Sunday, 31 July 2022

Watcher: NZIFF Review

Watcher: NZIFF Review

Gaslighting, stalking, paranoia, a serial killer and Romania all combine for director Chloe Okuno's stunning thriller Watcher, starring It Follows' Maika Monroe.

Monroe is Julia, a young American wife who relocates to Bucharest with her Romanian-speaking husband for his new job. Overwhelmed by a new city, and illiterate in the new language, Julia soon begins to feel alienated despite her best attempts. 

It's a feeling further heightened by the fact she spies someone spying on her from the building opposite her own. Her paranoia's soon increased by news of a serial killer who beheads their victims in her neighbourhood and a series of incidents where she appears to be followed.

Dismissed by her husband as overreacting, Julia soon finds herself in an escalating situation both of her own making and of her circumstance.
Watcher: NZIFF Review


Watcher is a thrillingly taut movie that takes its time to breathe, and gives its story space to settle in.

It's anchored by the uneasy performance of Monroe as Julia, a woman seemingly unravelling, in an aesthetic of unease. With elements of Rear Window and the recent Prime Video flick The Voyeurs, Watcher flips the expected on its head to brilliantly compelling effect.

The opening sequences see the camera pulling out through the window, switching from the pair making love to an unnerving feeling of voyeurism - but not once does Watcher ever become sleazy. Okuno's desire to give the movie space to breathe and the doubts to take root proves to be fertile fruit for flipping the narrative as Julia first becomes the watched, then the watcher. And that's not with even mentioning the gaslighting going on throughout, and a subtle takedown of both male behaviour and authority figures.

Throw in a couple of well-orchestrated scares, and Watcher becomes a deeply unsettling psychological thriller that's one of the essential films of the 2022 Film Festival.

Ali & Ava: NZIFF Review

Ali & Ava: NZIFF Review

Director Clio Barnard's quiet social realism has been a fixture of the film festival for a while now.

Her latest, a romance set in Britain's Bradford, is another slice of life from the less than sunny side of the world, but its radiance is no less dulled by it.

Adeel Akhtar plays Ali, a landlord and defacto helper to his tenants. From dropping in to fix things to helping convince a tenant's child to go to school, he's the energetic assistant who lives in a world of music that nobody asked for, but everyone's grateful for.
Ali & Ava: NZIFF Review


Claire Rushbrook is Ava, a classroom assistant at the local school (something she dutifully corrects everyone who says she's a teacher) who randomly meets the ever-helpful Ali in a rainstorm and whose paths collide for good.

A burgeoning relationship begins between the rambunctious and insistent Ali and the reticent Ava - and to say more is to not exactly reveal spoilers, but robs Ali & Ava of the slow beauty which unfolds. It's not that there are devastating revelations, the events which occur all have consequence, and the dexterity with which Barnard weaves the threads is deeply cinematically rewarding and humbling.

With beautifully helmed cinematography, Ali & Ava captures both the frustration of life in England's north and also the joy. From the opening shot of a hooded figure clambering atop a car and unleashing some dance moves to a wonderfully poignant final frame, Ali & Ava is a film that never wastes a second of screentime on the banal or irrelevant.

What's most astonishing about Ali&Ava is how it subverts expectations in its love story. There's a tenderness within, taking beauty from its most volatile moments. A sequence where Ali's car is pelted with stones bristles with danger. But the script takes that moment and Akhtar's wonderful performance and turns it into something joyous as both the kids involved and the potential victim bond through music.

There's plenty of joy to be found in Ali & Ava - and plenty of heartache too. It's a perfect gem of a film, something that speaks to the eternal pleasures that a chance of happiness brings, but also acknowledges the pain and tragedy it sometimes takes to endure on that journey.


NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Noel Smyth and Fergus Grady of Gloriavale

NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Noel Smyth and Fergus Grady of Gloriavale

Tell us about your 2022 Film festival film 

‘Gloriavale’ is a documentary about power, coercion and abuse that explores the dangers of religious indoctrination in a New Zealand cult. Captured through a verité lens and delving into rarely seen home video archive, the story starts with a man fighting to be reunited with his wife and children but soon expands into a much larger story as his sister and mother join the fight and turn to the legal system to make change. 

NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Noel Smyth and Fergus Grady of Gloriavale

What inspired you to make this film? 

When we first heard about what was going on in Gloriavale, we couldn’t believe this was happening in New Zealand. The more digging that Fergus (co-director) and I did, the more unbelievable things got and the more determined we were to get the story out there. 

How has your filmmaking changed during these Covid-19 times? Often working remotely, the biggest change for me as a filmmaker navigating Covid-19 was learning to better communicate a vision (and finding ways to stick to that vision despite the huge amount of pressures that push and pull an idea into something different). Fortunately, we worked with some incredible people and were able to eventually pull it all together. 

What’s the moment you want your audience to remember most from your film? The moment I most want the audience to remember is a scene where we finally hear a secret recording of the Shepherds. It’s a scene that still makes me angry and I hope that the audience has a similar response and takes that anger with them out of the cinema. 

Aside from your own, what’s the one film that you reckon everyone should see at the festival? 

So many good films at this years festival but I’m most excited to see ‘The Territory’ (by Alex Pritz) and You Won't Be Alone (by Goran Stolevski). 

What’s the last film you saw and how was it? 

Not a new film but the last one that really stuck with me was a documentary called LA92 (directed by Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin). Amazing use of archive footage for an important story about systemic racism in The United States. 

What’s the film you wished you’d made, and why? 

Cartel Land (directed by Matthew Heineman) has always stood out for me as being a film I wish I’d made. Edge of your seat storytelling, complex characters, cinematic world building and amazing cinematography. Everything I want in a film.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Crimes of the Future: NZIFF Review

Crimes of the Future: NZIFF Review

If Crimes of the Future is about anything it's a sign that Cronenberg has stayed true to his oeuvre of body horror, people probing into human bodies and general oddness.

On all fronts Crimes proves to be a film that doesn't deserve its enfant terrible reputation, borne into life by Cannes walkouts and standing ovations.

If anything it's a muted,  muddled mess about the collision of two performance artists, a grieving father looking for change, a detective trying to crack a terror cell and a pair of drill wielding assassins. Throw in some awkwardly scripted dialogue and unintentional laughs and you have a film that's as muddied as it is technically impressive.

Crimes of the Future: NZIFF Review

Set in a world that's somewhat post-apocalyptic, and a world without pain, Viggo Mortensen stars as Saul Tenser, a man who's able to experience pain where others can't and who seemingly can grow organs at will. Along with his performance partner, Caprice (Lea Seydoux), Tenser puts on shows where his organs are extracted in a live forum.

However, things are complicated as Tenser's pain increases, a child is murdered and a splinter eco-group emerges aimed at changing human evolution for good.

Cronenberg aims to throw in messages about climate change, chemical waste and plastic pollution in his story, but in truth, they're so openly espoused that subtlety is not really his thing. But in true Cronenberg style, there's some machine eroticism, some sensuality in exchanges, and a bit of blood and gore thrown in for good measure.

Yet all together, Crimes of the Future feels muted, its messages nothing more than half-written and its execution feeling woefully undercooked.

As a black-robed wheezing figure, Mortensen looks like a character from a game as he flits through the shadows and encounters - he's solid enough to watch, but aside from Caprice, no one else in the film feels written strongly enough to latch on to.

It's a shame as there are weighty topics here for consideration - infanticide, global destruction, waste - they're all worthy of inclusion and execution. But you can't shake the feeling watching Crimes of the Future that this feels like a script that was written decades ago and was prescient then, yet somehow feels underwhelming now.

Thirteen Lives: Film Review

Thirteen Lives: Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton
Director: Ron Howard

It's hard to go past doco The Rescue for the definitive take on the Thai Tham Luang cave rescue that gripped the world in 2018.

A concisely executed docoumentary, The Rescue played enough with the tension of the operation to get 12 kids and their soccer coach out of the caves before the monsoon weather drowned them.

But, as is inevitable with great tales of survival against the odds, Hollywood will always come knocking, and with it, the creative freedom that the words "Based on actual events" bestow on such tales.

Thirteen Lives: Film Review

In fairness to Ron Howard, the sweeping wide nature of Thirteen Lives feels as accurate and as lived-in a retelling of events as ever you'll get - and one that's not blessed with showy Hollywood hysterics or overblown scores to set suspense and build upon tensions.

Taking a workmanlike approach (and plenty of water), Howard takes to the 18 day timeline with relative precision, setting up a story that shows the boys as human faces, not just as people awaiting their white saviours. 

From pictures of mist hanging ominously over the Tham Luang cave complex to the claustrophobia of the practicalities of the rescue, Howard has a lot to contend with, a cast of characters to deploy and a story to be told that everyone knows the conclusion of.

While the film jumps over timelines and tramples over any exploration of tensions between the divers, the authorities and the families, it centres on a rather dour Richard Stanton (Mortensen) and the slightly more optimistic John Volanthen (Farrell) who're thrust into the middle of the rescue.

With their contrasting viewpoints on the outcome of the rescue, any inherent conflict is washed away by a film that's more concerned with re-enacting events than dissecting them. It's an approach that works well for all intents and purposes but never really soars deep into gripping territory.

"That was exciting - not in a good way" one character says at one point during the rescue - and it's a feeling that you can't help but replicate as a viewer as Howard solidly but unspectacularly helms a heroic tale that's grounded in a reality rather than heightened fantasy.

Perhaps it's a case of not enough time having passed since the story itself; perhaps it's the fact that it was so widely broadcast at the time and dissected in the aftermath that Thirteen Lives feels stoic, but never showy, in its execution - and consequently, it's watchable but not entirely memorable after its occasionally claustrophobic 150 minutes.

Thirteen Lives begins streaming on Prime Video from Friday August 5.

