Tom Augustine wraps up the weekend in film
It's genuinely surprising how satisfying it is to see Linda Hamilton once again pick up the mantle of Sarah Connor, the iconic 90s action hero, in Terminator:
Dark Fate (dir. Tim Miller, R13). Reprising their roles in a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the reunited Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger - this time they're protecting a new young charge destined to save the human race from destruction - consistently elevate what is otherwise a sporadically thrilling but often too by-the-numbers chase movie. As directed capably, but never transcendently, by Deadpool helmer Miller, Dark Fate recognises that Connor is the heart and soul of the franchise, not the T-800. Engineering a far-too-quick first act to get Connor front and centre, the film improves vastly once the set-up is out of the way (that includes an interesting sub-plot involving and paralleling the crisis at the Mexican border, with the apocalyptic future the Terminator represents). Dark Fate cleverly builds this new model around an impressive and diverse cast, with a strong focus on Latino characters that pays off well. It's just a shame that the film's direction (beyond a few muscular action set-pieces) couldn't match the strength of its legendary characters.
Rating: Three and a half stars.
I was less hot on Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit (M) than the otherwise generally strong reception the film has received in New Zealand. With this film, Godzone's own Hollywood success story works on an incredibly idiosyncratic, ambitious concept at a truly grand scale and, at times, achieves humorous and even moving results. However, I found the film's central concept - a young boy obsessed with the Nazi Party and whose imaginary best friend is Hitler himself - to be one in need of an approach more prepared to really come out swinging. Too often, Waititi's naturally gentle, good-natured sense of humour proves to be ill-suited to a subject that, even in a comedy, requires a more gutsy approach to really denouncing this stuff - and far less of the cloying, troubling sentimentality of its underlying message that anyone can be redeemed - even Nazis. There may be ways to lampoon the Nazi Party and all that it represents but I fear this one makes the mountainous evil of their deeds into too much of a molehill.
Rating: Three stars.
The really exciting cinema of the weekend takes place in independent cinemas across Auckland, where several major works of film history are screening in retrospective. Perhaps most significant is the one-off screening of The Wizard of Oz (dir. Victor Fleming, George Cukor, G) at Academy Cinemas this Sunday at midday, celebrating the film's 80th anniversary. It's the perfect opportunity to revisit one of the most vital classics of cinema or to introduce kids to the magic for the first time. Meanwhile, over at the Hollywood Cinema in Avondale, a wonderful double-bill of Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, M) and Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve, R13) celebrates the arrival at the fictional date in which the original masterpiece was set - November, 2019. The chance to watch both incredible films back to back on the big screen is sure to be a rare treat for sci-fi fans.