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michelle wiliams

Review: Oz the Great and Powerful, Samsara, Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away, Great Expectations and The Sweeney

By Cinema, Reviews and Wellington

Oz The Great and Powerful posterIt’s a ques­tion that has been burn­ing away inside all of us for nearly 75 years – how did the Wizard (who wasn’t really a wiz­ard at all but a car­ni­val show­man with a knack for gad­gets) get to Oz in the first place? You neither, huh? Ah well, this least essen­tial ques­tion has now been answered by Spider-Man (and Evil Dead) dir­ect­or Sam Raimi and his team of pixel-wielding min­ions. As a pre­quel to the beloved 1939 film star­ring Judy Garland and a dog called Toto, Oz the Great and Powerful is not without risk. Other attempts to recre­ate L. Frank Baum’s magic­al world have been either com­mer­cial or artist­ic fail­ures – The Wiz, for example, or Return to Oz.

Casting the human smirk, James Franco, as the car­ni­val magi­cian trans­por­ted to the land of the yel­low brick road by a hot air bal­loon (via tor­nado) is also a risk but it even­tu­ally pays off, even though Franco’s boy­ish fea­tures are start­ing to look a bit ragged. Escaping vari­ous romantic and fin­an­cial pres­sures back home in black and white Kansas, Franco’s Oz finds him­self blown off course to a technicolor(ish) fant­ast­ic­al land where a proph­ecy sug­gests he will pro­tect the peace-loving cit­izens from wicked witches but also gain con­trol of the palace for­tune. Guess which one appeals more.

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Review: The Campaign and Take This Waltz

By Cinema and Reviews

The Campaign posterIt’s American elec­tion year and those mealy-mouthed Hollywood lib­er­als have fired the first shot in their attempt to influ­ence the res­ult. In The Campaign, Will Ferrell plays Will Ferrell play­ing a four-term US con­gress­man from a dis­trict so safe dis­trict no one will run against him. The mys­ter­i­ous Moch broth­ers – John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd – are bil­lion­aire indus­tri­al­ists (loosely and lazily based on the nefar­i­ous real-life Koch Brothers) who decide to bank­roll anoth­er can­did­ate, one who will be more eas­ily influ­enced by their money and power. It’s hard to ima­gine any­one more eas­ily bought than Ferrell’s Cam Brady but evid­ently it’s time for a change and they place their bets on lov­able loc­al tour­ism boss Zach Galifianakis, play­ing anoth­er of his trade­marked limp-wristed-but-heterosexual naifs.

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Review: Brother Number One, We Need to Talk About Kevin, John Carter, My Week With Marilyn, Headhunters and Warrior

By Cinema and Reviews

Project X posterEvery week on Cinematica – the movie pod­cast I co-host with Simon Werry and Kailey Carruthers – we sign-off each film with a two-word review. It’s a gag, of course, but no more reduct­ive than “two thumbs up” or “two stars”, and it’s become a bit of a meme with listen­ers sup­ply­ing their own – often extremely good – contributions.

Underworld: Awakening posterAnd see­ing as I missed a column through ill­ness last week, I have a feel­ing that my two-word reviews might come in handy help­ing us to catch up. So, for the found-footage High School party-gone-wrong movie Project X for example, my two-word review is “Toxic Waste”. The third sequel in the vam­pires vs lycans styl­ised action fran­chise, Underworld: Awakening gets “Strobe Headache”. And for the notori­ously low budget found-footage posession-horror The Devil Inside you’ll have to make do with “Didn’t Watch”.

Brother Number One posterWhich brings us to the good stuff (and there’s plenty of it about at the moment). Brother Number One is a superb and affect­ing NZ doco about trans-atlantic row­er Rob Hamill’s attempts to find out the truth about his broth­er Kerry’s dis­ap­pear­ance at the hands of the Khmer Rouge régime in Cambodia. This is a film to remind you that the great tides of his­tory aren’t tides at all and if you look closely enough you see mil­lions of indi­vidu­al stor­ies – of heart­break, tragedy and redemption.

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Review: Bridesmaids, Green Lantern, Russian Snark, Mammoth and The Conspirator

By Cinema and Reviews

Bridesmaids posterAfter years of auteur the­ory we have become con­di­tioned to describe films as products of their dir­ect­or and so in my first draft of this review I star­ted off talk­ing about Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. But it isn’t really Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, it’s Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids. She co-wrote it (with Annie Mumolo), co-produced it and stars in it as Annie, a thirty-something single woman liv­ing in Milwaukee, hav­ing a hard time of things (but a com­edy hard time of things, this isn’t Down to the Bone or some­thing from Romania).

Still, she’s lost all her money in a failed bak­ing busi­ness (blamed on the eco­nomy not her mar­vel­lous cakes), she’s flat­ting with two awful English sib­lings who have no idea of bound­ar­ies and her best friend (Maya Rudolph from Away We Go) is get­ting mar­ried while she is in an entirely unsat­is­fact­ory ‘friends with bene­fits’ arrange­ment with douche Jon Hamm.

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Review: Blue Valentine, Never Let Me Go, Certified Copy and Rango

By Cinema and Reviews

For years I’ve been com­plain­ing about films that give audi­ences everything on a plate – they tell what you should be think­ing and feel­ing, leav­ing no room for us. This week I have noth­ing to com­plain about as three out of our four make you work for your rewards (although three tough emo­tioanl and intel­lec­tu­al workouts in one week­end turns out to be pretty draining).

Blue Valentine posterDerek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is a ter­rif­ic indie achieve­ment, brave and uncom­prom­ising, emo­tion­ally raw but intel­li­gent at the same time. A rela­tion­ship is born and a rela­tion­ship dies. Bookends of the same nar­rat­ive are clev­erly inter­cut to amp­li­fy the tragedy (and tragedy is a fair word to use – there’s a beau­ti­ful child get­ting hurt in the middle of all of this).

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) meet and fall in love. He’s a dro­pout start­ing again in New York. She’s a med stu­dent with an unhappy home life and a douchebag boy­friend. Five or six years later she’s a nurse try­ing not to think about unful­filled poten­tial and he’s a house paint­er who drinks too much.

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