2013 / Director. Ivan Sen.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I wont mince words. MYSTERY ROAD is excellent. In many ways it is a modern western. Set in a remote desert community in the far reaches of Queensland, the film begins with the discovery of a young aboriginal girl who has been murdered and dumped beneath a highway overpass. A local indigenous detective finds himself on the case and must track the killer with almost no evidence and a community that remains tight lipped. Almost everyone is a suspect and the detective quickly finds himself ostracised. As the investigation unfolds he slips deeper and deeper into the town's seedy underworld where villains lurk and drugs reign. There is something classic about MYSTERY ROAD and its story plays out almost poetically. Director Ivan Sen has established himself as a skilled filmmaker and his use of landscape is comparable with The Coen Brothers. Watching the film with a sense of wonder, my mind was cast back to films like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, FARGO and BLOOD SIMPLE. This is definitely cut from the same cloth. There's also a familiar tone to the film which reminded me of Atom Egoyan's brilliant THE SWEET HEREAFTER. If you're familiar with all of those aforementioned films then you will definitely want to see MYSTERY ROAD. The script is tight, the cinematography is stunning and the performances are top-notch. Right from the get-go the film boasts one of the most impressive ensembles of Aussie players that I've ever seen... Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten, Zoe Carides, Tony Barry, David Field, Bruce Spence, Jack Charles, Roy Billing, Damian Walshe-Howling and Robert Mammone. Wow!! And the film is lead with a mesmerising lead performance by Aaron Pedersen. Despite the gigantic line-up of heavyweight performers Pedersen still manages to carry the film almost single handedly. He's been an impressive actor for many years but this film solidifies his talent. One quality that so many great Australian films have is their violent and powerful final acts. If you can recall films like THE CHANT OF JIMMY BLACK SMITH, WAKE IN FRIGHT or even the recent RED HILL you will understand what I mean. They each perpetually build up their suspense to an almighty breaking point where something has got to give and that something is often violent and ugly... MYSTERY ROAD can be added to that list. This is an exceptional film in every way and one that every self-respecting cinephile ought to see.
1988 / Director. Steve Jodrell.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Every year when Australia Day approaches I turn my attention to culturally and/or historically significant films. I ordinarily watch a heap of Aussie films but this time of year provides more resonance to them. One of the most important Australian films was the 1955 classic JEDDA. It was the first film to feature Aboriginal lead actors and while its story and its portrayal of indigenous culture is less than perfect, it remains an important film nonetheless. Its breakthrough star was Robert Tudawali, who had been scouted by the legendary filmmaker Charles Chauvel. Coming from a remote community in the Northern Territory, Tudawali was taken to Sydney where he soon became a house-hold name. With the death of Chauval shortly after JEDDA's premiere Tudawali struggled to maintain his stardom and soon found himself battling to keep his head up. At the height of his fame he had starred in two feature films, a television series (Whiplash) and a vocal spokesman for Indigenous rights. Sadly following Chauvel's death Tudawali ran out of money, lost his family and returned home broke. His own death was at the hands of fellow members of his community who threw him onto a fire. It is speculated that they were envious of his celebrity status. Tudawali's story is an inspiring and heartbreaking one, which was told in this 1988 film TUDAWALI. Directed by Steve Jodrell (SHAME) the film is biographical and smartly narrates his life with intermitted scenes of him laying in hospital. The film captures the era nicely and depicts a time in Australia's history when indigenous people were still constitutionally considered as fauna and had no rights. For an "abbo" to become a movie star was outrageous at the time and the film captures that sentiment well. This was also a breakout performance for Ernie Dingo who, of course, went on to become a household name in his own right. He delivers a rock solid performance and embodies the character. Being a made-for-television film from the 80s, TUDAWALI is still unknown to may people. If you've never heard of it either then I highly recommend tracking it down... and while you're at it, grab a copy of JEDDA too (sadly, harder to find).
1990 / Director. Joel Silberg.
Review by Justine Ryan.
