Past Reviews

High-rise Horror: Dark Water

Reviewed by John SpryTHERE IS nothing new in Hollywood remaking already-produced and successful films: the motives are obvious and one reasoning is that if one film was a hit, then redoing it should also mean a hit. This logic however does not always follow for a variety of reasons – altered story-lines or even altered endings, for instance – that made the original so popular in the first place.

Film Reviews

Film Reviews published by The Lumière Reader, grouped by theatrical and festival context, indexed alphabetically. For additional reviews, see our ongoing Film and Festival Columns + our DVD Reviews.

Woodenhead (DVD)

Florian Habicht/NZ/2003; R0
Pictures for Anna, NZ$29.95 | Reviewed by John SpryWITH Woodenhead, Florian Habicht has created a visual snapshot of the Northern portion of New Zealand and integrated this with a “cut and paste” folk story from around the world. The story revolves around the two main characters (one could even say caricatures) who, while attempting a very simple task of travelling from one town to another end up loosing themselves in a greatest hits of well known folk stories. They move through and around such stories as Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks and even Jack and the Beanstalk.

The Big Red One (DVD)

Samuel Fuller/USA/1980; R4 (2-disc SE)
Warner Bros, NZ$29.95 | Reviewed by John SprySAM FULLER began his career with a Western and ended it with a War film, two genre films that form much of the basis of his oeuvre as well as the American staples of the film business. The Big Red One (1980) was Fuller’s last major film before his death in 1997 at the age of 85, a vital director who had lost none of his enthusiasm for film, especially this kind of film.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (DVD)

Joe Dante/USA/1990; R4
Warner Bros, NZ$14.95 | Reviewed by John SpryTHIS 1990 sequel to the modest 1984 hit Gremlins, also available from Warner Bros. Home Video, comes newly released to DVD. With its intertextuality and layered pop culture references, Gremlins 2: The New Batch deserves a revisit – not only via the Spielberg influence, but through the B-movie pedigree brought to the plate by director Joe Dante making the most of a formulaic script.

Festival Reviews

Festival Reviews published by The Lumière Reader, grouped by the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals [2004-2007], and other festivals. More reviews under The Film Reader.

Kaikohe Demolition (DVD)

Florian Habitcht/NZ/2004; R0
Magna Pacific, NZ$29.95 | Reviewed by John SpryWHAT A HAPPY accident it appears Florian Habitcht’s documentary Kaikohe Demolition was – both for Kaikohe and the country at large. Originally slated as a tourism film intended for sale, as well as brokering some interest in a burgeoning career, Florian started and seemingly finished after filming the demolition derby in Kaikohe, Northland. He saw the potential, and with his own brand of narrative and thematic charm broadened the film into a mini-feature celebrated in theatres and on television.

1Nite (DVD)

Amarbir Singh/NZ/2004; R0
Indipact, NZ$25 | Reviewed by John Spry1Nite exposes the Big City Life; its story based around one of the country’s most infamous inner-city streets. Selected for the 2004 New Zealand International Film Festival, and now available on DVD, the film gathers New Zealand locations, producers and artists together to tackle the urban milieu in an honest and forthright manner.

After Hours (DVD)

Martin Scorsese/USA/1985; R4
Warner Bros, NZ$19.95 | Reviewed by John SpryANOTHER Martin Scorsese film has been released on DVD and contains an excellent picture with many extras that cineastes will love. Like most recent Scorsese DVD releases, this is a must-own and will fit nicely alongside other titles available.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Tim Burton/USA/2005; R4 (2-disc SE)
Roadshow, NZ$39.95 | Reviewed by John SpryEARLIER this year, Tim Burton’s remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was released on DVD. Considering the original text, this must have been a daunting task for all those involved in the production. Among the few major differences, this new film includes many moral cautions aimed at children, decoded enough that parents can explain exactly what it all means and why Charlie can make the decision he makes. Not only is this remake top heavy in morals, but also in special effects and set design.

The Aviator (DVD)

Martin Scorsese/USA/2004; R4 (2-disc WE)
Warner Bros, NZ$39.95 | Reviewed by John SpryThe Aviator is the result of a great director making a film about what he knows and loves: movie making in Hollywood and a maverick that intends to change the way people think. If you’ve seen any of the documentaries that Scorsese has been involved with about cinema, one thing shines through – that he loves movies and all that this affair entails. Scorsese has grown up going to the movies from his days in New York, through to the present where he keeps up with the latest “new” prospective talent emerging from time to time in the United States and abroad.

