Wednesday, 29 February 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin: Movie Review

We Need to Talk about Kevin
Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller, Ashley Gerasimovich
Director: Lynne Ramsay

Based on Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel, We Need To Talk About Kevin arrives in Kiwi cinemas with critical festival acclaim ringing in its ears.

Swinton stars as Eva, a former travel writer, who’s now become a mother – to her son Kevin. Only Kevin has a way of acting up which really, really winds her up; be it either stubborn childish behaviour or refusing to engage with her, but opening up when his dad (John C Reilly) shows up.

Suspicious she’s created a monster, Eva’s years are tormented by his behaviour and those fears are compounded when she gives birth to a baby girl.

But Eva’s not prepared for what Kevin will do when he becomes a teen – and the effect it will have on their lives.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a jigsaw puzzle of a film with pieces scattered around in the form of flashbacks, disorienting images and scenes of stark imagery which are out of sequence and may confuse some.

Initially, it’s quite trippy and confusing but most of those pieces do fit together (bar one sequence which sees Eva stumbling out of a courtroom, a media throng amassed around her every move) and it’s held together brilliantly by a stunning and compellingly nervy central performance from Swinton and in the teen years, Miller as Kevin (though even the child actors playing the kid do very well too).

This psychological tale of nature vs nurture will leave you with plenty of questions and while it sounds like a horror story from the above, it’s a well observed drama which is never anything less than unsettling throughout.

Rating:



New Avengers poster unveiled

Time's running out till the release of the Avengers film on April 25th this year - a week before the USA gets it.

And so, the info's coming thick and fast now - including this brand new poster for Iron Man et al.

There's also a rumour on the net that this film is now being called Avengers Assemble - but there's no confirmation on that hitting our shores yet.

The main thing though is the poster - check it out below!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Simpsons: Season 14 Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox

Another season, another packed season set released by 20th Century Fox.

This set though has a little something else to celebrate with the 300th ep of the cartoon serial. There's little changed in the MO of the series - it's Homer messing up and everyone paying the price - in hilarity. Guest stars this time around include the likes of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Kelsey Grammer, Blink 182 to name but a few.

While the quality of the eps can be a bit questionable, the quality on Blu ray of the picture and the extra content cannot - it's simply superb and constantly watchable.

Sure, there may be some bits creaking as they reached 300, but the Simpsons remains consistently entertaining and utterly enjoyable.

Extras: Commentaries on every ep, featurette on the 300th ep, bonus Treehouse of Horror ep and much much more

Rating:

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

Fresh in the footsteps of Tintin this year and Indiana Jones in the, erm, past, comes Edwardian adventuress Adele Blanc-Sec in a new film which is clearly a franchise attempt.

The engimatic Louise Bourgoin plays Blanc-Sec, an intrepid young reporter whose MO appears to be adventure. Set in Paris in 1912, Blanc-Sec finds herself in a world of excitement when she's caught up in a case involving an escaped pterodactyl, problems with an attempt to find an Egyptian mummy and a professor whose involvement in all of the above signifies mayhem for all. Plus behind all the goings on, there's a sense of sadness for Blanc-Sec as the real reason for her quest is revealed...

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec from director Luc Besson is a real surprise, an eye opener for adventure and fantasy films and seriously good fun.

Bourgoin is great as Blanc-Sec with a touch of sexiness, intelligence and a pinch of guile as the adventuress in this adaptation of a series of French novels. There's a real deftness to the story and a light touch from Besson gives this the look and feel of something cartoonish and something very much for a light Sunday afternoon viewing.

It ends with the promise of a sequel (set on the Titanic) and I hope it's forthcoming as this is tremendously watchable good fun.

Rating:

Dr Who - The Sensorites - DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow

Back to the 7th ever Dr Who release, this black and white six part adventure for the time travelling team has a NZ connection, starring as it does a very young Ilona Rodgers.

When the TARDIS crew materialise on a spaceship orbiting a mysterious world, there's all kinds of questions to be asked - and when the actual crew of the ship appear to be dead, there's more than a few alarm bells going off for William Hartnell's Doctor....

And when the mysterious and apparently dangerous Sensorites arrive, it looks like the Dr has a mystery to solve...

A nice slow piece this maybe from the 1960s but it's certainly an intriguing watch which builds atmosphere and vibe up in place of swift action and endless technobabble. It won't appeal to everyone but certainly Who fans will enjoy the polished remastering of this serial as well as the extras.

The highlight of said extras is a moving piece from fan Toby Hadoke who goes to try and find Peter R Newman, the writer of the serial about whom little is known. What emerges is a fascinating mini Who Do You Think You Are ep and it's perhaps one of the best extras of the range.

Extras: Commentary, featurettes and the ever brilliant in screen prod notes.

Rating:

Cedar Rapids: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R16
Released by Universal Home Ent

The Hangover's Ed Helms stars in this quirky little comedy piece about small town America.

Helms is shy and naive salesman Tim Lippe who heads into the big city for a convention for work - only while there he ends up meeting party animal Dean Ziegler (John C Reilly). Before Tim knows it, he's living outside his comfort zone, crashing parties, skinny dipping in the hotel pool and being seduced...

