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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: Eagle Eye, The Rocker, The House Bunny, Wild Child, Space Chimps and Mongol

By Cinema and Reviews

Eagle Eye posterThis week I’ve had my intel­li­gence insul­ted by the very best. Steven Spielberg is cred­ited as Executive Producer of Eagle Eye, but if he spent more than one meet­ing over­see­ing this crapitude I would be very sur­prised. Eagle Eye is designed to appeal to cro-magnons who still believe that com­puters are inher­ently malevol­ent self-perpetuating pseudo-organisms and that the US Dept of Defence would invent an all-powerful, sur­veil­lance super-computer that you can’t switch off at the wall. And fans of Shia LaBoeuf. Director D. J. Caruso (last year’s Disturbia) is con­firmed as a name to avoid and Michael Jackson lookalike Michelle Monaghan has done (and will do) bet­ter than this (Gone Baby Gone).

The Rocker posterIn inter­views, Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute in the American “Office”) has admit­ted that he is behind Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson whenev­er the choicest scripts are handed out, so what that says about The Rocker (his first lead­ing role) I’m not sure. Wilson plays a Pete Best-like drum­mer, fired from the band he named (Vesuvius!) just before they shot to star­dom in 1988. Twenty years and twenty dead-end jobs later, he gets a shot at redemp­tion play­ing with his nephew’s high school band. Wilson really doesn’t have enough pres­ence to carry the film but he’s like­able enough and there’s some nice sup­port­ing work from Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and the lovely Christina Applegate (who really deserves to be a much big­ger star than she is).

The House Bunny posterOne week on from the depress­ing Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, there’s even more mis­placed girl power on dis­play in The House Bunny. Scary Movie star Anna Faris gets to exec­ut­ive pro­duce a vehicle for her­self (writ­ten by Laurie Craig and Karen McCullah Lutz, the female screen­writ­ing duo respons­ible for the pos­sibly Nobel Prize-winning Legally Blonde) and with that power comes great respons­ib­il­ity, respons­ib­il­ity that she puts to good use set­ting back the cause of fem­in­ism nearly 40 years.

Almost-Playmate Shelley (Faris), kicked out of Hef’s man­sion for being too old becomes sor­or­ity house moth­er to a bunch of “ugly” mis­fits (includ­ing Emma Stone from The Rocker and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s eld­est daugh­ter Rumer). It’s the lack of ambi­tion that I find so dis­heart­en­ing, although it did con­tain my favour­ite line of the week: “Concentrate on the eyes girls, remem­ber – the eyes are the nipples of the face.”

Wild Child posterRoald Dahl’s daugh­ter Lucy is anoth­er female screen­writer stuck in cliché hell. Her script for Wild Child could have res­ul­ted in pass­able enter­tain­ment, but is let down by poor dir­ec­tion and some odd post-production decisions. Last year’s Nancy Drew, Emma Roberts, plays the fish out of water, Malibu rich-chick, sent away to an English board­ing school run by firm-but-fair Natasha Richardson. There she makes friends and enemies and falls in love with hand­some Roddy, played by the worst act­or I’ve ever seen get his name on a major film: Alex Pettyfer (remem­ber the name, folks).

Space Chimps posterMost fun of the week can be found in Space Chimps, a bois­ter­ous CGI-animated com­edy for kids (and those that might find WALL•E a little too emo­tion­ally demand­ing). Ripping a long at a great pace, it has plenty of gags per minute and bene­fits from hav­ing great voice-actors like Patrick Warburton and Kristin Chenoweth involved rather than big name stars slum­ming it. Recommended.

Mongol posterThe Russo-Sino-Co-pro Mongol really deserves to be seen on a giant screen, as befit­ting the giant land­scape and giant story. The first of a pro­posed tri­logy telling the life story of Genghis Khan, this instal­ment fol­lows the 12th cen­tury war­lord from his own birth to the birth of an empire span­ning half the known world. Uniting the tribes of Mongolia was a bru­tal busi­ness and there’s plenty of CGI blood splash­ing around as young Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) dis­cov­ers his destiny.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 1 October 2008.