Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Fifty Shades Darker: DVD Review

Fifty Shades Darker: DVD Review

To be fair, no-one is expecting cinematic mastery of the celluloid domain with the erotic flick Fifty Shades Darker.

The adaptation of the first Fifty Shades of Grey mummy porn movie wasn't exactly thrilling and rendered the dangerous world of BDSM and talk thereof rather dull and flaccid.

But to say the sequel, which centres on a wounded Christian Grey determined to get Anastasia Steele back in his life, has a bit more life and a lot more kinky fuckery (to quote Ana) is to damn it with feint praise.

Sure, the terrible dialogue is ever-present, every touch leads to near orgasm and the leering gaze of the camera lingers a little too often on Dakota Johnson's shapelier assets. There are obligatory moments of Jamie Dornan sans shirt and giving that slightly constipated and pained squirrel look that he did in the first; but let's face it, that's what most of the audience coming to this weak 80s softcore rip-off are looking for.

From lingering looks, talk of nipple clamps, romps to endless changing soundtracks, and discussions of renegotiating terms, the second film is very much about The Domestication of Christian Grey, where he has to consider serious issues like trust and allowing a girl to move in, rather than deciding which blindfold and which sub to master that night.

And yet, around the edges of this creaky wannabe psychological push and pull, there are elements of a psycho-sexual thriller lurking and failing to garner enough light.

However, the tension that's supposed to be built with hints of Grey's dangerous past teased out are laughably dispatched in a piecemeal fashion that's irritating.

Two sequences that threaten danger to our protagonist are over and resolved within moments, robbing the film of any kind of drama as the duo weave their way through the sheen of masquerade balls and flirting over the coring of a capsicum. A sub-plot about Ana working for a publisher with a seedy boss feels strongly like set-up, but it's all so summarily dismissed that the episodic nature of the film fails to fire.

Ana's constant "I want you but I don't want you" flip-flopping grates on the screen as she debates and then hops into another romp - though one suspects that is sorely down to EL James' source material and her controlling desire to write the screenplay. However, Johnson brings some light to the role, and sells the continual uncertainty and actually gives a bit more to the one dimensional Ana. Even if you're still troubled by how much she refuses the sub lifestyle and then demands it before rejecting it once again...

Dornan's confined to the sidelines a little more this time around, going from a more playful Grey to a Horny looking Kato at the ball. There's a softer edge to him in the latest, which renders the stalking message and one-spanking-away-from-an-injunction Christian Grey a little more palatable in the second film.

Ultimately, a lot of Fifty Shades Darker lurches from one ludicrous moment to another, saddled with some
laugh out loud dialogue (none of it intentional), and there's no disputing the fact it's dull in parts. And there's still a shocking disparity over the amount of male / female nudity within.

Yet, bizarrely, there's also a clarity of vision here, with the sex ramped up as that's clearly what the audience wants. First time around, all the discussion of contracts and sexual fantasies robbed the film of the lusty edge - here, it's all on, with the between the sheets action being left to do the talking. There's no denying that Foley delivers it all in a manner which will titillate parts of the audience and leave them breathless as this saga of the love affair plays out.

But there's no hint of suggestion, no delicious tease of sexiness and while there's one Johnson that more than rises to the occasion this time around, giving her Ana a little more than the one dimensions set down on the page, Fifty Shades Darker remains still a damp cinematic squib. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Lion: DVD Review

Lion: DVD Review

The name Saroo Brierly may mean little to many.

But based on Garth Davis' soon to be bound for Awards season picture starring Slumdog's Dev Patel (adapted from Brierly's book A Long Way Home), this tale of the long term effects of adoption and self-worth is likely to change that.

The tale of a boy lost in India and adopted out to an Australian family won't leave a dry eye in the house, thanks to its simple ungarnishing of proceedings, and decision to hint at nastiness and to suggest mawkishness rather than revel in both things.

It starts in 1986 where the young Saroo (a stunningly sympathetic first turn from new actor Sunny Pawar, all big brown eyes and tousled hair) bullies his elder brother Guddu into letting him come with him to find work. Trapped in India's smaller outlying villages and with their mother toiling in a local quarry, the young pair are a financial life-line to staving the wolves from the door.

But when Guddu disappears having momentarily left his sleepy brother at a railway station, Saroo wakes to find himself all on his own. Inadvertently ending up on a decommissioned train that travels 1600 kilometres away from his home and forcing Saroo into a landscape where people speak only Bengali and not his native Hindi, the youngster becomes lost and in a fight for survival on the streets.

