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Beyond the Edge poster

Review: Beyond the Edge, Thor- The Dark World, Inch’Allah, Valley of Saints, Thanks for Sharing and The Counselor

By Cinema, Reviews

Tim Robbins and Mark Ruffalo in Thanks for Sharing (2013)

It’s one of those rare sunny Saturday after­noons in Wellington and I have work to do. But I’m not going to do that work because it does­n’t look like much fun and – for once – writ­ing tiny film reviews seems like the bet­ter option.

Beyond the Edge posterLeanne Pooley made New Zealand’s most suc­cess­ful doc­u­ment­ary ever in 2009 – The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls – and now turns her eye towards a mountain-sized Kiwi icon, Sir Ed Hillary and his ascent of Everest in 1953. Beyond the Edge is a limp title for the greatest adven­ture ever under­taken by a New Zealander and the film some­times seems a bit blood­less too. The 3D recre­ations of Himalayan scenes – filling in the gaps in the archive of avail­able still and mov­ing pic­ture ele­ments – are thrill­ing though, espe­cially if heights get your heart racing faster as they do I.

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Review: Beowulf, The Heartbreak Kid, The Dead Girl, The Secret Life of Words, Bella and Nina’s Journey

By Cinema, Reviews

The Heartbreak Kid posterLet’s get the unpleas­ant­ness out of the way first: watch­ing The Farrelly Brothers’ ugly remake of Neil Simon’s The Heartbreak Kid was a tri­al bey­ond all human endur­ance. After about 20 minutes I was beg­ging for release (which came shortly after­wards as bliss­ful uncon­scious­ness over­took me). Sadly, no stu­dio exec­ut­ive will ever get fired for green-lighting a racy Ben Stiller romantic com­edy so no mat­ter how bad this one is it won’t be the last one we are forced to endure.

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Review: Because I Said So, License To Wed and Catch a Fire

By Cinema, Reviews

It’s been a tough old week to be a cinephile. Firstly, poet of the dark interi­or of human exist­ence Ingmar Bergman finally gives up the ghost, then I get to watch a dis­mal romantic com­edy star­ring Mandy Moore. Next, Michelangelo Antonioni, cine­mat­ic archi­tect of the spaces between people, him­self passes over and I get to watch anoth­er dis­mal romantic com­edy star­ring Mandy Moore. If it had­n’t been for The Last Picture Show at the Festival it might have been a depress­ing week indeed.

Because I Said So posterThe Mandy Moore rom-com double-feature fea­tures Because I Said So and License To Wed, both dir­ec­ted by TV hacks who, when fur­nished with decent scripts, can turn out cred­it­able work (Michael Lehmann made Heathers and The Truth About Cats and Dogs) but that isn’t the case here.

In Because I Said So Mandy Moore plays a cater­er and the young­est daugh­ter of pushy single mom Diane Keaton. She’s the only daugh­ter not yet mar­ried and, of course, the whole fam­ily frets about her find­ing the right man before it’s too late (though she’s only about 22). Secretly Keaton places an ad at an Internet dat­ing site hop­ing to screen can­did­ates on Moore’s behalf; mean­while Moore actu­ally falls for a musi­cian with a tat­too and com­edy mis­un­der­stand­ings obvi­ously ensue.

I found it impossible to dredge up any enthu­si­asm for this film but the hand­ful of middle-aged women I shared the screen­ing with laughed like drains so you might want to take their opin­ion over mine if you are so inclined.

License To Wed posterIn License To Wed Moore plays a flor­ist who has just got engaged to John Krasinsky (Tim from the American ver­sion of The Office). The church wed­ding she has always dreamed of comes with strings attached – a com­puls­ory mar­riage pre­par­a­tion course taken by Reverend Frank played by Robin Williams. There are two kinds of Robin Williams film nowadays: the ser­i­ous kind and the crap kind and this is the lat­ter. Krasinsky is quite watch­able though and I sus­pect we’ll be see­ing a lot more of him over the next wee while – he’s like a young Tom Hanks with a pair of com­edy ears on.

Catch a Fire posterReturning from the World Cinema Showcase earli­er this year is the splen­did Apartheid-era polit­ic­al thrill­er Catch a Fire star­ring Tim Robbins and (one of my favour­ite act­ors) Derek Luke from Antwone Fisher. The film is set in the North Eastern Coal Fields of South Africa in 1980 where all com­munit­ies live in the shad­ow of the huge Secunda Oil Refinery. Luke plays apolit­ic­al refinery work­er Patrick Chamusso who becomes politi­cised after being accused and tor­tured over a ter­ror­ist attack at the refinery.

He travels to Mozambique to join the ANC and plot the destruc­tion of the refinery, and the over­throw of the hated apartheid sys­tem. What he does­n’t real­ise is that the mor­al cor­rup­tion of apartheid reflects itself in real world cor­rup­tion every­where and that his move­ments have been watched by police­man Nic Vos (Robbins).

Catch a Fire is a test­a­ment to the many sac­ri­fices of those years dis­guised as a fast-moving thrill­er and it works on both levels. Written by Shawn Slovo, her­self the daugh­ter of white ANC free­dom fight­ers, the film also takes a sens­it­ive approach (in the spir­it of Truth and Reconciliation) to the white side of the story, show­ing the spir­itu­al dam­age done to them by apartheid. You won’t find many more sat­is­fy­ing (or more beau­ti­fully pho­to­graphed) films this year.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 8 August, 2007.