Friday, 28 January 2011

Secretariat: Movie Review

Secretariat: Movie Review

Secretariat

Rating: 6/10

Cast:
Diane Lane, John Malkovich, James Cromwell

Director: Randall Wallace

This latest from Disney is the tale of a horse and of a woman who wouldn't let go.

Diane Lane stars as Penny Chenery, an 1960s American housewife, whose family has spent generations breeding racing horses on their Virginian farm.

When her father (Scott Glen) becomes too ill to continue on the farm, Penny, against the wishes of her family, takes over the business. With the help of maverick trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) this housewife with a passion for horses and honouring her family's legacy takes on the industry and leads her horse, Secretariat, to the challenge of winning the Triple Crown.

Secretariat is one of those to file under earnest and worthy but dull at times.

It's incredibly slow to get going - from its sombre opening to the final furlong two hours later, there's a bit of a slog here to be frank.

Sure, Diane Lane and John Malkovich turn in sturdy performances in this aspirational and inspirational film - but you can't help but feel your attention drifting when the focus moves away from the racetrack and the inevitable financial troubles faced by the family.

That said, when it's on the race track, that's where the film truly comes to life - and sees you on the edge of your seat.

Cameras take you right into the heart of the racing - be it on a horse or by the hooves, the filming of the races really does soar and gets your pulse going.

Secretariat won't win any awards, does exactly what you'd expect from an inspirational film and does at times feel like a little earnest TV Movie - which is a shame because the final 20 minutes sees the film come vividly to life with an injection of drama and tension.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell: Movie Review

The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell: Movie Review

The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell
Rating: 8/10
Cast: William McInnes, Robyn Malcolm, Joel Tobeck
Director: Brendan Donovan
Set in East Auckland's Howick, The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell is the story of William McInnes' manchild Gazza Snell, whose world is falling apart with a failing business.
All he's obsessed with is getting his eldest son to Milan for a karting championship in Milan.
However, when his youngest is seriously injured in a crash, Gazza loses all touch with the horrifying reality of what lies ahead - and instead becomes insistent on focussing solely on the karting.
That causes the family rift to widen.
The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell is a feelgood Kiwi battler kind of treat- despite the initial beginnings there's plenty of warmth in this tale of a suburban dad; thanks to good solid performances from McInnes and Robyn Malcolm as his desperate housewife, it succeeds - even with its sentimental ending.
It's thanks to the everyman feel of the film that it becomes a winner - the universal tale of Gazza needing to grow up is clearly based on the reality - and Donovan himself has admitted that the father figure is based on several dreamers he knows.
There's also the racial element as Snell's eldest begins dating an Asian girl - and with a sly script, it exposes some of the stereotypes that Howick (and parts of New Zealand itself) are prone to.
Robyn Malcolm gives a quiet solid desperation to her first leading woman role on the big screen - and there's unexpected laughs throughout. There's also a lot of honesty on display in this film - in the performances, the writing and the direction - it's an unashamedly crowd pleasing film which is easily identifiable to many of us.

The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell is packed full of heart, humour.. and Howick- and deserves to be a massive hit thanks to its essential Kiwi feel.

Black Swan: Movie Review

Black Swan: Movie Review

Black Swan
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Director: Darren Aronofsky
It's the film which is generating Oscar buzz for Natalie Portman's portrayal of a ballet dancer.
Set in New York, this latest from The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky follows a ballet company which is about to put on a new version of Swan Lake.
Portman plays Nina Sayers, a control freak of a dancer who's pushed herself as far as she can go for her role; with an obsessive desire to be part of the new production, she's gone right to the physical edge.
In charge of casting, company director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) decides to replace Winona Ryder's Beth MacIntyre with Sayers for the lead of the Swan Queen, believing Nina can push herself further than before.
As Sayers starts to work on loosening up and getting in touch with her darker side, she forms a friendship with fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis). But as the show draws ever closer and she tries to channel the deeper more disturbed Black Swan, Nina's world starts to fall apart amid jealousy and paranoia.
Black Swan is astounding, confounding, audacious, confusing and compelling viewing in equal parts.
It's a dizzying head trip of a film at times - and with an awards worthy performance from Natalie Portman as the dancer on the edge. The swings as the psycho drama plays out are incredible and the compelling performance delivers in spades. She captures the fragility and the delicateness of the physicality of the dancing role as well as the mental tone too.

For example, the girl who breaks down in the toilet after being selected telling her mother on the phone in an almost babyish voice "He picked me, mommy" is a stark contrast to the ballerina who takes to the stage at the end.
Black Swan is one of those films which you'll have to watch multiple times to pick up on everything - thanks to the masterful web woven by Aronofsky. Everyone's the star of this film; from a good turn by Winona Ryder as the princess of the company who's on the way out to the impressive performances of Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. Each does more than enough to feed the paranoia of the ego as well as propel the drama along apace.
But it's the odd moments, the nightmarish windows into Sayer's fragile soul which catch you unawares and deliver the WTF emotional punches as the horror moments appear unexpectedly.
Outrageous, insane and yet incredibly mesmerizing and impressive, Black Swan is an enigma, a riddle wrapped up in a deeply disturbing and tightly woven multi-layered script.

It's also bound for great things.

Dr Who: The Seeds of Doom: DVD Review

Dr Who: The Seeds of Doom: DVD Review

Dr Who - The Seeds of Doom

Released by BBC and Roadshow
Rating: G

This six parter from 1976 and the Tom Baker era is a firm fan favourite.

In it the 4th Doctor and his companion Sarah Jane (the ever popular Elisabeth Sladen) discover a threat to the Earth (again) with the finding of two seed pods in the arctic waste.

