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Review: Summer Holiday 09-10 Summary

By November 5, 2010December 14th, 2010No Comments

While hunt­ing the site for some links to add to the just pos­ted Winter’s Bone etc. review, I dis­covered that my Summer Holiday spe­cial had­n’t made it here. So, for com­plete­ness’ sake, here it is. Pretty sure, this is an early draft too but there’s no sign of an email sub­mit­ting it.

What a lovely Summer we’ve been hav­ing – for watch­ing movies. While the Avatar jug­ger­naut rolls inex­or­ably on there has plenty of oth­er options for a ded­ic­ated seeker of shel­ter from the storm.

The Lovely Bones posterReleased at any oth­er time of year, Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones would be get­ting a decent length eval­u­ation (and the head­line) here but with fif­teen films dis­cuss we’ll have to live with the bul­let point eval­u­ation: not un-moving. My com­pan­ion and I spent a about an hour after watch­ing TLB dis­cuss­ing it’s flaws and yet both ended up agree­ing that we’d actu­ally enjoyed the film a lot, des­pite the problems.

Personally, I think Jackson’s tend­ency towards occa­sion­al whim­sic­al in-jokery typ­i­fied the uncer­tainty of tone (I’m think­ing of his unne­ces­sary cam­era shop cameo as an example) but the fun­da­ment­al mes­sage – that the people left behind after a tragedy are more import­ant than the vic­tims – was clearly and quite bravely artic­u­lated. And when I saw the film at a crowded Embassy ses­sion, dur­ing the pivotal scene where the sis­ter dis­cov­ers the evid­ence to catch the killer, I could only hear one per­son breath­ing around me – and it wasn’t me.

I haven’t tried to offer a plot sum­mary here as I’m guess­ing most people have seen it by now, haven’t they?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo posterThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a nasty and cold-hearted piece of work that has some­how man­aged to per­suade the world that it is rein­vent­ing the serial-killer thrill­er while still flirt­ing with every singe cliché of the same: a cru­sad­ing journ­al­ist on the skids is giv­en a shot a redemp­tion by a sad old man want­ing answers to an old mys­tery. I’d yawn if I wasn’t scared of throw­ing up at the same time.

Creation posterIn Creation, Paul Bettany and wife Jennifer Connolly play Mr and Mrs Darwin and their struggles with his the­ory of evol­u­tion, a story told with more rigour by Arthur Meek in the Downstage play “Collapsing Creation” last year. Too much sen­ti­ment, not enough science.

Sherlock Holmes posterSurprise hit of the hol­i­days was Guy Ritchie’s re-boot of Sherlock Holmes with the reli­able Robert Downey Jr as the great detect­ive. No major star takes a beat­ing like Downey, he really is first rate, and his abil­ity to do “stoned” is remark­able con­sid­er­ing his own sobri­ety. Holmes is hugely enter­tain­ing and a great future is assured for the fran­chise. It turns out the way to get a great Guy Ritchie movie (his last few have been truly ter­rible) is to keep him away from the type­writer – he really can dir­ect and really can’t write.

Whatever Works posterLast year Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona was a pleas­ant sur­prise but light­ning doesn’t quite strike twice with his new film Whatever Works. Star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, Larry David, plays an intel­lec­tu­al mis­an­thrope who dis­cov­ers that life among the “cret­ins” and “mid­gets” might not be so bad after all. It’s an appeal­ing, human­ist philo­sophy being espoused by Allen here – I just with his film­mak­ing wasn’t so slapdash.

Fantastic Mr. Fox posterWes Anderson’s delight­fully whim­sic­al Fantastic Mr. Fox is already one of my films of the year. A witty script for the adults, cute furry anim­als for the kids and won­der­ful pro­duc­tion design for the aes­thetes make it a win­ner all round – I’m sure Roald Dahl would be be pretty happy too.

The Princess and the Frog posterThe kids ought to be pretty happy with The Princess and the Frog, too, Disney’s return to old-fashioned hand-drawn anim­a­tion. To me it was as if the Pixar people (who run things at Disney anim­a­tion nowadays) have run all the clas­sic Disney car­toons (Lady and the Tramp, Beauty and the Beast and even Bambi are ref­er­enced here) through a machine that can spit out a per­fect new ver­sion. The eight-year-old I went with imme­di­ately said she wanted the DVD and that’s not a bad recom­mend­a­tion in my book.

Paranormal Activity posterParanormal Activity is garbage, fit only for the cred­u­lous and the gull­ible – the kind of people who’ve made these over-hyped non-films suc­cess­ful for years. A bland yet annoy­ing Californian couple think they might be haunted and so film their every move with an expens­ive han­dic­am – sup­posedly this film is made from the tapes they left behind. Yuck.

Mid-August Lunch posterLean pick­ings in the art­house this Summer: Mid-August Lunch is a subtly ingra­ti­at­ing Italian con­coc­tion about a middle-aged man liv­ing with his age­ing Mamma. As Rome emp­ties out for the Summer, his apart­ment fills with even more vis­it­ing old ladies who, at first, drive him mad. Mid-August Lunch gets extra points for being the shortest film of the hol­i­days – 73 minutes. More like this please.

The First Day of the rest of Your Life posterThe First Day of the Rest of Your Life hails from France and fol­lows an ordin­ary French fam­ily through those moments, big and small, that define a fam­il­ies rela­tion­ships. Sadly, the fussy dir­ec­tion and banal insights meant for a dis­ap­point­ing experience.

Cold Souls posterCold Souls, on the oth­er hand, is a neat idea that I think isn’t exploited quite as well as it might have been. Paul Giamatti (Sideways’ pinot snob) plays a New York act­or called Paul Giamatti who is strug­gling with the char­ac­ter of Vanya in the Chekov paly he is rehears­ing. His agent recom­mends a vis­it to David Strathairn’s Soul Storage facil­ity where his trouble­some soul can be removed, free­ing him to play Vanya without the annoy­ing both­er of so much iden­ti­fic­a­tion, con­science, emotion.

This is an inter­est­ing idea but is let down by a detour into Russian gang­ster­ism and Cold Souls does­n’t reach the Being John Malkovich heights to which it so clearly aspires.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on (I think) Wednesday 13 January, 2010.