In among the cacophony of Calcutta, Saroo is literally lost, his tiny frame and pleas floating adrift in a sea of taller people and bustling bodies, all heading about their daily business and ignoring the plaintive cries of the child, abandoned, bedraggled and desperate to find his way home.

After time passes and the authorities fail to find his family (as Saroo simply knows his mother only as Mum), Saroo is adopted out into the arms of waiting Aussie family, the Brierlys (a taciturn and supportive Kidman and Wenham).

As Saroo grows, and becomes a man, (now in the form of Patel, who convincingly nails the Aussie accent) he finds his seemingly content existence is nagged by the ever-growing question of what happened to his family, and weighted by guilt that they must spend their everyday wondering about him.

A chance discussion at a party sends Saroo into a Google Earth filled psychological sink-hole as the desperation to reclaim his core essence takes hold and he searches the virtual world to find his home...

There are no 2 ways about it, the first half of Davis' Lion will break your heart.

Thanks largely to a simplicity of execution, the fact most of it is shot at Pawar's level, thus exacerbating the scale and distance he feels from the world around him and an eminently watchable turn from the youngster himself, the Slumdog Millionairesque trappings of the start immediately tug on the heart-strings, but wisely hold off from ripping them right out.

The emotion at the start is palpable and the tragedy of the situation plays out largely as expected, but does so tremendously affectingly.

Patel shoulders the greater burden of the film, trying to bring to life to the reality of a traumatised youth ripped from his past and denied a sense of self by circumstance. And he delivers in spades, thanks to a subtle and nuanced turn that says so much without words.

While some may critique the fact that the crippling tide of emotion creeps up with a degree of narrative convenience, Davis' sensitive script in the adult portion of Saroo's story is finely attuned to the reality and the qualities of those destined to be hit unexpectedly later in life by resurfacing trauma.

With haunting recollections of Guddu guiding him, Patel's navigation through slightly choppier personal waters is perhaps the strongest portrayal of the situation. It helps that the first half of the movie breathes in the right way, and when the necessary time jumps come, you're already completely invested in proceedings, characters and their arcs.

Kidman and Patel share some tremendously empathetic scenes that will destroy anyone invested in the story, as Saroo struggles with his guilt over his hiding of his obsession from the foster mother who's unconditionally loved him; there's a veracity in the smaller quieter moments of Davis' script that drop emotionally effective bombs throughout.

Granted, there will be some who will feel this is clearly Oscar bait from The Weinstein Company, the Google Earth dramatically convenient and the credits sequence milking it, but the truth of the movie Lion is the incredibly powerful way in which it portrays a hauntingly effective and emotionally resonant true-life tale that was 25 years in the making.

Make no mistake, this life-affirming tear-jerker is one of 2017's first essential film experiences - and an unashamed cinematic journey worth taking. 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally
Director: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg

Six years after the excreable Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides stank up the cinema, Johnny Depp's besozzled pirate buffoon Captain Jack Sparrow is back.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

This time, when Henry Turner (Thwaites), the son of Orlando Bloom's Will Turner, finds Jack, it's a desperate race against time.  Henry wants to save his father by finding the mythical Trident of Poseidon and using it to lift the curse on his seabound father, but for Jack it's a matter of life and death as he's being pursued by undead nemesis Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem, a welcome presence to the franchise).

With a crew of undead sailors on his trail, and some familiar faces along for the ride, it'll take all of Jack's wits to escape this predicament.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has moments of life that energise the flagging franchise.

But unfortunately, it also has large swathes of sequences that really stop this latest (and potentially final) entrant finding its own sea legs.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

With an overly-convoluted plot, and some murky scenes that are ruined by the curse of the dark 3D projection, the film, despite the work of its Kon-Tiki directors, struggles to really make much of a case for carrying on the franchise and yet also proffers barely any reason why this would remotely feel like closure for all bar two of the characters.
Depp once again channels some pratfalls and sight comedy as he works a pirate version of mumbling and bumbling like a Rowley Burkin QC out-take, and there's a wildly indulgent cameo from Paul McCartney shoe-horned in for no real gain, other than to tip a wink to the audience.

Coupled with a truly atrocious sequence of ginger fat-shaming, there are large sections of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales which fall flat and feel unnecessarily stale, adding to a nagging feeling that this series is definitively lost at sea.

However, there are some moments of gold within the film.

A late sequence where Depp, Thwaites and Scodelerio are pursued by a combination of ghost pirates and ghost sharks showcases what has made portions of the series so endearing. With its mix of quick quips, speedy wordplay, and a sense of derring-do, amid large lashings of spectacle, this is one piece that really stands head and shoulders above and showcase exactly why when Pirates is given some levity, it's got wind in its dramatic sails and a heart and soul which are hard to beat.

