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Review: Housebound & Aunty and the Star People

By Cinema and Reviews

In Gerard Johnstone’s tightly put together comedy-chiller Housebound, Morgana O’Reilly plays rebel-without-a-cause Kylie, forced by a judge to spend nine months of home detention with a mother she detests in a house with a hidden history. It’s a star-making performance from O’Reilly in a film that’s full of them. In addition to our surly heroine, we have an expertly pitched Rima Te Wiata as mother Miriam (why she hasn’t been seen in more feature films is a long-standing mystery that is only deepened by her performance here), Glen-Paul Waru as Amos, the security guard attached to Kylie’s detail and dragged into investigating the bumps in the night that plague the house, and the debutant writer-director himself.

Johnstone’s control of his material is first-rate, producing comparisons in this reviewer’s mind with Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead fame, probably the highest praise that I can come up with for a film like this one. He keeps the mystery mysterious even as more clues are unveiled, delivers gags that work to propel the story and illuminate character rather than just being yucks for their own sake, and makes sure that there are enough scares that an audience can never really relax.

That word ‘audience’ — it’s key to the success of Housebound. There’s no question that this film won’t have a long and successful life on various forms of home video, but it really comes to life with a full house.

Last year, one of the most surprising successes in local cinemas was Gardening With Soul, a documentary about Sister Loyola Galvin, nonagenarian tender to the Sisters of Compassion garden in Island Bay. In 2014, we have another documentary about an older Wellingtonian. Jean Watson isn’t quite 90, but the revelation that she is actually in her 80s still comes as quite a surprise as we watch her pedalling her bicycle around the small Indian town she loves — and whose children’s homes she has supported for over 30 years, despite living in a modest Berhampore flat back in New Zealand.

Like the earlier film, Aunty and the Star People is full of generosity and wisdom, reminding us that we should be paying much closer attention to our elders. They have much more than just their experience to offer us.

Printed in the September issue of FishHead magazine in Wellington.

Blue Jasmine poster

Review: Blue Jasmine, Riddick, What Maisie Knew, Romeo & Juliet: A Love Song and The Best Offer

By Cinema and Reviews

Max Casella, Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannvale in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine (2013)

When did “late-period: Woody Allen start? Was it with Match Point (when he finally left New York for some new scenery)? Or should we consider these last ten, globe-trotting, years as late‑r Woody? The last ten years have certainly been up and down in terms of quality. Scoop was all-but diabolical. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was robust and surprising. Midnight in Paris was genial but disposable (despite being a massive hit) and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was barely even a film.

Blue Jasmine posterNow, Blue Jasmine, in which Mr. Allen uses the notorious Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi crimes as inspiration for a story about the fraud’s victims as well as the collateral damage inflicted on a woman oblivious of her own complicity. As the eponymous Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the wife of Alec Baldwin’s shonky NY businessman, their relationship told in flashback while she tries to rebuild her life in her adopted half-sister’s (or something — the relationship seems unnecessarily complicated for something that has no material impact on the story) apartment in an unfashionable area of San Francisco.

[pullquote]As they used to say on television about kittens, “a child isn’t just for Christmas, a child is forever.”[/pullquote]Blanchett unravels beautifully and almost maintains our sympathy despite the repeated evidence that she doesn’t really deserve it. In support, Sally Hawkins as the sister is more watchable than usual and others — notably Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K. — get moments to shine even though some of those moments can seem a bit repetitive. Mr. Allen’s ear for dialogue seems to have entirely deserted him — these people talk like they’re being quoted in New Yorker articles rather than conversing like living, breathing humans — but the structure is satisfying and Blanchett takes the entire project by the scruff of the neck and makes it her own.

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Cinematica Extra: Gardening with Soul

By Audio and Cinema

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The full Q&A for Gardening with Soul, recorded at the Light House Petone on 8 Sept 2013. Featuring director Jess Feast, producer Vicky Pope, editor Annie Collins, the star of the film Sister Loyola Galvin and hosted by Cinematica’s Dan Slevin.

Check out this episode