Monday, 30 November 2015

Goosebumps: Film Review

Goosebumps: Film Review


Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Amy Ryan, Odeya Rush
Director: Rob Letterman

Given the popularity of the 62 odd children's horror novellas by American writer R L Stine, the film of Goosebumps has a lot of readers to satisfy.

But by cleverly using the scares that make the series so popular and not dumbing them down, the Goosebumps movie is a smart, occasionally nightmarish trip and scary take on the typical story of the new boy moving to a new town and trying to fit in.

That boy is Dylan Minette, whose Zach has moved to the small backwater of Madison where his mum (Amy Ryan) is taking up the deputy principal-ship of the high school. But Zach finds his attention focussed on the girl next door (Odeya Rush) whose father (Jack Black) keeps her home schooled and locked up a night a la Rapunzel.

However, when Zach breaks in to investigate what he believes to be a domestic, he discovers the father is actually the famed horror writer R L Stine. And things get more complicated when Zach inadvertently lets loose a monster from the pages of Stine's books...

Using a mix of CGI, comedy horror and old school scares, Goosebumps works cleverly to keep its audience entertained without ever stooping to the lazy cliches and writing.

While the kids are most likely to be taken in by the suspense and the chase set pieces, adults will find some joys too in this Rear Window / The Blob / Zathura / The Shining / IT pastiche, which revels in meta-commentary about book sales, Stephen King and writing - it even throws in a Gulliver's Travels sight gag too as gnomes tether Black down.

Black channels madcap as Stine, but keeps it on the right side of not going OTT and also does a great job as the menacingly homicidal mannequin, Slappy, the main villain of the piece (and fave of the book series). Minnette continues his road to fame as the likeable Zach (who has a great bond with his mother) and Rush manages the part well, but the pair lack some of the chemistry which feels forced upon them; there's the obligatory comedy sidekick in Ryan Lee's champ to get you through the mix of jump scares and tension.

The FX are reasonable; certainly when the words spring to life off the page and bring the creatures into the world, it's a great effect, though later on there are moments when the film starts to creak. Equally, there's a lot of simply chasing around which does grow a little repetitive towards the end as if the story itself is running ever so slightly out of steam.

But all in all, Goosebumps succeeds in a self-aware wave of nostalgia for the books' source material and a reverence to what makes them so popular - they simply set out to scare their readers and offer entertainment; it's something which the film manages in great spades of both parody and B-movie moments.

As we head to the end of the year and movie fatigue is on the verge of setting in, it may actually give you Goosebumps because of how good it actually is.

Rating:


Sunday, 29 November 2015

Better Call Saul: Blu Ray Review

Better Call Saul: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

Spun off from Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul was always going to have a heap of expectation resting on its shoulders.

Starring Bob Odenkirk as James Morgan, the lawyer who defended Bryan Cranston's Walter White, Better Call Saul looks at events six years before the original series happened.

Over 10 eps, the show's quirkiness comes to the fore as several Breaking Bad characters appear from within; and the series sees Saul involved in various cons and crossing various paths.

Nicely written, brilliantly acted by Odenkirk and written by Vince Gilligan, the series rattles along at a reasonable pace; there are moments that recall the original series and the appearance of many Easter Eggs for fans is a clear nod to the Breaking Bad series.

But it emerges as its own beast, demonstrating a darkness and rich story-telling that allows it to stand alone and entice viewers to Walter White's World as well. But it's also the relationship between Saul and his brother Chuck that forms the heart of this show as well as keeping you engaged by its own stories and moments that make you sit up.

Mad Men Season 7 Part 2: Review

Mad Men Season 7 Part 2: Review


Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

So, the end comes for Don Draper and the gang with the release of Season 7 Part 2 of Mad Men.

Those expecting closure for the mystery of Jon Hamm's Don Draper may not get exactly what they want, but the smooth series has never really been full on delivering tons of answers, preferring to let the enigma of the Don talk for itself.

Starting off in the 1970s, the show's final run concerns itself more with Draper's existential crisis and his womanising ways which come full circle in some ways, but in a way that the audience readily identifies with and was on board with since the start of the series.

