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sandra bullock Archives - Funerals & Snakes

Gravity poster

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

By Cinema and Reviews

Gravity movie still

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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