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Conflict of Interest

Review: Dinner for Schmucks, The Insatiable Moon and Picture Me

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Dinner for Schmucks posterAfter a week when New Zealand has been forced to confront its own intolerance and social myopia it seems fitting that two films that are essentially about understanding and accepting diversity should arrive in cinemas in the same week. They both take drastically different approaches to the topic, too.

In Dinner for Schmucks, ambitious hedge fund analyst Paul Rudd has to find a guest to take to a monthly senior management party in which unusual people are secretly held up to ridicule. When his Porsche knocks over mild mannered public servant and amateur taxidermist Steve Carell he thinks he’s found the right man. But Carell’s character, Barry, latches on to him causing mayhem wherever he goes.

Eventually, after Rudd’s relationship and career are wrecked, they both reach a deeper understanding of each other and some decent human values: laughing with someone is ok. At someone? Not so much. And if you are anything like me, you will laugh.

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Review: Public Enemies, Faintheart, Coraline and Battle in Seattle

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Public Enemies posterOf all directors currently working in the Hollywood mainstream Michael Mann is arguably the greatest stylist. No one at the multiplex has more control of the pure aesthetics of filmmaking, from colour balance and composition through editing and sound, Mann’s films (from Thief in 1981 to the misguided reworking of Miami Vice in 2006) have had a European visual sensibility while remaining heavily embedded in the seamy world of crime and punishment.

Now Mann has turned back the clock and made a period crime film, set during the last great depression. Based on the true story of the legendary bank robber John Dillinger, whose gang cut a swathe across the Midwest in 1933 and 1934, Mann’s Public Enemies is a stylish and superbly crafted tale of a doomed hero pursued by a dogged lawman. Dillinger is portrayed by Johnny Depp with his usual swagger and his nemesis is the now sadly ubiquitous Christian Bale.

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Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Arranged, Bride Flight and W.

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen posterAfter hits like Bad Boys and The Rock, as well as failures like The Island and Pearl Harbor, we all know that Michael Bay is better than any director alive at blowing things up and in the motion picture business this not an ignoble pursuit. What he can’t pull off are other important things like suspense, comedy or drama. There’s no doubt that it takes a special talent to sit in a room with the effects bods and say “sink that aircraft carrier — I’ll be back after lunch to see how you are getting on” but it isn’t really filmmaking in it’s purest sense.

Which bring us to his latest, monumental, effort, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, in which a tiny sliver of the shiny magic cube from the first film is discovered by Shia LaBoeuf while he’s on his way to college. Somehow its magicky goodness rubs off on him, fills his mind with symbols, gives him special mental powers and alerts the remaining Decepticons up in space to its existence. Perhaps they could use it to restart their war with the Autobots, erase the human race and steal the power of the sun for themselves?

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Review: The Hangover, Good, Elegy, Boy A, Land of the Lost and Forever Strong

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

The Hangover posterI can just imagine the Monday morning when a development executive stumbled across the script of The Hangover. It wouldn’t have taken him long to realise that he’d discovered modern Hollywood’s holy grail — a perfectly realised men-behaving-badly movie, so well-written and cleverly structured that he wouldn’t need any big stars or a marquee director. By morning tea he would have been gone for the day, safe in the knowledge that his targets for the year were going be met and (no doubt inspired by the script he’d just bought) he would be dropping a big bunch of credit card on hookers and blow. Probably.

The script is perfect in its elegant and streamlined construction (screenwriter-porn, no less): Four friends head to Vegas for a bachelor party. We leave them at the first Jägermeister shot, only to rejoin them at dawn as they emerge squinting into the light. They’ve gained a baby and tiger and lost a tooth — and a buddy. The film is all about putting the pieces of the night back together and it’s clever, filthy, loose and charming. The Hangover is indeed the Citizen Kane of all getting-fucked-up-in-Vegas movies — so supremely pre-eminent that (let us hope) we never have to watch another of its kind ever again. Of course, The Hangover 2 is already in pre-production.

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Review: Angels & Demons, Knowing, Night at the Museum, Lesbian Vampire Killers, A Film With Me In It and I’ve Loved You So Long

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Angels & Demons posterRon Howard’s Angels & Demons, sequel to the blockbuster Da Vinci Code from 2006, is what you might call an equal opportunity annoyance — happily misrepresenting theology and science.

Tom Hanks returns as Harvard scholar Robert Langdon, this time summoned to Rome by mysterious Vatican security to investigate the kidnapping of four Cardinals on the eve of the election of a new Pope. A clue (helpfully reading “illuminati”) leads him to believe that a the secret society of scientists and truth-tellers have come to take revenge for their 17th century purging. The Large Hadron Collider (actually working in this piece of fiction) creates a macguffin that could change the shape of Rome as we know it — if not the world.

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Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, The Unknown Woman, The Unborn, The Women and Notorious

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Underword: Rise of the Lycans posterA friend of mine auditioned for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (produced in Auckland in 2006) and didn’t get a part. I was pleased to report to him yesterday that he had dodged a (silver) bullet there as this nonsensical prequel to the Kate Beckinsale leather-fetishists fantasy series was not going to do anyone’s career any good.

The usually great Bill Nighy plays Viktor, leader of a bunch of aristocratic (but strangely democratic) vampires in middle ages middle Europe. They earn their keep by squeezing protection money out of the local humans — supposedly keeping the werewolves out of their hair — but evolution is not on their side and the wolves are in the ascendant.

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