Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Artist: Blu Ray Review

The Artist: Blu Ray Review

Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment
Rating: PG

So, here it is then – the black and white silent film which has entranced the voters of the Academy and netted itself 10 Oscar nominations – which is no surprise given the production notes to said film describe it as: “ a heartfelt and entertaining valentine to classic American cinema.”

The year is 1927 and the place is Hollywoodland. Jean Dujardin (OSS 117) is the crème and toast of the town as silent actor and star of Kinograph Studios,  George Valentin, whose pencil thin moustache, general antics with his dog and derring do on the silent big screen regularly enthral audiences.

On the premiere of his latest film, Valentin meets Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) when she’s thrust onto the red carpet via a series of mishaps.

The next day Variety’s full of who that girl is next to it guy Valentin – and gradually with a little guidance from Dujardin (and also because of a little attraction), Peppy begins to get bigger parts.

However, the wind of change is blowing through the industry as the idea of the talkies begin to arrive on the screen – and before Valentin knows it, his Hollywood star is on the severe decline – while Peppy’s willingness to embrace the change means she’s on the up….

But will Valentin grasp the opportunity or slide into obscurity?

It’s easy to see why the Academy’s fallen for this nostalgic and charming piece – it’s a slice of old school film and something which doesn’t come around every day thanks to the world of CGI and effects.

At the heart of this though – and it’s a nagging thought many will have – is it worth 10 Oscar nominations?
There’s a lot of subtle and laugh out loud humour in this film – from cute dog antics to a slice of old school slapstick; and there’s certainly plenty of heart, pathos and sadness as Valentin begins his slide out of Hollywoodland’s favour.

Wonderfully shot, stunningly evocative of the era and a superb soundtrack (which all good silent films need) bring a real sense of old school Hollywood vividly to life, which is no bad thing at all.

Dujardin is great and captivating as he mugs his way through the role of a silent film actor (as they were wont to do in that era); and Bejo is certainly a beautifully attractive presence up on the screen and the duo have a great chemistry (as well as acting form in prior outings). 
Sure, it’s a Hollywood piece celebrating Hollywood’s past (and that may be why Oscar’s come a-knocking and critics are loving it) but the Artist is old school cinematic joy for anyone who’s loved a moment out to the cinema. It doesn’t harm it that it’s lit up by two very impressive presences and a story which is engaging, charming and outright funny.

Don’t be put off by the plaudits and afraid of the fact it’s got Oscar buzz – experience it for yourself and see why this crowd pleaser is one of the unlikeliest winners of the year.

Extras: Making of, locations, those behind the artist - a wealth of extras

Rating:

Shame: DVD Review

Shame: DVD Review

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 thanks to stunning performances by Mulligan and Fassbender.


Rating:


Happy Feet 2: Blu Ray Review

Happy Feet 2: Blu Ray Review


Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment
Rating: PG

Cast: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Pink, Sofia Vergara, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Hank Azaria, Hugo Weaving

Director: George Miller

Back to the world of the dancing penguin for this latest computer animated outing.

Elijah Wood is back as Mumbles, who's now a dad to a brood of fluffiness and struggling to really work his penguin magic as a poppa to son Erik in Emperor Land.

However, when Erik runs away, Mumbles sets out to rescue him - but the fragile peace of Emperor Land is threatened by a large iceberg which cuts off the colony from the rest of the world.

Facing death, it's upto Mumbles and his son to try and do whatever they can to save the rest of their kind from starvation.

Happy Feet 2 is an okayish sort of kids' movie.

It's brightly animated, the environments look suitably chilly and beautifully animated but yet, it really does take a while to get into the story. It begins with a series of songs and dances which really showcase how well the animators can do crowd scenes but then shifts into a series of disjointed scenes and encounters.


The focus shifts from the penguins to a couple of krill (voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) trying to escape their swarm and change their lives. Again, these are beautifully animated but it stops any real flow of the story , reducing it to a series of meetings and moments between Mumble and various characters as well as he traverses the land trying to save his kin.

That's not to say the kids won't enjoy this; the colours are bright, the songs chirpy and effective and there's enough to keep them engaged throughout.

Happy Feet 2 looks adorable and scores highly in the fluffy cute stakes but all in all, while the kids will enjoy it, adults may find it a little difficult to keep them amused for 90 minutes during the school hols

Extras: New Looney Tunes short and how to draw Erik plus a few more

Rating:

The Event: DVD Review

The Event: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Entertainment

Serialised conspiracy thrillers are notoriously difficult to do these days.