When the alien Krynoid pods find their way into the hands of a deranged botanist, the Doc's got a fight on his hands to ensure life on Earth doesn't end - and the plants don't take over.
Classic, revered and well acted, The Seeds of Doom is Who firing on all cylinders - it's gritty, and a serial which is the very best of Who - thanks in part to the acting of Baker and Sladen.

The pair here deliver a masterclass in Who - and there's a real edginess to this; a feeling that the stakes are higher than ever.

A lively commentary with Baker (but sadly missing Sladen) enriches the affair - and the extras on this two disc set continue the high quality of recent releases. A short doco looking at the birth of the Dr Who Magazine is a welcome addition.

All in all, if you were ever looking for a jumping off point and a reason to watch Dr Who pre its 2005 relaunch, this is it.

Extras: Commentary, Doco on the making of the serial, doco on the comic adventures of Dr Who, Easter eggs - a good bunch.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Farscape: The Complete Collection: DVD Review

Farscape: The Complete Collection: DVD Review

Farscape - The Complete Collection

Released by Magna Home Ent
Rating: R13

The Aussie/ American scifi Jim Henson TV series finally gets a complete box release which pulls together the four series and the spin off TV movie, The Peacekeeper Wars.

Ben Browder acquired plenty of devoted fans in this series - he's John Crichton, an American astronaut, who ends up in the wrong part of space after traversing a worm hole (always the way).

Picked up by a living spaceship, Crichton finds himself forced to live with the aliens as he tries to get home. But his quest to get back puts him into direct conflict with Scorpius, the leader of the Peacekeepers, a bunch of alien baddies.

Farscape was innovative for its time - and this collection, complete with a range of special features, interviews and docos explains why. With some top of the range animatronic puppetry, the series certainly offered something different to the genre - and thanks to some pretty impressive writing, the stories proffered up something different.

But where the creators succeeded in this was the characters - their humanity (despite the fact they're primarily aliens) gave the show the credence it needed - and because of that, the writing rarely dropped in quality (although as ever with a series like this, there are exceptions). Plus later seasons become a little inpenetrable if you've not been there from the start.

An impressively culled together set,The Farscape Collection offers hours of entertainment and a reminder of why Jim Henson was such the visionary.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 24 January 2011

Game review: The Sly Trilogy

Game review: The Sly Trilogy

The Sly Trilogy
Released by Sony for PS3
Nearly a decade after its original release on PlayStation 2, this classic HD remastering of the Sly Trilogy has hit PS3.
The Sly Trilogy collects together the platforming games Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, Sly 2: Band of Thieves and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, a trio of extremely playable games.
The hero is Sly Cooper, who's a pastiche of film noir/ comic book - Cooper is a master thief, with a question mark style cane, who vaults through the air, sneaks about and generally does the theft stuff pretty well.
In the first game, Sly's on the hunt for a book which collects together his family's thieving tricks of the trade - which ironically has been stolen. The second sees him tracking down parts of a clock which has super powers - and the final outing sees him trying to break into a family vault.
The Sly Trilogy is immensely playable third person stuff marred only by a minor problem.
Across mini levels within each, the game plays well and zips along with ease - there's occasional frustrations with the viewpoint of the character not always being the easiest to negotiate - but it's a minor niggle. There's also the bonus that this game can be played with PlayStation Move too - adding to the original on many levels.
This version's been ported over from the original trilogy and the HD quality is pretty impressive with cartoon segueways into each adventure - voiceovers and characters add humour and amusement to the proceedings.
It's challenging in parts but with ways to boost your immunity during levels and a bit of memory, you can beat most of the threats and end of level bosses fairly quickly during each heist mini-adventure.
The collection of three games is a brilliant move which allows you to flit between adventures and pick up wherever you want. With extra moves to be learned, and a depth of gaming, plus with mini games within, there's certainly hours and hours of entertainment here.
The Sly Trilogy is a welcome remastering - it's true to the original and expands the fun element to all gamers of any age.

Rating: 8/10

Survivors: S2 DVD Review

Survivors: S2 DVD Review

Survivors Series Two

Released by BBC And Roadshow
Rating: M


The second series of the post apocalyptic drama picks up on the cliff hanger of season one and then rapidly moves on during the course of its six episodes.

Based on Terry Nation's original series from the 70s, this drama isn't bad going - and thanks to a cast of talented actors, it's pretty plausible.

But don't get too invested in the second series, which sees the original gang of survivors who made it through the unleashing of a plague, haunted by a mysterious group who are known as the Lab.

They're scientists who avoided the initial infection and will do everything in their power to find a cure.

So with the scavengers doing what they can to get by, and the Lab closing in on them, the scene's set for a showdown.

Gritty and dramatic in places, Survivors is a watchable series - Greg Paterson and Julie Graham are the two main stand outs in the cast - and Max Beesley's edgy criminal adds a frisson to the proceedings.

The second series of the pandemic drama ends maddeningly on a cliffhanger which is unlikely to be resolved thanks to cancellation.

Engrossing drama it may be - but you can see creatively that some of the strains were showing and the ideas running out a little - however, Survivors Series Two will be a necessity to those who've invested in the first; but may be not so much to those who're new to it.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Beneath Hill 60: Blu Ray Review

Beneath Hill 60: Blu Ray Review

Beneath Hill 60
Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Entertainment

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 - 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.
Gritty, and gripping in equal measures, Beneath Hill 60 is one of the best war films for a long time - even if it does lack a major emotional denouement.
Extras: Commentary, storyboards and Photogallery - very disappointing given that this is based on a true story - why nothing about the actual men involved?

Rating: 8/10 

Dr Who: Series 5: DVD Review

Dr Who: Series 5: DVD Review

Doctor Who Series Five

Rating: PG
Released by BBC


So the latest escapades for the Doctor are all bundled up into this fifth annual set since the revival of the show in 2005.

And with a new set, comes a new Doctor - this time, the youngest ever in the form of foppishly haired, manic Matt Smith who quite honestly, has inhabited the role of the Time Lord brilliantly from the moment he stepped into the TARDIS.

