Hunt for the Wilderpeople

While perusing the Wisconsin Film Festival schedule earlier this year, this movie jumped out as one of very few that piqued my interest. Being early to get tix, I was a little surprised to find out it was already sold out. Here it is August 2016, and it still feels like nobody has even heard of this movie, but there it was playing at the local theatre. As I check IMDB tonight, I see they tout the Wisconsin Film Festival as one of its big "award wins". In other words, again, nobody has heard of it. That's too bad because it should be required viewing.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

For me, what worked well? All of it. Really. I'd rate this 9.something for sure.

1. Great refs. Did anybody catch the Bottle Rocket/Wes Anderson ref at the end? "Cuk-kaw!". The Scarface ref, the Terminator ref, all well placed and very well done. Oh and don't forget the classic Lord of the Rings ref.

2. Fantastic script/dialog, so clever on the funny bits, much of the credit on pulling it off going to the casting here, especially of the "fat kid" Ricky Baker.

3. Scenery was great, duh, being New Zealand. Good pace, surprisingly decent soundtrack, great cameos (especially Murray from Flight of the Conchords as Psycho Sam). I could go on an on, really, but let's just wrap with a few of the haikus and an order to get your ass out and see it.

Ricky Baker: Trees. Birds. Rivers. Sky. / Running with my Uncle Hec / Living forever.

Uncle Hec: Me and this fat kid / we ran, we ate and read books / and it was the best.

Blue Valentine

We don't get out to see many movies. When you have two kids, that's just how it is. So when we do, I choose carefully. When I told my wife we were seeing this, it had just come out, so all I had to base my hunch on was the one-paragraph summary in the Isthmus. Yeah, I know, everybody is talking about it now. Anyway, at the time my wife said "yuck, why would we want to see that?". Let's just say our life is... pretty similar. I told her "maybe we can learn something". I was hoping it would act as a warning sign for us. I had no idea.


It wasn't long into the movie until Xtina was crying, and calling Gosling's character, Dean, an asshole out-loud in the theatre. And here I am thinking "huh. I kinda sympathize with this guy". He's screwing around at the breakfast table with his little girl, making a mess, pissing off the wife, but his kid is loving "eating like leapords" and stuff. When Dean gets scolded, he tells his kid “You’re a big girl now, sweetheart, so don’t have any fun".

You know why else I like Dean? This isn't even his kid. But other than the moment that point is revealed in the film, you'd never know it. He loves this kid like his own. Ok, I admit, this hits home too hard for me. My older kid is not mine, and my dream of the family Dean wants has failed too. I walked Jade to school her first day of kindergarten. She is a senior now, and still worships her bum of a dad who has given her nothing but a succession of broken promises. She worships Grandma Annie too, an evil woman who claimed Jade was not her son's kid. Meanwhile mom, who has done everything for this girl, is blocked out of Facebook.

Sometimes things just don't work out. Marriages in this country usually don't work out. This film lays that out refreshingly bare. Near the end, when Cindy is berating Dean for not realizing his potential, he responds "what exactly is potential? I'm happy. All I want is to love my family". Well Dean, you just answered your own question. Every married couple should see this movie, and when you leave, remember, every action has a consequence. But if you've been lucky enough to find the right person, it's worth the risk.

Derek Cianfrance wrote this as a cautionary tale for himself, after watching his parent's marriage crumble. My mom and dad are approaching their 70th wedding anniversary. Is there even a name for that? But my biggest fear is becoming my dad. It's also my wife's biggest fear, and she reminds me often. My mom confided in me once, "I should have divorced him years ago, it's too late now". Genetics are a tough weed to beat down, but it's possible, and I'm determined to do it.


I was really looking forward to this one, as I can be counted among those who agree the 12 issue DC series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is indeed one of the higher points in comics history. For me, it did not disappoint. Just achieving that - being an adquate adaptation, is a huge accomplishment. Way to go Zack, I guess this movie is "filmable" after all.

Casting was great. I hesitate to say relative unknowns, when actors like Jackie Earl Haley have been around since... well, I think he was one of the original Bad News Bears. But from what I hear he was making a living as a limo driver until recently. Rorschach has cemented that comeback. Favorite Rorschach line: "You people don't understand, I'm not trapped in here with you, you're all trapped in here with me!".

Yeah, it was long, but it needed almost every minute to do the story justice. This is way more than a super-hero movie. It's as much philosophical commentary and a statement on the sorry state of modern society. It would have been a shame to leave out any of the key original Moore dialogue.

One example, which I think they handled well, but it went by fast so I'm not certain, is the whole "miracles are impossible and here's why", followed by "miracles are possible and here's why" bit. If you pay attention, this is an amazing little chunk of writing on Moore's part. The first half is easy - miracles by definition are impossible, because only things that can happen do happen. The second part you have to pay attention for. He starts by presenting the idea of the thermodynamic miracle - a particle physics concept. The idea being, although so improbable these things are essentially impossible, it is not 100% improbable for something like the subatomic particles that make up say oxygen to spontaneously rearrange to form gold. Ok, are you with me so far? Now, compare this probability to what produces each human life today. You've got millions of sperm competing for that one egg. Multiply those odds over countless generations before us - the same mind-boggling improbable path. And you approach the same odds as a thermodynamic miracle, to make each person today the unique thing in the universe they are! Heavy stuff, I know, but it worked for me and hit me hard. Probably because I am myself now a dad, and believe you me, the odds of that ever happening were slim to start. And when finally deciding on a name for my girl, Mira, it was because of the realization that she is essentially a Miracle.

