Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Case for Lessons After RWC 2011 - Part 1

Far be it from me to argue with rugby legend Sean Fitzpatrick, but I have to say that I reckon he is a little behind the times with what makes Kiwis tick.  Though perhaps it is because he is working for the NZ Herald and that paper may hold more traditionalist views.  Because, over on Stuff:

Yup, Sonny Bill Williams, and how to look good shirtless, is THE most important lesson learned from the 2011 Rugby World Cup.  Perserverance?  Determination?  Faith?   No, sorry Mr Fitzpatrick.  Rugby made us smarter because, as much as the much vaunted new super funky rugby jersey may have scored an epic fail on the durability, ease of application and even fit stakes, it resulted in this:

And of course, Richie also had a shirt replacement incident, but that doesn't even seem to register with Stuff's SBW-centric staffers:

Of course, there is yet another article on Stuff about SBW, one actually related to news about who he will sign with, though the main link on this page is to the gallery of his opening game change.

So I really am sorry Sean, but your analysis of the game seems to come from way back in the mists of time from when the All Blacks last won the Rugby World Cup.  We are living in the modern, professional game now, where personality (and physique) can trump those more quaint notions of what the game means to the country with a crunch from a well honed six pack.

Verdict: One week on, it seems what Stuff has taken from the Rugby World Cup 2011 does not have a whole lot to do with rugby, but does have a whole lot to do with Sonny.  It makes me smile.  6 slabs out of 6.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Case for Timeless Strolls

I was a bit nervous going into Midnight in Paris. It had received good reviews, but it was a Woody Allen movie (I have had uneven experiences with his movies) and it starred Owen Wilson (who is so much less cool than brother Luke, it is a crying shame). Luckily though, Wilson was channeling the neurotic part of Allen, so while he may have irritated occasionally, most of the rest of the film was left to delight.

I have to say "most of the rest", Rachel McAdams' character, Inez, and the rest of her family quickly when from charming odd balls to highly unlikeable characters that just need to be run over by a wayward Peugeot around the Arc de Triomphe or poisoned by a poisson in some fancy French restaurant.

From the outset, the film is doused in fantasy, so what develops is not so much of a leap. Wilson's character Gil is in love with Paris, and is travelling there with his wealthy soon-to-be family in law. They all see the high end of Paris, with no trips on the Metro or litter on the streets to add a bit of ordinary colour to the painting of their fairytale trip. But Gil is unsatisfied: he pines for what he sees as the golden age of Paris, the 1920s, when writers and artists from all over the world descended on Paris in a creative fervour. And one night, while out walking, he gets to go back and rub shoulders with the people of that era.

Therein lies the fun of the film. While I didn't get all the references, there are some great turns by actors portending to be Cole Porter, (my favourite) Earnest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and hyperactive wife Zelda (the awesome Alison Pill, also from Scott Pilgrim), Gertrude Stein (a suitably brassy performance by Kathy Bates), Picasso, and an amusing turn by Adrien Brody doing a very odd Dali (Da-LI!) obsessed with rhinoceri.

With such a large group of legendary characters to draw from, all performed by such able actors, it is pretty hard not to lose oneself in the story. It is mainly just people running around saying things you would expect them to say in the way you would expect them to say them (well, those I knew did and I assume those who I didn't know would have, had I known what to look for), with Wilson's character mainly left saying "wow" every few minutes, to remind the viewer that this is not "supposed" to be happening.

It's almost a shame when the film shifts back to the present, especially after Marion Cotillard comes aboard and lights up the screen like she normally does as Adriana. Everyone else kind of fades into the background from that point on.

The film does not outstay its welcome, ending quickly enough once the life lesson has been learned. And what is that lesson? I would not want to spoil it by revealing it here - the film is worth a look, so I will leave that revelation for those who choose to see it.

Verdict: Midnight in Paris is a stroll through the past, a love story to the Paris that was and is - well, the romantic notion of Paris that ignores poverty and other social problems and the lives of the "insignificant" ordinary people who usually inhabit the real world. But go into the film not expecting to see anything approaching reality, and you (hopefully) will enjoy it just fine. 7.5 kilometres out of 10.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Case for Celebrating RWC 2011

Thanks to the NZ Herald, happiness is:

And my favourite:

Verdict: Not really a lot more to add - 8 to 7.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Case for RWC 2011 Conclusions

Well, the end is nearly nigh.  Thank goodness.

I don’t know of anyone who has not enjoyed a game of Rugby over the past few weeks.  The energy and enthusiasm, especially when supporting the “smaller” teams, has been infectious.  And the games themselves have seemed a bit less burdened by the weight of the expectations of normal tours, their frequency and variety perhaps releasing the intense pressure of normal matches.  The waves of tourists through the cities has also added a festival atmosphere to things, as city councils do their best to entertain them outside of the rugby venues, with flow on effects that locals can appreciate.

There is no doubting that the Rugby World Cup is news.  There is a bit less justification for it being serious news.   And oftentimes, because this is New Zealand, this is the only news. 

Some New Zealanders like to delude themselves that this is a sporty nation.  It is – within a very limited definition.  Because this is a rugby nation.  Valerie Adams’ phenomenal performance in shot put?  The Silver Ferns battles on the netball court?  Any female sport basically, and any male sport that is not rugby?  Worth perhaps a mention.

Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with a national sport, and intense interest therein.  For me though, as someone with more just a passing interest in the game, minimal interest in wall to wall coverage of what is fairly non news (as the only real rugby-related news happens on the field), and no interest in Rugby players selling me things, I am just about past the point where I can find good humour in the rugby frenzy. 

Must the Kiwi media (and lay Kiwis too) be complete d!cks when describing (i.e., insulting) competitors from across the ditch?  Does the desire of any team to win a game change so much that we require daily media conferences to confirm their enthusiasm?  How many times can the media use Sonny Bill Williams’ image in stories barely even tangentially related to rugby, and is there some magic 6-digit number of times that they must refer to his physique?  

It is great to see the players mingling with their fans despite the pressure they must be under, and it is sweet to hear of young ladies bringing their heroes presents (though I would have thought anyone at this stage would be wary of plates of food). 

A lot of New Zealanders have invested a lot, emotionally, in this event.  It’s a feel good story, a way to lose oneself, after so much awfulness – earthquakes, financial meltdowns, increasing costs – that, for the most part, people have been more or less helpless to prevent or to cure.  From that perspective, this is a fantastic time that has lifted the spirit of a nation, even if just for a little while.

But, yeah, I am ready to move on myself.  I suppose I should be thankful this feeling did not come earlier, when there were many more matches to be played. Last week, I was barely able to watch the Air New Zealand safety video without reaching for a barf bag (and that was before the plane even moved), but outside of that, I have had no signs of rugby overload until the last day or so.


So yes, it is nearly done.  And I am much the happier for it.  Win or lose.

Verdict: It's been fun, but its time to move on.  But will we?  15 players out of 15.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Case for the Chief's Speech

If I have understood the hype correctly, the Orator is the first Samoan-only spoken film.  It has got quite a bit of praise (including Kate Rodger, who gave the film a bit of an up-thumbing too) and was a gleaming jewel amongst the detritus littering most of the cinemas at the moment.

I am not sure of the appropriate term to use, but most of the story concerns the dwarf Saili, played by Fiaula Sanote, whose parents have died, and who is struggling with his loss and with the responsibility of looking after the two outcasts from another tribe.  Tausili Pushparaj asVaaiga, his ailing wife, is incredibly intense and provides most of the dialogue in the first half of what, oddly, is a fairly dialogue-free film.  Life on the island is shown as simple, slow-moving and religious, though the politics that bind and divide families and tribes are as complex as they come.

There are some moments of mirth in the film, but most of Saili's story is one painful encounter after another.  After about the third, I wondered if this was the one that would push him over the edge and force him to take control of his destiny.  But no: there were plenty more to come, and the film takes is slow, sweet time letting them take place.  Finally though, the straw breaks the camels back, and the confrontation in the form of the oration, where a formal diplomatic dialogue is used to resolve disputes, gets underway.  And, wow. Even if it is a bit cliché, it is pretty potent stuff.

At two hours, the film is not short, and its ambling pace, mirroring the island way of life, definitely does not make the film feel particularly short either.  For all the island's beauty, there main characters are a pretty morose bunch, with some minor characters providing most of the film's relatively sparse levity. 

Of course, I had to go the Lighthouse to see it, and ended up with a large Samoan family who brought along a pretty active one year old who ran to the screen a couple of times as part of a game.  The little ones hijinks were noticeable, but nowhere near as profoundly irritating as that of some idiots at the end of my row who found almost every scene featuring Saili (intentionally funny, unsettling, or perilous) hilariously funny - possibly just because they were seeing a dwarf on screen doing "stuff".  I was almost at the point of forsaking the rules or Oration and taking to them with a wooden mallet, but instead the film kept me from moving from my seat.

Verdict:  The Orator was a slow, Island Time film, showing both the strengths and failings of a more traditional sort of family life.  It's about finding inner strength and standing up for oneself, no matter who one is, in a way that earns the respect of others, rather than their scorn.  8 taro out of 10.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Case for October Toplessness

A timely blog on being topless today.  Why "timely"?  More on that later.

First off, to answer a request from the last entry on the Def Leppard concert.  Unfortunately, I did not take any photos from within the concert venue myself, so I have no photos of any of those who spent the evening sans shirt (Phil Collen, young lads around me, and not the attractive young lady who bared her all for all), and I don't think my companions took photos of anyone who was not up on stage (well, besides themselves).

And so I have scoured the internet and found an approximation - and, besides the fact she wore a lot less make up (not that I really paid too much attention to her face), I reckon she looked a lot like this:

However, there is other shirtless news that needs to be addressed (and this is the "timeliness" bit, before the NZ v Australia match, which has yet to be played as I write this).  

A few entries ago, I wrote up a "humourous" article on Sonny Bill Williams' wardrobe malfunction and the resulting hullaballoo.  I mentioned that the shirts were designed to fail, and that Richie McCaw's shirt would require mid-match removal shortly, while Dan Carter's would wait until the final. 

Well, Carter is now out of the World Cup, so that means the latter part of my "prediction" can't come true (though I see Carter will still get a bit of a bonus for his contributions up until his injury; and this same article also kind of explains how Corey Jane can afford to go out for a bender, and even more why he really shouldn't have).  However, the Richie McCaw prediction actually did in the match against Argentina.

Miss it?  I know I did, as it was nowhere near as well publicised as SBW's disrobing.  SBW's goods' baring led to all sorts of "excuses" to show off his physique, including a "guess the bodypart" quiz on Stuff which has him prominently displayed more than once.  But All Blacks Captain (soon to be Sir) Richie McCaw?  Nada.

While I didn't see the game myself, there is some photographic proof out on the Interweb confirming this story, though not on any of the major local news sites as slideshows:

And from the looks of it, he also required assistance to put on his figure-hugging replacement "jersey":

McCaw has a huge number of fans out there, and indeed is considered one of the game's sexiest men, but it seems that, for some reason, his physique is not deemed as worthy of attention as other members of his team.  Was this a sign of respect?  Was this a decision made my the All Blacks?  Or is Adidas getting a bit worried that all their shirts do seem to disintegrate when worn for anything sporty?  

[As an aside, I noted a Nike top also fell apart in the France/England game, though again there was no slideshow montage showing each stage of the change process].

Whatever the reason, it will be interesting to see what hype surrounds the members of the team in the next 10 days, as the Rugby World Cup comes to an end.  A new hero has arisen in the commanding presence of Piri Weepu, so perhaps he will be given the faulty (well, easily torn) shirt in the days to come.

Verdict: I always find it fascinating when people doing roughly the same thing are treated differently, and in particular how things are playing out and being hyped up during the Rugby World Cup.  And full credit to the young lady at the Def Leppard concert.  An appreciative smile out of a seedy leer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Case for Sugar and Armageddon

The last time I was at the Vector Arena, I was disappointed to find my relatively expensive tickets had put me a fair way away from the stage and with a speaker stack between myself and the screen relaying events on stage.  This time around, for the Shotgun Alley, Heart and Def Leppard combo, there were no such location gaffes.  An early arrival and General Admission tickets meant that we were right up the front, 2 or 3 people away from the patrolled moat that separated the punters from the stage.

Being so early meant that we got to see every act in their entirety.  And that was definitely not a hardship.

Shotgun Alley was up first, dressed in their most trendy black jeans, in shirts that made their most of their physiques (sculpted abs, broad shoulders, strong arms), in their most militant looking boots, and wearing a few kilos worth of silver in the shape of skulls and other heavy metal icons, and of course with hair that looked so scruffily unique that it must have taken hours to get it looking quite that perfect.  I was not very well versed in their oeuvre before the show, but I have to say, with their head bangy set very tightly and professionally crafted, and a power ballad that is a bit more my thing, I was pretty well won over by the time they left the stage.  They weren’t up for long, it has to be said, but they set the night off to a great start, and the young girls who seemed to make up the biggest section of the audience who were evidently fans of theirs seemed suitably and screamably impressed too.


After a bit of a break, the lights dimmed and out popped rock divas Heart.  Off the top of my head, I could have identified one or two of their songs; by the end of their part of the show, I was surprised by how many of their songs I had recognised and, more importantly, enjoyed.  There were a few misfires: their tribute to their first trip to the Antipodes was to serenade the audience with pop Ocker John Farnham’s You’re the Voice, though I seemed more offended by the mistaken cultural identity than the vast majority of the audience; super sappy These Dreams from the 80s is definitely a classic but really did not seem to go very well with the rest of their set (especially considering that they did not attempt All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You) and while Nancy Wilson’s guitar playing skills were incredible, she seemed to struggle a little with the vocals; and then there was a very interesting “glitch” that led to a looped scream that had the whole band dash off the stage in embarrassment – it sounded like a the lip-synch track had got stuck, though the band recovered well enough, getting back on stage once that technical error had been resolved and never looking back (I had hoped the other reviews would elaborate on this from a more knowledgeable perspective; but they did not).

Overall though, the music was amazing.  Ann Wilson, all big boots and black hair, stomped backwards and forwards as if she were crushing cockroaches in her wake, belting out her notes with no care for the shattering of eardrums around the hall.  While Shotgun Alley walked around a little, the girls from Heart went on a walking tour of Auckland, Nancy Wilson’s trip cut a little short when her guitar lead refused to go the distance to the end of the runway with her.  As I looked around the audience, I noted one of the guitar players from Shotgun Alley (now incognito in an ab-covering t-shirt and with hair well combed) amongst the audience with us, perhaps taking some notes from a few seasoned professionals, both in what to do and what not to do.

A little sheepish after their gaffe, Heart headed off stage.  Therein followed a tense few minutes  while the stage set up was changed and I braced myself for a rush from behind of later-arriving fans who would crush the people near the stage.  Most of the people in the “pit” were dutifully wearing their Def Leppard t-shirts or dressed up in 80s-esque attire; I eschewed the former but kept the faith with the latter, with my black jeans doing my bogan talking, though my green “Say No to Kryptonite” t-shirt was decidedly not in keeping with the heavy metal theme of the evening.  In the end, despite a few attempts to make their way to the stage, the hordes were held at bay (though one young lass with quite lovely breasts decided to show her assets to the band and to the audience until she was asked to climb down off her boyfriend’s shoulders). 

However, I encountered an audience issue from a different object when the tall, imposing physique of Dennis from Fatso (well, not really, but he reminded me of him) decided to take a step back so that he could film all of his favourite songs with his digital camera.  As I had nowhere to go, I ended up with a lot less room than I had expected and the occasional long hair catching on my clothes.  Dennis was a well prepared individual though: he had staked his claim and arranged with friends to come to his position from wherever they were located at the back to bring him refreshments at various stages of the evening.  He also had a few packets of foam ear plus which he used and disposed of several times during the evening.  I am not sure if he managed to get one of the guitar picks that were thrown out at several stages of the evening, but I am sure, had he wanted one, his imposing size and determined attitude would have meant that he would have got one.

Settled, the lights dimmed, the drums started, the guitars exploded, and out strutted Def Leppard.  They have changed a bit from their 80s heyday, with Phil Collen looking a lot buffer and more waxed (he obviously wanted everyone to be impressed by his toned physique as he was shirtless the entire night), the other guitarists Vivan Campbell and Rick Savage and the drummer Rick Allen looking a little older though their hair looks almost the same, and Joe Elliot the lead singer was dressed in his sparkly silver shoes and with the buttons of his jacket all done up over his beer belly, and his hair looks much better cared for than it did back in the day.  Did age, which claims us all, mean anything?  Not at all.