It's a new show in many ways this year with new cast, new producers (longtime fan Steven Moffat) and an entirely new ethos at the helm of it all. Yet, it still remains eminently watchable - despite the many ups and downs there were during the fifth season's 13 episode run.

It starts off with aplomb in the Steven Moffat scripted The Eleventh Hour as Matt becomes the Doctor so charismatically and so quickly - but with episodes like the Hungry Earth, Victory of The Daleks and Vincent and The Doctor, the show hits an uneven keel in the writing room.

For every miss, there's a hit - and this is clearly a show now being run by someone who was always a fan first and foremost - never before have so many echoes of the series' 48 year history been so in play; from the flashbacks during the Eleventh Hour to a reel of the Doc's previous female companions in one of the Meanwhile in the TARDIS scripted extras, this is a show which embraces and loves its past.

There are hints of an ongoing arc into the next series - but with a bout of unevenness, I'm hoping better writing next year will match upto the standard of the simply excellent Matt Smith.

Extras: Disappointing this year - although the two 3 minute Meanwhile in the TARDIS scenes link episodes well, there's a lack of anything major to stand out on this set. Monster Files have been brought in from the episodic releases and Behind the scenes series, the Cut down confidentials merely offer a lot of back slapping this time around. Vid cam diaries from the actors add something but I can't help but feel a little short changed all round this year from one of my all time favourite characters and shows.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 21 January 2011

Harry Brown: Blu Ray Review

Harry Brown: Blu Ray Review

Harry Brown

Rating: R18
Released by Warner Home Video

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.

Gritty and uncompromising, Harry Brown shows why Caine is still the best at what he does.

Extras: Really, really disappointing here - simply a few deleted scenes and some trailers - almost enough to make me want to go Harry Brown on those behind the disc.

Rating: 7/10 

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Green Hornet: Movie Review

The Green Hornet: Movie Review

The Green Hornet
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Michel Gondry
Another superhero movie hits the big screen.
But unlike its predecessors of Spiderman, Batman et al, this one has its tongue a little more firmly in its cheek.
Seth Rogen stars as Britt Reid, the playboy wastrel - his father (Tom Wilkinson) runs a newspaper empire and has never really had much time for his son; he even goes so far as to dispense such bon mots as "Trying doesn't matter if you always fail."
So it's no wonder that Britt isn't exactly the life leader his dad expects.
One day after a party, Britt comes home to find his father dead and suddenly, he has the empire to run.
With a resentful attitude, Britt sets about doing what little he can to keep the workload to a minimum.
However, one night, teaming up with dad's former associate Kato (Jay Chou), the pair inadvertently find themselves fighting muggers and kicking some ass.
At the same time, a local crimelord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) is keeping the city in his vicelike grip and that spurs Britt into taking on the crims at their own game.
Thus The Green Hornet is born.
But the birth of this villain cum hero sets Britt on a collision course with Chudnofsky&.
As I said, The Green Hornet has its tongue firmly in its cheek.
It's also brash, loud, over bearing, funny, entertaining and messy in equal measures.
There's humour in the fight scenes between Kato and Hornet with one long sequence resembling something from the Three Stooges. And there's even echoes of Benny Hill in one early scene.
Rogen (who co-wrote this) simply shouts his way through the story for the two hour duration - but there's something vaguely lovable about this waster and goofball hero who's only getting involved 'cos of serious daddy issues.
Stylistically, this film is pretty impressive - the early fight scenes are enhanced with visual effects and thanks to the eye of director Michel Gondry look pretty damn impressive. But it's also the way these have been sparsely used which make them work well and be as effective as they are.
If anything, Green Hornet is about the banter between Rogen and Chou as their jealous, bitchy bromance partnership grows. Because certainly the likes of the characters played by Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz are pretty much wasted and do little but serve to move the narrative along.
Which is a shame.

Overall, The Green Hornet is a bit of checking your brain at the door kind of fun - which for a superhero/ crime film, once in a while, is a pleasant change.

The Fighter: Movie Review

The Fighter: Movie Review

The Fighter
Rating: 9/10
Cast: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Director: David O Russell
Boxing films are all the same, right?
An underdog loses a series of fights in a desperate attempt to make a comeback and suddenly comes good when it really matters.
The Fighter is different.
And infinitely better than the usual fare.
Based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg stars as Micky Ward, a boxer who's living in the shadow of his older brother Dicky Eklund (a wonderfully wiry and sparky, Golden Globe award winning Christian Bale.) Eklund is the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts; a boxer who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, he's the celeb of the working class town.
However, Eklund is racked with addiction to crack cocaine and is dragging the family down - as well as his brother's hopes of staging some kind of fighting revival. Plus along with the fearsome matriarch of the nine strong family, Alice (a ferocious Golden Globe award winning Melissa Leo) in charge of their careers, Micky is going nowhere fast.
So when Micky meets Amy Adams' Charlene, a local bartender college drop out, a tender romance develops and Micky begins to start to believe in himself and his ability again.
But Charlene realizes the only way to boost Micky's career is to remove the cancer of Alice and Dicky - and so the battle lines are set and the confrontation begins.
Let's get the boxing clichés out of the way now - this is a knock out of a film which pulls no punches.
But it's the ensemble cast which gives this true story a human feel and raise it well above the mire of a clichéd boxing film.
Christian Bale is astoundingly good as Eklund, a sinewy frame supporting a "can't take your eyes off him" performance. There's energy and world class acting on show here as the small town hero who was on the cusp of having it all but blows it for the cycle of addiction.
Yet, while Bale's great, thanks to the sensible and restrained direction of David O Russell, it doesn't detract from the rest of the cast - specifically Mark Wahlberg, whose subtly underplayed performance is the perfect antithesis to Bale's sparky energy. He's an assured presence here and conveys the torment of realizing the family's holding him back and the pain of having to try and make that clean break.
Amy Adams is also excellent as Charlene and Melissa Leo needs special mention as the most frightening mom in charge since the mom at the head of the clan in Animal Kingdom last year.
If you're expecting a series of montages of fights as well when we see Micky start to box again, that's another cliché dispensed with by Russell; at most each fight on the way to the title racks up about two seconds. It's a great move which means the drama's solely focused on life outside the ring (which is where the emotional core of this film lies) and because of it, when the title bout comes round and that plays out in its entirety rather than a brief snippet of narrative, there's more invested in you wanting to see Micky win.
With humour, raw honesty and brilliant casting, this tale of redemption and addiction will suck you in right from the very beginning.
The Fighter is guaranteed to leave your pulse racing and your heart beating from beginning to end - as it lines up with The King's Speech for potential Oscar glory, it looks as if 2011's finally off to a superb cinematic start.

