It was our mission to watch an Aussie film tonight... i had a heap in mind and then Kenny struck me. I thought "the kids'll love this" and so the choice was made. I don't think I've ever heard so much laughter during a movie. It was the first time they'd seen it and so every line was new to them, and boy are there some pearler quotes from this one! On the surface it's a low brow mockumentary packed with cheap laughs but I think most people who've seen it would agree that there's more to it. This is a unique and very Australian story. It's the story of the underdog... a hard working, decent man who shovels shit so that the rest of us can get on with things. He deserves admiration but gets none. He leads a fulfilling life and he couldn't care less if we know that or not. I ♥ Kenny. I think he's one of the great Australian characters. He's endearing and his story does matter. I doubt the movie would resonate very far outside of our country but that in itself makes it better. Its our movie! I consider it one of the funniest too..... "Australians all let us ring Joyce".
Here's a forgotten Australian film. Regarded as an Ozploitation movie, Initiation doesn't exactly fit that description. It's about an American teenager who travels to Australia to live with his crop-dusting father (Bruno Lawrence) after his mother dies. His dad lives in a remote South Australian town. It's a familiar concept and Aussie movies loved putting foreigners in films (Razorback, Walkabout, Frog Dreaming, The Coca Cola Kid etc). Facing bankruptcy the son's father begins smuggling drugs for a wealthy dealer and during one of their runs, their plane crashes and they're pitted against the harsh Australian outback. The story aint the best but the film is shot really well. The use of landscape is really well photographed and there are some great hallucination scenes when the kid eats poison mushrooms. Also impressive is a water fall sequence which has a character topple over and then climbs his way back up. I had never heard of this flick until last year and it's available from Flashback Entertainment, dirt cheap ($2). It's money well spent!!!!
Damn the ABC... I had an Aussie movie lined up and even in the disc tray... and then Bill Maher's Religulous started. I missed it at the cinemas a few years ago and had forgotten about it. As an atheist I watched it with a light hearted sense of disbelief. To me it's all so obvious and Maher is one more atheist out of the woodwork. His film is a call to arms... how many have to die before we stop the absurdity? Of course bringing an end to it is obviously not realistic and so those of us who do not believe in a supernatural being simply watch it all unfold. What kept going through my mind was how believers would react to watching the film? They most likely won't watch it or will switch off the moment something challenges their belief. And so such efforts to expose anything are fruitless. In the end, despite presenting intelligent arguments, Bill Maher's Religulous is a highly amusing and very entertaining popcorn flick!
Dreams is not Akira Kurosawa's best film by a long measure but it is my personal favourite. I have a fascination with his later films... by the time he made Dreams Kurosawa was 80 years old and legally blind. I find this an astonishing fact. Dreams is one of the most vibrant and visually arresting films I know of. He had obviously carried this film with him for many years prior to making it and it is a profoundly personal peice. The film is comprised of 8 short dream sequences which are sewn together to represent Kurosawa's view of the world. Within themselves the short stories make little sense, but collectively they are powerful. The common thread in each sequence is a lone man at different ages in each dream, starting as a child and finishing as a man. A logic assumption is that he represents Kurosawa himself. The film runs a gammit of themes from love to hate and most predominantly, the negative capabilities of man. His fear of a nuclear armageddon is represented in a dream sequence showing Japan being annihilated when Mount Fuji errupts and triggers all of the country's nuclear reactors. It's an irrational fear, of course, but I find this fear rather profound coming from an 80 year old man who thinks selflessly of generations to come. Incredibly when he came to make this film, no one in Japan wanted to fund it. Given the important cinematic body of work behind him, what a slap in the face... and so he turned to an industry friend, Steven Spielberg, who in turn convinced American companies to get behind the project... and they did. And finally a little peice of trivia... Martin Scorsese plays Vincent Van Gogh in a sequence titled "Crows". Its a really bizarre and surreal moment of European culture thrown into the mix. An excellent film which I highly recommend.
