The first Sione’s movie arrived in cinemas in 2006 – before I commenced this weekly catalogue of hits and misses – so I have to plead ignorance about the Duck Rockers and their earlier hijinks. I didn’t even try and download it. How lame! So, Sione’s 2: Unfinished Business has to stand on its own two feet and I’m pleased to report that it does just that.
It’s five years on from Sione’s wedding and the boys have been brought back together for a different kind of family gathering but one of them has gone missing. The minister (the great Nat Lees) gives them a mission: find Bolo (the great David Fane) and bring him back before he does something he will regret. So commences a mad dash around central Auckland in a commandeered taxi – from my memory of Ponsonby/Grey Lynn most of those journeys would have been faster on foot – trying to locate Bolo before all Hell breaks loose.
It’s Bourne-time again and rogue-agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still trying to find out who he is, who erased his memory and why. A Guardian journalist (Paddy Considine) seems to know something so he takes the Eurostar to London and within 15 minutes of arriving the bodies are piling up.
In a cunning (not to mention potentially confusing) screenwriting coup the first two-thirds of Ultimatum actually takes place ‘before’ the final 15 minutes of Supremacy (the previous sequel) and the two time-lines meet briefly before Ultimatum picks us up and takes us to the final, fascinating, reveal: of a plot (as the saying goes) ripped from the headlines – and from post‑9/11 paranoid, punch-drunk, American foreign policy.
There was a time when a new improv comedy from Christopher Guest and his regular cast of inspired comics would be eagerly awaited but as time goes by the returns are proving meager. For Your Consideration could have been the cream of the crop – after all Hollywood, the subject matter, is closest to the creators real lives and the targets are big and soft. Maybe that’s the problem.
Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer and Parker Posey play actors shooting the perfectly awful Home For Purim when an internet gossip starts a rumour that their work might be Oscar material. The sad thing is that that Catherine O’Hara’s performance as tragic Marilyn Hack might actually have been worthy of Oscar consideration if it had been in a better film.
Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie star in The Good Shepherd, a worthy American counterpoint to the classic Le Carré spy stories of the 70’s and 80’s – “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, etc. – where the spies of both sides have more in common with each other than they do with their friends or their families. Despite the formation of the CIA as background, and a couple of telling illustrations of their revolution-toppling, despot-installing methods, it isn’t a particularly political film, but a portrait of a damaged but brilliant young man turning into an even more damaged middle-aged one.
An excellent cast notably Joe Pesci, Michael Gambon and William Hurt are well-served by Robert De Niro’s experienced, actor-friendly direction. He really does know what he’s doing behind the camera as well as in front.
I can recommend The Cave of the Yellow Dog as a restful and benign counterpoint to the angry, noisy, nonsense depicted in so many films these days. In Mongolia, the six ‑year-old daughter of a herder finds a stray dog and wants to keep it but father worries that it will bring bring wolves. It’s a classic story told in a relaxed documentary style; it probably should have been called “Lhassi”.
Science-fiction; fantasy; romance; oil painting: The Fountain is like no film I’ve ever seen before and seems to have been made for those people who thought that the “Star Child” sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey was the best bit. I am not one of those people. Hugh Jackman plays Dr Tom Creo whose wife Izzy (Rachel Weisz) is dying of a brain tumour. Tom will do anything to keep her alive including experimental treatments from the bark of a mysterious South American tree. The Fountain is a film to watch more than listen to – quite beautiful and quite barmy.
The continued existence of the motion picture economy is dependent on the appearance of a Hugh Grant romantic comedy once a year whether he feels like it or not, and in Music and Lyrics he seems to be enjoying himself a little more than usual. Perhaps the sloppiness of Marc Lawrence’s direction meant that he wasn’t required to exert himself beyond a couple of takes. He plays Alex Fletcher, has-been star of 80s band Pop! who gets the chance to renew his lease on fame by writing a song for new sensation Cora. The only problem is he doesn’t write lyrics. Luckily, his plant waterer (Drew Barrymore) wrote turgid poetry at college and the rest is thoroughly predictable. Not a complete waste of time, the faux-80s music is right on the money.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on 21 February, 2007.