Saturday, 30 April 2016

The 5th Wave: Blu Ray Review

The 5th Wave: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

Another YA outing gets a big screen event movie with Rick Yancey's alien invasion story hitting the cinemas.

And once again, all the tropes of the genre are in place, but this time around, they feel more derivative and installed into the narrative via a checklist, rather than dramatic necessity.


Kickass's Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Cassie, a high schooler whose life changes when aliens invade via a succession of attacks. After surviving electrical attacks, natural disasters, fatal disease a la Avian Flu and then body snatcher style invasion a la The Invaders which wipe out her family bar her brother, she finds herself on the run. With a desperate race to save her young brother from the army's clutches and from their weaponising him, Grace Moretz gives everything to the film and sells every ludicrously predictable turn it takes.

It's just a shame that the film gives nothing back.

Despite a stunning first 30 minutes that see the alien menace cleverly and craftily energise the story, it stalls and hits a sickening thud when it realises it needs to weave in the tropes of the genre. (Young love, life after high school seeming like the end of the world, a mistrust of authority etc etc)

After the action slows, The 5th Wave becomes an unconvincing sludge of a film that's barely able to build on the mistrust and premise. The story fractures into Cassie's search and meeting of a charisma-free dishy designer stubble potential love interest and her brother's involvement in the weaponising-our-kids-storyline - and the result is one of tedium more than anything.


Ending on a whimper and the limp promise of yet more, The 5th Wave is a frustrating experience.

Despite a crowded genre with The Hunger Games, Divergent, et al, thanks to Grace Moretz's turn and a terrific start, it could have been so much more and never once delivers anything original or compelling past its invasion schtick. It sanitises its potential brutality and its de-humanising of its lead, and therefore ultimately sells everything short that it sets out to do.

Turns out The 5th Wave from the aliens, that threatens all our lives, is actually tedium.

Rating:

Friday, 29 April 2016

99 Homes: Blu Ray Review

99 Homes: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent


That 99 Homes leaves you seething is a testament to the power of this drama and the moral turpitude it throws you into as this take on the American dream and the obsessions with property play out.


In an entirely relevant parallel given how over-heated the world's property markets are, Garfield is Dennis Nash, a father whose Orlando family home is foreclosed by the bank in 2008. Believing he has 30 days to fight the repossession, Nash's shocked to find the police on his doorstep the next day, demanding he, his mum (a solid Laura Dern) and his son leave immediately.

Also on the scene of the repossession is the lizard-like Rick Carver (an excellent Michael Shannon), a former real estate agent who is now head of his own realty company and who specialises in taking homes and turning profits - whatever the cost and with no regard for the emotional fall-out.

Humiliated and homeless, Nash is forced to work for Carver in a (contrived) series of events, but soon finds his desire to ensure his family has somewhere to live is over-stepping his basic humanity as his Faustian deal with Carver descends to new depths.


99 Homes is a powerful searing drama; it gives a human and inhuman face to the property crisis that beset America and that teeters on the edge worldwide currently.

Shannon's nothing short of electric and horrifying as Carver, a man whom we first meet at the scene of a suicide of an owner whose home has been taken by Carver's realty business. But in typical anti-hero stance, Carver doesn't care about the human cost of his business and Bahrani isn't really interested in fleshing out his character other than a few piecemeal scenes that give chilling insight and horrifying human touches to this monster of a man.

Equally, Garfield's Nash is played well; the conflict he feels is clearly marked early on, but the gnawing sickness of reality and desperation provides plenty of dramatic fuel as well as plenty of debate over what you would do. The line between black and white blurs easily in this morality tale, given human form and faces which can't be blocked from memory.


As this suspenseful thriller plays out and Nash dances ever closer to the devil, the intensity of the film ramps up, even if the credibility of some of the situations edge dangerously close to convenience rather than natural drama. Certainly, the balance of rational from Nash compared to Carver's clinically cold and despicable attitude is nicely struck early on, and both Garfield and Shannon's performances remain the real reasons to stay so engaged with 99 Homes throughout.

If anything though, 99 Homes is Shannon's film - it's a blistering turn that sees him blow smoke on the fire of who's fuelled this situation and Bahrani fans it by insinuating everyone is to blame, given that the banks lend more money when the home hunters are eager to gobble it up.

