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Jobs poster

Review: Jobs, The Weight of Elephants, Red 2, White House Down, Salinger & In the House

By Cinema, Reviews

Demos Murphy in Daniel Borgman's The Weight of Elephants (2013)Jobs posterThe best way I can think of to sum up Jobs, the hastily-prepared not-quite adapt­a­tion of Walter Isaacson’s hastily-published bio­graphy of the Apple co-founder, is that its sub­ject would have hated it. After all, Steve had taste and – fam­ously – exer­cised it. He also did­n’t release products until they were ready where­as Joshua Michael Stern’s film feels like the win­ner of a race to be first rather than best.

Ashton Kutcher imper­son­ates Mr. Jobs effect­ively enough, to the extent of mim­ick­ing the man’s strange lope, but nev­er gets fur­ther under his skin than a blog post or tabloid head­line might. I sus­pect that is not a com­ment on Mr. Kutcher’s tal­ent but on the epis­od­ic script by first-timer Matt Whiteley. Josh Gad’s Woz provides com­ic relief only and the amount of fake facial hair on offer sug­gests the film might bet­ter have been titled iBeard.

The Weight of Elephants posterOperating on a much deep­er level is Daniel Borgman’s The Weight of Elephants, a film that pri­or­it­ises what goes on under the sur­face almost to the com­plete exclu­sion of plot. Gorgeous Demos Murphy plays 10-year-old Adrian, liv­ing with his depressed Uncle Rory (great Matthew Sunderland) and Gran (Catherine Wilkin) in sub­urb­an Invercargill. The strange dis­ap­pear­ance of three loc­al chil­dren has an upset­ting effect on a boy who is strug­gling to fit in to the world around him anyway.

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Man of Steel poster

Review: Man of Steel, Everybody Has a Plan and White Lies

By Cinema, Reviews

Viggo Mortensen in Everybody Has a Plan

Man of Steel is a self-consciously epic re-imagining of the Superman story, first told in print in the 1930s and most recently rebooted on screen by Bryan Singer as Superman Returns just pri­or to the com­mence­ment of my review­ing career in 2006. It’s remark­able both for the scale of the pro­duc­tion, the stakes for pro­du­cers DC and Warner Bros, and for the degree to which I dis­liked it. Usually, I don’t get too riled up about block­buster com­ic book fantasy pic­tures – they are either more enter­tain­ing or less – but this one got under my skin so much I was actu­ally quite angry by the time the clos­ing cred­its finally rolled.

Man of Steel posterI don’t have room here (because there are actu­al good films I’d rather talk about) to tear the Man of Steel apart but I will float a few thoughts that have been both­er­ing me recently about block­buster movies gen­er­ally: It seems to me that the huge amounts of com­put­ing horsepower that dir­ect­ors have at their fin­ger­tips nowadays is being used, for the most part, to des­troy.

[pullquote]Man of Steel delights in destruc­tion, reel­ing off 9/11 trauma-triggering moments with reck­less abandon.[/pullquote]I’m get­ting very tired of watch­ing build­ings, streets and even entire cit­ies razed digit­ally to the ground without a second thought for the (admit­tedly still digit­al) people inhab­it­ing them. This is an arms race and some­how dir­ect­ors (like MoS’s Zack Snyder) have decided that every new tent­pole needs to use even more ima­gin­a­tion to des­troy even more stuff and kill even more people who will go unmourned by the her­oes sup­posedly there to pro­tect them.

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Review: The Company You Keep, Rebelle (War Witch), Haute Cuisine, Antiviral and Jurassic Park 3D

By Cinema, Reviews

It’s easy to laugh at age­ing movie stars. Crumbs, when they make films like The Expendables they act­ively encour­age us to make jokes about creak­ing joints and dicky hips. But let us pause for a moment and salute the longev­ity of one of the greatest movie stars there ever was, someone who was head­lining box office smash hits when Arnold was still just pump­ing iron and Bruce was still at High School.

Robert Redford – the “Sundance Kid” – is 76 years old and in his new film, The Company You Keep, he does quite a bit of run­ning around even though you can see he has the slightly uncer­tain gait of someone whose bal­ance isn’t what it was. He rations out that mil­lion dol­lar smile pretty care­fully too, as this is anoth­er of his ser­i­ous politically-aware dra­mas – couched in the form of a thriller.

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Review: No, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The Host and Hyde Park on Hudson

By Cinema, Reviews

No sounds like the kind of thing a tod­dler in the middle of a tan­trum might say, while stomp­ing around your lounge room at bed­time. At the cinema, though, the tan­trum belongs to the cor­rupt dic­tat­or­ship of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, forced through inter­na­tion­al pres­sure to let oth­ers play in his sand­pit. In 1988 he announced a ref­er­en­dum that would demon­strate – by fair means or foul – that the people loved him, weren’t inter­ested in demo­cracy and that those who thought dif­fer­ent were noth­ing but com­mun­ists and terrorists.

15 years after he and his mil­it­ary junta over­threw the legit­im­ate left-leaning gov­ern­ment of Salvador Allende, the ques­tion in the ref­er­en­dum would be a simple one: “Yes” to keep the dic­tat­or­ship and “No” for a return to free elec­tions. No, Pablo Larraín’s bril­liant movie, looks at the cam­paign from the per­spect­ive of an ad guy – a Mad Man – played by Gael García Bernal, who har­nessed the latest cor­por­ate sales tech­niques and the power of tele­vi­sion to change the dir­ec­tion of a nation.

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Review: A Good Day to Die Hard, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, This is 40 and Safe Haven

By Cinema, Reviews

A Good Day to Die Hard posterThe first thing you need to under­stand about A Good Day to Die Hard is that it isn’t really a Die Hard movie. In the same way that instant cof­fee and espresso cof­fee share a name but are in fact entirely dif­fer­ent bever­ages, you’d be wise to go to a Good Day screen­ing with mod­est expect­a­tions – expect­a­tions that would already have been lowered if you’d seen 2007’s dis­mal Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free and Die Hard).

Bruce Willis plays Detective John McClane for the fifth time since 1988 but this time there’s no smirk, no glint in his eye and none of the recog­nis­able human frailties that made the ori­gin­al char­ac­ter so appeal­ing. Instead, he’s just what every­body always said he was – an asshole. When his son is arres­ted by Moscow author­it­ies for what looks like a mob hit, McClane heads to Eastern Europe to try and save a boy he hardly knows. As usu­al, McClane becomes “the fly in the oint­ment, the mon­key in the wrench” and he imme­di­ately lands in the middle of a CIA oper­a­tion to extract a rebel olig­arch hid­ing inform­a­tion that could bring down the gov­ern­ment, his untimely inter­ven­tion des­troy­ing most of Moscow’s traffic in the process.

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