Source Code

May 15, 2011 at 12:45 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Source Code the other day – curious to see how it would handle the central “ground hog day” premise.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Captain Colter Stevens, a US helicopter pilot ‘in Afghanistan’. But who seems to be trapped in a capsule, where the only means of communication is a video link to a mysterious (US Air Force) Captain Goodwin – played by Vera Farma.

The Air Force has some secret project that sends someone’s consciousness backwards in time – Stevens is that someone and Goodwin is his controller. Steven’s mission is to find out the identity of the person who put a bomb on a train. The only catch is that Stevens arrives just eight minutes before the bomb kills everyone on the train (including his ‘host’). But ‘they’ can, and do, send him back as many times as it takes; or until the nuclear bomb, that the train bomber has threaten Chicago with, goes off.

The whole science behind the project is implausible – but the usual suspension of belief gets one through.

Stevens strikes up a relationship with Christina – played by Michelle Monaghan – on the train. Christina is a regular commuter – along with Steven’s host – and Steven eventually falls in love with her.

Stevens must find the identity of the bomber and find a way to save Christina (and all of the people on the train), and spend the rest of his life with Christina. Stevens is very focused on ‘not leaving friends and comrades behind.’ Christina represents something good – someone to spend one’s last moments with (forever).

Goodwin is driven to find the bomber and save Chicago, and she must build a relationship with Stevens to keep him focused on the mission, and along the way they develop a mutual understanding. The film and Goodwin are time constrained as to how to build this relationship, and it ends up with Stevens recalling Hot LZs at night. Farma does a good job in a difficult role.

Stevens dies over and over again, each time he uncovers another clue, or overcomes an obstacle.

As to whether Stevens can save anyone on the train, that depends on whether it is a time machine or a portal to a parallel universe or something else.

The Adjustment Bureau

April 13, 2011 at 8:35 am | Posted in Dance Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see The Adjustment Bureau the other day, being not sure what to expect, but intrigued by the idea of the an exploration of pre-destiny.

So Matt Damon plays David Norris – a man seemingly set on the road to be the President of the United States – if only he could control his impulses and win a term as a Senator. Then into his life come Elise Sellas, played by Emily Blunt, and he feels fulfilled and wishes to spend the rest of his life with her. But, ‘The Plan’ says that they do not spend their lives together: he becomes senator and eventually President; she becomes the contemporary ballet dancer of her generation and eventuallys the choreographer of the age.

So begins a series of attempts – by the shadowy Adjustment Bureau – to keep them apart. But eventually they end up together.

Terrance Stamp, John Slattery, and Anthony Mackie are members of the bureau who try to keep things to ‘The Plan’. Stamp is the trouble shooter brought in to ‘fix’ things, when Mackie and Slattery are unable to keep things ‘on track’.

Mackie is disallusioned – hints throughout the film that he killed Norris’s father and brother – and ends up helping Norris. This was a concept that was explored: if you ‘believe’ what won’t you do? It is Mackie’s character who helps Norris.

The Adjustment Bureau seems to be a thinly disguised body of angels. And ultimately the film lets the viewer down: there is no confrontation with the ‘Planner’ – no confrontation with God. There is a message from the ‘one who writes the plan’ saying that ‘The Plan’ has been amended to let Norris and Elise stay together. What niggles, is that they were suppose to stay together in all previous iterations of ‘The Plan’: the film sidesteps the ‘infailability of the planner’ corundum. The closing final message is a statement about free-will.

The special effects are very good, and everyone puts in a good performance. There is even some chemistry between Damon and Blunt. I felt Blunt was perfectly cast as Elise; even her dance sequences seemed ‘real’.

The Roxy Cinema (in Miramar)

April 5, 2011 at 1:02 am | Posted in Place Review | Leave a comment
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Dropped in on the newly renovated Roxy the other day – fantastic decore and atmosphere.

It felt very 1930s. I guess with a creative group who have honed their skills creating the right feel for films, a small theatre was never going to be a problem. They have successfully recreated some of the 30s film magic.

It also felt very welcoming – the building impressed, it did not intimidate. Upstairs was a most impressive ceiling mural and statutes; downstairs: lightfittings. The theatre wasn’t open, but I will definitely go to a film there.

CoCo the cafe/bar/restaurant – located on the ground floor foyer – was very nice too. The decore was in keeping with the period – as were the staff uniforms. The staff were also very friendly and accomodating.

Great place to drop by for a bit of a pickme up – in spirit or to re-fuel. I can see an ever increasing number of tourists dropping in; the renovation also restored the outside to a 30s architecture. People were photographing both the interior and exterior.

Tutus on Tour 2011

March 6, 2011 at 8:21 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the last Wellington performance of this last week, at the Opera House. I was seated up in the ‘Gods’. The view was quite good; though, you did loose a little perspective on the jumps and leaps.

This year’s Tutus on Tour performance consisted of two pieces: Verdi Variations and Pinochio. The former sparkling white tutus – for the Ballerinas – and sparkling white jackets – for the male dancers. Pinochio was a character morality piece aimed at the young at heart.

Verdi Variations was classical ballet – the ballerinas were en pointe and the men leapt and turned. Lucy Green tossed in some fouettes (including a double); Yang Liu was graceful – she would later dance the part of the Blue Fairy in Pinochio; and Maree White impressed me with turns that I had never seen before – they looked like a fouette, but with very little whip of the non-supporting leg. There was a lovely short segment in which the five couples demonstrated a classic danish style of partner dancing – fast, the couple almost at the run, with the women executing split leaps in rapid succession, with their arms in the air, while the man supporting/holding his partner when they were at the apex of their leap.

Verdi Variations was not too serious – there was a frosty pas de trois where each ballerina competed for the limelight, and dancers male and female sought time on stage by themselves. As the name suggests this piece is set to music by Verdi.

Pinochio is of course about the boy made from wood. It has lots of moral messages: work hard; study hard; money doesn’t grow on trees; beware of strangers who promise great returns on investment. Yang Liu as the Blue Fairy and Lucy Green as the Cat both stood out.

Black Swan

February 24, 2011 at 4:53 am | Posted in Film Review | 1 Comment
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I went to see Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan the other week and found it intense.

This is not a ballet movie. It starts out like most ballet movie, with some very nice dancing and the obligatory pointe shoe scene. But, the movie is about one woman’s descent into madness. Had I know this before hand I think I would not have gone – I prefer less depressing and shocking subjects and story lines. The film and Natalie Portman do an excellent job of portraying a ballerina’s mental breakdown during a production of Swan Lake. Ballet and the Swan Lake story merely provide the backdrop.

Natalie Portman reportly spent six months preparing for the role by taking daily ballet lessons. She appears to have done much of her own dance work, and most certainly helped her fit into the part of Nina Sayers – a dancer chosen to play the parts of Odette/Odile in her company’s new production of Swan Lake.

The Film turns the focus of Swan Lake on its head, usually Swan Lake is decribed in terms of the Prince. Instead, the story revolves around the Odette/Odile – white/black swan – perspective. In the film, the artistic director is confident that Nina can portray the Odette, but is not sure that she can portray the darker Odile.

It is the artistic director pushing Nina to access something within herself that is outside her normal controlled emotions that drives Nina slowly mad.

The Film is so well done, that in the last third, I was not sure what was real and was was Nina’s projected self-delusions. The audience not so much sees Nina’s descent into madness, but accompanies her. It got a bit much for me at times.

If you like intense pyschological films this is for you.

The film is an R16, and there are some graphic scenes between Nina and another ballerina. I wondered and still wonder if they were strictly necessary. It is certainly not a film youtake enthusiastic 10 year old ballet pupils to. Nina is shown throwing up, starving herself, and enduring the kind of workplace bullying from the artistic director (dramatically played by Vincent Cassel ) that in any other workplace would lead to court action.

The King’s Speech

February 7, 2011 at 6:53 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see The King’s speech the other day, and really enjoyed it.

This is a film about how a humble speech therapist saved: his friend from a life on the sidelines; the British monarchy; Britain during World War II; and the British Empire!!

Geoffrey Rush does a wonderful job of playing Lionel Logue; and Colin Firth owns the part of Bertie ‘Johnston’ Windsor – aka George VI. Helena Bonham Carter brings the future Queen Mother to life.

Inspirational film, that shows the emergence of a leader, from a man plagued by doubts and his stammer. The film takes you behind the scenes – at a time when the British monarchy was almost bought down.

See it if you have time.

Winter’s Bone

January 18, 2011 at 12:38 am | Posted in Film Review | 1 Comment
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Went to see this the other day and was very impressed by the tight story and sparse feel of the film.

Winter’s Bone follows Ree – an Ozaks teenager, played by Jennifer Lawrence – as she looks to find her father, so that the she can keep the family home. Her father has put the family home, no real palace, but better than a cave, up as surity for him appearing in court.