A lot of critics consider The Verdict to be one of the great legal films of all time... geeze, they can't have seen many. I watched it this evening, hoping that my perception of it last time was off... nup, I still found it underwhelming. It stars Paul Newman as a down on his luck lawyer who lands a medical malpractice case against a catholic hospital. Where he would ordinarily settle the case, take the money and run he has a moment of clarity and rejects the offer, opting to take the case to trial. He has little in his favour and works against the odds to fight for justice. It's pretty contrived stuff really and the film's saving grace is the performances. All players are really solid. It's a shame that it's a boring case with scarcely any excitement. While I prefer courtroom films to be believable, I still need a certain element of thrill to keep me invested in the story. I just didn't care for this case at all. In fact each time I have watched The Verdict I find myself distracted by the trivial crap going on around it... like, how many times people butt their cigarettes out on the floor without picking them up and trying to spot Bruce Willis and Tobin Bell at the back of the courtroom. One of the best legal films of all time? Hell no! That place is reserved for films like To Kill A Mocking Bird, Presumed Innocent, The Rainmaker, A Time To Kill, Amistad... etc... hell even LA Law trumps this.
Death Hunt caught my eye tonight. I hadn't seen it in years and thought I'd give it another hit. The film was made in 1981 but it feels much older. Its got all the qualities of a classic western, despite it not really being one. It's set in the Yukon Territory in the 1930s. Charles Bronson plays a reclusive trapper who lives high in the mountains. During a venture to town for supplies he interrupts a dog fighting tournament, rescues a dying dog and upsets a lot of men in the process. They seek retribution and one of them end up at the wrong end of Bronson's rifle. Lee Marvin plays the senior mounty who leads a hunting party into the wilderness to hunt & kill Bronson. It's a strange movie... its has that classic 50s sensibility in it's style but its packed with graphic violence, course language and crude dialogue. It's good though and the dvd I watched had a gritty video transfer quality (still in widescreen) but that added to the effect. It's sort of a forgotten movie and if you like Bronson or Marvin then it won't disappoint. There's also a heap of familiar faces in support roles including Carl Weathers, Ed Neumeister and Andrew Stevens.
Within the first 10 minutes of this movie, a volcano erupts in Yellowstone National Park and sends the entire globe into a new ice age. Lucky for us a park ranger and his volcanologist girlfriend managed to seek refuge in an underground bunker.... the movie then goes back two days prior when everything is peachy with only faint signs of any disturbance. Our volcanologist friend suddenly starts receiving a transmission FROM HER SELF... [queue spooky music] ... according to the transmission "the super eruption created a disturbance in the earths magnetic field, leaving a marker on the curvature of space time itself." ... yeah you read correctly... talk about some serious shit, huh? The good news is that during this warp in time the ranger and his girlfriend were able to formulate a way to stop the eruption. PHEW! This flick sounds like a load of tripe, doesn't it? And it is.... (here's the BUT) ... BUT it's absurdly fun. Like one of the Asylum movies, it's an exercise in B-movie hogwash. The FX are dogey and the music is over the top... the entire thing is ludicrous and the performances are stodgy. Richard Burgi stars and again proves that he's the go-to guy for macho-soap opera overacting. The movie's tongue seems firmly in its own cheek with idiotic "scientific" talk that I guess is correct, given that it sounds so technical. LOL. If I were to rate Super Eruption it would get a 2 out of 10 but a guilty pleasure nonetheless. Oh boy!
When the first Spy Kids movie came out I went mental. I touted it as one of the best movies of the year... that was 11 years ago, man do I feel old now! Other than a ripper horror movie, nothing excites me more than a quality kids flick. I was also a fan of Spy Kids 2 but the series ran out of puff with part 3. It wasn't very good... and now 6 years later Robert Rodriguz returns to the OSS (Office Of Strategic Services) with an all new adventure with a new kids. This movie is a fresh and welcome return to the quality of the original movie. The two new kids are great and Jessica Alba has a lot of fun as their Spy-Mum. The two kids from the original trilogy return as adult spies which continutes the cannon nicely. The juvenile laughs are littered throughout the movie with stupid and zany gadets galore, loads of toilet gags and a great cartoony villain played by Jeremy Piven. Most amusing was Ricky Gervais providing the voice of an animatronic spy-dog (in typical Gervais style). Rodriguz is a movie-making machine... he does it all... and I love that he balances adults movies with kids flicks (Desperado, Sin City, From Dust Till Dawn.... VS.... Spy Kids, Shorts and Shark Boy & Lava Girl)... and he practically makes them all on his own. Spy Kids 4 is great stuff. If you've got kids then check it out... and if you don't have kids then so what? See it anyway. My only dissapointment was that Machete's character (Danny Trejo) only appeared for a split second. Damn!!
