Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


Memoria | Regional News



136 Mins

(1 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Sam Hollis

Semblances of intrigue occasionally rear their head in Memoria, but it refuses to grab the bull by the horns. I wanted to love it, I really did, but this was a slog. A void of emptiness that while sometimes pretty, is too static, flat, and fruitless to take anything from.

Jessica (Tilda Swinton), a Scottish expat living in Colombia, is awoken one night by a large, mysterious boom. It recurs, but she is seemingly the only person who hears it. Where on Earth is this noise coming from?

Many films place experience above plot or character, leaving the audience to piece together a story as they perceive and interpret what’s in front of them. David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick mastered this effect with films like Mulholland Drive and Eyes Wide Shut. Robert Eggers is a more recent example that comes to mind with The Witch and The Lighthouse. These films demand your attention. They grip your eyeballs and sear images into your mind causing deep-rooted emotional responses, even if it takes two or three viewings for you to understand exactly where it’s brewing from. Memoria sits at the opposite end of this spectrum.

Written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, it meanders along at a snail’s pace, with tension that never rises or falls. Silent, motionless shots remain fixed for minutes on end, characters take an eternity to respond to another’s line of dialogue. No one communicates this way, and Weerasethakul doesn’t do enough to establish a world where we believe they might. He is clearly trying to examine existential concepts – dreams, memories, and what have you – but he is doing it in a way so uninteresting, so uninspiring that I don’t even care to address them.

Swinton is by no means a boring performer, quite the opposite. But until Memoria’s final moments, she gives very little, or perhaps, little was brought out of her. An actor of her calibre was not necessary for this part, though I praise her for attempting to inject passion and solemnity where she could.

Destination Mars | Regional News

Destination Mars

Written by: Kip Chapman

Directed by: Kip Chapman

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 5th Feb 2022

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Conceived and created by HACKMAN (Kip Chapman and Brad Knewstubb), Destination Mars is an interactive experience perfect for young people and their whānau. Suitable for those aged six up, this Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts show puts the audience in the driver’s seat of a space mission on Mars in the year 2034. As the engineers in the control room, we’re responsible for maintaining the base’s support system, powering up the next rocket launch… and saving the day when it all goes wrong.

The technology is a high point of Destination Mars. Each audience member is in charge of their own touch tablet, where space lingo and highly detailed systems information flash across the screen. Games of Space Tennis and Cosmo Run hide out in the entertainment tab – a great touch from the digital design team led by Pedro Klein.  

Deftly guiding our session, charismatic performers Isadora Lao and Arlo Gibson ad-lib with each other and interact beautifully with the audience, assigning tasks to many of us by name. Young faces light up when they are called upon, with a six-year-old Evan getting a round of applause as surely the youngest engineer to ever work on Mars. You go, Evan!

It’s clear the kids absolutely love this unique experience. For the grownups, there’s the slick tech and overall design (directed by Knewstubb) to appreciate, heightened by Sophie Sargent’s costume design that transforms the performers into true space explorers. I do want for more of a human element to latch onto, as I don’t know a whole lot about who or what I’m trying to save when the rocket hits the fan.

I have the young audience member sitting next to me to thank for my favourite moment of Destination Mars. Through blaring alarms, flashing alerts, and a bellowed countdown, us engineers manage to work together to avert total destruction. In the calm after the chaos, Master 10 looks across to his family and whispers, “Can we all agree that was actually quite stressful?”

The Wild Twins | Regional News

The Wild Twins

Written by: Amber and Serena Shine


Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

The cover photo of this book depicts two stunning young blonde women. “Wild” is not the adjective you’d think of. But identical twins Amber and Serena Shine defy all conventional notions of stunning blondes. Their lives are dedicated to ‘unfeminine’, daring, and often dangerous exploits.

Growing up in rural Aotearoa meant hunting was par for the course. Townie that I am, I especially savoured an early chapter detailing a deer hunt – albeit with a man in tow – complete with hauling the unfortunate dead animal out of a tree halfway down a cliff and shouldering its carcass to the quad bike.

After a couple of years in the army, Amber astutely observed that they “weren’t cut out for being told what to do all the time.” No surprise then that the twins’ next move was to gate crash their way into the world’s highest marathon on Mount Everest.

As if that wasn’t enough, they’ve subsequently taken part in extreme dog sledding in Michigan (Amber), found a positive side to sustaining a serious back injury (Serena), been driven by squalls and high seas sailing from Hawai’i to San Francisco, and walked with jaguars in the Amazon.

Not to leave their native land out of their adventure calendar, in 2017 the pair attempted an ascent of Aoraki/Mount Cook, though were ultimately deterred by bad weather. As ever, theirs is a cheerful, even philosophical, response.

Although they shared some adventures, both women seemed equally willing to go it alone. They alternate in a chapter-by-chapter account of their exploits. Individual accounts are interspersed with motivational comment for us far more timid readers. We get headings such as Taking on Challenges, Don’t Hold Back, and Give Everything a Go.

“There’s no point tip toeing through life only to arrive safely at death,” observes Serena. Experiencing something vicariously by reading about it is all very well, but for the likes of Amber and Serena Shine, it would come a long way second.