Ok, heavy mode off, I'll wrap this up to say go see it because even my wife Kristina liked this movie, and for comic book fans, that says a lot.

Burn After Reading

Another Coen brothers movie already! This one snuck up on me, and did not disappoint. A perfect follow-up to NCFOM, going for the laughs this time.


Casting was for the most part really good, with many of the usual suspects. Brad Pitt worked just ok for me. No doubt, he played his part really well, I just prefer the lesser-known, not-quite-A-list actors. Yeah, the lineup was almost too heavyweight for me. Budget busting, you'd think. Except my guess is a lot of these A-listers are almost lining up, asking Joel and Ethan if they can please be in their next movie, instead of the other way around.

I'm not much of a Malkovich fan, but nobody can try and claim he didn't deliver here. Hell of a performance. Twice, I even saw little bits of spit flying out of his mouth when he was all wound up! Good stuff.

Great ending. J.K. Simmons had me and my wife laughing out loud. He has been cast spot-on lately. Specifically, in Juno, and best yet, as Spider-Man's boss J. Jonah Jameson.

No Country For Old Men

This one I was really looking forward to, as I have with each new Coen brothers movie, starting with Blood Simple. Always something you can count on to be good, the only question is how good. The answer? I'm still not sure.


The good: the acting throughout was phenomenal. Javier Bardem was extremely well cast. And how do they find these bit-part actors? Bottom line is these guys have got all aspects of making good movies down pat, and strangely do not seem to be past their peak yet.

The questionable: being in a fog from a nasty cold, I caught myself for some reason daydreaming during the very end, where Tommy Lee Jones was relating his dream. Then it was over. My wife asked me "what happened there?" And I had to say I wasn't sure. What did happen there?

Same thing at the beginning - drifted off for a minute and missed some opening dialogue, which pissed me off, but no matter - in no time we were off and running.

My only nits: Lewelyn getting knocked off so casually near the end. I saw the setup: when the chick hits on him, they are trying to say here is the crack in his armor - this is the one time he shows weakness and messes up. And then he's gone. You'd think that would have been a major scene.

Some things of note: No happy ending. Not only does Sigur get Lewelyn, but he offs his wife as well. And the fact that he was under the bed when Tommy Lee Jones made his last check of the motel room. If you ignore plausibility aspects, that was a pretty bizarrely crafted scene.

The Departed

I said it early on - so much had been made about Scorcese not getting his deserved Oscar, that it would look almost ridiculous if he didn't get one this year. As long as The Departed was at least not an embarrassment, you knew they were going to give it to him. I should have put money on it.


I wasn't expecting much, figuring Marty is well past his creative peak, and the probability of another Raging Bull is nil. That said, The Departed was a pleasant surprise. In a year without much competition, it probably really was the best movie. Yes, it was classic Scorcese complete with lots of steadycam shots and classic Stones soundtrack use (Gimme Shelter). But he kept things current too, with some other great soundtrack choices, and showing how cell phones have become so vital to mob activity.

Another reason it scores big for me is any time I'm impressed with the acting by folks not on my fave actors list (like Damon and DiCaprio), it's nice to be forced to admit "hey, they were good in this, what can I say?". You could just feel the effort everyone involved had put in - you could tell DiCaprio must have been just thrilled to be working with Scorcese on this, and was definitely giving 200% all the time. And Nicholson just playing himself always works too.

It's true, there won't ever be another Raging Bull, that was a blip in time. But this was a great movie, put it on your Netflix queue.

New York Doll

Ok, it helps a lot if you were a New York Dolls fan, but even if not this documentary plays out the coolness and tragedy of the Dolls well enough to pull at just about anyone's heart.


Focusing on bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane, the movie follows the three surviving original members, and centers around Morrissey's attempt to organize a reunion show at his huge London festival.

I don't want to give the ending away, but the good fortune needed to have obtained this sometimes bizarre and entertaining footage is hard to imagine. It's at times almost as if David Lynch were hired to make a fake documentary about the Dolls.

Since others have explained how great this movie was way better than me, go elsewhere for real convincing.


Dedicated to three of my modern-day heroes, Paul Westerberg, Ray Anderson, and Ralph Lau. Paul saved rock-and-roll, Ray became a model for corporate America, and Ralph is the about the best step-dad anyone could hope for, he's sure got me beat.

No need to read any further - this last bit is just a shameless plug for my side-project hobby, Nostomania, my site where I compute pricing data for collectibles, based on actual sales. It amazes me how this late in the web game I'm still the only person who's figure out how to do this right.