In 1998 Werner Herzog made an acclaimed documentary called Little Dieter Needs to Fly about German-born Vietnam hero Dieter Dengler and his adventures as a US Navy pilot. He obviously had a big connection to that story as he has now gone back and made a feature about the most amazing chapter of Denglerâ€™s life: the escape from a jungle-bound Viet Cong prison camp after 6 months of near starvation. The Dark Knightâ€™s Christian Bale stars. Rialto exclusive.
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star together as two old men on their last legs in The Bucket List, directed by Rob Reiner. It opens today at Readings, Empire, Lighthouse Petone and Penthouse. Also, from the commercial department is teleporting adventure Jumper starring Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson. Rumours that the proposed sequels to Jumper will be called Sweater and Pullover are simply reckless. Readings, Empire, Regent-on-Manners.
Itâ€™s a quiet week for quality releases so you can all go to No Country for Old Men. Alternatively, if youâ€™ve already done that or want a palate cleansing in advance of There Will Be Blood, you can check out comedy-thriller-romance Foolâ€™s Gold at Readings, Regent or Sky City Queensgate. Matthew McConaughey reunites with Kate Hudson (How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days) as an estranged couple who reunite to search for sunken treasure (as you do). Donald Sutherland and Ray Winstone are the good actors lending their name to the project.
John C. Reilly goes from sidekick (Talladega Nights, The Aviator) to front and centre in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Reilly plays the eponymous rocker in a biopic that follows his up and down career across five decades and spoofs classics like Ray and Walk the Line. Written by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin), Walk Hard opened yesterday (Waitangi Day special) at Readings, Regent-on-Manners, Empire and Sky City Queensgate.
As we approach the apex of the international awards season the biggest week for quality cinema releases in memory is upon us. With 8 Oscar nominations, the Coen Brothersâ€™ No Country for Old Men leads the pack and opens today at Readings, Lighthouse Petone, Paramount, Sky City Queensgate and the Embassy. Based on a Cormac McCarthy gothic crime novel, No Country reportedly sees the Coenâ€™s back in their finest form since Fargo . Josh Brolin (American Gangster) plays a hunter who stumbles on a suitcase full of money and decides to keep it. He doesnâ€™t realise that one of the biggest badasses in screen history (Javier Bardem) is coming to get him – and the money.
George Clooney as Best Actor is one of seven Oscar nominations gained for Michael Clayton, a paranoia-thriller about a corporate fixer who uncovers a plot that cannot end well for his clients – or for him. Written and directed by first-timer Tony Gilroy (co-writer of the Bourne trilogy), Michael Clayton brings to mind 70s classics like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor (directed by Sydney Pollack who stars in Michael Clayton). Readings, Empire, Lighthouse Petone, Penthouse and Sky City Queensgate.
There are at least two crackers in this weekâ€™s line-up. Firstly, Johnny Depp re-unites with Tim Burton for faithful adaptation of Stephen Sondheimâ€™s acclaimed musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Depp is in his finest form (despite not having a Broadway-strength voice) and is joined by a wonderful cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Sacha Baron Cohen. Readings, Empire, Sky City Quensgate.
â€œThe West Wingâ€ creator Aaron Sorkin returns to DC to script Charlie Wilsonâ€™s War: the true story of a renegade but principled playboy Congressman (Tom Hanks) who almost single-handedly funded the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. I was surprised to see this wasnâ€™t nominated for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category but Philip Seymour Hoffman is in there as Supporting Actor for his excellent turn as impolitic CIA operative Gust Avrakotos. You can see this one at the Embassy, Readings and Sky City Queensgate.
[The rest of this weekâ€™s new release summarised after the jump…]
First up is Oscar-winner Ang Leeâ€™s first film since Brokeback Mountain, an erotic espionage thriller set in wartime Shanghai. Already nominated in last weekâ€™s Golden Globes Lust, Caution is a Paramount exclusive.
New York gets yet another terrible pounding in Cloverfield, as a monster of some description rips the head off the Statue of Liberty among other atrocities. The catch here is that the entire tale is told by â€œordinary peopleâ€ with their camcorders, a little like Blair Witch a few years ago. Itâ€™s produced by J. J. Abrams (â€œLostâ€) and directed by another t.v. alumni Matt Reeves (best known thus far as creator of â€œFelicityâ€). At Readings Courtenay Central and Sky City Queensgate.
Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have been up nights devising yet more sadistic tortures for deserving and undeserving suckers and have come up with Saw IV. Jigsaw carked it at the end of Saw III but that doesnâ€˜t appear to slow things down at all. Youâ€™ll find it at Readings, Sky City Queensgate and Regent-on-Manners: look for the teenage boys trying to sneak in on borrowed IDâ€™s.
Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen crosses over to the side of the angels in Susanne Bierâ€™s acclaimed After the Wedding (Paramount and Penthouse). He plays Jacob, an aid worker who returns to Denmark on a fund-raising mission but instead discovers a life-changing family secret. After the Wedding was nominated for an Oscar last year in the Best Foreign Language Flick category. Finally, a geriatric romance is on offer in Elsa and Fred, from Spain. Described by one critic as â€œsimultaneously heartbreaking and hearteningâ€ this one seems tailor-made for the Penthouse.
Readings, in their wisdom, have decided not to offer the Capital Times any reviewerâ€™s passes in 2008 which makes writing about their films very close to being more trouble than it’s worth. So, Cloverfield and Saw IV may not be reviewed there (and thus also at Funerals & Snakes) next Wednesday but the others will.
Just the one new film opening this week: Mr. Magoriumâ€™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.
Itâ€™s a quiet week before the big Boxing Day and New Yearâ€™s Day releases which, by my calculation, will see 13 more films open in cinemas around Wellington.
First up, I think my normally meticulous research went astray last time and I missed that Shane Meadowsâ€™ 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: Thatcherâ€™s proto-fascist England and the disaffected, aimless youth running wild on the ground. Meadows is one of the UKâ€™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 donâ€™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 donâ€™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 weekâ€™s new releases after the jump…
If 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 weekâ€™s new releases after the jump…
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 â€œlow-key but powerfulâ€. 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 â€œpro-lifeâ€ stance; Roger Ebert said, â€œItâ€™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.â€
Finally, also at the Penthouse and direct from the Festival, is The Secret Life of Words: a follow-up to Isabel Coixetâ€™s lovely and sad film My Life Without Me from 2003. Words also stars Sarah Polley and features Tim Robbins who wonâ€™t look quite as tall as usual as heâ€™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.
I 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.