Rental Pick: Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)

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As I’ve mentioned in this post, I absolutely LOVE the vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. It’s also written and directed by Taika Waititi, who’s been quite a force to be reckoned with as a filmmaker, so I’m glad he’s getting noticed by Hollywood!

Right from the opening scene when the 13-year-old Ricky is dropped off by child welfare services at his new foster home in a remote farm, the movie immediately grabbed me. Though his foster mom Bella (Rima Te Wiata) welcomes him with open arms, her cantankerous husband Hec makes sure he wants to be left alone. Julian Dennison is quite a revelation as Ricky, a juvenile delinquent I actually wish I could adopt! He makes quite an unlikely duo with Sam Neill‘s Hec, and their journey through NZ wilderness is a hilarious yet poignant adventure I could watch over and over.
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I absolutely enjoy the banter between ‘uncle’ Hec and Ricky throughout, as they went on the run from police who thought Ricky had been kidnapped. One of the funniest bits was when they encountered some hunters and somehow Ricky made it sound like he’s been molested. It’s truly a lot of fun to witness the duo’s journey, both physically and emotionally, as they grow to enjoy each other’s company. Waititi, who made a wacky cameo as a minister, has a real gift for storytelling and witty dialog. I love these types of comedies. It’s uproariously funny but also has a huge heart, not relying on crude gags masquerading as *comedy* Hollywood churn out these days.

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The supporting cast is quite a hoot as well. The ruthless child welfare officer Paula (Rachel House) and her rather useless policeman partner Andy (Oscar Kightley) are hot on Hec and Ricky’s tail. There’s a hilarious moment when Paula and Ricky faced off each other in the woods…

Paula: Yeah, and I’ll never stop chasing you – I’m relentless, I’m like the Terminator.

Ricky Baker: I’m more like the Terminator than you!

Paula: I said it first, you’re more like Sarah Connor, and in the first movie too, before she could do chin-ups.

I love the pop culture joke and it doesn’t feel stale. There’s also that bit about The Lord of the Rings that made me laugh so hard. I was hoping Waititi would include LOTR given that it was also shot primarily in New Zealand. Though perhaps not as quotable as What We Do In The Shadows that Waititi co-wrote, there are plenty of great, funny lines here that still made me chuckle every time I remember them. Dennison is definitely one of my favorite talent discoveries of the year and I hope this kid gets other prominent roles in the future. Neill is a talented veteran actor, and his character here reminds me of Dr. Grant in Jurassic Park as kids somehow flock to him despite his grumpy demeanor.

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The amazing scenery would certainly make you want to book your next trip to NZ pronto! This movie could practically doubles as a NZ tourism video. The third act gets over the top a bit, especially when the manhunt became a full-on ‘war.’ Fortunately it never got off the rails even as the action escalated to a rather bombastic finale. The ending is a sweet one, albeit a tad predictable. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and it made me anticipate THOR: Ragnarok a whole lot more because Waititi is directing it!

I rarely give a full score in my reviews, but this movie is pretty much perfect. As I mentioned in my Golden Globes post, it’s ridiculous this movie wasn’t nominated for Best Comedy! It’s not just the funniest film of the year, but it ranks as one of the best comedies of all time.

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Have you seen this movie? I’d love to hear what you think!

Week In Review: Hunt For the Wilderpeople + Loving + The Little Prince

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How’s your weekend everyone? It’s been a while since I did a roundup post, but I figure it’s a good way for me to ease my way into blogging again. It’s been a particularly gratifying week as I saw two of my highly-anticipated films, Loving and Hunt For the Wilderpeople. As Winter has officially arrived, we pretty much hibernated this weekend so my hubby and I saw The Little Prince on Netflix Saturday night.

Below is my mini reviews of two of the films I saw this past week, plus quick thoughts on the New Zealander adventure comedy…

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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I became a huge fan of Taika Waititi‘s work since the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. Well, he’s come up with yet another riotously-funny movie that could practically double as a travel video for New Zealand!

I will do a full review of this later in December, but right now all I can say is… RUN, don’t walk to rent this movie!! I’m gutted that I missed this on the big screen, not sure that it even had a theatrical release here in MN. In any case, I enjoyed the heck out of this one. LOVE the unlikely duo of veteran actor Sam Neill with newcomer Julian Dennison, a riotous 14-year-old NZ child actor with an amazing comic timing and screen presence. He’s inspired me to do a top 10 list of great 2016 performances by kid actors, so stay tuned for that!


Loving

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Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.

This film couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is surely in tumultuous times right now. It seems appalling that interracial marriage was still illegal in some states fifty some years ago, but have we really come that far since? The latest film from Jeff Nichols is beautifully-told, graceful and affecting as the filmmaker focused on the couple themselves instead of making a political statement. Yes of course the film has a major political and social implication, as the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia put an end to all miscegenation laws in 1967. But at the end of the day, the story is about two human beings who loved each other and wanted to raise a family together.

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Both Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton portrayed Mildred and Richard with such quiet grace and sincerity. It’s an understated performance that speaks volumes and conveys the tension as well as poignancy of what they went through. For someone withe the name Loving, Richard surely lives up to that and it’s truly a beautiful marriage built on not just love, but mutual respect. Michael Shannon has a small–but–memorable cameo as a LIFE magazine photographer who took the iconic shots of the couple as they simply hang out in their home, watching tv, playing with their kids, etc. There’s also Marton Csokas as the ‘villain’ of the story, the Virginia sheriff who arrested them.

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The script, direction and performance all work beautifully to bring the Lovings’ story to life. The cinematography and music are beautiful and evocative, it works in transporting us to a certain period of Americana. But it’s the journey of the Lovings that I shall never forget. By making the film about the couple, forgoing court drama theatrics, Nichols made a deeply moving film that connected with me in a refreshingly real way.

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The Little Prince (2015)

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A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

Truth be told, I’m not that familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, despite it being the fourth most translated book in the world. This is the first animated feature film adaptation of the book, directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), boasting a terrific cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, etc.

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I have a penchant for these kinds of imaginative stories, one that blends in reality and fantasy set in striking visuals. The little girl’s relationship with her overly-ambitious mother is an interesting commentary about the overly-structured life of an adult vs the wide-eyed openness of a child exploring the world. I have to admit it took me a while to get into this one at first, even after the girl (Mackenzie Foy, who was in Interstellar) meets the narrator, an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) who told her the tale about the aviator and the little prince. I’m often lost in the beauty of the visuals, especially the stop-motion scenes in the desert created using paper. It’s absolutely gorgeous with a dreamy quality, but yet for some reason I couldn’t connect to the story nor the characters as much as I wanted to. I wonder if at times there’s a case of ‘lost in translation’ here from the original story.

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There are philosophical quotes that resonated with me however, such as “One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.” I also enjoyed the music by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey, which nicely complements the ethereal, watercolor look of the film. It certainly is worth a watch, for sure it’s a technical/visual marvel, even if the film overall isn’t as breathtaking as I had hoped.

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More reviews coming your way…

I’ve written up my full review of Doctor Strange coming later this week. My hubby and I saw Arrival last weekend, right after we’re back from our Zion/Vegas trip, which was truly one of the best, most affecting sci-fi film I’ve seen in a good while.  I plan on writing my review of Arrival and Moonlight (one of the two October Movies of the Month!) later this week. I’ll be seeing the new Brad Pitt/Marion Cotillard spy drama Allied tonight, and if the snow storm doesn’t wreck havoc on traffic, hopefully I’ll be seeing Hidden Figures tomorrow night! Oh and my new blog contributor Laura S. also gave me a review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so stay tuned for a slew of new reviews in the next few weeks!

#SlowlyGettingMyBloggingMojoBack 😉


So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think. 

Rental Pick: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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I had been wanting to see this movie for ages but for some reason I never saw its theatrical release in my neck of the woods. Even the synopsis and the trailer had me in stitches. Well, the movie itself more than lived up to the hype, it’s so well worth the wait! In fact, the reason this review kept getting delayed is because I kept getting distracted by watching the clips of this on Youtube and they made me laugh every single time.

The idea of a mockumentary about vampires living in modern society is so brilliant and makes for a perfect comedy material, so I’m surprised nobody has made it before. Well I’m glad that these New Zealand comedians did as I can’t imagine anyone else portraying these immortal vampires now. The only person I recognize is Jemaine Clement, one of the Flight of the Conchords comedy band, and he plays one of the four flatmates living in Wellington, NZ. In the opening sequence, we learn that the vampire flatmates have invited a documentary filmmaker to chronicle their lives, hence the title, and they’ve been given some kind of protection so that they won’t become victims like most humans invited into their homes. “Some interviews with some vampires” is the movie’s tagline, an obvious reference to a popular 90s vampire drama based on Anne Rice’s books.
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It’s so much fun to spend two hours with the trio, Vladislav (Clement), Viago (Taika Waititi), and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh). There’s also Petyr (Ben Fransham), an 8000 years old Nosferatu-lookalike who lives in the basement instead of upstairs with the other three. Viago is like the mom in the family, he’s trying to keep the flat as organized and neat as possible, insisting that his flatmates line the floor and walls with newspapers before they feast on their victims. Of course it’s not always easy, one scene showed Viago accidentally biting the main artery of his victim, causing blood to spurt and splatter all over the room and making a huge mess. This is just one of those hysterical dilemmas these immortal creatures have to deal with living in modern society. All the daily stuff we take for granted, such as being able to see our reflection in the mirror when we get dressed, enjoying the sunlight, etc. are problematic for these vampires and the movie explore those in such a hysterical way.

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I thought that the movie is going to consist mostly of random scenes of these vampires doing daily human chores and other vampiric shenanigans, which would’ve been okay for me considering how hilarious these actors are. But there’s actually a decent plot here, starting with Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a human lured to become their food who ended up being turned into a vampire. Things start go awry when Nick carelessly break every vampire rules and walk around announcing his new identity. But the most hilarious part is when he starts inviting his human friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford) to hang out with his vampire mates. All the scenes involving Stu is a hoot, especially when he teaches them technology and social media, much to the delight of Viago and the gang. It’s even funnier as he’s got this deadpan expression throughout.

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This movie has become one of my favorite comedies of all time. Right up there with The Gods Must Be Crazy, Top Secret! and Hot Fuzz. Comedies are so subjective I guess so what some people find funny might not be the case for others. For me, I love great writing and fun characters on top of the slapstick stuff, nothing too crude nor vulgar. What We Do in the Shadows delivers on that front, such a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of raunchy-but-unfunny Hollywood comedies of late. Props to Clement and Waititi who collaborated as writers/directors, as well as the terrific cast that bring this comedy to life. There are just sooo many memorable scenes and it’s so darn quotable.

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“We’re Werewolves, not Swearwolves.”

“Vampires don’t do dishes.”

“Yeah some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and then, you think, ‘Oooh, those are some nice pants!’.”

“I go for a look I call dead but delicious.”

Seriously, there are hundreds of funny one liners and it’s funnier when you see them in context. The script is so zany and sharp-witted, and the writers obviously knew enough about the whole vampire mythology and stereotypes to turn them on its head. I’ve gotten the Blu-ray and I know it’ll get a ton of play in my house. Even the deleted scenes are a hoot! I don’t normally care for sequels but I sincerely hope Clement and Waititi would work on a sequel for this, as I can watch these characters bicker with each other for hours on end. I’d think this idea would make for a great TV series too, so hopefully that would happen given how well-received this movie has been.
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Have you seen What We Do In The Shadows? Well, what did YOU think?