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Review: Reel Brazil festival, Win Win, Shark Night 3D, The Help, The Holy Roller, Friends With Benefits & Upside Down- the Creation Records Story

By Cinema and Reviews

Reel Brazil 2011 posterTo really under­stand a coun­try you have to go and live there – embed your­self with the people, soak up the cul­ture. If you don’t have the time or inclin­a­tion for that then the next best thing to is to get stuck in to their com­mer­cial cinema. Not the stuff that makes it into major inter­na­tion­al film fest­ivals like Berlin and Venice, not the stuff that gets nom­in­ated for for­eign lan­guage Academy Awards, but the films that are made to excite and please a loc­al audi­ence. That’s what fest­ivals like Reel Brazil are all about – a week-long por­trait of a coun­try via its cinema.

In the late 60s Brazil had a kind of Brazilian Idol tele­vi­sion pop com­pet­i­tion where brave young artists per­formed their top song in front of a live audi­ence bay­ing for blood as if they were watch­ing Christians versus lions. But in A Night in 67 we see that year’s com­pet­i­tion rise above the boos and jeers to open a new chapter in Brazilian pop music – legendary names like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso com­pete to win over the tough crowd and in the pro­cess launch massive inter­na­tion­al careers.

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Review: Get Him to the Greek, The Last Station and Amreeka

By Cinema and Reviews

Get Him to the Greek posterForgetting Sarah Marshall was one of the sur­prise pleas­ures of 2008. An Apatow com­edy that was rel­at­ively mod­est about it’s ambi­tions it fea­tured a break-out per­form­ance from English comedi­an Russell Brand, play­ing a ver­sion of his own louche stage persona.

As it so often goes with sur­prise hits, a spinoff was rushed into pro­duc­tion and we now get to see wheth­er Mr Brand’s brand of humour can carry an entire film. Get Him to the Greek sees Brand’s English rock star Aldous Snow on the comeback trail after a failed sev­en year attempt at sobri­ety. Unlikely LA A&R man Jonah Hill (Knocked Up, Funny People) sells his record label boss, Sean “P Diddy” Combs, on a 10th anniversary con­cert fea­tur­ing Snow and his band Infant Sorrow at the Greek Theatre of the title.

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Review: Summer Holiday 09-10 Summary

By Cinema and Reviews

While hunt­ing the site for some links to add to the just pos­ted Winter’s Bone etc. review, I dis­covered that my Summer Holiday spe­cial had­n’t made it here. So, for com­plete­ness’ sake, here it is. Pretty sure, this is an early draft too but there’s no sign of an email sub­mit­ting it.

What a lovely Summer we’ve been hav­ing – for watch­ing movies. While the Avatar jug­ger­naut rolls inex­or­ably on there has plenty of oth­er options for a ded­ic­ated seeker of shel­ter from the storm.

The Lovely Bones posterReleased at any oth­er time of year, Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones would be get­ting a decent length eval­u­ation (and the head­line) here but with fif­teen films dis­cuss we’ll have to live with the bul­let point eval­u­ation: not un-moving. My com­pan­ion and I spent a about an hour after watch­ing TLB dis­cuss­ing it’s flaws and yet both ended up agree­ing that we’d actu­ally enjoyed the film a lot, des­pite the problems.

Personally, I think Jackson’s tend­ency towards occa­sion­al whim­sic­al in-jokery typ­i­fied the uncer­tainty of tone (I’m think­ing of his unne­ces­sary cam­era shop cameo as an example) but the fun­da­ment­al mes­sage – that the people left behind after a tragedy are more import­ant than the vic­tims – was clearly and quite bravely artic­u­lated. And when I saw the film at a crowded Embassy ses­sion, dur­ing the pivotal scene where the sis­ter dis­cov­ers the evid­ence to catch the killer, I could only hear one per­son breath­ing around me – and it wasn’t me.

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Review: Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Fred Claus, The Golden Door and Mr. Brooks

By Cinema and Reviews

Elizabeth The Golden age posterAbout a third of the way through Elizabeth The Golden Age, hand­some pir­ate Walter Raleigh arrives at Court bring­ing his Queen gifts from the New World: pota­toes in a box of soil and tobacco (bring­ing to mind that won­der­ful Bob Newhart routine: “Then what do you do, Walt? ha! ha! ha!… You set fire to it!”) But what Raleigh (played by Clive Owen with an old-fashioned movie star cool that he has­n’t mustered before) is really offer­ing Elizabeth is the future; a future of gun­powder, inter­na­tion­al trade, sci­ence and empire. And for anoth­er 400 years Britannia will rule the waves.

