Saturday, 28 May 2011

Morning Glory: Blu Ray Review

Morning Glory: Blu Ray Review

Morning Glory
Rating: M
Released by Universal

So it's into the heady world of breakfast television we go with this frothy light comedy piece from the director of Notting Hill.

Rachel 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.

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.

Extras: Commentary by director; deleted scene - not very much at all

Rating: 5/10 

Friday, 27 May 2011

Let Me In: Blu Ray review

Let Me In: Blu Ray review

Let Me In
Rating: R16
Released by Warner Bros

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: Kodi Smit-McPhee 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 (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

Thrilling and frightening, Let Me In is possibly one of the best remakes I've seen all year.

Extras: Commentary with director; making of, FX special, deleted scenes and a blow by blow account of a scene

Rating: 8/10 

Love and Other Drugs: DVD Review

Love and Other Drugs: DVD Review

Love and Other Drugs
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow

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.

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.

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. Almost.

Extras: Deleted scenes, behind the scenes docos with the actors and an inside look at the pharmaceutical trade.

Rating: 6/10 

Monsters: Blu Ray Review

Monsters: Blu Ray Review

Monsters
Rating: M
Released by Madman

Set in the not too distant future, opening titles explain that a spacecraft sent to bring back alien samples broke up over Mexico in re-entry. The result of that is a series of alien life forms (which look uncannily like squid on stalks) have taken up residence throughout parts of central America and Mexico - and are spreading.

Rather than nuke them, the government's decided that they will let them be - and simply declare zones of the country in quarantine and infected areas.

Enter into this photographer Andrew (Scoot McNairy) - he's desperate to make his name in the media - but is tasked with returning his boss' errant daughter Sam (Whitney Able) back home safe.

Through a series of mishaps, the pair find the only way they can get back to home is via the infected zone - and so their journey into danger begins...
Monsters is not what you'd expect at all - initially you're introduced to the squid creatures early on and so you're never waiting for a big alien reveal, which robs the premise of some of its tension.

Director Gareth Edwards is also a little heavy on the direction - opening shot after shot are simply about the infected zone signs or military fighter jets heading past in the skies. It's a pummeling to set up the world they inhabit rather than subtlety to get the message across

With a lack of real script (most of this is improvised) it's left to McNairy and Able to make it believable and to have you care. The pair are both relative newcomers both have stunning chemistry together (and are now married in real life) - so while there are dips in the film and dialogue which is simply about asking where they are while navigating the grim reality of it all, it's thanks to these two and their tender relationship that you make it through to the end.

Extras:Cast interviews, B roll, trailer and Q&A at Melbourne premiere

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Hangover Part II: Movie Review

The Hangover Part II: Movie Review

The Hangover Part II
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha, Paul Giamatti
Director: Todd Phillips
The Wolf pack is back in the sequel to the comedy that really redefined the R rated film genre.
This time, it's Thailand-bound as the gang come together for the wedding of Stu (Ed Helms).
Despite Stu's initial fears about heading out for some drinks with the boys on the eve of the wedding, he's persuaded to go for one with them - and brings along his teen soon to be brother in law, the over-achieving Teddy.
But when they wake up confused and hungover in a sweaty room with Teddy missing, no idea how they got there and with a severed finger in the room, it's a desperate race to find Teddy and get some idea of what went down.
However, that journey brings them into contact with gangsters, the seedier side of Bangkok, a chain smoking drug dealing monkey and a whole heap of trouble....
Simply put, The Hangover Part II is the same film as the first - but just relocated to Thailand.
While in principle that's no bad thing, it's fair to say that director Todd Phillips holds back from really upping the gross stakes for the sequel (though there are some out-there odd moments.)
Sadly though, it's more of a case of hearty chuckles throughout, rather than full-on belly laughs, as the humour serves to be the punchlines for the set-ups rather than being dished up every second.
The main trio are once again on form - and essentially the same as the first one: Bradley Cooper has the right amount of devilish glint to lead them; Ed Helms gives good repressed as he tries not to give in to the fun demon in him and Zach Galifianakis throws on the right amount of irritation and weirdness to steal scenes he's in with either a glance, some background antics or a well-placed line. Throw in Ken Jeong as psychotic and fun gangster Mr Chow and it's a good - if formulaic and unoriginal - mix.
Yet for all The Hangover Part II's beats and high moments (which are scattered throughout), it doesn't recapture the glory of the first; that's not to say it's not a fun time at the flicks, just a fair amount of deja vu.
Like any night on the town, the memories are more fun, rather than the reality of what went down.
Is The Hangover Part II a great film? Not really, it's a good film which is essentially a retread of the first. Is it a great sequel to the first? Again, not really and seems to pale in comparison to number one - that said, I think it's safe to say it'll be a box office hit, thanks to the easily identifiable trio of leads.

Oh, and once again though, the best bit of the film is the end credits where the contents of a mobile phone reveal what truly happened - laugh out loud funny and gross in equal measures, it's the pay off that finally delivers the raucous laughs.

Somewhere: Blu Ray Review

Somewhere: Blu Ray Review

Somewhere
Rating: M
Released by Universal

After winning us over with the Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppolla returns with this tale of a Hollywood bad boy spending his days in a hotel.

Stephen Dorff gives a brilliant turn as Johnny Marco, who's living a life of excess as he works through a press junket and life beyond. Disconnected from life and lacking any real emotional connection aside from the obligatory few sexual liaisons, Marco's life is changed when he receives an unexpected visit from his daughter, Cleo (played by another of the prodigious Fanning clan).

Marco takes Cleo in and out on the road to Italy with him as he does publicity for his new film and picks up an award - but when he returns to America, he starts to realise that he's lacking the emotional connection in his life.

Somewhere is trademark Coppolla all over - long, lingering shots peppered with silent moments run rampant through this film (which isn't going to be to everyone's taste). The director also wrote the story as well so it's very much an arthouse passion project

The pair make a likeable duo and thanks to Copolla's direction which sees plenty of shots holding on people, places and events, it's a welcome relief from all the fast paced and frenetic film making these days. Be warned - It won't be to everyone's tastes though

Extras: Making of

Rating: 5/10 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

In A Better World: DVD Review

In A Better World: DVD Review

In a Better World
Rating: R16
Released by Vendetta Film

Golden Globe and Oscar winner In a Better World opens in Africa with Mikael Persbrandt's Anton working as a doctor in a field hospital and dealing with the fall out of a warlord and combat.

Anton is the pacifist, preferring to take the moral high ground rather than strike the first blow - but it's more difficult for his son Elias back in Denmark. He's bullied by the school kids and a bit of a loner.

One day, new kid on the block, Christian defends him - and a friendship forms. But as the friendship grows, Christian, who's recently lost his mother to cancer and is full of anger plots revenge on those who would do him and his friends wrong.

And it all escalates with devastating consequences.

In a Better World is a powerhouse, slow burning drama.
With evocative cutaways (either in Africa or Denmark), there's a real brooding intensity throughout - and while Persbrandt is good as Anton, the film belongs to the kids - William Jøhnk Nielsen as Christian and Markus Rygaard as Elias.

Both bring a real intensity to their brooding - Nielsen's particularly subtle in his role as a kid who's experienced loss and grief and doesn't know where to channel it.

Expect to become quickly engrossed in this drama - it's multi-layered, subtle and deeply rewarding.

Extras: None

Rating: 7/10 

The Dilemma: Blu Ray Review

The Dilemma: Blu Ray Review

The Dilemma
Rating: M
Released by Universal
In this dramedy from Ron Howard, Vince 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?

It's a mixed bag - 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.

Extras: Alternate ending, deleted scenes, gag reel and a doco

Rating: 5/10 

The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell: DVD Review

The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell: DVD Review

The Hopes and dreams of Gazza Snell
Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

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 a degree of reality.

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.

Extras: Trailer, Video, bloopers, deleted scenes, interviews and commentary

Rating: 8/10 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Burlesque: Blu Ray review

Burlesque: Blu Ray review

Burlesque
Rating: M
Released by Sony

Christina 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.

At the end of the day, the overlong 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.

