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vera farmiga 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: 2012, The Vintner’s Luck, Away We Go and [REC]2

By Cinema and Reviews

After nearly three and a half years of producing this cinemagoers’ consumer guide, perhaps its time for a statement of intent. A manifesto, if you will. Something to place these musings in perspective as you skim through them over Morning Tea.

I try and find something good and interesting in everything I see, and I see pretty much everything. Most films have an audience of some description waiting for them somewhere, and that audience may be you, so I try and outline what might appeal (along with what might not) so that you can make an informed choice.

Plus, I have some sympathy for the little battler and will often try and draw your attention in that direction (Don’t forget Two Lovers, folks) and I try and watch films not meant for me (kids flicks, etc) with half an eye on how the rest of the audience is reacting.

It is extremely rare, as regular readers will know, for me to warn you off a film entirely, or indeed (in the case of our first film this week) suggest that its creators should be harshly punished for its perpetration. The films that are really sand under my foreskin are those that only exist to pad a resumé and a bank balance, cynical attempts to separate us from our money, marketing campaigns crudely disguised as art.

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Review: Joshua, The Page Turner and Habana Blues

By Cinema and Reviews

Joshua posterSeveral times during the creepy psychological, paediatrical, thriller Joshua, stressed parents Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga are told to “just get a nanny”. If only they had, they may have got Scarlett Johansson and Joshua would have become a romantic comedy with a bit of soft social commentary. Instead, they plough on parenting proudly, heedless of the damage being done by troubled elder-son Joshua (Jacob Kogan), until it is too late.

Rockwell and Farmiga are a wealthy Manhattan couple. He investment banks for bully Chester Fields (Michael McKean from Spinal Tap) while she unravels at home. When new baby Lily arrives 9 year old Joshua, a strangely self-possessed preppy child with that inability to blink that in Hollywood usually signals significant psychological disorder or demonic possession, starts systematically destroying the family — including pets and grandmothers — in order to preserve it.

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Review: The Lives of Others and three more...

By Cinema and Reviews

"The Lives of Others" posterIn the amusingly mis-named German Democratic Republic, during the last years before the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was re-unified, the people were monitored for idealogical and political purity by the Stasi, or Secret Police. Astonishingly, there were 90,000 officers in the Stasi and hundreds of thousands more were paid informants, keeping themselves out of jail or settling old scores. A deeply paranoid political elite learnt its philosophies and its practice from the Nazis they had overthrown and an ill-timed joke could see the end of a career or the start of a spell in solitary confinement.

The awfulness and absurdity of the situation is brilliantly painted in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s thriller The Lives of Others, the best Foreign Film Oscar-winner in years. Set in the late 1980’s, as even the most loyal of state servants and patriots are losing their faith, state-sanctioned playwright Dreyman, played by Sebastian Koch, is shaken by the suicide of his black-listed director, Jerska. He writes an article on suicide statistics in the GDR to be smuggled out to the West, not realising that his flat is being monitored 24/7 by the Stasi. Luckily, his main voyeur (Wiesler, a lovely performance by Ulrich Mühe) is having complex second thoughts of his own.

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