Ultimately, 99 Homes is a recession drama and a searing, sickening commentary that will eat at your soul long after it's done  - and thanks to its morally compromised leads, the desperation of Nash and the almost vulture like behaviour of Carver will pick at you long after the lights have gone up.

Rating:

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Dark Souls III: PS4 Review

Dark Souls III: PS4 Review


Platform: PS4
Released by Bandai Namco Games

You Died.

Two words you will see a lot in From Software's apparently final Dark Souls offering.

The action RPG is back and it's as challenging as ever in its latest iteration, one which may leave you with levels of frustration which border on seeing you hurl the console out of the window.

Famously hard in its earlier outings, the latest Dark Souls has lost none of the challenge that its predecessors had. Set in the kingdom of Lothric, you take on a soul trying to stop the rot of the kingdom and reverse the curse that is upon it.

If anything, Dark Souls III is as famously brooding as you'd expect, building dread into an atmosphere that's claustrophobic and as dark as the vistas around you. Combat is as epic as the previous games, relying on you to plan an attack and melee rather than just launch into it. Each attack drains you a little, so there needs to be a plan for taking on bosses or those two words will come back to haunt you with ease.

Skills and magic are there to be used too, but again, these have to be used sparingly and with a degree of smarts; replenishing these takes time and focus off you too, meaning you are left vulnerable to attacks if you're not careful.

It takes elements of From Software's Bloodborne, with its Gothic edges and its pacing as well - this is a game that feels like the series has evolved and one which still maintains the series' DNA all over it.

As the game progresses, it's clear that Miyazaki wanted this to be a more speedy affair than previous outings and there's a real sense of the pace of the game sometimes getting ahead of itself. Frustratingly even though the speed is ramped up, it doesn't stop you going back to quite a way in your quest if you die - so perhaps, the faster factor is there to prevent a degree of burn out that was experienced in prior games.

There's no denying Dark Souls III looks epic; there's equally no denying that it takes time to bed in too - you'll need perseverance to get on with this game and that doesn't come with ease. Finding a groove can be tricky as an experience, but when Dark Souls III gets it right with its atmosphere, its difficult gameplay and its claustrophobic aesthetics, it remains nothing short of a compelling game that you will sink plenty of time into.

DOOM Single player stream

DOOM Single player stream


Take an in-depth look at DOOM’s intense single-player campaign!  

It kicks off at 4am AEST / 6am NZST at www.twitch.tv/bethesda and will be archived immediately afterwards so folks can watch it at their leisure. The stream, hosted by Executive Producer Marty Stratton and Creative Director Hugo Martin, will show never-before-seen levels and a variety of content.

Yesterday, Tom Mustaine and the SnapMap team took us through the wide range of co-op, single-player and multiplayer content available in DOOM’s powerful SnapMap tool. You can check that out HERE.

  Watch live video from Bethesda on www.twitch.tv

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins: Film Review

Florence Foster Jenkins: Film Review


Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg
Director: Stephen Frears

There is a comic nugget between Morecambe and Wise and composer Andre Previn where Eric Morecambe astounds Previn by playing a piano concerto at odds with what is expected.

Asked by Previn what he's doing, Morecambe, with Ernie Wise stood proudly over his charge, tells him that he's "playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order". 

The delusion that both Morecambe and Wise have in this very famous sketch extends to Stephen Frears' film of the deluded wannabe soprano singer Florence Foster Jenkins, as a collective mania sets in over her talent (or lack thereof).

Set in New York in 1944, with the depression of World War II hanging over them, Streep is the aforementioned singer, who entertains friends 25 years after founding The Verdi Club. At her side is the renowned (but awful) monologuist and husband St Clair Bayfield (Grant, who is arguably the real star of this piece).

Deciding that she needs a pianist, Jenkins and St Clair end up hiring Cosme McMoon (The Big Bang Theory's Wolowitz aka Simon Helberg) who is aghast to see Jenkins cannot sing and those around her continue to nurture her delusions with sycophancy and lavish her with praise.

But as Florence Foster Jenkins' star continues to rise, she sets her sights on playing Carnegie Hall - to the dismay of McMoon and the panic of St Clair.

To say that Florence Foster Jenkins is a crowd-pleaser is an understatement.

(It's also the second such film about Jenkins since French film Marguerite last year channelled similar vibes).

Much of the first third of the film is set in delicious anticipation of Streep's delivery of Jenkins' mangling of music - and Helberg's nuanced facial reactions as she first warbles (sounding like a chicken gargling and also being strangled) are priceless, pitching the film in its glory.

