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Review: Oz the Great and Powerful, Samsara, Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away, Great Expectations and The Sweeney

By Cinema, Reviews and Wellington

Oz The Great and Powerful posterIt’s a question that has been burning away inside all of us for nearly 75 years — how did the Wizard (who wasn’t really a wizard at all but a carnival showman with a knack for gadgets) get to Oz in the first place? You neither, huh? Ah well, this least essential question has now been answered by Spider-Man (and Evil Dead) director Sam Raimi and his team of pixel-wielding minions. As a prequel to the beloved 1939 film starring Judy Garland and a dog called Toto, Oz the Great and Powerful is not without risk. Other attempts to recreate L. Frank Baum’s magical world have been either commercial or artistic failures — The Wiz, for example, or Return to Oz.

Casting the human smirk, James Franco, as the carnival magician transported to the land of the yellow brick road by a hot air balloon (via tornado) is also a risk but it eventually pays off, even though Franco’s boyish features are starting to look a bit ragged. Escaping various romantic and financial pressures back home in black and white Kansas, Franco’s Oz finds himself blown off course to a technicolor(ish) fantastical land where a prophecy suggests he will protect the peace-loving citizens from wicked witches but also gain control of the palace fortune. Guess which one appeals more.

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Wellington Film Society - new season starts tonight

By Cinema and Wellington

Wellington Film Society opens tonight? You don’t say!”

All over the world it is volunteer organisations like the Wellington Film Society that keep the flame of film art alive so that cinephiliacs like me can get a decent palate cleanser every Monday night after a weekend of Hollywood tosh.

I can’t recommend Society membership highly enough. Your membership fee equates to around three bucks a screening (33 Mondays!) and your membership gets you enough discounts (at the Film Festival and participating cinemas) that it doesn’t take long to pay for itself.

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Preview: 2010 Wellington Film Festival

By Cinema and Wellington

New Zealand Film Festival poster 2010It’s never been a tougher time to be running a film festival. In addition to the usual commercial considerations of just selling enough tickets to stay afloat, each year brings with it fresh wrinkles to be accommodated. The window of availability of titles shrinks every year because distributors don’t want to sit on their investment. There’s increasing pressure to get films into cinemas before downloading destroys the market and less time for films to build a deserving international buzz.

In previous years films like the Argentinian Best Foreign Language Oscar winner The Secrets in their Eyes might have been tent-pole features for a Wellington Film Festival but have already been and gone from local cinemas so it’s incumbent on director and chief programmer Bill Gosden (and his cohorts) to dig deeper to find more gems for our annual mid-winter fix.

People keep asking me, Dan, they say, what sort of Festival is it, this year, and I have to answer that I really don’t know. I’ve only seen 19 out of the 160+ movies in the book. That’s not enough to know anything, really, about the Festival as a whole. It’s less than 15% of an enormously rich and diverse smorgasbord of potential goodies.

As usual, I asked the Festival people to feed me the unheralded and unknown, the films that might miss out on attention from the big media, and they did. As might be expected, not all of them worked for me but I have some suggestions for films that I am assured will not be coming back on general release later this year.

AB7288B0-44D3-4906-A3B7-6966FC3D2C18.jpegIn the drama section I was very affected by Honey, a beautiful Turkish film about a young boy with some kind of learning disorder, desperate for the approval of his teachers, classmates and his taciturn beekeeper father. A fine example of slow cinema, I feel certain that you will be absorbed by its beauty and the miraculous central performance.

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Boy, oh boy. No updates for a while

By Cinema and Wellington

I’ve been seriously busy since Christmas putting together a show for the Wellington Fringe (which has gone along very nicely, thank you for asking). It’s called “The Immortals” and you can find out all about it here. There are only three more performances and after that I’ll be retiring from actoring so if you are interested in seeing me perform this weekend is your last chance.

I’ve manage to file about four reviews for the Capital Times but haven’t had a chance to annotate, illustrate and linky them up for you good people, an omission which grieves me but that I cannot remedy until later in February (or maybe even March).

In the meantime, one of my favourite filmmakers appeared on my favourite podcast the other day. Here’s the video version of Taika Waititi’s appearance on The Sound of Young America with Jesse Thorn, recorded live from a crowded hotel room in Park City, Utah, during Sundance.