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gerard butler

Review: Boy, The Boys Are Back, How to Train Your Dragon & The Men Who Stare at Goats

By Cinema and Reviews

Taika Waititi’s Boy may well be the sad­dest com­edy I’ve ever seen. Hmn, maybe I should put that anoth­er way: For a com­edy, Boy might be the sad­dest film I’ve ever seen.

Consistently hil­ari­ous through­out, Boy steers a very care­ful course once it becomes clear that there is a very real heartache behind the laughter. A less con­fid­ent film­maker wouldn’t have even tried to per­form that con­jur­ing trick but Waititi turns out to have the tal­ent to pull it off.

It’s 1984 and in the tiny East Cape vil­lage of Waihau Bay 11-year-old Boy (born as Alamein, after his fath­er) has been left in charge of the whanau while his Nana goes to Wellington for a tangi. His little broth­er Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and his young cous­ins are look­ing to him for some par­ent­ing but the unex­pec­ted arrival of Alamein (Taika Waititi) sends all those plans packing.

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Review: The Road, Green Zone, The Bounty Hunter, This Way of Life & Admiral

By Cinema and Reviews

The Road posterMost films go in one eye and out the oth­er but some stick in your brain and won’t leave – for bet­ter or worse. John Hillcoat’s adapt­a­tion of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize win­ning nov­el “The Road” is one of those. Set in a depress­ing, grey, rainy, post-apocalyptic North American future (remind­ing me of noth­ing so much as this past Wellington sum­mer) where noth­ing grows and the few remain­ing human beings for­age for food – and most often find it in each oth­er – dogged and decent Viggo Mortensen trudges through the wil­der­ness with his young son, look­ing for some­thing, any­thing, that might keep them alive.

The Road is about how we try and sur­vive in the face of insur­mount­able odds, and how that phys­ic­al sur­viv­al might mean the loss of our own human­ity. Mortensen’s wife (Charlize Theron) walks out into the lonely night, mak­ing what she thinks is a sac­ri­fice but which he, clearly, thinks is little more than giv­ing up. His son may well be the last repos­it­ory of human kind­ness but that kind­ness might get them killed.

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Review: Law Abiding Citizen, Remember Me and Max Manus

By Cinema and Reviews

Stars are import­ant. Despite their sup­posedly wan­ing influ­ence on box office (Avatar man­aged per­fectly well without a mar­quee name and Bruce Willis hasn’t car­ried a hit film in years) the cha­risma of a lead­ing man is still a key factor in how we much we enjoy our escapism.

Law Abiding Citizen posterExhibit A is the inex­plic­able suc­cess of Gerard Butler. Despite an unpleas­ant on- screen per­sona that mostly oozes bru­tish­ness and con­des­cen­sion he con­tin­ues to rate well with cer­tain tar­get mar­kets and, as a res­ult I still have to watch his films. The latest is a repel­lent revenge fantasy called Law Abiding Citizen in which Butler gets to smirk his way through sev­er­al remote-control murders while sup­posedly locked away in sol­it­ary con­fine­ment. How does he do it, we are sup­posed to ask.

Butler is Clyde Shelton, an invent­or and fam­ily man whose fam­ily is ran­domly tar­geted by two low-life home invaders. They kill his wife and child (but inex­plic­ably leave him alive as a wit­ness) but hot shot Assistant DA (Jamie Foxx) is wor­ried about his win-loss ratio and cuts a deal that saves one of the perps from Death Row. Shelton is upset about the sup­posed lack of justice and hatches an eight year plot to teach every­one involved (includ­ing the entire Philadelphia city admin­is­tra­tion and the Pennsylvania justice sys­tem) a lesson.

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Review: The Strength of Water, Séraphine, The Cove, Taking Woodstock, Orphan and The Ugly Truth

By Cinema and Reviews

Festival titles are return­ing to cinemas at such a rate that it seems like pre-Festival cinem­a­goer cyn­icism was well-placed. 50% of this week’s new releases were screen­ing loc­ally only a month ago but as they are eas­ily the best half of the arrange­ment I’m inclined to be forgiving.

The Strength of Water posterArmagan Ballantyne’s debut NZ fea­ture The Strength of Water is a strik­ingly mature piece of work and one of the most affect­ing films I’ve seen this year. In a remote Hokianga vil­lage a pair of twins (excel­lent first-timers Melanie Mayall-Nahi and Hato Paparoa) share a spe­cial bond that tragedy can’t eas­ily break. A mys­ter­i­ous young stranger (Isaac Barber) arrives on the scene, escap­ing from troubles of his own and… and then I really can’t say any more.

Full of sur­prises from the very first frame The Strength of Water shows that qual­ity devel­op­ment time (includ­ing the sup­port of the Sundance Institute) really can make a good script great. Ballantyne and writer Briar Grace-Smith offer us lay­ers of fas­cin­a­tion along with deep psy­cho­lo­gic­al truth and gritty Loach-ian real­ism. The mix is com­pel­ling and the end product is tremendous.

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Review: U2 3D, Nim’s Island, Street Kings, St. Trinian’s, College Road Trip, Hunting & Gathering, Blindsight, I Have Never Forgotten You and The Real Dirt on Farmer John

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

U2 3D posterEarlier this year I arbit­rar­ily decided that the Hannah Montana 3D con­cert movie was not cinema and chose not to review it. Now, a few short weeks later, I exer­cise my right to indulge in rank hypo­crisy by stat­ing that the U2 3D con­cert movie is cinema and, thus, belongs in this column. Pieced togeth­er from con­certs in soc­cer sta­dia across Latin America (plus one without an audi­ence for close-ups), U2 3D is an amaz­ing exper­i­ence and truly must be seen to be believed.

I hadn’t expec­ted the new digit­al 3D medi­um to be used so expertly so soon but cre­at­ors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington have man­aged to make the entire sta­di­um space mani­fest with float­ing cam­er­as and intel­li­gently layered digit­al cross-fading, giv­ing you a con­cert (and cinema) exper­i­ence that can not be ima­gined any oth­er way. Even if you are not a U2 fan this film deserves to be seen as an example of the poten­tial of 3D to trans­form the medium.

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Review: P.S., I Love You, Molière and Lady Chatterley

By Cinema and Reviews

PS I Love You posterHilary Swank’s new twin-hanky romance P.S., I Love You is a remark­able achieve­ment. In all my years of cinema-going I don’t think I have ever seen a film get more wrong. From the clunky premise to the ghastly cos­tume design; through awk­ward reverses in tone plus no small amount of self-indulgence on the part of Swank; it is as if every­one involved (when faced with a choice between the right way and the wrong way) simply flipped a coin and it came up “wrong” every time.

Swank plays New York wid­ow Holly Kennedy, whose Irish hus­band Gerry (300s Gerard Butler) dies of a brain tumour fol­low­ing a scene demon­strat­ing how power­ful and tem­pes­tu­ous their romance is. Shortly after the wake, Holly starts receiv­ing let­ters from Gerry, writ­ten before he died in order to coach her through the grief and help her start again. As if.

One of the let­ters includes tick­ets to Ireland for Holly and her best friends so she can revis­it the scene of their first meet­ing (prompt­ing an intol­er­ably banal flash­back scene). Meanwhile sup­port­ing cast Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow can enjoy the nat­ives tooraloo-ing in that way that only the Hollywood Irish can.

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