Fast & Furious 6 movie review

“This is different. We’re not dealing with cops. We’re not dealing with drug dealers. This a whole different level.”

The vehicular action scenes exemplify this. They’re the most ambitious and thrilling of the franchise thus far whether racing through London streets or battling a tank on a Spanish freeway or a plane on the longest runway ever committed to celluloid.

The overall entertainment value is dragged down slightly by the unnecessary Braga and laborious Letty subplots though, as well as the multiple Gisele in distress moments (it should have been gender flipped with Gislele saving Han which would have made the final sacrifice much more impactful), meaning this Furious sixquel is ultimately inferior to its more streamlined Fast fivequel.

Not all superheroes wear capes. Some drive American muscle and import cars.

Wellington Paranormal seasons 1-3 review

Season 1
“It’s Wellington. It’s scary.”

Overview: A spin-off from the WWDitS movie with the clever Jemaine Clement and talented Taika Waititi the brains behind the concept and series, this opening six episodes are as stuffed full of subtle, dry, sardonic humour as they are paranormal entities.

Most of it hits the mark, only episode 2. Cop Circles disappoints. My favourite parts of each episode irregardless of entity of the week shenanigans is undoubtedly the running jokes concerning Sergeant Maaka’s briefings and his ever-evolving security entry system into his secret office. Genius.

It’s absolutely beyond me how Officer Kyle (“The E is silent”) Minogue ever qualified for the police force, but I, for one, am glad he did because his buffoonery is the chief source of amusement for me.

Episode highlight: It’s a toss up between E3. Things That Do the Bump in the Night and E5. A Normal Night but the sheer range of creativity in E5 just pips it for me. Vampires. Clowns. Goths. Haunted plastic bags. “It’s abnormal.”

Season 2
“I don’t really like ghosts. I don’t even like eating cauliflower. It sort of reminds me of ghost broccoli.”

Overview: Minogue continues to be the standout character amongst the Wellington Paranormal unit, although O’Leary’s deadpan monotone delivery and perennial politeness is a source of much mirth too.

The effects this season are impressive and keep up with the more ambitious and expansive paranormal activity the special unit has to contend with, including the aquatic taniwha in E1 and the ghost cop in E3.

Equally welcome is the expanded role for Parker who brings a flustered Murray from Flight of the Conchords energy to proceedings.

Episode highlight: E5. The Haunting of the 85 Nissan 300 Zx is absolutely hilarious in its askewed Stephen King-esque ridiculousness.

Season 3
“I’ve been reading up on blogs about blobs.”

Overview: Speaking of Rhys Darby, he shows up for an always welcome cameo in E2. Te Maero as his lupine WWDitS character, Anton. This performance left me with one burning question though, just when is the obvious casting as Hugh Jackman’s schlubby brother going to materialise?

I don’t know if I just didn’t notice it before or whether it’s an addition for S3, but I absolutely love the revamped and metamorphosing newspaper headlines for the opening credits. Highlights include: Vampires ‘should wear masks’ says PM; Airbnb ghost leaves negative feedback; divorcee ghost haunts half of ex-husbands house; All Blacks pick werewolf: can only play once a month; Brooklyn dad blames farts on ‘haunted pants’. 

Parker continues his ascent to P.U. MVP. His role in resolving the case in E3. Fear Factory is particularly hilarious.

Episode highlight: As is his role in the season opener, The Invisible Fiend. When you can see him, that is. The whole episode is operating at another level, especially the Bruce Campbell level of acting against nothing by both Minogue and O’Leary.

“We strongly advise that the public leave the crime fighting to the professionals.”

“Yeah. Or us.”

TMNT: Jennika comic review

Jennika has been a welcome addition to the TMNT family. This is her first standalone comic and continues IDWs successful contemporary run.

Brahm Revel’s five-part What is Ninja? mini-stories that open this collection offers two history lessons simultaneously: that of the ninja and of young Jennika. His art is stylised and almost retro in its depiction of the Turtles but has a Sean Phillips sense of immersive underworld too.

The main story sees Jennika reforming a fractious relationship with some nefarious characters from her past in a search for a mutant “cure”. Revel’s characterisation and plot is compelling but I’m not a fan how he draws legs – they’re too skinny, especially when it comes to the more built or stocky mutants.

The collection draws to a close through three short stories all written and drawn by Ronda Pattinson in varying art styles that provide additional layers to Jennika’s character. Wreckreation is fizzy and fun, What if? proves Jennika is exactly where she should be whilst Time and Again shows what she’s really made of.

As with the rest of the collection, these are ultimately inessential but also character-enriching.

J.E.N.N.I.K.A. power!

The Quatermass Xperiment movie review

Essentially Mary Shelley’s Event Horizon, there’s a lot to like about this early Hammer Films horror sci-fi hybrid.

Brian Donlevy’s Quatermass is not one of them. He’s brusque and haughty and a difficult character to like.

Richard Wordsworth’s pointedly-named Victor, however, is a triumph of concept, performance and make-up design.

The pacing is a little off with the last thirty minutes the most interesting by far but arriving around thirty minutes too late.

“Gonna start again…”

Lady Snowblood movie review

Even if you didn’t know, watching this is akin to playing QT Kill Bill bingo:

– Chapter titles
– Animated flashbacks
– Zoom into close-up on eyes
– Geysers of blood
– Anachronistic music choices
– Use of freeze frame 
– Hard cut of the non-diegetic score or soundtrack
– Nonlinear narrative
– Assassin vs multiple assailants finale
– Subliminal memory flashes
– Revenge-seeking daughter
The Flower of Carnage by Meiko Kaji

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that postmodern filmmakers can pay to greatness.

TMNT: Reborn Vol.1 comic review

Man, I love reading the Turtles!

This relaunch starts slow and sombre but considering the events of the previous climatic collection that’s entirely appropriate. In fact, this new set-up and status quo has echoes of Batman No-Man’s Land, as NYC is left irrevocably altered after the events of City at War.

Written and drawn by Sophie Campbell, this new volume presents the mutants we know and love accurately but sometimes the dialogue they use is a little on-the-nose and expository. I really like their interactions and how they collectively come back together however. Their new-found purpose and direction is something previously unexplored (as far as I’m aware) and offers some opportunity for real rich character dynamics and development amidst the ninja action.

Of course, there’s a whole host of new mutanimals to share this adventure (in a similar move to Magic Town in the Angel and Faith season 10 comic run) and Campbell brings them to anthropomorphised individuality wonderfully. Obviously, I’m a fan of the already existing Alopex and Jennika, but little albino turtle Lita is totally a heart and scene stealer.

At times it is a little difficult to tell the Turtles apart when they’re without their colourful bandanas, so it will be interesting to see how the comic deals with this moving forward into the future (reference intended).

Whatever happens, I’ll be reading.

Fast Five movie review

What do you get when The Rock meets indestructiDom?

Action cinema at its most octane and muscular.

If TFatF is an entertaining carbon copy of Point Break, then this fivequel is the closest this land-based series gets to matching Bigelow’s radical perfection.

Putting illegal street racing into its taillights in favour of elaborate heists was a wise move, as was the reinstatement of several família from movies past, most obviously Gal Gadot’s Gisele and Sung Kang’s Han.

A variety pack full of potent action scenes ranging from train jacking to favela rooftop foot chase to a wall-breaking street brawl to a street shootout that measures up to Heat or Sicario, it saves the best for last as Dom’s Nine hit the Reyes controlled police station (surely a Hard Boiled nod, no?) and steal his loot-filled safe, literally, in a heist and set piece so arrogant and audacious and destructive it makes any Michael Bay freeway chase look positively tame by comparison.

All this adds up to a fast way to five stars.

Darkman vs Army of Darkness comic

What do you get when you multiple Sam Raimi by Sam Raimi? This comic.

As you may predict, this is a comic of excess. A four issue limited series, this is set in the Darkman universe and sees Ash, “a legendary hero who can be called forth in time of great need”, is brought through the dimensions to help out after the Army of Darkness is accidentally summoned by Julie and her assistant Brynne and Julie is possessed by the Queen of Darkness. 

A chaotic crossover, this represents both characters well. Ash is smart mouthed but dumb brained and a fair representation of how the character is depicted after his big screen triumvirate. I’ve only ever seen the first Darkman movie, but this comic depicts his innate heroic sense but depth of darkness within.

Roger Stern and Kurt Busiek’s story doesn’t do anything especially surprising but offers up enough nods and meta moments amongst the hordes of action scenes to satisfy. Fry’s art is atypical of this era in its original character depiction in that some of the panels containing female characters are overly provocative and pneumatic presented at times. He also struggles to always keep spatial sense of the varied battlegrounds whether it be a library or atop an Aztec-inspired pyramid. His rendition of both Darkman and Ash are on the money though.

Overall, this is an inessential but entertaining read that would surely satisfy either/or/both franchise fans.

Mare of Easttown limited series review

If I was to explain Mare of Easttown in a nutshell, I’d describe it as Gone Baby Gone meets Sharp Objects.

So, yeah, I kinda dug it. Like. A lot.

This really is Kate Winslet’s show. She stars as the titular Mare, aka Detective Sheehan, and inhabits the role so completely you soon forget she’s English acting royalty. Her performance is equal parts physicality and internal emotion which is often writ large over her face through expression or let rip through flawlessly accented riposte. She also exec produces and, if cultural soundbites are anything to go by, truly wore the pants in the creative relationship rejecting any form of glamorisation in character portrayal of digital tampering.

She is surrounded by other talented people though from supporting cast members (most notably Jean Smart, Angourie Rice and Evan Peters) to creator and writer Brad Inglesby who keeps the twists coming whilst maintaing internal logic and continuity to director Craig Zobel who, akin to Cary Joji Fukunaga for True Detective S1, helmed every episode of the season giving it a consistency that other shows struggle to achieve. 

As with all shows of its mystery ilk, the fun is in trying to solve the case(s) as you watch along and this one is skillful in its misdirection and potential suspects. Arguably, not every character arc is tied up in a neat bow (Jack Mulhern’s detestable Dylan, for instance) but come the end of the emotional eight episode arc there’s more than enough to scratch that investigative itch and ensure you won’t forget this prestige TV, it’s Easttown.

I’ll be [pleasantly] surprised if I see anything else as good as this on the goggle-box this year.

Footnote: it was only whilst watching episode 7 that I solved the clever word play of the title: Mare/Mayor of Easttown.  

The 40-Year-Old Virgin movie review

Steve Carell
Catherine Keener
Paul Rudd
Seth Rogen
Elizabeth Banks
Leslie Mann
Jane Lynch
Kat Dennings
Jonah Hill
David Koechner
Carla Gallo
Kevin Hart
Romany Malco

It’s a scientific impossibility to amass a cast as talented as this and not strike the funny bone.

So, for all the dated and distasteful moments that fall flat there’s as many timeless and hilariously improvised ones too.

“I hope you’ve got a big trunk… cos I’m putting my bike in it.”