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The Batman | Regional News

The Batman


176 mins

(4 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

It’s interesting but when it comes to The Batman the story is probably my least favourite element (apart from Robert Pattinson’s Batman voice, but more on that later). That’s not to say I didn’t like the story but when other elements such as the sound engineering, lighting, fight scenes, and score are so good, those are the things that make me come back for more. 

Bruce Wayne, known by some as Batman (Pattinson), ventures into Gotham City’s underworld after a sadistic killer who calls himself the Riddler (Paul Dano) leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues and high-profile murders. As the evidence begins to lead closer to Wayne’s family, the scale of the killer’s plans become even more devastating. Batman must forge new and unlikely relationships as he attempts to unmask the culprit and bring justice to the corruption that plagues the city. What he uncovers will have him questioning everything he ever believed. 

The beginning of the film was brilliant. I won’t spoil all the fun, but the new-look Riddler’s entrance sets the tone for what is going to be a grim, dark, and gritty three hours. I think Pattinson did a great job as Batman considering the pressure that comes with any such role. He delivered audiences a refreshing take on the hero, one who is clearly scarred from the nightmares of his past. His ‘regular dude’ Batman voice was a let-down, but overall Pattison was a worthy successor of the role thanks to his sombre, methodical, and engaging approach. 

Movies don’t need to be three hours to be good and that is the same for The Batman. If director Matt Reeves had shaved off 30 minutes, the story would have felt tighter as some unnecessary scenes could have been cut. It was also awesome to see Batman wasn’t perfect, often taking his fair share of punches in a fight. Everything sounded amazing, and the weaving in of Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria throughout the film was both brilliant and sinister. 

Although The Dark Knight still stands atop of the podium, The Batman has begun a new era for the famous franchise. It is a dark, haunting, and intense tale told with brilliant elements and fresh characters.  

The Spitfire Grill | Regional News

The Spitfire Grill

Written by: James Valcq and Fred Alley

Directed by: Jen Goddard

Gryphon Theatre, 23rd Mar 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

With the New Zealand premiere of The Spitfire Grill, Wellington Repertory Theatre has successfully brought to the stage a boutique 1970s-set American musical and made it relevant for a COVID-impacted 2022 Kiwi audience.

Percy (Sara Douglas) is freed from jail and heads to the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin (nothing to do with The Handmaid’s Tale) on little more than the promise of beautiful autumn leaves. There she meets the local Sheriff (Alex Robertson) and falls into a job at the only eating place in town, the Spitfire Grill, run by the spiky Hannah (Gillian Boyes), and strikes up a friendship with Hannah’s daughter-in-law Shelby (Natalie Gay). Frequenting the grill daily are Shelby’s misogynistic husband Caleb (Leon Beaton) and town gossip Effy (Amy Bradshaw). Lurking in the shadows is a mysterious visitor (Carl Johnstone) whose identity is the culmination of a steady peeling back of the secrets and tragedies of this small community that has become isolated and abandoned through economic depression.

As the three leading women, Douglas, Gay, and Boyes are strong, engaging, and polished. Their harmonies are spot on and one of the highlights of this intimate but weighty production. Ultimately, this is a story of women taking responsibility for their own empowerment and these three deliver that mission convincingly. Beaton’s excellent and expressive voice gives dimension to the otherwise unlikeable Caleb and Bradshaw’s snarky comments and facial expressions bring lightness to the heavy themes. Robertson’s Sherriff is sweet and appealing.

Balancing the sound from the band with the singers is always a challenge at the Gryphon, but Thomas Perry’s design gets it right. Angela Wei’s lighting design is excellent and Oliver Webber’s operation timed perfectly to highlight each scene in the small space and support the lyrics. The drab and frumpy clothing (Wendy Howard) fits the era and themes appropriately, and Jen Goddard’s unfussy direction works well.

This slick production of a gem of a musical is well worth a watch.

Miss Brontë | Regional News

Miss Brontë

Created by: Mel Dodge

Directed by: Lyndee-Jane Rutherford

BATS Theatre, 22nd Mar 2022

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

In the words of Charlotte Brontë herself, Mel Dodge’s Miss Brontë is “condensed, powerful energy”. With over 80 percent of the script from Charlotte Brontë’s own letters and novels, and the remaining 20 percent gleaned from extensive research, Miss Brontë feels as though it comes straight from the author’s own heart.

Dodge’s performance is second to none. Raw, pure, and utterly “based in truth”, Charlotte Brontë comes to life onstage in every iteration of her being; “not man, not woman, but author”. Cloaked in Letty Macphedran’s beautiful period piece costume, Brontë appears to us “a free independent human being [who] will write because [she] must” . Her childhood memories, her great loves, her heart-wrenching loneliness and grief, but most of all her unmitigated brilliance all take up residence in Dodge’s own soul onstage before us.

Matching Dodge’s performance is Marisa Cuzzolaro’s design and creation. Stage right is a writing desk, centre a dining table, and stage left a side table and armchair, all locations for Charlotte’s hours of writing. In each of these locations piles of books and papers take up residence, the stage a physical representation of Charlotte’s world and mind. The year is denoted upon the cover of each book Brontë picks up as she tells her story, and as the story and Brontë herself evolve, the stage becomes littered with page upon page of the Brontë sisters’ poetry and prose. Papers overflowing with words fly through the air just as thoughts would have flown through Brontë’s own mind, life, and heart.

Fiercely independent and steadfast in her ideals, Charlotte Brontë’s truths are laid bare in Miss Brontë as we see into a soul only glimpsed through the pages of her novels. “Imagination lifts my head when I am sinking”, the author pens, though her imagination, her stories “based in truth” depict women as intense, thoughtful, learned, complex, and human as herself and her sisters. Miss Brontë recognises the author’s soul, and for this it is unequivocally Brontë herself.

Drive My Car | Regional News

Drive My Car


179 mins

(3 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

Drive My Car has not only won 37 awards, but it has also been nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture. However, there is always one big question that surrounds any film nominated for that quintessential award – is the film actually good, or is it just kind of boring? When it comes to Drive My Car, my answer is it’s a bit of both. 

Drive My Car is a 2021 Japanese drama about a renowned stage actor and director, Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), who after his wife’s (Reika Kirishima) unexpected death, receives an offer to direct a production in Hiroshima. There he meets Misaki (Tôko Miura), an introverted young woman appointed to drive his car. In between rides, secrets from the past and heartfelt confessions will be unveiled and despite their initial misgivings, a very special relationship develops between the unlikely pair.

The film is a piece of art. Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has defiantly stepped away from the modern pressure of creating a film that needs to be fast-paced, funny, or full of action. If the film’s three-hour run time wasn’t already bold enough, the opening credits don’t even appear onscreen until about the 40-minute mark. The pace gave me time to reflect on the sombre events that occur during the film, however, some variety would have been refreshing, as I did also find myself wondering when something a bit more exciting was going to ‘happen’.  

The cinematography in Drive My Car is amazing. Cinematographer Hidetoshi Shinomiya uses majestic symbols to convey meaning throughout the film. There are plenty of beautifully framed shots of the actors and landscapes but perhaps what is most engaging, is the way in which deep topics and meaningful relationships were developed. This was both powerful and emotional and the outstanding performances from the cast also helped convey these deep meanings.

I wouldn’t call Drive My Car the Mona Lisa of the movie world, but it is a work of art that I enjoyed. A film that won’t be for everyone, it could have been thirty minutes shorter, however, it is still a hauntingly beautiful feature and a refreshing take on the drama genre.

The Adam Project  | Regional News

The Adam Project


106 mins, available on Netflix

(3 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

I am a big believer in judging a film for what it is. For example, if I watch Dodgeball, a comedy about grown men throwing dodgeballs at each other, I’ll be completely satisfied if I walk away having laughed a bunch of times – I’m not looking for a masterpiece. The Adam Project does its job. Director Shawn Levy has created a fun adventure that families can enjoy for a few hours before likely forgetting about the film a few weeks later. 

