Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Mr. Magorium posterJust the one new film opening this week: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium about a magic toyshop facing unexpected change. It stars Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman and is reviewed here, at Funerals & Snakes. Magorium is playing at Readings, Regent-on-Manners, Empire and Sky City Queensgate.

It’s a quiet week before the big Boxing Day and New Year’s Day releases which, by my calculation, will see 13 more films open in cinemas around Wellington.

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Into The Wild posterFirst up, I think my normally meticulous research went astray last time and I missed that Shane Meadows’ new film This is England was opening at the Rialto. So, not only did I fail to mention it in this space last week but it didn’t get a review at Funerals & Snakes or the Capital Times and it was such a slow week too… This is England has instant appeal to me as it’s about my manor and my generation: Thatcher’s proto-fascist England and the disaffected, aimless youth running wild on the ground. Meadows is one of the UK’s finest young filmmaking talents (TwentyFourSeven and A Room for Romeo Brass are the best) but he lost his way for a while. Rialto exclusive.

Sky City Cinemas really don’t know how to programme the Embassy: blockbuster then art-house then bollywood, etc. Now they’re trying a bit of both with ultra-violent video-game adaptation Hitman and nature documentary The White Planet. What a double-feature that will be. Hitman is also playing at Readings and Regent-on-Manners. The White Planet is in the same mode as the huge hit March of the Penguins: this time the focus is on polar bears and the narrator is Queen Latifah (sorry, wrong Arctic movie). Also screening at the Paramount and the Penthouse.

UPDATE: Sky City don’t even know how to promote their Embassy sessions either! Missing from their corporate web site on Wednesday was any mention of the daily screenings of This Is New Zealand, the sensational wide-screen epic that showcased New Zealand to the world at the Osaka Expo in Japan in 1970. Not to be missed. Session times can be found at the old Deluxe site which I thought had died.

The rest of this week’s new releases after the jump…

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Beowulf posterIf you are at all interested in the future of cinema technology, the energetic retelling of dark age Norse Anglosaxon Anglo-Saxon legends or theme park rides then Beowulf 3D is the thing for you this weekend. The 3D version only screens at Readings and I understand from Roadshow, the distributor, that only two cinemas in New Zealand are equipped to screen it: Readings at Courtenay Central and Hoyts Sylvia Park in Auckland.

The digital equipment required to screen Beowulf in 3D cost upwards of $100k and is only in Cinema 5 (i.e. not one of the big ones). That cost puts it out of reach of all Wellington cinemas apart from Readings (and possibly Sky City at Queensgate) until the economic drivers to replace 35mm film become overwhelming. Check the listings carefully as the 3D version is definitely the one to see. The flat version can also be found at Regent-on-Manners and Sky City Queensgate.

The rest of this week’s new releases after the jump…

Basin Goings On

Basin Reserve scoreboardThe “Finance Company Implosion” has seen several name changes for our beloved Basin Reserve over the past few months. It is now known officially as the Allied Nationwide Finance Basin Reserve and the ground improvements continue at good pace. Between the end of the the rugby season and Labour Weekend the wicket block and practice areas were re-laid and improved drainage technology installed. The R. A. Vance Stand is having a new viewing platform built at the back for the media and, I’m guessing, to also improve television camera angles from the Northern (Or J. R. Reid Gate) end of the ground.

Meanwhile, a new edifice is being erected beside the venerable old (actually crap) scoreboard at the Southern End. Any ideas what this will be? It looks like a new replacement or additional scoreboard or a big screen (or some combination).

I walk through the Basin every day and it is looking a picture – the relocation last year of the war memorial to the top of the bank was a splendid move. This summer we have a visit from Bangladesh (recommendation: don’t buy a five-day-pass) for a Test Match from January 12 and England (hence all the media improvements) from March 13.

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

The Dead Girl posterA whole day late, sorry. Curse this day job.

Director Karen Moncrieff assembled a superb cast for The Dead Girl, a film about the impact of a murder on several different and unrelated groups of characters; told in five chapters. Featuring highly applauded performances from Toni Collette, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Beth Hurt and temporary Wellingtonian Giovanni Ribisi, plus James Franco and Mary Steenburgen. The Dead Girl is playing now at The Empire in Island Bay and Rialto.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I reveal that The Heartbreak Kid is only the third film I have failed to complete since I started reviewing for the Cap Times back in September last year. Ben Stiller reunites with the Farrelly Brothers for the first time since There’s Something About Mary in 1998 in a romantic comedy that is neither. Playing at Readings, Regent-on-Manners and Sky City Queensgate.

Nina’s Journey is a Holocaust drama from Sweden featuring present day reminiscences from the real Nina: Variety called it “low-key but powerful”. It screens at the Paramount, exclusively. The Penthouse gets two exclusives this week. Firstly, art-house drama Bella has been praised by Christian media for what they call a “pro-life” stance; Roger Ebert said, “It’s about lovable people having important conversations and is not pro-choice or pro-life but simply in favor of his feelings — and hers, if she felt free to feel them.”

Finally, also at the Penthouse and direct from the Festival, is The Secret Life of Words: a follow-up to Isabel Coixet’s lovely and sad film My Life Without Me from 2003. Words also stars Sarah Polley and features Tim Robbins who won’t look quite as tall as usual as he’s playing an oil rig worker being nursed by Polley after an accident.

