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Review: Shutter Island, Bright Star, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Masquerades, Toy Story 3D and Crazy Heart

By Cinema, Reviews and Screenwriting

There’s something very odd about the opening scenes in Shutter Island and it takes the entire film for you to put your finger on it. Shots don’t match between cuts, there’s a stilted quality to the dialogue (too much exposition for a Martin Scorsese movie) and the pacing is off. For a while I found myself wondering whether Marty had lost the immense influence of his great editor Thelma Schoonmaker, but there she is, still in the credits, as she has been for Scorsese since Raging Bull.

Several years ago, Scorsese played a practical joke on me (personally, it felt like at the time) when an entire reel of The Aviator was treated to look like faded 1930s Technicolor – I went to the Embassy counter to complain and felt very sheepish to be told by Oscar, the projectionist, that the director meant it that way. So, this time around I decided to trust the maestro and roll with the strangeness and was rewarded with one of the best (and cleverest) psychological thrillers in many a year.

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2009 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

Welcome to the 2010 “cut out and keep” guide to video renting (or downloading or however you consume your home entertainment these days). I suggest you clip this article, fold it up, stick it in your wallet or purse and refer to it whenever you are at the video shop, looking for something to while away the long winter evenings of 2010.

First up, the ones to buy – the Keepers. These are the films that (if you share my psychology and some of my pathologies) you will cherish until you are old and the technology to play them no longer exists. Best film of the year remains Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Mashing together several archetypal stories with a vivid visual style and a percussive energy, Slumdog may not represent India as it actually is but instead successfully evoked what India feels like, which is arguably more important. After Slumdog everything I saw seemed, you know, old-fashioned and nothing has been anywhere nearly as thrilling since. There are films you respect, films you admire and films you love. Slumdog is a film you adore. “Who wants to be a … miyonaire?” indeed.

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Review: Michael Jackson’s This is It, My Year Without Sex, The Limits of Control and Black Ice

By Cinema, paramount and Reviews

Thi is It posterFull disclosure: I wrote a play about Michael Jackson once (“Dirty Doris”, BATS 1995) so I’ll confess to always being interested in the real character behind the tabloid and music video façade so the arrival of This is It (what some have described as a cheap cash-in flick) is of more than passing interest to me.

And of all the possible adjectives available to describe the film “cheap” would seem to be the least appropriate. This behind-the-scenes documentary, made up of footage intended for “Making of” extras on an eventual DVD plus handicam footage for Jackson’s own personal archive, shows a dedicated bunch of seriously talented people preparing a huge stage show for an audience of demanding fans. However, no one involved is more demanding than the star of the show MJ himself.

In the film we see Jackson and his crack team rehearsing the massive series of 50 London shows that were supposedly to mark his retirement from live performance. Pushing 50, with a body battered from years of illness and touring, suffering from anxiety-induced insomnia, Jackson knew that audiences only wanted the moonwalking King of Pop persona, an act that he wouldn’t be able to maintain much longer. So, he wanted to go out with a bang, with something memorable, and he was evidently very serious about putting on a truly amazing show.

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Review: District 9, Sunshine Cleaning, The Man in the Hat, The Rocket Post and Case 39

By Cinema and Reviews

It’s going to be a massive few months for Wellywood — District 9 seems to have come out of nowhere to take the world by storm (Currently #35 in the IMDb All Time list, just below Citizen Kane. I kid you not) and The Lovely Bones trailer is whetting everyone’s appetite at just the right time. This Friday, Wellington audiences are the first in the world to see a fifteen minute sampler of the locally shot Avatar (Readings from 11.45am, free of charge) and three more Film Commission features are due for release between now and Christmas: The Strength of Water, Under the Mountain and The Vintner’s Luck, all of which have a significant Wellington component to them.

District 9 posterAnd if the Hollywood big cheeses were worried about The Lord of the Rings shifting the tectonic plates of entertainment industry power they ought to be terrified by District 9, a new world demonstration of the SANZAR spirit (minus the Australians) that achieves in spades everything that this year’s big-budget tent-pole features like Transformers and Terminator failed to do. It works thrillingly as pure entertainment and yet at the same time it’s a little bit more.

Aliens have arrived on earth but unlike in the 70s and 80s they aren’t here to tell us how to connect with the universe and expand our consciousness. And it isn’t like the 90s when they arrived to caramelize us with their death rays. These aliens have arrived for remarkably 21st century reasons — their ship is crippled and with no way home they are destined to become refugees, outcasts, misunderstood second-class citizens.

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Review: Brüno and The Sicilian Girl

By Cinema and Reviews

Bruno posterSacha Baron Cohen is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the most gifted comic actor of his generation — a new Peter Sellers for those of us who remember who Peter Sellers was. A first-rate comedy technician, a virtuoso improvisor and virtually fearless, he has stolen films like Madagascar, Talladega Nights and Sweeney Todd from much bigger names. Why then am I left so cold by his most famous creations, Borat and now Austrian fashion reporter turned gay cultural icon Brüno?

At first I thought it must just be a question of taste. After all, a rather large group of people at the Embassy on Thursday whooped and hollered and gave Brüno a round of applause. The editor of this paper told me it was her favourite film of the year. Maybe it is just me, but I didn’t laugh once — at least not at loud.

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