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peter jackson

Review: The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey and Love Is All You Need

By Cinema and Reviews

The Hobbit: An Unoexpected Journey posterIt may be play­ing in cinemas but I’m not entirely con­vinced that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – and, by exten­sion, the forth­com­ing Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again – is actu­ally cinema. At least not cinema the way that this par­tic­u­lar old geez­er remem­bers it. First, let us put aside the tech­no­lo­gic­al innov­a­tion for a few para­graphs and focus on the story. These films have been been cre­ated to deliv­er an exper­i­ence to exist­ing fans of the Lord of the Rings films and is argu­ably even more tailored to their needs than, say, the Twilight fran­chise is to their fans. It cer­tainly makes as few con­ces­sions to the neutral.

Fans from Bratislava to Beirut want to spend as much time as pos­sible in Middle Earth and writer-director Peter Jackson deliv­ers – to the extent that sev­er­al famil­i­ar char­ac­ters make inel­eg­ant cameo appear­ances and the audi­ence gets to spend con­sid­er­able time accli­mat­ising. It really doesn’t mat­ter that I think the whole thing faffs around for far too long and already feels hyper-extended. Criticising The Hobbit for length is fall­ing in to the trap of review­ing the film you wish you were watch­ing instead of the one in front of you.

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Review: Water for Elephants, From Time to Time, Burke & Hare, Catfish, Reflections of the Past, Hoodwinked Too and 3D Sex and Zen

By Cinema and Reviews

Water for Elephants posterSomeone described melo­drama to me the oth­er day as “unearned emo­tion” and that’s a help­ful way to look at a few of this week’s offer­ings. Firstly the glossy adapt­a­tion of Sara Gruen’s best­selling nov­el of romance and tragedy at the cir­cus, Water for Elephants. Twilight’s Robert Pattinson plays veter­in­ary stu­dent Jacob who, after the death of his par­ents, runs away to join Christoph Waltz’s strug­gling Depression-era cir­cus. There he falls in love with Waltz’s down­trod­den but beau­ti­ful wife Reese Witherspoon (and also Rosie the down­trod­den but beau­ti­ful new elephant).

Director Francis Lawrence makes a token attempt to show us the gritty and des­per­ate side of Depression life but in the end the high fructose corn syr­up of tra­di­tion­al Hollywood romance smoth­ers everything. Pattinson remains dead behind the eyes as always, Witherspoon fails to con­vince as an acrobat and Waltz repeats his Oscar-winning psy­cho­path­ic Nazi from Inglourious Basterds only without the great Tarantino dialogue.

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Review: Rio, Hop, Oceans, Sucker Punch and some meditations on the Roxy

By Cinema and Reviews

Wellington’s first Roxy Cinema was either notori­ous or legendary depend­ing on your point of view. Originally the Britannia on Manners Street, it was renamed the Roxy in 1935 and ran as an idio­syn­crat­ic inde­pend­ent until demoli­tion in 1974. Old school pro­jec­tion­ists would tell you that the Roxy was a genu­ine fleapit, run­ning con­tinu­ous ses­sions (no clean­ing) and provid­ing a cent­ral city hideout for people skip­ping work or school.

According to “The Celluloid Circus”, Wayne Brittenden’s won­der­ful his­tory of cinemas in New Zealand, own­er Harry Griffith was once asked by a cash­ier if she should call the tru­ant officer to appre­hend some young miscre­ant. “Let him buy his tick­et first,” snapped Griffith, “then report him.”

Griffith took a showman’s approach to pro­gram­ming, once risk­ing the wrath of 20th Century Fox by schedul­ing an impromptu double fea­ture of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra and Kenneth Williams in Carry On Cleo. That’s the kind of spir­ited whimsy we tried to encour­age at the Paramount in my day and I do miss it.

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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: Where the Wild Things Are, The Informant!, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Zombieland and The Cake Eaters

By Cinema and Reviews

Is it too early to sug­gest that we might be liv­ing in a golden age of cinema? Think of the film­makers work­ing in the com­mer­cial realm these days who have dis­tinct­ive voices, thrill­ing visu­al sens­ib­il­it­ies, sol­id intel­lec­tu­al (and often mor­al) found­a­tions, a pas­sion for com­bin­ing enter­tain­ment with some­thing more – along with an abid­ing love of cinema in all its strange and won­der­ful forms.

I’m think­ing of the Coens, obvi­ously, but also Peter Jackson (and protégé Neill Blomkamp), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz and the forth­com­ing Scott Pilgrim), Jason Reitman (Juno and January’s Up in the Air), Guillermo Del Toro (work­ing hard on The Hobbit in Miramar), and even Tarantino is still pro­du­cing the goods. This week we are lucky enough to get new work from two oth­ers who should be in that list: Spike Jonze and Steven Soderbergh.

Where the Wild Things Are posterJonze made his name with oddball stor­ies like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and the first thing you notice about his inter­pret­a­tion of the beloved Maurice Sendak children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is that it simply doesn’t resemble any­thing else you’ve ever seen. With the help of writer Dave Eggers (the nov­el “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, Away We Go) he has used the book as a start­ing point for a beau­ti­ful and sens­it­ive med­it­a­tion on what it is like to be a child (a boy child specifically).

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Review: District 9, Sunshine Cleaning, The Man in the Hat, The Rocket Post and Case 39

By Cinema and Reviews

It’s going to be a massive few months for Wellywood – District 9 seems to have come out of nowhere to take the world by storm (Currently #35 in the IMDb All Time list, just below Citizen Kane. I kid you not) and The Lovely Bones trail­er is whet­ting everyone’s appet­ite at just the right time. This Friday, Wellington audi­ences are the first in the world to see a fif­teen minute sampler of the loc­ally shot Avatar (Readings from 11.45am, free of charge) and three more Film Commission fea­tures are due for release between now and Christmas: The Strength of Water, Under the Mountain and The Vintner’s Luck, all of which have a sig­ni­fic­ant Wellington com­pon­ent to them.

District 9 posterAnd if the Hollywood big cheeses were wor­ried about The Lord of the Rings shift­ing the tec­ton­ic plates of enter­tain­ment industry power they ought to be ter­ri­fied by District 9, a new world demon­stra­tion of the SANZAR spir­it (minus the Australians) that achieves in spades everything that this year’s big-budget tent-pole fea­tures like Transformers and Terminator failed to do. It works thrill­ingly as pure enter­tain­ment and yet at the same time it’s a little bit more.

Aliens have arrived on earth but unlike in the 70s and 80s they aren’t here to tell us how to con­nect with the uni­verse and expand our con­scious­ness. And it isn’t like the 90s when they arrived to car­a­mel­ize us with their death rays. These ali­ens have arrived for remark­ably 21st cen­tury reas­ons – their ship is crippled and with no way home they are destined to become refugees, out­casts, mis­un­der­stood second-class citizens.

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