The Black Pimpernel is a story that most certainly deserves to be told. It's the true story of the Swedish ambassador in Chile during the 1973 military coup. When the military overthrow the government this man, Harald Eldestam, puts his life on the line and uses every resource at his disposal to save the lives of Chileans by housing them in the Swedish embassy and getting them to Sweden. He was an incredible man, comparable to Oscar Schindler in his selfless and tenacious efforts towards humanity. I dare say he was a braver man than Schindler having fought for the lives of people by confronting their captors face to face. What I found dissapointing was that the film is spoken in English. This is a Swedish film, about a Swedish man. Perhaps he spoke English while in Chile but I can't see why he would have? And on the odd occasion when Spanish was spoken, they weren't subtitled. Fortunately these were only brief scenes and so the plot wasn't greatly affected. Michael Nvqvist (the Millennium trilogy) is solid in the leading role and the film looks great. 90 minutes is a short running time for an important story like this and I would like to have seen it stretched out a little more... curiously this is the first film I can recall seeing with Amnesty International's stamp of approval. It's literally stamped at the end of the film along with a 5 minute interview with the real Harald Eldestam.
At different times I consider different David Lynch films to be my favourite... they're all so amazing and uniquely complex, but Fire Walk With Me is one that constantly comes to mind whenever I think of him. It is a brilliant film. At the time of its release it was savaged by the critics and failed so spectacularly that Lynch's intentions of expanding on the Twin Peaks universe were doused. What bothers me is that the critics obviously never watched the tv series, otherwise the movie would have made perfect sense to them. And the TP fans who rejected the film obviously never understood the series to begin with. *** spoiler alert to those who have never watched Twin Peaks *** Fire Walk With Me recalls the final days of Laura Palmer's life, leading up to the tv series. It's a dark and menacing film with absolutely no light. Its themes of incest carry Laura's story and her torment is the subject of Lynch's exploration. Drug use, sex and rape are all things which weren't able to be explored in the show and this film presents them in an uncompromising way. It's an ugly film but a beautiful one. Hopefully David Lynch feels gratified that 20+ years later Fire Walk With Me has found its audience and is now regarded as one of his most important films. Perhaps we'll get lucky and have him expand on the Black Lodge in the future.
Inferno is the second film in Dario Argento's "Three Mothers" trilogy. The other two films are Suspiria and Mother Of Tears. Suspiria is arguably one of the most influential horror films of all time and is regarded to be Argento's masterpiece by many... and so it's a tall order to follow that up, especially when Argento himself announced to the world that there would be two more films to come. Suspiria was a surreal and hallucinogenic nightmare of vivid colour and music. Inferno continues the visual beauty with rich colours and a dramatic score, but thats about all it shares with its predecessor. The story of Inferno is weak, with a brother searching for his missing sister. She had discovered the book of the Three Mothers and while trying to unravel it's mysteries she vanished. Thats really about as complex as the story gets. The plot development is basically non-existent. People wander around slowly and some spooky things happen. The dialogue is terrible and comes across as exactly what it is... that being an Italian writing a script in broken English. Perhaps it would have resonated more if he'd made it in Italian... anyhow Inferno is a visually strong film but there's little else to it.