Friday, 29 July 2022

NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Shut Eye director Tom Levesque

NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Shut Eye director Tom Levesque


Tell us about your 2022 Film festival film
Shut Eye is a film about a twenty something dropout who befriends an ASMR streamer to cure their insomnia, where the lines between friendship and obsession become blurred. 
NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Shut Eye director Tom Levesque


What inspired you to make this film?
Being someone who used ASMR for a few years before making the film, I became interested in the people who both performed and listened. There's a mystery to the world of ASMR that I wanted to dig deeper into. Also, on a more emotional level this was a film where I wanted to explore some questions I had around what it means to be connected in today's world. 

How has your filmmaking changed during these Covid-19 times?
It's for sure required myself to be more flexible and patient with the whole process. We were lucky we didn't have to shut down production due to an outbreak, but we did have contingency plans in place. Maybe it's a good thing to be a little more patient in the process, as filmmaking can be all consuming. 

What’s the moment you want your audience to remember most from your film?
I'd hope that they walk away with a few insights around the theme of the film - where my intention is to start a discussion about getting to know ourselves. However uncomfortable it may be, knowing who we are with the good and bad and everything in between is the ultimate form of connection. 

Aside from your own, what’s the one film that you reckon everyone should see at the festival?
Triangle of Sadness, I just cannot wait to watch this!

What’s the last film you saw and how was it?
I actually just recently watched the animated film Soul from Pixar. What a charming delight that was! I was so impressed with how they managed to pull some deep questions about purpose and finding one's voice in such a compressed story. 

What’s the film you wished you’d made, and why?
So hard to answer this! But I would have to go to Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line - this was the film that pushed me to pursue a career in filmmaking. 

Thursday, 28 July 2022

NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Director Costa Botes on When The Cows Come Home

NZIFF 2022 Q&A: Director Costa Botes on When The Cows Come Home


Tell us about your 2022 Film festival film

 

When The Cows Come Home is about a social misfit who unexpectedly finds the peace and contentment he craves in the company of a herd of cows. It’s really about the idea of ‘home’, and the challenges of living an authentic life.

When the Cows Come Home


What inspired you to make this film?

 

Same as always, just a gut instinct. I got hooked in by an interesting character and the promise of something unusual. I went for the cows, and they had a story to tell; but I stayed for the man. His story turned out to much more compelling than I expected.


How has your filmmaking changed during these Covid-19 times?

 

It hasn’t. I shot When The Cows Come Home in the lulls between lockdowns. The pandemic has been no fun but it’s just another problem one has to deal with. I work alone, and shooting on a farm we were more than adequately socially distanced.


What’s the moment you want your audience to remember most from your film?

 

I think that’s something personal to every viewer, and I would not presume to dictate it. There are many moments in the movie that are variously amusing, surprising, or deeply emotional. 


My job is to pack them in there and shuffle them into a meaningful order. The film might challenge some common stereotypes. I hope the dominant impression folks are left with is one of tranquility and inspiration.

  

What’s the last film you saw and how was it?

 

Thor: Love & Thunder. It gave me some giggles, but overall I found it mostly too insincere to love. The one before that was Drive My Car. A beautiful, thought provoking film. More my speed.


What’s the film you wished you’d made, and why?

 

I enjoy other peoples work, but I very rarely think to myself, “oh, I wish I’d made that!”. What’s the point? I’ve developed a few scripts that never happened. 


One was a Kung Fu western, and the other was a fictionalised account of Richard Pearse’s attempts to fly. Life is short and one must be careful not to waste it chasing pipe dreams that are too ambitious to escape the laws of gravity. 


That’s why I make documentaries. It’s much easier to sneak past the forces of film prevention. Once I get the bit between my teeth, then nothing and nobody can stop me. Not even Covid.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

NZIFF Q&A with Michael McDonnell, the NZIFF head of programming

NZIFF Q&A with Michael McDonnell, the NZIFF head of programming


Ahead of the start of the Auckland leg of the 2022 Whanau Marama New Zealand International Film Festival, we caught up with Michael McDonnell, the NZIFF's head of programming to discuss being back in the City of Sails, the programme highlights and the film he wants to see most of all.

Welcome back to 2022 - it feels like it's been a long journey to get here.

It’s definitely been a crazy few years but with last year’s postponed festival we basically moved straight into prepping this year’s festival as soon as last year’s festival stopped screening.

You're opening with something of a political bang - want to tell us more about Muru?

We were delighted to score the world premiere of Muru as our opening night film this year. Tearepa Kahi’s delivers both insightful political commentary and edge-of-your-seat action by reimagining the Tuhoe raids in 2007. We can’t wait to share the film with audiences and it's sure to set the festival off.
Muru

Obviously, it's great to be back in Auckland, but you're offering a few less films this year - but there's no drop in quality it seems?

Even though we couldn’t bring the usual scope to the festival this year our aim was to condense all the variety and excitement of the usual festival into the shorter dates we have for this year. 

We’re ecstatic with how the programme has shaped up especially opening with Muru and closing with the hottest title from Cannes and the Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness which will be a wild way to close the festival for this year.

What’s the New Zealand contingent of film been like for 2022?
Gloriavale


We expected that with Covid it could’ve been a struggle to deliver our usual Aotearoa programme, but as it turns out we’ve secured an amazing selection that’s as strong as ever. 

