Cinephilia: Opening This Week

The Visitor posterIf you are considering going to the cinema this weekend, and you’ve already seen Bond and the other 21 films currently playing in Wellington, here’s a quick guide to the new releases.

Cinema owners all over the city are breathing a little easier now that two of the biggest box office releases from the States have opened at the same time. High School Musical 3: Senior Year is the third in the trilogy and the first to get a full cinema release: Readings, Empire, Sky City Queensgate. I saw it tonight at the Empire and my eyes and ears are still hurting.

Knocking Bond off his perch last weekend in the US was the Christmas rom-com Four Holidays starring  Vince Vaughan and Reese Witherspoon. I believe I am out of step with most critics but I actually quite enjoyed it – and so did US$31m worth of other people. Readings, Empire, Sky City Queensgate.

Quarantine is a very quick-out-of-the-blocks Hollywood remake of the Spanish horror film [REC] that Ant Timpson was promoting earlier this year. It’s a Readings exclusive. Might be worth a look if, like me, you found it hard to read the subtitles in the original with your hands over your eyes.

The Visitor is going to be popular, mark my words. From Thomas McCarthy, writer-director of The Station Agent (which did more business per capita here than anywhere else in the world), this one is about a depressed middle-aged economics professor who rediscovers life when he meets an illegal immigrant couple in New York City. Oh man, it is so much better than I just made it sound. Penthouse, Paramount, Lighthouse Petone.

The acclaimed documentary The Survivors (about the final year of the Holocaust) gets two screenings at the Film Archive on Friday and Saturday respectively as part of their Human Rights series and finally, a Penthouse exclusive: Suddenly, a Swedish drama about a man and his son recovering from the death of the mother and brother. "A quiet and beautiful film," says IMDb.

The Visitor has already been reviewed at Funerals & Snakes, with the others following next week (and in the Capital Times next Wednesday).

UPDATE: My interview with The Visitor star Richard Jenkins is up at F&S

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

American Teen teaser posterSo, this is the week I come out of hibernation to resume posting and what do I have to report? Only the bleeding obvious information that the new Bond (Quantum of Solace) is everywhere this weekend and that the only cinema daring to go up against the behemoth is plucky little Paramount which is playing American Teen from today.

QoS is the middle film of an expected trilogy so don’t expect much in the way of resolution. And despite being the most expensive Bond film in history it’s a welcome half an hour shorter than the previous Casino Royale: More sessions = more money. Playing at Readings, Empire, Penthouse, Regent-on-Manners, Embassy and Lighthouse Petone.

A big winner at Sundance this year, American Teen is a documentary surveying a cross-section of current US young-adult-hood in the town of Warsaw, Indiana. The characters are stock (which is sort of the point): the Jock, the Nerd, The Queen and the Outsider. You’ve got to love a film with this poster though. Paramount exclusive.

Quantum of Solace was reviewed this week at Funerals & Snakes and American Teen will join it next week (and in the Capital Times if you prefer ink and paper).

Award Season – “Chappy” Nominations Announced

Richard Knowles and Kip Chapman in The Little Dog Laughed at DownstageAs Hadyn rightly points out, it is "Award Season" and the Wellington theatre community is no exception. The list of nominations for the annual Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards was announced yesterday and they demonstrate once again that live theatre in Wellington is in very good shape.

The judges (critics and reviewers from The Dominion PostCapital Times, Theatreview, Salient and The Lumiere Reader) all watched more than 90 productions during 2008 and the nominations are spread across 29 of those.

[Details of the nominees, and a special opportunity, after the jump]

Bare at Downstage – special offer

Bare graphicNip in quick for one of those rare Downstage-Wellingtonista specials. The 10th Anniversary season of Toa Fraser’s Bare is in Wellington for a very short time and Wellingtonista readers can go tonight for a discount somewhere between 100% and 25% (depending on how quick off the mark you are). As time is short, it’s a phone offer: The first two callers to (04) 801 6946 are eligible for a free double-pass to tonight’s performance, the next two callers can get two-for-the-price-of-one and the next two callers can get a fourth ticket free if they buy three. Bare stars Curtis Vowell and Morgana O’Reilly and this production was first performed at Auckland’s Silo Theatre last year. The original production of Bare in 1998, launched the careers of Toa Fraser and Madeline Sami and won the Best New Play and Best New Playwright Awards at the Chapman Tripps. More information can be found here.

Out and About

Forgive me for sharing a couple of Wellington sights, recently captured on handy cell phone camera. Firstly:

Taking the Aston shopping

It may not be immediately apparent but that is an Aston Martin DB9 (beloved of Top Gear-heads everywhere) parked in the top floor car park of Moore Wilsons. This means that there is someone in Wellington who takes a $430,000 car grocery shopping. It was also covered in concrete dust as Moore Wilsons is having some work done.

Next, Newtown United Video: keeping it real:

Keeping it Real

No further comment required.