The Ugly is a relatively unknown New Zealand psycho horror film from 1997. A psychologist is sent to a psychiatric hospital at the request of a notorious serial killer. Simon is considered the most dangerous man in the hospital and is under restraints at all times and this new female shrink attempts unravel his mind . He wants to share his story and the film recalls his life. From a tormented child who suffered a life of school yard bullying and an abusive mother to an adult who is overlooked and ignored. As the film's title suggests, the movie is an allusion to The Ugly Duckling. At the time of its release the film received a lot of acclaim and first time director, Scott Reynolds, was touted as an up-and-comer. Sadly he's done very little since. Such a shame too because The Ugly is a highly original film which offers a surreal and unsettling vision. One oddly effective theme is the bloodshed. Simon's murders are brutal and graphic, however all of the blood is black. There isn't a drop of red to be seen. This has generated a lot of discussion and opinions amongst audiences but my interpretation is that he no longer see's people as human... that our blood is simply the oil that keeps the machine going. The use of shadows, colours and silhouettes is also effective and The Ugly stands out as a unique New Zealand flick. If you ever come across it, give it a go. It's pretty chilling stuff.
Hostel was great. Hostel 2 was excellent... and now comes Hostel 3... and its pretty cool. When this sequel was announced without Eli Roth's involvement, all hope seemed lost. And then Scott Spielgel stepped into the director's chair and my excitement was perked. If you haven't heard from him, he's the guy responsible for introducing Quentin Tarantino to the world in the early 90s. He also co-wrote Evil Dead 2... directed Intruder and produced the first two Hostel movies (to scratch the surface). Hostel 3 is very much a Spielgel movie with loads of his trademark camera tricks. The story is switched from Europe to Las Vegas with a bunch of guys hitting the town for a bachelor party. They're lured to a seedy club and the Hostel carnage ensues. This instalment is not as graphic as the previous two films, but it's still as sadistic. The nature of the "elite hunting club" is slightly different with member's watching all of the killings from behind glass in a viewing lounge. They place bets on aspects of the kill. The movie doesn't pack the punch of Eli Roth's original vision, but it carries the spirit well. There is more of a thriller element to this story and it's riddled with red herrings which make it a more entertaining ride, as opposed to a sick and ugly one. Spiegel handles it well and it's a rare direct-to-dvd sequel that doesn't disappoint... well for me anyhow.
My work sees and hears a lot of stupid comments. Typically when Cowboys & Aliens was released a lot of people were saying "sounds stupid" and "as if". These being the same people who have no hesitation watching Fast and the Furious, I Am Number Four and Mr Poppers Penguins. Personally... the title alone excited the shit out of me. It's a brilliant concept. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, its exactly as the title suggests... Aliens invade the wild west. This aint no "Wild Wild West" bullshit either and while the premise is pure science fiction, the story is taken seriously. Adding to the believability is the genius casting of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in the lead roles. Their names bring credibility and experience to the story. These characters are serious and their situation is serious (to them) and so the movie comes across with a real authenticity (imo). With Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard in the producer's chairs, Cowboys & Aliens was destined to be a great ride before it was even made. The FX are cool and the action is awesome. We buy into aliens invading modern cities in movies, so why not the wild west? So much fun!
I watched this film for the first time tonight and have come away from it with mixed emotions. This is a film which works on all sorts of levels and it's a difficult one to define. Above all else it is a true story about an Aboriginal man in the late 1950s who is sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a child. His innocence is apparent, however the South Australian legal system at the time was full of prejudice, insularity and corruption. One small time lawyer agrees to defend him and is presented with brick walls at every turn. Even the presiding judges are dismissive... the attitude is that a black man must be guilty and so to hell with evidence. There have been several films about the injustices of indigenous people and this film proves to be an important one, however the racial aspect is lost amongst the other facets of the story. An important factor in the case was Rupert Murdoch. As a young man recently inherent of a wealthy newspaper, he sees this case as a means of boosting his own position as well as fighting for his own sense of justice. Ruthless as always this is an interesting insight into the man's early years. The shame about this movie is it's length. It feels like a 3 hour story being crammed into 100 minutes. I wish it were longer and consequently it feels like so much has been left out and the surface has only been scratched in regards to other details. Anyhow, its worth seeing. The ensemble cast is impressive with a who's who of Aussie faces (Ben Mendelsohn is great as Murdoch) and leading performances from Robert Carlyle, Kerry Fox and Charles Dance. David Ngoombujarra is exceptional as the man at the centre of it all.