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Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Last Airbender, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Cats & Dogs- The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Charlie St. Cloud

By September 29, 2010December 31st, 2013One Comment

Ah, the school hol­i­days. The time when the big cinemas are more excited about the arrival of their jumbo pop­corn con­tain­ers than any of the films they are show­ing. Your cor­res­pond­ent spent the week­end sur­roun­ded by chomp­ing, rust­ling and slurp­ing fel­low cit­izens so he could bring you this report from the front­line. It was brutal.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid posterDiary of a Wimpy Kid pur­ports to be about middle school and how to sur­vive it but in fact it’s a rather charm­less mor­al­ity tale about being your­self. Little Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) thinks that to be pop­u­lar he has to be cool but everything he tries turns to dis­aster while his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) effort­lessly tran­scends his own dork­i­ness to win over the school. Enough kids have already got a kick out of Diary’s astute mix of life-lessons and gross-out humour that a sequel has already been announced.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore posterUp to now I’ve made a little rule for myself that if there are two ver­sions of a film on release (2D or 3D) I’ll review the 3D ver­sion. In most cases that’s the way that the cre­at­or would prefer but it’s not always the best choice: Clash of the Titans sucked in 3D and Toy Story 3 glowed when played flat. With Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, I’m sure cine­ma­to­graph­er Steven Poster would be thrilled to note that ratio prob­lems on the 3D trans­fer I saw meant that his (no doubt) care­fully con­struc­ted fram­ing was botched, cut­ting the tops of heads off – as well as lop­ping off his own cred­it at the bot­tom of the screen.

That’s par for the course, sadly, for a film that redefines lackluster. My biggest beef with the ori­gin­al Cats & Dogs wasn’t the film­mak­ing as much as the philo­sophy – blatant pro-dog and anti-cat pro­pa­ganda – but the sequel simply doesn’t work in any dimension.

Charlie St. Cloud posterBack in April last year I made a joke about the name of 17 Again dir­ect­or Burr Steers so I can’t do that this time. He’s back in cinemas (again with heartthrob Zac Efron) with a maudlin tear-jerker called Charlie St. Cloud. Zac is Charlie, hand­some and pop­u­lar. He’s about to go to Stanford on a sail­ing schol­ar­ship when his young broth­er Sam (Charlie Tahan) is killed in an acci­dent and Charlie, con­sumed by guilt, gives up his dreams in order to tend the grave­yard where Sam is bur­ied – and con­tin­ue their games of catch because after the acci­dent Charlie now sees dead people.

Efron’s inab­il­ity to por­tray any kind of inner life what­so­ever hampers our engage­ment some­what so Steers winds the emotion-o-meter up to 11 to com­pensate, leav­ing the audi­ence (and him­self) nowhere to go.

The Last Airbender posterSteers could take a les­son from M. Night Shyamalan in terms of “see­ing dead people” movies and most dir­ect­ors of 3D could take a les­son from him in how to use the tech­no­logy and not give audi­ences a head­ache. It seems odd, pro­pos­ing Shyamalan as some kind of expert, after a string of dis­asters like The Happening but with The Last Airbender he has got some things right.

The 3D is smooth and easy on the eye, the world of the story is coher­ent and well-realised, the action easy to fol­low. I’m a little con­cerned about some of the eth­ni­city choices but, for the most part Airbender works in its own terms as a big action adven­ture for kids.

In a land before time, there are four nations: Earth, Air, Fire and Water and, until the fire crowd got uppity, all were in per­fect har­mony. Somebody called an Avatar had the abil­ity to manip­u­late all the ele­ments, keep­ing the bal­ance of power between the nations, but when the latest incarn­a­tion dis­ap­peared 100 years ago the Fire people (all south asi­an, middle-eastern and, er, Maori) took their chance to try and rule the world.

Now, the Avatar (Noah Ringer) has been found and his power must be har­nessed to save the world from ambi­tious Cliff Curtis and his hench­men. I didn’t hate The Last Airbender at all and I was expect­ing to. Take of that what you will.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps posterGordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) will prove to be Oliver Stone’s greatest cre­ation and with the new sequel to Wall Street (Money Never Sleeps) he proves him­self to be just a little too much in love with his alter ego. Shia LaBeouf plays a young hot­shot ana­lyst with a jones for altern­at­ive energy. He’s going out with Gekko’s daugh­ter (Carey Mulligan) who has refused to see her fath­er since he went to jail. Gekko’s now out and, appar­ently, a changed man, preach­ing against the new fin­an­cial ortho­doxy and warn­ing of the doom to come.

When LaBeouf seeks out Gekko for per­mis­sion to marry his daugh­ter (how old fash­ioned!) he gets taken under the old man’s wing and a plot is hatched that might save Shia’s altern­at­ive fusion energy pro­ject, Gekko’s rela­tion­ship with his daugh­ter and his repu­ta­tion as the King of Wall Street.

If you are inter­ested in the fin­an­cial mach­in­a­tions of the big play­ers and how their greed brought us all to our knees, there’s really not enough in Money Never Sleeps (you’ll find more in the aver­age edi­tion of Vanity Fair) but if that doesn’t interest you then there’s simply too much of it. Like my com­pan­ion, you’ll be bored for most of the unne­ces­sary two and a quarter hour run­ning time.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 29 September, 2010.

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