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Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Closing the Ring, Smart People, Married Life, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and Journey From the Fall

By August 12, 2008December 31st, 2013No Comments

Forgetting Sarah Marshall posterForgetting Sarah Marshall is an ideal post-Festival pal­ate cleanser: a saucy com­edy fresh off the Judd Apatow pro­duc­tion line (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up). Here he gives the spot­light to one of his sup­port­ing play­ers: Jason Segal (Knocked Up) plays tv com­poser Peter who with­in two minutes of the start of the film is dumped by tv star Sarah M. (Kristen Bell from “Veronica Mars”). He goes to Hawaii to recov­er only to dis­cov­er that his ex is also there – with her new English rock star boy­friend. Very funny in parts, sur­pris­ingly mov­ing at times thanks to a heart­felt per­form­ance from big lump Segal, FSM gets an extra half a star for fea­tur­ing pro­fes­sion­al West Ham fan Russell Brand, play­ing a ver­sion of his sex-addicted stage persona.

The X Files: I Want to Believe posterSix years after their last appear­ance togeth­er, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson put on their Mulder and Scully faces for The X Files: I Want to Believe. This out­ing is just as pre­pos­ter­ous (or should that be post-pos­ter­ous con­sid­er­ing how many times they have already been around this block) as you would expect. FBI Agent Amanda Peet asks Dr Scully to find Mulder, who has been on the run since the end of the last sea­son. She has some miss­ing per­sons she needs to find and her only lead is a con­victed pae­do­phile (Billy Connolly) with vis­ions of body parts bur­ied in the snow. Silly, but should keep the fans (and Gillian Anderson’s agent) happy.

Closing the Ring posterI could think of a 100 reas­ons why I shouldn’t like Richard Attenborough’s Closing the Ring (a tear-jerking romance span­ning WWII and the Irish Troubles) but in the end I decided not to. In 1991 Belfast, a lad look­ing for wreck­age of a crashed WWII B‑12 bomber finds a wed­ding ring and an inscrip­tion that leads him to the small mid-western town of Branagan and some ter­ribly sad fam­ily secrets. The young­er act­ors can’t match the grunt of the legends on screen (includ­ing Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) but it’s a film with a good heart and it serves very nicely for a wet Sunday afternoon.

Smart People posterConsidering the cal­ibre of the cast (Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, Thomas Haden Church) Smart People is a major dis­ap­point­ment. From the first sight of the pil­low stuffed up Quaid’s jump­er indic­at­ing indol­ent middle-age it’s clear that this a slap­dash effort not helped by present­a­tion in the Penthouse Vogue Lounge that was sub-optimal to say the least. Sound prob­lems through­out meant that the annoy­ing indie-by-numbers soundtrack soun­ded like a radio tuned off the sta­tion and there’s no excuse these days for an aper­ture plate not lin­ing up prop­erly. Quaid plays a mis­an­throp­ic lec­turer, griev­ing the loss of his wife (and isn’t that a lazy short­cut these days?) who is brought back to life by the unlikely love of an ER doc­tor (Sarah Jessica Parker).

Married Life posterSadly, the Penthouse exper­i­ence did not improve much by mov­ing to Cinema 2, where the shut­ter tim­ing has been out (and deteri­or­at­ing) in the two years I have been review­ing, now joined by a notice­able hot spot in the centre of the screen. Married Life is a 40s-style melo­drama star­ring Chris Cooper as the buttoned-down busi­ness­man who believes that killing his wife (Patricia Clarkson) will save her from the inev­it­able pain he would inflict by leav­ing her for his mis­tress (Rachel McAdams). Pierce Brosnan is the suave best friend and I do feel that the film would have been infin­itely more inter­est­ing if the cast­ing of Cooper and Brosnan had been reversed.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day posterIn the Penthouse’s favour, the new Cinema 3 is a lovely, com­fort­able room and (apart from a slightly battered second-hand print) the present­a­tion of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was first rate. Like Married Life, Miss Pettigrew seems inspired by the films of the past without the film­mak­ing chops to really pull it off. Set in London on the verge of WWII, Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a naïve ser­vant, down on her uppers, who stumbles in to the life of ingénue and kept woman Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) and in one day man­ages to res­cue her (and every­one around her) from a life of igno­miny and loss. A witty script needs more pacy dir­ec­tion and snap­pi­er cut­ting to really come to life and, of the cast, only McDormand really shows the pre­ci­sion to pull it off.

Journey from the Fall posterFinally, Journey from the Fall is a mov­ing and enlight­en­ing epic story of post-war Vietnam. As the Americans leave Saigon in a hurry in 1975 freedom-fighter/collaborator Long is cap­tured by the Viet Cong and sent to a re-education camp. His wife, moth­er and son attempt to escape the ter­ror by join­ing the thou­sands of boat people who risked their lives among the com­mun­ists, sharks and pir­ates in the South China Sea. Understandably light on laughs but heavy on everything else, Journey from the Fall is eas­ily the most mov­ing and emo­tion­al film of the week.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 6 August, 2008.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: I don’t have much to add to the remarks above except that I’m get­ting sick of the Penthouse mak­ing expens­ive improve­ments to their foy­er and bar while the screen­ing con­di­tions deteriorate.

Nature of Conflict: Journey from the Fall is dis­trib­uted in New Zealand by Arkles Entertainment who I do a little work for now and then.