However, Frears' film comes to rely on Streep's musical interludes once too often as the rest of the biopic plays out - and while Streep imbues her eccentric socialite with degrees of sadness and tragedy, as well as pathos and delusion, there are only elements of why she is like she is laid out, meaning she ends the film more of a delicious enigma than a fully rounded character. 

Granted, there's a perverse pleasure in watching Streep warble out of tone with such conviction, but the film relies on this too much as a crutch to carry it through.

Helberg's subtle performance delivers much to the proceedings but his underdeveloped edges don't help further this into much of a character piece for McMoon, a man whose inner conflict of playing the ultimate venue versus his own integrity could have proved such fertile ground.

Thankfully, in among Frears' excellently realised period details, Grant emerges in one of the best performances of his life. His St Clair is an actor who's come to the realisation that he's good, but never destined to be great - and his revealing this gives the film an underlying tone of melancholy that's greatly welcomed. 

It is Grant's film through and through and he throws all his mannerisms into a turn that's swathed in sadness, love and is ultimately strangely rousing as he throws all his support behind someone who is clearly destined to fail - it is love incarnate and is inspiring to see as he tries to buy off reviewers, sets up invite only concerts and bury the evidence out of nothing more than devotion.

Where Frears' film falls down though is its refusal to hit some of the harder edges it needs - it shies away from exploring Jenkins' delusion, only hinting at the tragedies that have shaped her present (and never once explaining why nobody has told her she could never sing). 

While it could be explained away with the same schadenfreude that sees people embracing clearly bad acts on current day talent shows, the inference that America was in need of a laugh during the end of World War II and needed healing is left sorely under-mined.

Ultimately, Florence Foster Jenkins is a light frothy film that could have been a little more with some tweaks here and there. It tantalisingly offers a glimpse at the why, but gets distracted by its own desire to grandstand Streep into performing badly. It's not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but there's a feeling this charmer could have hit more of the right dramatic notes if it had wanted to by embracing some more of the sadness inherently within.

Rating:


Quantum Break: XBox One Review

Quantum Break: XBox One Review


Developed by Remedy Entertainment
Platform: XBox One

To say that the XBox One has been awaiting a major exclusive this year is perhaps an understatement.

And to say that Quantum Break, from the studio who brought us Alan Wake, is a title that fulfills the expectation is also an understatement.

Meshing TV and gaming together has been on the cards for a while now, but Remedy Entertainment are the first out of the box with this time-travel tale that stars some big Hollywood names.

In this third person shooter, X-Men and The Following star Shawn Ashmore is Jack Joyce. Called back to a fictional university to come and help long-time friend Paul Serene (Game of Thrones and The Wire star Aiden Gillen), Jack finds himself in a time-travel experiment gone wrong.

As with these kinds of experiments-gone-wrong stories, Jack finds himself endowed with special timey-wimey powers. Which is perhaps just as well because suddenly Joyce is being hunted, his brother who was involved in the original experiment is in a spot of bother and a whole amount of hell has been unleashed.

There's no doubting Quantum Break's ambition.

It's not just a straight shooter game, it's a total experience package, with a TV show thrown in as well. But it's also a game that demands that you work with it. In terms of the powers, it takes a little time to adjust to what's expected and how best to use the scope of the possibilities around you.

Add in the fact that you need to explore to pick up extra portions of the game and get more of the story and it's a fairly damn near totally immersive experience. This is where you pick up the story and get more of an idea what's been going on rather than just simply relying on cut scenes to give you a wider picture.

That said, there are moments when the cover doesn't quite work as well as you'd hope and Jack can spring out from where he's hiding into a hail of bullets, ending your game there and then. It takes practice and certainly with the number of abilities that Jack acquires, you're going to need more than just a few fingers and a bit of time to get it all together to gel into something coherent.

But when it does, it's a symphony of action and a superb piece of gaming. Given the deeper immersion too, there's plenty to latch onto in Quantum Break. Occasionally, it could do with pausing and catching its breath, but as an original title, the experience of playing Quantum Break, along with its superb cast of actors and top notch rendering, is like nothing we've seen this year. And given the continuing number of remasters and next chapters in games, this is creativity that the industry so desperately needs to strive for to survive and evolve.

Interview with Quantum Break star Shawn Ashmore.



