Category Archives: Movies

Stalin’s Dead

The Death of Stalin is a 2017 political satire comedy film.
It stars Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffrey Tambor.

Based on the French graphic novel La mort de Staline, the film depicts the Soviet power struggles following the death of dictator Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) in 1953.

Mainly went to see this because it was directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci, who made ‘The Thick of It’ and the USA version, Veep.

It feels like a toned down version of his TV series. There is less foul language. Some of it was a bit difficult to follow, but the humour in the situations were apparent and overall would give it a 3/5.


Black Panther

Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay by him and Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences.

Currently at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is getting high praise. It’s easy to see why. Great visuals and sound, as expected. The story is about two characters and their conflict over the future for their country. Notable for being almost entirely a black cast, with the exception of Martin Freeman  and Andy Serkis. Freeman is an unlikely CIA agent and Serkis just gets to be cool and bad.

There is a good amount of humour throughout that lightens the tone. Some very good fight sequences, but rather obvious character CGI effects.

Also of note is the even balance between the influence of male and female characters, especially  in the second half.

Ultimately it’s a popcorn movie. It could have been more interesting with a different and more challenging ending.


Z for Zachariah
by Robert C. O’Brien (1974)

Z for Zachariah is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel that was published posthumously in 1974. The name Robert C. O’Brien was the pen name used by Robert Leslie Conly.
Set in the United States, the story is in the form of a diary written from the first-person perspective of sixteen-year-old Ann Burden, who has survived a nuclear war and nerve gas through living in a small valley with a self-contained weather system.

I’m sure I owned this book as a teenager, however I have no memory of reading it. In 2015 a film of the book was made.


Margot Robbie is currently up for an Academy Award as Tonya Harding in the film I, Tonya.  Chiwetel looked familiar. He was in ‘Doctor Strange’ (2016) and ‘The Martian’ (2015).

The film has lots of differences from the book. The main protagonist, Ann is 16 in the book and  about 10 years older in the film (Robbie would have been 23). The book has only two characters, the film three and judging from the description the book was much darker.

Shot at Port Levy, Pine was arrested by police near Methven after failing to pass a routine roadside breath alcohol test. He pleaded guilty to drunk driving on March 17 2014, stating that he drank four vodkas at a local pub.

The movie received generally positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 80% score based on 81 reviews. However low ratings in the USA meant it went straight to DVD and not to NZ cinemas.

It’s easy to see why. Despite being labelled as a Sci-Fi films, the only Sci-Fi element is the post-apocalyptic setting. It’s really about what happens when a girl, living on her own meets and lives with two men when they turn up in her valley. It’s slow moving and forgettable.



Coco is a 2017 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Based on an original idea by Lee Unkrich, it is directed by Unkrich and co-directed by Adrian Molina.

The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel Rivera who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead, where he seeks the help of his deceased musician great-great-grandfather to return him to his family among the living.

Based around the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. A young boy (Miguel) wants to become a musician like his ancestor Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular actor and singer. Somehow Miguel moves into the land of the dead and he seeks out Ernesto to help get him back.

The design is bright and vibrant, with lots of eye candy and a sprinkling of action. The characters are all engaging enough, but it’s the plot really draws you in and provides the emotional resonance that  delivers an emotional ending.

Rating – 5/5

The first best movie of 2018.

3 Bills

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A 2017 drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Martin McDonagh. It stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell. McDormand plays a mother who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder.

It’s easy to see why this film has critical appeal. It’s a dark and twisting tale of what happens when a bereaving  mother takes matters into her own hands. It may be labelled ‘black comedy’, but there isn’t anything to laugh at here. It’s more like a morality story.

As the 19 year of love interest of McDormand’s ex husband says.. Anger Begets Anger.

The film is currently at the Oscars for Best Picture, Lead Actress and Supporting Actor (Harrelson & Rockwell) and original screenplay.

