Robot Overlords (DVD): Review

The Film

Earth falls to an invading force of robots from a distant galaxy. The new Robot Overlords confine all who remain to their houses, implanting them with an electronic device. Any who fail to obey are obliterated.

The feel of society, in the film hints at the classic 1984, with Big Brother watching over everyone, and ever the need to comply. However, here the stakes are higher and the control more stringent.

Ben Kingsley as Robin Smythe is easy to hate, and one finds one’s self wishing for his demise, even with his screen presence. It’s great to see Gillian Anderson as Kate, but the it’s the heroes, played by a lesser known cast, who pull the entire story together, seeking out the resistance and taking on the malevolent forces.

The plot feels very much like a video game, and will most likely draw viewers who would have an affinity to such things. There are no major twists, but the story is sure to keep you enthralled and entertained.

Would the forces of Earth band together to fight such an invading force of robotic aliens, or would be allow our usual bickering to lead to our downfall, and enslavement? Some thoughts raised by the film. Else, just marvel at the huge robots, and enjoy the carnage.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, using the space provided on the disc. There are no visible on screen artefacts, and those with the relevant hardware or software can scale the image up to a larger size, if desired.

Sound is presented in a 5.1 mix, and while it doesn’t push the use of the surround channels, it does add to the on-screen action and feel.

Navigation is simple, yet functional. There are unfortunately no additional features on the disc.

Robot Overlords is available now, to purchase, in South Africa.

The Lazarus Effect (DVD): Review

The Film

The Lazarus Effect, an interesting take on an age old fascination of man to bring back the dead and prolong life. It’s a horror / sci-fi.

A group of medical students, while trying to find a way to prolong the time doctors have to treat a patient, stumble upon a possible way to bring recently dead patients back to life. However, as would be expected, things will inevitably go wrong.

While not a story that will tax the brain by any means, the film is likely to promote some debate on religion and the ethics of modern day medicine.

There are a decent amount of “jump scares” in the movie, and even in subsequent viewings, those still manage to catch the viewer on occasion.

While engrossing, the film is a bit short, and one is left feeling cheated slightly. There is a lot more that could have been covered in the story, had the premise been pushed just a little more. The Lazarus Effect, however, is bound to appeal to lovers of horror and sci-fi alike, and it’s refreshing to see Olivia Wilde (who plays Zoe in the film) in a slightly different role, playing opposite Mark Duplass (Frank in the film).

The Lazarus Effect is an entertaining film, and one to pass the time on a lazy winter’s day.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high average bitrate, so can be scaled up to a larger screen via software or hardware if desired. However, the black letterbox bars are not a solid black. Looking closely, there are some visible dark green artefacts there. This don’t distract from the actual video image though. There was also a slight encoding issue at one point on the disc. This lasted only a brief moment, and does not cover anything vital.

Sound is presented in a 5.1 mix, however it makes very little use of the surround channels. The viewer also has the option to select a stereo downmix.

There are unfortunately no bonus features included on the disc.

The Lazarus Effect is now available to purchase on disc in South Africa.

The Voices (DVD): Review

The Film

Quiet, friendly Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) leads simple life. He has a simple job, but no friends. He does however have a dog and a cat, with whom he holds conversations (with the additional voices provides by Reynolds himself). A lovable, sensible dog (Bosco) and a rather controlling cat (Mr Whiskers).

Jerry also has a crush on a fellow worker Fiona (Gemma Arterton), and with the help of his psychiatrist, he tries to ask her out). Things however take a slight turn after Jerry is stood up by Fiona, and this sets him along a path of either striving for normalcy, or indulging the inner voices and embracing this new found thrill.

The Voices is a delightfully disturbing film. It’s tense, it’s strange, and it will make you squirm. This is not a film with cheap “jump scares”, nor is it one of those thrillers, racing against time. This starts off all sweet and innocent, much like Jerry himself, and slowly, carefully things begin to reveal themselves. It indulged the darker side of humanity, brushing up against the inner sociapath, and setting the demons free for a fun romp.