Kevin Laird (J. Eddie Peck) is a maths teacher during the day at Stonewood, a rich Beverly Hills high school. At night he changes into his motorcycle gear (bandana, leather jacket and jeans) and is known as Blade by the less fortunate kids at the underprivileged Galaxy High, where each night he tutors maths in a back room of a Lambada dance club called 'No Man's Land'. Blade eventually gets busted and loses his teaching job after he sneaks the kids of Galaxy High into Stonewood to give them a simulated GED exam. The kids at Galaxy High band together and suggest to the principal that they have a super maths quiz against Stonewood to show what Blade has taught them. The principal agrees and as you probably guessed it - the kids at Galaxy High win and Kevin (Blade) gets his job back. The snotty Beverly Hills kids make peace with Galaxy High, after Kevin makes a touching speech to the school about the importance of education and that one's race or neighbourhood where one comes from doesn't matter- we're all human. So peace is made and everyone runs outside into the rain to dance the lambada together!
BREAKIN' (1984) actor, dancer and choreographer, Shabba Doo (aka Adolfo Quinones, also a founder of the dance style that is known as "locking") re-teams with Breakin' director, Joel Silberg (whom passed away in 2013) and plays Ramone, a guy who gives Blade a lot of grief throughout the film because he thinks Blade is just there for the chicks. He delivers some fun lines in the film like, "It's the 90's, a chicks got a right to choose." Blade eventually earns Ramones respect when he see's Blades tattoo on his chest and realises that he is a homey and comes from his side of the tracks. "Everybody comes from somewhere, Ramone."
The film is peppered with little gold nuggets like a dorky dance sequence during a computer class at Stonewood and even a day-dream fantasy sequence of Mr Laird on a motorcycle, shirtless, after Sandy (Melora Hardin) becomes infatuated with him after discovering his double life.
Lambada: Set The Night On Fire is pure cheesy fun but with a lot of heart and an upbeat soundtrack that moves the film along nicely -- heck, I own the Soundtrack and break out some lambada moves in the privacy of my bedroom - guilty as charged but with no regrets!
1977 / Director. James Goldstone.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Cinema in the 70s was dominated by disaster movies. Titles such as EARTHQUAKE, THE TOWERING INFERNO and AIRPORT were champions of the box office and they were accompanied by dozens of imitations. Amongst them was ROLLERCOASTER, a home-grown terrorism film about a homicidal man who holds theme park owners to ransom by placing bombs on the attractions of their parks. Typically the film boasted a cast of big Hollywood players including Henry Fonda, George Segal and Timothy Bottoms... with Fonda's role being little more than a 2 minute bit. I think this is a hugely underrated movie and it was one that suffered from being overshadowed by STAR WARS. The story has George Segal's health-and-safety officer character being lead around a theme park as he follows the bombers instructions. It is a typical Hickcockian convention that has been exploited countless times over the years and yet it works marvellously in this formula film. Segal is great and I consider this amongst his best performances. Sadly for viewers, much of the film's violence was toned town for it's release. A confronting rollercoaster detailing originally featured severed limbs and flailing bodies and the bomber's ultimate demise was originally very graphic and bloody. But even still, ROLLERCOASTER is a thrilling, exciting and well paced film that delivers a good story, decent script and a wonderful exploit of a common fear.
