Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Directed by Taika Waititi
Country: New Zealand

Following up the indelible “What We Do in the Shadows”, one of the most gratifying parodies from last year, “Hunt For Wilderpeople” is another hilarious comedy from the New Zealander Taika Waititi, who is now confirmed as a first-rate director in the genre. 
Although labeled as a comedy, the film is also an enthusiastic and highly entertaining adventure, nearly a rustic western, containing the right amounts of action and drama to become simultaneously animated, funny, and heartwarming.

Mr. Waititi doesn’t need much more than a sharp-witted screenplay, which he wrote based on Barry Crump’s book ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’, suitable actors for each role, and considerable amounts of goodwill and cheeriness to make this film work wonders.

The story focuses on the fat young Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a gutsy and difficult orphan who never stops running away from the juvenile centers or foster homes he's sent to. However, his rebellious posture will change for the better when feeling genuine care and love coming from his new foster aunt, Bella (Rima Te Wiata), who lives with the grumpy foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill), an inveterate pigs' hunter.
Sadly, Bella passes away, leaving Ricky under the orders of the Child Welfare Services once again. When ordered to return to a caring home, the wild kid hides in the dense New Zealander bushes, dragging the reluctant Hec with him. The latter, after giving it some thought, decides to protect him from a few relentless yet ridiculous pursuers. An eventful and unforgettable adventure starts, replete of both dangerous and friendly encounters. 
Ricky, an eternal fugitive turned into a national hero, and his brave uncle, unjustly accused of being a pervert, even seem to have the same blood when consumed by the adrenaline of a thrilling escapade.

With numerous effective jokes, an irascible fight against a huge savage pig, and a spectacular car chase, “Hunt For Wilderpeople”, a bracing fantasy for all the family, will provide you with many occasions for out-loud laughs.
It’s already one of the best comedies of the year.

The Dark Horse (2014)

The Dark Horse (2014) - Movie Review

Directed by: James Napier Robertson
Country: New Zealand

Imagine a blend of “Shine”, “The Chess Players” and “Once Were Warriors”, and you’ll have “The Dark Horse”.
Director James Napier Robertson, based himself on the true story of Genesis Potini, a former speed chess champion of Maori descent who, as a part of his therapy for bipolar disorder, focuses on teaching kids with a high risk of being recruited by the lawless local gangs.

The story takes place in Gisborne, Genesis’ hometown, where the chess club entitled The Eastern Knights hosts a bunch of smart kids showing a huge eagerness to participate in a tough championship in Oakland. The man behind this unthinkable idea was the feverish Genesis who, under the effect of pills and in the midst of his litanies of excitement and awe, faces the suspicious parents, including his own brother whose son, Mana, reveals great skills and interest in the game but is about to be initialized in his father’s gang through a traumatic ritual. 

With a predilection for backlit photography, Robertson presents us two distinct sides: a sweet one, carrying noble intentions and positive attitudes; and a dark one, where a tough social reality is toxic enough to be vehemently condemned. 
There’s a strong sequence of images that confronts the two opposite realities: while Mana gets visibly disturbed with the violence of the ritual and is forced to cope with it, the other youths give wings to artistic creativity on the streets in order to raise money for the trip. 

Cliff Curtis, in his most notable performance to date, was brilliant as Genesis, an exemplary man that despite the illness, never ceased to believe in his dream. 
“The Dark Horse” isn't emotionally perfect, yet its positive message stays with us.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement
Country: New Zealand

Movie Review: Coming from New Zealand and set up as a horror mockumentary, “What Do We Do in the Shadows” is a vampire parody written, directed and starred by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. A promising partnership since the former attained international success with his 2010’s drama “Boy”, while the latter, as comedian and multi-instrumentalist, brings some inspiration on both aspects. Bluntly shot with handheld camera but with appealing results, the film follows four vampire housemates – Viago, Vlad, Deacon, and Petyr (an accurate replica of Nosferatu) - whose sanguinary lives are shaken by the arrival of a reckless young vampire called Nick. With exception of the super-old Petyr who likes to stay in his tomb, the others like to dress well, feel sexy, play music and stroll around the town where they try to be invited for nightclubs, but Nick cannot restrain from drawing attention to himself. This behavior causes problems between the group of friends who rely on Deacon’s ‘slave’, Jackie, to lure humans, preferably virgins, to their decrepit mansion. Vampire hunters, the burning sunlight, and occasional confrontations with a group of werewolves, are other funny factors to be seen. Clever and hilarious, “What Do We Do in the Shadows” shows how to do a lot with so little resources, and my only remark goes to the inefficient light that comes out of the outdoors’ nocturnal scenes. Actually, it’s curious that another vampire film called “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” also had captivated me with its artsy formalism, in a completely opposite approach. Despite the washed-out genre, creativity speaks louder!

Boy (2010)

Boy (2010)
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Country: New Zealand

Summary: Set on the east coast of New Zealand in the year 1984, Boy, an 11-year-old kid and devout Michael Jackson fan gets a chance to know his father.
Review: “Boy” is a sensitive and often funny movie about a kid from a New Zealand’s village, whose family was broken from the moment that his mother died. His absent father finally returns one day, not to find their children, but to collect a buried amount of money. Being immature and sly, he will be a complete disappointment to his kids, who had imagined a model dad. Using an engaging style and the typical colors from the Pacific lands, “Boy” covers father/son relationship and the power of forgiveness without being too sentimental or boring. For an agreeable matinee. 
Relevant awards: Best feature film (Berlin); audience (Sidney).