Skip to main content
Tag

simon pegg

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Easy A, Megamind, Rare Exports and Skyline

By Cinema and Reviews

After the unusu­al occur­rence last week of actu­ally lik­ing everything, reg­u­lar read­ers will be reas­sured that nor­mal nit-picking ser­vice is resumed this week.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader posterFirstly, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third in the series of big budget adapt­a­tions of CS Lewis’ beloved alleg­or­ies (and the first to screen in 3D). Roughly three years after the last film ended two of our hero­ic child-royals are returned to Narnia via a magic oil paint­ing of a ship at sea.

Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Lucy (Georgie Henley) and their annoy­ing cous­in Eustace (played with gusto by young Will Poulter) arrive in Narnia to join the Dawn Treader on a search for the sev­en lords (and sev­en swords) who will finally unite all the war­ring coun­tries and bring peace, etc., etc. All is much as you would expect from the pre­vi­ous install­ments, apart from the fact that Caspian (Ben Barnes) has lost that annoy­ing vaguely Mediterranean accent and the talk­ing mouse Reepicheep now sounds like Simon Pegg instead of Eddie Izzard.

Read More

Review: Show of Hands, Ghost Town, Be Kind Rewind, Mirrors, How to lose Friends & Alienate People, RocknRolla and And When Did You Last See Your Father?

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Show of Hands posterAccording to the ven­er­able IMDb.com, before Show of Hands the only fea­ture films to be shot in New Plymouth were The Last Samurai (sort of) and some­thing called Mad Mission 4: You Never Die Twice, so Anthony McCarten’s gentle little comedy-drama is already historic.

Showcasing the Taranaki land­scape as well as the people, Show of Hands has an ambi­tion as small as the town but, sadly, doesn’t bear up under too much scru­tiny. A strug­gling car yard own­er (Steven Stephen Lovatt) runs a hands-on-the-car pro­mo­tion as a last ditch attempt to save his busi­ness and a hand­ily rep­res­ent­at­ive cross-section of New Zealand soci­ety turns out to have a go.

The three main con­tenders are Melanie Lynskey’s single-mum (who needs the car to ferry her wheelchair-bound daugh­ter about); Matt Whelan’s young trusta­far­i­an and Craig Hall’s cold-fish busi­ness­man who may or may not need the dough to solve his busi­ness prob­lems or may or may not just be an ultra-competitive egot­ist­ic­al jerk. The whole film suf­fers from a sim­il­ar lack of clar­ity which makes sus­pend­ing dis­be­lief a struggle. The act­ing is fine how­ever and Whelan in par­tic­u­lar is excel­lent – one for the future there.

Ghost Town posterCursed with a not-very-promising title, and a high concept premise (obnox­ious dent­ist dies for sev­en minutes on an oper­at­ing table and wakes up with the abil­ity to see the ghosts of Manhattan), David Koepp’s Ghost Town turns out to be one of the main­stream pleas­ures of the year. I’m going to assume that every Hollywood rom-com with an English lead was writ­ten for Hugh Grant, but we can be grate­ful that he has all-but retired as it gives Ricky Gervais a meaty role which he grabs with both hands. Gervais may not have much range as an act­or, but he does have depth and I found myself being unac­count­ably moved by a film that always deliv­ers a little more than it says on the tin.

Be Kind Rewind posterIf the remark­able suc­cess of the 48 Hour Film Competition has proved any­thing in recent years it is that mak­ing films is now as much of a com­munity exper­i­ence as watch­ing them and it’s that same hand-made, JFDI, aes­thet­ic that Michel Gondry cel­eb­rates in the very spe­cial Be Kind Rewind.

While mind­ing dod­dery Danny Glover’s ram­shackle New Jersey video (and thrift) store, Mos Def dis­cov­ers that all the pre­cious VHS tapes have been erased by mag­net­ic doo­fuss Jack Black. To save the busi­ness our her­oes re-make the con­tents of the store using only a handycam and their ingenu­ity, even­tu­ally enlist­ing the whole town. I loved Be Kind Rewind and you’ll be hon­our­ing the spir­it of the film if you see it at a theatre with a bunch of strangers.

Mirrors is yet anoth­er re-make of an Asian hor­ror flick and there ain’t much water left in that par­tic­u­lar well. Kiefer Sutherland plays a troubled NY ex-cop who takes a secur­ity guard job at an aban­doned depart­ment store (Romanian and Hungarian stu­di­os plus a tiny bit of stock foot­age stand in for Manhattan). On his first night on the job the mir­rors start to freak him out and two hours of excru­ci­at­ing expos­i­tion follow.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People posterAlso shot on a European sound stage, though a second unit did make it through JFK to shoot some scenery, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is an ami­able little romp star­ring Simon Pegg as a try-hard English journ­al­ist try­ing to make it as a celebrity writer on a top New York magazine. Pompous yet insec­ure, Pegg’s Sidney Young (loosely based on author Toby Young whose book was itself loosely based on his own short Manhattan career) cuts a slap­stick swathe through high soci­ety. Pegg is ok (but he’s no Ricky Gervais, see above) but Megan Fox as movie star Sophie has the worst skin I’ve ever seen on a Hollywood lead­ing actress.

