Friday 6 July 2012

Barry Humphries' Farewell Tour - Review

Barry's back for a final laugh...

Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour: Eat Pray Laugh! Is Barry Humphries’ (supposedly) last touring show of Australia, featuring his most infamous characters including the ever-intoxicated Sir Les Patterson, the posthumous Sandy Stone and Australia’s favourite Dame, Edna Everage. In his prime, Barry was known for his sharp tongue and clever satire of Australian culture; now at the ripe old age of 78, after almost half a century on stage and screen, I am glad to say that Barry still has it!

Born in the 1930s, Barry bore witness to the rapidly changing face of Australia in the 1950s and 60s, which is doubtlessly where much of his satire grows from. Melbourne housewife ‘Edna Everage’ is perhaps his most renowned creation, allowing Humphries a platform to famously criticise Australian culture and language through her irreverence and manner. My main concern going to the show was whether the laughs gained from a stereotypically 1960s icon would transfer to the present day, what with the development of technology, empowerment of women and general broadening of Australian culture and self-image.

Surprisingly, it did.

The man inside Dame Edna... care to compare?
Despite the fact that my friend and I seemed to be the only patrons under the age of 30, the updated jokes and re-envisioned satire of Australiana ran over quite well with the more mature members of the audience. I particularly liked the continuous slagging off of Gina Rhineheart, the mocking of the modern aged care system and Dame Edna’s thoughts on motherhood. Having not seen a live Humphries production before, I was pleasantly surprised to be met with not only traditional stand-up comedy by Barry Humphries’ characters but also Broadway-style special effects sequences and burlesque satire.

Barry’s characters launched onto the stage to tumultuous applause and left with a similar reception. When the real Barry Humphries walked onto the stage after the finale I felt the Capitol Theatre shake with applause as the legend himself waved out to us. Hopefully this won’t be his last farewell tour…

The Bottom Line: A thoroughly enjoyable night of laugh-out-loud satire and still fresh Aussie icons. Considering this might really be Barry Humphries’ farewell tour, I would strongly recommend buying a ticket and waving a gladiola for the last time.

Tickets are selling fast for Barry Humphries Farewell Tour, so get in quick and visit Ticketmaster for shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Gold Coast and Auckland. For Sydney performances, best availability is from the 11th of July. For more details, visit

Wednesday 27 June 2012

L.A. Noire free download!

Well, not quite a free download, per say. But almost!

I reviewed L.A. Noire a little while ago and it's a wonderful game being offered for next to nothing by everyone's favourite online game store - Steam. The folks at Valve (owners of Steam) have reduced the L.A Noire download to an almost insane level: $3.74 USD! So make sure you get in quick before the sale ends.

If you do miss the sale, the game's pretty cheap anyway for the value you get... Check out the Amazon link below:

'Till next time,


Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Departed

Jack's back and he wants blood...
This movie was INTENSE. About twenty people were shot, others violently mugged and many more verbally and physically assaulted. And this movie was directed by the same bloke who did Hugo!?

This 150-minute, epic styled thriller stars Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon: quite the line-up. Their performances were great, which is especially important as they were playing characters very adverse to the kind of roles Hollywood usually dishes out for them. Even Jack “type-cast” Nicholson’s role felt like a breath of new air. Their voices and demeanor were captivating and felt very real.

I mentioned the director: his name is Martin Scorsese and I think his overall style was very well-executed: enough of the sinister to captivate, whilst still keeping at bay an over-use of dialogue to explain the plot – as is common nowadays with lazy filmmakers. Although the movie was complex in scope, I did feel that it was over-doing the macabre aspects of the film. As a result, the ‘shock’ that the audience was supposed to feel at the very final murder of the film was somewhat dissipated. In fact, I really didn’t feel that the ending was particularly satisfying; I could only help but think, What was the point being made by this movie? Only by watching films such as this does one realise how important it is for a film to convey some kind of clear, defined message: Scorsese was sending me very mixed messages.

