Friday, 26 November 2010

The American: Movie Review

The American: Movie Review

The American
Rating: 8/10
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido
Director: Anton Corbijn
With U2 in town it seems a good time to release a film from the band's visual director of their output. (Although I'm sure that's just a coincidence.)
Oh, and it has swooney George Clooney too.
Clooney stars as Jack, an assassin, who's been ordered to lie low in Italy after his cover in Sweden is blown, resulting in a bloodbath.
While there he befriends an elderly priest, falls for a prostitute Clara (Violante Placido) and takes on one last job.
However, the demons of the past are catching up with him...
The American is deceptive.
With a restrained performance from Clooney, it's hard to root for this assassin as we learn very little about him - many shots are of him constructing a gun or merely going about his day to day business while waiting for the storm to blow over.
But it's a good solid turn from Clooney which sees you sucked in very early on.
The film itself is typical Anton Corbijn; beautifully shot (the Italian locations are stunning and mesmerising), there's little action throughout. Yet it's that hypnotic touch and slow burning pace which sees you gripped - right from the initial opening which delivers a sucker punch to your gut right from the get go.
There's tension as you wait for the inevitable explosion as the mistrust, betrayal and fear spills over - but Corbijn masterfully delays all that and confounds your expectation if you're expecting a film chock full of action and explosion.

And that's why it's such a success; it's a gradually building, well acted and restrained drama which has you in its vice like grip as the final moments play out.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Let Me In: Movie Review

Let Me In: Movie Review

Let Me In
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkin, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Elias Koteas
Director: Matt Reeves
From the director of Cloverfield comes a shot-for-shot remake of the perfect Swedish vampire/horror film, Let The Right One In.
It's 1980s New Mexico: Smit-McPhee, fresh from surviving the apocalypse in The Road , plays 12-year-old Owen. His parents are on the verge of divorcing and his school life is hell, thanks to daily bullying. He's pretty much your archetypal loner kid who just can't seem to connect with anyone (through no fault of his own).
At the same time as Owen's trying to make his way through a miserable existence, police are hunting an apparent ritualistic murderer who drains victims of their blood. They're at a loss to work out why the victims are targeted and what the motive is.
One day in a snowy courtyard, Owen meets Abby ( Kickass's Chloe Moretz), an apparent kindred soul who, despite initially bonding with Owen, warns him they can't be friends.
But against the grain, the two become friends - Owen drawing strength from Abby, and Abby benefiting from the daily contact with someone her same age.
However, their two worlds are threatened when Abby's truth is revealed ... and what's inside her threatens to boil over.
Let Me In is a superior horror and, quite frankly, given the source material it was taken from, there really is nothing else it could be.
Purists who've seen the Swedish masterpiece will notice how 95 per cent of the film is just reshot from the original and it's simply the location which has been changed.
Yet, that's unfair to simply dismiss Matt Reeves' version. Let Me In works brilliantly because of the three main characters, all of whom put in textured, layered and tender performances. Richard Jenkin proves once again he can't put a foot wrong - his role as Abby's protector is filled with sadness at the horror of the situation he lives in - and his final scenes with Abby are haunting and emotionally charged.
Moretz and Smit-McPhee are also brilliant in their roles; these are clearly young talents with bright, varied futures ahead of them. Their director's got the best out of them with subtle performances that reek of tenderness, desperation and humanity.
Plus, when Abby attacks, the feral snarling speed and ferocity with which she does so, is shocking. These are vampires as creatures of necessity and with a parasitic nature, as opposed to the twinkling love-moping vamps of the Twilight Saga. (Don't forget all your latest Twilight Saga news is right here for you)
Sure, film snobs will claim the original is best (and maybe they have a point) but this Americanised version is to be commended for ensuring more people see the story - and it's worth seeing for the scene with the car chase. While that wasn't in the source material, the moment when the car flips is perhaps one of the most original and well shot scenes I've seen in a long time.

Director Reeves also deserves credit - while he's not exactly done anything to improve the original, he should be applauded for remaking a film which is respectful to the original and faithful as well. The atmosphere is haunting, melancholy and sobre (complemented by Michael Giacchino's evocative score, which seems lifted from TV series Lost at times) and the overall result - an intelligent and expertly crafted film - is bound to stay with you long after you've left the cinema.

