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

By Cinema and 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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Review: Mt. Zion, Hitchcock, Movie 43, Step Up to the Plate, You Will Be My Son, On Air and Flight

By Cinema and Reviews

Kiwi crowd-pleasers don’t come much more crowd-pleasing than Tearepa Kahi’s Mt. Zion, fea­tur­ing TV tal­ent quester Stan Walker in a star-making per­form­ance as a work­ing class kid with a dream. Slogging his unwill­ing guts out pick­ing pota­toes in the mar­ket gar­dens of 1979 Pukekohe, nervously mak­ing the first steps in a music career that seems impossible and fan­tas­ising about meet­ing the great Bob Marley, Walker’s Turei is out of step with his hard work­ing fath­er (Temuera Morrison) and the back-breaking work.

When a loc­al pro­moter announces a com­pet­i­tion to be the sup­port act for the reg­gae legend’s forth­com­ing con­cert at Western Springs, Turei tests the bound­ar­ies of fam­ily and friend­ship to get a shot at the big time. The bones of the story are famil­i­ar, of course, but there’s meat on the bones too – a slice of New Zealand social his­tory with eco­nom­ic changes mak­ing life harder for a people who don’t own the land that they work. Production design (by Savage) and authentic-looking 16mm pho­to­graphy all help give Mt. Zion a look of its own and the music – though not nor­mally to my taste – is agree­able enough.

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Review: Lincoln, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina, The Impossible and Celeste & Jesse Forever

By Cinema and Reviews

Local audi­ences can pre­tend they are Academy voters for the next few weeks because almost all the big nom­in­ees are being released at the same time. It’s the NZ way – try and max­im­ise atten­tion for your films while they are still con­tenders but before they become losers. It makes for a crush at loc­al screens – you may not find the film you want at the time you want – but it also means the odds of see­ing some­thing really good are much bet­ter than usual.

Lincoln posterSpielberg’s Lincoln is classy old school film­mak­ing, as you might expect from such a vet­er­an. He’s assembled an A‑team of writers, per­formers and tech­nic­al crew to tell one of the most import­ant – and res­on­ant – stor­ies of the last 150 years. Abe Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) has been re-elected to his second term as President and the pain­ful and bloody Civil War is almost won. Why would he risk his con­sid­er­able polit­ic­al cap­it­al to try and pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the con­sti­tu­tion – pro­hib­it­ing slavery – when the slave-owning south is almost defeated and many on his own side don’t feel it is necessary?

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Review: The Master, Gangster Squad, Whole Lotta Sole, ParaNorman and To Rome With Love

By Cinema and Reviews

Between its her­al­ded US release in September last year and its arrival in a (very) lim­ited num­ber of New Zealand cinemas this week­end, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master seems to have been trans­formed from mas­ter­piece and annoin­ted Best Picture con­tender to also-ran, dis­ap­point­ing scores of loc­al PTA fans in the pro­cess, many of whom were crushed that we weren’t going to see the film in the director’s pre­ferred 70mm format. Turns out it was touch and go wheth­er we were going to see it on the big screen at all.

Anderson’s pre­vi­ous film, There Will Be Blood, was a close-run second to No Country For Old Men in my 2007 pick of the year, and his back cata­logue is as rich as any­one else of his gen­er­a­tion – Boogie Nights, Magnolia and even Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love. Like Blood, The Master is painted on a big can­vas. Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, an alco­hol­ic and self-hating WWII vet­er­an, stum­bling between mis­ad­ven­tures when he stows away on the San Francisco yacht com­manded by aca­dem­ic, author and mys­tic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd com­bines rudi­ment­ary psy­cho­ther­apy with hyp­nosis to per­suade gull­ible fol­low­ers that their past lives can be used to trans­form their dis­ap­point­ing present.

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Review: Summer Holiday Roundup (2012/13)

By Cinema and Reviews

As I sit here typ­ing, I can hear the sounds of a Wellington sum­mer all around me – the rain pour­ing on to the deck out­side and the wind howl­ing through the trees. Is this why loc­al film dis­trib­ut­ors release so much product over the Christmas/New Year peri­od? Perhaps it’s just cli­mate and noth­ing to do with the Oscars at all? Anyhow, here’s a quick sum­mary of what’s been dished out at loc­al cinemas in des­cend­ing order of greatness.

First up, Ang Lee’s glow­ing 3D adapt­a­tion of Yann Martell’s Life of Pi, storm­ing the loc­al box offices and deservedly so. Ravishing to look at – and mak­ing pro­found rather than nov­elty use of the extra depth avail­able – Lee’s film man­ages to dis­til the essence of the book’s mes­sage even if the ambigu­ous end­ing proves less sat­is­fy­ing cine­mat­ic­ally than lit­er­ar­ily. Dreamy. I was par­tic­u­larly taken by the con­scious recre­ation of the book’s ori­gin­al cov­er in one scene, even to the extent of chan­ging the film’s aspect ratio for that single shot.

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Review: The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey and Love Is All You Need

By Cinema and Reviews

The Hobbit: An Unoexpected Journey posterIt may be play­ing in cinemas but I’m not entirely con­vinced that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – and, by exten­sion, the forth­com­ing Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again – is actu­ally cinema. At least not cinema the way that this par­tic­u­lar old geez­er remem­bers it. First, let us put aside the tech­no­lo­gic­al innov­a­tion for a few para­graphs and focus on the story. These films have been been cre­ated to deliv­er an exper­i­ence to exist­ing fans of the Lord of the Rings films and is argu­ably even more tailored to their needs than, say, the Twilight fran­chise is to their fans. It cer­tainly makes as few con­ces­sions to the neutral.

Fans from Bratislava to Beirut want to spend as much time as pos­sible in Middle Earth and writer-director Peter Jackson deliv­ers – to the extent that sev­er­al famil­i­ar char­ac­ters make inel­eg­ant cameo appear­ances and the audi­ence gets to spend con­sid­er­able time accli­mat­ising. It really doesn’t mat­ter that I think the whole thing faffs around for far too long and already feels hyper-extended. Criticising The Hobbit for length is fall­ing in to the trap of review­ing the film you wish you were watch­ing instead of the one in front of you.

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