RocknRolla posterWriter-Director Guy Ritchie’s dread­ful faux-cockney purple prose has been drooled all over the inter­min­able RocknRolla, a boysie bit of rough and tumble that’s the cine­mat­ic equi­val­ent of someone grabbing you around the neck and rub­bing their knuckles into your skull. The sloppy plot involves a Russian oligarch’s lucky paint­ing, an old school East End gang­ster on the way out, a rock star fak­ing his own death and a big black tick­et tout with a taste for Jane Austen.

Ritchie does have an eye for young tal­ent (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels made Jason Statham a star): look out for Toby Kebbell (the junkie rock star Johnny Quid) and Tom Hardy (Handsome Bob), just don’t look out for them in this.

And When Did You Last See Your Father? posterFinally, there’s not many films that wouldn’t be improved with the addi­tion of the won­der­ful Jim Broadbent, and he really shines in And When Did You Last See Your Father?, a worthy brit-lit adapt­a­tion that also stars Colin Firth. Broadbent plays the fath­er in ques­tion, a jovi­al egot­ist who doesn’t real­ise that his over-abundant joie-de-vivre is crush­ing the spir­its of those around him. Firth is poet Blake Morrison, com­ing to terms with his father’s ter­min­al ill­ness with the help of plenty of flash­backs to his 60s child­hood. Director Anand Tucker builds his case care­fully until a splen­didly mov­ing finale draws a line under a very sat­is­fy­ing film.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 19 November, 2008.

Nature of con­flict: I pro­duced a couple of plays for Anthony McCarten back in the early 90s – “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and the reviv­al of “Yellow Canary Mazurka”.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Ghost TownHow to lose Friends…RocknRolla and Mirrors were all at Readings pub­lic ses­sions (all fine except How to Lose Friends… was slightly out of frame mean­ing some of the titles spilled on to the mask­ing); Be Kind, Rewind was at the Paramount and the first half was 20% out of focus and the whole film was about 20% too quiet; Show of Hands was a late night water­marked DVD from Rialto Entertainment and And When Did You Last See Your Father? was at the Embassy dur­ing the Film Festival back in July.

Review: The Edge of Love, The Orphanage, Babylon A.D., Sharkwater and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

By Cinema and Reviews

The Edge of Love UK posterKeira Knightley may only be 23 but (along with Daniel Craig and Simon Pegg) she’s been giv­en the unen­vi­able job of sav­ing the British film industry, a chal­len­ging task for someone with tal­ent but a hard road for a young woman still learn­ing a craft for which she often seems ill-suited. Next week we will review the mid-budget cos­tume drama The Duchess but right now she is head­lining anoth­er WWII romance (c.f. Atonement), John Maybury’s The Edge of Love.

Knightley plays Vera Phillips, a young Welsh girl carving out a liv­ing enter­tain­ing the troops in the under­ground bomb shel­ters of burnt out London. In an awfully clunky screen­writ­ing moment she sees a famil­i­ar face across a crowded pub and calls out “Dylan? Dylan Thomas?” and is reunited with her child­hood sweet­heart. After plenty of flirt­ing, the soon-to-be great poet Thomas (Matthew Rhys) intro­duces her to his wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) and a firm friend­ship begins, a friend­ship that veers in the dir­ec­tion of a (hin­ted at) mén­age à trois and ends (with the help of Phillips’ shell-shocked hus­band Cillian Murphy) in a hail of mis­dir­ec­ted bul­lets on a pic­tur­esque Welsh cliff top.

Miller’s notori­ous tabloid exist­ence has a tend­ency to over­shad­ow her day job, which is a shame as she is very good here and she car­ries almost all the emo­tion­al weight of a film that, frankly, needs all the help it can get. Rhys is fine (and reads the Thomas poetry like he’s chan­nel­ling Richard Burton) but Knightley struggles, although she has her moments.

The Orphanage posterIn The Orphanage, a woman (Belén Rueda) and her hus­band (Fernando Cayo) decide to buy the decay­ing old goth­ic orphan­age where she grew up so they can live there with their adop­ted, HIV-positive, young son (Roger Princep) plus his ima­gin­ary friends. Asking for trouble? You bet. The boy soon dis­ap­pears, per­haps into a cave beneath the house, and the dis­traught moth­er has to solve the mys­tery of the cursed house before she can find him again.

I would have been con­sid­er­ably more effected by this film if the first half hadn’t been out of focus (and if the pro­jec­tion­ist hadn’t for­got­ten about the reel change or needed to be told to focus the second half) but once we’d got all that sor­ted out the moody atmo­spher­ics (greatly aided by an effect­ive sur­round sound design and the excel­lent Paramount sound sys­tem) push all the right but­tons. Produced by Guilermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), The Orphanage is styl­ish hor­ror with a heart. I much prefer this sort of thing to the Japanese pro­duc­tion line ver­sions we see so often.

