Saturday, 20 January 2018

Episode Four of 'Batman: The Enemy Within' Premieres January 23, See the New Trailer Now

Episode Four of 'Batman: The Enemy Within' Premieres January 23, See the New Trailer Now

Download the Official Trailer for Episode Four of Telltale's 'Batman: The Enemy Within' Ahead of Episode Premiere on January 23

Episode four, 'What Ails You,' continues the second season of the acclaimed adventure series from Telltale Games, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and DC Entertainment.

Today we are excited to share the official trailer for the penultimate episode of Batman: The Enemy Within, the ongoing five-part episodic game series that continues Telltale's unique take on the World's Greatest Detective. You can download the trailer by following the links above. Episode four, 'What Ails You,' launches Tuesday, January 23 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, and mobile.

When the Pact puts its plan into motion, Bruce's cover is finally blown, and as his web of lies unravels, new questions emerge: When and how will the Pact regroup? What's truly motivating Amanda Waller and the Agency? And perhaps most importantly, how will John Doe handle the truth about his buddy Bruce? With another showdown brewing, the clown prince of crime may finally earn his crown...

Rendered to look like a living, breathing comic book, Telltale's vision of Batman features an award-winning cast of talent including Troy Baker, who returns to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne, as well as Anthony Ingruber, who reprises his fresh take on 'John Doe,' better known to fans as The Joker.

This new season is intended to be accessible to both returning fans and newcomers alike, though players' choices from the first season of Batman: The Telltale Series will optionally carry over into The Enemy Within. This season also includes Telltale's unique multiplayer 'Crowd Play' feature, which allows friends and family to engage with the adventure together by helping to decide the direction of the story from any mobile device with an internet connection.

A special 'Season Pass Disc' for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is currently available at retailers across North America and Europe. The disc includes the first episode of the season, as well as download access to all subsequent episodes as they are released.
Batman: The Enemy Within is a standalone product separate from the first season of Batman - The Telltale Series. Both products are licensed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and based on DC's iconic character. Episode four, 'What Ails You,' has been rated 'Mature' by the ESRB.
For more information on Telltale Games, visit the official website, follow @TelltaleGames on Twitter, and like Telltale on Facebook.

We Happy Few’s Latest Blog Reveals Female Playable Character, Updates Release Schedule

We Happy Few’s Latest Blog Reveals Female Playable Character, Updates Release Schedule

We Happy Few’s Latest Blog Reveals Female Playable Character, Updates Release Schedule

Frisco, Texas - January 19, 2018/ Today, Compulsion Games released a developer update video detailing what’s to come for We Happy Few, including a glimpse at the second playable character, Sally. We Happy Few is now content complete, Compulsion Games announced, and the team is taking more time to polish following some major improvements to the beginning of Arthur’s storyline.
“There are these moments that are memorable, very funny, and super weird and we’re really excited to show you all” said Sam Abbott, Producer for We Happy Few. “But we felt that the first two hours of Arthur’s story just didn’t live up to those moments, meaning that the game didn’t start as well as it should. So we went back to the drawing board and made a couple of big decisions: we brought forward a number of story moments, to get into the action faster, and also rebuilt the whole first island for Arthur.”
Watch the update video on YouTube
We Happy Few will now release in Summer 2018 for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4.
Since its early days as a crowdfunding digital success, We Happy Few has continued to expand. With the help of Gearbox Publishing, its scope has been increased to include a full-length story campaign, three playable characters, and more than 250 unique encounters.
Compulsion Games and Gearbox Publishing will continue to provide weekly updates about the progress of the game.
About We Happy Few
We Happy Few is the tale of a plucky bunch of moderately terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial in the city of Wellington Wells. In this alternative 1960s England, conformity is key. You’ll have to fight or blend in with the drug-addled inhabitants, most of whom don’t take kindly to people who won’t abide by their not-so-normal rules. Discover the retrofuturistic city’s dark history as you play through the intertwined narratives of three quietly rebellious citizens of Wellington Wells, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as they face their pasts, prepare for the future, and engage in activities that aren’t exactly status quo in the artificially enthused society.
For the latest updates, visit the official website or follow Compulsion Games on Facebook and Twitter.

Monster Hunter World Beta back again

Monster Hunter World Beta back again

open beta 19–22 January
An epic journey awaits

Venture on quests and battle fearsome monsters in a living breathing ecosystem. Track, hunt, slay, loot and craft new weapons and armour on your journey to become the ultimate hunter.

• Explore an ever-changing terrain where the surrounding environment and wildlife can be used to your advantage.
• Hunt solo or with up to three other players from around the globe with seamless drop-in multiplayer co-op.
• Complete the exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn™ themed event quest to forge Aloy’s bow and full armour set along with machine armour for your Palico companion – available for free and only on PlayStation®4.

