Posts Tagged ‘Sam Neill’


Julian Dennison


101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi had a classic cult hit with 2014’s “Things We Do in the Shadows,” a hilarious faux documentary about a pack of inept bickering vampires living in a rickety urban home. With its talking-head technique and absurdist attitude it was a close cousin to the comedies of Christopher Guest (“Best in Show,” “Waiting for Huffman”).

For his followup, “The Hunter for the Wilderpeople,” Waititi is channelling Wes Anderson, especially Anderson’s sublime “Moonrise Kingdom.”  If you’re going to pattern yourself on a recent film, that’s a pretty good one to emulate.

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a rotund, sullen 13-year-old juvenile delinquent. He’s been a ward of the state most of his life and now he’s out of options. Having run away from countless foster homes, he’ll be on his way to a prison if his latest placement doesn’t work out.

As the film begins he’s being deposited on the farm of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector (Sam Neill), a married couple living in glorious isolation deep in a fantastic landscape of jagged mountains, jungle and winding streams. Paula (Rachel House), the brusque social services lady who delivers him, doubts that Ricky can be turned around…but at least this far from civilization there’s a limit to how much harm he can do or how far he can go.

Bella, a talkative woman desperate for motherhood (and quite capable of killing a wild boar with a knife), does her best to make a home for this resentful wild child. Her husband Hector, a bearded survivalist type, is unimpressed by this surly interloper with a gangsta/rapper wardrobe.

Wapiti’s screenplay s boils down to an extensive chase. After an initial adjustment period, Ricky softens and starts to get comfortable with life in the sticks. Hector  still isn’t crazy about this wise-ass city kid, but they become partners in crime and soon are hiding in the woods and living off the land while an ever-growing army of cops, park rangers, bounty hunters and others try to bring them in.

Like an Anderson movie, “Wilderpeople” features titled chapters (“A Real Bad Egg,” “Another Door,” “Broken Foot Camp”) and daring tonal shifts, going from physical comedy to heartstring-tugging emotion, social satire to a celebration of innocence to a tactile emersion in a gorgeous natural world.


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“God Went Surfing with the Devil”

The surfing documentary has been a cinema staple ever since Bruce Brown’s “Endless Summer” back in 1966, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like “God Went Surfing with the Devil,” professional skateboarder Alexander Klein’s heady blend of Middle Eastern politics and wave-catching abandon.

Klein’s doc follows activists with Surfing4Peace who are attempting to do their small part for world peace by shepherding a shipment of surfboards into Gaza. They envision Arab enthusiasts joining their Jewish counterparts in riding the waves of Gaza’s sandy beaches.

Sounds like an easy enough task, (more…)

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