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REEL TIME

Reviews for Waiheke Cinema by Gemma Korff

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THE TRUST FALL: JULIAN ASSANGE

The Trust Fall: Julian Assange is a crowd-funded documentary that takes us on a journey through the life of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. This film is a powerful exploration of the meaning and significance of Assange’s continued detainment and persecution.

The film is directed by Kym Staton, founder and director of Films For Change. His directorial debut is a testament to his commitment to bringing truth to light. The film is a compelling narrative that unfolds over two years, across three continents, and in ten cities.

The documentary features high-profile Assange supporters and global experts, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, activists John Pilger and Tariq Ali, journalists Mary Kostakidis, Chris Hedges, Dean Yates and Stefania Maurizi, Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson, government leaders Jill Stein, Sen. Peter Whish-Wilson and Sen. David Shoebridge and former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. These luminaries provide a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances surrounding Assange’s situation.

The film also includes heart-wrenching conversations with Julian’s own family; Stella Assange, John Shipton and Gabriel Shipton. These intimate moments offer a glimpse into the personal toll that this ordeal has taken on Assange and his loved ones.

Narrated by Susan Sarandon, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, rapper M.I.A and Rage Against The Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello, the film is a poignant reminder of the importance of press freedom and our right to know. The Trust Fall: Julian Assange is not just a film about a man who risked everything to bring the truth to light. It is a call to action, a plea for justice, and a testament to the power of truth. It is a film that demands our attention and challenges us to question the world around us.

The film has already won several awards including Best Emerging Director at Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Best First-Time Director at the Cine Paris Film Festival and official selection at Warsaw Film Festival. These accolades are a testament to the film’s impact and the importance of its message.

The Trust Fall: Julian Assange is a powerful, thought-provoking documentary that shines a light on the plight of one of the most significant figures of our time. It is a film that deserves to be seen, discussed, and remembered.

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ARTBEATS: BORROMINI AND BERNINI

Explore the artistic rivalry and the architectural revolution of two of the greatest masters of the Baroque era. The movie, directed by Giovanni Troilo, follows the careers and the lives of Francesco Borromini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who competed for the patronage and the prestige of the Roman aristocracy and the papacy, and who transformed the city with their innovative and magnificent creations.

The documentary combines historical facts and artistic analysis, as well as stunning cinematography and visual effects. The movie takes you to the places where Borromini and Bernini worked and lived, and shows you the details and the meanings of their masterpieces, such as the churches of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, the fountains of Piazza Navona and Piazza Barberini, and the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. The movie also features insights from experts, such as art historians, architects, and critics, who provide context and commentary on Borromini and Bernini’s work and its significance.

ArtBeats Borromini and Bernini: The Challenge for Perfection celebrates the genius and the legacy of Borromini and Bernini, as well as the beauty and the splendour of Rome. It is a movie that will appeal to art lovers and enthusiasts, as well as anyone who is interested in learning more about a remarkable period and a remarkable duo. It is a movie that will inspire everyone to appreciate and admire the art and the architecture that surround us, and to challenge us all to achieve perfection.

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BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Bob Marley in this movie that pays tribute to the legendary reggae icon. Marley used his music and his message to inspire millions of people around the world. The movie, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, focuses on the turbulent period of Marley’s life between 1976 and 1978, when he faced political violence, personal challenges, and health issues, but also achieved artistic success and global recognition.

The movie features a remarkable performance by Kingsley Ben-Adir, who inhabits Marley’s charisma, intelligence, and vulnerability. He captures Marley’s passion for his craft, his devotion to his faith, and his love for his family and his people. He also sings Marley’s songs with conviction and authenticity, making the movie a musical treat for the fans. The movie also boasts a talented supporting cast, including Lashana Lynch as Marley’s loyal and supportive wife Rita and James Norton as his producer Chris Blackwell.

