Monday, 31 August 2015

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl: Film Review

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl: Film Review


Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

The sick lit genre got a boost in the arm with The Fault In Our Stars, a sweet romance that got you in the feels as well as working to the tropes and conventions.

So, it's inevitable that Me And Earl And The Dying Girl with its button-pushing title and poster of three friends will be held up in comparison.

But, that does this quirky Sundance audience award winner a disservice - to a degree.

It's the story of high schooler Greg (Mann), who bounces between the school sets without attaching to any of them. His sole friend is a kid who comes from a different neighbourhood Earl (Cyler), with whom he makes spoof movies a la Be Kind Rewind and who he hangs out with at lunch to avoid the cafeteria dilemma.

Greg's world changes when his mother forces him to spend time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who's diagnosed with leukaemia. Initially reticent, Greg finds an escape from his world in Rachel's but gradually begins to realise that he's more invested in Rachel's fight than his own crumbling life.

Me and Earl And The Dying Girl, in parts, feels like a slightly too smug and offbeat take on the genre, destined to be beloved by some and loathed by others.

Based on Jesse Andrews' book, occasionally it feels like it's trying too hard as it negotiates the tropes, mocks them with self-deprecating touches and cocks a snook at where it's come from. It's easy to see why it's been an audience hit at the Sundance festival and in other festivals - though I suspect it's only within certain parts of the audience.

Slathered in amusing movie in-jokes thanks to the affectionate films that Earl and Greg make (Sample title - Senior Citizen Kane), there's certainly just enough here to give it a broader brush to those who may be put off by the awkward moping of others within the genre.

But yet, while it's heart-warming, it's never emotionally devastating and never really developed a personal connection.

Greg is too self-centred, too aloof from all around him to feel too much or to gain an attachment too. Granted, it's possibly the embodiment of being a teenager, but it's a film which doesn't offer him a journey or redemptive arc.

Equally, there's too much of a sidelining of Rachel here - ironically though, in doing so, this helps the film avoid mawkish moments where you'd expect romance to blossom - a touch that the film's so self-aware to mock with Greg intoning that "This would be where we kiss." However, it's a shame as Olivia Cooke brings a stellar performance to the screen as the girl going through the various stages of the illness, without one moment feeling false at all.

If anything, Me and Earl And The Dying Girl is more about friendship and sadly, in its final stretches, falls headlong into some of the cliches it's been trying hard to avoid throughout. It's not without its charms, but I have to admit, the majority of them were lost on me.

There's no denying Me and Earl And The Dying Girl's freshness and potential appeal to its demo as it negotiates what it means to be a teenager, but there's equally no denying the occasional quirkiness becomes overbearing (such as its stop-motion animations that appear from time to time), tearing it away from its more genuine moments and depriving it of the wider status it deserves early on.

Rating:


We Are Your Friends: Film Review

We Are Your Friends: Film Review


Cast: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratjakowski, Jon Bernthal
Director: Max Joseph

"Sounds have soul"

Sadly, despite being uttered in the film, the same cannot be said for We Are Your Friends, a  movie that looks at one DJ wanting to break into the world of EDM and appears to have been written by committee.

Pretty boy Zac Efron plays Cole Carter, a Valley boy who didn't go to college, who's stuck with dead-end prospects and who spends his nights playing a club as and when he can while his friends promote the place.

By a very Hollywood style coincidence, he ends up under the wing of superstar DJ James Reese (Wes Bentley who enjoys his turn as the about-to-be-washed-up svengali) who tries to help him discover his music style - but Cole's equally as interested in James' PA / girlfriend Sophie (model Emily Ratjakowski)....

For a film that's all about music that sets the heart racing, We Are Your Friends lacks the euphoria of the club scene - despite a pumping EDM soundtrack guaranteed to occasionally have your toes tapping in the aisle.

The problem is that the whole film is soulless, a rote kind of film that harnesses all the beats of a good dance film but has trouble assembling them into some kind of coherence. And while Efron makes good on the vacuous vessel that is Cole, the writers do little to serve his character with anything other than cliche. Plus, it's hard to emote when you're sat in front of a computer trying to put together a killer track (something the film tries to show that the best music comes from the feelings within)

Equally, Cole's mates who really should be the emotional centre of the film and have provided more conflict for the character when he falls in with the DJ set are so poorly served that when stuff goes down for them, it feels so piecemeal and formulaic that it has no punch whatsoever.

