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nicholas sparks

Review: A Good Day to Die Hard, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, This is 40 and Safe Haven

By Cinema, Reviews

A Good Day to Die Hard posterThe first thing you need to under­stand about A Good Day to Die Hard is that it isn’t really a Die Hard movie. In the same way that instant cof­fee and espresso cof­fee share a name but are in fact entirely dif­fer­ent bever­ages, you’d be wise to go to a Good Day screen­ing with mod­est expect­a­tions – expect­a­tions that would already have been lowered if you’d seen 2007’s dis­mal Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free and Die Hard).

Bruce Willis plays Detective John McClane for the fifth time since 1988 but this time there’s no smirk, no glint in his eye and none of the recog­nis­able human frailties that made the ori­gin­al char­ac­ter so appeal­ing. Instead, he’s just what every­body always said he was – an asshole. When his son is arres­ted by Moscow author­it­ies for what looks like a mob hit, McClane heads to Eastern Europe to try and save a boy he hardly knows. As usu­al, McClane becomes “the fly in the oint­ment, the mon­key in the wrench” and he imme­di­ately lands in the middle of a CIA oper­a­tion to extract a rebel olig­arch hid­ing inform­a­tion that could bring down the gov­ern­ment, his untimely inter­ven­tion des­troy­ing most of Moscow’s traffic in the process.

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Review: Sondheim’s Company, She Stoops to Conquer, A Dangerous Method, The Most Fun You Can have Dying and The Lucky One

By Cinema, Reviews

The most pleas­ure I have had in a cinema so far this year wasn’t at a film. In 2011, the New York Philharmonic pro­duced a brief con­cert reviv­al of Stephen Sondheim’s mas­ter­piece about emo­tion­al oppor­tun­ity cost, Company. For three per­form­ances only, they assembled a star-studded cast of well-known tele­vi­sion faces includ­ing Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, along­side Broadway vet­er­ans like Patti LuPone, and the show was filmed in high-definition for dis­tri­bu­tion to cinemas around the world. Several Wellington pic­ture houses are play­ing this sort of altern­at­ive con­tent these days – the Metropolitan Opera etc – so, even­tu­ally, this stun­ning pro­duc­tion was likely to arrive here and, golly, I am so glad it did.

In Company, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) plays Robert – a 35 year old con­firmed New York bach­el­or sur­roun­ded by mar­ried and soon-to-be-married friends. Throughout the show they give him some good, bad and indif­fer­ent advice about the import­ance of rela­tion­ships versus free­dom and inde­pend­ence versus – well – com­pany. This is a con­cert pro­duc­tion so the orches­tra is on the stage rather than tucked away in a pit, and dir­ect­or Lonny Price does mar­vels with the shal­low area that remains. Transitions are invent­ive and smooth and the char­ac­ters some­how man­age to relate to each oth­er des­pite being – as Sondheim would have it – side by side.

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Review: Iron Man 2, Home by Christmas and Dear John

By Cinema, Reviews

Iron Man 2 posterOh dear, what a dis­ap­point­ment 90% of Iron Man 2 is. Rushed into pro­duc­tion after the ori­gin­al became the sur­prise run­away hit of 2008, rely­ing far too heav­ily on the dead­pan cha­risma of a coast­ing Robert Downey Jr. – the first time I’ve ever seen him this dis­en­gaged – and with a story that does no more than tread water until the arrival of the inev­it­able epis­ode 3, IM2 offers very little in the way of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and not enough action to compensate.

Downey Jr is Tony Stark once again, milk­ing his fame as saviour of the free world while the secret power source in his chaest that fuels Iron Man (and keeps him alive) slowly pois­ons him from with­in. Just when he doesn’t need an adversary, along comes a crazy Russian physicist/wrestler named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) look­ing for revenge on the Stark fam­ily who stole his father’s research. Vanko’s tech­no­logy is co-opted by Stark’s greatest busi­ness com­pet­it­or, weapons developer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and between them they attempt to des­troy Stark and corner the mar­ket in high-tech mil­it­ary gadgetry.

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