In a dystopian 2050, fighter pilot Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) steals his time jet and escapes through time on a rescue mission to 2018. However, he accidentally crash-lands in 2022 instead where he meets his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell). The duo team up on a mission to save future Adam’s wife (Zoe Saldaña) but in doing so the pair must come to terms with their past while saving the future.

The story was decent but what really impressed me was Scobell's performance. Anyone who has seen any Reynolds movie in the last five years knows exactly what they are going to get from the star who seemingly plays the same character in all his latest films. However, Scobell, who also had the added pressure of it being his first big role, did an awesome job. He nailed 12-year-old Adam by being cheeky, funny, and emotional when needed. And even though Reynolds again stuck to what he knows, I can’t say he didn’t do a good job. 

The film had me laughing out loud at times and I did feel a little something when things got a bit more serious and emotional towards the end. Some of the CGI was average, especially the de-ageing ‘deep-fake’ used on Catherine Keener who plays villain Maya Sorian – it looked terrible. And I still have no idea how time travel works despite Adam’s father (Mark Ruffalo) explaining it a bunch of times. The Adam Project did what it needed to do. Will I watch it again? Probably not, but it was still an entertaining ride that I think most people will enjoy. 

Dog | Regional News



(3 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Channing Tatum and a dog. Two of the best things in the world. Safe to say I was fizzing to watch Dog and it did not disappoint – although I would have scored it at least half a star more if Magic Mike had dropped in to say hey.

Written by Reid Carolin and Brett Rodriguez, and directed by Carolin and Tatum in his directorial debut, Dog is an instant family classic. Calling it a family flick might be a stretch as there are some lewd elements, hence the PG-13 rating, but ultimately it’s a buddy comedy with some deeper underlying currents that elevate it from good to doggone good. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

The movie follows Army Ranger Briggs (Tatum), who must escort the dog of the fallen Sergeant Rodriguez to his funeral. Trouble is, the sweet-faced Belgian Malinois is anything but. Both man and dog are suffering PTSD, and while Briggs does his best to repress his, Lulu’s approach is a little more – er, rip-your-face-off-and-eat-it, I believe is the technical term.

If Briggs can drive Lulu to the funeral from Oregon to Arizona without incident, he’ll be reinstated into service – something he wants desperately but would be the most destructive thing for him. Sadly, speaking of destruction, Lulu is set to be put down after her dad’s funeral, raising the stakes of the film and making the audience love her even more.

Lulu is played by three different Belgian Malinoises and is absolutely the star of the show here. Her ridiculous antics, like headbutting Briggs in the throat, nearly leading him to his death on a pot farm, and annihilating a teddy bear, are pure joy. But it’s in her bond with Briggs, a more vulnerable Tatum, that the true strength of the film lies. The rest of it is fluff: Dog is about two broken soldiers healing each other.

Army Ranger Noah (Ethan Suplee) sums it up best when he talks about his dog Nuke, who served alongside Lulu in Afghanistan.

“I’ve been working him every day for six months. When he stopped struggling, that’s when I realised maybe I could stop struggling too.”

Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques, and other stories | Regional News

Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques, and other stories

Written by: Vincent O’Sullivan

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Kerry Lee

Poignant, fun, and touching, Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques, and other stories is a collection of short stories from one of New Zealand’s most accomplished authors and poets, Sir Vincent O’Sullivan.

From an elderly grandmother dredging up her old memories to a man from the past purchasing the unthinkable, each story evoked a different emotion and kept me hooked and engaged until I reached the last page.

I loved them all and found myself reading and re-reading some of the stories simply because they were that good. But for me the real meat, the pièce de resistance of the book was Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques. An unofficial sequel of sorts based on Mary Shelley’s
1818 novel Frankenstein, which picks up some time where the original story left off with the titular creature floating away, his fate left uncertain.

As a rule of thumb, I have always believed that classic literature should never be touched, but O’Sullivan treats Frankenstein’s monster with the respect and dignity it deserves. I especially enjoyed the little Aotearoa-esque twist that I think many readers will appreciate.

