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Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Horrible Bosses and Larry Crowne

By Cinema, Reviews

Rise of the Planet of the Apes posterBack in 1968 the world was amazed to see a simian-looking creature dis­play­ing rudi­ment­ary (and yet clearly) human qual­it­ies. But enough about my birth, I’m here to talk about Planet of the Apes, the night­mar­ish vis­ion of a world turned upside down: apes that speak, humans that are mute and enslaved, oran­gutans doing “sci­ence”. And of course, the big shock back then was that “it was Earth all along” – we’d caused this cata­strophe ourselves with our envir­on­ment­al pig-headedness and our nuc­le­ar arrog­ance. The suc­cess of that blis­ter­ingly effect­ive ori­gin­al promp­ted sev­er­al sequels to dimin­ished effect – although the sight (in Beneath the Planet of the Apes) of Charlton Heston push­ing the final atom­ic but­ton to des­troy the plan­et in dis­gust at the whole sorry mess was seared on to my child­hood brain forever.

In 2001 the series got the re-boot treat­ment cour­tesy of Tim Burton, a mis­cast Mark Wahlberg (when is he ever not?) and the final tri­umphant dis­play of latex ape mask tech­no­logy. Now the apes are back and there’s no sign of rub­ber any­where to be found – except in some of the human per­form­ances per­haps. Rise of the Planet of the Apes serves as a pre­quel to the Burton film rather than a total from scratch effort – although there’s no equi­val­ent in the ori­gin­al series – and the film does a ter­rif­ic job of set­ting up a story that many of us already know as well as fondly hon­our­ing many details from the ori­gin­al series.

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Review: There Once Was an Island, Bad Teacher, Cars 2, The Reluctant Infidel and My Afternoons with Margueritte

By Cinema, Reviews

There Once Was an Island posterWhen I first vis­ited this coun­try back in 1982 we flew across the Pacific Ocean in day­light and from my win­dow seat I got a birds eye view of … not very much. Lots of flat blue unin­ter­rup­ted sea, not even so much a rusty tramp steam­er to break the mono­tony. No won­der they usu­ally do this leg in the dark, I thought.

Once I got here I under­stood that there was a lot going on down there on many tiny speckled islands and atolls – and the rich­ness of the Pacific and its rela­tion­ship to New Zealand was just one of the reas­ons why I’m still here all these years later – but now the creep­ing specter of glob­al warm­ing is trans­form­ing the Pacific into the pristine envir­on­ment I thought I saw all those years ago – unsul­lied by cor­al, sand, taro or people.

This pro­cess is already well under way as Briar March’s astound­ing doc­u­ment­ary There Once was an Island illus­trates. In 2006 Ms. March and a tiny crew spent sev­er­al months on Takuu, a remote atoll over­seen by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), ser­viced and sup­por­ted by a rare and irreg­u­lar ship­ping ser­vice and short wave radio. Even then the waves were lap­ping at the edge of peoples’ homes and the ABG offer of a haven among the main­land sug­ar plant­a­tions effect­ively meant ask­ing 4000 people to say good­bye to their entire way of life.

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Review: 127 Hours, Gnomeo & Juliet, No Strings Attached and Fair Game

By Cinema, Reviews

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire was my film of the year for 2009 – a potent and punchy roller-coaster ride of a film that made everything for months after­wards seem quaintly old-fashioned. His new film, 127 Hours, doesn’t break the mould to quite the same degree but does fea­ture sim­il­ar styl­ist­ic effects: mess­ing with time and struc­ture, split-screens, dom­in­eer­ing soundtrack, etc.

The new film is also an adapt­a­tion of pre­vi­ously exist­ing mater­i­al, Aron Ralston’s mem­oir “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, and once again Boyle has col­lab­or­ated with screen­writer Simon Beaufoy (notori­ous in New Zealand for The Full Monty). Ralston (played by James Franco) was an engin­eer by trade but an out­doors­man by inclin­a­tion and he loved to roam the Utah canyons on bike and on foot. In 2003 he fall into a nar­row rav­ine and his right arm was trapped by a boulder. He was there for five days before real­ising that the only way he was going to walk out was if he left the arm behind.

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Review: Toy Story 3, The Twilight Saga- Eclipse, Marmaduke & Me and Orson Welles

By Cinema, Reviews

For those read­ers tuned into these things, clear evid­ence emerged this week of the ‘end of days’ and our impend­ing anni­hil­a­tion – cul­tur­ally at least.

Simply put, Twilight: Eclipse is play­ing around three times as many ses­sions in Wellington cinemas this school hol­i­days as Toy Story 3, des­pite the lat­ter being demon­strably super­i­or fare in every con­ceiv­able way. It was pretty depress­ing to check the papers last week to see that TS3 was only get­ting one Embassy ses­sion (in the mat­inée ghetto) as opposed to Eclipse’s four. It’s enough to make one wish for a friendly wall to bang one’s head upon.

Toy Story 3 posterIs Toy Story 3 that good? Yes, it is. In fact, I would ven­ture the slightly dan­ger­ous opin­ion that if there’s a film in the Film Festival this year as good as Toy Story 3 then I will be very, very surprised.

The last couple of Pixar films reviewed in these pages have been gently chided for fall­ing away in the third act – fail­ing to main­tain their geni­us right through to the end. No such prob­lems occur with TS3. It stays on course, con­tinu­ing to illu­min­ate char­ac­ter and action with deft, sur­pris­ing and eer­ily appro­pri­ate plot turns.

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Review: Shutter Island, Bright Star, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Masquerades, Toy Story 3D and Crazy Heart

By Cinema, Reviews, Screenwriting

There’s some­thing very odd about the open­ing scenes in Shutter Island and it takes the entire film for you to put your fin­ger on it. Shots don’t match between cuts, there’s a stil­ted qual­ity to the dia­logue (too much expos­i­tion for a Martin Scorsese movie) and the pacing is off. For a while I found myself won­der­ing wheth­er Marty had lost the immense influ­ence of his great edit­or Thelma Schoonmaker, but there she is, still in the cred­its, as she has been for Scorsese since Raging Bull.

Several years ago, Scorsese played a prac­tic­al joke on me (per­son­ally, it felt like at the time) when an entire reel of The Aviator was treated to look like faded 1930s Technicolor – I went to the Embassy counter to com­plain and felt very sheep­ish to be told by Oscar, the pro­jec­tion­ist, that the dir­ect­or meant it that way. So, this time around I decided to trust the maes­tro and roll with the strange­ness and was rewar­ded with one of the best (and cleverest) psy­cho­lo­gic­al thrillers in many a year.

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