Due Date: Movie Review

Due Date: Movie Review

Due Date
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride, Juliette Lewis, Sunny the Dog
Director: Todd Phillips
From the director of The Hangover comes this new road trip film.
Robert Downey Jr is Peter Highman, an uptight businessman and father to be who just wants to get home to his wife who's about to give birth to their first child.
But his chances of doing so are ruined when he bumps into Zach Galifianakis' aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay. Within minutes of meeting, Peter's been arrested at the airport on suspicion of drug-smuggling - and then thrown on the no-fly list after a misunderstanding leads him to be considered a terrorist.
In each case, Ethan's nearby; so, when Peter finds he has no wallet, no passport and no hope of getting home in time for the birth, he has no choice but to accept Ethan's offer to road trip across America.
But the real problem is that every time Ethan opens his mouth, Peter's blood pressure rises and he edges ever closer to a breakdown - and his life falling apart.
So the road trip flick is rolled out once again and, this time, with some extremely funny moments.
The pair have an abrasive relationship that works well on the big screen - Downey Jr continues his star career by managing to imbue his uptight daddy-to-be with a few tender moments; and Zach Galifianakis continues to rock the deadpan humour he's becoming so well know for.
Everyone else in the film is pretty much reduced to cameos as the unconventional duo head out on the road - the best of them is Danny McBride (but to say much about that would spoil it).
There are plenty of comic situations which are mined for the best effect possible - and the audience will love them because of their unexpected nature. The script is also snappy and smart, with some frankly ludicrous moments that work because they don't feel out of place or shoehorned in.

Due Date is going to work best for you if it's an end-of-night treat with a few of the lads - the two leads are engaging, there's some hilariously unexpected dialogue (which you'll be quoting for days afterwards) and it's one of those popcorn good night out kind of films. It's also like a road trip in many ways - there are some good moments and there's also the moments where you wonder: "Are we there yet?"

Machete: Movie Review

Machete: Movie Review

Machete
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin, Robert deNiro

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Spun off from a fake trailer housed inside the Grindhouse films from a couple of years back, Machete is a bloody, gory, violent, funny exploitation pic.
The rugged craggy, scar-faced Trejo plays Machete, a Federal agent who's betrayed at the start of the film by Torrez (Seagal), because Machete won't do the honourable thing and take a bribe.
But that's not enough for Torrez - he slaughters Machete's family in front of him.
Vowing revenge, Machete (somehow - and unsurprisingly) escapes and is seen three years later working at a the US border with Mexico, doing whatever he can to get by.
However, Jeff Fahey's bearded Booth one day offers him $150,000 to shoot Senator McLaughlin (De Niro), who's campaigning on the re-election trail under the ticket of shutting down the Mexican border and getting rid of the illegal immigrants.
Things get worse for Machete when he's betrayed by Booth and finds himself on the run from the would-be assassins and Jessica Alba's Agent Sartana - can he clear his name and save the day?
Ok, you're not going to go to Machete for indepth dialogue, devastating discussion about immigration and deep characterisation - on the contrary, this is a film developed from a fake trailer in the Grindhouse films from the likes of Tarantino and Rodriguez.
It's sleazy, it's violent, it's exploitative - and above all, it's just a good night out for the lads.
The pulpy feel of the film is set before the opening credits have even begun: with a sneering Trejo, Machete is a killing machine, using a 360-degree spin to massacre and behead a room full of bad guys; the opening says it all.
But it's also funny - it's clearly from a team who understand and deeply love the genre. There's no sign of parody and Trejo gives it a deep intensity and his all to a character who says little, apart from lines such as "Machete don't text".
All of the supporting cast are good and are clearly relishing their roles, and Rodriguez has done a frenetic job of editing the whole thing together within the confines of the genre, and with some great sound effects, it's a bloody mess (in the best possible way.) Add in a blistering soundtrack and you've got the makings of a good time out.

Don't expect much out of Machete - head to it after a few drinks and with some of the lads; that way you'll have a blast.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Movie Review

The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Movie Review

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Rating: 6/10

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan

Director: J Blakeson
A kidnap drama, British flick The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a tautly told tale.
As the film opens, two nondescript men (Compston and Marsan) are stealing a van, visiting a DIY shop and soundproofing a dingy apartment.
Hardly a word is spoken between them; but moments later, the reason for their endeavour is apparent when the screaming of a woman's heard.
That woman is Alice Creed (Arterton); her father is rich and the two believe that kidnapping her will garner them the cash they need to live the life of Riley.
But once Creed is locked in the apartment and the ransom demand is made, cracks start to develop all round - and it's not clear that the kidnappers' plans will go how they want.
It's difficult to fully explain Alice Creed without revealing some of the surprises that pepper it throughout and help steer it away from simply being another run of the mill drama.
With betrayals, surprises, tension and shocks, the whole thing though is a piece of twisty (and at times, twisted) film making. However, it is also a breath of fresh air as it simply involves a trio of actors and very little else. That leads to a feeling you're watching a play unfolding - but that does nothing to detract from the drama within.
It's a well-acted taut piece which keeps you guessing to the end; but it's Arterton and Marsan who really impress by bringing their A game to the piece and keep the whole thing moving along with pace and tension.
Sadly though, after about an hour, there's a dramatic lull and with most of the surprises and shock twists revealed, it makes the final thirty minutes seem a little leaden as it lurches toward its conclusion.

