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Review: Summer Holiday Roundup (2012/13)

By Cinema and Reviews

As I sit here typing, I can hear the sounds of a Wellington summer all around me — the rain pouring on to the deck outside and the wind howling through the trees. Is this why local film distributors release so much product over the Christmas/New Year period? Perhaps it’s just climate and nothing to do with the Oscars at all? Anyhow, here’s a quick summary of what’s been dished out at local cinemas in descending order of greatness.

First up, Ang Lee’s glowing 3D adaptation of Yann Martell’s Life of Pi, storming the local box offices and deservedly so. Ravishing to look at — and making profound rather than novelty use of the extra depth available — Lee’s film manages to distil the essence of the book’s message even if the ambiguous ending proves less satisfying cinematically than literarily. Dreamy. I was particularly taken by the conscious recreation of the book’s original cover in one scene, even to the extent of changing the film’s aspect ratio for that single shot.

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Review: Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Desert Flower, Unstoppable, Burlesque, Little Fockers, Green Hornet and The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell

By Cinema and Reviews

Following up on the 2009 surprise hit The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky has offered us another film about people who destroy themselves for our entertainment — this time in the rarefied world of ballet. Tiny Natalie Portman is plucked from the chorus of the fictional but prestigious New York City Ballet for the dream role of the Swan in a hot new production. It’s the chance of a lifetime but her fragile psychology shows through in her performance even though her dancing is technically perfect. Maestro Vincent Cassel tries to reconstruct her — as you would a first year drama school student — while domineering stage mother Barbara Hershey is pushing back in the other direction. Something has to break and it does.

Black Swan is exceptionally well made, beautiful and challenging to watch — and Portman’s performance is nothing short of amazing — but films that aspire to greatness need to be about something more than, you know, what they’re about and once I’d decoded was going on I couldn’t see enough under the surface to justify the hype.

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Review: The Damned United, The Final Destination, Red Cliff and A Pain in the Ass

By Cinema and Reviews

Four films are on the agenda this week and only time will tell this early in the season whether they are going to be genuine title contenders, gritty battlers hoping for a shot at mid-table obscurity or no-hopers doomed to a season of heartache and inevitable relegation. Please excuse the laboured football metaphors but the best of this week’s releases is set in the world of 1970s English football (all fags, booze and Deep Heat) and I let the mud get under my fingernails a bit.

The Damned United posterBased on the 2006 surprise hit novel by David Peace, The Damned United is about the bizarre 44 days in 1974 when mercurial British football manager Brian Clough tried to manage Leeds United. Opinion is divided about whether the possibly mentally unbalanced Clough was actually trying to destroy a team he hated from the inside or whether he had genuinely let his ambition (and competitive streak) get the better of his judgement and the book successfully manages to get deep inside the head of a man who is unravelling under the pressure but the film isn’t as ambitious.

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