(M) Lee Tamahori ( Once were Warriors) returns to direct this feature in his native New Zealand after many years of working on Hollywood projects. The result is a Maori family saga, set in the late 1950s, about rivalry between two clans of sheep shearers and the attempts of a 14-year-old (Akuhata Keefe) to stand up to his domineering grandfather (Temuera Morrison), the patriarch of his family. Spectacularly filmed pastoral scenery is a major asset, but the narrative has its share of cliches. Office Christmas Party (MA15+) Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, this is a comedy with a story to tell, which puts it above recent efforts such as Bad Moms and Sisters. There’s a bit of swearing, sexual innuendo and nudity, as the MA15+ rating would suggest, but it’s not vulgar or demeaning. The setting is the Chicago office of a technology company run by Clay Vanstone (TJ Miller), a rich young man who is a bit of a hipster: funny and odd. He inherited the job from his father. When his sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who is acting chief executive, drops by, it looks like Christmas is going from difficult to Dickensian.
Golden Years (M) A bunch of old-timers living in Bristol, in the West of England, decide to save their threatened social club and augment their pensions by robbing banks. This film, aimed squarely at older audiences, starts well enough but soon becomes ridiculous. Still it’s good to see 85-year-old Virginia McKenna, star of films such as Born Free, giving a lively performance.
The Legend of Ben Hall (M) A disappointing and overextended portrait of the eponymous bushranger (1837-65) and some of his exploits, Matthew Holmes’s film spends too much time staging the similar-looking shootouts and not enough exploring the context and the backgrounds of the characters. Jack Martin’s Hall is an imposing figure, and the film is visually handsome.
Speed-the-Plow David Mamet’s exploration of American business life and the odd ambivalence of the male relationships that sustain it moves here from the world of real estate ( Glengarry Glen Ross) to Hollywood. Two producers, played by Damon Herriman and Lachy Hulme, struggling to make it big in a film studio, are about to pitch a commercial movie to their boss when their temporary secretary (Rose Byrne, pictured) challenges one of them to pitch a serious film instead. The trouble with this revival is that the central conflict is now neither new nor particularly convincing. There is savage comedy and good performances but it is hard to understand why this play needed to be revived.