Adopting the Six Feet Under montage ideology, the series' conclusion is nicely pulled together, but fuels further debate and discussion about how it exactly ended and why it ends the way it does. There's a quiet catharsis for all the characters in some ways and many of the threads end as you'd potentially expect.

But the series' ultimate conclusion belongs to Hamm, a man whose role has become his own and whose ownership of Mad Men is nothing short of iconic. With a closing scene that sparks more questions than it answers, the smooth world of advertising is brought to an end - and another TV show joins the pantheon of greats.

Newstalk ZB Review - The Program, Creed and Amy

Newstalk ZB  Review - The Program, Creed and Amy


This week with Jack Tame, I was chatting the new Lance Armstrong movie, a brand new Rocky film called Creed and on DVD took a look at the Amy Winehouse movie.


http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/saturday-mornings-with-jack-tame/audio/darren-bevan-the-program-creed/

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Self/ Less: Blu Ray Review

Self/ Less: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent


From the director of The Cell and Immortals, comes a sci-fi tinged drama that has a great central premise, but some poor execution.

Ben Kingsley is Damien Hale, a dying New York real estate magnate and estranged father to Claire (Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery), who decides death isn't enough for him and that he wants to do more with his life. So thanks to a shadowy company and a Faustian pact involving shedding his previous body, he discovers there's a way to transfer his consciousness into a newer younger body - and unsurprisingly, he takes that opportunity.

But when he wakes up in a new body (in the form of a perma-scowling Ryan Reynolds) he soon discovers the company and the transfer are not all they appear to be, thanks to flashes and a conspiracy unfolding before him.


Over-long, tonally muddled and betraying its a mind is a great thing to waste premise, Self / Lessis just a film that doesn't quite know what it wants to do with itself.

Losing Ben Kingsley after the first 10 minutes is an inevitable narrative necessity, but still doesn't help the film on its way. With his New York accented venal mogul clearly being the best part of it, the film struggles to continue in the wake of his disappearance, setting on a course for mediocrity and predictability rather than exploring the morality of a great premise.

Meshing Flatliners with parts of Quantum Leap may have seemed like a reasonable idea, and to be fair to Singh, the visuals of the locations and the sensory flashbacks soar as ever in one of his films. However, the human element of the drama is undersold by a muted Reynolds who never really seizes on the promise of a second life and it's never fully helped by an apparent complete attitude change from the man who's inhabiting his body.


The problem comes in the script which is predictable as you'd expect and starts to play like a list of things to be ticked off, rather than invested in emotionally as Reynolds' character meets up with his past and former wife and child.

Ultimately, Self / Less becomes a trudge through its Twilight Zone idea rather than an interesting journey - thanks in part to Reynolds and some badly put together scripting, it's a fairly soulless saunter through a great sci-fi premise.

Rating:

Friday, 27 November 2015

Call of Duty: Black Ops III: PS4 Review

Call of Duty: Black Ops III: PS4 Review


Released by Activision
Platform: PS4

The year is 2065 and cybernetics are rife - and with it a new breed of shooter is born.

Hitting the ground running is the name of the game in Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and it embraces the more futuristic elements of Advanced Warfare, allowing the soldiers to fight faster, stronger and smarter.

In terms of story, you play Jacob Hendricks, who for reasons that I won't spoil decides to undergo cybernetic enhancements to ensure he continues in the campaign. And there's a mission to complete too, which takes you to various locations and ensures that you won't be bored.

But it's really the multiplayer elements of the game which will keep you entranced in the latest Call of Duty iteration. Adding in the multiplayer is no new thing but the smoothness of this and the fact specialist skills have been added in makes it a bit of a trickier ask at times. One of the games I played was a capture the area type scenario, where weapons were good, but stealth was better. Simply put, this game took some of the finer points of Advanced Warfare and ramped them up to 11. Speed is definitely an issue with this iteration of COD and I do advice you to adjust to what's ahead before being thrown into the game, as you need time to adjust to skills and weaponry.

It's very fast paced and to be frank, if you're no expert on FPS games, Call of Duty Black Ops III may be a trickier ask for you to dive into. With a wealth of maps and ways to play there's certainly more than enough to keep you engaged.

From solo gameplay to multiplayer, there's also a Zombies game within to play through as well.

And we're not just talking about the main game being reissued in a Nightmares mode where the enemy are replaced by the undead.

Fully formed and its own beast, the Zombies element of the game features yet another storyline and cast that includes the likes of Heather Graham and Jeff Goldblum. It's a great addition to the main game and a chance for that side of the series to stand alone, and it works well keeping you amused and also bemused at the growing amount of content on this set alone.

From thruster jet packs which will save your day to marauding zombies, there's no denying Call of Duty Black Ops III is quite the full package. While some elements of the story may be a bit hokey and there's a bit of a reliance on cut scenes, this latest iteration shows the franchise has no desire to slow down and that by mixing cybernetics with shooters, the series has a dazzling future ahead of it if it continues to display the wealth of content that this release showcases.

Republique heading to next gen

Republique heading to next gen


RÉPUBLIQUE COMING TO AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND EARLY 2016 ON PS4™

NIS America is extremely excited to announce that the acclaimed episodic stealth-action game, République, will be arriving in Australia and New Zealand in Early 2016 on PlayStation®4 as both a physical and digital release!
GungHo Online Entertainment America is the publisher of the PS4™ game in North America.

About the game:
Now that République is on PS4™, players can finally take full control of Hope, a young woman held captive inside Metamorphosis, a shadowy totalitarian state ruled by the omnipresent Overseer. By hacking into this secret nation's elaborate surveillance network, players and Hope begin a treacherous and thrilling journey to freedom.
Seattle-based Camouflaj developed the game and has received numerous awards including “Excellence in Storytelling” from the International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA). With a 87 percent Steam user rating, République’s reviews have been positive.
Although it was previously limited to PC and mobile, now PS4™ players can look forward to experiencing the entire season—including the fifth and final episode—in one complete package.

Key Features:
Hacking Gameplay – Throughout the game, Hope will seek the player’s support to help her escape and protect her in the process by gaining control of any network-enabled devices and overcoming puzzle scenarios along the way. Players can hack into security cameras, power down lights, wiretap calls, summon elevators, and slam doors on Hope’s pursuers.
Engaging Story – République is more than a stealth-action game. By creating a gameplay system that drives the symbiotic relationship between Hope and the player, players become more engaged as Hope’s protector. Aside from the main story, players can help Hope collect banned books, cassette tapes, and other unique items that will further immerse players in this futuristic dystopian world.
Developer Pedigree – République is developed by a team of veterans in the industry who worked behind AAA games such as Metal Gear SolidHaloF.E.A.R., and cutting edge videos such as the Skyrim television spot and iconic iPod “silhouette” ads. Players will also be able to eavesdrop on interactive developer commentary while playing the game.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Lara Croft Go: Shard of the life DLC

Lara Croft Go: Shard of the life DLC 




LARA CROFT GO GETS A WHOLE NEW ADVENTURE, “THE SHARD OF LIFE” IN FREE EXPANSION RELEASING TODAY
Twitch Plays Lara Croft GO Event and 40 Percent Discount to Celebrate New Content Update

SYDNEY, 26TH November 2015 – Square Enix Montréal today announced that Lara Croft GOthe 2015 Best Mobile/Handheld Game of the Year nominee from The Game Awards and follow-up to the award-winning Hitman GO®, will receive a free expansion titled “The Shard of Life” on Nov. 26. The new content tasks Lara Croft® with solving the mystery of the Shard of Life, and will be available on all supported iOS and Android devices. In celebration of the release, Square Enix Montréal recently launched a week-long Twitch® Plays event, in which fans are invited to join in and collectively work to complete each original stage of Lara Croft GO in order to unveil the new content!

In the new expansion, Lara Croft charts a path into the depths of the Cave of Fire in search of the fabled Shard of Life. With 26 new puzzles to solve, numerous new cursed monsters to battle, two new costumes to earn, artifacts and gemstones to collect, the free new content will provide hours of additional gameplay for this unique turn-based experience.

