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daniel craig

Review: Inception and The Girl Who Played with Fire

By Cinema and Reviews

Inception posterI was really enjoy­ing Inception until I woke up. Actually, that’s not true. Unlike my com­pan­ion, the Sandman didn’t come to res­cue me from Christopher Nolan’s bom­bast­ic block­buster and I had to sit through all two and a half hours of it, won­der­ing what all the fuss was about.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a cor­por­ate spy who spe­cial­ises in enter­ing people’s dreams and dis­cov­er­ing their secrets. This is evid­ently a com­plex tech­no­logy that requires one dream­er to design the loc­a­tion (it has to be fake because not know­ing wheth­er you are awake or dream­ing car­ries massive risks to one’s san­ity), one dream­er to lead the sub­ject, the sub­ject them­selves and (some­times) a for­ger who can take on the shapes and char­ac­ter­ist­ics of oth­er people.

There’s a lot of fight­ing in these dreams as the subject’s sub­con­scious sees the inva­sion and tries to fight it off like white blood cells. But, you know when in your own dreams you try and hit someone and they end up being really weak marsh­mal­low punches? That’s how the anti­bod­ies shoot so it takes quite a lot of bul­lets before one will actu­ally hit you. And when one hits you and you die, in the real world you wake up so it’s really like a video game with mul­tiple lives.

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Review: Separation City, G.I. Joe- The Rise of Cobra, Coco Avant Chanel, Flashbacks of a Fool and Earth Whisperers/Papatuanuku

By Cinema and Reviews

Separation City posterBecause priv­ileged white males haven’t had a fair suck of the sav in recent times when it comes to arts fund­ing it seems only fair that the Film Commission should try and redress that injustice with the new Tom Scott-scripted com­edy Separation City.

Aussie Joel Edgerton plays Simon, a nor­mal kiwi bloke who has a gor­geous intel­li­gent wife, a beau­ti­ful house on the beach in Eastbourne, a job steer­ing affairs of state for a cab­in­et min­is­ter and a mid-life crisis caused by noth­ing more dra­mat­ic than a lack of action in the bed­room. He falls for beau­ti­ful cel­list Katrien who may or may not be Dutch or German but has the cut glass English accent of London-born Rhona Mitra (last seen in skin-tight leath­er as a vam­pire in Underworld 3).

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Review: Iron Maiden: Flight 666, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a few more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 posterOne of the first films I reviewed when I star­ted here was an charm­ing doc­u­ment­ary called Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey in which Canadian fans Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen trav­elled the world talk­ing to oth­er fans (and the stars they wor­ship) about what it is that makes met­al great. In that film they inter­viewed Iron Maiden’s vocal­ist Bruce Dickinson and they must have made a decent impres­sion as Maiden (and EMI) have giv­en them a decent budget and loads of access for them to doc­u­ment their Somewhere Back in Time tour (around the world last year).

And what a wheeze the tour turned out to be. Chartering a 757 from Dickinson’s oth­er employ­er, tak­ing half the seats out so the gear and set could fit, fly­ing the whole show between gigs with Dickinson pilot­ing the whole time – a bunch of pasty middle-aged English lads hav­ing the time of their lives across half the world. The only real drama comes when drum­mer Nicko McBrain gets hit on the wrist by a golf ball, but it doesn’t mat­ter because the joy of see­ing a band really mov­ing audi­ences (in places like Mumbai and Costa Rica) is the reas­on for this film to exist. And this film rises above above oth­er recent great rock movies like U2-3D and Shine a Light – because it’s about the fans as well as the band and it recog­nises the com­plex inter­de­pend­ence of the relationship.

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Review: Quantum of Solace, The Savages, Caramel, The Band’s Visit and My Best Friend’s Girl

By Cinema and Reviews

Quantum of Solcae posterAfter des­troy­ing much of Venice in the cli­max to Casino Royale, Daniel Craig as 007 James Bond kicks off Quantum of Solace by hav­ing a damn good crack at beau­ti­ful renais­sance Siena. Picking up almost imme­di­ately after he left off fol­low­ing the death of his beloved Vesper, Bond is char­ging around the world seek­ing answers and revenge (in no par­tic­u­lar order).

Prior view­ing of Casino Royale is pretty much man­dat­ory in order to fully appre­ci­ate Eon EON & Craig’s text­book rein­ven­tion of the enig­mat­ic, bru­tal­ised, middle-class orphan (with the pub­lic school schol­ar­ship edu­ca­tion) who found a fam­ily in the Special Forces and a pur­pose in life ‘on her majesty’s secret ser­vice’. Thankfully Craig has dis­covered a little sense of humour in the inter­im but this isn’t a film with time for much reflection.

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Review: The Edge of Love, The Orphanage, Babylon A.D., Sharkwater and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

By Cinema and Reviews

The Edge of Love UK posterKeira Knightley may only be 23 but (along with Daniel Craig and Simon Pegg) she’s been giv­en the unen­vi­able job of sav­ing the British film industry, a chal­len­ging task for someone with tal­ent but a hard road for a young woman still learn­ing a craft for which she often seems ill-suited. Next week we will review the mid-budget cos­tume drama The Duchess but right now she is head­lining anoth­er WWII romance (c.f. Atonement), John Maybury’s The Edge of Love.

Knightley plays Vera Phillips, a young Welsh girl carving out a liv­ing enter­tain­ing the troops in the under­ground bomb shel­ters of burnt out London. In an awfully clunky screen­writ­ing moment she sees a famil­i­ar face across a crowded pub and calls out “Dylan? Dylan Thomas?” and is reunited with her child­hood sweet­heart. After plenty of flirt­ing, the soon-to-be great poet Thomas (Matthew Rhys) intro­duces her to his wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) and a firm friend­ship begins, a friend­ship that veers in the dir­ec­tion of a (hin­ted at) mén­age à trois and ends (with the help of Phillips’ shell-shocked hus­band Cillian Murphy) in a hail of mis­dir­ec­ted bul­lets on a pic­tur­esque Welsh cliff top.

Miller’s notori­ous tabloid exist­ence has a tend­ency to over­shad­ow her day job, which is a shame as she is very good here and she car­ries almost all the emo­tion­al weight of a film that, frankly, needs all the help it can get. Rhys is fine (and reads the Thomas poetry like he’s chan­nel­ling Richard Burton) but Knightley struggles, although she has her moments.

The Orphanage posterIn The Orphanage, a woman (Belén Rueda) and her hus­band (Fernando Cayo) decide to buy the decay­ing old goth­ic orphan­age where she grew up so they can live there with their adop­ted, HIV-positive, young son (Roger Princep) plus his ima­gin­ary friends. Asking for trouble? You bet. The boy soon dis­ap­pears, per­haps into a cave beneath the house, and the dis­traught moth­er has to solve the mys­tery of the cursed house before she can find him again.

I would have been con­sid­er­ably more effected by this film if the first half hadn’t been out of focus (and if the pro­jec­tion­ist hadn’t for­got­ten about the reel change or needed to be told to focus the second half) but once we’d got all that sor­ted out the moody atmo­spher­ics (greatly aided by an effect­ive sur­round sound design and the excel­lent Paramount sound sys­tem) push all the right but­tons. Produced by Guilermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), The Orphanage is styl­ish hor­ror with a heart. I much prefer this sort of thing to the Japanese pro­duc­tion line ver­sions we see so often.

Babylon A.D. posterIt’s really say­ing some­thing when a dir­ect­or dis­owns a Vin Diesel film for not liv­ing up to his vis­ion but this is what Mathieu Kassovitz has done with Babylon A.D. Apparently studio-dictated cuts have turned his subtle and sens­it­ive polit­ic­al and mor­al allegory into a bloodthirsty shoot ’em up. As they say­ing goes, yeah right. Freely rip­ping off dozens of hit films (from Escape from New York to Blade Runner, The Matrix and Resident Evil), the cuts have rendered what might have been a campy clas­sic into inco­her­ence but it’s not un-entertaining.

Sharkwater posterMy favour­ite cine­mat­ic shark is Bruce from Finding Nemo (played by Barry Humphries), a mis­un­der­stood killing machine with aban­don­ment issues. If he’d seen Rob Stewart’s ener­vat­ing doc­u­ment­ary Sharkwater he would know that he’s not a killer at all – more people die each year as a res­ult of Coke machine mis­ad­ven­ture – and that he is in far great­er per­il from us than the oth­er way around.

In fact the whole film owes a lot to Pixar’s Nemo, often recre­at­ing fam­ous images from that film and, if it wasn’t likely to trau­mat­ise them, I’d recom­mend every child who ever saw Nemo be forced to sit and watch it so they might turn into pas­sion­ate eco-terrorists when they grow up.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? posterAs agit-prop doco makers go I think I prefer Morgan Spurlock to Michael Moore. Spurlock (who sprang to fame with the McDonalds’ exposé Super Size Me in 2004) inter­views people without set­ting them up to look stu­pid or venal and his every­man open-ness gives the impres­sion that he is genu­inely curi­ous rather than embittered and cer­tain. In Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? Spurlock is spurred by the his long- suf­fer­ing girl­friend Alex’s preg­nancy to go the middle east and find out why they want to kill us all. And if he finds Osama Bin Laden in the pro­cess, all well and good. I could have done with less of the cheesy video game ana­lys­is of com­plex glob­al polit­ics but when Spurlock goes out of his way to meet ordin­ary people on the streets of Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Pakistan and Afghanistan you can’t help but feel a little bit enlightened and a little bit heartened.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 8 October, 2008.

Nothing of note to report regard­ing screen­ing con­di­tions except the prob­lems with The Orphanage that have already been repor­ted above.

UPDATE: A friend wrote to me after read­ing the Sharkwater review in the CT:

I don’t think much of your Sharkwater review. It really does­n’t tell any­one what the film is about and why people should see it, and secondly you totally belittle the issue by com­par­ing it to a kids car­toon! It’s the most dis­turb­ing film I’ve seen all year, and as you know I’ve seen quite a lot. Even now I feel utterly guilty eat­ing fish, though it is the only anim­al flesh I can­’t seem to give up. At least the Lumiere review­er urged people to boy­cott the many Wellington res­taur­ants that serve shark fin soup. The dir­ect­or is slightly irrit­at­ing I admit, but the con­tent is cru­cial… you can­’t joke about films like this, unless it’s garbage (like Where in the World is OBL for example…).

In case you did­n’t get it the first time read this: http://www.panda.org/index.cfm?uNewsID=146062
Glad I got that off my chest…”

Preview: 2007

By Cinema

This week’s Capital Times column. No reviews due to the Christmas break, instead a pre­view of a few titles to expect in 2007.

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