But there's not enough of this ensemble action to power the film along, with Depp's Sparrow at varying points being the lead or circling the action; it's this inconsistency that lags throughout and marks the writing of this one as a bit lazier and a little weaker than is to be expected.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

Bardem and Rush bring the dramatic edges to the fore and their gravitas and dignity stop the whole thing from falling into chaos; unfortunately, Thwaites isn't strong enough to leave a lasting impression as Turner's son and Scodelario's scientist woman, labelled a witch, is given a fair bit to do at the start and has some great scenes where she holds her own, but becomes lost at sea in the latter sequences, before being saddled with an unlikely coincidence too far.

For a fifth outing in the franchise, this isn't as bad as some of the others which have sailed into multiplexes from the series, but at the end, with a few loose ends wrapped up, it does feel like it's not disingenuous to say it's time to put this pirate to rest, before all goodwill generated is drained quicker than a quart of rum amongst a group of swashbucklers.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Doc Edge Festival preview

Doc Edge Festival preview

The 12th Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival hits its home straight with the Auckland leg of the festival starting this week.

Over 49 films and 20 shorts are being showcased in the annual event at Auckland's Q Theatre, which will have its gala opening with Whitney: Can I Be Me? documentary maker, Nick Broomfield in attendance.

As ever, there's a wide variety of films on show, and some shorts that have had airings already, but many that are definitely worth re-visiting.
Whitney: Can I Be Me?
Whitney: Can I Be Me?

Whitney: "Can I Be Me?", the opening night film, will be a draw card for the many fans of the songstress whose life started out in the gospel world, but whose rise to fame and subsequent fall was due to the power of her voice.

Starting with the 911 call on February 11th 2012, the film seems to be going for a chilling vibe, but draws its own strength from the unseen footage Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal have secured. Taken from a 1999 tour of Hamburg, the behind the scenes, unfettered nature of that footage says more about Houston than anything else could.

Whether it's holding the audience expectations in her hands before belting out the final bars of I Will Always Love You to giving you an insight into the pressures on the star, the film's shiny surface is all about Houston and a clutch of people around her.

The back half of the doco becomes more compelling as you see Houston fall under the influence of malevolent forces, but one can't escape the feeling that Broomfield's insight into the star isn't as in-depth as Asif Kapadia's excoriating and emotive look at Amy Winehouse, which truly set the bar for music docos.

That said, fans of Whitney will appreciate and be lining up for its premiere in Auckland.
Mattress Men
Mattress Men

Elsewhere, the Irish recession and the impact on society forms the surprising backbone to the immediately quirky looking Mattress Men.
Mattress Mick is an internet sensation, a sort of grey-mop haired potential embarrassment of a man whose business has been transformed by the power of the viral video.

But the charming and actually heart-breaking doco is more than a laugh at the man involved; it's a poignant heart-breaking demonstration of how the economic times we live in are destroying the souls of those on the front line.

Choosing to follow Mick's co-worker Paul Kelly, a man who feels he deserves more credit than he's getting for his role, the film has elements of I, Daniel Blake via way of The Office's tragi-comedy as darker forces threaten to overwhelm. And while there's a definite feeling that it's a testament to the power of positive though, this doco quickly moves past the quirky to embrace the humanity of those facing darker times.

It helps that it's set to the background of a terrible music video being made (Mattresses, Back To The Future, a Shaft star who's cringe-worthy), this is one of the surprise stand-outs of the festival, a salute to the common man, and proof that life finds a way.

Thank You For Playing is not an easy sell. Playing for free at the festival and with the subject in attendance, this story about a video game's genesis has its foundations in heartbreak.
Thank You For Playing
Thank You For Playing
That Dragon Cancer is a game that will be known by some, but not others; dealing with the death of a child from cancer, it's a game about the universaility of grief and the journey, but its foundations come from father Ryan finding out that his son Joel has the disease.
There are moments when it's not an easy watch, and the frank honesty can occasionally be emotive kryptonite, but that is all to the documentary's powe. Ryan makes the film feel honest with the good and bad being captured during the process, and while it'll take a hard heart of stone to avoid misty-eyed syndrome, Thank You for Playing deserves commendation for never once being mawkish, sentimental or milking its audience.

One other documentary looking to start a conversation and probably likely to succeed so is the relatively short 2016 TV doco Making Good Men.

Not many may know that Hobbit and Arrow star Manu Bennett and former All Black Norm Hewitt were victim and bully respectively back in the day. Threatened by Manu's joining of Te Aute college he was at, Norm powered into Bennett and beat him to within an inch of his life.
Making Good Men

After years of their respective journeys taking them on different paths, both Hewitt and Bennett had a chance reunion in a Koru lounge.

