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Review: The Sapphires, Dredd 3D, Hotel Transylvania, Diary of a Wimpy Kid- Dog Days, Ruby Sparks and Resident Evil- Retribution

By Cinema and Reviews

Can I have a quick word with you about for­give­ness? Not for me, you under­stand – I’ve noth­ing to apo­lo­gise for – but the for­give­ness we show to films we love, for­give­ness for cine­mat­ic trans­gres­sions that would kill our enjoy­ment for less­er works. Let’s take as an example Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires. The storytelling is occa­sion­ally clunky – import­ant plot points are delivered by tele­phone or mes­sen­ger like a help­ful deus ex mach­ina – and some of the sup­port­ing cast don’t appear to know what movie they are in. Its ambi­tions push hard at the seams of the budget con­straints and occa­sion­ally burst them reveal­ing the thin lin­ing inside. But the film has such a big heart and so much love for its char­ac­ters that those flaws are easy to over­look and get­ting swept along on seems like the easi­est and best option.

It’s 1968 and war is raging in Southeast Asia while the American civil rights battle is tear­ing America apart. Meanwhile in sleepy Cummeragunga NSW, the abori­gin­al McRae sis­ters sing coun­try and west­ern stand­ards to unap­pre­ci­at­ive white pub audi­ences and dream of fame and for­tune in the big city. Discovered by failed cruise ship enter­tain­ments officer Dave Lovelace (Chris O’Dowd), they set their sights on enter­tain­ing the troops in Vietnam but to do that they have to embrace some soul roots and get over some long-suppressed fam­ily issues.

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Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still

By Cinema and Reviews

Finally, we have a week with only one new film in it: a chance for me to stretch my legs, extem­por­ise, riff a little, get my hands dirty. Yeah, I’ve been look­ing for­ward to this, to prove I can be a real film crit­ic and write eru­dite and cul­tured prose; place a film in its wider social, polit­ic­al and cul­tur­al con­text; dis­cuss mise-en-scène and die­get­ic register, all the while provid­ing a riv­et­ing (and undeni­ably “cor­rect”) per­spect­ive on the film’s mer­its and qual­it­ies. Cool.

The Day the Earth Stood Still posterUnfortunately, the film that stands alone this week is the Keanu Reeves remake of the 1951 clas­sic The Day the Earth Stood Still and frankly its hardly worth the both­er. The ori­gin­al film was a pulp par­able play­ing on the nuc­le­ar para­noia of “duck and cov­er” America: an ali­en lands in Central Park to tell us that he’s going to des­troy the human race because we don’t deserve to live (we are war­like, bru­tal and selfish creatures you see, and the earth is too pre­cious to be left in our care). But, the stern humanoid ali­en Klaatu softens on con­tact with a human child and real­ises that our capa­city for change makes us worth per­sever­ing with. Naïve but satisfying.

The new ver­sion keeps the guts of the story intact (eco­lo­gic­al doom and home­land secur­ity make up the new para­noia) while over­blow­ing everything else to giant size. Reeves dead­pans his way through as Klaatu (sens­ibly stay­ing well with­in the lim­its of his range) and he’s joined by the mid-market star power of Jennifer Connelly, “Mad Men“ ‘s ‘Don Draper’ him­self (the unfor­tu­nately named Jon Hamm), Kathy Bates and a mis­cast John Cleese. Kid duty is done by Will Smith’s little boy Jaden who made such an impres­sion in last year’s The Pursuit of Happyness.

I had high hopes for this, based on some evoc­at­ive trail­ers, but the real­ity is a dis­ap­point­ment. The plot­ting is messy and incon­clus­ive and the effects look murky and rushed. The whole thing looks like someone lost con­fid­ence half way through shoot­ing, then decided to cut the budget in half and hope for the best.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 17 December, 2008.

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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