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pedro almodóvar

Review: The Skin I Live In, Martha Marcy May Marlene and Ghost Rider- Spirit of Vengeance

By Cinema and Reviews

The Skin I Live In posterAnyone won­der­ing wheth­er the great Pedro Almodóvar had lost some of his edge at the ripe old age of 62 should imme­di­ately check out his new film The Skin I Live In which is as deranged as any­thing else he has pro­duced in more than thirty years of fea­ture film mak­ing. Puss In Boots him­self, Antonio Banderas, plays a suc­cess­ful plastic sur­geon with a dark secret. Many of his greatest med­ic­al achieve­ments are a res­ult of the exper­i­ments he con­ducts on a beau­ti­ful woman (Elena Anaya) held cap­tive in his mansion.

Who is she? Why is she there? These ques­tions are answered in the film but have to be skir­ted around here for even the tini­est hint at spoil­ers will wreck some of the twisti­est (in all senses of the word except per­haps con­fec­tion­ary) sur­prises you will exper­i­ence all year. It’s enough to say that if this film had been made in the 1950s then Banderas’ char­ac­ter would have been played by Vincent Price (think House of Wax) and that every­one involved would have been run out of town by the authorities.

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Review: The Trip, Pina and Paranormal Activity 3

By Cinema and 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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Review: Invictus, Broken Embraces, Nine, I’m Not Harry Jensen & Noodle

By Cinema and Reviews

Invictus posterBefore Jerry Dammers and The Special AKA wrote that song about him in 1983, I didn’t know who Nelson Mandela was. When I bought the record and read the story on the back I was hor­ri­fied – 23 years as a polit­ic­al pris­on­er, much of it in sol­it­ary con­fine­ment. I knew the South African régime was unspeak­able, but now I had a focus for my anger. Who would have thought that only a dozen years later, Mandela would be in the middle of a second chapter of his life – President of South Africa and inter­na­tion­al states­man – and that his stew­ard­ship of the trans­ition from apartheid to major­ity rule would be a shin­ing beacon of tol­er­ance, for­give­ness and human­ity. It really could have gone ter­ribly wrong.

Mandela, then, is the great hero of my life, my polit­ic­al and per­son­al inspir­a­tion, so I can be for­giv­en for being quite moved by Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s por­tray­al of those cru­cial first years in gov­ern­ment, cul­min­at­ing in the Springbok’s vic­tory over New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final. Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman (too tall, accent some dis­tance off per­fect, but still some­how man­aging to nail the essence of the guy) and the oth­er name on the poster is Matt Damon as Springbok cap­tain Francois Pienaar. It’s anoth­er char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally gen­er­ous per­form­ance from Damon who is turn­ing into a char­ac­ter act­or with movie star looks.

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Cinema: Best of 2007

By Cinema

And so, after 191 films viewed and reviewed here I get to sum up the 2007 cinema year. As I said back in September it’s been a great year for good films but a poor year for truly great ones. Even my (obvi­ously unim­peach­able) Top Ten list con­tains only a few that I think will be regarded as clas­sics in 20 years but these are all films that I’d hap­pily see again or even own on DVD if the chance arises.

Into the Wild posterBest of the year turns out to be the most recent: Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is the real deal. As beau­ti­ful to look at and listen to as the finest art film, but remain­ing down to earth, it fea­tures a star-making per­form­ance from Emile Hirsch lead­ing an ensemble of fine screen act­ors and it ulti­mately deliv­ers a mes­sage that is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the one you expect: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait posterThe next two selec­tions are also not­able for being the lowest-grossing films of the year: the mes­mer­ising Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait fol­lowed one man around a foot­ball pitch for an entire match and the won­drous and glow­ing abori­gin­al film Ten Canoes reminded us that great story-telling can be found any­where, from the camp fire to the mul­ti­plex. The finest per­form­ances of the year from grown-ups were found in Sarah Polley’s Away From Her. Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie were a couple reel­ing from the impact of Alzheimer’s: the pres­sure of the dis­ease slowly unrav­el­ling a rela­tion­ship that on the sur­face seemed so pure. Best per­form­ance of the year from any­one was little Kolya Spiridonov as “orphan” Vanya in The Italian, determ­ined to find his Mother wherever she may be rather than go to the west with new parents.

Deep Water posterBest doc­u­ment­ary turned out to be the unprom­ising Deep Water: a film about a yacht race that ended up being about the deep­est, darkest secrets kept by a fra­gile human soul – it was even bet­ter second time around. Atonement was a sweep­ing and romantic drama show­cas­ing the many skills of the latest gen­er­a­tion of British movie craftspeople, not least dir­ect­or Joe Wright who, annoy­ingly, is only 36 years old. Best loc­al film in an uneven year (and jus­ti­fi­ably in this Top Ten) is Taika Waititi’s Eagle vs. Shark: funny and sweet and sad and the product of a sin­gu­lar vis­ion rather than the com­mit­tee that seems to pro­duce so many New Zealand films.

Knocked Up posterMy favour­ite com­mer­cial film of the year was the sweet-natured and very funny Knocked Up about a slack­er and a career-girl get­ting to grips with respons­ib­il­ity, rela­tion­ships and par­ent­hood: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata once again. Finally, I’ve spent all year try­ing to jus­ti­fy leav­ing Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver out of this Top Ten with no luck what­so­ever: the com­plete lack of flaws of any kind mean it gets in des­pite the fact that I didn’t love it like I did some others.

It’s a tough time for loc­al paper film review­ers around the world. Cinema crit­ics from pub­lic­a­tions like the Village Voice have been giv­en the flick by penny-pinching pub­lish­ers and even the Sunday Star-Times in Auckland has star­ted run­ning film reviews from sis­ter papers in Australia rather than pay someone loc­ally to rep­res­ent you. So, I feel incred­ibly for­tu­nate to be able to watch all these films on your behalf and want to thank the Capital Times for indul­ging my desire to cov­er everything rather than a select few releases. Thanks, also, to all the Wellington cinemas who have gra­ciously hos­ted me des­pite my fairly con­stant bitch­ing about stand­ards. But, above all, thank you for read­ing. See you next year.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday January 2, 2008.

Review: Shortbus and more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Here’s the review I sub­mit­ted to the Capital Times for this week. Who knows which one they’ll print as they have a couple up the spout and this was delivered very late. Time for bed – I’ll add some links dur­ing the day tomor­row if you care to return.

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Preview: 2007

By Cinema

This week’s Capital Times column. No reviews due to the Christmas break, instead a pre­view of a few titles to expect in 2007.

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