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paranormal activity

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: Oblivion, Warm Bodies, Barbara, Performance, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and The Croods

By Cinema, Reviews

Oblivion_30_580 Last time we saw Tom Cruise he was known as Jack Reacher. Now, in Oblivion, his name is Jack Harper. What range! What diversity! You’d hardly recog­nise him. Harper is a main­ten­ance guy, repair­ing the drones that pro­tect giant machines that suck Earth’s oceans up to an enorm­ous space sta­tion orbit­ing above us, a space sta­tion that is going to take the few remain­ing sur­viv­ors of our pyrrhic vic­tory over invad­ing ali­ens on a final jour­ney away from a dev­ast­ated plan­et to a new life on Titan.

Oblivion posterAssisting Mr. Cruise with his mech­an­ic­al defence duties is Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), life and work part­ner, keep­ing him in con­tact with the super­visors float­ing above them and keep­ing an eye on the strag­gling rem­nants of the ali­ens who tried to con­quer us. Traditional gender roles are very much still intact in the future – even though the Moon isn’t – and Ms. Riseborough’s char­ac­ter seems con­tent to nev­er leave the spot­less mod­ern kit­chen while Cruise gets his hands dirty on the sur­face. Neither of them seem too bothered by the fact that they had their memor­ies wiped six years pre­vi­ously, although he has been hav­ing some strange dreams recently.

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Review: Killing Them Softly, The Angels’ Share, Safety Not Guaranteed, Frankenweenie, Paranormal Activity 4 and God Bless America

By Cinema, Reviews

Andrew Dominik was born in Wellington but shipped out at the age of two for Australia. We really need to claim him back as he’s one of the most intriguing dir­ect­ors cur­rently work­ing. Perhaps that should be “rarely work­ing” as his latest, Killing Them Softly, is only his third fea­ture cred­it in 12 years. Chopper turned heads in 2000 and got him to Hollywood. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was an ele­gi­ac adapt­a­tion of a great nov­el, the screen ver­sion echo­ing great late-period west­erns like Heaven’s Gate and The Long Riders.

In Killing Them Softly, Dominik remains in genre ter­rit­ory but again he is tran­scend­ing and sub­vert­ing it. It’s a gang­ster flick fea­tur­ing a bunch of famil­i­ar fig­ures – James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom). You see those names on the cast list and you think you know what you’re going to get, but here they stretch out in supris­ing dir­ec­tions, reveal­ing lay­ers of human­ity no less ugly than the clichéd bang-bang we are used to, but truer, sad­der and ulti­mately more trenchant.

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Review: Like Crazy, Chronicle, A Few Best Men, J. Edgar and Julia’s Eyes

By Cinema, Reviews

Three films this week point the way towards pos­sible futures for cinema – and if two of them are right then we should all find anoth­er hobby. Like Crazy is a mostly-improvised romance shot on one of those pro-am stills cam­er­as that can also shoot hi-def video (the Canon 7D in this case). These devices are afford­able and highly port­able but the look that they have, while effect­ive in music videos and short sequences, doesn’t keep your interest over the length of a full fea­ture. And, just because your cam­era lets you shoot a lot of foot­age of people nood­ling around mak­ing stuff up, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have an actu­al plan.

Actually, the pho­to­graphy is less of a prob­lem in Like Crazy than the story: two young lov­ers not so much star-crossed as US Department of Immigration-crossed, have to decide how much they care for each oth­er when their efforts to be togeth­er are thwarted by the pesky Atlantic ocean and their own shal­low­ness. Felicity Jones (Chalet Girl ) is the Brit who over­stays her stu­dent visa so she can be with Californian fur­niture design­er Anton Yelchin (Fright Night), set­ting the wheels in motion that will actu­ally keep them apart for years.

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Review: Drive, In Time, One Day, Fright Night and The Inbetweeners Movie

By Cinema, Reviews

Expat Kiwi auteur Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) some­how always man­ages to tap in to the zeit­geist and with new sci-fi thrill­er In Time his own tim­ing is almost spook­ily per­fect. A par­able about the mod­ern polit­ic­al eco­nomy, In Time isn’t a par­tic­u­larly soph­ist­ic­ated ana­lys­is but while protest­ors occupy Wall Street, St Paul’s in London and the City to Sea Bridge here in Wellington, it seems almost per­fectly cal­cu­lated to pro­voke a big Fuck You! to the bankers, spec­u­lat­ors and hoarders who are rap­idly becom­ing the Hollywood vil­lains we love to hate.

In Niccol’s world, sev­er­al dec­ades into the future, time is lit­er­ally money: human beings have been genet­ic­ally mod­i­fied to stop (phys­ic­ally) age­ing at 25. Which would be lovely apart from the fact that a clock on your writst then starts count­ing down the one year you have left to live and the time on your wrist becomes cur­rency. You can earn more by work­ing, trans­fer it to oth­ers by shak­ing hands, bor­row more from banks and loan sharks or you can spend it on booze to blot out the hor­ror of your pathet­ic little life.

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Review: The Trip, Pina and Paranormal Activity 3

By Cinema, Reviews

Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip is the best pic­ture about middle-aged male angst since Sideways, and it’s pos­sibly even bet­ter than that fine film. Two priv­ileged English celebrit­ies spend a week driv­ing around the North of England from one fine res­taur­ant to anoth­er, eat­ing and drink­ing them­selves silly on someone else’s dime. And yet, some­thing dark­er is up.

Self-absorbed “Steve Coogan” (Steve Coogan) is sep­ar­ated from his girl­friend, dis­tanced from his chil­dren, des­per­ate for recog­ni­tion as a ser­i­ous act­or but all too often wel­comed by strangers with a warm-hearted but annoy­ing repe­ti­tion of his great TV catch­phrase (Alan Partridge’s “Ah-ha”). On the sur­face, “Rob Brydon” (Rob Brydon) is a hap­pily mar­ried man with a young child, a mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful TV and stand-up career but, as Coogan points out in a pathos-ridden trip the ruined Bolton Abbey, there’s some­thing about Brydon’s nev­erend­ing celebrity impres­sions and forced bon­homie that sug­gests he hasn’t quite got to grips with the real world.

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