Saturday, 31 May 2014

VEEP: Season 2: DVD Review

VEEP: Season 2: DVD Review


Rating: R13
Released by Warner Home Video

Seinfeld star Julia Louis Dreyfus is the main drawcard in this second season of the political comedy based on the political musings of In The Loop writer Armando Iannucci.

She stars as Vice President Selina Meyer in this ten episode run, that looks at the comedy within the White House and the absurdity in politics. As the season begins the president's taking a battering in the mid-terms, but the Veep's approval rating is rising. However, as  she tries to leverage this to her benefit, she finds herself in even more trouble.

Iannucci's writing is commendable on this but it lacks the sharper edge sometimes witnessed on the The Thick Of It TV Series which is a real shame. That's not to say that the show doesn't lack bite, merely that the use of it isn't quite as savage as it could be. Louis-Dreyfus shines throughout as the Veep and delivers a comedy masterclass worth watching.

Extras: Audio commentaries, Deleted scenes.

Spin City S1 / S2: DVD Review

Spin City S1 / S2: DVD Review


Rating: PG
Released by Madman Home Ent

Michael J Fox's return to comedy after Family Ties remains one of the best and most underrated ensemble comedies of all time.

He plays the deputy mayor of New York, Mike Flaherty in this behind the scenes series looking at the world within the walls of power. But as ever, it's the people within which cause the problems - and the scrapes that this Spin doctor has to get them out of.

Collecting together a great ensemble of oddballs with personal issues was a masterstroke of Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence; but also giving them all room to breathe shows the ensemble comedy, when done properly can be an absolute blast.

These two seasons showcase physical and screwball comedy at its best, but also demonstrate a great heart within. And Spin City was a great show until Fox had to leave for health - Charlie Sheen's joining of the show never really kept the ball rolling and lacked the likeability of the lead.

A doco looking at the making of the series reveals how much love there was within and it's just a shame these are individual interviews rather than a collected cast reminiscence.


Frozen: Blu Ray Review

Frozen: Blu Ray Review


Rating: PG
Released by Disney Home Ent

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Snow Queen, Frozen's the latest animated film to be fired out of the Disney cannon for the Christmas market.

Idina Menzel and Veronica Mars' star Kristen Bell are sisters Elsa and Anna (respectively) who live in the kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa's distanced herself from Anna over the years after discovering she has the power to create ice and snow; and fearing she'll hurt those she loves the most, she reckons ice-olation (sorry) is best.

However, Anna's more of an outgoing type; desperate to love, be among people and be loved. When trade negotiations begin with the neighbouring town of Wesselton, an accident means Elsa sends the whole kingdom deep into winter. Believing her to be a witch and enchanted, the inhabitants drive her out - but it's upto Anna to try and save the day, restore summer and ensure the future of Arendelle...

Frozen is a Disney film from the creators of Tangled; so, like Tangled, it follows a simple formula, which proved to be effective before - a strong female lead, animals that are anthropomorphic, and big showtunes which can be belted out from a stage. Throw into that mix, this time around, a comedy snowman called Olaf (admirably voiced by Josh Gad, who will definitely appeal to the youngsters within) and you've got a winning mix, which will delight the crowd and will do the job it's supposed to do.

And yet, there are moments in Frozen where it doesn't quite feel like there's enough to propel it through. A perversion of the usual denouement of these films is distinctly welcomed as it's love but not in the traditional Disney way which saves the day, but the rest of it feels like it's ripped from a book of formula, mixed up and spat out onto the big screen.

It's admirable to see that the sisters are so central to the story - particularly Bell's headstrong and independent Anna, and the men who swirl around their orbit aren't as well realised, there for comic effect and little else. Even Sven, the reindeer is sidelined as Olaf's dumb good nature is mined for the comedy.

The tunes within are powerful enough fodder and have you tapping your toes throughout; though they are instantly forgettable the moment you walk out of the cinema. 

Overall though, 
Frozen sparkles in places and has a charm which is undeniable.


Personally, I'm frosty to its appeal - it does exactly what I'd expect, and does it admirably. It just has to be said though - it didn't thaw this critic's heart and leave me melting as I would have liked it to.

(But make sure you watch the extras, to enjoy a new Mickey Mouse cartoon that confidently blows the cobwebs out of 3D and is as inventive as it is charming)

Rating:


Extras: Mickey Mouse short, Making of, Deleted scenes, music video

Friday, 30 May 2014

Banned Sin City Eva Green poster

Banned Sin City Eva Green poster


Here's a look at the banned poster from Sin City: A Dame To Kill featuring Eva Green which has been banned by the MPAA.

The poster with Eva Green was barred from use during the Sin City: A Dame To Kill promotional campaign.

Good news - finally, a first look at Sin City: A Dame To Kill For with the new trailer

Starring Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Jamie Chung, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Julia Garner and Stacy Keach.