Simply a knock out and unmissable.

The King's Speech: Movie Review

The King's Speech: Movie Review

The King's Speech
Rating: 9/10
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall
Director: Tom Hooper
Here comes the early contender for Oscar glory - and rightly so (and it's already been lavished with plenty of pre award season nominations.)
Colin Firth stars as Prince Albert aka the soon to be King George VI, who's crippled by a stammer. With the health of his father failing and the second World War looming, his wife Elizabeth (Bonham Carter) decides Bertie needs help.
So, after doctors fail him and other therapists come up short, she finds a potential salvation in the shape of Aussie Lionel Logue (a brilliant Geoffrey Rush), an alternative and maverick therapist.
After a slightly dodgy start to their relationship, Bertie and Logue begin to work together in unusual ways to overcome the problem.
But with the death of his father, the forced abdication of Edward and the looming Second World War, Bertie soon finds it'll be his words which will inspire the Commonwealth.
However, it's those words which don't appear to be coming any time soon.
The King's Speech is, quite simply, marvellous.
A brilliant crowd pleaser, with a script liberally peppered with dry wit and humour, along with some stunning turns from Firth and Rush, it's a riveting watch from beginning to end.
Colin Firth will be a shoo in for some form of glory with this performance (although as ever, early buzz sometimes cripples the front runners) but his role as the monarch to be is mesmerizingly good. The frustration Albert clearly feels in his inability to speak is etched perfectly on his face - and not once do you feel Firth is over egging the role. In fact, it's his restrained turn that may have you doubled with nerves as you will him to speak every single word when he's struggling.
Throw in the great laid back and human performance of Geoffrey Rush and it's a brilliant double act which will entertain in ways you couldn't possibly imagine on screen.
Bonham-Carter and Spall are equally as good as the Queen Mum and Churchill. Bonham-Carter particularly brings the mischievous twinkle in the Queen Mum's eye vividly to life.
But it's Firth who effortlessly commands the screen in this - you won't believe how much you've emotionally invested in the build up to one man delivering a speech.

Simply the first unmissable crowd pleasing film of 2011, which will leave you lost for words.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Soul Kitchen: DVD Review

Soul Kitchen: DVD Review

Soul Kitchen

Rating:M
Released by Madman


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.

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

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tomorrow, When The War Began: Blu Ray Review

Tomorrow, When The War Began: Blu Ray Review

Tomorrow, When The War Began
Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Entertainment


Based on the very popular books by John Marsden comes this version of Tomorrow, When The War Began, starring former Neighbours actress Caitlin Stasey stars as Ellie Linton, the beloved heroine of many a reader, living out in the Aussie town of Wirrawee.

Overnight, an invasion force arrives - and with all the population rounded up, suddenly Ellie and her friends (who are away camping) are the only hope to strike back.

Tomorrow When The War Began is the kind of film you can gather the family together on a Sunday afternoon and sit down and watch.

The ensemble cast do well - even if the director appears to have gone nuts with the FX budget turning every minor explosion into a serious screen shredding destruction.

With an underplayed appeal, the film's more intimate scenes work well and this Tomorrow, When The War Began is a promising start to the saga.

Extras: Profiles, making of, director's commentary, alternate ending and behind the scenes - a good solid bunch.

Rating: 7/10 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Burlesque: Movie Review

Burlesque: Movie Review

Burlesque
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Cam Gigandet, Alan Cumming, Eric Dane
Director: Steve Antin
Nominated for a Golden Globe for best Musical/ comedy seems entirely apt for Burlesque.
Aguilera (and her warbling pipes) stars as Ali, a small town American girl with a great voice who dreams of making it big in LA. (There's the first cliché for you.)
So, after quitting her crummy job in a bar, she heads to the city of lights and stumbles across the Burlesque Lounge, a failing but stomping club run by Cher's Tess with a little help from Stanley Tucci's stage manager Sean.
Talking her way into a bartending job there, she strikes up a friendship with the bar manager Jake (Twilight's Cam Gigandet) and manages to find her way onto the stage - but not without making an enemy out of Kristen Bell's Nikki.
However, unless Tess can find a way to keep the club afloat, Ali's time in the spotlight may be brief.
Burlesque is essentially a series of extended music videos - broken up by some clichéd plot and some, at times, frankly awful (and unintentionally funny) dialogue.
Aguilera acquits herself brilliantly in the singing portion of the film but brings little extra in terms of acting to the role of Ali; Cher is lacking any real emotional depth (and facial movement) as Tess - so the two leads are a mixed bag.
Thankfully, the wonderfully classy Stanley Tucci lights up every scene he's in and is blessed with some wonderfully witty moments (and revels in them); Mc Steamy aka Eric Dane is just lacking a handlebar moustache to twirl as the evil property magnate - and Alan Cumming is woefully underused as the club's doorman who has great lines like "I should wash your mouth out with Jagermeister" as well as a great risque song and dance moment.
I guess at the end of the day, Burlesque is about the spectacle more than anything else - while the club scenes and songs rock the joint, they certainly do little (with one exception) to capture the sexiness and seductive tease of Burlesque. However, they do showcase some stunning choreography and singing from Aguilera. Cher gets to do a couple of numbers but they're a lot more downbeat than you would expect.
While it's fair to say Aguilera essentially brings her music video presence to the big screen (and therefore nothing new in terms of acting or performance) she certainly lends a much needed musical credence to Burlesque.