Unlike some, I can­’t com­ment too much on the his­tor­ic­al accur­acy of the film – it seemed pretty close to how I remem­ber study­ing it as an eight year old – but abso­lute accur­acy does­n’t seem to be the point. The por­trait of a woman who has to become an icon (super-human and at the same time less than human) in order to pre­serve her people is ripe for a melo­dra­mat­ic Hollywood telling and dir­ect­or Shekhar Kapur and star Cate Blanchett don’t let us down.

This film is a sequel, of course, to the remark­ably suc­cess­ful Elizabeth that launched Blanchett nearly ten years ago. That suc­cess means a big­ger budget this time around – hun­dreds more extras, flash­er sets and a rip-roaring mari­time set-piece – but it is the supremely con­trolled Blanchett that dom­in­ates. As we rejoin the story her pos­i­tion is still insec­ure: chal­lenged from the North by half-sister Mary Queen of Scots and from the South by Philip of Spain, the tussle is between Catholic super­sti­tion (and medi­ev­al bru­tal­ity) and the enlightened reli­gious tol­er­ance that would allow an Empire to flour­ish. No won­der some Catholics aren’t happy with this ver­sion of history…

Fred Claus posterFingers crossed that this year we’ll only get one fat, jolly, red-faced Santa movie after last year’s woe­ful bunch: but if we have to have one I’m pleased to report that Fred Claus isn’t too embar­rass­ing. A fine cast, includ­ing Kevin Spacey and Miranda Richardson, have been gathered to tell the story of Santa’s big broth­er (Vince Vaughan) who left home in a sulk many years ago and is now a cyn­ic­al repo man in Chicago.

Meanwhile Santa (Paul Giamatti) is stressed out as more and more kids are ask­ing for more and more presents (not like the old days when one present per kid was enough). When Fred needs to be bailed out of chokey, Santa sees a chance to bring the fam­ily back togeth­er and get some extra help at the North Pole. The tone of the film is pretty ran­dom and the humour is hit and miss but Giamatti’s per­form­ance as Santa is so fine that, if he rolled it out in any oth­er film, we’d be talk­ing about award nom­in­a­tions. Seriously.

Golden Door posterDiaspora and mass dis­lo­ca­tion is the great story of the mod­ern age – from the Irish flee­ing the potato fam­ine to the mil­lions in Africa dis­placed by war or gen­o­cide. It’s no pic­nic abandon­ing your home and everything you know for the hint of a bet­ter life – ask your taxi driver – and Emanuele Crialese’s Golden Door plays as a worthy trib­ute to all those who have ever taken that risk. His film fol­lows a turn of the (last) cen­tury Sicilian fam­ily escap­ing the grind­ing poverty of their island in the hope of get­ting to Walter Raleigh’s New World where money grows on trees and there are rivers of milk. Once there, they exchange one island for anoth­er (Ellis) where they are prod­ded and tested before being found worthy of America. Crialese’s eye for an arrest­ing image and a lovely per­form­ance from lead Vincenzo Amato make Golden Door one of the unsung art-house films of the year.

Mr Brooks posterMr. Brooks is an odd fish – the film and the char­ac­ter. Kevin Costner plays suc­cess­ful self-made busi­ness­man Earl Brooks; he’s Portland’s Man of the Year but he has a secret. Not only is he a demen­ted serial-killer but he has an ima­gin­ary friend (William Hurt) who sits in the back seat of his car get­ting him in to trouble so its a bit like a grown-up ver­sion of Drop Dead Fred. Costner’s tend­ency to under­play everything means we nev­er get a real sense of the tor­ment under the button-down façade but at least he is con­sist­ently inter­est­ing, unlike the sub-plot involving the cop chas­ing him (Demi Moore) and her divorce.

For space reas­ons, only the Elizabeth seg­ment of this review was prin­ted in the Capital Times, Wednesday 21 November, 2007. For some reas­on they then prin­ted a ver­sion of it again in the Films of the Week sec­tion at the back of the book, instead of some more of my gor­geous prose. I love them like fam­ily, and am intensely grate­ful for the oppor­tun­ity to do this in front of an audi­ence, but would like to point out that I don’t have any­thing to do with the strangely edited  “Films of the Week” apart from provid­ing the raw material.