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steven spielberg Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Funerals & Snakes

Review: Eagle Eye, The Rocker, The House Bunny, Wild Child, Space Chimps and Mongol

By Cinema and Reviews

Eagle Eye posterThis week I’ve had my intelligence insulted by the very best. Steven Spielberg is credited as Executive Producer of Eagle Eye, but if he spent more than one meeting overseeing this crapitude I would be very surprised. Eagle Eye is designed to appeal to cro-magnons who still believe that computers are inherently malevolent self-perpetuating pseudo-organisms and that the US Dept of Defence would invent an all-powerful, surveillance super-computer that you can’t switch off at the wall. And fans of Shia LaBoeuf. Director D. J. Caruso (last year’s Disturbia) is confirmed as a name to avoid and Michael Jackson lookalike Michelle Monaghan has done (and will do) better than this (Gone Baby Gone).

The Rocker posterIn interviews, Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute in the American “Office”) has admitted that he is behind Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson whenever the choicest scripts are handed out, so what that says about The Rocker (his first leading role) I’m not sure. Wilson plays a Pete Best-like drummer, fired from the band he named (Vesuvius!) just before they shot to stardom in 1988. Twenty years and twenty dead-end jobs later, he gets a shot at redemption playing with his nephew’s high school band. Wilson really doesn’t have enough presence to carry the film but he’s likeable enough and there’s some nice supporting work from Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and the lovely Christina Applegate (who really deserves to be a much bigger star than she is).

The House Bunny posterOne week on from the depressing Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, there’s even more misplaced girl power on display in The House Bunny. Scary Movie star Anna Faris gets to executive produce a vehicle for herself (written by Laurie Craig and Karen McCullah Lutz, the female screenwriting duo responsible for the possibly Nobel Prize-winning Legally Blonde) and with that power comes great responsibility, responsibility that she puts to good use setting back the cause of feminism nearly 40 years.

Almost-Playmate Shelley (Faris), kicked out of Hef’s mansion for being too old becomes sorority house mother to a bunch of “ugly” misfits (including Emma Stone from The Rocker and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s eldest daughter Rumer). It’s the lack of ambition that I find so disheartening, although it did contain my favourite line of the week: “Concentrate on the eyes girls, remember — the eyes are the nipples of the face.”

Wild Child posterRoald Dahl’s daughter Lucy is another female screenwriter stuck in cliché hell. Her script for Wild Child could have resulted in passable entertainment, but is let down by poor direction and some odd post-production decisions. Last year’s Nancy Drew, Emma Roberts, plays the fish out of water, Malibu rich-chick, sent away to an English boarding school run by firm-but-fair Natasha Richardson. There she makes friends and enemies and falls in love with handsome Roddy, played by the worst actor I’ve ever seen get his name on a major film: Alex Pettyfer (remember the name, folks).

Space Chimps posterMost fun of the week can be found in Space Chimps, a boisterous CGI-animated comedy for kids (and those that might find WALL•E a little too emotionally demanding). Ripping a long at a great pace, it has plenty of gags per minute and benefits from having great voice-actors like Patrick Warburton and Kristin Chenoweth involved rather than big name stars slumming it. Recommended.

Mongol posterThe Russo-Sino-Co-pro Mongol really deserves to be seen on a giant screen, as befitting the giant landscape and giant story. The first of a proposed trilogy telling the life story of Genghis Khan, this instalment follows the 12th century warlord from his own birth to the birth of an empire spanning half the known world. Uniting the tribes of Mongolia was a brutal business and there’s plenty of CGI blood splashing around as young Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) discovers his destiny.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 1 October 2008.

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Forbidden Lies, The Last Magic Show and 4

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Indiana Jones posterThe two universes of Steven Spielberg’s biggest films of the 70’s and 80’s collide in Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Harrison Ford’s ageing Indie and young pretender Shia LaBoeuf race Soviet ice Queen Cate Blanchett to the secret resting place of lost extra terrestrials in the heart of the Amazon. There’s even a subtle “ET Phone Home” reference which I found kind of cute. Entertaining and a little sloppy (in a good way), Indy has a middle-aged pace about it, a noticeable change from the current trend towards frenetic, percussive, music video action, allowing plenty of time to develop inventive ways to get Harrison Ford into, and out of, trouble. I wasn’t too upset with LaBoeuf (he certainly isn’t JarJar Binks bad) but you can see he has a way to go before he can muster the sort of effortless charisma his elders offer.

Forbidden Lie$ posterFollowing the murder of her best friend by her own family in an “honour killing” in Jordan, Norma Khouri escapes to Greece and hastily begins writing a passionate book exposing the practice. The book, Forbidden Love, is published in late 2001 to great acclaim and soon achieves best-seller status but some in Jordan (and in Australia where Norma settles) have questions about the book. Further investigation reveals that nothing in the first 32 words of this paragraph is true and that Norma herself has a more interesting past than she is prepared to own up to. As Norma’s story unravels and the investigation follows her from Bridie Island in Queensland to Chicago and ultimately to Amman in Jordan, you find yourself on a very strange road indeed.

4 posterAnother non-fiction film, of a completely different order, is the classical music documentary 4. Attempting to rescue Vivaldi’s Four Seasons from TVC cliché, director Tim Slade uses the four movements as a structure to build a portrait of four players, four places and the four seasons themselves. At least that’s what I think the idea is. The problem with the film is that there’s not enough music for it to be a great music movie, there’s not enough insight into the players for the portrait part to work and, while the visuals are often quite beautiful, the film seems to miss the point that four seasons are influential on the human psyche because we see those seasons change from our own perspective and location. Still, 4 is a pleasant enough hour and a half.

The Last Magic Show posterA new entry in the digi-indie-home-made kiwi battler category (previous entries include Wairarapa’s When Night Falls last year) is Andy Conlan’s The Last Magic Show. Conlan himself (who also wrote the script) plays Ronnie Roman, an delusional illusionist who may or may not have real mystical powers. His agent, scenery-chewing Michael Hurst, has set him up for a big come-back show but in the interim he is reduced to volunteering at the local hospice and, possibly, falling in love with Nurse March (Georgie Hill). Conlan has a bit of the young Johnny Depp about him in the looks department but, ultimately, his blank performance creates frustration rather than mystery. Good-looking, odd, strangely paced, The Last Magic Show is an intriguing art movie. Perhaps next time, Conlan shouldn’t try and do all the big creative jobs himself — a better director might have challenged him to come up with a few more layers.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 28 May, 2008.

I hereby apologise to regular readers for the paucity of updates but a fierce combination of the flu and managing this year’s 48 Hours Furious Filmmaking competition have wiped me out and I’m only just coming up for air. And, I’m well behind on my feature-watching: Mama’s Boy has already been and gone from local screens.

Nature of conflict: Forbidden Lie$ is distributed in New Zealand by Richard Dalton at Palace Films who is a mate and The Last Magic Show and 4 are distributed by Arkles Entertainment who are mates and who I do occasional work for.