The love story between Jake and her is naïve at best and corny at worst; but it certainly provides something for all - overall, Burlesque is an okay spectacle (a tad overlong) but is instantly forgettable the minute you walk out.

The Dilemma: Movie Review

The Dilemma: Movie Review

The Dilemma
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Vince Vaughan, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum, Queen Latifah
Director: Ron Howard
Vince Vaughan's back in this film, pitched as a comedy from the trailer, which is more like a drama with occasional comedy thrown in for good measure.
In the dramedy, Vaughan is Ronny, whose best mate since college days is Kevin James' Nick. These two are tight and are probably one of the best definitions of bromance I've seen for a long time - they work together and party together.
Nick's married to Winona Ryder's Geneva and has been for years - but one day Nick sees Geneva in the arms of another man.
That throws him into a moral quandary - should he tell his best buddy and risk their friendship and business partnership falling apart? Or should he keep quiet?
But as Nick looks further into Geneva's infidelity, he soon discovers the sheen of his best friend is slipping a little and the whole right and wrong leads to plenty of dilemmas for Nick - and those he loves.
The Dilemma falls into the Couples Retreat territory - that is to say, the trailer pitches it as a comedy and you head to it expecting that, and that's a little far from what's actually served up on the big screen.
It's a mixed bag too - some painstakingly raw honest moments are well done and the drama is good too. But with a two hour running time and not enough funny, you may feel in a bit of a quandary yourself about whether this film is good or not.
Vaughan is okay as the suitably downbeat Ronny whose world falls apart amid suspicion and mistrust - and Winona Ryder (who appears to be undergoing something of a cinematic comeback this year) certainly gives her all as the morally challenged wife.
The main quartet are realistic and genuinely well acted to be believable and Ron Howard brings an assured eye to the direction yet The Dilemma lacks that certain kind of pizzazz and oomph which it needs to keep it moving along as it shifts into the more straight acting and out of the humourous territory.

But it is worth seeing for an hilarious scene where Ronny gives a very amusing toast but as you have to wait for over an hour to get to that part, you may feel yourself drifting and entering your own quandary about whether you want to wait that long.

Yogi Bear: Movie Review

Yogi Bear: Movie Review

Yogi Bear
Rating: 3/10
Cast: Yogi, Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Ranger Jones, Pic-a-nic baskets - Dan Aykroyd, Tom Cavanagh, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris
Director: Eric Brevig
It's nature vs corporate greed in this latest film for Yogi Bear, partially shot here in good ole NZ.
Dan Aykroyd, a lifelong Yogi fan, voices the brown bear who's notorious in his home Jellystone Park - mainly for attempting to steal picnic baskets (along with compatriot Boo Boo).
Yogi's nemesis is Ranger Smith (Scrubs' Tom Cavanagh) - but both of them face a fresh threat when the local mayor decides to shut down Jellystone Park and sell it off in an attempt to get the region out of debt and stave off his being thrown out of office.
When a visiting doco maker (Anna Faris) turns up, it seems there's some hope for the park in its 100th year.
But it looks as if Yogi and Smith have underestimated the power of the corporate big boys.
Looking at this through a rosy tinted pair of nostalgia glasses may prove fatal for fans of the original Hanna Barbera series.
First up - both Aykroyd and Timberlake (particularly) do excellent vocal versions of their respective characters but they can't save this terribly unoriginal, lazily 3D converted travesty.
With a script that reeks of corny jokes (which only the really young of the audience will enjoy), there's little here that sings from this mercifully short film. The message of love nature is pummeled through at every available opportunity - and fair enough.
But the joy of the original shorts and the antics of the bear are unimpressive and out of place in the 21st century - with really only the very young sector of the audience likely to get plenty of mirth from what transpires on the screen. Parents who remember the original may walk out feeling that they've had a childhood memory destroyed in a bitter disappointment.

Faris and Cavanagh make a good couple and do as best they can - but with a script that appears to have been found where a bear does its business in the woods, that's cold comfort.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: Blu Ray Review

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: Blu Ray Review

Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

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 (read: dumped) from 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 realize 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) - but honestly, he will win you over - and not just with the impressive fight scenes where he comes alive (you would really never peg him as an action hero).
But all of the cast are great in this - Winstead brings warmth to her role as Flowers - and Routh, Schwartzmann, 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
Eschewing pop culture references left right and centre, this comic book gaming cross over 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.

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 stop it ever hitting a lull.

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

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Joneses: DVD Review

The Joneses: DVD Review

The Joneses

Released by Roadshow
Rating: M
This intriguing little release stars David Duchovny and Demi Moore, as the heads of a family called The Joneses.
Along with their seemingly perfect two kids, the family moves into an upper middle class suburban neighbourhood in America.Within minutes, they're impressing the neighbours with their slick lifestyle, latest mod cons, interior designs, using the latest phone around the high school kids.
But the reality is they're a family used by marketers to sell latest goods and to suck people into a lifestyle - they have quotas to meet - so life isn't perfect. But Steve is new to the family and starts to see the effects the hard sell has on his neighbour - and when it goes too far, the consequences of living the perfect life prove to be deadly.
This film has an intriguing start and a fresh premise - but after an hour in, it all goes a bit awry and becomes a different film as it gets darker. It's supposed to be a satire on consumer goods and the consumerist lifestyle and to a degree it achieves that - although there's little product placement outside of Audi cars.
It looks at the dark side of suburbia but holds back a little - and that's a disappointment - as it leads to quite an obvious ending - and the final third of it almost destroys the good work of the first hour.