Extras: Entire song performances commentary, bloopers and alternate opening; plus the blu ray throws in featurettes on the music, dancing and cast

Rating: 5/10 

Monday, 23 May 2011

Dr Who: Mara Tales: DVD Review

Dr Who: Mara Tales: DVD Review

Dr Who - Mara Tales
Rating: G
Released by BBC and Roadshow

Peter Davison stars in these two classic Who tales which have been fan favourites for a long time.

In Kinda and Snakedance, companion Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Davison's fifth doctor take the spotlight as they take on the forces of pure evil, the Mara which infests Tegan's mind and threatens the universe.

The sequel Snakedance sees the Mara reborn again and on the verge of once again destroying both Tegan and the creature's homeworld Manussa.

Quite simply this is classic Who at its best - and worst thanks to budgetary confines; a brilliantly realized concept is crippled by the fact its main effect looks like a snake made from cardboard; but with the release of these DVDs and the steps made in technology, you'll be able to see how it should have been done - thanks to a re-envisioning.

The stories are well written and acted too - concepts of faith, Buddhism and belief in good and evil are all explored and given life; and Snakedance sees the very first acting job of Martin Clunes.

Once again, the extras are superlative and commentaries, deleted scenes and some great behind the scenes docos show why this pair of stories have an enduring appeal.

Sure, some will get lost in the fact it's 80s Dr Who - but fans will truly adore this set which has been a long time coming.

Rating: 7/10 

Friday, 20 May 2011

Made In Dagenham: DVD Review

Made In Dagenham: DVD Review

Made In Dagenham
Rating: M
Released by Universal

From the director of Calendar Girls comes a new UK film with a cast that reads like a Who's Who of Brit talent.

It's 1960s Britain, where Ford is at the height of its power - pumping out thousands of cars daily to the world.

But in the town of Dagenham, where one of the company's major plants is housed, trouble's a-brewing.

Well, specifically, in the machinist section of the plant populated by some 187 women, who are downgraded to a lower unskilled band and not happy - and in one of them, shy and quiet Rita O'Grady (a wonderful Sally Hawkins) they find the voice to complain to the management at Head Office.

It's fair to say that Made in Dagenham is crowd pleasing in the extreme; with the usual kind of humour that pioneered the mold with The Full Monty, this Brit flick sings in terms of soundtrack, dry humorous moments and some great performances.

Every actor turns in solid performances - but it's Sally Hawkins who really impresses in this role of the mousey, put upon Rita whose voice rises up when it's most needed. She's the emotional centre of the film and she succeeds because she's never showy and immensely watchable.

Sure, it's predictable in places - and you can see where the cracks will come dramatically (which may irritate the purists who feel that it's UK film making by numbers in terms of script, jokes and direction) but if the formula ain't broke, then I guess you don't need to fix it.

Extras: Commentary with director, deleted scenes, outtakes, doco and trailer - a reasonable bunch

Rating: 6/10 

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Brighton Rock: Movie Review

Brighton Rock: Movie Review

Brighton Rock
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis
Director: Rowan Joffe
It's always hard to redo a film when another version exists that's deemed a classic.
This version of Brighton Rock (based on Graham Greene's 1939 novel) has had a few tweaks.
Set against a backdrop of unrest between the Mods vs Rockers scene, the action takes place in Brighton; a Brighton of the sixties where gangs of dissenting youth and mobsters roam the streets, taking to anything they don't like with violence.
Pinkie (played with resentful ferocity by Sam Riley) is one of those involved in a gang; he's more likely to crack a skull than a smile - and he finds himself wrestling with power and greed after he commits a murder.
Things get more complicated when Rose (a stunning Andrea Riseborough) finds herself unwittingly in the middle of evidence linking Pinkie's gang to the murder.
So Pinkie seduces the naïve Rose - as he tries to ensure she doesn't talk...
But Rose's boss Ida (Helen Mirren) knows something's not right - and soon finds herself embroiled in this tale of gangland by the sea.
Brighton Rock is dark and gloomy - both in tone and in lighting.
This story of shivs, shingle and shocks may take a while to resonate with audiences - and many of the older persuasion will take a lot to be convinced anyone can improve on Richard Attenborough's performance.
In many ways, Pinkie's supposed to be the archetypal anti-hero but he's very difficult to root for (sample moment - he decides whether Rose loves him by pulling the legs off a spider). He's cold, blessed with a permanent scowl, callous, ruthless and in Sam Riley's hands, menacingly watchable.
Likewise Andrea Riseborough's Rose is simply the soaraway success of this - brilliantly fragile, stupidly naïve and yet endlessly optimistic, she sums up much of the uncertainty of youth - and in the final scenes she will break your heart.
The problem with this Brighton Rock is it's a little slow to get going; and with the darkness pervading the script as well as the onscreen action, some may not be willing to give it the time to let it wash over them and get engrossed.

