Thursday, 24 July 2014

Healing: Movie Review

Healing: Movie Review

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Don Hany, Xavier Samuel, Mark Leonard Winter
Director: Craig Monahan

It's off to Melbourne Australia for this drama about the power of redemption set in a men's low-security prison.

Hugo Weaving plays Senior Officer Matt Perry, a grizzled and haunted man who's working towards redeeming his prisoners. Into his life and his WonWron low-security jail comes Viktor (Hany), who's spent 18 years in prison and has detached from life.

But when Viktor's given the responsibility of rehabilitating and looking after a group of injured birds, including raptors, owls, falcons and eagles, he begins to find an outlet which awakens him, thanks to an eagle called Yasmine.

However, Viktor faces other challenges too - including caring for Paul, a fellow inmate who comes to the jail at the same time he does - and to keep him away from the prison bullies and the fragile room-mate Shane (Winter), who teeters dangerously on the edge.

Healing is inspired by true events and has the power to move given the story it has to tell.

Yet, it's fatally crippled by a heavy-handed approach that eschews subtlety for sledge-hammering home the point at every available opportunity. The parallels with the men and the birds they take up with are increasingly obvious - from the proud and head-strong Viktor who's paired off with a majestic and selfish eagle to the quiet Paul, who's given an owl that becomes his confidante, every moment is manipulated for maximum effect.

Throw in a one-note prison bad guy who sets out to ruin things for all and the whole feeling of Healing begins to mire itself in self-indulgent mawkish moments which ruin the obviously emotional storyline. Sullen face Viktor is reasonably played by Hany (even if he does look like a perma-tanned Keith Lemon) and Weaving brings a degree of venerability to the wounded Perry, but the sedentary pace and gradual reveals of the sensitively told story are serviced by so many shots of the landscapes, close ups of birds and slow-mo shots of them swooping that the inevitable ending takes too long to arrive and delivers with a real lack of emotional resonance.

A touch more subtlety, a fleshing out of some of the underwritten main characters and an easing off of the overtly heavy handed imagery could have seen Healing really hit an emotional high - instead it's akin to a predictable range of emotional bombs being triggered without any overall effect.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Housebound director tackles the Q&A

Housebound director tackles the Q&A

Director Gerard Johnstone talks about Housebound, the Kiwi horror house comedy which has taken the SXSW fest by storm.
The film gets its New Zealand premiere in Auckland this weekend, having been picked by festival director Bill Gosden to play as part of the main programme - and having been singled out as one of his personal highlights.
Tell us about your film, Housebound
It's a comedy-thriller about a young female reprobate on home detention who has to learn to live with her dithering mother and a supernatural entity.

Where did the idea come from? 
There were a few different sources of inspiration, I had a creepy idea in the back of my mind that hadn't been done before (I'm now aware it's been done 3 times).  I needed to think of something that could be made for $250k, so it was inevitable that it would be called 'Housebound' and I also liked the idea of mashing up a kitchen sink drama with a ghost mystery.

What was the easiest part of putting this together?


What was the hardest part? 

Writing and shooting

What’s the one moment in your film that you’re impressed you got on celluloid and why? 

Any moment with Rima Te Wiata.  I just think she's a national treasure and it's a sad indictment of how our film and TV industry has progressed that actors with her level of talent haven't been a consistent presence on screen.  

What’s the one moment you were devastated you had to leave out and why? 

I made a really cool opening title sequence set to the original Hardy boys / Nancy Drew theme.  I thought it was amazing and perfectly set the tone.  But obviously we would've had difficulties getting the rights to that music and it added 45 seconds to the duration.  And some people probably would think it was a stupid way to open the film, so it wasn't worth fighting for.  

What will it feel like to have it play / premiere at the NZIFF in 2014? 
Annoyingly, it's just the thought that there will be some technical hiccup, like the projector will break, or the DCP file will become corrupted.  That's all I can think about.  If that doesn't happen, I'd imagine it would feel pretty great.  Maybe even a little emotional.

What would you hope audiences would get from your movie? 

I hope they have a fun time and if they do, I hope they spread the word.

What’s the one other film at the NZIFF you’re wanting to see and why? 

Jodorowsky's Dune.  It's incredible that he nearly made Dune and that in the end they went with someone who was only slightly less crazy. 

What’s next for Housebound? It’s had great reviews abroad and looks like it’s got global success in its sights? 

We've been booked for another couple of big fests but really we're just pinning our hopes on a great opening night and a decent local release in September.  