Watch the Sin City A Dame to Kill For trailer here




Max: The Curse of Brotherhood: X Box One Review

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood: X Box One Review


Platform: XBox One

We've all done it - had a sibling we wished was somewhere else or not part of our lives.

Well, in this latest 2D side scrolling platformer, that becomes a reality for Max, in the follow up to Max and The Magic Marker.

Finding his brother Felix in his stuff when he gets home from school, Max uses the internet to find a way to get his brother wished away. However, Max actually gets his desire and his brother's torn from in front of him, screaming into another dimension. Immediately regretting it, Max leaps in after to try and save him.

But the world Max's jumped into contains all manner of monsters and problems, most of which can be solved by leaping and jumping, as well as using the Magic Marker to help defy the laws of gravity.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is an endearingly cute platformer which will tax your grey matter as much as it taxes your fingers. Bounding from one challenge to the next is enormously simple, yet occasionally, thanks to bad timing, frustratingly irritating.

As Max negotiates his way through a world which is best described as being like a wild west desert with critters and creatures, the visuals are truly gorgeous to behold. Holding the RT portion of the controller brings out the Magic Marker and your chance to build earthen heaps, vines and even shape water to help Max on his path.

But, it may take you more than a few moments to conquer the challenges within. Several times I had to walk away from the puzzler before I went mad trying to solve a puzzle and get Max on to his next challenge. Thinking laterally and with a calm head is what's needed for this game and it may take a little longer than you'd expect to come to the solution.

Graphically, this game soars - its simplicity is its biggest drawcard as it propels headlong in its story. Max is wonderfully animated and the monsters as they appear would seem to be plucked from a child's nightmares. They're not exactly challenging but are perfectly suited to the mood of the game and give this charming game an extra edge.

Overall, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a perfectly charming platformer which will appear to the kids within and keep you entertained for a good few hours during winter.

Rating:


Thursday, 29 May 2014

New Pulp clip released

New Pulp clip released


Coming to the NZ International Film Festival is Florian Habicht's doco looking at the pop sensation that is Pulp.

A new clip from Florian's doco has been released - and here it is in all its glory for you to watch:



Details of when and where the Pulp documentary will play will be unleashed when the NZIFF programme is released on June 23rd.

Pulp
Kiwi director Florian Habicht (Love Story) collaborates with Jarvis Cocker as UK pop rockers Pulp head in to their triumphant 2012 concert, giving a career best performance documented exclusively by the film. Weaving together the band’s personal offerings, Habicht accosts down-to-earth Sheffielders with questions about fame, love, mortality and the meaning of Jarvis. Pulp is a music-film like no other – by turns funny, moving and life-affirming.

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Movie Review

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Movie Review


Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris
Director: Seth MacFarlane

Love him or loathe him, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane returns to the big screen after the mammoth success of Ted.

In this latest, set in the wild west of Arizona back in 1882, MacFarlane plays Albert, a sheep shearer in a small township. When he's dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried), Albert's planning on leaving town. However, as he's about to do so, he meets Anna (Charlize Theron) and falls for her.

Discovering his courage, Albert faces the ultimate test as he tries to win Louise back from the moustachioed Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) as well as dealing with Anna's evil gunslinger husband Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), the notorious outlaw who rides into town looking for vengeance.

A Million Ways To Die In the West is a massive comedy misfire for MacFarlane.

Over its bloated two hour run time, there aren't enough jokes to sustain it and the ones which are proffered forth are simply obscene and not remotely funny. Granted, MacFarlane's not known for high-brow humour but his reliance here on poop gags appeals only to the lowest common denominator and betrays some of the sophisticated smarts on display at times in some of his other work.

While the premise is a novel one - life in the Wild West really did suck, folks - the execution of this movie relies simply on a torrent of crudity to try and hit the mark. Attempts at Family Guy style random moments fall flatter than ever - apart from one inspired Back To The Future gag - with toilet gags being the over-used punchline to so many moments.

It's a real shame because Theron is eminently watchable in this as Anna, the maligned gunslinger's wife who just wants a nice guy; and there are moments when MacFarlane's almost everyman Albert has a solid appeal. But everyone else is a simply written parody - from Neil Patrick Harris' slightly OTT bad guy, who actually has a moustache to twirl, Seyfried's underused ex who hints at bitchiness toward Anna to Silverman's increasingly irritating prostitute who's saving herself for her boyfriend but is happy to earn a crust screwing around, there's just not enough to stop this tumbleweed from blowing on through.

While the opening appears to channel Bonanza as the camera swoops through Monument Valley and MacFarlane and his writing team have some differing insights into the horror of living in the Wild West that's been so romanticised through the years on the big screen, there's nothing original and new on offer for most of this flat western.

