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Gravity poster

Review: Gravity, Mr. Pip, Grown Ups 2, Battle of the Year 3D and 2 Guns

By Cinema and Reviews

Gravity movie still

Gravity posterIs Gravity the first really new film of the 21st Century? I hazard it may be. It is certainly the first to harness the bleeding edge of the current technologies (performance capture, 3D, sophisticated robotic camera rigs) to serve a story that could only really exist in this form. Sure, once his ears had stopped bleeding Georges Meliés would totally recognise what director Alfonso Cuarón and his screenwriter partner (and son) Jonás are doing here, but he would be the first to put his hand up to say that he wouldn’t have been able to do it. Same for Kubrick, I suspect.

During a routine shuttle mission high above the Earth, astronauts Sandy Bullock and George Clooney are struggling to make some adjustments to the Hubble telescope when Houston (a nicely cast Ed Harris) warns them of some incoming debris. A Russian spy satellite has been destroyed by its owners causing a chain reaction as the little buggers kick-off all over the place. Tiny fragments of satellite travel at lethal speeds on roughly the same orbit and our heroes have to get to safety before they risk being vaporised.

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Review: American Reunion, Titanic 3D and The Pirates! Band of Misfits

By Cinema and Reviews

American Reunion posterIn one of these columns back in 2007 I said, “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.” Those were the days, eh? Now you can’t get away from it. This week nostalgia is everywhere — getting up your nose and on your shoes — and the prime culprits are young whippersnappers who should know better — yearning for their High School years in that innocent-yet-filthy time before Y2K and 9/11 changed everything.

The first American Pie was a well-executed implementation of that noble genre, the teen sex comedy. Four sequels (two direct-to-video) leeched whatever goodwill there might have remained out of the project but — as the careers of Jason Biggs, Seann Williamm Scott and Chris Klein have stuttered — the Hollywood economy will eventually demand its tribute. American Reunion is the result.

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Review: Arthur Christmas, Immortals, When a City Falls, Rest for the Wicked and Submarine

By Cinema and Reviews

I believe that it should be illegal to even mention the word Christmas in any month other than December. Yup, illegal. No one should be allowed to even breathe it, let alone have parades, display mince pies in supermarkets or throw staff parties. If, as a once-great nation, we can restrict firework sales to three days before Guy Fawkes I’m sure we can manage to pull our collective yuletide-obsessed heads in for a few weeks and focus all that attention on only one month a year.

Arthur Christmas posterAt least that’s what I thought until last Friday. That was when I saw the new picture from England’s Aardman Animation, Arthur Christmas. I was prepared, based on my aforementioned bah-humbuggery — and some unprepossessing trailers — to be scornful and yet I was won over. Won over to the extent that I might as well be wrapped in tinsel with a fairy on top. Arthur Christmas made me believe in Christmas a week before I was ready.

This film is digital 3D rather than the stop-motion clay models that made Aardman famous, but the invention, wit, pace, structure and commitment to theme are all securely in place, brought to life by an awesome UK voice cast (Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy both do outstanding work) and some brilliantly clever visuals.

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Review: Rio, Hop, Oceans, Sucker Punch and some meditations on the Roxy

By Cinema and Reviews

Wellington’s first Roxy Cinema was either notorious or legendary depending on your point of view. Originally the Britannia on Manners Street, it was renamed the Roxy in 1935 and ran as an idiosyncratic independent until demolition in 1974. Old school projectionists would tell you that the Roxy was a genuine fleapit, running continuous sessions (no cleaning) and providing a central city hideout for people skipping work or school.

According to “The Celluloid Circus”, Wayne Brittenden’s wonderful history of cinemas in New Zealand, owner Harry Griffith was once asked by a cashier if she should call the truant officer to apprehend some young miscreant. “Let him buy his ticket first,” snapped Griffith, “then report him.”

Griffith took a showman’s approach to programming, once risking the wrath of 20th Century Fox by scheduling an impromptu double feature of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra and Kenneth Williams in Carry On Cleo. That’s the kind of spirited whimsy we tried to encourage at the Paramount in my day and I do miss it.

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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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