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toni collette

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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