Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Win a double pass to see ONCE UPON A TIME.... IN HOLLYWOOD

Win a double pass to see ONCE UPON A TIME.... IN HOLLYWOOD

Win a double pass to see ONCE UPON A TIME.... IN HOLLYWOODTo celebrate the release of ONCE UPON A TIME.... IN HOLLYWOOD from visionary director Quentin Tarantino, you can win a double pass, thanks to Sony Pictures.


Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore.   

The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age. 

Starring Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood hits cinemas on August 15th

All you have to do is email your details and the word ONCE!

Email now to 

Bacurau: NZIFF Review

Bacurau: NZIFF Review

To talk of Bacurau and to review it is fraught with danger.

Essentially, this Brazilian film starts out as one thing before transforming into something else completely in terms of narrative.

Loosely though, it's set in a small Brazilian village in the dusty regions in the country a few years from now. The film begins with a scientist Teresa (Barbara Cohen) returning home after the death of her grandmother before a clutch of bodies is discovered in a nearby home...
Bacurau: NZIFF Review

To say more about Bacurau is, as alluded to, to rob you of some of the surprises that directors Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles had planned.

It's not that they're massive game-changing plans, in the scale of things, but part of the thrills of Bacurau is where it goes and how it goes there.

One thing that can fairly be levelled at Bacurau though is how some of the characters feel loosely sketched, and hollow in parts, and certainly there's no substantive lead as the film shifts gears and moves through.

Sure, there are some politics of poverty at play here (again, to say more is to spoil) for those looking for other levels to wallow in, but the character edges of the film are a little lacking, denying you an element to latch on to throughout.

That's no bad thing, because as Filho and Dornelles hurtle through what's going on, it's in keeping with the switching allegiances approach they appear to have.

Ultimately,  Bacurau represents the cinema of intrigue, the cinema of politics and the cinema of
crossing genres with ease as it carefully teases out its storyline.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Amazing Grace: NZIFF Review

Amazing Grace: NZIFF Review

There's one reason to see Amazing Grace - and it's simply staring quietly and unassumingly in the background at you throughout.

It seems woefully stupid to say Aretha Franklin is the reason to see the finally released documentary which captures the recording of a live album in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, a disused movie theatre, in Watts, Los Angeles.

But the power of the voice lives on and is captured easily in the doco from Sydney Pollack which has been stuck in legal and digital hell for some 45 years. (Bizarrely, also due to Franklin claiming there were no rights to use her image.)
Amazing Grace: NZIFF Review

However, it's the sheer power of Franklin's voice which carries Amazing Grace, and lest it simply become a concert recording, side characters give the film a bit more life.

As well as a couple of members of the choir who are either moved by the power of the church or Franklin's voice, the energy brought by an essentially live commentary given by the Reverend James Cleveland is central to the film's tactile success. Providing links to the tracks and to the proceedings, Cleveland's energy is what carries the film, given how silent Franklin is in between songs.

If anything, Pollack's Amazing Grace captures the vibe of being in the moment like nothing else.

Whether it's panning to the crowd, and capturing Mick Jagger grooving on the second night of recording, or simply capturing the everyday African American moved by the gospel sounds, the feeling of the extraordinary in the mundanity of the church is inescapable.

Technically, the film looks as good as it could, and the sounds are simultaneously stripped back and incredible.

Ultimately, Amazing Grace offers a timeless snapshot of a talent in ascendance. Placed in among the everyday setting, the meshing of the music and the people is transcendant.

High Life: NZIFF Review

High Life: NZIFF Review

More of a frustration than an outright success, Claire Denis' High Life is an intriguing space odyssey which doesn't quite know what exactly it wants to say.

Equal parts mesmerising and equal parts confusing to its narrative, High Life focuses on Robert Pattinson's Monte as he tries to bring up his daughter in what appears to be the confines of outer space.
High Life: NZIFF Review

But as the film progresses, the reasons for his isolation play out, leaving you with more questions than perhaps answers.

And yet some of the visuals that Denis commits to the screen convey both the isolation of the void and the beauty of it. There's a feeling science is at play here, and an idea perhaps that this is the future we get not the one we aspire to in many ways.

Slow and moody, frustratingly paced, there are many arguments why High Life is not the full package, but a mesmerising turn from Robert Pattinson gives the film the life it needs. There's a feeling of redemption from his character, given his predicament, and a broodiness in the opening sequences that doesn't quite feel right.

Yet, as the elements combine toward the end of High Life, there's a desperation and a sadness which sets in that's hard to shake off. It may be arty, it may be moody, and it may fall short of what you'd expect, but there's no doubting that High Life will provoke some form of discussion long after it's done.

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Richard Lowenstein, director of Mystify

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Richard Lowenstein, director of Mystify

My film is.... Mystify: Michael Hutchence

The moment I'm most proud of is ...
The level of unseen archive and especially finding the Kylie and Michael footage. 
When we interviewed Kylie for the doco she described how Michael had filmed their first date in Hong Kong using a little wind-up camera which I had given him. I asked Kylie if she knew where the footage was and she said it was lost a long time ago and possibly at Paula’s place.
Months later, I had handed over films for scanning and the guy from the lab called me and said ‘we’ve got this footage of a very young Michael and Kylie on a boat on Hong Kong Harbour’.
It had been in my attic all along.
NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Richard Lowenstein, director of Mystify

The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is.....
I’m stubborn.
Filmmaking is chipping away at a big wall and trying to convince people to give you 2, 3, 4 or 10 million dollars all based on what’s written down on paper. Every time someone threw barriers up, it just made me more resilient and determined to push through and achieve what I wanted to do. There were extraordinary hurdles we had to get over to get it done

The one moment that will resonate with an audience is......
This is a very sad film.
 You’re not going to come out signing and dancing, you’re going to have real feelings about a real story and this is something that’s going to make you really feel.

The hardest thing I had to cut from this film is........
Footage of Michael performing so I could keep it to 100 minutes. I would have liked to have shown more songs and to have had a section about his acting career.

The thing I want people to take from this film is ......
Notice what’s happening to people around you. This is a plea for observing and understanding, and in a way it’s my apology. I was in Michael’s inner circle and I saw something disturbing and didn’t do anything either. Watch, understand and do something – watch the car crash happen.

The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is.....
Persevere. You need to have passion for what you are doing, and perseverance to keep doing it … and be unique and different.