We've become a TV audience after a quick fix of answers rather than a long slow drawn out gradual reveal of a few tidbits of tantalising information here and there (Lost, I'm looking at you here).

So it's really no surprise that unfortunately The Event lasted only one full season in the USA before being canned.

But it's a reasonably good season to be frank.

The story centres on Jason Ritter's Sean Walker, who, while looking for his missing girlfriend, discovers one of the biggest cover ups in US history involving aliens, our future and sleeper agents within the US populace.
Obviously with a story like this, it takes a wee while for everything to become evident but gradually, The Event peels back its onion like layers to reveal some answers for people willing to invest 22 hours of their life in the series.

The problem is the early reliance on flashbacks is a little too confusing to get into and while the programme makers pull this idea after about the first 10 episodes, it does need you to stick with it to get the reward you require - but it's initially a little muddled and difficult to follow for the casual viewer.

Overall, The Event finds its feet towards the end of its run but it's unfortunately a little too late - and while the pilot episode is a creepy, twisty affair with some good solid effects, the show falls foul of itself by trying to be too clever by half.

Rating:


Friday, 29 June 2012

NZ Film Festival tickets go on sale today

NZ Film Festival tickets go on sale today

With tickets hitting the streets, I caught up with director Bill Gosden to get his thoughts on the 2012 NZ Film Festival, opening in Auckland on July 19th.




Tickets for the New Zealand International Film Festival's Auckland leg go on sale this morning. It follows the Wellington launch of the festival programme last night.

We caught up with Bill Gosden, the director of the NZ International Film Festival to get his thoughts on the upcoming event, which kicks off in Auckland on July 19th before heading nationwide.

Another year, another NZIFF- how do you manage to keep so many secrets for so long? A simple policy of intimidation reinforced through strategic annihilation of the loose-lipped.

Every year you manage to secure some of the best from Cannes - and this year's no different. Of the big hitters, what's the film you're most pleased to have got? The ones that were the hardest to get and came in very late accrue extra value in the process, dammit.
The restoration of Hitchcock's Blackmail involved innumerable clearances so early in its new life. The Chilean No on the main programme and Ben Wheatley's Sightseers on Ant's were major eleventh-hour coups. Big ups to Ant for scoring the latter.

There are a few older films in the line up as well this year - what was the thinking behind that?
I've never wanted NZIFF to be confined to the new. Sadly, we can't afford full director retrospectives these days, but the opportunity to showcase new digital restorations of three very different Hollywood classics is irresistible. Away from Hollywood, The Flight of the Norge is an amazing novelty. It's such a beautiful restoration that its enthusiasm for what seemed futuristic in 1926 still seems bright and fresh.

Why the choice of a Hitchcock for the live cinema this year?
Hell, this is something I wanted the moment I heard it was being restored - and that Neil Brand would be composing an orchestral score. The repertoire of silent-era movies worth showing is extensive - but the repertoire available in Civic-worthy prints with terrific written scores is something we are constantly scouting.

How would you define the spirit of the festival and the festival goers?
Inexhaustible - I hope!

The technology of the festival has changed a little this year - what difference will DCP (Digital Cinema Projection) bring to the screenings?
The change has been massive and swift. Last year, we contrived temporary arrangements for a mere three digital screenings at the Civic. This year it's the other way around.  There are three 35mm prints programmed there and everything else is on DCP.  Focus problems in projection will be a thing of the past, which is not to say that DCP does not bring a whole new set of technical challenges that may from time to time impact on presentation.

The New Zealand contingent is particularly strong this year - including the premiere of director Costa Botes' latest. It must be quite the boon to have such strong local films to push? You bet. This year we'll have a lot of New Zealand filmmakers jostling for attention. We were astounded as the films came into us and we watched the numbers grew. And don't forget we just premiered Mental Notes and Te Hono ki Aotearoa at the Showcase. It's been a busy year.
 
What's the one section of the film festival this year that you hope people will embrace? Every seat sold for the Slow section feels like a vindication. 

