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Entries in New Zealand Film (2)

Sunday
Sep112016

THIS PAPIER MACHE BOULDER IS ACTUALLY REALLY HEAVY

Stars: Christian Nicolson, Sez Niederer, Daniel Pujol, Lewis Roscoe, Joseph Wycoff, Tansy Hayden and Jarred Tito.
Writers: Andrew Beszant and Christian Nicolson.
Director: Christian Nicolson.

Rating: 3/5

Playing sweet and silly while keeping irony in check is one of the many endearing traits of multi-hyphenate Christian Nicolson’s fan-boy movie-gasm, This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy. The Auckland-based writer-director’s passion project is roughhewn but undeniably crowdpleasing, deriving some big laughs from a barrage of references that draw upon the two great periods of popular science fiction entertainment –the B-movie cheapies of the 1950s and the post-Star Wars boom of the 1980s.

Working with co-scripter Andrew Beszant and exhibiting an unwavering commitment to improvised energy, the premise stems from Nicolson’s deep understanding and clear affection for such properties as Blakes 7, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Red Dwarf and Star Trek (whose fan base are already nodding knowingly at the title); large dollops of comedic inspiration come from the likes of Monty Python, the Simon Pegg series Spaced and, in one nutty nod, The Benny Hill Show. Low- to no-budget constraints clearly posed zero concern for the cast and crew, who commit to their director’s enthusiastically loopy vision regardless of wobbly sets, home-stitched costuming and paddocks-as-planets location shoots.

Nicholson stars as Tom, the almost-cool one in a mismatched trio alongside schlubby eye-roller Gavin (Lewis Roscoe) and sci-fi geek Jeffery (Daniel Pujol). Reluctantly roped into a day at the mini-con ‘Quest Fest’, they are drawn to a screening of the schlocky space-opera, Space Warriors in Space. With barely a paragraph of cumbersome exposition, the three are zapped into the film, where Jeffery morphs into the fictitious Captain Kasimir, the trio put offside the evil galactic battle lord Froth (Joseph Wycoff, very funny) and Tom fosters affections for the feisty heroine Emmanor (Sez Niederer). Developments involving giant lizards, leery bikini-clad Amazons, a muppet and tribesmen with a Groot-like economy for words add to the overall air of free-for-all lunacy.

The meta-friendly ‘trapped-in-a-movie’ device allows for lots of knowing satire, utilisation of well-worn tropes and examination of the fan-to-film dynamic. Unlike the melancholy romanticism of Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo or smart social commentary of Gary Ross’ Pleasantville, Nicolson uses the structure to play for broad laughs, as Peter Hyams did in the 1992 cult item Stay Tuned, which saw John Ritter and Pam Dawber cast into a cable TV nightmare. The other clear inspiration is Dean Parisot’s 1999 hit Galaxy Quest; less obviously, due to it barely having seen a release outside of the UK, is Alan Donohoe’s Star Wars fan-pic, I Have a Bad Feeling About This, which recounts the odyssey of two Lucas-obsessed lads determined to catch a screening of the original trilogy.

In hindsight, Nicolson may have handed his post-production hyphen over to a fresh pair of eyes; at 112 minutes, the whimsy is not always maintained and the film could do with a tight trim. But one can’t begrudge Nicolson and his cast and crew the urge to put all they shot on-screen for all to see; the sense that every set-up was forged with passion and persistence imbues this giggly, goofy and genuinely likable genre farce.

This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy begins an exclusive New Zealand screening season on September 14 in Auckland. Full screening and ticketing information on the film’s official website.

 

Friday
Feb272015

SUNDAY

Stars: Dustin Clare, Camille Keenan, Jacob Tomuri and Steve Wrigley.
Writers: Dustin Clare, Camille Keenan and Michelle Joy Lloyd.
Director: Michelle Joy Lloyd. 

Rating: 4/5

With the cracked, crumbling façade of earthquake-ravaged Christchurch as a metaphorical backdrop, Michelle Joy Lloyd’s sad, sweet two-hander Sunday deftly explores the complexities of balancing the fantasy of youthful ‘true love’ with the realities of late twenty-something adult life.

We first meet Lloyd’s protagonists frolicking in sun-drenched memories, when surf, sex and sweet nothings defined their blossoming romance. Rakish Aussie charmer Charlie (Dustin Clare) and sweet Kiwi party-girl Eve (Camille Keenan) bond in a hedonistic haze of dance club rituals, ruffled sheets and languid beach interludes, only to have the fibre of their love tested when she becomes pregnant and he accepts an army posting.

The narrative picks up their relationship at an awkward airport rendezvous, when Charlie returns after five absent months to find Camille nearing full term and barely hiding her bitterness about his decision to leave her. So unfolds a day of awkward tenderness and boundary redefinition as the pair, once the ‘soul mates’ of romantic lore, try to place themselves in the reality they have somehow created.

Sharing writing duties with real-life partners Clare and Keenan, the direction of feature debutant Lloyd skilfully crafts a realistic portrait of tarnished love. As Eve and Charlie take in the restoration of Christchurch, so to does the audience watch a hopeful rebuilding of the past; like those that survived the February 2011 quake, there is a purveying mood that life will return to normality but that the memory of a better time will never fade away.

Crucial to the intimacy of Sunday is the effortless chemistry between the leads. The list of ill-suited real-life pairings on-screen is endless, yet the eminently photogenic pair (he, TV-series veteran with roles in McLeod’s Daughters, Underbelly and Spartacus; she, an Oz-based Kiwi expat with a similarly extensive small-screen resume) succinctly convey the intricacies of their character’s lives with performances that are naturally engaging yet strongly cinematic. Be warned; an ample supply of Kleenex is recommended for a denouement that tested even this hardened critic.

Although the wanderings of two young adults at an existential crossroad suggests more than a hint of Richard Linklater’s ‘Before…’ trilogy, Sunday charts its own emotional landscape. If the films do share one thing, it is in the vastness of their wisdom. Like so many great movie couples, Eve and Charlie are flawed, fascinating, heart-and-soul humans yet convey a richness that also makes us want to be them.

Screening at the 2015 Byron Bay Film Festival. Session details and tickets available here.