Don't forget, I also had a chat to Remedy Entertainment's Thomas Puha about the game - listen to that interview below too.

Quantum Break is out now on XBox One.

NBA2K16: PS4 Review

NBA2K16: PS4 Review


Released by 2K Games
Platform: PS4

It's back to the court of gaming opinion we go for the latest iteration of the NBA series.

The 2016 version of the game sees Spike Lee stepping onto the court for the game and giving it more of a narrative feel for the gamer as they begin their journey in high school, through college and then into the drafts before the next stage.

The sports sim is very much a game of two halves with sports fans likely to lap it up without question. But as ever, with these games, while there's a rabid fan base for the title, it's always got to hit mass appeal to get a longer life.

With over 10000 animations added into the engine, this is not a game that holds back by any stretch of the imagination. With additional rim and ball physics, an emphasis more on collisions and a slightly better AI, NBA2K 16 is clearly upping its considerable ante.

The addition of the Spike Lee storyline Living Da Dream may not be a newer edge (these story elements have been incorporated before) but it's certainly a little darker than perhaps you'd expect.

But at the end of the day, NBA2K16 is still all about the balling action.

The 5 on 5 player action impresses, even if you do need to ensure the computer added people on your team are in the right place at the right time. It's also a game that requires a level of strategy as well - you can't simply pass and hope, and so in that way, it's got the fundamentals right.

Elsewhere, the graphics impress with players looking mightily like their human counterparts and it's almost off-putting. What is slightly off-putting and a little daunting is how much the controls have changed and you will have to spend a bit of time getting used to these, but when it all plays and pays off, it's worth it.

Not entirely a slam dunk, NBA2K16 remains a good strong sports sim proposition. It's a shame that even with the addition of custom built leagues and online gaming it still feels like it doesn't quite have mass appeal, but if you're willing to put the time and effort in, it's a game that rewards.


The Walking Dead Season 3 details arrive - as does the finale of Michonne

The Walking Dead Season 3 details arrive - as does the finale of Michonne


Gripping Finale of The Walking Dead: Michonne - A Telltale Miniseries Arrives Today with Episode Three - 'What We Deserve'
  
 
Series Creator Robert Kirkman Also Discusses First Details on Season Three
 

SAN RAFAEL, Calif., Apr. 26, 2016 -- Leading publisher of digital entertainment Telltale Games and Robert Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment, announced today that 'What We Deserve,' the final of three episodes in The Walking Dead: Michonne - A Telltale Miniseries, is now available for download.

Episode 3 - 'What We Deserve' is available now on PC/Mac from the Telltale Online Store, Steam, and other digital distribution services, the PlayStation®Network for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, and the Xbox Games Store for Xbox One® and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. The episode is also available today for compatible iOS devices via the App Store, and for Android-based devices via Google Play and the Amazon App Store. 

The Walking Dead: Michonne - A Telltale Miniseries stars the iconic, blade-wielding character from Robert Kirkman's best-selling comic books, portrayed in-game by award-winning actress Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black)
Haunted by her past and coping with unimaginable loss and regret, the story explores Michonne across a three episode miniseries event. Players will dive into the mind of Michonne to discover what took her away from Rick, Carl, and the rest of her trusted group... and what brought her back.

The Walking Dead: Michonne & Season Three - Robert Kirkman Interview
The Walking Dead: Michonne & Season Three - Robert Kirkman Interview

In an all-new interview, series creator Robert Kirkman spoke on the depth and complexity of Michonne and what makes her a long-lasting fan favorite in such an immensely celebrated series, as well as reveals the first details of the third seasonof The Walking Dead series from Telltale.

"Season Three of the Telltale series is really exciting to me. The way that the timeline works, Season Three will actually be getting pretty close to where we are in the comics concurrently," said Kirkman. "We'll be checking in on Clementine again, so we'll be seeing her, seeing where she's at and what's going on with her which is going to be great. But also similar to the Michonne series there will probably be some more comic book elements that we'll be working into it in some interesting ways. I don't want to spoil too much..."

In 'What We Deserve,' feeling the weight of choices both recent and long ago, Michonne tries to protect an innocent family... but Norma and the vengeful Monroe crew are closing in. As reality shatters and the ghosts of the daughters she abandoned demand to be heard, your choices will determine who lives, who dies, and what redemption really means in a world gone to hell.
 
