Ballers Ep. 1 (Pilot) Review: Scraping In


Creator: Steve Levinson

Channel: HBO

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Omar Benson Miller, John David Washington, Rob Corddry

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In 2004, HBO franchise Entourage delivered the ultimate frat-boy, rags-to-riches fantasy. The show, delivering vicarious thrills via babes and big houses, became a trendsetter of gargantuan proportions. Today, with equality the aim of the Hollywood game, the show and movie have become a sad indictment of mid-2000s idiocy and greed. Sadly, for Dwayne Johnson more than anyone, HBO sports-dramedy Ballers simply cannot escape Entourage‘s soul-sucking shadow. However, thanks to its charismatic lead actor, it still has enough potential to step up with all guns blazing.

Ballers, despite significant flaws early on, has enough potential to become one of the year’s most entertaining shows. The pilot sets up season 1’s intriguing premise, but fumbles before reaching the end zone. American Football is now drenched in controversy. The NFL, refusing to take responsibility, has seen some of its biggest stars commit atrocities including rape and domestic violence. Less importantly, on-field incidents including Deflategate have made NFL a laughing stock. Stuck between Any Given Sunday and Jerry Maguire, the series focuses on former player turned sports agent Spencer Strasmore (Johnson), pushed by financial advisor Joe (Rob Corddry) to “monetise” his ‘friendships’. His early retirement, at the hands of crippling concussion, has affected his health, psychology, and finances.

Like Maguire, Ballers covers a handful of ego-driven superstars on the brink of wasting such unequivocal potential. Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), leading a debaucherous lifestyle, may soon lose his roster spot for the upcoming season. Vernon, however, cannot help but throw money at family members and friends. Meanwhile, similarly to Spencer, Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller) is a nice-guy former athlete searching high and (painfully) low for his future career path. The pilot gave us a taste of future conflicts, with top-tier sports agent Jason (Troy Garity) and Miami Dolphins executive Larry (Dule Hill) popping up at opportune moments.

The pilot attempts an out-there fusion of over-the-top bromantic dramedy (Entourage) and in-depth character study (Jerry Maguire). Despite the bright, fun imagery and cool cast, the episode’s tonal shifts leave cause for concern. Its oil-and-water trajectory – between brash comedic moments and maudlin soul-searching – hit like a defensive lineman. However, even on shaky ground, its core ingredients make 30 minutes fly like Russell Wilson. Spencer, crushed by his former teammate’s death, is more likeable than most HBO anti-heroes. Balancing out the sex and pill popping, his guile and charm elevate the show’s slower moments.

ballers02Mainstream hot-shot Peter Berg, having worked with Johnson on Welcome to the Jungle over a decade ago, revels in the high-class lifestyle the show’s lead characters take for granted. The pilots run-time is packed with sex scenes, nightclub sequences, and stilted camerawork gazing longingly at multi-million dollar mansions. However, Berg never forgets to highlight professional sport’s indestructible dark side. The episode’s many ups and downs, from Jerret’s out-of-control behaviour to Spencer’s first few successful meetings, illuminate one key aspect – humanity is essential to any industry.

Ballers‘ first episode, though an awkward kick off, showcases enough potential to deliver one of contemporary TV’s most lively and enjoyable dramedies. Johnson and Berg, overcoming Entourage‘s suffocating and dated allure, provide solid groundwork to get their latest creation off and running.

True Detective S2, Ep.1Review: Truest Grit


Creator: Nic Pizzolatto

Channel: HBO

Stars: Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Vince Vaughn

TrueDetectiveS2_KeyArt-692x10243½/5

Last Year, crime-thriller TV series True Detective became a pop-culture staple of epic proportions. Beyond Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s insatiable charisma, lines including “Time is a flat circle” were uttered more than anything the big screen offered up. Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto’s neo-noir masterpiece, despite a few bumps along the way, rightfully sat atop many Best of… lists. So, with HBO and its rock-solid fan base looking over his shoulder, how could Pizzolatto ever top Season 1’s serving of blood, balls, and brains? Season 2’s first episode, The Western Book of the Dead, promises a more conventional, but still groundbreaking and energetic, detective-thriller anthology.

The Western Book of the Dead follows four major characters prone to jumping between both sides of the law. Our central ‘protagonist’, Detective Raymond Velcoro (Colin Farrell), still reels over his ex-wife’s rape. Shifting through the Vinci Police Department’s jurisdiction, Velcoro’s loyalties lay with criminal and entrepreneur Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn). Semyon, whose business partner Ben Caprese has mysteriously disappeared, must prematurely present his light rail plans in front of his wife Jordyn (Kelly Reilly), city representatives, and varying mob connections. Meanwhile, Detective Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides, neck-deep in a missing person’s case, stumbles across her sister Athena and father Eliot’s misgivings.

This episode resembles the four main characters – as slimy, retched, and enthralling with too much to keep track of. The characters, writhing in the grit and despair their professions entail, rarely display empathetic or endearing traits. Pizzolatto, in an effort to ‘dark and gritty’ his creation to an unholy extent, develops loud, brash ciphers of Rustin Cohle and Martin Hart. Their antics and emotional flip-outs border on parody. Velcoro, threatening his son and his son’s bully before eviscerating the bully’s father, has already become a mindless creature. The thinnest plot-thread, surrounding physically and psychologically damaged war veteran/California Highway Patrolman Paul Woodrugh, adds nothing but silly, overwrought stylistic interludes.

TDBar640Pizzolatto’s blunt, pulpy screenplay delivers several confusing one-liners. Lines like “If you ever bully or hurt anybody again, I’ll come back and butt fuck your father with your mom’s headless corpse on this goddamn lawn” land with a deafening thud. Unlike Season 1, Season 2 has been handed to multiple filmmakers. Director Justin Lin, attempting to kick off a new season and live up to mind-numbing expectations, adapts to the anthology format efficiently. Lin, fusing his blockbuster-driven style with the series’ vulnerable sensibilities, is a valiant successor to Season 1’s Cary Fukunaga. Lin, however, never stretches beyond the conventional HBO-crime-thriller aesthetic. His handheld camerawork and attention to detail adds to the series’ immense thirst for nihilism and dread. The climax and resolution will leave its audience yearning for the next episode.

Though slightly disappointing and wildly all over the place, The Western Book of the Dead might not hold up on its own. However, as a “Welcome home” special, it makes for an intensifying first chapter for Pizzolatto’s beloved creation.

The next episode, Night Finds You, will air on June 28th.

Greenfield (Web Series) Review: Always Greener


Directors: Julius Telmer, Jevgeni Nicolai Busk

Writers: Jevgeni Nicolai Busk, Morten Pape, Julius Telmer, Daniel James Tenni

Stars: Ethan Thomas, Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik, Liam Graham, Claudia Cirillo

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4½/5

Review: GREENFIELD

Tech. Review: Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10 7″ Tablet


4½/5

The tablet has become one of modern technology’s most popular devices. The handheld system can hold enough power to topple governments, carry a household’s worth of entertainment, and store the average Joe’s slew of upcoming work projects simultaneously. Today, the tablet is the perfect tool for business and pleasure. The size, easy-to-use setup, and storage capacity make it a must-have. So, why do tech. stores and online hubs make it so difficult to choose?!

lenovo-tab2-a7-10hero01-1Swiping through the vast array of Apple and Samsung merchandises can turn a harmless venture into a frustrating and mind-altering battle to pick, buy, and leave the complex. In addition, Recently, Windows and other major brands have made strong pitches worthy of your cold, hard cash. I present the Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10 7″ Tablet – a device putting up a hard fight against the IPad and Samsung Galaxy. Firstly, and this should be the tagline, the A7-10 can perform almost everything the bigger brands love shouting about…all for the humble retail price of $99. Automatically, that is a win!

The A7-10 is one of Android’s biggest releases over the past few years. The exterior traits will immediately lure in the average punter. It’s crisp 7″ screen delivers more than enough aesthetic glamour to suit every function. The screen – fitting its sleek, ergonomic design – delivers on the promise of its 1024×600 IPS display for efficient profile and wide-angle viewing. Its, being a worthwhile companion from any adventure, can thank its 269g weight and 9.3mm thickness for its popularity. Its use as a kindle, mp3 player, and web-surfing tool simultaneously fits for business, pleasure, and adventure.

Thanks to its 1GB Ram, 8GB internal storage and 8-hour battery life, this Lenovo tablet is one of the most advanced 7″ devices on the market. The film buffs and gamers, the device delivers a quad core processor enables multi-tasking on a grander scale. If that was not enough, its Dolby Audio setup allows for a clearer surround sound system than any other Lenovo. Valuably, its GPS functions are ideal for any situation with or without Wi-Fi. The software, though more useful online than offline, Android’s 4.4 KitKat Operating System ups the ante for future Lenovo projects.

Apps and services like Word need help from Google Play, with downloading speeds depending entirely on Wi-Fi strength. In addition, connection between laptop devices and the tablet could fray and spatter, so make sure to back up your work. Despite minor hindrances, however, the A7-10 is the most effective and efficient tablet devices out there. Get in, before the i-Padders realise what they’re not looking at/swiping/throwing across the room in frustration like a frisbee.

Verdict: A smart, Smooth, and Snazzy Tablet.

Heat (1995) Retrospective Review: Mann-made Masterstroke


Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom SizemorE

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Release date: December 15th, 1995

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 170 minutes


1995 cops-and-robbers heist-thriller Heat, along with a handful of other mid-1990s releases including Se7en and Braveheart, helped construct mainstream cinema as we see it today. Nowadays, we roll our eyes whenever a typical heist-thriller graces the big-screen. The 21st Century’s over-saturation of cinema, TV, and contemporary art – from the past and present – has given us an undying sense of fatigue and frustration. Thanks to Heat‘s groundbreaking production, anyone can look at any heist-thriller’s poster, take a deep breath, and predict the entire plot.

Of course, most current action-thriller filmmakers owe Heat an enormous debt of gratitude. From top to bottom, Heat is an invigorating tale of broken promises and senseless desire. Based on former Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson and his pursuit of career criminal named McCauley, Mann goes hell-for-leather adapting this haunting and ballsy narrative. Here, LAPD robbery-homicide detective Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is positioned as the City of Angels’ gun-and-ego-toting sheriff. Struggling through his third marriage, with frustrated wife Justine (Diane Venora), Hanna places his work above anything or anyone else. Meanwhile, uber-successful thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and his crew – Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), Trejo (Danny Trejo), and new guy Waingro (Kevin Cage) – set up a dangerous armoured truck heist to steal $1.6 million in bearer bonds belonging to money launderer Roger Van Zant (William Fichtner).

heat1Mann, having developed 1980s TV series’ Miami Vice and Crime Story, made his name in on-screen crime and corruption. Heat, based on his 1989 NBC TV movie LA Takedown, was the Chicagoan filmmaker’s pet project. He, learning from the hits and misses, wanted to create the essential ode to LA, genre, Hollywood, and mainstream entertainment. rollicking through the 80s and 90s, Mann has given such timeless, effervescent classics including The Last of the Mohicans, Manhunter and Thief. The latter, showcasing blue-collar criminals tearing into safes, kicked off Mann’s affection for anti-heroes and vicious bastards.

So, how does this particular filmmaker make us side with safe-crackers, bank-robbers, assassins, and goons? Heat lives up to its namesake – cranked up to 11 throughout its breezy 170-minute running time. This crime-thriller never drags or strays, sticking with its core ingredients up until its confounding final frame. The duel between good and evil, solidified by Pacino’s tough, ‘true’ detective and De Niro smooth criminal, draws a blurred, intricate line. Hanna and McCauley, despite little interaction, make one another fall back in love with their respective endeavours. Hanna, committed unhealthily to the gun and badge, is pushed to the brink by McCauley’s horrifying antics. Unlike his compatriots, Hanna’s gunning-for-blood style provides the balance between brains, brawn, and balls.

De Niro, after discovering Hanna’s reputation, steps up his game to ensure on going success. He, taking out the trash after each mission, becomes a lean, mean brute becoming as much of a perfectionist as Mann himself. Pacino and De Niro, despite sharing only 10 minutes of screen time, click together as two sides of the same coin. The notorious diner sequence, bringing the Godfather Part II actors together for the first time, provides a weighty, poetic exchange between two veterans prepped for the future. The supporting cast – including Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, and Jeremy Piven – elevate this crime-thriller above similar 90s shoot-em-ups (Bad Boys, The Rock).

heatwideMann, having spent 7 months joining ride-alongs with the LAPD’s robbery and homicide department, pushes himself, his performers, and crew into the blood, sweat and, tears approach to big-budget filmmaking. His immaculate attention to detail, noticeable in each frame throughout his multi-pronged career, is an extraordinary force of nature unafraid of studio expectations. Mann hurled his actors into bizarre situations – having De Niro and co. case a real bank without warning. In fact, Sizemore – to distract some of the staff – began fake negotiations for a loan throughout the experiment. Beyond this, Mann made sure his actors became intimately involved with their characters’ livelihoods – having them converse with actual criminals in Folsom State Prison.

Here, Mann makes a point of fusing masculinity and stakes with LA’s harsh, salty atmosphere. His penchant for sharp, eye-popping visuals shines from the opening frame. His focus on gritty, urban vistas adds to the movie’s nightmarish allure. His affection for street lights, bold colours, and concrete-laden cityscapes defines his auteur-level persistence. Mann utilises diners, nightclubs, and apartment blocks to accentuate the banality of day-to-day existence. For cop and criminal, LA is a disgusting, labyrinthian maze in which only a small handful have a chance of escaping. Hanna and McCauley’s immense knowledge of LA keep them on their toes and ahead of everyone else.

To this day, Heat‘s action sequences are still seen as some of the best in contemporary crime-thriller entertainment. Mann, having developed a style sitting comfortable between Depression-era shootouts and John Woo-inspired chaos, effectively fuses his attention to detail, thrilling pace, and claustrophobic atmosphere. The opening heist sequence broke the mould, testing each actor’s limits and the possibilities of big-budget action cinema. This set-piece was pulled without CGI, flipping a top-heavy truck whilst shooting on location downtown. The banks heist, one of the loudest in recent memory, was similarly overblown and impeccably constructed. Putting the actors through three months of firearm training, this sprawling sequence unleashes its director’s range of well-constructed ticks and tropes.

500fullHeat set Mann on a hit-and-miss path between its muted release and today. In 1999, The Insider roared into cinemas. Earning a collection of Oscar nominations, its arresting political-thriller twang launched Russell Crowe’s name into the A-list. 2001 saw Will Smith earn and Oscar nomination for his searing, rhythmic portrayal of Muhammed Ali. Collateral, released in 2004, paired Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise in a run-all-night action-thriller with several over worldly twists and turns. However, as his affection for digital photography took hold, he delivered several problematic crime-thrillers. Miami Vice, Public Enemies, and Blackhat – receiving middling critical and commercial returns – put dents in the 70+ filmmaker’s reputation.

Heat, having influenced everything from The Town to The Dark Knight, is a cracking, crafty crime-thriller with one eye on the score. Mann’s signature visuals, attentiveness, and saucy action direction help pull off the incomprehensible – make us root equally for cops and criminals.

Cinderella (Home Release) Audio Review: Shattered Slipper


Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writers: Chris Weitz (screenplay), Charles Perrault (novel)

Stars: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgard

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Release date: March 13th, 2015

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Country: USA

Running time: 105 minutes


2½/5

Review:

Drive Book Review: Noir Navigator


Author: James Sallis

Publishers: Mariner Books, Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press

Genres: Noir, Crime-thriller

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Release date: 2005

Country: USA


3½/5

The connection between entertainment and reality has never been stronger. However, as our sponge-like brains absorb increasingly more movies, TV shows, songs, books, comics etc., our perception of reality has grown to resemble a multi-coloured, indecipherable blur. For example, anything featuring fast cars will push backward-cap-donning revv-heads to stain cinema car parks with tire tread and lost brain cells. Every so often, however, a creation will walk the line between intelligence and entertainment as coolly as a Buddhist tight-rope walker. Drive, written by author/poet/critic/musician/musicologist James Sallis, is one such attempt with something for book, TV, and film buffs alike.

His first critically and commercially effective novel provides pitch-perfect doses of explosive thrills and philosophical touches. This noir actioner, garnering a sequel, Driven, in 2012, is the greatest example of fusing Zen-like peacefulness and subtlety with Hollywood’s ADHD-like necessity for thrills, chills, and spectacle. drive-bvfThe story is simple enough, following a man so mysterious and collected he never gives out his real name. Our lead, known as ‘Driver’ to the reader, leads a lonely, one-note existence. His day jobs include race-car driver and car-crash-savvy stuntman. However, his night-time activities lean on the wrong side of the law. To the underground universe of Los Angeles, Driver is the getaway driver worth tracking down.

Sallis’ best-selling beach-read revels in the ghouls and demons languishing in the City of Angels. From the opening page, the narrative, characters, and details stick like grit underneath fingernails. The story follows a collection of missions Driver carries out, testing his will, guile, and patience. Each chapter is separated into dark, atmospheric, and pulsating short stories. Shifting between lonely nights – in his filthy one-room apartment and daring assignments, Driver is a likeable but ambiguous audience avatar. With only a handful of character traits (“I drive. That’s what I do. All I do.”) Sallis paints his anti-hero’s existence with healthy splashes of blood-curdling restraint.

Despite horrific subject matter, Sallis short-but-sweet style is easy to digest over a couple of hours. Known for Lew Griffin and John Turner series, the acclaimed writer perfects his crime-thriller style within Drive‘s subdued, succinct narrative. Driver is an overwhelming noir lead character. Fuelled by blood-baths and carjackings, the balance between chaos and remorse is difficult to repel. The narration, treating several moments of hardcore violence with control, is wholly focused on character over kills. Drive’s conflict, between nice guy and revenge-fuelled toughie, provides a hearty, rich concoction of noir, action-thriller, and character study.

Unlike the film, in which Driver’s decisions are influenced by his neighbour, Irene, and her child after her husband/his dad’s death, the book treats remorseless as the all-encompassing form of justice. Right and wrong become blurred, fitting into the mid-2000s anti-hero trend disgusted by the American Dream. Subverting and building upon noir and airport-read conventions, the focus on alienation, displacement, and mean-spiritedness is not for everyone. At a pacy, refreshing 187 pages, Sallis’ story is a Tin Man figure – lacking heart, but determined and spirited throughout the adventure.

Verdict: A gritty but simplistic Airport yarn.

Video Game Review: Gears of War 3


Genres: Third-Person Shooter, Sci-fi

Companies: Epic Games, Microsoft Studios, Unreal Engine 3

Platform: Xbox 360

4/5

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Release date: September 20th, 2011

Modes: Single-player, Co-op, Multiplayer


 

The Gears of War franchise, over a oddly short space of time, became one of the most influential and arresting video game franchises. Inspiring many movies, TV shows, games, and fetishistic sketches, the sci-fi extravaganza breathed new life into the third-person shooter and dystopian action-thriller formats. Microsoft and Epic Games’ love child is indeed a big, badass leader in small-screen, interactive violence. Anyone who has picked up a console is aware of everything from the chainsaw machine gun to Marcus Fenix’s intimidating physique. The third installment is a creepy and scintillating franchise capper. Its sniper-like focus on story and character elevates it above the horde of familiar dystopian-action spectacles.

The narrative, initially developed by sci-fi author Karen Traviss, pulls Fenix and his merry band of comrades – Dom, Cole, and Baird – back into the filth. After the events of Gears of War and Gears of War 2, the troupe is seen as humanity’s best hope defeating the Locust hordes. Having lost Jacinto (the last human stronghold), the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) has retreated to the CNV Sovereign to plan one last mission for mankind’s survival. During their latest rendezvous, a new, shiner enemy, the Lambent, mortally wound key officials including Chairman Prescott and Captain Michaelson.

Obviously, the simplistic, hokey story was not likely to pick up any IGN trophies or major recommendations. The raw, untainted masculinity resides on the surface and underneath. With its assortment of silly one-liners, bromantic interludes, and David Ayer-style tough-guy characters, it is difficult to expect anything Shakespearean. However, these fun, frivolous elements add to its undeniable charm. gears_of_war_3_wallpaper_by_welterz-d4r68p9The man-tears come thick and fast, with Marcus discovering his father, Adam, may still be alive and key to the planet’s survival. Several sub-plots, surprisingly, help develop its supporting cast. Cole, having been a Thrashball superstar, discovers his home town’s destruction. His fight/thrashball set-pieces darts around Gears‘ familiar gameplay. In addition, Fenix and Dom’s bond is poked and prodded to tug our heartstrings.

Of course, the visual style, pacing, and gameplay attract the gaming world’s immediate attention unlike those of any other shoot-em-up. The Heads-up Display (HUD) provides a clear analysis of progress and stability in battle. Its patented cover and squad tactics, guiding almost every action sequence, make for a more exciting and adventurous gameplay format than most. Flipping between four high-powered weapons, the player is once again charged with blasting holes into each nameless, faceless adversary. Indeed, the game’s more thrilling aspects revolve around shootout, fistfights, and explosions. The sprint-between-barricades segments, held up by its single-take tracking style, never get tiresome. In addition, Steve Jablonsky’s thunderous score rumbles throughout all five chapters.

Despite little change between this and preceding instalments, this franchise is driven by its rush-of-blood spectacle. This trilogy-capper, like the others, revels in its thirst for blood and grime. The chainsaw duels, amped up by new weapons and control functions, are thrilling, gut-wrenching interludes. From its cinematic cut-scenes to expansive vistas and bold colour palette, the game is fun to play and watch. Gears of War 3, thanks to its lengthy story, thrilling gameplay, and efficient multiplayer layout, is one of the year’s more accessible actioners. Surely, Fenix and co will be back for a fourth round of bro-hugs and bloodshed.

Verdict: A brutal, ballsy, and badass action-adventure.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief Audio Review: Cult Classic


Director: Alex Gibney

Writer: Alex Gibney

Stars: Lawrence Wright, Paul Haggis, Mark Rathbun, Mike Rinder

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Release date: March 29th, 2015

Distributor: HBO Documentary Films 

Country: USA

Running time: 120 minutes


 

4/5

Review:

Interview: Daniel James Tenni (Tino Films + Greenfield Web Series)


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Interview: DANIEL JAMES TENNI (TINO FILMS + GREENFIELD WEB SERIES)

Interview: Ruby McGregor (Babaganouj)


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Article: Working hard < Working Harder – Legendary Contemporary Directors


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Article: WORKING HARD < WORKING HARDER – LEGENDARY CONTEMPORARY DIRECTORS

Strangerland Review: Dry Like the Desert


Director: Kim Farrant

Writers: Michael Kinirons, Fiona Seres

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Maddison Brown

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Release date: January 23rd, 2015

Distributor: Alchemy 

Countries: Australia, Ireland

Running time: 112 minutes


 

3/5

Review: STRANGERLAND

Inside Out Audio Review: Mind-bending Madness


Director: Pete Docter

Writers: Pete Docter, Meg LaFauve, Josh Cooley

Stars: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black

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Release date: June 19th, 2015

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 94 minutes


 

4/5

Review:

The Cobbler (Home Release) Audio Review: Sole-less


Director: Thomas McCarthy

Writers: Thomas McCarthy, Paul Sado

Stars: Adam Sandler, Method Man, Steve Buscemi, Dan Stevens

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Release date: March 13th, 2015

Distributor: Image Entertainment 

Country: USA

Running time: 98 minutes


 

2/5

Review:

Jurassic World Audio Review: Rickety Rollercoaster


Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writers: Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas-Howard, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio

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Release date: June 12th, 2015

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 124 minutes


 

2½/5

Review:

Slow West Audio Review: Cowboys & Immigrants


Director: John Maclean

Writer: John Maclean

Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius

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Release date: June 26th, 2015

Distributors: A24, Lionsgate UK 

Countries: UK, NZ

Running time: 84 minutes


 

4/5

Review:

Interview: Sean Mackay (Black Stone From the Sun)


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Interview: Black Stone From the Sun

Taken 3 (Home Release) Audio Review: Arthritic Actioner


Director: Olivier Megaton

Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Stars: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen

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Release date: January 21st, 2015

Distributors: 20th Century Fox, EuropaCorp

Countries: France, USA

Running time: 109 minutes


 

 

1/5

Review:

Reviews: Quick Picks – The Emperor’s New Clothes, Walking the Camino & Citizenfour


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Article: Quick Picks – The Emperor’s New Clothes, Walking the Camino & Citizenfour

Article: Second Man Arrested Over Stephanie Scott Murder


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Article: Second Man Arrested Over Stephanie Scott Murder

Gone Girl Book Review: Partners in Crime


Author: Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Genre: Noir, Thriller

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Release: 2012

Country: USA


 

 

4½/5

Contemporary entertainment is peppered with tales of scorned femme fatales, slimy masculine figures, and doomed marriages. The effect of postmodernism in 20th Century literature and cinema saw artists question the constructs we had become accustomed to. Some of the biggest films, TV shows, books, and visual art works tore apart political, economic, social and cultural convention with cheek-wide glee. Gone Girl has, arguably, carried the postmodernist torch throughout the past few years. Flynn, a former Entertainment Weekly journalist turned author, has a real soft spot for tearing everything down around her. It is true – hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. However, we cannot, as much as we would like to, blame everything on tabloid media’s virus-like effect on pop-culture and ideology. So, why is Gone Girl the much-talked-about book of the past decade.

Flynn’s second book, a New York Times Best Seller about 16x over, jumps from one gender to the other in rapid succession, giving the audience at least two fully rounded narrators. The unreliable narrator trope is beaten like drum throughout this arresting page-turner. We have Nick Dunne and Amy Elliot-Dunne, a married couple wiling away in a Missourian ‘McMansion’ whilst Nick’s mom dies of breast cancer. Nick, having grown up in this fly-over territory, has gotten used to the tranquility of modern suburbia. He, now a creative writing teacher at the local university, is even fine with the nosy neighbours and homeless communities surrounding them. Amy, having grown up in New York City’s upper-class establishments, feels restless, lonely, and frustrated. The plot thickens, however, when, on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick returns home to find signs of a struggle and blood splatters around the kitchen and living room – Amy has gone missing.

gone-girl-adaptation-reviewIn the “dark and gritty” era, where post-war disillusionment draws us toward cynical, nihilistic artistic works, Gone Girl has something intelligent and interesting to say about our world. There are two forms of conversation warranted here – discussion pre and post Flynn’s big publication. Pre Gone Girl, the ascension of neo noir, crime-thriller experiment were pumped out without notice. Post Gone Girl, however, this trend has come close to overshadowing anything else the film, TV, and novel industries have to offer. The book utilises its core ingredients with style and brutal tenacity. The duelling narration bleeds over into several cold, heart-wrenching flashbacks. Nick and Amy’s first interactions – defined by diary entries telling of cute dates and explicit sexual encounters – boosts the conflict and climax’s impact impeccably. Each flashback makes us the third wheel, delving into a couple’s saccharine adventures. The fusion of bitter and sweet becomes increasingly more concentrated and repulsive.

Some chapters and pages are difficult to wrap your head around. Flynn’s pulpy prose extends beyond reason at some points, throwing in a wide array of tonal shifts and shocking revelations. As the ultimate Airport novel/beach read, the appeal is certainly on display. However, some may find this sordid, sycophantic narrative hard to digest. Nick and Amy, despite the story’s overwhelming trials and tortuous situations, are barely likeable. Flynn, finding unique ways of emphasising key words and phrases, illuminates just how shallow and disgusting they are. Their every thought a feeling is covered in a thick layer of sarcasm and irony. The world-weary “partner in crime” do indeed deserve one another. However, Flynn’s worldview reflects that of some of contemporary entertainment’s greatest visionaries.With two fingers on the pulse, each sentence beats like a well-oiled drum.

The self-reflexivity and steely reserve elicits several laugh-out-loud comedic moments. Some throwaway lines are pithy and cute, others cause eyeballs to burst out of skulls. The book’s relationship with neo noir conventions, from the claustrophobic atmosphere to the divide between masculinity and femininity, reinvigorates the once-overlooked genre. In fact, Flynn takes joy in destroying the media, the American Dream, and all first world problems in between. This uber-popular novel may become the encapsulation of the early 21st Century’s greatest talking points. It’s a twisted, visceral, and thrilling ode to crime-thriller literature immense allure.

Verdict: A steely, conniving crime-thriller.

Daredevil Episodes 1-2 Reviews: Marvel-lous Crime-Drama


Creator: Drew Goddard

Channel: Netflix

Stars: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Vincent D’Onofrio

Episode 1: Into the Ring 

Daredevil_PosterMarvel’s latest TV venture, and Netflix’s first superhero franchise, is a masterclass in small-screen action and suspense. As a crafty concoction of Law and Order and Dark Angel, Daredevil provides justice the popular comic-book character after that disastrous 2003, Ben Affleck-starring joke. This series, forced to win people over from its opening frame, accomplishes this monstrous task with room to spare. Into the Ring provides an immaculate introduction for newbies and a fun re-introduction for aficionados. I, aching for Daredevil to come into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, got everything I asked for.

Though I was not asking for too much, the show, by the divine powers of onomatopoeia, is the darkest form of TV neo-noir imaginable. This version of Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) trusts everyone as far as he can throw them. Creator/head writer Drew Goddard, along with Hawkeye-d producer Steven S. DeKnight (see what I did there?), hurls us into a Batman Begins-esque dockside sequence. The criminals are worse than bad and Daredevil is meaner than mean. Thankfully, the all-black costume fits this version of the Daredevil mythology. This universe is nothing anything Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America have contended with thus far. In fact, Tony Stark would not dare step anywhere near this side of Manhattan. Thankfully, Matt’s business partner, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), provides enough wit to balance out the dread and destruction.

The opening episode establishes a post-alien invasion version of the Big Apple. After the “incident”, seen in The Avengers, the city’s moguls and mobsters bought up broken apartment blocks from Brooklyn to Harlem and Beyond. Daredevil, facing off against the Chinese, Yakuza, and Russian Mafia, must prove himself as The Man Without Fear. His chance hits head-on after secretary Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is accused of her co-worker’s brutal murder, the brave blind lawyer comes to her aid. From there, the reveal of a pension embezzlement scheme threatens to tear the underworld to shreds faster than Murdock’s flip-kicks. From the break-neck action to the gruelling, edge-of-your-seat tone, this episode breaks the ice, and bones, with raw, unrelenting power. Despite several ‘trade negotiation’-like sub-plot details, Into the Ring delivers enough blood, sweat, and cheers to rise to the occasion.

Episode 2: Cut Man

20150428182739!Daredevil-televisonCut Man is as dark, visceral, and confronting as ten Man of Steel and one Mean Streets thrown into a blender. Picking up immediately after the first episode, an innocent boy is kidnapped whilst his father is horrifically beaten by mobsters. They want what New York’s best assassin’s have failed to claim or conquer – the Man in the Mask. Having fought off one of the city’s deadliest killers, Murdock, dying from his wounds in a dumpster, is found by emergency ward nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). The second episode is a sprawling, touching ode to Daredevil’s comic-book origins. Though this episode never breaks the mould, it proves the core ingredients  make all the difference.

From the bright, shiny opening credits, the second episode feels assured as some of the MCU’s best features. Via flashback, Murdock tells the haunting tale of his boxer father’s rise and fall in the underground fighting rings. The story, coinciding with Matt’s accident as a child, compares Daredevil’s Hell’s Kitchen with that of his old man’s. The episode’s emotional arc, though derivative and predictable, is handled with more grace and prestige than recent cinematic origins (Spider-Man, in particular). Grappling with secret identities and trust, the episode’s thematic arc never takes its audience for granted. Nor does it spoon feed the answers. As one of Marvel’s B-grade characters, the Daredevil origin story needed to be told. Thankfully, it never feels like a slog through ‘been there, done that’ territory. Temple’s sarcastic tone and honesty makes her the audience avatar. Indeed, his story and powers do resemble a grab-bag of silly abilities.

Again, Foggy and Karen’s cute dynamic provides enough balance to counteract dreariness or dourness. Their night on the town showcases a fair bond between the supporting cast. Henson and Ann Woll’s chemistry teases what may be an on-again/off-again romance throughout future episodes or seasons. However, I cannot end the review without discussing one of contemporary TV’s most exhilarating sequence. It’s a sequence overpowering the already stirring action sequences seen before. I am, of course, referring to the hallway fist fight. Constructing a more faithful and interesting Oldboy homage than the Oldboy remake, this sequence showcases small-screen prowess without any self-indulgence or gratuity. Each kick, punch, and grapple, heightened by crunches and cracks, pushes the boundaries. More so, the single-take style becomes a more mature form of immersion.

Daredevil is available on Netflix. Tune in for more reviews – Episodes 4 and 5.

Entourage Review: Babes. Brawn. Boredom.


Director: Doug Ellin

Writer: Doug Ellin

Stars: Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara

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Release date: June 3rd, 2015

Distributor: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 104 minutes


 

3/5

Review: Entourage

Dumb and Dumber To (Home Release) Audio Review: The Dumbest


Directors: Bobby & Peter Farrelly

Writers: Bobby & Peter Farrelly, Sean Anders, John Morris, Bennett Yellin, Mike Cerrone

Stars: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle

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Release date: November 14th, 2014

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 109 minutes


 

1½/5

Review:

Aloha Review: Barren Paradise


Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray

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Release date: May 29th, 2015

Distributors: Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox 

Country: USA

Running time: 105 minutes


 

2/5

Review: Aloha

San Andreas Audio Review: Dwayne the Destroyer


Director: Brad Peyton

Writer: Carlton Cuse

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti

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Release date: May 29th, 2015

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 114 minutes


 

2½/5

Review: 

Home Sweet Hell (Home Release) Audio Review: Sub-Suburban Noir


Director: Anthony Burns

Writers: Carlo Allen, Ted Elrick, Tom Lavagnino

Stars: Patrick Wilson, Katherine Heigl, Jordana Brewster, Jim Belushi

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Release date: March 13th, 2015

Distributor: Vertical Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 98 minutes


 

1/5

Review:

Interview: Ariel Kleiman (Partisan)


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Interview: Ariel Kleiman (Partisan)