For those not up with the play, February 14 is Valentine's Day.
This is something that could cause you to shrug with indifference, thrill with excitement at the romantic hijinks you're planning, or grit your teeth with annoyance at the crass commercialisation of love.
Romance is something that Hollywood always likes to portray (or try to, at least). The latest efforts, released in time to celebrate the feast day of St Valentine, a mythical saint of obscure origins, possibly invented by Chaucer, are more interesting than some (although probably not as interesting as watching James Franco cut his arm off in 127 Hours, also now screening).
Animated family film Gnomeo & Juliet replaces the feuding families of Verona with vengeful garden gnomes. The premise sounds a little dubious and you can take it as a given that they've made the ending far more kid-friendly than a double teen suicide, but at least the (mainly) British voice cast is primo, with James MacAvoy (oo, I've interviewed him!) and Emily Blunt (oo, I've interviewed her, too!) as the romantic leads. Plus Jason "the Stathe" Staham, Maggie Smith, Matt Lucas, Michael Caine, Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart (voicing Shakespeare), Stephen Merchant and er, Ozzy Osbourne and uh, Hulk Hogan?
In the slightly more adult section - R16, actually - is the first mainstream romcom for Black Swanlet Natalie Portman, and the umpteenth for her sparring partner Ashton Kutcher, No Strings Attached.
So, anyway, there I was wandering off the plane into Auckland airport the other day, where (just like in the movies) a guy in a uniform was holding a sign with "Ms Agnew" written on it - spelt correctly and everything. So not my usual Saturday at work.
The guy was a concierge from a posh hotel, sent to pick me up and whisk me away (the limo was a hybrid so it was PC-ecofriendly luxury ... it even had a little flag on the bonnet, that's how posh it was) for an interview with Aron Ralston, the man better known as "the guy who cut his own arm off".
And since Danny Boyle has made a really rather good film about him, Ralston will now become known as the guy James Franco plays in 127 Hours. Ralston told me it was probably weirder for his sister seeing Franco play him on the big screen. She has a bit of a crush on Franco, you see, and became a bit conflicted at seeing this cute guy pretending to be her brother ... poor girl.
It felt completely incongruous, having spent 94 minutes stuck down a canyon crevice with his proxy, to now sit opposite the real guy watching him sip a cold glass of mineral water. You gain a whole new appreciation for cool, clear water after seeing a guy reduced to drinking his own urine out of a Camelbak...
It's no spoiler to tell you that at some point in the film about someone whose arm gets pinned by a 400kg boulder, he's going to have to cut his arm off.
Sure Jeff Bridges was pretty darn good as a washed-up country singer in Crazy Heart. It was definitely time to give the man an Oscar. But in True Grit he's soooo much better.
Even if you're not usually a Coen brothers fan, go see it. If you're a fan of Westerns, definitely go see it!
Taking on the eye-patched role made famous by John Wayne back in 1969, Bridges plays US marshall Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers new (yet old-fangled) film, True Grit. The Dude has been replaced by The Duke.
The cast is cram-packed with talent, including Matt Damon as the smug Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, and Josh Brolin (who last collaborated with the Coen's on their modern Western No Country For Old Men) as the baddie, yet it's an unknown 14-year-old girl who steals practically every scene she's in. And she's in nearly every scene.
Hailee Steinfeld in her Oscar-nominated big screen debut holds her own among distinguished company. She plays Mattie Ross - Tom Chaney (Brolin) shot her poppa, and now she's determined to hunt him down and bring him to justice.
I'm not going to complain about my work. It would seem churlish.
Besides, I (usually) love my job. I get paid to watch movies and write what I think of them for public consumption (that's where the "usually" comes in). It can be a lot of fun, mentally challenging and incredibly stressful, sometimes all at once. (And when I'm not watching films and DVDs, I have two magazines to edit. I keep myself busy...)
It's not exactly digging ditches in the pouring rain. Or unclogging cesspools. The only thing that is slightly depressing is the hate mail - in blog, email and actual snail-mail-letter form (increasingly rare, that last one), they arrive intermittently, but each one has more, or less, the same message.
The comment-email-letter writer wants me to know that I suck. I do a terrible job. I should be fired immediately.
I don't know if anyone else gets feedback from strangers like this on a regular basis as part of their job, but at least it lets me know someone's reading my stuff...
It's one of those awful moments in a film reviewer's otherwise peaceful and carefree life.
You're sitting in a preview screening of an already internationally acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film, wondering with a sinse of impending horror if you've stumbled into the wrong cinema.
This does not resemble anything like the film that is getting such raves as "the best thing since sliced swan" and "better than that really very excellent film I saw in 1944".
This would be fine except for the fact that unless you are a deeply disturbed ballet afficionado with a disturbing attachment to Swan Lake, you're likely to burst out laughing - or worse, snort nasally and unattractively with derision - at some of the more ludicrous moments in the second half.
Gorgeous to look at, with the exceptional lead actress Natalie Portman in one of her career highlights thus far, this film is intricately shot (it must have been a nightmare shooting with so many mirrors) and artfully made.
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