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sandra bullock

Gravity poster

Review: Gravity, Mr. Pip, Grown Ups 2, Battle of the Year 3D and 2 Guns

By Cinema and Reviews

 

Gravity posterIs Gravity the first really new film of the 21st Century? I haz­ard it may be. It is cer­tainly the first to har­ness the bleed­ing edge of the cur­rent tech­no­lo­gies (per­form­ance cap­ture, 3D, soph­ist­ic­ated robot­ic cam­era rigs) to serve a story that could only really exist in this form. Sure, once his ears had stopped bleed­ing Georges Meliés would totally recog­nise what dir­ect­or Alfonso Cuarón and his screen­writer part­ner (and son) Jonás are doing here, but he would be the first to put his hand up to say that he would­n’t have been able to do it. Same for Kubrick, I suspect.

During a routine shuttle mis­sion high above the Earth, astro­nauts Sandy Bullock and George Clooney are strug­gling to make some adjust­ments to the Hubble tele­scope when Houston (a nicely cast Ed Harris) warns them of some incom­ing debris. A Russian spy satel­lite has been des­troyed by its own­ers caus­ing a chain reac­tion as the little bug­gers kick-off all over the place. Tiny frag­ments of satel­lite travel at leth­al speeds on roughly the same orbit and our her­oes have to get to safety before they risk being vaporised.

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Elysium poster

Review: Elysium, Stoker, We’re the Millers, The Heat, Giselle, Private Peaceful, Reality and Now You See Me

By Cinema and Reviews

Matt Damon in Neil Blomkamp's Elysium (2013).

With this year’s fest­iv­al now a rap­idly dimin­ish­ing memory – and my recov­ery from that event (plus anoth­er magazine pub­lished, some “live” pod­cast record­ings, a few Q&A’s, some dir­ect­or inter­views and a Big Screen Symposium) almost com­plete – I return to the com­mer­cial cinema and what do I find? Twenty-three new films have been released since my last set of reviews. Twenty-three! I only turned my back for a second. So, bear with me while I try and do some catch­ing up. Some of these films deserve more space than they are going to get here (and some of them don’t) but you can­’t have everything, am I right?

Elysium poster[pullquote]R‑rated these days appears to mean lots of unne­ces­sary curs­ing and com­ic male nudity.[/pullquote]Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was a sur­prise smash-hit in 2009 and his follow-up, Elysium, is what we call ‘eagerly awaited’. Watching it I was reminded of the great strengths of that first film: a vividly cre­ated future soci­ety, dys­func­tion­al yet plaus­ible; a great plot setup with a genu­ine dilemma for the cent­ral char­ac­ter. Then I remembered the third act of District 9 – one long fight/chase/fight. And so it proves with Elysium. Wasted poten­tial as – like so many films this year – the film is resolved by who can punch harder rather than who can think bet­ter. I have lots of oth­er prob­lems with it but that’s the main one.

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Review: The Blind Side, The Book of Eli, Antichrist & Letters to Juliet

By Cinema and Reviews

God is in the house this week. He turns up in the val­ues of a wealthy Tennessee fam­ily who adopt a poor black kid and turn him into a cham­pi­on, He fea­tures in a big leath­er book car­ried across a post-apocalyptic America by enig­mat­ic Denzel Washington, and He is not­able for His absence in a Lars von Trier shock­er that is unlike any­thing you will have seen before or see since.

First, the good ver­sion. Based on a best selling book by Michael Lewis, The Blind Side would not have made it New Zealand screens if it wasn’t for Sandra Bullock’s sur­prise Oscar win earli­er this year and it’s easy to see why dis­trib­ut­ors might have left it on the shelf. Personally, I’m glad they didn’t. My com­pan­ion had no know­ledge of, or affin­ity for, American Football or the com­plex and baff­ling col­lege sports struc­ture and was, there­fore, a bit left out of a story that man­aged to push all my but­tons fairly effortlessly.

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Review: The Hurt Locker, Clash of the Titans, Nowhere Boy & Valentine’s Day

By Cinema and Reviews

The Hurt Locker posterIt took well over 18 months for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker to get a gen­er­al release in New Zealand – a year in which it stead­ily built audi­ences and crit­ic­al acclaim at world­wide fest­ivals and pub­lic screen­ings. In fact, until it was nom­in­ated for a Golden Globe late last year the film had no New Zealand release date sched­uled and many film buffs resor­ted to illi­cit online sources to try and see (what was being touted) as one of the films of the decade.

This is a wor­ry­ing trend. Increasingly, some of the best films are head­ing straight to DVD (some­times, if the tim­ing works, with a Film Festival screen­ing but not always) and, des­pite New Zealand hav­ing a fine track record for sup­port­ing art­house and thought­ful product, I find myself con­fron­ted every week by rub­bish like Law Abiding Citizen and Bounty Hunter. Somewhere along the line the dis­trib­ut­ors have lost their nerve: The Blind Side, which won an Academy Award for Sandra Bullock last month, has only just been giv­en a slot by Roadshow (Warner Brothers). A Serious Man was one of the most bril­liant and intel­li­gent films I’ve ever seen and only one print was placed in Wellington – and it was a Coen Brothers Film!

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Review: Gomorrah, The Proposal and A Bunch of Amateurs

By Cinema and Reviews

Gomorrah posterMartin Scorsese isn’t just a legendary dir­ect­or, he is also one of the world’s great enthu­si­asts for cinema – the defin­it­ive cine­aste if you will. By head­ing the World Cinema Foundation, he has lent his sub­stan­tial imprim­at­ur to major works of film res­tor­a­tion and he also uses his influ­ence to endorse sig­ni­fic­ant new European work, help­ing to get films like 2007’s The Golden Door wider atten­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion. Thus, “Martin Scorsese presents” Gomorrah, which opened nation­wide this week after stints at last year’s film fest­iv­al and the World Cinema Showcase in March.

Acclaimed around the world as a mod­ern mas­ter­piece, I don’t have much to add to the read­ily avail­able exist­ing plaudits. Squarely in the Italian neo-realist tra­di­tion, Gomorrah is a hand-held look at the cur­rent state of mafia affairs in Naples where a bru­tal work­ing class gang known the Camorra holds sway over the hous­ing estates and the impov­er­ished peas­ant classes. From pro­tec­tion rack­ets and drugs to the dis­pos­al of tox­ic waste, there’s not much that they aren’t into, mak­ing sure that all the gains are laundered swiftly into legit­im­ate busi­nesses that con­tin­ue to oper­ate around the world.

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