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Review: Blue Jasmine, Riddick, What Maisie Knew, Romeo & Juliet: A Love Song and The Best Offer

By Cinema, Reviews

Max Casella, Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannvale in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine (2013)

When did “late-period: Woody Allen start? Was it with Match Point (when he finally left New York for some new scenery)? Or should we con­sider these last ten, globe-trotting, years as late‑r Woody? The last ten years have cer­tainly been up and down in terms of qual­ity. Scoop was all-but diabol­ic­al. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was robust and sur­pris­ing. Midnight in Paris was gen­i­al but dis­pos­able (des­pite being a massive hit) and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was barely even a film.

Blue Jasmine posterNow, Blue Jasmine, in which Mr. Allen uses the notori­ous Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi crimes as inspir­a­tion for a story about the fraud’s vic­tims as well as the col­lat­er­al dam­age inflic­ted on a woman obli­vi­ous of her own com­pli­city. As the eponym­ous Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the wife of Alec Baldwin’s shonky NY busi­ness­man, their rela­tion­ship told in flash­back while she tries to rebuild her life in her adop­ted half-sister’s (or some­thing – the rela­tion­ship seems unne­ces­sar­ily com­plic­ated for some­thing that has no mater­i­al impact on the story) apart­ment in an unfash­ion­able area of San Francisco.

[pullquote]As they used to say on tele­vi­sion about kit­tens, “a child isn’t just for Christmas, a child is forever.”[/pullquote]Blanchett unravels beau­ti­fully and almost main­tains our sym­pathy des­pite the repeated evid­ence that she does­n’t really deserve it. In sup­port, Sally Hawkins as the sis­ter is more watch­able than usu­al and oth­ers – not­ably Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K. – get moments to shine even though some of those moments can seem a bit repet­it­ive. Mr. Allen’s ear for dia­logue seems to have entirely deser­ted him – these people talk like they’re being quoted in New Yorker art­icles rather than con­vers­ing like liv­ing, breath­ing humans – but the struc­ture is sat­is­fy­ing and Blanchett takes the entire pro­ject by the scruff of the neck and makes it her own.

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Review: The Master, Gangster Squad, Whole Lotta Sole, ParaNorman and To Rome With Love

By Cinema, Reviews

Between its her­al­ded US release in September last year and its arrival in a (very) lim­ited num­ber of New Zealand cinemas this week­end, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master seems to have been trans­formed from mas­ter­piece and annoin­ted Best Picture con­tender to also-ran, dis­ap­point­ing scores of loc­al PTA fans in the pro­cess, many of whom were crushed that we weren’t going to see the film in the director’s pre­ferred 70mm format. Turns out it was touch and go wheth­er we were going to see it on the big screen at all.

Anderson’s pre­vi­ous film, There Will Be Blood, was a close-run second to No Country For Old Men in my 2007 pick of the year, and his back cata­logue is as rich as any­one else of his gen­er­a­tion – Boogie Nights, Magnolia and even Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love. Like Blood, The Master is painted on a big can­vas. Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, an alco­hol­ic and self-hating WWII vet­er­an, stum­bling between mis­ad­ven­tures when he stows away on the San Francisco yacht com­manded by aca­dem­ic, author and mys­tic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd com­bines rudi­ment­ary psy­cho­ther­apy with hyp­nosis to per­suade gull­ible fol­low­ers that their past lives can be used to trans­form their dis­ap­point­ing present.

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Review: The Three Musketeers, Midnight in Paris, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Monte Carlo and Tabloid

By Cinema, Reviews

The Three Musketeers posterI don’t know what the French did to be so roundly insul­ted at the movies this week but I’d advise them to steer clear of Wellington cinemas for a while – per­haps until their film fest­iv­al gets under way again next year. Firstly, crass action auteur Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) attempts to reboot a fran­chise from one of France’s most cher­ished pieces of lit­er­at­ure but then makes The Three Musketeers without a single French per­son appear­ing on screen.

Actually, I’m teas­ing a little as neither the 1993 Charlie Sheen ver­sion or the 1973 Oliver Reed one had any sig­ni­fic­ant French involve­ment, but to pop­u­late the latest film with Danes (Mads Mikkelsen), Austrians (Christoph Waltz), Germans (Til Schweiger) and Ukrainians (Milla Jovovich) does seem a bit on the nose.

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