New Zealand’s little Netflix competitor Neon isn’t pulling punches when it comes to the latest blockbusters.
Though Neon TV is a smaller concern when compared to the Amazon Primes and Netflixes of the world, this NZ operator sure can punch above its weight with content. If you’re after a good movie to help you unwind at the end of a long day, skip the chaff and check out some of the wheat below.
1. Thor Ragnarok
This space-Nordic tale might be a little dated (in Marvel Cinematic Universe terms) but in our opinion it’s the best of the bunch. Playing the titular superhero, Chris Hemsworth leads an all-star cast (refreshingly full of Aussies and Kiwis) in an uncharacteristically comedic Marvel adventure. The race is on for this exiled son of Odin to find his way back to the land of his birthright and to cross swords with a near-invincible usurper to the throne of Asgard. New Zealanders owe it to themselves to witness the rollicking action romp that put Taika Waititi on the map and made him one of the hottest properties in Hollywood.
Shifting gears from his usual high concept sci-fi and Bat-centric fare, director Christopher Nolan kept us on the edge of our seats with Dunkirk. (Fair warning: if you’re claustrophobic or aquaphobic, this may not be the feel-good film you’ve been looking for.) Set in May 1940, Dunkirk centres on one of the darkest hours for Great Britain during WWII. Vastly outnumbered by Nazi forces and with the English Channel standing between them and escape, 300,000+ allied troops await their grisly fate. Thus begins a triple, time-bent tale told on three fronts: a group of desperate soldiers hoping to jump the queue and two luckless rescuing groups approaching from land and sea. Riveting, must-see stuff.
Go into this expecting a watch like something from under Marvel’s Avengers umbrella and you’re going to have the shock of a lifetime. Heck, go into this thinking it’ll be a smooth transition from the Brian Singer X-Men films and you’ll be knocked on your butt as well. Logan picks up in the year 2029, a time when almost all mutants have been eradicated under mysterious circumstances and our titular hero is past his prime. That said, Wolverine’s retirement plans are put on hold when he crosses paths (and claws) with a young girl who is his spitting (clawing) image.
4. La La Land
Showered with awards and rightly so, La La Land is a musical rom-com for the ages. Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian Wilder, a struggling jazz pianist, who tap dances into the path of aspiring actress and occasional road rager Mia Dolan (Emma Stone). Both parties yearn for more in the glitz and glamour of LA and though both are luckless they’re pretty damned good at throwing stones at the other’s glass house. As stars rise and trajectories fall out of parallel, La La Land layers in tons of toe-tapping musical numbers. Trust us, even if you ordinarily hate musicals, give this a shot.
5. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
The world will probably never see the like of Robin Williams again. Naturally gifted as a lightning-quick improv comedian and trained into becoming a top-tier thespian in his own right, Williams touched millions with his movies and was in turn showered with acclaim. Come Inside My Mind is a retelling of his life and tragic final days as told by those who knew him best, the family members from his three marriages and fellow comedians who were on his level and yet still in awe of him. Especially tender moments include Billy Crystal sharing a few decades’ worth of prank call private voice messages Williams would routinely leave for him.
Though Hollywood is currently locked in a (fairly one-sided) battle between DC and Marvel, M. Night Shyamalan’s excellent superhero universe has been ticking away in the background. In Unbreakable we were introduced to David Dunn and his shadowy nemesis. In Split, you’re going to get acquainted with a third-party threat. Actually, it’s more like 23 threats, as James McAvoy masterfully plays an antagonist with nearly two dozen different identities. Desperately trying to escape his clutches (and darkest, cannibalistic tendencies) is a group of kidnapped teens. This is essential, edge-of-your-seat viewing if you want to watch the final, forthcoming part of this trilogy, Glass.
Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard and Greta Gerwig star in this fascinating look into the great woman behind the great man that was JFK. This is an incredibly moving portrait of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy as she fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and claw back some semblance of normality. Though Jackie is known for her dignity and poise she becomes caught in a hurricane of political intrigue and intense trauma. Worse, she realises that the seven days following the assassination will see history not only define her, but also the legacy of her murdered husband.
8. Hidden Figures
We’ve run the numbers and against all odds this biographical drama about human calculators somehow adds up to equal great entertainment. Yes, we like maths puns. Hidden Figures centres on an elite but maligned group of African-American mathematicians working at NASA during the height of the Space Race in the 70s. Three of these women, known as “human computers”, are brought to bear when Cold War ambition starts to dangerously push the envelope during the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
Fans of courtroom drama are in for a treat here. Based on the acclaimed book by Deborah E. Lipstadt, Denial recounts the legal battle for historical truth between Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and David Irving (Timothy Spall). The crux of the disagreement is a matter of libel: Lipstadt has accused Irving of being a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, the burden of proof is on the accused. Thus begins a desperate (and surprisingly difficult) quest to prove that possibly the worst crime in history did in fact occur.
10. Girls Trip
Starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett-Smith, Girls Trip is an uproarious, R-rated road trip worth taking. Best friends Ryan, Sasha, Lisa and Dina are in for the adventure of a lifetime when they travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. Along the way, they rekindle their sisterhood and rediscover their wild side by doing enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush. Better yet, the bawdiness and physical comedy is backed up by heartfelt performances and compelling characters.