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Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
July 29, 2016, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Taika Waititi
3.5 Stars
Hunt for the WilderpeopleIn Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sam Neill plays an illiterate country man who may be a sincerely loving husband, but really wants nothing more than to be left alone. Because we’ve seen movies like these before, we know that the young teen foster boy (Julian Dennison) that shows up at his door will wear down his defenses and allow him to open up. As in Jurassic Park, however, Neill shows an unusually great talent in working with child actors. For one, he commands a certain authority in his sheer physicality—he’s the paternal ideal, sturdy and willing to give respect to those who earn it. But Neill’s great vulnerability is key, whether he’s being faced with dinosaurs or the vast New Zealand bush. His face plays uncertainty particularly well, which gives the child actors an “in” to make themselves useful and help out. He’s the best part of the film—in the brief passage that he’s not on screen, the momentum is all but destroyed. Writer/director Taika Waititi crafts the material as the safest of crowd pleasers (there is very little sense of danger or consequence), but his gift with finding humor from his character’s traits (as opposed to giving them humorous traits) makes everything play as refreshingly human.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
March 28, 2015, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement
4 Stars
What We Do in the ShadowsA mockumentary about vampires might not seem like it could sustain its laughs for a feature-length running time, however Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement ably keep What We Do in the Shadows amusing with a nonchalant pacing, which almost plays like a joke in itself. The four distinct flatmates are each well-drawn from various incarnations of vampire lore, with personalities ranging from a brooding lecher with a predilection towards torture (Clement) to an 18th-century dandy (Waititi). As with Flight of the Conchords, the jokes are delivered in a deadpan, matter-of-fact manner that doesn’t so much equate to gut-busting laughs, but rather consistent chuckles–the very plainness of a human I.T. guy that is invited into the vampire world (Stu Rutherford) is as funny to the filmmakers as some of the more effects-heavy visual gags. Beyond the humor, there’s a certain sweetness in the relationship between the vampires (mostly due to Waititi’s sympathetic performance) and some surface-level but nonetheless welcome reflections on the passing of generations.