New DVDs for May: Hugo, Murakami, Tintin, Zoos and falling planets
Some new DVDs to hit the shelves here at Wellington City Libraries this month include the new Martin Scorsese family movie ‘Hugo’; Steven Spielberg’s and Peter Jackson’s full-length film version of the Tintin comics; an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s bestselling novel ‘Norwegian Wood’; the Margaret Thatcher biopic ‘The Iron Lady’; and the latest slice of Lars von Trier weirdness…
“Director James Marsh’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Man on Wire is an equally engrossing look at the fault lines and danger zones between man and beast. Using a combination of archival footage, current interviews, and… re-creations, Marsh tells the sad tale of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee raised as a human child under a Columbia University sign language study led by Professor Herbert S. Terrace. Beginning with his birth in 1973, Nim was shuttled between a variety of tragicomedic environments (including a free-form hippie household, an idyllic mansion in the countryside, and a terrifyingly mundane lab) while growing increasingly powerful and difficult to control. Eschewing the Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock on-camera method, the director here hangs back from the spotlight, preferring to give his interviewees enough room to damn or praise themselves, a decision that works wonders…While the transitions between reality and re-created footage do feel a bit clunky…,Project Nim is a spellbinding, occasionally outraging documentary that should leave viewers pondering their place in the animal kingdom, as well as the wisdom of tampering in God’s domain. The zoo will never seem the same.” – (adapted from Amazon.com review)
In resourceful orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield, an Oliver Twist-like charmer), Martin Scorsese finds the perfect vessel for his silver-screen passion: this is a movie about movies (fittingly, the 3-D effects are spectacular). After his clockmaker father (Jude Law) perishes in a museum fire, Hugo goes to live with his Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), a drunkard who maintains the clocks at a Paris train station. When Claude disappears, Hugo carries on his work and fends for himself by stealing food from area merchants. In his free time, he attempts to repair an automaton his father rescued from the museum, while trying to evade the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), a World War I veteran with no sympathy for lawbreakers. When Georges (Ben Kingsley), a toymaker, catches Hugo stealing parts for his mechanical man, he recruits him as an assistant to repay his debt. If Georges is guarded, his open-hearted ward, Isabelle (Chloë Moretz), introduces Hugo to a kindly bookseller (Christopher Lee), who directs them to a motion-picture museum… helping unlock the secret of the automaton…” – (adapted from Amazon.com description)
“Published in 1987 and since translated into 33 languages, Norwegian Wood is a story of loss and heartbreak in a time of global instability. Haruki Murakami’s bestselling novel is brought to the screen by Tran Anh Hung (Golden Lion winner for Cyclo and Academy Award nominee for The Scent of Green Papaya) and features Japanese rising star Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note, Detroit Metal City) and Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) alongside newcomer Kiko Mizuhara. Tokyo, the late 1960s… Students around the world are uniting to overthrow the establishment and Toru Watanabe’s personal life is similarly in tumult. At heart, he is deeply devoted to his first love, Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman. But their complex bond has been forged by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Watanabe lives with the influence of death everywhere. That is, until Midori, a girl who is everything that Naoko is not – outgoing, vivacious, supremely self-confident – marches into his life and Watanabe must choose between his past and his future.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)
“The center of Tower Heist is a gleaming Ferrari once owned by Steve McQueen, and that’s what the movie is: a sleek machine, tooled for speed. Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) manages a super-high-tech high-rise in the middle of Manhattan, catering to every need of the tower’s residents, including financier Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). When Shaw gets arrested by the FBI, Kovacs realizes that his staff’s pensions, which he asked Shaw to invest, are lost, and when it looks like Shaw is going to get away with it, Kovacs pulls together a mismatched team (included Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, and Eddie Murphy) to steal the secret stash of cash that the FBI suspects Shaw must have. Tower Heist successfully tweaks all the character clichés just enough so that they are a smooth blend of the familiar and the unexpected. The plot zips along with purring efficiency, alternating predictable turns with surprising ones just enough to keep the pattern-seeking parts of the viewer’s brain hooked…Afterward, the movie’s plot holes and defiance of the laws of physics may irritate, but while it’s unfolding, Tower Heist is a smooth ride.” – (adapted from Amazon.com review)
The adventures of Tintin.
“The Adventures of Tintin follows the exciting exploits of a young reporter, his dog, a sea captain with a drinking problem, and a couple of bumbling Interpol detectives as they travel from Europe to the Sahara and Morocco in pursuit of a pickpocket, model-ship collectors, and long-lost treasure. Steven Spielberg’s and Peter Jackson’s long-awaited full-length film, based on the original “Tintin” comics by Hergé, combines the stories “The Secret of the Unicorn,” “Red Rackham’s Treasure,” and “The Crab with the Golden Claws” into a generally fast-paced adventure that feels just a tad too long. The individual stories and the characters Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock, and Thompson and Thomson are all quite faithfully represented…Snowy is delightfully funny to watch, though he is a bit fluffier than in the original comics, and the real animation standouts are the secondary characters like Thompson and Thomson and Captain Haddock, who somehow seem absolutely perfect. Devoted fans will revel in the abundance of small details that reference the comics and suggest a true love for “Tintin” on the filmmakers’ parts, but even viewers who don’t know a thing about the comics will thoroughly enjoy this exciting adventure.” – (adapted from Amazon.com description)
The iron lady.
