Many of our staff are avid cinephiles – here are their latest film and TV recommendations…
George Clooney gives a nuanced performance as the titular character in this adaptation by Anton Corbijn of the novel ‘A very private gentleman’ by Martin Booth. He plays a hit-man who hides out in an Italian town after an attempt on his life, spending his time customizing a gun for another colleague. His boss advises him to lay low, but he gradually begins to fall for a local prostitute he begins seeing. Slow moving with great visuals, it’s definitely not an ‘action’ film, as the movie has a distinctly European feel – almost at times verging on a parody. The motivations of other characters – such as who & why someone is trying to kill Clooney’s character – are only obliquely hinted at, and the whole film seems more of a mood piece/character study. However, it still manages to sustain a palpable degree of tension until it unravels in the third act – which becomes a bit predictable, as Corbijn goes for the ‘anti-Hollywood’ ending, which in itself has become a bit of a cliché. Still, it’s enjoyable enough if you’re after something a bit different. (Mark)
It is a wonder that the classic films of the forties and fifties have not been adopted as a tool for ‘Social Improvement’ by the political right. After watching this movie you will never again watch a DVD in your pyjamas – lounging or otherwise – and will never let war or revolution see you anything less than immaculately groomed and clad in a crisp white shirt and classic skirt or trousers. Women will not let the cat see them without full make-up, nor men without a close shave and heavily Brycreemed hair. The strict dress and social codes are the complete antithesis of grunge and “anything goes” attitudes of today. It is all rather refreshing. Although this film is very dated it does deal with an interesting time in history – that of imminent Indian Independence – and interesting social issues such as the plight of the Anglo-Indians and the difficulty of cross-cultural relationships. Ava Gardner is captivating as Victoria Jones, a young woman searching for identity in the new India and Stewart Granger equally so as Captain Rodney Savage searching for his. There is plenty of action, light and colour and plenty of glorious India. All in all a good watch and warmly recommended. (Sue)
The killer inside me.
Flawed but interesting stab at adapting crime writer Jim Thompson’s seminal novel ‘The Killer Inside Me’ by Michael Winterbottom. Set in small town American South circa the 1950’s, Casey Affleck takes the lead role of Lou Ford, a seemingly polite well adjusted Deputy Sheriff engaged to a local schoolteacher (Kate Hudson). However, a meeting with a prostitute (Jessica Alba) that he is supposed to run out of town provides a catalyst for his re-emerging pathology, and he gradually begins to orchestrate a murderous scheme to gain revenge on a local businessman that he blames for the death of his step-brother. The novel, like a lot of Thompson’s work, is a first person narrative in which the reader gradually becomes aware that the likeable narrator is not all he/she appears to be – and is often completely unhinged – but by then the character has engendered enough sympathy or empathy that you keep reading, no matter how weird & disturbing things get. Thompson’s novels were controversial for their time, and violent, but being published in the 1950’s the majority of the violence and general depravity was implied. Winterbottom, however, decides to push the violence to the forefront of the story, to the extent that it feels exploitative, and specifically during the lengthy drawn out beating of Alba’s character, truly repellent. None of which adds to the viewer’s engagement with the lead character. Affleck also seems too physically slight for the role, his accent off, lacking any of the ‘good old boy’ southern charm of the book’s narrator. But that seems like what Winterbottom was after, a bunch of choices that defy whatever conventional wisdom exists in the making of a ‘post-modern’ neo-noir such as this The overall result is that while some of it works, some of it doesn’t, and it tends to end up in the ‘fascinating but repellent’ category of films. Worth watching if you’re a Thompson fan, or just intrigued, but be warned, the sadomasochistic violence is pretty extreme in parts. (Mark)
A celebrity director makes a movie about a celebrity’s life. This probably makes your expectation high but Sophia Coppola is not a usual director. A bit like ‘Lost in Translation’ it’s a story about a big movie star, who appears to have everything but in fact has nothing, and restores himself after spending a chunk of time with his daughter for the first time. However, in this movie, there is no drama or structure which mainstream movies usually offer. It is subtle and slow-going, and driven by the mood rather than the storyline. This has created some criticism such as ‘nothing happens’, but being stereotypical is the last thing you can expect from Sophia Coppola. She is obviously visual focused and true to her cinematic instinct. She knows what she wants, and that’s why she employed the cinematographer Harris Savides who is known for his works on Gus Van Sant’s ‘Elephant’ and ‘Last Days’. With his camera, she just lets the movie go as if it’s floating clouds in the sky. So, this is a unique, let-it-be movie. Chill out and enjoy. (Shinji)