Pre-order now to get the Origin Set, Fair Wind Charm and special theme for your PS4™.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Maudie: DVD Review

Maudie: DVD Review

Canadian artist Maud Lewis may be well known to some but not others.
Maudie: Film Review

However, if there's any justice, Sally Hawkins' portrayal of the cowed artist should see the film garner wider praise and Oscar nominations when the time is right.

Hawkins is Lewis, who starts the film cowed and knotted as she clasps desperately at a paint brush with ageing limbs. Rattled by her brother's insistence on selling the familial house, Maudie heads out to get a job after seeing an advert placed by Ethan Hawke's gruff and brutish Everett, a loner who works at the orphanage but has no tolerance for waifs outside of those walls.

Inevitably Maudie starts working there and the relationship develops. But as Maud discovers her own voice, the love story takes another twist.

Maudie: Film Review

Anchored in a stunning turn from Hawkins who imbues the physicality of Lewis with an underplaying and underpinning of her condition rather than overly relying on it a la Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Maudie is a slow, at times, sedate examination of the lives and love of two people.
Maudie: Film ReviewHawke's Everett may be a little impenetrable at times, but it's in the subtleties of the relationship that Maudie grows to life. Taylor uses some small touches to show the shift in between the pair, and throws in a touch of tender humour as well to reverse the roles.

Less successful is the passing of time, which is marked in the usual ways but feels muddled as their lives go on, leaving the viewer uncertain of the world and time zone they inhabit. Granted, their simple meagre existence settles them outside of such concerns and the spotlight of the story is purely on them, but odd touches from Taylor don't help add to the timelessness of a story, and merely do more to mark it out.

Ultimately, Maudie is a film which is a portrait of a woman and her curmudgeon; it's blessed by a distinctly human and subtle turn from its leading lady, and if there's any justice come awards season will be rightly recognised so. 

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Maze Runner: The Death Cure: Film Review

Maze Runner: The Death Cure: Film Review

Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee, Aiden Gillan
Director: Wes Ball

The Maze Runner series has generally been a good and ambitious YA adaptation from James Dashner that's pandered to little of the excesses of its literary genre and provided a good whack of dystopia for those missing The Hunger Games franchise.

The conclusion, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, arrives on screens after a substantial delay due to Dylan O'Brien being injured on set and filming being put back. After a three year delay, you could be excused for not remembering exactly how it The Scorch Trials ran into this latest. (Certainly, the latest has no desire to recap the series for newbies.)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure: Film Review

With their friend Minho kidnapped by nasty organisation WCKD and apparently betrayed by Teresa (Pirates of The Caribbean and Skins actress Scodelario), what's left of the Gladers, headed up by Dylan O'Brien's Thomas, set in motion a plan to storm the city, snatch their friend and escape from the trials and adults once and for all.

Opening with a pre-credits' heist sequence that blows any potential for brooding out of the water, Wes Ball's The Maze Runner: The Death Cure seems intent on settling for action over anything else, as it pulls together the strands from the first two films.

Unfortunately, what emerges is somewhat hindered by a lack of real emotional edge (potentially due to the exorbitantly long yet unavoidable delay) and prefers to favour solid yet formulaic sections of action over anything else.

The set pieces are delivered dependably by Ball, but there's little flair in the formulaic here, more a solid representation of what you'd expect at this point in the series. As the revolution grows and the parallels of shadowy organisations gunning down their own populace seems to draw on one of Mockingjay's darkest scenes, Ball handles it all with gusto, if storyboarding it unremarkably to generic execution.

Essentially an extended jail break movie, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure's break-in-to-break-out ethos gives the Gladers the chance to be on the front foot throughout, rather than looking like victims and lab-rats.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure: Film Review

O'Brien's solid if lacking a little charisma and it's left to Brodie-Sangster and the ever dependable Poulter to deliver some of the heart and humour that's sorely needed.

Much of Maze Runner: The Death Cure's MO is the unspoken love affair between Brodie-Sangster's Newt and O'Brien's Thomas, and certainly the betrayal by Thomas' ex Teresa never quite reaches the emotional peak and fruition you'd hope for and expect with involvement.

In terms of villains, Gillen's smirking Janson's on hand to provide conflict, but the conflict never quite builds on the promise of previous films, and feels rote at best.

Parts of the film are narratively convenient, and the use of the zombie-like Kranks feels more shoehorned in to allow parts of the story to progress, even if logic and behaviour never follow through and develop consistency within their own world.

However, that's been problematic of the series, one that's content to use characters to propel the action, rather than to engage with - and certainly the ethos of the lab rats / children conundrum is never anything but skin deep.

