Saturday, December 3, 2011

Movie: Drive (3/5 stars) (2011)

Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed driver in this 80's throwback thriller. 

I was amazed at how 80's it felt, with pink script for the starting credits and heavy, 80's style music. On top of that, there are lots of long, quiet shots with two people not saying much at all, which feels older.

There was lots good in the movie. I like Gosling and he had good supporting actors, especially Bryan Cranston as Shannon, and the lovely dimpled Carey Mulligan as Irene, the love interest (there is one kiss in the movie, which is quite amazing and on top of that, a brilliant scene). There isn't much range here though and Gosling is mostly stoic, with the odd smirk on his face when something he likes happens. Still - he's believable as the likeable, yet psychopathic and cool-headed stunt driver with plenty of mad skills. The story starts slowly, but by half way, the amount of tension is enormous and satisfying.

I found the soundtrack distracting and rather than background mood setting, it seemed to try and tell the story with the song lyrics for some reason. 

So, a bit of a mixed bag, and 3 out of 5 from me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Movie: Layer Cake (3.5/5 stars) (2004)

Layer Cake is marginally a gangster movie, even though the gangsters in it don't think of themselves as gangsters - they are businessmen who happen to deal in cocaine etc...

Staring Daniel Craig as an unnamed protagonist (billed as XXXX in the credits) being pulled on all sides by many hostile forces, Layer Cake is a superbly crafted, cleverly written, somewhat sanitized view into the English underworld. Along with Craig is a solid list of supporting actors, all excellent in their roles. George Harris plays Morty, a likable and friendly gangster with a nasty temper who is XXXX's link to the criminal world. Colm Meany plays Gene, a long time toughie who is super-loyal to their drug-lord boss and Michael Gambon, playing Eddie Temple, an even higher-up, scary, gangster who pokes his fingers in to stir things up. Along with them is a long, long list of smaller roles, almost always funny and entertaining.

Music, directing, acting, writing are all finely polished here. There is little to fault the movie on and I found myself entertained the entire way though. I have a thing against drug movies, but even so, it is hard not to like this. The plot is constantly twisting and finely knotted at the end and one gentle tug unravels it all in front of your eyes for a satisfying climax. I am surprised I've never watched it before now and only got it through a friend's recommendation. Well worth your time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Movie: Bridesmaids (4.5/5 stars) (2011)

Kristen Wiig plays "Annie", a bride's best friend and her life just isn't going the way she wants it to. It opens with a sex scene which is completely crude, embarrassing and ridiculous, but hilarious as well, which sets the scene for the rest of the movie. The humour is very similar to what you see in "The 40 Year Old Virgin", which I found equally funny and worth watching, although be aware of the crude factor, which is high in both movies.

The big indicator that the movie was great was discussing it all the way back from the movie theater in the car and re-living some of the funniest scenes in the movie. I live 20 minutes away from this particular theatre (Lower Hutt btw) as well, so we aren't talking 5 minutes!

Both Rose Byrne and Chris O'Dowd are great in their supporting roles - consistently funny and great on the screen.
Well worth your time to watch - I enjoyed it from start to finish!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Poetry in Motion - SLAM-style poetry evening (5/5 stars)

I got a random email the other day from a poet. Her name is Alina Seigfried, who goes by stage name of Ali Jacs.

She got my name from the New Zealand poetry society web page as a contact for the Cuba Street Garret writing space.

Ali was organizing and promoting Poetry in Motion, a performance poetry night with US guest poets Ken Arkind and Carrie Rudzinski, both slam poets extraordinaire. I didn't even know what slam poetry was until tonight, but I already love it. Look them up on youtube for a taste. No matter how good they seem, in-person is just so much better.

Before the guest poets went on, there were a few kiwi poets as well: Micah Timona Ferris, Ali Jacs (the host and organizer), Duncan Hope and the P-Town Poet's society out of Porirua. They were all funny or moving or cute or deep or a range of other awesomeness.

I ended up talking to almost all the performers in the personal atmosphere. This was one of the best things I've gone out to do all year - it makes me want to read, listen to and write poetry and you can't ask for more than that.

Firstly, let me say that I have great respect for people who can go up in front of a group of complete strangers and pour out their personal experiences and vulnerabilities in one of the scariest possible ways. I realized after tonight exactly why it is SO worth it.

And finally, I've always admired and been envious of oration skills. While all of the poets were good, Ken and Carrie really demonstrated how it's done, with power, eloquence and beauty, they left everyone in awe of their performances. Bravo!

Run, don't walk to any chance to see these guys perform!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Art Exhibit: Jenny Majeske at "The Frame Shop", Wellington CBD

Last weekend I went to a Jenny Majeske art exhibition at “The Frame Shop” on Taranaki Street in the Wellington CBD.

The Kind One

I've seen Jenny's art previously, and have often discussed her “Girl with a cupcake on her shoulder” (the actual title is “Night of the Cupcake”) with friends and colleagues. The concept is so interesting and unusual that everyone is immediately curious about its intended meaning. When I ask Jen what the cupcake means, she answers with a question, “What do you think the cupcake means?” There don't seem to be any wrong answers, and Jen seems more than happy for people to interpret her work in a personal way.

I enjoyed two walks through the exhibition, first by myself and then with the artist. I find myself reacting sharply to each and every piece. Most often, I'm laughing out loud and curious. Less often, I'm simply confused or taken aback. With most exhibitions, I don't have have to ask questions, but these paintings aren't landscapes or portraits, and the meanings and symbols are packed tightly in skilfully constructed realistic abstracts.

What I mean by "realistic abstract" is that most of the time, objects in the paintings are realistic. They represent real things that you clearly recognizefor what they are. However, the pieces of the painting are arranged in abstract ways that you would never find in the world. Probably the most striking piece for me was of a little girl, 5 or 6 years old, laughing and looking out of the painting standing between two wolves growling and snapping at each other. The girl seems oblivious to the animals.

Other times, an objects in the painting are recognizable, but distorted or coloured differently from what you'd expect, placed in an ordinary setting. “Deer Park” shows a beautiful landscape with two deer near the centre of the painting. The deer are candy coloured, one pink and one powder blue and the deer have human heads. One of these deer people is missing the right antler and the other missing the left. The blue and pink could represent male and female (or not) and the incomplete nature of each could mean they need each other (or not).
Deer Park

Words I think best describe the exhibition are “intellectual” and “personal”. It's obviously the work of someone thoughtful, creative and skilled who isn't particularly worried about following a set of artist rules. The end result is well crafted pieces, each with multiple, strong messages and deep personal meaning to the artist. If you find yourself in the Wellington CBD, I highly recommend dropping by to take a look.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Movie: Limitless (3/5 stars) (2011)

Limitless is a soft sci-fi/action/thriller movie starring Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra, an aspiring writer who is, to be blunt, a complete loser. He happens across an old acquaintance who happens to be a drug dealer dealing in the perfect drug. NZT doesn't get you high, just focuses the mind, clears your thoughts and gives you all the motivation you need to get things done.

I've been following Bradley Cooper since his Alias days, and thought that he was perfect for this role - he looked like a loser and cleaned up into a believable winner with all the answers and the confidence and charisma to win anyone over. Along with Cooper, there were supporting roles by the lovely Abby Cornish playing Eddie's girlfriend and veteran Robert De Niro playing a rich and powerful boss. Both did solid jobs with their roles.

This is a fun movie, and covers one of my own fantasies... what would you do if you were the smartest person on earth ("A 4 digit IQ") and could figure out any problem? It appeals to me for that reason and the does a decent job at tackling that question - super-intelligence and the world being against you. However, it suffers from the lack of a real, challenging opponent for Cooper's character as well as a plot hole you could drive a truck through that I will leave as an exercise for the reader.

I now feel like re-watching Phenomenon with John Travoltra.