Documentary Edge Festival is coming

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Guys, who doesn’t like a good doco? The Documentary Edge Festival is the best time of year for us to check out the world’s best documentaries, and luckily we’re spoilt for choice with this year’s line up looking as impressive as ever. The programme features a stunning 58 films from all around the world, but one of the highlights is sure to be the opening night premiere of Erebus: Operation Overdue, a New Zealand film about the tragic loss of Air New Zealand Flight 901 when it collided with Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. The film is a highly anticipated feature of the festival which TVNZ Documentary Commissioner Jude Callen describes as “a powerfully emotional account of one of the darkest moments in New Zealand history.”

Another highlight will definitely be God Loves Uganda, a movie from Academy Award-winner Roger Ross Williams which looks at the role of the American Evangelical movement in fuelling Uganda’s terrifying turn towards the proposed death penalty for homosexuality. This will close out the festival this year.

For a full list of films, head to the Documentary Edge Festival website and be sure to get your tickets now!

Documentary Edge Festival

Auckland (21 May – 2 June 2014)
Q, 305 Queen Street, Auckland Central

Wellington (5 – 15 June 2014)
The Roxy, 5 Park Road, Miramar

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The LEGO Movie is awesome!

The Lego Movie

Holy crap you guys The LEGO Movie is freaking awesome!

Ok seriously from time to time a kids movie comes out that is legitimately awesome. The LEGO Movie is one of them. This is like The Lion KingToy Story trilogy, How to Train Your Dragon level awesomeness.

Directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord have managed to make a movie that brings out all the feelings of joy you get when you’re playing with Lego. You feel like you’re making the movie yourself, like you could go home and bust out your Lego sets and have more adventures or make the sequel yourself. Which I guess is the point. Sure this movie is a giant ad for plastic brick toys but it’s the best ad you’ll ever see. The story follows a generic construction worker Legoman whose life revolves around following the instructions. When his world is threatened he must embrace the idea of free thinking and creativity instead of simply following instructions.

It’s charming, it’s hilarious and it makes you feel like a kid again in all the best ways. Go see The LEGO Movie right now.

Divergent aka The Hunger Games lite

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Remember how awesome both The Hunger Games movies were? Don’t expect similar awesomeness from Divergent.

Here’s a movie that’s only been made because The Hunger Games, and you can really tell. The story is kind of all over the place, and even though they spend the first 30 minutes or so literally explaining the world they exist in it still doesn’t really make sense. The problem is that the film asks you to believe in this harmonious community made up of co-existing groups of people based on values that seem to have been plucked out of mid-air. There’s no explanation of why the factions are important, or why they work, or who chose those specific values to create the factions. Putting all of that aside the movie is filled with plot holes and weird non-twists.

On a positive note the acting is amazing. Shailene Woodley and Theo James are captivating as Tris and Four, respectively. Talented as they are their performances aren’t enough to rescue the rest of the film. Average, unsurprising, run-of-the-mill, other cliche sayings. That said, it’s not as awful as Twilight. Nothing could be as awful as Twilight. Just watch The Hunger Games again, instead.

Captain America sequel thrills

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The Winter Soldier represents a more sophisticated Marvel movie.

Captain America: The First Avenger is my favourite non-Avengers movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I was as excited as a superhero movie buff could be when the opening credits credited away on screen for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The trailers were awesome (did you SEE The Winter Soldier catch Cap’s shield mid-air?!), and the film itself doesn’t fail to live up to the trailer.

What directors the Russo brothers have done here is strip back some of the pomp and explosiveness of previous MCU movies and focus on the core of Captain America as a character, which is being the moral compass of this entire cinematic universe. What made The First Avenger so refreshing was the timeless, almost lost, core values of honesty and doing the right thing no matter what, being brought into the big, loud, sarcastic Marvel universe. The Captain’s role is to bring a little class and all-Americanness to the screen.

In The Winter Soldier the villain is less obvious. Less a person than an idea. Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers goes up against everyone and everything he knew before to figure out who the hell the bad guys are and whether he has the resolve to do what he knows is right. The political tones in this movie are achingly relevant with what’s happening right now in world politics, touching on issues like surveillance of citizens and the loss of freedoms and privacy “for the greater good.”

There are some great twists here and certainly events in this movie will have far-reaching consequences for future MCU movies and TV shows. “Game-changer” is a term thrown around a lot these days but in terms of this ever-growing and incredibly intricate cinematic universe game-changing is an accurate descriptor.

Chris Evans is awesome (as always) in a role he seems born to play. From the opening shot you see he embodies the Captain, especially physically. Seriously. How the heck did he get so big? Robert Redford brings some amazing political weight to the film, and slinks on to the scene to take a blender to right and wrong. Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson return as Black Widow and Nick Fury respectively, and continue their pitch perfect performances as the Cap’s right-hand lady and the ever-tough head of SHIELD.

