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:

Ghostbusters Afterlife (2021) DVD

DVD Cover of Ghostbusters: AfterlifeIntended to be a sequel to the original 1980’s films, Ghostbusters Afterlife certainly captures the flavour of action-packed comedy from the original 1984 movie, which I saw at the drive-in when I was 13 years old! 

Connected through the original by the character of Egon Spengler, his estranged daughter and her kids move to his old farmhouse after his death.  Egon’s grandaughter Phoebe (McKenna Grace) has inherited her grandfather’s scientific curiosity and stumbles into his plans to save the world from an occultist determined to bring back Sumerian God Gozer.  Between Phoebe, her brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and friend Podcast (Logan Kim), the race is on to work out the vintage Ghostbusters technology and save the world.  Also stars Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon, with cameos from most of the original 1984 Ghostbusters cast.

Best bit: Paul Rudd walking through the Walmart.  If you know Paul Rudd at all, you’ll know why this is the best scene.

Poppy (2021) DVD

This is a sweet new New Zealand film, the story of Poppy (Libby Hunsdale), a young woman with Down Syndrome who has the same hopes, dreams and ambitions of any young woman of her age.  She wants to get her drivers license, an apprenticeship as a mechanic and a sweet boyfriend.  However, her older brother Dave (Ari Boyland) is very protective of her and keeps her from the independence she seeks.  Poppy meets up with a former school friend, Luke (Seb Hunter) who needs his car repaired to enter the local burnout competition, a relationship that begins to open many doors of independence for Poppy.

Best bit: The burnout competition.  It’ll bring out the revhead in you.

Beaches (1988) DVD

The classic film from 1988 starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.  Sometimes you just need a good cleansing cry and this is the film to do it.  After a chance meeting as girls, polar opposites CC and Hilary strike up a friendship that is kept alive over the years by letter writing.  They meet again as young adults and have a fractious relationship until Hilary learns she has a terminal disease.   If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must see classic.

Best bit: Any time Bette Midler sings.

Sweet CountrySweet Country (2017) Beamafilm

I am a big fan of director Warwick Thornton’s work, so I was thrilled when this one came to Beamafilm.  Starring New Zealand’s own Sam Neill, along with Australian acting legend Bryan Brown, and new talent  Aboriginal actors Hamilton Morris and Natassia Gorey-Furber.  The story of Sam (Morris) and Lizzie (Gorey-Furber), who go on the run after Sam kills a white station owner in self defence, and are hunted by Sargeant Fletcher (Brown) and his team.  Sam Neill plays kindly preacher Fred, who tries to help the couple find justice in an unjust world.

Best bit: Every moment that Hamilton Morris is on screen.  He is absolutely magnetic.

Temple Grandin (2010) DVD

DVD cover of Temple GrandinThis is the biopic of American scientist and animal behaviourist Temple Grandin, who has also become an advocate for autistic people in more recent times.  Growing up in a culture that doesn’t understand her autism, Temple (played by Claire Danes) is determined to forge a path in university as a young scientist.  Bullied by her mostly male peers, teachers and employers, Temple uses her gift of engineering and understanding animal behaviour to prove her worth as a talented scientist.

Best bit: Any of the scenes with Temple finding solace with horses or cows.  If you have a tender spot for animals, you’ll love just how she finds peace in their company.

Sing. 2 (2021) DVD

DVD Cover of Sing 2All the team are back in this sequel to the 2016 film of the same name.  Matthew McConaughey voices Buster Moon, the talent spotting koala determined to put on the best shows possible.  He takes his diverse team of talent to the big smoke to lay on an extravaganza, only to have to promise to get reclusive star Clay Calloway (a lion voiced by Bono) to join the show.  Each of the Sing crew have their own adventures and troubles in the big city and all have to work on their confidence before such a big audience.  Except perhaps Gunter (a pig, voiced by Nick Kroll) who never seems to have that problem.  A perfect movie for the whole family, it’s funny and entertaining while also having some amazing music.

Best bit:  The show-stopper at the end of course!

Venom. Let there be Carnage (2021) DVD

Eddie Brock and his symbiote Venom (both Tom Hardy) are back in this sequel and both seem to be in a downward spiral until they meet serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, who is super creepy in this role) and accidentally infect him with symbiotic DNA as well, which creates the titular villain, Carnage.  If you enjoyed the first film, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one, it’s full of all the same kind of action and humour with a little extra Carnage thrown in.

Best bit: Venom’s relationship with bodega owner Mrs Chen.

My name is Gulpilil : this is my story of my story (2021) DVD

DVD cover of My Name is GulpililAn autobiographical documentary of late Aboriginal talent, David Gulpilil, created soon after his diagnosis with terminal lung cancer.  Right from the opening sequence, you’re treated to some beautiful cinematography and the enthralling story of the phenomenal life of Mr Gulpilil, who passed away in 2021.  Never one to shy away from the difficult topics, Mr Gulpilil covers his life on screen and off, his traditional upbringing in Arnhem Land, his years of addiction and his difficult relationships professionally and personally.

Best bit: That opening sequence as Mr Gulpilil walks with the emu is breathtakingly beautiful.

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.

Existentialism in art and literature

“Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.”

– Jean-Paul Sartre.

Toy Story Aliens GIFvia GIPHY Aliens from Toy Story  (Toy Story, 1995)

Existentialism aims to unravel some of the most profound issues around human existence. Taking as their starting point the confusion, anxiety, and disorientation they feel at a seemingly pointless and absurd world. This viewpoint came into focus originally with European philosophers in the 19th and 20th Century with philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

This philosophical approach has influenced the creation of many works of art from films such as The Seventh Seal, Taxi Driver, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, Groundhog Day, Apocalypse Now, Badlands, Blade Runner and even the Toy Story films.

But the main artistic avenue used to explore and incorporate existential ideas has been fiction.
The existential viewpoint has proven fertile ground for writers.  With its promise as a route to explore the issues relating to the purpose, meaning and the existence of life, or the indeed the lack of meaning behind these concepts.

From classic masterpieces by authors such as Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Franz Kafka, and Hermann Hesse, to slightly more modern writers such as Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jack Kerouac, and a thread of existential writers continues right up to this day with authors such as David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk, Mark Z. Danielewski and Marilynne Robinson.

Below is a very small selection of the existential novels available to borrow from our catalogue.

Death on credit / Céline, Louis-Ferdinand
” In Death on Credit, Ferdinand Bardamu, Celine’s alter ego, is a doctor in Paris, treating the poor who seldom pay him but who take every advantage of his availability. The action is not continuous but goes back in time to earlier memories and often moves into fantasy, the style becomes deliberately rougher and sentences disintegrate to catch the flavour of the teeming world of everyday Parisian tragedies, the struggle to make a living, illness, venereal disease, the sordid stories of families whose destiny is governed by their own stupidity, malice, lust and greed.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The mandarins / Beauvoir, Simone de
“A Harper Perennial Modern Classics reissue of this unflinching examination of post-war French intellectual life, and an amazing chronicle of love, philosophy and politics from one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century.” (Catalogue)

 

 

The trial / Kafka, Franz
“A novel of such ambiguity will inevitably lend itself to a diversity of interpretation, but in The Trial you can at least be sure to find every element of storytelling now defined as Kafkaesque.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Siddhartha : an Indian tale / Hesse, Hermann
“A young Brahmin named Siddhartha searches for ultimate reality after meeting with the Buddha. His quest takes him from a life of decadence to asceticism, from the illusory joys of sensual love with a beautiful courtesan, and of wealth and fame, to the painful struggles with his son and the ultimate wisdom of renunciation. Integrating Eastern and Western spiritual traditions with psychoanalysis and philosophy, written with a deep and moving empathy for humanity, Herman Hesse{u2019}s strangely simple Siddhartha is perhaps the most important and compelling moral allegory the troubled twentieth century ever produced.” (Catalogue)

The Dharma bums / Kerouac, Jack
“Two ebullient young men are engaged in a passionate search for dharma, or truth. Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen way, which takes them climbing into the high Sierras to seek the lesson of solitude, a lesson that has a hard time surviving their forays into the pagan groves of San Francisco’s Bohemia with its marathon wine-drinking bouts, poetry jam sessions, experiments in “yabyum,” and similar nonascetic pastimes.” (Catalogue)

 

Cat’s cradle / Vonnegut, Kurt
“Cat’s Cradle unfolds from the point of view of a narrator, who, in preparing to write a book, wants to know what some famous Americans were up to the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He is led to the grown-up children of an absent-minded professor who was the “father of the atomic bomb.” They are the key to what follows, possessing the only example of their father’s last discovery, a potentially destructive kind of super-ice called “ice-nine.”Cat’s Cradle is a wild, hurtling apocalyptic tale that satirizes, among many other things, the blithe indifference and goofiness of the people who populate the nuclear science community.” (Catalogue)

Housekeeping / Robinson, Marilynne
“The story of Ruth and her sister Lucille, who grew up haphazardly. The family house is in the harsh environment of the Far West town of Fingerbone, USA. Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood touches themes of loss and survival, and the undertow of transience.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Infinite jest : a novel / Wallace, David Foster
“A spoof on our culture featuring a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation house near Boston. The center becomes a hotbed of revolutionary activity by Quebec separatists in revolt against the Organization of North American Nations which now rules the continent.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of leaves / Danielewski, Mark Z
“A blind old man, a young apprentice working in a tattoo shop, and a mad woman haunting an Ohio institute narrate this story of a family that encounters an endlessly shifting series of hallways in their new home, eventually coming face to face with the awful darkness lying at its heart.” (Adapted from Catalogue)