Also, the plot was somewhat too complicated. It wasn’t that I had trouble following (as I said, Scorsese explained it well), rather that the film suffered at the hands of an entwining screenplay. The messages in the film were undermined because the film refused to ‘relax’. I think most of this issue comes from the fact that there is no one to sympathise with in the film: i.e. everyone is an antagonist. The audience is thereby not invited to engage in the film, but merely spectate, be horrified by the crimes being committed and events unfolding onscreen, but never empathised with.

The Bottom Line: Solid acting, solid direction, perhaps an unnecessarily complex script detailing overtly macabre themes, but generally a well-shot and thrillingly performed action film.

- Critter

L.A. Noire - Review

No, it's not another GTA...
Wow. A game review. What a new experience! I know it’s been a while, so I thought I’d have a look at a very interesting game from Rockstar.

This game was HUGE when it was released – but don’t get me wrong, I didn’t buy at cover price, OH NO - I had a friend who worked at the game store and I managed to snatch it up at 50% off. So after a weekend of cheapskatey-gamer-goodness I can sit down and ponder on a most curious experience. L.A. Noire is a game set in Los Angeles (big shock there) and styled as a 1950s ‘noire’ film. The story and gameplay concerns a good-hearted, WWII veteran’s life as policeman and detective, an occupation in which the he (and the player) are tasked with solving crimes by means of deduction, logical reasoning, fierce interrogation skills and thick American accents. Funnily enough, most of the voice actors actually come from Sydney, Australia.

I say, ‘voice’ actors with a hint of mistruth because the game doesn’t use just use the voices and animate 3D models to mouth the words – the clever people at Team Bondi (the co-developers) used some of the most realistic facial recognition technology I’ve ever seen – every twitch, glance and expression was displayed in perfect detail. I felt this really added some great elements to the gameplay; being a detective game, when you interrogated suspects or witnesses, you were asked by the game to make a judgement on whether they were telling the truth or not by use of previously uncovered evidence and their facial expression. You can’t do this in many games because the animation just isn’t real enough. The finer points to this technology also showed up in more subtle parts of the story – when you ran past people in the street or fired a gun in public, the reactions were genuine and made the experience more realistic. Definitely a thumbs up there.

The face-capture technology in action...
The gameplay itself was good also, but I couldn’t help but think it felt a lot like GTA, but from the police’s perspective and set in the 1950’s. The traffic mechanisms, driving system and action sequences all seemed exactly like Rockstar’s GTA counterparts. Even the ridiculous things that the people who you hit with your car scream were the same rubbish – “You jackass”, “Mind the road” and “You could have killed somebody” were some examples. But the biggest fault of the game lay not in these trivialities but more so in the repetitiveness of some of the missions. True, the story was highly engaging and the cases you were faced with were generally interesting, but the means by which you found evidence and interviewed witnesses didn’t change and the whole shebang got fairly uninteresting for long periods of time during cases. But after the first six ‘cases’, I found this happened less and less and the game started to mix things around a bit.

Generally a truly wonderful experience, especially considering the perfectly executed 1950’s L.A. open world environment and the face recognition technology. The story was awesome, I loved interrogating people and the game didn’t baby you along – If you made a bad call, didn’t catch the criminal on the run or charged the wrong suspect, the story changed and you as a player had to face the consequences. This aspect particularly made the detective aspect of the gameplay more realistic and satisfying.

The Bottom Line: An original and well-executed story meets polished and engaging gameplay – with occasional flaws. A truly unique and fun game.


- Critter

Thursday 17 May 2012

Interview: Tim Burton on upcoming film

I love Tim Burton's stop motion films - the style of his works are great, but the Gothic designs are what makes the films so extraordinarily intriguing. His upcoming film (set for a Halloween release) Frankenweenie is one that I am looking forward to with great anticipation. Here's a nice interview with Burton I found recently on

Time Burton's most recent film, Dark Shadows, is being reviewed and will be up (on this site) next week. Remember to subscribe!

Trailer: The Dictator

Ah! Another S-B-C film - it could be great, it could be terrible: I am definitely seeing this one!

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The Hunger Games - Review

Right between the eyes...
Youth entertainment is usually pretty formulaic in Hollywood: adapt a popular teen’s book series into a dramatic series of soppy films featuring various topless models and terrible screenwriting. Although I’m not pointing any fingers (at Twilight), this safe approach is detestable from an artistic perspective and I’m glad that Lionsgate’s most recent foray into adolescent fiction adaptation has been more admirable.