Granted, the easy on the eye Ratjakowksi and charming Efron make a pretty couple, but the shallow feel of the film, coupled with Cole's continually earnest voiceover that all it takes is one track to break through, cripples the flick and denies it any of the credibility this underdog story is so clearly striving for.

While the dance music is pretty pumping and there's a nice sequence with Cole on drugs (albeit bizarrely, PCP) that sees paintings bleeding into the floor and overtaking him,  the overly earnest We Are Your Friends feels so formulaic and lacking in heart that there's no cathartic moments to behold, and for a film that should be about living it up while you're young, that's nothing short of criminal.

Rating:


Hitman: Agent 47: Film Review

Hitman: Agent 47: Film Review


Cast: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto
Director: Aleksander Bach

The pantheon of video games transplanted to the big screen is littered with varying degrees of success.

For every Resident Evil, there is a Super Mario Bros. But there's certainly enough of them- and even more coming with the likes of Assassin's Creed and Warcraft being the big hitters of the future.

In this latest update of the Hitman series (a first came out in 2007 starring Justified's Timothy Olyphant), Rupert Friend stars as the titular shaven headed assassin, identifiable only via a bar code on the back of his head.

Raised by a secret government group as part of a super soldier programme, 47 is an emotionless killer, a remnant of the past. But when someone seeks out the scientist who set up the programme via his daughter Katia (Hannah Ware), it all comes back to life - and it's a race against time as Katia finds herself involved and forced to choose a side - either the Agent or John Smith (Zachary Quinto)

For a film that's based on a video game, Hitman: Agent 47 acquits itself reasonably well.

Despite a ludicrous premise, and a paper thin plot (including a final section that hints frustratingly at a sequel that may never come), it's fair to say that Hitman: Agent 47 follows its video game origins to a tee.

From the nod to the iconic packshot art in the pre-credits sequence to the video-game episodic style trappings within, this is a film that bathes in its origins and apes the game-play from within. That doesn't necessarily make it a great film though - and while the kills fall into the stylish rather than substance led, there are some quieter character-driven moments that really fall with a thud. Equally, the introduction of a new menace half-way through the film that's not glimpsed again until the very last moment is a real damp squib - a thread that's supposed to provide menace but is about as threatening as a cute bunny rabbit.

Friend is ok as the cypher assassin, but he works better when he's a soulless Terminator style killing machine, rather than an emoting, cracks-in-the-armour style human he becomes later on. Ware acquits herself reasonably well as the kickass Katia and even Quinto does questionable well (even if his stunt double looks glaringly nothing like him in the action sequences).

Overall, Hitman: Agent 47 isn't going to win any awards or new followers; its insistence in following to the tee its computer game counterpart is more of a stylish hindrance than an expansion to the big screen and despite some rote action sequences that are designed to showcase the sponsors, there are some moments that offer some enticing hints of what could have been.

Rating:


I Survived A Zombie Holocaust: Film/ DVD Review

I Survived A Zombie Holocaust: Film/ DVD Review


Rating: R16
Released by Vendetta Film

Being one of New Zealand's first ever multi-platform releases,I Survived A Zombie Holocaust has a fair amount of expectation behind it.

And given the fact it's garnered good foreign reviews from specialist film festivals, means it has some prestige too.

It's the story of Wesley,  a runner new to the set of a B movie zombie film "Tonight They Come", a trashy exploitation pic that's as bad as you'd expect from the title. When people start getting sick on the film, and the actual zombie extras turn into real zombies, it's up to Wesley to save the day.

Bandying around comparisons to BrainDead, it's fair to say I Survived A Zombie Holocaust was expected to be of a certain calibre. And it's nowhere near that standard - in fact, in parts, it's worse than your worst 48 Hours Film entry; badly acted, poorly scripted, but with some good FX here and there, I Survived A Zombie Holocaust is actually quite painful to watch. From the lead playing Wesley who funnels every stereotyped nervous nerd and ends up being grossly irritating to the lazy scripting and long time set ups, the pay off of I Survived A Zombie Holocaust is simply not worth it.

While I can see what the film-makers were aiming for, I wish more effort had gone into the dialogue and the actual characters because the execution is weak and difficult to watch. Maybe a bit more self-awareness and some tongue in cheek would have helped, but I Survived A Zombie Holocaust is nothing short of a real shlocky shocker; a relic from the 80s that has all the gore but no savvy.

Rating:


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Bound: DVD Review

Bound: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

There is a great movie called Bound.

Sadly, this film is not the version with Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, but a straight to DVD release aimed at cashing in on the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Charisma Carpenter is Michelle, the daughter of a wealthy real estate owner who falls for a younger man played by Bryce Draper. Who happens to have an S&M Dungeon that he introduces her to awakening her inner BDSM desires (sound familiar?)