To date, The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series has sold more than 50 million episodes worldwide, earning more than 100 Game of the Year awards from outlets including Metacritic, USA Today, Wired, Spike TV VGAs, Yahoo!, The Telegraph, Mashable, Polygon, Destructoid andGamesRadar, and was also the recipient of two BAFTA Video Games Awards for Best Story and Best Mobile Game
 
The Walking Dead is set in the world of Robert Kirkman's award-winning comic book series and offers an emotionally-charged, tailored game experience where a player's actions and choices affect how their story plays out across the entire series.
 
The Walking Dead: Michonne - A Telltale Miniseries Episode 3 - 'What We Deserve' is rated 'M' (Mature) for Intense Violence, Blood & Gore, and Strong Language by the ESRB. 
 
For more information on the game, visit the official websiteFacebook, and follow Telltale Games on Twitter. For more information on The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, and all of his titles, visit www.Skybound.com andwww.TheWalkingDead.com.  

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Battleborn Prequel Motion Comic launches

Battleborn Prequel Motion Comic launches


2K and Gearbox Software proudly present the Battleborn Prequel Motion Comic.

This three part series takes place before the events of the soon-to-be-released game and leads up to the start of Battleborn’s episodic campaign, telling the story of the destruction of the second to last star in the universe – Penarch.

Witness Trevor Ghalt’s heroic rise as leader of The Battleborn, as an unlikely alliance between the universe’s greatest heroes becomes the last line of defense for a universe on the brink of extinction. All three Battleborn Prequel Motion Comic episodes – Running the Numbers, The Rescue, and No More Heroes – are available below With a roster of 25 playable heroes, Battleborn is rated ‘M’ in Australia and New Zealand and launches on May 3, 2016 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

HITMAN – The Sarajevo Six – The Enforcer Trailer

HITMAN – The Sarajevo Six – The Enforcer Trailer




HITMAN – The Sarajevo Six – The Enforcer Trailer
6 BONUS CONTRACTS – The Sarajevo Six – only on PlayStation®4

The second target from The Sarajevo Six is available with the launch of Episode Two.

Gary Lunn, also known as “The Enforcer”, has been located in Sapienza where he is currently working at the Ether corporate bio lab, supervising high level security efforts. Lunn is a highly trained professional and can most likely be found moving around Villa Caruso or the bio lab.

PS4 players get exclusive access to The Sarajevo Six. These are six bonus contracts that tell a self-contained side-story revolving around former members of a paramilitary unit called CICADA. Agent 47 will travel the world in pursuit of his targets, with one bonus contract available in each location from the game.

Visit hitman.com for more information on HITMAN and the Sarajevo Six.

25 April: Film Review

25 April: Film Review 


Director: Leanne Pooley

Released in the 101st year of the ANZAC Commemorations and to all intents and purposes feeling like a learning tool rather than a cinematic experience, 25 April is a World War One curio.

Using the style of animation reserved for the pages of graphic novels or Telltale Games' style of console gaming, 25 April is a documentary aimed at bringing the story of the NZ experiences at Gallipoli vividly to life.

There's no disputing these six people's real-life tales are vividly realised and transposed to the big screen. From a soldier to a nurse, these are stories we've heard time and time before but which lose none of the power as the true horror of war is unveiled.

The problem with 25 April though is that it sticks so rigidly to the point of view of the ANZACs that it makes the rest of the campaign look like no-one else was involved. With a once over lightly approach to proceedings, and the ANZAC experience, it was very much a day in the life of and gives the ultimate result that the over-arching campaign itself was rather extraneous to proceedings. 

There is an argument that because it was being done from the diaries of those involved, the over-arching aim wouldn't have been there for them to see, but the narrow focus actually causes the scope to feel very much from a tunnel vision.

Thankfully the animation is nothing short of astounding.

Vivid reds swamp the screen as the theatre of war is expunged.

And one sequence where the reds turn into poppies is heart-breakingly well done and stirring. Equally, a scene where a soldier is shot and the wound appears on him, turning into a poppy as it bleeds out is tremendously haunting and equally inventive.

With some excellent voice-work and some richly tragic and evocative source material to work from, 25 April certainly has its moments where it hits home. 

As a piece of a wider puzzle and a deeper conflict, these stories are neither new and are extremely commonplace, leaving the nagging feel the reason for 25 April may be a little too late - it would have been well served in the 100th commemorations and would have reached a level that would have transcended need.

