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March 3, 2017 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Film Reviews

Welcome to another year of film. We, Finn and Mathew, are the curators and referees of this section this year. As the year progresses we hope to cover a wide range of topics, regions, subgenres, events, and as always are hugely keen for contributions from you. To be honest, we were planning on doing some Oscar coverage, but the awards season was pretty much business as usual this year (Best Picture fuck-up aside).

While we’re on that topic, if you’re stuck on what to watch AT THIS VERY MINUTE literally any of the films nominated are worth your time, and most of them are still in theatres, to be found in Aro Video, or (more likely) your friendly neighbourhood Pirate Bay. Kubo & The Two Strings in particular needs more love, and Sing Street was criminally overlooked by the Academy. Go forth, get amongst.

We’ll be putting out reviews this year for films both mainstream and obscure, English language and otherwise, new and old, classic and cult, and hope to bring to your attention as many quality films as possible, while also vigorously waving red flags when a true shitstorm hits the theatres — looking at you Transformers 5.

With that, enjoy these three reviews, and hit us up with any and all content. Peace and love, ya’ll.


Pork Pie (2016)

Director — Matt Murphy

When I watch a film, I often take it as a bad sign when I’m left wondering “who is this being made for?” Unfortunately, this was my primary concern when watching Pork Pie. Well, that and “how much more could they miss the mark by?”

Pork Pie is the retelling of NZ classic Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), with three misfits cavorting the length of the country in a never-ending parade of hijinks and mischief, and that mischief is where the majority of Pork Pie’s appeal lies. Despite a very small budget, the action actually comes off with flair and ingenuity. Sadly it is in the calm stretches, where the film falls to the central characters, that things start to splutter. Dean O’Gorman pulls a charismatic turn, and probably has the best batting average in turns of comedy throughout the film. What often drags is his front seat companion played by James Rolleston, who is bland and unconvincing in almost all aspects of his performance. And don’t get me started on the nose-pierced, liberal, veganism-advocate riding backseat — let’s just say I was left deeply unsure where the film’s sense of self-awareness lay after the crew’s voyage merges into a pseudo-animal rights campaign.

But the underlying flaw that I could never quite get over is the film’s reliance on a dubious comparison with last year’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Where that film had its moments of referential and NZ pop culture references, they were often brief, with deeper themes and story threads flowing underneath. Sadly, Pork Pie did not have the foresight to include the latter, instead relying on beefy tourism stock footage and at least three ham-fisted cameos — an overall disappointing result.

— Finn Holland


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Director — Chad Stahelski

Following up from 2014’s bizarrely successful John Wick, stunt-man-come-director Chad Stahelski returns with more promises of lavishly stylised cinematography and masterful fight choreography.

Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, is a widower, and an ex-hitman, possibly the world’s finest, until a Russian mobster ushers him out of retirement. Less effortless and more lacking-in-effort, the forever vacant Keanu Reeves seemingly cold-reads his lines directly to the camera, leaving the “acting” to his superior onscreen counterparts Ian McShane (Sexy Beast) and Lance Reddick (The Wire). That being said, as he’s proven time and time again, Keanu’s presence in an action sequence is one to behold.

Though the film’s plot is relatively vapid, and filled with a number of cliché action film tropes such as cheesy one-liners and montages revealing cool new outfits, guns, and villains, the pacing and cinematography is on point. When the action returns as it always does — forever trying to one-up the louder, brighter, and more violent fights — it truly steamrolls you into your seat. Writer Derek Kolstad, smelling blood in the water in the wake of the first film’s commercial success, rightfully leaves John Wick 2 open-ended for another sequel.

Ruby Rose’s character is entirely superfluous and Common’s feature as a rival assassin feels forced, and at times their exchanges are downright silly. However, it is still thoroughly entertaining by American action film standards.

On the whole, the film is worth the big screen watch if you found the first agreeable, but I wouldn’t hold your standards as high as the original.

— Mathew Watkins


T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Director — Danny Boyle

Within the overwhelming torrents of sequels in recent years, there seems to be a growing category I like to call “oh shit, that made money a decade (or two) ago, let’s make another!” Enter an under-cooked Sin City sequel, a third Bridget Jones film, and now a follow up to ‘90s Scottish smash hit, Trainspotting.

Despite validating my feelings about the movie industry milking properties to death, I will always turn up for any film by Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Millions, Slumdog Millionaire, and the highly underrated Trance and Steve Jobs), and the talent assembled both in front and behind the camera is reason enough to see this film. All the original cast return, to great result, and Danny Boyle is as visually invigorating as ever. In fact, for the majority of the run time I felt that the team were executing this new chapter with a welcome degree of prowess.

Unfortunately, this effort doesn’t quite make it to the finish line. The film gets confused between expanding the ideology of the first film and exploring the new themes of this film, meanwhile stacking a somewhat light plot in the middle. Trainspotting went straight to the heart of ‘90s existentialism; I thought the sequel could do much the same. It comments on the current goings-on of the world occasionally, but needed more than just another “Choose Life” speech from Ewan McGregor.

That is not to say it’s a bad film; it’s one that is certainly worth your time. But every now and again the incredible visual flare and uncompromising language don’t quite distract from a larger opportunity being missed.

— Finn Holland


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