But this awakening causes more than a few problems...

Terribly acted with no real chemistry between Draper and Carpenter, one suspects the main reason some will go for this is a topless Charisma Carpenter. Dialogue and story are certainly non-existent and the sex scenes, such as they are, are nothing titillating or exciting.

In fact, this Bound is tied up by its own pretensions - a clear cash in on the EL James Fifty Shades trilogy and a film that lacks any actual bite at all, its only saving grace is its short run time.

Rating:


Saturday, 29 August 2015

While We're Young: Blu Ray Review

While We're Young: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

Achieving the broadest of reaches and never losing sight of being entertaining, Noah Baumbach's While We're Young delivers a pitch perfect comedy to alleviate the soul as spring nears closer.

Ben Stiller plays Josh. a documentary maker stuck in his latest project; his wife is Cornelia (Naomi Watts, channeling some warm comedic schtick) a fellow producer. Worries over whether the pair is in a rut are pushed to one side, when Josh meets Adam Driver's Jamie, a 25-year-old version of himself, but more in touch with his hipper side.

Energised by Jamie's interest (along with his wife, played by Amanda Seyfried), Josh sets out to complete his documentary and re-discover his, and his wife's joie de vivre.


While We're Young is wistful, wry, warmly comic fare as it lays down some realities about how we truly are in life and what steps we take when we get older.

Brilliantly juxtaposing the attitudes of Josh and Cornelia ("We have the freedom to do what we want; what we do with it is not important" being one of their earlier bon mots) to their younger counterparts proves to be the film's masterstroke as a light script is breezily delivered by the cast.

But there's a grain of truth that will be entirely resonant with others in this dryly laconic movie; it's a film where the younger embrace vinyl and reading, but the older struggle with digital technology all around them; where retro is cool, but the future is baffling.

And yet, in among the light banter, is a man on the edge of a crisis,a relationship on a brink and a smart savvy take on how priorities and viewpoints change as life goes on. It's humour mixed with life's experiences, good and bad - and Baumbach delivers it in spades.

Granted, there will be some who will find the film's themes trite, but there will be an equal - if not larger - amount who will find it cutting a little close to the bone. If you let it, While We're Young emerges as something touching and sensitive to time's passing - it doesn't harm it in the slightest that it's well-performed, well-written and deeply engaging as it doles out its message about life.


Rating:


Friday, 28 August 2015

Mika heads to Street Fighter V

Mika heads to Street Fighter V



R. Mika will make her debut at Pax Prime in USA this weekend, as she will join the roster in a brand new playable demo available at the Capcom booth. The PAX event demo will also include the other previously-announced new and returning challengers, Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Cammy, Vega, M. Bison, Birdie, Charlie Nash, and Necalli.


About R. Mika
As an aspiring young wrestler, Mika dreamed of one day becoming a star in the ring, much like her idol Zangief. Training under the strict tutelage of her coach, she traveled the world engaging in random matches with street fighters in order to spread her name and popularity. R. Mika's wrestling prowess will be on full display in Street Fighter V, as she dazzles opponents with a wide variety of high-flying moves. This time around, her wrestling tag-team partner Nadeshiko assists in the fight! By calling Nadeshiko at the right time using R. Mika's V-Trigger ability, players will be able to set up sneaky attacks and punishing command grab mix-ups that are sure to deliver devastating amounts of damage. Players who enjoy putting on a stunning display of fear-inducing close-combat guessing games will find R. Mika a colourful and rewarding way to play.

About Street Fighter V
The legendary fighting franchise returns in Autumn 2016 with Street Fighter V! Stunning visuals depict the next generation of World Warriors in unprecedented detail, while exciting and accessible battle mechanics deliver endless fighting fun that both beginners and veterans can enjoy. Challenge friends online, or compete for fame and glory on the Capcom Pro Tour.


For the first time in Street Fighter history, all post-launch gameplay-related content in Street Fighter V can be earnable via gameplay, free of charge. All balance and system adjustments will also be available for free, so players will always have access to the most current version. Through a strategic partnership between Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and Capcom, the next generation Street Fighter experience will offer cross-platform play that will unite PlayStation 4 and PC fans into a centralized player base for the first time ever. The path to greatness begins here: RISE UP!

Project CARS - Old Vs. New Car Pack Out Now



PROJECT CARS LAUNCHES ITS “OLD VS NEW” CAR PACK
BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment and Slightly Mad Studios Are Proud to Reveal the Latest Addition to their Celebrated Project CARS!

SYDNEY, 28TH AUGUST 2015 - Today, Project CARS continues its programme of continual updates and fresh content delivery with the release of the Old Vs New Car Pack featuring three retro machines and their modern-day counterparts. The Old Vs New Car Pack feature three retro machines and their modern-day counterparts from the factories of BMW, Ford, and Ruf.

Introduced in 1964, the Ford Mustang quickly became one of the company's most-recognizable models, single handedly starting the muscle car revolution that shaped the American car market for more than a decade.

After the first one million road cars of the original Mustang had been build, Ford gave its best-seller an extensive upgrade, equipping the car with a more powerful 4.7 liter V8 engine and introducing the now-iconic Fastback body style. Now, in 2015, the Mustang GT is the newest addition to Ford’s iconic range. Powered by a massive 5-litre V8 engine and delivering more than 428hp of power and 528 Nm of torque, buyers can choose between a full manual and automatic six-speed gearbox, the latter coming with genuine shifting paddles – a first in the long history of the Mustang.

Based on the Porsche 911 3.2, the 1987 CTR Yellowbird is one of Ruf’s most iconic models, and one that helped build their reputation for building no-compromise sports cars. The 3.4 liter twin-turbocharged flat six engine provided 469hp from two large turbochargers and intercoolers, and had been equipped with a new Bosch Motronic as well as an ignition setup originally designed for Porsche’s 962 Group C race car. Thanks to extensive weight-saving measures such as usage of fibreglass and aluminium, the CTR weighs just 1150 kilograms, resulting in a very impressive performance

BMW's 2002 Turbo road car made the history books in 1973 by becoming Europe's first-ever mass-produced road car powered by a turbocharged engine. The 2002Turbo's two-litre four cylinder engine provided 170hp of power, a figure that made the 2002 one of the most powerful cars on the road during its time. Unfortunately, the 1974 oil crisis forced an end to the 2002 Turbo's production after just one year as gas prices were soaring across the world. Only 1672 cars were produced during the model's limited production run, making the 2002 Turbo one of BMW's most iconic and most sought-after classics. Built to the Super 2000 touring car regulations, the 320TC is BMW's weapon of choice for competition in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) and countless national touring car series around the globe. Weighing 1170 kilograms, the car is powered by a 1.6 litre DI-turbo four-cylinder engine and a full adjustable six-speed sequential gearbox. Driven by veteran touring car aces such as Tom Coronel, Franz Engstler & Stefano D'Aste, the 320TC clinched five world championship wins.

Lara Croft GO is here

LCGO_final_logo_01

LARA CROFT GO GOES LIVE TODAY
ON IOS, ANDROID AND WINDOWS PHONES

Square Enix Montréal’s Next Mobile Game in the GO Series Now Available

SYDNEY, 28TH August 2015 – Square Enix Montréal today announced that Lara Croft GOthe follow-up to the hugely successful Hitman GO®, is now available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, as well as Android, Windows Phone and Windows Store.

Watch the Lara Croft GO launch trailer below


The turn-based puzzle adventure casts players as the iconic Tomb Raider® as she explores the ancient ruins of a long forgotten civilization. Over the span of five chapters, players must help Lara fight menacing enemies, overcome dangerous obstacles and traps, and ultimately, uncover the myth of the Queen of Venom. Along the way, players can collect ancient relics hidden throughout the game world to earn extra Lara Croft features and costumes for the most nostalgic fans. 

“With Lara Croft GO, we set out to capture the iconic franchise’s sense of exploration and combat in a fun, accessible way, while still challenging players,” said Patrick Naud, Head of Studio at Square Enix Montreal. ”The result is a clever, distinctive gameplay experience that we think will resonate not only with fans of Lara Croft and the GO series, but with most mobile gamers in general.”

Inspired by classic Tomb Raider games, Lara Croft GO features a distinct art design and captivating soundtrack that will spark the player’s inner relic hunter as they tackle over 75 challenging puzzles in Lara’s quest to survive the deadly mysteries that await.   

Just Cause 3 Dev Diary lands

Just Cause 3 Dev Diary lands


The second entry in the JUST CAUSE 3 Dev Diary series takes a close look at the destruction that sits at the heart of the game. In the video, the Avalanche team discuss the dynamic nature of the technology and the unique scenarios that this gives birth to:
We’ve been focused purely on the new generation of high-end technology from the very beginning of development” said Game Director Roland Lesterlin “this huge amount of extra horsepower allows us to do things that simply weren’t possible until now”.

The Destruction Dev Diary takes a look at these things in action.
Watch the ‘Episode 2 – Destruction’ dev diary below 
Get ready to ‘Set the World on Fire’ on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and high-end Windows PC on December 1st 2015.

  

Forza Motorsport 6 Demo goes live Sept 1st

Forza Motorsport 6 Demo goes live Sept 1st


Forza Motorsport 6 Has Gone Gold! Demo Arrives Sept. 1

The latest mile marker on the road to Forza Motorsport 6’s launch has arrived: We’ve gone gold! In two weeks, Forza Motorsport 6 will be available to play via early access for owners of the Ultimate Edition.

Five days later, Forza 6 will be unleashed to everyone! Before the full game launches, however, fans will have the chance to experience the thrills of Forza Motorsport 6 in the official free demo for the game, which launches on September 1.

The Forza Motorsport 6 demo will let players experience the most beautiful and comprehensive racing game of this generation, named “Best Racing Game” and “Best Simulation Game” of gamescom 2015. The demo features a selection of the 460 Forzavista cars available in the full version, all with working cockpits and full damage. You’ll experience highlights from the game’s 26 world-famous locales, including wet weather and night racing, all at a stunning 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second.


Everyone who plays the Forza Motorsport 6 demo will automatically get the new Ford GT delivered to their garage in Forza Motorsport 6 for no additional cost. In addition, the demo will include additional features that allow fans to get even deeper into the Forza Motorsport 6 experience. Look for more details on that when the demo launches on September 1!

We’re celebrating all of this Forza news with some new details on the game, including the announcement of a number of previously unannounced cars in Forza Motorsport 6, as well as full details on all the tracks in the game.

See below for more details on the cars released this week, and the full post on ForzaMotorsport.net  for new screenshots and details on the tracks that will include night and wet racing options.

Brand New Cars
Led by the awesome power of the 2015 Mercedes-AMG GT S, these ten newly announced cars bring the total car count to Forza Motorsport 6 to 460 cars, the largest number of cars ever seen at the launch of a Forza game!

The rest of the cars we’re revealing today:

·         2015 Mercedes-AMG GT S
·         1979 BMW #6 BMW Motorsport M1 Procar
·         2015 Volvo S60 Polestar
·         2014 Audi #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS ultra
·         2014 BMW #5 Ebay Motors 125i M Sport
·         2014 Chevrolet #3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R
·         2015 Jaguar XKR-S GT
·         1976 Lotus #5 Team Lotus 77
·         1969 Lola #10 Simoniz Special T163
·         2014 Ferrari California T

Fast 7: Blu Ray Review

Fast 7: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

Fast and Furious 7 sets out its stall in its very first scene with Jason Statham posturing menacingly while promising revenge for his brother and then having the camera pull back as he walks back through scenes of devastation in a hospital, guards beaten and strewn around like rag dolls before getting in his car and speeding off.

Yep, the Fast and Furious franchise is back once again - and with the death of Paul Walkerhanging over this latest, there's potentially a lot more riding on it with an emotional pay-off guaranteed.


In terms of plot, it goes like this - Deckard Shaw (Statham) hunts down Dom Toretto (Diesel) and his family over the injuries given to his brother in the previous film. And that is it.



All the elements are in place. You want girls writhing around in not very much while the camera leers up their backside? Check. You want dialogue that's written by cavemen? Check. You want self referential OTT moments that are for the fans? Check. You want Dwayne Johnson delivering Schwarzenegger style one-liners while tearing a cast from his apparently broken arm while in hospital? Well, check and check.

And yet, Furious 7 considerably ups the hysterical ante in its overly long and dangerously close to bloated run- time thanks to some incredible eye popping stunts and set pieces, deftly and tautly delivered by director James Wan.

Wan knows how to control the action, mixing in comedy, almost balletic like fight scenes and ballsy pedal to the metal chase sequences that drip with as much bravura as they do ludicrousness. Cars fall from planes and segue into a thrilling mountain-top sequence that's action packed and leaves you breathless; a relatively pointless jaunt to Abu Dhabi to steal a MacGuffin from inside a car ends up in skytop leap of such insanity that's it's repeated twice in as many minutes and a final downtown LA set piece sees more destruction wreaked in a city than recent superhero outings - and borrows a Die Hard moment for kicks.


Which is an apt comparison because Toretto and his team of extended family have become almost superhero-like in their escapades. There's barely a scratch on any of them as they roll with the punches, endure the beatdowns of the almost Terminator-like Shaw (Statham in a po-faced but effective turn) and wreak utter mayhem in the overblown male posturing that follows with regularity.


Sure, you could bemoan the dialogue (most of which is chewed by the Rock and Djimon Hounsou's cartoon terrorist), complain about the fact the reconnecting romance between Toretto and Rodriguez's Lettie slows things down and roll your eyes that the weak paper thin plot is absurd (the group has to track down a hacker who has a device that hacks into every electronic device to help them locate Shaw), but judged on its merits and genre, Fast 7 is a total, glorious success delivering blockbuster moments that are as adrenalin-filled and crowd-pleasing as they are jaw-dropping. Taken on its own terms, this cartoon cars caper is a blast, an extreme bromance that revels in its own rules.

But, at the end of the day, Fast and Furious 7 will be about the poignant send-off for Paul Walker. 

It was a tough line for the cast and crew to draw in the sand for his Brian character and it's likely that when the swan song comes for him, if you're invested in the franchise, it'll be the moment that sees you reaching for the tissues. 


During the film, it's inevitable you find yourself wondering if each sequence that places Brian in jeopardy will be his ultimate departure. But when the time comes, there's a heart-warming, heavily meta-soliloquy from Diesel's character at the end that probably speaks for the entire cast and crew of the production, as well as the millions of fans with the words "It's never goodbye" having a resonance that will give this flick its emotional core. (Interestingly, NZ's WETA had a hand in the digital trickery needed to keep the character in the film).

Ultimately, it's hard to be cynical when faced with the spectacle that is Fast and Furious 7 - it's cartoonish, over-the-top machismo (with females getting nary a look-in) and defies belief - but it's a thrilling, visual, visceral blockbuster that delivers everything its fans want, and will once again confound box office expectations and non-believers that this franchise continues to roll on.

Rating:

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Ricki and The Flash: Film Review

Ricki and The Flash: Film Review


Cast: Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer
Director: Jonathan Demme

Meryl Streep gets her ageing rock on with this fairly cliched family drama flick from the director of The Silence of The Lambs and from the writer of Juno, Diablo Cody.

Streep plays Ricki, the singer of a house band which plays a residence at a knock-down bar. Financially defeated and oblivious to the world around her, especially her estranged family, Ricki gets a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) to tell her that her daughter Julie (Streep's real-life daughter Gummer) is depressed following the end of her marriage.

So, against her best wishes, Ricki heads home to the family she's avoided for years and to the tensions she ran away from to become a Californian rocker.

Ricki and The Flash is exactly what you'd expect from a family kitchen sink drama of someone reuniting and reconnecting with those who used to be around them.

Looking like an older version of Freaky Friday's Tess Coleman complete with side plait and dark eye shadow, Streep personifies the old rocker and scatty human well in the early stages of the film before it lapses into the usual trite conventions of its genre and barely walks the tightrope between the family drama and romcom.

Against a soft-spoken and sardonic Kline as the dad, Gummer's spikiness and fragility is well-observed as the daughter on the edge, but like the rest of the supporting characters (particularly her two sons), she falls by the wayside for Streep's character.

One of the main problems is the relatively corny, yet occasionally honest, film simply becomes a thinly veiled facade for Streep to perform a series of soft rock covers with a band, rather than fuel and further the narrative, which becomes more and more sidelined. It's almost like Meryl Streep - The Concert Album.

Some insights into a woman who chooses her career over her family are thrown out during a moment of implosion on stage, but the final redemption and forgiveness are too easily gifted to those who need them in Ricki and The Flash.

While Streep remains a presence in this flick, Ricki and The Flash is more about the guilt trip, than the overall trip. Despite the presence of the usually insightful Cody, underwritten family characters detract from the earnestness and a meandering final third make it feel like more of a drag than it should be as it ambles towards its obvious conclusion.

Rating:


Dumb and Dumber To: DVD Review

Dumb and Dumber To: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

Comedy's all about timing"

These words uttered by Jim Carrey's Lloyd in this sequel couldn't be more prescient or pertinent when it comes to Dumb and Dumber To.

Over 20 years ago, Dumb and Dumber stole my heart; a sweet, unabashed film about two idiots whose stupidly sweet innocence seemed a throwback to the prat-falling silent schtick of a Hollywood from yesteryear.



Needless to say, 20 years on and the sequel rides roughshod over any nostalgic glow I may have had for the first.

In this latest, Jeff Daniels' Harry discovers he has a daughter and sets out with Jim Carrey's gurning Lloyd to find her - because he's in dire need of a new kidney. So begins another road trip....
In some ways, it's pointless to rail about how unfunny and crassly crude Dumb and Dumber To is - not to mention casually racist, because it's all done by these two leads who are supposed to be nothing more than a pair of loveable knuckleheads blundering from one encounter to the next.

But in updating the adventures of Harry and Lloyd and re-teaming with the Farrelly Brothers, those involved have actually lost sight of what made the original pair so successful and so amusing - their naivete and sheer chutzpah for any given situation propelled it along its sweet and endearingly dumb journey. This time around, by making the pair so stupid and occasionally offensive (perhaps a sign of the times we now live in), they've lost that audience empathy from the start, preferring to concentrate on a series of silly pranks over everything else. (Even those were present in the first, but dialled down)

Equally, there are plenty of scenes within the film that seem aimless with nary a punchline or moment to punctuate them; it's almost as if the writers lost sight of the actual gags they were trying to aim for. I'm not suggesting there's a sophistication with the Dumb and Dumber series at all - or even needs to be - in fact, it works better because of a lack of it. But an excessive number of flat jokes really stand out as this road trip "comedy" saunters onto its destination.


Carrey, Daniels and even Turner have their moments (possibly more Carrey as he does manic moments such as scoffing down a hotdog and greeting a dog at a gas station) - but they're too few and far in between a scattered plot that's lacking in real gags with warmth and heart; Melvin appears to be playing a brunette bimbo as the daughter and even Rob Riggle looks a little lost as the film tries to match some of the comic highs and even plot points of the first. (A fact made even more pertinent when the closing credits replay scenes from the first movie, making you realise all the more what you've missed)

All in all, Dumb and Dumber To is a massive comic disappointment - I hadn't expected the world but to see the legacy of Harry and Lloyd dumbed down a step too far after too many years too late makes this a contender for one of the worst films of 2015 already.

Rating:

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Last Cab To Darwin: Film Review

Last Cab To Darwin: Film Review


Cast: Michael Caton, Jacki Weaver, Emma Hamilton, Mark Coles Smith
Director: Jeremy Sims

Based on the stage play, Last Cab To Darwin, which is inspired by a true life story of an Aussie cabbie, is the story of Broken Hill cab driver Rex (The Castle and Packed to the Rafters star Michael Caton).

Wearied with stomach cancer and told he has only three months to live, Rex decides to head 3000kms to Darwin to meet a Northern Territories doctor, Dr Farmer, who's slap bang in the euthanasia debate thanks to her new machine, to help him to die.

Packing up his scant belongings and leaving behind Dog, his dog (so-called because Rex was already taken), Rex sets out across the red roads to his fate. But along the way, he meets an aimless Aborigine called Tilly (Beneath Hill 60 actor Mark Coles Smith) as the pair head to Darwin.

Mixing up racism, indigineous issues, cancer, and holding mawkish tendencies at arm's length is not an easy job, but this Aussie film manages it with a degree of aplomb but hobbles itself in the final strait by choosing to avoid the meatier issues raised within.

The euthanasia issue is more a side-serving story line than a full on catalyst for discussion, this is a gentle film that skews older and that's squarely about Rex and the two people he meets as the journey goes on.

Which is probably a good thing, given that Caton is nothing short of eminently watchable and continually dignified as the battler who's your everyday Aussie bloke - the opening sequence shows Rex hobbling home half cut from the pub, making a spam sandwich and falling asleep in his chair, a taciturn nod to most of the hell-raisers in the audience and the ravages of old age. But in among the mournfully reflective start, the craggy yet relatable Caton sets the tone early on and emerges with granddad-like gravitas at the end.

For the most part, subtlety is the poignant film's raison d'etre - and that's also perhaps its weakness.

Rex's relationship with an indigenous neighbour is deftly hinted at early on, with scenes that reek of nuance and ripple with society still struggling to reconcile races.

But it's Coles Smith as the drifter Tilly who adds the fire to Rex's road trip, throwing in a volatile mix that is as thrilling as it is predictable - his live wire performance coupled with Caton's more restrained touch make this partnership ascend from the levels of cliche you'd expect. Coupled with some truly gorgeous scenery (the reds of the dust roads and the blue of the skies leap off the screen), this is a road trip to wallow in in parts.

However, the emotional ride goes on a little too long in places, runs out of steam in the final stretches and Weaver's Doctor seems ill-adjusted to the film, with her behaviour seeming out of sorts for someone in her position.

