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michael bay

RN 1/4: Introducing Jake

By Audio, Rancho Notorious

Doug Dillaman joins Kailey and Dan to do three things — tell us about his fea­ture film Jake which is screen­ing in Auckland at the moment and arrives in Wellington next week; he helps us review the new Transformers: Age of Extinction which may or may not have made it to US$100m in box office on open­ing week­end; and we chat about the delight­ful anim­ated French film Ernest and Celestine which finally opens around the coun­try today.

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Only God Forgives poster

Review: Pain & Gain, Only God Forgives, The Wolverine, The Way Way Back, The Conjuring & Byzantium

By Cinema, Reviews

Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives (2013).

Still Mine posterStill hov­er­ing around some loc­al cinemas – and the longest-delayed of all my out­stand­ing reviews – Still Mine is a sur­pris­ingly effect­ive Canadian drama about an eld­erly man (James Cromwell, 73 but play­ing a fit 89) determ­ined to build a new house for his wife (Geneviéve Bujold) before her memory deserts her com­pletely. Cromwell gives his char­ac­ter a soft­ness which belies the usu­al ornery old dude clichés, even if his stub­born refus­al to sub­mit to the build­ing code is the device on which the story hinges. Contains lots of shots of Cromwell’s hero­ic pro­file star­ing off into the New Brunswick distance.

Ping Pong posterOlder people are, para­dox­ic­ally, the only grow­ing seg­ment of the film audi­ence in New Zealand so there’s often high qual­ity fare around the tempt them. One of the best is the doc­u­ment­ary Ping Pong, about com­pet­it­ors (genu­ine com­pet­it­ors at that) in the World Over 80s Table Tennis Championship in Inner Mongolia. Like any good doc­u­ment­ary it assembles a great cast of char­ac­ters and like all good sports movies it makes full use of the built-in drama of a knock-out tour­na­ment. Not just about the res­tor­at­ive power of exer­cise, it’s also about friend­ship and adven­ture. Inspiring, so help me.

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Review: Transformers- Dark of the Moon, The Illusionist, Beyond, Summer Coda and Kawasaki’s Rose

By Cinema, Reviews

Transformers: Dark of the Moon posterTransformers: Dark of the Moon had the best teas­er trail­er of the year: a bril­liantly sus­pense­ful recre­ation of the first Moon land­ing and the Apollo 11 crew’s dis­cov­ery of a crashed ali­en space­craft on the hid­den side. It was two and a half minutes of superb cinema and I allowed myself a glim­mer of hope that maybe, just maybe, this third Transformers movie might not be the total dis­aster that the oth­er two have been.

Well, I have been to the Dark Side now and can report that all that hope was tra­gic­ally mis­placed. Transformers 3 is as stu­pid and out of con­trol as all the oth­ers. Even con­sid­er­ing the franchise’s neg­li­gible com­mit­ment to its own tor­tured intern­al logic the film is an utter shambles.

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Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Arranged, Bride Flight and W.

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest, Reviews

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen posterAfter hits like Bad Boys and The Rock, as well as fail­ures like The Island and Pearl Harbor, we all know that Michael Bay is bet­ter than any dir­ect­or alive at blow­ing things up and in the motion pic­ture busi­ness this not an ignoble pur­suit. What he can’t pull off are oth­er import­ant things like sus­pense, com­edy or drama. There’s no doubt that it takes a spe­cial tal­ent to sit in a room with the effects bods and say “sink that air­craft car­ri­er – I’ll be back after lunch to see how you are get­ting on” but it isn’t really film­mak­ing in it’s purest sense.

Which bring us to his latest, monu­ment­al, effort, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, in which a tiny sliv­er of the shiny magic cube from the first film is dis­covered by Shia LaBoeuf while he’s on his way to col­lege. Somehow its magicky good­ness rubs off on him, fills his mind with sym­bols, gives him spe­cial men­tal powers and alerts the remain­ing Decepticons up in space to its exist­ence. Perhaps they could use it to restart their war with the Autobots, erase the human race and steal the power of the sun for themselves?

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Review: Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, He’s Just Not That Into You, Marley & Me and Son of a Lion

By Cinema, Reviews

Friday the 13th poster Strange as it may seem but review­ers are people too and, like the rest of you ordin­ary folk, we have blind spots and mine is hor­ror. Back when I was a civil­ian, I man­aged to avoid most of the icon­ic hor­ror movies of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s for reas­ons (I’m sorry to say) of pure squeam­ish­ness. Imagine my, er, sur­prise then when I dis­covered that this week had two, pos­sibly even four, hor­ror films in it. Eek.

