Every now and then here at NZ On Screen, we like to stick our necks out and choose a Top 10. And our collective opinion is that these are the funniest New Zealand television series to date: from bro' Town to Billy T, from Gliding On to the tag team hijinks of 7 Days. Plus 10 runners-up that we couldn't agree on. Read on to find out more.
When Night Falls is a mystery thriller involving an isolated house, a dark night and an unseen killer. Tania Nolan (Go Girls, The Hothouse) takes centre stage as a 30s-era nurse with a soft spot for her only patient (Kevin Keys, from The Blue Rose). But as darkness falls she finds herself facing off against a killer on the loose, who is seemingly out to play games with her mind. The full length film marks the feature debut of writer/director Alex Galvin (Eternity). Galvin took on multiple roles behind the scenes, some under assumed names; he also cameos early on, as a doctor.
Writer/director Hayden J Weal uses chronesthesia (aka mental time travel — the ability to think into the past and future) as a catalyst for romantic comedy in this low-budget feature. Weal stars as a young Wellington barista whose routine is disrupted by mysterious messages, dreams and strangers, plus a flurry of odd coincidences. The cast includes Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison and Cohen Holloway, plus Michelle Ny (Reservoir Hill). Titled Love and Time Travel outside of Aotearoa, the movie debuted in the Wellington edition of the 2016 NZ Film Festival.
Service station worker Tania (Sophie Henderson) is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Māori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. Directed by Curtis Vowell (his debut) the script was adapted by Henderson from her theatre monologue, and shot in 20 days via the NZFC’s low budget Escalator scheme. The twist on the Hine-nui-te-po myth was a breakout hit of the 2013 NZ Film Festival. NZ Herald critic Dominic Corry raved: “one of the freshest New Zealand films to come along in years”.
This documentary showcases some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his first feature — the aliens-amok-in-Makara splatter classic, Bad Taste. Compiled following the film's 1988 Cannes market screening, it's framed around an extensive interview with a 25-year-old Jackson at his parents’ Pukerua Bay home. These excerpts offer fascinating insight into his ingenuity: from building a DIY Steadicam, to the making of the infamous sheep-obliterating rocket launcher scene, to PJ musing on the impetus that being an only child provided him.
In Boy, a college-aged rent boy exposes the truth about the death of a girl in a hit and run accident. Using typography that hovers on screen in place of dialogue, flares of bold colour, dioramic frames, and brutal portraiture reminiscent of Dianne Arbus, director Welby Ings creates a powerful, exquisite perspective on the silent claustrophobia and sexual violence of small town New Zealand. The film gained acclaim both at home and internationally. Accolades included Best Short Film at Cinequest in the United States.
This collection celebrates more of the legendary TV moments that Kiwis gawked at, chortled with, and choked on our tea over. In the collection primer Paul (Eating Media Lunch) Casserly chews on rapper Redhead Kingpin’s equine advice to 3:45 LIVE! and mo’ memorable moments: from a NSFW Angela D'Audney to screen folk heroes Colin McKenzie and the Ingham twins.
Jared Turner is the familiar face telling us how to conserve power in the Energy Spot commercials. Though born in New Zealand, Turner began his screen career on Aussie soap All Saints, before crossing the Tasman for 2004 film Fracture. Since then he has appeared in hit Kiwi dramas The Almighty Johnsons, Go Girls and Outrageous Fortune.
Ainsley Gardiner (Te-Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Awa) fell in love with the magic of the big screen while growing up in Whakatane, where you could find her most Fridays at the local cinema catching the latest release. Her first formal foray into film and television came in 1995 when she joined producer Larry Parr at Kahukura Productions, eventually producing low budget feature Kombi Nation (2003) and co-producing the 26-part comedy/drama TV series Love Bites (2002). Following the demise of Kahukura, Gardiner teamed up with Taika Waititi to work on Oscar-nominated short film Two Cars, One Night. Soon after that she established Whenua Films with actor/producer Cliff Curtis. Together the trio struck creative gold with World War II short Tama Tū, Waititi's debut feature Eagle vs Shark and box office hit Boy.
Kiwi Flyer (also known as Derby Dogs) sees 12-year-old Ben (Edward Hall) and his mate trying to win a local trolley derby in memory of Ben’s father. In their way are schoolboy loan sharks, competition from Australia — a family led by Wayne (Vince ‘Beaureparies’ Martin) — plus getting permission from Mum (Tandi Wright). There’s plenty of Boy’s Own action and slapstick (aided by comedian Dai Henwood playing a bumbling teacher), as Ben channels the DIY spirit and races for glory. Tony Simpson’s low-budget heartwarmer was based on Nelson’s annual Collingwood St Trolley Derby.