Sky-high choices get better

Nearly 800,000 long-distance trips were made by New Zealanders last year. They travelled
to Asia, Europe and across the Pacific on flights lasting at least nine hours.

In-flight entertainment (IFE) systems have become a highly competitive component for passenger choice of an airline or destination.

New Zealand is more fortunate than most countries in having some of the world’s best airlines to choose from, as well as an excellent national carrier.

Dubai-based Emirates was one of the first to install a personal system in 1992 and has been awarded the Skytrax award for best IFE for several years running. Emirates has five flights daily from Auckland and Christchurch. Singapore Airlines, which also flies from Auckland and Christchurch, also has one of the biggest IFEs. By the end of this year, a new airline, Qatar Airways, will start flying between Doha and Auckland. It boasts that a new upgrade to its IFE will offer up to 3000 choices, including 550 movies.

I was recently on Emirates’ new Auckland-Dubai non-stop flight that lasts up to 16 hours (the other four flights have stops in Australia). That means watching lots of movies — six on one flight in my case — in between sleeping and eating.

In my experience, most airlines offer much the same films.These are generally released at the same time as they become available on DVD or from streaming services such as Netflix.

Passengers on these flights are well served by new releases that have just ended their cinema runs. In some cases, airlines screen films such as the latest Star Wars episode before they have left the theatres.

Even better, almost all the Oscar-winning films have been available on most airlines since March. But the real pleasure is to see something that missed out on a cinema release, was briefly screened at a festival or never appeared at all.

The following is a selection of six to look out for on your next international trip:

• The End of the Tour: Rolling Stone magazine writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) interviews novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) over five days for a cover story. Fascinating, and a must for literary buffs.

• The Face of an Angel: A fictionalised version of an Italian murder case involving foreign students (the Amanda Knox affair).

• Our Brand is Crisis: George Clooney originally intended to star as a political “dirty tricks” operator in a Bolivian presidential election. He then cast Sandra Bullock in the role.

• The Stanford Prison Experiment: Another based-on-fact reenactment of a 1971 psychological study in the tradition of The Experimenter. A group of first-year university students are divided into guards and prisoners with devastating results.

• Truth: A dramatisation of events leading up to the cancellation of Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes TV current affairs show and the role of producer-reporter Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) in investigation of George W. Bush’s service with the Texas National Guard. Robert  Redford plays Rather.

• Z for Zachariah: Filmed in Banks Peninsula a year or so ago,  although some distinctly non-New Zealand establishing shots make you believe it is somewhere in America. Two men and a woman try to get on with each after a nuclear disaster.

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Nevil Gibson

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