If you want to see stripped back film-making where the script is the star, delivered by power performances, then The Disappearance of Alice Creed is for you; it's just a shame that the story runs a little foul of itself towards the end.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Dr Who - The Complete Specials: DVD Review

Dr Who - The Complete Specials: DVD Review

Doctor Who - The Complete Specials
Released by BBC and Roadshow
Rating: PG
So it's farewell to the best Doctor Who of recent years - 10th Doctor David Tennant.
Sure, we're into the Matt Smith years now but this collection of the special feature length episodes from Tennant's final days in the TARDIS is a welcome reminder of how iconic this man made the role.
Collecting together all five specials (The Next Doctor, Planet of The Dead, The Waters of Mars and The End of Time) this set is really for the collectors as the casual fan probably already has all of these separate releases.
While the first two specials are a little varying in quality, the final three episodes really ramp up the quality and the dramatic stakes as the end nears, not only for the Doctor but for the production team which brought the series back in 2005.
Packed with extras (the majority of which have already been released on the previous releases) this set is a nice collection - but the piece de resistance is the intro to the booklet which accompanies the set.
It's written by life long Dr Who fan David Tennant to his younger self and is sweet, touching and demonstrates why the fans of this series love it so much - it really shows that the series lost a true star.
Extras: Commentaries, behind the scenes docos, Dr Who At the proms - there's plenty here but sadly nothing which hasn't already been released.

Rating: 8/10

Dr Who: The Cybermen Set: DVD Review

Dr Who: The Cybermen Set: DVD Review

Dr Who - The Cybermen Set
Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: PG
This set collects together two outings for the Cybermen - one from the 70s where they face off against the eternally popular Tom Baker's Doctor Who and one from the 80s where they face Sylvester McCoy's Doctor Who.
They're opposing serials in terms of engagement; the Tom Baker's Revenge of the Cybermen serial shows a production team trying to make the best of location and script (and largely succeeding) whereas Sylvester McCoy's Silver Nemesis is from a series which was struggling with a lack of money and faith from the BBC. It makes them different watching experiences but they're still watchable fare.
However, the best part of this double release set are the extras; specifically the doco Cheques, Lies and Videotapes. This fascinating piece looks at the lengths fans would go to to get their hands on episodes of the series in the days pre-monthly DVD releases - it shows how fans would pay extortionate amounts for anything repeated fare from the Doctor. As well as the usual commentaries and docos, this is once again a superlative release on the extras front.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 15 November 2010

Modern Family: Series One: DVD Review

Modern Family: Series One: DVD Review

Modern Family Season One
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
It's rare for a comedy to show up these days which amuses on a consistent scale.
However, Emmy award winning Modern Family is that comedy series - it appeared last year and became a firm favourite with critics as well as punters.
A faux documentary style show, it centres on three portions of the modern family - a father (Married With Children's Ed O'Neill) and his younger Colombian wife (Sofia Vergara) and her son Manny; his daughter (Julie Bowen) and her family of 2 girls and one boy - she's married to the ineptly loveable Phil - and the final generation is his gay son Mitchell and partner, the ever flamboyant Cam.
It sounds as if it would be terrible but the tone's set with an excellent first episode which brilliantly introduces all the characters and sets the high level for the funny script - for example Dad Phil is trying to show how in touch he is with his kids' slang and misunderstands WTF, believing it stands for Why The Face.
Modern Family is blessed by a great ensemble cast, fantastically funny scripts and heart and humour throughout - it's difficult to pick out a stand out moment when there's so many to pick from. Trust me, this show won't disappoint - and for once it's a family comedy which has universal appeal.
Extras: Extended, deleted scenes, gag reels, family interviews which were cut from the show - a good solid bunch for a great series which will entertain time and time again.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 11 November 2010

OSS117: Lost In Rio: DVD Review

OSS117: Lost In Rio: DVD Review

OSS 117 Lost In Rio

Rating: M
Released by Madman Entertainment

Sure the spy spoof genre's been done to death but OSS117, the latest entry-sacre bleu, a Frenchie- is pretty damn good.

Actor Jean Dujardin is Hubert de la Bath, a post war spy, who's part racist, part sexist and all funny - he even resembles a French version of Sean Connery- it's 1967 and despatched to Brazil to retrieve a microfilm, de la Bath ends up in a series of (mis)adventures which appear to channel Clouseau at times and which show he's a relic of a world gone by. However, whereas this could lapse so far into parody, it consciously stays away from that and lets the sheer nincompoopery of its agent showcase the comedy.