If you're expecting a raunchy flick, then you may be surprised. While there's a little of this within, it's a sweetly sly piece which sees Ed Helms impress with his comic muscles; likewise Reilly is watchable as the party guy. There's no real laugh out loud moments, but there are a lot of cute and sweet moments within. If you've seen Helm in The Office, you'll know exactly which character you're getting as his Lippe is an extension of character Andy.

Extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, behind the scenes faux pieces

Rating:

Movie - The Movie trailer hits

Post Oscars, you need a little something to laugh at

And Jimmy Kimmel's got the answer - it's the ultimate Movie trailer for the Movie film everyone wants to see.

Take a look below.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Oscars winners - Live Updates

So the day's finally here and now is the show - and the time to see who Oscar's awarded to.

So far, the awards are going Hugo's way. Stay tuned to get comments on the show as it goes on - and on Billy Crystal as and when - plus other presenters.

Billy Crystal's opening skit was great - taking in The Artist as its starting point, then shoehorning in a little Justin Bieber to try and grab the "18-24" demo as they say before taking in a clip of Billy Crystal eating a little pie courtesy of the Help - but then seguewaying brilliantly into that scene from Bridesmaids. You can't get any better than that. A clever trademark singing monologue from Crystal also sets the tone too.

Tom Hanks, Cameron Diaz and J-Lo have given good presenting turns - the latter two looking dazzling in creams. Clearly this year's Oscars are a little more glam than normal...Sandra Bullock goes bilingual to present Best foreign language film and Christian Bale goes menacing for the best supporting actress gong. Octavia Spencer however, needs help being ousted from her chair to pick her award up - it's nice to see there's still some humility in the Oscars.

Kermit and Miss Piggy introduce the Cirque du soleil - and Billy Crystal jokes about pulling a hamstring. I do hope that's a reference to the jugglers - not Miss Piggy who he may have hit on....

Awesome to see Rango finally got some Oscar love. Even if for Chris Rock to say : "If you're a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra!"

From Rango director Gore Verbinski: "Thank you so much, this is crazy. Someone asked me if this film is for kids, and I don't know, but it was certainly created by a bunch of grown ups acting like children. We just had the best time - thank you to Johnny Depp and the cast and crew for coming out and playing. Thank you to my beautiful wife and family who inspire me every day with their smiles and laughter."

Nice clip from Billy Crystal and Melissa McCarthy "Why don't we make this an undressing room....?"
Emma Stone and Ben Stiller present an FX award - and there's a lot of love for one of the presenters - hint, it's the one with the red hair...

But it's a bad day for WETA - their brilliant work on Apes loses out to Hugo. All I can say is Boooo.

However, that downer is rewarded by a best supporting Oscar for Christopher Plummer who gets a standing ovation...At 82, he's the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar as well - such a good film and out on DVD this next month in New Zealand. It's also only his second ever nomination too. Good vibes all around - even if he does get to talk longer than everyone else. Still, it's rude to cut him off, right?

And Christopher Plummer has the best line of the night so far -"You're only two years older than me, baby, where have you been all my life?" Superb and a reminder of how dreams can come true.

Finally, some glory for the New Zealand Oscar contingent, though as Bret McKenzie wins for his brilliant Muppet song...an in a sweet touch, thanks his parents as well as a throw out to Kermit - "Like many people in the movies, Kermit is much shorter in real life"

His full speech -
"Wow. Thank you, Academy. I grew up in New Zealand watching the Muppets on TV, and never dreamed I'd get to work with them. I was genuinely starstruck when I first met Kermit, but he's just a normal frog and like many stars, much shorter in person. I'd like to thank everyone on the production, Disney for making movies with songs in them, my wife and kids, my parents for never telling me to get a real job, and Jim Henson and team for creating The Muppets in the first place. Thank you!"
Ha, ha - all of New Zealand is celebrating this.

"Please welcome the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Angelina Jolie."...nice one Billy Crystal.
Woody Allen is the only no show of the night to collect his award...

Speech from the French contingent after they win The Best Directing Award for the Artist:

"Yes! Thank you very much! I have an Oscar. I forgot my speech. I am the happiest director in the world right now - thank you for that. Thank you the Academy, thank all of you. I want to thank my producer, the Weinstein Company, the cast, all of you. I want to thank all the crew, Uggie the Dog. I think he doesn't care - I'm not sure he understands what I say - he's not that good. I want to thank the crazy person who put money in that movie. Also, I want to thank the movie, because since this movie is made its life is full of grace and it brings to us joy and happiness. Thank you for giving it to me, thank you very much!"

The In Memoriam strand was a well done piece too - the full list for those interested were:
Jane Russell, Annie Girardot, John Calley, Polly Platt, Ken Russell, Donald Peterman, Farley Granger, Whitney Houston, Bingham Ray, Tak Miyagishima, Bert Schneider, Michael Cacoyannis, James Rodnunsky, Peter E Berger, Jack J Hayes, Peter Falk, Cliff Robertson, Laura Ziskin, Sidney Lumet, Sue Mengers, Steve Jobs, Geroge Kuchar, Hal Kanter, Theadora Van Runkle, Tim Hetherington, Gene Cantamessa, Gary Winick, Bill Varney, Jackie Cooper, Gilbert Cates, Richard Leacock, James M Roberts, Marion Dougherty, Ben Gazzara, Elizabeth Taylor.

