Monday, 31 October 2011

Scream 4 Blu Ray Review

Scream 4 Blu Ray Review

Scream 4
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow

"What's your favourite scary movie?"
15 years ago, one horror film reinvented the slasher genre and made it fresh, smart and frightening. Now, the franchise is back - with a new film expected to be the start of a fresh franchise of fear and slaughter.

On the anniversary of the first killings in Woodsboro, Sidney Prescott (the ever luminous Neve Campbell) heads back into town to promote her self help book. But her arrival heralds a new round of mayhem perpetrated by Ghostface - and soon, her friends, family and everyone in Woodsboro is a new target.

It starts with a phone ringing - and a very smart analysis of opening scenes from the Scream films (it's difficult to talk too much without giving spoilers so forgive vagueries) and the initial fake outs throw you off guard before the real action begins to take place. It's this self awareness which pervades the film - and makes it more entertaining than the two sequels which preceded it.

That said, the latest entrant seems a little muted compared to what we've become used to.

David Arquette is mightily impressive as doofus Dewey the sheriff; Courtney Cox is bitter and angry as Gail, the would be writer who's now trapped in small town Woodsboro; and Campbell really brings the psychological plight of a victim/ survivor to the fore. Throw in a new group (a next generation if you will) of teens (Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts as Sid's cousin, two new film geeks) and there's a veritable pot pourri of characters on show.

There's a lack of suspense at times to be frank - and if you're after a blood spattered night out, this isn't the film for you.

Granted the scenes of teens/ adults being stabbed are actually quite horrifying, but they're muted in comparison to the over the top death scenes of the previous two films - and that's what impresses.
The final sequences are overlong and drawn out - and the revelations of ultimately who's behind it make reasonable sense (partly because they spend an inordinate amount of time explaining why they're doing it.)

Sure, there's plenty of running up stairs when going out the front door may have been best; there's dark and deserted parking lots, shadows of things moving by windows, but all in all this Screemake (or Screequel as the characters call them) isn't a bad entrant into the franchise. As one line says :"You do a remake to outdo the original"; certainly Scre4m (to give it its marketing title) brings some new aspects to the genre, but the over peppering of the script with commentary on the films and horror franchises may lead some to feel this latest is a little flat and lacking in requisite suspense in places.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 28 October 2011

Game Review: Dead Rising 2 - Off the Record

Game Review: Dead Rising 2 - Off the Record

Dead Rising 2 - Off The Record
Released by THQ/ Capcom
Platform: PS3
Zombies are everywhere at the moment - with the success of the Walking Dead TV series, it's almost as if the undead have been given another shot at life.
The latest Dead Rising sees you taking control of Frank West, a once TV star whose star is most definitely in the descent and who finds himself in Fortune City, armed with only a camera and whatever he can get his hands on to take on the hordes of the undead. With the clock ticking down to a kind of apocalypse to cleanse the dead and the chance of Frank becoming zombified himself if he doesn't get the wonder drug Zombrex, it's clearly a race against time and a quest to survive.
I've not played any of the Dead Rising series before but this latest is a reinterpretation of the last one with a different main character; that's a clever move but some may feel there's little new to see this time around.
However, it's relatively good fun if you like just pointlessly killing things using an array of weapons; from freezing them with fire extinguishers and then bashing them to using microphone stands to spear them, there's a certain amount of joy to be had just slaughtering.
It does get a little frustrating when the game loads up every few minutes but I guess given the multitudes of undead and options on the screen for weapons, as well as stores to explore, something's gotta give. A neat touch is giving Frank a camera and using that to take pics around Fortune City to gather points; plus giving the game a sandbox option where the time threat is stripped away, is also a chance to invest a little deeper into the game.
Overall, Dead Rising 2 - Off The Record will come down to whether you like to just put your brain in neutral and engage the game - and while that's not a bad thing, it certainly means this latest is playable enough and disposable fun.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Beautiful Lies: Movie Review

Beautiful Lies: Movie Review

Beautiful Lies
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila
Director: Pierre Salvadon
Amelie's Tautou stars as Emilie in this French romantic comedy about little white lies.
Emilie is a partner in a hairdressing business - one day she receives an anonymous love letter from Jean (Bouajila) who works with her. But she dismisses it and carries on with her life.
However, realizing her mother Maddy's yet to recover from her father walking out on them four years ago, she decides to take that letter and retype it, changing the intended addressee and sending it to her depressed mom.
But, that rejuvenates Maddy and sets in motion a chain of events which spirals out into farcical consequences.
Tautou is perfectly fine in the role; one minute all wide eyed and the next haughty and cross; while she has a bit of spark about her, it's only really at the start of this film that you're carried along with the premise. About a third of the way in, it becomes a little too farcical for you to care as the misunderstandings escalate and a somewhat strange situation/ triangle develops between Jean, Maddy and Emilie.

Beautiful Lies is a piece of French fluff; beautifully shot in a bright French town - it has all the breeziness within but is insubstantial and instantly forgettable.