The differences between the world as perceived by Jerry and the real world, are as many as the minute idiosyncrasies. The journey we are taken on, that reveals all his many issues, is something to behold. You don’t quite realise the extent of Jerry’s psychosis until, as with those he targets, it is just too late.

The Voices is well written, well acted, and sure to put some thoughts into your mind about fellow co-workers.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, so the image is clear and stable, with no visible artefacts on screen. Those with the necessary hardware or software can scale this up, should they desire.

Sound is presented in a 5.1 soundtrack, adding to the general confusion felt by Jerry, and further drawing the viewer into the on-screen action.

There are unfortunately no additional features on the disc, other than some trailers to other releases. The disc menu is basic, yet functional and easy to use.

The Voices is available now, for purchase, in South Africa.

Call for Projects For 2016 Durban FilmMart

The Durban FilmMart (DFM) has opened submissions for projects for the 7th edition, which will take place next year. It is important to note, that the deadline for submissions has been being shifted earlier to December 14, 2015 to allow for the selection committee to have more time to assess projects, and for more time to create opportunities for marketing and promotion of the projects and film-makers at the DFM.

A joint project of Durban Film Office, the eThekwini Municipality’s industry development unit, and the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), the DFM aims to raise the visibility of African cinema, stimulate production on the continent, and facilitate project collaboration between African filmmakers.

The DFM has become an integral part of the fast-growing South African film industry and since its inception in 2010, has helped facilitate more than 90 African co-production projects, many of which have subsequently been produced as acclaimed films.

Selected DFM projects will undergo a two-day packaging and mentoring programme followed by two days of one-on-one meetings with a panel of film financiers, buyers and distributors.

The programme is open to full length feature and documentary films with Africans in key creative roles (writers, directors and producers) that are looking for co-producers, financiers, sales agents and funders. A selection committee will review all submissions for consideration, and will select 10 fiction feature and 10 documentary feature projects that are in development to participate. African filmmakers, from writers to directors, are encouraged to submit their projects by 14 December 2015.

“We would like to encourage African film-makers to take advantage of the opportunity to submit their projects to the DFM, as we have seen how valuable the programme is to helping filmmakers get their projects off the ground.” says Durban Film Office’s Toni Monty. “The networking with film-makers from around the globe at the DFM also provides opportunities for film-makers to grow their networks further afield. Over the years we have seen many alumnis secure further funding grants for their films, and their works screened at film festivals around the world. It is really a great springboard for developing projects.”

Film-makers must note that it is important that all projects must have both a producer and director attached to them.

To find out more about the DFM 2016, project submission criteria and how to submit your project, please visit www.durbanfilmmart.com

For further enquires contact: info@durbanfilmmart.com or call +27 31 311 4243

The Good Life Network – South Africa’s First Dedicated Health Channel

South Africans interested in improving their overall health will have a new trusted source through The Good Life Network, a health and development pop-up channel which will air on DStv channel 199 from 1 December 2015 to 31 March 2016.

First of its kind in South Africa, the channel is spearheaded by Soul City and Ochre Media in partnership with the National Department of Health. The Good Life Network is focused on producing and broadcasting content that contribute towards positive individual and societal health outcomes. Viewers can look forward to shows that cover nutrition, health and fitness, human rights, youth sexuality, HIV and TB, as well as consumer and gender rights.

Mr Joe Maila, spokesperson of the National Department of Health explains the Department’s support of the initiative. The heartbeat of NHI is primary health care, the strength of which lies in prevention of disease and promotion of health as well as community participation: “The Department of Health has a long history of partnership with Soul City and have supported the production of Soul City’s award winning dramas that have influenced social norms in Southern Africa and have addressed critical health issues in South Africa. The National Department of Health (NDOH) is concerned by the growing epidemic of Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) andwants to promote lifestyle changes and wellness strategies as key preventative options. Our association with mass media initiatives like The Good Life Network offer a powerful platform for health communications and our strides towards a vision for ‘A Healthy Life for All’.

Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication (SCIHD), a leading social behaviour change communication NGO sees The Good Life Network as a powerful first for South Africa, one that will highlight the Primary Health Care (PHC) approach. “The Good Life Network is not only a TV channel. It is a call to action for all South Africans to make small changes in their lives to live a healthier live. We will be inviting South Africans to pledge to live a Good Life,” comments Lebo Ramafoko, CEO of Soul City.

 The Good Life Network programming is diverse and original, including offerings such as Health Busters (breaking down myths), Food Police (helping you design healthier meals), SuperDoc (critical women’s health issues) , Village Shrink (your journey to better mental health), Cook for life (cooking up delicious and healthy African meals), Get Up Stand Up (celebrating those making a difference), Fit Life (inspired fitness outside the gym), Health Bulletins (citizen journalism combined with headline stories), Straight Up (youth sexuality) and Icheke (check your health), which will promote routine health screening.

“In keeping with the successful edutainment model, The Good Life Network will service a consumer appetite for entertaining health related content and services, which ultimately empower individuals and communities to take greater control over their own health and development,” says Krisen Pather, Head of Edutainment for Ochre Media.

The Good Life Network will be available to DStv customers on the DStv Access, Family, Compact, Extra and Premium packages on DStv channel 199 for four months starting 1 December 2015 to 31 March 2016.

Crimson Peak: Review

Following the tragic death of her farther, Edith (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring author, is left torn between two loves, that for a childhood friend or the mysterious strangers Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Trying to escape her past, she is swept away to an old house, where things are more than they might seem, and is this new place part of a warning she received after the death of her mother, to avoid Crimson Peak.

Crimson Peak begins showing the world of old where wealth, title and status were all that counted. We see a young man trying to acquire investors for his mining machine invention, and a young girl trying to make her way as an author in a world dominated by men.

The cinematics, settings, wardrobe and style are all reminiscent of that time, and a delight to behold, taking the viewer back in time to a society that is now but a memory. With all these colourful delights, we get to see a good old fashioned story of the heart, one of love, and choosing between someone we are meant to be with, and someone people tell us we should be with, due to societal norms.

Parallel to this, there is a darker story lurking, deep below the colourful façade of the dances and dinners portrayed on screen. A story of evil, death and looking out merely for oneself. There is love here too, but a forbidden live, and a misguided one, that leads down a very dark, tragic path.

Both these stories come together as wills are pitted against each other in the final act. Unfortunately, the symbolism used in the effects do pull the viewer right out of the story, opting to be too detailed, as opposed the old “less is more” credo, where the viewers imagination would fill in the gaps.

The tension does mount in the first half of the story, playing a psychological game, but the filmmakers tended to prefer the more “jump-scare” tactic as the tale unfolds.

Crimson Peak, has wondrous cinematics, ideal casting of actors who are at the top of their game. It’s just a pity that it all feels a little rushed in the final act.

Crimson Peak opens 30 October 2015 in South African cinemas.

Wild Card (Blu-Ray): Review

The Film

Action man Jason Statham is back as Nick Wild, in Wild Card. A Las Vegas bodyguard with a set of lethal skills. He lands in trouble with some mobsters, leaving him with one last play, a chance at all or nothing.

Statham doesn’t disappoint with his fights, bringing a very specific style to the action scenes. Violence and action aside, the film has a competent cast, with the likes of Stanley Tucci, Anne Heche and Sofia Vargara, to name a few.

A story devoid many twists and turns, the film looks merely at the life and choices of Nick himself. A slightly mysterious background, and the choices he has made to get to this point. From here, we follow him as he needs to make one last choice, while keeping himself out of trouble, and helping those who can not help themselves, drawing on his strict honour code. Much as you would come to expect from any action film, of this sort.

However, this is not a b-grade action film. It’s a simple story, but it’s well executed and enjoyable. One of those movies you’d enjoy on a lazy evening, when thinking is too much of an effort. A brief look at the underground of Vegas, the gambling scene, and how quickly you can get yourself in to trouble, should you mix with the wrong sort of people.

Wild Card is a short, but enjoyable ride, full of action.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, with no visible artefacts on screen, with a clear and stable image.

