The Gaff #010: Cinematic Games & Our Gaming Histories

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We discuss cinematic games, which leads to our gaming histories through consoles, handhelds and computers where we name check some our favourite games and moments.


Sams tells us about creepy supernatural doll horror, The Boy. We muse over whether The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan has what it takes to be a final girl. Sam talks about braving more horror films lately including classics Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. We also refer to The Conjuring, The Evil Dead, The Loved Ones and The Tunnel.

Luke’s been finishing out the seasons for a slew of superhero shows and calls out the Ultron reference in Legends of Tomorrow, as well as the coincidental plot point of using holograms in both Agents of SHIELD and Legends.


Our first episode revolved around the much-maligned first trailer for Ghostbusters. This week we talk about the much better second trailer and speculate about the plot. Will it be a Star Wars: The Force Awakens type deal? Will they give us Vigo in the sequel? Can Luke sell Sam on Star Trek Beyond which also had a controversial first trailer?

Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG gets a new trailer, complete with CGI Mark Rylance from Bridge of Spies. We’re also intrigued by the trailer out of Cannes for Olivier Assayas’ next film with Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper. Plus Sams has a secret trailer to share with Luke.


What starts as a discussion stemming from Sam playing Uncharted 4 on cinematic games, evolves into an overall recap of our gaming histories. We cover the consoles, handhelds and games that meant the most to us and our gamer status today. It’s not too specific, but fans should enjoy hearing about our interests in the gaming sphere.

While we name check a number of individual titles and franchises, we also cover a number of gaming topics: evolution of graphics and its effect on narrative, handheld vs console, adventure games, open world sandboxes, annual franchise instalments, first-person shooters, LAN parties and online multiplayer, emulation, immersion, soundtracks, building a gaming PC, nostalgia, and the updated Playstation on the horizon.


If you’ve got mad Photoshop skills, mock up a game case or gameplay still for what Sams and I would get up to in digital form, and send it through. We’ll showcase it on our social media and give you a shoutout on the show.


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Sydney Film Festival Review: Mekko

An inspired blend of hardboiled neo-noir and Native American mysticism, it’s hard not to admire the ambition on display in Sterlin Harjo‘s Mekko. The film sees the titular ex-con struggle to survive on the streets of Oklahoma City only to find that while modern life is very different to that of his ancestors, the threats presented by malevolent spirits linger on.


When it comes to the genre’s history of brooding protagonists, Mekko finds himself a natural fit. Mekko (Rod Rondeaux) himself casts an impressive shadow with his feathered-cap further distinguishing his silhouette. Beyond this visual, however,  he’s a bit of a muddled allegory. As a character, he’s a challenge to pin down and it’s never clear if he’s being written as a representation of the struggles of minorities, ex-cons, the homeless or the all-too-common combination of all three. Rondeaux’ performance conveys the idea that there’s a lot of nuance to this character under the surface. Unfortunately, that complexity never feels adequately tapped by the film’s script.

Likewise, Mekko’s script works to emphasise the humanity of various characters that Mekko encounters but more oft than not, performances are too mechanical to match the material really gets fleshed out to the same degree. The only real standouts here are Mekko’s friend Matt (Scott Mason) and the film’s antagonist (Zahn McClarnon) for whom sociopathic silence does most of the work.

As a result, it always feels like something is off in the film’s dialogue and things feel like they’re unfolding far slower than they actually are (though if the crisp 84-minute runtime doesn’t reflect that). Even so, the film’s final confrontation felt like it was all over too quickly and it gallops towards the credits seemingly without a thought for the consequences of Mekko’s actions. Put simply, the film’s efforts to bring both style and substance to the table trip over one another and while the results are interesting to behold, they never quite reach their potential.

Harjo’s direction and cinematography are similarly at odds. Locations ripe for the noir-treatment are instead shot through a realist lens. Meanwhile, more mundane moments are handled into a darkly atmospheric fashion. A reserved and ominous soundtrack does salvage the film somewhat but it can only do so much. Taking each individual element at work, Mekko is easy to appreciate. However, its impact is never extends beyond the sum of its parts. 


As a film, Mekko‘s heart is in the right place. As a character, Mekko is a cipher – and a lack of understanding of him quickly unravels the film’s better qualities. The film’s audacious efforts to tie together the struggles of Native American authenticity with the tropes of neo-noir thriller are admirable. Unfortunately, the results don’t deliver.

Mekko is showing at this year’s Sydney Film Festival. More information and screening details available here.

Film Review: Warcraft: The Beginning

Warcraft is a film that’s taken a hell of a long time to get made. The project has changed directors several times (once residing in the hands of Sam Raimi) but after ten years it’s finally made its way into cinemas for fans and newcomers to the franchise to see. However, video game films have a sketchy track record at best and even under the guidance of director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) there’s a lot that could go wrong.


Presumptively-titled Warcraft: The Beginning, the film kicks off by introducing us to the orcish side of the franchise’s central conflict. Faced with an uninhabitable homeland, the orcish warlock Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu) uses dark fel magic to tear open a portal in time and space for them to invade the lush and peaceful world of Azeroth. Even at the prologue-stage, this movie goes pretty all-in on the heavier lore right from the get go in a way that’s both intimidating and kind-of exciting.

Faced with a string of brutal defeats against an unknown enemy, the King of Stormwind (Dominic Cooper) enlists Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) to summon the Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) and learn the source of the troubles. Meanwhile, back on the Horde side of things, the orcs struggles with growing dissent between traditionalist and radicalist factions in their midst.

As mentioned previously, there’s a lot of world-building happening in this movie – and we haven’t started on the appearances by elves, dwarves and murlocs. Still, Durotan (Toby Kebbel) acts as an effective anchor for the orcish side of the film. Like the human characters, he’s driven by a sympathetic desire to protect his own over any hunger for battlefield glory. Kebbel’s performance is very much the most in-tune with the material here, offering up a character who feels right out of the games. If anything, it’s the humans of Warcraft that are the weakest part.

Though it’s definitely worth acknowledging all this setup presents a steep learning curve for newcomers, the payoff is that the final film doesn’t always play out the way you might expect a traditional fantasy story to. The orcs aren’t depicted as a faceless horde of monsters, the good guys don’t always win and, in a surprising move for the start of a franchise, people die. Foster’s Medivh feels a little underdeveloped, but that aside the plot hangs together about as well as any other modern franchise film. If Jones’ goal with the film is to introduce us to the world of Azeroth through the first contact between orcs and humans, it’s hard not to call it adequate.


The exaggerated faux-edginess of the source material remains mostly intact – for better or worse – but the film isn’t afraid to have fun with it. Interactions between Garona (Paula Patton) and the human cast yield some unexpectedly humorous moments and there’s one particular use of magic that comes so far out of left field it’s hard not to smile and enjoy the moment. There’s a geeky weirdness here that feels faithful to the franchise.

The designs for the orcs themselves is mostly handled well – though Patton’s Garona feels out of place as the sole non-CG orc. At its best, it feels on par with something like Avatar and the battle scenes often feel right out of the games. On the other hand, the special effects for the magic in the film are a bit more uneven. When eyes start to glow and lightning sparks from the fingertips of characters, it becomes hard to the film take seriously. The other big weakness of the film is the pacing. The first half hour is a roller-coaster ride of big visual moments and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it world-building. However, the film drops off sharply after that. It becomes mired in the melodrama of its human cast before settling into a relatively comfortable pattern of building and breaking tension each time the heroes of the two sides come into contact.

Still, it’s hard not to have at least a little fun here. The film’s thematic focus on the corruption of power and the humanity of war occasionally feels a little self-serious – but it does feel true to the source material. What’s more, it gives the film somewhat of a defined identity that separates from other fantasy blockbusters. 


Warcraft isn’t going to go down as one of the best fantasy films ever made. It’s not going to win awards for its performances or script and it’s far from the best action movie to grace screens over the last twelve months. As much as I like the Warcraft franchise, its insatiable lust to be cool occasionally veers the material off into strange, cartoonish and frankly-dumb directions. However, I’ve often enjoyed the franchise in spite of this characteristic and it’s the replication of this quality that makes the film feel like a breath of fresh air and kind-of exactly what a Warcraft movie should be.

It’s to the credit of Jones that a mainstream blockbuster based on Warcraft feels this way and as a long-time fan of the franchise, it’s hard to imagine a film truer to that material than this one. Warcraft has always played with big ideas just as likely to turn out inane and ridiculous as they are compelling, and the film feels the same way. It lacks the effortless-grace of Lord of the Rings and the grand scale of Game of Thrones but Warcraft: The Beginning feels like, if nothing else, a foundation upon which something really special could be built. In the meantime, the film makes for an ambitious experience even if it strains (and ultimately buckles) under the weight of its own mythology. 

The Gaff #009: Stan’s Wolf Creek

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We substitute our regular weekly rewind segment to share our excitement over the Sydney Film Festival programme being revealed. We give you a taste of a few films, running through our picks, films we decided not to see, and which films both boys are seeing.

Luke plays Nashen’s real voice for Sam, and the boys dream of becoming fast friends with the Festival Director. Sam makes the prediction of 10 more films coming out of Cannes [edit: Whoa! Spot on!] and tells us about seeing the film schedule while at work.

Sam’s coming at this festival as his ‘learn to swim’ moment, whereas Luke has been going for the past few years. We won’t list all the titles here, check out the episode. We’ll have potential reviews and discussion coming in the Festival episode/s ahead once we decide on the format. Maybe we’ll record on the road.


Well, we sort of cover some viewing. During the trailers segment, Sam and Luke spontaneously talk about the genius of The Knick. Sam’s only seen one episode so far, but we have a lot to say about the production design, the music, the medical gore, Soderbergh’s retirement, picking up the title on sale, the possibility of a third season and comparing it to Fargo.


Yoga Hosers looks to be quite light in tone, which we expected from Smith’s Opera House talk, and even Sam as a devout Kevin Smith fan isn’t expecting too much. But we are excited for the proper debut of Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp and the sheer absurdity of the Bratzis.