One can't help but shake the feeling this is not a film that actually needs to exist in a cinema; it's a tale to be told, granted, but it's more suited to a centre piece of a wider discussion, best housed in a museum  and ANZAC context.

Monday, 25 April 2016

New Italian film festival on way

New Italian film festival on way


News reaches me this morning of a new Italian Film Festival starting May 4th.

Being run by Orphans and Kingdoms director Paolo Rotondo, Madman, Rialto and Palace Films, the Cinema Italiano festival is taking some tentative steps into the market recently vacated by another Italian Film Festival.

Running in the following dates - the festival will play Auckland 4 May – 15 May Tauranga 19 May – 26 May Wellington 2 June – 12 June Christchurch 15 June – 25 June

Paolo, along with his wife, have curated a selection of films from 2014 and 2015 - the full list of films on show are:

Latin Lover / Those Happy Years / The Wonders / Quiet Bliss / Mia Madre / The Conformist / Zoran My Newphew, The Idiot / The Mafia Only Kills in the Summer / Greenery Will Bloom Again / Incompresa / Black Souls / Wonderous Boccaccio / Blame It On Freud / Crossing Rachmaninoff / Bella Vita / The Dinner / Orphans & Kingdoms / Those Happy Years / The Fifth Wheel / The Devil's Soup / Sacro Gra

You can get more details of the festival at cinemaitalianonz.com and you can get the festival programme directly here.

Battleborn: PS4 Beta Preview

Battleborn: PS4 Beta Preview


Platform: PS4
Released by Gearbox and 2K Games

There's something inherently meshed about Battleborn.

The new shooter from the stable that brought you Borderlands has a distinctive feel of that game about it as well as an old scrolling shooter from the long gone arcade days.

With over 2 million taking part in this open beta, 2K Games's first person shooter is already popular, and based on the strength of its BETA, it will be as popular when the game drops.

Meshing Borderlands' cartoony ethic with Gauntlet's co-operative play, the shooter is manic, fun and requires a degree of sensibility as you try to achieve your aims. Mixing guns, swords and magic proves to be a fertile mix for the game and an ease of play helps immensely too.

Essentially, the story is all about a band of heroes trying to stop the last star from being overcome by bad guys - and it's up to you and a team of 3 others to try and save the day. Sounds familiar in many ways, but swathed in the Gearbox Software aesthetic, the game's colourful cartoony vibe is evident from the get go - and is all the more welcoming because of it.

The majority of my time was spent in the multiplayer, story-driven PvE elements - and there lies the most fun and equally the most challenging. Choosing to either play offline or with a team online, the game's a blast from beginning to end. Collecting throughout the game gives you the chance to upgrade as you go, but given the action is so frenetic, allocating powers during skirmishes was not the easiest to achieve and while ultimately, it helps pay the price for the player, it can also bring death as nothing really pauses around you as it kicks in.

In a way, it's perhaps a shame that it's a FPS, because the graphic work done on the rest of the characters is just beautifully rendered. From the slender Marquis to the mushroom Japanese stylings of Miko, these are characters which cry out for screen time.

If anything, Battleborn does feel like an evolution of Borderlands with its patented stylings and its way of registering hits, and it's perhaps a shame that visually it doesn't strike out on its own path. But given its eminent playability and its sandbox scope for chaos, it's pretty much guaranteed that come May 3rd, this will be a big big hit.


Suffragette: DVD Review

Suffragette: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

There's no disputing the Suffragette's movement was a vital one.

But in the hands of Gavron and writer Abi Morgan (The Hour, The Iron Lady), the film version of the growth of the movement feels didactic and as washed out as the grey palettes employed in the visual execution.

In 1912 London, Mulligan plays Maud Watts, one of the early foot soldiers of the movement, but who's more a soldier of chance than of deliberate stance. Working at a local laundry and duly handing in wages to her husband (Whishaw), Maud one day finds herself in the middle of the growing civil unrest instigated by Emmeline Pankhurst.

With her interest inadvertently piqued initially in the movement, Watts is dismissive of what's going on and remains a passive viewer. But when tensions begin to escalate at home, she becomes more involved in the fight for equal rights.

Suffragette is a misfire in many ways.


It fails to really get to the core of what makes the movement so powerful and gives us a lead that would rather view what's going on while all around lecture her. Equally, it doesn't help that Gavron's characters outside of the trio of women are so caricature. All men are bad and therefore badly portrayed with such a broad brush that the message threatens to be lost in the cinematic execution.