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - John Chester – director of The Biggest Little Farm

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - John Chester – director of The Biggest Little Farm

My film is....
The Biggest Little Farm

The moment I'm most proud of is....

At Year Five on the farm when we started to see the purposeful intent behind the coyote, the weasel, the gopher and the badger. Before then we didn’t understand their role in what was happening. I had turned my back on filmmaking to be a farmer, but was so inspired by things that I kept capturing them on film and then at that Year Five mark I realised we had our key players in nature and there was a story to tell.
John Chester – director of The Biggest Little Farm

The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is.....

Even when things are not easy, there isn’t really the option to walk away from other things which depend on you including plants and animals. In the end the film was made over eight years and I just stuck with it because I knew we have a profound story to tell which hadn’t been told before.

The thing I want people to take from this film is ......
Hopefulness about the future. I hope people will be inspired and that hopefulness exists when humans focus on a collaborative and innovative way to co-exist with nature to solve problems. Within diverse eco-systems, the solutions are infinite.

The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is.....
You must be so inspired and passionate about your subject matter to be willing to live with it and go as deeply as you can get to bring it to life. And be open to feedback, but know your own compass.

Vivarium: NZIFF Review

Vivarium: NZIFF Review

Irish director Lorcan Finnegan's Vivarium has been compared to Black Mirror, because of look and tone.

Though this tale of two would-be surbanites (Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots) finding themselves stranded in a housing estate after a visit to an oddball estate agent's, has more in common with a darker Tales of The Unexpected or Inside No 9 via Escher.
Vivarium: NZIFF Review

Gemma (Poots, digging deep when needed and yielding great rewards) and Tom (Eisenberg, increasingly detached and desperate) are wannabe homeowners, given the chance to visit a new housing estate called "Yonder".

When their creepy estate agent disappears while they're looking around the house which is "near enough and yet far enough away", the pair find themselves stuck when they can't escape Yonder....

Finnegan creates an atmosphere of unease early on in the piece, after a cutesy opening showcases both Gemma and Tom's relationship and their approach to life.

But with some digital trickery and some genuinely unsettling moments (it's wise to go into this unspoiled, and with a blank mind approach), what Finnegan crafts is something that haunts you after you've seen it.

Colour palettes add to the cinema of unease, and the sense of suspense as the rug threatens to be pulled out from under you at any moment. Parts of the film occasionally feel like the idea's been stretched as far as it can with its essentially two-hander cast, but just when the film seems to be out of breath, an audacious third act moment visually jolts you back into it.

There's a satire in Vivarium here both of suburban expectations and family expectations - albeit poured through a prism of genuine discomfort.

It's heady, thrilling, exciting, frustrating and audacious - Vivarium truly messes with you - but its ride is well worth hopping on.

Monday, 29 July 2019

American Woman: NZIFF Review

American Woman: NZIFF Review

Sienna Miller excels in this portrait of life after grief from director Jake Scott.

Book-ending the film with two distinct portraits of the same character, Miller is Deb, a wild-child mum at 16, now a grandma at 38. With a laissez-faire attitude to both her own family (including a fraught relationship with mother and sister)and reputation, Deb's heading for destruction.

But when her daughter goes missing, Deb finds her world completely changed, as she becomes a sole carer to her grandchild and needs to re-evaluate, and start over again.
American Woman: NZIFF Review

Essentially a portrait of grief, survival and coping, American Woman's strength in its familiar story comes from its lead actress, who burns up the screen with a powerhouse performance from the moment it begins.

Miller gives Deb a fiery heart at the start that allows you to support her through everything - from her sister (played admirably by Christina Hendricks) and her judgement through love to the abusive cheating men she aligns herself with.

"You make do with what's left" Deb says at one point early on, and that's equally true of what Miller delivers with Scott's material of flawed people and life's mistakes and bumps.

Scott delivers some time jumps that bleed into the screenplay with ease as years segue, and lives evolve; it's a fascinating technique that never disorients but cleverly ruffles perceptions and the usual dramatic cliches.

Ultimately, it's the honesty of American Woman, coupled with an awards-worthy performance from Miller, that wins you over - quiet moments deliver such gutpunches towards the end that you realise how invested you are in Deb's life.

It's a powerfully acted film that breathes life into a story and tropes we've all seen a million times before - and for that, it's one of the festival's most quiet and under-lauded triumphs.

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Armagan Ballantyne - Hush (part of Short Connections)

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Armagan Ballantyne - Hush (part of Short Connections)

My film is…. HUSH

The moment I'm most proud of is….I loved how up for a challenge the Toi Whakaari Actors were, I’m really proud of them.

The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is….. Because so many of the crew had given their time generously I knew I needed to push through the tricky bits and try to make something they could feel proud of
NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Armagan Ballantyne - Hush (part of Short Connections)

The one moment that will resonate with an audience is…….Hopefully the scene in the spa where Ava connects with her friend after feeling alone in the world

The hardest thing I had to cut from this film is........
We had shot a couple of scenes that had lovely performances from other actors in them but we needed to cut them so the film wasn’t too long

The thing I want people to take from this film is …… I hope people will empathise with Ava and her struggle to find comfort because she doesn't feel like she can honestly express what has happened to her.

The reason I love the NZIFF is……. There is nothing better than sitting in the Mighty Civic filled with people and watching a Film Festival film !

What I want to see at this year's NZIFF is......So many ! All the Agnes Varda films, The Invisible Life of Euridive Gusmao, For my Father’s Kingdom,  Animals, Bellbird, Come to Daddy, Judy and Punch to name a few…

The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is….. Try not to be too hard on yourself, you learn the most from your mistakes !

Sunday, 28 July 2019

NZIFF Q&A 2019 - Adriana Martins da Silva, director of Upstream

NZIFF Q&A 2019 - Adriana Martins da Silva, director of Upstream

My film is....”Upstream” from the Short connections’ section. / a part of myself. All films
are but this one more so. The story is deeply connected to my journey here in New

The moment I'm most proud of is.... Getting the local community as involved and central to the making of this film as the professional cast and crew. From Palmy all the way to Portugal. From my neighbour next door building props for the film, to my boss from the hospital brewing beers for the crew. The weaving of the cultures and
relationships that happened on and off screen is what I’m most proud of. For me a film is as much about the end result as it is about the whole journey getting there.

The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is.....The same reason that made me want to birth the film in the first place. Wanting to honour my journey in New Zealand, the people, the land. As well as my own roots. I’m not the same girl that arrived here on the 1st of January 2014. This land has taught me so much... Whenever it got tough (and there were many such times), that calling is where I sourced the strength to carry on.

The one moment that will resonate with an audience is.......I hope more than one moment, but I’m sensing the last scenes of the film will resonate more deeply.

The hardest thing I had to cut from this film is........
The scene that takes place at Tui’s kitchen. It had so many details on the page and we ended up having so little time to shoot it... It’s still hard for me to watch it without cringing.

The thing I want people to take from this film is ......
I’m not really into telling people what to think or feel. A film has its own personal resonance with each person and their life experience. That relationship is sacred to me and it sits at the core of the magic of storytelling.

The reason I love the NZIFF is.......It’s such a diverse program that screens all across the country! It’s remarkable, really. I love that is not centralized to one city, we don’t have that in Portugal.

What I want to see at this year's NZIFF is......
Well, first of all our film on the big screen, of course! (laughs) But every year I’m especially keen on the Aotearoa section of the festival. Kiwi humour has grown immensely on me and I value any opportunity to immerse and learn about Maori culture. Also, this year I’m quite keen on the Agnès
Varda section of the festival .

The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is…..
If you can feel it in your heart, you can do it. Don’t let perfectionism or the lack of resources get in the way, just start.
Be flexible, as things will change. Actually, a LOT will change. And that’s the beauty of it as well. It’s like a dance... So stay centred and keep listening to the beat and enjoy the ride.

Brittany Runs a Marathon: NZIFF Review

Brittany Runs a Marathon: NZIFF Review

Easily one of the most commercial films of the festival, and crowd-pleasing in extremis, Brittany Runs a Marathon's commitment to good humour and geniality is obvious from the get go.

Jillian Bell is Brittany, an overweight party goer who's in a dead end attendant job at the local theatre, and whose propensity for casual hook ups and nothing serious has sent her into an early downward spiral.

Heading to the doctor to score some free drugs, Brittany gets a wake up call and decides to lose some weight and shake her life up.
Brittany Runs a Marathon: NZIFF Review

The lifestyle-choices-catch-up-with-you sentiment is not exactly a new one, and the sentimental edges of Brittany Runs a Marathon can be seen coming a mile off, but that doesn't mean Paul Downs Colaizzo's screenplay doesn't present some highlights and positivity for everyone to take away.

Pitch Perfect's Jillian Bell makes great fist of the comedic elements of the script, and there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments as the authentic and earnest film plays out, and deals out a character that's messed up and not necessarily one that's going to get perfection by the final frame.

Internal loathing, social awkwardness and lashing out as well as self-deprecation are the orders of the day as Brittany Runs a Marathon's body image message is got across through great swathes of recognition. It's hard to negotiate both insecurities and deal out empathy, but Colaizzo and Bell deliver in spades.

Brittany Runs a Marathon may collapse in gooey sentiment at the end, but it's almost forgivable, given how criminally enjoyable it is.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Hale County This Morning This Evening: NZIFF Review

Hale County This Morning This Evening: NZIFF Review

There's frustration and beauty a-plenty in Hale County This Morning This Evening, a freewheeling doco that plays fast and loose with the traditional idea of a documentary.

Director RaMell Ross has, in truth, constructed something which is more of a moving exhibition of photos and moments to reveal more of Hale County in Alabama.

Using intimate shots, and moments of beauty behind a lens, Ross channels the excitement of a first-time filmmaker, capturing the people and the sights of the area that he came to as a teacher. But a traditional narrative aches to be placed into the context of this documentary, with glimpses rather than fully formed foundations informing his characters and the people within.
Hale County This Morning This Evening: NZIFF Review

From sweat falling onto the ground like raindrops, to a neon pink religious sign glistening in the wind, to two people playing in a car lot while the storms swirl around them in the sky, Ross has an eye for the artful and the artistic in droves.

But punctuating the shots with bizarre title cards does little to add to the experience, and if anything, takes you out of what is clearly meant to be an experimental experience of a filmmaker capturing life at both its most mundane and day-to-day voyeuristic.

It's a frustration more than a condemnation of Hale County This Morning This Evening, because it's guaranteed you won't see a more carefully considered piece of documentary making this year.

But it's also a frustration, because the freeforming nature may capture some wondrous moments of banality and of life in its truly most basic form, yet it does so without turning them into something cohesive.

Come To Daddy: NZIFF Review

Come to Daddy: NZIFF Review

Incredibly Strange programmer and industry stalwart Ant Timpson's directorial debut is a strange slice of sentiment mixed with the usual gonzo horror gore you've come to expect.

A terribly haircutted Elijah Wood is Norval, a hipster musician who's called back to his father's side after a letter shows up without warning decades after they were last seen. But upon Norval's arrival, his father is a crude and unsympathetic father figure, apparently disinterested in his son, but fervently keen in abusing him and mocking his musical success and limited edition Lorde designed phone.
Come to Daddy: NZIFF Review

However, things take a turn for the dramatic as time goes on.

To say more about Come To Daddy is to rob the ride of some of the uncertain richness that's portrayed within. And that's kind of the point of most of the film, as it toys with the intimate and preys on the audience expectations.

But what Timpson's delivered, along with writer Toby Harvard, is a film that ripples in parts, and feels under-explored in others as it bends genres and audience hopes.

Shot in close up styles, and with a cast that's best described as intimate, rather than sparse, there is more of emotional heft than you'd expect as you watch Wood's uncertain Norval try to impress his father and reconnect. Wood channels awkwardness and misplaced bluster as he tries to show off, and the excruciating scene is made even stronger by some tautly shot moments and some wide angles suggesting the divide between them.

Apparently, there are autobiographical elements within, and one senses the early scenes speak to a generational gap that has been witnessed for years as families try to reconcile their hopes for their siblings / paternal relationships.

Timpson makes great fist of the claustrophobia here and there, and never loses the propensity for laughs - obvious or otherwise (a plastic bag on a beach being one of the chief examples).

But when the film moves out of the confines of its dramatic journey and into genre areas it's destined to fulfill, it loses some of the scope that's kept it together as it looks to satiate an audience seeking a gore quota and a sleaze factor.

The payoff is an interesting one, and one which speaks volumes to the relationship, but which to discuss more is to spoil - ultimately, Come To Daddy may offer a Friday night's worth of entertainment, but it's never as gory or as humorous as it could or should be.

And for that element alone, it's more of a sentimental film than you'd ever expect from Timpson et al - and all the more interesting because of it.

NZIFF 2019 Q&A Justin Pemberton, director of Capital In The Twenty-First Century

NZIFF 2019 Q&A Justin Pemberton, director of Capital In The Twenty-First Century

My film is....Capital In The Twenty-First Century
The moment I'm most proud of is....
A scene with a young Margaret Thatcher where she says, “I don’t think there’ll be a woman prime minster in my lifetime”. She’s a poster child for the post-war era of high social mobility - an ordinary shopkeeper's daughter from the North who becomes Britain's first female prime minister and very wealthy. 

NZIFF 2019 Q&A Justin Pemberton, director of Capital In The Twenty-First Century

The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is.....Because the only way out is through.
The one moment that will resonate with an audience is.......
The rigged game of monopoly. It’s a simple but powerful experiment by a psychologist who shows some remarkable behaviours changes in people.

The hardest thing I had to cut from this film is........ 
Bitch Better Have My Money by Rhianna - we played with the track in an early cut but it was impossibly expensive to clear the rights. Thankfully there’s loads of other great pop-culture moments I did get to use in the movie, so I don’t miss it. 
The thing I want people to take from this film is ...... 
To see how our relationship with capital has changed over time and get people talking about how it needs to change again.

The reason I love the NZIFF is.......
It’s the prefect excuse to slack off work and to over-indulge in film... plus there’s always a great collection of docos.

What I want to see at this year's NZIFF is......
Amazing Grace, Meeting Gorbachev,  Sorry We Missed You, Where’s My Roy Cohn?

The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is.....
Always be able to tell your story in one sentence. 

Friday, 26 July 2019

The Nightingale: NZIFF Review

The Nightingale: NZIFF Review

Jennifer Kent's latest after The Babadook follows similar themes.

The colonial-set Australian adventure has a fire that's hard to deny, but it also features a mother and an imperiled child, much like The Babadook did.

But that's where the similarities end.

In 1825 Tasmania, Aisling Franciosi is Clare, a thief who's in debt to Sam Claflin's Hawkins. With Hawkins abusing his power, and frustrated at his inability to progress postings in the army, Clare finds herself extremely abused and compromised at his hand.
The Nightingale: NZIFF Review

When things go devastatingly wrong, Clare is forced out on a mission of extreme revenge, and in the company only of Aborigine Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as her tracker.

It may be sadistic in its opening act, and prone to sickening moments of colonial cruelty as it reveals a necessary and honest reality, but The Nightingale presents moments of beauty in among its brutality.

Kent once again presents a story that's beautifully shot, with landscape vistas presenting both the power and terror of the uncharted outside world. Thankfully, it helps counterbalance some of the cruelty that white men do which is sadly prevalent in this piece.

It may be a Western in its approach in terms of a revenge story, however, there are moments of horror as well as Kent balances a nightmarish element of hauntings for Clare.

Franciosi delivers a powerhouse turn as a woman on a mission; whereas it could be a one dimensional role, she imbues Clare with both fragility and fire. Equally, Ganambarr gives an angry yet understated edge to the local man whose land has been attacked, raped and his family killed. There's a definite anti-colonial message here, as the evil of the English is explored (both the Irish and Aborigine abhor the English) in subtle ways.

There's no denying there are hardships early on, but stick with The Nightingale as it's both necessary and the rewards are well worth it, as the final message of personal redemption and choice burn through.

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Damon Gameau, director of 2040

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - Damon Gameau, director of 2040

My film is...

The moment I'm most proud of is….
Condensing a 3 hour 35 minute rough cut of the film into 90 minutes.

The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is…..
There is nothing more important than the health of our planet. And a better future for our children.

The one moment that will resonate with an audience is…….
The magical powers of seaweed

The hardest thing I had to cut from this film is…….. 
A larger part of the economy section and the ‘rules of the game’ that are blocking us from getting to a better 2040.

The thing I want people to take from this film is ……

The reason I love the NZIFF is…….
New Zealand is a much better country than Australia

What I want to see at this year's NZIFF is……
In My Blood It Runs’ by Maya Newell

The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is…..
Make sure the subject you choose for your film is a subject you really love. You will be tested making a film so a foundation of love is crucial.

In Fabric: NZIFF Review

In Fabric: NZIFF Review

Peter Strickland's latest is a bizarre fetish piece, packed with languishing imagery and also a bizarre headscratcher that's lashed with humour where its narrative lacks.

Marianne Jean Baptiste is Sheila, a recently dumped housewife whose son is running riot with a French teacher taking the mickey and whose job in front line banking service is overseen by two manager busybodies who have nothing better to do.

When she buys a red dress in the January sales, she's unaware of the Phantom Thread's demonic past and finds herself in a world she doesn't quite fathom.
In Fabric: NZIFF Review

In Fabric is frankly a stylised piece of utter nuttiness.

And when it embraces its absurdities, it's all the better for it.

But at its core, In Fabric mocks British society mercilessly; whether it's Sheila's constant phone voice reading out her entire phone number or the consumerist desires of those beating down the doors of a department store, Strickland's got an eye on the absurd in this utterly out there piece that revels in the perversity it presents.

While narratively it may go off the rails at certain points, it doesn't hold back from its more fetish edges and stylised insanity. The aesthetics impress much like the Duke of Burgundy did, but whereas here the deep reds and crisp colours hark back to the horror edges, the film's definitely keen to take you on a journey, even if the final destination doesn't offer the answers you may seek.

It's fair to say In Fabric is the most curious entry in this year's Film Festival, but it's also the one offering the most perverse pleasures in the cinema - in terms of laughs, it offers plenty, and in terms of genre nods and erotic weirdness, it's second to none for atmospheric oddities.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Alita: Battle Angel: Blu Ray Review

Alita: Battle Angel: Blu Ray Review

Little more than the sum of its hollow parts, Alita: Battle Angel is a spectacle bar none.
Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

Sat with James Cameron for the best part of two decades, the CGI movie, which meshes cyberpunk with Young Adult sensibilities (not always successfully, one may add) is an interesting start to the beginning of a hopeful franchise.

Taken from the Manga source material Battle Angel Alita, Waltz is Dr Dyson Ido, a cyber-surgeon in a city several centuries in the future. Finding a cyborg with a functioning heart in the scrapyard, Ido rebuilds her in the hope that she will live again.

But when Alita (Salazar, recently seen in Bird Box) comes around, she has no memory of who or what she is. Hunted for what she represents, Alita finds her world turned upside down as she regains flashes of who she is.

Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

It's fair to say that Alita: Battle Angel looks incredible.

The mix of the CGI realisation and the integration of technology with human edges is nothing short of flawless, and Salazar brings life to the CGI character lead, lending a heart that's needed.

Alita's wide eyes may suggest innocence and be in keeping with anime's trademarks, but it also helps the character stand out from the crowd, as she's forced to deliver some truly groan-worthy dialogue, ripped from the pages of a pulpy Young Adult novel, via some Nicholas Sparks style imagery.

Waltz adds humanity to his doctor, ensuring that the paternal relationship hits the right notes, even if it follows down the well-worn paths of any father-daughter movie.

It's Alita's mix of familiar that stops the film from feeling truly original; from elements of Rollerball crossed with Transformers, portions of the City that Never Sleeps Spider-Man DLC, via Detroit:
Becoming Human, Ghost In the Shell elements, to a love story in among separated societies that was part of Mortal Engines, there's an incredible sense of deja vu on show here, coupled with a feeling that the story's as low stakes as it could be, with frustrating hints proffered of what could come in a future instalment.

Alita: Battle Angel: Film Review

Whether that does eventuate will be another matter entirely, and certainly in the film's back 20 minutes, the feeling of resolution is frustrated by out-of-character character behaviours that don't gel and jar the flow.

Ultimately, Alita: Battle Angel is a worthy attempt at something new and is visionary in its visual execution once again (as you'd expect from Cameron et al) - but once again, a sci-fi epic is frustratingly hamstrung by its human edges, and its lack of commitment to tone that leaves Alita floundering for a USP in an ever-crowded pantheon of franchise wannabes. 

Backtrack Boys: NZIFF Review

Backtrack Boys: NZIFF Review

More gentle amble through troubled boys' lives and less about the dogs they're paired up with, director Catherine Scott's genial Backtrack Boys heads to Australia to talk second chances and maturity.

With an unfussy and unobtrusive camera, Scott follows the lives of boys in Aussie Bernie Shakeshaft's programme aimed at turning kids around as part of his residential programme.

It's tried and tested material admittedly - for every troubled kid, there's a familiar story to follow (the commonalities in these types of yarns is never earth-shattering), but what Scott does is to centre in on three boys, and make you care for them via simplicity of execution, and intimate portrayals.
Backtrack Boys: NZIFF Review

Perpetual offender and youngster Russell, aka Rusty, is the wild card, a ready to bite, ready to fight, ready to run kid who's one incident away from jail; there's Zac, the teen who's like a big brother, but whose anger underneath his soft edges could destroy him and Tyson, the kid from jail, who's trying to go straight.

It's obviously heart-warming fare, and is intensely devastating when things don't go right as they should. While some may berate Scott for never really presenting the victims' side of the offending, her maturity in holding the boys upto account via their own interactions is commendable.

It's affecting admittedly, and gentle in many ways, but Backtrack Boys continues the lines set down by last year's Celia Lashlie doco, in that social interventions and people make the difference. These are not new conclusions, and there's an underlying sadness that these stories have to be repeatedly trotted out, but with sensitively handled fare such as this, maybe ultimately, the message will get through.

NZIFF Q&A - director Lorcan Finnegan, Vivarium

NZIFF Q&A - director Lorcan Finnegan, Vivarium

My film is.... VIVARIUM, a strange twisted sci-fi nightmare about a consumerist life

The moment I'm most proud of is.... Probably getting into Cannes. It made all the problems go away

The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is..... Because there is never any other choice unfortunately. You convince all these talented people to help make your film, so you owe it to them to make a good film. And to yourself from the past who thought it was a good idea and yourself from the future who thinks you did an alright job.

The one moment that will resonate with an audience is....... When something happens in the 3rd act that I can't tell you about.

NZIFF Q&A - director Lorcan Finnegan, Vivarium

The hardest thing I had to cut from this film is........ A sequence I spent 5 days shooting. It was very complicated and required lots of vfx to complete but ultimately didn't make the film better so I beheaded it.

The thing I want people to take from this film is ...... To watch out for creepy estate agents called Martin. 

The reason I love the NZIFF is....... Because it has all the best films and is in New Zealand!

What I want to see at this year's NZIFF is...... Long Day’s Journey into Night, Monos, Song Without a Name, In Fabric and another Poots / Eisenberg film by my friend Riley Sterns, The Art of Self Defence

The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is..... Keep the blinkers on and stay delusional enough to get your film made

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

2040: Film Review

2040: Film Review

Director: Damon Gameau

Idealism seeps through the veins of That Sugar Film's follow up.

Damon Gameau returns with a self-professed optimistic piece of what life could be like in 2040 that's squarely aimed at showing his 4-year-old daughter Velvet that there is hope among the doom and gloom of climate change reporting and global concerns over the planet's future.

The tone for this film is set in the opening moments as a title board reveals that carbon credits used in making this film have been offset.
2040: Film Review

It's genially put together, and should be commended for its eternal optimism, but despite Gameau deploying visual tactics such as shrinking down commentators and experts to wee tiny levels so they can be dwarfed on the screen, the film's really only interested in presenting a utopian side of the argument.

"We have everything we need right now to make it happen," Gameau intones at one point.

And as he demonstrates how farming can do its bit, how self-driving cars will provide transport peace and how energy can be shared with others, it's easy to buy into. But Gameau shies away from getting any of the critical answers why this isn't happening yet or won't in future - whether it's out of a desire to make the film so positive that it doesn't make you want to scream at politicians and their global politicking or whether it's through lack of trying, it's never really clear.

The end result is that frustrations bubble up - despite the cutesy use of kids' vox pops talking about what they want to see in 2040. Sure, it's amusing in parts, and is as hollow as a once over lightly global approach, but much like the director's predilection in That Sugar Film, it's all about shallow rushes to the head.

In truth, the narrative naivete cloys, and while it's understandable that Gameau's trying to inspire rather than put obstacles up, its occasional head in the sands' approach does nothing to dispel a nagging sense of frustration and a feeling that everyone in the film is living in Fantasyland.

Crowd-pleasing it may be; inspiring it may also be, but based on any kind of reality and giving any steps forward to making it a reality, it is not.

Don't let the politics get in the way of a good dream, eh.

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - director Sophie Hyde, Animals

NZIFF 2019 Q&A - director Sophie Hyde, Animals

My film is....
A big collaboration with a lot of great people all providing details that make the feeling of the whole. It's a lot of fun, I think pleasurable to watch and also a bit expansive, or more expansive than is expected. 
The moment I'm most proud of is....
I'm not sure. 
The reason I carried on with this film when it got tough is.....
Because they are characters and a situation that feels like it's been done a lot but not with a lot of nuance, I felt they should be on screen.
The one moment that will resonate with an audience is.......
The cocaine sex, the feeling of trying to work out your shit when your desires are so competing. 
NZIFF 2019 Q&A - director Sophie Hyde, Animals

The hardest thing I had to cut from this film is........ 
The song "Buffalo stance" which was written into the script but didn't have a place in the movie
The thing I want people to take from this film is ...... 
That friendships can be inspiring, difficult and brilliant whether they exist for a moment, a day, a season or a lifetime. 
The reason I love the NZIFF is.......
Because of the great films on offer
What I want to see at this year's NZIFF is......
Well I don't want to see it but there is another film I produced called In My Blood It Runs which is beautiful and meaningful and mesmerising and disturbing and also hopeful - that would be my hot pick. 
The one thing I'd say to aspiring filmmakers is.....Be really rigorous  about what you want to say, who you want to say it to, how you want to say it. 

Jojo Rabbit first trailer is here

Jojo Rabbit first trailer is here

The first trailer for Taika Waititi's next film, Jojo Rabbit has arrived.

In it, Waititi plays a Hitler style goofball at a Hitler camp.
Jojo Rabbit first trailer is here

The film follows a young boy (Roman Griffin) raised in a Hitler Youth camp who questions his patriotism when he realises his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie).

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Deerskin: NZIFF Review

Deerskin: NZIFF Review

French director Quentin Dupieux, the guy who brought us Rubber, returns to the festival with an offbeat look at masculinity and bizarrely, fashion.

A greying Jean DuJardin is Georges, a man who appears firstly on the road, and secondly out of sorts. Clad in ill-fitting chinos, and drably coutured, his first stop is at a rest stop, where he throws his jacket in the loo, pushes it down with his feet, and retreats as the facilities begin to flood.
Deerskin: NZIFF Review

Having dispatched his wardrobe with veritable aplomb, Georges buys a full length, tassles and all, deerskin jacket, that comes with a digital video recorder. Dubbed The Beast by its seller, the jacket seems to exert a hold over Georges, demanding that all jackets be destroyed....

Deerskin is dubbed as a comedy, but it's not exactly laugh-out-loud amusing, more unusual and offbeat than anything.

Beiges, browns and other drab colours provide a palette of malaise that affects much of the mood of the film, and symbolises the collective atmosphere of loss.

DuJardin is committed to the lunacy and the delusion, but grounds his Georges in a kind of broken sadness that's universally recognised, before it teeters off ultimately and heads into the unhinged arena.

At 76 minutes, the film's stretched about as thin as it can go, but the descent into madness is well put together and sold mainly by DuJardin's sense of detachment and Adele Haenel's Denise's desperation to escape a crummy job and buy into the delusion.

"You can't make sense of it now, but it rocks," is one line intoned during proceedings, and may be much of the audience reaction to how Deerskin plays out, and descends into obvious genre tropes.

Ultimately, Deerskin paints itself into a corner, as is demonstrated by an ending that comes out of the blue, but Dupieux's commitment to the journey of lunacy allows it to not outstay its welcome.


Monday, 22 July 2019

Apocalypse Now Final Cut: NZIFF Review

Apocalypse Now Final Cut: NZIFF Review

It's difficult to honestly appraise the differences of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Final Cut given it's this reviewer's first exposure to the movie itself.

What is clear from the sprawling epic is this is the cut Coppola wanted to have as the definitive one, and the one which he's determined will be his last and ultimate take on the Vietnam movie.
Apocalypse Now Final Cut: NZIFF Review

For those uninitiated to the story, this is the tale of Martin Sheen's Captain Willard, who's given the job of assassinating Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz, who's gone wild within the confines of Cambodia and is seen as a threat by the US Military.

Assembling a small team, Willard ventures deep into territory of the forest and the unknown.

Coppola's greatest achievement is assembling the pieces early on in the first hour into action scenes which are a visual symphony that showcases CGI is not always best. As explosions rock the jungle, choppers head over, and the camera never sways from its leads, it's clear Coppola is in his element and assemblage.

But despite heightened colours and improved audio, the film's final hour descends into discord, an anti-climactic meh of epic proportions that does little to build on the promised showdown. (A pair of 21st century eyes would notice how all the characters of colour are dispatched before the final act concludes).

It's still an impressive epic, but its unwieldly sprawl does hit it quite badly in the final third of the run. However, fans of Apocalypse Now will want to witness the film in the way its creator envisioned.

The Hole In The Ground: NZIFF Review

The Hole In The Ground: NZIFF Review

Debut director Lee Cronin's The Hole In The Ground plays with primal fears, familiar tropes and jump scares and spins them round into something compelling and deeply unsettling.

Seana Kerslake plays Sarah, who's moved to a new life in the Irish countryside, along with her son Chris. Clearly unsettled by the past, and troubled by the need to relocate, Sarah's further rattled when  a neighbour screams at Chris that he's not her son.

As the doubts and the odd behaviour start to build up, Sarah's forced into a course of action and paranoia that escalates quickly, but whose foundation is already on dodgy ground - what exactly is going on?
The Hole In The Ground: NZIFF Review

The Hole In The Ground may use a lot of old school ideas, crescendoing sound, and the fear of what lies in the forest, but what Cronin's crafted is something of tension, suspense, and genuine dread.

Its offbeat approach to unsettling proceedings works best as a two hander between Kerslake and James Quinn Markey, who plays Chris. Kerslake in particular is ferocious and vulnerable, tapping into every mother's fears as the slow pace unfolds, leaving the audience's imagination to run wild and jump to (wrong) conclusions.

In passing the film bears similarities to Invaders From Mars, and its paranoia of doubles, but Cronin subverts some of that to play on a mother's most basic fears. The Hole In The Ground may wobble a bit towards the end, but as a domestic horror, and a primal button-pusher, it's second to none.