Assassin’s Creed is revealed in a Kanye soundtracked teaser that shows off the production design and location shooting. We talk percentage of past versus present, Marion Cotillard and ask if the photos better than the trailer.

Sam talks social media and technology gone wrong in modern thriller Nerve. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Sam gives a plot synopsis and we talk about the colourful look of the film.

On a roll with the plot recaps, Sam tells us about Don’t Breathe, a tense looking thriller with Stephen Lang as a gruff, dangerous blind man stalking teens that have invaded his home. We talk about the editing of the US trailer being much better and not wanting to sit through 5-second previews for previews.

Outcast, a show all about demonic possession, is on our radar for being an adaptation of Robert Kirkman material alone. But the visuals are slick and this Cinemax series could be the best horror show on TV when it airs. We talk about other horror shows and trip down a rabbit hole, going from The Omen to Richard Donner to Lethal Weapon to Rush Hour.

We also look at the intriguing trailer for The Accountant starring Ben Affleck and its use of droning and repetition. Plus, Ethan Hawke being an abusive dad in baseball drama The Phenom. Luke’s excited for Park Chan Wook’s latest, The Handmaiden, and also recommends you check out trailers of Into the Forest, The Woods, The Shallows and Hell or High Water.


The Stan Original series Wolf Creek picks up where the Australian horror classic film franchise left off as Lucy Fry’s Eve finds her family slaughtered and sets off on a path of revenge against John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor. We’ve been looking forward to this series for a while, here at The Gaff!

After Sams give a brief synopsis, the boys discuss; the writing and structure of the series, exploration of recurring characters including Uncle Jack Charles, impressive location filming, the amount of nudity and gore, homages and connections to the films, episode pacing, viewing statistics, iconic horror villain Mick Taylor and his backstory, Lucy Fry’s performance and Eve’s trajectory, and even (without spoilers!) the finale and possibilities for a second season.

A good portion of the discussion revolves around the malevolent, unforgiving landscape in this and a number of Australian films which seems to manifest these characters. We recommend some titles that feel similar, including; The Rover, Strangerland, These Final Hours, The Hunter, and even Chopper, and Lantana.


The boys buzz about Cleverman, another original Australian drama series coming to ABC, the future of Stan, our upcoming gaming episode and the Sydney Film Festival.


If you’ve got mad Photoshop skills, mock up a movie poster or blu-ray cover for what you imagine “Wolf Creek 3“ would look like, and send it through. We’ll showcase it on our social media and give you a shoutout on the show.


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The Gaff #008: Captain America: Civil War

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In our Weekly Rewind Sams and Fergus tell us why they loved inspirational biopic Eddie the Eagle, Luke and Fergus share their thoughts on American Crime Story Season 1, Sams updates us on Last Man on Earth Season 2, and Luke starts a discussion on visual concept albums by way of Beyonce’s Lemonade.


We cover Taika Waititi’s new New Zealand classic Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It looks to be quite funny with a great little cast and gives us hope for levity in Thor: Ragnarok too. Coming off previous film What We Do in the Shadows, Sam expounds on parody comedies from Blazing Saddles to Airplane/Flying High and Shaun of the Dead, and the genius title for the Shadows sequel.

Cell reunites the 1408 combo of John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson and Stephen King. Does it look any good though? Well, Cusack is the second man Sams would turn for and while Luke sees it sitting on the shelf, Sams sees this one sitting on his shelf.

The Duel, a moody southern gothic Western, looks interesting if for no other reason than starring Woody Harrelson. He’s always a good reason to watch as he’s great no matter what he’s in.

Further trailers that we give brief lip service to include: Guardians, Big Fish and Begonia, Tulip Fever, Me Before You, Southside with You, Kubo and the Two Strings, Captain Fantastic, The Fits and Snowden.

We also revisit where our name came from, and decide we should do a commentary episode for The Phantom, and a debate episode for The Mighty Ducks.


Does Civil War surpass Sams’ low expectations? Join Luke, Sams & return guest Fergus Halliday as they break down their favourite moments, characters and dialogue from the film, while also noting the issues they had with Avengers 2.5.

We cover those big-ass title cards for the locales, the (mis?)treatment of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, how relative newcomers Scarlet Witch and Vision are doing, the structural similarities to DC’s Batman v Superman, the secrets of the airport fight scene, and violence, villains and fatalities.

A big part of the discussion rests on the introduction of both Spider-Man and Black Panther to the MCU. Is Tom Holland a case of third time’s the charm for Spider-Man casting? Are we eager to head to Wakanda with Chadwick Boseman?

Other talking points include that freakily young Robert Downey Jr, the standalone quality (or lack thereof) in Phase III MCU films, the brilliant comedic timing and chemistry of Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Jim Rash’s cameo, characters flip-flopping with their stance on the Sokovia Accords, obvious product placement and the sudden total death of Peggy Carter on screens both big and small.


If you’ve got mad Photoshop skills, mock up a movie poster or blu-ray cover for “Christmas Adventures with Tony Stark” and send it through. We’ll showcase it on our social media and give you a shoutout on the show.

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