1986 / Director. Neal Israel.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Director Neal Israel had previously directed films such as BACHELOR PARTY and MOVING VIOLATIONS. He was clearly a hot comedy director on the scene at the time and so when he made the 1986 movie COMBAT HIGH for NBC television it was actually his association with POLICE ACADEMY (he wrote it) that inspired the network to retitle the movie to COMBAT ACADEMY... and as you can see, the poster art looks like a page torn from the same book. Strangely this greedy money-grab doesn't bother me in the least because COMBAT ACADEMY fits right in with that whole POLICE ACADEMY world. With characters that reflect many of the police academy's characters (Lassard, Mahoney etc) this movie takes the same premise and structure and tweaks it for a military environment. Audiences would be right for being hesitant but there's no need... COMBAT ACADEMY is hilarious in its own right. It's been years since I had seen it and I recently watched it with the entire family. To my own surprise my kids were in fits of laughter. Both are fans of POLICE ACADEMY and they took to this one as though it was an official sequel. Director Neal Israel successfully exploited the format and gave NBC a movie property that was up to theatrical standards (it's TOO good for a TV movie). Nearly 30 years later and the movie is still relatively unknown. Thanks to George Clooney's star power (this was his debut film) COMBAT HIGH received a few small DVD releases in Europe but has gone without and kind of fanfare in more other territories. I would love to have seen sequels but that was never to be. And so COMBAT ACADEMY has become something of a cult favourite and a sought after title. There's a huge amount of satisfaction when watching it and its comedy is consistent enough to make it a comedy classic in my book!
2012 / Director. Cyrill Boss & Phillipp Stennert.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
VICTOR AND THE SECRET OF CROCODILE MANSION is a wonderful thriller made for children... and in this case the German kids get to have all the fun. It has an Australian release (probably an American and UK one too) which provides the option to watch it with an English dub - but I wouldn't recommend it. Perhaps if younger children were to watch it then it would not be an issue but slightly older kids would cotton on to it's dogginess quickly while also having a zero tolerance for subtitles. And so there isn't much of an audience for this film amongst English speaking kids. The story takes place inside an old homestead where Victor and his family are staying as guests. The house belongs to a great uncle who now lives in a nursing home and the other residents include an old house keeper, her son and single tenant. When Victor finds the diary of a little girl who died 40 years ago he discovers it to be full of secrets and riddles, which lead to an unknown treasure. Victor follows the clues and becomes swept up in an adventure that leads him through hidden passage ways and secret rooms. This is a really fun and delightful film. Directors Cyrill Boss and Phillipp Stennert have created a genuinely spooky atmosphere with a clever and fast paced narrative. The story's revelations are smart and the pay off is great. I found myself so absorbed in it so much that I forgot that I was watching a children's film. It plays out very much like a proper thriller with an unsolved death at its core. It resists the temptation to reply on cheap jump-scares and the suspense is built with good acting, a great story and an amazing production design. With a huge amount of eeriness it brilliantly maintains a safe and steady G rating the entire time. If you're a kid at heart or just love a good old fashioned mystery then definitely check this one out.
1999 | DIR. COKE SAMS | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
What the fuck have I just watched? Seriously... What. The. Fuck!?? Let me explain how I came across this mind-melting, insane and perplexing film. I am a HUGE Ernest P Worrell fan and recently I've been going on a bit of an Ernest bender. This includes his films, TV series, TV specials & commercials (I really do love the guy). Just when I thought that I had seen and owned everything Ernest-related I stumbled across this film.
Existo is a magician character from the tv series HEY VERN, IT'S ERNEST, which was a G rated Saturday morning children's program. With the same writer/director behind this (Coke Sams), Existo has been lifted out of the family-friendly Ernest universe and given his own fully R-rated film. Tagging along are most of the same players from the Ernest camp including Jim Varney (Ernest himself). Yesterday I was watching this Existo character perform silly tricks for kids and tonight I saw him being sexually perverse with a woman, sing "Fucking A" to an audience and .... I also saw a man have his scalp lifted from his head and his wife scrape food inside... I can't even explain all of the other stuff. lol. There's loads of singing and general randomness...
EXISTO is a film unlike any other. It is an experimental mind-fuck that will truly do a number on you... this is the very definition of avent garde and for all of its perplexities and surrealism it is entirely absorbing. I never understood what I was watching but I was loving it. I doubt the film even got a release. It doesn't exist on DVD or VHS and there is very little about it mentioned on line (aside from a basic IMDb listing). The good news is that it is available in its entirety on YouTube. Click the link and see it for yourself. An R rated spin-off from a G rated kids show. You will also be asking yourself WHAT THE FUCK!?