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a serious man

Review: True Grit, Inside Job and Wild Target

By Cinema and Reviews

Once again the Coen Brothers set a stand­ard for every oth­er film to try and match. True Grit is every bit as bril­liant as its repu­ta­tion would sug­gest: the best west­ern since Unforgiven and a cent­ral per­form­ance from Jeff Bridges that is twice as good as the one he secured an Oscar for last year (Crazy Heart).

Bridges plays iras­cible one-eyed Deputy Marshall Rooster Cogburn, a man with a repu­ta­tion for shoot­ing first and ask­ing ques­tions later, a man with a taste for whis­key and a dis­taste for author­ity. He is hired by spunky 14 year old Mattie Ross (aston­ish­ing new­comer Hailee Steinfeld) to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her law abid­ing, decent, cit­izen fath­er. Also, hunt­ing Chaney for a huge Federal reward (that dwarfs Mattie’s small bounty) is suave Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) and soon the chase is on, into law­less Indian ter­rit­ory where the fugit­ive is holed up.

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Review: The Hurt Locker, Clash of the Titans, Nowhere Boy & Valentine’s Day

By Cinema and Reviews

The Hurt Locker posterIt took well over 18 months for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker to get a gen­er­al release in New Zealand – a year in which it stead­ily built audi­ences and crit­ic­al acclaim at world­wide fest­ivals and pub­lic screen­ings. In fact, until it was nom­in­ated for a Golden Globe late last year the film had no New Zealand release date sched­uled and many film buffs resor­ted to illi­cit online sources to try and see (what was being touted) as one of the films of the decade.

This is a wor­ry­ing trend. Increasingly, some of the best films are head­ing straight to DVD (some­times, if the tim­ing works, with a Film Festival screen­ing but not always) and, des­pite New Zealand hav­ing a fine track record for sup­port­ing art­house and thought­ful product, I find myself con­fron­ted every week by rub­bish like Law Abiding Citizen and Bounty Hunter. Somewhere along the line the dis­trib­ut­ors have lost their nerve: The Blind Side, which won an Academy Award for Sandra Bullock last month, has only just been giv­en a slot by Roadshow (Warner Brothers). A Serious Man was one of the most bril­liant and intel­li­gent films I’ve ever seen and only one print was placed in Wellington – and it was a Coen Brothers Film!

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2009 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

Welcome to the 2010 “cut out and keep” guide to video rent­ing (or down­load­ing or how­ever you con­sume your home enter­tain­ment these days). I sug­gest you clip this art­icle, fold it up, stick it in your wal­let or purse and refer to it whenev­er you are at the video shop, look­ing for some­thing to while away the long winter even­ings of 2010.

First up, the ones to buy – the Keepers. These are the films that (if you share my psy­cho­logy and some of my patho­lo­gies) you will cher­ish until you are old and the tech­no­logy to play them no longer exists. Best film of the year remains Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Mashing togeth­er sev­er­al archetyp­al stor­ies with a vivid visu­al style and a per­cuss­ive energy, Slumdog may not rep­res­ent India as it actu­ally is but instead suc­cess­fully evoked what India feels like, which is argu­ably more import­ant. After Slumdog everything I saw seemed, you know, old-fashioned and noth­ing has been any­where nearly as thrill­ing since. There are films you respect, films you admire and films you love. Slumdog is a film you adore. “Who wants to be a … miy­on­aire?” indeed.

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Review: A Serious Man, Adam, What Just Happened, Flame & Citron and The Twilight Saga: New Moon

By Cinema and Reviews

A Serious Man posterWe’re born alone and we die alone and in between noth­ing goes accord­ing to plan and the people around us are mostly unre­li­able and occa­sion­ally malevol­ent. Meanwhile, God either doesn’t exist or is indif­fer­ent to our suf­fer­ing. Either way, A Serious Man, the new film by the prodi­giously gif­ted Coen Brothers, is a very ser­i­ous film. It is also a very funny one.

In a mid-west University town in the late 60s, Physics Professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) has a happy fam­ily, a great career and a beau­ti­ful house in a nice neigh­bour­hood. Actually, he has none of those things. His wife (Sari Lennick) has fallen for smooth-talking Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed) and needs a Get (a form­al Jewish divorce), his daugh­ter wants a nose job, his son is pre­par­ing for his bar mitzvah by smoking dope and listen­ing to rock music and his unsuc­cess­ful broth­er (the great Richard Kind) is sleep­ing on the couch and drain­ing his cyst in the bath­room. At the same time, the ten­ure com­mit­tee at the University is receiv­ing anonym­ous com­plaints and his white-bread, red-neck neigh­bours are mow­ing their lawns in a par­tic­u­larly threat­en­ing way.

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