‘Primer’ caused a stir when it first came out, winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Made for only $7000, the film focus on 2 young entrepreneurial inventors who work out of a garage. When an experiment goes awry they discover that its side effect has given them the ability to travel back in time several hours, and begin to experiment with their new found technology, initially using it to make a fortune on the stock market. What follows is literally impossible to explain, let alone understand, as ‘Primer’ makes David Lynch seem linear by comparison. But that’s part of its low budget charm. As the inventors discover how to extend the length of time they can travel back to, various future/alternate ‘versions’ of themselves begin doing things that seem to have no explanation…or do they. It’s all completely mind-bending, but fascinating to watch unfold. Recommended if you’re a fan of films like ‘Lost Highway’, ‘Donnie Darko’, ‘Memento’, or ‘Moon’. (Mark)
“Contains violence, drug use and offensive language” …not an appealing intro I thought into a movie titled ‘Matariki’ that is, as I know it to be. An abandoned car, a brutally beaten Rugby League star, a dysfunctional couple having a baby, a loner and his beloved dog, and two runaway teenagers. A chain of events and lives although apart are stories moving together to reach a common goal or means to an end. Saying goodbye and starting again. ‘Matariki is when the Maori New Year starts. Planting begins for the new season, a new beginning. It’s a very special time of the year. The film brings together these characters, all looking for a way forward. With new beginnings there has to be goodbyes. We have the Pakeha wife of the beaten Rugby League star who fears his Maori family, Maori custom and protocol will over rule her wishes as his wife. How can there be a compromise and a way forward? The runaways, what are they looking for, where are they going to? And the dysfunctional couple after having their baby, what future does ‘Matariki’ (as she is beautifully named) have? ‘The violence in the film I found very hard to watch, and then there were the heart felt scenes, the most affecting ’saying goodbye to a brother, a son, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a husband’. Getting past the violence, drug use and offensive language, I thought this was another well made, on a shoe string budget ‘only in New Zealand’ movie. Lastly a few words from the co-writer/director Michael Bennett which pretty much sums up the substance of the film “You can chose to look down at the concrete under your feet, or you can chose to look up at the stars!” (Ethel)
Rapunzel with attitude! This will appeal to children and adults alike. The animation is stunning. All the characters have personality to burn and Maximus the horse alone would be worth watching. (Liz)
Parks and recreation. Season one.
Quirky comedy from the creators of ‘The Office’ (the US version). Saturday Night Live comedienne Amy Poehler (‘Baby Mama’) stars as a Leslie Knope, a naïve small town Government employee determined to turn a giant ‘pit’ into a new public park. The ‘mockumentary’ style makes it seem a bit derivative at first, but over the course of the season it develops its own style & characters and gets better as it goes along. The supporting characters are all pretty funny, especially Aziz Ansari, as her slack colleague, and Nick Offerman as her deadpan boss, who doesn’t believe in ‘government’ of any kind. (Mark)
Let me in.
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) take the two leading roles in this remake of the Swedish film ‘Let the right one in’. Helmed by Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield’) ‘Let Me In’ relocates the action to middle-America in the 80’s, essentially structuring the story of the lonely & bullied Owen (who thinks he has found a friend in his mysterious new neighbour Abby, only to discover she is a vampire frozen in time as a 12 year old girl) essentially same way as the original Swedish movie. Remakes tend to suck as a rule, and it’s hard not to compare the two, but taken on its own merit it’s a pretty good movie – probably more enjoyable if you haven’t seen the original. It’s the small touches that differentiate it from the Swedish film: the unnecessary use of CGI when Abby transforms into a vampire, the less naturalistic leads, the heavier score, more of a focus on the ‘police procedural’ aspect). So while some things don’t work as well, others do work (such as the way the camera never quite focuses on Owen’s mother) and the US version has some nice touches. All in all it lacks the subtlety of the Swedish movie, but that was probably to be expected, and at the end of the day it retains the emotional heart of the original: a belief that friendship can sometime be more important than anything else. (Mark).
The insatiable moon.
This is the film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Mike Riddell about real people and events. Arthur, (Rawiri Paratene) of Whale rider fame, who believes he is the second son of God, and his mentally challenged loyal friends live in a boarding house in posh Ponsonby, managed by Bob (Greg Johnson), who although foul-mouthed and gruff, genuinely loves and cares for them. With threats to close the boarding house down Arthur puts his heavenly credentials into action, only to have his own personal decline into madness realized, and is soon admitted into the psychiatric ward. The film is light-hearted and funny, another New Zealand film made on a shoestring budget with a brilliant cast of NZ talent, kudos to the men who play the ‘undesirable, mentally challenged’ boarders, and Ian Mune as the street bum alcoholic Norm. It’s about people with mental health problems, the discrimination they often face, and what is acceptable to/in society. With strong messages told with great compassion, humanity and humour, there are powerful and thought provoking scenes and performances throughout the movie. A line from the film I found endearing: Norm is asked “What does he think of Arthur?” …his reply “He’s the second Son of God, …or as mad as a chook!” The soundtrack’s heavenly as well. (Ethel)