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maggie smith

Review: Summer Holiday Roundup (2012/13)

By Cinema and Reviews

As I sit here typ­ing, I can hear the sounds of a Wellington sum­mer all around me – the rain pour­ing on to the deck out­side and the wind howl­ing through the trees. Is this why loc­al film dis­trib­ut­ors release so much product over the Christmas/New Year peri­od? Perhaps it’s just cli­mate and noth­ing to do with the Oscars at all? Anyhow, here’s a quick sum­mary of what’s been dished out at loc­al cinemas in des­cend­ing order of greatness.

First up, Ang Lee’s glow­ing 3D adapt­a­tion of Yann Martell’s Life of Pi, storm­ing the loc­al box offices and deservedly so. Ravishing to look at – and mak­ing pro­found rather than nov­elty use of the extra depth avail­able – Lee’s film man­ages to dis­til the essence of the book’s mes­sage even if the ambigu­ous end­ing proves less sat­is­fy­ing cine­mat­ic­ally than lit­er­ar­ily. Dreamy. I was par­tic­u­larly taken by the con­scious recre­ation of the book’s ori­gin­al cov­er in one scene, even to the extent of chan­ging the film’s aspect ratio for that single shot.

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Review: The Hunger Games, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Hunter, 21 Jump Street, The Raid and In Search of Haydn

By Cinema and Reviews

Hunger Games posterOf all the massively suc­cess­ful fran­chise con­ver­sions from best-selling-books-that-I-haven’t‑read, I’m pleased to say that I like this Hunger Games film the best. I’ve been jus­ti­fi­ably scorn­ful of the Harry Potter films in these pages and down­right dis­dain­ful of Twilight but – while still not reach­ing out much to me per­son­ally – I can say that Hunger Games actu­ally suc­ceeds much more on its own cine­mat­ic terms.

Jennifer Lawrence basic­ally repeats her Academy Award-nominated turn from Winter’s Bone as a plucky Appalachian teen forced to risk everything to pro­tect her young sis­ter while her trau­mat­ised moth­er remains basic­ally use­less. In this film, though, the enemy isn’t tooth­less meth deal­ers but the full force of a fas­cist state where the 99% is enslaved in vari­ous “dis­tricts” and forced to pro­duce whatever the dec­ad­ent 1% back in Capitol City require in order to keep them in their Klaus Nomi-inspired makeup and hair.

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Review: 127 Hours, Gnomeo & Juliet, No Strings Attached and Fair Game

By Cinema and Reviews

127 Hours posterDanny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire was my film of the year for 2009 – a potent and punchy roller-coaster ride of a film that made everything for months after­wards seem quaintly old-fashioned. His new film, 127 Hours, doesn’t break the mould to quite the same degree but does fea­ture sim­il­ar styl­ist­ic effects: mess­ing with time and struc­ture, split-screens, dom­in­eer­ing soundtrack, etc.

The new film is also an adapt­a­tion of pre­vi­ously exist­ing mater­i­al, Aron Ralston’s mem­oir “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, and once again Boyle has col­lab­or­ated with screen­writer Simon Beaufoy (notori­ous in New Zealand for The Full Monty). Ralston (played by James Franco) was an engin­eer by trade but an out­doors­man by inclin­a­tion and he loved to roam the Utah canyons on bike and on foot. In 2003 he fall into a nar­row rav­ine and his right arm was trapped by a boulder. He was there for five days before real­ising that the only way he was going to walk out was if he left the arm behind.

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