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The World's End poster

Review: The World’s End, Pacific Rim, The Look of Love + School Holiday Roundup

By Cinema and Reviews

Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddie Considine and Martn Freeman in The world's End

I can ima­gine some people not enjoy­ing The World’s End. People who don’t care about – or even notice – cine­mat­ic crafts­man­ship, people who think that being self-referential means being self-indulgent, audi­ences who prefer their action sequences to be cos­mic in scale and meas­ured in mega­bytes per second rather than laughs per minute – I expect those people might feel that the latest mas­ter­piece by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost goes sail­ing over their heads. After all, a film like The World’s End rewards con­cen­tra­tion (and second and third view­ings) where­as most block­busters rely on increas­ingly destruct­ive spec­tacle for audi­ences to get their kicks.

The World's End posterThat’s not to say that this film is light on apo­ca­lypse – it prom­ises the end of the world after all – but its core remains the deep friend­ships between men of a cer­tain age and how those friend­ships grow when tested – the same theme that infused their pre­vi­ous two films togeth­er, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

[pullquote]Pacific Rim shows how lov­ing bad films some­times means you make bad films.[/pullquote]Pegg plays Gary King, middle-aged lost soul, pin­ing for the glory days of High School and des­per­ate to com­plete his mas­ter­piece – the 12 pub crawl through Newton Haven known as “The Golden Mile”. He and his mates failed back in 1993 and he’s round­ing them up for one last crack at it. His four old mates (played by Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and the won­der­ful Eddie Marsan) are reluct­ant to leave their tidy grown-up lives behind but, per­suaded, they get to their old stomp­ing grounds only to find they are human­ity’s only hope to avoid inter-galactic colonisation.

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Review: Arthur Christmas, Immortals, When a City Falls, Rest for the Wicked and Submarine

By Cinema and Reviews

I believe that it should be illeg­al to even men­tion the word Christmas in any month oth­er than December. Yup, illeg­al. No one should be allowed to even breathe it, let alone have parades, dis­play mince pies in super­mar­kets or throw staff parties. If, as a once-great nation, we can restrict fire­work sales to three days before Guy Fawkes I’m sure we can man­age to pull our col­lect­ive yuletide-obsessed heads in for a few weeks and focus all that atten­tion on only one month a year.

Arthur Christmas posterAt least that’s what I thought until last Friday. That was when I saw the new pic­ture from England’s Aardman Animation, Arthur Christmas. I was pre­pared, based on my afore­men­tioned bah-humbuggery – and some unpre­pos­sess­ing trail­ers – to be scorn­ful and yet I was won over. Won over to the extent that I might as well be wrapped in tin­sel with a fairy on top. Arthur Christmas made me believe in Christmas a week before I was ready.

This film is digit­al 3D rather than the stop-motion clay mod­els that made Aardman fam­ous, but the inven­tion, wit, pace, struc­ture and com­mit­ment to theme are all securely in place, brought to life by an awe­some UK voice cast (Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy both do out­stand­ing work) and some bril­liantly clev­er visuals.

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Review: Paul

By Cinema and Reviews

Paul posterOnly one film for review this week: Paul is the third fea­ture to be writ­ten by and star Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, respons­ible for two of my favour­ite films of the last dec­ade, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This time around they’re not joined by dir­ect­or Edgar Wright (busy with his own Scott Pilgrim pic­ture from last year) and the flick is dir­ec­ted by Greg Mottola (Superbad).

Pegg and Frost play Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, two very English sci-fi and com­ic book fans on a dream hol­i­day: Comic-Con in San Diego then rent an RV and drive to the most fam­ous UFO sites in the States (Area 51, Roswell New Mexico, etc.) While nerd­ing it hap­pily around the place they wit­ness a car crash and dis­cov­er the only sur­viv­or is a three foot tall ali­en (big head, big eyes) named Paul. He’s a wise-cracking smart-ass with the entirely appro­pri­ate voice of Seth Rogen and he’s been enjoy­ing the hos­pit­al­ity of the US gov­ern­ment for fifty years until they finally decide to cut him up to see how his brain works. So he escapes.

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Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Collector, Skin & I, Don Giovanni

By Cinema and Reviews

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World posterYour cor­res­pond­ent is a big fan of young English dir­ect­or Edgar Wright. His first two fea­tures, in col­lab­or­a­tion with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, were the redoubt­ably enter­tain­ing Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. There’s a won­der­ful per­cuss­ive energy to Wright’s film­mak­ing which brooks no bore­dom. So, I was look­ing for­ward to his latest film, the heav­ily pro­moted com­ic book adapt­a­tion Scott Pilgrim vs. the World which opened world­wide this week. And I really wanted to like it. No, strike that. I did like it. I just didn’t love it the way the film so des­per­ately wants to be loved.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera from Juno) is a young Toronto slack­er who plays bass in a ter­rible band and has just begun dat­ing a high school girl. If he seems without much in the way of ambi­tion that may be because he is still griev­ing after being dumped a year ago, or it may be that he simply lacks ambition.