Rating: 6/10

24: The Final Season: DVD Review

24: The Final Season: DVD Review

24 - The Final Season
Released by Roadshow Ent
Rating: R13
Jack Bauer's back in the final season of the show which reinvented the thrilling world of serialized television.
In this final year, Jack's eighth, Bauer is racing against the clock to prevent the assassination of a Middle Eastern leader (played by Slumdog Millionaire's Anil Kapoor) - as his death could change a peace accord for the worse.
But at the same time as Bauer's pulled into this plot, an audacious terrorist plot against New York City is nearing completion&.
24 The Final Season epitomizes the good and the bad of this show. Kiefer Sutherland is once again mightily impressive as the world weary Bauer (a man who's on the go for days at a time it appears) and the rest of the impressive ensemble cast work well around him.
But creatively the show was clearly nearing its end as midway through the run, the writing team just can't sustain it any longer. As it's the final year, it was perhaps inevitable some of the show's previous villains may return and while you could argue creatively this was an arc begun a long time ago, it somehow feels like the return is shoe horned in. It's a shame because the start is so electrifying and thrilling that by the end, you just begin to understand why it's ending.
Still Bauer will live on in a series of movies and I for one, can't wait to see those - although I will miss the ticking clock motif and clever way this show changed the nature of weekly drama.
Extras: A series of featurettes and deleted scenes as well as a look at a virtual New York. A Little disappointing there's nothing major on the retrospective front given this is the series' final year.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 10 January 2011

Inception: DVD Review

Inception: DVD Review

Inception

Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video


One of the films of 2010, Inception finally arrives on DVD and Blu Ray.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, who works in subconscious security and steals ideas from people's minds while they're sleeping - via a shared consciousness.

He's approached by Ken Watanabe's Saito who wants to bring down a rival company and its head Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) using corporate espionage by getting Cobb and a team to plant an idea into a rival's brain. However, inception of an idea isn't the easiest thing to carry out...

Still mind bending, Inception remains a great watch - even if you've seen it before, you can pick up on the clues of what's already gone before and see how the puzzle fits together.

With a wealth of extras, this is a great release, with stunning effects and an enigma which still requires a lot of intelligence to crack.

Extras: A heap on different formats, but worth seeking out the Cobol Job; a comic prelude which give the movie some grounding. Genius.

Rating: 9/10

Family Guy: It's A Trap: DVD Review

Family Guy: It's A Trap: DVD Review

Family Guy - It's a Trap

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment


So, the final Family Guy spin off gets its time to shine.

These at times puerile parodies have been a bit sporadic on the laughs and the creators acknowledge that in this latest release which urges us "To lower our expectations."

And they're right - if you do that, you'll probably enjoy this Family Guy version of Return of the Jedi (the least loved of the Star wars films). With throws to Star Trek, David Letterman, Lost In Space and many more, there's certainly a fair few laughs to be had here and there.

Characters from other Seth McFarlane animated shows like American Dad make appearances and it does feel like creatively they've run a little short on steam. Still, like Piranha (recently released on the small screen), this works with a few beers and a few friends.

Extras: Commentaries from the creators, outtakes animatics and Trivial pursuit make an interesting bunch.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Predicament: DVD Review

Predicament: DVD Review

Predicament

Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

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 the revenge plot goes a little wrong.

Wannabe Gothic comedy it may be, but Predicament remains a difficult and divisive watch. Sure Clement and Franklin make good watching, and while the scenery is beautifully realized and shot, there's little that's actually engaging in the film itself.

Which is bitterly disappointing - I can't exactly pinpoint why Predicament doesn't do anything for me; but it is a curio of a film.

Extras: Trailers, featurettes and cast and crew interviews - nothing sensational.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Salt: DVD Review

Salt: DVD Review

Salt
Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Entertainment

Angelina Jolie stars as 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.

It gets 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.

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.

The main trio of actors involved- Liev Schreiber, Chijetel 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?).

Underwhelming - and disappointing given this could be the first of the franchise.

Extras: Doco on Ange as action hero; a look at the costumes and commentary with Philip Noyce, director.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 7 January 2011

Piranha: DVD Review

Piranha: DVD Review

Piranha

Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: R18

You want a plot? It's all there in the title - well, aside from the gratuitous nudity and gore.

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&.can the sheriff save the day?

B grade at its very core and very finest, this exploitation flick has its tongue in its cheek (even if the director won't admit it). While the cinema release benefited from the novelty of 3D, this DVD version adds little - and with a lack of 3D feels somewhat flat; so much so that the plot starts to drag.

File Piranha under guilty pleasure and bloody good fun - if you like countless deaths, gratuitous nudity and B movie acting (and have had a few beers with some mates) this is the film for you.

Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes and the trailer - not much trawled up in this net.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Mademoiselle Chambon: Movie Review

Mademoiselle Chambon: Movie Review

Mademoiselle Chambon
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Sandrine Kiberlain
Director: Stephane Brize
The ever present Vincent Lindon crops up as Jean in this new film.
Jean's a happily married man, a loving father whose wife is expecting again and whose life is filled with the routine of the construction site, his father's ailing health and his son's school days.
And it's at that school that when picking up his son, Jeremy, he meets alluring Mademoiselle Chambon (Kiberlain).
Mesmerised, Jean starts to wake from his perfectly happy life and ponders whether he should take a chance on another life altogether...
Mademoiselle Chambon is one of those restrained, engrossing French dramas which is artfully directed, well acted and guaranteed to leave you swooning in its path.
Thanks to the rugged charm of Lindon, it's not an unpleasant film to watch - thanks to plenty of restrained looks, glances and daring eyes, there's a nice build up to the dilemma he faces.
Kiberlain is also good as Chambon, a woman whose flitting from school to school lifestyle attracts Jean - it's easy to understand the attraction and the reason for Jean's dilemma.