And with the scale of an apocalypse building, you'd expect Maze Runner: The Death Cure to have higher stakes, but by concentrating on the Gladers' insular world, and falling back only on the outside world when it needs to punctuate moments, Ball's Maze Runner conclusion feels more like it's slightly fumbled the scope of what it wants to achieve - and certainly its conclusion feels lacking in a wider resolution.

In the wash, Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a solid and just about watchable, if overlong, action film that never quite achieves the emotional highs of its mysterious first outing.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Shape of Water: Film Review

The Shape of Water: Film Review

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer
Director: Guillermo del Toro

How you feel about whimsy will largely dictate your feelings on the beautifully sumptuous but occasionally wanting Golden Globe nominated The Shape of Water.
The Shape of Water: Film Review

In Guillermo del Toro's Cold War fairytale, Hawkins plays mute janitor Elisa, who lives with a struggling artist (Jenkin, in a warm and empathetic performance) above a cinema.

One day at work, Elisa encounters a strange event, when an apparent iron lung is shifted into the research facility where she works, complete with mysterious G-man (played with vitriol by Michael Shannon).

Despite being ordered not to do so, Elisa discovers a common bond with the Merman type creature in the tank (played by creature wizard Doug Jones). However, with the Russians trying to get their hands on it, and the Americans threatening to vivisect, Elisa decides to take matters into her own hands.

The Shape Of Water has some truly astounding visuals and is awash in a Jeunet-esque green glow that bathes everything in marine. Many sly references are made to green being the colour of the future, and the opening sequence, with its startling aqua-world is covered in green, and reflective of both the film's mystery and its 30s monster movie machinations.
The Shape of Water: Film Review

Yet, even for a fantasy, there are moments in the Cold War showdown that don't hold together - lapses of logic and behaviour mar parts of the film and slightly take you out from the fantasy within.

Thankfully, even though the film's drowning in fantasy, it's grounded by some very human presences.

Jenkins is the everyman with heart, whose desire to fit in and return is rendered all the more tragic because of societal attitudes to his open lifestyle; Jones is as impressive as ever as a creature, with plenty of years in Hellboy to know that the simplest move of his Creature from the Black Lagoon can mean so much and Shannon's driven Government agent is as necessary a villain as you'd need in a film like this.

But it's Hawkins whose mute turn speaks the loudest in del Toro's movie about the love of movies. Her empathetic Elisa gives the fantasy its heart, and in her silent turn, Hawkins pays tribute to Del Toro's aim to salute the golden era of Hollywood's finest. But there's depth to Hawkins, even if the connection initially with the creature feels a little forced; this is a film that follows the conventions of Hollywood's monster movie era where a kindred is born.
The Shape of Water: Film Review

Ultimately, The Shape of Water may go on a little too long, but if you're content to rest in its fantasy world and revel in Del Toro's unique vision, it's the perfect luxuriating piece of cinema.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

All The Money In The World: Film Review

All The Money In The World: Film Review

Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris
Director: Ridley Scott

It's hard not to view All The Money In The World without the fog of controversy that's clouded its admittedly quiet release ahead of the awards season in 2018.
All The Money In The World: Film Review

The tale of the kidnapping of Paul Getty inspired by true events and through the lens of Sir Ridley Scott has been blighted since it was unleashed.

Wrapped in a furore after Kevin Spacey's JP Getty had to be digitally removed and was recast as Christopher Plummer following sexual misconduct accusations against Spacey, the film was further hit by a row over pay parity when Wahlberg netted 1500 times more for his co-star Williams in subsequent reshoots.

Interestingly, what plays out on screen in the adaptation of John Pearson's 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty is actually both sickly compelling and stultefyingly overlong.
All The Money In The World: Film Review

For those unaware of the 1973 kidnapping of the 16-year-old Paul, grandson of oil tycoon JP Getty (Plummer, in a commanding and cruel presence from the moment he shows on screen) the story follows the back and forth between the kidnappers, Paul's mum (Williams, all grace and clipped diction) and the investigator Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg, solid and dependable) hired by Getty to return the kid at the lowest cost.

Playing like an episode of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, the film's strength comes from its performance of both Williams and Plummer - and a compassionate turn by French actor Romain Duris - rather than for the strength and depth of its story-telling.

A few flashbacks give some heft to the emotional backstory within, but Getty's particular cruelty feels surface-deep, even if Plummer's nuanced veneer bristles with intolerable cruelty and distinct inhumanity.

But the film's strongest is Williams, a non-showy turn that has both poise and vulnerability as the mother caught in the middle of a tycoon determined to stand his ground and a situation threatening to reek of tragedy. A few lip trembles here and there amid a distinctly controlled performance from Williams grants the film the emotional edge that it so sorely needs and shows once again, that she's an actress of fine form and prestige in whatever projects she chooses.
All The Money In The World: Film Review

Ultimately, Scott's chopping back and forth in the story robs it of some its initial tension, though the suspense does build up at the expense of any true character depth - Wahlberg's CIA agent and subsequent change of mind is the worst served by the script and story choices.