Bob Marley: One Love celebrates Marley’s legacy, as well as his humanity. It shows the struggles and the triumphs of a man who dedicated his life to a cause, and who faced adversity with courage and grace. It also shows the impact and the influence of his music, which transcended boundaries and brought people together. It is a movie that will make you feel the spirit and the power of one love.

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THE BOY AND THE HERON

Mahito, a 12-year-old boy who loses his mother in a fire, and moves to the countryside with his distant father and his new stepmother. There, he encounters a mysterious grey heron, who leads him to an ancient tower, where he enters a fantastical world full of wonder and danger. There, he meets new friends and foes, and learns the secrets of his past and his destiny.

Hayao Miyazaki does it again after a decade of retirement in his new Studio Ghibli film The Boy and the Heron. For those unfamiliar with Miyazaki’s work, expect a slow moving journey into the magical and astounding. As each story thread is presented, loose and unpredictable, Miyazaki carefully weaves them all together in an unforgettable film in the end. Just as Mahito discovers a whole new dimension through the tower, so too will audiences as they step through the cinema doors. 

The Boy and the Heron showcases Miyazaki’s unparalleled imagination and creativity, as well as his profound themes and messages. The animation alone will captivate audiences, however the music soars far beyond to immerse everyone into the world Miyazaki created. The grief Mahito continues to feel as he leaps from danger to danger gradually morphs into a determination to live, and that can be solely derived from the scores designed by Joe Hisaishi. In a move entirely built on trust, Hisaishi admitted that Miyazaki did not bother setting up a meeting to decide which music should go with which scene, Miyazaki simply said Hisaishi knew what to do. And he certainly did.

The Boy and the Heron will captivate and inspire, as it shows the beauty and the mystery of life, and the importance of friendship and courage. It is a movie that you will cherish and remember, as it is one of the most magical and touching films of the year.

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ALL OF US STRANGERS

Director Andrew Haigh will grab you by the heart and not let go. Haigh’s adaptation of the Japanese novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada is a deeply personal and emotional story of love, loss, and reconciliation.

The movie stars Andrew Scott as Adam, a screenwriter who is struggling with his latest script, which is based on his childhood and his parents, who died in a car crash when he was twelve. He lives alone in a modern apartment building in London, where he meets Harry (Paul Mescal), a charming and flirtatious neighbour who sparks his interest. As their relationship develops, Adam decides to visit his old suburban home, where he makes a shocking discovery: his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) are somehow still alive and living there, as if nothing had happened. They welcome him back with open arms, but Adam is torn between his past and his present, and between his two loves.

All Of Us Strangers explores the complex and mysterious nature of human connection, and the power of memory and imagination. It creates a surreal and captivating atmosphere, where the past and the present collide, and where the impossible becomes possible. Taichi Yamada’s original story delves into the haunting, supernatural aspect, but Haigh choses to keep the story more focused on Adam’s desire to live in the ‘what if?’ scenario. Both directions work well, and no doubt those who liked the book will be satisfied with the result.

The movie is also a showcase for the talents of its cast, who deliver superb and nuanced performances. Scott is brilliant as Adam, a man who is haunted by his trauma and longing, but also hopeful and curious. He has a great bond with both Mescal, who is charming and charismatic as Harry, and Foy, who is touching and graceful as his mother. Bell is also excellent as his father, who is supportive and gentle, but also conflicted and distant.

All Of Us Strangers shows the beauty and the pain of life, and the courage and the forgiveness of love. It is a movie that you will not forget, as it is one of the most powerful and poignant films of the year.

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MEAN GIRLS

Mean Girls brings a fresh and fun twist to the modern classic. It is a musical comedy based on the 2004 film written by Tina Fey, and the 2018 Broadway adaptation, which updates the story and the humour for a new generation.

The movie stars Angourie Rice as Cady Heron, a naive and innocent girl who moves from Kenya to the US, where she attends a public high school for the first time. She is befriended by Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), two outcasts who show her the ropes and the cliques of the school. They also warn her about the Plastics, the most popular and meanest girls in school, led by the ruthless Regina George (Reneé Rapp), and her sidekicks Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and Karen (Avantika). Cady soon catches the eye of Regina, who invites her to join the Plastics, but also of Aaron (Christopher Briney), Regina’s ex-boyfriend, who likes Cady. Cady finds herself in a dilemma, as she has to choose between being true to herself and her friends, or being part of the elite and the drama.

Mean Girls celebrates the power of friendship, individuality, and self-esteem. It has a catchy and upbeat soundtrack, with songs that are witty and catchy, and that advance the plot and the characters. It also has a vibrant and colourful visual style, with costumes and sets that reflect the personalities and the moods of the characters. The movie is also a showcase for the talents of its cast, who bring energy and charisma to their roles. Rice is adorable and relatable as Cady, a girl who learns to embrace her uniqueness and her voice. Rapp is stunning and formidable as Regina, a girl who rules the school with an iron fist and a dazzling smile. Cravalho is marvellous and sassy as Janis, a girl who is loyal and fierce. Spivey is hilarious as Damian, a boy who should be popular in his own right. Wood is affecting and vulnerable as Gretchen, a girl who struggles with her self-image and her friendship. Avantika is hilarious and delightful as Karen, a girl who is clueless and sweet.

Mean Girls shows the joys and the challenges of high school, and the importance of being yourself. While the original film was certainly more, well… mean, this adaptation tries to focus on Cady’s choices rather than the harsh scenarios Lindsay Lohan’s character faced in 2004. Definitely a film to watch for newcomers and nostalgic fans alike.

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PRISCILLA

Priscilla is a biographical drama film directed by Sofia Coppola and released in 2023. The movie is based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir “Elvis and Me” and follows the story of her relationship with Elvis Presley. The film stars Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla and Austin Butler as Elvis Presley.

The movie is a captivating portrait of a young girl’s journey through a turbulent marriage and a tumultuous era. Coppola’s direction is masterful, and the film is a continuation of her signature style of exploring the inner lives of women. The movie’s dreamy aesthetic and dynamic, beguiling cast make it a must-watch for fans of Coppola’s work.

The cinematography by Philipe Le Sourd is breathtaking, and the editing by Sarah Flack is seamless. The film’s world is one of beautiful and surprisingly still surfaces, contrasted with the chaos and noise of the rock ‘n’ roll scene. The movie delves into some of Presley’s early '60s idiosyncrasies; he goes through a Bible-study phase, reads the Autobiography of a Yogi, and even experiments with LSD with Priscilla. Coppola’s brief depiction of their trip is one of the more credible accounts of psychedelic experience in recent film history.

The scenes are all, in one way or another, about captivity and isolation. For the characters held captive, the cage is often a gilded one, and the cage in search of a bird (in Kafka’s phrase) in Priscilla is Elvis Presley. The King famously met Priscilla Beaulieu in 1959 when he was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany; Priscilla was the daughter of another officer stationed there and was, well, fourteen at the time the two were introduced. Coppola’s movie honours the author of the memoir by giving us her perspective. And while latter-day considerations of Presley’s behaviour in courting, or one might say capturing, Priscilla are replete with condemnations of how creepy it was from the point of view of a dreamy, distracted Austin Texas girl far from home. The attention from this very shy superstar would have been exhilarating.

The film also shows the challenges and struggles that Priscilla faced in her marriage, such as Elvis’ infidelity, drug abuse, and controlling nature. The film does not shy away from the darker aspects of their relationship, but also highlights the love and passion that they shared. The film is a nuanced and honest portrayal of a complex and iconic couple everyone thought they knew.