Fright Night: Movie Review

Fright Night: Movie Review

Fright Night
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Imogen Poots, David Tennant, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Craig Gillespie
So it's a remake of the 1985 flick of the same name - and despite the fact you're probably rolling your eyes wondering if Hollywood's run out of ideas, this ain't half bad.
Yelchin is Charley Brewster, who lives in a small suburban settlement just outside Vegas; his mom (Collette) is an estate agent and he's just starting a new relationship with popular girl Amy (Poots) having graduated to the cool kids from a group of geeks he used to hang around with.
One of them, Ed (Mintz-Plasse) believes the third member of their former gang has been taken by a vampire named Jerry (Farrell) who just happens to be Charley's next door neighbour...
And when Ed goes missing and Charley begins to investigate, it transpires there may be a grain of truth in the accusations.
Fright Night is a whole bunch of bloody fangtastic fun.
A good horror these days needs several key ingredients in the mix; a dose of self knowing humour, some genuine scares, spooky atmosphere and some quality acting.
Thankfully, Fright Night has all of that and more.
Colin Farrell pulls a stunningly menacing turn out of the bag as the shifty and frightening neighbour who just wants to get to know his neighbours; Yelchin also impresses having enough presence to make you believe he's just graduated from the geeks to leading man status and David Tennant brings a lizard lounge swagger to the Vegas magician to give him enough charisma on the screen.
To be honest, the 3D format of this film is a little hit and miss - some of it's used to have blood splatter come out of the screen at you and that's a little disappointing. But the FX when the vampires burn up in the sun is stunningly good.

All in all, Fright Night represents a great piece of popcorn entertainment; it's a clever film whose easy mix of occasional tongue in cheek tone and masterfully eeked out tension ensure you're kept on the edge of your seat throughout.

In Time: Movie Review

In Time: Movie Review

In Time
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser
Director: Andrew Niccol
Kiwi director Andrew Niccol returns with this sci-fi film, set sometime a few days after the day after tomorrow.
In this alternative future, people stop aging at 25 and must work to buy themselves more time. A green digital clock counting down on their arm signals how much time they've got left in life - but they have options to work to buy time and can transfer it freely between themselves. With me so far?
It's in this world we meet Justin Timberlake's Will Salas, who lives in the ghettos. When Salas finds himself in a bar one night with a man who's got over a century of time notched up on his arm, Salas ends up saving him from a corrupt gang preying on those who live in the ghetto.
However, the next day, Salas finds the man dead and all the time transferred to him.
Suddenly, the police force of TimeKeepers (including Cillian Murphy's character) is on his tail - and Will heads to New Greenwich where the rich live to try and escape the law and live his life.
There, he meets Amanda Seyfried's Sylvia Weis, the rich girl/spoilt brat who's desperate to get out of her father's clutches so that she can live a little.
However, she hadn't bargained for becoming Will's hostage when he finds himself trapped and with nowhere to run....
It's an intriguing concept and one ripe for sci fi trappings but In Time just falls short of its clever central premise.
The whole feel is starchly pompous at times and utterly silly at others. It's also a mish mash of other films; shades of Logan's Run, elements of Bonnie and Clyde and touches of Robin Hood as Salas robs time from the rich to give to the poor. With lines like "The poor die, but the rich don't live" and "Don't waste my time", there's some heavy handed hammering home of the ideas at play here.
That's some of the problem as the film doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Sure, there are thematic questions running underneath as the ethics of living and dying come up but they're mired in noisy chase scenes and plenty of running that they lose their intelligence too early on. It's a shame that Niccol resorts to car chases to keep the audience engaged when the central conceit is such an interesting one.
Seyfried makes a very sultry wide eyed naïf to begin with and Timberlake is relatively straight as he tries to become an intelligent action hero (which unfortunately he doesn't quite make), but the two just don't mix well and there's very little chemistry on display, making Seyfried's Stockholm Syndrome a little hard to believe in.

Granted there are some good ideas, concepts and designs here- the look and feel particularly of the day after tomorrow works very well - but Kiwi director Niccol doesn't seem to know what ultimately he wants to do with this film, which is a real shame.

The Inbetweeners Movie: Movie Review

The Inbetweeners Movie: Movie Review

The Inbetweeners Movie
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, Blake Harrison
Director: Ben Palmer
From three successful TV series, a movie's born from some very crude loins.
UK comedy series The Inbetweeners centred around 4 teenagers, Jay, Simon, Will and Neil who're obsessed with sex, girls, sex, breasts, sex and even more sex.
In the film spin off from the TV2 show, the quartet have finished school; when Jay's grandfather dies, and Simon's dumped by long term on/off girlfriend Carli, they decide it's time for a lad's holiday away in Crete.
So the four lovably deluded losers head off to the sun and sand in the hope of scoring plenty of ladies and a memorable time.
But things get complicated when Simon finds out Carli's there too and sets out to woo her back; and the rest of the guys find their quest for notches on the bedpost don't quite go according to any sort of plan.
The Inbetweeners Movie is full of sharp one liners, smut and humiliation - and because of that, is in keeping with the TV series, the awkward situations they find themselves in and the characters we've come to know and love.
Of the four lads, it's perhaps Simon Bird's geeky and intellectual loser Will who comes off best in the flick; he's got some great lines and Bird really does bring an extra dimension to the character. Joe Thomas' Simon starts to grate a little as he continues to pine after Carli - so much so that you want to shout at the screen for him to move on; Blake Harrison's Neil has some astonishingly filthy - yet very funny- moments (which sadly can't be discussed here) and James Buckley's deluded Jay is perhaps the weakest of the bunch in terms of story arcs.
But that's the thing with The Inbetweeners - you could always see what was going to happen and while parts of this film may feel a little repetitive, the laughs you get from seeing the delusions of sex obsessed teenagers in action far outweigh the feeling you've seen it all before.