In the final wash and when viewed away from what's clouded it, All The Money In The World could have used a slight cull and some tighter editing to ensure it keeps its vice-like grip tighter wound. It's a compelling, fascinating story, but bereft of some of its richer emotional edges, it teeters dangerously - and unfortunately - close to indifference.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Happy Death Day: DVD Review

Happy Death Day: DVD Review

Happy Death Day: Film Review

Mixing Mean Girls, Groundhog Day, Scream and Scooby Doo, Happy Death Day's sorority set horror is more comedy and dumb jock humour than anything else.

La La Land's Jessica Rothe plays Tre, a botch of a sorority sister who wakes up one morning to a walk of shame in the dorm room of Broussard's Carter. Sidling back to her house and elite clique of bitches, Tre's day is spent avoiding her birthday. But at the end of the day, she winds up being killed by a tracksuited killer in a chubby baby face mask.

Only she wakes up the next morning to find she has to endure it all again...

Happy Death Day plays fast and loose with its Goundhog Day premise, and even riffs on the fact most of its target audience would never have seen the film before in its final moments.

Happy Death Day: Film Review

But while the first 40 minutes or so feel fresh and relatively carefree in their execution - thanks in large part to Rothe's affable sorority sister whose arc of redemption is obvious from the start - the film can't quite decide on a tone, moving from drama to comedy and between bloodless horror.

The end result, complete with its unmasking of the killer, feels like an episode of Scooby Doo, where the bad guy would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for the oh-so-obvious arc of the protagonist.

It'll probably hit with its target audience of teens and the bat-em out low, box office them high Blumhouse effect is likely to strike again (though possibly with limited effect), but given how bloodless and derivative the film is of its tropes and genre, it loses its breeziness midway through proceedings.

Happy Death Day: Film Review

Its live, die, repeat ethos and wannabe Buffy lead (even down to a tooling up montage toward the end) make it all feel oddly familiar. Coupled with Happy Death Day's desire to defy its own internal logic and ramp up the increasingly daft situations and reaction, the film loses any execution of its own admittedly original premise and consequently appeal. 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Perfect Strangers: DVD Review

Perfect Strangers: DVD Review

Released by Madman Home Entertainment

It’s no surprise that a drama’s finally hit on this concept.

And to be fair, the continuing woes over the middle classes in suburbia aren’t exactly original fodder either.

In Perfetti Sconosciuti by Paolo Genovese, there’s an eclipse coming and to celebrate a group of 7 friends are having dinner together. Wisely acknowledging that all phones disrupt any kind of social engagement, one of the hosts suggests everyone places their phone on the table and if they ring or texts / emails come through, it all gets shared with the party.

Goaded under the mantra that nobody has anything to hide, the group agrees – albeit reluctantly in some cases. However, unsurprisingly, secrets abound at this table as this social Russian roulette begins – with domestic dark clouds looming….

Genovese’s drama may be an unoriginal concept, but its execution and delicious premise are nothing short of slick and confident.

The cast of Italian favourites (mostly unknown on these shores) make each of their characters feel eminently likeable in the run up to the dinner party, and each of them has their own foibles waiting to be hoist upon the table. There’s a newly married couple barely to stop touching each other, a permanent bachelor friend who finally has a date, a couple who appears strained – these are all people who have something to lose (why they even agree to this madness is wisely never fully discussed).

As the inevitable twists begin to play out and the truth creeps closer to the surface in many relationships, Genovese’s adroitness with the camera and handling of the revelations is masterful and manipulative in equal measure.

Shocks and deep sudden intakes from the audience are inevitable – and at least one reveal surprises in its casualness, but there’s a lot of discomfort and wriggling around in seats to be elicited from this execution. While it’s to the ensemble’s strength that nobody feels on more morally higher ground than the other, equally none of them feel eminently dislikeable as events progress during the night (though one does feel it’s a little first world problems of the middle class at some points).

Unfortunately in the final run, it risks a reveal too far but it’s a testament to how engaging the cast are and perhaps how close this social experiment may cut to the bone with many that Perfetti  Sconosciuti is such a middle-class crowd-pleasing / what would you do resounding success. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Commuter: Film Review

The Commuter: Film Review

Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Re-teaming with his Unknown director after their 2011 outing, Liam Neeson's supposed retirement from action thrillers sees him taking part in an action thriller.

Neeson is Michael McCauley, a straight and down-the-line insurance seller, whose life is a daily routine.
The Commuter: Film Review

From the morning commute to the office to the routine of trying to sort money for his son to go to college, McCauley is a straight arrow.