Babylon A.D. posterIt’s really say­ing some­thing when a dir­ect­or dis­owns a Vin Diesel film for not liv­ing up to his vis­ion but this is what Mathieu Kassovitz has done with Babylon A.D. Apparently studio-dictated cuts have turned his subtle and sens­it­ive polit­ic­al and mor­al allegory into a bloodthirsty shoot ’em up. As they say­ing goes, yeah right. Freely rip­ping off dozens of hit films (from Escape from New York to Blade Runner, The Matrix and Resident Evil), the cuts have rendered what might have been a campy clas­sic into inco­her­ence but it’s not un-entertaining.

Sharkwater posterMy favour­ite cine­mat­ic shark is Bruce from Finding Nemo (played by Barry Humphries), a mis­un­der­stood killing machine with aban­don­ment issues. If he’d seen Rob Stewart’s ener­vat­ing doc­u­ment­ary Sharkwater he would know that he’s not a killer at all – more people die each year as a res­ult of Coke machine mis­ad­ven­ture – and that he is in far great­er per­il from us than the oth­er way around.

In fact the whole film owes a lot to Pixar’s Nemo, often recre­at­ing fam­ous images from that film and, if it wasn’t likely to trau­mat­ise them, I’d recom­mend every child who ever saw Nemo be forced to sit and watch it so they might turn into pas­sion­ate eco-terrorists when they grow up.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? posterAs agit-prop doco makers go I think I prefer Morgan Spurlock to Michael Moore. Spurlock (who sprang to fame with the McDonalds’ exposé Super Size Me in 2004) inter­views people without set­ting them up to look stu­pid or venal and his every­man open-ness gives the impres­sion that he is genu­inely curi­ous rather than embittered and cer­tain. In Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? Spurlock is spurred by the his long- suf­fer­ing girl­friend Alex’s preg­nancy to go the middle east and find out why they want to kill us all. And if he finds Osama Bin Laden in the pro­cess, all well and good. I could have done with less of the cheesy video game ana­lys­is of com­plex glob­al polit­ics but when Spurlock goes out of his way to meet ordin­ary people on the streets of Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Pakistan and Afghanistan you can’t help but feel a little bit enlightened and a little bit heartened.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 8 October, 2008.

Nothing of note to report regard­ing screen­ing con­di­tions except the prob­lems with The Orphanage that have already been repor­ted above.

UPDATE: A friend wrote to me after read­ing the Sharkwater review in the CT:

I don’t think much of your Sharkwater review. It really does­n’t tell any­one what the film is about and why people should see it, and secondly you totally belittle the issue by com­par­ing it to a kids car­toon! It’s the most dis­turb­ing film I’ve seen all year, and as you know I’ve seen quite a lot. Even now I feel utterly guilty eat­ing fish, though it is the only anim­al flesh I can­’t seem to give up. At least the Lumiere review­er urged people to boy­cott the many Wellington res­taur­ants that serve shark fin soup. The dir­ect­or is slightly irrit­at­ing I admit, but the con­tent is cru­cial… you can­’t joke about films like this, unless it’s garbage (like Where in the World is OBL for example…).

In case you did­n’t get it the first time read this: http://www.panda.org/index.cfm?uNewsID=146062
Glad I got that off my chest…”

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.

2008: A Star Trek Odyssey

By Cinema and TV

In anti­cip­a­tion of the release at Christmas this year of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek XI (back to before the begin­ning with a new cast includ­ing Karl Urban and Simon Pegg) and because I really don’t have enough to do (ahem, that would include Downstage, Capital Times, Latin American Film Festival, Wellingtonista, 48HRS, Newtown Athletic and the com­mence­ment of a Post Graduate Diploma in Business and Administration at Massey) I hereby embark on my long­stand­ing plan to watch all the Star Trek epis­odes and movies in chro­no­lo­gic­al order.

And when I say chro­no­lo­gic­al order I mean in story order which, accord­ing to this Wikipedia entry, starts with “Enterprise” set in 2151 and ends with Nemesis in 2379. Ever the icon­o­clast, how­ever, I intend to start tonight with First Contact which, des­pite fea­tur­ing the TNG crew of Picard, Data, etc. con­tains Zefram Cochrane’s first warp flight, thus lead­ing to all the oth­er stor­ies. Then to Season One of “Enterprise” and onward, hope­fully arriv­ing at the end before I have to review Star Trek XI this time next year.

I won’t be review­ing every entry because, frankly, who cares?

Wish me luck. Live long and prosper.

Or should I say: Resistance is futile.

Review: Hot Fuzz and five more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Hot Fuzz posterIt is, of course, com­pletely bril­liant. And loud. And while it’s not quite as per­fect as pre­de­cessor (and cinema re-definer) Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is as enter­tain­ing a night out as you’ll find anywhere.

Co-creator Simon Pegg plays PC Nicholas Angel, top cop, so good he’s mak­ing the rest of the Met look bad. He’s reas­signed to the sleepy west coun­try vil­lage of Sandford where, apart from a one-swan crime-spree, the peace is nev­er breached. Of course, in a pic­tur­esque English vil­lage noth­ing is what it seems and Angel and part­ner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) are going to bust this thing wide open, whatever “it” might actu­ally be.

Read More