The Hunger Games is based off the controversial and, understandably, wildly successful book series by Suzanne Collins and is based in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic United States where children from various oppressed states (named ‘districts’) are made to fight to the death in a purpose-built arena to provide entertainment for the wealthier citizens of the empire and so the government can maintain the fear by their oppressed citizens of the authorities.

Gripping though the story sounds, it was surprisingly short (the novel itself was about half the size of the first Harry Potter book) and I found that the film did a great job of narrowing the scope of the film’s setting. Many movies fail in trying to encapsulate too much content into their message and not focusing on the simple things – like good storytelling – and this film keeps it very simple. On that note, the film does come across as a little narrow-minded at times, as though the small plot was being overly expanded. I like to call this ‘Rowling-Syndrome’, when a franchise is awaiting its finale for most of the answers.

Although based on a premise, it’s worth noting that the movie avoids becoming a ‘concept-film’ by stressing characterisation and genuine storytelling over all else. Rarely have I noticed such a strong ensemble cast portray so many contrasting individuals with the vigor that it was done with in this film. Although the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ were clear, the obvious contrast and ample screen time per character enabled the viewer to really observe each of the performances in exquisite detail.

My favourite line :-)
The cinematography was well-suited to the film and well-executed, the acting by all was of a high standard (especially the younger cast) and the screenplay was excellent, especially considering that it was adapted from a children’s novel. I’ve found plenty to rave about and can’t think of any more substantial negatives of the film so it’s time to wrap it up, I think.

The Bottom Line: A very well-executed and entertaining offering, I would definitely recommend this to anyone with the mindset for a film with a twist of the macabre.

Friday 6 April 2012

The Muppets Movie - Review

At least the poster looks good...

Remakes are one thing, but ‘nostalgia movies’ are an entirely different genre. The Simpsons, The Addams Family and American Pie have had their own attempts at rebooting their franchises or instilling an old set of characters into a young audience. Late last Christmas, Jim Henson’s most famous creation joined the ranks of franchise sell-outs the world over in Disney’s The Muppets Movie.

I’ve seen a number of Muppets films and never have I been more disappointed with such a memorable group of characters then I was with this film.

It must be admitted that the movie did yield some excellent gags, but the key issue with the film’s humour was its attempt to entertain an older audience. Cameos from Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris and The Office star John Krasinski all hinted at this but the real nose-clipper was the nature of the hilarity. It simply tried too hard. The film’s ‘campy’ theme wore out its welcome after the first few allusions and when the actors (particularly Jason Segal) broke the fourth wall it seemed lazy and predictable. Irritatingly, the disappointing screenplay failed to even bring humour to the Muppets themselves. True, there were more enjoyable moments with them than anyone else on screen, but the original charm and deviancy of the Muppets had been lost amidst a sea of reminiscence by the filmmakers. There wasn’t a huge focus on plot, cinematography or dialogue, only the characters.

The musical elements of the film disappointed me also. Although I usually enjoy musicals, the songs in this picture really just felt unnecessary and clich├ęd. Disney managed to spit out at least ten songs a film almost every year from 1937 till now and every one of them is unique and original. But with The Muppets Movie, there was an emotional song, a profound ballad, a cheery opening number, and a heart-warming finale: the usual bunch.
As mentioned, the lack of charm in the film was not only disappointing, but a direct result of the movie being for kids. Studios don’t take risks any more with children’s movies because it doesn’t always yield the best financial performance. It’s sad really, how so much of broad cinema these days is mostly just based around numbers and statistics. Instead of art, that is.

The Bottom Line: Overall a disappointing endeavour, boasting mostly mediocrity and near-misses. Although sometimes funny and beguiling, Miss Piggy just doesn’t bring home the bacon this time.


- Mr Critter

Thursday 5 April 2012

The Iron Lady - Review

Still going strong, Meryl...
If the recent academy awards prove anything, it’s that Meryl Streep hasn’t given up. I mean, why should she? She’s intelligent, very talented and beholds a net value higher than half of Hollywood put together. But although her third academy award for ‘Best Actress’ was well-deserved, this film does raise an interesting critical point: how can a brilliant performance survive within such a heavy-handed film?
The Iron Lady encircles the life of controversial British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who, although successfully winning almost four successive federal elections, was widely despised by much of the working class of England. Her extreme right-wing economic and social policies rocked the world and certainly drew up a new page in political conservative history. The film’s take on the political issues of Thatcher’s reign is somewhat disappointing. Although definitely avoiding the didactic, the pathetic thing is that director Phyllida Lloyd tries as hard as she can to be as politically and artistically persuasive as possible, but instead imparts a sense of uncertainty and a feeling that she (Lloyd) had no solid opinion on Thatcher at all.

This hindrance is particularly evident when Lloyd uses disgustingly stylised cinematic techniques to symbolically portray Thatcher’s emotions (in my opinion, you can stoop no lower than use obvious symbolism in a motion picture). Half the time the film presents Maggie as an emotional, thoughtful person and for the rest of the film she’s Hitler reincarnated. This is why the film was not merely being objective or un-biased, just hopelessly confused.
But Streep’s performance becomes all the more amazing as a result. Although the flashbacks, slow motion sequences, montages and symbolically chosen colours – yes, that’s right, symbolic colours – devalue the film itself and cause the work to seem all too desperate to make itself plain, Streep’s Thatcher doesn’t so much reason with the viewer then it does disclose. Rather than saying “Here’s my imitation of Thatcher’s persona, deal with it”, her portrayal subtly divulges a personal will and struggle of an infamous woman.

And it is here that the film earns merit.

Not only in Streep’s performance, but through the splendid supporting cast, the emotional and psychological background to Thatcher’s dominance takes precedence (as it should) in this sometimes surprising biopic. Although the director tried and failed to convey any kind of artistic or political perspective, the cast and decent writing return the film to gloriously solid foundations.

The Bottom Line: The Iron Lady is undoubtedly the Weinstein Company’s latest grab for a ‘Best Picture’ nomination (amongst its more successful The King’s Speech and My Week with Marilyn projects), but although a poor choice of director makes this impossible, a sound cast and script certainly bring to the film 
certain credit.

- Mr Critter

Saturday 18 February 2012

The Office - Review

As a fan of Steve Carrel, I was shocked to discover an 8 series mockumentary go unnoticed beneath my watchful eye. I had seen the Ricky Gervais BBC edition, but had no idea of the existence of this little number. So I sat down with my iPod Touch and watched the first  episode. Then I watched another. Then another one. Soon I was spiraling into that vortex of watching every episode until the current series. After stumbling from my dark bedroom to a house that I had forgotten about for six days, I realised that I had watched more than 64 hours of pure hilarity. This stuff was worse than drugs!
Better than OK Michael...

The nature of most American comedy television these days is manifested through the studios that create them: lazy, irritating and repetitive. Popular shows like How i met your mother and The Big Bang theory mostly rely on fans and a pre-determined age-based market to succeed. Simply put, quality becomes irrelevant in the long term. The latter shows both came onto our screens with good humour and importantly, artistic integrity: but the plots soon became repetitive and writers relied on shocks and predictable story arcs to keep things somewhat interesting. So why do millions of viewers watch these shows? Because of the characters. Even though the writing behind these shows has become cyclical, Barney (HIMYM) still entertains using his irreverent attitude and Leonard (TBBT) still acts like an antisocial goofball.

The Office avoids these pitfalls simply because of the vastness of the cast and constantly-changing roles within the narrative. The ensemble nature of the cast also protects against boring narrative arcs and predictability. Whenever I began to sense a pattern, the show spiced things up by removing characters, changing roles and, to my shock, getting rid of the leading man in season seven. Yes, Steve Carrel's character 'Michael Scott' became engaged and left the office permanently! This is where the show faced it's greatest test: would it be able to survive when the most central character on the program left? A resounding yes.

The Office perfectly executes an authentic yet side splitting, satirical mockumentary with feeling and integrity. The performances are incredibly delivered as well as heartfelt and, as it should be, funny.


- Mr Critter 

The Office airs on NBC, Thursdays 9/8c