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Review: The Water Diviner

By Cinema, Reviews

Strathmore’s finest son, Russell ‘Rusty’ Crowe, has been around film sets and worked along­side good, aver­age and bad dir­ect­ors now for nearly 25 years, so it comes as no sur­prise to find that good, aver­age and bad habits have rubbed off on him when it comes to his turn in the director’s chair.

water_diviner_xlgAs an act­or, he has been most suc­cess­ful when sub­tlety is eschewed and grand ges­tures and emo­tions are called for — the angry skin­head in Romper Stomper, Oscar-winning Maximus in Gladiator, con­jur­ing up a good per­form­ance des­pite an aver­age singing voice in Les Misérables and sav­ing the world with the voice of God in his head in Noah earli­er this year. Even my favour­ite Crowe per­form­ance, the gay son in the poignant 1994 Australian drama The Sum of Us, had a heart as big as, they say, a whale.

This big-heartedness is the great strength of Crowe’s dir­ect­ori­al debut, The Water Diviner, the story of a griev­ing fath­er search­ing for what remains of his sons, who he allowed to enlist and then be all but oblit­er­ated on the unfor­giv­ing coast of the Dardanelles. This is an Anzac story, and it couldn’t be bet­ter timed with our atten­tion turned once again to those who fought and died for us a hun­dred years ago.

Another strength of Crowe’s film — and the ori­gin­al script by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios — is that it nev­er lets us for­get that two sides were sac­ri­fi­cing their young men on those cliffs. The Turks, who dur­ing the story are help­ing the British and Anzacs loc­ate the remains of the dead on the hill­side at the same time as pre­par­ing to defend their home­land once again from the Greeks on anoth­er front, lost as many as the Allies, and their story is usu­ally a sideshow in these things. The per­form­ances by Yilmaz Erdogan and Cem Yilmaz — as Turkish officers with mixed motiv­a­tions in aid­ing the bereaved Victorian farm­er — help restore that bal­ance somewhat.

The Water Diviner is not without evid­ence of those bad habits, though. An ill-advised romantic sub-plot with a Turkish wid­ow (played by Russian beauty Olga Kurylenko) detracts from the solidly anti-war, yet cour­ageously meta­phys­ic­al, main story. The Water Diviner, on a rel­at­ively low budget, also man­ages to help me for­get the wobbly rub­ber bay­on­ets of the sole New Zealand fea­ture on this sub­ject, Dale Bradley’s deeply flawed 1992 adapt­a­tion of Maurice Shadbolt’s Once on Chunuk Bair.

(Originally prin­ted in the Dec/Jan issue Wellington’s FishHead magazine.)

RN 2/8: A Very Rancho Christmas

By Audio, Cinema, Rancho Notorious, Reviews

In which Kailey and Dan attempt two impossible feats before bed­time: din­ner and a show with spe­cial guests Graeme Tuckett, John Leigh, Mike Dickison, Sebastian Macaulay, Kaarin Macaulay, Ian Freer and some tur­key, wine and crack­ers, plus live stream­ing the whole thing out to the world.

Hilarity ensues.

And Paddington is reviewed.

RN 2/7: The Last Goodbye

By Audio, Cinema, Rancho Notorious, Reviews

Recorded before Sony’s decision to can­cel the release of The Interview (hence no dis­cus­sion of it), we inter­view Eddie Izzard about his forth­com­ing Force Majeure tour, and his plans for what’s to come after, and Alex Sheremet about his epic sur­vey of the career of Woody Allen. Sonal Patel joins us to epic­ally review the final film in two tri­lo­gies – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – as well as John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as eld­erly New York lov­ers in Love Is Strange.

Apologies for the late update. Glandular fever flare up kept me out of action for a day and a half.

RN 2/6: Ebb Tide

By Audio, Cinema, Rancho Notorious, Reviews

Claire Querée, one of our exec pro­du­cers from Vancouver, Canada, drops by to help us review David Tennant and Rosamund Pike in What We Did on Our Holiday, Ari Seth Cohen talks to Dan about his blog, book and movie Advanced Style and Dan and Kailey review The Drop and You’re Not You.

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RN 2/5: Setting an Example

By Audio, Cinema, Rancho Notorious, Reviews

Dwarf Gloin (Peter Hambleton) is inter­viewed at the Wellington première of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Dan and Kailey try – and fail – to inter­view Advanced Style dir­ect­or Lina Plioplyte in Lithuania so decide to review the film instead. Plus, win­ners of the Studio Ghibli com­pet­i­tion are finally announced.

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RN 2/4: “It’s knowledge, bro.”

By Audio, Cinema, Rancho Notorious, Reviews

This week’s reviews: Jake Gyllenhaal is a psy­cho­path­ic news cam­era­man in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, Jennifer Lawrence is a free­dom fight­er with some issues in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One and a tame capuchin mon­key gets lost in the jungle in Amazonia 3D.

Special guest Mike Dickison joins us to dis­cuss the thorny sub­ject of sci­ence in the movies — films that get it wrong, and some that get it right.

Plus, import­ant Benedict Cumberbatch news and the weekly oblig­at­ory men­tions of 50 Shades of Grey and Game of Thrones.

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