Ant Timpson talks the Incredibly Strange at the 2019 NZIFF

Ant Timpson talks the Incredibly Strange at the 2019 NZIFF

Hello Ant, every year you put the Ant into Antagonistic in these Q&As, how are you feeling this year?
Does anyone actually read these Q&As – be honest now.
Do I have to feign faux fury to even get a nibble from your readership? Surely I should switch it up and play nice and be authentic. Isn’t that the new hot thing. Authenticity. Ok well I’m going to try it here.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first, a Civic premiere and a place in the main programme for your directorial film Come To Daddy - I want to just say that's great, there's nothing like a Civic premiere. Tell me more about this one and how it's been playing abroad, and how that translates to a sell-out cinema.
Come To Daddy

Well I don’t take it lightly – it means a lot to be in the programme let alone get a Big Night at the Civic.  I’m sure from the outside it looks like I’ve just slipped my film into the excel sheet of scheduling and hoped no one would notice but the reality is I was so paranoid about the fest playing favourites that I went out of my way to make sure it went through the normal process.

And that meant from Bill through to the other programmers – they all had to give it a tick. There was no way I was going to programme it in my own section of the festival – I do have some limits of shame. So the world premiere was at Tribeca and it was a thrill to go to NYC for my first film. I mean it’s DeNiro’s fest and there are Taxi Driver locations right nearby. So yeah absolutely jazzed about premiering there and then when audiences and critics gave it the thumbs up it all added up to a pretty much perfect launch for the film.

Since then I’ve seen the film in various countries with all manner of audiences and it’s been interesting to see how things play in different cultures. In terms of sell-out cinema – it’s at The Civic – I don’t think anything sells out except for opening night and a couple of others but I sure hope more than a few friends turn up for it.

What's the scene been like for the selections this year - is there one film you didn't get that you want to name and shame, in the hope that the power of this Q&A will see its distributors cringe and reconsider?
The Lodge was the film that we should be playing. But it didn’t work out.

Which is a huge shame because the film is very good and I know the directing duo very well.

In fact we hung out in Seoul where both our films were in competition. They’re very inspiring and funny as hell. Which you wouldn’t get from their films! Goodnight Mommy etc – they’re connected with Ulrich Siedl and his production company and ar surrounded by brilliant artists.

And of course the Danzig vanity trainwreck VEROTIKA is something I don’t think I could have snagged before its world prem – I even knew one of the producers and could have made it happen.

GREENER GRASS is another film that I had the filmmakers on side but there were many things in the air  - it ended up waiting to hear from Locarno to be first international festival.

So that was frustrating on a few levels. For one – it’s directed by two women and would have upped the genre gender imbalance.

Deerskin is an intriguing look at a man falling apart and a predilection with fashion - why the interest in this one, and no parallels with anyone you know?
Well  Quentin Dupieux’s aka Mr Oizo films fit my section like a well-worn deerskin jacket.

So it’s a no brainer that his new film that just played Cannes was going to make an appearance. Anyone who has seen his films like RUBBER & WRONG know what they’re in for.

If you need to confess something about your predilection for horrible attire and an emotional imbalance then this is probably not the place to do it Darren.

The Hole In The Ground continues our obsession with mothers and weird kids, as well as haunting atmospherics - it's quite the powerful piece for a debut.
I’d seen Lee Cronin’s short Ghost Train on the circuit and could see that he was a confident director with horror material – and so there was some anticipation about his debut feature.

I don’t think it’s reinventing the wheel but then again – not many films do – rather it takes material that feels familiar and then mixes it up a bit. I just feel it’s a solid well crafted piece that delivers the chills for those looking for some. Just very confident and features a really strong performance from the lead Seana Kerslake.
The Hole In The Ground

You Don't Nomi has a pun even I'd be proud of as a title. But why the need to defend the trashfire that is Showgirls with this doco?
Well it’s actually a lot more than just that – that’s the hook for the doc but it actually looks at the world of Verhoeven and offers just as much from the negative perspective as the positive. It has a surprisingly emotional weight in its last third that comes as a shock after all the humour preceding it.

I saw the film in the week it was on screens on first release. We knew it was a misfire but also felt it was utterly compelling and mesmerising – and that really is the marriage of a cocaine-addled script and a brilliant director who misread the cues.

Equally The Amazing Johnathan Documentary seems to be a film about obsession and delusion....
The less said about this doc the better. The trailer shows way too much. Don’t watch it. Just go see it.
If you like docs like TICKLED that take a turn down unseen paths – then you’ll like this a lot. It’s Benjamin Berman’s first feature but he’s very experienced and it shows in how this all plays out.

What's going to give me the high that I got from that opening scene of Climax at the Hollywood Theatre last year - Violence Voyager, Mope or Knife + Heart?
Well CLIMAX is a very special film so nothing like that.

But the opening of MOPE is something to see with an audience. Just for how much you want to shift in your seat and maybe pretend you aren’t in the cinema watching it.

Knife + Heart is an excellent film – another Cannes hit – and has been wowing audiences all over. It’s not what people probably expect. And Violence Voyager is unlike anything folks would have seen in a cinema – there’s going to a collective WTF noise once it begins and the film’s unusual primitive style takes their synapses hostage.

Koko-Di Koko-Da looks fairly surreal - is this the film likely to tip me over the edge this year?
You’ll either admire it a lot like I did and find the subtext somewhat profound or easily think it’s a mean-spirited exercise in style that has fun manipulating the audience – or you might find it both.

Whatever way you take it – I think it’s something that people will want to talk about after they’ve seen it. If you’d seen the director’s films before this you’d be very unprepared for what happens in this one.

Tell me about Vivarium, whose director is coming for a Q&A as well...
Well I was a big fan of Lorcan Finnegan’s debut feature – an atmospheric eco-thriller/horror that really built up and had me on edge.

VIVARIUM is a super ambitious psychological satirical thriller that is beautifully crafted and performed. It has its roots in Twilight Zone’s literary canon – and mines the essence of what made Rod Serling’s original series so ground-breaking.
Configuring real world societal issues and placing them in the fantastic.  And Lorcan is a very open and honest Irishman who will be fun at the Q&A.

What's the one film from your selection that you'll be pissed off if it doesn't sell out?
I have way too many other things in the world to be pissed off about than whether a film gets an audience along to it or not.

I’ve programmed the section and now people either come a long or they don’t. Some will do well. Some not so well. That is the law of film festivals. It has no bearing on the film’s merit now or in the long run.

For many this will be the only chance for audiences to see them in a cinema with a crowd and that is something that should never be over-looked.

