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john c. reilly

Review: Summer Holiday Roundup (2012/13)

By Cinema and Reviews

As I sit here typ­ing, I can hear the sounds of a Wellington sum­mer all around me – the rain pour­ing on to the deck out­side and the wind howl­ing through the trees. Is this why loc­al film dis­trib­ut­ors release so much product over the Christmas/New Year peri­od? Perhaps it’s just cli­mate and noth­ing to do with the Oscars at all? Anyhow, here’s a quick sum­mary of what’s been dished out at loc­al cinemas in des­cend­ing order of greatness.

First up, Ang Lee’s glow­ing 3D adapt­a­tion of Yann Martell’s Life of Pi, storm­ing the loc­al box offices and deservedly so. Ravishing to look at – and mak­ing pro­found rather than nov­elty use of the extra depth avail­able – Lee’s film man­ages to dis­til the essence of the book’s mes­sage even if the ambigu­ous end­ing proves less sat­is­fy­ing cine­mat­ic­ally than lit­er­ar­ily. Dreamy. I was par­tic­u­larly taken by the con­scious recre­ation of the book’s ori­gin­al cov­er in one scene, even to the extent of chan­ging the film’s aspect ratio for that single shot.

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Review: Love Story, The Guard, Crazy Stupid Love, Cedar Rapids, TT3D - Closer to the Edge and Priest 3D

By Cinema and Reviews

Firstly I want to apo­lo­gise that there is no review of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life in this week’s column. I saw it dur­ing the Festival and like most audi­ences was per­turbed, baffled, chal­lenged and ulti­mately awed but I needed a second screen­ing to make sense of it. Arguably less sense rather than more sense was what I would be aim­ing for.

The film opened com­mer­cially this week­end at a couple of loc­a­tions but neither of them offered the sort of grandeur (i.e. screen size) and qual­ity (i.e. DCP 2k digit­al trans­fer of the kind I am start­ing to love) so I thought I would hold off until it reaches a few more screens. I know – I sound like a pom­pous ass but that’s as genu­ine a response to The Tree of Life as I can muster. A more con­sidered response next week.

Love Story posterBut that omis­sion gives me more room for the rest of this week’s releases. Florian Habicht’s Love Story charmed (most) of the Film Festival, includ­ing your cor­res­pond­ent. Habicht’s indefatig­able curi­os­ity and demon­strable love of people powers this strange romantic com­edy made while he was liv­ing in Manhattan on an Arts Foundation residency.

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Review: It’s Complicated, Cirque du freak: The Vampire’s Assistant & Astro Boy

By Cinema and Reviews

It's Complicated posterThe first thing you need to know about It’s Complicated is that it isn’t very com­plic­ated at all. The plot, the char­ac­ters, the gags (dear God, espe­cially the gags) are all per­fectly com­pre­hens­ible – even to those of us with only mod­est intel­lec­tu­al fac­ulties. Rest assured, at no point will any­one be talk­ing over your head in this one.

Nancy Meyer’s pre­vi­ous film was The Holiday, which eas­ily remains in the bot­tom ten of the 1200+ films I have reviewed in these pages, so It’s Complicated earns a single point for not being that bad, but that’s where I run out of positives.

Meryl Streep plays Jane, suc­cess­ful baker and busi­ness­wo­man, who has a drunk­en one-night-stand with her rogue-ish ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin. He thinks that they should try again. She isn’t so sure – mainly because he is now mar­ried to the woman he left her for ten years earli­er and she really doesn’t want to be the “oth­er woman” to the “oth­er woman”.

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Interview: Richard Jenkins

By Cinema and Interview

It isn’t online at the Cap Times, so I thought I would archive my inter­view with The Visitor star, Richard Jenkins here. I spoke with Richard by phone last Sunday morning.