Conflict at Watts' home is so obviously signposted that it's never a surprise when it shows and the only real surprise is how dire it gets; this is a film which is never anywhere but in the women's corner, firmly entrenched in their camp and their fight.

In among the shaky cam and Mulligan's Watts' passive viewing of events (her character spends most of the film as an impassive viewer, rather than willing participant), there's also cliched dialogue rolled out over the law not being respectable to women; but there are moments that shine. Chiefly Brendan Gleeson's investigating copper brings a compassionate tone to proceedings, casting doubt over treatments and offering some hope for men at large.


Streep's appearance amounts to little more than a cameo as Pankhurst addressing a rally and Bonham-Carter seems to have wandered off the set of Sweeney Todd with her turn.

While Suffragette clearly wants to pass on a powerful message, its execution is muddled and mired in its intentions. It is perhaps telling the only moment to garner any emotion in the screening was when New Zealand appeared top of a list of nations that granted women the vote in 1893 - and the real footage is rolled out from events of the movement.

Sometimes, a true story needs only the simplest of executions to soar; sadly Suffragette misses with every moment and fails to add to the legacy of the suffragette movement.

Rating:

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Good Dinosaur: DVD Review

The Good Dinosaur: DVD Review


Rating: PG
Released by Sony Home Ent

A Pixar film is usually a treat, a piece of animation that touches the heart with its story and characters as well as impresses the eye with its sumptuous work.

So, it's a surprise to say that The Good Dinosaur isn't quite up to scratch in the story department.

Positing the idea that the meteors that hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs never actually struck but zoomed past, The Good Dinosaur concentrates on a family of Apatosaurus dinos who work the land. Into this family is born fearful dino Arlo, the runt of the litter who struggles to find his place.

When tragedy hits the family and the father's killed (so far, so Lion King), Arlo ends up accidentally getting lost. With only an orphaned cave boy, Spot, whose sole behaviour is like a dog, Arlo begins the long and arduous journey home. (A la Incredible Journey and Homeward Bound)

The Good Dinosaur merely hisses where perhaps it could roar.


Mixing in the entirely unoriginal story of a lost character making their way home and having a few adventures while undergoing some life lessons on the way with a Wild West story is an odd mix that doesn't quite hang together as it should.

Which is a shame as technically, the movie is excellent.

Backgrounds, dirt and prehistoric mountain ranges sizzle - the environments look incredibly realistic and feel like they've been filmed and the dinos and other creatures super-imposed over the top. It's perhaps just as well the backgrounds are so immersive that you're not as distracted by the lack of what's going on in the foreground.

Because simply put, the main story is somewhat of a damp squib, an under-developed journey that goes from A to B, with little time for any major characters and interactions - unless it's to ram home the message of earning your mark on the world by doing something big for something bigger than yourself.


That's not to say the leads don't interact well and their relationship doesn't work well. Both Arlo and Spot are given a few funny and touching moments together throughout, but more often than not, these feel like perfunctory ends to moments and wouldn't feel out of place within a short film (in fact, at times The Good Dinosaur feels like a short film that's been over-extended and not fleshed out). It's a shame because the truth that resonates within Spot and Arlo's bond will keep kids engaged throughout - and there's not enough of that within. But the other problem is there's not enough of a connection between Arlo and his family; roughly sketched over at the start of the flick, the film fails to find the centre and stretches the connection too far.

The Good Dinosaur may revel in some of the darkness of life but the unoriginal journey and poorly padded out story makes it feel like Pixar's hit a rare bum note; it's a rare mis-step of a film that doesn't quite do enough to keep the kids as engaged as they should and doesn't do enough to keep the adults on side either.

Rating:

Newstalk ZB Review - Jungle Book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and The Force Awakens

Newstalk ZB Review - Jungle Book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and The Force Awakens


This week on the Newstalk ZB Review I took a look at Jungle Book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and The Force Awakens

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Cartel Land: DVD Review

Cartel Land: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by Madman Home Ent


The insidious damage done by drugs is given the on the ground treatment in this doco.

It starts like something out of Breaking Bad with mysterious figures, bandanas over their mouths, brewing up crystal meth in the desert under the cover of dark. As the camera watches the swirls of the drug rise up above, a voice intones "We are the number one meth cooks in Mexico" and at once captures the conflict in a nutshell.


