Movie Review: The Railway Man

 

Arriving in theatres January 2014 is The Railway Man, a movie to give new meaning to the legends of war stories such as Schindler’s List and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Through the eyes of British soldier, Eric Lomax we are captured with fellow soldiers who have been caught by the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore in World War 2.

As part of the engineers who were used to build the impossible railway, Lomax saw the hardship and torture under which troops were forced to work creating the Burma Railway. Lomax had joined the war in 1939 at the age of 19 and posted with the signal core. His love for the railway, its trains and schedules both before the war and his solace after it, form the lattice work in this story. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Railway Man”

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter Mitty is a snooze you lose day-dreamer and in 1947 no one knew how to play the day-dreamer better than Danny Kaye. The Samuel Goldwyn film constructed from the short story work  James Thurber was a success and I should know. My 13yo loved watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty at Grandma and Granddad’s so it had the legs on it to be a lasting work. This year it’s Ben Stiller picking up the baton as he directs and stars in the Christmas release. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

Movie Review: Enders Game

 

The latest sci-fi movie Enders Game aimed at the younger audience comes in with a mixture of teenage Battlestar Galactica angst then loads it with a hint of a Hunger Games survival story. In Enders Game Earth has survived an onslaught attack from the Formics, an alien race of insect like creatures. It was only due to the heroic sacrifice of an earth fighter known as Mazer Rackham who gave his life for the cause. Now years down the track, Earth has repositioned itself to combat any future alien attacks. Through the highly specialised training of young earthlings the future of earth is sure, or so it seems. Continue reading “Movie Review: Enders Game”

Movie Review: Beyond the Edge

Beyond the Edge

Beyond the Edge is a stunning 3D vista of a movie that we should treasure and promote for its unique way of focusing our gaze. Many historical documentaries seek to give us a view through a long lens back to the past. With Beyond the Edge we should be proud that the storytellers have actually transported us back to walk through 1953 with Edmund Hillary from the bee hives of New Zealand through our own mountain ranges to join one of the most ambitious mountaineering climbs of the century.

As a nation New Zealand has achieved many incredible feats over the years thanks to pioneers and risk takers who took the vision set before them in lanky strides. Edmund Hillary’s footsteps to the pinnacle of Everest would be considered our greatest but how did the bee keeper from down under end up on top of the world.

Beyond the Edge, written and directed by Leanne Pooley, brings this focal point in Kiwi history to life. The movie draws on a number of media sources to composite an engaging story that reveals more about the man and the expedition. To the unaware general public we may simply think that Hillary hired his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and went for an afternoon stroll up the Mountain. But this was no molehill and as a project years in the planning and months in the making this was actually a British expedition sponsored to bring kudos back to post-war English soil.

The cinematic experience of Beyond the Edge is riveting. The balance of old footage and photography was a highlight of the movie with all media sources edited to produce clear 3D effects that have breathed life into the archives. Narratives from relatives, expedition leaders and the climbers who have followed in the footsteps of Hillary and Norgay all contributed to paint the highlights and shadows on a deeper story than the famous phrase “we knocked the bastard off” uttered by Hillary to fellow Kiwi mountaineer, George Lowe.

To understand the expedition is to comprehend the achievement. Others had failed, some would pay a sacrifice along the way but when you begin to see the hundreds of people who moved tonnes of food and equipment step by step up the face of Everest you appreciate the people who got Hillary to a place where he and Norgay were positioned for their day in the Nepalese sun.

There is no doubt that the tenacity of Edmund Hillary was a deep seated quality that brought quiet resolve. This was story of a man willing to push himself before all others in order to go to the summit of the 29,000 ft peak of Mt. Everest. Chad Moffit is an easy fit playing the role of Edmund Hillary. The likeness and composed nature speak well of the gentle giant he portrayed.

Beyond the Edge is a exquisite piece of filmmaking that will open the eyes of generations to a Kiwi legend and inspire more ‘Hillarys’ to walk out of the classroom to climb their ‘mountain’. The distributors of the movie have gone a long way to assist in helping both adults and students understand the movie. The study guide and additional resources available can all be found through www.beyondtheedgefilm.com

Rating: G

Movie Review: Prisoners

Prisoners

This ‘out of nowhere’ movie about a kidnapping that will shake parents to the core is gaining a lot of support for writer Aaron Guzikowski. The writer of Contraband can thank Mark Wahlberg for taking a script that had little attention and driving it to the point we have a tension filled masterpiece on screen. The mere thought of a child abduction would send many a parent into a tail spin. Think of a loved one and it doesn’t take much to relate and at that point you have become vulnerable to Guzikowski’s pen.