To mark the occasion, Square Enix Montreal is hosting a limited-time flash sale of 40 percent off, and hosting a Twitch Plays LCGO event that will end with the discovery of the new content. The entire Twitch community is invited to come together surrounding Thanksgiving to aid in solving the harder-than-ever puzzles. Those wishing to participate can do so by logging into Square Enix Montréal’s official Twitch page located at: http://www.twitch.tv/squareenixmtl.

Lara Croft GO is now available as a premium download on the App StoreGoogle Play. and Windows Marketplace.

About Lara Croft GO
The turn-based puzzle adventure casts players as the iconic Lara Croft as she explores the ancient ruins of a long forgotten civilization. Over the span of six 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. 

Fallout 4: PS4 Review

Fallout 4: PS4 Review


Platform: PS4
Released by Bethesda

They say size isn't everything.

Well, in Fallout 4, that simply ain't true.

Because this open world game is quite possibly one of the largest worlds you've ever seen. Starting with a world under the threat of nuclear annihilation, Fallout4 takes place in Boston and allows you to play either a man or a woman (it's your choice) ahead of the bombs dropping.

With fear in the air, you and your clan are guided to the bomb shelter and given the chance to survive. However, that's not all that is on offer (to reveal more is to spoil) and soon you wake up a couple of hundred years later with a rather personal quest to fulfill. That's if you don't decide to simply wander the Wastelands of Boston trying to survive.

Fallout 4 is incredibly large and Bethesda has done all it can to ensure that no corner has gone left un-turned or disturbed.

Whether you want to follow the epic storyline or deviate from it is entirely upto you and to be honest, a bit of both is recommended. Hours into the game, and there's no end in sight, which is an incredible thing really when you think about it.

From bugs that are radioactive and killer to various survivors willing to pick you off, Fallout 4 has its own world that has its own life. Exploration and scavenging are the name of the game, with buildings yielding plenty of loot and bits and bobs to help you melt down and reconfigure for weapons. From ashtrays to lights, there's enough to keep you looted up and to give you enough to trade or use.

It's the personalisation in this game that works too - from setting up your character to interacting with Dogmeat, your faithful Alsatian pal, the game has a way of hooking into your world and hooking you back into it as well. The engagement is impressive and the depth is deeply immersive and that alone will keep you working for hours.

There are plenty of side quests to get through as well - and before leaving the vault, time had been blown away by my character interacting with a computer terminal that fired up a Fallout variant of Donkey Kong. It's these moments alone that Fallout 4 excels in - everything within the world has been created to keep you in.

Sure, there are a few bugs here and there; occasionally, raiders have been stuck in buildings making it easy for me to pick off but these moments are few and far between, and really would be one of the side effects of such a massive open-world gaming experience.

And it is an experience; from crafting new weapons, playing with your wrist's Pip Boy to interacting with Dogmeat and Mr Codsworth your robot butler, this is a game that gives more out from the more you put in. Granted, that may come at the expense of exploring NZ this summer, but Fallout 4 is a storytelling and experience masterpiece, well worth diving into.

Who needs real life friends anyway?

(Note - a further Fallout 4 review add on will be coming soon)

Rating:


5 To 7: Film Review

5 To 7: Film Review   


Cast: Anton Yelchin, Berenice Marlohe, Olivia Thirlby
Director: Victor Levin

There's plenty of wish-fulfillment in 5 To 7 for you to lose yourself in.

Anton Yelchin plays aspiring novelist Brian, a New York inhabitant whose writing career is stalled. All around him is inspiration - mainly as director Victor Levin shows us from written plaques scattered around the city.

But Brian finds his muse one day when he sees beautiful French lady Arielle (a sultry Marlohe) smoking outside and decides on a whim, to talk to her. The pair find a common ground and begin a relationship that's predicated on one thing - Brian can only see Arielle between the hours of 5 and 7pm...

Subverting some of the norms of the rom com genre and injecting them more with elements of drama and Woody Allen-esque two hander scenes, 5 To 7 is all about the glamour than the grit.

Yelchin's youthful outlook and his desperation to dive completely in stands in opposite to Marlohe's more European ways; and Levin's direction and the story certainly subvert your ideas of where the drama of this film could come from.

