Once again Dan (in Wellington) and Kailey (in Vancouver) are joined by Fairfax senior film reviewer Graeme Tuckett. Hear more from Kailey’s adventures at the Vancouver International Film Festival; plus all three collaborate on a review of Robert Downey Jr. in The Judge and Graeme and Dan count the laughs in Let’s Be Cops. Also featuring several non-gratuitous mentions of Game of Thrones that should do a good job of boosting our iTunes ratings.
Regular and attentive readers to this column will know that I heartily endorse membership of the Film Society as the best value cinema-going in town. For example, a few weeks ago this year members (and prospective members) were treated to a sneak preview of a lovely little film not yet released to the general public.
Get Low is the kind of film that gets made all too rarely these days: a thoughtful, detailed, slow paced meditation on character and personal history. It’s a drama, but with plenty of amusing moments, and it’s a showcase for two great screen actors – two actors who spend far to much of their time these days repeating old performances but here they prove that they’ve still got it when it counts.
Screen legend Robert Duvall (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) plays Felix Bush, a lonely hermit living in Tennessee in the 1930s. Unkempt and irascible, the locals steer well clear because of his dangerous reputation and that’s just the way he seems to like it. But something is eating away at him and he decides to throw a party – a funeral party for himself so that people can tell their stories about him to his face and, maybe, he can tell one or two of his own. He enlists the help of local undertaker Bill Murray and, with the help of his assistant (Lucas Black), the old man gets a chance to set some records straight.
All over the world it is volunteer organisations like the Wellington Film Society that keep the flame of film art alive so that cinephiliacs like me can get a decent palate cleanser every Monday night after a weekend of Hollywood tosh.
I can’t recommend Society membership highly enough. Your membership fee equates to around three bucks a screening (33 Mondays!) and your membership gets you enough discounts (at the Film Festival and participating cinemas) that it doesn’t take long to pay for itself.
Dollar for dollar (if not lb for lb) Vince Vaughan is the biggest star in Hollywood. For every dollar invested in a Vaughan film he returns fourteen making him a better bet than Cruise, Pitt, Clooney or Roberts. It’s easy to see why he’s so popular – his easy-going everyman quality annoys fewer people than Carrey and choices like Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers are pretty safe. Even last year’s Fred Claus was a rare watchable Christmas film and this year he repeats the dose with Four Holidays (aka Four Christmases).
Vaughan, and co-star Reese Witherspoon, are DINKs (double-income-no-kids) who maintain their cool lifestyle by avoiding their respective families like the plague. When an unexpected airport closure reveals their plans to party in Fiji instead of feeding the third world, they are obliged to make four different visits on Christmas Day, forcing them to confront the weirdos, sadsacks and dingbats that make up their respective families.
I think I’m out of step with most other critics (not unusual and not a bad thing) but I enjoyed myself watching Four Holidays – Vaughan and Witherspoon actually make a believable couple and the supporting cast (including fine actors like Robert Duvall and Kristin Chenoweth along with country stars Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw) has plenty of energy.
Ten years ago, before he became the darling of the Hollywood Hedge Fund set, Vaughan’s career nearly stalled when he played Norman Bates in Gus Van Sant’s ill-advised frame-for-frame remake of Psycho. After the seeing the trailer for Quarantine, I was half expecting it to give a similar treatment to the Spanish shocker [REC] (which prompted messy evacuations earlier in the year) but happily it diverges enough to merit its own review.
A tv crew is following an LA fire department for the night when they are sent to an apartment building where mysterious screams are emanating from one of the flats. Soon after they arrive, the authorities shut the building down to prevent the rabies-like infection from spreading, leaving the residents, fire-fighters and the media to their own devices.
Stronger in character development but slightly weaker in shock value, Quarantine will be worth a look if you found you couldn’t read the subtitles in [REC] because you had your hands over your eyes.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year is the first of the legendary Disney franchise to make it to the big screen but the formula hasn’t changed one bit. Well scrubbed High School kids in Albuquerque put on a show which might send one of them to Julliard. The music runs the full gamut of current pop music styles from Britney to the Backstreet Boys (without the spark of either) and the kids display a full range of emotions from A to B. HSM is betrayed by a lack of ambition married to relentless, obsessive, commitment to competence but, at almost two hours, I suspect it will be too long for most tween bladders to hold out.
Depression is a challenging topic for film (the symptoms are un-cinematic and recovery often takes the form of baby steps which are difficult to dramatise) but Swedish drama Suddenly makes a decent fist of it. Nine months after the car he was driving crashed, taking the lives of his wife and youngest son, eye doctor Lasse (Michael Nyqvist) is falling apart. After what looks like a failed suicide attempt, his parents advise him to take his remaining son (sensitive 15 year old Jonas played by Anastasios Soulis) to his holiday house for the Summer to see if he can take one last chance to heal himself and the family.
Lasse throws himself into repairing the beaten up old rowboat while Jonas falls for the (entirely Swedish looking blonde) local black sheep Helena (Moa Gammel). Despite the apparent energy of the title, Suddenly takes its time getting anywhere but rewards perseverance.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 10 December, 2008.
Notes on screening conditions: I’m stoked to report that Suddenly was the first film I’d seen in the Vogue Lounge at the Penthouse since my disappointing experience with Smart People back in August and, despite some print wear, the presentation was perfect. Well done Penthouse.