Online commentator, reviewer and raconteur Steve Gray joins Kailey and Dan on the line from Hamilton, New Zealand, to help review Reese Witherspoon in Wild, Julianne Moore in Still Alice and Johnny Depp in Mortdecai. Steve also has top TV watching tips for 2015 including Adam Curtis’ Bitter Lake.
After what seems like weeks of holidays, Summer Noelles and Matinee Idles, Radio New Zealand National is pretty much back to normal which means the return of my fortnightly movie reviews. Let this be a little placeholder now that Rancho Notorious has become a fortnightly release.
As an added bonus, here’s Rancho Notorious co-host Kailey Carruthers talking to Lynn Freeman on Sunday’s Standing Room Only arts show.
Plus, New Zealand International Film Festival director Bill Gosden and I talking to Lynn earlier this summer about the future of New Zealand film under the new film commission régime of David Gibson.
When did “late-period: Woody Allen start? Was it with Match Point (when he finally left New York for some new scenery)? Or should we consider these last ten, globe-trotting, years as late‑r Woody? The last ten years have certainly been up and down in terms of quality. Scoop was all-but diabolical. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was robust and surprising. Midnight in Paris was genial but disposable (despite being a massive hit) and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was barely even a film.
Now, Blue Jasmine, in which Mr. Allen uses the notorious Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi crimes as inspiration for a story about the fraud’s victims as well as the collateral damage inflicted on a woman oblivious of her own complicity. As the eponymous Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the wife of Alec Baldwin’s shonky NY businessman, their relationship told in flashback while she tries to rebuild her life in her adopted half-sister’s (or something — the relationship seems unnecessarily complicated for something that has no material impact on the story) apartment in an unfashionable area of San Francisco.[pullquote]As they used to say on television about kittens, “a child isn’t just for Christmas, a child is forever.”[/pullquote]Blanchett unravels beautifully and almost maintains our sympathy despite the repeated evidence that she doesn’t really deserve it. In support, Sally Hawkins as the sister is more watchable than usual and others — notably Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K. — get moments to shine even though some of those moments can seem a bit repetitive. Mr. Allen’s ear for dialogue seems to have entirely deserted him — these people talk like they’re being quoted in New Yorker articles rather than conversing like living, breathing humans — but the structure is satisfying and Blanchett takes the entire project by the scruff of the neck and makes it her own.
It’s American election year and those mealy-mouthed Hollywood liberals have fired the first shot in their attempt to influence the result. In The Campaign, Will Ferrell plays Will Ferrell playing a four-term US congressman from a district so safe district no one will run against him. The mysterious Moch brothers — John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd — are billionaire industrialists (loosely and lazily based on the nefarious real-life Koch Brothers) who decide to bankroll another candidate, one who will be more easily influenced by their money and power. It’s hard to imagine anyone more easily bought than Ferrell’s Cam Brady but evidently it’s time for a change and they place their bets on lovable local tourism boss Zach Galifianakis, playing another of his trademarked limp-wristed-but-heterosexual naifs.
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.
But 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.
Indulge me for a minute — it’s Christmas. Back when I was a little nipper, me and some mates took a rare trip into the City (“Up London” we called it) to see what we thought was going to be the biggest movie event of our lives so far. At the Odeon Marble Arch (supposedly the biggest screen in Europe!) we sat ourselves in the middle of the front row and prepared to be blown away. By TRON.
It was the first film to contain computer generated effects and graphics and the first to make a direct appeal to the nascent home computer generation who would go on to define our future. The idea of being sucked inside a computer to play the games for real didn’t do much for me but the metaphoric idea of losing oneself in the Grid (or the Net as we came to call it)? That had a lot more appeal.