With a healthy smattering of smut and some genuinely laugh out loud and cringeworthy moments, The Inbetweeners Movie is a sign the Brit comedy industry is still in very, very rude health.

One Day: Movie Review

One Day: Movie Review

One Day
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Rafe Spall, Ken Stott, Patricia Clarkson
Director: Lone Scherfig
Based on a tremendously well received book, One Day stars Anne Hathaway as Emma Morley, and Jim Sturgess as Dexter Mayhew.
The pair have just graduated from Edinburgh on July 15th, 1988 and very nearly fall into bed together.
However, they don't quite make it and thus begins a 20 year friendship, charted on screen by following the pair every year on July 15th to find out where they are.
Emma is an idealist; a wannabe writer and working class girl who always seems thwarted in her attempts to achieve greater things, ending up in a relationship with Rafe Spall's terribly dull stand up comic, Ian.
Dex, meanwhile, seems to have it all - a TV career fronting a music show and women, booze and drugs on tap. But unsurprisingly, he's a mess.
Can the pair realise what they truly need has been under their noses for the past 20 years?
One Day is pure romantic fluff drama; some will swoon and fawn over it and others will absolutely hate it.
While the recreation of the relevant decades is brilliantly realised - right down to the music choices which evoke the era within seconds of you hearing them in the background, the main plot device (jumping a year) starts to grate very quickly.
The trouble is that the central conceit makes each visit feel a little like a disjointed vignette and it's hard to really engage with or care about the characters.
Sturgess and Hathaway have little chemistry together - and while Hathaway's attempt at a Northern English accent isn't as bad as you may have read, she certainly doesn't impress as much as perhaps she might. There's some disarming charm in the dialogue and some good one liners but to be honest, you can see where this film is going from the beginning.

Ultimately, One Day is a little polarising; some will adore the true love storyline and tearjerking moments whereas others will simply roll their eyes and wait for it to end.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Midnight in Paris: Movie Review

Midnight in Paris: Movie Review

Midnight In Paris
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Owen Wilson, Michael Sheen, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard
Director: Woody Allen
Owen Wilson stars in Woody Allen's latest, a whimsical look at life in the French capital.
Wilson is Gil, a screen writer for Hollywood who's served up some trashy stuff before and is looking to broaden out his horizons by writing a novel.
He's in Paris with his fiancée Inez (McAdams) holidaying with her family and dreaming of a romantic life in the city of love, with walks in the rain, sauntering down the streets during the day and reflecting on what future may lie ahead.
But one night, after leaving his fiancée to go dancing with some mutual friends, Gil finds himself transported back to Paris of the 1920s when midnight strikes and into the world of some of his literary heroes.
This latest from Allen is a slight, uncomplicated and sumptuously shot piece. Opening with a jazzy soundtrack and some picture postcard moments of Paris, it's clear, for once, the writer/ director's gone for something simpler and something which wallows more in the nostalgic side of life.
Wilson is in fine form as essentially, an extension of Woody Allen; McAdams and Sheen are quite insufferable though as a fiancée and friend who clearly don't like or respect Gil so it's hard to see why exactly you should feel any sympathy for them when they get their comeuppance.

But it's the period detail where Allen's latest shines; the recreation of the 1920s scene is amazing and fantastical. With the usual smattering of some good one liners, this is a frothy piece of escapist cinema, which is light and breezy and extremely likeable.

Dr Who - Day of the Daleks - DVD Review

Dr Who - Day of the Daleks - DVD Review

Dr Who Day Of the Daleks
Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow
This two disc release from the Classic Dr Who archive is something to be treasured for fans of the show - but not for the main attraction, it has to be sadly said.
The story is a four part adventure from 1972 and sees Jon Pertwee's Dr and assistant Jo Grant caught up in a potential war between the Daleks and mankind. On the eve of a peace conference between China and the rest of the world, the Doc's called in to investigate reports of ghosts. Soon, he finds himself facing his deadliest enemies.
The main story is itself a little slow paced and a bit of a mish mash of political machinations and a lot of talking, with very little action. It also suffers from a dreadfully simplistic denouement and gives some credence to why Dr Who of the 1970s was occasionally scoffed at.
However, the special features rise this average, but much loved, tale out of the mire. With a raft of documentaries and tidbits, there's already a lot to savour. But throw into that mix, a remastered version with special effects from today's CGI standards, brand new Dalek voices and some specially shot sequences, and you've got a tale which stands out a little more. It's a great touch to the range and while some purists may feel the special edition has gone a little too far, it really does much to enhance the overall feel of the adventure.

