Begin Again

August 27, 2014 at 1:32 am | Posted in Film Review, Musical Review | Leave a comment
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Another day, another film, … this time “Begin Again“.

Warning: plot discussed.

Keira Knightley sings – she plays Gretta, a song writer, and occasional singer. Gretta was also half of a couple who wrote songs for each other, but Dave (Adam Levine) is plucked from obscurity and sucked into the Machine, in New York, by a big record label. Dave’s head is turned, and Gretta is adrift in New York. She ends up in Steve’s one room ‘apartment’. Gretta, Dave and Steve were friends in Bristol. Steve is trying to make it big in the Big Apple. James Corden, as Steve, puts in a fine performance – he is like a musical young Ray Winstone!

I was a bit doubtful at first, but Knightly won me over – after 10 minutes she was Gretta, song writer and occasional singer – she certainly sings well enough to occupy the part. For Gretta, it is about letting the song be itself, not turning the song into a ‘hit’

This is one of films challenges: are songs for the song, or are they for the audience? The latter leads to the Machine – find the next young thing and cash in quick. Or do you let the song stand front-and-centre, let it do the work, not be overshadowed by the presentation?

Gretta leaves Dave’s Label supplied posh mega loft and squats on Steve’s couch. This another of the film’s challenges: two song writers doing their thing, one has a big label, the other gets by busking. It all seems to be about the money. Not the art or the journey.

Gretta meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo) a burned out record producer, who has been moved sideways by everything he valued in life – his record label, his wife, and his daughter. Dan is damaged goods. While the focus is on Gretta – the camera loves knightly in an Audrey Hepburn way – a strong storyline is Dan’s: will he get his life back? He was once a young turk of the recording industry. He loves his 14 year old daughter, and she loves him, yet they are further apart than the usual age gap. And he still burns with the betray by his with with a rock star in Europe. Ruffalo puts in a great performance. The director and writer, John Carney, dangles an unsympathetic portray of Dan in front of the audience, at the start of the film, to set a broad canvas. Yet, by the end of the film you rooting for Dan.

Then there is Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), the slightly confused daughter who wants her dad back – and the hot boy at school. Dan wishes she would add more area to her clothing; Gretta offers style advice.

It is a nice movie. the music really works; in parts it is almost a musical. Gretta composes are ‘you bastard, you broke my heart’ song, on a napkin and she and Steve sing it into Dave’s voicemail.

There is the tension and uncertainty of the relationship between Dan and Gretta – will they be more than friends who collaborate. I was pleased with how that ended up.

Carney even manages to pull it off the tricky one point in time from three perspectives sequence.

I enjoyed this film. I like that it had no violence. I like the well crafted feel on the film. I like seeing the creative process in making an album being executed by people who looked like they were enjoying it. I like the satisfying conclusion. It made me think: do we like something because we like what we perceive (in this case hear) or do we like something because we like what it helps us to perceive (helps us to hear)? At the start of the film Dan like Gretta’s song, not just for what she sings, but more so for what it could be.

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Lucy

August 25, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Another Scarlett Johansson film, it must be a science fiction film. I went to see Lucy the other day.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

It is very much a Luc Besson film: slick fight choreography (Matrix/martial arts); crazy car sequences (Lucy drives the wrong way through Paris -at speed); rough unshaven cops; slick bad guys; and tight shots.

Johansson’s performance holds the film together and in many ways up. She plays Lucy – the ‘heroine’. The film starts in Taiwan and Lucy through a dodgy boyfriend ends up being offered a ‘can’t refuse deal’ from the Korean Mafia. Why Lucy is studying in Taiwan is never explained, and therefore that part of the back story unbelievable.

Lucy becomes a reluctant drug mule – this film can’t do good things for tourism in Asia. Her new business associates inexplicably detain her and beat her so badly the drug sachet inside her body ruptures and releases a massive does of some new tailored recreational drug into her system, and as it shows in the trailers, she starts accessing all of her brain – not just the 10% attributed to folklore. Lucy moves from party girl with interesting past issues to driven superior being.

