Review – Last Night in Soho


By Nick L’Barrow

I will confess… I wasn’t the biggest fan of Edgar Wright’s 2017 film, Baby Driver. In fact, I walked out of that movie quite disappointed. After the slew of success with the entertainingly brutal and bloody Cornetto Trilogy and the hilarious, video-game-esque Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, it felt wrong that Baby Driver was such a misfire in my mind. I just couldn’t understand how a movie by Wright could be so stylistic yet so incredibly average story-wise. However, I wouldn’t let one movie out of Wright’s filmography turn me away from his future work. When I initially heard that his new film, Last Night in Soho, would be more of a horror/thriller, I was certainly intrigued, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘cautious optimism. I stayed away from all trailers and as much marketing material as possible (I would even close my eyes and plug my ears in the cinema when the trailer showed before other movies, looking like an insane person). I even stayed away from the reviews when it premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. And boy, am I glad I did because Last Night in Soho is a strength-to-strength piece of cinema from the British filmmaker that feels like the movie event many cinemagoers have been longing for since the start of the pandemic.

Eloise (or Ellie, as she prefers to be called, played by Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit) has been obsessed with all things pop culture-wise since the 1960s. Movies, music, and fashion are at the forefront of the dream life she wishes to live. Having to move from her small town of Cornwall to London to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer, Ellie rents a room from an elderly lady in Soho. Feeling an odd connection with the room she is staying in, during her first night’s sleep, Ellie is mysteriously transported to the 1960s, where she has visions of an upcoming yet troubled singer called Sandy (Anya Taylor Joy, The Queen’s Gambit). As her dreams become more lucid and sinister, Ellie unwillingly begins to merge her two worlds, fantasy, and reality.

It’s almost a standard for movies today, but the less you know about where the story of Last Night in Soho goes, the better your viewing experience will be. This is an engaging and intriguing story that goes in many unexpected directions. Still, the script was co-written by Wright and 1917 screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, which genuinely draws you into the film’s mystery and begs you to let the story unfold in front of you and enjoy your time at the cinema. The script uses visual and thematic horror elements to create an account that serves as a cautionary tale about obsession, with a side of genuinely sinister character motivations that bring a consistent feeling of tension throughout. There will undoubtedly be moments and aspects of the film that won’t work for everyone, especially in the third act. However, within the movie-logic and artistic liberties taken by Wright and Wilson-Cairns, the craziness of the finale is satisfying and enjoyable.

Edgar Wright has created a visually intoxicating film that will captivate your senses. A trance-like element within the cinematography with neon lights and mirrors (reflection being a prominent theme within the story) creates the dream-like feeling of the scenes set in 1960s Soho. Every shot is a magical painting, carefully constructed for its place within the story. The use of mirrors is phenomenal and adds a sophistication to the film, both technically and thematically. There wasn’t a moment during Last Night in Soho that I wasn’t enthralled by what I saw on screen. However, the film highlights a dance sequence that expertly and flawlessly transitions between our two lead characters (Ellie and Sandy) dancing with the same partner. This may well and truly be Wright’s most visually beautiful film to date, and that’s saying something considering his visual filmography leading up to this point in his career. It just must be seen to be believed!

In her first actual leading role, Thomasin McKenzie is outstanding as Ellie. Ellie is reserved and quiet, but she is also filled with a firm tenacity. When it is opened after a few hallucinatory encounters with Sandy, it really allows McKenzie to thrive in this performance. Anya Taylor Joy is stunning as Sandy. Encapsulating the seductiveness that was seemingly required of a singer in the 60s to succeed while also hiding her own ferocious tenacity behind the performer’s mask brought some incredibly thrilling moments during her character’s arc. And finally, Matt Smith (Doctor Who) pulls off the charm-filled manager who offers Sandy the world on a platter but undoubtedly has more sinister intentions, with ease, and allows his acting chops to fly with some genuinely intense moments later in the film.

Last Night in Soho is capped off with an outstanding soundtrack. Never shying away from his love of music and how it’s used in the film, Edgar Wright has orchestrated equal amounts of spine-tingling and upbeat nature with the music used in this movie. Whether it’s eerie musical notes or the song’s lyrics setting up the scene’s tone (and inclusive of a beautiful rendition of Petula Clark’s Downtown performed by Taylor Joy herself), the music is just as much an important character within the movie.

While its ending may divide some audiences, I believe that Wright has created yet another incredible film with Last Night in Soho. This movie diverts from his usual action-packed-comedic outings in turn for a genuinely thrilling, always visually stunning tale that is captivating both technically and thematically. Helmed with outstanding lead performances that will lure you into the trance-like dream of a story and not let you go until the movie is over, Last Night in Soho feels like the movie that we have been waiting to return to cinemas for.

Letter From The Editor – Covid 19 Policy


As the country opens back up again, our hub in Victoria are still locked down. You will notice that we have been posting reviews of Tenet, The Secret, Unhinged and a couple of movies that are coming out this week.

We are a national website with writers in NSW, QLD and VIC. Our counterparts in these states will be providing these reviews in line with Novastream’s Covid Safe policy which includes only reviewing films where an online screener has been provided by the studio, if required in person we are asking our writers to attend a drive-in theatre as a priority. If these options aren’t available our cinema screenings are restricted to those who are practicing covid safe practices and have a Covid Safe plan in place.

If you are thinking of heading to the movies in the next few months we recommend checking the Corona Virus Government information here before making a solid decision to head into a cinema.

Much like you we can’t wait to get back to the movies and catch up on all the great films we missed during these lockdowns. There are tons of great films coming out on VOD if you don’t feel ready to venture out and we are committed to reviewing these and letting you know the best things to stream.

We hope you are all staying safe during Covid-19.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs And Shaw


The Fast & Furious franchise knows its market very well: explosions, action, cars and a storyline you don’t need to follow. Hobbs & Shaw is the first in the series of planned spin-offs and to give a little injection before the next Fast & Furious film hits the screens in 2020. While it’s a far cry from its origins, Hobbs & Shaw is the fresh overhaul the franchise needed.

When a highly deadly virus threatens to fall into the hands of Brixton (Idris Elba) a mechanically modified human, it goes into the hands of an MI6 operative Hattie (Vanessa Kirby).

Things turn south when Hattie is framed for taking the virus while Brixton hunts her down. Brought in to help stop the virus from being spread is Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) from Las Angeles and Shaw (Jason Statham) from London.

With a checkered past, Hobbs and Shaw not only fight to save Hattie and get the virus into quarantine, they also fight and bicker between each other.

Taking the fight to Samoa to get the help of Hobbs brother and his unique ability to build and rebuild things, the battle of all battles goes down all the while without any guns.

As to be expected there are some nice cars and some pretty cool vehicles as a whole. And for the most part, they get driven fast. Mind you, there is an obvious lack of the two compared to some of the other Fast & Furious films.

There is some amazing special effects and stunts throughout the film. From a helicopter lifting 4 cars trying to weigh the chopper down. To the automated motorbike that seems to be able to shapeshift depending on the circumstances.

Where this film stands out is in the good old fight scenes. The choreography is rather spectacular and doesn’t feel staged at any point. This is a downfall with most of Johnson’s films where his fight scenes are a little like The Rock fighting in WWE.

Hobbs & Shaw isn’t a film that requires a particular level of acting. However, Johnson and Statham bring just enough for it to be a good performance from them both. The performance that overshadowed the two was from Idris Elba (Thor, Prometheus, Star Trek Beyond) who plays Brixton.

Elba plays a mechanically modified human who happened to need the modifications to survive a shooting from Shaw some years back. Elba plays an angry and calculated character that seems to not only struggle to answer to someone else but also thinks he is above any authority. He has so much going on physically and also mentally that he overshadows the other actors in the same scene.

The other scene-stealer is that of Vanessa Kirby (Mission Impossible – Fallout, The Crown, Everest) who plays Hattie. She plays down the sexiness yet seems to ooze appeal. Kirby manages to pack in as much emotion to her scenes to bring her character to life without relying too much on humour.

Overall Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw takes a product that has been working for some years and given it a little fresh lick of paint. The great thing is it doesn’t pretend to try anything new or do anything too differently. It’s just a bit of fun with some nice cars and some good action.

Review – Toy Story 4


The announcement of a fourth Toy Story chapter, felt like an easy cash grab for Disney, after the huge success that was the concluding Toy Story 3. After watching the first trailer and synopsis, I still wasn’t sure if this was gonna work. So being a bit cautious of seeing these beloved characters coming back nine years after we said goodbye to Andy, I can say – no need to be afraid. The toys are dusted off and look better than ever!

The film opens with a flashback to a rainy night where our toys are still happily living with Andy. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) are getting ready to rescue RC-racer – a radio-controlled toy car – that’s been stuck in a gutter and is about to be dragged into the sewers, if not saved in time. This is an exciting opening to get you right into the story and remind you of the bond these toys have with each other. “No toy gets left behind“, like Woody says multiple times throughout this franchise. This scene also shows how close Woody and Bo’s relationship just was, which gets torn apart moments later when the lamp that houses her and her sheep is given away.

Almost a decade later, after Andy has passed his beloved toys to young Bonnie, we see her playing with all of them, although Woody gets pushed aside more often as time passes. He gets left in the closet with some of her baby toys. But when Bonnie has to attend her orientation day for kindergarten, Woody sees an opportunity to sneak into her backpack to look after the nervous girl. In class, a selfish kid grabs Bonnie’s art supplies and drops some in a bin, where Woody jumps in to save some of it – along with bits of rubbish – which leads to Bonnie creating Forky (soon discovered to be a toy, voiced by Tony Hale), a spork with popsicle-stick feet, googly eyes and pipe-cleaner arms. The family has a new member.

Bonnie adores Forky, but having an existential crisis, this spork knows it’s trash and feels like his only destination is the trash can, his safe haven. Woody, so longing for a purpose, takes it upon himself to keep rescuing and returning Forky, which will only get harder when Bonnie and her parents embark on a road trip in an RV. A journey on which we will meet carnival toys (Ducky and Bunny – voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), a Canadian stunt-motocross action figure (Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom – the coolest and most breathtaking toy ever created) and a manipulative vintage doll (Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby) who’s stuck living in an antique store, ready to do whatever’s needed to live a blissful life. 

