FILM REVIEW: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS

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It would be far too easy to dismiss the second instalment in the newly rebooted, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, Out Of the Shadows, especially with the glut of superhero/comic book films around at present. While this film is unlikely to win any major awards it does have some redeeming qualities over its predecessor. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows may not be as clever as say Deadpool but it does turn things up to eleven as it parties with those teenage heroes in a half shell and celebrate all things turtle power!

This film is directed by Dave Green and is produced by Michael Bay. The movie actually has all of the hallmarks typically associated with the latter individual’s work. Megan Fox returns as reporter April and gets dressed up as a sexy schoolgirl, there’s lots of explosions, a transformer and a tonne of CGI action. The aim of the game is for these mutant turtles to stop the world from impending doom but it also has a few threads to its rather convoluted plot (especially when you consider that this this a kid’s film). It also has some terrible dialogue (two characters morph into animals and start eyeing off their genitalia, high-fiving and saying: “My man!”. Enough said).

The brothers in arms are all very different characters. They’re lead by the one in charge (Leonardo (Pete Ploszek)) and he is supported by the pizza-loving clown, Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), the tough-guy, Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and the brainy, Donatello (Jeremy Howard). They have to save New York City from their nemesis, Shredder (Brian Tee), who has escaped from prison with the help of a devious scientist named Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). Along the way, they uncover Krang’s (where a booming Brad Garrett lends his voice) plans to build a war machine called the Technodrome that will open up another dimension and leave planet earth vulnerable to an alien invasion. This group are assisted by two other mutants a warthog (Gary Anthony Williams) and a rhino (WWE wrestler, Stephen Farrelly).

This film has a tendency of over-explaining some things and then leaving some of the characters poorly formed or underdeveloped. But it’s fair to say that most of the moviegoers will not be going in with very high expectations—they are most likely to be there for the nostalgia trip, some flash effects and terrible jokes. On this front, this goofy, cheeky and energetic action film delivers and while it’s hardly breaking any new ground it should offer kids some fun moments with a band of brothers living in shells that aren’t completely half-baked.

Originally published on 11 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-shadows-film-review/

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ALBUM REVIEW: PHILADELPHIA GRAND JURY – SUMMER OF DOOM

philadelphiagrandjurysummerofdoom

 

Philadelphia Grand Jury still know how to party (party), and their new single ‘Crashing & Burning Pt. II’ and comeback record Summer Of Doom prove it.

The short and sharp 12 tracks are a raw and red-hot deal that segues off on more tangents than a drunk uncle, and it’s all as bubbly and fun as an enthusiastic teenager.

The trio recorded the album in a whirlwind ten days in Berlin, and often live. This lends the proceedings an energetic and rough-around-the-edges vibe in which some diverse musical styles are referenced – think of everyone from The John Steel Singers (‘Get Happy Again’) to José González (‘Better Send Someone’), and some loud and fast punk in most of the other tracks.

Summer Of Doom is a sprawling and ambitious stroll towards the sun, full of layers and textures and simple yet clever lyrics. It’s sometimes one big Pro Hart-style mess, but mostly it’s full of colourful, rocking indie, punk and soul tunes.

A welcome second trip from the well-loved Philly Jays.

 

Originally published on 28 October 2015 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/philadelphia-grand-jury-summer-doom

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DVD REVIEW: MAN FINDS FOOD

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Man Finds Food is a TV show with a simple name and an even simpler premise. It sees food enthusiast, Adam Richman in the eponymous role and telling people about some hidden restaurants that are off the beaten track and their secret menu items that locals do not necessarily know about. It is something that can only exist in America.

Richman is no stranger to making shows about food, as he has previously helmed and participated in competitive eating challenges in Man V. Food. This means that Man Finds Food is no huge stretch for him. Once again he brings a hosting style that is charming if not a little cheesy and over-the-top. The same description could also be applied to some of these oddball, culinary creations.

The DVD set sees 14 episodes that are less than 30 minutes each. This is not a lot of time to dedicate to the many American states and towns that Richman travels to, including: Los Angeles, Nashville, Boston, Texas, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas and Hawaii, to name a few. Richman does try to fit a lot in with the time he is given. The show is also unashamedly American in that it is very loud, bold and proud. This is sometimes part of its allure and at other points it is its drawback.

The presentation is really immature, zany and off-the-wall with Richman and crew keeping the mood light and funny. While this can make for an energetic, fast-paced and entertaining show, it is also one that is superficial and not very informative. In a lot of cases the chefs are not very forthcoming in their secret ingredients and techniques (which is unsurprising really) so while you do see food being prepared, you aren’t necessarily all the wiser about it all.

The food itself is larger than life and over-the-top like the program (think about something Elvis Presley would have eaten towards the end of his career and you’d be close). In good news for food fetishists there are lots of visuals focusing on perfectly cooked egg’s yolks that are cracked and sauces running like great pools of goodness. Richman also loves it when the sound guys capture a good, crunchy bit of food.

The creations range from strange inside-out sandwiches to items that were created after the menu was finalised and others still that feature tens to hundreds of ingredients. There are a lot of burgers and sandwiches as well as lighter options like quail and Japanese ramen in a fine dining restaurant. But for the most part the food looks like a coronary waiting to happen. It may look appetising but we’re not sure how your stomach or heart will feel about consuming so much richness in one setting.

Man Finds Food shares a few things in common with Charles Firth’s stories from his work with the Chaser. The show is swiftly edited, in your face and packed with visual punches. In all, this is a cult TV show that will appeal to those people who don’t mind a side order of cheese with their food programming.

Originally published on 27 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/man-finds-food-season-1-dvd-review/

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FILM REVIEW: MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS

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If you thought the teenagers from The Maze Runner were out of the woods because they escaped the labyrinth, you’re wrong. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second instalment that sees the characters grappling with a fresh set of challenges and obstacles,  and with the energy and tension raised to 11. This film does not work as a standalone piece but is a solid bridge between the previous film and the forthcoming one and while this has some flaws it is still a rather pleasant and enjoyable show.

Like the 2014 film, this is directed by Wes Car and written by T.S. Nowlin. It is also loosely based on the novel by James Dashner. The film begins by picking up virtually where the previous one left off. We meet the gang in a locked-down compound, where they have access to warm beds and showers and are free from exposure to the elements, which they experienced in the Glade. The downside is that the group’s leader Thomas (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) discovers that they are in grave danger.

The elusive and mysterious World Catastrophe Killzone Department, or WCKD, are living up to their name. They are secretly harvesting the lifeblood out of the immune teenagers’ bodies in the hopes of finding a cure to the lethal Flare virus. Thomas and his friends must escape the complex to find the right arm resistance group. To do so, they have to journey across the forbidden territory known as “The Scorch”.

The Scorch Trials are like a series of repetitive episodes where the group encounter countless cranks (zombie-like creatures that have been infected by the virus) and various other forces that conspire against them (as they’re worth a lot of money, being immune to the disease). The results are like a series of energetic, tension-filled pursuits away from the “bad guys” in what is a rather disorienting adventure at times.

This film has some good visual effects and lots of CGI has been used to create the post-apocalyptic version of the youngster’s world and its full level of decay. But where this film suffers is in its lack of character development. While it’s nice to have a lot of energetic chase and adventure scenes, it would actually be better if the audience were given a reason to root for the characters. As it stands, the supporting cast, featuring Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Kaya Scodelario (Skins) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Wolf Hall) put in solid enough performances, they really are only relegated to secondary elements and kept in the wings for far too long.

The second Maze Runner is better than the first film because it doesn’t waste time setting up the initial premise and is very high-octane, vibrant and well-choreographed. But it’s hardly the most original film because at times it borrows far too much from The Hunger Games and the Divergent series . It also fails to end in a satisfactory way. Instead, it sets up a scene for the next instalment The Death Cure,which is due out in 2017. In all, The Scorch Trials has some good elements but these are devalued by the trial that ensues in order to arrive there.

Originally published on 11 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/maze-runner-the-scorch-trials-film-review/

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DVD REVIEW: POLDARK TV SERIES

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Poldark is a TV series that will be loved by fans of Heathcliff and Mr. Darcy. It’s a sumptuous, period drama based on the novels by Winston Graham and is set in Cornwall in the 18th century. This is the second time it has been adapted for television (the first was in 1975) and it is a relevant, moody and complex melodrama.

The series is divided into eight parts and focuses mainly on the first two books that were penned by Winston Graham (there is a second series in development for the other novels). In the first episode we meet Ross Poldark (the gorgeous and well-cast, Aidan Turner) who has just returned home after fighting in the American War of Independence. But there have been some big changes in Cornwall as well as America.

Poldark had been injured in battle and now has a scar down the side of his face. He had been presumed dead so his family are shocked to see that he is in fact, alive. The love of his life, the elegant Elizabeth (played by the graceful, Heida Reed) has recently agreed to marry Poldark’s pathetic cousin Francis (Kyle Soller). Poldark is also left reeling from the death of his father and an inheritance that is in a state of disarray.

Graham has done an excellent job of creating some very complex and detailed characters as well as throwing in lots of different plot twists and turns. Some of these events are not the most surprising or unique but the story overall is very energetic and engrossing. This is really a testament to how great and classic a character Messer Poldark actually is.

Ross Poldark is a man of wealth and has a good family name. But instead he enjoys the company of the common people. He has strong values and is loyal and opinionated which make him a good man overall and a saviour to some. His godliness is best shown in his actions towards an unkempt urchin named Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) who will eventually become his wife. Tomlinson does an outstanding job in getting at the heart of her character’s transformation, from humble and filthy beginnings to blossoming into Poldark’s sparring partner and an almost accepted member of society.

The special features are disappointing with some simple shorts containing interviews with the actors and some behind-the-scenes footage being offered. These don’t do justice to the great, old-fashioned tale that the series is. The video is quite beautiful as the locations chosen from around Cornwall are exquisite, although at times these are a little washed out.

Poldark is a lush and captivating drama that will engross you. It’s a stirring story about betrayal, rivalry, tragedy, heroes and villains. In all, this is a complex and dark tale about an upstanding gentleman who would make a good role model thanks to his fair treatment of those most in need. This elegant and broody tale will leave viewers wanting more as they swoon over the windswept locations and the devastatingly handsome leading man.

 

Originally published on 10 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/poldark-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: STEPTOE & SON RIDE AGAIN

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A sequel or the second film instalment in a franchise is often not very good. But Steptoe & Son Ride Again is actually far superior to their silver screen debut. In film number two the classic rag and bone men characters (or junk dealers) are restored to the former glories of their TV show by entertaining and making people laugh with their classic, dark comedy stylings.

The film is once again written by the creators and writers of the Steptoe & Son TV series, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. The show aired from 1962 to 1974 and was a huge success and with this movie it’s easy to see why. The plot revolves around the stubborn, wicked and manipulative dirty old man, Albert Steptoe (Wilfrid Brambell) and his naïve-but-eternally optimistic and hopeful son, Harold (Harry H. Corbett) who is always employing different hare-brained schemes in order to get rich quick. 

Harold’s latest hijinks see him on-route from London to York. The journey back home culminates in the pair’s work horse being declared lame. This animal is their livelihood so Albert, the old man pitches into his life-savings to allow the family to buy a new horse. But Harold goes and gets drunk and becomes involved with a local villain/godfather type, Frankie Barrow (Henry Woolf). The latter sells Harold a greyhound that turns out to be blind. Some more bad luck befalls the Steptoes but it does have some funny and bizarre consequences.

This film is a direct video to DVD transfer so the picture and sound quality is below average. The special features are also below par as they include a mere image gallery, trailer and isolated effects tracks. The actual plot here is the set’s saving grace as this one is much better than the first film. It is also really funny and finds the right balance between drama and comedy as well as visual slapstick humour and some clever witticisms.

Steptoe & Son Ride Again offers everything you’d want in a classic comedy film and the second movie in a franchise. It is entertaining and energetic and the performances are hilarious and spot-on (even though Corbett mugs things a little at times, this really suits his character and the adventures that transpire). Steptoe & Son Ride Again is a must-see for any fan and is a comic farce and testament to the series’ enduring success. In short, it’s great.

Originally published on 3 August 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/steptoe-son-ride-dvd-review/

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LIVE REVIEW: JOHNNY MARR & FLYYING COLOURS @ ENMORE THEATRE, SYDNEY (20.07.2015)

Johnny Marr: 'We invented indie as we still know it.'

 

Should Johnny Marr be re-named ‘Johnny Young’? That was the question at Marr’s Enmore show in Sydney on Monday night. And it wasn’t because he resembled the former host of Young Talent Time but because the former Smiths guitarist oozed energy and charisma. This was definitely a case of a charming man looking half his age but playing with the virtuosity of a hardened axeman over double his age.

The support for the evening came courtesy of a young, local quartet known as Flyying Colours. The music was very layered and textual, like running your hands over some shag pile. At times this reminded people of Ride while at other moments they referenced sixties pop, garage music and Nirvana. “Bugs” – from their eponymous, debut EP – had a very dreamy quality and proved a pleasant ending to their short set.

But there could only be one man of the hour and his name was Messer Johnny Marr. The former guitarist of The Smiths who has also played with The Cribs and Modest Mouse but these days plays solo save for a tight backing band put on an excellent show. The inevitable comparisons between Marr and his former Smiths bandmate, Morrissey were unavoidable but Marr is so down-to-earth, friendly and sweet. He’s a true, English gentleman to Morrissey’s uptight, prima donna diva.

The show started with some crazy, computer game-like sounds that marked “Playland”, as the audience was launched “Again and Again” into Marr’s rock ‘n’roll fantasy camp. This was followed by an excellent cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” before the band started alternating between songs from Marr’s solo records, The Messenger and Playland. In “Easy Money”, Marr took a page out of Franz Ferdinand’s book by offering us some very danceable guitars that were also catchy. “New Town Velocity” seemed a curious choice given our close proximity to Newtown and was the antithesis of the former and was instead, a broody rock song.

During “The Headmaster Ritual” by The Smiths, the audience were enchanted by a heady mix of scatter-gun guitars and melodic guitar riffs. It was a very similar feeling that Marr also conjured up in “Generate! Generate” in all its wordsmith-like glory. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” was another favourite for the crowd, as was “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. But for this writer, it was Marr’s take on Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” that was sheer bliss. This self-described “Disco song from Manchester” was excellent and while Marr’s voice didn’t resemble his bandmate, Bernard Sumner’s, he definitely got into the spirit of it all.

Johnny Marr was the quintessential English gentleman at his Enmore show and his encore featured not one but two Smiths classics, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” and the remarkable “How Soon Is Now?”. Marr’s solo numbers are strong and they were performed well but there was no denying that the audience loved the slices of nostalgia that came from hearing The Smiths’ covers live. In all, this was an exceptional show from a good man and a wonderful guitarist. He promised he’d be back next year, but not before he had proven to be this charming man and artist.

Originally published on 23 July 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/sydney/johnny-marr-flyying-colours-enmore-theatre-sydney-20-07-15

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FILM REVIEW: DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON

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Before the National Lampoon lent their name to some terrible straight-to-video films they were ground-breaking. This comedy institution started as a spin-off magazine; graduated to books, radio and stage revues; and eventually yielded cult comedy films worthy of inclusion in Hollywood. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a funny and energetic documentary that celebrates the riotous history of this brand.

The film is directed by Douglas Tirola and is very well put together. It expertly goes through the background history and chronologically tells the group’s story. There is some swift-pacing, modern-day talking head interviews and lots of actual content from the National Lampoon- like fun photographs taken from the magazine, animations of some of these jokes and snippets from their live revues and radio programmes. Some of this footage is rare or has never been seen before and it shows how fearless, creative and funny the group were in their heyday.

The National Lampoon started after three Harvard graduates named Doug Kenney, Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman decided to do a spin-off of the Harvard Lampoon, the world’s oldest humour magazine. The founders were all very different characters and a lot of the magazine’s look and feel is attributed here to the late Kenney, a renowned workaholic with an intuitive sense for comedy. Many of the surviving writers, editors, comics and animators associated with the National Lampoon are interviewed for this film and they prove to be candid and naturally hilarious.

The alumni of the National Lampoon reads like a who’s who of comedy with: Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and John Belushi just three actors to have appeared in their works. The writers meanwhile, boast no less than P.J. O’Rourke, Saturday Night Live’s Michael O’Donoghue, and Simpsons’ producers, Mike Reiss and Al Jean. The group’s biggest fans include: Meatloaf, Kevin Bacon, Judd Apatow, John Goodman and Billy Bob Thornton and they appear here and offer their praises.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon may not be the most comprehensive documentary but it is still an excellent look at the phenomenon that was the National Lampoon. It threads together lots of disparate elements and does this very well. It mostly revels in the glory days of the brand but it is also a cautionary tale of the destructiveness of fame and fortune. This film is ultimately a fun ride through sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It is also a colourful and funny as it tracks the group’s subversive beginnings through to its shocking irreverence to eventually show the influential institution it became. In all, it’s a smart film that fits its creative and clever subject matter.

 

Originally published on 8 June 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/06/08/sydney-film-festival-review-drunk-stoned-brilliant-dead-the-story-of-the-national-lampoon-usa-2015/

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DVD REVIEW: SILICON VALLEY SEASON 1

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Silicon Valley is a TV show that takes a byte out of life in that American, computer wonderland, showing various male geeks working at large technological companies. The series is by Mike Judge (Beavis & Butt-head, King of The Hill) who actually worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley in the 1980s. This TV show is a satirical comedy-drama that is subtle, energetic and authentic.

The show stars Thomas Middleditch as Richard Hendrix. He is a shy computer programmer who gets easily flustered, especially in social situations where he is rather awkward. He designs a system called Pied Piper which allows users to check whether the music they’ve created has infringed on an existing copyright. That is a rather dull idea but what is more appealing is the data compression algorithm he designed as part of this because it has far greater possibilities.

This algorithm manages to fuel a bidding war between Hendrix’s boss Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) at Hooli (a company not unlike Google) and a venture capitalist named Peter Gregory (the late Christopher Evan Welch). Hendrix has no business acumen but he does have dreams of being the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates so he decides to start a company with the latter’s money and he recruits his quirky roommates along for the ride. They are the Satanist, Gilfoyle (Martin Starr (Freaks & Geeks), the acid-tongued Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and the well-meaning, Big Head (Josh Brener).

This group all live in a house that is owned by the arrogant and outspoken, Erlich (T.J. Miller) who sold his start-up company for some money a few years ago. But these days he’s quite happy to sit on his laurels and exploit his tenants by taking 10% of the earnings made from their passion projects. As these techno-geeks have no business plan or experience, they also recruit the worldly, Jared (Zach Woods (The Office (US))) to help. The episodes look at everything from having to make a deal with another company in order to retain their organisation’s name to dull parties by large corporate entities (which Kid Rock and Flo Rida make cameos and perform at) to designing a company logo that won’t offend people.

Silicon Valley is a funny and vibrant show. Like Frontline and The Office, it satirises the work environment and makes some very clever observations. Across the eight episodes in season one we see these young whiz kids wanting to succeed like other geeks have even though they’re only starting out and things are never simple. In short, this is an insightful and smart character-driven comedy that will appeal to wider audiences than just that select few who can program in five different languages.

 

 

Originally published on 27 May 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/05/27/dvd-review-silicon-valley-season-1-usa-2015/

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FILM REVIEW: SPY

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A cat lady and a single mother are not the kinds of characters that immediately spring to mind as protagonists in a spy film. But Spy is no ordinary, espionage film. This action-comedy is much smarter than other movies that fit this genre and it’s a hell of a lot sweeter too.

Spy sees writer and director, Paul Feig once again teaming up with the grossly underrated Melissa McCarthy. The latter carries much of this film, playing Susan Cooper or an unassumingly, shy anti-hero. Cooper is taken away from her desk job as a CIA analyst and thrust into a shadowy underworld as a field agent. Cooper is given this challenge (which she rises to) because an unnamed informant reveals the identities of all the field operatives from this intelligence agency.

Bridesmaids’ Rose Byrne also appears here playing a wealthy villain named Raina Boyanov who is looking to sell a nuclear bomb to the highest bidder. Cooper is given the job of tracking and reporting on this evil bombshell but the pair also develop a rather odd relationship. This means the two rib each other over their appearances with often funny results and moments that occasionally resemble a female bromance.

What action flick would be complete without Jason Statham? In Spy he plays a CIA field operative who is keen to see Cooper fail. He may begrudge Cooper her job but she is the one who gets the last laugh thanks to some effortless-looking comedy (there have been reports that some of the jokes were improvised on set which means all the actors here are naturals). Jude Law’s character meanwhile, is the opposite of Statham’s one insofar as the younger heartthrob plays a smooth, James Bond-like character and Cooper’s crush. Allison Janney, English comedienne, Miranda Hart, and rapper, 50 Cent also have cameos.

Spy sees Paul Feig with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek with this mad-cap romp and adventure that spoofs the espionage genre. The film is a funny and energetic parody that sees some goofballs and unsung heroes fighting for recognition, often in glamorous destinations and with hilarious results. Spy does contain some expected things, like explosions, shoot-outs and double-crosses but it also manages to endear and entertain, meaning it feels fresh and above all, exciting.

 

Originally published on 19 May 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/spy-film-review/

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