But it all changes one day, when with retirement closing in, McCauley is made redundant.

As he takes the train home, he's approached by a woman (Vera Farmiga) who sits opposite him and offers him a Faustian deal - someone on his train doesn't belong there. Find out who they are before the commuter train terminates its run and net a cool $100K.

Given only a short time to decide, McCauley finds his hand forced as a race against time begins.

The Commuter has a clever premise, one that's ripped from the pages of a pulpy page-turner.

But on screen, Collet-Serra seems unable to bring it to life with a series of coincidences and incredulities crippling parts of what unfurls.
The Commuter: Film Review

(Let's not even start with the insane concept that perhaps people actually talk to each other on a US train).

Neeson is solid but unspectacular as he rolls out yet another take on a man with a special set of skills.
(Fortunately, his character is an ex-cop this time around). It's easy to see why Neeson would take the gig as it plays on the everyman-forced-to-do-extraordinary schtick that's become his thing.

However, with dialogue that lays everything bare, and a shaky cam ethos, Collet-Serra at times feels like he's beating you across the face with the film, rather than letting the piece breathe naturally and its subsequent rhythms grip and thrill you.
The Commuter: Film Review

As the script grows ever more ludicrous, with red herrings and a bizarre take down of Goldman Sachs that's supposed to be middle America responding, Collet-Serra orchestrates the whole film into a train-set CGI spectacle that's unfortunately more laughable than laudible.

Muddled and frankly average at best in its stolid lumpiness and old school "charm", The Commuter is an action film and script, ripped straight from 1980.

Unfortunately, it's 2018 - and this kind of thing is possibly best shown either on TV or on a flight on a plane where coherence isn't fully embraced.

For Neeson, it's about time this action train was stopped - and he was allowed the dignity of getting off.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Lady Macbeth: DVD Review

Lady Macbeth: DVD Review

"Do you have any idea the damage you can bring upon this family?"

A star is born in the devilishly sizzling William Oldroyd helmed Lady Macbeth, a reinvention of the Russian novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.

Florence Pugh burns up the screen as Katherine, a young bride trapped in the shackles of marriage and in a home of pure hell. With an extremely strict and brutal father-in-law and a husband who has no interest in her other than barking orders, this repressed bride finds life dull and boring.

Lady Macbeth: NZIFF Review

Coming across a new stablehand Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), Katherine falls into lust - and the inevitable happens. However, plotting to escape the confines of a positively Victorian ethos could lead to dark resolutions.

Make no mistake, Florence Pugh positively owns the screen and burns it up in this chilling tale of desire as her character goes from victim to villainess.

From Katherine's desire for Sebastian to her desire to do whatever is necessary to escape and to live a life that's her own, Pugh uses the simplest of facials and the subtlest of moves to convey this. Whether it's the sheer joy of walking outside on the moors (which she's forbidden to do) as the mist hangs low or leaving buttons undone on her pristine outfit, Pugh brings a level of physicality to the role that's compelling to watch from beginning to end. She finds happiness in the growing moral turpitude and it's unsettling and conflicting to have you root for her every small victory.

Equally, Oldroyd's helming brings a degree of clinical chilliness to proceedings.

With a stripped back soundtrack and simple eye of precision behind the camera, Oldroyd concentrates on the moments which will bring maximum shock to the screen - be warned, there are moments that will stun you as this tale of barbed feminism plays out.

Atmospherically built and viscerally sparse, Lady Macbeth is a truly seminal experience; a peek into feminist politics and a mesmerising lead make it an unmissable and gut-wrenching piece of cinema.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Shape of Water leads BAFTA nominations

The Shape of Water leads BAFTA nominations

The main list of nominees are as follows:

Best Film:
Darkest Hour 
Call Me By Your Name 
The Shape of Water 
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Outstanding British Film:
Darkest Hour
The Death of Stalin 
Lady Macbeth 
Paddington 2 
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
God's Own Country 

Best Leading Actor:
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread 
Timothee Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out 
Jamie Bell - Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool 

Best Leading Actress:
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water 
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird 
Margot Robbie - I, Tonya
Annette Bening - Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool 

Best Supporting Actor:
Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project
Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World 
Hugh Grant - Paddington 2 
Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress:
Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird
Allison Janney - I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas - Darkest Hour 
Lesley Manville - Phantom Thread 
Octavia Spencer - The Shape of Water

EE Rising Star Award:
Daniel Kaluuya 
Timothee Chalamet 
Josh O'Connor 
Florence Pugh 
Tessa Thompson

Best Director:
Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Luca Guadagnino - Call Me By Your Name
Denis Villeneuve - Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Screenplay:
Jordan Peele - Get Out
Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor - The Shape of Water
Steven Rogers - I, Tonya

