Skip to main content
Tag

john waters

Review: Hairspray, Ratatouille, Invasion, Next and Romulus, My Father

By Cinema and Reviews

Hairspray posterBaltimore in the 60s must have been quite a place as it has inspired films like Barry Levinson’s Diner and Tin Men as well as the entire John Waters can­on, from Mondo Trasho and Pink Flamingos to Hairspray and Cry-Baby in the 90s. Now Waters’ trans­gress­ive vis­ion of outsider-dom has been absorbed in to the main­stream with the san­it­ised, PG, ver­sion of Hairspray, now trans­formed in to a Broadway music­al and back on the screen. Full of stars hav­ing a gay old time, includ­ing the rarely seen Michelle Pfeiffer, Hairspray The Musical is a lot of fun and if the kids who enjoy it look up John Waters on the inter­net that would be a good thing too.

Ratatouille posterIn Ratatouille, there’s a lovely moment when Remy, a French rat with a nose for fine food, dis­cov­ers the beau­ti­ful pos­sib­il­it­ies of mix­ing fla­vours and a pas­sion for fine cook­ing begins. The anim­a­tion is bey­ond any­thing yet seen and the eye for the detail and respect for the kit­chen is extraordin­ary – the chefs have scars on their hands and burns on their wrists – but the story does­n’t quite meas­ure up to the tech­nic­al achieve­ment. Pretty enter­tain­ing, all the same.

The Invasion posterTwo films released this week go to prove that, even with mil­lions of dol­lars of stu­dio back­ing, mak­ing a film is very dif­fi­cult indeed if you don’t really know why you’re doing it. The Invasion is a remake of two clas­sic para­noid science-fiction films, both called The Invasion of The Body Snatchers, and stars Nicole Kidman as a psy­chi­at­rist try­ing to save her son who may be immune to the ali­en vir­us that is tak­ing over the plan­et. While The Invasion may con­firm everything you have always sus­pec­ted about hotel cater­ing, that may be all it is good for. A com­plete fail­ure on almost every level.

Next posterIncredibly, The Invasion was­n’t even the worst film I saw that day. Lee Tamahori’s Next was even more list­less than The Invasion and nobody involved looked even slightly engaged. A rogue nuke is miss­ing some­where in the con­tin­ent­al United States and rogue FBI agent Julianne Moore man­ages to divert the entire invest­ig­a­tion into find­ing Las Vegas magi­cian Nicolas Cage because he has the abil­ity to see two minutes into the future.

Meanwhile, the Russians and the French who have the nuke are also after Cage for no reas­on at all that I could work out. At one point an FBI agent watch­ing Cage on a sur­veil­lance mon­it­or exclaimed “Can you believe this shit?” and someone in the audi­ence yelled “No!”. Actually, on reflec­tion, that might have been me. Sorry.

Romulus, My Father posterBased on a best-selling mem­oir by suc­cess­ful aca­dem­ic and philo­soph­er Raimond Gaita, Romulus, My Father is the story of a dif­fi­cult child­hood in 1960s rur­al Victoria. Both Gaita’s par­ents were Romanian immig­rants, and due to the isol­a­tion, or per­haps some inher­ently Balkan mood­i­ness, they both struggled with severe depres­sion. Gaita’s moth­er (Run, Lola, Run’s Franka Potente) was­n’t really into being a moth­er until it was too late and his fath­er (Eric Bana) nev­er gets over the heart­break of her abandonment.

The film is dir­ec­ted by act­or Richard Roxburgh and his respect for his cast means we often linger a little longer on them than is neces­sary and the Victorian State by-law that says every film shot in the hin­ter­land has to look like an oil paint­ing is in full effect.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 12 September, 2007.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Hairspray viewed at a Sunday after­noon MoreFM radio pre­view at Readings (free hair­care products – woo­hoo); Ratatouille screened com­mer­cially at a strangely not full ses­sion at the Empire in Island Bay on Friday night; The Invasion and Next were viewed at the earli­est pos­sible com­mer­cial screen­ings at Readings last Thursday beside Dom-Post review­er Graeme Tuckett and Romulus, My Father was at the Penthouse on Monday after­noon and the print was in the poorest con­di­tion of any release print I have seen – looked like a gang of lumin­ous green wasps in the middle of the screen.