The doco gives each the chance to recollect their stories and their various prior lives before it all happened with pieces to camera.

It's here the film's strength works as the unflinching raw honesty is hypnotic and challenging.
But the main power of this piece is that it may make many re-think their life choices, and begin to muse whether they were smart decisions as this anti-violence piece plays.

There's a wide range of topics covered in the festival - for cinephiles, there are films that look at the shower scene in Psycho, to examining the role of Indian movie houses; for those concerned about our times, there's the effect of screens on our society and there are stories of Syria and refugees as well.

If anything, the 12th Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival feels like a very contemporary festival that deals far and wide with its subject matter, and will provoke plenty of discussion once the lights have gone up.

The 12th Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival kicks off in Auckland from May 24th to June 5th.

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier' Reaches Season Finale on May 30

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier' Reaches Season Finale on May 30

Critically Acclaimed 
'The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier' 
Reaches Season Finale on May 30

Series Concludes with Episode 5: 'From the Gallows'
Arriving For Download on Tuesday, May 30th

Fellow Survivors,

Today we can share the official release date for the critically-acclaimed The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier's upcoming Episode 5: 'From the Gallows.'
Beginning Tuesday, May 30th, players can download Episode 5: 'From the Gallows' on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam, iOS, and Android-based devices. The episode will also download for all users of the special Season Pass disc for consoles, which includes the critically acclaimed two-part premiere episode and grants access to all subsequent episodes in the five-episode season for download as they become available. 

Episode description: In Telltale's most tailored episode to date, Richmond teeters on the brink of collapse as chaos reigns from all directions. The lives of its citizens and all those closest to Javier hang in the balance. The decisions you've made and bonds you've nurtured across the season will determine which characters now trust Javi to safeguard all they hold dear as the crisis pushes every relationship past its breaking point...


The Walking Dead: A New Frontier acts as both a new beginning for players fresh to the series and unfamiliar with Clementine, as well as a continuation for players who have experienced Seasons One and Two. Players new to the series are able to start a story that is tailored to this new beginning. Players continuing onward from prior seasons have multiple options for quickly configuring their tailored backstory, or importing past save files from various platforms.
Episode 5: 'From the Gallows' is rated 'M' (Mature) for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, and Strong Language by the ESRB. Future content in the season is yet to be rated.
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, and GamesRadar. It 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.

Tekken 7 - Everything will end in death

Tekken 7 - Everything will end in death

Everything will end… in death

Leading interactive entertainment company BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe is today releasing a new TEKKEN 7 dramatic story trailer showcasing the feud of the Mishima family and its footprint on the rest of the world. From honor, duty, vengeance, all their fights are personal. In a final showdown filled by blood and anger, what began in death will end…in death: 

In TEKKEN 7, all fights are personal! Prepare to enter the ring as TEKKEN 7 will be available for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, and STEAM® for PC on June 2nd 2017. To find out more about Tekken 7, please head over to the official website

Win a double pass to see Baywatch - The Movie

Win a double pass to see Baywatch - The Movie

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Baywatch is coming to cinemas June 1st!

BAYWATCH follows devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) as he butts heads with a brash new recruit (Efron). Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay.

“Baywatch” has not yet been rated

To win a double pass all you have to do is enter simply email your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email BAYWATCH!

Competition closes June 1st

Good luck!

LocoRoco Remastered: PS4 Review

LocoRoco Remastered: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4
Developed by Japan Studio

Colourful and occasionally annoying in its brightness, LocoRoco Remastered feels like a mix of the Lums from the Rayman series got integrated with Sounds Shapes.
LocoRoco Remastered: PS4 Review

There's a loose story to LocoRoco involving the Earth being attacked and it being upto you to save the day by collecting Lums-style critters to create a massive spacehopper style creature by the end of the level.
Not being familiar with the 2006 PSP version of the game, LocoRoco Remastered is actually a pleasantly colourful surprise that leaps off the screen with real gusto.

It has an innate charm as you use L1 and R1 to negotiate your way around the simple side scrolling levels, controlling the environment and making them roll. Despite each of the short levels growing a little trickier every time, there's a real re-playability to this remaster. Vibrant primary colours spring off the screen, and look crisp and zesty as the game goes on.

It helps there's an annoyingly irritating set of songs (made largely of nonsense) as the game goes on, but the nonsensical nature of this part of the game mean it's likely to greatly appeal to the younger generation plonked in front of it (in much the same way the Teletubbies scored a career out of their sparse colourful lunacy).