***

"My drumming sucks!" - Richard Jenkins in The Visitor

My drum­ming sucks” – Richard Jenkins in The Visitor

Best known to New Zealand audi­ences as the deceased pat­ri­arch of the Fisher fam­ily in television’s “Six Feet Under”, Richard Jenkins has had a steady career in movies over the last 25 years, often in unsung sup­port­ing roles, but this year he has really left a mark.

Speaking to the Capital Times from his home in Rhode Island, Jenkins gave thanks to Thomas McCarthy, cre­at­or of 2004’s sleep­er hit The Station Agent, for hav­ing faith in him des­pite his lack of mar­quee pres­ence. “He asked me to read the script and I hadn’t read any­thing I liked more. But I told him, nobody’s going to give you the money with me in it!” But McCarthy per­severed, even when one exec­ut­ive pro­du­cer sug­ges­ted just weeks before shoot­ing that Morgan Freeman might be a more com­mer­cial choice.

2008 has been a great year for Jenkins.  In the sopho­mor­ic buddy com­edy Step Brothers he got to impro­vise scenes about dino­saurs with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly; he was reunited with The Coen Brothers for Burn After Reading (in a part that was writ­ten for him); and in the sens­it­ive indie he shines as a wid­owed aca­dem­ic brought back from a bound­less depres­sion by a chance New York con­nec­tion with two illeg­al immigrants.

But car­ry­ing a film on his shoulders was a new exper­i­ence.  “I always wondered what it would be like, you know? Could I do it? But most of all, I didn’t want to let Tom down.” He needn’t have wor­ried, as his per­form­ance anchors a typ­ic­ally humane McCarthy film about strangers thrown togeth­er and learn­ing to appre­ci­ate and then love each other.

Jenkins con­tin­ues to live in tiny Rhode Island where he moved after suc­cess­fully audi­tion­ing for the Trinity Rep theatre com­pany in Providence in 1970. He hap­pily per­formed and dir­ec­ted there for 14 years, even spend­ing four years as act­ing Artistic Director just as his film career was tak­ing off.

The movie work has been so reg­u­lar he hasn’t been on a stage since 1985 but he nev­er anti­cip­ated a film career. ”I’d always loved film but frankly, it was easi­er to go the the moon,” he laughs. “A career is some­thing you look back on rather than some­thing you plan”.

Now he says he enjoys watch­ing theatre more than he ever did (when he was act­ing in it) and tries to catch whatever he can, wherever he may be filming.

At the rate that Jenkins makes films (there are anoth­er four in the can for release next year), the law of aver­ages sug­gests he will be shoot­ing in Wellington before too long and he knows the tal­ent we have to offer, describ­ing work­ing with Niki (Whale Rider) Caro on North Country as his best movie-making exper­i­ence ever.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 3 December, 2008.

Review: WALL•E, Journey to the Centre of the Earth 3D, The Hollow Men, Earth, Step Brothers, Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

By Cinema and Reviews

Back in the 70s, when I was about 8 years old, I watched a film on TV called Silent Running. In it Bruce Dern and three little robots ten­ded the remains of Earth’s plant life on a giant green­house space­ship float­ing some­where between Mars and Jupiter. I cried so much at the shock­ing end­ing (which had lonely robot Dewey, tend­ing the forest with a battered water­ing can while the last of Earth’s flora drif­ted toward the edge of the sol­ar sys­tem) that I don’t think I’ve ever been the same again. Last year, I ren­ted the DVD to see if it had the same effect more than 30 years later and, sure enough, I dis­solved on cue. Remarkable.

WALL•E posterPixar’s new anim­ated tri­umph WALL•E owes a great deal to Silent Running, not least it’s dystop­ic view of human-planet inter­ac­tion but also the faith in the heal­ing power of anthro­po­morph­ic cuboid robots. WALL•E is the last func­tion­ing main­ten­ance robot on an aban­doned Earth, tidy­ing up the enorm­ous moun­tains of garbage left behind 700 years pre­vi­ously by the cow­ardly human pop­u­la­tion who ran for the stars. Lonely, without really know­ing what lonely means, our hero meets EVE, a bril­liant (as in shiny) search robot look­ing for signs of organ­ic life. When she dis­cov­ers some, and leaves to report back, WALL•E hitches a ride and ulti­mately finds him­self sav­ing civilisation.

It was per­haps a little too long for the rest­less pre-schoolers I shared a screen­ing with, but for any­one and every­one else I whole-heartedly recom­mend it. And it won’t make you cry so much you throw up.

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D posterRegular read­ers will know that I have been quite the cheer­lead­er for the new digit­al 3D tech­no­logy (the U2 con­cert was stun­ning). Sadly, the first “live action” film to be pro­duced using the pro­cess, Journey to the Centre of the Earth 3D, is still more of a side-show stunt than a test of the artist­ic poten­tial of the tech­no­logy. Brendan Fraser plays a geo­lo­gist whose broth­er was lost on an explor­a­tion in some Icelandic caves and when he dis­cov­ers secret coded notes in his brother’s dog-eared copy of the Jules Verne book, he decides to recre­ate the exped­i­tion, tak­ing his neph­ew (plus last week’s CT cov­er girl Anita Briem) along for the ride.

The Hollow Men posterAlister Barry is one of Wellington’s liv­ing treas­ures. His metic­u­lously researched doc­u­ment­ar­ies (includ­ing Someone Else’s Country and In a Land of Plenty) have suc­cess­fully shone a light on the polit­ic­al and eco­nom­ic changes in New Zealand since the ‘new right’ trans­form­a­tion of the mid-80s in a way that nobody in the main­stream media has even attemp­ted. His new film is based on Nicky Hager’s explos­ive exposé of shoddy National Party cam­paign­ing, The Hollow Men, and it’s inter­est­ing to me that the real-life foot­age of Don Brash presents a con­sid­er­ably less sym­path­et­ic por­trait of the man than Stephen Papps’ excel­lent per­form­ance in the stage ver­sion at BATS. The leaked emails from Hager’s book revealed so many shenanigans that it’s hard to keep the story straight but Barry does a good job of emphas­ising that it is essen­tially the same team run­ning National this time around.

Earth posterI was lucky enough to pre­view the gor­geous BBC nature doc­u­ment­ary, Earth, at the Embassy dur­ing the Festival and I’m pleased to see it return there for a short sea­son. Unlike the tedi­ous and repet­it­ive ice doco The White Planet, this film uses the whole plan­et as a can­vas for some mar­vel­lous images and, like WALL•E, the mes­sage is that we are stuff­ing it up at an alarm­ing rate. Only the cutest anim­als and most col­our­ful plants got through the audi­tions and Patrick Stewart plays the Morgan Freeman part as narrator.

Step Brothers posterAfter dis­mal exper­i­ences with Will Ferrell’s recent ice-skating and bas­ket­ball films I wasn’t look­ing for­ward to Step Brothers, a low brow reunite­ment (new word!) with Talladega Nights co-star John C. Reilly, but blow me down I really enjoyed it! Ferrell and Reilly play two 40-year-old men, liv­ing at home, whose solo par­ents meet and marry each oth­er, mak­ing them, you guessed it Step Brothers. It’s a 90 minute riff on one joke but you have to admire their total com­mit­ment to it.

Angus, Things & Perfect Snogging posterAngus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging was made for teen­age girls and I (des­pite my best efforts) am not one but, even though I lack the required cul­tur­al fil­ters, I can’t under­stand why teen­age girls would want to be por­trayed as such shal­low, tedi­ous, screech­ing harpies. Boys, make-up, boys, the right kind of under­wear, boys again. If these are our future lead­ers then I des­pair. Crikey, was Helen Clark like this when she was 14?

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days posterAll the girls in Angus, Thongs should be sat down and shown the extraordin­ary Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days so they can see what their single-minded obses­sion with boys and pop­ular­ity is likely to get them. I’m stoked that someone has decided to release this film (after screen­ings at the World Cinema Showcase in April) as it is undoubtedly a stone-cold mas­ter­piece, well-deserving the Palme D’Or it received at Cannes last year.

Profound, sens­it­ive, emo­tion­ally ardu­ous and per­fectly struc­tured, 4 Months fol­lows a day in the life of stu­dent Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) as she self­lessly tries to organ­ise an abor­tion for her light headed friend Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), while fend­ing off the atten­tions of fam­ily and boy­friend. As close to per­fect as makes no difference.

Printed (for the most part) in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 24 September, 2008. Except for Earth, Step Brothers, Angus, Thongs, etc. and 4 Months which were cut for space.

Review: Fool’s Gold, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Air Guitar Nation

By Cinema and Reviews

Fool's Gold posterIn 2003 the paper-thin romantic com­edy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days paired Matthew McConaughey with Kate Hudson and made over 100 mil­lion dol­lars. The rules of Hollywood eco­nom­ics, plus the over­whelm­ing dic­tates of focus groups and research­ers, meant they would have to be reunited. So, as soon as Hudson’s baby-body was fit to be seen in a tiny bikini, they were off to the Bahamas to make Fool’s Gold, a bur­ied treas­ure adven­ture set among the rich and beautiful.

McConaughey plays “Finn” Finnegan, a treas­ure hunter, and Hudson his soon-to-be ex-wife. She’s divor­cing him because she’s a tight-ass and wants to fin­ish her PhD. He is hope­lessly in debt to hip-hop super­star Bigg Bunny who has been fund­ing his search for lost Spanish gold. When he dis­cov­ers a din­ner plate sized clue he suck­ers Hudson and super yacht own­er Donald Sutherland into join­ing the search, des­pite the viol­ent atten­tions of Mr Bunny and com­pet­i­tion from dodgy accen­ted Ray Winstone.

Matthew McConaughey isn’t the lazi­est of our male Hollywood stars (Nic Cage takes that prize) but he has coas­ted for an enorm­ous amount of time on what some might see as charm alone. Fool’s Gold doesn’t change that approach and your enjoy­ment will depend entirely on how much you appre­ci­ate McConaughey’s cha­risma as there isn’t much else to enjoy. Despite the Caribbean set­ting all the black char­ac­ters are either vil­lains or buf­foons or both, Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) alone man­ages to sup­ply two objec­tion­able ste­reo­types at once. I hope that isn’t the res­ult of a Hollywood focus group.

Walk Hard posterWalk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story tells a heart-rending, and repair­ing, story of tragedy and redemp­tion in the music busi­ness. Inspired by classy bio-pics like Walk the Line and Ray (and even La Vie En Rose, prob­ably), Walk Hard stars per­en­ni­al sidekick John C. Reilly as the eponym­ous Dewey, dumber than a sack of ham­mers but with a heart of lead, as he over­comes the tra­gic death of his broth­er in a machete acci­dent (“the wrong kid died”, says his stone-faced fath­er at every oppor­tun­ity), the loss of his sense of smell and addic­tion to every sub­stance on the plan­et short of cinnamon.

Films like Walk Hard are always hit and miss affairs and this one runs about 50–50. The tar­gets are pretty soft, how­ever, and I’d hoped that a writ­ing team that includes Judd (Knocked Up) Apatow might have aimed a little high­er. The best things in the film are the songs, well sung by the tal­en­ted Reilly: my favour­ite is the 60s pro-midget protest song “Let Me Hold You, Little Man”.

Air Guitar Nation posterIt’s very hard to focus on a film when you spend most of it shak­ing your head in dis­be­lief. Air Guitar Nation is a doc­u­ment­ary fol­low­ing the first two American con­tenders in the well-established World Air Guitar Championship in Finland. The Yanks may have inven­ted Rock but they have come second to the Air Guitar party, strug­gling with the more high-level con­cepts (“You can­’t hold a gun, if you’ve got an air gui­tar in your hand”) and the ser­i­ous intent of the Northern Europeans. But they do have old-fashioned show­man­ship on their side. Diverting.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 13 February, 2008.