It's a bucketload of fun, complete with Brazilian bikini babes, a blistering Bossanova soundtrack, devilish Chinamen (as he calls them) Saul Bass style film-making and a stellar performance from dujardin.

I hope pretty soon we get to spend more time with Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath - because the whole film is a joyous spoofy romp -and far superior to Austin Powers

Extras: Outtakes, Deleted scenes, Making of, Trailer

Rating: 7/10

Donnie Darko: Blu Ray Review

Donnie Darko: Blu Ray Review

Donnie Darko Ultimate 2 Disc Blu Ray collection
Rating: M
Released by Madman

So another release for the excellent Donnie Darko - this time on Blu Ray Disc and with a heap of extras.
One disc has the original cut of the film and the second has the director's cut - for those who've not seen the film which had a breakthrough performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and a career best from Patrick Swayze, you really need to take a look.
Gyllenhaal is Donnie Darko, a troubled teen who becomes delusional and paranoid that the world will end in 28 days. But that's not the half of it - when he starts seeing a large rabbit his actions become more irrational as the end of the world nears.
Donnie Darko was director Richard Kelly's debut and what a scorching film to have graced celluloid - dark, moody and magnificent mixing scifi, horror and time travel, it still remains one of the best films ever. The transfer to Blu Ray gives it a superior look and really, you should take the time to view it - if only to see what the fuss is all about.
Extras: Commentaries, two cuts of the film, galleries, additional scenes - there's a lot to get your teeth into here.

Rating: 8/10

The Social Network: Movie Review

The Social Network: Movie Review

The Social Network
Rating: 9/10
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara
Director: David Fincher
Facebook - Like or dislike, it's part of our daily lives now on a massive scale.
So perhaps it was inevitable that Hollywood would turn its attention to this phenom, and now here it is.
The great Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg as we dive back to the heady days of the 2003 Harvard scene - as the film opens the obnoxious and arrogant Zuckerberg is being dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara - soon to be seen in the Millennium Trilogy remakes as Lisbeth Salander).
Angered by his treatment, he heads back to his college room and starts to use the internet to vent his spleen, before deciding on hacking into the Harvard mainframe so that he can set up a Harvard college-based 'Hot or Not' website to get back at the campus women.
Pretty soon, his site goes viral and causes the campus to crash - and this brings him to the attention of not only security and the admin board on campus, but also to the attention of a pair of Harvard twins, the Winkelvosses, who are working on a site idea called The Harvard Connection.
While Zuckerberg initially seems keen on the idea, he soon apparently uses the basis of that proposal to found a site, thefacebook, with business partner and long-term friend Eduardo Saverin (Spiderman's new webslinger Andrew Garfield).
However, when thefacebook gets bigger and the co-founder of Napster Sean Parker (a great turn by Justin Timberlake) gets on board to try and help spread the word, it all begins to go wrong for Zuckerberg, as blind ambition clouds his judgement.
The Social Network is written by the West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin - and you know it from the moment the film opens.
With a sensationally wordy and intelligent opening, every character flaw of Zuckerberg is laid bare - his snobbishness, his petulance, his arrogance (as his ex tells him, "People will hate you but it's not because you're a nerd, it's because you're an asshole") are there for all to witness.
The whole film's framed around two legal cases - one brought by Saverin and the other brought by the Winklevoss Twins - and the narrative zips back and forth to both cases and the founding of Facebook.
Director David Fincher does a great job of pulling the various threads together and a blistering soundtrack from Trent Reznor keeps the whole thing pumping.

Sure, there are a couple of lulls in energy here and there (after some two hours you'd expect some kind of dip), but with a excellently written and tautly pulled together (and occasionally witty) script combined with an absolutely mesmerising turn from Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network is simply unmissable and the film for the web generation.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Show Me Shorts: Film Festival Review

Show Me Shorts: Film Festival Review

Show Me Shorts Festival
Back for another year and as the tag line this year goes : Back for a good time, not a long time, the Show Me Shorts Festival is in rude health once again.
With a plethora of shorts and genres to choose from, there's something for everyone again this year.
Here's a handful of reviews of what's on offer at the nationwide festival:
Oscar's First Kiss - a sweet short tale of mistaken identity on an Aussie bus. Flighty and flirtatious, this piece is all about the close ups and the problem of dodging someone you don't want to know on a bus-even if they claim they know you. Stolen coy glances are mixed up with someone channeling their inner Mick Jagger.
Double Happy - a tale of innocence lost and shocking moments, Double Happy is the story of Rory and how hanging out with friends and a potential love interest changes his life forever. With some affecting dialogue and some nice touches (and a novel use for a Polaroid camera) this mini drama easily shocks by the end.
The North Pole Deception sees the workshop conditions of the elves at the North Pole blown apart. Filmed in a doco and interview style, the crude plasticine animation may lack aesthetically but a clever script certainly brings the cruelty into the yuletide season. And the final shot and use of candy canes is perhaps one of the cleverest I've seen in a while.
This Is Her - quite simply, this tale from writer Kate McDermott is one of the best short films I've seen for a long, long time. Beginning with our protagonist Evie giving birth, the voiceover wrong foots you from the moment it starts. Clever, witty and genius in scope, this intriguing film catches you right from the get go. Simply brilliant - and without wanting to be mean, I wouldn't want to tell you anything about it so you can marvel at the surprise that smacks you straight across the face within seconds. Highly recommended.