Here's what best actor Jean Dujardin had to say on his best actor win:
"Wow. Thank you! Wahey! I love your country. Thank you to the Academie. It's funny because in 1929 it wasn't Billy Crystal but Douglas Fairbanks who hosted the first Oscar ceremony. Tickets cost $5 and it lasted 15 minutes. Times have changed. Thank you, Douglas Fairbanks! So many of you here tonight have inspired me. Thank you Michel, for this incredible gift. Thank you, my wonderful partner Berenice Bejo. Thank you my wife, I love you. And if George Valentin could speak he'd say WAOW VICTOIRE GENIAL MERCI! Thank you, I love you!"

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night is Meryl Streep getting gold for The Iron Lady - she's had 17 noms before and won twice before but this was generally thought to be going to The Help's Viola Davis - still it's nice to see there's a surprise or two around...

Here's her acceptance speech in full:
"Oh my god. Oh COME ON! [of the standing ovation] Thank you so much. When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, 'Oh her AGAIN!' But, whatever. First I'm going to have to thank Dom, because if you thank your husband at the end they play you out, and I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives, you've given us. And also my other partner - 37 years ago I met the hair and make-up artist Roy Helland and we've worked together ever since, every single movie since Sophie's Choice. I just want to thank Roy, but also I understand I'll never be up here again, I really want to thank all my colleagues, all my friends. I look out here and I see my life before my eyes, my old friends and my new friends. This is such a great honour, but what counts most for me is the friendship, the love and the sheer joy of making movies together. Departed or here, thank you for this inexplicably wonderful career. Thank you!"

And in a concluding move which will surprise no-one, The Artist wins big best picture award.
Collecting is Thomas Langmann, the producer and here's his speech:

"I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the members of the Academy, not only because we've received the award that any filmmaker dreams to achieve, but because this gives me the chance to pay tribute to an Academy member, Claude Berri, who I admire so much. I remember thinking could I ever work with such a director. Tonight I do because I worked with Michel Hazanavicius and I am glad to be his producer."
"I want to say a very important thing. I want to say hi to my kids, and it is 6am in Paris so you should go to bed in 30 seconds. I want to say thank you to my wife Berenice Bejo, because you inspired the movie, you're the soul of the movie, and thank you for being in my life. And I want to thank three persons. I want to thank Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder."

Thank you and good night!


Full list of Oscar 2012 winners -

Best cinematography - Hugo
Best art direction - Hugo
Best costume design - The Artist
Best make up - The Iron Lady
Best foreign language film - A Separation
Best supporting actress - Octavia Spencer
Best film editing - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best sound mixing - Hugo
Best sound editing - Hugo
Best Documentary Feature - Undefeated
Best Animated feature - Rango
Best Visual Effects - Hugo
Best Supporting Actor - Christopher Plummer
Best Original Score - The Artist
Best Song - Man or Muppet - Bret McKenzie
Best Adapted Screenplay - The Descendants
Best Screenplay - Midnight In Paris
Best Short Film (Live Action) winner -- "The Shore"
Best Documentary Feature - Saving Face
Best Animated Short - The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Best director - Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Best actor - Jean Dujardin
Best actress - Meryl Streep
Best Picture - The Artist.

Oscar prediction time

So it's the day of the Oscars - and everyone wants to know who you're rooting for as a critic.

Well, it's time to lay my neck on the line and give you the picks for the main categories. Also, whilst I remember, I'm pinning WETA and Bret McKenzie to take home the little gold statuettes too.

Here's my main picks - but here's a full list of the Oscar contenders for you to peruse here.

Best picture:
The winner will be - The Artist. It's been a success at the various awards ceremonies in the run upto the event so it should be a surefire winner today. Which is despite box office returns but critics love it.
The winner should be - The Descendants. A great film with great performances all around - it'll be a shame if this one gets overlooked.
Outside chance - The Help.

Best actor:
The winner will be - George Clooney for his role in The Descendants. I reckon with various successes pre today's show, it should be Clooney stepping up to the plate.
The winner should be - George Clooney. See above.
In with a chance - Jean Dujardin. It just depends how much of a sweep the board is going for. I wouldn't rule him out - but in my mind, Clooney was the better actor.

Best actress:
The winner will be - Viola Davis for The Help - again, she's had good form and it really would be a surprise if that didn't count for anything. Plus I just have a feeling The Help will get some token recognition.
The winner should be - Rooney Mara. Her role in Girl with Dragon Tattoo was simply sensational. But there's no way the stuffy Academy's going for her in such a dark role. Shame, shame, shame
Commiserations to - Meryl Streep - well, you've had enough nominations for now right?

Best director:
A really tough category to call this one - no-one really stands apart - while Scorsese's had his statue before, you'd never rule it out again...
The winner will be - Michel Hazanivicus for The Artist. Again, if it's clean sweep time, then this is the logical if suprising choice.
The winner should be - Scorsese for Hugo - he did such a wonderful job with this - but again, lacklustre box office returns may count against.