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows - The Death of Stalin
Aaron Sorkin - Molly’s Game
James Ivory - Call Me By Your Name
Matt Greenhalgh - Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool 
Paul King, Simon Farnaby - Paddington 2

Battle of the Sexes: DVD Review

Battle of the Sexes: DVD Review

Battle of the Sexes: Film Review

From the directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of The Full Monty, Battle of the Sexes is the story behind the 1973 tennis match between tennis aces Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

It's hard to imagine the Battle of the Sexes having a more pertinent release time than right now, with the war for equality raging stronger than ever, the message of acceptance and coming out, and with the war against sexist buffoons taking on those in power. In truth, that's possibly the best thing Battle of the Sexes has going for it, because, in truth, it's predominantly the kind of film you've seen before - well presented and acted, but slightly lacking a little depth of character.

Stone is Billie Jean, whose anger at the lack of pay equity when offered a part in a tournament that pays an eighth of what the men receive sees her launch a women's league of her own. Alienated from the boys' club and determined to build credibility for the women's lib front and the the sport, the apparently happily married Billie Jean is also struggling with an attraction to a chance meeting with Marilyn, a hairdresser played with subtlety and warmth by Andrea Riseborough.

Battle of the Sexes: Film Review

At the same time, former Wimbledon ace and compulsive gambler and hustler Bobby Riggs (a wonderfully spot-on likeness from Steve Carell) is looking for his next challenge. Chasing a bet, and with his family life in ruins because of it, the self-styled male chauvinist pig challenges Billie Jean to a game to demonstrate once and for all that men are better than women.

With two storylines that flow and ebb before colliding, Battle of the Sexes manages to mix the hazy 70s cinematography and some firecracker performances from the likes of Silverman as King's agent into a crowd-pleasing affair that lobs and serves as well as those on the field.

But in truth, Carell's Riggs never feels like his sexist bluster is anything other than a push for PR on the pitch, and despite a good solid turn that mixes both comedy and warmth, consequently feels like he's the Austin Powers of the tennis world. (Though it is good to see him reunite with his Crazy, Stupid, Love counterpart again.)

Battle of the Sexes: Film Review

While Stone's King is a bit more of a rounded character, with Stone personifying the internal struggle with non-showy chutzpah, Battle of the Sexes' strength and weakness lies in the fact that it chooses not to vilify any side of the debate. Both portrayals are flattering, neither are damning and the overall result is one of a fairly generic movie whose parts occasionally help it excel and achieve a timely poignancy in the global scale of events.

Decidedly light and breezy, yet never too lightweight not to resonate, Battle of the Sexes is a game of a film that serves, lobs, ducks and weaves like a true sportsperson. It's here to entertain and keep you focussed on the action (such as it is) and it does so with aplomb, thanks to its trio of leads.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Post: Film Review

The Post: Film Review

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Steven Spielberg

With hot button topics like a President angered by the press doing their job, potential censorship of news and a woman making her place in the patriarchy, it's easy to see why The Post is proving to be such a cinematic firecracker.
The Post: Film Review

But in truth, director Steven Spielberg's take on All the President's Men and to a degree, Spotlight, seems more Mr Hanks Goes To Washington and genial than savage as you'd hope.

Apparently rushed into urgent production to tackle the current US climate and the reaction to President Trump, fake news et al, The Post looks into the cover-up of the Pentagon Papers back in the early 1970s.

When The New York Times took papers from the US government that purported to show the truth of the Vietnam war, they found themselves in the cross hairs not just of the authorities, but also of the provincial new-kid-on-the-block newspaper, The Washington Post.

With an injunction slapped on the Times, The Post, under its editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks, in a dogged and ruthless everyman turn) decides to step in to try and make a name for itself - but battle lines are drawn morally and financially with Meryl Streep's Kay Graham under pressure as she tries to helm the newspaper empire and get it floated to ensure its future success.

The Post is the kind of worthy Oscar-bait drama that thrives on its contemporary themes present in a story from yesteryear as it riffs on All The President's Men and feels bizarrely, like a prequel..
The Post: Film Review

There's never been a more pertinent time to present a film such as this, and even if it does use its ensemble cast to maximum effect, it still can't but help to allow Spielberg to proffer up his trademark over-sentimentalising moments as well.

From a speech of Streep's character decrying the Post is "my company now" after bemoaning the fact it was her father's, her husband's to the reveal of the Court verdict which blatantly emphasises the message that freedom of the press is vital in this day and age, there's a touch of heavy-handedness with which the Post indulges itself.

And there are moments where the film chooses to explain proceedings, rather than present them, that feels a little like it's pandering to the masses.

Yet, despite these moments, it's a superior piece of film-making.