And at random points in the remaster, the singing will take place in the vicinity of the controller's speaker, meaning that in small ways, the game tries to come to life.
LocoRoco Remastered: PS4 Review

It's a major plus that the game is so colourful to behold, but yet somehow also manages to feel squishy and malleable on the screen. Every time you inadvertently lose one of the critters you've collected, it feels like a body blow, and only encourages you to play the level again.

And speed's quite common in the game as well, with each of the 40 levels feeling enough of a challenge and yet brief enough to engage on all levels and with all ages.

There are mini-games to experience too, but it's the general game itself with its cutesy touches that makes LocoRoco Remastered a lo-cost game to invest in.

LocoRoco Remastered is proof that when remasters are done with a bit of care, and no real tinkering to the game's MO, the experience can feel fresh again. Pleasingly disposable and yet presenting enough of a challenge here and there, this is worth frittering away an afternoon on during the upcoming winter months.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Split: Blu Ray Review

Split: Blu Ray Review

Despite being burned by audiences who spurned his ongoing obsessions with twist endings, director M Night Shyamalan returns to his "classic" mode with this reasonably taut psychological thriller that's anchored by two stunning lead turns.
Split movie starring James McAvoy

Abducted by James McAvoy's character and imprisoned underground (shades of potboiler thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane in more thematic ways than one), a trio of girls (The Witch star Taylor-Joy, Edge of Seventeen's Richardson and Skins actress Sula) try desperately to escape.

But it turns out that McAvoy's kidnapper is just one of 23 personalities trapped within his body, each acting on the machinations of the other but all serving a greater purpose - the coming of The Beast....

Less about the practicalities of a siege mentality and more about the mysterious journey and subsequent story, Shyamalan's new film is very much a return to form that's greatly enhanced by Taylor-Joy and McAvoy.

While Taylor-Joy's stoically passive and yet determined outsider Casey seizes the intellectual initiative of the situation and tries to bond with her captors, it's McAvoy's turn as the incarcerator that really stands out.

Anya Taylor-Joy stars in M Night Shyamalan's new film, Split

Easily flipping between the many personalities with the subtlest of touches and slightest nuancing of facial expressions, McAvoy's ferocious and fluid acting out of multiple personalities shifts Split away from feeling like a film that stigmatises mental illness and scoffs at its subject for cheap laughs.

From a slight re-arranging of his reactions or an altering of facial features to the use of accents makes his characters seem both distinct and unnerving as the claustrophobic atmosphere plays out.

Make no mistake, Split is McAvoy's film from start to finish.

Though he's well-supported by the impassive Taylor-Joy who conveys as much with a simple look as she managed during The VVitch.

Perhaps less successful are some of the other elements of the narrative.

Split movie

At times, Shyamalan seems to lose focus on juggling the puzzle pieces in the air and more focussed on heading toward the end game. Certainly, a back story feels extraneous and using a therapist to convey medical exposition slows Split in the middle part.

And at times, some of the dialogue feels forced and unnatural. Equally, a final hurdle run into full horror territory removes Split of some of its relative freshness and more macabre edges, sullying the work done to get to this point.

Granted, it's not a Shyamalan film without an audacious final narrative gamble and there'll be plenty of debate once the curtain goes up, but to say more is to rob you of the experience.

Ultimately, Split avoids cliches and a large degree of risibility thanks to its superb two leads, imbuing what transpires with an emotional edge that's as tense and compelling as it is uncomfortable and suspenseful, and ensuring once again that Shyamalan has returned to a character piece and form that's not been witnessed since the denouement of The Sixth Sense. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Hidden Figures: Blu Ray Review

Hidden Figures: Blu Ray Review

The space race and the fight against racism combine in this based on a true story wannabe feel-good flick from the director of St Vincent.

It's the story of Katherine G Johnson (Empire star Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (The Help's Octavia Spencer) and feisty activist Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), three black women working in the predominantly white NASA space programme.

Johnson's a numbers genius (as an early flashback to her childhood heavily sign posts) and when she's assigned to the unit run by Al Harrison (Costner) she inadvertently puts the cat among the pigeons. Not least because of her colour, but also because The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons' sneery Paul Stafford is running the team and doubts the veracity of her maths.

Equally, Vaughn's desperate to be given the chance to become a supervisor and sassy Jackson's keen to become an engineer - but both face discrimination, prejudice and societal expectations as threats.

With Octavia Spencer already nominated for a Golden Globe award  the film's trajectory is on the up, even if parts of its execution remain firmly grounded in mawkish predictable civil rights sentimentality.

Despite a relative career best turn from Kevin Costner as the boss of the unit charged with getting astronaut John Glenn into space to keep up with the Russians and the Sputnik space programme, most of the rest of the cast give solid performances that are dictated to unfortunately slide into stereotypes as the civil rights led story plays out.