While the recreation of sixties seaside England is great and the performances impressive, overall, Brighton Rock is much like a trip to the British seaside. It promises so much but disappoints.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

Rating: 4/10
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane
Director: Rob Marshall
Hoist the main sail, shiver your timbers and ready your hearties, it's back to the high seas we go...
Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, the ever so slightly shady and selfish captain in this latest, rumoured to be the start of a new trilogy.
Finding out someone is impersonating him, Jack attempts to track down the imposter but finds himself slap bang in the middle of a race between the Spanish, the English and some pirates lead by Blackbeard to get to the legendary fountain of youth.
Thrown into that mix is Geoffrey Rush's now one legged Captain Barbossa and Angelica, Sparrow's ex, played by Penelope Cruz.
Add in a hunt for a mermaid whose tears can activate the fountain's prophecy, Ian McShane's Blackbeard who's trying to thwart fate and you should have a fairly potent mix for a rewarding blockbuster.
And yet, this outing is as flat as a calm sea.
With jokes that fail to hit any high points (until near the end) and a script which fails to ignite any real sparks of interest, this overlong outing will have you thinking of bailing overboard.
Sure, Depp rolls out his drunken Keith Richards inspired routine but you can't help bit feel this ship has somewhat sailed - with an over powering soundtrack which blasts much of the continual sword play, the whole thing feels bloated and indulgent - and definitely suffers from a lack of Bloom and Knightley as solid supporting characters. An attempt to try and provide some Bloom lite surfaces in the shape of Sam Claflin's missionary, Phillip - but he's too wishy washy to make anything of the role.
That said there are some good moments; the hunt for mermaids is gorgeously shot as it skirts the boundary between sensual and downright scary; Rush impresses at the expense of McShane's weaker performance and some of the effects are very good. Add in some much needed hunour at the end and you get a sense of what really could have been. A lack of real chemistry between Cruz and Depp makes it hard to believe this is Jack's true love.

The inevitable seeds are sown for another but I think it's time to retire this crew and franchise and let the inimitable Cap'n Jack Sparrow sail off into the sunset.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

From Time To Time: Movie Review

From Time To Time: Movie Review

From Time to Time
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, Alex Etel, Timothy Spall
Director: Julian Fellowes
Based on best seller The Chimneys of Green Knowe, From Time To Time is a ghost story mixed in with family intrigue.
When thirteen year old Tolly (Etel) is sent to live with his grandmother (Smith) at her country estate, he becomes obsessed with the family secrets which are embroiled in the home.
Tolly discovers he can move between his world and the past - and begins to uncover family secrets of the estate which have lain dormant for years.
From Time to Time feels a little out of time to be honest - it's certainly enchanting in places and has some wonderful effects as Tolly travels from the present to the country home of the past.
Doors open and suddenly Tolly's back in a past brought to life by wonderfully evocative colours and society life.
But it's all a little plodding in places - it feels a little Secret Gardenish as they negotiate different times and along with simple acting and no real emotion from the lead, it's hard to become engaged in this tale.

Which is a shame because Fellowes manages to eke out maximum spookiness from the old mansion, wrings out the best from his locations and gets a great performance from Maggie Smith.

