July 31, 2011


From Tammy Davis' Ebony Society
The series of Homegrown short film selections are sessions I always try and get to during the Film Festival. There's generally the Works on Film and a Digital/Drama selection. I think Works in Film is the only one I'm able to get to this year and there was a selection of six fine New Zealand short films. But watching these, boy, we need to lighten up as a society, eh? There's a dark streak running through every single one of these films.

An ex-child's TV show character finds him/herself working in a Chinese takeaway, dealing with reality. Director Stephen Kang has a hook and uses it, perhaps stepping over the line sometimes, but generally making a pretty smart film. The photography by DoP Virginia Luan is often gorgeous, playing with light, shadow and framing to great effect. While I'm not certain it entirely achieves what it wants to and there are perhaps a surfeit of moments where the audience thinks "oh-ho! A person in a blue puffy suit attempting to smoke! Hilarious!" (though I don't think this is what the filmmakers were going for).

Ebony Society
Outrageous Fortune's Munter, Tammy Davis, directs this short film about two young boys who stumble on to more than they bargained for when they break in to a house. This film really comes down to the performances of the boys, and they are unpretentious and natural. This is a very "kiwi" wee film, not short of charm and darkness with a small story told well. 

Not a particular favourite of mine, this film had a very distinctive visual style to it, made to look almost like a watercolour. A woman living with her husband out in the wop-wops gets seduced by an eel and disconnects herself even further from her life. The decision to have no dialogue was perhaps a stylistic choice too far, serving only to heighten the unreality (rather than the fantasy).

An aging hippie faces his retirement and life without his beloved wife. Bird is an unrepentant hippie, often smoking up before running off into the forest in his nightgown, chasing after the spirit of his deceased wife. His daughter just can't put up with helping him any longer and, after Bird's house half burns down, she sticks him unceremoniously in a home. A touching film, with a lot to say in its short run-time and handled with grace and respect.

A young man's first day on the job at a meat-works. I'm not actually too sure what else to say about this film. It'll either desensitise you to meat processing or put you off meat for awhile, as the work in the meat-processing plant is all shot matter-of-factly. Ultimately, I think it's about a young man fitting in to a new environment and becoming one with the old hands. 

Preferably Blue
A surprising animated addition to the line-up, about a bitter and drunk Easter Bunny who plots to destroy Santa Claus. It's difficult to write more than a few rhyming couplets, let alone an entire short film of them. There is plenty of cleverness and sass on display here, I'm just not sure what it's in aid of. There's a real dark streak of humour throughout the film and this really twists things at the end, all but undoing the work before. 

July 30, 2011


New Zealand International Film Festival: beginulate! I have 55 films I'm hoping to see over the 17 days this year and while that may seem a lot, it's just what I do each year. Last night marked the start of the 40th NZIFF in Wellington and I guess my first full film of the Festival is quite the pick. The entire film is just about as far away from a "typical Hollywood" film as you could get (but starring two of the most respected and well known Hollywood actors). This year's Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, it has already played in the States to some polarised audiences. And, evidently this audience was unsure what to expect either as there were a number of walk-outs - notably in the last 2 minutes of the film.

To be fair, I'm not entirely certain what my own expectations for the film were but knowing Malick's previous work, I was sure there was going to be a focus on nature and large digressions around that. Well, The Tree of Life has that and then some. It is a beautiful film, with long moments that can only be described as cinematic poetry. There comes a point where you just have to give yourself up to it and let the wonder wash over and around you. These periods of visual trippiness and beauty easily give Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey a run for its money. In fact, the centre-piece of the film is the bravura sequence that includes the creation of the earth, the shaping of the planet, pre-history, dinosaurs before finally leading up to the birth of the O'Brien's first son, Jack. 

The Tree of Life is not a narrative film in the often seen sense of the word. There is no strong narrative throughline, instead the body of the film is taken up with Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien (an uncompromising Brad Pitt and an ethereal Jessica Chastain) and there three boys growing up in 1950's Texas. Brad Pitt takes the role of Mr. O'Brien - a bastard of a father, he who must be feared and respected - and completely owns it. His physicality is impressive, saying much with just a hunch and the set of his jaw. Chastain too is impressive as the more kind-hearted and all too-often put upon mother and she carries a difficult role with grace. Which is fitting, as this is (as far as I can read) what she represents. Dichotomy and binary opposition are in constant play and reflection throughout the film: selfish nature and self-less grace; Mrs. O'Brien and Mr. O'Brien; the micro and the macro; the natural world and the city; the past and the present.