Morgan Freeman plays the role of a neurologist – who is used to introduce some nice natural photography shots and explain brain pseudo-science to the films audience. Its quite a clever way to explain what purportedly happens if we used all of our brains.

Thats all really, there are some nice CGI of cell division, some kick-ass gun battles and there is a not too surprising end.

Deep Breath (Dr Who: Series 8, Episode 1)

August 24, 2014 at 6:33 am | Posted in Film Review, Show Review, TV Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Having hidden behind the family sofa, as a young boy, while watching Doctor Who, I found myself unable to resist seeing the ‘new Doctor on the big screen. I went to see Deep Breath (Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 1) at the Embassy Theatre this afternoon – it was a sellout.

Warning: Plot elements discussed.

The new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, looks and sounds like a serious cross between Rowan Atkinson and Billy Connelly!

The ‘old’ Doctor is gone – regenerated. How will Clara, played by Jenna Coleman, cope? What would you do if your best friend (maybe more than that) went from looking like your cousin to looking like your uncle?

There is a hilarious deprecating send up by Stax, a Sontaran turned butler (with mixed results), played by Dan Starkey. All of the past Doctors are introduced in Strax’s “blog”! The rest of the Paternoster Gang also appear. Madame Vastra (a Silurian, played by Neve McIntosh) and Jenny Flint (a human) provide an example of how you can make an odd relationship work. They also provide some local colour and a bit of intelligent muscle – though less so in the case of Strax.

No sooner does the Doctor appear – dazed and confused after a regeneration – than London needs to be saved. Watch it when it screens on TV to find out from what. He really does need Clara’s support; but, who will support Clara while she comes to grips with the change in the man in her life?

Having explored the companion dynamic when the Doctor is the same physical age as the companion, in Series 7, the writers can now look at a relationship between a older man and a younger woman. Where will it go?

While still pitched at a wide audience, this episode deals with some meaty issues.

Certainly by the end of the extended episode, Clara has come to accept an older looking Doctor. But it does take a phone call from the previous Doctore to tip her over the edge. This sets a dangerous plot device precedence – the Doctor can phone ahead and presumably phone back. There is no need to contrive to bring the actors al together: a voice will do. Causality is dead.

Still I enjoyed it. The special effects are world class CGI: long gone are the Jon Pertwee days, when half the props looked like they were borrowed from the producer’s son’s toy box.

As with any good episode 1, it hangs out some very tempting glimpses of where the series might go – like an official girl friend for the Doctor! who runs heaven (or does she?).

Predestination (2014) – Trailer Review

August 24, 2014 at 5:45 am | Posted in Film Trailer Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see the first episode of Dr Who with Peter Capaldi in the starring role, and one of the trailers was for Predestination.

For once, the trailer matched the feature.

Predestination looks like a film about a rookie (Sarah Snook) time cop who needs to makes his bones – under the watchful eye of a veteran (Ethan Hawke).

Would you kill someone if they were going to bomb 1000’s of people?

It looks promising.

Allegro – RNZB 2014

August 21, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I was not going to see the Royal New Zealand Ballets’ latest production – Allegro – but I found myself buying tickets when events conspired. There were five works:

  • Allegro Brillante – by George Balanchine;
  • Les Lutins – by Johan Kobborg;
  • Satellites – by Daniel Brown;
  • Mattress Suite – by Larry Keigwin;
  • Megalopolis – by Larry Keigwin.

Allegro Brillante, as it was probably danced in 1956, seems a bit predictable in a geometric kind of way. It provided a nice historical beginning to the production.

Les Lutins, was my favourite. The dancing was sincere and there was real between the dancers, the violinist (Benjamin Baker), and the pianist (Michael Pansters). Rory Fairweather-Neylan got to show both his skills, and also a bit of his cheerful self. Yang Liu was flighty and flirty. Arata Miyagawa rounded off the affection-triangle. It was good to see Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Arata Miyagawa throwing down!

Mattress Suite made me think a bit – and it was a bit sad. There is a queen sized (at least) mattress and it does move around.

Megalopolis was just full of dance forms, and had lots of energy to it.

