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Movie Review: Cold Harbour

Cape Town is the setting for Cold Harbour, an African noir crime drama that centres on corrupt cops and the smuggling of abalone. While restrictions are in place, it seems the sea produce, known locally as perlemoen, is a valuable aphrodisiac in Asian markets. We journey with Sizwe Miya, a dedicated township warrants officer, who goes solo to solve a murder and stem the tide of an illegal fishing trade and criminal undercurrent.

Tony Kgoroge plays Sizwe, an upright policeman, who is confronted with a series of moral dilemnas. The closer he gets to cracking the case and being promoted to detective, the more heat he attracts from corrupt officials on the pay roll, bent cops, criminal kingpins and a persuasive femme fatale.

Kgoroge is a noble actor and you can't help but respect the man's good intentions as he tries to emerge from the cesspit of criminality unchanged. He delivers a determined and passionate performance as Miya, keeping a low profile as he knocks on the doors of the usual suspects.

This is a murky morality tale and with a title like Cold Harbour, it's not surprising that the film's overcast colour scheme is in tune with the cool tone of the drama. This stormy seriousness is carried into Kgoroge's hardened character, making him all business, no pleasure. He carries great dignity, but the gumshoe could have used more charm to get the audience to rally behind him.

This distancing is most noticeable when Kgoroge shares the screen with the cool yet cautious, Fana Mokoena, an old comrade and known criminal, Specialist. Being friends their chemistry is good and their sense of history is palpable, yet Mokoena comes across as more likable. You can see this comedy double dynamic working in a buddy cop movie.

"Now THIS is red tide..."

Deon Lotz is Sizwe's police chief, Venske, adding considerable presence and conviction to a jaded supporting character. He's perfect for the role and it's just a pity they didn't make more of this subplot. Chinese actress and superstar, Yu Nan adds some sultry international appeal to the cast after a role in The Expendables 2, Thomas Gumede plays a cheeky, fresh-faced rookie and it's great to seeFreshly Ground's Zolani Mahola on-screen.

Cold Harbour has film noir elements, which filter into the crime mystery drama at play. Director Carey McKenzie keeps the swirling mystery familiar yet taut with Sizwe's deepening involvement landing him in one complicated situation after another. While mostly character-driven and drama-orientated, there are a few thrilling action scenes thrown in to heighten the suspense and up the pace.

While local, the film has world-class production values and an inherent maturity thanks to writer-director, Carey McKenzie. As such, it's much more than a competent police procedural, delivering high standards, great shooting locations, a diverse range of curious characters and an intriguing detective story with a similar tone and pace to Roman Polanski's Ghost Writer.

Unfortunately, we're not emotionally invested in the lead character's plight, engrossed in the story or entirely convinced by the plotting by the time the credits roll. Cold Harbour has so much promise that it seems unfair that it didn't work out better. The film has all the earmarks of a solid crime drama, but we're kept at an arm's length and baffled by some of our hero's actions.

While Cold Harbour starts with great aplomb, it begins to unravel in the third act and then fast-forwards through a somewhat shaky, surprising and unsatisfactory ending. It's mostly disappointing because the film works so hard to establish its firm foundations and then boils down to an incomplete ending with some great finishes and gaping holes.

The bottom line: Disappointing

Fans and filmmakers pledge 'The Labia's' golden digital future

Do you have fond memories of comfortable or quirky evenings at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town and would like this "Princess" of venues to thrive? Then read on… you might like to join this party.

The Labia Theatre is facing an extreme challenge this year: All film distributors globally have agreed to move to digital, and have stopped providing films on celluloid in one swoop. While digital tech does make film distribution more accessible and ensures consistent quality of playback, this news has come as a blow to independent cinemas worldwide for one simple reason: Cost – a new digital projector costs about half a million Rand.

As there is no option of continuing on celluloid, many independent theatres worldwide are closing or operating on borrowed time. For Cape Town’s Labia Theatre, with its four auditoriums and historically reasonable ticket prices, this has been close to a deal breaker on whether the much -loved Art-Repertory Cineplex can continue to operate. Labia Theatre owner, Ludi Kraus, is finding ways and means to try cope with the transition– but it is by no means guaranteed that they will make it.

Labia Theatre

However… The Labia Theatre does have a strong community around her and belongs in many people's hearts, so, with a little help from her audience and friends, and with the help of the latest global trend in fundraising: crowd-funding - this could become a golden opportunity that not only keeps The Labia Theatre’s doors open, but gilds the foyer too.

The Labia Theatre and Thundafund, currently South Africa's most successful crowdfunding platform, are launching the "Digital Gold" campaign on 24 July 2014. Fast becoming the darling of proactive filmmakers, crowd-funding is essentially about raising a little amount of cash from many different people, which together generates a large amount of cash, enough to fund something significant. An important premise of crowd-funding is that it is not charity: In this instance, in exchange for pledges, the Labia will give donors rewards in return, ranging from free movie tickets to the naming of her screens, depending on which specific pledge a person chooses to contribute.

This campaign means that we could see the transformation of the Labia throughout, taking her from Grunge to Vintage Glamour once again. Money raised will not only be used towards the necessary digital projectors, and paying for the renovations required to ensure they fit, but also to refurbish and revitalise The Labia for an overall improved audience experience. Another way the support and enthusiasm of all of us, who have fond memories of the Cape Town icon, will be repaid.

From the 24th of July, for 45 days, everyone is invited to visit www.thundafund.com/thelabia and choose one of the rewards on offer, and know that money pledged will be money spent on extending the life of our very own 65 year old Art- Repertory icon: The Labia Theatre.

Movie Review: Bad Neighbours

"Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours...", the cheerful theme of the long-running Australian soap drama, is a haunting refrain to some who have experienced nightmare neighbours. While most of us would be quite happy with the prospect of sharing a street with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, Jason Donovan or Natalie Imbruglia - we're often confronted with a much harsher reality.

While Neighbours is allegedly based on true stories, it's a gentle stroll in the park, next to Bad Neighbours starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. We've all had some sort of bad experience with a neighbour, and love-them-as-much-as-we-love-ourselves we try, sometimes... there's no getting through. Barking dogs, boundary walls, noise pollution, parking, overhanging branches, refuse bin day - it's a small miracle we manage to co-exist at all.

Thankfully, watching Bad Neighbours helps put things in perspective. Frat housemates or new homeowners, there's a bit of fun for everyone accustomed to degenerate humour in Seth Rogen's latest comedy that takes bad neighbourliness to the next level. After a frat house moves in next door to a young family, things start to get ugly when their toddler discovers a used condom in their garden.

It's a simple set up, but the comedy is all invested in the cat-and-mouse game of one-up-manship. They may not be as violent as Tom and Jerry, but Seth Rogen and Zac Efron have enough star (and fire) power to turn a matter of common decency into an all-out frat style war zone similar to Project X. They both have the street cred from previous comedies and aren't afraid to go Van Wilder on each other.

Bad Neighbours Movie Review

"Okay, you talkin' to Taxi Driver De Niro or Meet the Fockers De Niro?"

As you can imagine Bad Neighbours is far removed from anything starring Jack Lemmon. Nicholas Stoller directed Forgetting Sarah MarshallGet Him to the Greek and The Five-Year Engagement. If you've seen any of his films, you'll know the humour is progressive to outrageous, featuring full frontal nudity, gross out gags and crude sexuality. The couple with the baby help tone things down a bit, but it's still down-and-dirty. While not suitable for most grandmas, it is undeniably funny to anyone who can appreciate a brainless frat comedy.

Seth Rogen is completely committed to being a lovable loser opposite Zac Efron. He doesn't mind taking one for the team if it means getting a bigger laugh and delivers some terrific moments with his unmistakable brand of spontaneous comedy. Zac Efron is the pretty boy, the captain of the team and a worthy Robin to Batman. He's his usual charming, good-looking self, turning up the heat on the showdown and giving as good as he gets.