As great as the two adults are, it is the three boys who are at the centre of it all and they are impressive. Malick has pulled off the trick of capturing boys... just being boys: they run and play and fight and get in trouble. But they are also boys whose eyes, especially when their father is around, dull a little. Hunter McCracken as the young Jack (later Sean Penn) is an especial marvel, carrying no sense of being a "Hollywood child" and instead just quietly carrying a lot of the film. 

The film isn't perfect, and you could argue that some of it veers towards the unintelligible and pretentious. What you cannot call The Tree of Life (and Malick) is unambitious. Malick constantly pushes the camera in and out, always creating a sense of movement and filling the film with small surprises. Each shot, each frame is a small work of visual art, as they often are with Malick's films. This is a film of beauty and wonder, sadness and life, nature and religion. I look forward to seeing it again.


Just one of many cool alternate posters
Joe Johnston’s addition to the Marvel Movieverse is a rock ‘em, sock ‘em action film that is easily one of the best (so far). Captain America is all sorts of fun with noble good-guys, evil villains, a cracking adventure story and real character moments.

Chris Evans is Steve Rogers, a skinny sickly little guy desperate to serve his country during World War II. That fact alone, that they chose to go period with this film speaks volumes to me, about how much the filmmakers (or, yes, Marvel Studios) understand the character. Rogers, who has tried to enlist 5 times, is spotted by Stanley Tucci's Dr. Erskine and selected for a radical new experiment: to be the first of the new Super Soldiers. Of course, there's Hugo Weaving as the Eeeeeeeevil Herr Schimdt/Red Skull who simply won't allow that to be and so, just as the American scientists are celebrating the successful birth of the future Dr. Erskine is assassinated and his Super Soldier serum destroyed. Thus, Steve Rogers is the one and only Super Soldier: Captain America!

After a quick detour as a USO show attraction, Cap is in Europe rescuing captured soldiers (including his childhood buddy James "Bucky" Barnes) and hunting down the Red Skull's dark-science labs and Hydra minions, including Toby Jones' evil genius, Arnim Zola. These missions with the Howling Commandos (who are, sadly, never named as such. The characters are in fact never named) leave plenty of room for more adventures from WWII to be shown. There are neat little nods and tie-ins to the wider Marvel Movieverse – the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube from the Hall of Odin connecting in to Thor and Tony Stark's equally genius daddy Howard bringing in Iron Man- that never overwhelm this particular adventure or character.

Johnston and his team (cast and crew) get so very much right about the film and character; from the palette of the 40's to the retro-futuristic sci-fi to the unwinking all-around good-guyness of Cap. The whole film is unashamedly unironic. When I first heard of the decision to put Cap in the USO show, I was a little dismayed. It seemed like they didn't really know who Cap was. But the way they carry it off here, with a greedy Senator and breaking out the well-known costume, it helps give the otherwise arcless Steve Rogers a few great character moments and decisions. Chris Evans is perfect as Cap and never loses sight of the small, skinny Steve Rogers. He manages to carry off the “Aw shucks” moments with charisma, never feeling forced or ironic. Hugo Weaving impersonates Wernor Herzog for one of the all-time great Marvel villains; he is a full-tilt unrepentant psychopathic villain. Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones give so much more to their small characters, they help lift the whole film. Tucci gives Erskine a real, flawed, brilliant and gentle humanity while Jones, being a man with a self-confessed lack of humour, shows off his razor-sharp comic timing. I've never seen Hayley Atwell in anything before, but her Agent Peggy Carter, a British agent on loan to the project, is wonderful and more than a match for all the macho-ness around her. Her and Steve's growing relationship is the heart of the film and is so well drawn and played out with such effectiveness there's a real kick in the guts come the end - even for me, who knew what was coming.

There are a few minor quibbles I had with the film. Some of the effects, especially the green-screen stuff, is really not great. But even this, oddly enough, adds to the charm of the film. And the really important effects work, to make the huge Chris Evans a scrawny shrimp, is done pretty perfect. And though the inclusion of Marvel bad-guy organisation Hydra (or HYDRA) as a dark-science cult loyal to the Red Skull is cool, I would have dearly loved to see Cap punching some Nazis in the face. And it's small things like this, small missed opportunities, that are the only real faults with the story. For one thing, I wanted more! More of Cap and the Howling Commandos, more of Cap and Bucky fighting evil together. But wanting more is a very good criticism to have of a film.

