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hilary swank

Review: New Year’s Eve, The First Grader, Red State and Courageous

By Cinema and Reviews

For years now I’ve been fighting a single-handed defence of the later career of Robert De Niro (no defence, of course, being necessary for the early career which featured Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter). This defence has several arguments. Firstly, his decline hasn’t been nearly as pronounced — or as strange — as Al Pacino’s. Secondly, he was making some unusual decisions even during the eighties and, frankly, one Harry Tuttle — the renegade central heating engineer in Brazil — or foul-mouthed bail bondsman Jack Walsh (Midnight Run) will get you a free pass for an awful lot of We’re No Angels.

In the nineties, too, he would make choices that fans of Raging Bull and King of Comedy would think were beneath him — Mad Dog and Glory, Frankenstein — but also pull out Wag the Dog and Jackie Brown. It’s been clear for a while now that De Niro is something of a workaholic — and an actor who waits for projects as good as Goodfellas is an actor who doesn’t work all that often.

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Review: Under the Mountain, Amelia and Planet 51

By Cinema and Reviews

Under the Mountain posterAs the recent fuss over The Vintner’s Luck demonstrated, filmmakers adapting beloved New Zealand books open themselves up to all sorts of potential criticism, so when Jonathan King and Matthew Grainger announced that their next project was going to be a version of Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain there were a great many excited people (mostly around my age it seemed) thrilled that their favourite childhood book was going to get the all-action big screen treatment.

And yet, as a story pitched at older kids and young adults, it was going to have to be brought out of the original 70s context (and updated from its early 80s TV incarnation) or nobody would come. It’s a fine balance and for mine I think King and Grainger have done a good job — even if the restless crowd at Readings on Saturday afternoon might suggest otherwise.

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Review: Love Birds, Tamara Drewe, Wagner & Me, Conviction, The Last Exorcism and Curry Munchers

By Cinema and Reviews

Love Birds posterFollowing the surprise success of Second Hand Wedding in 2008, screenwriter Nick Ward and director Paul Murphy have been given a vastly improved budget and access to two international stars and told to make lightning strike twice.

The stars of Love Birds just happen to be the two fussiest actors in the world, Sally Hawkins (Golden Globe winner for Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky) and TV comic Rhys Darby, and when the two of them start fidgeting and stammering it feels like you are in for a long night. Luckily, both have their still-er moments and at those times you can see that Darby has real potential as a big screen romantic lead.

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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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