From segregation to romance and racism within the workplace, all the tenets of this style of Lifetime dramas are here and everything orchestrates to an entirely predictable conclusion that wrings out every ounce of crowd-pleasing eyes weeping obviousness as you'd expect. The second half of the film aims for tearducts, but with the outside work elements not faring as well as the space race interest and story, they fall flat and fail to be fully moved.

There's no denying the story here and the struggle being real, but the TV movie style execution of it means Hidden Figures is more a case of a story that needs to be told, rather than one that needs to be told well.

It's an important distinction for this piece about the hidden struggle and breakthrough of the women and while the film may hold stratospheric aspirations, the race for the glass ceiling never quite reaches the heights of anything other than spectacularly solid and occasionally manipulative.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Manchester By The Sea: Blu Ray Review

Manchester By The Sea: Blu Ray Review

Predicated on tragedy, Manchester By The Sea should, in theory, be a tear fest.

But punctuated with large swathes of dry dark humour that pierce the moment, its solemnity never quite hits the level it aspires to.

Manchester by the Sea star Casey Affleck

The story revolves around Casey Affleck's disenfranchised janitor, an emotionally barbed and prickly Lee whose life sees him randomly irritate his tenants or start bar fights before retreating back to his basement flat in a tenement building.

When receiving a call that his brother (Kyle Chandler, resplendently resolute and gruff in flashbacks) is dead, Lee finds himself given reluctant  guardianship of his nephew (Lucas Hedges).

Forced back to his former hometown and a past he's wanted to avoid, Lee's world slowly begins to fall apart again as the tragedy that enveloped him is gradually revealed.

Manchester By The Sea is a mesh of flashbacks, cuts and moments interlaced into a longer narrative; and, as a result, the power of it largely rests on how invested in it you are. (Even though the script's quite adept at getting you inside the head of Affleck's distanced Lee.)

It's supposed to be a portrait of grief and dealing with bereavement; though, at times, it verges on being too concerned with that side of things to be as emotionally investing as it wants to be.

There's no denying Affleck's power in the role of the man unable to move on from grief and accept a shot at happiness, even though his occasionally over pronounced affectation of brooding makes it really look like he's thinking before acting in this dramatic variation of The Odd Couple. But, at times the aching sadness and tragedy within connect with enough potency to be hugely impressive.

Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck in Manchester By The Sea

However, there are moments when Lonergan's over-bombastic use of soundtrack overwhelms the quiet horror of what's unfolding on the screen; it's here that a foot off the pedal would have been ultimately more compelling and given the quiet power of the tragedy the space it needs. With scenes that find some conversations either held off screen or start quietly before fading up, there's a feeling of intimacy that's garnered by the execution.

From Affleck's withdrawn and reclusive body language to Williams' achingly dramatic announcements, through to Lucas Hedges' rollercoaster turn as the teenager caught in the maelstrom of emotion and grief, everyone turns in a stellar performance as the dramatic meat is tucked into.

And yet, for a film that's so evidently drenched with potential emotion and queitly moving in its observations, Manchester By The Sea doesn't quite hit some of the emotional weepy-points that you'd expect. In moments like the aforementioned score blasting over the awkward veracity and unfolding of events, the potential for a breakdown is drained as the 2 and a quarter hour movie plays out.

While the air of quiet desperation is there throughout, and the inherent sadness evident, Manchester By The Sea remains a film that's masterfully put together, wonderfully acted and executed, yet bizarrely remains so missing in the pulling of the heart-strings.

But, despite all that, it's a film that will be showered in critical love, even though this curiously overplayed hand is nowhere near as affecting or moving as expected. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Pecking Order: Film Review

Pecking Order: Film Review

A new documentary slice of kiwiana, cluttered with chicken puns, Pecking Order decides to take a look at the world of competitive chicken fancying.

(Well, if Mr Farrier and Mr Reeve can do it with tickling, why shouldn't a film-maker follow more poultry ideas?)
Pecking Order: Film Review

Going behind the scenes of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon club as it faces its greatest crisis in 148 years, director Slavko Martinov (Propaganda) manages to unearth more than just foxes in the hen house.

Part of the main drive of this, is the film's portrayal of parochial pettiness as it deals with the politics of running the club, which will no doubt be familiar to anyone involved in either A&P shows or any level of community clubs and societies.

With its mother hen who's been in charge forever, the documentary finds its "villain" of the piece, in the gentlest definition of the word, in president Doug Bain, who's been in charge of the show for a very long time.

A self-professed life-member of the Club, Bain's grip on the reins is the source of provocation as others preen their feathers and, in his eyes, puff themselves up to offer a challenge to his throne. As he deals with threats, Martinov's camera captures a fascinating explosion at a meeting where Bain's weariness at what he terms the "want to bes" bubbles over. It's a telling look at the generational differences that are prevalent and is perhaps the more interesting thread of the more slight entanglements which constitute Pecking Order's DNA.
Pecking Order: Film Review

There's a degree of paranoia festering in this coup / coop in more ways than one, but Martinov's keener to ensure that the doco stays out of provocative territory, preferring instead to sit back contentedly and watch others ruffle the feathers of the patriarch, rather than set the cat among these pigeons.

It's a revealing, but unsurprising, look at those who put themselves into committees and others' politics, and does much to celebrate the mythos that youngsters won't want to be involved in the stuffier older entrenched ways of the powers that be.

Wisely, Martinov peppers the documentary with some younger faces who are entering the sport for the fun of it. From kid Rhys, complete with his rat tail, dad looking on proudly and nervously, and his ethos of "I love the spotlight of winning, it's awesome", to fellow fancier Sarah who professes a love for chickens and no more, the stark contrast of ages and attitude comes to the fore with relative ease.

Martinov's HD approach with the cameras though, bizarrely and brilliantly manages to capture the beauty of the birds, with the reds and hues of their plumage shimmering starkly in close ups on the screen.

Every single chicken pun's been pulled from the lexicon for use on the titles, but the thread in the film is a lot thinner than perhaps you'd have expected. And whilst there are some droll dry moments, this is a gentle doco, content to let the ebb and flow of the narrative dictate the mood and the quirks of some trickle through the execution, rather than one which sees the pot stirred with overly dramatic gusto.
Pecking Order: Film Review

The final result is that it becomes a documentary that's more about documenting, and providing a portrait of life within the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon club, rather than giving you something incisive and thought-provoking.

There are notable people within Pecking Order, and a few truisms spouted throughout that reek of the Kiwi attitude and the laconic humours that lace the land, but there are only a handful (if that) of characters that stand out, meaning the whole documentary feels ever-so slightly undernourished and too slight to be fully memorable.

It's a gentle amble down the roads of poultry politics and petty perambulations of those involved in small town club politics, and while Martinov's careful enough to throw it all through a balanced prism and not overly mock his subjects, one can't help but shake the feeling a little more bite to this beautifully shot and pleasantly constructed doco may have put a bit more meat on the bones.

South Park The Fractured But Whole Releases on...

South Park The Fractured But Whole Releases on...


Players Who Pre-Order South Park: The Fractured But Whole Will Receive a Copy of South Park: The Stick of Truth for Free

Sydney, Australia – May 18, 2017 – Today, Ubisoft® and South Park Digital Studios announced that South Park™: The Fractured But Whole™ will be available on October 17, 2017. From the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and developed by Ubisoft San Francisco, The Fractured But Whole is an outrageous sequel to 2014’s award-winning title, South Park™: The Stick of Truth™ and will release on Xbox One, PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and Windows PC.

To watch trailer please click image below
To download trailer please click HERE

With crime on the rise in South Park, the streets have never been more dangerous. As the sun sets on the quiet Colorado town, havoc and chaos unleash a reign of terror and the seedy underbelly of the city comes alive. The town needs new heroes to rise! Eric Cartman seizes the opportunity to save the town and create the best superhero franchise ever, his own Coon & Friends with himself as the leader, The Coon.

Every superhero has an origin, and Coon & Friends are no different. Continuing in their role as the New Kid, players will discover their backstory, assemble their unique costumes, and harness their fart-based powers from numerous hero classes to create their own original hero. An all-new combat system offers unique opportunities to master space and time while on the battlefield, and a revamped looting and crafting system gives players the freedom to craft their own equipment to aid them in battle.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be available in four editions: Standard, Gold, Steelbook Gold and Collector’s. Anyone who purchases South Park: The Fractured But Whole will receive South Park: The Stick of Truth for free.* If you pre-purchase the game at select partners, you can start playing The Stick of Truth immediately.

All pre-orders will also receive an exclusive in-game assistant, Towelie: Your Gaming Bud. The streets of South Park aren’t as safe as they used to be, and even the most seasoned South Park veteran will need help. Towelie: Your Gaming Bud provides helpful and hilarious advice and commentary to players at key locations throughout the game.