Low brow and hitting low hanging fruit may be MacFarlane's usual MO, but Ted showed the guy could deliver a story with some heart; all of that is laid to rest by A Million Ways To Die In The West's deliciously wasted comic promise.

Quite simply, A Million Ways To Die In The West wouldn't stand a chance if it came to a shoot-out.

Rating:



Maleficent: Movie Review

Maleficent: Movie Review


Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Director: Robert Stromberg

"Let us tell an old story anew - and see how well you know it"

These are the opening words of Disney's latest Maleficent, a much anticipated dark fairytale, starring Angelina Jolie as the lead and the iconic faerie Maleficent, from the 1959 movie, Sleeping Beauty.

Maleficent lives in a world divided by two kingdoms; on one side, the magical creatures and on the other, the humans. Pure of heart and a protector of the land, Maleficent flies through the skies, ensuring harmony. One day, as a young girl, she meets the prince Stefan and falls for him. He promises to return as the budding romance grows; but as Stefan grows older, he faces another destiny; that of king and protector of his land.

Unfortunately though, that means bringing the humans into conflict with an older Maleficent (the gloriously cheek-boned Angelina Jolie) and a terrible betrayal. Slighted, Maleficent curses Stefan's first born Aurora (Fanning), signalling a darkness to rule the kingdom forever....

However, Maleficent begins to realise that she's made a dreadful mistake.....

Maleficent is an odd mix of things, a gruesome fairy tale that's extremely dark in some of its castration imagery and yet dabbles in the extremely slight and light with a plethora of CGI creatures, as well as a comedy trio of pixies.

While at times, feeling rushed, when the film stops to concentrate on its "villain", it gets pretty much most of it right. With her high angular cheekbones, piercing eyes and bright vibrant red lipstick in among the black, Jolie's whispered performance delivers the fine line between malevolent, misunderstood and mistreated. (Once it settles down from the simply shouting and wailing at the start) As she becomes more of a fairy Godmother figure to Aurora,there's bit more humour that's injected into proceedings that have been deliciously cynical so far and which feels detached from the rest of what's around. Certainly, it looks as if Jolie's been framed in every shot for a spread in a glossy magazine, with the posing and primping just right. While her arc is not exactly unpredictable, the Hollywood need to flesh out the character and their reasons is more symptomatic of the times we live in than a desire to simply leave a character black or white.

If anything, Jolie is the stand out of these proceedings, which fail to give sufficient character to those around her. Copley simply dials in a performance as Stefan, the king who becomes consumed with anger, Fanning is likeable but wishy-washy as Aurora, and the three pixies (Temple, Staunton and Manville are nothing short of comic relief brought in to keep the kids amused but which will rankle all others.)

In among this fantasy world, there's an over-reliance on the FX front with scenes of Maleficent swooping through the skies and shots of creatures feeling as if they're simply being used to show off what the designers can do, rather than adding to the world within or for the narrative. It's a shame because once again, the elements are there (even if there is yet another version of the Treebeard / Ents fight from Lord Of The Rings) - but it feels like the money was spent on the effects not on the character or story.

Maleficent is a deliberate perversion of what you may expect; an extension of Frozen's changing of the guard, a hint at the darkness behind the fairy tales and does appear to try to follow the path of the Wicked stage show and attempt to redeem one of the canon's most iconic villains (why do they always need redemption?), but, in among the sound and fury of the hollow and lacking FX-fest, it delivers a career best from Angelina Jolie. It may give us a Maleficent for the 21st century, but little else is delivered in an uneven cinematic outing.

Rating:


Watch the Maleficent trailer below:

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Talking Jake, the movie

Talking Jake, the movie


I caught up with Doug Dillaman, the writer / director / producer of new self-funded feature JAKE and the film's lead actress / producer Anoushka Klaus to discuss the making of the movie. (They've worked on this as well as producer Alastair Tye Sampson) 
The film releases in Auckland on June 27th for a limited run at the Academy cinemas.
More details are at http://www.jakethemovie.com/


What’s Jake about?
Doug: Jake is about a man (Jacob) who discovers he’s been replaced in the role of his life by an actor (who takes up the nickname “Jake”). It’s about identity, and what it means to be you, and what would happen if someone else took your place and no one noticed. It’s about fighting to get your life back. And it’s about 88 minutes long.

     How long had the idea been gestating?
Doug: I came up with the idea in mid-2007. Hybrid Motion Pictures (our DIY filmmaking collective) formed in 2008 and pretty quickly the idea of it being our first feature became our goal. The first draft was complete in early 2009 and we shot winter/spring 2009.

     What were the challenges of getting a shoot together?
Anoushka: Being a self-funded feature film I suppose the most pertinent (and yes, it is very obvious) challenge was having no money. It meant everything was a negotiation and we were at the mercy of people’s goodwill and schedules. The silver lining that came from it though was that we were strict about sticking to our shooting schedule so there was very, very little overtime done during the shoot. We felt it was important to not take advantage of the time given to us and to look after people well when they were on set - so they were fed like royalty.