Show Me Shorts Film Festival continues nationwide.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street: DVD Review

Nightmare on Elm Street: DVD Review

Nightmare on Elm Street

Rating: R16
Released by Warner Home Video

Freddy's back for a new generation.

In this reimagining of the once popular Elm Street series, the teens of a small American town are dozing off - and being plagued by visions of a man in a red and black striped jumper and with a burned face.

After a series of deaths, one of them, Nancy (Rooney Mara) along with her friend Quentin (Kyle Gallner) try to work out why they're being tormented - and how to stop Freddy (Watchmen's Jackie Earle Haley) from killing them all.

It's always going to be difficult to redo the iconic 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street - that was always one which defined a generation of horrors and had a major impact on the genre.

So it's not that the team behind this one doesn't try - they do and the successful updating finds Freddy Krueger given more of a sinister backstory which is more relevant and shocking to our times and sensitivities.

The cast do okay with their roles; they're all fairly disposable and the relative lack of big names (outside of genre TV shows) means you're not quite sure who's going to make it to the end.

I'm not sure though that this Freddy has power to sustain a series of sequels which the original did.

Extras: Go behind the scenes of how the team reinvented Freddy Krueger for a new generation

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Micmacs: DVD Review

Micmacs: DVD Review

Micmacs

Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment
Rating: M


For those who know their French films will be familiar with director Jean Pierre Jeunet; he brought us the wonderful Delicatessen and the nightmarish City of Lost Children.

In French film, Micmacs, Danny Boon plays Bazil, who, as a boy lost his father to a landmine explosion - and who in later life, is shot in the head while witnessing a robbery and minding his own business.

After recovering, Bazil finds himself homeless and (understandably) bearing somewhat of a grudge against the weapons manufacturers who had a hand in these key moments of his life

So when he's taken in by a bunch of homeless people, and galvanised into action, Bazil sets about manufacturing the downfall of those who've wronged him.

MicMacs is a slight premise strung together by some wonderfully whimsical moments - but it's a seriously loveable surreal collection of cinematic images. Jeunet's always had the eye towards a What The? moment and this latest film doesn't disappoint.

Rating: 7/10 

I Love You Too: DVD Review

I Love You Too: DVD Review

I Love You Too
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Rove sidekick Peter Helliar heads to the big screen with this rom com about Brendan Cowell's Jim who after three and a half years is unable to tell his girlfriend Alice (Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski) that he loves her.
You see Jim's a manchild - he lives in a granny flat at the back of his sister's place and works as a driver at a miniature railway. He's not exactly adult material.
But when Alice decides enough's enough and that it's time to head back to the UK, Jim's dumped - and it's at that point he realizes he has to do something.
And here's where his path crosses with Peter Dinklage's Charlie who tries to help him get her back.
I Love You Too is a fairly amiable buddy movie - it's not wildly original in terms of story (in fact the manchild act's been mined a fair bit this year) but it's actually quite touching and funny in places.
A lot of that is down to Peter Helliar's larrikin ways and deadpan humour - as writer and coproducer he's given his character Blake some of the best lines and moments in the film.
Mind you the whole ensemble work well together and while the plot's not original, this is the kind of film you can put on and find some unexpected laughs.
Extras: commentaries with all the teams - both directing and acting talent, deleted scenes and a behind the scenes doco. Not a bad bunch overall.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Leap Year: DVD Review

Leap Year: DVD Review

Leap Year
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Amy Adams stars in this rom com about a girl Anna who's been with her boyfriend for some four years but still doesn't have the commitment she needs in the form of marriage.
So when she hears that he's off to Ireland for work and buoyed by the tale that on the leap year in Ireland women can propose to men, she decides to take the bull by the horns and seal the deal.
However, after a disastrous storm hits, she's diverted to the small Irish village of Dingle on the other side of the Emerald Isle - and enlisting the help of surly innkeeper Declan (Matthew Goode) she sets about achieving her dream.
Except wouldn't you know it, there's a spark between the two - which begins initially as antagonism and well, you can guess the rest.
Leap Year has been slammed by the Irish for its awful stereotyping of the island's villagers - here they're played as bumbling fools and surly characters so it's easy to see why the film got up their nose.
Also, it's not terribly funny - you can see the jokes (such as they are) coming a mile off and while it's not an original one, sometimes it's about the journey to the denouement.
And this one is about as much fun as pulling teeth. Goode mumbles a lot and Amy Adams just about rises out of the mire - but all in all, it's a real contender for the stinker of the year.
Extras: Trailer and deleted scenes.

Rating: 3/10

After The Waterfall: Movie Review

After The Waterfall: Movie Review

After The Waterfall
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Antony Starr, Sally Stockwell, Peter McCauley, Cohen Holloway
Director: Simone Horrocks
Written and directed by Horrocks and shot entirely around Piha, After the Waterfall stars Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr as John, a forest ranger.
John's life is one of always being there for his job and his mates, and in his wife's eyes that means he puts home life at the bottom of the rung. That's not to say he doesn't love them, however.
Things fall apart dramatically for the family when one day, under John's watchful eye out in the bush, his four-year-old daughter, Pearl, disappears.
As the search intensifies for Pearl, the cracks form in John's life; his wife leaves him and he inadvertently burns down the family home.
Cue three years later and John's still wallowing and stuck in the past - can he escape and start to live again?
This is a good film, excellently crafted by Simone Horrocks and with a great central performance of Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr (soon to be seen on TV ONE's Sunday Theatre production Spies and Lies) - his John is completely lost and in need of redemption. It's a character that so easily could be lost to simple moping, but Starr imbues the screen with a plausible presence.
Piha makes a great backdrop to the mental state of mind of Starr - and Horrocks mines the best of the landscape to set a good vibe for the film.
However, it's slightly let down by the portrayal of the best friend who betrays John - while his character's vulnerable, Cohen Holloway's not quite as strong as he should be and it detracts from the emotional impact. The film's also a little slow in terms of pacing - but the bubbling, underlying tension helps you delve deep into the characters' psyche and, if you're patient, you are rewarded.

After the Waterfall largely succeeds because of Starr's performance and the restraint shown by Horrocks - with a soundtrack that's so sparse it's all about the acting and atmosphere; but with a tremendous performance from Starr as the damaged man, it's something a little different in the cinema.

Jackass 3D: Movie Review

Jackass 3D: Movie Review

Jackass 3D
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve O, Wee Man, Chris Pontius
Director: Jeff Tremaine
There's a moment in Jackass 3D where one of the unlucky so and sos who subject themselves to all kinds of painful madness turns to the camera and says : "What are we doing here?" before the answer returns "Making a hit movie."
And that sort of sums up Jackass 3D - it's the same format as before; Johnny Knoxville and his gang of malicious miscreants inflict various forms of torture on each other for no other reason than it seemed a good idea at the time.
But, my goodness, in places, it's extremely funny.
There's no plot here - a series of skits, dares and moments are pushed together over the course of a 90 minute film. This time around the guys have gone for using a bit of 3D which serves only to demonstrate the pain level inflicted - and also to show facial contortions and how people's faces distort and jiggle when they're smacked about.
There's plenty of gross uses for the 3D in the film - and this isn't the forum to discuss various bodily functions and objects being used (not that I'm a prude I'll have you know) - but the best use of it comes right at the end when the gang is gathered together and a series of explosions ends the film. It's at this point the 3D really sings out and looks digitally stunning - rather than just stuff exploding and coming at you from the screen, the whole sequence springs vividly to life with depth and insanity sharing the celluloid brilliantly.
This film is frequently gross - think bums and air darts, portaloos and bungee ropes and you're starting to form an idea of how it'll all sit together. But yet, as I say in places, I just couldn't help laughing at the cojones (sometimes literally) on display and the minds that would come up with the various situations involved. From victims running a gauntlet of cattle prods and tasers to one annoying a ram with a horn and then running as the poor animal exacts its ramming revenge, there's all manner of bone crunching slow-mo replays and moments to enjoy. There's also plenty of dry retching involved when various parties are outgrossed by their own activities.
But the moment which works best for me is when one of the group finds the tables turned - however, I won't spoil that for you.
I guess what it comes down to with Jackass is how much you already like the format - and how much further you're willing to be grossed out.

This film's been a massive success in America - for certain sections of the audience, and with a few beers and a few of the lads, I reckon it's the perfect mixture of grossness, chutzpah from the team and impressive pranks which you're urged time and time again, not to try at home.

