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This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy (movie review)

7 Oct

Every time I go to write down the movie’s name I end up missing at least one word. In fact, when I asked for a ticket at the cinema, I got half way through the name and then both the teller and I went “and blah blah yadda yadda” to finish it off. It’s certainly a mouthful, but it’s also quite clever. Because before you even watch the film the name instantly gives you a sense of what you’re going to see. I figured it would be funny, self-referential, and very cheaply made. I imagined an amateur indie film, in which the props are made by the director’s flatmate’s girlfriend, and the soundtrack is recorded on an early-90s Casio keyboard with built-in drum beats.

This was pretty close to the truth, though the music was marginally better than that. It’s made in New Zealand – maybe a classic Kiwi film of the future.


The story begins with the three main blokes – Tom, Gavin and Jeffrey – watching an old B-grade sci-fi film ‘Space Warriors in Space’. Part way through, they are mysteriously sucked into the movie, and come under attack from the evil Lord Froth. With the help of some friends they meet along the way, not to mention the scantily dressed warrior women (obligatory for any sci-fi adventure film), they must find their way back to Earth, and back to reality.

This film is done on a budget – seriously. But they’ve cleverly gotten away with it by setting the story inside a very low-budget film. It reminded me of the early seasons of Red Dwarf, when they used a computer joystick to steer the ship, and pretty much everything else was built from cardboard boxes glued together and painted grey. In TGPMBIARH the lids of pump bottles are buttons on the ship’s console; an electric egg beater is a cargo ship flying through space; lampshades (or possibly suspended baking bowls?) serve as those visor things you wear when you want to aim your ship’s cannons at another ship (you know what I mean…). And no animals were harmed in the film, because they were mostly soft toys (quite cute ones, too). But the cheapness is essential for the plot, it’s part of the point. The characters, for the most part, realise they are stuck inside a budget film, and are generally stumped by the fact that a recognisable kitchen utensil actually fires a laser out its end. Which is why it’s also surprising that the “giant papier mache boulder is actually really (fucking) heavy”.


I had quite a few laughs. They got the theatrical nature of an old sci-fi film right. When someone is punched in the face they don’t just drop to the ground, they fly through the air. If someone rolls down a bank then they bloody well fall off a waterfall too. That’s just common sense. However, if I’m going to pick a hole (and I will), it’s that I felt the film could do with a brutal edit. Some scenes went on too long, and some were superfluous altogether. I know that when you’ve worked closely on something for a long time you get precious, but really it could have done with a good snip snip snip.

TGPMBIARH is running for another week at the Rialto in Newmarket, and also the Dunedin Rialto and the cinema in Devonport. Go out and support a NZ independent film.

Poi E: The Story of our Song (movie review)

9 Aug

Tonight I went to the movies to watch Poi E: The Story of our Song, written and directed by Tearepa Kahi. I guess the fact that it’s freezing outside, and that it’s a Monday night, accounts for the fact that my friend and I had the whole theatre to ourselves… and usually I’d have been stoked to not have to crane my neck around the tall dude sitting in front of me or to have to mentally fade out the mandatory movie cougher (and because I got to lie back with my feet on the seat in front). But tonight it just seemed wrong.

Poi E poster


I’ve always loved Poi E, the song. I wonder if there’s a New Zealander who doesn’t. It’s part of our culture, as well as part of our pop music history – along with Six Months in a Leaky Boat and Slice of Heaven. Yet, weirdly, I had no idea when it was filmed, no idea about the woman who wrote it, the club who performed it, or the man who brought the whole thing together – Dalvanius Prime. Maybe I’m just too young (I was born the year before it was released). When I sat down to watch the movie, therefore, I wondered how anyone could possibly create a whole documentary about a single song.  Woah – I had a few things to learn.

This documentary takes you on a journey from the small town of Patea all the way to England and back. You get to witness a community’s love for their songs, for their culture, and for one fat Maori dude who knew how to make music. There are moments when you have to have a wee giggle about just how ‘kiwi’ some people are – in fact, if I’d watched it while overseas I’d probably have been overcome with homesickness and flown right home (except, if you know me, then you know I’m not so much into glorifying the freezing works). But most importantly, the film addresses the stifling of Te Reo Maori that occurred, well, up until recently really, as well as the pigeon-holing of the whole Maori culture that took place (when there were only certain contexts when it was acceptable for people to speak Maori or to act in any way not white).

And so because, like most people, I’ve always just sung along to the “Poi e” part of the lyrics, sort of mumbling or humming over the rest, I decided to go home tonight and learn the full song. And then I sang it several times to myself, strumming on my guitar, not quite ever mastering all those syllables, but getting close enough!

Go see the film. No arguing. We need to support NZ film makers and become more culturally enlightened wherever possible. And here, of course, is the song itself!


Film Review: I Survived a Zombie Holocaust

24 May

Last night I went to one of Auckland’s two opening screenings of I Survived a Zombie Holocaust, written and directed by Guy Pigden. Although I’m not a huge fan of horror that’s actually scary (why would I put myself through that?), I do love horror-comedy. The League of Gentlemen is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and if I didn’t enjoy Peter Jackson’s Braindead and Bad Taste I could hardly call myself a New Zealander.

The story is centred around Wesley, a painfully nerdy and naive film school graduate on his first day working on a film set. The director is a wanker, the lead actor and actress are in love with themselves, the props designer is a maniac, and there’s a method actor running about the place eating live bugs. If this isn’t bad enough, things get much worse when real zombies gatecrash the set and Wesley, along with his new-found love interest (the film’s lousy caterer) and a couple of others yet-unbitten, have to escape into the zombie-infested night.

zombie movie 2

This low-budget film was shot in and around Dunedin (my home town – I definitely recognised a few half-eaten faces) so that was one of my main reasons for going. But to be brutally honest, I had seen the trailer and had fully expected to hate this movie. It showcases big breasts, well-toned abs and a bit of well-executed gore (not to mention a vagina joke that doesn’t at all hit the mark), and all in all makes the film look cheap (not in a good way), Americanised and cheesy.

The trailer does not do the film justice. The movie is hilarious. I laughed pretty much the whole way through. It is pleasantly ridiculous, genuinely funny, not at all pretentious, and not cheesy either. Some of the montages are very cleverly put together, and although the characters are purposely clichéd I didn’t find them boring or derivative. Wesley, in particular, is a very sweet and likeable character. You can’t help feeling for him, and hoping his life will somehow turn out exactly as he wants it to. If I could re-write the trailer, I would forget the big boobs and concentrate on Wesley, who is the hero of the story after all.


Wesley, played by Harley Neville.

The movie also has some great gory moments. Zombies eating their own guts; knives skewering eyeballs; heads exploding in a multitude of ways; zombie sexually transmitted diseases (who’d have thought?), and worst of all (shudder) the cauterisation of a mutilated wrist stump. It had me cowering into my seat with my fingers splayed across my eyes, whispering “oh no… not that…” Which is exactly what I’d hoped to do, of course.

For a low-budget film, I think it was made really well. I’ve seen some awful NZ films in the past, in which the script is rubbish, or the soundtrack is all off, or the bird noise is inordinately loud. In I Survived a Zombie Holocaust nothing stuck out to me as being amateur. There was one culturally cringe-worthy moment – when the movie’s only main brown dude performs the haka at the oncoming zombies… err…

I’d recommend seeing this movie if you can – and if you can’t see it in a cinema, find it some other way.