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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: State of Play, Synecdoche, New York, I Love You Man, Paul Blart- Mall Cop, Easy Virtue, Bottle Shock, The Escapist, In Search of Beethoven and Trouble Is My Business

By Cinema and Reviews

It’s a little known fact in the movie industry that most cinema releases serve no great­er pur­pose than to provide some advance pub­li­city for an inev­it­able DVD release. This week sev­en new films were released into the Wellington mar­ket and barely more than a couple of them jus­ti­fied tak­ing up space and time on a big movie screen.

I Love You, Man posterFirst up, I Love You, Man – anoth­er in the end­less parade of cash-ins on the for­mula lit­er­ally coined by Judd Apatow with 40-year-old Virgin and Knocked Up. In this ver­sion usu­al side-kick Paul Rudd takes centre-stage as mild-mannered real estate agent Peter Klaven, engaged to be mar­ried but with no Best Man. All his friends are women, you see, and hijinks ensue as he attempts to gen­er­ate some het­ero­sexu­al male friend­ships and get some bro-mance in his life.

The key thing to point out here is that I love You, Man isn’t very funny and is very slow, but it will trot out the door of the video shop when the time comes, thanks to people like me giv­ing it the oxy­gen of pub­li­city. Dash it, sucked in again.

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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: Iron Maiden: Flight 666, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a few more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 posterOne of the first films I reviewed when I star­ted here was an charm­ing doc­u­ment­ary called Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey in which Canadian fans Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen trav­elled the world talk­ing to oth­er fans (and the stars they wor­ship) about what it is that makes met­al great. In that film they inter­viewed Iron Maiden’s vocal­ist Bruce Dickinson and they must have made a decent impres­sion as Maiden (and EMI) have giv­en them a decent budget and loads of access for them to doc­u­ment their Somewhere Back in Time tour (around the world last year).

And what a wheeze the tour turned out to be. Chartering a 757 from Dickinson’s oth­er employ­er, tak­ing half the seats out so the gear and set could fit, fly­ing the whole show between gigs with Dickinson pilot­ing the whole time – a bunch of pasty middle-aged English lads hav­ing the time of their lives across half the world. The only real drama comes when drum­mer Nicko McBrain gets hit on the wrist by a golf ball, but it doesn’t mat­ter because the joy of see­ing a band really mov­ing audi­ences (in places like Mumbai and Costa Rica) is the reas­on for this film to exist. And this film rises above above oth­er recent great rock movies like U2-3D and Shine a Light – because it’s about the fans as well as the band and it recog­nises the com­plex inter­de­pend­ence of the relationship.

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Review: Slumdog Millionaire, Role Models and The Map Reader

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

I don’t have much room this week and I want to spend most of it gush­ing over Slumdog Millionaire so let’s get started.

Back in 2003, when the Incredibly Strange Film Festival was still its own bump­tious stand-alone anarch­ic self, we opened the Festival with the sum­mer camp spoof Wet Hot American Summer and good­ness me, wasn’t that a time? Written and dir­ec­ted by David Wain, WHAS was a pitch-perfect trib­ute to teen com­ed­ies of the 80s and his new film Role Models attempts to ride the cur­rent wave of sexu­ally frank grown-up com­ed­ies but he doesn’t seem to really have the heart for it. The gross-out bits are uncom­fort­ably gross, the boobies seem like after­thoughts and the film really doesn’t hit its straps until it starts cheer­ing for the under­dog late in the day.

Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott play sales­man ped­dling energy drink to high school kids. After an unfor­tu­nate (sta­tion­ary) road rage incid­ent their jail time is con­ver­ted to com­munity ser­vice at Sturdy Wings – a ‘big broth­er’ out­fit match­ing mis­fit kids up with respons­ible male adults. This kind of mater­i­al has proved out­stand­ingly pop­u­lar recently when pro­duced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and I can’t help think­ing that if he had got­ten his hands on Role Models it would have about 20% more jokes in 16% short­er run­ning time – he really is that much of a machine.

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