The Killer Inside Me: Movie Review

The Killer Inside Me: Movie Review

The Killer Inside Me
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Simon Baker
Director: Michael Winterbottom

A difficult watch to say the least, The Killer Inside Me (from acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom) is an adaptation of a Jim Thompson book about a sociopathic sheriff in 1950s Texas.

Casey Affleck plays said Sheriff Ford, who finds himself entangled in blackmail and extortion - as well as a torrid affair with prostitute Joyce (Jessica Alba) - and when things come to a head, boy, oh boy do they explode, as Ford discovers he's heading in deeper and deeper.

Things get worse for Sheriff Ford when The Mentalist's Simon Baker's character Howard Hendricks starts to investigate him (using very similar techniques to Patrick Jane as well) - and Ford finds he's in a real predicament.

This film, despite its slick 50s look and polished performances, is going to be steeped in controversy because of its violence- well, specifically its violence against the two women in Ford's life (both played wonderfully by Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson), which is shocking in the extreme.

While Affleck's performance is chilling and spot-on for a complete psychopath, it's a hard ask to watch a man who's meted out such violence as he has - audiences may find themselves split down the middle on this flick which has echoes of American Psycho (but none of the humour).

It's a shame because the film noir look works wonderfully and is evocative of '50s America and its seedy underbelly that breaks out from under the quiet veneer.

But The Killer Inside Me will polarise people because of its shocking violence, which actually leaves you numb and has led to accusations of the director being a misogynist, as the only violence towards men happens off screen, as opposed to the full glare of the women's demise.

It's gritty, dark, visceral, uncompromising and divisive cinema - so you have been warned.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Grand Designs: S7: DVD Review

Grand Designs: S7: DVD Review

Grand Designs Series Seven

Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment


Seven years on, Kevin McCloud continues to mine the series which has proved so popular with the masses.

The formula's simple - McCloud follows couples and families as they build their own home. It's usually a culmination of years of dreaming and planning - but is fraught with problems and cases of ambition getting ahead of reality.

This latest series collects seven planned builds - including a contemporary mansion, a Victorian folly and a home made from tyres.

With Kevin's easy charm and simplistic form of presenting, it continues to inform, entertain and inspire.

At the same time, Grand Designs Trade Secrets is released - a companion piece which gives tips and hints behind the scenes of the builds. It's a chance to go deeper into the builds and maybe indulge
your fantasies. This series has been released as a companion to Series Seven and will be a welcome release to fans of the genre, with a fascinatng look at the builds and some expert advice on hand, it'll further fuel the desire to get out and renovate.

Rating: 7/10

The A Team: Blu Ray Review

The A Team: Blu Ray Review

The A Team

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment


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 (Liam Neeson) enlisting the help of Face (Bradley Cooper), BA Baracus (Quinton Jackson) and Murdoch (Sharlto 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.

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.

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

Extras: Theme mash up montage - slightly odd and a little disappointing. The Blu Ray release is a better buy as it comes in an extended cut with behind the scenes content, inside the action doco, character chronicles, gag reel and deleted scenes (definitely worth the extra cash.)

Rating: 8/10

The Last Station: DVD Review

The Last Station: DVD Review

The Last Station
Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films


The Last Station is about Leo Tolstoy and the final year of his life.

As time begins to take its toll on Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), his fervent disciples, lead by Paul Giamatti's Vladimir Chertkov are trying desperately to get him to change his will to leave them everything.

That way, they can be guaranteed that his work survives.

However, one thing standing in their way - and with a fair degree of reason on her side - is his wife, Sofya (Helen Mirren).

Thrust into this stand off is a brand new secretary (James McAvoy) - even though he's a dedicated Tolstoyian, the secretary comes to question what's going on.

There's plenty to enjoy in The Last Station - thanks to a rich script and a beautifully shot story, you'll find yourself captivated by it all.

But it's the two lead actors who really take your breath away; it's clear to see why these two were lavished with Oscar nominations this year - and it's also a shame that they lost out. It's a marvellous towering performance from Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy himself and an even better performance from Helen Mirren as his wife Sofya.

Sadly the last half hour of the film feels a little drawn out - which is a shame as this is the emotional crux of the film and the pacing feels a bit off; perhaps that's because we're so spoilt early on with the mix of melodrama, politics, greed and wit.

