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Review: The Chronicles of Narnia- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Easy A, Megamind, Rare Exports and Skyline

By Cinema and Reviews

After the unusu­al occur­rence last week of actu­ally lik­ing everything, reg­u­lar read­ers will be reas­sured that nor­mal nit-picking ser­vice is resumed this week.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader posterFirstly, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third in the series of big budget adapt­a­tions of CS Lewis’ beloved alleg­or­ies (and the first to screen in 3D). Roughly three years after the last film ended two of our hero­ic child-royals are returned to Narnia via a magic oil paint­ing of a ship at sea.

Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Lucy (Georgie Henley) and their annoy­ing cous­in Eustace (played with gusto by young Will Poulter) arrive in Narnia to join the Dawn Treader on a search for the sev­en lords (and sev­en swords) who will finally unite all the war­ring coun­tries and bring peace, etc., etc. All is much as you would expect from the pre­vi­ous install­ments, apart from the fact that Caspian (Ben Barnes) has lost that annoy­ing vaguely Mediterranean accent and the talk­ing mouse Reepicheep now sounds like Simon Pegg instead of Eddie Izzard.

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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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Review: Star Trek, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Rachel Getting Married and Religulous

By Cinema and Reviews

Star Trek posterJ.J. Abrams rein­ven­tion of Star Trek is as thrill­ing a ride as we have seen any­where this year. The fran­chise has been re-booted (as the say­ing goes) and re-started from before the begin­ning of The Original Series as Kirk, Spock, Bones, etc go on their first voy­age togeth­er and take on their first universe-threatening mad alien.

A very grumpy Romulan miner (Eric Bana) dis­cov­ers the secret of cre­at­ing worm­holes and uses it travel back in time to wreak revenge on Spock – the age­ing Ambassador (a frail look­ing Leonard Nimoy) who failed to pre­vent the destruc­tion of his home plan­et. His revenge will take the form of des­troy­ing Spock’s home plan­ets of Vulcan and Earth while the trapped old man is forced to watch. Luckily for the uni­verse (but too late for the people of Vulcan) the hot headed cadet Kirk (Chris Pine) and the young Spock (Zachary Quinto, known in some circles as Hot Spock) are able to save the day and forge a legendary friend­ship at the same time.

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Review: Eagle Eye, The Rocker, The House Bunny, Wild Child, Space Chimps and Mongol

By Cinema and Reviews

Eagle Eye posterThis week I’ve had my intel­li­gence insul­ted by the very best. Steven Spielberg is cred­ited as Executive Producer of Eagle Eye, but if he spent more than one meet­ing over­see­ing this crapitude I would be very sur­prised. Eagle Eye is designed to appeal to cro-magnons who still believe that com­puters are inher­ently malevol­ent self-perpetuating pseudo-organisms and that the US Dept of Defence would invent an all-powerful, sur­veil­lance super-computer that you can’t switch off at the wall. And fans of Shia LaBoeuf. Director D. J. Caruso (last year’s Disturbia) is con­firmed as a name to avoid and Michael Jackson lookalike Michelle Monaghan has done (and will do) bet­ter than this (Gone Baby Gone).

The Rocker posterIn inter­views, Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute in the American “Office”) has admit­ted that he is behind Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson whenev­er the choicest scripts are handed out, so what that says about The Rocker (his first lead­ing role) I’m not sure. Wilson plays a Pete Best-like drum­mer, fired from the band he named (Vesuvius!) just before they shot to star­dom in 1988. Twenty years and twenty dead-end jobs later, he gets a shot at redemp­tion play­ing with his nephew’s high school band. Wilson really doesn’t have enough pres­ence to carry the film but he’s like­able enough and there’s some nice sup­port­ing work from Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and the lovely Christina Applegate (who really deserves to be a much big­ger star than she is).

The House Bunny posterOne week on from the depress­ing Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, there’s even more mis­placed girl power on dis­play in The House Bunny. Scary Movie star Anna Faris gets to exec­ut­ive pro­duce a vehicle for her­self (writ­ten by Laurie Craig and Karen McCullah Lutz, the female screen­writ­ing duo respons­ible for the pos­sibly Nobel Prize-winning Legally Blonde) and with that power comes great respons­ib­il­ity, respons­ib­il­ity that she puts to good use set­ting back the cause of fem­in­ism nearly 40 years.

Almost-Playmate Shelley (Faris), kicked out of Hef’s man­sion for being too old becomes sor­or­ity house moth­er to a bunch of “ugly” mis­fits (includ­ing Emma Stone from The Rocker and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s eld­est daugh­ter Rumer). It’s the lack of ambi­tion that I find so dis­heart­en­ing, although it did con­tain my favour­ite line of the week: “Concentrate on the eyes girls, remem­ber – the eyes are the nipples of the face.”

Wild Child posterRoald Dahl’s daugh­ter Lucy is anoth­er female screen­writer stuck in cliché hell. Her script for Wild Child could have res­ul­ted in pass­able enter­tain­ment, but is let down by poor dir­ec­tion and some odd post-production decisions. Last year’s Nancy Drew, Emma Roberts, plays the fish out of water, Malibu rich-chick, sent away to an English board­ing school run by firm-but-fair Natasha Richardson. There she makes friends and enemies and falls in love with hand­some Roddy, played by the worst act­or I’ve ever seen get his name on a major film: Alex Pettyfer (remem­ber the name, folks).

Space Chimps posterMost fun of the week can be found in Space Chimps, a bois­ter­ous CGI-animated com­edy for kids (and those that might find WALL•E a little too emo­tion­ally demand­ing). Ripping a long at a great pace, it has plenty of gags per minute and bene­fits from hav­ing great voice-actors like Patrick Warburton and Kristin Chenoweth involved rather than big name stars slum­ming it. Recommended.

Mongol posterThe Russo-Sino-Co-pro Mongol really deserves to be seen on a giant screen, as befit­ting the giant land­scape and giant story. The first of a pro­posed tri­logy telling the life story of Genghis Khan, this instal­ment fol­lows the 12th cen­tury war­lord from his own birth to the birth of an empire span­ning half the known world. Uniting the tribes of Mongolia was a bru­tal busi­ness and there’s plenty of CGI blood splash­ing around as young Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) dis­cov­ers his destiny.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 1 October 2008.