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coen brothers Archives - Funerals & Snakes

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness, Song for Marion, Gambit, Spring Breakers and Maori Boy Genius

By Cinema and Reviews

The 2009 Star Trek reboot went into production on the eve of the writers’ strike and therefore had no right to be as entertaining — or to make as much sense — as it did. In fact, it was so successful that it has become the gold standard of dormant franchise resuscitation and I’m hoping that the lessons — what to honour, what to ignore, the mix of knowing humour and state-of-the-art action — are taken on board by the forthcoming Superman blockbuster Man of Steel.

A re-watch of Star Trek on Wednesday night confirmed my thoughts from the original review. It worked so well, on so many levels, that by the end I was eagerly anticipating my Friday night reunion with Christopher Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Hot Spock, etc. So, it is with a heavy heart then, that I have to report feeling let down by Star Trek Into Darkness. Everything seems a lot more self-conscious than before, as if the filmmakers have just realised that there are a squillion people watching and they’d better not make a mess of things. Which usually means that’s exactly what happens.

Not long after the Federation has been saved in the first film, our heroes are out exploring the galaxy, getting into trouble. As punishment for violating the Prime Directive (and incomplete paperwork), Kirk is relived of the Enterprise command but before he has time to properly lick his wounds, a terrorist bombs Starfleet’s London office and threatens to kick off an intergalactic (intra-galactic?) war with the Klingons.

dying is easy — comedy is hard

It’s the execution that disappoints this time around. The humour feels a bit heavy-handed, the attempts to incorporate beloved elements from the Original Series are clunky and the action is repetitive — there are several last second rescues, for example, and at least two of them involve actual on-screen countdowns. I can’t say more for fear of spoilers but — suffice to say — Star Trek Into Darkness is only a B minus while its predecessor merited an A. Read More

2011 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

I’ve been watching reactions to other people’s “Best of 2011” with interest. It’s fascinating to see online commentors insist that films they have seen are so much better than films that they haven’t. Even though I do, in fact, watch everything I’m not going to pretend that this list is definitive — except to say that it gets a lot closer than most…

I also don’t believe in the arbitrariness of “Top Tens”. I have my own entirely arbitrary scale: Keepers, Renters and Respecters.

Secretariat posterKeepers are the films that I loved so much I want to own them — films that make me feel better just having them in the house. The first film I adored this year was slushy Disney horse racing story Secretariat. It should have been everything I hate — manipulative, worthy, a faith-based subtext — and yet I cried like a baby — expert button-pushing from director Randall Wallace. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was my favourite blockbuster. Superb direction by Rupert Wyatt overcame the flaws (ahem, James Franco, ahem) and it carefully walked the tightrope of both respect for its predecessors and kicking off something new.

The Tree of Life posterTerrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is my favourite film of the year by a long stretch. A second viewing allowed me to stop thinking about it and just feel it, meaning that I got closer than ever before to the soul of a film artist. Profound in the way that only the greatest works of art are. Tusi Tamasese announced himself with one of the most mature and considered debuts I’ve ever seen — The Orator placed us deeply inside a culture in a way that was both respectful and challenging of it. That film’s journey hasn’t finished yet.

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Review: Saw VII (3D), Hall Pass, I Am Number Four and The Adjustment Bureau

By Cinema and Reviews

If aliens have been looking down on Earth, watching us with love and amusement over the last few million years (as so many movies have told us they are), they will surely be very worried about recent developments in our culture and what it all means for us as a species. I know I am.

Saw 3D posterOn the surface, the cinematic trend towards “torture porn” films like Hostel and Saw — and their even more dismal cousin The Collector — betrays a weird human human ability to take pleasure in the extreme pain of others that is at odds with how we most of us actually live our lives. I’m curious. What does it all mean?

This was the question I found myself asking as I watched Kevin Greutart’s Saw VII on Saturday afternoon (I say “watched” as, per usual, I found myself staring at the cinema EXIT signs during the more gruesome passages). On closer inspection it’s clear that what we have here is an Old Testament-style morality tale, updated for the attention-deficit, sensation-seeking, modern generation.

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Review: True Grit, Inside Job and Wild Target

By Cinema and Reviews

True Grit posterOnce again the Coen Brothers set a standard for every other film to try and match. True Grit is every bit as brilliant as its reputation would suggest: the best western since Unforgiven and a central performance from Jeff Bridges that is twice as good as the one he secured an Oscar for last year (Crazy Heart).

Bridges plays irascible one-eyed Deputy Marshall Rooster Cogburn, a man with a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, a man with a taste for whiskey and a distaste for authority. He is hired by spunky 14 year old Mattie Ross (astonishing newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her law abiding, decent, citizen father. Also, hunting Chaney for a huge Federal reward (that dwarfs Mattie’s small bounty) is suave Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) and soon the chase is on, into lawless Indian territory where the fugitive is holed up.

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Review: Summer Holiday Round-up (2010/11)

By Cinema and Reviews

T.J. MillerThis year the summer holidays seemed to have been owned by the unlikely figure of T.J. Miller, deadpan comedian, supporting actor and eerily familiar background figure. In Yogi Bear he was the ambitious but dim deputy park ranger easily duped by Andrew Daly’s smarmy Mayor into helping him sell out Jellystone to corporate logging interests, in Gulliver’s Travels he was the ambitious but as it turns out dim mail room supervisor who provokes Jack Black into plagiarising his way into a fateful travel writing gig and in Unstoppable he’s the slightly less dim (and certainly less ambitious) mate of the doofus who leaves the handbrake on and then watches his enormous freight train full of toxic waste roll away.

So, a good summer for T.J. Miller then, what about the rest of us?

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