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Review: Housebound & Aunty and the Star People

By Cinema and Reviews

In Gerard Johnstone’s tightly put together comedy-chiller Housebound, Morgana O’Reilly plays rebel-without-a-cause Kylie, forced by a judge to spend nine months of home detention with a mother she detests in a house with a hidden history. It’s a star-making performance from O’Reilly in a film that’s full of them. In addition to our surly heroine, we have an expertly pitched Rima Te Wiata as mother Miriam (why she hasn’t been seen in more feature films is a long-standing mystery that is only deepened by her performance here), Glen-Paul Waru as Amos, the security guard attached to Kylie’s detail and dragged into investigating the bumps in the night that plague the house, and the debutant writer-director himself.

Johnstone’s control of his material is first-rate, producing comparisons in this reviewer’s mind with Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead fame, probably the highest praise that I can come up with for a film like this one. He keeps the mystery mysterious even as more clues are unveiled, delivers gags that work to propel the story and illuminate character rather than just being yucks for their own sake, and makes sure that there are enough scares that an audience can never really relax.

That word ‘audience’ — it’s key to the success of Housebound. There’s no question that this film won’t have a long and successful life on various forms of home video, but it really comes to life with a full house.

Last year, one of the most surprising successes in local cinemas was Gardening With Soul, a documentary about Sister Loyola Galvin, nonagenarian tender to the Sisters of Compassion garden in Island Bay. In 2014, we have another documentary about an older Wellingtonian. Jean Watson isn’t quite 90, but the revelation that she is actually in her 80s still comes as quite a surprise as we watch her pedalling her bicycle around the small Indian town she loves — and whose children’s homes she has supported for over 30 years, despite living in a modest Berhampore flat back in New Zealand.

Like the earlier film, Aunty and the Star People is full of generosity and wisdom, reminding us that we should be paying much closer attention to our elders. They have much more than just their experience to offer us.

Printed in the September issue of FishHead magazine in Wellington.

The World's End poster

Review: The World’s End, Pacific Rim, The Look of Love + School Holiday Roundup

By Cinema and Reviews

Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddie Considine and Martn Freeman in The world's End

I can imagine some people not enjoying The World’s End. People who don’t care about — or even notice — cinematic craftsmanship, people who think that being self-referential means being self-indulgent, audiences who prefer their action sequences to be cosmic in scale and measured in megabytes per second rather than laughs per minute — I expect those people might feel that the latest masterpiece by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost goes sailing over their heads. After all, a film like The World’s End rewards concentration (and second and third viewings) whereas most blockbusters rely on increasingly destructive spectacle for audiences to get their kicks.

The World's End posterThat’s not to say that this film is light on apocalypse — it promises the end of the world after all — but its core remains the deep friendships between men of a certain age and how those friendships grow when tested — the same theme that infused their previous two films together, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

[pullquote]Pacific Rim shows how loving bad films sometimes means you make bad films.[/pullquote]Pegg plays Gary King, middle-aged lost soul, pining for the glory days of High School and desperate to complete his masterpiece — the 12 pub crawl through Newton Haven known as “The Golden Mile”. He and his mates failed back in 1993 and he’s rounding them up for one last crack at it. His four old mates (played by Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and the wonderful Eddie Marsan) are reluctant to leave their tidy grown-up lives behind but, persuaded, they get to their old stomping grounds only to find they are humanity’s only hope to avoid inter-galactic colonisation.

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Review: Paul

By Cinema and Reviews

Paul posterOnly one film for review this week: Paul is the third feature to be written by and star Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, responsible for two of my favourite films of the last decade, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This time around they’re not joined by director Edgar Wright (busy with his own Scott Pilgrim picture from last year) and the flick is directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad).

Pegg and Frost play Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, two very English sci-fi and comic book fans on a dream holiday: Comic-Con in San Diego then rent an RV and drive to the most famous UFO sites in the States (Area 51, Roswell New Mexico, etc.) While nerding it happily around the place they witness a car crash and discover the only survivor is a three foot tall alien (big head, big eyes) named Paul. He’s a wise-cracking smart-ass with the entirely appropriate voice of Seth Rogen and he’s been enjoying the hospitality of the US government for fifty years until they finally decide to cut him up to see how his brain works. So he escapes.

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Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Collector, Skin & I, Don Giovanni

By Cinema and Reviews

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World posterYour correspondent is a big fan of young English director Edgar Wright. His first two features, in collaboration with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, were the redoubtably entertaining Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. There’s a wonderful percussive energy to Wright’s filmmaking which brooks no boredom. So, I was looking forward to his latest film, the heavily promoted comic book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World which opened worldwide this week. And I really wanted to like it. No, strike that. I did like it. I just didn’t love it the way the film so desperately wants to be loved.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera from Juno) is a young Toronto slacker who plays bass in a terrible band and has just begun dating a high school girl. If he seems without much in the way of ambition that may be because he is still grieving after being dumped a year ago, or it may be that he simply lacks ambition.

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Review: Where the Wild Things Are, The Informant!, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Zombieland and The Cake Eaters

By Cinema and Reviews

Is it too early to suggest that we might be living in a golden age of cinema? Think of the filmmakers working in the commercial realm these days who have distinctive voices, thrilling visual sensibilities, solid intellectual (and often moral) foundations, a passion for combining entertainment with something more — along with an abiding love of cinema in all its strange and wonderful forms.

I’m thinking of the Coens, obviously, but also Peter Jackson (and protégé Neill Blomkamp), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz and the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim), Jason Reitman (Juno and January’s Up in the Air), Guillermo Del Toro (working hard on The Hobbit in Miramar), and even Tarantino is still producing the goods. This week we are lucky enough to get new work from two others who should be in that list: Spike Jonze and Steven Soderbergh.

Where the Wild Things Are posterJonze made his name with oddball stories like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and the first thing you notice about his interpretation of the beloved Maurice Sendak children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is that it simply doesn’t resemble anything else you’ve ever seen. With the help of writer Dave Eggers (the novel “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, Away We Go) he has used the book as a starting point for a beautiful and sensitive meditation on what it is like to be a child (a boy child specifically).

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Murdoch’s flagship paper steals from blogger

By Asides

And not just any blogger. Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright’s moving memorial to Edward Woodward was lifted without so much as a by-your-leave by The Times for it’s obituary page:

They just lifted it from my blog without asking?…?I’m not talking about quotes. Am talking about the entire article. But with edits they made that make me look ill informed and unfeeling.

And if Rupert Murdoch had his way, Edgar would have had to pay to find out he’d been robbed. [HT to @edgarwright on Twitter]