Skip to main content
Tag

liam neeson

Review: The Hurt Locker, Clash of the Titans, Nowhere Boy & Valentine’s Day

By Cinema and Reviews

The Hurt Locker posterIt took well over 18 months for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker to get a gen­er­al release in New Zealand – a year in which it stead­ily built audi­ences and crit­ic­al acclaim at world­wide fest­ivals and pub­lic screen­ings. In fact, until it was nom­in­ated for a Golden Globe late last year the film had no New Zealand release date sched­uled and many film buffs resor­ted to illi­cit online sources to try and see (what was being touted) as one of the films of the decade.

This is a wor­ry­ing trend. Increasingly, some of the best films are head­ing straight to DVD (some­times, if the tim­ing works, with a Film Festival screen­ing but not always) and, des­pite New Zealand hav­ing a fine track record for sup­port­ing art­house and thought­ful product, I find myself con­fron­ted every week by rub­bish like Law Abiding Citizen and Bounty Hunter. Somewhere along the line the dis­trib­ut­ors have lost their nerve: The Blind Side, which won an Academy Award for Sandra Bullock last month, has only just been giv­en a slot by Roadshow (Warner Brothers). A Serious Man was one of the most bril­liant and intel­li­gent films I’ve ever seen and only one print was placed in Wellington – and it was a Coen Brothers Film!

Read More

Review: Balibo, From Paris with Love, Gone With the Woman and Silent Wedding

By Cinema and Reviews

Balibo posterIn October 1975, the obscure little Portuguese colony of East Timor was giv­en inde­pend­ence after 400 years of European rule. A mixed Melanesian/Polynesian pop­u­la­tion was sit­ting on rich min­er­al and fossil fuel poten­tial and sur­roun­ded on three sides by the region’s power­house, Indonesia (with Australia to the south). After only nine days of inde­pend­ence, Indonesia invaded in one of the most cyn­ic­al and bru­tal land grabs in mod­ern history.

The Indonesian armed forces, know­ing that an inva­sion was a gross breach of inter­na­tion­al law, wore plain clothes and did everything they could to extin­guish evid­ence and wit­nesses. The most cel­eb­rated vic­tims of the atro­city were the Balibo 5, young Australian tele­vi­sion journ­al­ists who were stran­ded in the bor­der town of Balibo as the inva­sion began. Without the bene­fit of modern-day com­mu­nic­a­tions, they simply dis­ap­peared and the Australian gov­ern­ment, who (along with the US) gave tacit approv­al to the entire hor­rible exercise.

Read More

Review: Avatar, Five Minutes of Heaven, Bandslam & Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

By Cinema and Reviews

Avatar posterThere have only been asked two ques­tions that any­body has been ask­ing me this week: “Have you seen Avatar?” and “Is it any good?” Thanks to the help­ful people at Readings I can say “Yes” to the first one and thanks to James Cameron I can say “Whoah” to the second.

Like many Wellingtonians, I have been fol­low­ing Avatar’s pro­gress since pro­duc­tion star­ted in 2007 and it’s almost impossible to be genu­inely object­ive. It’s only nat­ur­al for loc­als to try and claim some own­er­ship of a pro­ject like this and we are all a tiny bit inves­ted in its suc­cess. The hype has cer­tainly been hard to avoid so I was slightly pleased when the fif­teen minute extract on “Avatar Day” didn’t fill me with delighted anti­cip­a­tion. I couldn’t quite my head around the char­ac­ter design of the Na’vi (the indi­gen­ous race peace­fully pop­u­lat­ing the beau­ti­ful but deadly plan­et of Pandora). The blue – the tails – the ears. I couldn’t for the life of me work out how these char­ac­ters were going to be cool and I thought that *cool* was going to be important.

Read More

Review: Rain of the Children, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and several more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Rain of the Children posterArguably, the most import­ant film of the year so far opens this week: Rain of the Children restores Vincent Ward’s repu­ta­tion as a sin­gu­lar cinema artist, after the des­per­ate trav­ails of River Queen, and uses the essen­tial New Zealand story of Rua Kenana and the Tuhoe res­ist­ance as vivid back­ground to a uni­ver­sal story of par­ent­hood and loss.

In this film Ward returns to the sub­ject of his first doc­u­ment­ary, In Spring One Plants Alone, a film he made as a naïve 21 year old back in 1979. In that film we watched as 80 year old Puhi attemp­ted to care for her last child, the men­tally ill Niki. In Rain, Ward tells Puhi’s whole story – from her Urewera child­hood, mar­riage to the proph­et Rua’s son, and then the tra­gedies that bore down upon her until she (and the rest of her com­munity) con­sidered her­self cursed.

The full emo­tion­al impact took a while to register with me – long enough that the tears didn’t start until half way through the cred­its. I’d need to see it again before mak­ing the call about “mas­ter­piece” or not, but it cer­tainly felt like that, stand­ing numb in the Wellington rain after the Film Festival screening.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor posterI don’t know what I did to deserve the dubi­ous pleas­ure of two Brendan Fraser action flicks in two days, but I can’t say I’m all that grate­ful. Journey to the Centre of the Earth will get it’s review next week but as for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor the less said the bet­ter. The dis­cov­ery of an aban­doned tomb full of rel­ics in west­ern China brings Fraser and Maria Bello (sub­bing for Rachel Weisz) out of retire­ment just in time for the magic­al Eye of Shangri-La to bring evil Emperor Han (Jet Li) back to life. Li has nev­er been the most express­ive of act­ors and, luck­ily for him, he spends most of the film under a computer-generated mask of stone. It’s what we used to call a romp and is so stuffed with ‘stuff’ that it’s hard to argue that you don’t get your money’s worth, even if it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

Taken posterTaken is highly effect­ive, first-rate pulp star­ring Liam Neeson in the kind of role that Charles Bronson or Lee Marvin might have played back in the day. Neeson isn’t as cool as Marvin, but that’s ok as, by choos­ing to play his char­ac­ters faults as well as his strengths, he gives the audi­ence some­thing to con­nect with (amidst all the viol­ence and may­hem). He plays a retired spy, try­ing to recon­nect with his fam­ily who have star­ted over without him. A bit like De Niro in the Fockers films, he’s over-protective, cyn­ic­al and para­noid but when his daugh­ter is kid­napped by white slavers about an hour after arriv­ing in Paris all his fears come true and only he can do the required rescuing.

Son of Rambow posterSon of Rambow pushes plenty of my 80s English nostalgia-buttons (”Screen Test”, cinemas split into smoking and non-smoking sec­tions, Space Dust & Coke cock­tails) but, des­pite that, I nev­er quite man­aged to fall in love with it. 10 year old Plymouth Brethren-ite, Will (Bill Milner) dis­cov­ers Stallone’s First Blood via pir­ate video and is per­suaded by school ter­ror Lee Carter (Will Poulter) to be the stunt­man in his VHS-cam trib­ute. Too reli­ant on the fatherless-child cliché for its drama, and car­toon whimsy for its com­edy, Son of Rambow nev­er quite reaches the heights prom­ised by its cent­ral idea.

Un Secret posterThere’s plenty of excel­lent drama still to be mined from the Holocaust, as Un Secret (from France) and Austrian Oscar win­ner The Counterfeiters prove. In the first film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’s Mathieu Amalric searches Paris for his fath­er, while in flash­back, he searches his fam­ily his­tory for some­thing to explain his own life. There are plenty of secrets to choose from, and one of the pleas­ures of the film is try­ing to work out which one is the secret of the title.

The Counterfeiters posterWhile Un Secret focuses on a family’s attempts to stay out of the camps, The Counterfeiters locks us inside with the inmates of Sachsenhausen and it’s a hell of a thing. Karl Markovics plays pro­fes­sion­al for­ger Sally Sorowitsch, enlis­ted by the Nazis to provide expert assist­ance for their attempts to flood the Allied eco­nomy with fake bank­notes. Sally sees it as his oppor­tun­ity to avoid the gas cham­bers but not every­one on the team shares his single-minded devo­tion to sur­viv­al and he is forced to engage with his own lack of idealism.

Markovics’ remark­able cheekbones provide excel­lent archi­tec­ture to inspire Benedict Neuenfels’ superb high con­trast cine­ma­to­graphy and The Counterfeiters is grip­ping, mov­ing and pro­voc­at­ive throughout.

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

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: For once, little to com­plain about. Rain of the Children as intim­ated in the body copy, was at a packed Film Festival mat­inée at the Embassy; The Mummy was also at the Embassy, although more recently, Taken was at Readings 2, cour­tesy of a pass from Fox, Son of Rambow (which was the cause of some con­sterna­tion last week) was a tor­rent; Un Secret was screened from a pre­view DVD from Hoyts Distribution (due to the already alluded to Penthouse prob­lems) and The Counterfeiters was in the big room at the Paramount where it was a little too quiet (not the end of the world with sub­titles) and the print had def­in­itely been around the block a few times.