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et: the extra terrestrial

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Forbidden Lies, The Last Magic Show and 4

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Indiana Jones posterThe two uni­verses of Steven Spielberg’s biggest films of the 70’s and 80’s col­lide in Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Harrison Ford’s age­ing Indie and young pre­tend­er Shia LaBoeuf race Soviet ice Queen Cate Blanchett to the secret rest­ing place of lost extra ter­restri­als in the heart of the Amazon. There’s even a subtle “ET Phone Home” ref­er­ence which I found kind of cute. Entertaining and a little sloppy (in a good way), Indy has a middle-aged pace about it, a notice­able change from the cur­rent trend towards fren­et­ic, per­cuss­ive, music video action, allow­ing plenty of time to devel­op invent­ive ways to get Harrison Ford into, and out of, trouble. I was­n’t too upset with LaBoeuf (he cer­tainly isn’t JarJar Binks bad) but you can see he has a way to go before he can muster the sort of effort­less cha­risma his eld­ers offer.

Forbidden Lie$ posterFollowing the murder of her best friend by her own fam­ily in an “hon­our killing” in Jordan, Norma Khouri escapes to Greece and hast­ily begins writ­ing a pas­sion­ate book expos­ing the prac­tice. The book, Forbidden Love, is pub­lished in late 2001 to great acclaim and soon achieves best-seller status but some in Jordan (and in Australia where Norma settles) have ques­tions about the book. Further invest­ig­a­tion reveals that noth­ing in the first 32 words of this para­graph is true and that Norma her­self has a more inter­est­ing past than she is pre­pared to own up to. As Norma’s story unravels and the invest­ig­a­tion fol­lows her from Bridie Island in Queensland to Chicago and ulti­mately to Amman in Jordan, you find your­self on a very strange road indeed.

4 posterAnother non-fiction film, of a com­pletely dif­fer­ent order, is the clas­sic­al music doc­u­ment­ary 4. Attempting to res­cue Vivaldi’s Four Seasons from TVC cliché, dir­ect­or Tim Slade uses the four move­ments as a struc­ture to build a por­trait of four play­ers, four places and the four sea­sons them­selves. At least that’s what I think the idea is. The prob­lem with the film is that there’s not enough music for it to be a great music movie, there’s not enough insight into the play­ers for the por­trait part to work and, while the visu­als are often quite beau­ti­ful, the film seems to miss the point that four sea­sons are influ­en­tial on the human psyche because we see those sea­sons change from our own per­spect­ive and loc­a­tion. Still, 4 is a pleas­ant enough hour and a half.

The Last Magic Show posterA new entry in the digi-indie-home-made kiwi bat­tler cat­egory (pre­vi­ous entries include Wairarapa’s When Night Falls last year) is Andy Conlan’s The Last Magic Show. Conlan him­self (who also wrote the script) plays Ronnie Roman, an delu­sion­al illu­sion­ist who may or may not have real mys­tic­al powers. His agent, scenery-chewing Michael Hurst, has set him up for a big come-back show but in the inter­im he is reduced to volun­teer­ing at the loc­al hos­pice and, pos­sibly, fall­ing in love with Nurse March (Georgie Hill). Conlan has a bit of the young Johnny Depp about him in the looks depart­ment but, ulti­mately, his blank per­form­ance cre­ates frus­tra­tion rather than mys­tery. Good-looking, odd, strangely paced, The Last Magic Show is an intriguing art movie. Perhaps next time, Conlan should­n’t try and do all the big cre­at­ive jobs him­self – a bet­ter dir­ect­or might have chal­lenged him to come up with a few more layers.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 28 May, 2008.

I hereby apo­lo­gise to reg­u­lar read­ers for the paucity of updates but a fierce com­bin­a­tion of the flu and man­aging this year’s 48 Hours Furious Filmmaking com­pet­i­tion have wiped me out and I’m only just com­ing up for air. And, I’m well behind on my feature-watching: Mama’s Boy has already been and gone from loc­al screens.

Nature of con­flict: Forbidden Lie$ is dis­trib­uted in New Zealand by Richard Dalton at Palace Films who is a mate and The Last Magic Show and 4 are dis­trib­uted by Arkles Entertainment who are mates and who I do occa­sion­al work for.