For more information on the South Park: The Fractured But Whole, please visit:

The Sense of An Ending: Film Review

The Sense of An Ending: Film Review

Cast: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Michelle Dockery
Director: Ritesh Batra

Based on Julian Barnes' Man Booker prize winning novel, the film version of The Sense of an Ending benefits greatly from the paucity of its lead actor.
The Sense of An Ending: Film Review

Broadbent doles kindly and curmudgeonly in his role as Tony Webster, a retired man who runs a camera repair shop. Webster is a man consumed by the past in more ways than one. He refuses to get a smartphone despite his daughter (Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey) being about to give birth, he tends to damaged cameras, and his desktop runs an old system.

Further to this one foot in the past ethos, Webster one day receives a letter which sends him down memory lane. Caught up in reflections from yesteryear, Webster begins to re-examine his life and his decisions.

Intercut with scenes from Webster's school days and burgeoning romance and relationship with an enigmatic girl Veronica and his friendship with school newcomer Adrian, the film has a tendency to simply cut to the past as the assignations of the present start to come squarely into focus. But it comes to rely on its bifurcated structure to provide the drive of the film as it continues.
The Sense of An Ending: Film Review

And while Broadbent is the main reason to view this film, thanks in large part to a subtle underplayed turn that always hints at something more, this adaptation is probably more for an older generation after some reflexive viewing.

Parts of the book feel like they could have been trimmed for the screenplay, and a lot of Dockery's scenes and her character genuinely feel redundant to what's actually transpiring.

Equally, a fleeting appearance from Rampling squanders one of the best assets, and while that's not her fault, and is the demand of the narrative, her scenes with Broadbent's Webster pack an emotional power that's hard to deny.

But it's the hard yards to get to the emotional pay-off, with much of the film's mystery desperately masking itself as an enigma. Webster's rhapsodic ruminations are certainly universal in some ways (love, lust, desire) but the ultimate reveal feels more muted than devastating; a sign perhaps that translating this to a larger canvas means the intimacy of the book's context is a little torn asunder.
The Sense of An Ending: Film Review

There are plenty of wry whimsical words which will resonate with the older end of the audience as it ambles toward its conclusion, and Broadbent's somewhat particular demeanour as Webster means he's never anything less than watchable, but perhaps The Sense of an Ending is more a case of a story that is slightly - and unfortunately - lost in translation.

La La Land: Blu Ray Review

La La Land: Blu Ray Review

The director of Whiplash delivers an homage to love and musicals that's all rush and very little drag, while reuniting stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling for the third time (after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad).

Stone is Mia, an aspiring actress stuck in the role of a barista on the WB lot and frustrated in auditions; Gosling is Seb, a jazz enthusiast and purist piano player who dreams of setting up a club in the crummy dive which threw him out, but whose ambition is thwarted by bosses who want him to play the set list and nothing more.

The pair meet by chance a couple of times in the kind of coincidence that some would garner as fate and over the period of a year, told via Chazelle's four-seasons-in-one-film on screen titles, begin a gentle romance that's threatened by ambitions, reality and life itself.

La La Land is a bright, breezy, colourful homage to musicals of the past and a Hollywood of yesteryear.

It sets its store out in its very first opening moments, where a crowded LA freeway is turned into a free-wheeling fully choreographed dance number where car residents frolick on bonnets, in the road and on rooves with such abandon that it's impossible not to be carried along with the Another Day of Sun song.

Bathed in retro primary colours and nods to the Hollywood of the past (Mia's apartment has an Ingrid Bergman mural and The Black Cat poster), Chazelle's attempted to recapture the joie de vivre of the great musicals and the spectacles that were once so common place, but are now sneered at. Even throwing in some meta lines about whether people will love it or not, to which one character retorts "F*** them", La La Land is a throw everything at it piece, where a great amount brilliantly sticks.

This is cinema to swoon at, cinema to fall in love to and a film where the leads have the chemistry that's needed to pull through some of the slightly dodgier singing numbers they're gifted. They don't make movies like this anymore, and it's good they don't - because when one like this comes along, it knocks your cinematic socks off.

But while La La Land is a film of dreamers, it's also bathed in a sad melancholy that ebbs and flows with the tide of life as the year of their romance plays out and reality comes heartbreakingly knocking.

Stone and Gosling make the perfect pair, even if the second half of the film grounds their romance in tensions and drama as the rows grow between following your heart and your dream and dealing with the harsh realities of life. They are the dreamers many of us wish to be, and their ease of chemistry and tonic of romance feels beautiful to behold.

Consequently, it's the nostalgic escapism of Broadway swathed in the visual opulence of the past - but more crucially, La La Land is the tonic to the festive season - a timeless romance, swept up in the romance of dreaming, and all wrapped in a bright colour palette and with such heart, that it's impossible not to fall in love with La La Land - and fall hard.