The best thing about the festival is the surprise of seeing something unexpected on the big screen - what are this year's films which knocked you out of your seat?
Vivan las antipodas!, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Minister, In Darkness, Neighbouring Sounds.
And there are so many more, especially Cannes films, that I expect to have a similar impact - which disqualifies them from your "unexpected" category. There are also films I seriously relish which could never be called knockouts, because their force is so much more subtle:  I Wish, for example, and Alyx Duncan's The Red House.
 
What would be an ideal day of viewing at the festival for you? A perfect Sunday at the Festival begins when I look out my window, check out the sky and ascertain that across Auckland it's a perfect day for indoor pursuits.
A morning documentary at the Civic, Raymond Depardon's Journal de France perhaps, is followed by a SKYCITY Theatre World Premiere of a new Kiwi film. The filmmaker is delighted by the projection. The audience is delighted by the film. The Q+A is lively.  An exercise break at this point would pay dividends ahead of the Australasian premiere of one of those Cannes winners I've yet to see. Then it might be time to sneak into something of Ant's.

The international guests this year are quite the choices as well - Lee Hirsch, one of the West Memphis Three and Sir Peter Jackson, as well as Mads Brugger - what are your hopes for their time at the festival?
Because we're so far off the beaten path audiences have too few opportunities to meet filmmakers.  I sometimes fear it makes us detached and passive filmgoers. It's so good to break down that wall so festival goers have the chance to engage with the life that fuels the life on screen.

Just finally, what would you say to people umming and ahhing over a film choice and not sure whether to go and see something totally alien to them?
If it sounds totally alien, then best ask yourself why you're even thinking about it. You might be on the brink of finding out something very interesting about yourself.


The New Zealand International Film Festival begins in July before heading nationwide.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Brand new Total Recall trailer is here

Brand new Total Recall trailer is here


It's been a while since we saw anything from the 2012 version of Total Recall.

But now, I can show you the brand new Total Recall trailer.

Total Recall, starring Kate Beckinsale, Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel hits NZ cinemas in September this year.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Amazing Spider-man: Movie Review

The Amazing Spider-man: Movie Review


Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary
Director: Marc Webb


Here comes The Amazing Spider-man 2012.

Andrew Garfield takes on the iconic role of Peter Parker, in this reboot of the franchise.

Abandoned by his parents when he was a young boy, Peter grows up with his Uncle Ben (the ever brilliant Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). A typical teenage outsider, this Parker is a skateboarder who defends the picked on at school and gets a beating for his troubles.

But it also gets him the attention of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, in yet another excellent turn).

Trying to find out what happened to his parents, Peter's awkward quest leads him to Oscorp and the one armed Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father's former partner. Connors' research is into tissue regeneration and when Peter helps with the research, he inadvertently sets in motion a chain of events which will have catastrophic life-changing effects.


The idea of a reboot of the Spider-man series wasn't one which had some fans and movie goers excited. 

Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had pretty much got it wrapped up with the trilogy of films nearly a decade ago, so there was perhaps some fears as to where a new version of the established story could go.

But clearly, based on this latest, the answer is wherever it wants.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are the perfect pair as Spidey and Stacy; they have a sparky, realistic relationship which is grounded, human and benefits from excellent chemistry. There's a playfulness underpinning the usual sadness of this relationship and is a direct result of an early unveiling that Parker is Spider-man. It's a bold creative decision which means this version of Spider-man doesn't wallow or wander into emo territory, preferring to bring a bit of spring into the proceedings. His is also a Peter Parker whose strength is in science, with the web slinging the result of the Spidey intelligence rather than a genetic touch. It's a nice nod to the comics' history and also gives this Spidey a bit more of a vulnerable feel, prone as he is to looking beaten to pieces after the mask's taken off following a fight with Lizard.

It's also Garfield who rises high and above with this role - he's stunningly good in this, bringing the torture and outsider feel as well as the heart and pathos needed for such a dark origins story. Nerdy and a bit gangly, with a Spidey who delivers the quips from the comic books while he's crime fighting, this role deserves to send Garfield into the stratosphere. Throw in a bit of angst / romance with Emma Stone as a perfect foil, and these two actors showcase two young talents at the top of their game. She's a Stacy who convinces from the start and whose relationship with Parker seems real even if it seems like their attraction is initially unlikely. The two share a connection; he's an orphan and she's a daughter who worries every day her cop father won't return home from the job.

There's emotion which engages in spades here (even if there are a few cheesy scenes towards the end) and a romance which is well directed and realistic amongst the action sequences.

Any thoughts that this is a worthless reboot/ remake are dispelled in this smart reimagining of the Spidey myth which doesn't wallow in self loathing and self doubt but embraces the romance (which is what makes a superhero, right?)

The supporting cast is excellent - Martin Sheen is a very good Uncle Ben - the kind of moral guardian everyone will want in their life afterwards, Rhys Ifans does a reasonably conflicted but ultimately mad scientist whose Lizard alter ego is an interesting, if not entirely successful CGI take on the creature (looking more like a slimy snot covered green Thing from the Fantastic Four with a lizard tail) and Denis Leary breathes a bit of life into the police captain, determined to bring the masked vigilante to justice.

In terms of action, the CGI web slinging is very well realised and stylishly done; mixing in a few Spidey POV shots to scenes of the webbed one hurtling through the air, the CGI is well executed and looks incredibly stunning (and geekily cool) in IMAX.

If you're being picky about this version of Spider-man, you could argue that the Lizard lets the side down a little in terms of creating a creature that matches some of the other FX work within the film; and his overall plot to take the world isn't anything spectacularly original or cleverly executed. Plus the film's ever so slightly long with some heavy handed cheesy moments towards the end - a scene where workmen line up cranes to help an injured Spidey get to the top of the Oscorp tower is painful in some ways.  However, those are a few minor niggles for a film which delivers good solid action and a strong story which engages the heart as well as the visual senses.

But all in all, The Amazing Spider-man is a stunning take on an established comic book favourite - and manages to put the prior versions in the shade, which is no mean feat.

(Make sure you stick around for the extra bit after the credits which alludes to a sequel - and also, enjoy the obligatory Stan Lee cameo!)

Rating:




Monday, 25 June 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift Movie Review

Ice Age: Continental Drift Movie Review


Cast: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage, Wanda Sykes
Director: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier

Once more unto the Ice Age, my friends, once more.

In this fourth outing for Diego the Sabretooth tiger, Manny the Mammoth and Sid the Sloth, as well as Scrat, the acorn lover, the world is changing forever for our trio – both literally and metaphorically.

At the end of the last film, our trusty trio were settled with families and looking forward to a more quiet life.

That's all about to change in Ice Age: Continental Drift.

When Scrat’s continual pursuit of the acorn sees him causing massive seismic schisms of the landmasses, the splitting of the continents divides Manny from his wife and daughter. Marooned on an iceberg, Manny’s sole desire is to get back to the family at whatever cost.

However, this new quest for the trio turns into an adventure of the sea faring kind when their plans to get back to land force them into the path of the maniacal monkey Captain Gutt (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) and his motley pirate crew of animals, fleeing the splitting of the continents.

Will Manny get back home?
Ice Age: Continental Drift is really a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it when it comes to the CGI film world.

The madness and zaniness of the series is still there and the children in the audience will certainly love the fast paced silliness of the story – as well as the antics of Sid the Sloth and that most memorable of animated animals, Scrat.

But this tale of the importance of family is really nothing new. 

At the end of the day, they’re all being forced to grow up in some form or other and learn a life lesson or two. Sid gains a grandma (voiced by Wanda Sykes) that none of the rest of the family want; Manny clashes with his young daughter Peaches because he’s over protective and she’s growing up and wants to hang with the cool kids; and all of them learn the lessons of being true to yourself.

This series has been phenomenally popular and I get the sense that really, the creators are loathe to let it go – but even the most cynical and hard hearted may be won over by the pure nuttiness of what’s on the screen at times and won't be bothered by the weak plot and episodic feel of the action.

Scrat’s antics alone serve as lunatic interludes to parts of the action – and he certainly gets a lot of laughs for doing very little and is a truly enduring cartoon character who has roots in the greatest Warner Bros cartoons. (I'm sure he'd use ACME to get that acorn if he could).

Elsewhere, the film belongs to Leguizamo’s Sid whose continual nonsensical outbursts bring the unexpected laughs. Plus some smart visual gags make it worth concentrating on.

Referencing the Last of The Mohicans, Homer’s Odyssey. Braveheart, Pirates of the Caribbean and Atlantis to name but a few, Ice Age Continental Drift certainly covers the gamut of cultural references as it goes through its paces.