Rating: 7/10 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Paranormal Activity 3: Movie Review

Paranormal Activity 3: Movie Review

Paranormal Activity 3
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Jessica Tyler Brown

Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Horror franchises - let's be honest, they start to run out of steam after maybe the second outing, right?
Not in the case of Paranormal Activity.
Following on from the sleeper success of the first film which saw Katie Featherston's Katie being terrified by a "ghost" in her home, a second was rolled out within a year; and now the same's happened with the latest as the studios aim for an annual Hallowe'en release. But it's good news for fans of this particular genre, because the latest outing is a deeply unsettling and unnerving experience.
Essentially, it's a prequel to the first film and delves back into 1988 when Katie and Kristi were young girls living with their parents Dennis and Julie in California. Once again, there's an entity spooking the house and so Dennis, an amateur wedding video creator, decides to set up cameras around the house to try and find out what's going on. Coupled with the fact Kristi's got an imaginary friend Toby, there's plenty to keep him occupied.
But over the course of some 14 nights, the presence really makes itself felt and things escalate into a terrifying conclusion...
I'm loathe to give away too much of this film for the simple reason that a lot of the fun/ heart in mouth moments in the Paranormal Activity films tend to come from not knowing what's ahead - sure, there's a few predictable shocks and jolts, as well as a couple of fake outs, but it doesn't stop what unfolds on the screen in the dark of the cinema from being quite horrifying.
I think half of the horror of this film is due to the fact it involves young children. The young Katie and Kristi are well played by their kiddie charges and you really feel their terror as the entity exerts its might. Lauren Bittner and Christopher Nicholas Smith play the parents well and there's a primal fear being played to here that they can't appear to protect their own in their home which really does grip you.
In the days pre-cutting edge technology, the 1988 setting gives an occasional feeling of retro as video cameras are mounted on desk fans to ensure all sides of the rooms are covered - it's a clever touch which forces you to quickly look at what's on the screen and identify any fleeting images as it pans left and right. It's a smart move and adds to the tension - particuarly during key scenes in the kitchen areas.

Ultimately, some may argue this latest is very similar to what's gone before and there's a chance the ending may polarise some like The Blair Witch Project denouement did; but Paranormal Activity 3 is a thrilling, horrifying, unsettling, heart in mouth rollercoaster ride, which is packed full of genuinely unnerving scares.

Snowtown: Blu Ray Review

Snowtown: Blu Ray Review

Snowtown
Rating: R18
Released by Madman

Dark,bleak,unrelenting and tense,Snowtown is an Aussie flick about John Bunting,their worst serial killer who targeted alleged paedophiles and gays back in the 90s.Daniel Henshall is utterly mesmerising and supremely chilling as the chubby faced charmer Bunting,as he swings from foster father to killer behind closed doors.
The film's strength is it doesn't show the violence or killings - bar one occasion- and because of that, this is extraodinary filmmaking which doesn't skimp on the atmosphere or the fear;unsettling it may be to watch for 2 hours but it's yet another sign the Aussie industry is in rude health.
While there's some who feel that there's hardly anyone to back in this grimy, gritty film(a young teen who the film initially focusses on soon becomes Bunting's accomplice),there's no denial it's a tough watch but it's rewarding and haunting in the extreme.

There's an air of menace running throughout and thanks to some great imagery,Snowtown remains with you long after it's done.

Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, casting, docos, short films from director

Rating: 8/10 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Company Men: Blu Ray Review

The Company Men: Blu Ray Review

The Company Men
Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

An impressive ensemble cast come together in this film about downsizing and the effects it has on a man's psyche.

Ben Affleck plays ambitious Bobby Walker who has it all - a lavish house, a sports car and everything money could buy. But his world changes when he loses his job at the GTX Corporation during a downsizing, he's forced to re-evaluate his life.

However, he's not alone; Chris Cooper plays Phil Woodward, a middle manager at the same company who also finds himself in the same position but faces different hurdles because of his age.

At the top of the corporate chain is Tommy Lee Jones' Gene McClary who helped found the company along - eventually he finds himself in the same position as those further down the ladder.

The Company Men is a well acted, if occasionally slow look at the effects of the recession on three walks of life; granted, it's a little hard to sympathise at times with Affleck's Walker as he initially continues to live in the grand house and drive the swish car while the hard times hit. But you can understand how pride is the biggest hurdle during recessionary times.

However, this drama from the writer of ER is really about how people are forced to re-evaluate their lives and outlooks; it's perhaps telling that this happens in slower ways than you'd expect - Walker explodes during an interview for a position he's overqualified for - and because of that is a little more effective.

By putting three different faces on the downsizing impact, Wells crafts a good story and gets to the psyche of what's continuing to effect many both in America and worldwide. Every single one of the cast delivers a strong performance and together, they show what a truly impressive ensemble can achieve.