Hanks and Streep deliver strong and solid performances which smack of potential peer recognition, and certainly there's a lit touch paper quality to the stories they deliver.
Despite it all though, their stories are universal and both Hanks and Streep rise to what's needed of them and deliver with panache and verve.

It may be that Spielberg's done his version of Capra and Mr Smith Goes To Washington and hits a few familiar tropes throughout (a typical montage of actual journalism being done being one of them), but he does so engagingly and for the most part, enticingly.

If ever a film about journalism were more pertinent, more timely and more urgent, then it would be a surprise.

Expect to see The Post's jabs rewarded come Oscar season - and even if it had been better had it been a little more subtle, this film, with its love of news, the old school printing presses and the fight for truth and justice, manages to be as compelling as it should.

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Lost City of Z: Blu Ray Review

The Lost City of Z: Blu Ray Review

More a contemplative adventure than a full-on swash-buckling colonial romp, The Lost City of Z sees a quietly soft-spoken Charlie Hunnan taking on the mantle of Brit explorer Percy Fawcett.

Unadorned of medals, and with a father who squandered the familial name, Fawcett is struggling to make his place at the turn of the century in military postings. So, when called up to the Royal Geographical Society in lieu of his mapping skills, and surrounded by fellow explorers making their own names, Fawcett feels the pull of the opportunity to provide a better life and reputation for his wife (Sienna Miller) and young family.

The Lost City of Z: NZIFF Review

Posted to the Amazonian jungle and teamed with Robert Pattinson's Henry Costin, Fawcett finds his journey is blighted and simultaneously enlivened by the possibility a new civilisation lives deep within. But on returning, his claims are scoffed out, and sensing once again the chance to rid his name of ridicule, he sets out again on a quest that will consume his life.

Director James Gray isn't interested in making The Lost City of Z a thumping adventure of derring-do. In fact, it brings to mind elements of Embrace of The Serpent from a few years back at the festival - which is no bad thing.

In the wash, it's the complete opposite, a slow-moving exploration of what makes the explorer tick and the demons that consume those who've been thwarted for generations.

Frustrations among the fronds of the jungle and realistic problems mark out The Lost City Of Z as something both grand and equally languorous. Hunnam's quiet approach to Fawcett makes his hero feel infinitely more human, and when he's tackling the mores of society and the hypocrisies of belief, Fawcett emerges as a more rounded and infinitely more plausible character. Plus Hunnam's flawed Fawcett as he rails against inequality but forbids his wife from joining them on the trail speaks well to the internal conflict of narrow-minded convictions.

There's a melancholy to this adventure and it seeps through every frame as the journey to capture the feeling or re-capture the belief of what lies unexplored is laid out. Gray consumes his screen with closeness within the jungle, which doesn't lead to claustrophobia but promotes a very real sense of belonging within.

Ultimately, there's a sprawl to The Lost City of Z which seeps through your eyes as you view. Its slow pace may put some off, but its realistic view of the adventure genre is a welcome touch in what could easily have been an overblown post-modern take on colonialism and distant beliefs. 

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Girl With All The Gifts: Blu Ray Review

The Girl With All The Gifts: Blu Ray Review

Released by Universal Home Ent

Mixing the vibe of The Road, 28 Days Later, Schwarzenegger's zombie film and PlayStation game The Last of Us, The Girl With all the gifts is a contemplative piece that perhaps goes a little too long.
The Girl With All The Gifts: Blu Ray Review
In a post-apocalyptic Britain,Gemma Arterton's scientist Helen Justineau is desperately trying to help save children from being experimented on as the search for a cure continues to a plague that's reduced mankind to hordes of hungry cannibalistic masses.

When Justineau goes on the run with Sennia Nanua's Melanie, with the army in tow, all hell breaks loose.

Trading largely on atmospherics and mood, The Girl With All The Gifts is, at times, a veritable ripper of a film that does nearly outstay its welcome.

It riffs on contemplation as well as peeling into some of the horror tropes as well, and with some very assured performances - including Nanua - and a desire to underplay, it works terrifically well.

There will be those who prefer the contemplative prose of the book, but for those looking at what's already an over-busy genre, The Girl With All The Gifts proves to be a shot in the undead arm that film occasionally needs.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Free Man: DVD Review

The Free Man: DVD Review

Director: Toa Fraser

Starting with a Sartre quote that "Man is condemned to be free", director Toa Fraser's latest doco is perhaps incorrectly being sold as a look at Jossi Wells, the NZ free-skier and his interest in the sport.

The Free Man: NZIFF Review

But what it actually is, is more of a meditation on what inspires people to be involved in extreme sports, and is more of a look at the Flying Frenchies, a pair of French guys who started a company of base-jumping and high-lining. Added into the mix is the inclusion of Jossi Wells, who starts training with the Frenchies to be able to cross a zipline in the French Alps.

