5 Jan 2024

Summer movie reviews: Wish, Poor Things & Dream Scenario

From Summer Times, 11:51 am on 5 January 2024

It's a new year, which means there are a bunch of new movies in the theatres this week.

RNZ producer Jessica Keane checks out the latest kids' film from Disney and a couple of deliciously dark comedies for the grown-ups.

Stills from the films 'Poor Things', 'Wish', and 'Dream Scenario'.

 Stills from Poor Things, Wish and Dream Scenario. Photo: .


"I personally am one of those movie-goers that actually genuinely enjoys watching kids' movies when they are done well. Unfortunately, this was not one of those movies.

"It was made to mark the 100-year anniversary of The Walt Disney Company and the whole concept comes from that iconic Disney song 'When You Wish Upon a Star' - you know, the theme song that you always hear at the start.

"The plot takes place in the fairytale kingdom of Rosas, which is an island city in the Mediterranean where people from around the globe emigrate to live in tranquil safety under the watchful eye of King Magnifico. He is played by Chris Pine who seems to be having a lot of fun in this role. He's a really powerful sorcerer-king who's constantly talking about how good-looking he is, so it's got a bit of humour in there.

"Yet one of his conditions for any Rosas citizen is that they must hand over their wish to the king at the age of 18 for him to safeguard. A wish in this world is essentially a person's dream. It's that thing that that special thing that they hold close to their heart and they want to make it a reality one day. But unfortunately for them, once they hand over their wish to the king they instantly forget it. They don't remember what their wish was and so they don't know what they're missing.

"Everyone loves the king so it just keeps happening and everyone's happy to go along with it until the main character Asha, who is voiced by Ariana DeBose, dares to question why the wishes are taken from people. She wishes upon a star to come and help her free the wishes. A very, very cute little yellow 2D-animated star, aptly named Star, joins her and they embark on a mission to reveal the truth and free the wishes.

"If you've got young kids, they will be entertained, they'll have some laughs, but it's definitely aimed at the kids. It's not targeted at adults at all. Normally, they sprinkle in some humour for the adults. Yeah, it's very lacking, unfortunately."

1 out of 5 stars 

Poor Things

"This is the latest by a great director called Yorgos Lanthimos who has several Academy Awards under his belt. It's not for everyone. I personally loved it. I thought it was great. It's picked to be a front-runner at the Oscars, actually. That's how well it's doing.

"Poor Things is a fantasy black comedy film based on a novel of the same name by a Scottish writer - a Frankenstein-like drama set in a futuristic version of the 19th century.

"Emma Stone, who's also a producer on the film, is playing Bella Baxter, who's a 19th-century woman who died and was reborn through the influence of Godwin Baxter who's this Frankenstein-like surgeon,

"Now, follow along with me... Godwin took Bella's unborn baby and put the brain of that baby into Bella's head. That will give you an example of how kind of absurd this is. If you're thinking, 'yeah, that doesn't sound like me', don't see this movie because it is not for everyone.

"But Emma Stone plays it so well, her physicality is brilliant. She has to play an adult woman who has a baby's brain to start with so it's such an interesting concept. She starts off very sort of stiff 'cause she doesn't have the motor skills but she learns very quickly and develops. And as that happens, she just gets smoother and smoother and her speech gets better.

"She's sort of locked up in this house her whole life because she's a bit of a monster. But she rebels she runs away with Duncan Wedderburn, who is played by Mark Ruffalo. And he is amazing in this film, he is almost unrecognisable. This might be a bit contentious, but I didn't really know if Mark Ruffalo was a good actor and then you see him in this and he just shines so bright. I mean, his character is not likeable but he's brilliant. He's so good at this role. And it's worth it just to see him really and Emma Stone. She's amazing."

"The guy sitting next to me was covering his eyes the whole time. He was not enjoying it. But then on the other side, the people were talking about how much they loved it. So be prepared when you go into it that it's not for everyone. It's quite intense."

4 out of 5 stars (but with a content warning)

Dream Scenario

"Nicolas Cage, who is phenomenal in this role, he's a very ordinary hapless professor. He's lived his whole life unrecognised for his work and he just wants attention. He just wants to be appreciated. And he starts appearing in people's dreams. Everyone sees him in their dreams. So it turns into this 'five minutes of fame' type thing.

  • Listen to Dream Scenario's director Kristoffer Borgli​ speaking about the film on RNZ earlier this week here.

"He's loving it. He's living on a high, people are finally seeing him. But then it turns very dark. The dreams turn into nightmares and it's quite brutal some of it, it's really very funny though. Once again, not for everyone, but this movie reminded me of why I love the cinema. I went in and I just found it such a joy.

"There's some moments in this movie that are just iconic. I think I'll be quoting them for a while."

4 out of 5 stars