We did make the rookie mistake of thinking we producers could take turns being the First AD and Continuity while we were shooting, which in hindsight was an absolutely ridiculous idea and we very quickly rectified our mistake by bringing on a First AD within a couple of days.  It’s definitely not a mistake I’ll make again anytime soon.

     What was the most surprising element of shooting this film?
Doug: Seeing actors perform a scene and bring reality and emotion to it that I didn’t anticipate in the writing. For instance, the role of the actor who plays “Jake” (Leighton Cardno) was thin on the page – I imagined him as a cypher with a slightly plastic quality. But Leighton brought an intense focus to his preparation and a consistently surprising but deeply real take to it. There are scenes where his character’s emotional arc is 180 degrees from what I’d imagined when I wrote – and so much richer for it.

     What was the best part of doing this?
Doug: Hard to say because they’re such different pleasures. Rolling camera for your first shot and realising you’re fulfilling a dream you’ve had for 14 years? Wrapping several months later having gone through an unimaginably intense experience? Seeing the first cut of a complicated scene that moves across four different time frames and being awed at how simple our editor Peter Evans made it look? Having some of our young assists move on into industry roles as a result of working on the film? The big hugs when we finally, finally, finally finished the film last year? The first time I heard the audience at our cast and crew screening laugh at a joke that I’d forgotten was funny because I’d heard it so many times? Having critics come out of the screening and say, hey, that’s actually a good film? They’re all pretty great things. Don’t make me choose.

In terms of a great moment, I would say there’s a scene with Jacob (Jason Fitch) that I won’t spoil but involved an uninterrupted 10-minute take in a bedroom at a bach (jump-cut in the final movie) that I will never forget. It was at the end of a hard day and it was a pure stripped-down moment of filmmaking – just me, Jason, two camera people and our sound recordist in the room – and it was intense and powerful and raw and it was the sort of buzzy moment filmmakers live for.

Anoushka: There are many but personally I think the best is yet to come...I cannot wait to see the film in a cinema where it is being viewed by the public for the first time! It’s going to be a very proud and cathartic experience I think.

But so far...I would say my favourite moment was watching our trailer for the first time. James Brookman has done such an amazing job of really capturing the tone, tension and humour of the film while really clearly articulating the premise.  Seeing that trailer for the first time really hit home what we’d achieved.  It completely blew me away.

Now every time I show someone the trailer and see their eyes light up unexpectedly...it’s a thrill!


Talk to us about your casting process
Doug: As a filmmaking team, Hybrid had a couple of actors on board – most notably Anoushka, who became our lead actress, which worked out wonderfully. But obviously there were heaps of other roles to fill, and that’s her story to tell …

Anoushka: It was really important to me to bring in professional actors so I approached the agents in Auckland with a breakdown of what we were doing and we held auditions over a couple of weekends in the beginning of 2009.  We were still not sure at the time whether Jacob and Jake would be played by the same actor or two different actors; we’d toyed with the idea of lookalikes but when we saw Leighton and Jason’s auditions we knew straight away we needed to use both of them.  Once we’d made that decision it all came down to the story and the other actors selling the concept of Leighton’s “Jake” being able to replace Jason’s “Jacob”.   

All cast (and crew) agreed to work for a percentage of any profits so we really hope we can get some good audiences in to see the film!

     Give us a secret from the set
Doug: What happens on set stays on set.

Okay, how’s this: I dance when I’m trying to pretend I’m not nervous. 

This has taken 6 years to get to this stage, how has that process been?
Doug: Tough, but it’s part and parcel of self-funding (although I don’t think any of us realized just how long it would take!). We’re doing this on the smell of an oily rag, which means relying on favours, taking breaks to do paid work, and the old quick-cheap-good rule (which is, you’re never going to get more than two of those, and we’d already chosen cheap). At the end of the day, we have a film with a flash grade by Alana Cotton at Images & Sound and a great sound mix by Jason Fox at Envy, it’s been finished with love by our other producer Alastair Tye Samson, and it looks and sounds as great as it ever could. And I’d rather have that on the shelf in 20 years than something that was done sooner and finished to a lower standard.

What are the challenges of film-making these days?
Doug: As challenging as films are to make, it’s easier than it used to be. I think the biggest challenge is at the end - getting people to watch it! You’re competing against not just new $250 million blockbusters and festival favourites but the entire history of cinema and more - 100-hour long video games, box-set TV, cat videos on YouTube, etc, etc. Feature films are losing their dominance as the pre-eminent moving image form. These things happen, of course, and I’m being nostalgic, but it just means if you’re going to make a feature you need to try harder to make something that stands up against all those other options and justifies the investment of 90 or more minutes of a person’s life. (The flip-side, of course, is that it’s also easier than ever to get your work out to the world. Always pros and cons!)

