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Film Review

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Imax Review)

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back sees the return of the quite, tough, and mysterious former military man. Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation), as Jack Reacher, is back. And this time he must uncover a major government conspiracy that goes to the highest levels of the military. Corrupt officers, private contractors, profiting from war and the black market. Those involved are being taken out, and now he is being set up. On top of all of this, there is a young girl, Samantha Dayton (Danika Yarosh) now at risk, and Jack needs to confirm her connection to him, and protect her, before it’s too late.

With the help of Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders – Avengers: Age Of Ultron), a Major in the military now framed and sent to prison, Jack is off on yet another explosive tour of fights, intrigue and double crossing. The two tough lead characters are not only up against wave after wave of criminal element, but pit their own wits against each other in a slightly humour battle of the sexes.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back takes all the exciting aspects of the first film, and gives them an upgrade, with more intense fights, bigger explosions, and steps each aspect up a notch. The film is a definite step up from the first, including a more engrossing story. Jack himself is eschewing the “young hero” and playing a more paternal role.

A fun, action packed film, with a story line that any viewer could get behind, rooting for Jack and Susan on a few levels, which helps to build the tension of each scene, and releases that in with explosive results, usually much to the detriment of any bad guys in the surrounds.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an action film, for action fans. An enjoyable, fast paced ride, with a tense and engrossing plot, believable confrontations, and an explosive demeanor. Most enjoyable in Imax.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back opens in South African cinemas 21 October 2016.

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dvd / blu-ray Film Review

Monster High (DVD): Review

Film

Based on the American fashion doll franchise, by Mattel, with characters inspired by monster movies, science fiction horror and some thriller fiction, the various characters appear in their very own origin movie, Welcome To Monster High.

Draculaura (Debi Derryberry) is a monster, living in a large abandoned house with her father, Dracula (Michael Sorich). She longs to connect with the ‘normal’ world When she has a chance encounter with Frankie Stein (Cassandra Morris), a fellow monster, her life turns in a new direction. Together the two friends have a dream of creating a place where monsters can live and learn, side-by-side. They create Monster High.

A school needs students, and Monster High is no different, so Draculaura and Frankie set about the task of finding other monsters, near and far. Recruitment is not without its trials and tribulations. While most monsters they encounter are friendly, and love the idea of Monster High, when the students encounter Moanica D’kay (Cristina Milizia), they soon learn not everyone has the same positive outlook, and desire to mingle with ‘normies’ or humans. Moanica has plans to take what she wants, and she has a zombie army to help do her bidding.

Monster High is a film for younger viewers. The simplistic animation, while detailed, with vibrant colours and lively characters, will ensure that the monsters portrayed are not frightening to the little ones. The story is straightforward, and easy to follow, with a lesson on friendship and working together. Interspersed with some funny, cute antics, and some musical numbers, the story and characters are sure to keep children enthralled. The film is also not too long in length, so that more easily distracted, or restless children should become bored sitting too long.

While not much of the story is aimed at adults, it is not excruciating to watch. Short in length, and not needing too much thought to follow the plot, this is a wholesome story, so older viewers will be saved when sitting at watching the film with the younger generation. The film does carry a PG rating, but a bit of context and supervision are always a good idea.

Monster High is a story with a good dose of entertainment, a light helping of music, and a lesson to boot. Sure to be loved by younger children, and those who have ever seen the show on TV.

Disc

Though lacking in any additional features of note, technically the disc is of decent quality.

Monster High is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

Video

Video is encoded at a high average bitrate, with no visible artefacts on-screen. Colours are vibrant, and owing to the nature of the film animation, there are lots of bright pinks and greens throughout.

Viewers with the relevant hardware or software could scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.

Audio

Audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, with ample use of the surrounds. There are a few sections with musical numbers, pushing this through the front speakers. Dialogue is clear via the centre channel.

Navigation

Navigation is basic, with static menu screens. However, there are buttons on the main menu that are merely symbols, and technophobic or younger viewers will likely struggle with these. Simply put, the triangle is to play the main feature. The others allow you to choose, in order, between, chapters, bonus feature, audio selection and subtitle collection.

