Skip to main content
Tag

ryan gosling

2011 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

I’ve been watch­ing reac­tions to oth­er people’s “Best of 2011” with interest. It’s fas­cin­at­ing to see online com­ment­ors insist that films they have seen are so much bet­ter than films that they haven’t. Even though I do, in fact, watch everything I’m not going to pre­tend that this list is defin­it­ive – except to say that it gets a lot closer than most…

I also don’t believe in the arbit­rar­i­ness of “Top Tens”. I have my own entirely arbit­rary scale: Keepers, Renters and Respecters.

Secretariat posterKeepers are the films that I loved so much I want to own them – films that make me feel bet­ter just hav­ing them in the house. The first film I adored this year was slushy Disney horse racing story Secretariat. It should have been everything I hate – manip­u­lat­ive, worthy, a faith-based sub­text – and yet I cried like a baby – expert button-pushing from dir­ect­or Randall Wallace. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was my favour­ite block­buster. Superb dir­ec­tion by Rupert Wyatt over­came the flaws (ahem, James Franco, ahem) and it care­fully walked the tightrope of both respect for its pre­de­cessors and kick­ing off some­thing new.

The Tree of Life posterTerrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is my favour­ite film of the year by a long stretch. A second view­ing allowed me to stop think­ing about it and just feel it, mean­ing that I got closer than ever before to the soul of a film artist. Profound in the way that only the greatest works of art are. Tusi Tamasese announced him­self with one of the most mature and con­sidered debuts I’ve ever seen – The Orator placed us deeply inside a cul­ture in a way that was both respect­ful and chal­len­ging of it. That film’s jour­ney hasn’t fin­ished yet.

Read More

Review: The Adventures of Tintin, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, The Muppets, The Salt of Life, The Iron Lady and Melancholia

By Cinema and Reviews

Like stu­dents swot­ting for exams New Zealand film dis­trib­ut­ors seem to have run out of year for all the films they have to release so there are some really big names being squeezed into the next two weeks. If you can’t find some­thing to watch on – the inev­it­ably wet – Boxing Day next Monday, then I sus­pect you don’t really like movies at all. And if that sounds like you, why are you still reading?

The biggest of the big names this Christmas has got to be The Advenures of Tintin. Despite Steven Spielberg’s name on the tin, it’s almost a loc­al pro­duc­tion when you con­sider the tech­no­logy and skills that went into its man­u­fac­ture, so we all have a small stake in its suc­cess. Luckily, Europe has embraced it so a second film has already been con­firmed – and will be made here.

But enough of the cheer­lead­ing – what did I think of it? It’s good, really good. The per­form­ance cap­ture and char­ac­ter design works bet­ter than ever before, Spielberg has embraced the free­dom from the laws of phys­ics that anim­a­tion allows and throws the cam­era around with gay aban­don – but always with pan­ache and not to the point of motion sick­ness. Many of the visu­al gags are ter­rif­ic and Andy Serkis as Haddock proves that there is no one bet­ter at act­ing under a lay­er of black dots and ping pong balls.

Read More

Review: Drive, In Time, One Day, Fright Night and The Inbetweeners Movie

By Cinema and Reviews

In Time posterExpat Kiwi auteur Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) some­how always man­ages to tap in to the zeit­geist and with new sci-fi thrill­er In Time his own tim­ing is almost spook­ily per­fect. A par­able about the mod­ern polit­ic­al eco­nomy, In Time isn’t a par­tic­u­larly soph­ist­ic­ated ana­lys­is but while protest­ors occupy Wall Street, St Paul’s in London and the City to Sea Bridge here in Wellington, it seems almost per­fectly cal­cu­lated to pro­voke a big Fuck You! to the bankers, spec­u­lat­ors and hoarders who are rap­idly becom­ing the Hollywood vil­lains we love to hate.

In Niccol’s world, sev­er­al dec­ades into the future, time is lit­er­ally money: human beings have been genet­ic­ally mod­i­fied to stop (phys­ic­ally) age­ing at 25. Which would be lovely apart from the fact that a clock on your writst then starts count­ing down the one year you have left to live and the time on your wrist becomes cur­rency. You can earn more by work­ing, trans­fer it to oth­ers by shak­ing hands, bor­row more from banks and loan sharks or you can spend it on booze to blot out the hor­ror of your pathet­ic little life.

Read More

Review: Love Story, The Guard, Crazy Stupid Love, Cedar Rapids, TT3D - Closer to the Edge and Priest 3D

By Cinema and Reviews

Firstly I want to apo­lo­gise that there is no review of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life in this week’s column. I saw it dur­ing the Festival and like most audi­ences was per­turbed, baffled, chal­lenged and ulti­mately awed but I needed a second screen­ing to make sense of it. Arguably less sense rather than more sense was what I would be aim­ing for.

The film opened com­mer­cially this week­end at a couple of loc­a­tions but neither of them offered the sort of grandeur (i.e. screen size) and qual­ity (i.e. DCP 2k digit­al trans­fer of the kind I am start­ing to love) so I thought I would hold off until it reaches a few more screens. I know – I sound like a pom­pous ass but that’s as genu­ine a response to The Tree of Life as I can muster. A more con­sidered response next week.

Love Story posterBut that omis­sion gives me more room for the rest of this week’s releases. Florian Habicht’s Love Story charmed (most) of the Film Festival, includ­ing your cor­res­pond­ent. Habicht’s indefatig­able curi­os­ity and demon­strable love of people powers this strange romantic com­edy made while he was liv­ing in Manhattan on an Arts Foundation residency.

Read More

Review: Blue Valentine, Never Let Me Go, Certified Copy and Rango

By Cinema and Reviews

For years I’ve been com­plain­ing about films that give audi­ences everything on a plate – they tell what you should be think­ing and feel­ing, leav­ing no room for us. This week I have noth­ing to com­plain about as three out of our four make you work for your rewards (although three tough emo­tioanl and intel­lec­tu­al workouts in one week­end turns out to be pretty draining).

Blue Valentine posterDerek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is a ter­rif­ic indie achieve­ment, brave and uncom­prom­ising, emo­tion­ally raw but intel­li­gent at the same time. A rela­tion­ship is born and a rela­tion­ship dies. Bookends of the same nar­rat­ive are clev­erly inter­cut to amp­li­fy the tragedy (and tragedy is a fair word to use – there’s a beau­ti­ful child get­ting hurt in the middle of all of this).

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) meet and fall in love. He’s a dro­pout start­ing again in New York. She’s a med stu­dent with an unhappy home life and a douchebag boy­friend. Five or six years later she’s a nurse try­ing not to think about unful­filled poten­tial and he’s a house paint­er who drinks too much.

Read More

2008 comes to an end

By Cinema

Compelled once again by Christmas dead­lines to sum up the year in cinema, I have been think­ing a lot about how some movies stay with you and some don’t, how some movies have got aver­age reviews from me this year but have grown in my affec­tions, and how there are some films you want to see again and some you’re not so bothered about – even when you admire them.

So I’m going to divide my year up in to the fol­low­ing cat­egor­ies: Keepers are films I want to own and live with. Films I can expect to watch once a year – or force upon guests when I dis­cov­er they haven’t already been seen. Repeats are films I would­n’t mind see­ing again – rent­ing or bor­row­ing or stum­bling across on tv. Enjoyed are films I enjoyed (obvi­ously) and respec­ted but am in no hurry to watch again.