Sound is presented in a 5.1 mix, and makes fair use of the surrounds. It would have been great to have more use of these, but it does add to the on-screen action. For a Blu-Ray disc though, a 7.1 mix may have been expected.

There are also no bonus features on the disc at all, and the menu is incredibly basic. With the large amount of storage space available on a Blu-Ray, there is no reason to not include a few additional features, especially with a title such as this.

Wild Card is now available, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

Re-Kill (DVD): Review

The Film

Five years ago, a deadly outbreak wipes out 85% of the world’s population, turning them into Re-Ans (zombies, bent on consuming the flesh of the living). Most major cities are still uninhabitable. In those cities where there remain survivors, these Re-Ans have been contained in zones, policed by R-Division, special trained S.W.A.T teams who hunt down and Re-Kill the Re-Ans, in the hopes of preventing a second outbreak, that may well lead to the extinction of mankind.

Re-Kill has the look and feel of a b-grade, low budget horror, and you constantly remind yourself that this is what you are watching. Yet, it has a charm to it, and embraces this status, even to the extent that much of the story is presented in a form akin to a camp reality show, complete with some cheeky, yet funny commercial breaks. One gets the feeling that even the apocalypse needs are marketing campaign where people could profit.

This is an action, horror film, so big plot twists are as rare as heartfelt speeches, but it’s a fun action, horror. There is a story to speak of, and there are acting talents suited ideally for the characters portrayed. With Halloween coming up soon, this is sure to provide an evening of fun for a bunch of friends bent on the scarier and creepier side of life.

Re-Kill is a very basic story, a good premise, and a fun escape into a world that seems to hold the intrigue of so many, where flesh eating zombies could be right around the corner, and the viewer is left contemplating how they would handle such a situation.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, so the image is clear and has no visible artefacts. It can be scaled via hardware or software up to a larger or higher resolution screen, if desired.

Audio is presented in a 5.1 soundtrack, and while this is not used as extensively as one would expect, the surround and LFE channels do get a workout, adding to the on-screen action, and further drawing the viewer in to the story and events.

There are no bonus features on the disc, and the menu is very basic. This does, however, leave more room for a main feature with the maximum possible bitrate.

Re-Kill is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (Blu-Ray): Review

The Film

Many  years ago, a boy genius (Frank, played by George Clooney) is invited to Tomorrowland, a wonderful place created by the greatest  minds, free of the negative influence of what happens on Earth. Years later, science-whizz Casey (Britt Robertson) receives a similar invite from the mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy).  Run by futurist David Nix (Hugh Laurie), Tomorrowland beckons, however all is not as it seems.

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is a delightful tale, not only looking to the future, but remembering the past and present. It has a feeling of nostalgia, and a feeling of a cheerful 80’s science fiction story, with a sprinkle of steampunk. The visuals are awe-inspiring, while not intrusive, creating a setting that in contrast to that of every day life, as we are used to it.

Well cast, and directed, Tomorrowland is certainly a fun, family tale. There is a lesson under everything, in that we should be kind, and look after the word we have, with the antagonist not being too evil, but rather misguided in his quest for peace and tranquillity.

Disney has once again delivered a good, fun and wholesome story that can be enjoyed by those of all ages. The young cast are very talented, and are certainly ones to watch out for in the future. George Cloooney and Hugh Laurie are well cast, and bring a wry sense of humour to their characters.

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, that is very apt for today.

Disc And Bonus Features

A high quality disc, as one would expect from Disney. Menus are easy to navigate.

The video is encoded at a high bitrate, meaning a clear picture with no visible artefacts.

Sound is presented in a 7.1 mix, further drawing the viewer into the on-screen action, enhancing the experience.

Remembering the Future: A look behind the scenes of the film, showing some of the various locations used for the shoot, and some interviews with cast and crew. Director Brad Bird takes us through some of the locations, including some spectacular coincidences during filming with the last flight of the space shuttle and visiting the space launch platform for some man’s first ventures into space. This featurette is very insightful, and one can see the passion the filmmakers have for their story and in sharing that with the world.

Casting Tomorrowland: Some insight from director Brad Bird, talking to the main cast, and showing a little bit of their real personalities (not to mention professionalism).

A Great Big Beautiful Scoring Session: Michael Giacchino takes us through the process of scoring Tomorrowland, and working with the music of legend Richard M. Sherman, scorer of Mary Poppins, The Parent Trap, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and many more that we have all grown to love.

The World Of Tomorrow Science Hour: a humorous feature, looking at some outtakes from the show hosted by futurist David Nix. Well executed, and a fun tie-in to the film.

Animated Short – The Origins Of Plus Ultra: A small look at the Plus Ultra project, providing a bit of additional insight, and another great bonus tie-in.

Brad Bird Production Diaries: Some more behind the scenes material, and insight from director Brad Bird. Looking again at some of the processes of filming Tomorrowland, some comment by the lead cast, and a closer look at some of the locations mentioned earlier. These are rather short, but insightful, and show a side of the director that expresses the enthusiasm he has for his work.

Blast From The Past Commercial: A funny short, in the form of a commercial for the Blast from the Past store featured in the film. It provides a small amount of additional information and background to this location. Following the link to blastfromthepastsuperstore.com will take you to a Tomorrowland sub-store on Amazon.

Deleted Scenes with Filmmaker Introduction: Some deleted scenes, and parts of scenes. These were removed for the purpose of pacing, as explained by Brad Bird. While these are good scenes, it does make sense as to why they would be removed.

Other features include sneak peaks to other Disney films and attractions. One that will excite many fans is likely to be the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, presented in HD and surround, at the beginning of the disc.

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is available in South Africa, to buy on disc, from 12 October 2015.

ACT & Market Theatre Passionate About Development

The 7th annual ACT | DALRO | Nedbank Performing Arts Scholarships has bred positive efforts to groom young artists through the programme.

Apart from the main purpose of finding talented finalists who will contend for a chance to receive one of the three scholarships to the total value of R315,000, the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) & Market Theatre have brought in an exciting element to add onto the learning and development aspect of this year’s Scholarships.
Upon announcement of the three-year partnership in support of the Scholarships, both institutions have taken the relationship to another level by ensuring that skills are shared and advanced throughout the course of the programme.

At the beginning of the 2015 ACT | DALRO | Nedbank Performing Arts Scholarships’ run, ACT announced that two of the previous winners will be part of the creative team as part of its alumni programme. Having gone through the grueling process of preparing for the final show, Chantél Evans and Kamogelo Nche, will now be on the other side as they are unveiled as the first pair to work with industry heavyweights who will mentor this year’s crop of talented participants.

“It would be shortsighted not to exploit the programme’s full and holistic potential as far as the development of young people is concerned. We are privileged to be partnering with the Market Theatre that shares our passion,” says Pieter Jacobs, CEO of ACT.
Lotanang Makoti, a product of the Market Theatre Laboratory, joins the crew as Assistant Director along with a number of the establishment’s current students who will gain first-hand experience by working with the creative team comprising independent and Market Theatre professionals. The Lab, as it’s popularly known, was the brainchild of the Market Theatre cofounder and Artistic Director, Barney Simon, and has become the most interesting platform where young artists meet, engage and discuss issues affecting the arts industry and creative processes. The theatre also prides itself in its efforts to create an authentic South African cultural experience which is committed to providing the highest level of artistic excellence in all aspects of the performing and visual arts in which the education and development of a diverse community of artists, audiences and technicians is assured.

“This relationship with ACT has come at such a crucial time for the Market Theatre Foundation where we have completely exalted our effort around mentorship and giving space to emerging voices. We are delighted to be associated with such a brand as ACT has done a lot to inspire, guide and give a leg up to all deserving young people,” says James Ngcobo, Artistic Director at the Market Theatre.

The work from these apprentices will be revealed at the 2015 ACT | DALRO | Nedbank Performing Arts Scholarships finale taking place at the Market Theatre’s John Kani Theatre, in the vibrant Newtown Precinct on 12 October 2015.
For more information on the Scholarships programme, please visit www.act.org.za