It’s Film Festival time

WFF logoLast night a select group of over 500 people at the Paramount were treated to the launch of this year’s Wellington Film Festival programme. Following a brief-ish introduction from returning director Bill Gosden, those present were treated to a delightful animated film called Persepolis – an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic-novel-autobiography which is available in some local stores. Satrapi grew up in pre and post-revolutionary Iran and the film is a vivid and witty portrayal of the way totalitarianism of all extremes can squeeze human beings beyond recognition.

The programme is in a different format this year (A4) which makes it a bit easier on the eye as you scour it for gems. It also has to do double duty this year as the lack of a principal sponsor has meant the elimination of the glossy souvenir guide book.

I woke up this morning to find that last night I had ticked something on every page which is obviously not a sustainable strategy, but I do have until Tuesday (when tickets go on sale via Ticketek outlets) to slim my list down. The programmes are available now at all the Festival venues: Embassy, Paramount, Te Papa, Film Archive and Penthouse and across town over the next few days. The web site seems to be up and down under the load this morning but has a cunning calendar feature to allow you to build a personalised screening schedule over the two and a half weeks between July 18 and Aug 3.

Funerals & Snakes will have a few Festival preview posts over the next few weeks but I also commend you to The Lumière Reader, whose online coverage of the Festival is likely to be unequalled.

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian posterWhen times are quiet in the cinema business (as they have been all year) owners respond by opening more and more films and hoping something will stick. This week sees the Penthouse open yet another contemporary British comedy-drama, funded by the UK Film Council using National Lottery funds (much like Happy-Go-Lucky and Brick Lane which are still screening), Grow Your Own. Featuring the rapidly-becoming-ubiquitous Eddie Marsan (Vera Drake, Pierrepoint), Grow Your Own is about the inhabitants of a London allotment (where the poor grow their vegetables and/or get away from the Missus) forced to deal with the arrival of a family of refugees. Penthouse and Lighthouse Petone. [Check out the rest of this week’s new releases after the jump]

Goodbye Rialto, we hardly knew ye

Rialto logo I ask you now to take a moment to reflect on the loss of that great crime against cinema exhibition, Rialto Wellington, and perhaps raise a glass to celebrate it’s final day of screenings. If I can be there to witness it’s imminent crumbling beneath a hundred wrecking balls I will (however, I should confess that in need of a few dollars I was the publicist for it’s opening back in 1994).

The disastrous architectural and building choices that wrecked many a potentially interesting film should not reflect on many excellent and committed staff who worked there over the years. The Paramount’s Kate Larkindale managed the place for a while, as did current San Fran Bathhouse manager Chrisana Love. The first manager was Barbara Sumner, now known as crusading columnist Barbara Sumner Burstyn, who, as legend has it, once faxed a picture of her own naked rear end to a competitor.

[More on Rialto Wellington, after the jump]


Did you know? Craiglist, the hugely successful free online classified, personal ad and listing service has a Wellington site. As an experiment, a few weeks ago I put up an ad for volunteers for the ‘V’ 48 Hour Film Competition and got a couple of responses (two more than I was expecting).

There are sections on employment, services, personals, community and housing. All listings are free and you can monitor any section via RSS.

Sadly, the signal to noise ratio is not great as most of the entries are a bit spammy but that should change as Wellingtonians start to use it.

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

200805091044.jpg Back from an unscheduled layoff, and hopefully in time for the weekend, here’s a run-down of this week’s cinematic openings. At the top of the list is Todd Haynes’ masterpiece I’m Not There. featuring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw as versions of the legend of Bob Dylan. I wasn’t expecting it be as funny as it is but once I recalibrated I enjoyed myself enormously. Paramount, Lighthouse Petone and Rialto.

Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher team up for romantic comedy about two individuals forced to become a couple in order to win a $3m slot machine prize. Dominion Post film reviewer Graeme Tuckett told me by text that he was surprised he liked it, but then he enjoyed Maid in Manhattan too. Vegas is all over the place: Readings, Empire, Regent-on-Manners.

Music Within is an indie American drama based on a true story about a deaf Vietnam veteran (Ron Livingston from “Band of Brothers”) who returned to the States and began a battle with the authorities for support for all Americans with disabilities. Rialto exclusive (and limited sessions due to the building work at the site so check in advance).

Finally, the Penthouse and Lighthouse (Petone) are playing an Irish film, set in a retirement home, called How About You, based on a short story by Maeve Binchy.

I’m Not There. and How About You have already been reviewed at Funerals & Snakes. The other two will appear next week.

