Another light-ish week of cinema releases to report: Readings have so much confidence in the new Rob Schneider prison-comedy Big Stan that the only evening sessions are at a deadening 9.20pm at night. According to IMDb this is the first film directed by the Deuce Bigelow star which means we now have the phrase "a film by Rob Schneider" to terrify and depress us. Also Sky City Queensgate.
With most Wellington screens growning under the weight of Oscar-bait, only Readings (and Sky City Queensgate if you are so inclined) is opening anything new this week. My Bloody Valentine 3D was well attended at sneak previews last week but sadly isn’t much of a film. It’s a remake of a beloved horror of the same early-80s (same vintage as last week’s Friday the 13th). Apart from the title though there isn’t anything terribly ‘Valentine-y’ about it.
A potential date movie (for a certain kind of date, maybe) is Zack and Miri Make a Porno, the new film by Clerks‘ Kevin Smith. Loveable schlub Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) stars with Elizabeth Banks in a comedy about flatmates needing to find money for the rent.
First up Marley & Me, a rom-com-weepy best-seller adaptation starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson as a couple who adopt a puppy. Click here for the Defamer.com spoiler. Readings, Empire, Lighthouse Petone, Sky City Queensgate. Then we have He’s Just Not That Into You, the first film to be based on a best-selling book based on a throwaway line of dialogue from "Sex and the City": Readings, Empire and Sky City Queensgate.
More Oscar contenders hit our screens this weekend. Gus Van Sant’s biopic of the first openly gay elected politician in the USA, Milk opens today at Readings, Penthouse and Lighthouse Petone. Sean Penn plays San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk who was assassinated by fellow city official Dan White in 1978. Penn is supported by Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men), Emile Hirsch (Into the Willd) and James Franco (Pineapple Express).
I got to see Slumdog Millionaire last Friday at the Embassy – if it doesn’t romp home with the best picture Oscar I’ll be very surprised. Kinetic, colourful and heartfelt, it’s an object of great beauty. Slumdog is also playing Readings, Penthouse and Lighthouse Petone.
As Oscar night approaches another of the expected heavyweight contenders goes into cinemas: Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road reunites Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time since Titanic (still the highest grossing film of all time fact-fans) in a story of a middle-class 1950s couple dissatisfied with the American suburban dream. Based on (what I understand to be) an awesome novel by Richard Yates. Playing at Lighthouse Petone, Regent-on-Manners, Readings, Penthouse and Sky City Queensgate.
Roadshow will be hoping that Clint Eastwood lightning will strike twice at the Oscars and are using that rare tactic, the sneak preview, to launch his new film (and his last as an actor) Gran Torino. His last performance was in the multi-award-winning Million Dollar Baby in 2004. You can see Gran Torino early at Empire, Readings, Penthouse and Sky City Queensgate. (Eastwood’s other new film Changeling opens on Feb 12)
For those inclined toward the crappier end of the market there’s Bride Wars, a "comedy" starring Anne Hathaway and the woefully-managed Kate Hudson. Please note that I totally have an open mind about this film – I just don’t have any hope or faith: Empire, Regent-on-Manners, Readings, Sky City Queensgate.
The Penthouse keeps it classy with a biggish-budget French WWII movie called Female Agents about some young French women enlisted into the British Special Forces and sent on a suicide mission to rescue a British geologist. True story apparently. Meanwhile the Paramount’s eclectic run continues with a Czech comedy-drama called Beauty in Trouble. It’s by one of my favourite filmmakers, Jan Hrebejk who made the fantastic Divided We Fall from 2000. Also at the Paramount, for just a few sessions, is a surfing movie called Bustin’ Down the Door.
Following the flurry of Christmas and New Year releases (all of which are still playing), there are only two new titles to report this week. Firstly, The Tale of Desperaux an animated adaptation of a supposedly beloved children’s book. Matthew Broderick plays a noble little mouse with enormous ears who teams up with a kitchen-loving rat (Dustin Hoffman) to rescue a lonely Princess (Emma Watson) – sounds a bit like Dumbo meets Ratatouille. The rest of the voice cast is similarly prestigious including two gentlemen probably on the the Academy long-list for Best Actor this year: Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor). Playing at the Empire, Regent-on-Manners, Readings Courtenay and Sky City Queensgate (does anyone go there?).
Frank Miller is a hero to comic book aficionados everywhere. He created The Dark Knight Returns, 300 and Sin City (and co-directed the Sin City movie along with Robert Rodriguez). Now he has both hands on the wheel of another comic book adaptation, Will Eisner’s The Spirit and the promotional material makes it look like a long-lost cousin of Sin City. US reviews have not been kind but you can check it out at either Readings or Sky City.
The Paramount‘s Summer "Best of" series continues: Adam’s Apples, The Edge of Heaven, I‘m Not There. and Lars and the Real Girl get a second chance and they’re also raiding the vault with rare opportunities to see West Side Story, The Conversation, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is and North by Northwest.
Too late to be of any use for Friday night entertainment, here’s a summary of the films opening this week across the city.
But if Keanu Reeves playing a deadpan alien isn’t enough there’s always the annual ‘V’ Movie Marathon at the Paramount, kicking off at 4.00pm on Saturday. Organiser Ant Timpson has been somewhat scathing of Wellington’s ability (or inability) to hack the Marathon and is offering a special mini-Marathon ticket valid for 12 hours. Only problem, is you have a wear a nappy for the whole 12 hours ’cause you’d be a big baby.
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.
UPDATE: My interview with The Visitor star Richard Jenkins is up at F&S
So, 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.
The 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 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.