However, it's also down to restrained direction; it's kept plausible with the build up and not just seen as some rushed situation aimed at titillation - there's an emotional core to this. And while that core may not attract all, there's certainly something here for people to lose themselves in.

Morning Glory: Movie Review

Morning Glory: Movie Review

Morning Glory
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson
Director: Roger Michell
So it's into the heady world of breakfast television we go with this frothy light comedy piece from the director of Notting Hill.
McAdams stars as Becky Fuller, a producer on a television news show. Fired from her current role, she ends up being offered the job as a producer on a failing show called DayBreak.
Single and not tied down by relationships or family, Fuller lives for the job and seizes the opportunity thrust her way by Jeff Goldblum's laconic TV exec Jerry Barnes. On her first day she fires weird co-anchor Paul McVee (played brilliantly by Modern Family's Ty Burrell) and suddenly finds she needs a co host for Diane Keaton's Colleen Peck.
Enter Harrison Ford's prickly and slightly bitter former news anchor Mike Pomeroy. Once a newsmaker and a newsbreaker, Pomeroy's in the twilight of his career and not willing to sacrifice news values for fluffier breakfast time pieces.
However, when Fuller's told DayBreak's on the verge of being cancelled, she realizes she has to do everything she can to get Mike into the swing of things to save all their jobs.
Morning Glory is as fluffy as the genre it's parodying but it's kept alive by the performances of both McAdams as the annoyingly perky and optimistic Fuller and Ford as the gruff and irritable co anchor Pomeroy. In fact it's probably fair to say it's more Ford's film as he has endless fun refusing to do stuff, compromise his ideals and values as well as be opposed to everything. He also gets the lion's share of the best lines too - with bon mots like "News is a sacred temple" and "Half your audience has lost the remote control - and the other half are waiting to be turned over by the nurse." It's that kind of sarcasm which pervades the script and keeps things going.
Diane Keaton is a little sidelined in this unfortunately - but it's a solid performance from her too.

Unfortunately the end of Morning Glory sinks into a schmaltzy mire (perhaps, inevitably) and the whole thing leaves a bit of a saccharine taste in your mouth - overall, Morning Glory may well appeal more to those in the television industry and the media who'll recognize the egos, the debates and the problems; the rest of us may well be wondering what else is on the other channel.

Tangled: Movie Review

Tangled: Movie Review

Tangled
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Zachary Levi, Mandy Moore, Donna Murphy
Director: Nathan Greno
It's Disney's 50th animated film.
And to celebrate, they're rolling out an animated version of Rapunzel for 2011.
Mandy Moore stars as the erstwhile long haired princess Rapunzel, who's trapped in the tower by the evil Gothel (Murphy). You see, Gothel knows that Rapunzel's hair has the power to turn back time and make people young again - and in true evil, godmother fashion she wants to keep that power all for her own.
However, as Rapunzel reaches her 18th birthday, she decides what she wants to do to celebrate is to leave the tower and see the lights which appear every year without fail on her birthday. (Unbeknownst to her, those lights are floating lanterns, launched by her parents as they try to find her.)
Gothel says no - but Rapunzel (and her pet chameleon Pascal) finds her life changed by the arrival of thief Flynn Rider (Chuck's Zachary Levi) who is looking for a hideout.
Flynn is coerced into helping - and together, the duo set off into the kingdom&
Tangled is a good ole fashioned Disney film - with songs within minutes of opening (complete with catchy lyrics such as 'Don't risk the drama, stay with Mama' and 'I could be called deadly from my killer show medley') it's clearly aimed at provoking a bit of nostalgia within the audience.
But there's a sharp deftness to the script which sees it veer from being a little too old fashioned - and it's enlivened by great performances from Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore who give their characters a real boost from their subtle vocal tones.
There's also good old fashioned Disney fun to be had from the animals of the piece; the chameleon and a horse from the palace guards known as Maximus. Neither says anything but again, it's their antics which will amuse the kids both young and old.
There's also unexpected moments of adult humour dotted throughout - such as when Rapunzel leaves the tower for the first time, she veers between deep joy and numbing guilt - it's fun touches like this which add to the overall feel.

It's no crime to say Tangled is nothing spectacularly new on the story front or when it comes to the songs- but thanks to a warmth and engaging charm as well as some good solid animation, it's a great family time out at the cinema.

Unstoppable: Movie Review

Unstoppable: Movie Review

Unstoppable
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Chris Pine, Denzel Washington, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee
Director: Tony Scott
A hero with a buzz cut, a runaway vehicle and the potential for disaster.
Haven't we heard that somewhere before? Well, that and Denzel in another Tony Scott train film too&
In this latest from Tony Scott, Chris Pine stars as Will Colson, a newbie in the rail industry - and one who, according to older work colleagues has gained his position as a conductor on the rails in rural Pennsylvania because of nepotism.
Denzel is Frank Barnes, a long time employee of the rail roads who's seen it all before and is now just doing his job and training Colson.
However, their spiky training run is broken by the news another train's broken loose and thundering on the tracks, complete with a chemical payload and no driver because of an accidental mess up from a fellow employee Dewey (Ethan Suplee).
As the owner of the railway tries to work out how best to avert the disaster of a train ploughing into civilization, Barnes and Colson work with yardmaster Connie (ever dependable Rosario Dawson) to try and save the day.
Apparently inspired by true events, Unstoppable is actually better than the premise makes it sound - and thanks to some restrained directing from Tony Scott, it's actually more watchable than you'd believe.
Sure, there's plenty of swooping, circling aerial camera shots and continuous angled camera moments as the train continues on its path of destruction; but Unstoppable also throws in some decent characters and some commentary about old timers being forced out of jobs for young upstarts who know nothing of the industry.
Granted, Colson and Barnes have emotional baggage (Colson's got family problems - and whaddya know, so does Barnes) but thanks to believable, underplayed performances from both Pine and the ever sage Washington, you find yourself sucked into their world - even if you know exactly how it will play out. With dialogue such as "We're not talking about a train - we're talking about a missile" the whole thing seems as if it could swerve dangerously into over the top out of control hysteria.

However, thanks to Scott's assured leadership, this train stays firmly on the tracks - and destined for entertainment.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Splice: Blu Ray Review

Splice: Blu Ray Review

Splice

Rating: R16
Released by Madman


Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley team up in this flick about two scientists who splice human and animal DNA together.

But despite a lack of morals and ethics at the start as they're caught up in the heady excitement of the experiment,the pair are quickly divided when the resulting creature is born.

Polley's Elsa wants to keep the female creature but Brody's Clive, despite wanting to be a dad, wants shot of it.

There's little really of the legal and ethical debate but it becomes quite a curious mix of horror and unsettling incest toward the end-but thanks to a sensitive performance from Delphine Chaneac as the creature (who's a mix of Gizmo and the bald chick from Star Trek 1) it's really quite an impressive piece of film and not a bad entrant into the mad scientist/ abhorrent experiment genre.

Sure there's the icky moments and the slightly disturbing moments, but this is sensibly put together scifi horror which is watchable - even if occasionally that is from behind the sofa.

Extras: Interview with director; featurette, behind the scenes and trailer - nothing outstanding but nothing too disappointing either.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Triangle: DVD Review

Triangle: DVD Review

Triangle
Rating: M
Released by Warner Bros

A mindbender, riangle is the tale of Melissa George's Jess who one day goes sailing with 5 friends.
Out on the water, they end up capsized when a storm passes by.
From out of nowhere, a ship appears and the remaining survivors jump up on it-finding it deserted, they try to see who's onboard and how they can get home-but soon, one by one, they're dying.
All except Jess...
Triangle is a superior piece of film; it draws out the tension by leaving it for quite a while before the horrors begin to unfurl.
But if you're expecting horror on the boat of the nutter on the loose kind, you're on the wrong track as director/writer Chris Smith throws in a time travel plot as well.
It's really smart, suspenseful stuff and holds you right until the very end. Sure you may guess some of the tricks(if you've seen the marvellous TimeCrimes)but the pieces don't fall into place until the very end.
Mindblowing and head-scratching, this needs your love and time.
Extras: Making of doco, story boards, look at the special effects for the storm, deleted scenes and audio commentary with the director - a decent bunch for a good film.
Rating: 8/10


Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Simpsons S13: DVD Review

The Simpsons S13: DVD Review

The Simpsons: Season 13

Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: PG

With the beaming face of simpleton Ralph Wiggum on the front, the latest Simpsons release hits the shelves.

With some 22 odd episodes and a raft of features - including a lovely little collection of Ralphisms, this set is a welcome addition to any fan of the show - or any casual viewer who wants to appreciate the genius of the writing.

Sure, after 13 years, there's some creaks here and there - but the misses are outweighed by the hits and the cameos keep coming. Included on this set are REM, Pierce Brosnan in a great Halloween cameo, Paul Newman, Julia Louis Dreyfus - to name but a few.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this release - it's just after 13 releases, you'd kind of hope the creators would do something a little different with the format as it's feeling a little tired. Don't get me wrong, that's not a criticism of the quality merely that there's nothing overly new in the format of these releases.

That said, it's still money well spent.

Rating: 7/10

Love And Other Drugs: Movie Review

Love And Other Drugs: Movie Review

Love And Other Drugs
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt
Director: Ed Zwick
It's back to the heady mid 90s with this new film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway.
Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, a man who has the gift of the gab. This guy can sell you anything with his charm - as well as himself to the ladies. After being kicked out of his latest job, Randall (a med school drop out) decides to enter the world of pharmaceutical drugs sales with a company called Pfizer.
So Randall applies his talents to selling the drugs and staking out the doctors to encourage them to sell their brand of anti depressant rather than Prozac. Throw in Viagra into the mix too and Randall's in heaven.
And that's where Randall meets Maggie (a brown doe eyed Anne Hathaway) who's at the doctor's to get drugs for her stage one Parkinson's disease. But there's an instant attraction and the pair end up having a one night stand.
Randall falls hard for Maggie - but the road to romance is always tough - particularly if both sides have their own problems and demons to battle.
Love And Other Drugs is an odd sort of film - it starts off with tremendous, lusty gusto with wide-eyed Jake charming the pants (literally)off everything that moves. That bravado and braggadocio are pushed even further when he pairs up with Anne Hathaway and the film heads into a sex comedy (particularly with the addition of Jamie's down on his luck, kicked out by his wife brother played by Jack Black/ Jonah Hill cross Josh Gad) complete with plenty of sex, smut and humour. There are some great, funny moments in this portion of the film - however, there's a slight problem with the film.
Halfway through, there's a complete tonal change and it becomes romantic drama with a good dose of obstacles thrown in for good measure.
That tonal change happens so fast (although, to be fair, it's signposted from early on) that you almost feel like you're watching a completely different film as it heads towards the end.
But, when performances are as compelling as they are from Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway (who have sizzling steamy chemistry), you can almost forgive them anything. The duo has an easy chemistry and a sparky rapport which works well on the big screen. But it's Hathaway who delivers the more naked performance of the two - both physically and emotionally. She has a warmth and is so believable that you can't help falling for her character.
However, those are nearly derailed by some of the staples of romantic drama - the sweeping speeches over piano music threaten to ruin all which has gone before.

Love And Other Drugs is like a pill in many ways - it may offer you dizzying highs but as with any wonder drug, there's side effects afterwards.