Joe Johnston is perfect for this sort of rock 'em sock 'em two-fisted action. There are obvious parallels with his The Rocketeer and his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark. He's a decent enough director, not one of the greats by any stretch, but one who generally knows his way around a story and a film. And the whole team behind really "get" what Captain America is all about - not flag-waving jingoism and blind patriotism, but standing up for those ideals that helped shape America (before it all went to hell in the 70's). And they get the man, Steve Rogers, right and manage to never cross in to cheesey or winking and nudging territory. Captain America is all sorts of fun and I can't wait to see it again.

N.B. Stan Lee once again does a cameo – though, for once, he was not involved in the creation of Captain America. That was Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

July 27, 2011


It has been a common theme in some of my recent posts, and I'd like to take the opportunity to talk a little more about it here: the audience experience and watching a film with a switched-on audience. Before watching Part Two of The Deathly Hallows on the Thursday we re-watched Part One at the Embassy on the Wednesday. What a crowd to see it with - the vast majority of them there for the double show (seeing Part Two at midnight) and dressed to the Potter-nines. The majority of costumes looked home-made, with more than a hint of inventiveness. This is the crowd I wished I'd seen the film with; the true die-hard fans whooping it up and having a fun time. Making it all an experience.

The Deathly Hallows Part Two marks the end of a rather unique series in the history of cinema. After 8 films over 10 years, its phenomenal to think that (bar the death of Richard Harris) they have not only managed to keep the core cast but the quality of the films has never tailed off. I think, at this point, it's rather unfair to just write them off as "kid's films" - yes the first few Harry Potter films are aimed at the kidlings, but the series has grown up with it's audience. Not only becoming "darker", but maturing. But if you've never seen a Potter film before, you'll be completely out of your depth here.

After the death of Dobby and Voldemort nicking the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave at the end of Part One, Part Two wastes nary a scratch of time in ramping up the quest for the Horcruxes. Harry, Ron and Hermione give up the camping and instead bust into Gringott's bank, free a dragon and make their way back to Hogwarts. The majority of the film (the final two-thirds I guesstimate) takes place in and around Hogwarts as Harry makes himself known, the staff and students rebel against Voldemort, Voldemort attacks and all magical hell breaks loose. And comparing the huge final battle here to the one that takes place in Transformers !!!, director David Yates comes out favourably. He keeps a sense of geography in the action and relates it all back to the characters and where they stand. And despite the huge cast of characters good and bad, Yates (and screenwriter Steve Kloves) allow each and every one of them a moment (at least) to shine, to make an impression. True, sometimes these moments can feel far too fleeting and feeling like a headlong rush towards the end, but within the larger context they all add up (especially the deaths of favoured characters). And the cast take these moments and completely own them: Warwick Davis as Griphook or Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley or Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall or Alan Rickman's fantastic Severus Snape and more; the cast is an embarrassment of English acting riches. Compare that to Bay's dizzyingly confusing assault on Chicago with the indistinguishable characters running here, there and everywhere for barely discernible reasons.

It's a further wonder that, in the midst of all the ending and emotion and deaths, there are moments of real humour; often dry but never distracting. No-one does understatement quite like the English*. Frankly, in this day and studio age the entire film is a wonder. That the three young leads have grown into their roles and, while not being amazing thesps by any stretch, all give something more to them. Yates has really grown as a director since Order of the Phoenix. For a big summer blockbuster it is quite brave in its themes, most notably that love will win the day. Harry is the (literally) self-sacrificing hero, who doesn't dispatch bad guys with a witty quip or a cold heart. He only wants to protect his loved ones, and they him. It is because Harry loves and is loved that he defeats Voldemort, not because he is the more powerful or resourceful.

The Deathly Hallows Part Two is a fitting send-off for the boy wizard. Not for the uninitiated, this is an epic conclusion to a huge film series that has, literally, spanned a generation. I still remember reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in one sitting, and then watching the film as I was crammed right at the top of the Embassy Theatre (pre-renovation). I still favour The Prisoner of Azkaban of the films - you can't go wrong with Gary Oldman - but look forward to sitting down and revisiting them all again. It isn't often something like this is tied up emotionally, thematically and character-wise with such success as this, so I can but hope for more film series/franchises to wrap up half as well.