Traditionally a film like this would make great fist of the fact Arielle's married and build a drama around discovery but 5 To 7 is not your typical film. It's swathed in the contrasts between European and American views to love and relationships, but smart enough to use them as a prop rather than a crutch.

It's certainly exquisitely shot; the camera adores Marlohe and the more romantic elements of New York, with shots of people around the city and silhouetted sexy shadows as the pair consummate their desires to a brassy jazzy French beat.

Equally, Brian's parents (played to perfection by Glenn Close and Frank Langella) add a touch of humour and truth as the proceedings start to feel a little drawn out. Certainly, the dinner with all of them captures the frisson of tension and the keenness of learning as new relationships blossom and all parties meet.

But there's an occasional aloofness to both Brian and Arielle as well as the whole situation of the husband and the weirdness of the children simply accepting Brian as a boyfriend of their mother that some may find a little unusual. It's certainly a fact that being open-minded yields more pleasures from 5 To 7 but given there's little conflict between the duo, parts of the drama feels manufactured and as a result, a little more inconsequential.

5 to 7's lead duo ensure the film stays on the right side of the audience and while the film's sumptuously shot and precisely acted, its straying from traditional narrative alleyways help it along as well as hinder it.

Articulate and meticulously assembled, 5 To 7 is an indie that's full of love and its sentiments but in its final romantic / culture clash it curiously fails to hit the heart-strings in the way that you'd perhaps expect.

Rating:



Life is Strange: PS4 Review

Life is Strange: PS4 Review


Platform: PS4
Released by Dontnod Entertainment

Dontnod Entertainment is responsible for one of the most over-looked games of the past few years - Remember Me.

A clever mesh of thriller and time-twisting, Remember Me was a stylish game that never garnered the wider success it deserved. But it's served the execution of Life Is Strange in ways that perhaps couldn't have been seen.

With the news the Life Is Strange five episodic series is getting a physical release, it seems a good time to go back over the release.

Set in the world of Arcadia Bay, it's the story of photography student Maxine Caulfield who discovers that she has the ability to wind back time and thwart moments of the Butterfly effect. But as ever, with those kind of choices, there are still natural consequences to the actions.

The game opens with an apocalyptic vision of a lighthouse being destroyed by a tornado and follows it up with the murder of a friend in a bathroom. Rewinding time obviously prevents the death, but Maxine then goes all Veronica Mars and tries to solve the murders while protecting her friend and inextricably heading towards her own destiny.

Using the interactive world we've come to expect from the likes of the Telltale Games series, Life Is Strange follows a similar path, but weaves in deeper darker threads that are a lot stronger than you'd perhaps expect. With decisions having deeper emotional consequences further down the line, it takes a while for the ramifications of the Butterfly effect to really play out. But when they do, they really hit.

Maxine is a realistic protagonist, from her vulnerability to her awkwardness, the universal feeling she evokes is one many will have experienced at school or in college.  While you're confined to the areas around Arcadia Bay, the fact you revisit them time and time again makes you feel more connected to the narrative and the world within.

Ultimately, there are moments within Life Is Strange that stand out and others that slightly fall short, it's good to see another developer take some chances within the genre. It's worth taking the risk, because much like Remember Me, one suspects that Life Is Strange will come to be regarded as a title that shaped a different way of episodic gaming.

Rating:


Tales from the Borderlands: PS4 Review

Tales from the Borderlands: PS4 Review


Platform: PS4
Released by Telltale Games

The Tales from the Borderlands series is being touted as a contender for Game of the year by many.

It's an interesting idea that 2K's world could have been made into an episodic story and dished out over 5 parts - something that you suspect Handsome Jack would have scoffed at.

But if anyone could make it work, it was always going to be Telltale Games, whose Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones series showed there's plenty in these worlds to explore.

Pulling together a ragtaggle bunch of misfits and setting them after Borderlands 2, Tales from the Borderlands retains the quirk of the original game, while bringing some more depth to the protagonists. Set between two leads, Rhys and conwoman Fiona, the story's shared and is a similar tale of a deal gone wrong and a quest to get back what's thought to be rightfully theirs.

Embellishments, exaggerations and explosive revelations form the majority of this series - and it's a blast to play through all of those potential scenarios. IT's also helped by supporting characters who add edges to the story and nuances to the characters, while maintaining the world that 2K has constructed.