All these films will be reviewed next week at Funerals & Snakes, and (space-permitting) in the Capital Times on Wednesday.

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Elizabeth posterI was really hoping they were going to to call the Elizabeth sequel Elizabeth II but instead it is Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Co-artistic-director-designate of the Sydney Theatre Company and Elf Queen, Cate Blanchett returns to play Elizabeth. She’s still fighting catholics but this time they are amassed off the coast in an Armada. Clive Owen plays Errol Flynn as Walter Raleigh. Penthouse, Readings, Lighthouse Petone, Rialto, Sky City Queensgate, Embassy

Christmas is here and the first “holiday” movie off the rank is Fred Claus at Readings, Regent-on-Manners and Sky City Queensgate. Paul Giamatti is Santa and Vince Vaughan plays his layabout little brother Fred (a bit like Billy Carter or Roger Clinton).

Older readers will remember the days when Kevin Costner was the biggest star in the Hollywood firmament. Despite some career mis-steps he remains a watchable performer and this week he flicks the serial killer switch in Mr Brooks at Readings, Regent-on-Manners, Sky City Queensgate. The twist is that William Hurt plays his alter-ego, a bit like Jekyll and Hyde.

Finally, a potential arthouse treat at the Paramount. Golden Door follows turn of the century immigrants from Sicily to Ellis Island and stars Charlotte Gainsbourg. It won six awards at the 2006 Venice Film Festival including the Silver Lion.

All these films will be reviewed at Funerals & Snakes next Wednesday (and in print in the Capital Times on the same day) .

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Death Proof posterI have it on good authority that Quentin Tarantino gave his personal permission for the Film Festival to screen the complete Grindhouse exploitation double-feature as he and Robert Rodriguez intended, despite it being yanked early from American cinemas due to dismal box office: however Roadshow intervened to prevent the screening and the only way NZ audiences can see Grindhouse will be on DVD at some future time. That big screen experience has been replaced by an expanded version of Tarantino’s Death Proof, opening today at Readings and Sky City Queensgate. The tale of a crazed stuntman (Kurt Russell) stalking two sets of beautiful women including kiwi stuntie Zoe Bell and Sydney Poitier, Death Proof looks like more of that patented Tarantino-like fun.

The rest of this week’s new releases after the jump…

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Venus posterThis week the Paramount has a special attraction for fans of oddball genius David Lynch: Inland Empire has been acclaimed by (several) critics worldwide as a return to the edgy and outrageous Lynch of his early career (think Eraserhead rather than, say, The Straight Story). Inland Empire screens exclusively at the Paramount for one week only. Set aside plenty of time.

Also returning from successful screenings at this year’s Festival is Venus, starring Peter O’Toole as an ageing actor getting a new lease on life when he meets a brash and beautiful teenage girl. Dominion-Post critic Graeme Tuckett has called it his film of the year although that may have changed since Eastern Promises. Venus is written by the never less than interesting Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette and Intimacy) and plays at the Embassy, Paramount, Rialto and Sky City Queensgate.

The rest of this week’s releases after the jump…

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Eastern Promises posterViggo Mortensen reunites with director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) for the acclaimed new drama Eastern Promises, set deep in the underbelly of present day London among the vicious Russian mafia. Naomi Watts plays a midwife investigating the death of a young prostitute whose diary leads to kingpin Armin Mueller-Stahl. Viggo plays his mysterious driver. Readings and Queensgate.

Fracture is a twisty courtroom thriller starring Ryan Gosling (just pulled/pushed out of The Lovely Bones) and Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, accused of murdering his wife; Gosling is the ambitious Deputy DA who sees this case as his ticket out to the big money corporate world but the case proves more complicated than it first appears. Readings, Empire and Queensgate.

[The rest of this week’s new releases after the jump.]

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Atonement posterThe best grown-up film of the year opens today. Atonement is directed by up-and-comer Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice) and is adapted from the acclaimed novel by Ian McEwan. 12 year old Briony Tallis (played by Saoirse Ronan from Peter Jackson’s forthcoming The Lovely Bones) tells a terrible lie, condemning family friend Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) to prison and disgrace and her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) to heartbreak and loss. It takes a lifetime for Briony to atone. Atonement is playing at the Embassy, Readings, Penthouse, Lighthouse Petone and the Empire Island Bay.

New Zealand vampire thriller Perfect Creature gets a long-awaited cinema release, more than two years after completion. Directed by Glenn Standring (The Irrefutable Truth About Demons) and starring imports Dougray Scott and Saffron Burrowns along with locals Scott Wills and Robbie Magasiva, Perfect Creature offers us an alternative New Zealand known as Nuovo Zelandia where vampires and humans peacefully co-exist – until the balance is challenged by a renegade vampire known as Edgar (Leo Gregory). Readings, Embassy and Sky City Queensgate.

A kinder, gentler option is provided by Conversations With My Gardener from director Jean Becker (Children of the Marshlands). Daniel Auteuil plays an artist who returns to the family home to escape a messy divorce and renews a friendship with the old school mate (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who tends his veggie garden. Penthouse and Lighthouse Petone.

Finally, the Italian Film Festival kicked off with a gala shindig at the Paramount last night. It runs for a fortnight and there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

Atonement and Conversations With My Gardener are reviewed at Funerals & Snakes, to be joined next week by Perfect Creature.