A Personal Appeal from Richard Meros

On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover

Kia Ora Tatou, I’m Richard Meros and I have a Dream.

Our proud nation has laboured too long under a barely discernible pendulum wobble from Labour to National, National to Labour, so on ad nauseum. Yet we yearn for, and deserve, something greater. Through meticulous research I have drawn an inescapable conclusion: that only my personal engagement with the electoral process – and with our noble Prime Minister – can herald the glorious future of our South Pacific Utopia.

My acclaimed pamphlet of romantic political philosophy, On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, provoked howls of acclaim when published in 2007, and I have committed to share the “powerpoint” version of my book the length and breadth of New Zealand before Election Night 2008. Why? Because I care.

This life-changing lecture has toured across Aotearoa; enlightenment comes now to Wellington.

Cinephilia: Film Festival preview

Wellington Film Festival posterThe Film Festival has been a fixture of Wellington’s winter calendar for nearly 40 years and for those of us who organise our lives around glowing rectangles of one kind or another there is no better way to spend a cold and wet afternoon than in the comfy leather chairs at the Embassy, engrossed in a work of art.

Programming a Festival like Wellington may seem easy but I can assure you it’s getting tougher every year. The sheer volume of independent film is growing beyond all reason (I read that there were around 5,000 films submitted to Sundance last year) and attention must be paid to all four corners of the globe nowadays.

The glossy programme (doing double-duty this year as Festival Guide Book and Souvenir Programme) is 90 pages long and I direct you to it forthwith – my role here is, with the help of some previews from the Festival office, to point your attention towards some of the unheralded titles available amongst the hundreds on offer. This year I only mention films I have seen and readers are asked to add their picks/hopes/reports in the comments.

The Savages stillThe first thing to point out is that, unlike the old days, there is nothing to be gained in trying to guess which films will return for a commercial season. With the loss of the three (otherwise unlamented) Rialto screens in June, there is even less chance of a film coming back than before and the general downturn in attendance this year has made distributors wary. At the moment there are no plans to release The Savages (a well-observed, superbly acted drama with plenty of black humour starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) and even the Jack Black – Michel Gondry comedy Be Kind Rewind is expected to go straight to DVD post-Festival (although strong local sales may provoke a change of mind). Recommendation: if the big screen experience is important to you, don’t wait.

[Preview continues after the jump]

Strike: banging, crashing and beautiful music

Strike posterCharlie Watts was once asked in an interview whether he ever tuned his drums. When Charlie replied in the negative the interviewer asked him “why not?”

“Because every time I hit ’em, they go out of tune.”

I am minded of this story every time I hear the Strike guys striking up for they give their gear a fearful walloping at times (as well as plenty of beautiful, subtle and fun moments, too).

“Elemental”, Strike’s new show is well in to it’s first week and audiences of all ages are loving it. Described by Simon Sweetman in the Dominion as “an amazing show” and Aaron Watson in the Capital Times as “endlessly inventive” and “not to be missed” this show is a smash hit.

There are seventeen percussion pieces in the show, including newly-commissioned compositions from Gareth Farr and composer-in-residence Takumi Motokawa, and the ensemble play hydrophones, pyrophones, dippophones, Bedford trucks, and even the occasional percussion instrument, as part of a tremendously theatrical concert experience.

The season continues at Downstage until 26 July and you can find more information here.

Full disclosure: I work for Downstage and you’ll often find me at the top of the Hannah Playhouse staircase, welcoming patrons to the venue.

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Mamma Mia poster
The big guns still dominate proceedings at our cinemas (at least until Thursday when the little art-house films all gang up for the Festival). Last week was hardly worth writing a column about as all the big distributors sensibly made way for Will Smith’s annual 4th of July blockbuster, Hancock (Readings, Empire, Regent-on-Manners & Embassy).

This week, the ABBA musical (that had a season at the Civic in Auckland a couple of years ago) Mamma Mia! leads the pack. Justifiably described as a phenomenon since the stage show launched in London in 1996, the film features Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd and Colin Firth singing and dancing their way through the ABBA back catalogue. It’s been trailered for months now, so awareness should be pretty high and it’s playing everywhere: Readings, Empire, Penthouse, Embassy, Lighthouse Petone, Regent-on-Manners.

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

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Kung Fu Panda poster
Yet another school holiday looms and Dreamworks‘ attempt to capture the animated audience (or rather ‘the audience for animation’) before Pixar‘s WALL·E emerges in September, is Kung Fu Panda starring the voice of Jack Black. Launched on the croisette at the Cannes Film Festival only a few weeks ago, KFP has been acclaimed by critics (88% at RottenTomatoes) and looks like it will be worth checking out this weekend. Readings, Empire, Regent.

The Paramount continues to slip interesting, single-print, releases into the marketplace: this week’s entry is a John Boorman (Deliverance, Excalibur) morality tale, The Tiger’s Tail, in which a self-made businessman (Brendan Gleason) discovers he has a sinister double who seems to determined to bring him down.

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