Thursday, July 8, 2010

Top 5 NZ must-see DVDs

List by Danielle

Aurora: We can draw up a roster, and take turns to keep an eye on Grandpa.
Van: Yeah, we can get him a pet!
Aurora: A roster, Van, not a rooster.
~ Outrageous Fortune

Honorary mention (not in our collection): Stickmen (best ever drunken pool-playing heroics by Scott Wills' character, the wonderfully dopey but good-hearted Wayne); the Frighteners (my joint favourite Peter Jackson movie); Bad Taste (see previous). I'd also like to give a big hand to the guys who did such a good job of animating Hairy MacLary, which is currently No#1 choice for 6.30am viewing with my nearly 2 yr old.

Out of the blue
On November 13th 1990, in the small New Zealand seaside town of Aramoana, local man David Gray took a high-powered automatic weapon and shot dead 13 people. It remains the worst mass murder in New Zealand's history. As emergency services scrambled to reach Aramoana, a handful of young, under-armed local policemen risked their lives trying to find the gunman. Terrified and confused residents were trapped in their homes for 24 hours, not knowing where David Gray was - or if they would become his next victim. There were great feats of bravery on that terrible day - from ordinary people in the most extraordinary of situations.

A beautiful, harrowing film that left me with many powerful images and emotions afterwards. The events are oddly-paced and disjointed, with no real answers given about Gray's motivation, hinting at how unfathomable and unpredictable such an event would be first-hand. Every time I read my kids 'Hairy MacLary I remember Karl Urban's terrific performance, as he comforts one of the survivors with the iconic Kiwi dog tale.

Vigil; The navigator
Vigil is the powerful coming-of-age story of a young girl isolated by loss and environment. Out gathering stranded sheep, Toss's father falls to his death; at the same moment, she hears the gunshots of an approaching poacher. The poacher, Ethan, carries her father's battered body back to the house. Grandfather Birdie encourages the stranger to stick around and "warm up" Toss' grieving mother, Elizabeth, much to the initial disdain of both mother and daughter.

The Navigator : A time-travel adventure that begins in 14th century England, where the dreaded Black Death is wiping out whole cities all over Europe. A group of desperate villagers led by the vision of a young boy, sets off for a remote cave where they hope to find the answer to escaping the plague. They emerge in a bustling 20th century city.

I still remember watching Vigil as a kid, back when they used to play NZ films in their own mini-festivals on TV: Goodbye Pork Pie, The Scarecrow, Trial Run... and Vigil. Brooding, gloomy and ominous, the muddy fields and hillsides were like another character in the film. Fiona Kay was marvellous, too, as the distrustful balaclava'd Toss. As a bonus, this DVD also has 'The Navigator', which thrilled me when I saw it in the 80s - a Kiwi, making a time-travel movie set in medieval times! It's a beautiful and fairly unusual movie, needless to say.

Five students at Otago University, New Zealand have the perfect flat: free rent, free electricity and a basement full of marijuana plants. But trouble begins when they decide to try and become amateur drug lords and to sell the stuff, and an ominous intruder arrives. After they trap him in the basement, it seems like there's only one sure way out of their predicament.

Oh, how this film rocks. Love the actors, love the recognisable characters, love the setting, and the plot's fun too. Plenty of room for mysteries, moral dilemmas, and some scrambling, half-baked heroism.

Tama tū
Six Maori Battalion soldiers wait for night to fall in the ruins of a ruined Italian home. Forced into silence they keep themselves amused like any boys would, with jokes and laughter. As they try and ignore the reminders of war around them, a tohu (sign) brings them back to the world of the dying. They gather to say a karakia (prayer) to unite their spirits before they head back into the dark of war.

An awesome little Taika Waititi short film, clocking in at just 18 minutes. Wow, reading the synopsis above, it's almost like reading about a different film. This film has meaning, it has its serious moments, sure, but it also has the best non-verbal humour; you learn more about the soldiers by their body language and silent communication than a lot of bland box-office smashes manage in a whole three hour talkfest.

Outrageous fortune s1-5
Kiwi drama based on the West family, a one-family crime wave with a proud tradition in thievery, larceny and petty crime, until now. When patriarch Wolfgang West is sentenced to four years in jail, his wife Cheryl decides enough is enough; the family are cleaning up their act and going straight. Can the Wests live up to Cheryl's resolve and stay out of crime? It's not easy to be a saint when you have the DNA of a sinner.

Too little room to spell out all the things that make this drama-comedy-romance-tragedy the best thing on TV since... forever. It's back next week for it's final season, and from start to finish, it's been as much a class act as Pascalle's Best Bags. If you haven't seen it yet and you want a quick re-cap before Season 6 kicks off, here you go. Or, of course, you could just borrow the DVDs and watch them quickly. Quickly!

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