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Review: Kick-Ass 2, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Much Ado About Nothing & Frances Ha

By Cinema and Reviews

Alexis Denisoff and Amy Acker in Joss Whedon's adptation of Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

There has been much dis­cus­sion in the circles in which I move about the quant­ity of films released to loc­al cinemas. Not only are there too many films com­ing out every week – too many for each one to gen­er­ate much heat at any rate – but the ones that are com­ing out aren’t always the right ones. Smaller dis­trib­ut­ors are push­ing everything they have into the sys­tem regard­less of their poten­tial and some of the majors – with big­ger mar­ket­ing budgets and over­heads to worry about – are ditch­ing their art­house and mid-range titles and push­ing them straight to home video.

[pullquote]Who says Americans can­’t do Shakespeare? Nonsense.[/pullquote]At the same time, mul­ti­plex screens are full of big budget com­mer­cial gambles, with box office estim­ates based on loc­al his­tory and the hope that Twilight-like light­ning might strike twice. See which ones in the list below fit into which cat­egory. (Clue: if your film has no hi-res English lan­guage poster avail­able online  and your only offi­cial web­site is in Japanese, maybe you can­’t really sup­port it in NZ cinemas.)

Farewell, My Queen posterBenoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen goes behind the scenes of Louis XVI and – more spe­cific­ally – Marie Antoinette’s court dur­ing the dark days of the revolu­tion as the régime tottered and fell. We see these events from the point of view of Her Majesty’s book read­er, a young ser­vant played by Léa Seydoux. Initially besot­ted by the Queen (Diane Kruger), her faith is shaken by the rev­el­a­tions of cor­rup­tion, waste and – intriguingly – Antoinette’s rela­tion­ship with the duch­esse de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

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Review: Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Desert Flower, Unstoppable, Burlesque, Little Fockers, Green Hornet and The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell

By Cinema and Reviews

Following up on the 2009 sur­prise hit The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky has offered us anoth­er film about people who des­troy them­selves for our enter­tain­ment – this time in the rar­efied world of bal­let. Tiny Natalie Portman is plucked from the chor­us of the fic­tion­al but pres­ti­gi­ous New York City Ballet for the dream role of the Swan in a hot new pro­duc­tion. It’s the chance of a life­time but her fra­gile psy­cho­logy shows through in her per­form­ance even though her dan­cing is tech­nic­ally per­fect. Maestro Vincent Cassel tries to recon­struct her – as you would a first year drama school stu­dent – while dom­in­eer­ing stage moth­er Barbara Hershey is push­ing back in the oth­er dir­ec­tion. Something has to break and it does.

Black Swan is excep­tion­ally well made, beau­ti­ful and chal­len­ging to watch – and Portman’s per­form­ance is noth­ing short of amaz­ing – but films that aspire to great­ness need to be about some­thing more than, you know, what they’re about and once I’d decoded was going on I couldn’t see enough under the sur­face to jus­ti­fy the hype.

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Review: Robin Hood, The Secret in Their Eyes & four more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Robin Hood posterWhen my usu­al movie-going part­ner was offered the chance to see the new Robin Hood her first ques­tion was “Who is play­ing Robin?” When I told her that it was Strathmore’s finest son, Russell “Rusty” Crowe, she declined sug­gest­ing some­what unchar­it­ably that he was prob­ably bet­ter suited to play­ing Friar Tuck (or at a pinch Little John). Her favour­ite Robin is the 80s be-mulletted Michael Praed from the tele­vi­sion. Mine is a toss-up between the “fant­ast­ic” sly fox in the 1973 Disney ver­sion, John Cleese in Time Bandits and Sean Connery in Robin and Marian, so Rusty and dir­ect­or Ridley Scott had a moun­tain to climb before the open­ing cred­its even rolled.

This new Robin Hood is a pre­quel (or an ori­gin story in the com­ic book par­lance). On his way back from the Crusades with Richard the Lionheart, Robin Longstocking (sorry, Longstride) heads to Nottingham to return a sword. In Richard’s absence, England has fallen in to fin­an­cial and polit­ic­al ruin and the French are plot­ting to fill the void with an army mass­ing off the coast and spies in the court.

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Review: Leaving, She’s Out of My League, Date Night, Kick-Ass and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

By Cinema and Reviews

I watch a lot of movies in this job and this week I’d like to start with a couple of import­ant tips that will help keep your cinema-going exper­i­ence in top shape. Firstly, ice cream. Avoid tubs of ice cream if pos­sible because you have to look down every scoop to make sure you’re not scoop­ing ice cream into your lap and every time you look down you miss some­thing import­ant on the screen. This is par­tic­u­larly import­ant for sub­titled films.

Leaving posterSecondly, when your loc­al cinema sched­ules an art­house film that hasn’t been pre­vi­ously pro­grammed by the Film Festival, ask your­self why that might be before com­mit­ting to a tick­et. Case in point: Leaving (aka Partir) a mod­ern day updat­ing of the Lady Chatterley story star­ring Kristin Scott Thomas. She plays a well-off mar­ried woman named Suzanne who makes the tra­gic mis­take of fall­ing for the Spanish build­er who is work­ing on her house. In short order she real­ises that her mar­riage (though mater­i­ally suc­cess­ful) is love­less, leaves her snobby sur­geon hus­band (Yvan Attal) and the kids to shack up with her new lov­er (Sergi López) and tries to start a new life without all the bour­geois home comforts.

It seems to me that every French film that makes it to New Zealand is about the same thing: the clash of cul­tures between the well-off, cul­tur­ally soph­ist­ic­ated but some­how not quite real, middle-class and the salt-of-the-earth work­ing people, and the dangers of the two mix­ing. Sometimes those dangers play them­selves out comed­ic­ally (The Valet, Welcome to the Sticks), some­times dra­mat­ic­ally (Conversations with My Gardener) and some­times tra­gic­ally as we have here. And Leaving is tra­gic in more ways than one.

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