Kath’s Reviews: Film and Television

Kia ora!  I’m Kath, one of the branch librarians and I’m an avid film and television viewer.  I’m regularly diving deep into the excellent DVD collection we have in Wellington City Libraries, as well as content from Beamafilm and Kanopy — the two streaming platforms available to Wellington City Library customers.

In this new series of posts, I’m hoping to share some of the gems I come across each month with Pōneke film and television enthusiasts! Some of the excellent viewing I’ve seen recently include:

Belfast (2022) DVD

The DVD cover for the film Belfast written and directed by Kenneth BranaghActor, writer, director Kenneth Branagh’s biopic of his boyhood in Belfast in the 1960’s during The Troubles.  Shot almost entirely in black and white, except for a few tiny colour highlights, Belfast is Branagh’s love letter to the city of Belfast. Starring newcomer Jude Hill as Branagh (nicknamed Buddy by his family), the supporting ensemble is a feast of British talent – Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Jamie Dornan, Catriona Balfe to name a few.  It is a charming film, highlighting the difficulty faced by many people of Belfast at the time, who loved their home city but could not avoid the troubles growing around them.

Best bit: during the credits Branagh himself returns to the streets of Belfast.  Well worth sticking around to watch.

Bob’s Burgers, the Complete First Season (2011) DVD 

With the new Bob’s Burgers: The Movie hitting streaming services, I thought it was worth going back to revisit one of my favourite animated series.  I had forgotten how funny it was right from the first series and that the character development has been great all the way through.  Created by Loren Bouchard, Bob’s Burger’s is an animated sitcom about the Belcher family.  Dad Bob (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), Mum Linda (John Roberts), eldest daughter and butt enthusiast Tina (Dan Mintz), Casio enthusiast middle child Gene (Eugene Mirman) and the real brains of the family, little sister Louise (Kristen Schaal) make up the core cast of characters, but there are many fun repeat characters voiced by the likes of Kevin Kline, Megan Mullally, Sarah Silverman, Ken Jeong and more.  Well worth diving back into even if you’ve watched them before.

Best bit: so hard to choose.  I swing wildly as to which character is my favourite at any given time.

True Grit (2010) DVD

DVD cover for 2010 version of True GritThe Coen Brother’s remake of the John Wayne classic, True Grit stars Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, Jeff Bridges as Reuben Cogburn, Matt Damon as Texas Ranger Le Boeuf and Josh Brolin as the villain they’re pursuing, Tom Chaney.  In this clever Western, fast thinking and talking Mattie, aged 14, hires crusty bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn to track down the man who killed her father, (Chaney).  Accompanied reluctantly by Le Boeuf who has little respect for either Rooster or Mattie, the trio face adventures, adversity and the need to work together to get their man.  Steinfeld shows her brilliance as an actress at an early age alongside the long established talents of the men in the cast.

Best bit: I love the scene when Mattie is “negotiating” the price of her father’s horse and ponies.  Or Mattie’s first meeting with Le Boeuf in the boarding house.  Of course there is also the immortal Rooster Cogburn line “Fill your hand you son of a b****!” at the climax of the film.  Don’t make me choose a best bit!

My Neighbour Totoro (2005) DVD

DVD cover of the English edition of My Neighbour TotoroFirstly, if you have never watched any of the Studio Ghibli films, now is the time to rectify that.  My Neighbour Totoro is as good a place to start as any!  My Neighbour Totoro is the story of Satsuki and Mei, two girls who move to the countryside to be closer to their ailing mother.  They soon encounter the forest sprites known as Totoros and go off on magical adventures.  Mei gets lost and her big sister Satsuki enlists the help of the Totoro to find her.

Best bit: Satsuki and Mei waiting in the rain at the bus stop for their father is so evocative that you can almost feel the raindrops.  It’s also the scene where we first meet the iconic CatBus!

First Cow (2019) DVD

DVD Cover for the film First CowThere is something surprisingly gentle about this Western drama from director Kelly Reichardt.  Gentle loner Cookie (John Magaro) has moved west to Oregon to work with fur trappers, and meets Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee).  The two hit upon a money-making idea that isn’t exactly fully legal, and involves the local wealthy land-owner’s rare cow.  Wonderful performances across the board and Orion Lee has such a presence that I hope we see him in bigger roles in the future.  Even if you’re not a fan of Westerns, this one is something worth watching.

Best bit:  It has an ending that quite literally made me exclaim a sad “Ohhhhhh….”

Bluey, Volume 1: Magic Xylophone and Other Stories (2018) DVD

The cover of the DVD for Bluey: Magic XylophoneThis animated series is cute.  Seriously cute.  Impossibly cute.  Bluey is a six year old blue heeler puppy from Brisbane and lives with his Mum Chilli, Dad Bandit and little sister Bingo.  Bluey and Bingo have lots of adventures, play fun games and love pranking their Dad.  The series is bright and colourful, has regular fun cameo voice actors and teaches kids all kinds of concepts from sharing to compromise without being preachy.  Not to mention that while your kids watch this, you will enjoy it too.  So will older siblings, Nana, anyone else around at the time.  It’s cute and funny and some of the best children’s television in the world.

Best bit: I’m pretty fond of Aunt Trixie when she pops up.  Most of the locations in the stories are real places in Brisbane.

Malcolm (1986) Kanopy

This Australian film from 1986 actually holds up pretty well.  It does have one or two cringe moments that wouldn’t work in a modern film, but the story is still clever and funny and very well acted by all of the cast.  Directed by Nadia Tass, Malcolm (Colin Friels) is the story of a shy but mechanically gifted young man living alone in his family home after the death of his Mum.  When he loses his job and is in need of an income, a kindly neighbour helps him place an ad for a lodger.  Along comes Frank, a small time criminal fresh out of jail and his girlfriend Judith.  Frank, always chasing easy money, comes up with a plot to bring in a big payday that involves Malcolm and his talent for machinery.  What follows is a delightfully funny heist story that has some of the best car chases in cinema history.

Best bit: All of Malcolm’s machines.  Not to mention a very well utilised soundtrack.

Cyrano (2022) DVD

DVD Cover for Cyrano starring Peter DinklageI think this is my favourite film of the year so far.  This Joe Wright musical film starring Peter Dinklage as the titular Cyrano is an adaptation of the Edmund Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac.  But don’t let the word musical scare you away if you’re not a musical person!  Dinklage is absolutely magnetic as Cyrano, the bold soldier and gifted poet desperately in love with Roxanne (Haley Bennett), the young woman he has known all her life.  Believing she could never love him because of his appearance, he secretly helps young guardsman Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jnr) to write her love letters.  Ben Mendelsohn plays the deliciously creepy Lord de Guiche who has decided to take Roxanne as his bride with or without her consent.

Best bit: the balcony scene.  Cyrano poses in the dark as Christian calling up to Roxanne to declare his love for her.  Dinklage delivers the scene so well that I fell in love with him myself!

If you’d like to know what’s in our collection, you can go to our new DVD’s here, or check out Beamafilm and Kanopy.

I’d also love to hear your recommendations of films, TV series or documentaries from our collection in the comments below.