Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

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Picture the striking landscape of New Zealand, a chubby juvenile delinquent and a scruffy old man. This is Hunt for the Wilderpeople. New Zealand writer and director Taiki Waititi memorably depicts quirky black humour with pathos around almost every corner. On the surface it’s an odd comedy about a fat little kid and the middle-aged grump, but deep down it’s a heart-warming film about two world-weary people in need of a little saving.

The rising auteur’s third film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, wittily examines 12-year-old ‘delinquent’ Ricky Baker. (Delinquent can be in inverted commas, because his horrible crimes include spitting off a bridge.) Dressed in his finest hip-hop street gear, Ricky is escorted by a wrathful social worker to a remote homestead on a North Island farm, who jokes to Ricky’s new parents, Bella and Hec, that there are “No returns”. The daffy comforting warmth of his new home is (spoiler alert) shattered by Bella’s sudden death, prompting a hilarious cameo that sets the groove for the adventures of Ricky and Hec, strangely compelling them further and further into a bizarre rampage manhunt.

There are prevalent echoes of Wes Anderson’s 2012 comedy Moonrise Kingdom, with distinct witty instincts blended into its alluring coming-of-age tale. Waititi alternates moments of action, including ferocious wild pig action, with countless segments of humour and touching moments of drama. The stunning backdrop of New Zealand’s pristine countryside derives a loveable wackiness to the film – complete with amateurish songs and picturesque production design. The characters are also exceptionally well paired, Ricky’s pottymouth and childish unpredictability offsetting the grizzled, mostly sensible Hec, played by Sam Neill. In adapting Barry Crump’s book, Waititi succeeds with a variety of offbeat elements, pairing outstanding set design with a soundtrack your ears cannot miss.

But the most wonderful part of Hunt for the Wilderpeople is it’s emphasise on the life of misfits and whacko’s disposed from society. It drives home this enormous idea that humans are altogether good … if you can give them a chance. And trust me, you can’t help but fall in love with Ricky … and Hec for that matter too.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an enjoyable, heart-warming, modest little story thoughtfully illustrated by an artist drawn to male dynamics. The laughter in the theatre drowned out the many many funny parts, but the most prevailing entity of the film was its power to draw the audience to the story and attach them to the characters. This wonderful film sets to prove that although some people are a little whacky, they can surprisingly turn out to be oh-so-loveable human beings.

★★★★☆

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The Immigrant (2013)

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The Immigrant isn’t just set in the past, but feels like it’s been rediscovered from another time. The latest film from award-winning director James Gray ignites outdated modes of film making and highlights the perfect details behind a luckless Polish woman’s difficulty in attaining the American dream. The intelligence, maturity and honesty of this work is outstanding and a little bewildering to say the least.

Upon arrival at Ellis Island, Ewa is immediately separated from her beloved sister Magda, ignored by her uncle and threatened with deportation back to Poland. All seems hopeless for Ewa until Bruno comes along with the promise of boarding and work at his theatre, which quickly proves as nothing more than a high-class brothel. However kindness arrives in the form of a charming travelling magician who falls for Ewa, meanwhile causing Bruno to become immensely jealous.

The Immigrant has a melodramatic edge to it, but there remains something too fragile and tense about the actress in the role. The film delivers a performance that’s quite integral and charming, but also surprisingly forceful. You can never predict the behaviour and emotions of characters intertwined in the thick plot. The immigrant is almost a fatuous love story in a world haunted by fear. Bruno and Orlando are grown men with weapons, but their devotion to Ewa doesn’t make their actions feel any less immature. For such a gorgeous, thoughtful film, The Immigrant is more of an intellectual experience than an emotional one – mainly as a result of Ewa’s commiserating but never quite heartbreaking problems.

The Immigrant is a simple love story in an undoubtedly terrifying adult world of hate, fear and abandonment. The film unfolds at its own pace, building slowly, perhaps even tediously towards its emotionally relieving conclusion.  Such an incredible movie – and so cold too.

★★★★☆

The Book Thief – Courage Beyond Words (2013)

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The Book Thief is a very successful novel written by Markus Zusak that captured the hearts of over eight million readers worldwide. Director Brain Percival has undeniably captured the same courage, irony, horror and humanity of the original pages in this stunning film adaptation. The Book Thief is an impactful historical drama filled with impressive performances, comedic relief and tear-jerking scenes that will have you fumbling for a tissue.

The Book Thief is set in War stricken Germany between 1939 and 1943 and is narrated by Death, who illustrates with perplexity the seemingly strange way humans conduct themselves. Death tells the story of nine-year old Liesel Meminger, who he introduces when her younger brother dies on a train to the fictional town of Molching, Germany. A kind and affectionate working-class painter, Hans, and his strict but caring wife Rosa adopt Liesel into their childless home. Hans instantly commits to teaching his grief-stricken daughter to read and write after an incident at school labeling the girl as illiterate. With all the constant horror surrounding her, the bright girl manages to escape in words and language, all the while learning to read, write and smuggle books.

Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are well cast as Rosa and Hans Hubermann. Geoffrey Rush brings his usual command of humor and dramatic authority, making him one of the most sympathetic characters. He constantly radiates kindness, consideration and encouragement, especially towards Liesel. Emily Watson captures the dark and relentless character of Rosa with stability and domination, making her a personality hard to fall in love with. Rosa is sharp-tongued, rigid and impatient to all those around her, a clear reflection of the original novel character. Ultimately the undeniable horror of losing her home and her loved ones exposes Rosa’s inner warmth and fondness for her infuriating husband and adopted daughter.

The film delivers quality acting, mesmerizing settings as well as humor weaved carefully throughout the heartbreaking events. Overall, The Book Thief is a rewarding and emotional film with heart, celebration of language and a reminder that in times of utter madness there is always a silver lining.

Gravity – Don’t Let Go (2013)

Just in from Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuaron comes this outstanding Science fiction thriller. With no stronghold of fantasy, the film is simple and engaging throughout. Gravity is outstanding from a cinematography perspective complete with raw acting and perfect tone. But at the same time the story line is fairly slow, lacking pace and often sub-plots. The film is attractive yet alarming, elaborate yet gigantic and specific yet astronomically engaging. It’s directly a survival story set in outer space with no glamour, aliens or automated robots, just pure humanity.

Gravity opens with a speck in the darkness that grows into an exceptionally vivid shot that seemingly lasts forever. The Earth’s spectrum is captured from over 500 km in outer space where there are a number of trained astronauts working tirelessly in a space station. The focus shifts primarily to a skillful medical engineer by the name of Dr. Ryan Stone who is busy fixing an exterior spacecraft malfunction. A veteran astronaut on his final mission accompanies her out on the spaceship, clowning around and cracking jokes. All of a sudden the pair are informed of debris traveling from a nearby space station propelling towards them. The rest of the film is their detailed struggle for survival.

Gravity only features two living and breathing actors, Just in from Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuaron comes this outstanding Science fiction thriller. With no stronghold of fantasy, the film is simple and engaging throughout. Gravity is outstanding from a cinematography perspective complete with raw acting and perfect tone. But at the same time the story line is fairly slow, lacking pace and often sub-plots. The film is attractive yet alarming, elaborate yet gigantic and specific yet astronomically engaging. It’s directly a survival story set in outer space with no glamour, aliens or automated robots, just pure humanity.

Top 5 films starring Jim Carrey

It’s official that ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ is filming for release in 2014 so I thought it would be a good idea to roll back in his film history to discover his top five! I have to add that choosing from Jim Carrey’s best flicks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do!

5) Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)

Dick and Jane are living a peaceful life until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job after receiving an important promotion that caused his wife to leave her job. There is no money and the house is in foreclosure

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This hilarious family flick is full of non stop laughter moments and heart warming lines. Jim Carrey is outstanding as the wannabe awesome father and husband and his behavior on screen is … unique.

Jane Harper: We might be in a little bit of a pickle, dick.

4) The Mask (1994)

A simple Bank Clerk with a totally normal life is transformed into a maniac super-hero with limited self control when he wears a mysterious green mask.

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A hilarious film with an overflow of memorable scenes that will go down in film history. Jim Carrey pulls this role off with such intensity, insanity and stupidity. There is no one else capable of putting on such an incredible performance quite like Carrey.

Mask: Hold on, Sugar! Daddy’s got a sweet tooth tonight!

 3) Liar Liar (1997)

A lawyer with a steady career and a slowly disappearing family can’t lie for exactly 24 hours due to a small birthday wish at his son’s birthday party. He’s unprepared, unreliable and undesirable, but he’s desperate to set things straight and to win back his family while he’s at it.

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There are so many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the film and its easily a movie I can watch anytime, any day. Jim Carrey is so bubbly and expressive, especially when the wish is granted and he can’t control himself. This film is definitely on my favorites list!

Fletcher: Here goes: I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at the intersection. I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and *speeding*!

Cop: Is that all?

Fletcher: No … I have unpaid parking tickets.

 

 2) Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

A goofy detective who specializes in the treatment and care of animals goes in the search of a mascot dolphin who mysteriously disappears right before the teams big play-off at the Super Bowl. Ace must pile the clues together to figure out the culprit, and prove himself to the Police Department.

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Jim Carrey puts on quite an extraordinary performance as Ace Ventura, the funny detective dedicated to the protection of animals. His love and respect for animals brings many puns to the film and constantly keeps the audience guessing.

Ace Ventura: If I’m not back in five minutes … just wait longer.

1) Dumb and Dumber (1994)

The long, cross-country adventures of two good hearted yet incredibly stupid best friends. They catch themselves in situations that only they themselves can weaver out of.

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I’ve seen this movie a good thousand times. Everything about this movie is so hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny and outrageous! It’s everything you love about comedy mashed together. Jim Carrey alongside Jeff Daniels are a perfect pair that steal the spotlight and bring this movie it’s fantastic history. Watch out for the sequel ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ where the magical pair will reunite.

Harry: Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this … and totally redeem yourself!

JIM CARREY! THANK YOU FOR SO MANY LAUGHS!

JC