Was there ever a moment when you were tempted to give it up?
Doug: No. There were times when we had to take a step back and take a breath though. This isn’t always a bad thing. We rushed our first cut to meet a festival deadline – it was 104 minutes long and had a really long, unnecessary subplot. Now that we’ve removed it no one would ever miss it (apart from some actors who did great work in it – sorry!).

That’s really the one piece of advice I’d give to any DIY filmmakers – take your time before locking the cut, because things get a lot harder if you try to make changes after you’ve done that. You’re not making a piece of Hollywood product to meet a stockholder-pleasing deadline – so take the time to make the film you’ll be happy with for the rest of your life.

You’re holding Q&As with the screenings – what’s the one question you don’t want to be asked?
Doug: “What does it look like when you dance on set when you’re nervous?”
Anoushka: “What’s it like to kiss so many guys?”

Do you think we’re at a stage now where crowdsourcing / kickstarter/ self-funding is going to be the way to go with films and their subsequent releases?
Doug: I hope not. I have a lot of issues with crowdsourcing – the biggest one of course being its abuse by people who could get their fund filmed by conventional means but instead go to fans and beg for money, then keep all the profit when they sell it. It feels like a way to get poor people to pay for stuff rich people or arts organisations used to pay for, and that irks me. There’s also a danger that the only things that will get funded are things that look like things you already know, instead of offbeat projects. That said, genuinely interesting films that I’ve enjoyed, like Blue Ruin, funded themselves that way, and I’d crowd fund the next Shane Carruth film in a heartbeat should he choose that option, so I shouldn’t be too judgmental. But it’s just another layer of filmmaking-related work that’s not filmmaking and I think it’s too easily and too often looked at by filmmakers and funding bodies alike as some kind of magic golden ticket.

Self-funding (which is what we did) is kind of a different beast, and I would encourage it for anyone who a) wants to make a film of modest means independent of external entities and b) can afford to lose all the money they put into it. We may have not made the most sensible film from a market perspective, but I couldn’t be prouder of it, and I’m not sure the things I love most about Jake would have survived a traditional development process.

Finally, as ever with these things, what’s next?
Anoushka: I am really tired of seeing women on screen (particularly in American films) that are just there to react to the decisions/situations of male characters or just provide a bit of eye candy, so I’ve been writing. I’ve always been a bit shy with sharing my work in the past (and the story of Jacob not living boldly always hit a nerve for me) so after the release of Jake is finished, I will be focusing on completing a set of short films and a feature that I’ve been writing.

Doug: Also, Alastair has directed the last several Hybrid 48 Hours films with stunning results (check out last year’s PARALYSIS - http://vimeo.com/67100022 - for a taste of what he’s capable of) and has been developing his debut feature, a horror film.

Personally, I probably won’t be writing/directing my next film anytime soon, as I’m currently writing my novel while doing the MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University in Wellington. I got passionate about telling a story about weapons testing in New Zealand and New Caledonia during World War II and decided that it’d be quicker and easier to pull off in book form. But I’ve always got a list of script ideas in my notebook that I’m working on … but first we have to bring Jake into the world and get people to see it!


JAKE trailer from Alastair Tye Samson on Vimeo.

Grace of Monaco: Movie Review

Grace of Monaco: Movie Review


Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Paz Vega, Milo Ventimiglia, Frank Langella
Director: Olivier Dahan

It begins with the words: "This is a fictional accountant inspired by real events" and ends with Nicole Kidman smiling enigmatically as Grace Kelly - everything else in between is somewhat of a muddled blur.

Roundly derided at the Cannes Film festival this year, Grace of Monaco is the story of one moment in Grace Kelly's life, where her personal choices and professional standing clashed, causing a crisis of identity and marriage - as well as threatening the future of Monaco.

When Hitchcock comes to Grace to offer her a role in Marnie, she's torn between taking the part and leaving her unhappy life behind in Monaco and the constitutional crisis facing the powers that be during a stand off between Prince Rainier III (A spiv-like Tim Roth) and French president Charles de Gaulle.

As the pressure ramps up on both sides, Grace finds herself in an interminable position.

In among the dazzling diamonds on show in Grace of Monaco, there is only wood on show from the humans.

To say Grace of Monaco is poorly acted is more of a reflection on a script that lacks anything, and delivery from most of its principal cast that would be scorned if it were an amateur performance. For the majority of the film, it feels like the actors are merely intoning their lines rather than breathing any form of life into them as the kitchen sink melodrama ramps up.

