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Review: The Great Gatsby, Bekas, Fast & Furious 6 and The Last Sentence

By Cinema and Reviews

The Great Gatsby still

For all the digit­al glit­ter and ana­chron­ist­ic hip-hoppery that sig­ni­fies our latest re-entry into Luhrman-land, The Great Gatsby itself takes fun­da­ment­al inspir­a­tion from a black and white clas­sic from 1941. Featuring a flash­back fram­ing device, a lonely and heart­sick tycoon star­ing out of the win­dow of a grot­esque castle, and even a breath­less deathbed “Daisy” uttered as if it summed up an entire life (like “Rosebud”), Gatsby is no less than Baz Luhrman’s Citizen Kane. Even his star, Leonardo DiCaprio is start­ing to resemble a Wellesian hero, at least in the jow­els if not the girth.

The Great Gatsby posterSo, no pres­sure, then, Baz – you’re only mer­ging the great American nov­el and the greatest movie of all time. Of course, he can’t pos­sibly suc­ceed on his own unima­gin­ably ambi­tious terms, but he falls a bit short on the basic “tell a story” level too – even if he man­ages to make some sequences sing.

Set in 1922 (and writ­ten by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, well before the Jazz Age came crash­ing down into the Great Depression), Gatsby is the story of one man’s rein­ven­tion out of the trauma of World War One and into the longest, biggest (and most illeg­al) party the world had ever seen.

[pullquote]Fast & Furious is vast and curious[/pullquote]DiCaprio’s Gatsby has built a busi­ness empire out of the drug stores and speak­easies of Manhattan and a Xanadu on the shores of Long Island, all the while gaz­ing long­ingly across the water at the house where Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) lives. Daisy is the last piece of his puzzle, she will make him whole and she will help him gain accept­ance into the high soci­ety that scorns his dubiously-earned new money. He may also genu­inely be in love with her, of course.

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Review: Moneyball, The Ides of March, Shame, Weekend, This Means War, Romantics Anonymous and Big Miracle

By Cinema and Reviews

Moneyball posterThis week Philip Seymour Hoffman fea­tures in two new American sports movies, one about their most ven­er­able – if not impen­et­rable – pas­time of base­ball and the oth­er on the modern-day equi­val­ent of bear-baiting, the pres­id­en­tial primar­ies. In Moneyball, Hoffman plays Art, team man­ager of the Oakland Athletics, left behind when his boss – Brad Pitt – decides to throw away dec­ades of base­ball tra­di­tion and use soph­ist­ic­ated stat­ist­ic­al ana­lys­is and a schlubby Yale eco­nom­ics gradu­ate (Jonah Hill) to pick cheap but effect­ive players.

Hoffman steals every scene he is in but dis­ap­pears from the story too early. Having said that, Pitt and Hill do great work under­play­ing recog­nis­ably real people and all are well-supported by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s script which has scene after scene of great moments, even if some of them lead nowhere (like poor Art’s arc). Moneyball might start out a sports movie but it’s actu­ally a busi­ness text­book. If the place you work at clings to received wis­dom, exper­i­ence and intu­ition over “facts” then organ­ise an out­ing to Moneyball as fast as you can.

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Review: Drive, In Time, One Day, Fright Night and The Inbetweeners Movie

By Cinema and Reviews

Expat Kiwi auteur Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) some­how always man­ages to tap in to the zeit­geist and with new sci-fi thrill­er In Time his own tim­ing is almost spook­ily per­fect. A par­able about the mod­ern polit­ic­al eco­nomy, In Time isn’t a par­tic­u­larly soph­ist­ic­ated ana­lys­is but while protest­ors occupy Wall Street, St Paul’s in London and the City to Sea Bridge here in Wellington, it seems almost per­fectly cal­cu­lated to pro­voke a big Fuck You! to the bankers, spec­u­lat­ors and hoarders who are rap­idly becom­ing the Hollywood vil­lains we love to hate.

In Niccol’s world, sev­er­al dec­ades into the future, time is lit­er­ally money: human beings have been genet­ic­ally mod­i­fied to stop (phys­ic­ally) age­ing at 25. Which would be lovely apart from the fact that a clock on your writst then starts count­ing down the one year you have left to live and the time on your wrist becomes cur­rency. You can earn more by work­ing, trans­fer it to oth­ers by shak­ing hands, bor­row more from banks and loan sharks or you can spend it on booze to blot out the hor­ror of your pathet­ic little life.

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Review: Blue Valentine, Never Let Me Go, Certified Copy and Rango

By Cinema and Reviews

For years I’ve been com­plain­ing about films that give audi­ences everything on a plate – they tell what you should be think­ing and feel­ing, leav­ing no room for us. This week I have noth­ing to com­plain about as three out of our four make you work for your rewards (although three tough emo­tioanl and intel­lec­tu­al workouts in one week­end turns out to be pretty draining).

Blue Valentine posterDerek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is a ter­rif­ic indie achieve­ment, brave and uncom­prom­ising, emo­tion­ally raw but intel­li­gent at the same time. A rela­tion­ship is born and a rela­tion­ship dies. Bookends of the same nar­rat­ive are clev­erly inter­cut to amp­li­fy the tragedy (and tragedy is a fair word to use – there’s a beau­ti­ful child get­ting hurt in the middle of all of this).

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) meet and fall in love. He’s a dro­pout start­ing again in New York. She’s a med stu­dent with an unhappy home life and a douchebag boy­friend. Five or six years later she’s a nurse try­ing not to think about unful­filled poten­tial and he’s a house paint­er who drinks too much.

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Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Last Airbender, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Cats & Dogs- The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Charlie St. Cloud

By Cinema and Reviews

Ah, the school hol­i­days. The time when the big cinemas are more excited about the arrival of their jumbo pop­corn con­tain­ers than any of the films they are show­ing. Your cor­res­pond­ent spent the week­end sur­roun­ded by chomp­ing, rust­ling and slurp­ing fel­low cit­izens so he could bring you this report from the front­line. It was brutal.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid posterDiary of a Wimpy Kid pur­ports to be about middle school and how to sur­vive it but in fact it’s a rather charm­less mor­al­ity tale about being your­self. Little Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) thinks that to be pop­u­lar he has to be cool but everything he tries turns to dis­aster while his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) effort­lessly tran­scends his own dork­i­ness to win over the school. Enough kids have already got a kick out of Diary’s astute mix of life-lessons and gross-out humour that a sequel has already been announced.

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Review: An Education, Couples Retreat and Fighting

By Cinema and Reviews

Twickenham in 1961 might well have been the most bor­ing place on Earth. The 60s haven’t star­ted yet (accord­ing to Philip Larkin the dec­ade wouldn’t start until 1963 “between the end of the Chatterley Ban/and The Beatles first LP”) but the train was already on the tracks and could be heard approach­ing from a dis­tance if you listened closely enough. Middle-class teen­ager Jenny is study­ing hard for Oxford but long­ing for some­thing else – free­dom and French cigar­ettes, love and liberation.

In Lone Scherfig’s An Education (from a script by Nick Hornby; adap­ted from Lynn Barber’s mem­oir), Jenny is lumin­ously por­trayed by new­comer Carey Mulligan (so ador­able that if she’s ever in a film with Juno’s Ellen Page we’ll have to recal­ib­rate the cute­ness scale to accom­mod­ate them both) and she gets a hint of a way out of sub­urb­an English drudgery when she meets cool busi­ness­man David (Peter Sarsgaard) and he whisks her off her feet, to the West End and to Paris.

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