Hoodwinked 2: Movie Review

Hoodwinked 2: Movie Review

Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs Evil
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Hayden Panettiere, Patrick Warburton, Glenn Close, Bill Hader and Amy Poehler
Director: Mike Disa
When Red Riding Hood's grandma (Glenn Close) is kidnapped while investigating the disappearance of Hansel and Gretel, (Saturday Night Live alums Hader and Poehler) Red (Panettiere) is called in to try and rescue her.
But this mission sees her team up once again with the brilliant Patrick Warburton's Wolf - despite their objections.
Can they put aside petty differences and save the day?
The sequel to Hoodwinked is a curious thing.
Without Anne Hathaway in the lead as Red Riding Hood, Hayden Panettiere steps in and it just doesn't seem to be the same film in many ways.
The animation looks a little crooked in some ways and is more redolent of a computer game than a computer animated film.
And the script is flat in many ways - there's far too few throwaway one liners to give it the oomph that it needs and Warburton's Wolf is by far the best thing in this with his trademark laconic and deadpan delivery, it's not enough to deliver.
There are a few nods to other films - Star Wars and Silence of the Lambs being the most obvious, but there's little for the adults in the audience to appreciate here.

While there's a degree of lunacy to the animation and the feel of the film (a banjo toting goat from the first film returns to be continually plagued by things falling on him), the combination of a poor story overall and a hit and miss style make this instantly forgettable and nowhere near as good as the original.

Water For Elephants: Movie Review

Water For Elephants: Movie Review

Water for Elephants
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz
Director: Francis Lawrence
RPatz tries to put the vampire sparkle behind him in this adaptation of the Sara Gruen historical novel.
Set in Depression times in America, Pattinson plays Jacob (yes, we're aware of the irony too) a vet student who's about to sit his final exams at Cornell University.
However, when his parents are killed in a car accident just moments into his exam, his life changes as he loses everything - not just his family, but his home.
So, running away he jumps on a train which turns out to belong to the Benzini Brothers circus troupe.
Convincing the owner August (a mightily impressive Waltz) that he can contribute and showing his vet knowledge, Jacob is soon welcomed into the upper echelons of the carny society.
However - that also includes an attraction to August's wife Marlena (Witherspoon) which proves dangerous as August is a brooding man, prone to explosive outbursts and abusing the animals....
Water For Elephants starts off well - the Depression era is brilliantly captured and recreated and the tone is perfectly set for a nice historical love story.
But that's where the problems begin with Water For Elephants.
For a story like this to work, you need to have sizzling chemistry between two leads - and to be frank, Pattinson and Witherspoon have as much chemistry as a wet weekend. And that really lets the tale down and brings the whole thing crashing into an average reality.
While RPatz and Witherspoon fail to bring any real spark, there is some consolation in Waltz. He is fantastic; bringing the horrendous menace and explosiveness needed to an evil man but also showing hints of a man conflicted by his behaviour.

Water For Elephants is massively disappointing after such a good set up.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Megamind: Blu Ray Review

Megamind: Blu Ray Review

Megamind
Rating: PG
Released by Universal Pictures

Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt star in this animated outing which remains as impressive on the small screen as it did on the big.

Ferrell is big blue headed supervillain Megamind, a kind of cross between the Mars Attacks creatures and the Mekon. Dispatched from his dying planet by his parents, he begins a rivalry with Metroman (voiced by Brad Pitt), who was also sent from a dying world by family.

But unlike Metroman who landed in an estate with well to do parents, Megamind crashed into the penitentiary and was brought up as a villain.
After years of rivalry "where Metroman would win some battles, but I (Megamind) would almost win others," Megamind finally gains the upper hand and kills Metroman off.

However, after the initial thrill of dispatching his lifelong rival, ole Bluey realizes that his life is quite empty without someone to thwart his dastardly plans - and so conceives to give superpowers to a regular schlub to give him purpose in life.

There's much to enjoy here - with unexpected humour and great one liners through out (some of which will require a second viewing to really pick up on.)

There's also plenty of riffing on the Superman myth; right from the opening sequence to Megamind becoming a Brandoesque mentor to Hal when he gives him new powers. There's also some great visual gags peppering the film throughout - the best of which is an Obama inspired poster which amuses greatly.

Insane and amusing, it's a treat for all the family.

Extras: Behind the scenes, commentaries, games and a brand new short with the return of Megamind and minion.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Skyline: Blu Ray Review

Skyline: Blu Ray Review

Skyline

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment

It's alien invasion time - again.

