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high school musical 3: senior year

Review: Toy Story 3, The Twilight Saga- Eclipse, Marmaduke & Me and Orson Welles

By Cinema, Reviews

For those read­ers tuned into these things, clear evid­ence emerged this week of the ‘end of days’ and our impend­ing anni­hil­a­tion – cul­tur­ally at least.

Simply put, Twilight: Eclipse is play­ing around three times as many ses­sions in Wellington cinemas this school hol­i­days as Toy Story 3, des­pite the lat­ter being demon­strably super­i­or fare in every con­ceiv­able way. It was pretty depress­ing to check the papers last week to see that TS3 was only get­ting one Embassy ses­sion (in the mat­inée ghetto) as opposed to Eclipse’s four. It’s enough to make one wish for a friendly wall to bang one’s head upon.

Toy Story 3 posterIs Toy Story 3 that good? Yes, it is. In fact, I would ven­ture the slightly dan­ger­ous opin­ion that if there’s a film in the Film Festival this year as good as Toy Story 3 then I will be very, very surprised.

The last couple of Pixar films reviewed in these pages have been gently chided for fall­ing away in the third act – fail­ing to main­tain their geni­us right through to the end. No such prob­lems occur with TS3. It stays on course, con­tinu­ing to illu­min­ate char­ac­ter and action with deft, sur­pris­ing and eer­ily appro­pri­ate plot turns.

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Review: Michael Jackson’s This is It, My Year Without Sex, The Limits of Control and Black Ice

By Cinema, paramount, Reviews

Thi is It posterFull dis­clos­ure: I wrote a play about Michael Jackson once (“Dirty Doris”, BATS 1995) so I’ll con­fess to always being inter­ested in the real char­ac­ter behind the tabloid and music video façade so the arrival of This is It (what some have described as a cheap cash-in flick) is of more than passing interest to me.

And of all the pos­sible adject­ives avail­able to describe the film “cheap” would seem to be the least appro­pri­ate. This behind-the-scenes doc­u­ment­ary, made up of foot­age inten­ded for “Making of” extras on an even­tu­al DVD plus han­dic­am foot­age for Jackson’s own per­son­al archive, shows a ded­ic­ated bunch of ser­i­ously tal­en­ted people pre­par­ing a huge stage show for an audi­ence of demand­ing fans. However, no one involved is more demand­ing than the star of the show MJ himself.

In the film we see Jackson and his crack team rehears­ing the massive series of 50 London shows that were sup­posedly to mark his retire­ment from live per­form­ance. Pushing 50, with a body battered from years of ill­ness and tour­ing, suf­fer­ing from anxiety-induced insom­nia, Jackson knew that audi­ences only wanted the moon­walk­ing King of Pop per­sona, an act that he wouldn’t be able to main­tain much longer. So, he wanted to go out with a bang, with some­thing mem­or­able, and he was evid­ently very ser­i­ous about put­ting on a truly amaz­ing show.

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Review: G-Force, Shorts, The Secret of Moonacre, Ponyo, Year One, Fame, Every Little Step, Disgrace, North Face and Cheri

By Cinema, Reviews

So, it’s the school hol­i­days and the nip­pers are boun­cing off the walls. You’re not allowed to just leave them in the car while you play the pokies any­more so it’s time to get cre­at­ive. There are plenty of kid-friendly movie options around and the only draw­back is that you might have to sit and watch with them.

G-Force posterIn G‑Force 3D guinea pigs save the world from – actu­ally I can’t tell you as the twist is quite a good one. A top secret research pro­ject involving Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) and rodents with the voices of Nic Cage, Sam Rockwell and Penélope Cruz is pressed into ser­vice when an entire con­sumer brand (toast­ers, cof­fee makers, etc) goes ber­serk. The anim­a­tion is first class (and CGI rodents are always cute) but the film as a whole nev­er really gets going. It’s a Bruckheimer pro­duc­tion so was prob­ably con­sumer tested bey­ond endurance.

Shorts posterAnother fic­tion­al con­sumer brand gets a pum­mel­ling in this new era of anti-commercialism in Shorts , Robert Rodriguez’ spunky and invent­ive, low budget effort. Black Industries make a Black Box – an all-in-one port­able everything device that turns out not to be nearly as cool as the rain­bow magic wish­ing stone that causes hav­oc every­where it goes. Pitched slightly young­er than G‑Force, and without the pol­ish, it is still worth a look.

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Review: District 9, Sunshine Cleaning, The Man in the Hat, The Rocket Post and Case 39

By Cinema, Reviews

It’s going to be a massive few months for Wellywood – District 9 seems to have come out of nowhere to take the world by storm (Currently #35 in the IMDb All Time list, just below Citizen Kane. I kid you not) and The Lovely Bones trail­er is whet­ting everyone’s appet­ite at just the right time. This Friday, Wellington audi­ences are the first in the world to see a fif­teen minute sampler of the loc­ally shot Avatar (Readings from 11.45am, free of charge) and three more Film Commission fea­tures are due for release between now and Christmas: The Strength of Water, Under the Mountain and The Vintner’s Luck, all of which have a sig­ni­fic­ant Wellington com­pon­ent to them.

District 9 posterAnd if the Hollywood big cheeses were wor­ried about The Lord of the Rings shift­ing the tec­ton­ic plates of enter­tain­ment industry power they ought to be ter­ri­fied by District 9, a new world demon­stra­tion of the SANZAR spir­it (minus the Australians) that achieves in spades everything that this year’s big-budget tent-pole fea­tures like Transformers and Terminator failed to do. It works thrill­ingly as pure enter­tain­ment and yet at the same time it’s a little bit more.

Aliens have arrived on earth but unlike in the 70s and 80s they aren’t here to tell us how to con­nect with the uni­verse and expand our con­scious­ness. And it isn’t like the 90s when they arrived to car­a­mel­ize us with their death rays. These ali­ens have arrived for remark­ably 21st cen­tury reas­ons – their ship is crippled and with no way home they are destined to become refugees, out­casts, mis­un­der­stood second-class citizens.

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Review: Hannah Montana: The Movie and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

By Cinema, Reviews

I dis­covered a lovely Hollywood stu­dio phrase the oth­er day: exe­cu­tion depend­ent. It means a script that won’t make money unless good people are involved. This week’s films are the oppos­ite: films that sell regard­less of whichever tal­ent­less hack is in charge; two films that will con­tin­ue to make money for the machine for months, if not years, after this review is decom­pos­ing in some aban­doned corner of the Internet.

Hannah Montana: The Movie posterFirst up, the phe­nomen­on that is Hannah Montana. For an etern­ity (or three years depend­ing on your point of view) Miley Cyrus has been chew­ing up the tv screen as the pop sing­er lead­ing a double-life on the Disney Channel. After the suc­cess of High School Musical on the big screen (and a digit­al 3D con­cert of her own that screened in Wellington last year), Miley and Hannah have hit the big time and, even though it took me a while to come around, I can sort of see the appeal.

For those com­ing to this par­tic­u­lar party late the premise is this: Miley Cyrus plays a kid called Miley who dreams of being a pop star but her dad (Achy Breaky Heart’s Billy Ray Cyrus) won’t let her unless she pre­tends to be someone else and keeps her home life as nor­mal as pos­sible. As the film begins, Miley has let her Hannah char­ac­ter go to her head – to the extent that she would prefer the New York Music Awards to her grandmother’s birth­day in Tennessee – so Billy Ray diverts the private jet to sleepy little Crowley Corners to try and bring her to her senses. Meanwhile, a dast­ardly tabloid hack (Peter Gunn) is sniff­ing out the truth and a developer (Barry Bostwick) wants to turn Crowley Corners into a giant shop­ping mall.

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Review: 17 Again, Fast & Furious, Ong-bak and Sniper

By Cinema, Reviews

I’ve been grumpy all week for all sorts of reas­ons and the last thing I needed was a week­end of crappy films but that’s what I got. I mean, I’m spend­ing longer writ­ing this review than the writers of Fast & Furious or 17 Again spent on their scripts – put togeth­er, probably.

The improb­ably named Burr Steers is the dir­ect­or of 17 Again but that’s where the fun stops. Matthew Perry plays a 37-year-old former high school bas­ket­ball star who chose the love of his preg­nant girl­friend instead of a col­lege schol­ar­ship and dug him­self deep into a dowdy life of fail­ure and regret. A mys­ter­i­ous bearded jan­it­or, a bridge (a frankly insult­ing homage to It’s a Wonderful Life) and an unspe­cified magic­al event put him back in his buff 17-year-old body which he uses to re-engage with his chil­dren and get to know his wife again.

I’ve got some time for the tele­vi­sion ver­sion of Matthew Perry (did you see “Studio 60”?), and des­pite his tra­gic cinema career choices he remains a com­ic act­or who is unafraid of (or unable to sup­press) the sad­ness behind his eyes. Unfortunately, he dis­ap­pears after 15 minutes to be replaced by High School Musical ’s Zac Efron, a smug pretty-boy with some dance moves and no cha­risma and it is he who car­ries the film to its des­ol­ate conclusion.

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