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michael winterbottom Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Funerals & Snakes

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

By Cinema and 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: The Devil Dared Me To, Atonement, A Mighty Heart, The Brave One and Conversations With My Gardener

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

The Devil Dared Me To posterI fully intended to bring some intellectual acuity back to film commentary this week; maybe toss around terms like mise en scène and cognitive dissonance; maybe name drop Bresson and his thematic austerity and formal rigour. Then I saw little Kiwi battler, The Devil Dared Me To, a hand-made low-brow entertainment from the vodka and Becks-fuelled imaginations of Back of the Y’s Chris Stapp and Matt Heath, and I realised that high-falutin’ cinema theory was destined for the back burner for another week.

Stapp plays wannabe stunt hero Randy Campbell and Heath is his malevolent mentor Dick Johansonson. The Timaru Hellriders are about to collapse under the weight of invidious OSH attention and Dick’s lost nerve. Oily promoter Sheldon Snake (Dominic Bowden) bails them out so they can take on the North Island and get Campbell closer to his dream of being the first man to jump Cook Strait in a rocket car. Wildly uneven but often very, very, funny The Devil Dared Me To contains possibly the worst acting (and worst spelling) of any recent New Zealand film.

It’s entirely appropriate that The Devil has come out while we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Roger Donaldson’s Sleeping Dogs; another back yard, oily rag feature with a similar larrikin approach towards the production process.

Atonement poster2007 has been a great year for good films but a poor year for great films; very little of what I’ve seen in 2007 belongs in the very top echelon. The most serious contender so far is Atonement, adapted from Ian McEwan’s novel about a lie told in innocence that has far reaching and terrible consequences.

In a blissfully beautiful British country house in the summer of 1935, precocious 13-year-old Briony Tallis (luminous Saoirse Ronan) is jealous of the attention her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) is getting from handsome Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) and impulsively accuses him of a terrible crime. The accusation tears the young lovers apart and leaves Briony consumed by a grievous guilt that she takes a lifetime to come to terms with. Virtually faultless.

A Mighty Heart posterA Mighty Heart is an arms-length version of the true story of the Karachi kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in the aftermath of 9/11. Actually, arms-length isn’t a terribly fair description: it starts that way but slowly reels you in thanks to assured direction from Michael Winterbottom and good performances from an ensemble cast led by Angelina Jolie.

The Brave One posterI really wanted to give The Brave One the benefit of the doubt until its absurdity and consistently poor narrative choices overcame my resistance and I simply had to hate it. Jodie Foster plays mild-mannered Erica Bain, a radio producer in New York, engaged to handsome doctor Naveen Andrews from Lost. Walking the dog late one night the couple are brutally attacked by thugs leaving her badly beaten and the boyfriend dead. Overcome by fear and grief she buys a gun for protection but finds herself taking on a much more malevolent role. Terrence Howard is the good cop on her trail.

Conversations With My Gardener posterThere’s nothing so objectionable on offer in Conversations With My Gardener, a French charmer starring the ubiquitous Daniel Auteuil as an artist returning to his family home in the country while his divorce goes through. He employs wily local Jean-Pierre Darroussin to knock him up a vegetable garden and, over the summer, the two embark on a friendship that involves (as is the way of things in French films) the simple local giving life lessons to the sophisticated townie.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 17 October, 2007.

Full disclosure: I have known Ant Timpson (producer of The Devil Dared Me To) since 1994 when I did publicity for the first Incredibly Strange Film Festival and I look after the Wellington leg of the 48 Hours Furious Filmmaking Challenge which Ant has run since 2003. The 1st AD on Devil was Jeremy Anderson, who has been a very close friend and Black Caps fan for nearly 18 years. He is a top man and I’m stoked to see his work on the big screen. If you need a 1st, give him a call.

Review: Black Sheep and five more ...

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

This week’s Capital Times film review, featuring illustrations and links: Black Sheep (Jonathan King); Ghost Rider (Mark Steven Johnson); The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross) and in advance of the World Cinema Showcase, Dans Paris (Christophe Honoré); Suburban Mayhem (Paul Goldman) and Habana Blues (Benito Zambrano).

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