These guys know how to rock, how to play, and how to perform.  A few of the songs may be easily mistaken for others, but there was no mistaking that they played all their hits and so they know exactly what their audience wanted.  Looking around, it was a pretty mixed crowd of people who encountered their music when it was first released and those who probably learned of their greatest era through their parents or much older siblings (bare chested girl included).  I suppose rock as cheesily hard as this never really goes out of style, as it can always be played loud and the lyrics are angrily earnest in an easily sung along to kind of way.  Rocket was I think the biggest song of the evening, and it got the whole stadium jumping up and down and screaming, and the boys went out to the end of the runway (so they had their backs to me, unfortunately) for a crowd-contributing acoustic version of Two Steps Behind.  Of course, Pour Some Sugar On Me and Love Bites also hit all audience’s buttons, but then almost every song did: there was almost no song that everyone hadn’t heard and which didn’t get everyone singing along and head banging along to the beat.

The show ended (well, apart from the encore) in an eerily familiar way, with me looking at their backs (again) as they stood at the end of the runway, waving into the audience – familiar, because I am sure that is one of the photos that accompany their album material.  Of course, in that photos, the T-shirts were a bit looser and grubbier, the jeans a bit more frayed and worn, the hair a bit more frazzled or actually there.  Seeing them there, striking that familiar pose, it was interesting to see how far that Def Leppard have come, both in time and distance; but it was wonderful to appreciate how much that they had managed to bring with them.

Verdict:  Quite a few different elements to review here: Shotgun Alley were impressive, engaging and seemed completely at ease, even if they didn’t have the polish of the later acts – 8 emos out of 10; Heart put a lot of soul into their performance, though at times not much brain and perhaps a bit of electronic assistance, though still they are class professionals and that voice – 7 barracudas out of 10; and Def Leppards cannot change their spots and continue to deliver the goods even if they mainly came to New Zealand to see the rugby – 10 photographs out of 10.  So an overall rating of the show of 9 heavy metal tonnes out of 10.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Case for Counting the Cost

Okay, so I knew going in that a romantic comedy like What’s Your Number? was going to be a bit tragic.  I mean, while I like Anna Faris (as studette Ally) and Chris Evans (as man-whore Colin), I could never really state with a straight face that I consider them serious dramatic actors, so while I had no doubt that they could pull off the screwball aspect that such a comedy entails, I was not going to hold it against them if the more serious (if expected) side was a bit harder to swallow.

And of course, the supporting cast is pretty impressive too.  Joel Hale, of Talk Soup and the much under-rated (in NZ anyway) comedy Community, plays a bit of an ass (pardon the pun) and livens things up enormously given his brief screen time, and it is strange to see Zachary Quinto in a contemporary setting, waking up next to a young woman that he has not dismembered with his telekinetic abilities – and indeed, leaving her alive on his departure.  

The story runs a lot like the John Cussak classic High Fidelity, with Faris’ leading lady trying to hunt down all her old boyfriends to find the one amongst them, though of course What’s Your Number? has nowhere near that movie’s charm, intelligence or style.  Indeed, it took me about 10 minutes to adjust to what I took for college-student style cinematography and then I either became immune or things settled down as the cameraman got used to shooting the fine physiques of Faris, Evans and the other male leads.


For a supposedly risqué movie, there are quite a few safe bets shown.  The circle of friends of Ally and her sister contains representatives from all of Earth’s different “races” making it very much a United Colours of Bennetton wedding party, and the way the story evolves is so predictable that one does not even really need to see the movie to know exactly what is going to happen and when.  The main characters are unemployed in the poor yet with lots of money, connections and invisible-until-needed friends kind of way so friendly to telling these kinds of quest-ish love stories, and they are trendily cool and hip in a never could get an STD manner too.

Some of the things that work best are the running gag with the apparent stalking of Disgusting Donald and the “themed” flashbacks to boyfriends past; some of the worst are any emotional or drunken scene, and an odd game of strip basketball that takes a long time to go almost nowhere.  And I have to say that the film could have done with a bit of temporal trimming.

But overall, I liked it.  Sure, it will never win any awards for anything (and it really shouldn’t, honestly), but its likeable enough in its predictable, trying a bit too hard kind of way.  It really does feel like a vehicle for Farris as she doesn’t always pull off the character that she is trying to be and I was occasionally wondering who would be better suited to the role, but then she can swear like a trooper and (no offence) pulls off being a bit of a "ho" pretty well. 

Verdict: What’s Your Number? was not War and Peace, but it hit most of the (fairly low) standards I had set for it and got the audience (a lot of whom had great difficulty with the concept of allocated seating) laughing on several occasions.  There was not a lot of chemistry between the leads, but there was enough to make it enjoyable, even with a final “wrap up” scene that was almost insulting in its intent and execution.  An okay 6 $exual partners out of 20.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Case for Porter-bility

I am having a pretty musical seven days at the moment.

It kicked off last night when I attended a local concert of Cole Porter songs.  Fish was performing in it*, meaning there was that extra reason to attend, and it was great, though I was decidedly on the younger spectrum of the attending demographic.  There was a golden mirrorball of a hypnotising dress, shoeless conducting, and a tribute to France, but the thing that struck me the most was how I could relate almost every song to the Muppets in one way or another - in particular, Wayne and Wanda.

Of course, other songs from the Porter back catalogue I associate with other, more cinematic outings. [Unfortunately, I can't embed the classic Tank Girl version of Let's Do It, so click the link to see it]

Sure, a lot of his songs are pretty sappy, and sometimes their "smartness" begins to grate my cheese after a little while, but they are almost all pretty catchy and mostly quite a bit of fun to boot.  Some of course are a bit more saucy, and I was a little disappointed when the glittery-dress woman failed to capitalise on her rather... slinky outfit to attempt Love for Sale.

Verdict: I definitely get a kick out of a lot of Cole Porter songs, and it was a great night all around.  7 bees doing it out of 10.

* she was the gorgeous babe with the flower in her hair

And the next agenda on the musical calendar?  A big change of pace with the Def Leppard:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Case for Blood Curdling Cries

A few weeks ago, Off Black posted about the hakae that are all the rage at the Rugby World Cup these days.


The All Blacks may have started the whole "dance and intimidate" thing on the rugby pitch, but these days, other Pacific Island nations have their own versions, some of them a bit more motional than the traditional All Black one.  This may be why the New Zealand team now has the new throat-slitting version, as the spectacle stakes continue to escalate and where only the most active pre-game warm up can survive (well, probably not).  Perhaps the American team will adopt a whole Bring It On cheerleader style routine before their matches to join in the not-game fun, though I doubt those kind of antics will really throw the opposition off much - not that a haka probably does that either; and at least a haka doesn't completely exhaust the players beforehand.

But the Americans don't really need their own pre-match signature dance.  Because, in the international war song sweepstakes, the American Eagles have one of the most inspirational threats around. 

Sure, if you sing it slowly, degenerate it into a warble-strewn ego-driven travesty, or leave it to someone like Roseanne Barr to interpret in their own style, the Star Spangled Banner can end up sounding like a funeral dirge or something that one invites the throwing of tomatoes.  But done well, with hand on heart flag waving (a difficult manoeuvre to be sure, but years of Twister practice can help) and a small pin attached to one's lapel, there is nothing quite like it.  It's a call to arms, a call to war, to defend and to attack.  And it does get the blood flowing.

But (and I must admit to a lot of personal prejudice in this case), more rousing than the American national anthem, drowning out the haka of nations with the brute force of voices raised in song, a motionless emotional invitation to quake, you can't really go past the French national anthem, La Mareillaise.

Of course, in a multi-lingual sense, haka make a lot more impact in that they get the message across without the need to understand what anyone is actually saying.  Yelling (or singing) at people really loudly is pretty standard in any culture, especially for anyone who has ever gone out on a Friday or Saturday night, so a loud song that is belted out by anything less than a choir is something that, by itself, most people can just ignore.  However, slapping thighs, poking out tongues, fist pumps and punches - these grab the attention no matter how few people are involved, and, en masse, it is definitely a sight to behold.

So, in the absence of a national anthem designed to intimidate all opposition (calling upon a deity to intervene in defence of a country is not a great rallying cry for resistance and/or conquest), its great to think that New Zealand (and other nations) have haka that can bring a fire to the belly that respectful singing of God Defend New Zealand cannot.  

Of course, not all calls to arms need to last minutes or involve coordinated movement.  The Australians may like to advance fairly, but there is nothing quite like a few short and sharp rounds of "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" to get them motivated.
Verdict:  It may all be a game, but national pride is a serious business.  Whether it is overused or underaggressive or not always treated with the respect it deserves, the haka is (or are?) a way to show opponents that Kiwis mean business.  But lets not forget that other countries let their anthems do the talking, or intimidating, and have been doing so for centuries.  In the end, a song and/or a dance won't win the war, but it will make a pretty interesting spectacle.  4 cups* for all the anthems and haka at the Rugby World Cup out of 5.

* minus one, as I have yet to hear the Aussie chant.