Bonus Features

Ever After High: Dragon Games – The Ever After High fashion dolls appear in this feature, based on characters from fairy and fantasy stories. The short is not the same computer animation as Monster High, but relies more on the old hand drawn look. Part of the greater Ever After High series, this special sees the return of dragons and the Evil Queen to Ever After High, and leading to the most epic competition and evil scheme yet, with Raven and Apple needing to let go of any conflict between them, in order to save their beloved school.

 

Categories
Film Review

Masterminds: Review

Masterminds, the title itself is laced with a hint of humour, as they are anything but. It’s even more amusing that this is based on a true story, so perhaps we can lend credence to the phrase “you just can’t make this stuff up”.

A guard at an armoured car company in the Southern United States becomes part of one of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery, you actually have to see this to believe it.

With the comedic musings of characters Jandice (Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters, The Angry Birds Movie), Kelly (Kristen Wiig – Despicable Me 2, The Martian), David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis – We’re The Millers, Mother’s Day), Steve (Owen Wilson – Zoolander 2, Free Birds) and Agent Scanlon (Leslie Jones), we are treated to a never ending barrage of spot on comedic timing, great acting, and some eye rolling stupidity as the heist is planned, executed in what can only be described at bumbling luck, and of course the inevitable chase, as the law tries to nab the perpetrators.

Masterminds is sure not to leave any viewer lost while following the plot. Rather, instead of trying to predict anything, just go with the flow. It seems that’s what the characters did, in their own special way, although it’s a little hard to believe that some special moments actually took place, perhaps this is a window in to the world of someone special, where their next action could be anything crazy.

The film is funny, it’s a great entertaining escape, and requires only as much thought power as the characters must have put in to their own plans (which isn’t very much). It’s a funny indulgence, and although none of the humour or jokes are very high level, it does feel that some of these are lost due to the lack of subtitles in a few scenes. Whether this was an artistic choice, or a technical film error, remains to be seen, but it does cause the expected laughter to grind to a halt, momentarily.

Great acting, a surprisingly engrossing story, Masterminds is a silly escape, and some lighthearted comedy. Masterminds opens 14 October 2016 in South African cinemas.

Categories
Film Review

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children: Review

When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that reaches back across time itself, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A place where children with certain gifts are kept safe, in a time-loop, and away from an evil that seeks them. Jacob learns about these power from the residents, but soon he too, is in danger.

As an adaptation of its namesake literary works, the film goes for an interpretation, rather than a direct conversion to film. And here might be one of the first downfalls of a film that falls short in many aspects and areas. The story feels rushed and incomplete to begin with. It is no atrocious, but does beg several questions as one follows the plot to its climax.

From the aspect of viewers, this is certainly not a film for young children. The premise may sound exciting for the younger generation, but there are several scenes of violence, and horror, that will be inappropriate for a younger audience.

The plot is more or less easy enough to follow, should you not pay too much heed to the jargon about time loops. The characters are a tad under developed, with some featuring more than others, and some feeling as if there were just there to create a larger ensemble group, so that they journey of the hero would not be too empty.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, is a film that is just okay. Given the cast, and source material, it has sadly missed the mark, and fallen short of a story level it could have attained, should things have been done a bit different.

The film opens 7 October 2016, in South African cinemas.

Categories
dvd / blu-ray Review

Regression (DVD): Review

Film

A detective, Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke – The Purge, Total Recall), and a psychoanalyst, Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis – The Theory Of Everything, The Fifth Estate), uncover mounting evidence of a satanic cult, involved in rituals involved sexual abuse and the murder of infants, while investigating the alleged rape of a young woman, Angela Gray (Emma Watson – This Is The End, Noah).

Regression is a psychological thriller, a crime story with a hint of horror and the supernatural attached to it. Set in 1990, there is a hint of nostalgia attached that tends to heighten the feeling of imminent evil that is derived from some of the film’s settings.

The film projects a feeling of dread, that there is a force at work, and that any moment something evil will befall one of the main characters. Red herrings abound, the plot steers the viewers mind toward a string of diversions, twisting the story so that any preconceived predictions of good or bad, or guilt, are usually quashed in the near future.