* and yes, I recognise the possible irony of that being an overstatement.

July 24, 2011


You have no idea what a joy it is to have just written that title; that I was able to go to a see a cinema and see ID4 again. And on the 4th of July no less! Independence Day is one of the great big dumb event movies, an all-out destruction fest that was the first of director Roland Emmerich's many similar films. To top it all off, this was screening at the Roxy Cinema - Wellington's newest cinema, opened in the suburbs of Miramar with some powerful people behind it. The cinema was worth the trip alone - hands down the most beautiful cinema I've ever had the pleasure of being in. Stunning, stunning work with an impeccable attention to detail.

Uh, right, what? Oh, yeah. Independence Day. What a hoot. It was everything I remembered - Jeff Goldblum, explosions, 90's tech, an unrecognisable Brent "Data" Spiner, mass devastation and plucky heroism. As we have seen in recent years, these wham-bam fun but not stupid types of blockbusters can be hard to pull off. Emmerich managed to do so here. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are both bundles of wonderful charisma and charm that help carry the film through the mega-destruction.

Of course, everyone's seen Independence Day before, right? The world gets definitive proof that we are not alone in the universe when a bunch of ETs in big-ass spaceships show up. The landing craft burning their way through the atmosphere are suitably impressive in a biblical way: skies on fire, the Apocalypse coming and not a damned thing anyone can do about it. Oh-ho! But the alien Apocalypse didn't count on a nerdy Jewish computer genius and a hot-shot African-American fighter pilot teaming up (as well as the President and a drunk ex-fighter pilot from the Gulf War)! Emmerich manages to corral a large cast of characters and character types around all the explosions and end-of-the-world shenanigans. 

It's a gloriously cheesy, distinctly American blockbuster. Sure, it's not the smartest piece of cinema around, but it is actually decent amounts of fun. And, of course, it was helped by having a small(er than expected) but enthusiastic crowd, cheering and clapping along to the KA-BOOMs and "Welcome to Earth!" quotes. I love the times when I get to experience a film like this with a crowd that gets it.

July 23, 2011

03.07: CARS 2

One of the many great posters from Eric Tan
The first Cars is, so far, the only Pixar produced film I have not seen at the cinema (I am none too keen on the proposed Monsters Inc prequel, Monster University either). It just didn't appeal to me in any way whatsoever. Oddly enough, it may be the Pixar film I have seen the most - by catching it on DVD or TV or had playing in the background somewhere. And it is a perfectly alright film, a nice enough paean to the "slow life". And it obviously made a stack of cash (both the film and merchandising) as here comes the sequel; a sequel that takes a hard right turn and accelerates away from the slow life and right into a less original (if well executed) espionage/mistaken identity riff.

I think it's far to say I was feeling pretty ambivalent towards the film, but heading in to the Sunday afternoon screening I was prepared to keep an open mind to proceedings. Things begin with British super-spy super-car Finn McMissile on a mission - you can get a good idea of it from the poster to the right actually. The entire scene is slick, fun and engaging super-spy stuff pulled off with that Pixar magic and yes, starring automobiles. In Radiator Springs, hot-shot racing car Lightning McQueen is back for some between-season chilling out when his good buddy, rust-bucket tow-truck Mater, wrangles him into a globe-driving race-off. McQueen brings Mater along (as he apparently doesn't have Mater at his racing events, despite the great work they all did helping him win at the end of Cars) and Mater promptly a) makes a fool of himself and embarrasses McQueen and b) gets himself involved in Finn McMissile's continuing mission. Cars 2 has the lovable sidekick from the original as the main character, while Lightning McQueen and his worldwide race-off is the B story.

What plays out with Mater and the British spy-cars is enjoyable enough with some good gags, but it never really ties into the race-off or Mater's relationship with McQueen. Or, it doesn't tie in as well as could be hoped. Everything looks astoundingly gorgeous but, with Pixar, I have come to expect more than just pretty visuals. Pixar have always prided themselves, quite rightly, on character and story. True, they've come to rely on the "mismatched buddies" formula a bit too often but every film has something at its centre. I just can't help shake the feeling that Cars 2 seems out of step with what I've come to expect from Pixar. Perhaps that's being too harsh, but when so many dreadful, brain-mush films are released each year its nice to rely on at least one consistently great studio. If this were a Dreamworks film from a couple of years ago, it may have been looked at more favourably. But even Dreamworks are doing better, with How to Train Your Dragon and Kung-Fu Panda being huge improvements story and character-wise.