You could easily argue that the real crux of the debate of euthanasia is sidelined in favour of cliched story contrivances and beats in Last Cab To Darwin, but this tale of waifs and strays in the Aussie heartland is likely to easily resonate with the older crowd as one man's twilight is elegantly explored.

Rating:


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

You're not You: DVD Review

You're not You: DVD Review


Rating: M

Negotiating a movie with a disease is no easy task.

But given that director George C Wolfe was involved in Angels in America and won a Tony for his direction, this story about Hilary Swank's Kate and her battle with ALS would appear to be in safe hands.

Prim and proper, with her life fully in control and her marriage to Josh Duhamel's Evan perfectly happy, Swank's Kate finds everything upended when she's diagnosed with the incurable disease ALS, the first signs of which rear their head on her birthday.

18 months later, and the pair is forced to find a full-time caregiver to help - which is where the impulsive college student Bec (Shameless star Emmy Rossum) comes in. Initially seeming like a polar opposite to the order they need in their lives, Kate insists on hiring her - even though she's no experience and appears to be a train wreck herself.

Instinctively, the duo form a bond which moves sensitively and inevitably towards its conclusion.


You're Not You has moments of mawkishness and twinkling piano music, designed to elicit tears from the most cynical given the subject matter. There are also moments of manipulation as the predictable inevitability of the disease plays out.

But yet, among all of that, there's a powerhouse of a performance from Swank, whose measured control as Kate imbues this potentially telemovie story with a dignity and sensitivity that's hard to deny.

Sure, there are the bumps in the road that you can see coming a mile off (Rossum's rough and ready Bec clashes with all around her except Kate; Swank's perfect veneer masks the guilt of knowing peoples' lives will be affected by her illness; Duhamel's Evan falls spectacularly as expected but remains likeable) but the strength of the acting pulls the piece out of worn-out and over-used tropes, designed to see you delving into the Kleenex.

(Though that isn't to say that those moments occasionally rankle, thanks to over-used signposting and cliche)

At the end of the day, You're Not You does exactly what you'd expect - and while the sentimental gloop is poured on thickly about two thirds into the piece, George C Wolfe's restrained direction, combined with Swank and Rossum's effortlessly plausible bond, give the film the power it needs to just rise above some of the mawkishness that threatens to pull it down into telemovie territory.

Rating:

Monday, 24 August 2015

Wild - DVD Review

Wild - DVD Review


Rating: M

Based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir, adapted by Nick Hornby and directed by Dallas Buyers' Club's Jean-Marc ValleeWild has more than just calibre going for it.

Witherspoon (who produces too) stars as Strayed, who decides to hike more than a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail after a series of life moments push her into action.


With Wild, it's best to know less about the background of the story and go with it - it begins with the tiny Witherspoon losing a shoe atop a mountain, and hurling the next shoe off before screaming at the top of her lungs. Is it fear, frustration, relief?

Vallee reveals much of Strayed's past through elliptical flashbacks, slicing and dicing the onion of time and peeling back multi-layers to her story in a way that draws you in and immerses you in Strayed's mental turmoil.

But, it's easily Witherspoon's film by far.
With her small frame eclipsed by a massive tramping pack that lightens as the journey goes on (the allegory and allusion of emotional baggage isn't subtly hammered home but is patently obvious), you clearly wonder how she's going to survive the ordeal as she heads out on her own with only her thoughts and demons for company. (Not even a few animals like Mia Wasikowska managed in Tracks last year).

But the inner resilience of Strayed is brought to life by a subtle Witherspoon and a side of her acting that we've not really seen before - a human vulnerability and complex emotional pull that's really quite affecting as the movie plays out. She's really grabbed something out of the bag to distract the naysayers who believe she's only fit for light and frothy material.

Masterfully weaving flashbacks and some timely moments of the era (a Jerry Garcia memorial setting the scene at one point to remind you of the chronology), Vallee's constructed a journey that is, in many ways, timeless and one that we've seen time and time again. Grief, temptations, familial relationships - all of these fall under the microscope and all have potential to elicit groans from a cynical audience bombarded with these tropes many times before.

Thankfully, the pairing of Vallee and Witherspoon proves to be a powerful concoction that's eminently watchable. Acting solo for the most part (aside from the odd occasional interactions), Witherspoon's already generating Oscar buzz as she straddles Strayed's quest to conquer the elements, her crippling past and her debilitating demons - it's a dazzling, heady watch that captures the essence of the appeal of being alone and yet also explores the uncertainty and doubt that nags at one's spiritual being when so alone.


Rating: