Movie Review

Julian Dennison and Sam Neill star in ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’

By Talia Amorosano

Garnering an impressive score of 8.4 out of 10 on IMDb and a perfect 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is a charmingly quirky, funny and imaginative film sure to seem particularly refreshing to those tired of riding the steady summer stream of formulaic and minimally heartfelt action blockbusters.

Written and directed by Taika Waititi and based on the book “Wild Pork and Watercress” by Barry Crump, the film made its world premiere screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year to rave reviews.

It opens with sweeping overhead shots of the breathtaking and mountainous New Zealand wilderness, setting the stage for the film’s adventures, which take place entirely in this beautiful natural setting. One of the central characters of the film is a young boy, Ricky Baker (13-year-old Julian Dennison) who has spent his life in foster care and has just been transported to a new home. He first appears in stark contrast with the rugged landscape, wearing an oversized hoodie with multicolored dollar bills on it, jacket covered in Illuminati symbols, and snapback cap.

The other main character and one of Ricky’s guardians, an old man who Ricky relentlessly calls “Uncle” (Sam Neill) despite his preference for the less personal “Hec,” is introduced with a wild boar slung over his back, dirty work boots and an unflinching scowl on his face. Initially, unassuming playful Ricky and stern repressed Hec hardly speak, but a series of traumatic and unexpected events pushes and pulls the pair of unlikely companions together on an impossible journey through the bush, where they attempt to evade a national hunt to bring Ricky back under the care of New Zealand’s child protective services.

During their travels they grapple with hapless hunters, rare and fierce animals, a bush-dwelling conspiracy theorist and growing feelings of understanding and appreciation for one another despite having said their “I hate you”s earlier in the film. What the film’s plot lacks in complexity its characters make up for in humor and heart. While the two protagonists are markedly different from one another, they never devolve into caricatures or stereotypes. Each actor plays his role with such a high degree of earnestness that the character he plays is genuinely likeable both in and of himself and in amusing conjunction with his counterpart.

When Ricky initially arrives at his new home, Hec asks, “have you ever worked on a farm before or are you just … ornamental?” Later, in the woods when Hec threatens to take Ricky home and hand him over to child protective services, Ricky refuses to comply and says dramatically, “might as well just kill me now!” before Hec shoots him a look that prompts him to sheepishly continue, “… don’t kill me.” Ricky refers to himself as a gangster yet writes haikus. Hec puts on a stoic air yet becomes extremely touchy when Ricky exposes the fact that he is unable to read.

Throughout the movie, each character’s individual development and the changing dynamic of the two characters’ relationship are full of interesting visual and verbal surprises. In addition to quirky characters and stunning visuals throughout, an unexpected but fitting range of music traverses the landscape of the film along with Ricky and Hec.

From eighties-esque synth instrumentals to mellow folk-singing interludes, to humorous impromptu singing by the characters themselves, the eclectic sound track of the “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is indicative of the pleasantly surprising but logical progression of the plot and characters. Holistically, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” manages to be different but not absurd, humorous but not heartless and emotional but not overblown. This thoroughly entertaining, down-to-earth and endearing film is almost sure to leave you exiting the theater retaining a bit of the warmth it exudes.

This movie is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content and for some language.

Talia Amorosano is a rising senior English and studio art major at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and is a frequent contributor to Times Beacon Record Newspapers.

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From left, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon star in ‘Ghostbusters.’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

By Kevin Redding

What made the original 1984 “Ghostbusters” such a huge cultural phenomenon — captivating generations of proton pack-wearing kids and adults alike — was its truly unique and perfectly balanced blend of high-scale supernatural special effects and natural, irreverent comedy. Even with a great cast that included SNL alums Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd as two of four “schlubby,” everyman paranormal eliminators, nobody could’ve expected this odd anomaly to take the world by storm the way it did, shattering box office records, winning Oscars and striking a meaningful chord with pretty much anybody who would see it.

The movie was lightning-in-a-bottle, further proved five years later when the amusing but wholly underwhelming 1989 sequel failed to make an impact on its audience in the same way. It also had no pedestal to live up to when it first hit theaters.

Thirty-two years later, “Bridesmaids”/ “The Heat” “Spy” director Paul Feig’s all-female reboot has the misfortune of being held up against one of the most beloved movies of all time, a challenge even bigger than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

However, thanks to a stellar cast, namely the quartet of spectre hunters — SNL cast members Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and “Spy” star Melissa McCarthy — good-hearted camaraderie, a memorable batch of scary poltergeists in all shapes and sizes and a consistently funny energy throughout, this new version of “Ghostbusters” is a proton blast of summer fun, even with its flaws.

Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold have crafted something that will appease fans of the original — with plenty of nods and references, and cameos from most of the main cast, including a very touching tribute to the late Harold Ramis, to whom the movie is dedicated — while, most importantly, giving a whole new generation of kids their own heroes to look up to and dress up as. And these heroes are cool, science/tech savvy and laugh out loud funny.

Kristen Wiig — at her most endearingly awkward — is Dr. Erin Gilbert, a physicist on her way to secure tenure at Columbia University, whose paranormal-investigating past comes back to haunt her in the form of a newly republished book she co-wrote alongside her former best friend Dr. Abby Yates (McCarthy). With her academic career threatened, Gilbert confronts Yates, who now works at a small technical college with the eccentric and scene-stealing Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon).

Yates and Holtzmann are all about seeking out the paranormal, but Gilbert wants nothing to do with that field of study anymore. The three wind up face-to-face with a free-floating apparition at a historic mansion, where Gilbert finds herself a believer once again after she’s showered with all the concrete evidence she needs: the spirit’s ectoplasmic slime.

Setting up shop above a Chinese restaurant, hiring a whole-other-level-of-stupid receptionist named Kevin, played by “Thor” himself Chris Hemsworth, and rounding out the team with an MTA worker named Patty Tolan (Jones) who knows New York City inside and out, the Ghostbusters are ready to equip a whole slew of ghost-trapping gadgets and find out why there’s been a sudden emergence of paranormal activity lately.

Feig and Dippold understand what people love most about the original — the characters — and run wild with that, taking the main basic concept of realistic people hunting ghosts in the Big Apple and doing their own thing with it. Some jokes fall flat — as is common in an improv-heavy ensemble — and the plot loses steam once it kicks into high gear, making for a second half that’s a bit bloated.

But overall, like in the original, it’s really fun hanging out with these characters and seeing them play off one another. The first half especially, when the group is forming and getting into the swing of their newfound business, is an absolute delight. Also, the ghosts on display here are all wonderfully designed, and the movie contains some legitimately creepy scenes. There’s plenty of room in the world for two different groups of Ghostbusters, and this one certainly holds their own. In fact, it’s when the movie hits the audience over the head with nostalgia and restricts itself from being its own “entity” altogether, by not putting complete trust in its four funny leads to make it work without help, that it suffers.