While each story is unique they all share a few similarities. The character development is top-notch. They aren’t just a bunch of words on a page but instead well-defined people that I related to and even liked. One standout is of course the marvellous job O’Sullivan’s done at recreating Mary Shelley’s creation. Its description genuinely terrified me. Likewise, I loved the worlds of each story, and almost imagined myself being in them alongside the characters.

My one complaint is that I wanted more. Seven stories just weren’t enough, and by the end of the book, I was hungry for more. It’s a minor complaint though, and I’m sure everyone who picks this up will thoroughly enjoy it. 

O’Sullivan has done admirably, and I think Mary Shelley would be proud of the care that he has taken with her work if she were alive today.

exile on tombleson road | Regional News

exile on tombleson road

Written by: Brian Potiki

Blurry Line Books

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

exile on tombleson road is the perfect pocket-sized book and unconventional compilation of poetry.

For want of a better word, there’s something ‘cool’ about it. It’s rugged and folksy and the images by Riley Claxton are old-school yet fitting.

It’s a nod to the Rolling Stone’s Exile on Main St., and in a similar vein to an album has track listings and two sides.

It’s a winning collaboration between Claxton’s images taken around author Brian Potiki’s house and surroundings in Lake Rotoehu with some of his bohemian poetry. Potiki seems to have captured the ultimate leanings of a Kiwi life with the images speaking of a musician’s backdrop.

Having worked for someone where pedantry over capital letter use reigned supreme, I couldn’t help but give a small smile at the almost entire lack of them in Potiki’s words in favour of lowercase letters. This only added to the charm and I found myself enjoying the irregular nature of the poems; what they looked like and how they read. Claxton’s images emphasised the eclectic nature of the bite-sized book.

I read exile on tombleson road quickly. In a pleasant interlude in a small moment in time, I found myself enjoying Potiki’s reflections of exactly that: snippets of time. The cover didn’t quite sell me but in between the pages were poems like octopus arms. See a short snippet bellow.

“one arm the jazz-pop

crowd called swing,

another arm called

rock and roll...”

exile on tombleson road is like a favourite notebook where environment meets words, meets music, meets life.

I Laugh Me Broken | Regional News

I Laugh Me Broken

Written by: Bridget van der Zijpp

Victoria University Press

Reviewed by: Rosea Capper-Starr

I Laugh Me Broken is an exploration of choice versus genetic destiny. Ginny is a young author living in New Zealand. When she is contacted by relatives from her mother’s side of the family whom she has never met, she is given the unexpected news of a genetic condition, for which she has a 50 percent chance of carrying the gene. Huntington’s Disease. Left motherless from a young age, Ginny finally has a glimpse of why her mother chose to end her own life rather than wait for the symptoms of such a condition to show themselves.

With calm and natural prose, author Bridget van der Zijpp explores, through Ginny’s sudden flight from everything familiar to her, the inner turmoil of decision when faced with knowledge of your own demise. Ginny could take the test to determine whether she carries the offending gene, but then what? What does one do with that knowledge? Appropriately contextualised in the setting of Berlin’s rich history, van der Zijpp discusses the past fate of those once deemed to be “useless eaters”; how their freedoms and ultimately their lives were taken from them. Ginny feels the hopelessness of a potentially inescapable fate, as Huntington’s has no cure, and the success of treatment is varied.

Ginny carries this heavy uncertainty silently inside her, avoiding sharing her news with anyone, even her fiancé Jay. The poignant question posed is if perhaps it is kinder not to burden him with the knowledge of what the future may hold. “If I told him, I wouldn’t be able to escape his concerned gaze. Did I really want to do this to him?... To be trapped in the sticky mud of his watchfulness... To turn love into solicitude?... I believed I was really thinking about self-sacrifice. Wasn’t the most noble act, the greater love, not to tell him, not to force his obligation?”

I Laugh Me Broken is, ultimately, a story of vulnerability, of love in the face of uncertainty.