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The World's End poster

Review: The World’s End, Pacific Rim, The Look of Love + School Holiday Roundup

By Cinema and Reviews

Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddie Considine and Martn Freeman in The world's End

I can ima­gine some people not enjoy­ing The World’s End. People who don’t care about – or even notice – cine­mat­ic crafts­man­ship, people who think that being self-referential means being self-indulgent, audi­ences who prefer their action sequences to be cos­mic in scale and meas­ured in mega­bytes per second rather than laughs per minute – I expect those people might feel that the latest mas­ter­piece by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost goes sail­ing over their heads. After all, a film like The World’s End rewards con­cen­tra­tion (and second and third view­ings) where­as most block­busters rely on increas­ingly destruct­ive spec­tacle for audi­ences to get their kicks.

The World's End posterThat’s not to say that this film is light on apo­ca­lypse – it prom­ises the end of the world after all – but its core remains the deep friend­ships between men of a cer­tain age and how those friend­ships grow when tested – the same theme that infused their pre­vi­ous two films togeth­er, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

[pullquote]Pacific Rim shows how lov­ing bad films some­times means you make bad films.[/pullquote]Pegg plays Gary King, middle-aged lost soul, pin­ing for the glory days of High School and des­per­ate to com­plete his mas­ter­piece – the 12 pub crawl through Newton Haven known as “The Golden Mile”. He and his mates failed back in 1993 and he’s round­ing them up for one last crack at it. His four old mates (played by Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and the won­der­ful Eddie Marsan) are reluct­ant to leave their tidy grown-up lives behind but, per­suaded, they get to their old stomp­ing grounds only to find they are human­ity’s only hope to avoid inter-galactic colonisation.

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Review: Get Low, My Wedding and Other Secrets, Limitless, Battle Los Angeles, Force of Nature and Red Riding Hood

By Cinema and Reviews

Regular and attent­ive read­ers to this column will know that I heart­ily endorse mem­ber­ship of the Film Society as the best value cinema-going in town. For example, a few weeks ago this year mem­bers (and pro­spect­ive mem­bers) were treated to a sneak pre­view of a lovely little film not yet released to the gen­er­al public.

Get Low posterGet Low is the kind of film that gets made all too rarely these days: a thought­ful, detailed, slow paced med­it­a­tion on char­ac­ter and per­son­al his­tory. It’s a drama, but with plenty of amus­ing moments, and it’s a show­case for two great screen act­ors – two act­ors who spend far to much of their time these days repeat­ing old per­form­ances but here they prove that they’ve still got it when it counts.

Screen legend Robert Duvall (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) plays Felix Bush, a lonely her­mit liv­ing in Tennessee in the 1930s. Unkempt and iras­cible, the loc­als steer well clear because of his dan­ger­ous repu­ta­tion and that’s just the way he seems to like it. But some­thing is eat­ing away at him and he decides to throw a party – a funer­al party for him­self so that people can tell their stor­ies about him to his face and, maybe, he can tell one or two of his own. He enlists the help of loc­al under­taker Bill Murray and, with the help of his assist­ant (Lucas Black), the old man gets a chance to set some records straight.

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Review: Iron Man 2, Home by Christmas and Dear John

By Cinema and Reviews

Iron Man 2 posterOh dear, what a dis­ap­point­ment 90% of Iron Man 2 is. Rushed into pro­duc­tion after the ori­gin­al became the sur­prise run­away hit of 2008, rely­ing far too heav­ily on the dead­pan cha­risma of a coast­ing Robert Downey Jr. – the first time I’ve ever seen him this dis­en­gaged – and with a story that does no more than tread water until the arrival of the inev­it­able epis­ode 3, IM2 offers very little in the way of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and not enough action to compensate.

Downey Jr is Tony Stark once again, milk­ing his fame as saviour of the free world while the secret power source in his chaest that fuels Iron Man (and keeps him alive) slowly pois­ons him from with­in. Just when he doesn’t need an adversary, along comes a crazy Russian physicist/wrestler named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) look­ing for revenge on the Stark fam­ily who stole his father’s research. Vanko’s tech­no­logy is co-opted by Stark’s greatest busi­ness com­pet­it­or, weapons developer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and between them they attempt to des­troy Stark and corner the mar­ket in high-tech mil­it­ary gadgetry.

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Review: The Blind Side, The Book of Eli, Antichrist & Letters to Juliet

By Cinema and Reviews

God is in the house this week. He turns up in the val­ues of a wealthy Tennessee fam­ily who adopt a poor black kid and turn him into a cham­pi­on, He fea­tures in a big leath­er book car­ried across a post-apocalyptic America by enig­mat­ic Denzel Washington, and He is not­able for His absence in a Lars von Trier shock­er that is unlike any­thing you will have seen before or see since.