The emotions run high, with stunning animation and imagery all around. New characters that will win over your heart and make you laugh out loud with the funniest one liners. Did I really expect anything less, after three exceptionally strong films in this franchise?! Shame on me.

Toy Story 4 is an adventure full of subtle messages and metaphors, that carries on the legacy of its original trilogy. Disney/Pixar has done it again – a sequel that not only works as an ending, but also as a new beginning. When we get to chapter 5 (because let’s be real, this is gonna kill it at the worldwide box office), these characters will have seen so much more than just the walls of Andy/Bonnie’s room and have experienced what “letting go” really means.

Toy Story 4 is playing in Australian cinemas this Thursday!

Review by Seth Eelen

Review – Xmen Dark Phoenix


It’s time to say goodbye to our favourite mutants, after 19 years of films the franchise is coming to a close with a re-telling of the Dark Phoenix story. If this sounds familiar it is because they attempted to do this in 2006’s X-men : The Last Stand and while it didn’t go down to well with fans, Fox have given the story line a movie of its own to send the X-men off ready to be rebooted by Disney somewhere in the future. What should have been a fond and memorable farewell turned out to be a forgetful throwaway film with great performances with a mediocre story that suffers from horrible pacing issues that make it feel like 2 or 3 different films smashed into one 100 minute disappointment.

It is set a couple of years after Apocalypse with the X-men in generous public favour with action figures, screaming fans and a hotline phone direct to the President of the United States. When a spaceship launch goes awry the X-Men head into space to assist when Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is exposed to a cosmic power that enhances her mutant powers making her more powerful than anyone else on the planet. When Jean starts acting erratic her X-Men friends Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) Beast (Nicholas Hoult) jump in to try and help her control the power, however things don’t go according to plan and when Jean is confronted by a mysterious alien played by Jessica Chastain who is trying to take over Earth and eradicate humans Jean must decide if she will use her power for good or evil.

Elsewhere Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) is riding high on the fame of their recent relationship with humans. He is shown revelling in the joy of being on talk shows, hosting benefits with wealthy clientele, on the cover of books and action figures. A good portion of the story explores his history with Jean and how he found her after the accident as a child. The first half of the film explores the relationship of and what can happen when trauma is suppressed rather than dealt with. It really explores the idea well and loops in the other characters, particularly Raven and Beast, who are the last of the” First class” still hanging around the X mansion. Showcasing a different side to Xavier was a risky move, I don’t know if this trait is ever explored in the comics, here it does feel a little surprising in keeping with this character. That being said showing a more human side to Charles was interesting to watch.

Perhaps the best part of the film is Lawrence, her performance as Raven is flawless. She is constantly the voice of reason, in particular one fitting line “The women around here are constantly saving everyone else, we should be called the X-Women” which on a side note did get a cheer from the crowd in our session. If this wasn’t enough character drama, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is sought out by Jean after she feels betrayed by Charles. He is running a commune separated from the rest of society. He is joined by hair braid whip man and another mutant who can read and control minds. When they feel the weight of what Jean can do through a helicopter battle, Magneto rejects her as well causing Beast to join his side in an attempt to kill Jean for her recent decisions.

It’s really from here that things go downhill. The film moves at a sluggish pace with sprinklings of action pieces littered through them. If it wasn’t for the solid performances it would be a complete wash. This then changes gear again in the third act with an epic train battle and final showdown that struggles to be as epic as the final scene in the final X-Men movie should be. The train sequence is far too long and while some of the CGI looks incredible, others look like a direct to VHS movie from the 90’s (Storm). Most X-Men films are epic in scale and have weighty action that coincide with the story. Here the story is told with an odd pacing that doesn’t ignite to be either good or bad, it just falls kind of flat. The train wreck scene really feels like it is a different film and with the epic battle being wrapped up pretty quickly, it rarely lingers long enough to leave a memorable impression.

The visuals in this film are great, the Phoenix effects that run through Jean and encompass her are beautiful to watch (and may just remind you of another recent Marvel superhero). The train scene while being shown at night is nothing short of spectacular. The way that Magneto rips the train apart trying to destroy the aliens is a lot of fun to watch and every mutant gets their moment to shine. It is a fast and furious fight scene with great cinematography by Mauro Fiore set against the night country side. In a lot of blockbuster movies night action scenes can be blurry and hard to see, fortunately this film avoids that delivering dazzling action sequences that effortlessly float between inside and out of the train.

While the special effects are spectacular, the script is severely lacking. In fact, I would even go so far as to say if they have spent more time on the this than the special effects it would have been a much better film. The first half of the film has a solid story exploring themes of trauma, abandonment, fame and family. It is balanced quite well for this portion of the film and is actually intriguing to see how it all wraps up. Where it falls is the obvious re shot second half of the movie that kind of throws these out the window for spectacle.

X-men : Dark Phoenix had the potential to be a big farewell to these characters we have loved (and hated) for the last 19 years. Regrettably a good story was compromised for spectacle and the film suffers from poor pacing and a generally flat tone. Fortunately the actors deliver solid performances, in particular Lawrence and Turner steal the show here showcasing the boundaries of family and fame. Fans of the series may be disappointed by the lacklustre finale (particularly if compared to the 90’s TV series plot line of Dark Phoenix)

Review by Alaisdair Leith

Review – Godzilla : King Of The Monsters


After the lacklustre reviews and reception to the previous film, the spectacle still made enough box office dollars to greenlight a sequel and kickstar a “Monsterverse” with Skull Island and a pre-announcement of Godzilla Vs Kong for 2020. This time around we get a broader cast with Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown coming into the mix. The teasers have promised us a slew of monsters with Mothra, Rogan and the three headed Ghidorah. While this had all the promise of epic action monster filled mayhem, the film instead spends way too much time focusing on the humans and their confusion and trapsing around the globe to different dig sites chasing an eco terrorist. All of this results in the biggest disappointment with a small portion of the film focusing on the monsters and way too much time on the one dimensional human characters with a really weak and stereotypical script.

The film is set in the current day with 5 years since the last installment. The world is rebuilding after Godzilla saved the human race from the titan attack. The agency tasked with tracking down all of the Titan sites Monarch are monitoring and securing the other titans who seem to be thawing out, defrosting and uncovered as the world is searching for Godzilla after he mysteriously disappeared after the events of the first film. Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are living in a rainforest in China trying to figure out how to communicate with Mothra. When Emma is captured by the eco tertrorist Jonah (Charles Dance) who is trying to release the titans to cleanse the earth of the plague of humanity, it is up to the crew at Monarch and her husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) to free her and stop the titans from being released and destroying the world. Oh and Godzilla is in there somewhere as well right?

My biggest issue with this film is the awful script filled with stereo typical cliched lines, predictable scenarios and one dimensional characters we spend way too much time with. Instead of setting the monsters free and watching them fight, we are subject to an endless slew of human interactions that offer nothing of significance to the story apart from exposition machines. Oh and there are a couple of monster fights that fill out maybe 20 minutes of this 2.5 hour film.

The score is grand and sweeping from Bear McCreary. MCCreary incorporates themes from Akira Ifukube’s previous work in Japanese traditional Godzilla films. While this is definitely the highlight, the unique roar that was given to Godzilla in the first film has all but disappeared in this version. The long roar with the winding wail at the end was such a thrill to hear in the cinema in the previous film and is a definite missing component in this sequel.

The creatures themselves are gorgeous. The attention to detail on Mothra is particularly when she opens her wings is breathtaking. There is a detailed colour and patterns that are completely mesmerising. This is accentuated when she emerges from the waterfall and the combination of light, water and colour transforms the screen. By comparison the three headed dragon Ghidorah looks cheap and awful. There is a particular scene in a football field with Madison that looks horrible now and will definitely not age well. It’s a shame because in far away shots Ghidorah looks amazing, partricularly when lightning is pulsing through it. There is a shot in Mexico that pans out next to a large cross that looks incredibly beautiful. And then there’s Godzilla. the big guy looks pretty much the same as the previous film. The lightning/radiation effect that pulses through his body and tail does look much mroe detailed this time around, and there are a few underwater scenes where he looks odd floating in the water.

There have been films in the past that show too much of the monster and then some that expertly show just enough to have great balance, but also well rounded and interesting human characters. Regrettably this film doesn’t know which one it wants to be and drifts somewhere in the middle, delivering an incredibly underwhelming experience. The end of the film does build the hype for the Kong Vs. Godzilla film due out next year, but after this underwhelming installment it may be back to the drawing board for Godzilla films if they can’t get the balance right.

Godzilla : King Of The Monsters is in cinemas Thursday May 31.

Review by Alaisdair Leith

Review – Missing Link


Animation juggernauts like Pixar and Dreamworks duke it out for the best CGI animation, hell even Sony and Warner Bros are trying to get a piece of the pie, Laika studios are delivering some incredible stop motion features with previous work including Coraline, Paranorman Kubo And The Two Strings and The Box Trolls. This time around they are embarking on a worldwide adventure with different locations and an all star voice cast with beautiful eye popping animation to deliver a solid film that is arriving at the perfect time for school holidays.

The story revolves around Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) an adventurer in Victorian London who is trying to earn his way into an exclusive mens hunters club headed by Lord Piggott-Duncby (Stephen Fry). When Frost receives a letter advising that the Sasquatch creature has been spotted in Washington, he sets off to finally prove that it exists and earn his way into the club. Upon arriving he meets the sasquatch Link (Zach Galifiankis) who just wants to head to the himalayas to reunite with his Yeti cousins and find his family.

Along the way the are joined by Frost’s acquaintence Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) who go on a trans atlantic journey through the UK and India to reach the Himalayas and return Link to his family. Sounds easy right? Well to top it off they are also being chased by Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) who wants to claim and kill Link and Sir Lionel Frost.

The story is quite layered and has a lot of moving parts that explores privilege, race, friendship, revenge and family. It sounds like a lot of heavy themes for a kids movie, yet it is told with such heart and having a character who is very wide eyed and innocent like Link helps the heavy parts land softly while still being effective.

