CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY

2010; written and directed by Alex Gibney; 118 mins

Another movie from the documentary factory that is Alex Gibney, once again focusing on the abuses of power in the corridors of American government and big business. This time looking at master lobbyist, Jack Abramoff and the million fingers he had wedged in a million pies. Continue reading

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NZIFF ’17/07: HAPPY END

2017; written and directed by Michael Haneke; 107 mins

[By the way, sorry but no English language trailers available at the time I write this]

Aki Kaurismäki’s bleak, Finnish, immigration comedy, The Other Side of Hope had a cautious strain of good faith in it’s look at Europeans’ attitude towards immigrants and immigration. It was a glass half full (of vodka). Here is a film that makes it look like the most sunny-side-up, beaming, bouncing bundle of joy. Continue reading

NZIFF ’17/04: THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE

2017; written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki; 100 mins

I have a new favourite Aki Kaurismäki movie! Move over Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses! Sadly, this is also going to be his last, if the director’s own statements are to be believed*. Still, at least he managed to get in all the Kaurismäki-isms like the font you see above which spells out the credits of all his movies, people drinking and smoking as though it will put years back on their lives, old men playing 50s Rock & Roll, poker faces galore and deliberately stilted camera direction. What an oddly cosy place to be. Continue reading

NZIFF ’17/02: I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

2016; directed by Raoul Peck; written by James Baldwin; 93 mins

The very act of my writing this review is a betrayal of everything this documentary has sent me away with. The world does not need another white voice yet here I am, filling up 750 words of space that should rather be given to someone from a culture that has none. Make no mistake: if you are a white person going to see this documentary, this has a lot to say to you. Continue reading

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

2017; directed by Matt Reeves; adapted by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves; 140 mins

[MAJOR spoilers!]

Whoever would’ve thought you could say the phrase; “a beautiful performance from Steve Zahn“? The man who used to be the most annoying element of any movie in the late 90s/early naughties, here, gives one of the performances of the year so far! As a mad old, Ben Gunn-esque chimp called Bad Ape (which, it seems, is what his Zookeepers used to call him all the time), he is essentially the comic relief role, which he carries off enormously well, never tipping it too far or upsetting any scenes. What he also does, however, is countenance the comedy with just the right sprinkling of tragedy and frailty. So, Steve Zahn’s good – what else is good about this third installment? Well… Continue reading

A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE/DUCK, YOU SUCKER!/GIU, LA TESTA!/ONCE UPON A TIME… THE REVOLUTION

1971; directed by Sergio Leone; written by Roberto De Leonardis, Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone, Carlo Tritto and Luciano Vincenzoni; 154 mins

[Spoilers.]

“And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They’re dead! That’s your revolution.” – Juan Miranda

About the only film I would say is a genuine underrated classic. Perennially lost amidst all of Leone’s other films, A Fistful of Dynamite (by which it’ll be referred from here on in because that’s the name by which I came to it) is the dirty, smelly, subversive cousin sandwiched in between golden children, Once Upon a time in the West (1968) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984). It’s historically all over the place, to say nothing of the lead actors’ accents. When it came out, it was too ambivalent in it’s politics for the cultural elite and too arty for the studios, both of whom butchered it in their own way. This review is of the 154 minute version… that’s very important! Not the 121 minute version or the 138 minute version which miss out very crucial character beats. Continue reading

IVAN THE TERRIBLE

1944/1958; written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein; 99/82 mins

Part I: Ivan Vasilyevich, Tsar of Moscow, having subjugated the warring Boyars under one leader, is crowned Tsar of all the Russians. This is greeted with suspicion and hostility from the old-school nobility, chief amongst them, Efrosinia Staritska, Ivan’s malicious, scheming aunt who is desperate to put her own, child-like son, Vladimir, on the throne. Much political infighting ensues even as Ivan continues in his plans to fight back against the encroaching forces of the Tatars and the Livonians and trying to establish trade routes with England. Throughout, he learns the struggles of staying strong and true to himself when even victory for his country cannot stop those who wish to depose him. Continue reading