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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at New Zealand Cinemas This Week

Head to the flicks to see Dev Patel take on Charles Dickens, Judd Apatow's latest comedy and a WWII-set drama.
By Sarah Ward
July 16, 2020
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The New Movies You Can Watch at New Zealand Cinemas This Week

Head to the flicks to see Dev Patel take on Charles Dickens, Judd Apatow's latest comedy and a WWII-set drama.
By Sarah Ward
July 16, 2020
  shares

Something delightful is happening in cinemas across the country. After months spent empty, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, New Zealand picture palaces are finally open — spanning both big chains and smaller independent sites in Auckland and Wellington.

During COVID-19 lockdowns, no one was short on things to watch, of course. In fact, you probably feel like you've streamed every movie ever made over the past three months, including comedies, music documentaries, Studio Ghibli's animated fare and Nicolas Cage-starring flicks. But, even if you've spent all your time of late glued to your small screen, we're betting you just can't wait to sit in a darkened room and soak up the splendour of the bigger version. Thankfully, plenty of new films are hitting cinemas so that you can do just that — and we've rounded up, watched and reviewed some of the new releases on offer this week.

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THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND

Judd Apatow's latest lengthy arrested development-fuelled comedy (see also: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People and Trainwreck), The King of Staten Island unsurprisingly meanders. Loosely inspired by Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson's life, it's also thankfully candid, raw, funny and exceptionally well-cast. Oozing a different kind of BDE — that'd be big daddy's boy energy here, and even big deadbeat energy — Davidson plays 24-year-old Staten Island resident Scott. A high-school dropout who dreams of opening a combined tattoo parlour and restaurant, he still lives at home with his overworked nurse mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) and his college-bound younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow), and he still can't quite cope with the death of his firefighter father on the job 17 years earlier. Then, after making a poor decision involving a tattoo gun and a nine-year-old, he ends up with irate firey Ray (Bill Burr) first yelling on his doorstep, then dating his mum.

Born and raised in Staten Island himself, 26-year-old Davidson lost his own firefighter dad in 2001's September 11 attacks — and, unsurprisingly, he co-wrote The King of Staten Island's script. Hanging out with someone who is playing a part, but has also mostly been there and done plenty of what viewers see on-screen, the movie always sports a lived-in vibe as a result. This is an Apatow movie, so the usual manchild escapades and humour do apply. But, more importantly, The King of Staten Island is a Pete Davidson movie — and that has a considerable impact. Apatow often shapes his films around his stars; however, in a flick that undeniably relies upon a formula but also boasts rougher edges, the loose, lanky, brutally self-aware Davidson might be his best lead yet.

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THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

He's skewered British, American and Russian politics in The Thick of It, In the Loop, Veep and The Death of Stalin. This year, in the eerily prescient Avenue 5, he pondered what would happen if a group of people were confined on a cruise of sorts —  a luxury space voyage — for an extended stretch of time. But, in period comedy mode, The Personal History of David Copperfield might just be Armando Iannucci's most delightful work yet. Indeed, playfully trifling with a Charles Dickens classic suits the writer/director. Boasting a charming performance by Dev Patel as the eponymous character, and also starring Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw and Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie, this is a fresh, very funny and sharp-witted rendering of the obvious literary source material. Recreating this tale of a Victorian-era young man cycling from wealth to poverty and back again, Iannucci and his frequent co-scribe Simon Blackwell take shrewd liberties with the story, while never letting issues of class, abuse, loss, corruption and the dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism slip from view. And, Iannucci's visual inventiveness — including the use of split screen and rear projection — also leaves an imprint.

Read our full review.

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RESISTANCE

The horrors of the Second World War are undeniable and should never be forgotten. But those horrors have been brought to the big screen so many times now — and, often, in much the same kind of soft-toned historical dramas that tell their narratives in basically the same way — that movies about the conflict and the atrocious actions of the Nazis don't always hit as hard as they should. Take Resistance, for example. It not only relays an intrinsically emotive story about the fightback in occupied France and the immense efforts to save orphaned Jewish children, but draws upon a remarkable true tale involving the teenage actions of famous actor and mime Marcel Marceau. And yet, although it serves up a heartfelt tribute to the latter, as well chronicling a chapter of the well-documented war that definitely stands out, the end result still feels as by-the-numbers as World War II films come.

With Jesse Eisenberg stepping into the late, great Marceau's shoes, the movie heads back to the performer's adolescence — with his butcher father (Karl Markovics) disapproving of his choice of career, France on the cusp of invasion and his cousin (Son of Saul's Géza Röhrig) overseeing a local effort to help kids in need. The idea of 36-year-old Eisenberg playing a teen doesn't just sound like a stretch, but proves it on-screen, although it's one of the least generic elements of the feature. Written and directed by Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz (Hands of Stone), Resistance ticks every expected box narratively, thematically and stylistically, even when it's championing the life-saving importance of art and showcasing expressive mime work. It also makes little use of the rest of its acting lineup, including Harry Potter's Clémence Poésy, Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey and Edgar Ramírez.

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Top image: The King of Staten Island © 2020 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.

Published on July 16, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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