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Review: For Your Consideration, The Good Shepherd, The Cave of the Yellow Dog, The Fountain and Music & Lyrics

By Cinema and Reviews

For Your Consideration posterThere was a time when a new improv com­edy from Christopher Guest and his reg­u­lar cast of inspired com­ics would be eagerly awaited but as time goes by the returns are prov­ing mea­ger. For Your Consideration could have been the cream of the crop – after all Hollywood, the sub­ject mat­ter, is closest to the cre­at­ors real lives and the tar­gets are big and soft. Maybe that’s the problem.

Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer and Parker Posey play act­ors shoot­ing the per­fectly awful Home For Purim when an inter­net gos­sip starts a rumour that their work might be Oscar mater­i­al. The sad thing is that that Catherine O’Hara’s per­form­ance as tra­gic Marilyn Hack might actu­ally have been worthy of Oscar con­sid­er­a­tion if it had been in a bet­ter film.

The Good Shepherd posterMatt Damon and Angelina Jolie star in The Good Shepherd, a worthy American coun­ter­point to the clas­sic Le Carré spy stor­ies of the 70’s and 80’s – “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, etc. – where the spies of both sides have more in com­mon with each oth­er than they do with their friends or their fam­il­ies. Despite the form­a­tion of the CIA as back­ground, and a couple of telling illus­tra­tions of their revolution-toppling, despot-installing meth­ods, it isn’t a par­tic­u­larly polit­ic­al film, but a por­trait of a dam­aged but bril­liant young man turn­ing into an even more dam­aged middle-aged one.

An excel­lent cast not­ably Joe Pesci, Michael Gambon and William Hurt are well-served by Robert De Niro’s exper­i­enced, actor-friendly dir­ec­tion. He really does know what he’s doing behind the cam­era as well as in front.

The Cave of the Yellow Dog posterI can recom­mend The Cave of the Yellow Dog as a rest­ful and benign coun­ter­point to the angry, noisy, non­sense depic­ted in so many films these days. In Mongolia, the six ‑year-old daugh­ter of a her­der finds a stray dog and wants to keep it but fath­er wor­ries that it will bring bring wolves. It’s a clas­sic story told in a relaxed doc­u­ment­ary style; it prob­ably should have been called “Lhassi”.

The Fountain posterScience-fiction; fantasy; romance; oil paint­ing: The Fountain is like no film I’ve ever seen before and seems to have been made for those people who thought that the “Star Child” sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey was the best bit. I am not one of those people. Hugh Jackman plays Dr Tom Creo whose wife Izzy (Rachel Weisz) is dying of a brain tumour. Tom will do any­thing to keep her alive includ­ing exper­i­ment­al treat­ments from the bark of a mys­ter­i­ous South American tree. The Fountain is a film to watch more than listen to – quite beau­ti­ful and quite barmy.

Music and Lyrics posterThe con­tin­ued exist­ence of the motion pic­ture eco­nomy is depend­ent on the appear­ance of a Hugh Grant romantic com­edy once a year wheth­er he feels like it or not, and in Music and Lyrics he seems to be enjoy­ing him­self a little more than usu­al. Perhaps the slop­pi­ness of Marc Lawrence’s dir­ec­tion meant that he was­n’t required to exert him­self bey­ond a couple of takes. He plays Alex Fletcher, has-been star of 80s band Pop! who gets the chance to renew his lease on fame by writ­ing a song for new sen­sa­tion Cora. The only prob­lem is he does­n’t write lyr­ics. Luckily, his plant water­er (Drew Barrymore) wrote tur­gid poetry at col­lege and the rest is thor­oughly pre­dict­able. Not a com­plete waste of time, the faux-80s music is right on the money.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on 21 February, 2007.