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Review: Kick-Ass 2, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Much Ado About Nothing & Frances Ha

By Cinema and Reviews

Alexis Denisoff and Amy Acker in Joss Whedon's adptation of Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

There has been much dis­cus­sion in the circles in which I move about the quant­ity of films released to loc­al cinemas. Not only are there too many films com­ing out every week – too many for each one to gen­er­ate much heat at any rate – but the ones that are com­ing out aren’t always the right ones. Smaller dis­trib­ut­ors are push­ing everything they have into the sys­tem regard­less of their poten­tial and some of the majors – with big­ger mar­ket­ing budgets and over­heads to worry about – are ditch­ing their art­house and mid-range titles and push­ing them straight to home video.

[pullquote]Who says Americans can­’t do Shakespeare? Nonsense.[/pullquote]At the same time, mul­ti­plex screens are full of big budget com­mer­cial gambles, with box office estim­ates based on loc­al his­tory and the hope that Twilight-like light­ning might strike twice. See which ones in the list below fit into which cat­egory. (Clue: if your film has no hi-res English lan­guage poster avail­able online  and your only offi­cial web­site is in Japanese, maybe you can­’t really sup­port it in NZ cinemas.)

Farewell, My Queen posterBenoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen goes behind the scenes of Louis XVI and – more spe­cific­ally – Marie Antoinette’s court dur­ing the dark days of the revolu­tion as the régime tottered and fell. We see these events from the point of view of Her Majesty’s book read­er, a young ser­vant played by Léa Seydoux. Initially besot­ted by the Queen (Diane Kruger), her faith is shaken by the rev­el­a­tions of cor­rup­tion, waste and – intriguingly – Antoinette’s rela­tion­ship with the duch­esse de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

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Review: Summer Holiday Roundup (2011/12)

By Cinema and Reviews

Time to clear the sum­mer hol­i­day back­log so that the next time it rains you’ll have an idea of what you should go and see. There’s plenty to choose from – for all ages – and there’s a bunch more to come too.

Hugo posterBest thing on at the moment is Martin Scorsese’s first “kids” film, Hugo, but it took a second view­ing for con­firm­a­tion. It is a gor­geous love let­ter to cinema, a plea for decent archives, a cham­pi­on of the latest tech­no­logy – all Marty’s cur­rent pas­sions – but it’s also about some­thing more, some­thing universal.

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a little orphan ragamuffin hid­ing in the walls of a great Paris rail­way sta­tion, wind­ing the clocks and try­ing to repair a broken auto­maton that he believes con­tains a mes­sage from his dead fath­er (Jude Law). While steal­ing parts from the sta­tion toy shop – and its sad and grumpy old own­er – Hugo meets the old man’s god-daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) and between them they try and unravel the mys­tery of the auto­maton and why Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) is so unhappy. Hugo is a mov­ing story about repair – the kind of redemp­tion that comes when you don’t write off and dis­card broken machines – or broken people.

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Review: The American, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Let Me In, Due Date and Machete

By Cinema and Reviews

I got some feed­back on this column the oth­er day. Apparently I “write well” but I “don’t like much”. Perhaps I am a little jaded after four and a half years in these pages but I am pleased to report that this week­end I saw five films on your behalf and enjoyed all of them. Yes, all of them.

The American posterIn the first scene of The American, George Clooney does some­thing so un-Clooney-like that audi­ence mem­bers beside me aud­ibly gasped. He plays a hit-man who might be called Jack or Edward but is prob­ably neither.

After nar­rowly escap­ing an attempt on his own life he holes up in pic­tur­esque Castel del Monte in the moun­tains of cent­ral Italy. As a single-minded pro­fes­sion­al with no ties, Jack could be the broth­er of Clooney’s cor­por­ate assas­sin in Up in the Air and like that film it takes unex­pec­ted feel­ings for a beau­ti­ful woman to make him real­ise how empty his life is.

Directed by fam­ous pho­to­graph­er Anton Corbijn (The Joshua Tree etc), every frame of The American is lus­cious and per­fectly com­posed, Mr. Clooney makes this stuff look easy and if you’re in the mar­ket for a qual­ity Euro-art-house Bourne-type thrill­er then look no further.

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Review: Leaving, She’s Out of My League, Date Night, Kick-Ass and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

By Cinema and Reviews

I watch a lot of movies in this job and this week I’d like to start with a couple of import­ant tips that will help keep your cinema-going exper­i­ence in top shape. Firstly, ice cream. Avoid tubs of ice cream if pos­sible because you have to look down every scoop to make sure you’re not scoop­ing ice cream into your lap and every time you look down you miss some­thing import­ant on the screen. This is par­tic­u­larly import­ant for sub­titled films.

Leaving posterSecondly, when your loc­al cinema sched­ules an art­house film that hasn’t been pre­vi­ously pro­grammed by the Film Festival, ask your­self why that might be before com­mit­ting to a tick­et. Case in point: Leaving (aka Partir) a mod­ern day updat­ing of the Lady Chatterley story star­ring Kristin Scott Thomas. She plays a well-off mar­ried woman named Suzanne who makes the tra­gic mis­take of fall­ing for the Spanish build­er who is work­ing on her house. In short order she real­ises that her mar­riage (though mater­i­ally suc­cess­ful) is love­less, leaves her snobby sur­geon hus­band (Yvan Attal) and the kids to shack up with her new lov­er (Sergi López) and tries to start a new life without all the bour­geois home comforts.

It seems to me that every French film that makes it to New Zealand is about the same thing: the clash of cul­tures between the well-off, cul­tur­ally soph­ist­ic­ated but some­how not quite real, middle-class and the salt-of-the-earth work­ing people, and the dangers of the two mix­ing. Sometimes those dangers play them­selves out comed­ic­ally (The Valet, Welcome to the Sticks), some­times dra­mat­ic­ally (Conversations with My Gardener) and some­times tra­gic­ally as we have here. And Leaving is tra­gic in more ways than one.

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