Hail Ceasar

Hail, Caesar! is a 2016 comedy film written, produced, edited, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The film stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett
Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Channing Tatum. It is a fictional story that follows the real-life “fixer” Eddie Mannix (Brolin) working in the Hollywood film industry in the 1950s, trying to discover what happened to a cast member who vanished during the filming of a biblical epic.

The last Coen rothers film I reacall liking was ‘Raising Arizona’ and that was back in 1987. It is memorable as being one of the last movies I recall with an intermission.

Despite the lavish production and big name stars, this film falls between genres. It’s a bit noir, but wanders between drama, comedy and satire. Comedy is a bit of a stretch as it fails the one laugh test.
It’s diffficult to understand the appeal of the film as it feels like a lot of sketches thrown together. It’s not that Coen Brothers can’t do good movies. Of those they have made, I have seen..

The Big Lebowski (A Rating)
O Brother, Where Art Thou ? (B)
Burn After Reading (F)
Bridge of Spies (B) .. but directed by Steven Speilberg

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 86%.
Despite positive critical reception, audiences were mixed to negative about the film. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “C-” on an A+ to F scale. 52% of the opening day audience were males while 84% were over 25, with both demographics giving the film a “D+” grade, while those over 50 years old gave the film a grade of “D-

This I can understand. Those with investment in the film industry will probably like this more than the ordinary public.


The Hoyts Experience


After going to the Hoyts counter to order a ticket, and finding the Cinema full, I decided to try something different and possibly change a habit.  I knew that Hoyts has a promo suggesting you could join them for benefits, so I joined.

First I installed the app on my phone. Seems to work OK.
It looks like you can scan a voucher to pay for the ticket.

The site is very graphics heavy but seems to work.
Finding a currently screening movie and a time was easy enough. I selected a seat and moved on. It’s not so easy to find screening times for movies yet to release. The web site is better.

I used the web site to complete the transaction. Now comes the interesting part – payment First, there is a $1.50 Booking Fee – Why, I don’t know. If you want people to use your service, why pay more ?

Then there is the payment method. It’s Visa, Masterpass or Gift Card. No PayPal ! Thinking the ‘Gift Card’ was the same as the voucher, I entered the details. That didn’t work. You have to go back and redeem a voucher (!)

So the ticket cost $12.50 – $11 (normal cost) and $1.50 booking fee.
At least I knew there was a seat and where it was.

They sent me an email with confirmation. This included a PDF that was obviously designed to be printed. I don’t have a printer, so opened the email on my smartphone and with some scrolling could display the booking info.

Then I read the attached –

– Please collect your tickets at least 15 minutes prior to the start of your movie.

– Bring a copy of this confirmation email or the confirmation number;
AND The credit card you made your purchase with;
OR Photo ID so you can claim concession, senior and student tickets or restricted films.

– Please note that your cinema allocation could change. Please check with a team member on entry.

1. So this isn’t a ticket after all. You still have to go to the counter
(isn’t this what this whole process was designed to avoid ?)

2. Why the Credit Card ? (I’m taking it just in case). I have made bookings through Ticketek and all you need is the ticket.
So the way this is written, take either a) Credit Card or b) Photo ID
But if you don’t need a concession, do you need the Photo ID ?
Bit confusing

3. What ! I just chose the seat I want. Why would it change ?

Going back to the Phone App, when I tried to login the thing crashed. I had to uninstall it then reinstall. Finally managed to login. Under ‘My Tickets’ – nothing. Going back to the online site, managed to find my transaction statement.

Looking at the reviews of the product on Google Play,
124 5 star reviews
100 1 Star reviews

The latest reviews indicate that a recent upgrade was not an improvement.

Break for Movie

At the Hoyts counter, all that was needed was to show the receipt to get the movie pass.

It will work. Just avoid the phone app and use the web site. You do pay a bit more, but it does mean that you can leave later and be sure of a good seat (at a price).

