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christoph waltz Archives - Funerals & Snakes

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 Three Musketeers, Midnight in Paris, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Monte Carlo and Tabloid

By Cinema and Reviews

The Three Musketeers posterI don’t know what the French did to be so roundly insulted at the movies this week but I’d advise them to steer clear of Wellington cinemas for a while — perhaps until their film festival gets under way again next year. Firstly, crass action auteur Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) attempts to reboot a franchise from one of France’s most cherished pieces of literature but then makes The Three Musketeers without a single French person appearing on screen.

Actually, I’m teasing a little as neither the 1993 Charlie Sheen version or the 1973 Oliver Reed one had any significant French involvement, but to populate the latest film with Danes (Mads Mikkelsen), Austrians (Christoph Waltz), Germans (Til Schweiger) and Ukrainians (Milla Jovovich) does seem a bit on the nose.

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Review: Water for Elephants, From Time to Time, Burke & Hare, Catfish, Reflections of the Past, Hoodwinked Too and 3D Sex and Zen

By Cinema and Reviews

Water for Elephants posterSomeone described melodrama to me the other day as “unearned emotion” and that’s a helpful way to look at a few of this week’s offerings. Firstly the glossy adaptation of Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel of romance and tragedy at the circus, Water for Elephants. Twilight’s Robert Pattinson plays veterinary student Jacob who, after the death of his parents, runs away to join Christoph Waltz’s struggling Depression-era circus. There he falls in love with Waltz’s downtrodden but beautiful wife Reese Witherspoon (and also Rosie the downtrodden but beautiful new elephant).

Director Francis Lawrence makes a token attempt to show us the gritty and desperate side of Depression life but in the end the high fructose corn syrup of traditional Hollywood romance smothers everything. Pattinson remains dead behind the eyes as always, Witherspoon fails to convince as an acrobat and Waltz repeats his Oscar-winning psychopathic Nazi from Inglourious Basterds only without the great Tarantino dialogue.

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Review: Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Desert Flower, Unstoppable, Burlesque, Little Fockers, Green Hornet and The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell

By Cinema and Reviews

Following up on the 2009 surprise hit The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky has offered us another film about people who destroy themselves for our entertainment — this time in the rarefied world of ballet. Tiny Natalie Portman is plucked from the chorus of the fictional but prestigious New York City Ballet for the dream role of the Swan in a hot new production. It’s the chance of a lifetime but her fragile psychology shows through in her performance even though her dancing is technically perfect. Maestro Vincent Cassel tries to reconstruct her — as you would a first year drama school student — while domineering stage mother Barbara Hershey is pushing back in the other direction. Something has to break and it does.

Black Swan is exceptionally well made, beautiful and challenging to watch — and Portman’s performance is nothing short of amazing — but films that aspire to greatness need to be about something more than, you know, what they’re about and once I’d decoded was going on I couldn’t see enough under the surface to justify the hype.

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Review: Inglourious Basterds, The Age of Stupid and Departures

By Cinema and Reviews

Inglourious Basterds posterPlaying like the fever-dream of an obsessive teenager fallen asleep after reading a stack of Commando comics late at night, possibly after too much cheese, Inglourious Basterds is another contender for most entertaining film of the year. In a 17 year career that includes only six actual feature films (if you count Kill Bill as one), Quentin Jerome Tarantino has dedicated himself to proving that following the rules is a path made for fools and sissies. If only more filmmakers were listening.

QT himself has described Inglourious Basterds as a spaghetti western meditation on the war film and that’s as good a description as any, I suppose. In Chapter One we meet wicked Nazi “Jew hunter” Hans Lander (Christoph Waltz — a revelation) as he forces a nervous French dairy farmer to reveal the hiding place of a local Jewish family. It’s a great set-piece opening, tense but leavened with moments of absurdity and it gets you in the mood for the thrilling nonsense that is to come.

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