Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople: a New Zealand adventure comedy.  This delightful film is set in rural New Zealand.  The film opens with a social worker and a police officer delivering 13 year old Ricky Bates to foster parents living in the countryside.  Paula (Rachel House), the social worker, describes Ricky as a bad kid who’s being given one last chance.  Bella (Rima Te Wiata), the foster mom, greets Ricky with a hug and good humor.  While introductions are being made, Bella’s husband, Hec (Sam Neil), is returning from a hunt.  It is very clear that being a foster parent is solely Bella’s idea.  During the first night at the cabin, Ricky runs away but doesn’t get far.  When he awakes in the bush, Bella and her dog are there.  Bella and Hec live off the land, and Ricky, played marvelously by Julian Dennison, becomes part of the family.  It turns out that Ricky is just a kid who never spent any time with an adult who actually cared about him.  Then Bella dies.  At this point, the movie becomes far more than just a schmaltzy tale about a kid needing love.  Hec and Ricky leave the cabin and go into the bush.  The rest of this 101 minute film is about their experiences and the social worker’s pursuit of them.  The only minus to this film is that the social worker never grows beyond a one-dimensional character.  The cinematography by Lachlan Milne is beautiful.  What makes this film a must see is the interplay between Hec and Ricky; their chemistry is remarkable.  Taika Waititi’s screenplay and direction maintains a lightness and cheer to what could otherwise be a very common tale.  Like chapters in a book, each segment of this film has its own title.  The movie is based upon Wild Pork and Watercress, a novel by the late New Zealand writer, Barry Crump.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Movie: Our Kind of Traitor

Our Kind of Traitor:  a John leCarre story.   This time the focus is on the Russian mob.   A British college professor, Perry (Ewan McGregor), and his British barrister girlfriend, Gail (Naomie Harris), are vacationing in Marrakech.  During dinner, Gail receives a business call and leaves the table to handle the matter.  A diner at a neighboring table asks Perry to join him and his male friends.  Perry accepts the offer.  We learn that the diner, Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), is a Russian gangster who is in charge of the Mob’s entire European money laundering operation.  We also learn that Dima fears for his life and the life of his family.  Unbeknownst to Perry, he is being recruited into a scheme whereby Dima and his family hope to relocate to England in exchange for Dima’s disclosure of details about certain British politicians who have been bought by the Mob.  During the course of this 107-minute film, Perry and Gail become intertwined with Dima, his family and British M6.   The M6 contact, played by Damian Lewis, is not a likable character.  It is Skarsgard’s performance that drives the film.  Susanna White is the director.  Although there are some gaps in the screenplay, the excellent acting nicely compensates.   This very adult film is entertaining and worth seeing.  It is within the expectation of what one hopes a John leCarre story will deliver.  If you are not a leCarre fan, this movie is not for you.  There are a few short, violent scenes.  There are also some beautiful  shots of the French Alps.  I enjoyed this movie.