Visually the film is flawless. The colour palette used in all the different locations and characters are nothing short of spectacular. The level of detail in a scene in the Indian jungle is jaw dropping. There is also a little behind the scenes of this at the end credits that is definitely worth sticking around to see. The characters themselves are great with Link having so much detail who self-describes his colour as more Autumn than brown. The variety of locations from dark and detailed castles to the icy valleys of the Himalayas, this is definitely Laika’s most ambitious work to date.

The voice talent in this film matches the great detail put into the animation. With Jackman and Galifaikas providing solid lead performances. This is only enhanced with Saldana joins the crew and the trio provide some of the best voice work in an animated film to date. Emma Thompson has a great role as the leader of the Yeti tribe and is allowed to flex some of her comedic muscles. Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry and Timothy Olyphant allow the film to truly be hilarious with their wacky characters.

There is so much to love and adore about this movie and the proven track record of solid films that Laika are producing. This is director’s Chris Butler’s second time directing (after Paranorman) and has truly raised the bar is both visuals and storytelling. This may be the film you haven’t heard of, but it is definitely the film to take the whole family to these holidays.

Missing Link is in cinemas April 8.

Review – Kingdom Hearts 3


Reviewing a game like Kingdom Hearts 3 is no easy feat. This monolothic game could be tackled from so many angles, as I am not a Kingdom Hearts fanboy, despite playing the previous titles, I thought it was best to tackle this game like I do any other normal game review with a fresh pair of eyes and my skepticism about Disney becoming a dictator in the entertainment industry aside to rejoin Sora and the gang for a sequel that has been 14 years in the making. While it did start off slow (extremely slow!) with three painful intro cinematics, each finishing with the Kingdom Hearts 3 title (just in case you know I fucking forgot what I was playing) it wasn’t until I moved to the third world that the game really kicked into gear and showed why the lengthy wait was worth it. It’s not all good news though, the writing is awful, like god awful, with slow and static awkward pauses in between characters in cinematic scenes and WAY too many of them at that, it was only the unique mix of characters, worlds and theme park rides from varying Disney properties that save this game from being a complete disappointment. Ever wondered what would happen if Uncle Scrooge opened a bistro in Traverse Town with Remy from Ratatouille? No? Me either…While these kind of crazy combos are interesting to watch play out during the game, the worlds are so empty and void of population they feel lifeless. Kingdom Hearts 3 is extremely ambitious but regrettably is a bit of a waster opportunity. 

Players take control of Sora, who again must team up with Donald and Goofy to travel through the universe via a Gummi ship to save the world from the Darkness and Master Xehahort who wants to unlock the one keyblade to rule them all and let the Darkness infest every world. It’s nothing new or revolutionary but this is a game where Disney characters team up with Final Fantasy characters so we can’t exactly expect depth here. Together you travel to different worlds inspired by recent Disney hits like Tangled, Frozen and Toy Story while diving into the Marvel universe with Big Hero 6. Sora and friends do run into a lot of characters from these films, disappointingly the gaps between back and forth dialogue is irritatingly slow and completely detracts from any emotional (and nostalgic) impact it tries to have. This also goes hand in hand with the script for the story, it is extremely painful and nauseating to endure, if the graphics weren’t so good, it would be a complete wash. The person who thought it was a good idea to give extended dialogue to Donald Duck really needs to be fired, the painful process of trying to figure out what he is saying is just irritating. It feels like the studio has forgotten that the majority of people playing this game have grown up with the series and are now adults wanting to propel the series forward, alternatively it will work if the audience who grew up with it now have kids and can share the experience with them. 

As mentioned previously, graphically this game is incredible, particularly as you explore the various Disney properties, in particular Toy Story was a stand out looking identical if not better than the movies do. Each world has been maticulously created and while there are some items and treasures to find, the lack of native population or NPC’s is quite disappointing. This led to the worlds feeling empty and bleak which was strange considering how much effort and love has clearly gone into their creation. The Pirates Of The Caribbean world was surprisingly good, enabling Sora to command a ship and explore. While this is no Black Flag, it does come at a welcome time for some variety in the otherwise monotonous gameplay. There are quite a few iconic Disney scenes played out during the game which tug on the old nostalgic heart beats but don’t offer anything of value to the story. Seeing Elsa build her castle in the Frozen stage to the orchestral version of Let It Go will have your little ones flocking to the screen, but the lack of meaning to the story is a little wasted. Sora is detailed to perfection, as are his keyblades and special moves, it is a pity the same cannot be said about the camera. Often when I was mid-battle and a giant robot pushes me into a corner, the camera refuses to move to allow me to see who is pummeling me from behind. It does happen several times through the game so it did become a regular annoyance. 

The combat system for this game is varied and pulls from many different games in the series that keep the actual gameplay fresh and addictive. You have the opportunity to purchase several different keyblades, each of which have their own unique powers and abilities. You can also equip multiple ones which allow you to quickly change between them in battle to effectively destroy enemies as quick and as painless as possible. There are the usual team up moves that involve active members of your party for effective battle slams and a new mode that brings in a Disney theme park ride. Now this could be a little controversial for Australian’s with the water ride resembling the now defunct one from Dreamworld being a weapon. You can also summon the pirate ship and the tea cups from the Mad Hatter. It seemed like a strange and cash in thing to do, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Each world and character has different team up moves which keeps a great variety during the game. Teaming up with Buzz and Woody to strap onto a rocket and dive into enemies is definitely the stand out. 

The game’s story clocks in at around 40 hours and while this may not be as big as other open world games, the quality of the graphics and combat system are enough to offset the time alloted. This is the kind of game you play through once and probably won’t feel the need to go back to (unless you are a trophy hunter or collectible fiend) While it is definitely only a one time wonder, it is definitely worth the trip. The scope of what is on offer and the ambition of this crazy combination of franchises that if you totally lean into works on a few levels. While this game has had quite a few years to perfect and craft its story, I was disappointed that the story was the weakest part and with SO many cut scenes, it really should have been given more care. 

Kingdom Hearts 3 is a step forward graphically and for its combat system, however the story does set the series back a few pegs. Hopefully Square Enix can spend some more time on the story for the next instalment and hopefully we won’t have to wait so long for the next one. 

Kindgom Hearts 3 is available on PS4 and Xbox One.

Review by Alaisdair “Leithal” Leith

Competition – Cold Pursuit


Want to win a double pass to see Cold Pursuit? Head on over to our socials now to enter! Via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @novastreamau

Watch the trailer here

Women in Gaming


There’s a lot of heat around the way women are represented in games as well as our place in the gaming industry. On the whole, people are glad to see a growing number of women playing and making games, but there are still some struggling with acceptance. And while some games do an admirable job of creating strong female characters, a lot of the major titles are still lagging behind. But even disregarding the gender equality issues explored in the media lately, there’s no doubt that women in gaming face certain challenges. As a woman who’s played games her entire life, and is working towards a career in the industry, my life has been shaped by issues of identity within the community.

The biggest issue I’ve faced as a woman who plays games isn’t sexism or abuse – I’ve been harassed by a guy online once and a lot more people came to my defence than screamed at me to add them. The hardest part of being a gamer has been expressing my passion for the medium to some of the most important people in my life. My mum didn’t love that I played so many games as a kid, and I think she was a bit shocked when I told her I was going to be studying them at uni. None of my closest friends are gamers, and for the most part I’ve stopped talking to them about games. Not because it makes me feel excluded but because I know they have no idea what I’m talking about! So for a long time I didn’t have an outlet for discussing video games, and I always desperately wanted one.

The life-long desire to share my love of gaming is a big part of what made me want to become a video games journalist. These days, some of my happiest moments come from the times I send Novastream reviews to my mum. Since I’ve started writing for the site, every article has given me a chance to share a part of myself with all the non-gamers that I love.

Anya is every bit BJ’s equal in Wolfenstein: The New Order
Anya is every bit BJ’s equal in Wolfenstein: The New Order

I’ve also struggled with the sense that I need to justify my interest in gaming, as a career choice but especially a hobby, because I’m a woman. Writing my dissertation on video games gave me a chance to show that all the time and effort I’d put into games was worthwhile. Months of tireless work and a lifetime of investment paid off when I could point to respected academics like Janet Murray, Miguel Sicart, and Tom Bissell and explain how I was expanding on their work. My Honours supervisor is an amazing and inspiring woman, but she had no idea about games or what made them special. When she was interested in my research and acknowledged video games as a powerful narrative form, I remember feeling a huge sense of pride, relief, and success.

But this is still hard for some people to grasp. The other day I was telling a neighbour about this article and she asked why any nice young lady would like video games? The reason is simple: they give me an experience that nothing can match. I love immersing myself in fantasy worlds, and games offer this escape in a way no other medium can. It’s doesn’t matter that I’m a girl – I just love being told stories and getting the privilege to participate in them!

Sadly, the stereotype that games are a man’s medium is still prevalent in our society. Last year I wrote a uni assignment on the rhetoric at work in the Gamergate controversy. When I started research I thought the issue was silly but working towards a real solution, but by the end of the essay I was convinced it had devolved into a screaming match between two sides who wouldn’t take no for an answer, no matter the consequence for the industry. The whole thing seems ridiculous and harmful, and I want nothing more to do with it. That being said, of course I believe that games should work to portray more realistic and positive female characters. And, happily, some games do an outstanding job of this! Anya and Caroline in Wolfenstein: The New Order are just as integral to the resistance as BJ, and Frau Engel is a terrifying villain without compromise; Lara Croft burst back into our lives as an unstoppable whirlwind of ability and strength of will in the rebooted Tomb Raider; a female Commander Shepard in Mass Effect is the saviour of the galaxy and lacks nothing that a male Shepard possesses. In fact, BioWare games in general are brilliant examples of gender equality. Mass Effect 2 shows off Miranda’s sex appeal every chance it gets, but she isn’t defined by it: she’s incredibly smart, a formidable player in galactic intrigue, and a powerful ally for Shepard. Dragon Age: Inquisition features a cast of ambitious and talented women, as Novastream’s own Zahra discussed. Characters like this make me proud to be a girl gamer, because they give me positive female characters to identify with and form connections with.