Power Play: Elon Musk, Tesla and the Bet of the Century | Regional News

Power Play: Elon Musk, Tesla and the Bet of the Century

Written by: Tim Higgins

WH Allen

Reviewed by: Ayla Akin

Elon Musk is considered a polarising character – you either love him or hate him. It is fair to say, by choosing to review Powerplay: Elon Musk, Tesla and the Bet of the Century amongst a sea of fabulous options, that I was (and maybe surprisingly for some, still am) firmly in the ‘love’ camp.

Leading any new business can be a tumultuous endeavor. However, leading a business with a concept that has never been achieved due to its complexities, along with the pressure of hundreds of millions of dollars of investor cash (as is the case with Tesla), is another type of beast entirely. Before diving into the beginnings of Tesla, Tim Higgins starts by describing Musk’s early success with PayPal and other lucrative ventures. This lays the foundation of Musk’s unique character and capacity to foresee opportunities, no matter how crazy they appear to be.

The quirky entrepreneur is described juggling the demands of running SpaceX and Tesla with anecdotes of firing staff on the spot and the kind of general impulsive behavior we have come to expect from someone like Musk. As much as I admire him, I certainly never wish to work for him. Higgins does a fine job of illustrating the frustrations and high-risk scenarios of the automotive industry. Supplier issues, new markets, logistics of customer repairs, charging stations, and maintaining control of direct sales were just a few of the challenges that the Tesla team were forced to navigate. Add to that the scrutiny of the world’s media and it’s no wonder Musk has been through numerous divorces.

Despite this, Musk’s ambitions never wavered. In fact, to the horror of his employees, Musk would routinely push the goalposts further away and demand that they hold their “feet to the fire” if success was to be achieved. Higgins describes one such example when Musk decided to increase Tesla’s annual sales target in 2015 to 55,000 cars, an alarming 74 percent jump from the year before.

Musk’s goal was simple really. Through the introduction of the world’s first pure electric car, the automotive industry would be changed forever. What could possibly go wrong?

Bonded | Regional News


Written by: Ian Austin

I.A. Books

Reviewed by: Ruth Avery

Bonded is the fourth novel in a series from Ian Austin. It’s another escapade of Dan Calder who has returned from the UK with his family to reside in sunny Auckland. The storyline is loosely based on the author’s past life as a police officer and detective. Dan has a wife in a coma and a son with health issues. He can’t cope with either so buries himself in his work and luckily has a long-suffering nanny to look after his son and visit his wife.

Another reviewer said if you like John Grisham then you’ll like this. I’ve read one John Grisham and that was enough. I think Bonded is a man’s book – not that I’m into ‘chick lit’ – but I found its level of detail about a red alert event at the airport too in-depth and I skipped over it. And quite frankly it was boring. I needed more cat and mouse, not details of how airports work during emergency situations. I did learn this: flights are in five-minute increments – for example, there’s never an 11:34am flight, it’s 11:35am and it’s the same at airports around the world. Something you never think about but it makes sense.

Anyhoo, at the front of the book there’s a page with 10 definitions of the word bond, which I found interesting as who knew the word could have so many meanings? ‘Policeofficer’ is written as one word throughout the book which is weird and my proof-reader brain didn’t like it.

After far too long a wait at the boarding gate, this book suddenly picked up and we were off flying like a robber’s dog! And now I’m engaged and want to know the ending. There was a good twist that mixed things up towards the end but the last sentence I found implausible. Bonded has a happy ending of course, a bit American for me. I’m a tough nut to crack it seems.

My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night and All the Times In Between | Regional News

My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night and All the Times In Between

Written and illustrated by Mari Andrew

Penguin Random House

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

“You can’t heal with just anyone. There are people who haven’t yet been to the same life forest as you and don’t carry the familiar scent with them.”

In My Inner Sky there are many quotes like this that will resonate with you simply for being poignant.

Its illustrations are a little whimsical, but the beauty of them is that they soften some of the serious issues author and illustrator Mari Andrew processes and shares. Through her adventures travelling alone, becoming sick when abroad, falling in love, and the life lessons and self-awareness she gathers along the way, it feels as if you are along for the journey too as she recounts her experiences on many a different soil: France, Australia, Greece, and New York City.

Andrew writes of a life configured in such a way that it’s possible to deconstruct each moment, at any given time, effortlessly. Despite the challenge and diversions around her, there exists a solace and beauty in both the everyday occurrences and the ones that immerse her in sorrow and grief. In My Inner Sky there is a sharp sense of living and losing, battling and winning. All are worthy and discernible experiences and markers of time, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Most of all, Andrew comes out of them stronger and salved.

Andrew has the ability to see each experience at its source and accept its flaws, the uncertainties that might come with it. Her words resonate because they speak of feelings and experiences common to us all: sorrow, heartbreak, searching for the unattainable. Ultimately she shares the healing that happens when the imperfect and the things out of our control are embraced and valued as they are.

My Inner Sky is the kind of book that makes you feel happy just for owning it – it’s a book you give to someone when you want to give them rainbows, or make them feel just a little bit better.

The Narrator | Regional News

The Narrator

Written by: Jeanne Bernhardt

The Night Press

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Though Jeanne Bernhardt’s short story The Narrator is based in real life, I can’t help but notice the subtle undertones of magical realism that imbue the story with a sense of both disquiet and mystery. The short story is told from the perspective of a writer living in the Southwest of the United States (perhaps Bernhardt herself), but the narrative focuses entirely on a man named Ogden: “a pale gnome-like presence, slightly hunched, soft in his manner and expression, unimposing”. Though hardly the hero one would imagine as the protagonist of any story, Ogden is a vital character to the narrator and her own development.

Though we only see Ogden through the eyes of the narrator and in reference to her, we see both Ogden and the narrator herself morph and shift as their relationship changes. The two start off as polite friends who enjoy reading each other’s writings, becoming hostile and uncomfortable as the narrator finds Ogden’s work disappointing and critiques her friend’s “profound inability to write about women”. As Ogden distances himself and leaves for a trip to Prague, the narrator becomes increasingly introspective thinking about both Ogden and herself; angry at first, then doubtful, and finally empathetic. Upon his return, something within Ogden has changed. He returns with a male friend, the narrator reads another one of his writings, and albeit awkwardly and stiltedly, the pair patch their relationship as the narrator becomes more sensitive towards Ogden.

The Narrator in my opinion is not so much about plot as it is about the relationship between the two characters and how it changes from disdain and pity, to condemnatory as the narrator dubs Ogden a coward, to finally a very tender moment in which the narrator finds respect for him and his writings despite their differences. Though The Narrator focuses on Ogden’s transformation, the narrator also undergoes a transformation of her own in parallel and in response to Ogden’s.

Witty, intriguing, and sincere, The Narrator is a character study, a gem, and a page-turner.

Beautifully Brave | Regional News

Beautifully Brave

Written by: Sarah Pendrick

Quarto US

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

I was really trying to like this book, because fundamentally the message in Beautifully Brave is arguably one of the most important: show love and care for yourself, build your self-worth so you can stand in your own power, and don’t spend energy on things that do not serve or empower you – but it just felt a little
too much.

Author Sarah Pendrick has really put a lot of herself into this book, breaking down the act of caring for yourself into so many different facets. There’s knowing your values and living in them, which is the chapter that resonated the most. “If something is costing you your happiness, it’s too expensive. Invest in something else”, Pendrick says. There’s even a ‘homework’ section towards the end to complete so you too can become a self-care goddess. Beautifully Brave reads a little overindulgent in parts. There is so much encouragement to find and nurture self-love that it seems repetitive and more than simply just cultivating the ideal that it is okay to live in your own skin.

A dear friend once told me you need to be your own best friend, and in that moment many years ago she perfectly and unequivocally summed it up. I feel that’s all you need to know about how you should treat yourself.

Braveness comes from knowing who you are, being kind to yourself, and spending time and energy on the things that sustain you and bring some joy into your life.

Beautifully Brave is a great book if you really want to apply a hyperfocus to all that self-love means. Its underlying message is to simply show up for yourself, remember yourself in the equation, and that there is ‘self’ in everything we do, whether this is intentional or not.

Pendrick implores you to “remember that ‘just fine’ is not what you are on this planet for, you are here for the ultimate level of love and joy.”

We Run the Tides | Regional News

We Run the Tides

Written by: Vendela Vida

Atlantic Books

Reviewed by: Rosea Capper-Starr

Vendela Vida has developed a relatable and fallible character in Eulabee, a young girl stepping out of childhood and into adolescence with her best friend Maria Fabiola.

Eulabee feels a sense of belonging and ownership over her neighbourhood of Sea Cliff. “We are thirteen, almost fourteen, and these streets of Sea Cliff are ours.” She has always belonged there, roaming the hills between her home, her school, and the beach. Eulabee and Maria Fabiola count the waves as they crash on the rocks and at just the right moment, they sprint through the sand past the point to the next beach. It is dangerous but exhilarating and in these moments, they run the tides.

Vida delves into the themes of friendship and how it intertwines with personal growth. I had the impression of a cushioned, insular world expanding before these girls who stand on the brink of their lives, deciding who they will be. A minor disagreement about what the girls see on the way to school one morning turns into an enormous betrayal, and Eulabee finds herself ostracised for speaking the truth. Suddenly an outsider, she sees her closest and oldest friend in a new light.

Maria Fabiola is admired from every angle by everyone, it seems. Yet she craves more attention, manipulates, fabricates. Being cast out from Maria Fabiola’s inner circle gives Eulabee unexpected freedom – through her loneliness she befriends new people, discovers new things about herself. Eulabee connects with a boy, Keith, and they bond in a dreamy night of crashing music and synced heartbeats. Driving home from her first concert, “as we cruise smoothly and steadily through the night, it feels like we’re on a boulevard built only for us”.

Misunderstanding leads Eulabee to believe she has caused something terrible to happen, and in a strange twist of fate, Eulabee finds herself with Maria Fabiola as her only confidant, struggling to keep up with the web Maria Fabiola is weaving around them.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys astute fiction with a tender crux.