Furious Filmmaking

\'V\' 48 Hours Furious Filmmaking 2008Registration for this year’s ‘V’ 48 Hours Furious Filmmaking competition closes in only 8 days and organisers are once again looking (somewhat apprehensively) at a record-breaking number of entries. 2007 saw more than 120 teams take part in the Wellington region alone, and this year extra capacity has been made available so no one will get turned away.

There are over $100,000 of prizes up for grabs including a special Wellington-only prize for Best Film Written or Directed by a Woman, donated by WIFT (thanks to the efforts of the wonderful Gaylene Preston). While the attractions of camera-gear, facilities vouchers, travel, movie tickets and guarana-infused fizzy drinks are obvious, most teams enter for the sheer joy of filmmaking and return again and again.

Teams will shoot their films on the weekend of 16-18 May and the Heat screenings (this year free of charge) take place at the Paramount from 20 May. The Wellington Grand Final will be at The Embassy, once again, on Wednesday 11 June.

Life in the City

Trolley Bus Chaos

I know we all love trolley buses (and can’t wait for the flash new three-axle jobbies to start ripping it up along Kent Terrace) but this must have been horrendous to be involved in at 5.15 yesterday afternoon. And deeply amusing for those of NOT involved, of course.

The bus slipped off its wire (not unusual) and then slid back so the pole-thingy got caught in the wires. Couldn’t go forwards (no power), couldn’t drift further back without ripping the wires apart. And right, slam bang in the middle of Cambridge Terrace during afternoon rush hour, disabling all the trolley buses behind in the process. Legend.

[Photo taken from the Hannah Playhouse. Click for a larger version.]

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Lars and the Real Girl posterFirst up, Lars and the Real Girl is delightfully odd indie starring Ryan Gosling as a lonely and damaged young man who finds love on the Internet. With a doll named Bianca. Paramount, Penthouse.

Also at the Paramount, just for Wahine Week is a documentary about the disaster called The Wahine Disaster. Another documentary, that I missed in my sweep last week, is John Pilger’s The War on Democracy which is now playing at the Lighthouse Petone only. It was originally going to play at the Paramount as well but was cut by the owners for being ‘too left wing’. Some Paramount customers have already begun a boycott protesting this simple-minded attack on free speech (not to mention an attack on the Paramount itself and it’s grand history of showing films with a humanitarian and anti-establishment position). Feel free to voice your displeasure to the management.

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

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Change of Address posterAfter last week’s pathetic attempt at weather forecasting, I will refrain from suggesting anything other than there are three new films at the movies this week.

First up, slipping in to the wee cinemas at the back of the Paramount is French romantic comedy Change of Address. Musician Emmanuel Mouret has arrived in Paris without accommodation and is approached by Frederique Bel about sharing her flat. Ignoring the life-rule that goes “Don’t f*ck your flatmates, don’t mix your drinks” they become, er, acquainted. Complications ensue. Change of Address is described by Urban Cinefile in Australia as “playful and amusing”. Paramount only.

I saw Never Back Down yesterday and I’m not giving too much away if I tell you that it is then most repulsive and objectionable film I have witnessed in a long time. As Ken Duncum once said (in another context) not only should this film never have been made but all those responsible should have to atone for having made it. Readings (and maybe Regent-on-Manners but their web site is down).

Finally Definitely, Maybe is a romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin (relax, they’re not the romantically entwined couple – give her a few more years yet). Breslin plays Reynold’s 11-year-old daughter who wants to know why Daddy is getting divorced. Through the medium of extended flashback, Reynolds then tries to explain his life and how he and her mother fell in love. The twist: we don’t find out which of his three significant former lovers is his one true love until the end. Readings.

I’ve slipped a bit behind in reviewing current releases thanks to the Showcase but these three plus Rambo, Bonneville and The Eye will be reviewed at Funerals & Snakes next Wednesday.

Cinephilia: Opening This Week

Rambo posterLooks like the weekend is going to be beautiful, again. Perfect weather for, ahem, sitting in a darkened air-conditioned room watching a flickering light on a screen. And Hollywood has come to the party with a couple of films that are going to make sitting in the sunshine seem like the most natural thing in the world.

Sly Stallone brings John Rambo out of retirement for his first film since 1988 at Readings and Regent-on-Manners. Living in quiet retirement in Thailand, Rambo is forced back into action to rescue Christian missionaries in Burma. In Rambo tradition it’s rated R18 for violence and offensive language.

The second asia-horror-remake to come out in two weeks (Shutter was last week) is The Eye. Jessica Alba plays a blind woman who gets a haunted cornea transplant and can see more than she bargained for. Readings and Regent-on-Manners.

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