Featuring rom-coms, thrillers, recent film festival entries, highly regarded tv series and a film by a blacklisted director, this month’s picks should contain something for everyone.
10 Cloverfield Lane.
Tense thriller that takes place in the ‘Cloverfield’ universe but is not a sequel to that film from 2008. The film opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in a car leaving her boyfriend. When the car is hit in an accident she crashes and blacks out, only to wake up in a bunker chained to the wall. She soon discovers that she was pulled from the car wreck by Howard (John Goodman), a survivalist who has built a shelter meant to withstand any apocalyptic event. He tells her that the world is in chaos above ground due to some sort of chemical or nuclear attack, and that he has saved her and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the other bunker-mate. Certain things happen to lead credence to his story, and the three settle in to their confined surroundings. After a while however she begins to think that Howard might not have been entirely truthful about who he is & why he made the bunker in the first place…Fantastically claustrophobic, and full of plot twists, the film proves that you can still make edgy entertaining films with just small locations and a minimum of players. Some may feel the end sequence a little over the top, but it doesn’t really take away from what has come before. (Mark)
Adapted from Witi Ihimaera’s novel, Bulibasha and set in Gisborne in the 1950’s, Mahana tells a beautifully, haunting and tragic story of two warring families, The Mahanas and the Poatas, who are forever at each throats and competing for work, sport and engaging in the odd thrilling car chase. However the dynamic shifts when Simeon, idealistic, optimistic and bent on change, starts to question family expectations; uncover hidden secrets and even starts to make peace with sworn enemies, which threatens the tyrannical rule of patriarch Tamihana (a fine performance by Temuera Morrison), who rules the Mahana whanau with an iron and militant fist; and who will not be challenged in anyway. So a battle of wills irrupts between grandfather and grandson, where on the odd occasion the unquiet spirit of Jake the Muss is awakened. Overall I thought the film was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes, especially with regard to the on-going, but silent struggle that the grandmother, Ramona, (Nancy Brunning) goes through until the truth is finally revealed near the end. Both Temuera Morrison and Nancy Brunning owned and brought justice to the roles of the grandparents, Tamihana and Ramona. This film does indeed does justice to Ihimaera’s novel and beautifully showcases Aotearoa in its essence and culture. (Katie)
Parks and recreation. Season seven, the farewell season.
While the last season is perhaps not as consistent as what has come before, and perhaps a bit rushed in places given the need to round out the characters arcs and relationships, it is still a great wrap up to what was one of the most consistently funny comedy shows on TV. The show may be over but the wisdom of Ron Swanson will live forever. (Mark)
This is an action/thriller starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. This is a movie where the 2 men go undercover to try and get into a Mexican drug Lord’s cartel. Unbeknown to the other they both work for different crime fighting organisations (Denzel for the DEA) and Mark for (Naval Intelligence). They both get disowned by their own agencies and have everyone after them. Great pace and lots of action. Keeps you guessing. Not as violent as ‘Man on Fire’. (Brigid)
Bosch. Season two.
Season 2 of the adaptation of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series if a lot more consistent than the first season. All the rough edges have been smoothed over, all the actors now seem far more comfortable in their characters, the writing is a lot more consistent, and the changes in some of the characters in updating the show to a more modern period seem less jarring. Season 2 takes inspiration from Connelly’s novels Trunk Music, The Drop, and The Last Coyote, and while the plot line of ‘The Last Coyote’ is the most truncated and differs from the book, the rest of the story draws enough of Connelly’s plotlines to satisfy fans of the books. Renewed for a third season which will supposedly adapt Connelly’s novel The Black Echo and elements of A Darkness More Than Night. (Mark)
‘Love Rosie’ tells the story over the course of twelve years, through letters, emails and instant messaging about the ever changing relationship between the two main characters Rosie Dunne and Alex Stewart. The question that will hang on your lips throughout the film is are they always meant to be more than friends or will they risk everything including their friendship on love? This question can only be answered by watching the film. This movie is an enjoyable romantic comedy that is suitable for a girls night in. It has everything you can expect: laughter, tears and a little romance. I’m not usually a fan of chick flick movies, but I think this has been a great chick flick and romantic comedy movie I have seen since Love Actually. (Katie)
Occupied. Series 1.
Excellent new Norwegian TV series, apparently the most expensive (and most watched) in the history of Norwegian television. Based on an idea by popular Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo the show is set in the near future, where a catastrophic hurricane fuelled by climate change, has led to the rise of the Norwegian Green Party into political power. Idealistic Prime Minister Jesper Berg, has plans for thorium-based nuclear energy, and cuts off all fossil fuel production. With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe is suffering an energy crisis, and in retaliation the EU asks Russia to initiate a ‘velvet glove’ invasion of Norway. Russian special forces kidnap Berg, insisting that he submit to EU demands or face a full-scale invasion. What follows is told from the perspective of several characters as the effects of a ‘non-violent’ occupation begin to insidiously colour the lives and undercut the political processes of the Norwegian people. Recommended. (Mark)
A letter arrives a week before Geoff and Kate’s 45th wedding anniversary party and makes their long, harmonious marriage no longer the same. The England’s latest auteur, Andrew Haigh’s third feature ’45 years’ is a low-keyed, chamber piece but deeply affecting. It’s a simple setting drama like his breakthrough film Weekend, which portraits the devastating love affair of two young men, and subtly yet sharply exposes how fragile our love and relationships are. The film is shot in order from the first scene, and natural, wonderfully nuanced performances by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay make every detail meaningful. They reach the height at the ending scene with the memorable song ‘Smoke gets in your Eyes’. A quiet triumph. (Shinji)
Kill your friends.
Mostly good adaptation of John Niven’s hilariously nihilistic satire set amongst dodgy A&R record men at the height of UK ‘Britpop’ madness. A&R man Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is slashing and burning his way through the music business, a world where ‘no one knows anything’ and where careers are made and broken by chance and the fickle tastes of the general public. Fuelled by greed, ambition and inhuman quantities of drugs, Stelfox searches for his next hit record, but a couple of bad missteps make it look like his career is all but done. Just how far will he go to get to the top…Stelfox is surely one of the most appalling Fictional creations ever put on paper, yet his narration makes the novels sordid nastiness so funny that you can’t help laughing. This, however, is a more difficult task to put over on film and while some of it works, other scenes could perhaps have used more of Hoult’s narration to undercut all the grim bits that hew a little too close to American Psycho. (Mark)
London has fallen.
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman This movie is a sequel to Olympus has fallen. Many World Leaders have gathered in London for a Meeting and the Terrorists start to attack. Lots of explosions. If you enjoyed ‘Olympus has Fallen’ you should enjoy this one too. (Brigid)
Orphan black. Series four.
After the somewhat convoluted third season ‘Orphan Black’ decided to do a bit of a ‘back to basics’ reset for the series, so the fourth season goes back to the beginning and follows the story of Beth, whose suicide set the whole story in motion for Sarah in Season one. Definitely an improvement over the previous season, which had gotten a little caught up in the complications of its mythology. (Mark)
When Marnie was there.
This movie was screened at last week at the Thursday Night Film screening at the Central Library. This film tells the story of Anna, an introverted orphaned girl and a bit of a lost soul, who feels abandoned, unwanted and unlovable. However, while on holiday, a chance encounter with a mysterious blonde girl, Marnie, who in many ways is a reflection of Anna, changes Anna’s life forever. As the summer progresses, Anna spends more time with Marnie, and eventually Anna learns the truth about her family and foster care, which allows her to open up to possibilities all around her, mainly meaningful relationships with friends and her surrogate family. This film is hauntingly beautiful and truly captures the essence and beauty, you would in find in most Japanese animated films produced by the Company, Studio Ghibli, who also brought such Japanese animated films to life, such as Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. Overall a great film that young girls will enjoy, that explores the true meaning of friendship and finding yourself. (Katie)
The nice guys.
Engagingly funny crime flick written & directed by buddy-movie maestro Shane Black. Set in Los Angeles in the late 70s, the film opens with a boy witnesses fading porn star Misty Mountains die in a car crash. Later that week, down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is approached by the aunt of Misty Mountains who claims to have seen her niece alive. March is sceptical of her claim, but realizes that a missing girl named Amelia is somehow involved. However, Amelia does not wish to be found and hires enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to intimidate March into staying away from her. Later that night, Healy is attacked at his home by two thugs who attempt to interrogate him about Amelia’s whereabouts. After escaping he then teams up with a reluctant March to find Amelia before the thugs do. Gosling & Crowe make a good pairing, and while it is not as sharp or consistent as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, nevertheless it’s an enjoyable melange of Black’s favourite techniques, dialogue and style. (Mark)
A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence.
Swedish one-of-a-kind auteur, Roy Andersson has a huge studio in Stockholm to build every kind of set for his works. It’s his holy ground where he established his idiosyncratic style; every scene is a single shot from a fixed camera position, meticulously composed painting-like milieu, deadpan style acting by non-professional actors, and so on. This latest work, the final chapter of ‘the living trilogy’, which explores what it means to be a human being, is no exception. It’s an utterly unique, absurd black comedy, which is dominated by a strange milky white colour, and slightly darker and heavier than its predecessors (Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living). This peculiar taste may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but no one makes films like Roy Andersson. That’s for sure. (Shinji)
A great little ‘Sci-Fi’ movie from writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud). The story revolves around Roy (Nichols regular Michael Shannon) and his biological son who are on the run from a cult that he has kidnapped the boy from, and also from some Government agencies who have an interest in the mysterious powers the boy apparently has. Shannon and his friend hook up with the boy’s biological mother (Kirsten Dunst) and together the four of them try to get the boy to a special place he feels he needs to go to to discover his purpose while trying to evade the forces after them. Endlessly intriguing, at times ‘Midnight Special’ feels somewhat retro, a homage to early Speilberg or Stephen King, and proves you need few CGI effects to create a modern ‘Sci-Fi’ film, just some good old fashioned character based story telling. (Mark)
The lady in the van.
Very unusual movie about an incident in the Author Alan Bennet’s life. He meets an eccentric lady (Maggie Smith) who lives in an old Van and moves from place to place in her Van. It is very sensitive in parts. ‘The Lady in the Van’ decides to live in his driveway for a period of time. It is a story about their interaction. Not a Comedy. (Brigid)
Beauty and the beast.
A Walt Disney movie about a tough no nonsense heroine, named Belle (French word for Beauty), who offers herself in exchange for her father, who has been imprisoned by the Beast, and discovers that her captor is an enchanted prince in disguise. While the situation is anything than ideal, this Beauty and the Beast must learn, in very Pride and Prejudice-like to overcome their pride and stubbornness, in the hopes of falling in love and breaking the beast’s enchantment. This film is beautifully constructed and made! Filled with lots of quirky characters, in the form of Lumiere (a candle stick), Cogsworth (a cynical clock), Mrs Potts (a mother-hen teapot) and many musical numbers. A film that the entire family can enjoy – especially on a Saturday night! (Katie)
In 2010, Iranian master director Jafar Panahi (This is not a Film, Crimson Gold) was baselessly convicted of crimes against national security and banned from making films. However, he is somehow still making films and ‘Tehran Taxi’ is his third feature since his conviction. This time, the director himself drives a taxi through the city of Tehran and picks up various passengers. At first, this simple set-up gives an impression similar to documentary shot by iPhone, but Pnahi’s ingenious hands turn the taxi into a mirror of Iranian society, social morals and politics. The message implied in the film is powerful and serious but he does it with a droll, playful manner. This film won the Golden Bear (best film) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015, and Panahi’s niece, who appears in the film and is adorable, received the honour on his behalf because he has been banned from travelling. A genius work. (Shinji)
Eye in the sky.
Extremely tense ‘real-time’ thriller about a drone mission. Helen Mirren, a UK-based Colonel is in command of a top-secret drone operation to capture a high level English target in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel, Powell discovers the targets are planning a suicide bombing and the mission escalates from “capture” to “kill.” But as an American pilot (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone, triggering an international dispute reaching the highest levels of US and British government as to the moral & political implications of ‘collateral damage’. Gripping, intelligent film-making that is entertaining without shying away from posing some difficult questions. Features one of the last performances from the greatly missed Alan Rickman. (Mark)
INXS : never tear us apart.
“I was standing. You were there. Two worlds collided and they can never tear us apart.” It’s amazing how sixteen simple worlds can have such a huge impact and really touch your soul. While it’s been two years exactly since this mini-series aired on television in New Zealand, in my opinion it’s still a goodie and is worth watching, especially as the 16th of August is band member’s (and unofficial leader of the band), Tim Farris’ birthday and INXS is hosting an event called Platinum Award Success… in Sydney that marks their achievement, success and contribution to the Australian and international music industry! “Never Tear Us Apart” is a two-part, 4 hour television event that tells the uncensored story of Australia’s most successful 80’s Rock band – INXS. It’s a story of mateship, success and excess. It’s the ultimate sex, drugs and rock’n’roll story that ends in tragedy. This movie portrays an honest and raw account of the rise and fall of one of my favourite bands, who decided to take an innovative approach to breaking the international music market overseas which paid off, at the price of alienating the Australian music industry. In watching this movie, you will get insight and details of their personal lives, their rise to fame from Australian pubs to stadiums around the world- Wembley as a major impact of their career! Features famous chart breaking songs such as New Sensation, Original Sin, What You Need, Need You Tonight and the chilling, heart breaking love ballad: Never Tear Us Apart. Also shows some archived footage of the original concerts and earlier tracks of their greatest hits – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!, near the end you will here an earlier recording that Michael Hutchence made of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. Overall this mini-series is in a word –AWESOME! Luke Arnold owned the role of Michael Hutchence and pretty much stole the limelight. This miniseries made me laugh, made me cry and entertained me from start to finish. (Katie)
What we did on our holiday.
Starring David Tennant, Billy Connelly Rosamond Pike, Annette Crosby and Celia Imrie. This was a really good movie. Watched it with three generations and they all enjoyed it. The story starts with a family which is going through a separation process and they are going back to Scotland to see their Father (Billy Connelly)/Grandfather. Who is having a big 75th birthday which is possibly his last. They are trying to keep the separation from the rest of the family but the process is rocky. They give the kids a list of lies they have to tell. Some very moving and funny parts to this movie as the young children have to cope with the eccentric extended family. Really worth a watch. It is a Comedy and very funny in parts. (Brigid)