Best supporting actor:
The winner will be - Christopher Plummer for Beginners. I utterly adored him in this role - and he's won prior to tonight's show. It'd be a nice nod for Plummer.
The winner should be - I'm torn with this one - while Plummer deserves it, Kenneth Branagh is very good as Laurence Olivier and steals a lot of the scenes he's in with My Week With Marilyn.

Best supporting actress:
The winner will be - Octavia Spencer for The Help.
The winner should be - Half of me would love Melissa McCarthy to win for Bridesmaids, but I reckon this was a token nod; the other half thinks Berenice Bejo from The Artist will win as well.

We'll have to see later though - add your guesses and comments in below!

Adam Sandler is as good as Scorsese's Hugo...?

It's Oscars day today and while that can only mean the good and the brilliant of the film world will get nods, let's not forget the annual Razzie awards, which salute the worst work done by the Hollywood talent.

And this year, Adam Sandler has been nominated one more time than Scorsese's Hugo has been for the Oscars, setting a new Razzie record of 12 nominations for Jack and Jill.

His film with the likes of Al Pacino and Katie Holmes will be in with a chance of winning worst picture, worst actor (for Sandler and Pacino) and worst actress for Katie Holmes (don't tell Tom).

But in a twist, because it's a cross dressing film, Sandler's also been nominated for the Worst Actress as well - here's hoping he gets to win both trophies because that would be a truly awesome acceptance speech.

Also on the worst picture list are New Year's Eve, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1. Twilight also got 8 nods for various crimes against acting too.

Other nominees include Nicole Kidman for Just Go With It and Nicolas Cage for three different films; Rosie Huntington-whatsherface for Transformers 3 and Russell Brand for Arthur.

In a twist in tradition, the Razzies, normally announced on the night before the Oscars will be announced on April 1st.

Fright Night: Blu Ray Review

Rating: R13
Released by Sony Home Ent

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.

Anton Yelchin is Charley Brewster, who lives in a small suburban settlement just outside Vegas; his mom (Toni 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 (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) believes the third member of their former gang has been taken by a vampire named Jerry (Colin 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. And 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.

Extras: Deleted/ extended scenes, bloopers, music videos, spoof guides

Rating:

The Help: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

Taken from a best selling novel published in 2009 by Kathryn Stockett, The Help stars the very talented Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan in the time of the Civil Rights movement in 1960s America.

The film follows Skeeter's relationship with Aibileen (Viola Davis), an African American maid who's been raising white children for many years. It also charts her time with fellow maid Minny (Spencer) whose outspoken nature has got her fired from several positions.

Skeeter's just finished university and decides the way into journalism is to try and pitch an article about the maids and their relationships and tales of working with the prejudices and racism of 1960s America.

But as the story unfolds, it appears all kinds of relationships are about to be tested in Jackson, the heartland of the American South.

It's into inspirational and formulaic chick flick territory we go with The Help - a tale that covers all the bases from the time with a solid performance from a good ensemble. Once again, Emma Stone demonstrates why she's fast becoming Hollywood's go to girl for slightly feisty chicks with a heart; she's very watchable in this as her character trail blazes the fight against racism; Viola Davis is stoic as the long suffering Aibileen who is the victim of prissy bitchy Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) the leader of a snooty pack of women and Octavia Spencer brings a smattering of humour to the maid who takes vengeance on Hilly after years of mistreatment.

That's the thing with The Help; it does exactly what it says on the tin. While it's a little overlong and could have done with a hint of editing, this tale of empowerment and standing up, mixed with a dash of social commentary, is what you'd expect and is the perfect mother and daughter kind of outing - or a good night out for the girls.

Emotional and moving, The Help is a sturdy showcase of talent with some great performances- however, with a slightly more experienced eye behind the camera, it could have transcended from something a little middle of the road to something a little more sensational.

Extras: Deleted scenes and a music video

Rating:

The Three Musketeers: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

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.

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 (Milla Jovovich) during their last outing.
But when Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph 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 of the audience.

Extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes

Rating:

UFC Undisputed 3 - Game Review

Rating: 15
Released by THQ Studios
Platform: PS3

Ever fancied taking on the role of one of your favourite fighters and taking them on in a no holds barred smackdown?

Well, then UFC Undisputed 3 is for you. It's the third outing of the Mixed Martial Arts fighting game and is proof that the franchise is on strong a footing as ever before and is as playable as any fighting smackdown should be.

If you're a relative newcomer to these types of games, worry not - UFC Undisputed 3's designers have wisely taken this into consideration and made the game easy to access whether you're a watcher of the sport or not. Smart tutorials take you through how to execute a successful fight and get you ready for an actual bout. Normally with these games, it's about remembering combos and executing them with precision and perfection. UFC Undisputed 3 certainly has that but you don't lose all your time thinking about which buttons to press and in which order to be able to enjoy what's on the screen.


You get to play some of the biggest names in the sport and of all nationalities, giving this plenty of scope for action and interaction as well as the chance to prepare for bouts rather than just diving headlong into them. And you have to be a little patient as there are a fair few cutscenes to get through as well - each bout though is more about the long haul than the immediate smackdown as they rarely end in KO before time.

All in all, UFC Undisputed 3 is a good solid fighter and will reward a lot of long term investment.