Director Matthew Heineman had unprecedented access to both sides of the conflict in this; and it shows through an electrifying doco that very calmly plants itself in the middle of the drug cartel issue and never sways.

Following both Tim "Nailer" Foley, an American who runs the Arizona Border Recon and Dr Jose Mireles, a Mexican based physician who leads the Autodefensas, a vigilante style group determined to wrest control back from the cartels and the government itself.

It's not a film that flinches from the horror the cartels inflict on those around them either; shots of a trio of heads, the victims of crossing the cartel are gruesome in the extreme, a reminder that this war is very real and this justice is disgustingly shocking. Posing questions of what would you do if the drug lords came for your town, the cameras follow the self-appointed Autodefensas and its Lee Marvin-esque leader Mireles as the townships embrace him, his group's position and the chance to claw back power.

Heineman is thick in the fray of the conflict; when the bullets fly, his cameras are there; when the Autodefensas believe they've tracked down two men who are responsible for a series of atrocities, they are there on the raid - and they're also there to capture the raw emotion of the victims of the cartel, and the anger that threatens to bubble up as justice catches up to the wrong doers.


In many ways, Cartel Land is an electrifying modern day portrait of a Wild West scenario, with sides squaring up to each other; rather than using talking heads, Heineman's insistence on filming a live document makes it all the more powerful. If it weren't a documentary, you can imagine Hollywood coming a-calling as this explosive piece of film-making leads to its shocking denouement.

Along the way, there's corruption, surprises and pathos; while it's probably fair to say that Cartel Land works better when it follows the Mireles story rather than Foley's patrolling the borders, it's only because Mireles' tale is set in the heartland of the conflict. It's a place where retribution and revenge are insidious and strike when least expected, leading the viewer to wonder who is actually winning this never-ending war. No-one appears right, and the innocent soon crumble to the daily pressure of experience, and the growing power of revolution.

Plus the final scenes of the doco are incredible, sending everything you've just watched into a tailspin and give you an urgency to experience it all again through new eyes.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Elder Scrolls: Legends Beta Launches Today

The Elder Scrolls: Legends Beta Launches Today



THE ELDER SCROLLS: LEGENDS BETA LAUNCHES TODAY

Players Can Now Sign Up at Bethesda.net
for a Chance to Join the Closed PC Beta Starting Today

April, 21, 2016 (London, UK) – Bethesda Softworks®, a ZeniMax® Media company, today announced that worldwide beta registration is now open for The Elder Scrolls®: Legends, the first free-to-play strategy card game based on the award-winning Elder Scrolls series. Beginning today, selected registrants will have the opportunity to begin playing in the game’s first closed PC beta. Additional players will be invited to play over the next few months – allowing more and more registered players the chance to experience The Elder Scrolls: Legends.

Legends will be playable in the Bethesda booth (#8021) at PAX East, taking place in Boston from April 22-24. Demonstrations of the game will also take place in the booth each day of the show at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm and 5:00pm. For those not able to attend PAX East, tune into Twitch.tv’s official PAX stream on Saturday, April 23 at Noon to see Bethesda’s Pete Hines show off the first official gameplay and provide a brief overview of the game.

Legends is a strategy card game that explores the series’ characters, creatures, deities, and lore. Whether you have 10 minutes or ten hours, Legends provides a variety of gameplay modes and challenges that are easy-to-learn but difficult to master. Built with all levels of players in mind, Legends offers accessible gameplay for beginners who want to jump in and get started quickly, and the game’s depth keeps expert players engaged. With a wide variety of deck types and strategies, no two games are ever the same.

“As a fan of digital strategy card games, I’m especially excited about having people play Legends,” said Pete Hines, Vice President of PR and Marketing at Bethesda Softworks. “We’re looking forward to hearing their feedback and having them help us shape the future of the game. “

Previous chapters in this award-winning franchise include the Best Role-Playing Game at E3 2013 -The Elder Scrolls® Online: Tamriel Unlimited, 2011 Game of the Year - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim®, the 2006 Game of the Year - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion®, and the 2002 Role-Playing Game of the Year - The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind®.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends is being developed in conjunction with Dire Wolf Digital for PC and iPad – with additional platforms to be announced.

For the latest updates on additional betas and game information, please visit https://legends.bethesda.net/ and follow the game on Facebook and Twitter.