Imagine for a moment your Thanksgiving dinner turns into anxiety and trauma as your six year-old daughter and her friend from next door disappear after a suspicious vehicle is seen in your quiet suburban street. Hours turn into days as the two families implode searching within and without to find clues to the girls whereabouts.

Despite the attention of directors Bryan Singer and Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua as well as Christian Bale, and Leonardo DiCaprio it was Mark Wahlberg’s interest that pushed things along for Prisoners until Canadian director Denis Villeneuve was appointed to shoot Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in the leads.

Jackman is intense as he plays a mid-west religious father, Keller Dover. A local builder with a bent on protecting his family down to the apocalypse prepared basement in their home, Dover is a man with a past that contributes to his self-sufficiency. His determined strength is passed into the core of his family, teaching his eldest boy Ralph played by Dylan Minnette to shoot deer in case ‘the need arises’. In the supporting cast we feel pain through the eyes of Mum, Grace, played by Maria Bello. At times comatose from the anguish we see the helplessness of all the key parties as they struggle to ask ‘what more can we do’?

The couple who are friend’s of the Dovers with their own daughter missing are played by powerhouse actors Terrence Howard and Viola Davis. They strengthen the emotional tooth pulling that this movie exudes. Watch for some killer performances by Paul Dano as Alex Jones who is seen as the number one suspect in the search for the girls and Melissa Leo who provides the thread as his mother Holly.

With Gyllenhaal we see the moody Detective Loki who doesn’t give up. Tracking down the worst scum bags is his bread and butter and telling the truth from a lie is an intuition he relies on but has he become tired and lost his edge. Gyllenhaal is a dog with a bone in this story prompting us to ask whether the Detective is on his game as time runs out and leads run dry.

As a movie Prisoners builds an incredible collection of imagery that begs the question who is caught and who is the captor. What at first appears an easy drama of sorts moves to touch on our fears and then tortures the audience to ask how far we would go to punish the perpetrators. It walks some dangerous moral ground and asks you two key questions. “Does the ends justify the means?” and “How should the punishment fit the crime?”

Rating: R16 Violence,offensive language and content that may disturb

Our New Dr Who is a Grumpy Old Man

Peter Capaldi the 12th Dr WhoThe BBC announced the 12th Doctor would be Peter Capaldi, a Glasgow born British actor with an Oscar and Bafta on the mantle piece. Capaldi had a guest spot in a 2008 episode of Dr Who and while he ironically had a role as a W.H.O Dr in the World War ‘Z’ movie, it was his role as the foul mouthed spin doctor, Malcolm Tucker from “The Thick of It” that has given him recent fame. The 55 year-old is a long term Dr Who fan who back at the age of 15 was writing to the papers encouraging them to do a 25 year special when it came up in 1988. Support for Capaldi’s appointment has been coming in from a number of quarters including of course the current Doctor, Matt Smith. John Hurt and Stephen Fry both tweeted their congratulations;

 

Currently he has just finished doing a BBC version of the Three Musketeers which is a role removed from many of his roles. Looking at his performances and acting range you could ask if he was the cheaper ‘Hugh Laurie’ for the role. With the craggy face and the wide “possum in the head-lights” look he will give the role a whole new dimension. Peter Capaldi begins filming for the new series in the English Autumn.

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Movie Review: The Internship

The Internship

Air New Zealand continued to support their position as The Flying Social Network with a red carpet première of The Internship at Hoyts Sylvia Park. Invited guests, competition winners and social media friends enjoyed the Air New Zealand hospitality of superb food and All Good drinks from the Karma Cola and Gingerella team. The audience entered into the #AirNZGetYourGeekOn atmosphere and you could be forgiven for thinking you were walking through a Dick Smith cloning convention. Many had found a new use for their old 3D glasses collection at home, punching the lenses out to give a look of geek genius in their costume attire. It was an appropriate event after Air New Zealand recently were asked to Google’s I/O event to profile the Air New Zealand Fairy program.

Three ingredients brought together in the new comedy The Internship have created a fun uplifting experience for movie goers. First up the stage is set when you plant a comedy script in the middle of the world’s best employment location at Google in Mountain View, California. The myth that is a reality comes to life in the movie and starts with free food on campus and doesn’t end with the sleep pods or the bikes in Google colours. The script that was written by Vince Vaughan and sanded into shape by Jared Stern is the right mix of feel good humour, Owen Wilson philosophy and a story arc that you know will take you higher.

What really rounds out the recipe though, is the Master Chef in Director, Shawn Levy. From Night at the Museum to Real Steel he knows his story craft. Taking an eclectic cast and weaving a few heart strings through the comedy is something only a few directors can manage. For a comedy movie I was surprised that the 119min was a smooth evening out with no time to look up the time. The antagonists were likeable rogues and the battlers were believable in both their weakness and their ability to overcome in the fightback. Tie in a simple love story for the backdrop and you know the food is good for the eating.

Our story walks along the slightly unbelievable path of two down and out salesman in Nick (Owen Wilson) and Billy (Vince Vaughan). When their successful sales careers falls flat on their face they have to reinvent themselves in the face of personal failure. John Goodman as their boss tells them they’re only good for one thing and that’s sales. However when the boys find the possibility of life in Eden at Google via a Summer Internship program they set their sites on lifting their levels of Googliness. Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson are the right pairing of partners in comedy crime. They exude just enough empathy phermones to reel you in and then slap on some easy humour through their humble failings.

As 100 interns fight in teams to win the holy grail of tech positions as a Google employee, Nick and Billy end up with the mixed bag of genius ‘outliers’ to fight from the bottom up. Socially awkward Stuart (Dylan O’Brien) can’t take his eyes of the 4? screen while Yo Yo (Tobit Raphael) overcomes an oppressive Mum syndrome to code his way to the top. Neha Patel (Tiya Sircar) is a young lady who has imagined life through cos-play and fanfic so her collision with the RL (real life) helps round out her life experience. You’ll enjoy the cameo of Will Ferrell but some great performances came from Josh Brener as Googler Lile and the terror of the Internship program Mr Chetty played by Aasif Mandvi. For anyone watching a typical Google I/O event you will be convinced Aasif is actually a member of the Google Exec. His edge of the anger management program delivery keeps the competition tense to the end.

The Internship is a that story teaches us a number of life lessons and I’m not just talking about the rules of Quidditch on a Google sports field. Its not just a Mary Poppins lesson with a spoonful of comedy sugar to let the medicine go down. Through the romance of Nick and Rose Byrne’s character we remember not to judge a book by its cover. When the maniacal leader ( Max Minghella) of a competitive team puts down his team members all with the appropriate evil English accent we learn how not to lead a team. But the best lesson of all is how a team of connected and intelligent young people learn that drawing on the life experience of their older team members they can have an edge in the competition.

The Internship was a great movie night out enjoyed by all the Air New Zealand guests streaming out of the theatre. It just goes to show you can laugh your way to your dreams and make a few Exchange-a-gram “on the line” friends along the way.

Rating: M: Sexual references.

Movie Review: Snitch

Snitch

The latest Dwayne Johnson movie SNITCH takes ‘The Rock’ into a whole new area of drama with very pleasing results. The script is the result of one of the industry’s top stuntmen moving into the writing and directing end of the game. Ric Roman Waugh has been around for some time with celebrated work in Days of Thunder, Total Recall and Gone in 60 Seconds, but its his recent work that is opening up new opportunities with a creative storyline and a dramatic tension in the on screen results.

While ‘The Rock’ has a number of ”Dad’ roles to his credit like Tooth Fairy, The Game Plan and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. On this outing we have some acting credibility and a script that gives us a sense of the real drama between a father disconnected from his son through divorce and the story that while unravelling around them, is the catalyst to bring them together.

In our story a young man dabbling on the edge of the temptation of drugs ends up being the patsy for a friend who is dealing. When an American law is utilised with mandatory sentencing the dealer turns over young Jason Collins to the police to secure his own freedom. The young English actor Rafi Gavron plays the beaten young idealist struggling with a missing father figure extremely well.

Its from here that Dad, John Matthews (The Rock) is brought into the scene by his ex-wife Sylvie played by NCIS NY actress, Melina Kanakaredes. The broken parents are desperate to get their son out of the system and trying to come to grips with how results seem more important than justice. With no hope of convincing the District Attorney, Joanne Keeghan (played by Susan Sarandon) of a reprieve, Johnson goes undercover with the DEA to catch a thief as bargaining power to secure his son’s release. Barry Pepper is a surprise revelation as a hippy like DEA agent who monitors Matthew’s movements. Its a unique cast of characters that help create some suspense as you try to read between the lines of the story.

Its a great dramatic thriller as a Dad with love to gain and a life to sacrifice puts his company and the reputation of both families on the line for his son. Benjamin Pratt brings his villainy up to speed as Drug Lord Juan Carlos ‘El Topo’ Pintera while Michael Kenneth Williams rules the local roost as drug dealer Malik. Their will always be those who are detractors of any movie featuring the biceps of Dwayne Johnson on the movie poster but this is a great movie.

Rating: M: Drug use & violence.

Movie Review: Olympus has Fallen

Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus has Fallen is more than a routine action genre movie outing. Director, Antoine Fuqua, does a superb job of orchestrating his cast from the personal confrontations to the plot’s cliff hanger precipice. The story surrounds a very topical assault on American soil by a North Korean militant rebellion force. Their target is to acquire the President in the White House and the American secret service seems to simply capitulate in their path.