Rating:

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Paranormal Activity 3: Blu Ray Review

Paranormal Activity 3

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent
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.

Extras: Extended cut, a commercial and a scare montage - nothing spectacular.

Rating:

Beautiful Boy: Blu Ray Review

Released by Madman
Rating: M

A colleague of mine has a theory that films come in pairs when released - ie there's usually another of a similar ilk around the corner.

So it is with Beautiful Boy which has a lot of common themes with the upcoming We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Beautiful Boy stars the ever versatile Michael Sheen and the ever watchable Maria Bello as a couple Bill and Kate, whose relationship is under strain and falling apart. But it gets an even bigger shock when their son executes a high school massacre on the eve of them deciding on a family vacation.

Struggling for answers, they try to pick up the pieces and carry on while forever questioning why their son committed such an atrocity - and what they could have done to prevent it.

Beautiful Boy is a powerful film with two compelling lead performances. It's horrifying stuff in places as you realise what Kate and Bill will have to live with for the rest of their lives; a film like this could be milked for the drama but thanks to extraordinary performances from the leads, handheld camera direction which gives it a sense of reality and never feels staged, it really gets under your skin.

Sheen and Bello are incredibly good as they run the gamut of old emotions and new stages of grief and anger - it's a very real performance from the pair of them - but also some credit needs to go to the stoic supporting cast of Moon Bloodgood, Alan Tudyk and Meatloaf. A great ensemble and a well done drama make this a surprisingly watchable piece which will haunt you long after it's done.

Extras: Commentary and a couple of deleted scenes.

Rating:

Friday, 24 February 2012

Two Little Boys trailer

This has just shown up on my old Facebook feed and I simply have to share it with you.

It's Two Little Boys, aka the new NZ flick from Robert Sarkies starring Bret McKenzie and Hamish Blake as two long term mates Nige and Deano.

It's due to hit NZ cinemas in September this year and it's already proving to be a hit after 3 packed out performances in Berlin.

I don't want to spoil the fun of the trailer, but suffice it to say, this looks great - and without further ado, here's the Two Little Boys trailer....


New Wrath of The Titans trailer

A new trailer's dropped overnight for the upcoming sequel to Clash of the Titans, called erm, Wrath of the Titans.

It hits NZ cinemas here very soon - but here's the trailer for now.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

When A City Falls: DVD Review

When A City Falls

Sometimes, a film makes itself.

So it is with When A City Falls, the documentary film about the series of earthquakes which rocked Canterbury this year and last, and changed our worlds as New Zealanders forever.

Christchurch resident Gerard Smyth  really didn't have to do much when they hit - he simply picked up his camera and let the documentary make itself.

Basically made over an 12 month period and beginning with blue skies and daffodils on the Canterbury plains, Smyth follows the events which unfold in the Garden city and nearby. As Smyth's own voiceover at the start of the film intones: "This is a film I could never have planned to make".

But what emerges is a grippingly, emotional piece on the human condition and how we as human beings respond in times of tragedy and personal loss.

Also, what comes out is a deeply humbling study of what makes us Kiwis and showcases the very best of human nature.

Smyth's strength in this film is the people around him. He's smart enough to realise that this story is powerful enough to not need voiceover and limits it to simply asking questions.

These are images from the quake which have haunted (and continue to do so) many; but When A City Falls also benefits greatly from this approach by letting the people involved tell the story rather than a pompous voiceover. That works wonders by giving it a more original feel and an immediately identifiable stranglehold on your emotions

Plus when the footage of that fateful day on 22nd February is shown, the powerful ferocity of what unfolds is even more affecting because the screen simply shows what happened.
Countless faces are caught in crowds, moments framed by time and the film-makers; and the people Smyth uses are nameless but their stories are universal and instantly recognisable as well as heartbreaking, humbling and inspiring.

That's the thing with When A City Falls - there are a million stories to tell and a million voices to be heard with an event such as this. And it would've been easy to let it descend into doom and gloom.

But what's been done here ends up being uplifting in spirit and unique as we follow everyday people trying to live their lives and cope with what nature dealt to them thanks to help from strangers, their communities and from further afield. The fact Smyth's had unfettered access to what was going on means a lot of the footage is new to many of us but horribly recognisable in many ways.

Also, Smyth and his team choose to tackle some of the problems from the quake; be it the arguments over heritage buildings' destruction, people's shops torn down by accident and even heads to New Orleans and San Francisco to proffer up some help for the region.

When A City Falls won't be an easy watch for those involved in this - but I'd suggest it offers a little piece of healing up as it demonstrates quiet dignity and moments of resilience and pure humanity that will shine through.

Truly inspirational and utterly important, this doco demands to be seen and will ultimately stand as a testament to Cantabrians and this nation as a whole.

Rating:

Frankenweenie poster and images out there now

I'm a sucker for great animation - and original animation too.

So I'm quite excited by Tim Burton's latest, Frankenweenie.

And I'm even more excited by the images and poster I got sent this morning for this unusual looking treat.

Due out here in October it stars the likes of Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Martin Landau and looks like being a bit of fun.

Frankenweenie is a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.

A stop-motion animated film, “Frankenweenie” will be filmed in black and white and rendered in 3D, which will elevate the classic style to a whole new experience.