Priscilla is a beautifully crafted film that is both moving and thought-provoking. It is a must-watch for fans of Sofia Coppola’s work and anyone interested in the life of Elvis Presley. It is a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

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COUNTRY CABARET

What do you get when you mix a struggling farmer, a barn full of eccentric performers, and a dash of country music? The answer is Country Cabaret, a charming comedy of rural revelry that will fill up many cinema seats.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Améris, the film follows the exploits of David (Alban Ivanov), a farmer who is on the verge of bankruptcy. To save his farm, he decides to transform his barn into a cabaret, and recruits a motley crew of dancers, jugglers, burlesque artists, and conjurors. 

The film is a feel-good romp that celebrates the power of art and community. The cast is terrific, with Alban Ivanov and Sabrina Ouazani leading the way with their charismatic and comedic performances. The chemistry between the characters is infectious, and the film is full of hilarious and heartwarming moments.

The film is not without its challenges, however. David has to deal with his sceptical neighbours and his traditionalist father. The risk David takes and the team he assembles will keep all thoroughly entertained, especially when he persuades Bonnie, a professional dancer, to come and train them all. 

Country Cabaret is a delightful film that will lift your spirits and make you smile. It is a perfect choice for anyone who enjoys a good comedy with a touch of romance and magic. It is a hit at the French Film Festival, and deserves a wider audience. Don’t miss this gem of a movie.

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THE HOLDOVERS

The Holdovers is a charming and heartfelt comedy-drama from director Alexander Payne, who reunites with Paul Giamatti, the star of his acclaimed film Sideways. Giamatti plays Paul Hunham, a grumpy and lonely classics teacher at a prestigious boarding school in the 1970s, who is forced to spend the Christmas holidays with a rebellious student named Angus (Dominic Sessa) and a grieving cook named Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). The three of them form an unlikely friendship, as they learn from each other and help each other overcome their personal challenges.

This movie celebrates the power of human connection, especially in times of loneliness and hardship. It has a nostalgic and warm tone, reminiscent of the classic movies of the 1970s, but also a modern and relevant message, as it tackles issues such as academic pressure, social class, and the Vietnam War. The movie is smart, funny, and touching, without being sentimental or preachy. It avoids the clichés of the genre, and instead offers a realistic and nuanced portrayal of its characters, who are flawed but likeable.

The movie is also a showcase for the talents of its cast, especially Giamatti, who delivers one of his best performances as the curmudgeonly but caring Hunham. He has a great chemistry with Sessa, who is a revelation as the witty and troubled Angus, and Randolph, who is moving as the compassionate and resilient Mary. The three of them create a memorable and endearing trio, who will make you laugh and cry.

The Holdovers is a movie that will warm your heart and lift your spirits, as it reminds you of the importance of kindness, friendship, and hope. 

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FRANCES HODGKINS, ANYTHING BUT A STILL LIFE

Frances Hodgkins: Anything but a Still Life is a fascinating and inspiring documentary from director Blandine Massiet du Biest, who explores the life and art of one of New Zealand’s most celebrated painters. Frances Hodgkins was a modernist painter who spent most of her career in Europe, where she faced many obstacles and challenges, but also achieved recognition and acclaim. She was a pioneer and a trailblazer, who defied the conventions and expectations of her time, and created a unique and influential body of work.

The documentary pays tribute to Hodgkins’ courage and determination, as well as her artistic vision and legacy. The film retraces Hodgkins’ footsteps, taking the viewers to the places she lived and worked, and showing the landscapes, people, and objects that inspired her paintings. The film also features insights from experts, such as art historians, curators, and biographers, who provide context and analysis of Hodgkins’ work and its significance. Moreover, the film includes testimonies from contemporary New Zealand artists, such as painters, sculptors, and fashion designers, who share how Hodgkins influenced their own creative processes and expressions.

This is a documentary that celebrates Hodgkins’ talent and spirit, as well as her contribution to the cultural heritage of New Zealand and the world. It is a documentary that will appeal to art lovers and enthusiasts, as well as anyone who is interested in learning more about a remarkable woman and her remarkable journey. 

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