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Tone’s “50 blu-rays you must own” - UPDATED

By Cinema and Home Theatre

Tone Magazine - September coverOf Tone Magazine’s 50 “must own” blu-rays 13 are not actu­ally avail­able in New Zealand leg­ally, or won’t play on NZ pur­chased play­ers due to region cod­ing. Which is a bit of a waste of time, don’t you think? They also man­age to spell Criterion incor­rectly right the way through art­icle which adds insult to injury.

After the jump, the list (the art­icle itself is not online):

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Review: Run Fatboy Run, Vantage Point, The Other Boleyn Girl, Interview, Step Up 2 the Streets and 10,000 BC

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

My nor­mal, equable, approach to Hollywood block­buster product has been upset this week by the news that, in a decision of quite breath­tak­ing cyn­icism, Warner Bros. are going to split the final Harry Potter film (The Deathly Hallows due in 2010) in to two parts and thus, with a wave of a Potter-like wand, make $500m appear where no money was before. Normal ser­vice may well be resumed next week but for now I am grumpy and it may show.

Run Fatboy Run posterSimon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) leaves his hit-making col­lab­or­at­ors, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, behind for a while for his new com­edy Run Fatboy Run. He plays love­able waster Dennis Doyle who could eas­ily be a cous­in of Shaun (or Tim in “Spaced”). Five years ago he ran out on his beau­ti­ful preg­nant girl­friend, Thandie Newton, on their wed­ding day. Now, she has hooked up with hand­some, rich, American mara­thon run­ner Hank Azaria (The Simpsons) and Dennis (with the help of very funny best friend Dylan Moran from “Black Books”) decides to win her back by prov­ing he can fin­ish a London Marathon. Competent and ener­get­ic but with the occa­sion­al bum note, Run Fatboy Run is like a pub band cov­er ver­sion of a great British romantic com­edy. One of the reas­ons why it does­n’t always work must be down to first-time fea­ture dir­ect­or David Schwimmer (Ross from “Friends”) whose tim­ing, sadly, isn’t always on.

Vantage Point posterThey say you nev­er come out of a film hum­ming the struc­ture, which in the case of plucky little thrill­er Vantage Point is a shame as the struc­ture is really all it has going for it. An attemp­ted assas­sin­a­tion of US President Ashton (William Hurt) in Salamanca, Spain is told and retold from the dif­fer­ing per­spect­ives of sev­er­al prot­ag­on­ists and wit­nesses, includ­ing Dennis Quaid’s age­ing Secret Serviceman and Forest Whitaker’s handicam-toting tour­ist. The plot is nev­er fully unrav­elled, though, leav­ing too many ques­tions unanswered not least of which why Spanish ter­ror­ists would col­lab­or­ate with jihadists. There’s one great car chase, though, involving what looks like a Holden Barina. Everything else disappoints.

The Other Boleyn Girl posterWith The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen scribe Peter Morgan turns his atten­tion to anoth­er chapter in Britain’s roy­al his­tory: the bed-hopping, neck-chopping, Tudor soap opera star­ring Henry VIII and his search for an heir; a pre­quel, if you will, to Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth. Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman play the Boleyn sis­ters, com­pet­ing for the atten­tion of Eric Bana’s hand­some but unstable Henry (if they only knew he was going to turn into Charles Laughton they might not have tried so hard). The ori­gin­al nov­el was bodice-ripping romantic fic­tion dressed as lit­er­at­ure and the film serves the same pur­pose. Entertaining.

Interview official siteSteve Buscemi takes the dir­ect­or’s chair (and stars in) Interview, a low-key two-hander also fea­tur­ing Sienna Miller. Buscemi plays cyn­ic­al polit­ic­al journ­al­ist Pierre who is forced to inter­view a fam­ous soap star. Based on, and far too respect­ful of, a film by murdered Dutch film­maker Theo Van Gogh, Interview feels like a stage play – and not in a good way.

Step Up 2 The Streets posterEver since West Side Story (and pos­sibly earli­er) dance has been used as a meta­phor for urb­an viol­ence but in recent years the trend has got some com­mer­cial legs as film­makers real­ise they can present hip-hop music and urb­an situ­ations in a PG envir­on­ment. In Step Up a white urb­an free­style dan­cer (Channing Tatum) tried to make it at bal­let school. In the sequel (Step Up 2 The Streets), a white free­style urb­an dan­cer (Briana Evigan) tries to make it at the same bal­let school. But she’s from The Streets, you see, and she’s an orphan so she gath­ers the oth­er out­casts and eth­nics from the school so they can com­pete with the gang-bangers in an “illeg­al” dance com­pet­i­tion. I’m fas­cin­ated, obvi­ously, by these films not least the pro­mo­tion of dance as com­pet­i­tion over dance as expres­sion. But I’m over-thinking as usual.

10,000 BC posterFinally, 10,000 BC is fit­fully enter­tain­ing twaddle. Historically and anthro­po­lo­gic­ally inac­cur­ate not to men­tion eth­no­lo­gic­ally offens­ive, my recom­mend­a­tion is to wait for the video, get stoned with your mates and then talk all the way through it.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 19 March, 2008 although space con­straints saw the last few items cut. So, Interview, Step Up 2 The Streets and 10,000 BC are like web-only bonus items.

Nature of Conflict: Interview is dis­trib­uted in New Zealand by Arkles Entertainment who I some­times do a little work for.