Apparently when Tim Burton originally conceived the idea for “Frankenweenie,” he envisioned it as a full-length, stop-motion animated film. Due to budget constraints, he instead directed it as a live-action short, released in 1984. 

It is of course, not Burton's first foray into stop motion animation - he's done “Corpse Bride” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”—both of which were nominated for Academy Awards®.
Over 200 puppets and sets were created for the film.

 
The voice cast includes four actors who worked with Burton on previous films: Winona Ryder (“Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands”), Catherine O’Hara (“Beetlejuice,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”), Martin Short (“Mars Attacks!”) and Martin Landau (“Ed Wood,” Sleepy Hollow”).

And just finally in the facts section, several of the character names—Victor, Elsa Van Helsing, Edgar “E” Gore and Mr. Burgemeister— were inspired by classic horror films.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Movie Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, Jeffery Wright
Director: Stephen Daldry

Based on the best selling book by Jonathan Safron Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the story of one boy's life after his father was taken from him in the September 11th World Trade Centre attacks.


Newcomer Horn stars as Oskar Schell, a borderline Aspergers Syndrome sufferer who shares an incredibly close bond with his father Thomas (Hanks). The pair are inseparable and his jeweller father sets quests for Oskar to complete and mysteries for him to solve.

So, when his father is killed in the 9/11 attacks, Oskar is devastated and rejects his mother Linda (Bullock), drawing further into his own world. And his world is blown apart when Oskar one day finds a key in a vase - believing his father's left it for him and with only the clue Black written on the back of the envelope it's written on, Oskar sets about finding the lock the key will open...


However, his quest looks unbeatable with the odds mounting up against him - and Oskar ends up getting the help of Max von Sydow's The Renter, who lives with his grandmother. Unspoken and communicating only via written notes, The Renter begins to fulfill Oskar's father figure needs as the quest goes on...

It's a powerful subject to be tackled in a haunting film like this and there are still some I suspect who may find the idea of a film like this difficult to watch.

It's certainly harrowing in parts and you can't help in places but feel emotionally manipulated as this extremely long film spools out. But there's no denying the wallop some scenes hit you with - one where Oskar tells his mum he'd rather she'd died in the Tower collapse is horrifically shocking but feels so true and real in these actors' hands.

The trouble is that in places you can't help but feel emotionally milked and wish Daldry would have eased back a little on some of his direction; montages of people reading letters and the frankly cheesily appaling freeze frame end would have been better excised from the final cut. Also, a scene of Hanks plunging to his death could really have been left out.

Yet, thanks to a very impressive turn from first time actor Horn gives this something for us to pin our cinema going hats on; it's a remarkably assured performance as the troubled borderline Aspergers syndrome kid hunts for the key to the mystery. But it's not just that - it's the fact, Horn's anger feels real and in line with what a kid would feel when railing against the injustice and unfairness of the death of his father.
Likewise supporting players like Von Sydow, Viola Davis, Hanks and Bullock also give this sense of gravitas and empathy in amongst the brooding.

Scenes of Oskar listening to the six answerphone messages from his father trapped within the towers feel raw, awkward and intrusive, hinting at a grief which is still too new but also alluding to how families of those affected must still be coping.

A veritable weepie in places, this will reduce even the hardest of audiences to tears at times - and while not exactly an overwhelmingly upbeat film, its ending certainly hints at a healing.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close rises above mawkish sentiment by very impressive ensemble performances from its cast; and while it's not flawless, it's certainly an emotional watch which feels raw and true.



Rating:

 

Contraband: Movie Review

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Lukas Haas, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Baltasar Kormákur

A remake of a 2008 Icelandic film, which starred the director, Contraband is a heist film set on the seven seas and in Panama.

Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, a notorious smuggler, who's now retired from the trade. He's now a family man living the quiet life with his wife Kate (Beckinsale) and 2 kids and working in security alarms rather than hijinks on the waters.

But smuggling runs in the family - and when Kate's brother Andy messes up a deal for boss Tim Briggs (Ribisi), the debt proves to be high and the cost could be Andy's life. So, forced out of retirement for this last job, Farraday decides to head to Panama to call in on some old contacts and try to smuggle out millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.

However, (unsurprisingly), not everything goes to plan - and suddenly Chris is not only fighting for his life but his family's back home...

The idea of one last job for family or to settle a debt is nothing new to be honest - it's been used countless times before.

But Contraband doesn't seem to care as it straddles increasingly strained and preposterous ideas and one (predictable) betrayal after another; however, Wahlberg makes it watchable somehow - even if there is a relative lack of any suspense or real tension.

Ribisi channels feral (at times OTT leering) weasel as the unhinged lunatic Briggs who's trying to cash in the debt and threatens Chris' family with it for the rest of their lives; Wahlberg is solid if unspectacular as Chris, whose attempts to reign in the debt see him involved in a Pollock Panama heist.

Despite a dark grimy unwashed feel to the film, director Baltasar Korm├íkur Opts for countless swirling and unnecessary aerial shots to bridge the gap between the 'action'. The effect is irritating rather than dizzying and detracts by taking away from any tension which may have been created.