Again, I fear I'm coming across harsher than I actually feel. Cars 2 is a fun adventure flick, with a few nice touches and laugh-out-loud bits. Yes, the humour is aimed quite distinctly at a younger audience, but the whole film is and I really don't have a problem with that. Frankly, even if Cars 2 is the absolute worst film Pixar ever give us, well, they (and us) are doing pretty damn great.  

July 18, 2011


Before I start talking about Michael Bay's latest robo smash-'em-up let's take it back a bit. Growing up, the original Transformers cartoon was my favourite TV show by far. I raced home from school every day to watch, enthralled as these alien robots warred with each other. Sure, there was Thundercats, Voltron and G. I. Joe too but they couldn't hope to compare. It helped the Transformer toys were , in fact, two toys in one. Three even, if you count them as being a puzzle as well as a robot and car/plane/boat/whatever. The original Orson Welles (and, yes, Leonard Nimoy) starring original Transformers movie was a seminal movie for my kid-self. I recognise the fact that it was out to sell me more toys, but damn if I didn't enjoy the hell out of it anyway. To give you an idea of the pop culture space this series was taking up in my brain, a live-action Transformers movie was the first movie I can ever remember wanting to make (I was 8 and was thinking of having huge, remote-controlled robots for the Transformers).

So. Transformers. I know 'em, but I'm not a precious geek about 'em. And Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the Moon is courting the old-school Transformer fans like myself as none of the previous films have. There are various call-back to the original series: the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, the Ark, the Space Bridge and even Optimus Prime's transforming trailer. It's a shame they couldn't have focused on the story instead.

The film begins with the reveal that the entire space race of the 1960's was in fact a race to retrieve a Transfomer ship, crashed on the moon. That's a cool place to start, even if it is another tortured reveal of unnecessary Transformer mythos and is crow-barred into the existing continuity. In the present, the Autobots discover the existence of this crashed Transformer ship and, lucky day, happen to have a space shuttle of their own standing by. Sentinel Prime, an old Autobot leader and the last great hope for ending the war, is found and brought back to Earth. He's the guy who invented the Space Bridge - basically a teleportation array. The long and short of it: Decepticons get a hold of it and invade Earth from the moon (wait, what? Where the hell were those guys?! they've just been hanging out on the moon for the last two movies? And no-one's seen them before?!). The rest of the story can be summed up thus:

For all of the talk, from various people involved, Dark of the Moon is not a huge improvement over Revenge of the Fallen. Yes, it is better than that sorry excuse for a film but Dark of the Moon still carries the baggage of the Fallen and suffers from a lot of the same afflictions. Once again, there is an over abundance of, and over reliance on, pointless "comedy" relief characters. John Malkovich is obviously picking up a pay cheque here because his crazy boss character could be cut from the film entirely, with no loss (only improvement) to the story. Ken Jeong's crazy paranoid guy is grating and, once again, the Witwicky's make an appearance. While these two were a welcome surprise in the first Transformers, they serve no purpose here and the humour just falls thuddingly flat. On top of all this, Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger once again add torturous Transformer backstory and secret history. Is it too much to ask that the Decepticons formulate a new plan instead of re-using ideas from their Cybertron days?

Bay knows his way around an action scene but, as with Revenge of the Fallen, the rhythm and pacing is off. The confrontation between Sam and Starscream is a perfect encapsulation of this: what could have been an awesome take-down of a Decepticon by a resourceful human just keeps going and going and going. And Bay's depiction of the violence is brutal and callous. Hundreds, if not thousands, of humans die - crushed in cars or disintegrated by lasers. And no-one, least of all the heroic Autobots, seem to give a damn. Optimus Prime, the leader of the peaceful Autobots, is a cold-hearted motherfucker. He purposely lets Chicago fall to prove to the humans how much they need the Autobots.