Extras: Tribute to Christopher Plummer, Cast Interviews

Rating: 8/10

Winter's Bone: Movie Review

Winter's Bone: Movie Review

Winter's Bone
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garrett Dillahunt
Director: Debra Granik
It's being touted for Oscar success next year - and now Kiwi audiences get the chance to see Winter's Bone after its time with the New Zealand International Film Festival.
17 year old Ree (a career defining turn by Jennifer Lawrence) is the sole carer for her family; with a mentally ill mother and two kids, she's the rock of the family in the hillbilly mid-America homestead.
One day when the local sheriff (Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles' star Dillahunt) tells them their errant dad put their home up as bail and then skipped, Ree realizes he has to be found before they lose everything.
So in spite of massive opposition locally and from her father's brother, she's forced to begin a journey to find her pa and ensure the family doesn't get evicted.
However, little does she realize the path which she's embarked on.
Winter's Bone is one of those films which you'll sink into - or hate intensely. It's got a slow burning feel to it and is a piece of slow cinema.
Yet because of that Granik's crafted an absorbing film which is unflinching and, at times, harrowing - but somehow still manages to offer hope at its conclusion.
But the central performance by Jennifer Lawrence should be the sole reason to see this - her subtle and unshowy acting marks a star in the ascent. Her performance has already garnered acclaim on the festival circuit and is seeing her touted as a potential statue winner (or at the very least nominee) come the 2011 Academy Award season.

The film won't be for everyone - for some the pace will be offputting; but for those who like a mystery film with engrossing characters set in mid-America, Winter's Bone is worth seeking out.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Losers: DVD Review

The Losers: DVD Review

The Losers
Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

It's the adaptation of a DC Comics series.

A CIA black ops team led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Clay is left for dead during an operation in Bolivia.

But this team of five guys with names like Roque, Pooch, Jensen, Clay and Cougar are determined to fight back - and get Max the man who set up the team.

However, Max has bigger plans for world domination (when don't they?) and soon Clay and the gang are trapped, desperately trying to clear their names.

Along the way, they join forces with the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) who appears to have a grudge against Max too - but who's playing whom?

If The Losers sounds familiar, then that's probably because it is.

It's a similar plot to most other action thrillers and to be honest, there's nothing fabulously new to see here.

Trademark slow-mo action shots, things exploding, a hammy villain (yes Jason Patric I'm looking at you) and gratuitous long camera shots on the lead actress are all present and correct.

Also present is the continual cliché of what I like to term The A Team syndrome - which is where the good guys are seriously outnumbered by the bad guys, but it seems the villain's hired the worst shooters in the world as none of them can hit anything, regardless of how well stacked the odds are against the goodies.

But if you don't take the Losers too seriously, it's fairly good disposable fun.

Extras: Zoe Saldana talks about holding her own with the predominantly all male cast

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 1 November 2010

Winter In Wartime: DVD Review

Winter In Wartime: DVD Review

Winter In Wartime
Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

Set in the last winter of World War II, Nazi occupied Holland is under siege - both from the Germans and a blanket of snow.

15 year old Michiel (Martikn Lakemeier) is one of those who is appalled by the Nazis and wants to join the Resistance in some form of other. Despite being inspired by his Uncle Ben and warned off by his father who's the mayor of the town, Michiel ends up helping a crashed pilot (Twilight's Jamie Campbell Bower).
It's this act of defiance which sets in motion a series of events which will end Michiel's teenage years in ways he could never imagine as he finds his innocence shattered forever.
Beautifully shot Winter In Wartime captures the atmosphere of the time excellently, The story's well told and is captivating from beginning to end - there's an ease to the central performance from Lakemeier which makes it easy to watch. He captures the petulance of the teenage years, the conflict with his mayor father who wants to protect him from the troubles and the desire to grow up and be treated like a man very well.
There's a twist at the end which you can see coming a mile off - but Winter In Wartime succeeds as a tale of lost innocence and thanks to the universal story, you may find yourself dragged more into this world than you would expect.

Rating: 6/10

The Prince of Persia: Blu Ray Review

The Prince of Persia: Blu Ray Review

The Prince of Persia

Rating: M
Released by Disney DVD

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Dastan, a young street urchin orphan boy who's taken into the Persian royal court at an early age and who comes to love the ruler as if he were his dad.

However, later on as the Persians are laying siege to a city they believe is hiding weapons which have helped their enemies (spot the parallel here), Dastan finds himself cast out from the royal court after he's believed to have assassinated the king.

Forced into hiding and into an uneasy alliance with Princess Tamina (a dusky sultry Gemma Arterton) Dastan tries to unravel the plot.

From the opening chase scene through to the FX laden final scenes, the problem is this film is relying a little too much on its source material - and the medium it came from. That is, it feels like it's a computer game on the big screen.

Scenes are held together by one of three plot devices - either a fight scene, a chase scene or plot exposition. There's also some humour thrown in in the form of Alfred Molina's comedy relief Sheik (and his brilliant ostrich racing - when was the last time you saw that on screen?) but it feels like less than the sum of its parts.

It's reasonable family fare but nothing as thrilling as it could be.

Extras: A chance to take control of the dagger and go behind the scenes is a nice touch on the Blu Ray release.

Rating: 6/10