Extras: Commentary, alternate ending, deleted scenes and a making of

Rating: 7/10 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Barney's Version: DVD Review

Barney's Version: DVD Review

Barney's Version
Released by Hopscotch Ent

Based on Mordecai Richler's prize-winning comic novel, Barney's Version stars the ever wonderful Paul Giamatti as Barney Panofsky, a TV show producer who's in the twilight of his life.

He's the kind of guy who tells it like it is in places and doesn't suffer fools gladly - but he's prone to making errors in his life - as his numerous marriages display.
But as well as the multitude of highs, he reflects back on his lows too - including the death of his friend Boogie (Scott Speedman) who mysteriously disappeared after an alcohol fuelled row with Barney and whose disappearance saw Barney pursued by the cops for murder.

Over four decades and three wives, we follow Barney and his relationships with lovers, children and occasionally work colleagues. The first ended in tragedy; the second ended when he fell in love with another woman on his wedding night and the third falls apart because of his own fallability.

Barney's Version is an odd sort of film; it meanders as Barney recalls parts of his life as he battles with a fatal illness towards the end. Perhaps that's some of the point of this film that it moves around and is told by an unreliable narrator; but it's an oddly cold kind of film which doesn't really engage on an emotional level.

Granted, there are some wonderfully comic touches and deft moments; and at the centre of it all, there's a ferocious tour de force from Giamatti himself; every emotion is etched on this sad sack's face and his on screen presence demands you watch. With great supporting performances from the likes of Hoffman as his Jewish dad and Rosamund Pike as the love of his life, it's a solid affair

Rating: 7/10 

Hoodwinked 2 : Blu Ray Review

Hoodwinked 2 : Blu Ray Review

Hoodwinked 2
Released by Roadshow
Rating: G

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. It's probably more one for the kids to be put on while the school holidays continue.

Extras: Storyboard sequences, behind the voices

Rating: 5/10 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Burke and Hare: DVD Review

Burke and Hare: DVD Review

Burke and Hare
Rating:M
Released by Universal Home Ent

A comic retelling of the 1820s Westport murders, Burke and Hare is an odd kind of film.

The ever brilliant Simon Pegg stars as William Burke and Andy Serkis is William Hare, a pair of conmen who're trying to make ends meet in Edinburgh.
When they overhear that corpses can fetch a pretty penny from the medical industry, they decide to supply Dr Knox (Tom Wilkinson) with corpses to make some cash. Trouble is, people aren't dying too quickly from natural causes - and that's where things take a murderous turn.

However, when the cash they earn pushes them in to the upper echelons of society, Burke falls hard for travelling actress Ginny (Isla Fisher) and starts to suffer from conscience&

And with the militia (headed up by Ronnie Corbett) onto the murders, it looks like the noose is tightening around their necks&

A queasy mix of murder and comedy, Burke and Hare seems to fail on both levels because it can't decide whether the dark tale needs to be told seriously or with a tongue firmly in its cheek. The main duo are hapless and it does play against the truth of the murders but the guest cast is stunning - a veritable who's who of the UK comedy scene.
Burke and Hare is a curio and probably one for fans of Ealing comedies more than anything - it's a botched attempt at a mixing of genres and the resultant mess is a frustrating disappointment.

Extras: Deleted scenes and outtakes

Rating: 4/10 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Movie Review

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Movie Review

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Werner Herzog, a select camera crew, cave paintings, bear skulls and stalactites
Director: Werner Herzog
Shot in 3D, this doco sees German director Herzog, along with a select camera crew, heading to France to document the marvels held by a French cave discovered in 1994.
The Chauvet Cave in the south of France is one of anthropological wonder given that inside it's decorated with wall paintings and carvings from some 30,000 years ago.
Herzog was given exclusive access to document the innermost sanctum of the cave by the French government.
Essentially this 3D film really thrives when it's inside the cave and the camera simply lingers on the shots of the paintings and the full enormity of what's within explodes within your mind.
Skulls of animals long since dead and footprints from creatures 30,000 years old litter the pictures and are simply mind blowing. The 3D gives the depth to the paintings and reveals just how astounding they are.
But then Herzog's dry voiceover takes over and pompous statements like "It's like a frozen flash in a moment of time" give this an air of stuffiness that to be honest, it could do without.
Interviews with scientists and enthusiasts add to the pretentiousness of the piece and detract from the simple fact that sometimes, a picture paints a thousand words.
Those images of rhinos, horses, bison and tigers, bumps and shapes of the walls show a world that is beyond our comprehension and understanding; and in some ways, Herzog's insistence on talking really does mean the film loses some of its impact.

At the end, a montage of paintings and snapshots flash up on screen, accompanied by music - and in that flash alone, the film speaks volumes - and much more than Herzog ever can - of its secrets from thousands of years ago.