In amongst all of this is Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, for whom the camera inexplicably delivers soft focus every time it's on her. Dahan chooses to spend a lot of time in sharp close up of Kidman's eyes as Grace, a directorial flourish that begins to grate after its first few overuses. While Kidman tries her best with a script that's bereft of life, she's reduced to a series of poses and pouting moments that make Kelly look like a child stinging from criticism. The worst scene sees Kelly being trained by Derek Jacobi's Count with a series of cards that have emotions like "Regret" on them - it's a shame none of them had "Acting" written on them.

Inevitably, comparisons will be made with last year's Diana biopic, given that similar themes are explored - a contretemps of a loveless marriage and expectation of duty swirl around both of these women. Except Grace of Monaco should at least have some sparkle - and while the costumes bring the bling, the lifeless dull script and actors unfortunately under the direction of Dahan do not. None of them convince in their respective roles and feel so aloof and removed from proceedings, you even wonder why anyone of them signed up in the first place.

Regally bad, Grace of Monaco for once lives upto the hype that's surrounded it following its debut at Cannes. It's just a shame that the hype stinks to high heaven in this lump of coal, which for all the efforts of those involved, cannot be polished to anything near the standard of a diamond.

Rating:



Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Pa Boys: DVD Review

The Pa Boys: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Vendetta

From the producer of such Kiwi cinematic luminaries as Eagle vs Shark and Boy comes this new feature. Set in contemporary Wellington, it's the story of a reggae band, The Pa Boys, who are made up of two mates, and a new flattie, Tau. Deciding to go on a pub tour "down north", the boys face the inevitable tensions of life on the road.

But for Danny (Fran Kora) it's a bigger issue - the appearance of the spiritually centred and in-touch-with-his-ancestors Tau (Matariki Whatarau) causes wider concerns, with his feeling of displacement coming to the fore.


And these worries and insecurities threaten to derail the band's easy musical rapport....

The Pa Boys has a relaxed and gently soulful vibe to it that's hard to deny - if you're expecting another Mt Zion style film, then you'll be in for a shock because Grace's put together a flick which addresses spiritual concerns and accepting your roots ahead of any major musical influence.

While Danny has a growing sense of resentment and alienation, the opposite can be said of Tau in this simply told story and the gentle push and pull helps propel it along. Occasionally, the movie drifts a little as its focus wanders and it can in the odd moment or two, feel like a Maori history lesson as Tau waxes lyrical about how the North island was fished up, but along with the strong use of the scenery and spiritually reflective tone of the movie, The Pa Boys is a measured movie which will strike a chord with some more than others.


The music scenes give an eclectic glimpse into the pub touring circuit and encapsulate the small town vibes and attitudes towards bands heading their way; and the music benefits from having an actual singer on duties.

The ensemble cast are solid with Danny (Kora) giving enough of a feeling of alienation and loss.

All in all, The Pa Boys is a solid debut from Grace; with a little more editing and potentially a little more story, it could have soared a little higher.

Rating:

Monday, 26 May 2014

Cheap Thrills: DVD Review

Cheap Thrills: DVD Review


Rating: R18
Released by Madman Home Ent

In Evan Katz's grubby Cheap Thrills, it's Compliance's Pat Healy who's forced to debase himself for money to make ends meet. When Healy's Craig awakes one day, it's all a spiral to hell as debt catches up with him - a young baby, a nice wife and a good home all placed in jeopardy by the fact he can't pay the bills. 

An eviction notice and a downsizing later and Craig's in a bar, nursing a beer and some sorrows. Then he bumps into Vince, an old school friend not seen for 5 years and it starts to escalate into a simmering pot boiler of have-nots. 


When the duo meet Colin and Violet, (Sara Paxton and David Koechner) who have cash to splash on a series of silly dares, everything goes to hell in a handcart as social mores and moral depths are plumbed to see how far they'd go for cash. $50 to be the first to down a shot, $500 to hit a bouncer first - all seem like simple moments of what would you do mentality, but that's only the beginning. As the two old school friends begin to face off each other in a desperate game for one upmanship and money in the pocket.


Katz has a way of keeping the thrills going in the film as it spirals towards its inevitable nasty end - sure, you can see what's coming as Vince and Craig debase themselves for cash - and there's a degree of wondering what would you do for that amount of money if it came down to it. 

But the taut direction as the resentments boil over and the level of tension rises means you're never short of an engagement with this grubby lo-fi film. As a morality tale, it's a fascinating one - a tale of haves and have-nots facing off in an epic social battle. Healy makes his descent believable and a shock at the end packs a real punch - Katz is an expert at making you flip between sympathy and horror for Craig and you may be shocked at how you swing as the film plays out. 


Cheap Thrills may be lo-fi cinema in some ways, vulgar and depraved, but it's a sure sign that an indie can kick some punch and may make you question exactly how far you'd go if circumstance conspired against you. And to be honest, you may not like the answer to that....


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Sunday, 25 May 2014

ZB Review - Xmen: Days of Future Past, Godzilla, Philomena and August Osage County

ZB Review - Xmen: Days of Future Past, Godzilla, Philomena and August Osage County


This week on Jack Tame, it was of monsters and humans.