Hoop Dream (DVD)

James, Marx, Gilbert/USA/1994; R1
Criterion, US$29.95 | Reviewed by John SpryHAILED BY critics as a classic of documentary filmmaking, Hoop Dreams was recently re-released on DVD in the United States by the Criterion Collection, a company responsible for restored and definitive editions of once and now classic films. This edition, formely unavailable, takes its cue from previous releases in terms of the quality consumers now expect from Criterion. The disc contains a lush transfer with many special features and is a must for any fan of the documentary, or simply those with a love for great films.

The Island (DVD)

Michael Bay/USA/2005; R4
Warner Bros, NZ$34.95 | Reviewed by John SpryONE OF A spate of summer blockbusters released on DVD lately, The Island boasts one of the more bankable Hollywood directors in recent memory, and a cast any studio would beg to work with. Yet it cobbles together a myriad of ideas and ideals from comics, television and movies to prove that the whole is less than the sum of its (Xeroxed) parts. The results are somewhat uneven and in most cases will leave the audience with the feeling they’ve just eaten a sandwich with little filling.

Tender Mercies

Alejando Amenábar’s latest, The Sea Inside, is a far cry from Open Your Eyes and The OthersJOHN SPRY examines the film’s portrait of one man’s bid for freedom and release from his own broken form.

The Wizard of Oz (DVD)

Victor Fleming/USA/1939; R4 (2-disc SE)
Warner Bros, NZ$29.95 | Reviewed by John SpryThe Wizard of Oz has once again been released on DVD by Warner Bros. Home Video – this time around with all the hallmarks of a premium release, and is for the most part worth the price of purchase. In terms of special features, this new reissue has it all and then some.

Into The Woods

Can forgiveness be found in a fairy tale? JOHN SPRY investigates The Woodsman – the story of a sex offender’s attempts to regain a sense of ‘self’ – in search of answers.

The Shawshank Redemption (DVD)

Frank Darabont/USA/1995; R4 (2-disc SE)
Warner Bros, NZ$29.95 | Reviewed by John SpryWHAT HAPPENS when one of the most popular authors of all time meets a writer/director willing to take a chance on a story and transform it from one medium to another? The answer can be found in the 1995 film The Shawshank Redemption, a film that initially, commercially failed but now lives and thrives in the secondary markets of firstly video, and now thanks to Warner Bros., on DVD.

Angels in America (DVD)

Mike Nichols/USA/2003; R4 (2-disc)
Warner Bros/HBO, NZ$39.95 | Reviewed by John SpryTHERE HAVE been many portrayals of Angels in cinema over the past hundred-odd years, but possibly none more enigmatic and original as the entity Emma Thompson portrays in this moving tribute to a group of people caught in a web at once unseen but always present in their lives. My immediate thoughts turn to the omni-prescient Angel played by Bruno Ganz in Wim Wenders’ 1987 film Wings of Desire when the subject of Angels come up, and I found myself revisiting this film after viewing Angels in America.

Short Cuts (DVD)

Robert Altman/USA/1993; R1 (2-disc)
Criterion, US$39.95 | Reviewed by John SpryIT’S HARD to believe more than 10 years have passed since the Robert Altman-directed film Short Cuts – the mesmerising follow up to The Player (1992) – was released into cinemas and available on general release worldwide (and not just in art-house cinemas). I thought it timely to revisit this film released recently in the United States by The Criterion Collection. Over the past 12 months many classic Altman films have found their way onto DVD, and recently three films have received the “Director Approved” treatment on the Criterion label. Besides Short Cuts, the other titles are Tanner ’88 (1988) and Secret Honour (1984), both of which were released in time for the U.S. general election, and timed quite appropriately so, although they probably did not have the effect that Altman would have liked.

Syriana (DVD)

Stephen Gaghan/USA/2005; R4
Warner Bros, NZ$29.95 | Reviewed by John SpryA CAUTIONARY tale of religion, greed, oil and a gun, Stephen Gaghan’s latest film released to DVD earlier last month. It follows his directorial debut, the disappointing Abandon(2002), and in turn follows the excellently scripted Traffic(2000), directed by Steven Soderbergh. Many of the same techniques employed in Traffic operate within the narrative of Syriana to give a similar but disparate effect.

2005 Year in Review: Lists

This year, no joint editor’s ten, no cult DVD retrospective, no rambling overview: just lists, lists, lists. Apart from the loose criteria of keeping film selections within the parametres of the 2005 calendar year (by view date), the following carries no particular format or theme. Note: the lists published here reflect the views of the individuals – the contributors and staff called upon to maintain The Lumière Reader. Let the list-making begin.

Against The Ropes

In two startling boxing documentaries – Dan Klores and Ron Berger’s Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story, and Ken Burns’ Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson – JOHN SPRY finds there’s plenty to warrant the sports arena becoming a regular fixture on the festival circuit.

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