As well as the world premiere of Muru, we’re also screening the premieres of Welby Ings’ coming-of-age drama Punch and Kāinga, the follow up to Waru and Vai, chronicling eight stories from female Asian-New Zealand filmmakers. We Are Still Here is another film from a multi-filmmaker team bringing together indigenous filmmakers from New Zealand and Australia.

On the documentary side we have the premieres of Gloriavale which takes us inside the lives of those who have escaped the West Coast cult and When the Cows Come Home which gives us a different look at life on the dairy farm. A Boy Called Piano is an adaptation of the stage work of the same name bringing the story of Fa’amoana John Luafutu to the screen and Portraits of Us introduces us to Kiwi artist Geoff Dixon and his unique works of ecological armageddon.

Are there any themes emerging from this year's festival that you've picked up on?

This year it’s been great to welcome back a couple of festival favourites who haven’t been in the festival for several years. 

David Cronenberg turns back the clock with Crimes of the Future, not only has he taken a title from one of his earliest films but he has delivered a real throwback to the Cronenberg films that used to play regularly at the festival in the 80s and 90s. Meanwhile, Korean maestro Park Chan-wook has returned with Decision to Leave an effortlessly cool romantic thriller that will thrill the maestro’s fans and have newbies digging into his back catalogue.

The quirks of Covid-era distribution have meant we are showing two new films each by two distinctive French auteurs and longtime festival faves; Claire Denis and Quentin Dupieux. 
Smoking Causes Coughing


Claire Denis picked up awards in Berlin for Both Sides of the Blade and Cannes for Stars at Noon. Both bear her distinctive style, Both Sides of the Blade illustrating the deconstruction of a marriage while Stars at Noon bemused Cannes audiences with its discursive but atmospheric style. If you can get with the rhythm it’s a wild ride thanks to Margaret Qualley’s full on performance.

Quentin Dupieux’s two films, Incredible but True and Smoking Causes Coughing, are equally distinctive, both screening as part of Incredibly Strange, giving the festival a double-dose of Gallic weirdness. Audiences who loved Mandibles from last year or Deerskin from 2019 will know to expect more deadpan madness and absolute WTF-ery.

What are your favourite films from the programme this year and why?

There are a lot of great docos but a favourite is Navalny. Alexei Navalny is arguably the biggest threat to Vladimir Putin’s stranglehold on power in Russia and audiences may be familiar with his poisoning in 2020 but if you haven’t been following how his story unfolded since then this documentary delivers its fair share of absolutely jaw-dropping moments. It’s an urgent and important doco that speaks to events going on in Russia today.

Sick of Myself
My favourite title from Cannes was the twisted Norwegian comedy Sick of Myself. If you thought The Worst Person in World needed to delve deeper into its protagonist’s nascent narcissism then this is the film for you. 

What are the films that are already doing well at the box office for 2022's audiences? What should they rush to not miss out on?

The biggest sellers so far are Muru, our closing night screening Triangle of Sadness, Decision to Leave, Fire of Love and Navalny. We’re having special one-off big screen screenings of a number of hot titles like Crimes of the Future, Aubrey Plaza starrer and Sundance-fave Emily the Criminal, the critical darling from Cannes Aftersun, an immersive trip back to the music of new millennium with Meet Me in the Bathroom and the bad boy of tennis in his own words with McEnroe.

What are the films that you think audiences shouldn't overlook?
My Old School


A sleeper hit for this year is My Old School, a unique doco in which truth proves stranger than fiction in the style of past festival hits The Imposter and Three Identical Strangers. For the best experience we’d recommend not reading up too much on the film and letting its surprises sneak up on you. 

We have a lot of great genre work at the festival this year.

Two that shouldn’t be overlooked are Watcher and Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. Watcher is a real throwback thriller starring Maika Monroe who festival audiences will remember fondly from It Follows as she is again stalked by an unknown menace. 

Mona Lisa is the latest from the director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and is an atmospheric fantasy set in the neon-lit streets of New Orleans. If Watcher recalls the paranoid thrillers of the 70s, then Mona Lisa recalls the B-movie adventure films of the 80s.

There are some films which are about experiences this year, such as Fire of Love and Path 99 - tell us about those and what they bring?
fire of Love


Fire of Love is both quirky and fun as well as having some of the most eye-opening footage you’ll see at the festival this year. It takes us into the lives of Katia and Maurice Kraftt who were volcanologists who took their passion to the extreme. Filmmaker Sara Dosa tells their story in a very unique way, think of it as something like Grizzly Man meets The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with added lava.

Path 99 is the festival’s first fulldome projection screening in Auckland at the Stardome this year after screening at the Space Place in Wellington last year. It’s a unique audio-visual experience unlike anything else screening at the festival this year.

What's the one film you want to see - either for the first time or again - on the big screen with an audience with and why?

A title I haven’t seen is Close, winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes and Best Film at Sydney. Our programmer Sandra Reid recommended the film highly from Cannes and I’m looking forward to seeing it along with audiences at the festival this year.