Snowpiercer

August 10, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Another night, another New Zealand International Film Festival Film – this time it was Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

Humanity is reduced to the inhabitants of a single train, perpetually traveling around our a world – turned glacial by a too effective solution to global warming. The the passenger carriages are an analogy for the hierarchy in any society: the closer to the engine your carriage the higher up the ‘food chain’ you are.

There is a revolt – the supercargo at the rear of the train who got on without paying want a rearrangement of things and launch a revolt; as it turns out. not the first of its kind. As the revolt fights its way forward, things get bloody, and each carriage differs from the previous one quite starkly. There is a prison car, a protein block factory car, a water purification car, a farm car, a fish farm car, a school car, all sorts of cars, and of course the engine at the front.

It is a little of 1984 meets Mad Max – manipulation of society mixed with a unique take on the post-apocalyptic meme. The landscapes are all snow and ice; one wonders how the track and bridges survive year after year without anyone doing maintenance.

Chris Evans is Curtis – the leader of the revolt. What he finds out about how the train is run – mechanically, operationally, and socially – almost unhinges him.

He is ably supported by a cast that includes: Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho, and Ko Asung. Tilda Swinton is unrecognisable portraying a train apparatchik.

It is quite violent.

Dior and I

August 4, 2014 at 10:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Another ‘visit’ to the NZ International Film Festival: Frédéric Tcheng’s “Dior and I“.

This is a ‘beautiful’ film: beautiful clothes; beautiful locations; beautiful people; and no shouting, but a surprisingly collaborative creative process.

It is 2012 and Belgian Raf Simons is being welcomed as the new Creative Director at the House of Dior; with him is his “right hand man” Pieter Mulier. The pair have eight weeks to create a collection.

This film gives a wonderful behind the scenes at one of the last great fashion houses. Go-Pro cameras planted everywhere give candid access to all parts of the creative process. Frédéric Tcheng artfully weaves historic footage of Dior and words from his biography into the candid footage.

What surprised me the most was the relationship between the Raf, and Florence and Monique. The latter are the premiers – they run two teams of ateliers. It is actually the ateliers who do the detailed design on all of the haute couture: Raf sets out how the garments will look and drape, but it is the atelier who does the detailed design and chooses how to cut and assemble the garment. As, one ateliers says; “I sketch the dress, make it, and it is Raf’s interpretation of my dress”. It is Florence and Monique decide which of their ateliers is responsible for a particular garment. Florence looks after suits and Monique looks after dresses.

The ateliers are the guardians of Dior’s legacy. Many have been there for decades; some have been there for 40 years! being french, they are beautifully turned out and work in heels – even on the control pedal of the sewing machines.

There really was no shouting. There was emotion and passion.

The showing takes place in a house with each room decorated with a separate flower – so many flowers that it takes 50 men two days to install all of the flowers.

If the ateliers are well turned out, then everyone else is ‘beautiful’ everyone of them could step straight into an editorial shoot. The fit-models are tall and thin; the runway models are ‘just so’. The Managing Director is an elegant french woman.

Anna Wintour, Marion Cotillard, Sharon Stone and Jennifer Lawrence make cameo appearances at the showing. I just hope that the Dior client who spends over 330,000 Euro a year, and received a personal fitting in New York from Monique, was also there.

My only question is how do they make the model’s shoes look so small?

Under the Skin

August 1, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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It is New Zealand International Film Festival time again in Wellington, and after some confusion I saw my first film: Under the Skin.

Warning: Plot Elements disclosed.

Scarlett Johansson plays the part of a nameless women who picks up young men, with no family and friends, and disappears them. She makes it look easy; then she gets a lot of practice. Why is never answered.

There is nudity – but not really in a sexual way; more of a clinical approach. It is almost as if the mysterious young woman does not understand her own body – that she is following a script. What lies behind this is eventually revealed; and it is a bit of a shock – but it does explain the film’s title.

Johansson does a great job.

The film is set in Scotland, possible Glasgow, using a mix of rundown suburbs and stark countryside.

It reminded me of Liquid Sky and Repo Man.

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