Latest NZ Film Festival reviews: Week two

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Wondering what to see at the International Film Festival? Here's our updated page of reviews from week two of the Auckland leg of the nationwide event.
Read our reviews of films from this year's NZIFF.
Read our reviews of films from this year's NZIFF.

Read our selection of reviews from week one here.

Thursday, July 31: It Follows



A scene from It Follows.

The possibilities of American indie horror seem greater than ever thanks to this remarkably effective chiller that has burrowed deep into my brain. Maika Monroe stars as Jay, a young college student dating a nice young man named Hugh. After consumating their relationship one evening, Hugh ties Jay to a chair and explains that he has passed something onto her, and it isn't an STD. Jay is naturally traumatised, but her nightmare truly begins when she realises a mysterious force is following her, taking the form of both creepy-looking strangers AND her nearest and dearest.

No matter where she is, someone inevitably starts walking towards her with ominous intentions - it's a visual cue the film keeps returning to, and it simply gets creepier and creepier every time we see it.

The indefinable nature of Jay's pursuer is exploited in multiple ways - her sense of sheer terror is superlatively felt, and I found myself constantly scanning the edges of the frame for nasties. The film sustains a degree of naturalism that many horror films attempt, but few achieve - elements of The Ring and Final Destination are both evoked, but are all the more effective for coming under a cloak of hard-earned verisimilitude. It Follows had me completely in its grasp for its entire running time - it's the scariest movie I've seen in years, and I can't wait to see it again.
- Dominic Corry

Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Running time: 100min
Rating: R16

For more showings of It Follows click here.

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Wednesday, July 30: Point and Shoot



A scene from Point and Shoot.

Matthew VanDyke was, by his own admission, a bit of a nobody. So he set out to become somebody. That's the basis for Point and Shoot, a documentary compiled of VanDyke's own home footage as he sets out on a motorcycle trip across the Middle East. He's so timid he can barely leave his hotel room in Morocco, but, several years later, he's seen putting down his camera and picking up a rifle to become a rebel soldier in the Libyan civil war. It's there that Point and Shoot comes into its own, with terrifying footage of battles with Gaddafi's soldiers that will leave you on the edge of your seat. But Point and Shoot loses marks because of its main man: VanDyke remains a docile and unengaging presence throughout, despite the enormous transformation he makes during the film.
- Chris Schulz

Watch the trailer for Point and Shoot below:

Director: Marshall Curry
Running time: 82min
Rating: Exempt

For more showings of Point and Shoot click here.

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Wednesday, July 30: Frank



Michael Fassbender stars in Frank.

Difficult to describe in the best possible way, Frank demands a strict interpretation of the word 'unique'. The film was inspired by a giant-headed character named Frank Sidebottom who appeared on British TV in the '80s and '90s - but this is not 'The Frank Sidebottom Story' - far from it. It follows a young wannabe Irish musician played by Domnhall Gleeson (About Time; Star Wars Episode VII) who is recruited into an American touring band headed by the enigmatic 'Frank', who sports a giant papier maché head, and never takes it off. He is played with considerable physical grace by Michael Fassbender. As Gleeson comes to terms with his lack of talent, he is affected by the bizarre Frank, whose bizarreness is never quite fully acknowledged by the people around him, including Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight) and Scoot McNairy (Argo). As an ode to outsider artists who defy explanation, Frank is a total winner. Audience members expecting a conventional narrative should look elsewhere.
- Dominic Corry

Watch the trailer for Frank below:

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Running time: 95min
Rating: R13

For more showings of Frank click here.

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Tuesday, July 29: Maps to the Stars



Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars.

Although at times it strongly evokes David Lynch's Mulholland Drive; Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (Anderson is even mentioned), David Cronenberg's latest film ultimately makes all three of those (pretty dark) classics look like cherry-cake fantasies. If any notions of shock-for-shock's-sake creep through, I was too busy being genuinely shocked to notice them. Julianne Moore has never shied away from a raw performance, and she finds new depths to plumb here, superseding any accusations of her ageing, desperate actress character being a cliché. John Cusack has never seemed grimier as a self-help guru/massage therapist - I don't know if I'll ever be able to enjoy Better Off Dead again! Mia Wasikowska casually evokes her work in Stoker, but the film entirely belongs to Evan Bird, whose unnerving portrayal of an entitled Bieber-esque teenage star serves as a microcosm for the entire movie - he's absoutely horrific, but you can't look away. Come for David Cronenberg, stay for Benjie Weiss.
- Dominic Corry

Watch the trailer for Maps to the Stars below:

Cast: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack
Director: David Cronenberg
Running time: 111min
Rating: R18

For more showings of Maps to the Stars click here.

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Sunday, July 27: The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet



A scene from The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.

With Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) in the directors seat, you know this family drama-cum-road trip-cum-childhood fantasy is going to be full of whimsy and curiosities.

Tackling an American story, Jeunet makes the rolling mountains of a Montana ranch, and an industrial cross-country railroad wonderfully colourful, and bright with potential in a child's imagination.

That 10 year old child is T.S. Spivet, a scientific genius who feels under-appreciated by his family in the wake of his twin brother's accidental death.

He invents a perpetual motion machine, and sends his blueprints off to the Smithsonian Institution, who promptly award him a major prize, without realising he's only 10.

They invite him to Chicago to make a speech, and T.S. decides to run away from home/jump on a train and make the journey as a stow away without telling his family (Helena Bonham Carter is lovely as his distracted entomologist mother, and Callum Keith Rennie is perfect as his Marlboro Man father).

Along the journey he meets all manner of excellent characters - Jeunet's films are always populated in such a delightful oddball way - and there's a smattering of deftly handled fable-like encounters that employ zany logic.

The use of 3D effects are judicious and tasteful, the art direction is superb, as is the cinematography.

Where this film doesn't reach the heights of Amelie, is that balance of the child-like distractions with the overall story arc.

Kyle Caylett playing T.S has to carry an awful lot of the middle section of the film on his own, and he does a manful job, but the writing does not paint him quite as compellingly as it might. There are certain narrative devices which simply seem too ill-fitting, or manipulative (the chat show at the end for example), and the tone is confused in places (the clash of quirkiness with the tugging of heart-strings doesn't always come off).

I haven't read the book on which it's based, and perhaps that would lend it greater joy, but while this is an imaginative amusement, it's not the classic that we know Jeunet is capable of.
- Lydia Jenkin

Watch the trailer for The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet below:

Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Callum Keith Rennie
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Running time: 105min
Rating: M

For more showings of The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet click here.

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Sunday, July 27: Boyhood



Ellar Coltrane as Mason in Boyhood.

Spanning 12 of the "awkward years" of youth, Boyhood gives glimpses into the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a quiet boy finding his way through adolescence.

Richard Linklater's ambitious film captures the wonder of life, in all its trials and joys. Like life, one year blurres into the next, with the only clues between the ages being hair cuts, growth spurts and pop culture references from the time. It was fascinating to feel like I was growing up with Mason as I watched - feeling nostalgia for my own childhood and discovering how universal Mason's story really is for a lot of teens/pre-teens, especially now in the age of the internet.

Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are brilliant as Mason's dysfunctional parents. Their own aging - though more subtle - not only showed the actors dedication to the project, but it was a strangely pleasant reminder that we never stop changing, not just physically, but in our life situations as well.

Boyhood is beautiful, funny, moving and real - an honest look at life, family, love, friendships and the anticipation and fear of what the future may hold.
- Rachel Bache

Watch the trailer for Boyhood below:

Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater
Director: Richard Linklater
Running time: 164min
Rating: TBC

For more showings of Boyhood click here.

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Saturday, July 26: Housebound



A scene from Housebound.

Housebound is a very Kiwi kind of horror movie, with a staunch heroine who doesn't take any crap, some useless authorities, a spooky old house out in the rural heartland and Rima Te Wiata as a lovely mum.

One of the Festivals' true crowd-pleasers, it has a strong mix of laughs amongst the frights and has a couple of sharp plot twists that make it more than the simple ghost story it initially appears to be.

The use of a blaring soundtrack sting every time something even remotely surprising happens does get a bit much, and the film does take a little while to really get going, but it has a pleasantly bonkers and surprisingly gory final act, some strong performances - especially from lead actress Morgana O'Reilly - and by the end, it had the NZFF crowd enthusiastically cheering the climactic bloodshed. Recommended.
- Robert Smith

Watch the trailer for Housebound below:

Cast: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Running time: 107min
Rating: R13

For more showings of Housebound click here.

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Read more: NZ Film Festival reviews: Week one

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