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Review: Olympus Has Fallen, Evil Dead and Escape from Planet Earth

By Cinema and Reviews

Gerard Butler in Olympus Has Fallen While ori­gin­al Die Hard dir­ect­or John McTiernan lan­guishes in min­im­um secur­ity fed­er­al pris­on his heirs are keep­ing the action movie flame alive. Most recently, Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen might as well be called Die Hard at the White House as one man attempts to res­cue the host­ages held cap­tive in the impreg­nable bunker beneath the most fam­ous Palladian man­sion in the world. North Korean ter­ror­ists have man­aged to take con­trol of the build­ing and the President (Aaron Eckhart), Secretary of Defence (Melissa Leo) – and some extras play­ing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs etc. – are all cable-tied to a rail­ing while acting-President Morgan Freeman and Chief of the Secret Service Angela Bassett are power­less at the Pentagon.

Olympus Has Fallen posterWhat the bad guys don’t know is that dis­graced former Secret Service (and Special Forces, natch) dude Gerard Butler heard the shoot­ing and crossed town from his low level secur­ity job at Treasury to sneak in to the build­ing before total lock­down. Now, he’s tak­ing out the trash one by one but can he res­cue the President’s son (Finley Jacobsen) and save the free world before every nuke in the American arsen­al goes “boom”.

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World Cinema Showcase 2012

By Cinema and Reviews

After a splen­did Wellington Film Festival last year, the New Zealand International Film Festival might be for­giv­en for put­ting their feet up and tak­ing it easy but instead they have gone out of their way to pro­duce anoth­er bas­ket of good­ies to fill the Easter week­end and bey­ond: the grandly titled World Cinema Showcase.

Arguably the only real dif­fer­ence between their two events now is the scale – and the lack of Embassy big screen – but there is qual­ity all over this year’s Showcase. Like they do at its older – wintri­er – sib­ling audi­ences are surely temp­ted to try the “will it come back” lot­tery but those odds are deteri­or­at­ing all the time. Indeed, at time of writ­ing one film (Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus) has already been with­drawn from the com­mer­cial release sched­ule and Showcase screen­ings are the only chance to exper­i­ence it on the big screen.

As is my wont, though, I asked the Showcase people to feed me pre­views of the little bat­tle­rs, the unher­al­ded, the films that are often over­looked by a media demand­ing big names, head­lines and page views. I was giv­en 10 to look at, a couple dropped off as I didn’t feel up to recom­mend­ing them, but I’ve added two more that I saw (or par­tially saw) at last year’s Festival. So, here’s ten to watch at Showcase 2012.

Beats, Rhymes & ife: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest posterMusic docos have always been a major com­pon­ent of both Festival and Showcase and sev­er­al hun­dred Wellington movie­go­ers were dis­ap­poin­ted when a power cut inter­rup­ted the July screen­ing of Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. They (mean­ing I) get a chance to see the con­clu­sion of this fas­cin­at­ing por­trait of hip-hop pion­eers in an uncom­fort­able middle age. Also deal­ing with the fal­lout from suc­cess are the folk duo Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Oscar win­ners from the 2006 film Once. As The Swell Season, they toured and recor­ded, try­ing to ride the wave they were on and keep their rela­tion­ship intact at the same time. Hansard’s troubled fam­ily back­ground and Irglová’s youth con­spire against them how­ever and the film of their post-Oscar lives is more about a rela­tion­ship fizz­ling out than your usu­al rock doc­u­ment­ary. Which is good because there’s noth­ing start­ling about the music.

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Review: Puss in Boots, Jig, Red Dog and Tomboy

By Cinema and Reviews

Puss in Boots posterEvery so often a film comes along that fits so squarely and neatly inside one’s own per­son­al set of interests and enthu­si­asms that it is impossible to be object­ive about it. I try and keep my work here dis­in­ter­ested and arms’ length – clin­ic­al, if you will – but, y’know, I’m only human. Just so you know. With that dis­claim­er out of the way, then, here’s my review of Puss in Boots.

So. Much. Fun. Soooo. Much. Fun. As one of the smart Embassy staff poin­ted out to me after­wards, Puss (Antonio Banderas) has been basic­ally single-pawedly keep­ing the Shrek fran­chise alive for a while so a spin-off was not only likely but neces­sary. And welcome.

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Review: Anonymous, The Debt, Beautiful Lies, The Thing, Conan the Barbarian and I Don’t Know How She Does It

By Cinema and Reviews

Economically speak­ing, theatres are a com­plete waste of space. I mean, take a look at the St James or the Embassy and try and ima­gine how many cubicles and desks you could fit in to those huge pieces of prime real estate. Or even bet­ter, how many cars could you park inside them? (Car parks require lower ceil­ings there­fore more floors for the same build­ing height) What kind of fool thinks of con­struct­ing a big empty build­ing simply to shine a light through the middle of it?

Anonymous posterThis kind of non­sense has been going on for cen­tur­ies though as Anonymous, Roland Emmerich’s new piece of spec­u­lat­ive fic­tion, demon­strates. Stretching credu­lity almost as far as Star Trek requir­ing us to believe in faster-than-light speed, Anonymous asks its audi­ence to assume that barely-literate act­or Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) was not the author of all those plays and son­nets but instead they were penned by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) and used as a tool to rile the popu­lace and pro­voke polit­ic­al unrest.

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Review: Drive, In Time, One Day, Fright Night and The Inbetweeners Movie

By Cinema and Reviews

In Time posterExpat Kiwi auteur Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) some­how always man­ages to tap in to the zeit­geist and with new sci-fi thrill­er In Time his own tim­ing is almost spook­ily per­fect. A par­able about the mod­ern polit­ic­al eco­nomy, In Time isn’t a par­tic­u­larly soph­ist­ic­ated ana­lys­is but while protest­ors occupy Wall Street, St Paul’s in London and the City to Sea Bridge here in Wellington, it seems almost per­fectly cal­cu­lated to pro­voke a big Fuck You! to the bankers, spec­u­lat­ors and hoarders who are rap­idly becom­ing the Hollywood vil­lains we love to hate.

In Niccol’s world, sev­er­al dec­ades into the future, time is lit­er­ally money: human beings have been genet­ic­ally mod­i­fied to stop (phys­ic­ally) age­ing at 25. Which would be lovely apart from the fact that a clock on your writst then starts count­ing down the one year you have left to live and the time on your wrist becomes cur­rency. You can earn more by work­ing, trans­fer it to oth­ers by shak­ing hands, bor­row more from banks and loan sharks or you can spend it on booze to blot out the hor­ror of your pathet­ic little life.

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Review: The Trip, Pina and Paranormal Activity 3

By Cinema and Reviews

Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip is the best pic­ture about middle-aged male angst since Sideways, and it’s pos­sibly even bet­ter than that fine film. Two priv­ileged English celebrit­ies spend a week driv­ing around the North of England from one fine res­taur­ant to anoth­er, eat­ing and drink­ing them­selves silly on someone else’s dime. And yet, some­thing dark­er is up.

Self-absorbed “Steve Coogan” (Steve Coogan) is sep­ar­ated from his girl­friend, dis­tanced from his chil­dren, des­per­ate for recog­ni­tion as a ser­i­ous act­or but all too often wel­comed by strangers with a warm-hearted but annoy­ing repe­ti­tion of his great TV catch­phrase (Alan Partridge’s “Ah-ha”). On the sur­face, “Rob Brydon” (Rob Brydon) is a hap­pily mar­ried man with a young child, a mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful TV and stand-up career but, as Coogan points out in a pathos-ridden trip the ruined Bolton Abbey, there’s some­thing about Brydon’s nev­erend­ing celebrity impres­sions and forced bon­homie that sug­gests he hasn’t quite got to grips with the real world.

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