Miranda’s as threatening as she is beautiful

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of problems with the representation of women in games. Women in GTA V are only ever prostitutes and “bitches” put in the game for a male audience’s violent comedic outlet. The Witcher 3 has positive female characters, but the sex cards in the first game are a childishly hyper-sexualised approach to women. Geralt having sex with lots of women makes sense in a narrative context, but there’s no in-game justification for his collection of the middle ages equivalent to naked snapchats. The cards only serve to appeal to players, and young male players at that.

For the first time in the franchise’s AAA release history, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate will feature a playable female character (Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation gave us Aveline as a playable character, but the fact that this instalment was relegated to a PS Vita release should show how little effort Ubisoft put into this attempt at gender equality). However, a report from Kotaku claims that Evie will only be playable for roughly 20% of the game. I understand the marketing logic behind this choice, with the series having a predominately male audience, but with the demographic of the gaming industry constantly shifting to include more and more women, this won’t be a valid excuse for much longer.

I felt pretty gross getting this screenshot but at least I didn’t shoot the dancer once she was done
I felt pretty gross getting this screenshot but at least I didn’t shoot the dancer once she was done

Personally, I don’t often get offended by gender imbalanced in games, but even so, I’d love to see them continue to change. There are more and more women getting involved in all aspects of the industry, and I’m sure they’d agree when I say that I want more realistic women in games, both to represent us and for us to identify with. This isn’t a case of wholesome versus sexy – I love seeing a kick-ass lady flaunting what she’s got – just don’t make a woman’s appearance her defining characteristic.

The gender imbalances in the gaming community had a big influence on the kinds of friends I made when I was younger. In primary school I was very much a tomboy and I had more guy friends than girls, mostly because I recognised boys as my chance to talk about video games. But I realised in my last years of high school that playing games and doing girly things aren’t mutually exclusive. I still don’t have a lot of female friends who game, but all my ladies are amazingly geeky about something. I met Lauren when she saw my Star Wars pencil case one day at school, and she owns what I’m sure is the world’s largest collection of Marvel shirts and lounge pants; Bridgette knows more about Girls than Lena Dunham herself and may even love Han Solo more than I do; I get roughly one snapchat a week from Jess who can’t wait to show off her new art supplies; Mel has the most intense reactions to TV shows and we spent our afternoons after school binging on Veronica Mars and Fringe. I love seeing them geek out about their thing, and even when we’re not talking about video games it satisfies the part of me that wants to express a passion for something.

Lara Croft has no time for looking glamorous when she’s fighting for her life
Lara Croft has no time for looking glamorous when she’s fighting for her life

That being said, games have also been the cornerstone of some of my strongest relationships. One of my best friendships in high school started when I asked a guy to help me build a computer, and we were inseparable for years. I met some of my closest friends at college when they saw the giant KOTOR poster on my wall, and Mass Effect 3 is what led to my boyfriend and I going on our first date (we made a bet that whoever finished the series last would take the other out for coffee. I won, but I think that was his plan all along). So even though a mutual appreciation for games isn’t as important to me as I once thought it was, they’re still an important part of my life.

Games are an amazing medium that welcome anyone with open arms. There’s still work to be done to achieve equality in games, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be positive experiences for women. Being a gamer has given me some amazing experiences in life. I’ve made lots of friends playing games, and I’ve become a part of some very friendly and supportive communities. But no woman – no person – who plays games is defined by that interest. Girl gamers aren’t spectacles, we’re just people who want interactive and immersive experiences. When these experiences get gender representation right, they can lead to some powerful responses. So I’m going to keep striving for equality in games for as long as I’m involved in the industry, and I’m excited to see where we end up in the next few years.


Article by Alana Young

Twitter: @alana_groffle

Review – Ant Man


antman2Marvel continue their reign of the superhero hits with the latest original film Ant Man. The film has been consistently plagued with problems since it began, the great director Edgar Wright departing the film after “creative differences”, Joss Whedon saying Wright’s script was one of the best things he has ever read, new director Peyton Reed (Bring It On and The Break Up), rewrites by Paul Rudd and then finally a confirmed release date. It is an exhaustive list that has had fans (and myself) concerned about the quality of the movie, but rest assured while this isn’t one of Marvel’s best, it does continue with the standard of superhero movies that populate their shared universe.

Original Ant Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is feeling his age and when his tech is stolen by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Pym recruits Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) a thief, to break into Cross’s facility and steal back the suit. Joined by three unfortunately cast racial stereotypes, things don’t go to plan and Lang must don the suit to stop Cross/Yellowjacket. Now I know what you’re thinking a private corporation stealing technology to take over the world..Groundbreaking…and you are right, it definitely is the biggest weakness of the film.

The villain is non threatening, non sensical and ridiculous, the the point where if you took YellowJacket out, this movie would stillantman3 work and probably be a lot more enjoyable (although without the mind blowing action scenes!) There is no exploration of major motivation for YellowJacket and Cross does bring his all to the role, but Jacket comes across as a bit silly and non-threatening.

Rudd is perfect as Lang, one minute you are laughing and the next swept into a massive action sequence with hight stakes and you can feel the tension. This is something that Marvel movies can do really well, and this is probably one of the best examples of it, I put this down to Rudd and his story arc. He has gone to prison, he struggles financially and has a struggling relationship with his daughter, in a self sabotaging cycle, he is easily the most relatable Marvel hero in the universe so far. This is a character that Rudd portrays perfectly and his interaction with Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) is a mirror of Lang and his daughter and is beautifully developed and has such great detail given. Michael Douglas is perfect as Pym and seems to be continuously winking to the audience through his joyous and easygoing role.

antman4Effects wise this film delivers,the early trailers left a lot to be desired and I was concerned about the final product, however Industrial Light & Magic have again proved how they can make just about anything work and look spectacular. The action sequences in this are mesmerising, and a scene involving a water droplet  and Ant Man is glorious to watch on screen (especially in 3D!)

This movie was a hard one, it has taken 10 years of production to get here, and while it is no Guardians Of The Galaxy or Iron Man 3, it does something that the previous films have struggled to, deliver a relateable character who the audience can identify with and keep everything grounded in a crazy situation. While Peyton Reed is direction, Edgar Wright still has writing credits and fans of his work will spot his influence in the movie. This may not be another billion dollar franchise, but it is solid superhero entertainment and I was surprised at the ride this movie took me on.

Ant Man is in cinemas on Thursday

Review – Jurassic World


jp1Can you really believe it has been 22 years since the original Jurassic Park film graced our screens? Well apart from making me feel REALLY old, it also made me realise how much I have missed this universe. Adding Chris Pratt and bringing Steven Spielberg back into the mix made me feel like this could be the right mix to bring the franchise back. After months of teasers of teasers, trailers and clips, the movie is FINALLY here and Joss Wheedon’s fears about the movie being 70’s sexist are laid to rest with a truly kick ass feminist hero who saves the day.

Jurassic World is intended as a direct sequel from the first film, thankfully ignoring the first two! Jurassic World is now a fully functional theme park on Isla Nublar, and are gearing up to introduce their first dinosaur hybrid the Indominous Rex. When the dinosaur escapes from its isolated enclosure, the park must be evacuated with the help of park director Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and dino expert Owen (Chris Pratt) while also finding her two nephews Gray and Zach (Ty Sympkins & Nick Robinson), who are trapped inside the park.

It was difficult to assess this movie from an unbiased point of view, I have been a constant lover and ambassador of this jp2franchise from the start and even forgave the horror of Jurassic Park 3, in hopes the franchise would flourish into something new and reminiscent of the first film, and director Colin Trevorrow delivers exactly that in this direct sequel to the first film (his words!)

The real issue is with the large amount of footage that has been shown before the film, they tend to show most of the action parts of the film, giving the impression that this is non stop from the start of the film, so if you are heading into this with that expectation, you may leave disappointed. As in the first film, the film actually holds its main two lead actors through Gray and Zach, and we get to see the park and all its attractions through their eyes. This technique reeks of Spielberg and the score soaring over the top of this over-blown and absolutely gorgeous cinematography is a visual feast that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

jp3Being introduced to the Indominous Rex so early in the movie, I was concerned that we wouldn’t get to see the “good dinosaurs” and how they would operate in a theme park environment. The petting zoo is one of my favourite scenes of this movie and is handled so beautifully both pre and post catastrophe, it is one of the many highlights of the film. Fans of the original film will swoon with the many references, set pieces, objects and verbal nods that are splashed unapologetically throughout Jurassic World. It is given the respect and adoration that it deserves and uses this a piece to fuel the story forward and try and show the past from the present and how much things haven’t really changed.

Secretly I was hoping for a sneaky Sam Neil or Jeff Goldblum surprise cameo, but alas none were found, fortunately the new characters bring a sense of new world to the film and with Zach & Gray standing out as the two male leads, it really is all about Claire and her attempt to control the uncontrollable and the lengths she will go to, to save lives once all hell breaks loose. There is a fantastic scene with Claire running in heels to save the day and kicking girl power butt in a feminine and strong way that is so refreshing from the masculine women heroes that litter blockbusters lately. While Owen, everyone assumes is the hero of the piece, is kind of the back character here, he serves as an information point for the dinos. and basically looks after the kids while Claire kicks ass, the complete opposite of what the trailer would have you believe.

Visually nothing has changed, this film is as stunning and detailed as the first, the environments are lush and inviting jp4and the cinematography makes you feel like you are inside the park experiencing the events. One thing they managed to get right was the balance between humour and absolute terror, I found myself clinging to the bottom of my chair in a few spots and the feeling of suspense and tension that the first film prides itself on is also used effectively here.

Overall Jurassic World is the hyped up monster that it advertises, it uses a fairly typical plot combined with outstanding visuals, spellbinding cinematography and actors who know the genre and bring their A-game to deliver this summer’s hottest blockbuster. Fortunately there is a lot of substance here and if anything can bring the Jurassic franchise back from extinction, this film is the perfect trigger to bring a new generation into the world of dinosaurs.

**If you are planning on taking little children/kids to see this film, I would advise to maybe do a screening first or talk to some other parents who have seen it, the action scenes are quite intense and could be disturbing as there is a lot of graphic blood splatters and the scenes can be quite intense.

What did you think of Jurassic World? Let us know in the user review and comments below

Review : The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt


Before you read any more of this review, I’d like you to take a moment to appreciate how incredibly strong-willed I am to have stopped playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for long enough to write it. I’m proud of me.

The reason I’m so impressed with myself is because this is my dream game! I’ve been waiting for it since the minute it was announced, and waiting for the announcement for even longer. I followed its development like a hound, and I had ridiculously high expectations.

And it exceeds my expectations!

The Witcher 3 is a tour de force that’s set new standards for the RPG genre. This game gets so many things right: it’s gameplay mechanics are smooth and intuitive (after some tweaking of the default key bindings), its narrative is gripping, its combat is challenging yet rewarding, and it puts you into the role of Geralt, the master witcher, in a way that makes it easy to totally lose yourself in the fantasy. The characters are wonderfully constructed, especially the women, and the relationships that Geralt can form with them are emotionally powerful and moving. I’m definitely in love with Geralt and Yennefer. The music is beautiful and haunting, and communicates the state of the world and its events with ease. All of this works together in The Witcher 3 to welcome you with open arms to become a part of the world.

The Witcher 3 puts you in the shoes of Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf, a professional monster slayer for hire. War has broken out in the Northern Realms, but all Geralt wants to do is find his daughter-figure Ciri. She’s been gone a long time, living in another dimension, but now she’s back, and being chased by the Wild Hunt – a cavalcade of ghostly riders who bring death in their wake. Geralt is also on the trail of his long lost love Yennefer, who’s the closest thing Ciri has to a mother. Together, Geralt and Yennefer travel across the Northern Realms searching for Ciri. It’s a grand adventure across vast continents and against the clock.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_34_1920x1080_1433341640As a long-time fan of the franchise looking for one more adventure with her favourite characters, the story is what’s most important to me in Wild Hunt. Finally, here is a game that strikes a perfect balance between story and side-quests. When I spend an entire play session on side quests I never feel like I’m neglecting the story. Part of this is because Geralt isn’t trying to save the world. He’s not the most important or powerful person in the Northern Realms, he’s just a professional trying to save his daughter, and along the way he comes across people who need his help.

The other reason there’s very little disconnect between the two is that side quests are treated with as much respect as the story missions. The cut scenes are as detailed as main story ones, and conversations with lesser NPCs are still as beautifully animated as ones with main characters. Side quests feel important in this game because they’re shown to have a meaningful effect on the world and the narrative. Above all, every side quest contributes to building the game world: your choices, even the ones that seem inconsequential, can have a huge impact on the world, so choose carefully and be prepared for the fallout. Save a man from being killed by drowners and you may come to regret it when you find he used his freedom to slaughter refugees.

In addition to meaningful side quests, Wild Hunt gives witcher contracts a new sense of importance. Instead of sending you to kill ten wolves or collect five vampire fangs, The Witcher 3 pits you against particularly fierce monsters that have a backstory and a reason for existing. You won’t get sent to clear a harpy nest, but you will be asked to save a village from a noonwraith who happens to be the spirit of a girl who was murdered there. Witcher contracts are separate from regular side-quests and require you to conduct an investigation that may include asking witnesses, examining the surrounding areas, and hunting down a beast’s lair. The investigation is just as important as the eventual encounter with the beast, which makes you feel smarter while also driving home how intelligent Geralt is: he knows all there is to know about monsters and how to kill them, and now so do you!

Working through the new and improved witcher contracts also constructs a more complete understanding of the game world. By taking on these jobs you’re shaping the world: the villagers’ survival is implied to hinge on Geralt slaying the monsters, and by removing the threat to their settlement you’re making sure the world carries on.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_28_1920x1080_1433341635Most, though not all, of these contracts result in combat. So thankfully the combat in The Witcher 3 is wonderful, having been massively improved since its predecessor. I rolled my way through The Witcher 2 and looked ridiculous (but had fun – “wheee!”), so the new dodge ability is a welcome introduction. And those of you with sign-based builds will adore the alternate form of each of Geralt’s magical abilities. Overall, the combat is challenging and will punish you if you’re impatient, but it’s easy to master and once you do, you can weave your way through fights without getting touched and look magnificent doing so. While you can get away with hacking and slashing your way through this game, it isn’t the most efficient technique, and you won’t have as much fun. The combat demands that you pay attention and learn how to fight properly, but it rewards you with a sense of mastery and power.

The Witcher games are based off a series of novels and short stories, and where the first two games created independent narratives, Wild Hunt brings in iconic characters and plot lines from the books and knits them into the world of the previous games. The Witcher 3 acts as a continuation of the books, but one that benefits from the new narrative and world established in the previous games. CD Projekt Red has done an amazing job adapting characters like Ciri and Yennefer and Dijkstra into the new medium. They all look and sound amazing, and there’s none of the unpleasantness that comes from an unfaithful adaptation. It’s the most loving adaptation I’ve ever seen, and also one of the most intelligent.

But the developers went above and beyond by giving Ciri her own playable sections. Being able to play as Ciri is not only a fun gameplay change, it’s an effective storytelling method. As you progress though the story you’ll meet certain individuals who met with Geralt’s adopted daughter. Instead of simply listening to them tell their story, you take control over the events being retold. Hearing about her journey is one thing, but being in control of it empowers players and expands the world of the game beyond Geralt.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_21_1920x1080_1433341630Ciri is faster and weaker than Geralt, and her dodge is replaced by a blink ability. She can’t use signs but she can blink from one enemy to another on the battlefield in a devastatingly beautiful display. Her sections are very linear, and without a skills tree or inventory they’d get boring as a whole game, but used sparingly as they are they’re a wonderful addition to the game.

The Witcher games have always been set in large maps, but with Wild Hunt’s move to an open world came a map approximately 32 times larger than all the locations of the second game combined. With such a massive space to fill, it would have been easy for CD Projekt Red to populate it with bland copy-pasted landmarks and repetitive events. Instead, the world of The Witcher 3 is one of the most vibrant and exciting I’ve ever experienced!

There’s something amazing wherever you look, which is doing terrible things to my sleeping pattern. It’s scarily easy to tell yourself “I’ll just check out that tower over there and then I’ll go to bed,” and suddenly realise it’s somehow 3am.

And there’s so much to explore! Say goodbye to Dragon Age: Inquisition’s mosaic pieces and shard collector quests, to the bottles and planting flags, to the logging stands and quarries. I love Dragon Age: Inquisition and collected most of these, but they always felt separated from the world, as if they’d been dropped onto the map on the last day of development. In Wild Hunt, every landmark is built into the terrain logically, and every point of interest offers some task for you to achieve. Whether it’s clearing a monster nest, exploring a cave, rescuing prisoners from bandits, tracking down a great treasure and slaying its guardian, everything feels significant for the world.

On top of the way it’s constructed, the world is gorgeous! Don’t worry if your PC hardware is beginning to fall behind the times – The Witcher 3 is beautifully optimised and chances are you’ll still be able to make it shine. Part of this is thanks to the fact that the developers are still improving it. So far they’ve released four patches that have given lower-end GPUs a performance boost, fixed bugs, and implemented changes that the community has called for. With a game that offers so much content and boasts so many hours of gameplay, it’s relieving to see the developers dedicated to supporting its longevity.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_15_1920x1080_1433341626Certain gameplay changes have also been made to accommodate for the open world. This time around you’ll only need to brew potions once. After that, you’ll have a stockpile in your inventory which can be replenished by meditating for at least an hour with a strong alcohol in your inventory. This means no scrounging around for that one last petal, which was annoying enough in the first two games and would be beyond tedious in Wild Hunt. Potion effects have been reworked too. In The Witcher 2 the Swallow potion gives Geralt a 10 minute vitality regeneration buff, which was long enough to last for the entirety of pretty much any encounter in the game. In The Witcher 3, Swallow only lasts 20 seconds. To balance this out, potions in Wild Hunt aren’t as toxic to Geralt, and he can consume them during combat. Taking potions in preparation for battle worked well in the previous games, when the location of monsters was more structured, but this methodical approach isn’t practical in an open world with beasts hidden behind every corner.

Also facing roster changes is Wild Hunt’s selection of mini-games. Gone is the love-it-or-hate-it dice poker from the previous games. Welcome instead Gwent, a Hearthstone-esque, Magic the Gathering-esque card game that I can sink whole nights into if I’m not careful. Gwent is a 1v1 game that simulates two armies meeting on the battlefield. You can play against almost any merchant and certain main story-characters, and defeating opponents earns you a tidy bag of coins and a card to add to your collection. Building your deck by winning cards gives the mini-game a real sense of progression, and when you’ve progressed far enough you can take part in Gwent tournaments. I hope that one day we get a multiplayer Gwent tournament, because the developers have put so much work into this mini-game that it’s almost like they’ve made two whole games and sneakily bundled them together.

There’s not a lot to fault in The Witcher 3. Most of my issues with it are actually backhanded compliments. The lack of a photo mode is disappointing – because the game is so beautiful that I spend 30% of my time in it taking screenshots and just gazing at it in wonder. An updated inventory with more tabs and filters would be nice – because there’s so much amazing gear to find that it can take a while to sort through. I wish there were markers above the NPCs you’ve already defeated in Gwent – because I’m so addicted to building my deck.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_37_1920x1080_1433341642Aside from that, I have no criticisms. This is a game made by people who love what they do and want to give people the best game imaginable. I’m so glad CD Projekt Red took their time and delayed the game. The wait was hard, but it was worth it to be delivered this masterpiece of an RPG that just keeps getting better.

The Witcher 3 is a powerful roleplaying experience that serves up a complex and emotionally persuasive narrative. It treats its characters with respect and its players with even more respect. The world of Wild Hunt is a grim place to live, and your actions can be its salvation or its ruin. It’s impossible to be involved in these kinds of ambiguous and far-reaching decisions and not feel a connection to the world and its characters, and this is where the game shines. Above all, The Witcher 3 makes me believe that I am Geralt, I am a part of these character’s lives, and I am a part of this world.

