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james cameron Archives - Funerals & Snakes

Review: St. Vincent, Deepsea Challenge 3D, Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Nightcrawler

By | Cinema and Reviews

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In the last (non-Rancho) post I made a commitment to get back in to regular reviewing and to end my year-long sabbatical. (For the reasons behind the hiatus, it is recommended that you have a quick read. Go on, I’ll wait here.) It has come as a bit of a surprise to me that I’ve actually seen as much as I have over the last few months. It didn’t feel like it but — thanks to Radio New Zealand, FishHead and Rancho Notorious — fully 18 of the films currently screening around Wellington are films I can actually have an opinion on.

Anyway, here goes, and I might as well start with the oldest first. Which, as it turns out, is also a contender for the worst film in this post.

St. Vincent movie posterI’ve never managed to hide my disdain for Little Miss Sunshine, a film which is beloved by many and held up as an example of quality screenwriting to which we all should aspire. It is, in fact, garbage. A collection of tics masquerading as characters stuck in a contrived-cute situation in which life lessons will be learned too easily and happy endings will be unearned. Theodore Melfi’s debut feature St. Vincent also falls into all these traps only deeper. It also relies so heavily on the great Bill Murray that it manages to even bring him into disrepute.

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Review: The Dark Knight Rises, Cloudburst, Late Bloomers, Trail Notes, Sky Whisperers and King of Devil’s Island

By | Cinema and Reviews | No Comments

The Dark Knight Rises posterI made the mistake of watching The Dark Knight Rises twice last week. The first time was entertaining enough, I suppose. The opening set-piece – in which a CIA renditions plane is hijacked in mid-air by it’s own cargo – is brilliantly conceived but pointless, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is a breath of fresh air and the ending (unspoiled here) works extremely hard to tie up the many loose ends and satisfy even the meanest critic.

But second time up, the problems come into even clearer focus. The confused ideology (a fusion of zeitgeisty “Occupy Gotham” wealth redistribution and pro-vigilante “mean streets will always need cleaning” status quo protectionism), endless tiresome exposition of both plot and theme and the huge holes in its own internal logic, all serve to dissipate the impact of the impressive visuals.

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Review: American Reunion, Titanic 3D and The Pirates! Band of Misfits

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American Reunion posterIn one of these columns back in 2007 I said, “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.” Those were the days, eh? Now you can’t get away from it. This week nostalgia is everywhere – getting up your nose and on your shoes – and the prime culprits are young whippersnappers who should know better – yearning for their High School years in that innocent-yet-filthy time before Y2K and 9/11 changed everything.

The first American Pie was a well-executed implementation of that noble genre, the teen sex comedy. Four sequels (two direct-to-video) leeched whatever goodwill there might have remained out of the project but – as the careers of Jason Biggs, Seann Williamm Scott and Chris Klein have stuttered – the Hollywood economy will eventually demand its tribute. American Reunion is the result.

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Review- In a Better World, Unknown, Sanctum 3D and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

By | Cinema and Reviews | 5 Comments

In a Better World posterI love it when a film raises the stakes. Done with wit, it can drag you back in to a film you might have been drifting away from. Done with smarts, like Susanne Bier’s Danish drama In a Better World, it can drag you to the edge of your seat.

About two-thirds in to the film there’s an event that forces a central character to confront his own principles – values he has been carefully (and selflessly) teaching his kids – and he has to question whether those principles are really doing him any good in a world that refuses to honour them in return.

The character is Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), a Swedish doctor working in a sub-Saharan refugee camp where – in addition to the usual litany of drought-related problems – he’s patching up pregnant women brutalised by the local warlord. He’s troubled by the circumstances but smug about his role in the aid process. Perhaps he should be paying more attention to back home though, as his oldest son Elias (Markus Rygaard) is being bullied at school and taken under the wing of cold-eyed psychopath Christian (brilliant William Jøhnk Nielsen), grieving the cancer death of his mother and taking his quiet rage out on the world.

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Review: Avatar, Five Minutes of Heaven, Bandslam & Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

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Avatar posterThere have only been asked two questions that anybody has been asking me this week: “Have you seen Avatar?” and “Is it any good?” Thanks to the helpful people at Readings I can say “Yes” to the first one and thanks to James Cameron I can say “Whoah” to the second.

Like many Wellingtonians, I have been following Avatar’s progress since production started in 2007 and it’s almost impossible to be genuinely objective. It’s only natural for locals to try and claim some ownership of a project like this and we are all a tiny bit invested in its success. The hype has certainly been hard to avoid so I was slightly pleased when the fifteen minute extract on “Avatar Day” didn’t fill me with delighted anticipation. I couldn’t quite my head around the character design of the Na’vi (the indigenous race peacefully populating the beautiful but deadly planet of Pandora). The blue – the tails – the ears. I couldn’t for the life of me work out how these characters were going to be cool and I thought that *cool* was going to be important.

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