A lot of new characters and creatures emerge in this latest outing, which is formulaic at times and which occasionally feels a little cluttered with a lot of action unspooling in the first 10 minutes alone – it can be hard to keep up with this icy entourage but the kids (who it’s really aimed at) will love it for its zaniness and won’t care about the relatively thin plot.

Oh, and make sure you get there early to enjoy the wee Simpsons short starring Maggie Simpson, The Longest Daycare which packs in emotion and clever creativity as we get another insight into the rivalry between Maggie and Baby Gerald...

Rating:


New Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 pics released

New Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 pics released


Fans of the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 can feast their eyes on some new pics from the upcoming film.

We've already brought you a look at Renesmee, the offspring of Edward and Bella in Twilight.


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 hits NZ cinemas on 15th November


In the highly anticipated next chapter of the blockbuster THE TWILIGHT SAGA, the newfound married bliss of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is cut short when a series of betrayals and misfortunes threatens to destroy their world.

Edward has finally fulfilled Bella’s wish to become immortal. 

But the arrival of their remarkable daughter, Renesmee, sets in motion a perilous chain of events that puts the Cullens and their allies against the Volturi, the fearsome council of vampire leaders, setting the stage for an all-out battle.

The suspenseful and deeply romantic BREAKING DAWN continues the epic tale of supernatural fantasy and passionate love that has made THE TWILIGHT SAGA a worldwide phenomenon.






























































Saturday, 23 June 2012

New Zealand International Film Festival launch this week

New Zealand International Film Festival launch this week

<<UPDATE >> The whole programme is now live and can be found on their site.
But in even better news, three of the international guests have been confirmed:

They are:

Confirmed international guests so far are: West of Memphis:  Producer Damien Echols (and also one of the West Memphis Three),Bully's director Lee Hirsch and The Ambassador's director and star  Mads Brugger.

It's almost time for the rain to pour down - and so that can mean only one thing.

The New Zealand International Film Festival is about to get underway. Monday sees the launch of the annual programme and The New Zealand Herald's had a bit of a peek at what's ahead and got the word on some of the treats ahead.

We already know the likes of The Cabin in The Woods, Bully, Peter Jackson's West Memphis Three doco, LCD film Shut Up and Play The Hits, Marley, Your Sister's Sister, Crazy Horse, and a whole heap of NZ Docos are on the way.

But now, a little more of the programme's leaked.

And here are some of the details:

On The Road - Kristen Stewart's Jack Kerouac film, fresh from Cannes this year

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - the classic Marilyn film.

Beasts of the Southern Wild - rumoured to be the opening night film; and according to imdb, Faced with her father's fading health and environmental changes that release an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy leaves her Delta-community home in search of her mother.

Holy Motors - rumoured to be the closing night film and with a dash of Kylie and Eva Mendes. It's about " a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next"

The Sapphires - Chris "Bridesmaids" O'Dowd's latest and about a group of singers.

Bernie - Jack Black's latest with Richard Linklater

This Must Be the Place - Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, about "A bored, retired rock star sets out to find the man responsible for his father's humiliation, an ex-Nazi war criminal who is a refugee in the U.S."

Killer Joe - Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple star in this, "When a debt puts a young man's life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance."

Rampart - Woody Harrelson's latest, "set in 1999 Los Angeles, veteran police officer Dave Brown, the last of the renegade cops, works to take care of his family, and struggles for his own survival."

Maori Boy Genius - the local film which has already had major success abroad

The Angel's Share - Ken Loach's latest, "Narrowly avoiding jail, new dad Robbie vows to turn over a new leaf. A visit to a whisky distillery inspires him and his mates to seek a way out of their hopeless lives."

The Hunt - The latest from Mads Mikkelsen, in which "a kindergarten teacher is falsely accused of child abuse."

The Last Dogs by Costa Botes - a great looking doco about huskies

How To Meet Girls from a Distance - a local flick made from scratch from January this year - and sounds incredibly promising.

Blackmail - the live cinema this year is getting a bit of a Hitchcock feel

The Shining - a remastered print likely to see many leering "Here's Johnny..." all over again

Bonjour Tristesse - a 1958 flick from Otto Preminger

From Up on Poppy Hill - the very latest animation from Studio Ghibli; always a delightful treat and becoming a regular presence at the festival.

Undefeated - imagine if Friday Night Lights the TV series were turned into a doco, this would be Undefeated; it's got great calibre though, given it won the Oscar this year.