The mix of frat boy tradition and baby comedy make Bad Neighbours seem like a college sequel to Superbad vs. a sequel to Knocked Up. Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Rose Byrne throw their weight behind the ridiculous comedy - adding an extra layer of credibility and supporting the two main players in executing their subversive game plans. Byrne has a controlling influence, echoing Bridesmaids, and makes a refreshing break from simply being the shocked on-looker.

Bad Neighbours is pretty mindless, but it's sure to get you laughing, taking you down a wild path that will actually make you realise how insignificant your neighbour problems really are. Fans of Seth Rogen's comedy will not be disappointed and based on the response, there's sure to be a sequel. If you're easily offended, don't bother, but if you've enjoyed any of the movies mentioned in this review, this one's not to be missed.

The bottom line: Fratastic

Movie Review: Blended

There's a place for throwaway feel good entertainment... the kind that balances precariously between the waste paper basket and a slam dunk. Adam Sandler and South Africa's very own Leon Schuster have built their careers around this lightweight sort of entertainment. We're momentarily exposed to something that elicits a smile, a laugh, wonderment, warmth or even a tear.

These base human moments justify the product and help smooth over a myriad of inadequacies. We reserve the "it is what it is" comment, which helps explain their mass popularity, despite their intrinsic flaws. Fun is infectious and seeing other people enjoying themselves wholeheartedly is a vicarious thrill in itself.

Adam Sandler may be accused of simply turning vacations into movies, but this is the sort of mindless escapism that people thrive on in this post-recession age. In his latest venture, Blended, in many ways an unofficial sequel to Just Go with It, he gets to do Africa or an international version of it. As always, the comedian turned actor goes for the widest demographic by making it a family film about family.

As a veritable everyman and slice of Adam Sandler, he falls into his well-worn groove as a middle class sports store manager. Together with his Wedding Singer on-screen sweetheart, Drew Barrymore, now a closet space consultant, the two generate more of the same predictable romance. The fresh spin on this set up is the African setting and their children, who accompany and share a coincidental getaway.

Sandler trades on Disney schmaltz and there's plenty of sweet-to-sappy moments to savour. What differentiates Sandler from Disney, and what probably made Bedtime Stories a shaky marriage is that he doesn't mind a bit of gross out comedy. Thankfully, Blended steers clear of the traditional fart jokes and while not entirely innocent makes an effort to keep things clean.

Blended Movie Review

"Whatever you do... PLEASE do not do Grown Ups 3."

Unfortunately for Blended, the comedy is a bit hit-and-miss. We're amused by the spirited antics more than rolling in the aisles. Without the genuine belly laughs, Sandler's movie falls back on the heartwarming interplay between it's mix of over-the-top oddball characters.

Barrymore's boys are lovingly ripped off from War at Home and Modern Family. Their looks, mannerisms and unique eccentricities seem like they were direct references for the actors, and it works. Then, Sandler's three girls are all experiencing some sort of ugly duckling syndrome, which becomes a running joke as they try to overcome their tomboyish looks and escape from under the wing of Mr. Mom.

The African experience is just a skin for a family comedy that could have been shot at just about any holiday destination. An over-the-top Terry Crews leads a rather amusing choir that echoes the folk music gimmick from Something About Mary by ambushing the story whenever a scene needs a little extra silliness. It's a theme park version of Africa as the families congregate at The Lost City and embark on checking off the stereotypical tourist attractions.

It's loads of fun, even if it's spun in a naive fashion, and we simply enjoy the jaunt from a safe distance.Blended is a case of just going with it and while not nearly as funny as some of his previous comedies, is a step up from the sort of trashy and off-colour movies he's spawned more recently. It's mostly redeemed by Sandler and Barrymore's undeniable chemistry and the story's sincere attempt to be sweet-natured.

Blended is enjoyable in the moment, functions as mindless throwaway fun and is never offensively bland. Sandler plays happy families on holiday and despite the missed opportunities, it just works. Fans of Just Go with It will get their fix and others will just have to paw it off with an "it is what it is".

The bottom line: Fun

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