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Review: Kick-Ass 2, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Much Ado About Nothing & Frances Ha

By Cinema and Reviews

Alexis Denisoff and Amy Acker in Joss Whedon's adptation of Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

There has been much discussion in the circles in which I move about the quantity of films released to local cinemas. Not only are there too many films coming out every week — too many for each one to generate much heat at any rate — but the ones that are coming out aren’t always the right ones. Smaller distributors are pushing everything they have into the system regardless of their potential and some of the majors — with bigger marketing budgets and overheads to worry about — are ditching their arthouse and mid-range titles and pushing them straight to home video.

[pullquote]Who says Americans can’t do Shakespeare? Nonsense.[/pullquote]At the same time, multiplex screens are full of big budget commercial gambles, with box office estimates based on local history and the hope that Twilight-like lightning might strike twice. See which ones in the list below fit into which category. (Clue: if your film has no hi-res English language poster available online  and your only official website is in Japanese, maybe you can’t really support it in NZ cinemas.)

Farewell, My Queen posterBenoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen goes behind the scenes of Louis XVI and — more specifically — Marie Antoinette’s court during the dark days of the revolution as the regime tottered and fell. We see these events from the point of view of Her Majesty’s book reader, a young servant played by Léa Seydoux. Initially besotted by the Queen (Diane Kruger), her faith is shaken by the revelations of corruption, waste and — intriguingly — Antoinette’s relationship with the duchesse de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

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Preview: 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival

By Cinema and Reviews

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Now, I’m risking the ire of the extremely helpful and generous New Zealand International Film Festival team here, but I’m going to recommend an approach to festival-going that will probably reward you more than it will them. Here goes: don’t book for anything. Don’t plan your life around any particular screening of any particular film. Especially, don’t book for anything because that’s the one all your mates are going to.

Try this instead. Wake up on any given morning during the festival, feel like watching a movie, have a look through the festival calendar in the middle of the programme (or the handy-sized mini-guide, available soon) and pick a something you fancy based on the title. Or the cinema closest to you. Or the cinema furthest away. Or close your eyes and jab a finger at the page. Either way, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You won’t regret it. Well, you might, but probably not for long.

Every year, this is kind of what I do when I ask the festival publicity team for help with this preview. Give me a stack of screener DVDs, I say, or those new-fangled internet links where I have to watch a film sitting at my desk. No, don’t tell me what they are. Let me guess. Some of my favourite festival experiences have come watching films I knew nothing about, but for those of you who are going to ignore my advice and, um, take my advice, here are some notes on the films I’ve already seen, in no particular order.

The House of Radio posterI’m a radio-head from my childhood. I love radio, listening to it, appearing on it, making it. I love looking at studios, perving at microphones, the red lights that go on when the mics are live, the silently ticking clocks. Watching Nicolas Philibert’s The House of Radio, I was a pig in shit. I don’t think I’ve been as blissed out as this watching a film for ages. It’s one day in the life of Radio France, where seemingly dozens of stations share a giant Parisian cathedral dedicated to the wireless. News, talk, culture, music — classical, jazz and hip-hop. Philibert’s polite camera peers into their studios and their offices, even the Tour de France correspondent reporting live from the back of a motorbike.

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Telluride Diary part five: The show (part two)

By Cinema and Travel

Saturday dawned early and I was grateful that the first screening of the morning was at the Chuck Jones’ in Mountain Village, barely a fifteen minute shuttle from my accommodation. Time to grab a coffee and then wait in line for an 8.30am repeat of the Roger Corman Tribute from the night before. This time the host and interrogator would be Leonard Maltin (familiar to all New Zealanders of a certain age, I think) instead of Todd McCarthy.

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A fairly representative picture of Mountain Village architecture.

Before Mr Corman was invited on stage, we got to see an excellent documentary on his life and work, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. After that, Corman entered the stage to a standing ovation and we were treated to insights and stories from an exceedingly well-educated and thoughtful entrepreneur and artist for almost an hour. The surprise for me was hearing about Corman’s liberal politics and how he might have steered his filmmaking in that direction if it hadn’t been for the commercial failure of The Intruder (1962, starring William Shatner as a white supremacist).

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