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embassy Archives - Funerals & Snakes

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 Indeed, at time of writing one film (Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus) has already been withdrawn from the commercial release schedule and Showcase screenings are the only chance to experience it on the big screen.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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