A trip to LA to celebrate a friend's birthday ends in absolute chaos for Eric Blafour and Scottie Thompson's Jarrod and Elaine.

After a good night out, celebrating with Terry (Donald "Turk from Scrubs" Faison), the gang awakes to find bright blue hypnotic lights raining down over the city and huge machines invading the city.

As they try to escape, it becomes clear their chances to survive are limited - as are mankind's.

Skyline is an unmitigated missed opportunity of a film - replete with some C List actors and some great FX, it's a weird combination which never quite gels.

It's clear the directors are FX geniuses and wizards because the initial shots of the skyline and alien invaders is quite impressive. Less so is the story - which simply becomes a pick off the heroes and see who survives kind of plot.

That said - it's got to be seen for the unbelievable final sequences which depict life within the spaceships themselves. Simply jaw dropping - and not in a good
way

Extras: Deleted scenes, extended scenes, commentary - very little enticing.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest: DVD Review

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest: DVD Review

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

Rating: R16
Released by Vendetta Films

In the third film based on Stieg Larsson's books, the action takes up just moments after the close of the second film. Lisbeth Salander is being choppered to hospital, shot repeatedly and on the brink of death after tracking down her father Alexander Zalachenko and exacting her revenge.

Facing charges of attempted murder, Salander is trapped - with the police wanting to hurry her trial along and with the shadowy cabal The Section determined to get rid of her before their existence becomes known, her prospects don't look good.

But as ever, her faithful friend and journalist of the Millennium magazine Mikael Blomkvist (the ever stoic faced Nyqvist) is determined to clear her name.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a triumphant end to the trilogy - and while some will be put off by the lack of action, the tension in this one is nail biting.
Sure, with most of it taking place in drab corridors, inside a hospital or a courtroom, there's a lot more expected of the actors - and the main duo Rapace and Nyqvist deliver in spades.

It's the story which is more of the star this time (one character even remarks "It's like a classic Greek tragedy") as the various threads are drawn together in the web of decades old conspiracy, the drama is tautly pulled together; so much so that at the devastating end in the courtroom, the restrained directing and story telling works so much better because of it.

The best moment of this film though is the final scene - but talk of that is spoilery, so discover it yourself.

Extras: Interviews with the main actors and a trailer - not bad but a little disappointing given how the series has ended and a retrospective piece may have been in order.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Insatiable Moon: DVD Review

The Insatiable Moon: DVD Review

The Insatiable Moon

Rating:M
Released by Vendetta

Shot on a shoestring budget when the Film Commission passed, The Insatiable is the story of Arthur (a tremendous powerhouse performance from Rawiri Paratene) who believes he's the second son of God and who frequents a halfway house run by Greg Johnson's Bob in Auckland's suburb of Ponsonby.

However, Arthur's life becomes permanently intertwined with Sara Wiseman's social worker at a time when the boarding house is threatened with closure.
With residents galvanized into trying to save their home from those who've got closed minds, the clock begins to tick - and Arthur starts to unravel.

The Insatiable Moon is a story of heart and compassion, populated with some truly brilliant and crowd pleasing performances from the central cast.

It's got audience pleasing moments throughout as well as some laughs but it's Paratene's impishness and charm which sees this film from beginning to end; with big eyes and a disarming grin, he's the heart and soul of the Insatiable Moon - and manages to bind the whole thing together.

Extras: Trailer, Interviews, outtakes and deleted scenes

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 7 May 2011

TRONLegacy: Blu Ray Review

TRONLegacy: Blu Ray Review

Tron Legacy

Rating: PG
Released by Disney

Nearly 30 years in the making comes the film Disney had high hopes for.

In TRON Legacy, Garrett Hedlund stars as Sam Flynn, the son of former inventor and computer genius, Kevin (Jeff Bridges). Kevin disappeared nearly 30 years ago, leaving behind Sam, a major company Encom and a lot of questions.

Since that disappearance, Sam's now grown up and is somewhat restless, flitting between being the CEO of Encom and running into trouble with the law.
But when he receives word from family friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) that a page was sent from Flynn's arcade (run by Kevin in the 80s), he heads to see how that's possible and if his father is truly still alive.