Comedic edges blur the story and are welcome, but the choices still figure highly in this series; while the cartoony execution of the world within is perfectly in keeping with the tone of the game.

As ever, a bit of familiarity with the Borderlands world will be welcomed and perhaps in this title, that's what feels the most lost to newcomers, but it's made up for by story and by character.

Ultimately, Tales from the Borderlands is another fine series from Telltale Games. It balances light with dark and with liberal dashings of comedy, it ensures that a new genre has been created. And bloody successfully too.

Rating:


Over 30 million now own PS4

Over 30 million now own PS4


Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) today announced that the PlayStation®4 (PS4™) computer entertainment system has cumulatively sold through  ore than 30.2 million units*1 worldwide as of November 22.  PS4 continues to demonstrate the fastest and strongest growth in PlayStation® hardware history.

PS4 is a uniform system on which gamers everywhere can enjoy the same high-quality digital entertainment experiences.  The rapid expansion of the PS4 platform further reinforces the foundation of delivering compelling entertainment experiences.  Customers can choose from multiple offerings available on this most favored platform that ranges from games on discs or through digital download to a variety of services available on PlayStation™Network, including PlayStation®Plus membership service, apps for streaming video, music and TV content.  The 30.2 million PS4 owners around the world are spending more time playing games and enjoying entertainment content as the company further enriches content and services.
 
“We are sincerely grateful that gamers across the globe have continued to choose PS4 as the best place to play since launch two years ago,” said Andrew House, President and Global CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. “We are committed to bringing engaging games and entertainment services to users worldwide. Thanks to the support of our partners, PS4 continues to be the premier platform for game and interactive entertainment innovation.”

The PS4 system’s games portfolio will continue to broaden this holiday season and beyond with highly anticipated titles such as DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS (SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD.), Ryu Ga Gotoku KIWAMI (SEGA Games Co., Ltd.), Bloodborne The Old Hunters Edition, Gravity Rush Remastered, and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (SCE Worldwide Studios).  The independent development community will also continue to deliver innovative new titles for PS4 including GALAK-Z (17-BIT) and Super Time Force Ultra (Capybara Games).*2

SCE will continue to expand the world of PS4 to deliver entertainment experiences that are only possible on PlayStation. The PS4 system is currently available in 124 countries and regions*3 worldwide.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

New Running Back Adversary Mode in GTA Online Today

New Running Back Adversary Mode in GTA Online Today


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Hi all,

Today, we've got a brand-new addition to the permanent roster of GTA Online Adversary Modes for PS4, Xbox One and PC. 

In the spirit and tradition of American Football this Thanksgiving week, we present a new mode entitled “Running Back”.

Two teams (a total of 4-8 players) square off from opposing sides of a roadway. The elusive Runner, behind the wheel of a Benefactor Panto, must go the distance and get across the end zone line at the far end of the highway with the help of their offensive teammates in BF Biftas. Meanwhile, their defensive-minded opponents (also in Biftas) must ruthlessly block, crash and pummel their way to try to stop them. 

This new mode is available at three different locations: Raton Canyon Bridge, La Mesa Bridge and Zancudo Tunnel.

Just Cause 3: First 60 mins released

Just Cause 3: First 60 mins released




FIRST 60 MINUTES OF GAMEPLAY RELEASED
PLAYED BY AVALANCHE STUDIOS

Hi there,
Square Enix and Avalanche Studios are excited to broadcast the first hour of gameplay from JUST CAUSE 3. With a game world as vast, varied and as open as Medici - with its 400 square miles of beautiful beaches, towering mountain peaks and Mediterranean inspired towns - your first hour of play might be wildly different to ours. That said, we thought we’d focus on some of the early missions and content to whet your appetite ahead of next week’s launch.
Enjoy.


 

Creed: Film Review

Creed: Film Review


Cast: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Graham McTavish\
Director: Ryan Coogler

Legacy hangs heavy over Creed.

Not only is its titular protagonist (played by Fruitvale Station star Michael B Jordan who reteams with the same director)  trying to escape the legacy of a father he never knew, but the film tries to simultaneously embrace the Rocky legacy and forge its own identity.