We discussed X: Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla, Philomena and August Osage County

Take a listen below:


Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? DVD Review

Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent

Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? is an HBO doco looking at the tragically short life ofTim Hetherington, who many will know as being one half of the Oscar nominated doco,Restrepo

It sets out its stall early on with a shot of Tim saying that the "role of witnessing comes with strong responsibility" - and it's clear that Sebastian Junger's piece is a honest, heartfelt, but never mawkish tribute to his former colleague. Tim was a tall, grinning, white guy who clearly stood head and shoulders above his subjects, but who was never above them in respect and grace. 


This fascinating piece intersperses past footage of Tim, with some of his shots and contributions from those who knew him. As an insight into what goes through an embedded journo's psyche, it's fascinating; as a look at what makes a human, it's unmissable. Powerful footage from war zones sweeps in with comments from all sides - and there's a strong poignancy to the final words from Sebastian Junger and the last sequences which show Tim's untimely demise. 


As Sebastian reveals, a Vietnam vet told him: "The core truth about war is you’re guaranteed to lose your brothers – and now you know everything you need to know about war" after hearing the news of Tim's death. 


Those moments feel almost intrusive, tragic and utterly soul destroying as they're set to a shot of the sun in a clear blue sky - this is an incredibly moving piece which encapsulates the reason some rush into horrors while others run away.


Rating:


Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mr Pip: Blu Ray Review

Mr Pip: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

Based on Lloyd Jones' seminal novel, the film adaptation of Mr Pip arrives on the screen withGreat Expectations heaped upon it.


Set against the backdrop of civil war in Bougainville as power struggle for the copper mines manifests itself, it's the story of young Mathilda (Xzannjah) who lives on the island. When all the whites abandon the island to ensure their safety, one stays behind.

That is the enigmatic Mr Watts (Hugh Laurie) who decides to take on the tutelage of the children by reading to them Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. For Mathilda, it's a revelation, a chance to find sanctuary in the world of Pip and her own imagination. But Watts' plan to fire up the children's imaginations brings him into conflict with some of the parents.

However, they find they all have to put their differences aside when the civil war comes abruptly and violently into their village.

Mr Pip is a surprisingly powerful piece given its rather small scale intimate feel.

Laurie, replete in crumpled white suit, brings a low-key nuanced presence and haunting subtle sadness to the last remaining white man on the island, trying to inspire the children and distract them from the horrors knocking at their very doorstep. There's a distracted melancholy to his performance which is only lifted when he brings some comic overtones to the acting out of Dickens' world.


First time actress Xzannjah also has a wide-eyed innocence to Mathilda, whose solace in her imaginary world with Pip is a stark contrast to the world around her. Thanks to bright, visually bold colourful costuming of Pip's world, the difference couldn't be more pointed or striking as the maudlin tone plays out. The first half of the film feels almost light, choppy and jaunty as the kids and the village adjust to Watts' ways and the community starts to fracture (and ultimately heal itself) amid the world around it.

And mark my words, Mr Pip packs a power that is hard to deny - and even harder not to be moved or horrified with as the realities and atrocities of civil war come painfully to Mathilda and Mr Watts' world. It's mournful to say the least and the wailing and gnashing which follows one incident is haunting, evocative and heart-in-mouth horrifying - despite somehow managing to be moving.

But it's the ending of Mr Pip which impresses - there's a dignified power, emotional punch and rich resonance offered by the dénouement which will move you more than you'd expect. Amid the harrowing and horrific, director Andrew Adamson has crafted something which has a quiet dignity and a way of creeping up on you, gnawing at your soul long after you've turned it off

Rating:


Extras: Interviews with director and Hugh Laurie

Friday, 23 May 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Blu Ray Review

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Entertainment

Nearly a decade ago, a small cult began to grow with the launch of the movie, Anchorman - The Legend of Rob Burgundy. Now, Will Ferrell returns as Ron Burgundy in the second Anchorman film - Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

After the success of the 1970s, things are looking good for Ron and Veronica (Christina Applegate) - but when she's promoted to lead anchor ahead of him, the narcissistic Ron hits rock bottom - until an opportunity comes to him to be part of a 24 hours new channel, the Global News Network.

However, Ron's got problems as the rest of the Channel 4 news team are no longer working in news. But this is Ron Burgundy and he's never been troubled by anything. So, he sets out to get the gang back together and take the world of news by storm. Again.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues had promise.

The first was a creative flash in the pan, a veritable souffle of ridiculousness and long lasting catch phrases guaranteeing it a place in the pantheon of the comedy films.

This sequel, is to be frank, a patchy and disappointing affair. It starts off promisingly with the over-the-top nature kicking in and the stupidity on display for all to see. The idiotic lines come thick and fast as the parody starts to hit home. And there are hints of satire around too, a sly mocking of the softer news formats and weaker news agenda of current times, the lack of integrity of reporters as they try to fill 24 hours of news, a dig at an Australian owner of a media empire and the idiocy of racial and sexual stereotypes. They all have real potential for the film to hit it out of the park (or Whammy, if you're Champ) throughout.

Yet, scenes go on without real punchlines, a series of skits that are loosely narratively hung together and end in gibberish after proffering a few smiles before blustering quickly into the next one. It's almost as if they were a gaggle of comedy moments that worked better on paper and in the rehearsal room than on the big screen.

Nowhere is this more blatantly apparent than in a final out-of-leftfield fight sequence that sees Ron and the team confronted by groups of news anchors from different stations - and proves a chance to pack in more celebrity cameos than you could shake a teleprompter at and be self-indulgent rather than add to the story or prove fodder for some quality quick fire gags.

Don't get me wrong though - Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues offers some laugh out loud moments - mainly at socially awkward Steve Carell's Brick Tamland, who spouts such absurdisms at odd moments that it's impossible to fall prey to this idiot savant who is more idiot than savant. To be honest though, he's a real highlight in this - despite a romance with his female double (played by Kristen Wiig) not quite hitting the creative mark.

Overall, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues seems to be a case of getting the band back together for the band more than for anybody else. A once-over of the script could have helped and certainly a bit more editing would have tightened the comically weak structure - an entire sequence with Ron raising a shark as part of his character's growth would have been better off left as a deleted scene.

It's frustrating though as the satire is there in the wings, waiting and with a sharpening, it could have been so much more. If you're a fan of the first Anchorman movie or are willing to leave your brain at the door and get pre-loaded, you'll have some laughs. Everyone else may wonder what all the fuss is about as some of the barbs and laughs hit their target, while others miss.


Rating:



Thursday, 22 May 2014

Saving Mr Banks: Blu Ray Review

Saving Mr Banks: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Walt Disney DVD

A Disney film about the making of a Disney film that was so beloved by so many?

Yep, that's Saving Mr Banks - about the creative wrangles and 20 year fight good ole Walt faced to get Mary Poppins author P L Travers to hand over her creation to the Mouse empire.

Emma Thompson is Mary Poppins author P L Travers in this film which begins in 1961 in London with her accountant urging her to reconsider and sign the rights to Disney before she goes bankrupt. After years of wooing her, Tom Hanks' Walt Disney wants her to come to Hollywood so he can mount one final push and show her that he will be careful of how she's committed to celluloid.

But old Walt, despite the charm offensive, has reckoned without the over-protective and over-bearing nature of Travers, whose pernickerty ways could signal the end of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious before it even hits the screen.

However, through flashbacks to her childhood, Travers' reasons for wanting to protect Mary Poppins are gradually revealed - and it looks like Walt may have to break a promise he made to his own daughters some 20 years ago over the making of the film....

Emma Thompson excels as the controlling Travers, a woman whose life has been precariously built up around the nanny, who saved her in more ways than one. There are plenty of guffaws as Travers dishes out withering looks or put downs as she deals with growing exasperation with the songwriting Sherman brothers (Schwartzman and Novak) and the dwindling patience of Disney. It's a bravura performance, one which soars thanks to the self control of Thompson herself - from the very beginning to the very end of this, she owns and commands the screen with incredible cinematic aplomb - and I'd be very surprised to see her passed over in the forthcoming awards season.

If anything, Hanks' solid performance as Disney is a little overshadowed by the greatness of Thompson. He delivers a slick and subtle turn as the slick showman, so determined to win and fulfil his dream of making Mary Poppins part of the House of Mouse. From bombarding Travers in her hotel room with a plethora of plush stuffed toys, he lays on the charm. It's only really in the final scenes that Disney's ruthlessness comes to the fore as he refuses to have Travers at the premiere of the movie, for fear she could damage its reputation.

So with these two at loggerheads and Travers' antics in the rehearsal room proving the meat on this backstory's bones, it's a shame to say that Hancock over-eggs the narrative pudding with more than just a spoonful of sugar by over-using flashbacks to Travers' life as a youngster in Australia. Complete with Colin Farrell, these are used too often when sparing insertion into the story would have proved more effective. No more is this apparent than in the final sequence as Travers watches Mary Poppins and the director chooses to overstate the sentiment by cutting back and forth - a little subtlety and easing up would have worked wonders, instead of plumping for mawkish, heavy-handed manipulative film-making.

Overall, Saving Mr Banks soars because of Emma Thompson's uptight PL Travers; it's a fascinating dramatisation of what happens when British stiff upper lip meets a bombastic American charm offensive; it's just a shame that in parts, it's a terribly hollow and typically manipulative piece, which cries out for more simplicity and subtlety.

Rating: