelf since 2007) were it not for Kristen Stewart and the Twilight mania. That said, while she does play a variation of the Bella character, Stewart shows what a talented actress she actually is.

Rating: 6/10

The Men Who Stare At Goats: Blu Ray Review

The Men Who Stare At Goats: Blu Ray Review

The Men Who Stare At Goats - Blu Ray
Rating: M
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Ewan McGregor stars as small town reporter Bob Wilton in this shaggy dog style story.

One day Wilton looks into the story of Gus Lacey who claims to have psychic abilities.

After dismissing the story, Bob finds he can't escape from the idea of the psychics - and despite being posted to Iraq, in the unlikeliest of circumstances, Bob comes across Lyn Cassady (a deadpan turn by George Clooney) who Lacey claimed was a major part of the operation.

With his journalistic nose well and truly piqued, Wilton follows the story having learned that Cassady was a "Jedi warrior" and part of a psychic unit started up by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges in Dude a la Lebowski mode).

The Men Who Stare At Goats is quite the loose comedy piece here and there with Clooney once again drawing on elements of his O Brother Where Art Thou goofiness - but honestly, it's really all in the script for this.
The Men Who Stare At Goats' ending comes a little unravelled (and the final scene is a bit of a disappointment) the journey is a scarily funny one with some great one liners, hysterically odd situations and moments where you actually question what you've just witnessed and whether it was based on some grain of truth.
Extras: Commentary with author Jon Ronson, director Grant Heslov and deleted scenes - as well as exclusive to Blu Ray featurette on the goats.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Lake Mungo: DVD Review

Lake Mungo: DVD Review

Lake Mungo
Rating: M
Released by Madman
A doco style horror, Lake Mungo is an Aussie film about a sixteen year old girl Alice Palmer who drowns in the local dam.
Initially the family's overcome by the tragedy after her body's discovered - but then they start to see visions of Alice in the house - and in photos and videos.
Calling in a parapsychologist, the Palmer family begins further investigations&.however, that's when the true reality starts to come to light.
You really need to see this film before the team behind the Ring horror series get their hands on it - it's moody, evocative, creepy and disturbing. Cleverly put together, the doco style helps lend a sense of verite to the events unfolding in front of you on the screen - and the fact it's wonderfully understated and underplayed will give you goosebumps.
It's hard to talk about this without spoiling it - and to talk of spoilers is to build a mystique which isn't perhaps there.
Suffice to say this is an effective supernatural onion of an eerie film - as the layers gradually unpeel, there are some real jolts and surprises as the twists are unveiled. It's also just the right length - which seems like an odd thing to say but any further prolonging of events could put you off.
Recommended - and you may feel a little unsettled afterwards....
Extras: Deleted scenes, commentary and trailer.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? DVD Review

Who Do You Think You Are? DVD Review

Who Do You Think You Are?
Series 1 - 4
Released by Madman
With nearly 30 hours worth of television, this is some in depth set.
It's the UK series which started the ball rolling - and preceded the explosive boom interest in discovering more about one's roots. (Certainly in my parents anyway)
It's a very simple premise - grab a celebrity and get them to do some basic genealogy and discover something of their history - then film the results as they find out something they hadn't really been expecting or anticipated.
The end result is compelling television - with a raft of celebs including the likes of Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson, Stephen Fry and Jeremy Irons to name but a few, there's plenty of people from all different walks of fame.
But what the series indicates is that all of us are linked in inextricable ways to our past - in Jeremy Clarkson's case, what he found out was a real shock. Thanks to the smart way this is made, it's never intrusive and is appealing that the celebs open themselves up so much to the cameras.
Extras: Basics really - some unseen footage - and a piece giving the basics on how to research your family - there's nothing earth shattering on this but the shows are enough to keep you entertained and informed - as well as intellectually stimulated.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 9 August 2010

Law Abiding Citizen: DVD Review

Law Abiding Citizen: DVD Review

Law Abiding Citizen
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: R18
Gerard Butler stars as Clyde Shelton - in front of his eyes one day, his wife and daughter are brutally killed in a home invasion.
Shelton survives but when it comes to trying the case, a hotshot lawyer Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) manages to get the one who stabbed him and his wife off - because he persuades him to testify against his accomplice.
Ten years go past - and suddenly Shelton is confessing to the murder of the one who got away&.and things get worse for Rice when Shelton's imprisoned but people involved in the case end up dead.
Suddenly the killings are so close to home - and the clock is ticking for Rice.

How far would you go to avenge your family's death? Well for Butler it's about as far as he's ever gone before - he's quite terrifying in his change from household man to psycho raging against the justice system.
There's a smart premise here that one man wants to bring down the corrupt system - there's some taut action scenes and a vein of tension pumping throughout this - coupled with the good solid central performances of Foxx and Butler, and this is a watchable - but disposable piece of Friday night entertainment - things blow up, explode - the usual fare.