The Three Musketeers: Movie Review

The Three Musketeers: Movie Review

The Three Musketeers
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Orlando Bloom, Logan Lerman, Mads Mikkelsen, Christoph Waltz, James Corden
Director: Paul WS Anderson

The latest version of Alexandre Dumas' infamous Musketeers book sees an odd mix of history and fantasy - mixed in with action scenes and lots of things blowing up in 3D.
Logan Lerman is D'Artagnan, a young cocky wannabe Musketeers who leaves his small rural village to head to Paris to join the "All for One, and One for All" band.
Unfortunately though, Porthos, Arames and Athos (Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans and Matthew MacFadyen respectively) are somewhat washed up and obsolete warriors who no longer have a cause to fight for; Athos in particular is the most bitter, as he was betrayed by his love Milady de Winter (Jovovich) during their last outing.
But when Cardinal Richelieu (Waltz) moves to rid the kingdom of the Musketeers and plunge France into a war against the English (led by Orlando Bloom's Duke of Buckingham), the quartet of Musketeers are called into action to save the day...
The Three Musketeers is a somewhat campy, at times, pantomime style and bizarre kind of film. It's an odd mix of fantasy with flying airships being thrown into the story (I'm guessing those weren't historically accurate even if they are apparently based on plans from Leonardo da Vinci) and it's because of these little things that it doesn't quite gel as well as it could have done.
Some of the cast seem to be acting tongue in cheek - MacFadyen seems particularly in on any potential joke with his rather bored delivery - though I don't think anyone told Orlando Bloom, whose Duke of Buckingham appears to be a mix of pantomime villain (minus requisite moustache twirling) and wannabe Johnny Rotten with quite the most bizarre choice of English accent I've heard this year. Logan Lerman, bless him, acts his heart out and is perhaps one of the more earnest of the cast - equally, Christoph Waltz delivers another great character performance, and James Corden takes bumbling comic foil to a new level in the film and provides some pretty basic comic relief.
As an aside, there's such a mix of accents (English, American, German) on display within this film as well - because none of the main actors decides to even try to capture the period detail - which is a shame because the costumes and scenery are a stunning recreation of 17th Century France.

Anderson's brought a mix of explosions, aerial Pirates of the Caribbean style ship wars, destruction and silliness to a bizarrely entertaining odd film. The mix of the ludicrous and at times, Monty Pythonesque levels of humour delivers a mix of the fantastic with the swashbuckling - but ultimately and weirdly, The Three Musketeers may actually end up entertaining some of the younger end as the school holidays continue.

Casino Royale: Blu Ray Review

Casino Royale: Blu Ray Review

Casino Royale
Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

This Blu Ray is the latest release from the new range from Sony to showcase some of the best of their product like Taxi Driver.

This is the debut of Daniel Craig's Bond - and yes, that iconic scene where he rises from the water in his skimpies. And no, I will not be telling you that looks great in its HD remastered glory.
Craig's a revelation as Bond and this returns the franchise to its gritty best - coupled with some reasonable extras as well, it's a good solid package.

Extras: Docos and music video

Rating: 8/10 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Contagion: Movie Review

Contagion: Movie Review

Contagion
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Jennifer Ehle
Director: Steven Soderbergh
If you've ever been worried about a viral outbreak and the costs of a pandemic, this is not the film you want to see.
In the latest ensemble drama, Paltrow stars as Beth Emhoff, who's just back from a trip to Hong Kong - and is feeling somewhat rough. However, having returned to her Minneapolis home to hubby Mitch (Damon), she promptly collapses, has seizures and dies.
At the same time, others begin to display similar symptoms and pretty soon, the Department of Homeland Security meets with Dr Cheevers (Fishburne) of the Centre for Disease Control amid fears it's a biological attack aimed to cripple America over Thanksgiving weekend.
So Cheevers dispatches an epidemiologist Dr. Erin Mears (Winslet) to Minneapolis to begin an investigation into what's going on - but it could all be too late amid fears the MEV1 pandemic's about to sweep the world. And with society breaking down amid quarantines and supplies shortages, there's everything at stake.
Contagion is a masterful film - it's intelligent, based on some good science and solid research and to be frank, utterly terrifying in places.
But unlike other Hollywood blockbusters of a similar ilk, this doesn't go for overblown action and hysteria - this latest from Soderbergh is more of a creeping dread and richly unsettling given how much reality it's based in.
There's been some serious scientific research into how diseases are tackled, the actuality of society breaking down and the methods of how scientists would react amid the unleashing of a new global virus.
The disparate threads of the story come together very well - and throw in a solid ensemble cast and you've got a recipe for unnerving cinema, replete with the possibilities of how it'd unfold. Tensions, disputes and a microcosm of detail are Soderbergh's specialities here and because of the depth of information, it's a gripping watch.
Don't get me wrong - this isn't a dull watch at all; it's simply a highly intelligent and smartly presented, masterfully crafted and brilliantly acted piece of What If? disaster movie that is so horrifying because of the depth of its research and the plausibility of its scenario. With reigned in directing and restrained acting, it's brutally successful at being so terrifying.

Just don't be surprised if after viewing it, you start to worry about that person coughing next to you on the bus or the constant sniffer in the office....

Insidious: Blu Ray ReviewInsidious: Blu Ray Review

Insidious: Blu Ray Review

Insidious
Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

With a box blaring from the makers of Paranormal Activity and SAW, you should be able to guess what audience Insidious is aiming for.