But the web site and phone app need a good clean-out  of the extraneous junk and streamlining. It’s clear that everything is designed to get you to the counter where they can sell you food.

and BTW at the theatre I sat next to a large guy with the proportions of Kim dotcom. He had a large bucket of popcorn, but it didn’t interrupt the movie as he polished it off in the first 20 minutes.

Films 2017

The Year in Movies – Review 2017

I saw 27 movies in the Cinema this year. A few were officially released in 2016, but these I viewed in 2017.

Here they are in the order I saw them…. (with a quick review)

Singing, dancing adventure in the pacific. Everyone (including me) enjoyed this one

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
After all the hype, I found this rather ordinary

Independence Day: Resurgence
Forgotten already

Hidden Figures
Great story of women serving in NASA

La La Land
What was all the adoration about ?

The Great Wall
Matt Damon helps China defeat CGI monsters

Kong: Skull Island
Tom Hiddleston & Samuel L Jackson take on the great Ape

Lego Batman
Not as good as the first one

Ghost in the Shell
Style over substance

Fast & Furious 8
Dwayne Johnson dominates

‘Worthy’ story of a Holocaust denier

Alien: Covenant
Massively hyped, but will not be the classic the first two are

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie’s story of the King in a dull grey.

Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot reigns supreme

Despicable Me 3
Loved the 1980’s references

War for the Planet of the Apes
Concludes the series

Loud, long and mainly on a beach

Baby Driver
Music, driving, music, driving, violence (repeat)

Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron takes back the 1980’s thriller genre.

Massive CGI, pity about the story

Blade Runner 2
Long, Long, Long

Gerard Butler defies physics.

Thor Ragnarok
NZ Director makes the best super-hero movie

Murder on the Orient Express
Kenneth Brannagh and his mustache solve a crime

Star Wars – The Last Jedi
Just what we were waiting for

Paddington 2
A good hard stare will solve anything.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Dwayne (The Smoldering Rock) Johnson, Jack (I’m a girl) Black, Karen (Dr Who) Gillian and Kevin (Complaining) Hart all get to strut their stuff.

And the winners are…………..

I have grouped the films by my ratings..

First, in the ‘well that was a waste of time’ group.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
La La Land

Second, the ‘Very Average’ group…
Blade Runner 2
Fast & Furious 8
Ghost in the Shell
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Independence Day: Resurgence
Lego Batman
The Great Wall 

Third, it’s ‘Well Done, but here are a few problems’ group…
Alien: Covenant
Atomic Blonde
Hidden Figures
Kong: Skull Island
Murder on the Orient Express
War for the Planet of the Apes
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

And finally, in the ‘Don’t change a thing’ group.

<drum roll>

Baby Driver
Despicable Me 3
Paddington 2
Star Wars – The Last Jedi
Thor Ragnarok
Wonder Woman


Jumanji 2

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

is a 2017 American action adventure comedy film directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Kasdan, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner, from a story by McKenna.
It serves as a standalone sequel to Jumanji (1995), the film stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, and Bobby Cannavale. Set twenty-one years after the first film, the film follows four teenagers who are transported into the video game world of Jumanji, and playing as the characters they chose, must beat the game in order to return home. The film is also a tribute to Robin Williams, star of the original.

This gets extra points for featuring Kiwi actor Rhys Darby as Nigel Billingsley, a guide in the game.

The trailer sums up what you get… an action adventure movie with humour from the avatar bodies. It does have a feel of being episodic (games levels?) with rather long sections of character interaction for the purpose of humour, then action and repeat. It does ramp up to a good ending where the gang achieves the objectives of the game.

It ends with an appropriate ending back in the read world. (4/5)


Paddington 2

Paddington 2 is a 2017 live-action/CGI animated comedy film directed by Paul King and written by King and Simon Farnaby. Based on the stories of the character Paddington Bear created by Michael Bond, it is the sequel to the 2014 film Paddington and is produced by Heyday Films and StudioCanal.


Perfectly pitched sequel that hits all the right notes of comedy, drama, action and adventure. One of the best films of the year.