That's all the piece reveals now - guess you'll have to wait until Monday evening to find out more when the programme is officially launched. 

More info and reviews coming on this blog - and for all the latest on The New Zealand International Film Festival visit their site, www.nzff.co.nz


Moneyball Blu Ray Review

Moneyball: Blu Ray Review

Released by Sony Home Entertainment
Rating: M

Brad Pitt stars in this latest film about baseball.

But before you roll your eyes and get out your sports movie cliché bingo card for the inevitable cinematic moments (locker room chat, slow mo shots etc), this is one which is actually a good solid watch. Although a few of those clichés are present and correct, in case you’re worried.


It’s 2001 and Pitt stars as Billy Beane, failed former baseball prodigy and now general manager at the Oakland Athletics team.

When another loss to the New York Yankees sinks the team, Beane’s forced to recruit some new players as his big hitters are being poached by other major league teams.



Sick of being, as he terms it, "an organ donor" for the other sides, Beane ends up meeting Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, in a watchably restrained and quiet performance) who believes major players are overpaid, and that there’s a league of underused players who actually perform better when you look at their statistics rather than their showy team mates.

So, with nothing to lose (cliché bingo, anyone?) and despite his advisors disagreeing, Beane tries this strategy for the new season. 

Unsurprisingly, in the face of staunch opposition from everyone, the method doesn’t work out and the Oakland Athletics fare worse than hoped.

Suddenly, Beane and Brand find themselves the outsiders of the game – and facing uncertain futures in the wake of dismal results…


Moneyball features a winning performance from its two leads – and its director also. It doesn’t fall into the usual trappings of a sports film as it’s really about the mentality and statistical mindset of the sport rather than what unfolds out on the pitch (or diamond if you will).


But it’s the turns by Hill and Pitt which make this so watchable; Hill gives a quiet and dialled down performance which makes him feel real rather than a character. Likewise, Pitt has energy and spikiness but he channels that into making Beane feel a flawed and yet rounded character – and in the one scene when he’s negotiating three contracts on three different phones, you find out everything you need to know about this character.


At the end of the day, while Moneyball is your traditional underdog sports film in many ways, it’s probably one of the more intelligent offerings into the genre.



Extras: Deleted scenes, blooper reel, behind the scenes piece, adapting the film, drafting the team


Rating:






Dr Who - Ace Adventures: DVD Review

Dr Who - Ace Adventures: DVD Review


Rating: PG
Released by the BBC and Roadshow Home Entertainment

There are times when it's hard being a Dr Who fan.

Sure, there's been the renaissance of the new series and the show's new found popularity. But for those of us who've been there from the beginning, there are the dark days of the 80s when budget cuts didn't help the lofty expectations of the writers and the show became a little more slapdash in the story department.

Sadly, Ace Adventures is partially one of those times.

These two tales - Dragonfire and The Happiness Patrol - from the late 80s see Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor teaming up with new companion, Ace (played by Sophie Aldred) and bidding farewell to Bonnie Langford's Mel.

In the first, Dragonfire, a three part serial, the Doc is involved in a treasure hunt and gets to meet Ace; and in the second, both Ace and the Doc end up on a world where happiness must prevail otherwise death comes a knocking.

Both are fairly average tales with some good moments but also some appallingly bad ones too. Sophie Aldred makes a solid entrance into what became a fairly successful partnership for the final years of the show.

The release's not been helped by a relatively unremarkable set of extras; basic behind the scenes and little else bring nothing additional to the experience.

A disappointing release for a much loved companion.

Extras: Commentaries, behind the scenes/ making of docos and a couple of mini featurettes.

Rating:



Arrietty: Blu Ray Review

Arrietty: Blu Ray Review

Rating: G
Released by Madman Home Entertainment

Another Studio Ghibli outing, Arietty is essentially an animated version of the classic tale The Borrowers.

This time around Arietty is one of the small creatures living at the end of the garden of sickly child Sho.

Arietty is desperate to be part of the borrowing crowd and so one night, she goes out with her dad to "borrow" a few things.

However, Sho sees Arietty and while initially welcoming, this meeting sets in motion a chain of events which causes all of them to inadvertently suffer.

Arrietty is another fine example of the quality of product emerging from Studio Ghibli, and while this is a very slight tale, it's charming and sweet and with a high quality of animation.

