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Captain Phillips poster

Review: Diana, Runner Runner, Camille Claudel 1915, Prisoners, Austenland, About Time and Captain Phillips

By Cinema and Reviews

Tom Hanks in Paul Greengrass's Captain Phillips (2013)

Apart from the inescapable need to carve out a meagre living from an uncaring world, one of the reasons why these weekly updates have been something less than, well, weekly recently has been that most of the fare on offer at the pictures has been so uninspiring.

Diana posterTake Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana for example. It’s not a bad movie, per se. It’s certainly not the trainwreck that the British media would have you believe. It’s just so … inessential. Hirschbiegel’s desire to be respectful to Diana’s children, and to other players in the story who are still living, simply sucks all of the drama out of the thing, leaving you with a frustrating non-love story between two frustratingly inarticulate people. There are occasional hints of the complex character she may have been but the finished product is a kind of nothing. It really is too soon for this film to tell this story.

Runner Runner posterThen there’s the Justin Timberlake vehicle Runner Runner, in which the pop star turned actor attempts to carry a film all by himself and proves that he either is unable to do so, or can’t pick a project that’s worth the attempt. He plays a former Wall St hotshot with a talent for calculating risk who trades Princeton for the high life of running an online gambling business in sunny (and shady) Costa Rica. Not one word of this dismal little film betrays a breath of authenticity, either in its storytelling or character. Screenwriters Koppelman and Levien once wrote Ocean’s 13 (and The Girlfriend Experience) for Steven Soderbergh. At least they were meant to be fantasy.

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Review: The Artist, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress; The Vow; Safe House; Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D and Killer Elite

By Cinema and Reviews

The Artist posterTwo of the big three Academy Award contenders this year are about looking back on the early days of cinema itself. While Scorsese’s Hugo uses the latest technical whizzbangs to bring to life the idea of early cinema and its novelty and excitement in The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius recreates the techniques of old Hollywood in search of pure nostalgia.

A painstakingly created silent movie with several moments of loveliness, The Artist follows the riches to rags story of screen hero George Valentin and the concurrent rags to riches story of starlet Peppy Miller — who tries to catch him as he falls. The performances of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo as the two leads are both splendid, Dujardin in particular displays a technical precision that most actors can only dream of.

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Review: The Three Musketeers, Midnight in Paris, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Monte Carlo and Tabloid

By Cinema and Reviews

The Three Musketeers posterI don’t know what the French did to be so roundly insulted at the movies this week but I’d advise them to steer clear of Wellington cinemas for a while — perhaps until their film festival gets under way again next year. Firstly, crass action auteur Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) attempts to reboot a franchise from one of France’s most cherished pieces of literature but then makes The Three Musketeers without a single French person appearing on screen.

Actually, I’m teasing a little as neither the 1993 Charlie Sheen version or the 1973 Oliver Reed one had any significant French involvement, but to populate the latest film with Danes (Mads Mikkelsen), Austrians (Christoph Waltz), Germans (Til Schweiger) and Ukrainians (Milla Jovovich) does seem a bit on the nose.

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Review: Summer Holiday Round-up (2010/11)

By Cinema and Reviews

T.J. MillerThis year the summer holidays seemed to have been owned by the unlikely figure of T.J. Miller, deadpan comedian, supporting actor and eerily familiar background figure. In Yogi Bear he was the ambitious but dim deputy park ranger easily duped by Andrew Daly’s smarmy Mayor into helping him sell out Jellystone to corporate logging interests, in Gulliver’s Travels he was the ambitious but as it turns out dim mail room supervisor who provokes Jack Black into plagiarising his way into a fateful travel writing gig and in Unstoppable he’s the slightly less dim (and certainly less ambitious) mate of the doofus who leaves the handbrake on and then watches his enormous freight train full of toxic waste roll away.

So, a good summer for T.J. Miller then, what about the rest of us?

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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: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Closing the Ring, Smart People, Married Life, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and Journey From the Fall

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Forgetting Sarah Marshall posterForgetting Sarah Marshall is an ideal post-Festival palate cleanser: a saucy comedy fresh off the Judd Apatow production line (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up). Here he gives the spotlight to one of his supporting players: Jason Segal (Knocked Up) plays tv composer Peter who within two minutes of the start of the film is dumped by tv star Sarah M. (Kristen Bell from “Veronica Mars”). He goes to Hawaii to recover only to discover that his ex is also there – with her new English rock star boyfriend. Very funny in parts, surprisingly moving at times thanks to a heartfelt performance from big lump Segal, FSM gets an extra half a star for featuring professional West Ham fan Russell Brand, playing a version of his sex-addicted stage persona.

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