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The law of unin­ten­ded con­sequences is per­fectly illus­trated in Danny Boyle’s won­der­ful sci-fi pot-boiler Sunshine. In 50 years time our Sun will begin to fade, threat­en­ing all life on Earth. A mis­sion is put togeth­er that will reignite the Sun using “all avail­able fis­sile mater­i­al”. Asking for trouble, they call it Icarus. When Icarus I dis­ap­pears before com­plet­ing the mis­sion, Icarus II is launched.

One of the defin­i­tions of mad­ness is repeat­ing the same beha­viour expect­ing a dif­fer­ent out­come and, sure enough, the crew are forced to deal with mys­ter­ies they haven’t trained for and every ‘solu­tion’ just gets them deep­er into trouble. Like the best science-fiction there is a meta­phor­ic­al qual­ity about the story that tran­scends the hok­um and Sunshine is a stun­ning remind­er that human­kind is plenty smart enough to des­troy the plan­et but not clev­er enough to save itself.

Disturbia posterThere’s talk around Hollywood that this year will see the biggest box office ever and you can see why there is such optim­ism when main­stream films like Sunshine are so good. Luckily, the bal­ance of schlock is rein­stated by the nasty and stu­pid Disturbia, prov­ing that Hollywood is still more than cap­able of deliv­er­ing crappy shocks – apart from one awe­some car crash which is among the best I’ve seen. It is a simple-minded teen ripoff of Hitchcock’s Rear Window that sac­ri­fices style and mys­tery for gore and cheese­cake. Get used to see­ing young Shia LaBeauf as he’s about to become fla­vour of the month as Indiana Jones’ (grand) son.

Ferpect Crime posterThe gags in black com­edy Ferpect Crime all have a recycled feel about them, des­pite the gusto of the dir­ec­tion and the per­form­ances. Rafael is an ambi­tious woman­iser in a Madrid depart­ment store who gets his just desserts when the murder of his rival is wit­nessed by plain shop assist­ant, Lourdes. Guillermo Toledo is very funny as Rafael but the cyn­icism of the film wore me out before the end.

Curse of the Golden Flower posterI’ll con­fess to you straight up that my com­pre­hen­sion of Yang Zhimou’s latest epic, Curse of the Golden Flower, was hampered some­what by my fall­ing asleep dur­ing the expos­i­tion early on. I woke up just as the long, beau­ti­ful, battle scenes began which was per­fect as they have that dream-like qual­ity that we are already famil­i­ar with from films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. It’s an aston­ish­ing visu­al achieve­ment but (under­stand­ably on my part) uninvolving.

Snow Cake posterAlan Rickman is one of Britain’s best-known luv­vies but, apart from defin­ing moments like Die Hard, his film career has been sadly less than stel­lar. In the lovely Snow Cake he plays Alex Hughes, a lonely man on a mis­sion in snowy Winnipeg. When the hitch-hiker he reluct­antly picks up at a diner dies in a crash he detours to vis­it the moth­er and absolve him­self of mul­tiple guilts.

On arrival he dis­cov­ers that the moth­er is a high-level aut­ist­ic who now needs some look­ing after. Sigourney Weaver plays Linda, the moth­er, and if her per­form­ance is accur­ate then its a won­drous thing and if it isn’t then she should be pun­ished bey­ond the abil­ity of this loc­al film column to inflict. The film is quiet and restrained and respect­ful of our human abil­ity to mess up and, hope­fully, bounce back. I liked it a lot.

Edited ver­sion likely to appear in Wellington’s Capital Times, Wednesday 18 April, 2007.