written by David Steffen

Moana is a 2016 animated comedy/action film from Disney.

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is the chieftan’s daughter on the island of a Polynesian island of Motunui.  The tribe has lived there happily as long as they remember, living off the bounties of the island the lagoon around.  The ocean has been forbidden to them for generations, since the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) stole the heart of Te Fiti, the goddess who gave life to all the islands before himself being seperated from his magical fishhook that served as both a weapon and as the aid to his magical transformative power to turn into animals of the air and sea.

Since she was a baby, Moana has always felt drawn to the ocean, despite her father’s attempts to keep her away.  One day she finds that the ocean has an affinity for her as well, seeming to beckon her out into it–she finds the secret of her people’s past, that they had been nomads of the ocean.  She follows the call of the sea to seek out Maui and the heart of Te Fiti to raise the curse of the seas.

This movie was a lot of fun, and the songs were great–no wonder it had so many Oscar nominations.  My particular favorite song was “Shiny”, sung by Jemaine Clement in his role as the villain Tamatoa, and with music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Solid sense of humor, great interactions between the two main characters of Maui and Moana, heartfelt moments, lots of riproaring action sequences.  So much here to love, fun for kids and adults, I recommend it.

Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows

written by David Steffen

What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary horror comedy film which had a theatrical release in 2014.  It was directed by Jemaine Clement (who you might know as half of New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk comedy duo Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Watit, who also both acted in the film.  The film is structured as a documentary following four vampires who are flatmates in New Zealand, chronicling their everyday lives including flatmate disputes, their feeding habits, their human familiar, their night life, and avoiding vampire hunters.

Vlago, Vladislav, and Deacon are several centuries old and have maintained their human appearances, though the necessity to avoid sunlight has left them very behind the times.  The fourth vampire Petyr, who is around 8000 years old, has become more monstrous in appearance and also monstrous in behavior compared to the other three.


I will pretty much see any movie featuring Jemaine Clement without knowing anything else about the movie, because he consistently brings great humor.  In this movie he plays Vlad the Poker (because he likes to poke things).  All of the casting (including Jemaine) were perfect in their roles, and I had to rewind the movie more than once because I was laughing too hard to catch all the lines–for instance, when the vampires attempt to go clubbing, but can’t get into clubs unless someone invites them in.  Probably my favorite bits of the movie were the ones that involved Rhys Darby (who I also knew from the Flight of the Conchords HBO show) playing the alpha of a local pack of werewolves.

I highly recommend the movie.  Great, funny stuff.  Since it does involve vampires who have to feed on humans to survive, there are some dark parts but I thought they did a good job spinning even the dark moments toward humor.