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matt damon

Review: Beginners, Contagion, Happy Ever Afters, Last Train Home, Eco-Pirate and 13 Assassins

By Cinema and Reviews

Beginners posterI really don’t want much. It’s simple. All I ask is for someone with tal­ent to take some of their life exper­i­ence and merge it with that tal­ent in the hope that the res­ult­ing work of art might help illu­min­ate some aspect of my life. That’s all. And yet it rarely hap­pens. Which means I’m very grate­ful that with Beginners, Mike Mills has done exactly that and pro­duced a ter­rif­ic film that is intensely per­son­al – both to him and to me.

Ewan McGregor plays a gloomy Los Angelean illus­trat­or: lone­some, intro­spect­ive, self-sabotaging; all les­sons learnt grow­ing up an only child in a house­hold where his fath­er was a closeted gay and his moth­er lived a con­strained and lonely life of ima­gin­a­tion. When she dies of can­cer, McGregor’s fath­er (Christopher Plummer) is freed from the bonds of mar­riage, comes out at the age of 75 and throws him­self whole-heartedly into the the LA gay scene – includ­ing post­ing reveal­ing per­son­al ads and start­ing a rela­tion­ship with a bud­ding pyro­tech­ni­cian named Andy (Goran Visnjic). And then he gets cancer.

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Review: Saw VII (3D), Hall Pass, I Am Number Four and The Adjustment Bureau

By Cinema and Reviews

If ali­ens have been look­ing down on Earth, watch­ing us with love and amuse­ment over the last few mil­lion years (as so many movies have told us they are), they will surely be very wor­ried about recent devel­op­ments in our cul­ture and what it all means for us as a spe­cies. I know I am.

Saw 3D posterOn the sur­face, the cine­mat­ic trend towards “tor­ture porn” films like Hostel and Saw – and their even more dis­mal cous­in The Collector – betrays a weird human human abil­ity to take pleas­ure in the extreme pain of oth­ers that is at odds with how we most of us actu­ally live our lives. I’m curi­ous. What does it all mean?

This was the ques­tion I found myself ask­ing as I watched Kevin Greutart’s Saw VII on Saturday after­noon (I say “watched” as, per usu­al, I found myself star­ing at the cinema EXIT signs dur­ing the more grue­some pas­sages). On closer inspec­tion it’s clear that what we have here is an Old Testament-style mor­al­ity tale, updated for the attention-deficit, sensation-seeking, mod­ern generation.

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Review: True Grit, Inside Job and Wild Target

By Cinema and Reviews

Once again the Coen Brothers set a stand­ard for every oth­er film to try and match. True Grit is every bit as bril­liant as its repu­ta­tion would sug­gest: the best west­ern since Unforgiven and a cent­ral per­form­ance from Jeff Bridges that is twice as good as the one he secured an Oscar for last year (Crazy Heart).

Bridges plays iras­cible one-eyed Deputy Marshall Rooster Cogburn, a man with a repu­ta­tion for shoot­ing first and ask­ing ques­tions later, a man with a taste for whis­key and a dis­taste for author­ity. He is hired by spunky 14 year old Mattie Ross (aston­ish­ing new­comer Hailee Steinfeld) to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her law abid­ing, decent, cit­izen fath­er. Also, hunt­ing Chaney for a huge Federal reward (that dwarfs Mattie’s small bounty) is suave Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) and soon the chase is on, into law­less Indian ter­rit­ory where the fugit­ive is holed up.

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Review: Eat Pray Love, Buried and The Town

By Cinema and Reviews

Eat Pray Love posterEat Pray Love is what they used to call, in the old days, a “women’s pic­ture” and the advert­isers who have paid good money to annoy audi­ences before the film make sure you know it: fem­in­ine hygiene products. A chro­mo­somal anom­aly on my part means that I’m not in the tar­get mar­ket for this film (or the best­selling book that inspired it) but I’ll give it a go. Manfully.

Julia Roberts plays Liz, a phe­nom­en­ally bad play­wright and (sup­posedly) suc­cess­ful author who has a crisis and ends her (sup­posedly) unsat­is­fact­ory mar­riage to bewildered and hurt Billy Crudup. Never hav­ing lived without a man in her life she goes straight into a rela­tion­ship with hand­some and spir­itu­al young act­or James Franco.

Still unhappy, and a source of enorm­ous frus­tra­tion to her eth­nic­ally diverse best friend Viola Davis (Doubt), she uses her share of the Crudup divorce to take a year off and find her­self – Italy for the food, India for the guru and Bali for Javier Bardem.

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Review: The Road, Green Zone, The Bounty Hunter, This Way of Life & Admiral

By Cinema and Reviews

The Road posterMost films go in one eye and out the oth­er but some stick in your brain and won’t leave – for bet­ter or worse. John Hillcoat’s adapt­a­tion of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize win­ning nov­el “The Road” is one of those. Set in a depress­ing, grey, rainy, post-apocalyptic North American future (remind­ing me of noth­ing so much as this past Wellington sum­mer) where noth­ing grows and the few remain­ing human beings for­age for food – and most often find it in each oth­er – dogged and decent Viggo Mortensen trudges through the wil­der­ness with his young son, look­ing for some­thing, any­thing, that might keep them alive.

The Road is about how we try and sur­vive in the face of insur­mount­able odds, and how that phys­ic­al sur­viv­al might mean the loss of our own human­ity. Mortensen’s wife (Charlize Theron) walks out into the lonely night, mak­ing what she thinks is a sac­ri­fice but which he, clearly, thinks is little more than giv­ing up. His son may well be the last repos­it­ory of human kind­ness but that kind­ness might get them killed.

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Review: Invictus, Broken Embraces, Nine, I’m Not Harry Jensen & Noodle

By Cinema and Reviews

Invictus posterBefore Jerry Dammers and The Special AKA wrote that song about him in 1983, I didn’t know who Nelson Mandela was. When I bought the record and read the story on the back I was hor­ri­fied – 23 years as a polit­ic­al pris­on­er, much of it in sol­it­ary con­fine­ment. I knew the South African régime was unspeak­able, but now I had a focus for my anger. Who would have thought that only a dozen years later, Mandela would be in the middle of a second chapter of his life – President of South Africa and inter­na­tion­al states­man – and that his stew­ard­ship of the trans­ition from apartheid to major­ity rule would be a shin­ing beacon of tol­er­ance, for­give­ness and human­ity. It really could have gone ter­ribly wrong.

Mandela, then, is the great hero of my life, my polit­ic­al and per­son­al inspir­a­tion, so I can be for­giv­en for being quite moved by Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s por­tray­al of those cru­cial first years in gov­ern­ment, cul­min­at­ing in the Springbok’s vic­tory over New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final. Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman (too tall, accent some dis­tance off per­fect, but still some­how man­aging to nail the essence of the guy) and the oth­er name on the poster is Matt Damon as Springbok cap­tain Francois Pienaar. It’s anoth­er char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally gen­er­ous per­form­ance from Damon who is turn­ing into a char­ac­ter act­or with movie star looks.

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