And then, he's sucked into the world of the computer run Grid and into a fight for his life.

Visually and aesthetically, I was gobsmacked by the digital world they've created for this - it looks stunning and is spectacular with its vibrant neon blues and oranges standing out in the Blade Runneresque computer world. Scenes of combat, reminiscent of the gladiator's arena from Roman times, are also sensationally shot.Coupled with an incredible electronic soundtrack of dizzyingly good synth from Daft Punk, the cyber-look of this film is, hands down, easily one of the best of the year.

But the problem comes with the overall plot. Or rather, a real lack of it.

With clunking dialogue, this lumbers from one scene to the next - and it's a real shame.

Not a major disaster by any stretch of the imagination - but if the story had measured upto the effects, it could have been unmissable.

Extras: Doco and cast info

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Source Code: Movie Review

Source Code: Movie Review

Source Code
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Director: Duncan Jones
From the director of last year's brilliant Moon, comes a new sci fi thriller which has heart and soul as well as intelligence and action.
Gyllenhaal stars as Captain Colter Stevens, who finds himself on a train and facing a woman Christina (Monaghan) he's convinced he's never met before.
To make matters worse, he looks in a mirror and sees the face looking back at him is not his own.
Before he's got time to make head or tail of what's going on, a bomb destroys the Chicago bound train - taking him, and all the passengers with it.
When he wakes up though, he finds himself being questioned by the military (led by Vera Farmiga) and trapped in a capsule.
They explain he's got just eight minutes on the train to find out who is responsible for bombing it and send him back in - and will keep doing so until he's successful.....
Source Code is perhaps one of the best scifi thrillers ever made - but more than that, it's a compelling film which is grounded in humanity rather than just scifi.
Duncan Jones seriously impressed with Moon and he builds even more here with this thrilling and exciting ride. It's a fiendishly intriguing premise which throws you right in at the beginning by giving you few clues and so immediately you empathise with Stevens as he tries to find out what's going on.
Gyllenhaal is mightily watchable as Stevens; as the truth unravels, you understand and really feel his puzzled viewpoint; the thing is, it's all due to Gyllenhaal and his steely determination mixed with vulnerability.
But credit must also go to Monaghan; her Christine becomes the emotional touchstone on the train and the reason Stevens keep coming back - she helps give the story the humanity it needs to keep it from simply being a thriller with a large dollop of sci fi.
The other star is the script - initially complex and layered, it rewards an intelligent audience who are willing to take the ride and embrace the mystery of what's going on on the train as well as what's going on with Stevens. It also helps the director's really invested a degree of real time into this - each section on the train lasts only 8 minutes so you begin to feel the desperation as the clock ticks toward the inevitable explosion. It's a sort of scifi Groundhog Day in many ways.

Source Code is one of the best films of 2011 - it's intelligent, ferociously good film making, and a brilliant experience which rewards with multiple viewings.

Your Highness: Movie Review

Your Highness: Movie Review

Your Highness
Rating: 3/10
Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Damian Lewis, Charles Dance
Director: David Gordon Green
From the team behind stoner comedy Pineapple Express comes medieval romp Your Highness.
McBride plays Thadeous, a slacker prince who lives in the shadow of his more talented brother Fabious, played by James Franco.
When Fabious returns from a quest with his new bride to be Belladonna (Deschanel) whom he rescued from a tower, it seems happily ever after is on the cards.
But when Belladonna's snatched by evil wizard Lazar, the duo have to team up on an epic quest to save the bride-to-be and rid their kingdom of the evil which blights it....
Forget any level of sophistication here, Your Highness is not about the smarts.
With puerile humour throughout (albeit some amusing one liners) it's not aiming very high.
Both Franco and Portman (rocking a terribly dodgy English accent) go for high and mighty; Deschanel simply opts for sulky.

A little more effort into the script and maybe some mockery of the fantasy genre and this could have been better all round.
Instead it opts for crass, vulgar and a waste of those involved. The only saving grace is McBride who, with some deadpan delivery and some very dry moments just makes this (barely) tolerable.

Your Highness is more a case of swords and saucy language than anything else - a teen audience will be amused. Others will just roll their eyes.