The Weekend Australian - Review - - Out & About - David Strat­ton SR DS DS John McCal­lum

(M) Lee Tama­hori ( Once were War­riors) re­turns to di­rect this fea­ture in his na­tive New Zealand af­ter many years of work­ing on Hol­ly­wood projects. The re­sult is a Maori fam­ily saga, set in the late 1950s, about ri­valry between two clans of sheep shear­ers and the at­tempts of a 14-year-old (Akuhata Keefe) to stand up to his dom­i­neer­ing grand­fa­ther (Te­muera Mor­ri­son), the pa­tri­arch of his fam­ily. Spec­tac­u­larly filmed pas­toral scenery is a ma­jor as­set, but the nar­ra­tive has its share of cliches. Of­fice Christ­mas Party (MA15+) Di­rected by Will Speck and Josh Gor­don, this is a com­edy with a story to tell, which puts it above re­cent ef­forts such as Bad Moms and Sis­ters. There’s a bit of swear­ing, sex­ual in­nu­endo and nu­dity, as the MA15+ rat­ing would sug­gest, but it’s not vul­gar or de­mean­ing. The set­ting is the Chicago of­fice of a tech­nol­ogy com­pany run by Clay Van­stone (TJ Miller), a rich young man who is a bit of a hip­ster: funny and odd. He in­her­ited the job from his fa­ther. When his sis­ter Carol (Jen­nifer Anis­ton), who is act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive, drops by, it looks like Christ­mas is go­ing from dif­fi­cult to Dick­en­sian.

Golden Years (M) A bunch of old-timers liv­ing in Bris­tol, in the West of Eng­land, de­cide to save their threat­ened so­cial club and aug­ment their pen­sions by rob­bing banks. This film, aimed squarely at older au­di­ences, starts well enough but soon be­comes ridicu­lous. Still it’s good to see 85-year-old Vir­ginia McKenna, star of films such as Born Free, giv­ing a lively per­for­mance.

The Leg­end of Ben Hall (M) A dis­ap­point­ing and overex­tended por­trait of the epony­mous bushranger (1837-65) and some of his ex­ploits, Matthew Holmes’s film spends too much time stag­ing the sim­i­lar-look­ing shootouts and not enough ex­plor­ing the con­text and the back­grounds of the char­ac­ters. Jack Martin’s Hall is an im­pos­ing fig­ure, and the film is visu­ally hand­some.

Speed-the-Plow David Mamet’s ex­plo­ration of Amer­i­can busi­ness life and the odd am­biva­lence of the male re­la­tion­ships that sus­tain it moves here from the world of real es­tate ( Glen­garry Glen Ross) to Hol­ly­wood. Two pro­duc­ers, played by Da­mon Her­ri­man and Lachy Hulme, strug­gling to make it big in a film stu­dio, are about to pitch a com­mer­cial movie to their boss when their tem­po­rary sec­re­tary (Rose Byrne, pic­tured) chal­lenges one of them to pitch a se­ri­ous film in­stead. The trou­ble with this re­vival is that the cen­tral con­flict is now nei­ther new nor par­tic­u­larly con­vinc­ing. There is sav­age com­edy and good per­for­mances but it is hard to un­der­stand why this play needed to be re­vived.

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