The problem is a real lack of emotional investment in the characters, their plights and resolutions. The often lumpy script doesn't help this either as the noose tightens around everyone's necks. Wahlberg looks suitably perplexed throughout and the pay off at the end (complete with twist) just doesn't feel rewarding enough.

Don't get me wrong; this is well put together, it just lacks a certain little something to make it either edge of your seat stuff or gripping. As it is, it's perfectly serviceable, relatively cliched and instantly forgettable the moment the lights go up.

Rating:




Shame: Movie Review

Shame

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale
Director: Steve McQueen

Fassbender and McQueen reteam after the harrowing Hunger for an equally in your face and provocative film about sex addiction and relationships.

Fassbender stars as 30 something Brandon living in New York, whose life is a series of meaningless sexual encounters which fuel - and quell - his addiction. But he's kind of in control of the daily routine.

Until that is, his younger sister Sissy (Mulligan) moves into his apartment without warning.
From that moment on, Brandon's life begins to fall apart - with inevitably tragic consequences.

Shame is a powerful and ferocious drama, anchored by yet another astoundingly good turn from Fassbender.
From brooding to explosive, his Brandon is yet another stunning character portrait as he explores his anger at having his sister invade his space. And he manages in places to get you to empathise with a character who's essentially damaged, which is no mean feat given the subject matter. It's a frightening look at addiction and how it plays out in one man's life.

Mulligan's also an impressive presence as she brings out the tragedy of Sissy and she shows an emotional range as hints are made at a troubled past which informs the duo's current fragility.

It's also a drama about sex which somehow manages to make the sex terrifically unsexy, as it shows how Brandon's addiction controls him and makes his life a maelstrom of emotional turmoil.

It's not for prudes either with the nudity right on show from the start - but it's a provocative start and exactly what you'd expect from the team who didn't flinch in their portrayal of hunger striking in their last film.

Shame manages to never be an easy watch; but it's compelling and horrifying in equal measures from beginning to end.




Rating:

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Spy Kids 4: All The Time in the world: Blu Ray Review

Rating:PG
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

So, the popular Spy Kids franchise gets another outing.

Superspy Marissa (Jessica Alba) is back - and this time, heavily pregnant and on the tail of a villainous baddie called Timekeeper.

But when she rounds up one of his underlings, Tick Tock, she's forced to quit the spy game as her waters break just after busting the bad ass. So, with a baby in tow and a step family after marrying Joel McHale's TV reporter, she decides to settle for the quiet(ish) life.

However, Timekeeper's not one for keeping his plans under wraps for long and Marissa's forced out of retirement to try and catch the bad guy - only this time she's not alone as she inadvertently gets her step kids Rebecca and Cecil involved too...

Spy Kids 4 is definitely one for the younger end of the spectrum. It's bright, brash and kiddy in tone and plot - plus the younglings will adore the use of the 3D which has been shoehorned in as much as is humanly possible for one film.

There's slapstick along the way and a reasonable performance for the cast - including some typically deadpan and dry humour for Ricky Gervais' mechanical dog which protects the family. The story's fairly disposable and while it's not a patch on the original film, it's a smart and sensible way to extend the franchise and keep it a little fresh.

It won't win any awards and it won't be one the adults will be able to endure - but in all honesty, the kids will love it - and enjoy some of the fart humour and general silliness of the franchise.

Extras: The Blu Ray repeats the "Aromascope" experience of the movie's cinematic release by throwing in scratch and sniff cards which must be rubbed off everytime a number pops up. A nice touch but really something which is just of use the one time. Deleted scenes are also thrown in.

Rating:

Monday, 20 February 2012

PS Vita hits shops this week

There can be no denying there's a weight of expectation for the launch of the PS Vita this week.

While as I've already explained, a lot of the push for this portable console is on the social side - but it's also going to need to offer something a little different from what's already out there.

Launch titles are pretty much the main thrust of a lot of this week's activities - and it's important to note that the games which are available are new entire games rather than just PS3 games ported across to appease the format's lovers.

That said there's some pretty impressive titles coming out this week - here's a rundown of some of them:

WipeOut 2048 -once again, the game which defined the PlayStation for me doesn't disappoint as it leaps onto the VITA console. It's not too much of a departure from the previous games to be honest; crystal clear graphics shine and soundtrack impresses but it's the use of the Vita's opportunities which doesn't let it down. The interactive touch rear pad can be used to help get ahead in the game - and the options to take part in online play or against any other VITA gamer gives this series more legs and fun than ever before.

ModNation Racers - Road Trip - The karting game moves to the VITA - and continues to showcase the fun and frivolity of the original game. The simplicity of the controls and the smaller size - coupled with new weapons -make it easier to race through the series of tracks if you fancy a solo competition. However, it's in the building and creation as well as sharing of new tracks you build this title comes alive. Pinching, rotating, pushing and pulling (a la iPhone) helps bring this to your fingertips. It's wildly addictive and no doubt as more users come online, this title will grow in scope once again.

Little Deviants - a little bit of an odd title this one. Sure, it showcases the use of the interactive touch pad on the back of the VITA, but it takes a little time to adjust to what's required of you. When a horde of creatures attack, it's upto you to try and help them into portals while avoiding robots trying to grab you and sap your life force. It's great to see a title try to make use of the new tech, but to be honest, this game is the one I've actually spent the least time on because I currently can't see its endurance factor.

