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steve mcqueen

2012 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

This Must Be the Place posterAs usu­al, the vagar­ies of hol­i­day dead­lines mean that, just as you are arriv­ing back at work to glee­fully greet the New Year, here I am to tell you all about 2012. The best way to use this page is to clip it out, fold it up and put it in your pock­et ready for your next vis­it to the video shop – that way you won’t go wrong with your rent­ing. Trust me – I’m a professional.

But this year I have a prob­lem. Usually I man­age to restrict my annu­al picks to films that were com­mer­cially released to cinemas. I’ve always felt that it wasn’t fair to men­tion films that only screened in fest­ivals – it’s frus­trat­ing to be told about films that aren’t easy to see and it makes it dif­fi­cult for you to join in and share the love. This year, though, if I take out the festival-only films the great­ness is hard to spot among the only “good”.

As usu­al, I have eschewed a top ten in favour of my pat­en­ted cat­egor­ies: Keepers, Watch Again, Mentioned in Dispatches and Shun At All Costs. In 2012, only two of my nine Keepers (films I wish to have close to me forever) made it into com­mer­cial cinemas and one of them isn’t even really a film.

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Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jack & Jill and Contraband

By Cinema and Reviews

Extremely Lous and Incredibly Close posterFor this writer, the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks were the defin­ing glob­al event of my life­time. It was the day when any­thing became pos­sible – even the utterly unthink­able. It was the day when sheer ran­dom­ness and extreme force col­lided to prove that we have only the thin­nest ven­eer of pro­tec­tion from the world des­pite all the prom­ises that have been made to us since childhood.

Since that day, I have nev­er con­sciously sought out 9/11 foot­age to watch. That first 20 minutes of tele­vi­sion news (switched on after being woken by Hewitt Humphrey’s ter­ri­fy­ingly calm announce­ment on Morning Report) was all I could man­age that day. I have no need to re-traumatise myself thank you very much.

So what to make of 9/11 cinema? For ten years it has been an almost impossible top­ic to suc­cess­fully turn into art. The lit­er­al retell­ings of the day’s events (United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center) were the least awful, emphas­ising hero­ism in the face of impossible odds and not attempt­ing any­thing meta­phor­ic or allus­ive. In the clumsy Remember Me – in which Robert Pattinson goes to vis­it his estranged fath­er (Pierce Brosnan) in the WTC North Tower that fate­ful morn­ing – 9/11 was used as a cheap gotcha, a way of pro­vok­ing a reac­tion that the story couldn’t man­age on its own.

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Review: Moneyball, The Ides of March, Shame, Weekend, This Means War, Romantics Anonymous and Big Miracle

By Cinema and Reviews

Moneyball posterThis week Philip Seymour Hoffman fea­tures in two new American sports movies, one about their most ven­er­able – if not impen­et­rable – pas­time of base­ball and the oth­er on the modern-day equi­val­ent of bear-baiting, the pres­id­en­tial primar­ies. In Moneyball, Hoffman plays Art, team man­ager of the Oakland Athletics, left behind when his boss – Brad Pitt – decides to throw away dec­ades of base­ball tra­di­tion and use soph­ist­ic­ated stat­ist­ic­al ana­lys­is and a schlubby Yale eco­nom­ics gradu­ate (Jonah Hill) to pick cheap but effect­ive players.

Hoffman steals every scene he is in but dis­ap­pears from the story too early. Having said that, Pitt and Hill do great work under­play­ing recog­nis­ably real people and all are well-supported by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s script which has scene after scene of great moments, even if some of them lead nowhere (like poor Art’s arc). Moneyball might start out a sports movie but it’s actu­ally a busi­ness text­book. If the place you work at clings to received wis­dom, exper­i­ence and intu­ition over “facts” then organ­ise an out­ing to Moneyball as fast as you can.

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Review: Law Abiding Citizen, Remember Me and Max Manus

By Cinema and Reviews

Stars are import­ant. Despite their sup­posedly wan­ing influ­ence on box office (Avatar man­aged per­fectly well without a mar­quee name and Bruce Willis hasn’t car­ried a hit film in years) the cha­risma of a lead­ing man is still a key factor in how we much we enjoy our escapism.

Law Abiding Citizen posterExhibit A is the inex­plic­able suc­cess of Gerard Butler. Despite an unpleas­ant on- screen per­sona that mostly oozes bru­tish­ness and con­des­cen­sion he con­tin­ues to rate well with cer­tain tar­get mar­kets and, as a res­ult I still have to watch his films. The latest is a repel­lent revenge fantasy called Law Abiding Citizen in which Butler gets to smirk his way through sev­er­al remote-control murders while sup­posedly locked away in sol­it­ary con­fine­ment. How does he do it, we are sup­posed to ask.

Butler is Clyde Shelton, an invent­or and fam­ily man whose fam­ily is ran­domly tar­geted by two low-life home invaders. They kill his wife and child (but inex­plic­ably leave him alive as a wit­ness) but hot shot Assistant DA (Jamie Foxx) is wor­ried about his win-loss ratio and cuts a deal that saves one of the perps from Death Row. Shelton is upset about the sup­posed lack of justice and hatches an eight year plot to teach every­one involved (includ­ing the entire Philadelphia city admin­is­tra­tion and the Pennsylvania justice sys­tem) a lesson.

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2009 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

Welcome to the 2010 “cut out and keep” guide to video rent­ing (or down­load­ing or how­ever you con­sume your home enter­tain­ment these days). I sug­gest you clip this art­icle, fold it up, stick it in your wal­let or purse and refer to it whenev­er you are at the video shop, look­ing for some­thing to while away the long winter even­ings of 2010.

First up, the ones to buy – the Keepers. These are the films that (if you share my psy­cho­logy and some of my patho­lo­gies) you will cher­ish until you are old and the tech­no­logy to play them no longer exists. Best film of the year remains Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Mashing togeth­er sev­er­al archetyp­al stor­ies with a vivid visu­al style and a per­cuss­ive energy, Slumdog may not rep­res­ent India as it actu­ally is but instead suc­cess­fully evoked what India feels like, which is argu­ably more import­ant. After Slumdog everything I saw seemed, you know, old-fashioned and noth­ing has been any­where nearly as thrill­ing since. There are films you respect, films you admire and films you love. Slumdog is a film you adore. “Who wants to be a … miy­on­aire?” indeed.

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Review: An Education, Couples Retreat and Fighting

By Cinema and Reviews

An Education posterTwickenham in 1961 might well have been the most bor­ing place on Earth. The 60s haven’t star­ted yet (accord­ing to Philip Larkin the dec­ade wouldn’t start until 1963 “between the end of the Chatterley Ban/and The Beatles first LP”) but the train was already on the tracks and could be heard approach­ing from a dis­tance if you listened closely enough. Middle-class teen­ager Jenny is study­ing hard for Oxford but long­ing for some­thing else – free­dom and French cigar­ettes, love and liberation.

In Lone Scherfig’s An Education (from a script by Nick Hornby; adap­ted from Lynn Barber’s mem­oir), Jenny is lumin­ously por­trayed by new­comer Carey Mulligan (so ador­able that if she’s ever in a film with Juno’s Ellen Page we’ll have to recal­ib­rate the cute­ness scale to accom­mod­ate them both) and she gets a hint of a way out of sub­urb­an English drudgery when she meets cool busi­ness­man David (Peter Sarsgaard) and he whisks her off her feet, to the West End and to Paris.

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