Extras: Behind the scenes docos and trailer - as well as producers commentary - nothing outstanding but solid for the release

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Green Zone: Blu Ray Review

Green Zone: Blu Ray Review

Green Zone

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Pictures

The team behind the successful run of Bourne movies have reunited for this thriller set in Iraq after the 2003 war.

Matt Damon is Captain Roy Miller, who's in charge of the hunt for WMDs - but every lead they're following turns out to be a dud; each time they're sent in, there's absolutely no trace of anything.

So with suspicions aroused over duff intelligence, Miller starts to follow his own leads - and finds himself slap bang in the middle of a major conspiracy.

Matt Damon continues to push his image as the dependably stoic and intelligent everyman that has seen him become a big screen success; Green Zone itself is a conspiracy thriller which takes a little while to unravel but if you have your wits about you, you can see where it's going - and how it will end.

Overall it's a solid thriller with some great set pieces and a certain level of tension - once again, it's another good performance into Matt Damon's career.

Extras: Behind the scenes, commentary with director Greengrass and Damon, docos on how the making and how Damon prepared - a good solid bunch.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 6 August 2010

Remember Me: Blu Ray Review

Remember Me: Blu Ray Review

Remember Me

Rating: M
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

R Patz aka Robert Pattinson returns to the screen in this romantic drama.

He's Tyler, a rebellious student in New York in 2001, who's got a strained relationship with his lawyer dad (an aloof and emotionally hard Pierce Brosnan) ever since his brother committed suicide.

Tyler is a bit of a closed book drifter, a one night stands kind of guy who won't emotionally open up - but that all changes when a twist of fate brings him to Ally (Lost's Emilie de Ravin).

Ally too is emotionally damaged - having seen her mom murdered on the subway when she was 11, she isn't initially too keen to let Tyler into her life.

But the pair's paths are intertwined and fate has a way of playing these things out&

Sure, the story may be the usual tale of brooding teen love but thanks to pitch perfect performances from Pattinson and De Ravin along with the rich ending of Remember Me which emotionally shocks you by knocking the wind out of your cinematic sails, this is quite the surprise - it's unexpected, powerful and may well leave you agog.

Extras: Cast and directors commentary plus a making of.

Rating: 7/10

Toy Story 1&2: Blu Ray Review

Toy Story 1&2: Blu Ray Review

Toy Story 1 and 2 - Blu Ray/ DVD Releases

Rating: G
Released by Disney

The claw, the aliens, Jesse, Prospector, Al's Toy Barn, Randy Newman's "You've Got A Friend in Me"; there's so much to remember and love from the Toy Story series.

The story of Tom Hanks' Woody, the lovable cowboy toy, so beloved by his owner and his friendship and rivalry with Tim Allen's space age toy Buzz Lightyear have thrilled generations of kids - both young and old.

These rereleases on Blu Ray are definitive - both the stories and a whole wealth of extras make for essential viewing - and a chance to lose yourself completely in the toy world.

While it's great to see Toy Story again, personally, it's Toy Story 2 which soars - I'd forgotten how close to tears the story of Woody finding his compadres Jesse, Bullseye and the Prospector brought me. There's humour aplenty in the first film but there's a confidence in Toy Story 2 that eclipses the animation and gives it a humanity which is hard to resist.

Extras: Wondrous entertainment for all the family - and all new special features ensure these releases don't feel like rip offs.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Step Up 3D: Movie Review

Step Up 3D: Movie Review

Step Up 3D
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Rick Malambri, Adam G Sevani, Sharni Vinson
Director: Jon Chu
So it's back to the heady world of street dance for a third time.
This time we're back in Nooo Yoik, with Adam G Sevani's Moose about to start college - Moose, a nerdyish kind of kid who reminds you of Bruno from the original Fame because of the curls...well, that and the dancing.
Moose is going to college to study engineering - but his heart's really in the street dance. When he finds himself slap bang in the middle of a dance off during orientation he catches the eye of Rick Malambri's Luke, a chiseled chinned wonder who's like the foster dad to the street dance community.
You see, Luke's parents used to be dancers - and Luke carried on their dream by opening a club and training ground for his street crew The Pirates and generally nurturing the dancing talent in the city.
Unfortunately though, the bank's about to foreclose on the club and their only shot at survival is to win the World Jam Championships and take on their arch rivals The Golden Samurai.
Throw into that teen mix, the arrival of dancer Natalie (Home and Away's Sharni Vinson) who catches Luke's eye but harbours a terrible secret - and the showdown's set.
Look, Step Up 3D is clichéd, full of quite frankly terrible dialogue (You were born to dance is just one of the clunkers) and twists that you can see coming a mile off.
The characters are relatively 2D and have a penchant for at times seeming wooden - but let's be brutally honest, a film like this isn't about the plot - or even the acting.
That's simply secondary to the dance sequences themselves - and the majority of the film segueways from one heavily choreographed dance section into another.
The 3D brings some of those sections to life (although you can already envisage how it'll be used - a hat flies in the air) and while some of them are impressive -particularly the final dance off section - they feel a little too heavily choreographed and just didn't engage me. That's not to knock the commitment and passion of the cast while they're dancing - they give 110% in the dancing stakes.
Some of that I think could be the age difference - I'm clearly never going to be a B Boy busting out some phat moves in a dance crew showdown.
Though it has to be admitted that there will be certain sections of the teen audience which will lap this up and want to head home to copy da movez.

Ultimately the 3D element in this Step Up is a little wasted and doesn't really bring much to the genre - but your teens will adore it and may well be inspired by it all.

Soul Kitchen: Movie Review

Soul Kitchen: Movie Review

Soul Kitchen
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu
Director: Faith Akin
Winner of the Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2009, Soul Kitchen is the tale of Zinos (Bousdoukos) a German restauranteur whose life is at a crossroads.
His girlfriend Nadine is about to fly to Shanghai for a job, his ex con brother Ilias (Bleibtreu) is on parole and his Hamburg hangar based restaurant, The Soul Kitchen is facing a crisis with a lack of patrons.
One day Zinos hires a new chef - and despite the initial frostiness towards the cordon bleu chef's offerings, somehow the kitchen manages to take off and become the hip centre of town.
But when Zinos' back gives out, he realizes he has to try and heal his broken heart and head to Shanghai. So he leaves the restaurant with Ilias - and that's when everything starts to go wrong.
Soul Kitchen is a vibrant comic film with a bustling cool soundtrack (it's got one of the best opening scenes I've seen in a long time in terms of hooking you in and getting you grooving)- it's also possibly one of the most over the top pieces of cinema I've seen in a while, thanks in part to the apparent overacting of Bousdoukos at odd moments.
Yet it is a great performance from him - he really anchors the whole drama/comedy and the shambolic relationships of those around him.
It's really about the importance of family and home - for Zinos, his family is at the Soul Kitchen (although he doesn't realize it) and the collection of oddballs who come and go during all hours.

There's screwball moments, warmth and heart in this kitchen - and the final result is somewhat of a crazy yet very digestible and insanely enjoyable mix.

Precious: DVD Review

Precious: DVD Review

Precious

Rating: R16
Released by Warner Home Video and Icon Entertainment

Precious stars Gabourey Sidibe as Claireece Precious Jones, an overweight, illiterate 16 year old girl in New York's Harlem.

Verbally, mentally and physically abused by her mother on a regular basis and sexually abused by her father, Precious does what she can to get by.

However, she's kicked out of school when it's discovered that she's pregnant for a second time - and is given the chance to enroll in a special school, Each One Teach One, run by Miss Blu Rain (Paula Patton).

Can Precious turn her life around?

Precious took 2 Oscars and it's not hard to see why such a tale struck a chord with the Academy - but honestly this remains a difficult watch the second time around. It's not because of the acting - Sidibe's towering performance as Precious commands your attention - as does Mo'Nique's horrifying abuser - but it's the real life content which makes it such a hard film.

It's supposed to be inspiring but I just felt grateful I don't have such adversity in my life -then again maybe that's the message it wants to get across in this film which has become such a passion project for those involved.

Extras: Audio commentary with director, featurettes on the cast and the film being made as well as a nod to Oprah Winfrey who was such a champion of this film getting out there.

Rating: 6/10 

The Hurt Locker: DVD Review

The Hurt Locker: DVD Review

The Hurt Locker
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

The soaraway winner at this year's Oscar ceremony, The Hurt Locker is finally on DVD.

It's the story of a team of bomb disposal team in Iraq whose lives are put in constant jeopardy on a daily basis - and is based on freelance journalist Mark Boal's accounts of when he was embedded with an American bomb squad.

Relative unknown Jeremy Renner plays Sergeant First Class William James, who's brought in as the leader of the Explosives Ordnance Disposal Unit which heads to just about every perilous situation on the streets of Iraq, never knowing if this is the moment their lives will be forfeit.

But James is an adrenalin junkie who only knows how to get by with the thrill of the unknown on the streets - and soon, his squad starts to wonder if they'll survive with this new guy at the helm.

Simply brilliant, The Hurt Locker is tense, thrilling and captivating from the very first moment - you're never sure who will survive this game of cat and mouse and who will not walk away.

As I remarked when I saw it at the cinema, this is emotionally gripping, viscerally thrilling, and an edge of your seat powderkeg of tension - and more so, The Hurt Locker remains one of the best films of the year.

Extras: An exclusive to DVD commentary with director Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal as well as a featurette.

Rating: 9/10