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toni collette Archives - Funerals & Snakes

Only God Forgives poster

Review: Pain & Gain, Only God Forgives, The Wolverine, The Way Way Back, The Conjuring & Byzantium

By Cinema and Reviews

Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives (2013).

Still Mine posterStill hovering around some local cinemas — and the longest-delayed of all my outstanding reviews — Still Mine is a surprisingly effective Canadian drama about an elderly man (James Cromwell, 73 but playing a fit 89) determined to build a new house for his wife (Geneviéve Bujold) before her memory deserts her completely. Cromwell gives his character a softness which belies the usual ornery old dude clichés, even if his stubborn refusal to submit to the building code is the device on which the story hinges. Contains lots of shots of Cromwell’s heroic profile staring off into the New Brunswick distance.

Ping Pong posterOlder people are, paradoxically, the only growing segment of the film audience in New Zealand so there’s often high quality fare around the tempt them. One of the best is the documentary Ping Pong, about competitors (genuine competitors at that) in the World Over 80s Table Tennis Championship in Inner Mongolia. Like any good documentary it assembles a great cast of characters and like all good sports movies it makes full use of the built-in drama of a knock-out tournament. Not just about the restorative power of exercise, it’s also about friendship and adventure. Inspiring, so help me.

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Review: Argo, The Intouchables, Fresh Meat, It’s a Girl, Shadow Dancer and Mental

By Cinema and Reviews

Argo poster Near the end of 1979, the new hardline rulers of Iran — incensed by the US government’s support for the previous despot — stormed the embassy in Teheran and held the occupants hostage for over a year, long enough to wreck President Jimmy Carter’s attempt at re-election and to define American relations with the Persian Gulf for another thirty years. That side of the story is relatively well-known. The secret story of the six embassy staff who escaped, hid in the Canadian ambassador’s house, and were then spirited out of the country disguised as a Hollywood film crew? Not so much.

Thanks to the recent declassification of the CIA and State Department files, the weird and wonderful story of Argo can be told, and — this being a Hollywood story about a Hollywood story — it gets a bit of a punch-up to make sure none of the entertainment potential is wasted. So now, Argo is “inspired by a true story” rather than “based on a true story” and it is also the smartest and most entertaining Hollywood picture for grown-ups this year.

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Review: The Invention of Lying, Jennifer’s Body, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Looking for Eric, Summer Hours, Valentino- The Last Emperor and Mary & Max

By Cinema, paramount and Reviews

This past week may have been the most consistently satisfying week of cinema-going since I started this journey with you back in 2006: seven very different films, all with something to offer. And no turkeys this week, so I’ll have to put the acid away until next week.

The Invention of Lying posterIn completely arbitrary order (of viewing in fact), let’s take a look at them. In The Invention of Lying British comic Ricky Gervais directs his first big screen film (working without the creative support of usual partner Stephen Merchant) and it turns out to be a little bit more ambitious than most Hollywood rom-coms. In a world where no one has any conception of “untruth”, where the entire population makes each other miserable by saying exactly how they feel all the time and where there is no storytelling or fiction to give people an escape, Gervais’ character discovers he has the ability to say things that aren’t true and is treated as a Messiah-figure as a result. Everything he says, no matter how outlandish, is believed but he still can’t win the love of the beautiful Jennifer Garner.

Gervais is solidly funny throughout, and demonstrates even more of the depth as an actor that he hinted at in Ghost Town last year, but the direction is uneven – perhaps because both Gervais and co-writer-director Matthew Robinson are first-timers.

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

By Cinema and 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: Venus, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Evening, Inland Empire and The Game Plan

By Cinema and Reviews

Venus posterThere’s something creepy yet disarmingly human about Peter O’Toole’s ageing lothario in Venus; a once beautiful actor still working sporadically, his cadaverous features best-suited to the literal portrayal of corpses, clinging to the promise of beauty and pleasure despite the ultimate futility of the chase.

Newcomer Jodie Whittaker (in a star-making performance) becomes the object of his affection, tutelage and reverence when she arrives in London to nurse his best friend (Leslie Phillips). While Phillips is appalled at the girl’s inability to cook anything other than pot noodle while drinking his best scotch, Maurice is intoxicated by her spirit and beauty and decides to take her under his wing.

While O’Toole’s performance has won all the plaudits (and the Oscar nomination), it is the portrait of reckless, innocent and impetuous youth that has stayed with me — the best portrayal of what it means to be young I have seen in a long time. Whittaker’s Jessie has all the confidence and bravado one gets launching in to the world with the training wheels off but not enough self-knowledge to protect her from the dangers within it.

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