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Captain Phillips poster

Review: Diana, Runner Runner, Camille Claudel 1915, Prisoners, Austenland, About Time and Captain Phillips

By Cinema and Reviews

Apart from the ines­cap­able need to carve out a mea­gre liv­ing from an uncar­ing world, one of the reas­ons why these weekly updates have been some­thing less than, well, weekly recently has been that most of the fare on offer at the pic­tures has been so uninspiring.

Diana posterTake Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana for example. It’s not a bad movie, per se. It’s cer­tainly not the train­wreck that the British media would have you believe. It’s just so … ines­sen­tial. Hirschbiegel’s desire to be respect­ful to Diana’s chil­dren, and to oth­er play­ers in the story who are still liv­ing, simply sucks all of the drama out of the thing, leav­ing you with a frus­trat­ing non-love story between two frus­trat­ingly inar­tic­u­late people. There are occa­sion­al hints of the com­plex char­ac­ter she may have been but the fin­ished product is a kind of noth­ing. It really is too soon for this film to tell this story.

Runner Runner posterThen there’s the Justin Timberlake vehicle Runner Runner, in which the pop star turned act­or attempts to carry a film all by him­self and proves that he either is unable to do so, or can­’t pick a pro­ject that’s worth the attempt. He plays a former Wall St hot­shot with a tal­ent for cal­cu­lat­ing risk who trades Princeton for the high life of run­ning an online gambling busi­ness in sunny (and shady) Costa Rica. Not one word of this dis­mal little film betrays a breath of authen­ti­city, either in its storytelling or char­ac­ter. Screenwriters Koppelman and Levien once wrote Ocean’s 13 (and The Girlfriend Experience) for Steven Soderbergh. At least they were meant to be fantasy.

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Review: Attack the Block, The Women on the 6th Floor, The Lorax, Mirror Mirror and Wrath of the Titans

By Cinema and Reviews

Attack the Block posterIt has taken ten months for Joe Cornish’s bril­liant Attack the Block to make its way to New Zealand and one of the first ques­tions will be, is there still an audi­ence left for it con­sid­er­ing the most rabid fans will have found – licit and illi­cit – ways to watch it months ago. I cer­tainly hope there is because Cornish has pro­duced a highly ori­gin­al take on a clas­sic genre – a low-budget ali­en inva­sion movie that is thrill­ing, funny and socially aware.

It’s Guy Fawke’s Night and the attemp­ted mug­ging of off-duty nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is inter­rup­ted by a the explos­ive arrival of a strange creature. The lead­er of the young hood­lums, Moses (a star-making per­form­ance by John Boyega), man­ages to kill the beast and they take the car­cass as a trophy, not real­ising that there are oth­ers fol­low­ing – and that they will want revenge.

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Review: The Hunger Games, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Hunter, 21 Jump Street, The Raid and In Search of Haydn

By Cinema and Reviews

Of all the massively suc­cess­ful fran­chise con­ver­sions from best-selling-books-that-I-haven’t‑read, I’m pleased to say that I like this Hunger Games film the best. I’ve been jus­ti­fi­ably scorn­ful of the Harry Potter films in these pages and down­right dis­dain­ful of Twilight but – while still not reach­ing out much to me per­son­ally – I can say that Hunger Games actu­ally suc­ceeds much more on its own cine­mat­ic terms.

Jennifer Lawrence basic­ally repeats her Academy Award-nominated turn from Winter’s Bone as a plucky Appalachian teen forced to risk everything to pro­tect her young sis­ter while her trau­mat­ised moth­er remains basic­ally use­less. In this film, though, the enemy isn’t tooth­less meth deal­ers but the full force of a fas­cist state where the 99% is enslaved in vari­ous “dis­tricts” and forced to pro­duce whatever the dec­ad­ent 1% back in Capitol City require in order to keep them in their Klaus Nomi-inspired makeup and hair.

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Review: Arthur Christmas, Immortals, When a City Falls, Rest for the Wicked and Submarine

By Cinema and Reviews

I believe that it should be illeg­al to even men­tion the word Christmas in any month oth­er than December. Yup, illeg­al. No one should be allowed to even breathe it, let alone have parades, dis­play mince pies in super­mar­kets or throw staff parties. If, as a once-great nation, we can restrict fire­work sales to three days before Guy Fawkes I’m sure we can man­age to pull our col­lect­ive yuletide-obsessed heads in for a few weeks and focus all that atten­tion on only one month a year.

At least that’s what I thought until last Friday. That was when I saw the new pic­ture from England’s Aardman Animation, Arthur Christmas. I was pre­pared, based on my afore­men­tioned bah-humbuggery – and some unpre­pos­sess­ing trail­ers – to be scorn­ful and yet I was won over. Won over to the extent that I might as well be wrapped in tin­sel with a fairy on top. Arthur Christmas made me believe in Christmas a week before I was ready.

This film is digit­al 3D rather than the stop-motion clay mod­els that made Aardman fam­ous, but the inven­tion, wit, pace, struc­ture and com­mit­ment to theme are all securely in place, brought to life by an awe­some UK voice cast (Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy both do out­stand­ing work) and some bril­liantly clev­er visuals.

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Review: Zookeeper, What’s Your Number?, Abduction, Chalet Girl and The Round Up

By Cinema and Reviews

The Rugby World Cup was sup­posed to be a boon for the whole eco­nomy, the thou­sands of excited guests soak­ing up our food, wine, cul­ture and hos­pit­al­ity. Ask any cinema (or theatre) own­er what’s really hap­pen­ing and you’ll get the incon­veni­ent truth – the Rugby World Cup itself is soak­ing up all the atten­tion and most of the dol­lars. For at least one cinema own­er num­bers are down 30–40% on this time last year. This shouldn’t be news – even in my day run­ning the Paramount we knew that a Saturday night All Black game meant it was hardly worth open­ing – a 7.30 kick-off killed your two best two sessions.

Night rugby has been a dis­aster for every­body except Sky TV and the bars that show it. At least in the days of after­noon games people could watch their team and go out for din­ner and a movie after­wards – the interests of whole fam­il­ies could be accom­mod­ated. Those days appear to be long gone.

This week we see that New Zealand’s film dis­trib­ut­ors have thrown in the tow­el and dumped the year’s worst product in a week no one was going to the pic­tures any­way. For my sins I sat (mostly) alone in pic­ture theatres all over the city to help you decide how best to (cine­mat­ic­ally) escape Dan Carter’s groin.

Zookeeper posterTo be fair to Zookeeper, I was far from alone at the Saturday mat­inée screen­ing – it seems portly comedi­an Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) is a pop­u­lar fig­ure here in New Zealand. In The Dilemma he showed that there’s some nas­cent dra­mat­ic tal­ent lurk­ing beneath the lazy choices he’s been mak­ing but there’s no sign of it here. James plays a lonely but caring Boston zoo­keep­er who thinks that his smelly occu­pa­tion is hold­ing him back, romantically-speaking.

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