Shortly after moving into a new home, Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) find their lives turned upside down when their son Dalton falls into a coma. Things get worse when Renai starts seeing horrific visions and ghostly disturbances around the house - so the pair decide to move home.
Only what's haunting them appears to follow them to their new place&.

Spooky, creepy and a little unsettling, Insidious starts off very well - but the second half of the film can't sustain the tension and unease which has been created at the beginning. And that's where it's a real shame as all involved do a great job - and it's genuinely frightening in places with some shocking moments which will have you grabbing the seat in fear.

Sadly, the premise and the reveal of what's going on just can't be taken too seriously and so Insidious falls squarely into great idea, but disappointing territory.

Extras: Trailer, On set and doco

Rating: 6/10 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Taxi Driver: Blu Ray Review

Taxi Driver: Blu Ray Review

Taxi Driver
Rating: R18
Released by Sony Home Entertainment

Having seen the remastered version of this DeNiro classic at the NZ Film Festival this year, I was eagerly waiting its arrival on Blu Ray.

The print had been cleaned up and this release is a superior picture quality as well - part of a series of releases done by Sony to showcase some of the best of their product.

De Niro is excellent as Travis Bickle, a NYC taxi driver whose flight into madness and paranoia is fuelled by his desire to just do something big. Cybill Sherpherd is luminous as his early love interest and Jodie Foster is astonishing in a debut role. If it doesn't quite hang together in some ways, it's because 21st century eyes look back on a 70s film but I can finally understand why so many adore this.

Beautifully restored on Blu Ray, De Niro has rarely been better and Scorsese's sleazy NYC is still a searing watch.

Extras: A whole horde of them - interviews, commentary from Scorsese - befitting an iconic release.

Rating: 8/10 

Last Paradise: DVD Review

Last Paradise: DVD Review
Last Paradise
Rating: G
Released by Madman Home Ent
This doco from film maker Clive Neeson pretty much sums up why NZ's become the extreme sports mecca of the world.
Pulling together archive footage and traditional talking heads interviews, it takes a look back at why and how Aotearoa became the go to place for those seeking a thrill and looking for something - other than the scenery - to leave the heart pumping.
From home video footage of tyre rolling, boarding, kids on trolleys being pulled by horses to AJ Hackett bungying off the Eiffel Tower, there's plenty to see here in this charming nostalgic look at what's shaped a major part of our tourism world.
However, it's not just that; there's a curiosity factor of seeing the first surfers in action and you end up marveling at those who set the pace.
A clever celebration of Kiwi ingenuity and a sparkling look at what shaped an industry, Last Paradise, while at times being a little more than a sports show promo (complete with slow mo footage), is a fascinating glimpse into why this is the best country in the world.
Extras: Bonus scenes and a trailer - nothing major

Rating: 7/10 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Thor: Blu Ray Review

Thor: Blu Ray Review

Thor Blu Ray
Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

So the Marvel universe continues its cinematic attempts to take over - this time with some help from a buffed up dude from Home and Away and a guy more likely to be known for Shakespeare.
Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, a Norse god, who on the eve of his coronation as king is banished to Earth from Asgard by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) after he instigates an attack on the Frost Giants, a race with whom the Asgardians have been living in peace for years.

Dumped in New Mexico, Thor's found by Natalie Portman's scientist Jane Foster. Convinced he needs to return to Asgard, Thor attempts to regain his mythic hammer (the source of his power) from a SHIELD facility. But when he finds his powers have deserted him, Thor resigns himself to a life on earth.

However, back in Asgard, political machinations are afoot and Thor's brother Loki (a brilliantly reptilian Tom Hiddleston) moves on the throne, prompting Thor's friends to try and bring him back....

Spectacularly epic, utterly engrossing and surprisingly funny, Thor is perhaps one of the best blockbusters in a while. Mixing Shakespearean motifs such as family betrayal, mistrust and revenge, it's clear to see why Kenneth Branagh was attracted to this.

Hemsworth impresses as the petulantly arrogant god and Hopkins is suitably majestic as the regal Odin; each injecting their characters with the humanity and hubris needed of gods. Equally impressive is Hiddleston who brings the requisite element of mistrust to Loki that you're never quite sure whose side he's actually on - or what his motives truly are.

If there's to be a small quibble, it's that Portman and her team of scientists are a little underdeveloped - and the wonderful Kat Dennings is sidelined as simply comic relief.
Thor's a great intro to the character ahead of the release of next year's Avengers.

