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Review: Existence, Song of the Kauri, Magic Mike, Bel Ami, The Princess of Montpensier

By Cinema and Reviews

Update (2 Aug 2012): The unfin­ished screen­er of Song of the Kauri that I watched had a cap­tion that stated that New Zealand impor­ted more tim­ber than it expor­ted. It turns out that this isn’t actu­ally true and that the cap­tion does­n’t appear in the fin­ished ver­sion of the film that screens in NZFF. Director Mathurin Molgat emailed me last night:

This was a fact that my research proved to be incor­rect. We import exot­ic hard­woods but our exports of Pinus Radiata far out­strip our total imports. In the fin­ished film that state­ment is not included.

Funerals & Snakes apo­lo­gies for any incon­veni­ence the error might have caused.

End of update.

Existence posterIn a bleak and windswept envir­on­ment, high in the hills sur­roun­ded by for­bid­ding wind tur­bines, a ragged band of out­casts work tire­lessy togeth­er to make some­thing out of almost noth­ing. They are resource­ful and determ­ined – bat­tling extreme con­di­tions and over­com­ing impossible odds. I’m talk­ing about the char­ac­ters in new Wellington fea­ture film Existence which gets its première in Wellington on Friday night, but I might as well be describ­ing the film­makers them­selves who shot the film in the hills around Belmont and Makara in 2011. Existence is the first product of the NZ Film Commission’s low budget Escalator pro­gramme and is a test­a­ment to the depth of tal­ent in the industry here.

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Cinematica 2/15: Do you believe in magic, Mike?

By Audio and Cinematica

Channing Tatum gets his kit off in Magic Mike; Robert Pattinson goes back to 19th cen­tury Paris in Bel Ami; Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker go to Canada to get mar­ried in Cloudburst and William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini try and res­toke the fires of pas­sion in Late Bloomers.

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

Hunger Games posterOf 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: The Artist, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress; The Vow; Safe House; Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D and Killer Elite

By Cinema and Reviews

The Artist posterTwo of the big three Academy Award con­tenders this year are about look­ing back on the early days of cinema itself. While Scorsese’s Hugo uses the latest tech­nic­al whizz­bangs to bring to life the idea of early cinema and its nov­elty and excite­ment in The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius recre­ates the tech­niques of old Hollywood in search of pure nostalgia.

A painstak­ingly cre­ated silent movie with sev­er­al moments of love­li­ness, The Artist fol­lows the riches to rags story of screen hero George Valentin and the con­cur­rent rags to riches story of star­let Peppy Miller – who tries to catch him as he falls. The per­form­ances of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo as the two leads are both splen­did, Dujardin in par­tic­u­lar dis­plays a tech­nic­al pre­ci­sion that most act­ors can only dream of.

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Review: Iron Man 2, Home by Christmas and Dear John

By Cinema and Reviews

Iron Man 2 posterOh dear, what a dis­ap­point­ment 90% of Iron Man 2 is. Rushed into pro­duc­tion after the ori­gin­al became the sur­prise run­away hit of 2008, rely­ing far too heav­ily on the dead­pan cha­risma of a coast­ing Robert Downey Jr. – the first time I’ve ever seen him this dis­en­gaged – and with a story that does no more than tread water until the arrival of the inev­it­able epis­ode 3, IM2 offers very little in the way of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and not enough action to compensate.

Downey Jr is Tony Stark once again, milk­ing his fame as saviour of the free world while the secret power source in his chaest that fuels Iron Man (and keeps him alive) slowly pois­ons him from with­in. Just when he doesn’t need an adversary, along comes a crazy Russian physicist/wrestler named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) look­ing for revenge on the Stark fam­ily who stole his father’s research. Vanko’s tech­no­logy is co-opted by Stark’s greatest busi­ness com­pet­it­or, weapons developer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and between them they attempt to des­troy Stark and corner the mar­ket in high-tech mil­it­ary gadgetry.

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Review: An Education, Couples Retreat and Fighting

By Cinema and Reviews

An Education posterTwickenham 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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