What’s been the best reaction to Housebound as far as you’re concerned? 
It's been an embarrassment of riches as far as the critical reaction goes (so far anyway).  Drew McWeeny from Hitfix said it was like being 'punched in the skull'.  You can happily retire after a review like that. 

What’s next for you? 
Luke Sharpe (who produced Housebound) and I are remaking the 80s hit Terry & the Gunrunners which is due to shoot later this year.   

Finally, because horror Q&As should end on Q13, tell us why NZers should go to see your movie this Saturday...
Because it has absolutely nothing to do with our cultural identity.

Book tickets to Housebound, premiering in NZ on July 26th at the mighty Civic Theatre here 

Jarvis Cocker to hit the NZIFF

Jarvis Cocker to hit the NZIFF


The New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) today announced Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of UK band Pulp, will participate in a live Skype Q & A session at the main evening screenings of Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets in Auckland and Wellington.

The live Q & A with Jarvis in the United Kingdom will be led in person by the film’s New Zealand director Florian Habicht and will follow the film screening.

Pulp:  a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets had its international premiere at SXSW and is currently touring the international film festival circuit. It premiered last month to a hometown sell-out crowd in Sheffield and the event was broadcast live to cinemas across the UK and Ireland.

NZIFF’s Auckland screening and Skype Q & A takes place at the Civic on Thursday 24th July at 8.45pm, followed by the Wellington screening and Skype Q & A on Tuesday 29th July at 9.15pm.

Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets
Kiwi director Florian Habicht (Love Story) collaborates with Jarvis Cocker as UK pop rockers Pulp head in to their triumphant 2012 concert, giving a career best performance documented exclusively by the film. Weaving together the band’s personal offerings, Habicht also accosts down-to-earth Sheffielders with questions about fame, love, mortality and the meaning of Jarvis. Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets is a music film like no other – by turns funny, moving and life-affirming. Visit
Auckland NZIFF tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster, and in Wellington NZIFF tickets are available directly from NZIFF is currently running in Auckland (17 July – 3 August), followed by Wellington (25 July – 10 August), then Christchurch and Nelson (6 – 24 August) and Dunedin (31 July – 17 August) before continuing to travel around New Zealand, screening in Timaru, Gore, Hawke’s Bay, Hamilton, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Masterton, and New Plymouth.

NZIFF Review - 20,000 Days on Earth

NZIFF Review - 20,000 Days on Earth

I've never really been a Nick Cave fan.

Aside from an appearance in The X Files with Red Right Hand and Where the Wild Roses Grow, he has always evaded my radar.

But thanks to the doco / concert piece / constructed snapshot, 20,000 Days on Earth, that's suddenly all changed. Set on Cave's 20,000 Day on Earth, this piece is part psychology, part staged and all impressive. Taking in Cave as he goes about his routine in Brighton in England, this collaboration between Cave and British film-makers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard manages to capture the essence of what has always appeared to be the aloof vaguely demonic figure of Cave himself during the recording of 2013 album Push The Sky Away.

But it does more than strip away the veneer of an artist - it reveals the man within. Which is exactly what you'd expect of a doco piece, except it delivers more than that, pulling together a unique look at the creative process and some insight into the man himself. Self-effacing and occasionally revealing, Cave is willing to open up the world to his enigmatic presence, as he cuts a swathe through the Brighton landscape like an eloquent Grim Reaper.

Visiting his own archives and taking in some time with a shrink, Cave peels back a few of his own layers, via photographs and concert performances with the Bad Seeds - it's a fascinating insight into a figure who's worshipped and revered by many, but it's to be remembered he only really teases out a few biographical details.

Appearances from Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue in Cave's car as he drives around the seafront of Brighton make it seem like they're fleeting memories, ghosts into his past and splinters of his own psyche as they talk the creative process and their approach to it.

Forsyth and Pollard have crafted something uniquely electrifying; blessed beautifully with rich cinematography that captures the essence of a creating music, an artist in motion and a band delivering a series of utterly riveting performances, sparsely scattered throughout.

As the final performance reaches a crescendo, the duo cut back and forth into various performances of the enigmatic Cave and his band playing the same song, and you just can't tear your eyes away from the screen as the acoustic epiphany plays out. No doubt this constructed piece of cinema took a lot of time to pull together; however, it succeeds as it feels natural, thrilling and original - a fitting tribute and peek into the tantalisingly creative (and occasionally pompous) genius that is Cave.

Ultimately, 20,000 Days on Earth will win over new fans to his cause, just in time for his visit to these shores as well as satiating the long time followers - but thanks to Forysth and Pollard's directorial touches, it also represents a redefining of the handling of a subject within a musical movie and provides an essential slice of New Zealand International Film Festival viewing.

NZIFF Review - 52 Tuesdays and Life After Beth

NZIFF Review - 52 Tuesdays and Life After Beth

A central conceit of shooting over every Tuesday for a year forms the spine of Aussie director Sophie Hyde's drama 52 Tuesdays.

Set in Adelaide it follows the life of teen Beth (Tilda Cobham-Hervey in an alarmingly assured performance) as she comes to terms with her mother's decision to transition genders. Dispatched to live with her father, Tuesdays becomes the only day which Billie spends with her mother - for better or for worse.

As her mother transitions from Jane to James (in a sensitively and nuanced turn by Del Herbert-Jane), Billie traverses her own sexual awakening as she begins to hang out with a pair of school friends, Josh and Jas. Filming their liaisons as the same time as her mother films her own journey, the two veer dangerously close to each other and simultaneously become distanced.

Hyde's framing device of shooting over a year and only for one day feels terrifically natural; some Tuesdays last seconds, a blur of mediocrity and mundanity that showcase the ups and downs of life; others, for dramatic purposes, last longer. Ultimately, the idea proves fertile ground for a drama that's thoughtful, skillfully and yet carefully handled and one which feels naturalistic and deftly coming of age than anything which has gone before.

While the final set of Tuesdays perhaps inevitably rise to form a dramatic crescendo that feels a little out of leftfield, the majority of 52 Tuesdays gives plenty of food for thought about identity and how grow closer yet further apart to our siblings as life goes on. With two terrific lead performances (I wouldn't be surprised if Cobham-Hervey's star is about to go into serious overdrive) 52 Tuesdays is a dramatic revelation wrapped within a genuinely natural premise.

Life After Beth posits the question - what would you do if your dead girlfriend were to come back to life for no rhyme or reason?

It's a tricky task facing Dane DeHaan's Zach, who finds out after farewelling Beth (Parks and Rec star Aubrey Plaza) that she's somehow crawled out of her grave and headed back home. Initially elated at the second chance he's been given, Zach neurotically worries that she's returned as a zombie and nervously spends a lot of the film asking her if she won't eat him.

But as time passes and despite her parents' desire to keep her home, Zach's world begins to fall apart as the dead start coming back - and it's all connected to Beth... as well as Zach's broken promise.

Offbeat and comedically quirky, Life After Beth riffs on the old guy gets girl/ guy loses girl/ guy gets girl back and throws in a series of emotionally rich moments and recongisable conundrums. Rejecting some of Beth's ideas in life (such as her obsession with hiking which ultimately proved her demise), Zach decides to embrace these as a second chance comes around - however, his instincts prove right as he starts to fear Beth's true nature is lurking. The romantic elements are mashed deeply into this piece, which weirdly doesn't feel like a zombie movie at all and is more a commentary on dealing with grief, keeping promises and how the world can end when you're young and in a relationship.

A terrific cast - from John C Reilly as Beth's dad, Molly Shannon as Beth's mom, Paul Reiser as Zach's dad and a livewire Matthew Gray Gubler from Criminal Minds as a real prick of a brother to Zach and jumpy security guard - prove the perfect icing on this cake.

But it's DeHaan and Plaza's film through and through. An edgy yet relatable DeHaan manages to combine melancholy catatonia with grief to maximum effect; and Plaza gives her Beth the zombie tropes of shuffling and growling as the rot sets in but not before imbuing her character with the naive all American sweetness that shows how this duo could have been in love.

A final sequence masterfully mixes the chaotic with the considerate, fusing together such aching loss before sending one of them on their merry and bloody way - never forgetting the laughs are needed, Life After Beth delivers something a little different for the genre, making it feel fresher than the rotting cadavers other zombie flicks have delivered down through the years.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Inbetweeners 2 Cast heading to Auckland

Inbetweeners 2 Cast heading to Auckland

The stars of this year’s most anticipated comedy, The Inbetweeners 2 will head to New Zealand next month as part of the Australasian promotional tour.

The cast along with co-creator/co-director Iain Morris will make their way to our shores to premiere the film at a special fan event in Auckland on August 17, and Kiwi fans can be part of this exciting event by purchasing tickets now through the EVENT Cinemas website at

Ticket holders will be among the first in New Zealand to see the film at EVENT Cinemas Broadway and have the chance to participate in a special Q&A session with the cast.

The follow-up to the United Kingdom’s most successful comedy of all time sees our favourite foursome reunite, this time in Australia.  The film was shot on the Gold Coast, at Byron Bay, Sydney and the remote South Australian town of Maree.

The Inbetweeners creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley are first time directors on the sequel having once again written the script.

Produced by Bwark Productions, a Zodiak Media company, who have co-financed with Channel 4/Film 4, Entertainment Film Distributors will distribute the film in the UK. Having started life on E4, the multi award-winning series went on to enjoy massive success with its debut film, The Inbetweeners Movie, which spent four weeks at the top of the UK box office charts in 2011 and grossed over $1m in New Zealand.

THE INBETWEENERS 2 releases in New Zealand August 28
Tickets are available for purchase from

NZIFF Review - Enemy and The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

NZIFF Review - Enemy and The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Two completely polar opposites at the New Zealand International Film Festival both hit different notes.

In Denis Villeneuve's Enemy, the Incendies director takes Jake Gyllenhaal and doubles him up. One Gyllenhaal is Adam Bell, a college lecturer whose world is a pattern that repeats itself as he drifts from one lecture to the next, and spends time with his girlfriend (Melanie Laurent). One day, he's recommended a movie by a colleague and appearing to see himself in the film, his world completely changes as he tries to track down the actor (played by a second Gyllenhaal, who subtly shifts traits). Initially reticent to get involved, Bell becomes obsessed in tracing this doppelganger...

Enemy is adapted from The Double by Jose Saramago and is as suspenseful a watch as it is baffling. Opening at an erotic dance club with a woman squashing a spider and ending with a real "What the?" moment, it's devoid of definitive answers as it spins its tantalising web.

Villeneuve's scattered clues throughout this Lynchian style piece and it clearly would benefit from a second screening as you try to take in all of what appears to be going on under the surface. What part do the spiders play? Why is there an exact double with a version of a similar girlfriend attached to each? Why is there a shot of a spider with ginormous legs stalking over the cityscape that Adam lives in? Is any of it real or is the duality happening within his own mind a la Tyler Durden? So many questions, so much endless discussion - and yet, Enemy is as thrilling a watch as it is indecipherable.

Beginning with a quote that "Chaos is order yet undeciphered" the hook pulls you in as the monotony of life, repetition of routine and the menace of the score begin to bite and inveigle their way into you, burrowing deep inside your subconscious. Themes of escape, conformity, oppression and philandering are all buried within and given life by the subtlest of performances.

Unsettling and disturbing, with plenty of food for thought, Enemy is a fascinating and compelling watch as the slow pans and swoops through a bleak yellow landscape seal you in their web. See it at least twice to work out what's what in this creepy mind game that's one hell of a trip.

Elsewhere, it's a more gentle approach to life in the doco about Studio Ghibli, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

Following the maestro of the animated world of Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki as he works on The Wind Rises, which would be his final film, is a joy to anyone who's ever revelled in any of the studio's output.

Director Sunada Mami manages to ingratiate herself within the world of Ghibli, initially focussing on the great Miyazaki and proffering insight into his unique routine, before widening the net slightly to those who work with him and for him.

Clothed in a white pinny and with a cigarette dangling from his mouth as well as an artistic implement in his hand at any one time, Miyazaki makes for a good doco subject and an interesting one to spend time with - if you're familiar with the work. After all, a good doco talks to its fans, a great doco talks to all.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness will appeal to those who know Ghibli, but I'm not sure the broader appeal can be so well satiated. That's not to say that the beautifully shot and nicely crafted piece doesn't work - it could do with losing a half hour of its run time as it appears to run out of steam - but at times, it feels like a surface piece more suited to promoting the idea of Miyazaki rather than exploring the world outside of his Ghibli studio. A real lack of anything of his personal life except for one shot of his presumed wife is a disappointment, but admittedly the focus is purely centred on the work at the studio, the 10 hour daily routine and the interactions in between the calisthenics and storyboarding. As an insight into a genius and their methods of working, it's spot on; but the best moment of Mami's piece comes when she reveals how Miyazaki responds to a letter sent to him about the actions of his father earlier on in life. It's this moment that shows why the man is so revered and why The Wind Rises was such an intensely personal note to end on - it's just a shame there weren't more of those scattered throughout this immensely charming piece that will satisfy fans but leave others slightly wanting.