Marvel-heads will love this solid entry into the MCU canon, for non-fans there is also lots here, particularly the relevant political undertones and a particularly explosive climax.

Grand Budapest Hotel is like totally awesome

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Guys I’ve been a bit slack. I still haven’t seen Moonrise Kingdom. I know, I know, it’s been out for frikken ages but it’s one of those things that keeps slipping down my list. I fucking loved Fantastic Mr. Fox, though, so I was amped to see Wes Anderson’s latest whimsical romp. Nice word that, whimsical. That’s the best word I can think of to describe this movie. And I wasn’t the only one to be charmed by this dry and humourful flick in a tiny but packed underground cinema in Central Auckland.

The audience laughed (yeah, audibly, not just polite chuckles) at all the right moments. Wes Anderson has created a film full of fun and colour and daring moves which keep it feeling fresh. Daring moves like the occasional animated scene at times make the film feel like a delightful community play in all the best ways. There’s a hip (note: not hipster) aesthetic to the film, it’s colourful but subdued, and beautiful in a crowded antique store-meets-Tumblr chic kind of way. It really is mesmerising.

The acting is, as to be expected with such names on the poster as Ralph Fiennes and Edward Norton, great. Ralph Fiennes is having a great time as the world’s campest concierge who must team up with his lobby boy to prove his innocence after he’s framed for murder. He’s over the top, dry and outrageous as he skuttles about the imaginary nation of Zubrowka. A stunning supporting cast backs him up, with major stars cropping up seemingly in every new scene.

Grand Budapest Hotel is worth checking out and it’s worth shelling out your pennies to check it out at the movies. The colour and lushness of the film means the cinema experience will be the best place to see it. Go have fun.

 

Review: Mr Peabody & Sherman

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The great thing about Mr Peabody & Sherman is slaps you in the face. The trailers were terrible, the ads were cheap and the marketing before hand just loved the fact that Mr Peabody was a dog by making cheap dog jokes and puns. What’s so confronting about this movie is its unexpectedly good. Like really good. Not only do they turn the cheap tricks around quickly but they use the fact that Mr Peabody is a dog to actually move the story forward.

The film uses the struggles and condemnation Mr Peabody faces in being taken seriously as a hyper intelligent dog trying to raise a human child as a poignant and frankly touching message about acceptance. There are genuinely moving moments that look at adoptive relationships and what it means to be a father (or a son, for that matter). Pretty heavy for a movie about a time traveling dog, amirite?

The duo use a time machine to travel to different periods through a series of mishaps, bringing clever use of historical figures and situations to propel the story forward. There are some jokes and witty lines that will go down a treat for kids and adults alike, without resorting to cheap puns and toilet jokes.

I saw this movie with an eight year old and an eighty year old. Both came out singing the movie’s praises. Take your kids immediately, you’ll all learn something and have a great time doing it. Woof bloody woof.

Anchorman 2 silly and surprising

anchorman2Before I start my review of Anchorman 2 let me just be clear. There are few actors on this planet I dislike more than Will Ferrell. I realise Anchorman is probably his greatest work, and Anchorman 2 is basically the Will Ferrell-iest movie of them all, but I tried to go in to this movie with an open mind.

And it surprised me. The most rewarding part of the plot is the relentless procession of witty one-liners about the saturation of modern news and cultural changes relating to women and minorities. Ron Burgundy is his usual sexist, racist, homophobic self but the rest of the cast carries the film nicely. Steve Carrell’s character Brick again steals the show and, it a stroke of genius, has been teamed up with Kristen Wiig to create small scenes of brilliance which completely steal the show.

Most of the comedy in the film is clever in the same way that jokes about airplane food are clever to stand up audiences. They get a laugh out of audiences because people can relate to what’s being made fun of, not because they’re particularly offering anything new or intelligent for audiences. Anchorman 2 generates legitimate laughs at the expense of the news media, but it just doesn’t offer anything new or exciting. There’s nothing here most people wouldn’t already know about the media.

The film gets lost in its own silliness and as its final act begins there seems to have been a determined effort to make the most ridiculous, over-the-top final act they could. In a weird way it works, backed up by the most impressive lineup of cameos in years, and comes to a satisfying end.

I’m conflicted by this movie. I laughed, a few times. But for a lot of it I felt like I was watching something not far beyond the artistic levels of a Jackass movie. It’s funny because it’s silly, not because it’s smart. I guess that’s what it’s for. I guess that’s what Will Ferrell is good at. I guess if you like Will Ferrell and the first Anchorman movie this is more of the same. Perfect, genuine, silly fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Out in NZ cinemas 19 December 2013

Check out the brilliant New Zealand entry to Ron Burgundy’s Guide to the World:

Watch the trailer here: