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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]