Rewind the clock and we are introduced early on to top Secret Service agent and Presidential body guard, Mike Banning played by Gerard Butler. The Machine Gun Preacher has taken his gruff Scottish he-man and put the persona in a suit with an ear-piece. We see some relevant backstory when Banning makes a call that sees a key character die and the President’s reaction as he arranges for Banning to be out of sight and out of mind. The timing couldn’t be worse as our Terrorist forces hit with war like impact led by Kang to capture the President and key government members in the bunker of the White House. You may remember Kang played by Rick Yune from his role as the villain’s key 2nd in command in Die Another Day. This time he delivers a more commanding confident performance that should set him up for more roles in the future.

Butler is a superb ‘man against the world’ actor in a role that is reminiscent of John McClane only more believable. The violence of the movie is incessant and not for the faint of heart as first the North Korean forces make their attack on the White House taking down American civilians in a blatant display of disruptive power. Next the movie kicks down a gear in the dimensions of action but steps up the intensity as Banning goes one on one with anyone untrustworthy.

At the focus of our story is President Asher played by Aaron Earkhart. I’d vote for this guy on ‘chin’ presence alone! I’m seriously surprised he hasn’t had any super hero roles. Earkhart plays the diplomat, the staunch leader and the vulnerable family man in a great combination role.

In the backdrop we have a US government trying to regain control of a situation that could bring nuclear consequences to the world. The Speaker of the House played by Morgan Freeman keeps the military in check while Angela Bassett heads up the Secret Service and keeps the lines of communication going with Banning on the inside.

It’s a great formulaic action movie with a plot we’ve seen before but not with as great a commitment to the fine tuning of the whole movie experience. Kudos must go to Antoine Fuqua and Gerard Butler whose combined talent makes this a brilliant action genre movie that others should emulate.

Interesting that similar to another outing Fuqua had when he directed Mark Wahlberg in Shooter while another movie with similar story was being created in the same year with Wesley Snipes. This time there is another terrorist in the White House movie coming up with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx on board directed by Roland Emmerich and called White House Down. As always I recommend going first in any sport to set the bar high which Olympus Has Fallen has done. Let’s see what happens in round two.

3.5 out of 5 popcorns

Movie Review: Oblivion

Oblivion

The silent stalker movie of the year is likely to be Oblivion. As a movie it seemed to only have the Tom Cruise cheerleaders and a poster bearing the guru like presence of Morgan Freeman to entice us. We’ve seen the trailers to give us a sense that this SciFi story could have some legs but there appears to be a lack of the usual Hollywood marketing hype that you might expect. After an evening in IMAX heaven I can now tell you this is a must see event for the popcorn loving alien paranoid movie goers amongst us.

Brought to life by Joseph Kosinski, the comic book writer, architect come Director of Tron, it exudes every essence of the phrase ‘Visual Masterpiece’. Kosinski has drawn on his architectural prowess to deliver a mesh of landscapes and man-made collaborations in a post-Apocalyptic world. The locations predominantly were shot across the US with CGi bringing iconic structures into play but many of the scenes drew on locations in Iceland to deliver a picture of a world rocked by earthquakes and a land slowly becoming devoid of water. The story for this movie was something Kosinski had been working on as a graphic novel since 2005. It was this story that first brought him to the attention of the movie makers although his initial director’s chair role was to helm TRON: Legacy.

As we begin the Oblivion story we find Jack and Victoria played by Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough filling the role of the maintenance crew on planet earth. We’re told the war was hard won but 60 years ago we overcame the invaders. By destroying earth’s moon they had left planet Earth in an unlivable state. Now the maintenance team are taking care of the creation of fusion energy from the left over sea water. Energy that will keep man alive for years to come on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. All is well for Jack with only two weeks before he and Victoria can sign-off on their tour of duty and join the rest of the migration to Saturn.

But something doesn’t sit well in Jack’s sub-conscious and the memories of a life not lived haunt him in his dreams. As events trigger, synapse connections become clues and we start to see the world that was hidden from Jack’s gaze. What seemed like a semi-idyllic task maintaining defence drones against the last of the alien invaders becomes a search for answers. And when you think you know your enemy the shock comes when its discovered your enemy knows you better.

The concept of man’s survival has often been played out against the backdrop of saving millions or protecting the Utopian planet we love. In this story we seem to have lost all the things worth fighting for which make it a personal discovery about what’s important. Oblivion is keyly about a well crafted story and surrounding this is the artistry of a well sculpted set, painted with faultless passion and design. Kosinski beautifully handles the camera to take you from the vista of a fallen planet to the man on tech confrontations that bring you up close to the eyes and sweating pores of man desperate to survive.

I’m giving Oblivion 4.5 out of 5 popcorns. Loved it!

Rating: M: Contains Violence & Nudity

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