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zac efron

Review: A Good Day to Die Hard, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, This is 40 and Safe Haven

By Cinema and Reviews

A Good Day to Die Hard posterThe first thing you need to understand about A Good Day to Die Hard is that it isn’t really a Die Hard movie. In the same way that instant coffee and espresso coffee share a name but are in fact entirely different beverages, you’d be wise to go to a Good Day screening with modest expectations — expectations that would already have been lowered if you’d seen 2007’s dismal Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free and Die Hard).

Bruce Willis plays Detective John McClane for the fifth time since 1988 but this time there’s no smirk, no glint in his eye and none of the recognisable human frailties that made the original character so appealing. Instead, he’s just what everybody always said he was — an asshole. When his son is arrested by Moscow authorities for what looks like a mob hit, McClane heads to Eastern Europe to try and save a boy he hardly knows. As usual, McClane becomes “the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench” and he immediately lands in the middle of a CIA operation to extract a rebel oligarch hiding information that could bring down the government, his untimely intervention destroying most of Moscow’s traffic in the process.

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Telluride Diary part six: The show (part three)

By Cinema and Travel

Firstly, I should add a vital — totally Telluride — detail to yesterday’s post. By choosing to watch Rust & Bone and the Marion Cotillard Tribute I missed the first indoor screening of Hyde Park on Hudson and therefore a rare live appearance by Bill Murray at the Q&A. Regret is an emotion reserved for those who only look backwards but — damn!

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Legend Leonard Maltin waiting to gain entry to At Any Cost.

Back to the show. Sunday was always likely to be a very full day and — with my new found confidence in the “system” I was determined to take full advantage. I once begged the New Zealand Film Festival to let me watch a screener of Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart, even though they had chosen not to programme it because I loved the idea so much and because Roger Ebert has been championing the talented young director for years. In fact, they have only screened one of his three films to date: Goodbye Solo in 2009.

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Review: Attack the Block, The Women on the 6th Floor, The Lorax, Mirror Mirror and Wrath of the Titans

By Cinema and Reviews

Attack the Block posterIt has taken ten months for Joe Cornish’s brilliant Attack the Block to make its way to New Zealand and one of the first questions will be, is there still an audience left for it considering the most rabid fans will have found — licit and illicit — ways to watch it months ago. I certainly hope there is because Cornish has produced a highly original take on a classic genre — a low-budget alien invasion movie that is thrilling, funny and socially aware.

It’s Guy Fawke’s Night and the attempted mugging of off-duty nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is interrupted by a the explosive arrival of a strange creature. The leader of the young hoodlums, Moses (a star-making performance by John Boyega), manages to kill the beast and they take the carcass as a trophy, not realising that there are others following — and that they will want revenge.

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Review: Sondheim’s Company, She Stoops to Conquer, A Dangerous Method, The Most Fun You Can have Dying and The Lucky One

By Cinema and Reviews

Sondheim's Company posterThe most pleasure I have had in a cinema so far this year wasn’t at a film. In 2011, the New York Philharmonic produced a brief concert revival of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece about emotional opportunity cost, Company. For three performances only, they assembled a star-studded cast of well-known television faces including Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, alongside Broadway veterans like Patti LuPone, and the show was filmed in high-definition for distribution to cinemas around the world. Several Wellington picture houses are playing this sort of alternative content these days — the Metropolitan Opera etc — so, eventually, this stunning production was likely to arrive here and, golly, I am so glad it did.

In Company, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) plays Robert — a 35 year old confirmed New York bachelor surrounded by married and soon-to-be-married friends. Throughout the show they give him some good, bad and indifferent advice about the importance of relationships versus freedom and independence versus — well — company. This is a concert production so the orchestra is on the stage rather than tucked away in a pit, and director Lonny Price does marvels with the shallow area that remains. Transitions are inventive and smooth and the characters somehow manage to relate to each other despite being — as Sondheim would have it — side by side.

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

By Cinema and 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: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Last Airbender, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Cats & Dogs- The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Charlie St. Cloud

By Cinema and Reviews

Ah, the school holidays. The time when the big cinemas are more excited about the arrival of their jumbo popcorn containers than any of the films they are showing. Your correspondent spent the weekend surrounded by chomping, rustling and slurping fellow citizens so he could bring you this report from the frontline. It was brutal.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid posterDiary of a Wimpy Kid purports to be about middle school and how to survive it but in fact it’s a rather charmless morality tale about being yourself. Little Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) thinks that to be popular he has to be cool but everything he tries turns to disaster while his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) effortlessly transcends his own dorkiness to win over the school. Enough kids have already got a kick out of Diary’s astute mix of life-lessons and gross-out humour that a sequel has already been announced.

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