You can find details of the full New Zealand International Film Festival programme at nziff.co.nz

NZIFF Q&A with Ant Timpson, curator of the Incredibly Strange

NZIFF Q&A with Ant Timpson, curator of the Incredibly Strange

Ant Timpson returns to the New Zealand International Film Festival - and takes a few moments to answer the one Q&A he dreads every year.

Hello, welcome back to Auckland - has the pandemic mellowed you?
Mellowed to the point of ultra lethargy. I honestly can't even get the energy to insult you Darren. But let me try for old times' sake.
Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries

In terms of weirdness, how has 2022 been for filmmaking?
You mean the actual process of making films in 2022 or are you talking about the state of weird cinema?   
Darren, you need to have clarity when discussing the holiest of holy exploits.  
It's as hard as it's ever been plus the added joy of cCvid interruptions both on set and in terms of cinema attendance. 
Hollywood has gone all in on tentpole cinema and so smart mid-tier films for adults are now relegated to festivals or streaming only. 

I know you weren't in favour of the hybrid cinema experience, so what does going back to the mighty Civic, the Hollywood et al mean to you?
The hybrid alternative is not my preference absolutely but look - if I was a film fiend in the boonies, 100s of miles from a cinema, then I think online access in tandem with a live fest is not a bad thing right?

I try not to be completely selfish in my thinking about the realities of the situation. Of course nothing beats seeing the years' best films on huge screens. That's a no brainer. 

I think audiences just expect the festival to always be around but in these difficult times, nothing is guaranteed. The fest took a royal beating for the past couple of years and it needs audiences to turn up and support en masse so the coffers refill.  

Let's take a look at your Incredibly Strange strand this year - Smoking Causes Coughing, you seem to have a thing for Quentin Dupieux - explain yourself.
Been an admirer of his eclectic offerings ever since I played his first outing RUBBER at one of my 24HR Movie Marathons.

I loved how he has carved out a very successful career without any compromise. He realises the more money you get the more compromises there are - so he's super content to continue to create his brand of oddball and genuinely sweet cinema. 

There's just no one making films like he does and so when we get the opportunity to showcase his latest, I'm always down. The two this year are both very good but SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING is just joyous loopy escapism and should play to a wide audience but it probably won't (boo!) - because it looks kooky and kooky only packs 'em in if it's Wes Anderson in full twee mode.
Smoking Causes Coughing

 
Speak No Evil seems to be about Danish discomfort and a holiday friendship gone wrong - guessing you can relate to this?
Relate? Are you referring to that rotten holiday where we found ourselves in adjoining Rotorua motel rooms and you decided to cook baked beans for each meal?  

Well if people can imagine the horror of that and times it by 100 then they still won't get close to the harrowing tension of SPEAK NO EVIL which really is the standout film in my section this year. 

For those who remember THE VANISHING then get ready for another dose of Danish fun. 
 
Tell me about Piggy, it seems to have tickled your fancy judging by the hyperbole in the write up in the programme - why will audiences dig it?
No one likes bullies Darren and this succulent Spanish slice of sick revenge  provides a major cathartic experience for anyone who has ever been on the receiving end. 
Piggy


This one has a strong femme focus and is the feature version of Carlota Pereda's award-winning festival short. 
 
Family Dinner seems to be about the discomfort as well - what's the one moment that stands out here?
I loved the script of this when I read it years ago and was stoked to come onboard the film as Exec Producer. The director studied under Haneke in film school and there's definitely some nods to his influence in the mix. 

It's a slow burn psychological thriller with folk overtones that sets up some awkward family dynamics and then turns up the heat in the kitchen. I also like that the film has a plus-size lead (like PIGGY) and uses it to make some sharp satirical commentary on the fatuousness of foodie influencers.

Resurrection appears to have it all - Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth , stalking...
Resurrection

Highly recommend this one. It starts off with the dour rigor of something like Margin Call before escalating into a terrific dark character piece that echoes the work of early Polanski. It's one of those thrillers where people will want to tell their friends about it but will probably have trouble containing themselves over spilling the beans about the ending.  No spoilers folks.
 
Incredible but True - I refer you back to Question 4)....but with more humour perhaps?
Both Dupieux films are very funny but they offer very different experiences. INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE is a more grounded affair even though it details with extraordinary circumstances, quantum physics and remote controlled penises -- but look it doesn't have campfire tales, superheroes and a puppet rat having sex with hot women like SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING does, so how can it compare? 

What else do you rate from the programme this year, and what is there that you've been fizzing to see?
I'm down for The Territory cos my buddy Courtney told me it was a stone cold killer doc that I had to check out. 

Held off seeing the latest Cronenberg (Crimes of The Future) until I could see it on a big screen so that's a must. Emily The Criminal is a goer - primarily because I have a deep crush on Aubrey Plaza - but I also heard that the film is supposed to be excellent.

FLUX GOURMET is from Peter Strickland who did a segment for my anthology feature and even with that bias put aside - he hasn't had a misstep ever. He's the real deal. I'm also keen to see local filmmaker Tom Levesque's debut micro-feature SHUT EYE. 

Anyone who goes out and makes a feature film with zero funding support at all needs a standing O in these dark times.

You can check out all of Ant Timpson's programming selections at nziff.co.nz

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

X: DVD Review

X: DVD Review

In a movie that purports to put ideas ahead of straight schlock and gore, director Ti West’s New Zealand shot X certainly is all about the idea of the fears of youth and the regrets of the elderly.

X: Movie Review


It's 1979 rural Texas: When a group of young good looking things head to a ranch to make an adult film after their topless car wash falls foul of the IRS, it seems like they’re onto a good thing. Especially with the rise of the home video market.

Amongst their number is enthusiastic producer Wayne (a cowboy hat wearing Henderson, all goofy enthusiasm and lowbrow ideals) and wannabe actress Maxine (Goth, fragile and vulnerable yet determined to make it - even if she does need drugs to get through her tawdry scenes).

But the owner of the isolated Texas barn (Ure) is not happy the young 'uns are on his land and warns them to behave through fears of what it’ll do to his wife...

X knows what it wants to do and sets about it in a creepy, unsettling and understandably exploitative way.

However, West is adroit at building atmosphere whether it be the conventions of the adult film they’re making or the more gory elements that come in later on. Though in truth, it’s the ideas and homages to the horror genres that West gets his kicks from - and audiences will adore long after the lights have gone up.

X: Movie Review


There are some clever ideas going on behind the scenes here as the film progresses and thanks to long slow shots that build tension and disturb, the film has a way of drawing you in before trying to freak you out.

While more in the genre of uneasy psychological shocks than full on kill shots, X is delightfully disturbing and deeply icky as it examines the age issues from within with a central range of characters that play with conventions and occasionally subvert them.

Monday, 25 July 2022

The Batman: Blu Ray Review

The Batman: Blu Ray Review

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, Andy Serkis, John Turturro
Director: Matt Reeves

Broody, bleak, bum-numbing and brilliant, Matt Reeves' dark take on The Batman proves to be the Darkest Knight ever.
The Batman: Movie Review

But whether that's too much for some raised on a more palatable Batman lore is an intriguing question in this tale of incels, city-wide corruption and one man struggling to stem the tide.

Following Year Two of the Batman's fight against the crime raging in Gotham is Robert Pattinson's emo, weary and pasty moper of Bruce Wayne, a Wayne whose floppy fringe covers part of his face and who looks vaguely disgusted at the state of the world. He even keeps a journal of each night's activities, pondering on what was as the soundtrack blears Nirvana's Something in the Way track from the screen.

When the mayor of Gotham is murdered, the Batman's on the case, along with Commissioner Jim Gordon (Wright, wearied and yet venerable to watch) as they fight prejudice against the Caped Crusader from within. But when Riddler announces his presence in the crime, and promises to blow the No More Lies of Gotham sky high, suddenly everything feels much more personal to R-Batz's Batman.

Drawing more from the Detective Comics, the Death in the Family comic series and actual detecting as well as eschewing the usual origins tale, The Batman ramps up the dour moodiness early on, delivering set pieces that are more about an atmosphere of unease than spectacle and settling into the Seven and Zodiac Killer-influenced grime and a Saw-laced veneer that infects the crime-ridden streets of Gotham.

In truth, while the conclusion of the noir mystery isn't exactly difficult (or original) to uncover, a final act destruction turnaround feels disappointingly turgid and rote in its inclusion, most of what transpires during a near 3 hour outing is immensely watchable - once you surrender to the film's rhythms. In fact, Reeves manages to deliver some subversion of the expected tropes of the genre, while never losing sight of the immersion of the Bat-world.

Pattinson is controlled in his Bat-delivery, quietly channeling the disaffected disdain for the world around him and the effects of nihilism on his never-ending quest. He's mopey in extremis, and at times is a little on the vacant side but when it comes to delivering furious anger and barely-controlled rage, the contrast is obvious and explosive.
The Batman: Movie Review


While Zoe Kravitz offers more charisma as Selina Kyle, she's still an object within the film, as the camera milks her sexuality, as Batman watches her undress, and as her role in a club plays out. It's an interesting paradigm in a film that concerns watchers and stalkers, but never fully seems to condemn them.

Of the villains, Paul Dano's unhinged Riddler is nothing short of chilling and disturbing, tapping into social media concerns and current day exploitation of incels, the extremists and the maligned masses hidden in America's underbelly - it's a horrifically timely approach. But he's disturbingly good in a film which calls for the darkness to be brought to the fore, and proves an effective and sparingly used foil to Pattinson's Batman.

Outside of the main cast, praise must also be heaped on Michael Giacchino's score, which helps turn some of the more stylised graphic novel based sequences into moments which feel more real rather than existing to solely make the film look cool. 

Ultimately, The Batman is a sickeningly slick piece of work - it may take a little too long to go where it's going, and its choice of commentary may not totally be fresh and new, but as it commands your attention, it becomes like the grime you get under your nails - You're not sure how it got there, but it's resolutely there, and you just can't seem to shake it.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

What's on Disney+ in August

What's on Disney+ in August


Here's everything that's streaming on Disney+ in August.

I Am Groot (August 10)
What's on Disney+ in August


Original Shorts Featuring Baby Groot Launch Exclusively on Disney+ August 10

Disney+ has announced that the latest Marvel Studios addition to their exciting summer lineup, “I Am Groot,” will launch on August 10. “I Am Groot” is a collection of five original shorts starring Baby Groot, everyone’s favourite little tree, and will feature several new and unusual characters. All five shorts will be available for viewers to watch upon launch. 
 
There’s no guarding the galaxy from this mischievous toddler! So get ready as Baby Groot takes centre stage in his very owns series, exploring his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars.
 
Vin Diesel, who is the voice of Groot in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, voices Baby Groot. The writer/director is Kirsten Lepore, and the executive producers are Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Brad Winderbaum and James Gunn.

24 August
Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW
Our first Australian Disney+ Original Series
Series Premiere
“Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW” takes viewers on a raw and emotional journey into the dreams, struggles and triumphs of the groundbreaking AFLW league. In this six part series, we discover the courageous pioneers who were told they could never play Australian Rules football at the highest level and made it happen. From farmers to factory workers to paramedics, be amazed at the level of sacrifice and commitment required by this diverse group of athletes who are building an enduring legacy. The series spotlights four clubs - Adelaide Crows, Collingwood, GWS GIANTS and Western Bulldogs - with access to the game’s inner sanctum, which is both confronting and inspiring. Cameras were rolling in April 2022 capturing the historic victory of the Adelaide Crows - taking their third AFLW premiership. “Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW” is the first of Disney+ Australia’s local production slate for 2022/23, featuring nine titles spanning scripted drama, documentaries, lifestyle and factual entertainment genres.
3 August
Lightyear
Disney+ Premiere

The definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the hero who inspired the toy, “Lightyear” follows the legendary Space Ranger after he’s marooned on a hostile planet 4.2 million light-years from Earth alongside his commander and their crew. As Buzz tries to find a way back home through space and time, he’s joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat, Sox. Complicating matters and threatening the mission is the arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda.

17 August
She-Hulk: Attorney At Law
Disney+ Original Series

In Marvel Studios’ “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany)—an attorney specialising in superhuman-oriented legal cases—must navigate the complicated life of a single, 30-something who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch super-powered hulk. The nine-episode comedy series welcomes a host of MCU vets, including Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/the Abomination, and Benedict Wong as Wong, as well as Ginger Gonzaga, Josh Segarra, Jameela Jamil, Jon Bass and Renée Elise Goldsberry. Directed by Kat Coiro (Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9) and Anu Valia (Episodes 5, 6, 7) with Jessica Gao as head writer.

31 August
The Bear

STAR Original Series

Premiere | All Episodes

“The Bear” follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), a young chef from the fine dining world, who comes home to Chicago to run his family sandwich shop – The Original Beef of Chicagoland – after a heartbreaking death in his family. A world away from what he’s used to, Carmy must balance the soul-crushing realities of small business ownership, his strong-willed and recalcitrant kitchen staff and his strained familial relationships, all while grappling with the impact of his brother’s suicide. “The Bear” is about food, family, the insanity of the grind, the beauty of Sense of Urgency and the steep slippery downsides. As Carmy fights to transform both The Original Beef of Chicagoland and himself, he works alongside a rough-around-the-edges kitchen crew that ultimately reveal themselves as his chosen family.

31 August
Andor
Disney+ Original Series

The “Andor” series will explore a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

5 August
Prey

STAR Original Movie
Premiere

Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, “Prey” is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries.

10 August
I Am Groot
Disney+ Original Collection Of Shorts

Premiere

There’s no guarding the galaxy from this mischievous toddler! So get ready as Baby Groot takes center stage in his very own collection of shorts, exploring his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars. “I Am Groot,” five original shorts featuring several new and unusual characters, stars everyone’s favorite little tree, Baby Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel who voices Groot in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise.

25 August
Mike

STAR Original Series
Premiere

From creator/screenwriter Steven Rogers and the team behind “I, Tonya” and showrunner Karin Gist, executive producer of “Our Kind of People”, “Mike” explores the dynamic and controversial story of Mike Tyson. The 8-episode limited series explores the tumultuous ups and downs of Tyson’s boxing career and personal life - from being a beloved global athlete to a pariah and back again. Focusing the lens on Mike Tyson, the series examines class in America, race in America, fame and the power of media, misogyny, the wealth divide, the promise of the American Dream and ultimately our own role in shaping Mike's story.

“Mike” stars Trevante Rhodes and Russell Hornsby, with guest stars Harvey Keitel, Laura Harrier, Li Eubanks, Olunike Adeliyi, and B.J. Minor.

Sing-Along in August with Disney+

Your favourite Disney movies are back but in Sing-Along version! Get your remote control microphone in hand and your best singing voice ready to go through the classics as we sing along together. Will you choose The Circle Of Life, Be Our Guest or I See The Light or... all of them?

August 5
The Lion King- Sing-Along Version
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride- Sing-Along Version

August 19
Beauty and the Beast: Sing-Along Version (1991)
Beauty and the Beast: Sing-Along Version (2017)
Tangled: Sing-Along Version


Also in August…

3 August

Disney+ Original
Marvel Studios Assembled: The Making of Ms. Marvel

Series
The Villains of Valley View: Season 1 - New Episodes
The Ghost and Molly McGee: Season 1 - New Episodes

5 August

We Are Freestyle Love Supreme

10 August

STAR Original
Maggie: Season 1 - Episode 1 & 2

12 August

STAR Original
This Fool - Season 1

17 August

Series
Eureka!: Season 1

19 August

Movies
High Strung: Free Dance

26 August

Documentaries
Million Dollar Moon Rock Heist

31 August

Series
PJ Masks: Season 5

New Episodes

Alice's Wonderland Bakery: Season 1 - New episodes 10 August and 17 August
American Dad: Season 17 - New episodes weekly on Wednesday
Big Mouth: New episodes weekly on Fridays
Black Rock Shooter Dawn Fall: Season 1 - New episodes weekly, finale 10 August
Breeders: Season 3: New episodes weekly on Wednesday, finale 10 August
The Files of Young Kindaichi: Season 1- New episodes weekly on Wednesday, finale 10 August
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: Season 3 - New episodes weekly on Wednesday
Lost Man Found - New episodes weekly on Sunday, finale 28 August
The Old Man: Season 1 - New episodes weekly on Wednesday, finale 17 August
Only Murders in the Building: Season 2 - New episodes weekly on Tuesday, finale 16 August
Men on a Mission: Season 1- Season return, new episodes weekly on Wednesdays
Solar Opposites: Season 3 - New episodes weekly on Wednesday, finale 31 August
Summer Time Rendering: Season 1 - New episodes weekly on Wednesday
Tomorrow, I'll Be Someone's Girlfriend: Season 1 - New episodes weekly on Wednesday

Saturday, 23 July 2022

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power new trailer introduces Sauron

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power new trailer

A brand new trailer for The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power has been released.


The Stephen Colbert-moderated panel included 21 members of the ensemble cast, Showrunners J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay, and Executive Producer Lindsey Weber, making it one of the largest single-series panels in SDCC history
 
In addition to an exclusive San Diego Comic-Con trailer, sneak peeks of several scenes from the series were revealed, and in a Hall H-first, fans were treated to a live orchestra and choir performance, conducted by legendary Emmy® award-winning composer Bear McCreary
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power new trailer introduces Sauron


 San Diego transformed into Middle-earth, as Prime Video showcased its highly anticipated and epic upcoming series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, for a dazzled Hall H audience at San Diego Comic-Con. The series’ creators and ensemble cast assembled on the prestigious Hall H stage, thrilling 6,500 fans who packed the convention centre hall after camping overnight on the streets of San Diego in hopes of witnessing the history-making event.  Their efforts to be part of the series’ Comic-Con debut were rewarded with the unveiling of an exclusive trailer, and a sneak peek at several scenes from the series, as well as many other only-in-Hall-H surprises!

  • In a surprise and delight moment, The Late Show host—and Tolkien superfan—Stephen Colbert was revealed as the panel’s moderator. He joined series Showrunners J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay, Executive Producer Lindsey Weber, and 21 members of the ensemble cast for a panel that was among the largest for a single-series in San Diego Comic-Con history. 
     
  • During the epic 90-minute event, the cast and creators interacted with fans in person for the very first time, discussing their love of J.R.R. Tolkien’s incredible legendarium and the gratifying process of bringing the beloved author’s fabled Second Age to life—from the series’ new and legendary characters, to the incredible realms of Middle-earth, including the island of Númenor, which has never before been seen on screen.  
     
  • A plethora of exclusive sneak peeks and surprises were shared with Hall H fans, including the premiere of an all-new San Diego Comic-Con trailer, which was introduced by Showrunners Payne & McKay. The thrilling trailer focuses on the long-feared reemergence of evil in Middle-earth and gives a first look at some of the spine-tingling characters that the series’ heroes will be battling.  
     
  • In a special Hall H-first moment, Emmy® award-winning composer Bear McCreary, who created the series’ episodic score, took to the stage with a 25-piece orchestra and 16-person choir to treat the audience to an exclusive live performance of highlights of the never-before-heard series soundtrack.
     
  • Additional highlights from the panel include:
    • The exclusive reveal of five scenes from the series.
    • Over 22 pieces of special character art.
       
  • The participating cast members were: Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman, and Sara Zwangobani.
     

The eagerly awaited The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will premiere exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories around the world in multiple languages on Friday, September 2, with new episodes available weekly.
 
Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth's history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and one of the greatest villains that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the farthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
 
The series is led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. They are joined by executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, J.A. Bayona, Belén Atienza, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, Gennifer Hutchison, Bruce Richmond, and Sharon Tal Yguado, and producers Ron Ames and Christopher Newman. Wayne Che Yip is co-executive producer and directs, along with Bayona and Charlotte Brändström.

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