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Review: Separation City, G.I. Joe- The Rise of Cobra, Coco Avant Chanel, Flashbacks of a Fool and Earth Whisperers/Papatuanuku

By September 22, 2009December 31st, 2013No Comments

Separation City posterBecause priv­ileged white males haven’t had a fair suck of the sav in recent times when it comes to arts fund­ing it seems only fair that the Film Commission should try and redress that injustice with the new Tom Scott-scripted com­edy Separation City.

Aussie Joel Edgerton plays Simon, a nor­mal kiwi bloke who has a gor­geous intel­li­gent wife, a beau­ti­ful house on the beach in Eastbourne, a job steer­ing affairs of state for a cab­in­et min­is­ter and a mid-life crisis caused by noth­ing more dra­mat­ic than a lack of action in the bed­room. He falls for beau­ti­ful cel­list Katrien who may or may not be Dutch or German but has the cut glass English accent of London-born Rhona Mitra (last seen in skin-tight leath­er as a vam­pire in Underworld 3).

She has recently split from her woman­ising artist hus­band (German Thomas Kretschmann) and, des­pite the bet­ter judge­ment of both, they con­spire to get it on at a cli­mate change con­fer­ence in Berlin. Meanwhile good friend Pip (Stephanie Paul) had decided she’s a les­bi­an, her hus­band Keith (Phil Brown) has star­ted a men’s group so he can deal with his emas­cu­la­tion and the Minister’s sec­ret­ary Julie (Michelle Langstone) wants to get it on with either Simon or rat­bag Tem (Grant Roa) but doesn’t want to be seen as a sex object.

Aussie Les Hill plays the Tom Scott part – the cyn­ic­al, dead­pan Press Gallery hack with the heart of gold – and he gets the best of the dia­logue: Scott’s clev­er one-liners are plen­ti­ful and delivered with aplomb but neither he nor dir­ect­or Paul Middleditch have man­aged to loc­ate a beat­ing heart under the flip­pant sur­face. It’s like watch­ing one of those Circa plays where the cast rush through the emo­tion­al and intel­lec­tu­al con­tent because they don’t trust their audi­ence and then deliv­er the gag lines very delib­er­ately to make sure the audi­ence is still there… You could call this Circa-vision.

Most frus­trat­ingly, if two scenes at the end are any­thing to go by, the real mes­sage of the film reveals the cre­at­ors to be about as old school phal­lo­centric as any­thing pro­duced in the bad old 1970s – con­ser­vat­ive and reac­tion­ary, it will go down a treat with a cer­tain kind of crowd.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra posterMuch more fun (and hap­pily lack­ing any pre­ten­sions to wor­thi­ness what­so­ever) is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a campy romp through the world of bewil­der­ing mil­it­ary nano-technology and (again) skin-tight leath­er. Christopher Eccleston is a fiendish arms deal­er steal­ing his own nano-bot super-weapon back from NATO so he can black­mail the world (or some­thing like that) and only the élite-international-super-special-forces of the G.I. Joes (led by square-jawed Dennis Quaid in the stu­dio and square-jawed Channing Tatum on the ground) can stop him. Much more fun than Transformers, I think I actu­ally intel­lec­tu­ally regressed dur­ing the film and I am now 118 minutes stu­pider. And I don’t mind.

Coco Avant Chanel posterCoco Avant Chanel is a hand­some evoc­a­tion of the early life of the great fash­ion icon and it bears an inter­est­ing com­par­is­on with the Piaf bio­graphy La Vie en Rose from two years ago. While there are obvi­ous sim­il­ar­it­ies between them, that film was man­ic and emo­tion­al (like its sub­ject) and Coco is cool­er, more dis­tant. Audrey Tautou is typ­ic­ally soul­ful as proto-feminist Chanel but the story arc is unfor­tu­nately fairly predictable

Flashbacks of a Fool posterDaniel Craig is using his Bond power for good, help­ing get indie British films made. He’s Exec Producer and star of Flashbacks of a Fool, an oth­er­wise unre­mark­able piece of psy­cho­lo­gic­ally unsoph­ist­ic­ated nos­tal­gia. He plays fant­ast­ic­ally suc­cess­ful but self-destructive movie star Joe Scott, tor­men­ted by guilt over events a gen­er­a­tion ago and a con­tin­ent away. The flash­backs are to a mid-70’s sum­mer by the sea, a tent­at­ive love that doesn’t work out, a broken friend­ship and a tragedy. Craig is watch­able as always though he can’t even walk into the sea to top him­self without a swagger.

Earth Whisperers Papatuanuku posterOne of the many pleas­ures with a gig like this one is watch­ing films like Earth Whisperers/Papatuanuku, a film that I would nev­er have con­sidered in my old civil­ian life but, in fact, I found extremely absorb­ing. 10 New Zealanders with par­tic­u­lar close con­nec­tions with the land and it’s con­ser­va­tion are giv­en brief por­traits by writer/director Kathleen Gallagher and the film is like a sampler box – each of these stor­ies would be worthy of a longer treat­ment. Specifically, Charles Royal a chef spe­cial­ising in tra­di­tion­al maori foods with raw mater­i­als gathered from walks in the bush, and Jim O’Gorman, the Otago organ­ic farm­er, left me want­ing to know more: worth seek­ing out.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 12 August, 2009.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Earth Whisperers was in the new 10 seat­er mini-lounge (rather amus­ingly known as Cinema 5) at the Lighthouse in Petone. For a small room it’s pretty much per­fect – good size screen, nice sound, digit­al pro­jec­tion has good col­our bal­ance. Whatever device is upscal­ing the source (the pro­ject­or, the media play­er?), the pro­ject­or can­’t really pro­duce hi-def and move­ment at the same time which can get a little weary­ing. But if you are in the mar­ket for a bespoke home theatre you should check it out as the Werry’s demon­strate what can be done with a small room ded­ic­ated to the task. On the oth­er hand, Flashbacks of a Fool was screened digit­ally in the Bergman room at the Paramount and was barely acceptable.