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black swan

Review: Oblivion, Warm Bodies, Barbara, Performance, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and The Croods

By Cinema and Reviews

Oblivion_30_580 Last time we saw Tom Cruise he was known as Jack Reacher. Now, in Oblivion, his name is Jack Harper. What range! What diversity! You’d hardly recog­nise him. Harper is a main­ten­ance guy, repair­ing the drones that pro­tect giant machines that suck Earth’s oceans up to an enorm­ous space sta­tion orbit­ing above us, a space sta­tion that is going to take the few remain­ing sur­viv­ors of our pyrrhic vic­tory over invad­ing ali­ens on a final jour­ney away from a dev­ast­ated plan­et to a new life on Titan.

Oblivion posterAssisting Mr. Cruise with his mech­an­ic­al defence duties is Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), life and work part­ner, keep­ing him in con­tact with the super­visors float­ing above them and keep­ing an eye on the strag­gling rem­nants of the ali­ens who tried to con­quer us. Traditional gender roles are very much still intact in the future – even though the Moon isn’t – and Ms. Riseborough’s char­ac­ter seems con­tent to nev­er leave the spot­less mod­ern kit­chen while Cruise gets his hands dirty on the sur­face. Neither of them seem too bothered by the fact that they had their memor­ies wiped six years pre­vi­ously, although he has been hav­ing some strange dreams recently.

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Review: The Tree of Life, Fire in Babylon, The Bang Bang Club, Jane Eyre, Steam of Life, The Change-Up

By Cinema and Reviews

The Tree of Life posterIt’s the fifth anniversary of my first column for this paper – my, how time flies. Five years of search­ing – usu­ally in vain – for some tran­scend­ence among the many flick­er­ing images in dozens of darkened rooms. And then, as if by magic, tran­scend­ence appears.

It has taken a few weeks – and a second view­ing – to prop­erly pro­cess Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Often baff­ling, frus­trat­ing, unhelp­ful, yet emo­tion­al and evoc­at­ive in ways I couldn’t put my fin­ger on, I wrestled with it through­out the two and a half hour run­ning time – search­ing for answers and mean­ing among the beau­ti­ful images, float­ing, soar­ing camer­work and weird diver­sions into cos­mo­logy and vulcanology.

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Review: Operation 8, Hook, Line & Sinker, Tracker, Source Code, Your Highness and Babies

By Cinema and Reviews

I was expect­ing to come out of Operation 8 fired up but instead I emerged depressed and dis­pir­ited. I knew that New Zealand’s default polit­ic­al set­ting was benign com­pla­cency but I hadn’t real­ised that the full force of a – frankly – barely com­pet­ent police state was being brought to bear on the few of us who were actu­ally agit­at­ing and protest­ing for a more pro­gress­ive society.

Operation 8 is Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones’ unashamedly par­tis­an telling of the 2007 “Urewera 18 17” scan­dal in which dis­par­ate protest groups across New Zealand (with the focus on Tuhoe’s inde­pend­ence move­ment) were viol­ently raided, imprisoned and – now about to be – giv­en a tri­al without a jury. It’s a shock­ing lit­any of state arrog­ance and ineptitude, all the more depress­ing for com­men­cing under a Labour Government.

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Review: Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Desert Flower, Unstoppable, Burlesque, Little Fockers, Green Hornet and The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell

By Cinema and Reviews

Following up on the 2009 sur­prise hit The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky has offered us anoth­er film about people who des­troy them­selves for our enter­tain­ment – this time in the rar­efied world of bal­let. Tiny Natalie Portman is plucked from the chor­us of the fic­tion­al but pres­ti­gi­ous New York City Ballet for the dream role of the Swan in a hot new pro­duc­tion. It’s the chance of a life­time but her fra­gile psy­cho­logy shows through in her per­form­ance even though her dan­cing is tech­nic­ally per­fect. Maestro Vincent Cassel tries to recon­struct her – as you would a first year drama school stu­dent – while dom­in­eer­ing stage moth­er Barbara Hershey is push­ing back in the oth­er dir­ec­tion. Something has to break and it does.

Black Swan is excep­tion­ally well made, beau­ti­ful and chal­len­ging to watch – and Portman’s per­form­ance is noth­ing short of amaz­ing – but films that aspire to great­ness need to be about some­thing more than, you know, what they’re about and once I’d decoded was going on I couldn’t see enough under the sur­face to jus­ti­fy the hype.

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Review: Summer Holiday Round-up (2010/11)

By Cinema and Reviews

This year the sum­mer hol­i­days seemed to have been owned by the unlikely fig­ure of T.J. Miller, dead­pan comedi­an, sup­port­ing act­or and eer­ily famil­i­ar back­ground fig­ure. In Yogi Bear he was the ambi­tious but dim deputy park ranger eas­ily duped by Andrew Daly’s smarmy Mayor into help­ing him sell out Jellystone to cor­por­ate log­ging interests, in Gulliver’s Travels he was the ambi­tious but as it turns out dim mail room super­visor who pro­vokes Jack Black into pla­gi­ar­ising his way into a fate­ful travel writ­ing gig and in Unstoppable he’s the slightly less dim (and cer­tainly less ambi­tious) mate of the doo­fus who leaves the hand­brake on and then watches his enorm­ous freight train full of tox­ic waste roll away.

So, a good sum­mer for T.J. Miller then, what about the rest of us?

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