Uncharted - Golden Abyss - Nathan Drake's return is always one for celebration. And this title certainly packs the punch of the series once again as Drake tries to discover the secret behind a 400 year old Spanish massacre. It looks brilliant and in the time I've had with it, I've only had a little chance to scratch the surface of the gaming capabilities but early signs are once again that this title will keep up the brilliance of the Naughty Dog development team.

Reality Fighters - This is a fun little title which uses the camera within the PS Vita to its maximum effect as you slug it out with contenders anywhere you want. First up the camera grabs your mugshot and you get to throw it on a body and bulk up wherever you want - and however much you want. Then it's using the camera to choose the venue for the fight - whether it's on your kitchen sink, dog or cat or even floor, the chance to smack someone about in familiar surroundings is undeniably fun. Whether that's short term fun or not, remains to be seen.

Cliff Diving (Also out - Fireworks, an Augmented reality game, Hustle Kings (a pool player), Table Football - again using the AR cards to build a world to play in) - All part of the Augmented Reality suite, these games make use of print outs of little cards which build worlds upon them when the PS Vita's camera hits them. Clever and again impressive, these are amusing good fun and offer up some clever uses of the AR capabilities.

Escape Plan - So far, this is easily the most addictive title on offer for the PS Vita. And definitely different as well - it's almost as if Tim Burton were given his chance to design a game. Using really only touch capabilities, you control Lil and Laarg who are trying to break out of a prison of a devious nature. Black and White in nature, with humour as black and twisted as it comes, you have to help them break out of little rooms - it sounds simple but it's not always clear what needs to be done. However, this puzzler, which is reminiscent of Lemmings in that creatures can die in all manner of ways, is fiendishly good fun and looks stunningly good despite the lack of colour. Using the front screen and back touch pad, you'll have to be a bit dextrous as you try and help the duo out - and you'll have to think laterally too. It's rewardingly good and intelligently moreish. Sadistic in its deaths at times (one area sees the duo swatted unexpectedly by a fly swatter if they're not quick enough) it's clever, original and a great use of the technology and opportunities offered by the VITA's new formats.

PS Vita's launch Date is set for 23rd February in New Zealand. Prices are $449.95 for the Wifi Model, $549.95 for the Wifi/3G Model.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter....

It's Friday and time to have a little fun and kick back for the weekend.

So, here's a trailer for you to enjoy and share around - and it involves Presidents and Vampires - and things being lopped.



Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter hits our cinemas June 21st.

And it's the story of how one of our greatest US presidents was caught up in a story no-one knew anything about.
From director Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, it's a sly look at Lincoln as a kind of Buffyesque figure - the world's greatest hunter of the undead....

Consider us sold!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Ides of March: Movie Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Director: George Clooney

Fans of the Gos, stand by - he's back on the big screen.

And for all the ladies out there, it's a double whammy as he's on screen with Gorgeous George too.

Gosling is Stephen Meyers, an idealistic campaigner and second in command for Democrat hopeful Governor Mike Morris' (Clooney) push for the White House. Meyers believes deeply in the cause, the man and the mission to get Mike into the presidency.


However, in the crucial push in Ohio to secure the party vote, everything changes for Meyers; he's met by the opponent's campaign manager Tom Duffy (an ever brilliant Paul Giamatti) and offered the chance to switch sides before Morris's campaign takes a dive. Plus the Morris quest to secure the vote of a crucial senator (Jeffrey Wright) and his supporters hits a snag - and Meyers also ends up in a romantic relationship with young intern Molly (Rachel Evan Wood) which causes all kinds of issues.

Suddenly Meyers' world is mired in underhand politics, blackmail and mistrust - will his idealism help him make the right choices or will he become a casualty of the campaign?

The Ides of March is a loss of innocence tale in many ways; it's Gosling's performance which anchors this flick - but it's strong and assured supporting turns from the likes of Hoffman and Giamatti which give this a bit of edge.
And that's something which is sorely needed on this frankly unsurprising story of dirty politics and politicians. Every twist can be seen ahead of their appearance on screen - but it's the good solid cast performances which make it watchable and make it worthy of your time. Granted, it lacks the political edge, sizzle and incisive banter that we've come to appreciate as fans of The West Wing but it's still an interesting look behind the scenes at a campaign - and you get the feeling that it's probably quite close to reality in some moments.


Gosling's acolytes (Ryanites? Goslites?) will enjoy it and frankly, Hollywood's latest morsel du jour is impressive as he goes from the campaign master of spin to a steely glass eyed politician backroomer who realizes the game needs to be played dirtily to get what's needed - not necessarily what he wants to do. The fall from grace from the big man on campus as he deals with one upmanship and backroom deals and dirty politics is well conveyed by Gosling, who opts for moodiness and glares to get the inner turmoil across as the steely veneer begins to slip and the reality sets in.

But at its heart, it's really an ensemble piece which really helps it to soar above the predictable script as the drama unfolds and the ethics of betrayal, ambition and the fallibility of man are exposed.

Rating:


Watch the Ides of March trailer here.