The interplay between the characters is wonderful and there's something timelessly magical about the nature of the story; its animation is charming too but it's all pretty and family friendly.

Whilst it's not as wonderful as say Ponyo, there' plenty here for everyone to enjoy and drift away to for a good 90 minutes.


Extras: A Whole heap - the English dubbed version, original Japanese version, storyboards, trailers, TV spots, interview with Miyazaki, English cast interview


Rating:


This Is Not A Film: DVD Review

This Is Not A Film: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Entertainment

The name Jafar Panahi may not mean a lot to many, but this "film" doco about one man's struggle against creative repression is an intriguing insight into what happens when an artist is told he can't create.

Imprisoned under house arrest for a year in Iran and waiting a verdict on a 20 year film making ban, Panahi resorts to venting his creative juices by acting out his script and vision for a new celluloid outing, whose future release is never anything less than uncertain.

All there is in the flat is Panahi, his cameras and eyes to the world (the Japanese tsunami a year ago gets a look in to give some context) plus his daughter's gigantic iguana

What plays out on screen is a fascinating insight into creativity and frustrations.

Freedom of expression has never been so important - and by putting a face on it, it's never been so watchable.

Rating:


Bobby Fischer Versus the World: DVD Review

Bobby Fischer Versus the World: DVD Review

Released by Madman Home Entertainment
Rating: M

One of the best docos at last year's New Zealand International Film festival, this one takes a look at chess prodigy and genius Bobby Fischer in the build up to his crucial world chess championship game against Boris Spassky.

With a backdrop of cold war relations forming a major mental part of this doco, it's a fascinating, rewarding and richly put together look at what fuels a genius, what troubles them and what kind of mind games they can play - both on and off the board.

It's the classic tale of inner demons, family issues, psychological warfare and a teen whose talent thrusts him further than he'd ever expected.

But it's also a chilling insight into Fischer's life after the match which saw him head into obscurity and recluse territory as he was never sure where to go next-as one talking head says "The only person who knows what Bobby Fischer is going to do next, is Bobby Fischer himself"

Packed with twists and turns, this is by far one of the most rewarding films around  this year and leaves you with more questions than answers.

Extras: The fight for Fischer's estate, Chess history, taking on the grand master, Kings in the ring

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True Blood: Season 4 DVD Review

True Blood: Season 4 DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

A little bit of a case of it ain't broke, don't fix it with this latest True Blood release.

The 12 part series four collection based on Charlaine Harris' very successful books, heads back to Bon Temps, the sleazy sexy mid America where vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, faeries and politics all mix together.

Picking up where season 3 ended with Anna Paquin's Sookie Stackhouse disappearing into the faerie realm, the 12 part run kicks off one year after Sookie vanished, meaning that all the stories which dragged a little at the end of season 3 could be resolved off screen.

But when Sookie returns, she finds her world changed and a coven of witches creating havoc in Bon Temps....

This latest season of True Blood doesn't really expand the premise much further out and adds perhaps a little too much of the supernatural elements to the mix. Don't get me wrong, all of the cast and the increasingly lunatic storylines are present - as well as some sizzlingly sexy love scenes too - but there's just the feeling that this series is starting to lose touch a little too much with the reality which helped make it a soaraway success in its first two years.

Here's hoping year five sees the show a little back on track and going back to the basics.

Extras: Commentaries

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Resistance Burning Skies: PS Vita Review

Resistance Burning Skies: PS Vita Review


Rating: 13
Released by Sony Home Computer Entertainment

The Resistance First person shooter series makes its PS Vita debut.

It's August 1951 and without warning, an attack on the North American coast gets underway. Slap bang in the middle of that is firefighter Tommy Riley, who really just wants to save his family. But when the Chimera attack increases in ferocity, Riley steps up his resistance to take on the bad guys, save the day and his family.

Resistance Burning Skies is not perhaps the gaming experience we'd have been expecting for such an iconic franchise - but it does show some promise for the possibilities of what a portable console can do for a FPS title.

In many ways, it feels like a Doom style game as you negotiate rooms and areas with your gun in front of you, shooting and killing anything alien and badass in your path. Couch, move, kill - that's the limit of the scope of this title unfortunately.