What can you recommend from the main festival programme, and why should we see them?
There are a lot to recommend. Andrei Rublev. Art of Self Defense. Bacurau. The Day Shall Come. Escher. Fly By Night. In Fabric. La Flor. The Lodger. Monos. The Whistlers.

How many more of these Q&As do you think you can endure, and what exactly does the festival have over you that forces you to do these annually?
I appreciate your persistence in cut and pasting the same questions each year. You really outdo yourself.

Also you’re the first film reviewer I know alive who hadn’t seen APOCALYPSE NOW  - take a bow, good sir!

What's the one question you're glad I didn't ask you, and how can we ever repair this fractured relationship??

You can ask me anything, big D. I’m an open book. Like the Bible. Our relationship is fine. Fractured is more fun than inert.

You can find more details of when the Incredibly Strange section is playing at

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Hail Satan?: NZIFF Review

Hail Satan?: NZIFF Review

Hail Satan?'s high-level trolling documentary is something of a wry amusement as it starts, but what emerges later on is an expose of the widening schism between the US and the freedom of expression.

Director Penny Lane's doco serves to show the contrasts between those in the Satanic Temple and their perception in the media. After all, some of the chapter are part of a beach-tidying commitment for a year.
Hail Satan?: NZIFF Review

It appears the message is one of benevolence, and those levelled with criticisms of going to hell are met with a "I believe it and I'm very supportive of it" response that's both amusing and also indicative of the good nature of those in the Temple.

As the so-called Satanic Panic spreads, and the more trolling and playing with media the Temple does, Lane pivots perceptions and the doco becomes an intriguing look about how different people are treated over events, rather than as themselves.

A tongue in cheek approach seems to be Hail Satan?'s raison d'etre, but it also by weaving in video interview clips and media stunts seems to give the doco an offbeat feel that's hard to shake, but worthy of smiles. However, Lane never resorts to mockery of her subjects, and the piece is all the better for it.

Less religious fervour, more a plea for tolerance, Hail Satan?'s devilish charms are not hard to resist.

La Belle Époque: NZIFF Review

La Belle Époque: NZIFF Review

Mixing The Truman Show along with a sweeter more heartfelt idea that could be part of Black Mirror, director Nicolas Bedos' romantic drama and comedy La Belle Époque makes great fist of its older lead's charisma.

Daniel Auteuil's Victor is jaded; his son works for a company making digital programming, and his wife is obsessed with the VR world, but he, as a former cartoonist, is stuck in the medium he has lived his life in and in the rut he's always been in.

However, his wife (Fanny Ardant) is not happy and kicks him out. Victor is offered a chance to relive some of his youth, thanks to an agency that builds sets from people's pasts and relocates them there for a night or whatever they want.
La Belle Époque: NZIFF Review

For Victor, the chance to live back in the past is too much to resist...

La Belle Époque is a light, frothy, romantic love story masquerading in parts as a drama and buried under a conceit that some may feel is just merely a construct to fuel a crowd-pleasing romance.

And that's fine, largely due to Auteuil who provides an earnest heart to the proceedings. The story may have some political allegories, and be a tale generally of how it's currently better to be living in the past (surely, French will get more from the political allegories and subtleties of Bedos' digs), but it's amiable fare that does what it needs to.

If there's to be a criticism, it's that La Belle Époque could have used some more of the randomness and levity it has in its opening moments, which surprise, delight and amuse, but that's not to denigrate the late-in-life romance story that fuels the fire of what makes it such an elegant success.

Bellbird: NZIFF Review

Bellbird: NZIFF Review

Hamish Bennett's follow up to his award-winning short Ross and Beth from 2014 is a crowd-pleasing, quietly restrained film about life on a Northland farm.

Marshall Napier is Ross, the third generation farm owner, who's left devastated after a loss and who tries to find what's next in his life. Recently returned to his life is his son Bruce (a dramatic and poignant turn from Cohen Holloway, who shines throughout), who works in the local dump but who's gradually coaxed back onto the farm and into family life in general.

Bucolic and beautifully shot, Bennett's film is a small restrained movie about relationships and reconnections, that taps into the rural way of few words.
Bellbird: NZIFF Review

If Bennett overdoes it with the cutaway shots which depict life on the farm, it's seemingly about building an atmosphere and a sense of location within Northland that goes to explain Ross' connection to the land and his community.

Suffused with charm, and lovely wry one-liners (particularly from Rachel House), Bellbird has a heart that's hard to deny, as it negotiates grief in a typical she'll be right mentality.

Its leads are where the film's strength are, and Napier deserves as much credit as Holloway, for bringing to life a Kiwi type that's prevalent in the community. In truth, it's more about what's unsaid than said as this slow-paced family drama unfolds, but Bennett's wise enough to pepper his script with heartland humour that will prove a winner with audiences.

Newcomer Kahukura Retimana also deserves mention for neighbouring Marley who injects a level of care into how he tries to look after Ross; there's much of the film which speaks to how communities try to care for their own, something city dwellers may ruefully gaze upon as they view this low-key relationship piece.

Ultimately Bellbird wins by its gentle restraint, and its affectionate celebration of the quieter moments of life, and of what comes next when the worst happens.

mid90s: NZIFF Review

mid90s: NZIFF Review

Much like Skate Kitchen at last year's NZIFF connected slacker audiences, Jonah Hill's directorial debut centring on a clutch of waster skaters and the youngster that ingratiates himself among them follows similar coming-of-age themes.

Sunny Suljic is 13-year-old Stevie, who hides from the beatings from his sullen brother (Lucas Hedges, inward and violent) and who falls in with a cooler crowd to escape his life. As Stevie negotiates the day to day, he finds the pull of his friends above all else.

mid90s' 16mm film look and also its vibe is probably what Hill wanted to channel for the all-too-familiar tale.
mid90s: NZIFF Review

The vibe may be spot on, but a lot of the film takes it cues from its music, with a soundtrack blasting throughout to try and get audience members into the right mood.

There's a low key vibe running throughout, and Hill's insistence on no nostalgia and no skate porn is evident from the beginning - his film is about the relationships, from Stevie and his brother's pained frustrations to Stevie's relationships within the skate crew and the fallouts which usually evolve from close friendships.

In all honesty, mid90s is more about a mood, than a long form narrative, but what Hill manages to do with it, is enough to make it charming and engaging, thanks to some strong central performances and by drawing deep from the well of his own life.

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