Ree navigates the male oriented, closed society, in the hills looking for her father. Her father is no real gem, as he is more often away, living at the edge of the law. Indeed, many of the people Ree encounters are to some degree living on the edge of the law.

People are unfaillingly polite, and direct, and everyone stands by their word – if you don’t want to, don’t say anything. A place of walk softly and be prepared to use the big stick you carry, or be prepared to be hit by the stick the other person is carrying.

Much of the people people petitions – she has no stick and no man to front for her – are related to her. Family mean obilgations, not necessarily warmth. Her uncle and cousins at times seem as brutal towards her as non-family members.

As the film develops, we see that really tricky problems are dealt with by the women – often in the shadows.

Ree needs to hang onto her home to raise her two young siblings and look after her mentally ill mother. Even the army – escape route for many in poor circumstance – is not a way out: she is too young; and the large sign-up bonus doesn’t come through immediately.

In the end her courage impresses everyone – those watching and those in the film.

The Tourist

January 5, 2011 at 12:24 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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You are sitting on the train to Venice and a beatiful women comes up and down opposite you; she engages you in conversation and next thing you know you are having dinner with her. When you get to Venice you find yourself in the most amazing hotel. That is pretty much how the Film begins. You are Johnny Depp, and the women is Angelina Jolie.

Timothy Dalton, as Chief Inspector Jones, comfortably plays an ‘M’ like character – which created amusement everytime he was on screen.

Paul Bettany, as Inspector John Acheson, had the more difficult role of the Inspector obsessed with catching some tax dodger – over 780 million pounds! And Acheson will risk anyone’s life to do it – including yours.

The film has a nice role reversal of the ‘male agent uses innocent women as cover’ with Jolie doing the using and Depp the innocent.

Venice looks picture perfect – tempted to visit Venice on the strength of it being such a wonderful backdrop.

I can’t go into the plot much more as it would give it away. But don’t worry, only the very bad characters get killed.

Wellington Performing Arts Centre: Amazon

December 6, 2010 at 12:24 am | Posted in Dance Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the opening night of the WPAC Commercial Dance Graduates 2010 graduation shows, last Friday night.

As the name suggests the theme of the show was flora and fauna one might found in the rainforest.

There was a balletic feel to the show – in contrast to the more broadway themed of past shows. It got quite physical at times – swim-throughs, backward walkovers, etc.

There were 24 dance sequences ! This gave the 15 graduates solo (or small group) dances, which were intermixed with a dances involving all of them.

I liked: Bat, Snake, Panther, Fireflies, and Glow Worms. Fireflies used little lights to light up the three dancers and to enhance movement. Glow Worms cleverly used ventilating tubes to create giant orange worms – the clever choregraphy produced a quirky humourous and entertaining dance.

All the dancers seemed to be enjoying themselves; poured lots of energy and enthusiasm into their performance; and acquited themselves well technically.

The audience was very receptive and got quite vocal at times.

I hope lots of people got along to see it. I think the WPAC graduation show is an undiscovered dance gem. Maybe when they move into their new facilities next year, they will get more publicity.

NZSD Graduation Season 2010: KYLIAN

November 25, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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Last night, I went to the New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2010: Kylian Programme. I had gone to see the Kiwi Programme last week and was really looking forward to an evening showcasing the School’s ballet students. I was also looking to see the choreography of the much heralded Jiri Kylian.

There were four pieces: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), Evening Songs, Un Ballo, and Stoolgame.

The production standards are very high; probably as high as a professional company. I wonder what the NZ Ballet would make of it – I would really like to see them do some of these pieces. My thought when watching Un Ballo, was: “Why not take this on tour?” Then I answered myself with: “Because the students leave in a few weeks?”

The dancers and repetiteurs (Arlette van Boven and Ken Ossala) are to be congratulated for doing a fantasic job.

I found the use of the classical vocabulary in new ways both facinating yet reassuring – particularly with the first three pieces. The first three pieces were quite fluid and the music lovely. There was sufficient balletic structure that I did not feel uncomfortable (or lost!), yet sufficent modern and neo and abstract that I was challenged.

The lack of music in Stoolgame must have made it very challenging for the seven dancers who would have had to maintain a group rhythm without an external source. Still, their execution was excellent. The lack of music also made it a challenge for me; I did not realise how much I relied on the music to engage with a dance.

Not your traditional tutus, pointe shoes, and grande jetes evening; but worth a look if you want something different – the work that went into this and the sharpness of execution should be rewarded by having an audience watch it.

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