Fraser creates a typical documentary set up in the start, detailing a bit more about Jossi and how he got into sport before switching the film's focus away from this and more into the psychology of extreme sports and whether it's man's desire to push the edges and visit the void.

That's potentially some of the problem with The Free Man, in that it doesn't quite seem to know what exactly it wants to be as it unspools. Loaded with slightly po-faced questioning and voiceover that equates the director to those walking a high-wire, The Free Man's philosophical edges may be enough to put some people off.

However, what helps it, is the incredible footage of extreme sports and also the camaraderies that emerge from between the Frenchies and Wells.

Using a locked off camera and some truly vertigo-inducing shots, Fraser manages to spin out some magnificently existential moments as you end up questioning why people are doing this. It doesn't quite get into the psyche as well as perhaps it intends to do, but The Free Man reminds once again of the adrenaline thrill that people get from being involved in such pursuits.

Perhaps if The Free Man had had a slightly tighter focus on perhaps just one angle and one group, it may have been a more precisely delivered documentary; as it is currently, its thoughtful edges and desire to create metaphors mean it feels a little tonally jerky, almost as if it's caught on its own high wire of being. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Dunkirk: Blu Ray Review

Dunkirk: Blu Ray Review

Dunkirk: Film Review
An apparent triptych of war stories that conclude and collide in surprising and spoilery ways, the breathtakingly intense Dunkirk is nothing without its thundering score from Hans Zimmer.

Its screeching, pulsing, pounding sonic blast powers the movie all the way and distracts from the relatively thinly drawn and relatively stereotyped characters.

Be it Tom Hardy in a mask and bomber jacket in the cockpit of a Spitfire above patrolling the skies and trying to keep others safe, or the avuncular Mark Rylance, helmsman of a fishing boat commandeered to head to Dunkirk or the desperate to get-out-of-hell squaddie played by Fionn Whitehead, the propulsion of the plot is knotted in its ticking score, which ratchets up the stress levels and tension to near unbearable.

Sketched out across the canvas of the evacuation of Dunkirk and blown big upon the IMAX screen, perhaps some of the heart is initially lost, ripped asunder in the tapestry of what Nolan is weaving.
Dunkirk: Film Review

But this is not what Dunkirk is setting out to do, nor is it what Nolan clearly has envisioned from his take on the conflict. 

In among the smaller moments and the muddied, desperate faces of nameless soldiers seeking evacuation and cowering in fear as Stukas and their death-dealing payloads edge ever closer, there are times when Dunkirk's delivery of spectacle and its one smart trick excel, hitting you emotionally where you feel you should have been guarded.

It begins and unfolds over a moment in 1940 with a soldier running through the French streets in a troop, desperately scrabbling to avoid bullets and get to the evacuation, and ends with Churchill's words echoing in your ears. But in between that, Nolan's Dunkirk is a sickeningly gripping film that reworks its timelines in ways that make you feel like you're in an enclosed room with the walls closing in against you, struggling for fear of where your next breath will come from, and wishing desperately that Nolan would loosen the vice-like grip you've found yourself in against the odds.

Pressure and tension are tangible throughout, with no direct heroes coming to the fore and just the apparently disparate actions of various men fuelling the fire that burns up this dramatic pot. Less a story, more a thunderingly visceral experience that evolves from what appears to simply be a plume of smoke in the sky in the distance, Dunkirk drops you in the centre of proceedings of one day at various points in it - from its very beginning the scope of this (bloodless) battle is evident. 

Dunkirk: Film Review

Troops line the beaches, desperately jostling and waiting in line to be evacuated, with the ever niggling threat of the German invasion nipping at their toes. Nolan doesn't need exposition to sell the scene (though Branagh's commander occasionally provides it) and uses the sparsity of the acting and the visceral edges to really place you there. 

Dunkirk's beyond tense, and there are surprises within. Death is waiting around every corner of the conflict, and the theatre of war, and the scale of Nolan's execution really makes it evident how truly horrific it would have been. 

But much like Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan where the emotional end led a level of cornball to what had gone before, Nolan finds a way to offer a bittersweet resolution for enduring this cinematic tour-de-force.  Granted, after stretching everything out over the previous 100 minutes, and leaving you with the heart-in-the-mouth feeling as you try to work out how the 400,000 trapped on the beaches could escape a potentially deadly fate, Nolan's denouement may be viewed as a little on the cheesy side, but given the spirit of hope which has been suppressed throughout this piece, it was perhaps inevitable.

Dunkirk: Film Review

Essentially re-inventing the war movie and somehow managing to provide an intimately gripping tale inside an epically structured landscape, Dunkirk is a piece of bravura film-making. There's no way you won't leave this film gasping for air and admiring the human spirit as well as admiring what Nolan has concocted.