My only pre­vi­ous expos­ure to the Friday the 13th cata­logue was a grainy pir­ate video in 1981 (with sound about ten seconds out of synch) so, with few pre­con­cep­tions, I am pleased to report that the Michael Bay-pro­duced remake is quite enter­tain­ing. Silly, of course, but entertaining.

The scene is present day Crystal Lake (scene of the hockey-masked ghoul named Jason’s camp counsellor-offing ram­page in the ori­gin­al) and a group of gorm­less rich col­lege kids are look­ing for laffs on Jason’s turf. You sus­pect it won’t end well for any of them and you are right. Director Marcus Nispel made the video for Cher’s “Walking in Memphis” so you can see how he could eas­ily turn his hand to this sort of thing.

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Review: Transformers, Nancy Drew, Starter for 10, Eden and Heartbreak Hotel

By Cinema, Reviews

Above the pro­scen­i­um arch at the Embassy theatre, on either side of the screen, there are two flash­ing red lights. They’ve been there ever since the Return of the King refurb and I thought they were some­thing to do with the secur­ity sys­tem – motion sensors per­haps – but after watch­ing Michael Bay’s Transformers on Friday night I got the idea that maybe they are eyes, you know, wink­ing at us.

The Embassy as sen­tient sen­tinel – pro­tect­ing us from evil, ready to trans­form at a moment’s notice into a giant robot with a really deep voice: as a vehicle for justice, it’s no more pre­pos­ter­ous an idea than the muscle cars, hot rods, tanks and 18-wheelers fea­tured in the film and it might explain that feel­ing of secur­ity I get sink­ing in to the leath­er seats.

In the film, Earth has become the battle­ground for two war­ring races of robots: the good guy Autobots and the not-so-much Decepticons. The cube that is the source of all their power is hid­den some­where here and the only clue is a pair of antique glasses in the pos­ses­sion of horny high school kid Shia LaBoeuf, who the Autobots enlist to help. As you might expect with 30-metre tall robots, keep­ing their pres­ence secret proves chal­len­ging and the atten­tion of the author­it­ies (includ­ing a very hammy John Turturro) is soon in full force.

Transformers is big and loud and mostly fun but the age of its tar­get audi­ence seems to change from scene to scene and the more-than-casual racism of the char­ac­ter­isa­tions (every non-white char­ac­ter seems to be a buf­foon or a cow­ard or both) is a sour note, thank­fully rare these days.

Equally white bread, but not quite as insult­ing, is the latest incarn­a­tion of the Nancy Drew stor­ies about the fam­ous teen­age girl detect­ive. This time Nancy is played by Julia Roberts’ niece (and creepy Eric’s daugh­ter) Emma and while she’s got a little pres­ence she does­n’t seem to totally know what she’s doing. It’s a fish-out-of-water story as Nancy leaves her small mid-western story­book town for the wilds of Los Angeles and any­one who has ever seen an epis­ode of Scooby-Doo knows what’s going to hap­pen next.

The ubi­quit­ous James McAvoy (Last King of Scotland and Becoming Jane) plays Brian Jackson, a work­ing class boy on his way to Bristol University in 1985, in Starter for 10. Determined to get the most out of the exper­i­ence he tri­als for the University Challenge tv quiz team, get­ting a massive crush on the beau­ti­ful but shal­low Eve in the pro­cess. His two best mates are played by two act­ors from The History Boys which, as they were set at the same time and much of the music is inter­change­able, feels like you are watch­ing a weird altern­ate uni­verse at times. Recommended, but unchallenging.

Two minor entries from Europe to fin­ish. Eden is a fable about a bril­liant but lonely chef who falls for the unat­tain­able wait­ress at his favour­ite café: Food porn with a sur­pris­ingly ugly twist at the end.

Colin Nutley’s Heartbreak Hotel is about two 40-something divor­cées in Stockholm who strike up an unlikely friend­ship as they try and nav­ig­ate the world of the newly-single. Heartbreak Hotel itself is the name of the nightclub they go to, a neon cock­tail of the worst aspects of the Courtenay-Blair com­bin­a­tion on a Wednesday night.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times, Wednesday 4 July, 2007 (Eden and Heartbreak Hotel cut for space, Starter for 10 moved to the Picks sec­tion for the same reason).