“Phyllida Lloyd, who directed Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!, takes a less exuberant tack in this unexpectedly poignant biopic. In the script, written by Shame’s Abi Morgan, Lloyd depicts the elderly Dame Thatcher (Streep in a thoroughly convincing performance) as a frail figure replaying key moments in her life while her mind still continues to function… While closing mines, dodging IRA hits, and overseeing a war, the blue-clad titan built alliances with Airey Neave (Nicholas Farrell) and Geoffrey Howe (Anthony Head), but she would lose them both. If her will was strong, she had no time for feminine niceties like conciliation and forgiveness. The film goes on to suggest that she never cultivated the kinds of female friendships that might have sustained her in retirement, though her daughter (Tyrannosaur’s Olivia Colman) did what she could. Instead, Denis remained her closest confidante until his departure, after which she had nothing but fading memories. The upshot is an uneasy combination of admiration for her leadership qualities and disappointment in her interpersonal skills.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)
“Wolverhampton, 1967: nine year old Nigel Slater loves his mother though she is a hopeless cook, her finest offering being toast whilst he has great culinary aspirations. When she dies of asthma Nigel is left with a distant father but worse is to come when the ‘common’ Mrs. Joan Potter arrives as the Slaters’ cleaner. Nigel fears, rightly, that her aim is to be the next Mrs. Slater and soon he has a new stepmother and is whisked away to the country. Joan is, however, a superb cook but this only makes for rivalry as Nigel, the only boy in his cookery class at secondary school, competes with her to find the way to his father’s heart. A weekend job in a pub kitchen introduces Nigel to an older boy,another great cook and gay like himself, who gives him the confidence and inspiration to leave home after his father’s death and head for the hotel kitchens of London…” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk description).
“The sheer physical beauty of the horse and the magnificent landscape of rural Devon, England, makes the first section of War Horse a feast for the eyes, as stalwart young lad Albert (Jeremy Irvine, in his film debut) struggles to channel the high-strung energy of newly bought horse Joey into plowing a rocky field. A destructive rainstorm forces Albert’s father (Peter Mullan, Boy A) to sell Joey to an army captain (Tom Hiddleston, Thor) who takes the horse into the battlefields of World War I. From there, turns of fortune lead Joey into the hands of a German private, a French girl and her grandfather, and then into the cratered no man’s land between the warring armies. War Horse is jarringly uneven. Some moments are over-the-top while others are elegantly understated…The greatest weakness is that director Steven Spielberg doesn’t connect us to Joey himself; though it’s impossible not to have moments of empathy with the trials of this beautiful animal, at other times the horse is no more than a narrative device, carrying us from one micro-story to another. Still, some episodes are unquestionably compelling (a sequence in which a British and a German soldier collaborate to rescue Joey is particularly good) and, though stylistically all over the place, War Horse is never less than visually stunning.” – (adapted from Amazon.com review)
We bought a zoo.
“Though adapted from a memoir by a British journalist, We Bought a Zoo feels entirely like a Cameron Crowe film, with clear parallels to previous crowd-pleasers like Jerry Maguire. Crowe introduces Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon in a role that recalls his Contagion character) six months after the death of his wife. Since everything reminds him of her, the California columnist decides to make a change, starting with a new location. His realtor’s brother (Sideways’ Thomas Haden Church), and sullen teenage son (Colin Ford) try to talk him out of it, but Mee falls in love with a country manor that comes with a strange stipulation: the tenant must manage the zoo that accompanies the property. With his daughter’s blessing, Mee takes the plunge. Fortunately, he inherits an experienced staff, including MacCready (Angus MacFadyen), Robin (Patrick Fugit), Lily (Elle Fanning), and Kelly (Scarlett Johansson, lovely as ever in her least glamorous role to date). Mee’s road to reinvention offers few surprises, but Damon makes him a sympathetic figure who finds the same kind of support system among the park personnel that Fugit’s Almost Famous writer found in the rock world… Zoo represents a return to form for Crowe after a series of missteps, including Elizabethtown. Better yet, the real-life park that Mee acquired continues to lead by example as a humane habitat for endangered species.” – (adapted from Amazon.com description)
“In the first chapter, “Justine,” Charlotte Gainsbourg…returns as Claire, the calm sister of Kirsten Dunst’s tense newlywed, who unravels during her wedding reception at the fairy-tale-like estate of Claire and her husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland). Clad in a white silk gown, Justine is the picture of bridal perfection, but she keeps finding excuses to flee her devoted spouse (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård), her imperious employer (Alexander’s father, Stellan), and her fractious parents (Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt). Meanwhile, a planet called Melancholia is hurtling towards Earth. In the second chapter, “Claire,” everyone, except for Justine and her sister’s family, has left. John assures his wife that Melancholia will merely “fly by,” except that it appears to be getting closer, looming over the horizon like a bad omen. As Claire sinks into a funk, Justine starts to emerge from hers, but what does anything matter if the world is about to end?…If it isn’t the masterpiece some have claimed, the director’s strange creation will surely get under your skin, and the usually sunny Dunst, winner of the best actress award at Cannes, goes deeper and darker than ever before.” – (adapted from Amazon.com review)