Film: The Disaster Artist

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Dave Franco as Greg Sestero and James Franco as Tommy Wiseau

It’s a really good film about the making of a really bad film known as ‘The Room’. Confused? That’s OK. The Disaster Artist is a real film aficionado’s flick. And for you, the general public, there will be a bit of convincing for me to do. How often have I said ‘just trust me  on this’? I’ll say it here again: just trust me – even if you don’t know who Tommy Wiseau is, go see this movie because you…will…love…it. Some background: A long time ago this unusual dude we call Mr Wiseau, self funded, wrote and starred in his own film called The Room. It has been described as the worst film ever made. And yes it is bad but in an hilarious, unintended comedic way. It has somewhat a cult following and regularly features as a ‘midnight movie’ along side films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Franco brothers have made their own movie, The Disaster Artist, which charts the making of Wiseau’s masterpiece. It’s not a documentary. It is a comedy that had me guffawing all the way through. Movie buffs and high brow critics will be going to The Disaster Artist in their droves. I hope others will also give it a go. And then seek out the original for an extra dose of mirth.

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Film: The Girl With All The Gifts

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Sennia Nanua as Melanie

Sennia Nanua who plays Melanie tries to convince the other kids that cannibalism is not cool. Hmm. I’ll start again on a different tack.  Sennia Nanua is awesome and without her this film would have been a flop. I’m not intending a backhanded compliment. Seriously, this ‘The Walking Dead-esque’ film would have been lackluster without her. So let’s praise the casting decision and I predict a bright future for Sennia. Her acting was stellar and lifted an otherwise average movie. I’m going to read the Mike Carey novel the flick is based on. But as far as the screen play is concerned, it might have been more scary to exclude the zombie like adults of which we are over dosing at the moment [The Walking Dead]. Because it’s the kids as hyper dangerous cannibal killers that made us shudder at our viewing. Act 1 at the military compound was creepy and engaging. But from Act 2 onward, it just emulates The Walking Dead. Am I being too mean? Perhaps. Blame the fungi. The audience at our viewing were positive and appreciative of the film. I’m glad I saw it and it’s your call whether to seek it out on the big screen or wait for TV/DVD. One thing I can say with certainty is I look forward to seeing Ms Nanua in her next film.

I watched this film at the Terror-Fi Film Festival, The Roxy Cinema, Wellington, New Zealand. http://www.terrorfifest.com/

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Film: Trench 11

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WW1 Horror Film: Trench 11

Do you like a good body horror? Fancy something from Canada that’s not just maple syrup and ice hockey? Although there could have been maple syrup used in this flick along with big servings of spaghetti. Filmed in the Canadian tundra that is Manitoba, director Leo Scherman with writer Matt Booi have delivered us a WW1, à la gruesome blood and guts main meal of a film which we wolfed down on the final night of the Terror-Fi film festival. Basically, ‘T11’ goes like this: Canadian tunneler leads a British expedition to survey a German bio-lab in the American sector of the European front in the final days of WW1. Several American service men are seconded to provide protection and an escort though the complex known as Trench 11. Poor Yanks. A mad German scientist has created a viscous parasitic worm that turns victims into homicidal maniacs. Feeling endeared?  The movie reminded me, at times, of the video game Wolfenstein. This is not a bad thing. I was also reminded of the recent North Korean Army deserter found with all the worms in his stomach. And I can also tell you I’ll not be eating noodles anytime soon thanks to some particularly gruesome scenes. I’d like to single out actor Rossif Sutherland for some praise. He was really good as the Canadian tunneler ‘Berton’. Now, what’s my verdict going to be with T11 ? It’s low budget but lots of hard work went into it. Whilst there are some minor flaws around the edges I’m willing to overlook them and posit this: it could become cult classic. Trench 11 is a thumbs up from me and a pass on eating Bolognese anytime soon. See it on a big screen if you can.

I watched this film at the Terror-Fi Film Festival, The Roxy Cinema, Wellington, New Zealand. http://www.terrorfifest.com/

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Film: Murder On The Orient Express

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Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

It’s all about a crime so here is my confession to open proceedings: I have not read a single Agatha Christie novel. Please don’t kill me! But seriously, I’m glad to have gone into this film with a clear mind. I was absolutely clueless and thank Kenneth AKA Detective Poirot for guiding me through the maze. I enjoyed this movie. I loved the costumes and all the players in the ensemble cast. All in all it is a sumptuous affair. Starting in Jerusalem, the film meanders along ending up derailed in the Alps. Sorry – I didn’t mean that. I meant, the train literally derails after being hit by an avalanche. I’m not being succinct. Let me start over. The passengers get trapped on board, someone is murdered, Hercule steps up to solve the case. And oh, what obstructions he faces. Slightly comical, it could also be described as farcical. It’s my take that some of the scenes got a little boring in the middle and should have been spiced up a bit more. Nevertheless, I say see it on the big screen as it is beautifully shot. A side note – at our viewing there was a Dad with two small children. This alarmed me but the kids got so bored they ended up leaving. Thankfully the disruption was minimal. Who takes their little kids to a film like this? One more side note – I really liked Johnny Depp as the brutish Samuel Ratchett.

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Johnny Depp as Samuel Ratchett

Film: Ingrid Goes West

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Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn is a social media psychopath.

They may call it a dark comedy or black humor but I’m saying it’s a neat little Alfred Hitchcock-esk, millennial style psychological thriller. However, lets not get bogged down in labels. There are a lot of layers to unpick with Ingrid Goes West. You all know the dangers of social media without me having to spell them out to you. And you’ve heard of social media influencers who pack their Instagram accounts etc. with shopping photos and phony endorsements. Imagine what happens when you get an obsessive, personality disorder user spending an unhealthy amount of time following an ‘influencer’? It’s gonna be a toxic mess for sure. I really liked this film. It’s not actually very funny but it is intriguing. Whilst ‘Ingrid’ is not quite ‘Otaku’, she comes close. Perhaps cycber-stalking is the better term here. From the opening scenes we learn our main character has been at this before with a pattern of behavior that knows no social boundaries. A serial fantasist, once she gets out of ‘hospital’ she is soon back to her social media stalking ways and embarks on a trip to LA where she ingratiates herself into a stranger’s life. This flick is a look into social media neurosis and manic/depressive tendencies in the digital age. I think director Matt Spicer has captured it perfectly along with our consumer driven society’s hollow promises. Ingrid Goes West is creepy, dark, and full of self absorption. I’m glad I went to see it. However, I should warn you: there is a self harm scene and the stigmatization of mental health more generally. Ingrid did not get the care and support she needed…stopping…at this point…no plot spoilers… Your call whether to see on the big screen or wait. Film might not be to everyone’s taste.

Book: Wonder

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Wonder

This novel should come with tissues. I was wiping away tears throughout as I followed the story of a plucky kid with a severely deformed face as he goes to school for the first time. Although it’s a work of fiction it’s genesis comes from an experience the author herself had where she pulled her own kids away from another family in line at a concession. The other family had a girl with a disfigured face and Palacio was worried about her own boys reacting badly. Obviously things did not go well. She has written this scene into the story and the book as a whole must have been cathartic for her. This aside, the novel is really well written in the first person. There are regular changes in point of view as each main character shares their own experience of August Pullman. Auggie reminded me of a kid I knew when growing up. I like to think I was not mean. But I sure was indifferent. Which is actually just another form of meanness. And I feel stink. This book is a blessing & I highly recommend it. I’m also looking forward to the film starring Julia Roberts that is about to open.

Film: Brigsby Bear

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Kyle Mooney as James Pope

You are just going to have to trust me on this one. I say Brigsby Bear and you say what? I’ll level with you – I was clueless going into our viewing today. We were all asking who the hell is this Brigsby?! Why are we going?! Someone then piped up: “but Mark Hamill is in it – you know – Luke Skywalker”. Yeah we get it. I get it. But Hamill is on the dark side in this film. While he is no Sith Lord he is guilty of the crime of baby snatching. And involvement in the creation of that bear. But it’s not until James [Kyle Mooney] is rescued that we see Brigsby Bear go to a whole other level. Ah shucks – this film is a tough one to talk about without ruining the story. Pause. Just know this – I reckon I’m good at picking cult classics and Mooney and company’s effort with this film is destined for a hall of fame somewhere. It’s trippy, art house, and ‘dope as shit’. Oh and good luck – it might be hard to find in your local multiplex. Look for it at the smaller niche cinemas with a projectionist who’s good at programming ‘dope as shit’ films. And just to make it a hat-trick [dope trick]: the movie is so ‘dope as shit’ I say open your wallet for Brigsby Bear. Highly recommended. [Is it weird I actually cried a couple of times during the flick?]

Film: Tulip Fever

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Christoph Waltz as Cornelis Sandvoort and Alicia Vikander as Sophia Sandvoort

I’ve several confessions to make with this film. Firstly, I only just finished the book 12 hours before I saw it. Not wanting to purchase the novel, I had to wait an age to get it from the local library. There were 20 middle aged housewives ahead of me on the reserves list. As the movie opening approached my anxiety increased until I got the call from the librarian, raced out to get my copy and devoured it over the weekend. Normally I like to put a month between me finishing a novel and then seeing the film. There is no real reason for this, it’s just that I need some breathing space. Otherwise I’ll do what I did yesterday. I start mouthing the lines in time with the actors in a kind of ‘sing-a-long’. And anytime they deviated from the novel’s dialogue I got upset. And all the plot and back story differences were amplified. I was outraged with the inclusion of the orphanage and that they erased Sophia’s family. I also got annoyed the tulip grower was replaced with Mother Superior. [Don’t worry, I’m not spoiling the film for you]. Author Deborah Moggach should have stepped in and said no to these changes. However, these little irritations I felt were ultimately very minor in the scheme of things. I note it’s being panned by the critics generally and I think this is a bit unfair. I was dubious re the casting of Alicia but she was fine. Likewise Dane DeHaan was not’ my painter Jan’ from the novel but he performed admirably [wink]. It was the supporting cast that I took a shine to. Christoph Waltz as Cornelis was excellent. And I love the asinine Gerrit played by Zach Galifianakis. Now,  you be wondering if I have anymore confessions to make? I like to think I’m macho and Tulip Fever is most definitely a ‘Mills and Boon’ like romance novel to the casual observer. I had to hide the cover from my workmates lest I get teased. And I did not boast of going to the film – and having to go to the ‘moms and bubs’ session due to tricky schedules. But I loved it both book and movie. Deborah’s story is not a penny dreadful – it is a work of art. It’s hot and sexy and really well written. I confess my secret guilty  pleasure – the historical romance drama. Well done Debs [can I call you that?]. Now with regards to spending your dough on seeing the flick. Dear readers – whilst it’s not an Oscar contender I say take your partner and see on the big screen. Don’t listen to the critics. I think you will enjoy it at the cinema.

Film: Waru [New Zealand]

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Waru

It’s Labor weekend here in New Zealand. I’ve seen all the Hollywood blockbusters so it was time to get in this local drama ‘Waru’. I’d been hearing good things about it and the Roxy was showing it exclusively in Wellington . It was pleasing to see a nice full theater and I was very lucky to get a ticket just in time. What followed was an emotional roller coaster ride as 8 Māori directors each presented a 10 minute vignette all converging on the tangi [funeral] of a young boy [Waru] who died at the hands of family members. To say all 8 scenes are powerful is an understatement. Each scene has a central character grappling with shame, anger, and injustice. I cried several times but was also uplifted in some key moments. The film shot shown above [from vignette 5 I think] is my favorite. The young girl in the foreground has her grandmother’s talking stick which possesses mana [in this context a kinda supernatural strength or power] imbued into the granddaughter. She stands up to the men on her Marae who have turned a blind eye and allowed Waru’s killer[s] thus far to avoid accountability. Gutsy acting, directing and screen play. But I’ve only singled out one of the eight and all deserve a round of applause and their own write up/synopsis. If you get a chance to see the film make the effort. You won’t be disappointed. Be prepared to have a cry but there are also some lighthearted moments along the way.