The rhythm of the entire film feels off - a lot of stuff just happens, with no gradual build towards it. I will, however, say that the cut from the beginning of the invasion to the complete devastation of Chicago is an intriguing move - Bay deciding to not cram in another action scene? It also helps to give a sense of how fast this invasion becomes an occupation. With the first Transformers, every Transformer was given at least a small moment of character. By now Bay has introduced so many that even the old favourites have become indistinguishable; I felt more when the cartoon Ironhide died in The Transformers Movie than when the character died here. In addition to all the alien robot action (and introducing new Transfomers again) we have returning cast members Tyrese, John Turturro and Josh Duhamel. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley tags in for Megan Fox and acquits herself rather well amongst the action and testosterone. And, Jeong and Malkovich aside, the other newcomers (Frances McDormand and Alan Tudyk) manage to do much with the little they are given. Patrick Dempsey is actually rather watchable as the smary, snivelling Decepticon collaborator, even if his character continues to make baffling decisions. But yes, it is rather overstuffed. Overstuffed with characters, coincidences and story.

Gods, I've really given this a blasting haven't I? And I actually enjoyed it! A number of the action sequences are thrilling and fun - Duhamel and his flying squirrel squadron a particular stand-out - and Bay has a better handle on the geography of a large action scene than in Fallen. Perhaps my opinion of the film would even be improved had I seen it with a more engaged/Transfomer-fan heavy audience. Dark of the Moon is a big, crazy film and those are always more fun with an engaged and cheering audience - there were no guys dressed in home-made cardboard costumes this time. I don't know where this leaves the Transformers as a franchise (likely in good shape - they've made a stack of money off this film already) but Dark of the Moon is not quite a heroic return to the goofy, explosive fun of the first Transformers.

July 11, 2011


Gustavo Taretto, the writer-director of this Argentinean romantic comedy, is an obvious fan of Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Much like the beginning of the Great Nebbish’s film things begin with a voice-over and shots of the city. The city, in fact, as a character. In this case, Buenos Aires. But these aren’t the type of shots the Buenos Aires tourism department would use. This opening montage shows the bizarre and the ugly in the architecture of Buenos Aires, while our narrator Martin lays all of society’s ills squarely at the feet of this poor architecture and city planning. This is balanced out by Mariana’s opening narration, expounding on the beauty of the architecture in Buenos Aires – she is an architect herself and loves the strange details and history behind the buildings that make up the city. The name of the film comes from the word for the ugly, featureless sides of buildings; the medianeras or "side-walls". 

This tells the tale of two people who are seemingly perfect for each other… if only they were to meet. It seems unlikely in a city of millions that they ever will, despite living in adjacent apartment blocks. And Taretto has great fun with this concept – there are meet-cutes that almost happen, there are parallel occurrences in the characters lives, there are little moments and hints at what they could be together. And despite the well-worn rom-com convention that the two lovers will come together, over-coming all obstacles in their way as they do so, there is a genuine question as to whether these two will. I couldn't help but feel that if this concept had been processed through the Hollywood system we would have been given a film overstuffed with forced "quirkiness" and coincidence. Instead, Taretto manages to balance a realism that keeps the film just this side of twee.

This realism is accentuated by the cinematography of Leandro Martinez, who manages to capture the personalities of various buildings while balancing this with the thriving life of modern Buenos Aires. The mood of the film changes subtly with each season, with Martines giving each season its own palette; an obvious move perhaps but one that may have been missed or overdone in a more Hollywood version of this tale.

The comedy is sharp and the characters well drawn - both Martin and Mariana are suffering from acute post break-up blues and they're both trying to deal with them in their own way. To add to that is the pressure of living in a city of millions while feeling connected to no-one. Medianeras is a film about love, and the search for same, in the modern city that has at its heart a love for that modern city. Martin and Mariana may criticise the city (Martin particulary) and the disconnection they feel, but it is criticism that carries affection with it. The film is not perfect - Taretto almost fumbles the end and there is a post-credits sequence that we could have defintely done without, but these are not enough to undo the affection that has been built up for these characters and this film.

July 8, 2011

The (possibly, maybe, almost) final appeal

Hello all readers, 

my fundraising venture for getting me to the annual Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas is nearing it's end. There's just over three weeks to go before it closes off (and, coincidentally, three weeks until the NZ International Film Festival). The time between now and when I kicked it all off has gone incredibly fast. I have already received a number of very generous donations from friend and family alike and I just wanted to give one final shout-out (in a good way) to you guys reading this blog. This blog o' mine is the reason I'm headed to Fantastic Fest. Yes, the Fest is an event I've been wanting to get myself to for years now but it was really only after I was writing this blog that I started thinking about it seriously. To re-iterate: this will not be a holiday for me. I will be writing about everything I experience at Fantastic Fest, right here at rockets & robots are GO! Sure, it'll be an absolute blast and I intend fully on having the best damned experience I can, but I'll be sharing those experiences with you guys as much as my blogging skills allow.

But back to the raising of funds. Frankly, I'm annoyed at myself for not promoting it more. I could point to a number of things that deterred me from it but the singly biggest obstacle has been myself. I'm not the type of person to ask for help like this; I'd much rather be able to do it under my own steam. But in this case, I can't. And the way I have been looking at the entire venture is this: I'm your intrepid reporter. You, the reader, is sending me off on assignement to a film festival. And you won't be reading crappy little newspaper snippets buried under the movie listings in the two-page spread that is the entirety of the "arts" section. No. You, my readers, will be reading blog posts chock full of details (and, if you have donated, possibly directing me to films).

So, for one (possibly, maybe, almost) final time I ask you to click on my IndieGoGo campaign button to the right and spread the word. If you can, a donation is appreciated. But, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading.


Yes. This is AWESOME.

July 6, 2011


As you might recall, back in May my friends and I took part in the V48 Hours Filmmaking Competition. Well, I just thought I'd share with you all the film we managed to make in that time. So, without further ado here is ICW's Dirty Laundry

We had a grand time making it and I hope you enjoy it.

July 1, 2011


Last night I attended the Programme Launch for the Wellington leg of the 2011 NZ International Film Festival and there are more than a few films I'm excited about seeing this year. There are over 400 sessions over two weeks and across 6 cinemas. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Wellington Film Festival and you can read an account of the first few years here.

As with last year, however, I am disappointed that a) there is no Live Cinema film closing out the Festival and b) Auckland DO have Live Cinema closing out the Festival and it's Nosferatu! Live Cinema has been a highlight of each Festival year for me - it is a silent classic with live accompaniment and previous films have included Buster Keaton's Steamboat Jr. and the horror classic (with live theremin!) The Cat and the Canary.

So, what have we got to look forward to? A veritable boat-load of films have been shipped from the Cannes Film Festival this year and there seems to be a stronger emphasis (or at least a few more) action/thriller films from overseas. But let's break it down shall we?

There are the Big Films like:
  • Terence Malick's Palme d'Or winning The Tree of Life
  • The now banned from Cannes Lars von Trier's Melancholia
  • Morgan Spurlock's newest doco-experiment POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  • Werner Herzog's 3D cave painting exploration, Cave of Forgotten Dreams 

But it's not all about the new hotness. There is also a selection of bona fide cinematic classics:

  • Martin Scorsese's incendiary Taxi Driver in a brand new 35mm print
  • a restored digital print of Fellini's La Dolce Vita
  • A "lost" Elia Kazan classic, Wild River
  • Metropolis (the second time I'll be seeing this at a Film Fest and not the last time this year either - the NZ Symphony Orchestra will be playing the score with the film later this year)

Having the chance to see classic films like these on a cinema screen is one of the highlights of the Film Festival for me, every year.

But one of my other very favourite things about the NZIFF is getting to see work from new directors, new voices. This year I've already picked out:
  • Submarine
  • Troll Hunter
  • Snowtown
  • Hobo With a Shotgun
  • another low budget, intelligent sci-fi? Sign me up for Another Earth
  • Tyrannosaur - Paddy Considine's directorial debut!

Then there are those films I've been reading about and anticipating for a year... or sometimes more!
  • I Saw the Devil
  • 13 Assassins
  • Space Battleship Yamato
  • The Innkeepers (with director Ti West in attendance)
  • The Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan food and impersonations
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene

And the NZIFF is never one to skimp on the documentaries. This year (among others) I have on my list:
  • Page One: Inside the New York Times
  • Errol Morris' Tabloid
  • Hot Coffee - a film about the rise of the litigious culture in America
  • Senna - a car-racing doco that has been making big impressions overseas
  • Sons of Perdition
  • Project Nim - from the director of Man on a Wire.

And this barely scratches the surface of what I'm looking to experience at Film Fest this year. There are always those few films that I have absolutely no idea or preconceptions about before going in, and it's this chance to discover a new cinematic gem that really invigorates me and makes me appreciate all over again the hard work the NZIFF team do each year. As for me? Not only will I be trying to get to as many films as possible (the current list is sitting around 60), I'll also be a volunteer usher, manning the Film Society information desk, working the day job and writing about it all. 

Yeah. I can't wait.