No Country for Old Men posterThe “keep­ers” won’t come as any great sur­prise: The Coen’s No Country for Old Men and PT Anderson’s There Will Be Blood were both stone-cold American mas­ter­pieces. NCFOM just about shades it as film of the year but only because I haven’t yet watched TWBB a second time. Vincent Ward’s Rain of the Children was the best New Zealand film for a very long time, an emo­tion­al epic. Apollo doco In the Shadow of the Moon moved and inspired me and I want to give it a chance to con­tin­ue to do so by keep­ing it in my house. Finally, two supremely sat­is­fy­ing music films: I could listen to Todd Haynes’ Dylan biop­ic I’m Not There. again and again, and watch­ing it was was much fun­ni­er than I expec­ted. Not mind­ing the music of U2, I did­n’t have a big hump to get over watch­ing their 3D con­cert movie, but what a blast it was! Immersive and involving, it was the first truly great digit­al 3D exper­i­ence. For the time being you can­’t recre­ate the 3D exper­i­ence at home so I hold out for a giant cinema screen of my own to watch it on.

Next lay­er down are the films I would­n’t mind watch­ing again, either because I sus­pect there are hid­den pleas­ures to be revealed or because a second view­ing will con­firm or deny sus­pec­ted great­ness. Gritty Romanian mas­ter­piece 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days has stayed with me since I saw it in March. Be Kind Rewind was rich enough (and good-hearted enough) to deserve anoth­er look. Martin McDonagh’s bizarre hit­man fantasy In Bruges rocked along at such a decent clip I need to see it again to make sure I did­n’t miss any of it’s eccent­ric pleas­ures. I liked and respec­ted the Coen’s oth­er 2008 entry Burn After Reading more than every oth­er crit­ic so a second view­ing would be use­ful, if only to con­firm that I appre­ci­ated it bet­ter than every­one else did… Or not.

Tropic Thunder posterIf I could just clip the Robert Downey Jr. bits from Tropic Thunder it would be a keep­er, instead I look for­ward to see­ing it again over Christmas. The same goes for the entire first act of WALL•E which I could watch over and over again. Sadly the film lost some of that magic when it got in to space (though it remains a stun­ning achieve­ment all the same).

Into the “Enjoy” cat­egory: Of the doc­u­ment­ar­ies released to cinemas this year, three stood out. The affec­tion­ate por­trait of Auckland theatre-maker Warwick Broadhead, Rubbings From a Live Man, was mov­ing and its strange­ness was per­fectly appro­pri­ate. Up the Yangtze showed us a China we could­n’t see via the Olympics jug­ger­naut and Young at Heart is still play­ing and should­n’t be missed.

The Edge of Heaven posterI made plenty of suc­cess­ful vis­its to the art­house this year. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was awe­some; The Edge of Heaven quietly enthralling; Irina Palm was sur­pris­ing. My review says I liked After the Wedding but I hardly remem­ber a thing about it. Also get­ting the art­house tick from me: The Counterfeiters, The Band’s Visit, the delight­ful hymn to tol­er­ance Grow Your Own and the glossy romance The Painted Veil.

Worthy indies that gave me faith in the future of US cinema included Ben Affleck’s Boston-thriller Gone Baby Gone; Ryan Gosling in love with a sex toy (Lars and the Real Girl); twee little Juno; nasty (in a good way) Choke; heart­warm­ing The Visitor and Frozen River (which was the best of the lot).

Space Chimps posterMainstream Hollywood was­n’t a com­plete waste of space this year (although the ghastly cyn­ic­al rom-coms 27 Dresses and Made of Honour would have you believe oth­er­wise). Ghost Town was the best romantic com­edy of the year; The Dark Knight and Iron Man were enter­tain­ing enough; I got car­ried away by Mamma Mia and the showstop­ping per­form­ance by Meryl Streep; Taken was ener­get­ic Euro-pulp; Horton Hears a Who! and Madagascar 2 held up the kid-friendly end of the deal (plus a shout-out for the under-appreciated Space Chimps) and, of course, Babylon A.D. (just kid­ding, but I did enjoy it’s campy insanity).

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 31 December, 2008.

Note that I delib­er­ately avoid choos­ing Festival-only films as dir­ect­ing people towards films they can­’t eas­ily see is just cruel.