But what the developers have managed to do is also to bring a level of sophistication and touch controls to be an organic part of the title. From pressing the front screen to use your fireman's axe to using the screen to tag Chimaera before firing into them, this is a game that promises the scope of the Vita's capabilities even if it doesn't deliver in much on the original play front.

It's not easy to ingratiate those ways of play into the game though - you have to really be a bit adept and swift at tagging the baddies, launching grenades and using the axe, as well as crossbows. But it's almost as if the enemy are aware that it takes time for you to adjust as they do little else but stand and shoot. I have to wonder whether some of the AI of the creatures has been dialled back a bit to help cope with the tech on display.

Resistance Burning Skies is playable enough and blessed with a brilliant soundtrack that's really evocative of the B Movie alien invasion films of the 1950s but if you're after something a little different from the FPS, you may be disappointed. However, what they've shown is that touchscreen can be brilliantly incorporated into the VITA and now the door is open for some developer to really revolutionise the genre.

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Strippers vs Werewolves: DVD Review

Strippers vs Werewolves: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

In quite possibly the most revealing title of the year (in more ways than one), this film pits, erm, strippers against werewolves when one of the wolfy kind is accidentally killed in a strip club in London.

To make matters worse, the girls who work there have until the next full moon before his bloodthirsty wolfpack seek murderous retribution.

Throw in the appearance of a couple of vampires too and it's clear that this low budget Brit horror is aiming for ticking all the boxes of the genre.

This is possibly one of the worst films I've ever seen - it tries to take itself seriously which is a major crime given that the make up for the werewolves is quite the laziest prosthetics I've witnessed.

Throw in some wooden acting from a bunch of former Brit soap stars as well as plenty of pole dancing and I reckon the directors must have been high on something to have even committed this to celluloid in the first place.

Even a cameo from horrormeister Robert Englund doesn't add anything to the experience.

Cheap and nasty and not even bad enough to fall into the so bad it's good category, this film shows when British cinema gets it wrong, it does so disastrously.

Rating:






Cat Run: DVD Review

Cat Run DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

When two childhood friends, Anthony and Julien give up on their childhood dreams to start a detective agency, they find their first case throwing them in deeper than they could ever have imagined.

Their first investigation is into high class escort and mother Cat (Paz Vega) who's stolen a hard drive implicating a government minister in the death of a hooker.

When Cat goes on the run, she's pursued with deadly intentions by assassin Helen (Janet McTeer) - and into the middle of this cat and mouse game are thrown Anthony and Julien....

Cat Run is a flashy, stylish, highly violent thriller in places which while lacking a great deal of originality is watchable enough thanks to Paz Vega and Janet McTeer who give their all to the role. McTeer, who I've only ever seen doing more, shall we say, intelligent fare than this is aiming to be. While it tries to rip off the gangster stylings of Guy Ritchie in terms of look and feel, it doesn't have the deftness of touch to quite carry it off.

With drippings of occasional humour, salacious nudity to start off with, a bit of tongue in cheek here and there and some quite graphic violence, it's a queasy mix which doesn't quite hit all the right buttons and ends up being neither fish nor fowl.

Extras: Behind the scenes, deleted scenes.

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House of Pleasure: DVD Review

House of Pleasure: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

A French drama film set at the turn of the 19th Century and set in a Parisian bordello - I imagine some of you  have already formed your own opinion of what this film could be about.

The film follows the women who work in the bordello and their clients as well as how they feel they will cope with the coming century and what it may bring. There's also an undercurrent of nastiness too as one woman's been mutilated (think Joker in Dark knight to get an idea) by one of her clients.

It's a sumptuously put together film which looks beautiful in terms of costume although it is to be honest, a little slow going as it meanders over the two hours running time. It's not a salacious film either - sure, the women don't look bad at all but a lot of the film is about sexual diseases which they're prone to and talk of money let alone any kind of sleazy shenanigans. Throw into the mix, a fifteen year old girl who wants to be a part of this life and you're left with an uneasy mix of social commentary and lounging around.

Occasionally, it's like looking at an art book from the time, reflecting on people and pastiches of life rather than specifically anything major happening. Sure, there's a sisterhood running through and a support network but after about 70 minutes, the lack of real pace becomes a problem and the film starts to feel like it's not going anywhere fast, any time soon.

Period drama it may be and while it's brilliantly recreated, you can't help but wish the relative lethargy would let up and some more drama kick in.

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