Extras: Commentary by Branagh, deleted scenes, featurettes - a fair bunch

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Orator: Movie Review

The Orator: Movie Review

The Orator
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Fa'afiaula Sagote, Tausili Pushparaj, Salamasina Mataia, Ioata Tanielu
Director: Tusi Tamasese
The Orator (O Le Tulafale to give its Samoan title) arrives with a certain amount of prestige behind it.
The tale from first time director Tusi Tamasese has been submitted for consideration as Best Foreign Language Film for the 84th Academy Awards®, to be held in Hollywood on the 28th of February 2012.
It's the story of Vaaiga, (Pushparaj) who's been banished from her ancestral village - she's now living with little person Saili (a stunning turn from debut actor Sagote) who's angered neighbours near their home by refusing to move the graves of his parents.
In fact, he insists on tending them every day and chopping down taro plants which are being grown by the neighbouring villagers - much to the ire of those trying to make a living.
Vaaiga's brother Poto (Tanielu) is also causing problems for this small family; he's sick and wants her to return home.
However, Poto's wish has disastrous consequences for all of them.
Quite frankly, if you fail to be moved by The Orator, you don't have a pulse.
Lusciously shot and beautifully subtle and nuanced, this entirely Samoan film is one for the heart as well as the eyes.
First time actor Fa'afiaula Sagote and first time director Tusi Tamasese make a stunning double act - there's the pain of dishonour and the weight of expectation etched across Saili's weary face throughout and you can't help but feel for him as he faces what he faces. Tamasese brings a level headedness to this cultural debut which captivates you from the opening moments to the heart-stopping climax.
This isn't all about highly compelling slow-burning drama; there's a rich vein of subtly dry humour running throughout - mainly thanks to a Samoan rugby team - which gives the weightiness of the script a much needed touch of lightness.

Ultimately though The Orator is simply strong measured storytelling and impressive acting; it's engrossing, heartfelt and in its final scenes, profoundly moving.

Real Steel: Movie Review

Real Steel: Movie Review

Real Steel

Rating: 6/10

Cast:
Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, A sad faced robot

Director: Shawn Levy

In the not too distant future on earth, robots have taken the place of humans in the boxing ring.

It's in this world we meet Charlie Kenton (Jackman), a former boxer whose glory days are past him and who now spends time using his skills to guide fighting robots in the ring.
Only ridden with debt, Charlie's got a few problems - he's got creditors threatening him, his former girlfriend Bailey (Lost's Evangeline Lilly) is about to lose the family gym because of the debt
Charlie's racked up and to make matters worse, Charlie gets his young son Max dumped on him after his ex-wife dies.

But when Max discovers an old robot and decides his discarded bot will be a fighting champion, Charlie indulges his son and gives him a chance to experience life as a fighter.

However, when Max's robot starts to win, Charlie soon discovers he's got a chance to change his life.

This feel good family flick feels at times like a simple smash em up robot smackdown; a sort of Robot Wars for the new CGI digital age. But at its core, it's an old fashioned tale about the underdog, the broken family and second chances.

Which means some of it feels a little old hat and unoriginal - despite the futuristic setting and blaring heavy metal soundtrack each time the robots fight in the ring, there's something very old fashioned to the story telling.

While it avoids the cliché of the mop haired kid, there's a very real feeling to the relationship between Max and Charlie; Hugh Jackman brings his requisite charm to the role and while there's some cheesy lines in the film (Max tells Charlie at one point: You just throw away anything you don't need), there's a heartfelt warmth underneath.

The robot fight scenes are quite cool to be honest - and will indulge the father/son bonding nature of this flick; and I have to admit to being very impressed by the animatronic robots (but that's the nerd in me coming out).

At the end of the day, Real Steel is a brash and at times noisy affair with a gooey heart deep within and it's certainly going to have limited family appeal.

The Smurfs: Movie Review

The Smurfs: Movie Review

The Smurfs

Rating: 6/10

Cast:
Neil Patrick Harris, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, The Smurfs, Gargamel

Director: Raja Gosnell

The Smurfs are somewhat of an institution - so the idea of seeing them redone for a big screen release is one that may give some fans of Peyo's original cartoons a bit of a nervous shudder.
Small creatures of blue with white pointy hats, they live in an enchanted forest away from human contact - but always with the threat of evil wizard Gargamel (a brilliant Hank Azaria) trying to track them down.

So one day, after a series of mishaps when Clumsy Smurf accidentally reveals the location of their perfect village to Gargamel, a handful of them are forced to flee through a portal to New York - and into the life of uptight father to be Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris).

And while Patrick's pregnant other half Grace (Jayma Mays) is happy to embrace them, Patrick isn't too pleased to welcome Smurfette, Poppa Smurf, Clumsy et al into his life.

Things get even more complicated when Gargamel heads through the portal too trying to track them down...

Will they ever be able to return home? Will they be able to fight off the wizard? And will Patrick avoid being fired from his job by Cruella de Vil like boss Odile (Modern Family's Sofia Vergara.)

The Smurfs is a lot of family fun - and much more bearable than you'd believe of a computer animated film about small blue people.

There's a cartoony feel to it in places - but not one which makes it feel childish and silly; it's more of a joyous self knowing celebration. Katy Perry's Smurfette even reveals at one point, that she kissed a Smurf and she liked it.

There's a playfulness to the script and while Gargamel veers dangerously close to pantomime territory, thanks to Azaria's great acting and some clever laugh out loud oneliners, he's more fun than complete caricature.

Sure, there's a schmaltzy message for Patrick's father to be and some extremely gratuitous product placement, but The Smurfs is a solid family outing and proffers up a lot more fun than you'd ever expect from a group of blue people.