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Review: Two Lovers, My Sister’s Keeper, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus and A Christmas Carol

By Cinema and Reviews

Two Lovers posterAt what point in a man’s life does he decide to become a dry clean­er? For Joaquin Phoenix’s char­ac­ter, Leonard Kraditor, in Two Lovers that day is nev­er and yet he still finds him­self to be one. He’s a sens­it­ive soul whose men­tal health issues have res­ul­ted in sev­er­al sui­cide attempts, a per­man­ent rela­tion­ship with med­ic­a­tion and a need to start again with his lov­ing par­ents in their small apart­ment in Brooklyn.

His fath­er intro­duces him to the daugh­ter of a busi­ness asso­ci­ate (Vinessa Shaw) in the hopes that a pos­it­ive rela­tion­ship might heal his son and also be a prof­it­able devel­op­ment for the dry clean­ing busi­ness. At the same time, Leonard meets and falls for the beau­ti­ful and mys­ter­i­ous upstairs neigh­bour, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, whose own rela­tion­ship with a wealthy mar­ried man is doing her no good.

Two Lovers is writ­ten and dir­ec­ted by James Gray, the icon­o­clast­ic and uncom­prom­ising inde­pend­ent film­maker respons­ible for the gritty New York dra­mas Little Odessa and last year’s We Own the Night , which also starred Phoenix. It’s a care­ful and sens­it­ive pic­ture about how so often love is about want­ing to heal and pro­tect someone – Shaw wants to heal Phoenix and he wants to heal Paltrow and none of them real­ise the extent to which they have to heal them­selves first.

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Review: The Damned United, The Final Destination, Red Cliff and A Pain in the Ass

By Cinema and Reviews

Four films are on the agenda this week and only time will tell this early in the sea­son wheth­er they are going to be genu­ine title con­tenders, gritty bat­tle­rs hop­ing for a shot at mid-table obscur­ity or no-hopers doomed to a sea­son of heartache and inev­it­able releg­a­tion. Please excuse the laboured foot­ball meta­phors but the best of this week’s releases is set in the world of 1970s English foot­ball (all fags, booze and Deep Heat) and I let the mud get under my fin­ger­nails a bit.

The Damned United posterBased on the 2006 sur­prise hit nov­el by David Peace, The Damned United is about the bizarre 44 days in 1974 when mer­cur­i­al British foot­ball man­ager Brian Clough tried to man­age Leeds United. Opinion is divided about wheth­er the pos­sibly men­tally unbal­anced Clough was actu­ally try­ing to des­troy a team he hated from the inside or wheth­er he had genu­inely let his ambi­tion (and com­pet­it­ive streak) get the bet­ter of his judge­ment and the book suc­cess­fully man­ages to get deep inside the head of a man who is unrav­el­ling under the pres­sure but the film isn’t as ambitious.

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Review: G-Force, Shorts, The Secret of Moonacre, Ponyo, Year One, Fame, Every Little Step, Disgrace, North Face and Cheri

By Cinema and Reviews

So, it’s the school hol­i­days and the nip­pers are boun­cing off the walls. You’re not allowed to just leave them in the car while you play the pokies any­more so it’s time to get cre­at­ive. There are plenty of kid-friendly movie options around and the only draw­back is that you might have to sit and watch with them.

G-Force posterIn G‑Force 3D guinea pigs save the world from – actu­ally I can’t tell you as the twist is quite a good one. A top secret research pro­ject involving Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) and rodents with the voices of Nic Cage, Sam Rockwell and Penélope Cruz is pressed into ser­vice when an entire con­sumer brand (toast­ers, cof­fee makers, etc) goes ber­serk. The anim­a­tion is first class (and CGI rodents are always cute) but the film as a whole nev­er really gets going. It’s a Bruckheimer pro­duc­tion so was prob­ably con­sumer tested bey­ond endurance.

Shorts posterAnother fic­tion­al con­sumer brand gets a pum­mel­ling in this new era of anti-commercialism in Shorts , Robert Rodriguez’ spunky and invent­ive, low budget effort. Black Industries make a Black Box – an all-in-one port­able everything device that turns out not to be nearly as cool as the rain­bow magic wish­ing stone that causes hav­oc every­where it goes. Pitched slightly young­er than G‑Force, and without the pol­ish, it is still worth a look.

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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: The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, Monsters vs. Aliens, The Uninvited, 12 Rounds, Pink Panther 2 and Ip Man

By Cinema and Reviews

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls movie posterI’m not nor­mally one to make box office pre­dic­tions but I have a gut feel­ing that The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls is going to be massive. It’s an inspir­ing New Zealand story, well told with plenty of humour and music, and the lit­er­ally irre­press­ible Topps’ lust for life shines like a beacon through­out. Using plenty of archiv­al foot­age and pho­tos, Leanne Pooley’s doc­u­ment­ary fol­lows the Twins from idyll­ic rur­al Calf Club Days, through the rough and tumble protests of the 80s, to their cur­rent status as liv­ing legends.

I recom­mend you take your kids so they can see how much of what’s good about New Zealand (that we take for gran­ted) was fought for by these strong and prin­cipled women, who also just hap­pen to be beloved fam­ily entertainers.

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Review: Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, He’s Just Not That Into You, Marley & Me and Son of a Lion

By Cinema and Reviews

Friday the 13th poster Strange as it may seem but review­ers are people too and, like the rest of you ordin­ary folk, we have blind spots and mine is hor­ror. Back when I was a civil­ian, I man­aged to avoid most of the icon­ic hor­ror movies of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s for reas­ons (I’m sorry to say) of pure squeam­ish­ness. Imagine my, er, sur­prise then when I dis­covered that this week had two, pos­sibly even four, hor­ror films in it. Eek.

My only pre­vi­ous expos­ure to the Friday the 13th cata­logue was a grainy pir­ate video in 1981 (with sound about ten seconds out of synch) so, with few pre­con­cep­tions, I am pleased to report that the Michael Bay-pro­duced remake is quite enter­tain­ing. Silly, of course, but entertaining.

The scene is present day Crystal Lake (scene of the hockey-masked ghoul named Jason’s camp counsellor-offing ram­page in the ori­gin­al) and a group of gorm­less rich col­lege kids are look­ing for laffs on Jason’s turf. You sus­pect it won’t end well for any of them and you are right. Director Marcus Nispel made the video for Cher’s “Walking in Memphis” so you can see how he could eas­ily turn his hand to this sort of thing.

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