First, the good ver­sion. Based on a best selling book by Michael Lewis, The Blind Side would not have made it New Zealand screens if it wasn’t for Sandra Bullock’s sur­prise Oscar win earli­er this year and it’s easy to see why dis­trib­ut­ors might have left it on the shelf. Personally, I’m glad they didn’t. My com­pan­ion had no know­ledge of, or affin­ity for, American Football or the com­plex and baff­ling col­lege sports struc­ture and was, there­fore, a bit left out of a story that man­aged to push all my but­tons fairly effortlessly.

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Review: Hancock, Meet Dave, Mamma Mia! and The Love Guru

By Cinema and Reviews

Computer pro­gram­mers have a concept called ‘garbage col­lec­tion’ whereby use­less and redund­ant items are auto­mat­ic­ally dis­posed of by ‘the sys­tem’. We film review­ers don’t have access to such tech­no­logy, how­ever, and are respons­ible for tidy­ing our own rooms so, while all sens­ible cinephiles have their atten­tion focused on the Festival, this column is play­ing catch-up with the com­mer­cial releases still play­ing in your loc­al cineplex.

Hancock posterFirst up is Will Smith’s tra­di­tion­al 4th July epic, Hancock. All the major dis­trib­ut­ors know to steer well clear of Independence Day week­end as Smith totally ‘owns’ but that grip may loosen after his latest effort left many under­whelmed. But, what’s that you say? $453m world­wide gross? He turns out to be abso­lutely crit­ic proof and I feel even more redund­ant than usual.

As a Smith admirer, I was ter­ribly let down by Hancock. A prom­ising first two acts in which the eponym­ous superhero-bum seeks redemp­tion under the guid­ance of PR flack Jason Bateman turns to cus­tard in a final third that seems to have been made up as they went along with poor Charlize Theron hav­ing to explain the non­sense plot in an embar­rass­ing exten­ded mono­logue over a hos­pit­al bed con­tain­ing a dying Hancock. Total balderdash.

Meet Dave posterAlthough, not as awful as Meet Dave in which Eddie Murphy plays a space­ship that looks like Eddie Murphy, piloted by Eddie Murphy, walk­ing stiffly around Manhattan look­ing for a lost orb that will steal all of Earth’s sea­wa­ter and save the home plan­et. As bad as it sounds, if not worse.

Mamma Mia! poster

Much more fun, though very messy, is Mamma Mia!, the star-studded trib­ute to ABBA and plat­forms that, in it’s music­al theatre incarn­a­tion, has romped around the stages of the world for nearly ten years. On a Greek island, Meryl Streep is pre­par­ing for her daugh­ter­’s wed­ding not real­ising that said daugter (Amanda Seyfried) has invited all three of her pos­sible fath­ers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard). All the ABBA hits are per­formed with con­sid­er­able karaōke-style energy from the mostly non-singers and Streep provides a les­son for the likes of Robert De Niro that when you take on a frothy com­mer­cial com­edy you don’t have to leave your tal­ent in your trailer.

The Love Guru posterFinally, let us praise dir­ect­or Jay Roach who it would appear (on the evid­ence of Mike Myers’ new “com­edy” The Love Guru) was the real tal­ent behind the Austin Powers movies. Somebody with the unlikely name of Marco Schnabel dir­ects this one and Myers pro­duces, co-writes and stars in this facile van­ity pro­ject about a self-help spir­itu­al­ist who tries to become the new Deepak Chopra by sav­ing the mar­riage of a star ice hockey play­er (Romany Malco) so he can then lead his team to “Stanley’s Cup”. The most divert­ing thing about this miss and miss affair is won­der­ing why the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t called the Toronto Maple Leaves – a mys­tery on a par with how this putrid and insult­ing effort ever got off the ground in the first place.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 23 July, 2008.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Hancock was at the Embassy. So was Mamma Mia! which was not done any favours by a dam­aged digit­al soundtrack on the print sup­plied by Paramount – very dis­ap­point­ing for a world­wide day & date release. Meet Dave was screened by the lovely people at the Empire in Island Bay. The Love Guru was only on at Readings in Wellington and they don’t sup­ply media with comp tick­ets. Normally, I would work around that by see­ing a film with Graeme Tuckett of the Dominion Post (or, hell, even bor­row­ing his pass on occa­sion) but this time that was­n’t feas­ible with the Festival kick­ing off at the same time. So, I’m ashamed to say I down­loaded it. Yes, I tor­ren­ted a file that had ori­gin­ally been a pre­view DVD sup­plied by Paramount Pictures, with the water­mark pixel­lated out. I would apo­lo­gise except I’m wait­ing for Mike Myers to apo­lo­gise to me first for mak­ing me watch it. And by the way, tor­rent­ing ain’t free – The Love Guru would have cost me a couple of bucks for the band­width and it was­n’t worth that.