Thanks in large part to Jordan's straight down the line character and the film's largely realistic tone (even though it struggles with injecting some unnecessary melodrama in its back half) Creed emerges as a relative triumph, rather than ending in a major KO for anyone involved.

To all intents and purposes, Creed is the seventh Rocky film and follows the path you’ve come to expect these boxing films would do. Turning his back on a corporate job to pursue his dream of being a fighter, Adonis Johnson (Jordan) tracks down Rocky Balboa (an understated and suitably ageing Sylvester Stallone) to see if he will train him. But Balboa’s reticent, crippled by the beating that life’s given him (one of the best lines sees Stallone intoning that Time takes everyone out, it’s undefeated) and isn’t keen to get back into that world.

Creed works best as a film that revels in its realism.

While its second half piles on the melodrama a little too hard and the narrative conflicts border on contrivances rather than feeling organic, the film’s first half is nothing short of sensational, grounded as they are by the wearying realities of life and Coogler's virtuoso camera touches within the ring.

Stallone (in the first Rocky film he's not written) underplays his hand and goes for poignancy rather than over-blown emoting (but a later development for his character stretches belief too far); as a result, Stallone’s wearied Balboa is a real presence in the film from beginning to end - even if he is saddled with an unwelcome and unnecessary story that's poorly executed in the second half.

Equally, Michael B Jordan pulls together a great mix of bravado, gusto and pure terror as he edges into the reality of what he wants.  All through out the film, it's clear that Creed's enemy isn't the one-note Liverpool boxing champion facing one last fight, but his own expectations, his own self-doubt and his inability to embrace his own legacy and all that it entails as he tries to make it on his own.

A couple of moments in Creed see Jordan really soar and a couple of moments don't fire as perhaps they should or could. (One sequence involving bikes, Creed, a street and Rocky is almost laughable)

Sadly, the underwriting and effective dumping of the burgeoning relationship with his neighbour Bianca (a singer losing her hearing played with empathy by Tessa Thompson) affects part of the film and feels rather unwelcomely like that side of the film was knocked out at the early script level. Also, a plot thread with Rocky's former gym manager dangles deliciously before losing the momentum it had early on.

But it's Cooglar's execution of an at times rough around the edges story which help Creed to soar.

One fight sequence is shot all in one take with the camera inveigling its way unobtrusively into the ring and works wonders at bringing the emotion and brutality of the fighters to life. Complete with shouts and noises from behind in the cinema, it's a bravura execution that exceeds the obligatory cornball and OTT final fight that's so cliched, overblown and yet incredibly redolent of this pugilistic genre.

Creed effectively shames Jake Gyllenhaal's leaden Southpaw from earlier this year by constantly underplaying its own hand and realistically playing out its drama against a muted and almost melancholy backdrop. There are swathes of nostalgia for the series and yet it's also smart enough to not wallow in these moments.

Crucially, it ends up seeing the Rocky franchise unexpectedly re-vitalised; it emerges from its own shadow and against all the odds, ends up being this year's could be critical - and hopefully - box office contender.

Rating:




Peter Capaldi talks the return of an icon and meets NZ fans

Peter Capaldi talks the return of an icon and meets NZ fans


Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi was in New Zealand last night for the "In conversation with" event.

Fans were given the chance to hear of the current Doctor's experiences on the show and had teases of Heaven Sent exclusively screened to them. It's the first time a current Doctor has appeared in New Zealand and happened the day after the show's 52nd anniversary.

Wearing his landmark shades in the second half, Peter Capaldi revealed that fans disgruntled by the wearable tech wouldn't have to wait long for the return of the sonic screwdriver - teasing that it would be back sooner than you'd think.

Two scenes from Heaven Sent were also shown, one with Peter Capaldi's Doctor facing the Veil and hinting that he was actually scared. Heaven Sent airs in New Zealand on Prime on Sunday at 7.30pm.

After the show, Peter spent over an hour chatting with fans and signing - he took particular time out with the youngsters who'd attended the event and waited for him after. In every moment and despite the late hours, he was both generous with his time and sincere to each and every single fan.

Below are some photos from the after event.