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mark wahlberg Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Funerals & Snakes

Review: The Red House, 21 & Over, Liberal Arts and Broken City

By Cinema and Reviews

The Red House posterAlyx Duncan’s The Red House is a lovely example of how ideas that evolve, adjust, transform over time can produce work that is just as coherent and complete as if it arrived fully formed. Originally conceived several years ago as a documentary about her ageing parents who were thinking about leaving the house she grew up in and starting again overseas, her film is now a poetic and impressionistic — as well as fictional — meditation on place and belonging.

In the finished film — unlike real life — Lee (Lee Stuart) follows Jia (Meng Jia Stuart), his wife of 20 years, to Beijing where she has travelled to care for her own frail parents. He packs up the few belongings he is able to take with him from the years of assembled mementos, books and treasures, burning much of what is left over. Voiceover from both characters lets the audience know how difficult this transition is, as well as telling the backstory of an unlikely — and lovely — relationship.

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Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jack & Jill and Contraband

By Cinema and Reviews

Extremely Lous and Incredibly Close posterFor this writer, the 9/11 terrorist attacks were the defining global event of my lifetime. It was the day when anything became possible — even the utterly unthinkable. It was the day when sheer randomness and extreme force collided to prove that we have only the thinnest veneer of protection from the world despite all the promises that have been made to us since childhood.

Since that day, I have never consciously sought out 9/11 footage to watch. That first 20 minutes of television news (switched on after being woken by Hewitt Humphrey’s terrifyingly calm announcement on Morning Report) was all I could manage that day. I have no need to re-traumatise myself thank you very much.

So what to make of 9/11 cinema? For ten years it has been an almost impossible topic to successfully turn into art. The literal retellings of the day’s events (United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center) were the least awful, emphasising heroism in the face of impossible odds and not attempting anything metaphoric or allusive. In the clumsy Remember Me — in which Robert Pattinson goes to visit his estranged father (Pierce Brosnan) in the WTC North Tower that fateful morning — 9/11 was used as a cheap gotcha, a way of provoking a reaction that the story couldn’t manage on its own.

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Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Horrible Bosses and Larry Crowne

By Cinema and Reviews

Rise of the Planet of the Apes posterBack in 1968 the world was amazed to see a simian-looking creature displaying rudimentary (and yet clearly) human qualities. But enough about my birth, I’m here to talk about Planet of the Apes, the nightmarish vision of a world turned upside down: apes that speak, humans that are mute and enslaved, orangutans doing “science”. And of course, the big shock back then was that “it was Earth all along” — we’d caused this catastrophe ourselves with our environmental pig-headedness and our nuclear arrogance. The success of that blisteringly effective original prompted several sequels to diminished effect — although the sight (in Beneath the Planet of the Apes) of Charlton Heston pushing the final atomic button to destroy the planet in disgust at the whole sorry mess was seared on to my childhood brain forever.

In 2001 the series got the re-boot treatment courtesy of Tim Burton, a miscast Mark Wahlberg (when is he ever not?) and the final triumphant display of latex ape mask technology. Now the apes are back and there’s no sign of rubber anywhere to be found — except in some of the human performances perhaps. Rise of the Planet of the Apes serves as a prequel to the Burton film rather than a total from scratch effort — although there’s no equivalent in the original series — and the film does a terrific job of setting up a story that many of us already know as well as fondly honouring many details from the original series.

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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: Water Whisperers/Tangaroa, Vampires Suck, The Other Guys and three more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Water Whisperers posterMy big beef with most eco-documentaries is the lack of hope. Whether it’s Rob Stewart (Sharkwater), Franny Armstrong (The Age of Stupid) or even Leonardo DiCaprio (The 11th Hour) most of these films go to a lot of trouble to tell you what’s wrong with the planet but leave us feeling helpless and depressed.

That’s why I like Kathleen Gallagher’s work so much. Her film last year, Earth Whisperers/Papatunauku told ten stories of people who were making a difference, inspiring change and showing us that there are solutions as well as problems. This year she has repeated the tonic, focusing on our waterways and our relationship with the sea: Water Whisperers/Tangaroa.

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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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