Dan and Kailey are joined by president of the Wellington Film Society Chris Hormann to talk about this year’s programme (mostly shared with the rest of the country), the importance of film societies in a world where theatrical presentation is becoming rare for arthouse films. The trio also discuss current releases The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Jupiter Ascending, Focus and others.
It’s a question that has been burning away inside all of us for nearly 75 years – how did the Wizard (who wasn’t really a wizard at all but a carnival showman with a knack for gadgets) get to Oz in the first place? You neither, huh? Ah well, this least essential question has now been answered by Spider-Man (and Evil Dead) director Sam Raimi and his team of pixel-wielding minions. As a prequel to the beloved 1939 film starring Judy Garland and a dog called Toto, Oz the Great and Powerful is not without risk. Other attempts to recreate L. Frank Baum’s magical world have been either commercial or artistic failures – The Wiz, for example, or Return to Oz.
Casting the human smirk, James Franco, as the carnival magician transported to the land of the yellow brick road by a hot air balloon (via tornado) is also a risk but it eventually pays off, even though Franco’s boyish features are starting to look a bit ragged. Escaping various romantic and financial pressures back home in black and white Kansas, Franco’s Oz finds himself blown off course to a technicolor(ish) fantastical land where a prophecy suggests he will protect the peace-loving citizens from wicked witches but also gain control of the palace fortune. Guess which one appeals more.
Every week on Cinematica – the movie podcast I co-host with Simon Werry and Kailey Carruthers – we sign-off each film with a two-word review. It’s a gag, of course, but no more reductive than “two thumbs up” or “two stars”, and it’s become a bit of a meme with listeners supplying their own – often extremely good – contributions.
And seeing as I missed a column through illness last week, I have a feeling that my two-word reviews might come in handy helping us to catch up. So, for the found-footage High School party-gone-wrong movie Project X for example, my two-word review is “Toxic Waste”. The third sequel in the vampires vs lycans stylised action franchise, Underworld: Awakening gets “Strobe Headache”. And for the notoriously low budget found-footage posession-horror The Devil Inside you’ll have to make do with “Didn’t Watch”.
Which brings us to the good stuff (and there’s plenty of it about at the moment). Brother Number One is a superb and affecting NZ doco about trans-atlantic rower Rob Hamill’s attempts to find out the truth about his brother Kerry’s disappearance at the hands of the Khmer Rouge régime in Cambodia. This is a film to remind you that the great tides of history aren’t tides at all and if you look closely enough you see millions of individual stories – of heartbreak, tragedy and redemption.
Regular and attentive readers to this column will know that I heartily endorse membership of the Film Society as the best value cinema-going in town. For example, a few weeks ago this year members (and prospective members) were treated to a sneak preview of a lovely little film not yet released to the general public.
Get Low is the kind of film that gets made all too rarely these days: a thoughtful, detailed, slow paced meditation on character and personal history. It’s a drama, but with plenty of amusing moments, and it’s a showcase for two great screen actors – two actors who spend far to much of their time these days repeating old performances but here they prove that they’ve still got it when it counts.
Screen legend Robert Duvall (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) plays Felix Bush, a lonely hermit living in Tennessee in the 1930s. Unkempt and irascible, the locals steer well clear because of his dangerous reputation and that’s just the way he seems to like it. But something is eating away at him and he decides to throw a party – a funeral party for himself so that people can tell their stories about him to his face and, maybe, he can tell one or two of his own. He enlists the help of local undertaker Bill Murray and, with the help of his assistant (Lucas Black), the old man gets a chance to set some records straight.
All over the world it is volunteer organisations like the Wellington Film Society that keep the flame of film art alive so that cinephiliacs like me can get a decent palate cleanser every Monday night after a weekend of Hollywood tosh.
I can’t recommend Society membership highly enough. Your membership fee equates to around three bucks a screening (33 Mondays!) and your membership gets you enough discounts (at the Film Festival and participating cinemas) that it doesn’t take long to pay for itself.