Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


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.

The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine | Regional News

The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine

Written by: Tilly Bagshawe


Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

An epic novel perfect for your isolation blues, The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine will have you yearning for a time when France was just a plane flight away. But if you can’t travel physically you may as well travel to a different world through a book, and there’s no better book in which to lose yourself than The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine.

Spanning five decades from the early 20s through WWII and up to the 70s, The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine follows the trials and tribulations, the celebrations and the tragedies, the lives and the memories of the Salignac family. Owners of beautiful château Sainte Madeleine, the family have been wine growers of Burgundy and members of the French aristocracy for centuries, but nothing has prepared the Salignacs for the years that will come to pass. Their connection to the chateâu will be tested through the turbulence of both the world around them and of life itself.

Though each of the three children born to Louis and Therese Salignac have very different temperaments and lives, each one develops an essential bond to their home at Sainte Madeleine. Elise longs to inherit the chateâu and vineyard but loses herself in societal expectations; Alexandre, frustrated with his father’s difficult temperament, escapes to Napa to start his own vineyard; Didier, always sensitive, must find his own way to reconcile the love and pain caused by Sainte Madeleine. Meanwhile distant cousin Laurent Senard must find a way through war and politics back to Elise and Sainte Madeleine.

In this sweeping historical romance, Tilly Bagshawe crafts a world of perfectly balanced escapism and historical reality. Though she confronts serious topics of war, sexism, classism, racism, and generational strife, she also weaves in romance and beauty. Just as in life the bad moments always have their counterpart; each low will also have its highs and vice versa. The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine is a dream, a saga, an escape, and everything in between.

Smilestuff | Regional News


Devised by: Daniel Nodder

Directed by: Austin Harrison

Te Auaha, 8th Mar 2022

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Some days are good, and some days are not so good, but each day is valid and each day is followed by a fresh new one. Smilestuff encompasses all the ups and downs and in-betweens of life, giving space and acceptance to the bad days while inspiring us to find joy in even the smallest moments.

Smilestuff is a movement-based solo performance. Daniel Nodder’s performance looks light as feathers, easy, and free, but every movement is incredibly intentional and impactful. Nodder seamlessly involves the audience throughout the work, making them integral parts of the story, engaging them directly as well as through balloons and other items.

Throughout Smilestuff, both Ben Kelly’s musical accompaniment and Campbell Wright’s lighting design are as integral as the performer himself. Spotlights are used as an interactive companion to Nodder’s character: the spotlight becomes a keyboard on the floor that Nodder (and Kelly) plays, or a mirror in which Nodder discovers various facial expressions and emotions, a friend that dances alongside Nodder, and even the spark of life inside himself.

Smilestuff is infused with childlike wonder and innocence. From the moment Nodder discovers the use of his limbs, each movement is tender and pure. Nodder learns the basics before going through the motions of everyday life, each moment saturated with the simple joy of being alive. However, with living comes other complexities; Nodder quickly learns that as time wears on, each moment will not necessarily be as joyful as it was in the beginning. Finding himself in a slump, unable to come to terms with the burdens of life, musician Ben Kelly re-awakens Nodder’s joy and through a moment of quasi-puppetry Nodder lip syncs to Kelly’s beautiful rendition of Nat King Cole’s Smile.

Smilestuff celebrates the joy in everyday life and in mundanity, imploring us to cherish every moment. In the same breath, it recognises that joy cannot be constant. In this challenging time, everyone should go see Smilestuff.

Uncharted | Regional News



116 Mins

(2 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

I am a fan of the Uncharted games. No better yet, I am a massive fan of the Uncharted games. So, although part of me may have already cast this film aside when I saw Tom Holland (who bears almost no resemblance to Nathan Drake) cast as the film’s hero, I feel it is only fair that I judge Uncharted in terms of how well it represented the games, because those fans are who the film should have been made for.

Uncharted follows Nathan Drake (Holland) in his mid-twenties after he is recruited by treasure hunter Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg). The two are searching for the 500-year-old lost fortune of Ferdinand Magellan. What begins as a quick heist soon becomes a furious globe-trotting race to reach the prize before the ruthless Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) can get his hands on it. 

This movie failed from the start. Columbia and Sony Pictures took a big risk when they decided not to adapt one of Naughty Dog’s successful game storylines and instead tell an original prequel. Original stories are fine but to change the fundamental elements of the Uncharted games such as how Sully and Drake meet? That doesn’t sit well with me.

Wahlberg’s take on Sully is perhaps where this film lost any chance of writing its wrongs. Instead of the faithful and trusty mentor from the games, viewers are thrust a Sully who doesn’t seem to care about Drake at all. The pair’s renowned connection is completely lost, and this leads to the story feeling hollow. Although some of Uncharted’s action scenes are downright epic, this is no longer enough due to the regularity of films with impressive computer-generated imagery. Holland does an okay job capturing the personality of Drake, but this fails to make up for his lack of resemblance to the Drake of the games.

Director Ruben Fleischer had a rare chance to inherit a story and characters that were already engaging and build on these elements. Instead, audiences have been provided with another film that hides behind an all-star cast, mediocre humour, and big explosions rather than one that focuses on a thoughtful story that people care about, like those in the Uncharted games.