Review by Alana Young

Twitter: @alana_groffle

What did you think of The Witcher 3? Let us know in the comments below

Loki Season 2 – A Darker, High-Stakes Marvel Masterpiece.


Marvel’s Loki Season 2 has burst onto our screens with a bang, and I can confidently say that the first four episodes are nothing short of extraordinary. This HBO-level quality show, reminiscent of hits like “The Last of Us” and “House of the Dragon,” not only surpasses its predecessor but also sets a new standard for the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the small screen.

One of the most compelling aspects of this season is the abundance of surprises, and don’t worry; this review won’t give away a single one. From the very start, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns that will keep you guessing, each episode masterfully ends on a “edge of your seat” moment with an audible gasp at the end of the suspenseful episode 4.

The story takes a darker turn, and the stakes are considerably higher this time around. This elevated tension draws you deep into the narrative, making it impossible to look away. Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki, transitioning between villain and hero, is a tour de force. His constant struggle with his darker instincts is captivating, and you can’t help but root for him, even as he walks the fine line between chaos and redemption.

The writing in this season is exceptional, allowing Loki to embrace his mischievous side. While his character remains unpredictable and brilliantly complex, Hiddleston has really tapped into this conflicted side of the character that has only been hinted at previously in other Marvel films and TV series. Watching Hiddleston have an absolute blast with the character and the different timelines and eras helps elevate the show to that HBO quality.

The introduction of new characters in this season is nothing short of phenomenal in both casting and character quality to the show, particularly Ke Huy Quan as OB, a fixer who plays a pivotal role this season, is nothing short of perfect casting. OB adds a new layer of intrigue and depth to the show’s ensemble with the writers clearly having a ball with him on board. There is a Temple of Doom throwback in the first episode, keep an ear out for it, you won’t be disappointed.

Jonathan Majors returns to the MCU as Victor Timely, a variant of the villainous Kang. While it takes a moment to adjust to this character, as the story unfolds, it’s difficult not to be utterly engrossed in Timely’s motivations and actions. Majors brings an undeniable energy to the screen that’s hard to resist.

Miss Minutes, the A.I. character, has undergone an intriguing evolution this season, driven by a relentless desire to have a body. Her storyline adds a surprising subplot to the series and voiced by Tara Strong, the character feels more alive and evolved this time around. Owen Wilson shines brightly as Mobius, sharing the spotlight with Loki throughout their time-traveling adventures. Their chemistry is palpable, and their interactions continue to be a highlight of the show. Sylvie, played by Sophia Di Martino, returns with a hilarious explanation for the recent McDonald’s promotion. Her performance is stellar, and her chemistry with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki remains a standout feature of the series.

Marvel’s Loki Season 2 hits the ground running and refuses to let you catch your breath. Each episode builds upon the last, and by the time you reach episode 4, you’ll be left absolutely breathless and begging for more. With its darker tone, complex characters, and high-stakes storytelling, Marvel’s Loki Season 2 deserves nothing less than a perfect 5-star rating for its first four episodes.

Marvel’s Loki Season 2 is now streaming on Disney + with weekly episodes.

SCREEN X is the new way to immerse yourself at the cinema!


ScreenX at Event Robina is a brand new, Australian first, revolutionary way to experience blockbusters on the big screen. Featuring three screens across three walls of the cinema, selected scenes fill your peripheral vision and truly immerse you in the action.

ScreenX uses five projectors to expand the film beyond the main screen, projecting it onto the two side walls as well – extending all the way to the back of the auditorium – so that even your peripheral vision is absorbed in whatever’s happening on screen. To achieve the trick, the side walls are lined in a special fabric to match the main screen, while two projectors are used for each wall to display the image.

This week, I had the chance to check out Gareth Edwards’ latest sci-fi blockbuster, The Creator, a film specifically designed to be played through the Screen X format. During intense action scenes, moments that take place on large sets, or in the specific case for The Creator, the brilliant, scenic back drop of Thailand as the film’s location, New Asia.

During these select scenes the side-wall screens come to life. The best way to describe what is played on those screens is if you added an extra 10% to each side of a standard cinema screen, then folded the extra edges inwards to create a boxed-in viewing experience. For example, during a long-grass field shootout, soldiers firing their weapons will run in from the peripheral screens before emerging on the centre screen and be a part of the action.

In a cinematic landscape where premium large formats and event-style screenings seem to be what consumers are making the effort to see, Screen X is a fun, immersive way to watch a film. With a 67.7 metre long screen all around you, and large, comfy, leather seats (some of which completely recline), and a brand new surround sound speaker system – this is an ideal way to experience big movies on the big screen.

I wouldn’t recommend seeing a movie for the first time in this format if you can help it. Due to the nature of select scenes being in this format, when the side screens immediately illuminate the room, it is instinctual to navigate the gaze to the bright lights (despite the pre-movie recommendation to focus on the centre screen for the best experience), and this can distract you from what is happening during the film ever so slightly.

But for blockbuster films like Avatar, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, or any MCU film, Screen X can definitely enhance a repeat viewing experience, and as the format grows with more filmmakers utilising it, could lead to some fun Easter eggs exclusive to those who watch a film in Screen X. Imagine how great the experience of being in a fighter jet cockpit while watching Top Gun: Maverick!

Coming up next in Screen X is Ridley Scott’s epic Napoleon, which from the trailer alone boasts huge battle scenes that should look amazing on the 67.7m, 270-degree screen! Click here to find out more info and session times.

Thank you to Event Cinemas Robina and Shout Communications for giving me the chance to check Screen X out!

Win tickets to The Exorcist : Believer


The compelling follow-up to the ground-breaking 1973 classic described as the ‘scariest film ever made’. The Exorcist: Believer is a terrifying supernatural thriller, a movie experience to be shared and seen on the big screen.

Thanks to Universal Pictures Australia, we have 10 in-season double-passes to giveaway to see the film.

To enter the competition, please click here

If you want a second entry into the competition, head to the Novastream Instagram page here and comment on our The Exorcist : Believer competition post!

Winners will be drawn on Wednesday 4 October and notified via DM or email. Terms and conditions will be available on the pass. Open to Australian residents only.

From over 50 years, one story has terrified millions. Witness the next chapter of evil. The Exorcist: Believer – In Cinemas October 5

PAX Aus 2023 Panel Schedule is not to be missed


Australia’s biggest gaming festival is just around the corner, and the full Panel Schedule has been revealed and posted on their website. This year’s panels are headlined by voice actor Erika Ishii (Stray Gods, Apex Legends), who is this year’s storytime speaker. Voice actors are making a major appearance this year, with Ben Prendergast (God of War Ragnarok, Apex Legends) and Jenny Yokobori (Genshin Impact, Hello Kitty) also set to appear.

Alongside international guests, PAX Aus 2023 will also feature several local guests from around Australia. While it’s impossible to attend every event, here is some highlights that we think you won’t want to miss:

  • Storytime with Erika Ishii | Fri, Oct 6, 2023 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | Main Theatre
  • Renowned actor and voice-over artist for Apex Legends and Destiny 2, Erika Ishii will be delivering our 2023 Storytime Keynote!
  • The Year That Was PAX AUS 2013 | Fri, Oct 6, 2023 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Main Theatre
  • Join Gaming Industry specialists for this special retrospective panel as they reminisce on the year that was, PAX Aus 2013.
  • Fireside with Mick Gordon | Fri, Oct 6, 2023 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM | Twitch Quokka Theatre
  • Join Mick Gordon has he dives into video game music, its history, favourite composers, game music and where the industry is going.
  • Forging Her Legacy| Sat, Oct 7, 2023 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Twitch Quokka Theatre
  • A panel about the various journeys women have taken in the gaming industry, their challenges, and their efforts to redefine the gaming landscape while creating a lasting impact.
  • The Dark Room | Sat, Oct 7, 2023 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM | Main Theatre
  • John Robertson hosts a live interactive comedy game show that is both hilarious and intense in just the right way.

This is a very small list of everything you can see at PAX Aus 2023. Cosplay meetups, tournaments and more will be held all across the weekend. The official PAX mobile app has been updated with this year’s schedule so you can mark panels you want to attend and receive notifications when they are upcoming. You can also view the full schedule at PAX’s website.

You Can Play Super Mario Bros. Wonder Early At PAX Aus


Australia’s largest gaming festival, PAX Aus is returning for their 10th year with a stellar Expo Hall booths, panels and tournament lineup. Nintendo is headlining this year’s Expo Hall, which is returning to PAX Aus this year with Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which can be played on the show floor before its release on 20th October. SEGA and Bethesda will also be present, along with major brands across tabletop and card games, plus interesting Indie games, which are always a highlight.

The expo hall attendees and map are now available on the PAX Aus website, so eager fans can plan their destinations once inside. Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. Wonder will be at Booth 1020, in the centre of all the action on the show floor. SEGA will attend PAX Aus this year with a booth showcasing Sonic Superstars and Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. Indie games from Australia and beyond will also be present on the Expo Hall floor. A total of 15 titles from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines will feature a variety of game genres, from turn-based RPGs to Southeast Asian-inspired Diablo-likes and even restaurant management sims.

Tabletop fans will have plenty to do with Star Wars: Unlimited being demo-ed for the first time in Australia at PAX Aus. Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering is also a major feature in the tabletop and card games section. Attendees will be able to learn to play Dungeons & Dragons and visit the D&D Superstore, containing sourcebooks, minis collectibles and more. With the success of Baldur’s Gate 3, it’s an excellent time to try Dungeons & Dragons if you haven’t already. For Magic: The Gathering fans, you can learn to play with the latest Wilds of Eldraine set or bring your own cards and challenge unsuspecting attendees.

PAX Aus 2023 takes place October 6-8 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. For more information and badges, please visit the official website.

Review – Saw X


When it comes to reinvigorating a beloved horror franchise, there’s a level of difficulty that the filmmakers surely face when it comes to balancing the elements that devoted fan bases love, and having a fresh, original concept for the already established universe. As the blood-and-guts filled Saw series seemed to max out it’s gory potential at seven movies full of the most inhumane torture traps ever put to film, it seemed inevitable that prequels and spin-offs were to be explored.

But the tenth entry in the Saw franchise, Saw X, created its own path, and in true franchise form decided to twist the timeline by being a sequel to the original James Wan cult classic, but a prequel to the gory upgrade that was Saw II that sees the legendary and fan favourite Tobin Bell return as horror icon, the Jigsaw Killer. And it’s not onlyback on board for this film, as Saw VI and Saw VII director (and editor of almost every film in this franchise) Kevin Gruetert returns to the blood-soaked hellscape that began his feature film directorial career.

John Kramer (Bell) does not want to take what’s left of his life for granted. As he battles an inoperable and terminal bout of brain cancer, John discovers through a cancer support group that there is an experimental group of scientists working out of Mexico who may be able to perform the surgery he needs to beat his disease and live on.

However, what seems like a legitimate lifeline for Kramer soon turns out too good to be true, and he is scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and left deserted in Mexico. This awful event just so happens to take place as Kramer is homing in on his craft as alter ego, Jigsaw. Deciding to take revenge on those who took his life for granted, and with the help of his newest protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith), Jigsaw tracks down his betrayers and places them in rusted, makeshift traps where they have a choice: live and be reminded of the pain you’ve cause or die in an abhorrently gruesome fashion.

In regards to bringing a fresh take to this franchise, Saw X spends it’s first hour or so focusing on John Kramer as a person, and not just the horror icon he has become. The script from Spiral scribes Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger strays away from kinetic and fast-paced death scenes, and instead patiently forces the audience to sympathise with John Kramer, not Jigsaw, a man suffering from terminal brain cancer. Even though the story feels more personal to Kramer, there are some interesting and insightful instances in which the audience gets a peek inside the mind of Jigsaw and how he chooses the players of his twisted game.

Tobin Bell is synonymous with this character due to his genuine ability to obscure any sense of morality by having some just reasons as to why he puts people in these traps. In Saw X however, Bell gets to bring out a side of Kramer that hasn’t been shown in this series, in this way, and he adds such a personal dimension to the character.

The film is so patiently paced, following John as he struggles with his impending mortality, the hopeful discovery of this experimental treatment, and then his journey to get there, that it truly feels like nothing the Saw franchise has done… which does hinder the film slightly. While there is praise deserved for trying something interesting and new in Saw X, it does fail to be overly engaging because it is quite emotionally surface level. The slow pacing drags what could have been a 30-minute opening act out to almost one full hour of the movie, and it’s noticeably slow and choppy.

There are at least two instances of the brutal violence Saw is known for during this first hour, and those moments are toe-curling (or perhaps finger curling!) to say the least, but it does feel like the traps were shoehorned in due to the slow paced start the film gets off to. It’s a double-edged sword in a way due to the fact that even though it is not necessarily the most exciting way to start a Saw film, it does lead to a very satisfying second half that showcases all the things fans love about these films!

Once Jigsaw and Amanda get their hands on the slimy, scamming scumbags, they’re all put in individual traps in a rusted, dingy barn in the middle of Mexico. And one-by-one, they are put to Jigsaw’s tests, leading to bloody entertaining results (if you’re into this sort of horror, of course)! The best way to describe the second half of Saw X is a hard-boiled, revenge flick!

No body part is safe in traps that would even make the most hardened of person watch at least some of it through the gaps of their fingers! It’s during these insanely graphic, disturbing, and wickedly twisted traps that Saw X thrives, reigniting a classic feeling from the earlier films, where the traps didn’t have to be outlandish contraptions that required an engineering degree, they just had to be a blood-filled nightmare.

The creativity from Stolberg and Goldfinger, along with Gruetert’s experience in bringing Saw traps to life previously, and the welcomed addition of acclaimed production designer Anthony Stabley, is taken to a new level, making the most of it’s gritty aesthetic to convey an oddly enjoyable disgust. Tetanus is the last thing to worry about in this rusty barn when Jigsaw is around, that’s for sure. And in true Saw fashion, the way the traps align with the ‘crime’ that these people have committed against Jigsaw takes the level of satisfaction up significantly.

Also in true Saw fashion, it couldn’t end without the iconic ‘Hello Zepp’ theme by Charlie Clouser to announce that some insane (and often ridiculous) twist is on its way. Saw X’s final moments don’t necessarily hit as hard as previous entries, and part of that reason could be that the story for John Kramer and Amanda continues on from this point into Saw II (technically). But, even in a standalone film sense, the big finale (which is quite grand in scale) doesn’t cause the toes to curl as much as other scenes preceding.

While there is an interesting attempt to try a more personal, human story to being Saw X, and features Tobin Bell’s best performance as John Kramer to date, it’s noticeably tonal difference from the rest of the franchise does make the first half of the film a bit rough to get through. But when the film goes into hard-out, full-on Jigsaw mode, it harkens back to earlier entries in the series by unapologetically filling the screen with what the fans love, blood and guts.

Saw X is in Australian cinemas September 28th, courtesy of StudioCanal. You can also watch my interview with director Kevin Greutert and production designer Anthony Stabley HERE.

Review – The Creator


Director Gareth Edwards returns to sci-fi with an epic original film that stars Gemma Chan and John David Washington. It is a life film that needs to be seen on an IMAX screen to appreciate the sheer grandeur of this film’s design. Edwards and Chris Weitz co-wrote the story, and is a sharp commentary on the role of artificial intelligence and the delicate balance that our society currently faces with it being introduced into our society at this time. Two incredible performances from Allison Janney and Madeleine Yuna Voyles make The Creator one of the best films of 2023 and Edward’s best film to date. 

Every frame of this film is dripping with Edward’s sci-fi influence. The design of the A.I robots are incredibly distinct with Chappie-esque heads and individual personalities that help sell the idea that this version of AI is unique, advanced and can feel and sound like they have feelings. Something that a scene in this movie really drives home with a clean-up crew showing the attempts to purge the robots from the USA after a nuclear bomb is seemingly set off in Los Angeles. Not everyone subscribes to this, and the rest of the world keeps A.I around, while the USA create a weapon called Nomad, a foreboding ship that hovers in the sky, dropping missiles on any target that threatens the advancement of A.I. 

It’s from here we dive head into the central point of this story. A rumoured weapon that will make A.I so advanced, it can’t be eliminated. The hunt for this is led by operative Howell (Allison Janney) who enlists the help of retired US Army Forces undercover officer Josh (John David Washington) who must retrieve the weapon and destroy it. The obstacle is, that the weapon turns out to be a child Alphie (Madeliene Yuna Voyles) who can wield and control “the force” of things around him. As the two travel together while Josh figures out if A.I is the enemy that the government have made them out to be. 

The story feels very familiar, clearly inspired by decades of lore from franchises like Star Wars, Blade Runner and District 9.On the flip side, it is grounded by some truly spectacular performances, in particular from Janney and Voyles. The world itself is completely realised, feeling lived in making it jump out from the screen. 

Movies of this epic scale in similar CGI-heavy films like the Marvel franchise have their moments where things just don’t look right. Having too much CGI can be a distraction and looks terrible on screen. Fortunately, The Creator is an example of the complete opposite, it carries a much lower budget than these films and the special effects make it look better than any Marvel movie ever made. The A.I blend in with the environments seamlessly, the Nomad’s targeting system that beams down blue light onto its targets builds some incredible tension. 

It’s a shame that Washington delivered an extremely flat performance. Trying to buy him as a caring and loving partner just doesn’t fit the bill here. While not quite as wooden as his Protagonist character in Tenet, there is little connection made with his lead character that is meant to carry the film. 

Through it all, the question posed to us from the story is. Is A.I. a good thing or a bad thing? It doesn’t present any answers or finality in its views. Will it outgrow its dependence on human programming and see itself as enslaved to do our bidding? These are all fantastic questions to ponder and stay with you long after the film has finished. 

If you are going to see this movie, I really encourage you to select a premium screen, preferably IMAX. Seeing this at Melbourne IMAX was truly spectacular. This world deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. 

TV Review – C*A*U*G*H*T


The world can never have enough Karl Stefanovic in it. His larrikin charm and boisterous goofiness just part of what makes Australia… well, Australia. But King Larrikin Karl dancing the salsa with an unimpressed and unwilling Sean Penn (who is playing himself) while making tacos to fundraise for a charity on The Today Show will absolutely go down as one of the boldest ways to open a show, because even us Aussie’s would watch that while saying: “What. The. Fuck. Is. This?”

And the ride only gets wilder from there in the new Australian comedy series, C*A*U*G*H*T, which follows four dim-witted and far from special and forceful Australian soldiers who are tasked with an extremely covert mission from the Minister of Defence (Erik Thompson): to retrieve a ‘secret file’ that was ‘accidentally’ sent by the Minister to the Princess of Behati-Prinsloo, a small island nation who has a peace treaty with Australia despite being a conflict zone.

However, after the successful retrieval of the file, the four soldiers (played by Kick Gurry, Ben O’Toole, Lincoln Younes and Alex England) are kidnapped by freedom fighters. Now hostages, the soldiers attempt to prolong what may be left of their lives by coming up with a plan to create a hostage video that will go viral, capturing the hearts of the world and telling the true side of the freedom fighter’s story. But fame doesn’t come without hard work, and a bit of dumb luck to go with it.

C*A*U*G*H*T is one of those comedies that just doesn’t get made anymore. No, it’s not blatantly offensive or mocks stereotypes or won’t “age well” in 20 years. It is just incredibly goofy. In fact, it is at times far too goofy for its own good, but there’s a sense of admiration that must be given to series creator and director (and star) Kick Gurry for committing 110% to the unashamed absurdity of this premise.

The first 15 minutes of this new comedy series is a direct parody of every 1970s and 80s spy show. A rogue soldier (O’Toole) sits in a dark and hazy prison cell as he’s approached by a commanding officer (donning an awfully funny aristocratic British accent) asking him to put a team together for a special job. A team of which the special requirements needed (bomb expert, language expert, charmingly muscular expert) just so happen to be the talents that this particular group of dummies entail.

C*A*U*G*H*T sets is ridiculous tone early, and when the show sticks with it, there’s a fair few laughs to be had. Comical bad guys, cartoonish violence, tastefully tasteless male nudity, demeaning banter between Australian and US soldiers, and pop-culture references to boot are just a taste of the comedic styling this show is going for. It helps that the insanely stacked cast are also just as committed to the craziness, which is somewhat surprising considering the stars that grace the screen, for a long or little as they do.

Matthew Fox (Lost) plays a cocky US soldier who also gets taken hostage with the Australian gang, of which there is more tumultuous tension between them than not. Aussie acting legend Bryan Brown plays an Ian Thorpe obsessed Prime Minister who isn’t afraid to call the US president a ‘see-you-next-Tuesday” on more than one occasion. Which brings us to the US president who is played by Susan Sarandon! And then we can’t forget the salsa dancing of Sean Penn as the leader of a bankrupt non-for-profit that gets entangled with the virality of this scandal. It’s oddly satisfying and endearing how committed these actors are to their roles, and it does add a nice sense of globality to this very dry, Aussie styled humour show.

The comradery between the main four Australian soldiers’ grounds the show slightly, but there isn’t a lot of substance to most of these characters to have them be the main draw. There are a few flashbacks for context, one of which also involves Karl Stefanovic and an on-air animal incident gone terribly wrong serving as one of the shows sincere laugh-out-loud moments based on its shock value alone, but the lack of depth for the main characters leaves little room for care, but lots of room for heightened goofiness. The inclusion of a new character at the end of episode 3, and the shocking line of dialogue that rounds out that episode is incredibly well placed within the show to keep audiences engaged, especially if they’re feeling that the show is losing them at the halfway point.

There is an attempt to create some genuine drama regarding O’Toole’s character and the reason he accepted the mission in the first place, but the seriousness of his backstory and the frequency that he brings it up throughout the series creates a real tonal whiplash. The show is too insane for this level of drama, taking away it’s feeling of seriousness. And when these emotional scenes play out, they feel more awkward than moving.

There is a certain audience for this style of humour, and you do have to be a fan of it to really want to stay invested for the entire 6 episodes. The fast-paced, 30-minute episodes make for an breezy binge watch that doesn’t require much (if any) brain power to enjoy, and the committed performances from our home grown actors, and those from Hollywood too, do just enough to make C*A*U*G*H*T a reasonably enjoyable experience.

All 6 episodes of C*A*U*G*H*T will be available to stream on Stan from September 28.

Interview – ‘Saw X’ director Kevin Gruetert and production designer Anthony Stabley


John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back. Saw X is the most chilling instalment of the Saw franchise yet explores the untold chapter of Jigsaw’s most personal game. Set between the events of Saw I and II, a sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer – only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, John returns to his work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way through a series of ingenious and terrifying traps.

As a lifelong Saw fan, I couldn’t wait to sit down with director Kevin Gruetert (Saw VI and Saw VII) and production designer Anthony Stabley (T2: Judgement Day) about how their collaboration in creating the infamous Jigsaw traps, and the one gory scene that cause Anthony to sign on to the film immediately!

Nick: Kevin, Anthony, it’s a pleasure to meet you both. I’m a lifelong Saw fan, so I have a thousand questions for you both today!

Kevin Gruetert: Let’s do it!

Anthony Stabley: Awesome!

Nick: I’ll start with you Kevin, as you are returning to the franchise as a director once again. What was the thing that drew you back into this world with Saw X?

Kevin Gruetert: Yeah, sure. I mean, what really drew me in was the script. You know, I heard about it back when we made Jigsaw back in 2017. I heard about it and I didn’t really know what they [screenwriters on Jigsaw and Saw X, Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger] were going for. It didn’t grab me.

But then when I actually read the script last year, I was hooked immediately. I had already been thinking that if we were going to do another movie, we have to really invest in the John Kramer character, and we really have to figure out how to make it understandable and inviting to general audiences. And it just did that so perfectly. There was no way I was going to walk away.

Nick: Was there anything you took away from your experience directing Saw VI and Saw VI that you were able to bring to Saw X? It’s been a couple of years since those films!

Kevin Gruetert: I learnt so much working on all the other films and learning what I liked most about the other parts that I didn’t think were as effective. I was able to really just hone in on those really well.

And we shot a lot of coverage so that I had a lot of options when I edited the film. Knowing the way to shoot the movie was definitely the result of a lot of experience in other films too, but particularly Saw.

Nick: If I’m not mistaken Anthony, this is your first venture into the Saw franchise. And obviously Saw is famous for its traps, but also its unique visual aesthetic. I’m really interested to find out how you found the balance of honouring Saw, but also bringing your own style as a production designer to this film?

Anthony Stabley: Yeah, I think first of all, our film takes place between Saw and Saw II, so we wanted to make sure that we were in that family of films as far as the way the traps look, with the oxidised metal and such. The other part is that we wanted to be true to John Kramer and we wanted to make sure the audience feels that these are traps that he could construct and put together.

The other part is that we are in this factor, and we’re also in Mexico. So, we wanted to pull from that visually, and incorporate that into the traps. So, you see things that are very mechanical, that are part of the Saw legacy, or the Saw history, but also some components that are a part of Mexican culture. I think you’re going to see a little bit of both, and that was our goal, and that’s what we did. I’m very proud of our end product.

Nick: While we are talking about the traps, I’d love to know a little more about the process and evolution of the traps. When the script comes in, and those ideas are on the page, what do the conversations between you both look like when you have to take that written word, make a conceptual design, and then actually have it there physically on set?

Kevin Gruetert: Well, it of course starts with the script. In some of the past Saw movies, a lot of the development was actually done after the script was written. In some cases, like Saw VI, the steam room trap didn’t even exist on paper at all. And there were some scenes… Anthony, I can’t remember when you came on board with this one, but the final action sequence was conceptually completely different than what we shot.

Anthony Stabley: Yeah, there were a couple of different things. When we tested traps, and we look at the logistics of working with the actors, some things can be problematic for the stunt department! So, we sort of simplify things. We certainly did that with Gabirella, you know the scene with the…

Nick: Oh, yeah. That trap is a good one!

Anthony Stabley: There’s some stuff there that we had to work out. And you know, it’s a matter of taste. Kevin and I have similar tastes. Same with Nick [Matthews], our DP. We were all on the same page. We constantly ask each other do we like it? Is that going to come across or is the audience going to buy that? Then we make those decisions. Sometimes, it’s just a little napkins drawing that gets flushed out into a concept drawing, and then we start building and constructing. 

I can tell this, it’s not a spoiler, but it’s a little add on. We had a trap at the beginning of this process that we ended up not using. I spent so much time on that trap! Oh my god! The shell of it is actually in the film, but we didn’t end up using it.

Kevin Gruetert: We had to use it somewhere! It’s a long story! But that’s so funny, because one of the things that’s also complicated is that there are a lot of things that happen in the same room right. So, it was very hard to think through the continuity. If this happens here, then it’s going to influence this over here. 

There were significant scenes that take place in the same environment that we had to shoot before we’d even done all the set dressing. So, we had to hope that shots would match when we shoot the other side of it all. And of course, the movie makes a big mess as it goes along, and it gets worse and worse. It’s very hard to track all that stuff!

Anthony Stabley: I just want to say, I made a book called ‘The Book of Blood’. And so the book would show you where the blood was for this scene, for this trap. We were trying to not have issues with continuity, but there was just so much blood, and we even had a blood cleaning team. It was great!

Nick: Imagine putting ‘blood cleaning team’ on your resume! You both brought up the ‘mess’ that this movie makes. And there is one moment in particular that I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll keep it vague. But, I want to gauge what your reactions were when you read the “rope” scene in the script? Because I couldn’t believe it when I saw it!

Anthony Stabley: Kevin was already on board for the movie, and I was sent the script. And I’m in my dining room in Colorado, and I’m reading the scene, and I said out loud, to the whole house: “OH MY GOD!”

Then I just started reading more and more. There was a moment, like, five pages later, where I just stopped and I got on the phone and called the line producer who wanted me to have a meeting with Kevin.  And I just said that I’m doing the movie. I want to do this movie! This is insane.

It felt like it was going to be a historic scene that the horror community are all going to talk about. And there are a lot of scenes like that in this film, and surprises that weren’t in the trailer. We actually spoke with Nick, our DP, about whether there was too much in the trailer. But there are still a lot of surprises in there!

Kevin Gruetert: You know, that scene you’re talking about is a really good example of – and I can only speak about it in a roundabout way because of spoilers – but it’s an example of how the audience can never really guess the thought process that has to go into the movie as a whole. Because that scene is sort of a small, throwaway moment, but it has a huge influence on the geography of that location.

There are these four pillars in that scene that are part of the real environment. We couldn’t just move them for convenience. And so a huge amount of thinking had to go into that scene, and in my case, overthinking because I thought it was going to be much harder to shoot it! But we got it in two takes! Both takes worked perfectly! I guess that’s the value of planning!

Nick: I really appreciate you both taking the time to chat with me today. Like I said, I’m a lifelong Saw fan, so this has been really awesome for me. Thank you both so much, and I can’t wait to see this movie with a crowd!

Anthony Stabley: Thank you, man!

Kevin Gruetert: Please let us know what the crowd is like! Get back to us on that!

Nick: I definitely will!

Thank you to Kevin Gruetert and Anthony Stabley for their time, and to StudioCanal for organising our chat! Saw X is in Australian cinemas September 28.

Win tickets to Saw X


John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back. The most chilling instalment of the SAW franchise yet explores the untold chapter of Jigsaw’s most personal game. Set between the events of SAW I and II, a sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer – only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, John returns to his work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way through a series of ingenious and terrifying traps.

Thanks to StudioCanal Australia we have 10 in-season double-passes to give away!

For your chance to win, enter here

If you want a second entry into the competition, head to the Novastream Instagram page here and comment on our Saw X competition post!

Winners will be drawn on Wednesday 27 September and notified via DM or email. Terms and conditions will be available on the pass. Open to Australian residents only.

Retribution is in Australian cinemas September 21.