Archives for posts with tag: jemaine clement

“Disney made a movie about Polynesia” is not a sentence calculated to get me to buy a ticket. “Jemaine Clement plays a giant evil crab” might have done better, but no one told me.

MV5BMjI4MzU5NTExNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY1MTEwMDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Moana is really good. It’s simple, compelling, and well-executed. Also gorgeous. A young Polynesian woman (Auli’i Cravalho) is raised to be the chief of her island. She has a kooky and mystical grandmother (the inimitable Rachel House), a cute pig, and a very stupid chicken. Then things on the island start to die, and Moana must go on a quest to restore the heart (a small jade token) to the goddess Te Fiti. To do this, she enlists the help of the demigod Maui. Who is played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Obviously.

He is arrogant and hilarious; she is naïve but plucky.  They encounter monsters, gods, and the ocean, which is usually on their side but also can get tetchy. The best of these is a giant crab called Tamatoa, who is the god of something or other and is voiced side-splittingly by Jemaine Clement.

Romance at no point enters the story, even in negation. This is markedly better than the treatment in Brave or Frozen. In fact, across the board Moana is much more the girl-power film those were trying to be. And as far as I can tell it’s not racist.

Stray observations:

  • Like, Moana, I’m excited for your freedom and self-actualization and stuff but you literally don’t know how to handle an out-rigger and it was stupid to steal one and head off by yourself.
  • The coconut pirates are baffling and unnecessary.
  • “Oh, I see. She’s taken a barnacle, and she’s covered it in bioluminescent algae. As a diversion.”

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
Rating: PG
Length: 107 minutes
Score: 4/5

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This is one of those movies where bad things happen to a mild-mannered man because women are crazy and dishonest, and yet, I did not mind as much as usual, because Jemaine Clement is a genius.

No, honestly. Will (Clement) is a graphic novelist, and the film begins at his twin daughters’ fifth birthday party. He’s looking for matches, and he walks in on his girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allynne) having sex. She moves in with that guy (who is a monologuist, helpfully glossed as “stand-up comedy without the jokes”), starts taking improv, and then decides she believes in marriage after all. Because she’s that woman from the movies, who is the worst. Meanwhile, of course, Will is just trying to be a good dad, and teach his class on graphic novels, and not jerk around a woman he meets (Regina Hall’s Diane). He is very put-upon and can’t even throw his cup in anger without getting his drink all over himself.

I hate these sorts of things, as a rule, but it is impossible not to root for Clement as Will, even though you probably think that unshaven graphic novelists deserve most of the nonsense that comes their way. His gentle brand of satire and occasional flashes of anger are very effective, and his daughters are adorable. He is evidently trying to be a grown-up, which is a pleasant change from all characters in films ever.

Also, if you enjoy that now largely standard low-key slightly arty New York vibe, you’ll love this.

Stray observations:

  • When I typed “she believes in marriage after all” above, I first typed “magic” instead of “marriage.” So.
  • Will and Diane have sex in her office. She is a college professor. So am I, and that is not a call I would make.

Director: James C. Strouse
Rating: R
Length: 85 minutes
Score: 4/5

This movie is a mock-documentary about vampires in New Zealand made by half of the team from “Flight of the Conchords.” That’s probably all the information you need to go and get your grubby mitts on it, but if not:

Viago (Taika Waititi) is our main point of contact with the documentary crew. He’s a vampire of the 18th century dandy type, and we encounter him as he’s trying to roust all of his flatmates out of their respective vampire sleeping situations for a flat meeting. First we meet Deacon (Jonny Brugh) hanging in a closet; he’s the newest of the vampires and vaguely rebellious. Next up is Vladislav the Poker (Jemaine Clement), who is having some sort of red satin orgy; he is obviously your bog-standard central European mediaeval-type vampire. Finally there is Petyr (Ben Fransham), an ancient Nosferatu-type who resides in the basement, doesn’t speak, and is surrounded by the remains of his victims, which Viago thinks is gross.

As the movie goes on, you see them do standard flatmate things: argue about whose turn it is to do the dishes, try to go to nightclubs (tricky if you need to be invited in), and have fraught encounters with the local werewolves (led by our old friend Rhys Darby). Deacon’s familiar Jackie (Jackie van Beek) lies to the dry cleaner about bloodstains, irons frilly shirts, and generally shows us (hilariously) how difficult it would actually be, day-to-day, to be a vampire’s familiar. The practicalities indeed often come into play–what if you hit a main artery by accident? what kind of prey would child vampires prefer? how do you learn about technology?–as the gang wanders around Wellington, and it’s perfectly composed and thought through.

The acting is over the top, of course, but consistently hits exactly the right humorous note. There’s some body horror, again of course, but the context makes it less jarring, and it could be a lot less tasteful. And, for all that it is straightforwardly a comedy about, you know, blood-sucking monsters, it gets surprisingly deep and rather touching. The genre is one of my favorites, and this is a terrific example.

Stray observations:

  • Rhys Darby wants his crew to watch their language: “Werewolves, not swearwolves!”
  • Viago is amazingly charming and sympathetic, even when he is in the process of murdering someone.

Directors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Rating: R
Length: 86 minutes
Score: 5/5