With a few cheap jump-scares, prompted mostly by music or the sudden appearance of a character, there is enough doubt cast on whom one would think guilty or innocent, to raise the level of tension to a rather palpable level. With the cast delivering excellent performances, and a story that feels as if it would be at home in any time or setting, Regression gives the viewer pause to contemplate the provenance of ones of doubts and fears.

A thriller that uses aspects of truth, tale and ones very own imagination, Regression manipulates the user, as some of its leading characters are likely playing each other. It is this that makes it both enthralling, and tense, at the same time, resulting in an enjoyable film across several genres and sub-genres.

Disc

Technically, the disc is of good quality, overall. On the content side however, you get just main feature.

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

Video

Video is encoded at a high average bitrate. There are no visible artefacts on screen. Due to the nature of the film’s story, there are many dark scenes. In these, there is still a fair amount of detail. Blacks are deep, and no bleed between colours.

Viewers with the relevant hardware or software would be able to scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.

Audio

Audio is encoded at a high average bitrate, with a choice between a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix or a 2.0 downmix. There is a fair amount of creative use for the surround channels in several scenes, while in others these server merely to expand the on-screen action, and further draw the viewer in to the story. Dialogue is clear via the centre channel.

Navigation

Navigation is basic, yet easy to follow. There is a static poster background, with some music. Selections allow viewers to play the main feature, use a sub-menu to navigation to chapters (these are merely numbered, with moving thumbnails), and an audio selection sub-menu to pick between the 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo mixes.

Bonus Features

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc, save for a few trailers playing at the beginning of the disc for Irrational Man, Uitvlucht and Triple 9.

While these previews can be fast-forwarded, they can not be skipped.

Categories
dvd / blu-ray Review

Mother’s Day (DVD): Review

Film

Mother’s Day, that one day a year, when it’s all about moms. An ensemble of talent bringing to life several generations for the week leading up to Mother’s Day. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston – We’re The Millers), Henry (Timothy Olyphant), Miranda (Julia Roberts – Secret In Their Eyes), Jesse (Kate Hudson), Bradley (Jason Sudeikis – Angry Birds), Kimberly (Loni Love – Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2) all come together as their lives and quests for love intersect, as they stumble along on life’s journey.

With so many different issues to deal with in family life these days, from a spouse passing, so inter-racial marriage, gay couples and the acceptance of these variations by society at large, the film takes the opportunity to poke fun at the awkwardness and political correctness (or lack thereof) that people suffer each day, in a bid to hold on to their respective beliefs, or abide by societal norms.

Mother’s Day is a heartwarming story. While it does well on the subject of the need for love a bit at times, it drives its message home towards the end. A slow start, that eventually picks up, bringing a smile, and a few good laughs.

Not a laugh-a-minute comedy, with a few rather awkward situations, but viewers are sure to relate, if not in deed, then at least in empathy. The straight forward plot line leaves little room for twists and turns, but with so many characters, nuances, and chance encounters to keep track of, this is most likely a blessing in disguise.

A fun, lighthearted peek at a bunch of families, and how they try to overcome, stick together, and above all, share their love with one another. Mother’s Day is a film for those who enjoy a bit of the romantic side, as well as anyone looking for a bit of a laugh. Best of all, it’s a film to enjoy with the family, whatever their differences may be.

Disc

Mother’s Day is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

A very basic disc, containing the main feature, and nothing else. The technical quality of the film is pretty decent.

Video

Video is encoded at a high bitrate, with no visible artefacts on screen. Colours are vibrant, with no colour bleed. Blacks are deep, and retain their detail in darker scenes.

Viewers with the relevant hardware or software can scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.

Audio

There is a choice of Dolby Surround (giving a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack) or Dolby Stereo (giving a downmix of 2.0 channels). These are accessed via the setup menu on the disc.

Audio is encoded at a high average bitrate. Dialogue is clear (especially when selecting the 5.1 mix, and using the centre channel).

Navigation

Navigation is easy to understand, and use, with only a few options, namely to play the main feature, setup which soundtrack to use, or a scene selection submenu, which provides stills from scenes.

These are rather small, desaturated thumbnails, so would likely be a bit difficult to figure exactly what scene they would lead to, especially on smaller screens.

Bonus Features

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc.