Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mao's Last Dancer

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Li Cunxin’s bestselling autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer was placed into some impressive Australian cinematic hands: legendary director Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant), Shine screenwriter Jan Sardi and producer Jane Scott. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and received a standing ovation, but what will local audiences make of this much anticipated adaptation?

Alas, for those who have read the book, Beresford’s film may well fall flat. What was an intricate and moving memoir is now a romanticised biopic: replete with generic characters and mired in midday movie sentimentality. Those unfamiliar with Li’s fate as a child plucked from poverty and moulded into a world-class ballet dancer just need to take a look at the melodramatic trailer to get up to speed.




Fortunately, however, the film does have some saving graces. The dancing, for one, is beautiful – if rather conventionally shot – and Chi Cao as the adult Li is absolutely captivating on stage. The gorgeous choreography from the Sydney Dance Company does much to rescue Mao’s Last Dancer. So too does Bruce Greenwood, never breaking stride as the warm and compassionate director of the Houston Ballet Company, Ben Stevenson. With Chi’s acting as halting as his character’s English, Greenwood fairly shoulders the film, marginally supported by Kyle MacLachlan and a bit of comic relief from Beresford stalwart Aden Young.

Curiously, the film focuses on Li’s brief relationship with his first wife Elizabeth (an out of her depth Amanda Schull), relegating Li’s second wife, Mary (Camilla Vergotis) to a mere footnote. Obviously concessions had to be made for the film’s 117min running time, but the manifest lack of chemistry between Schull and Chi further weighs down the already overwrought defection plotline.

As a dancer, Li longs to fly. And so it is particularly crushing to see such great potential fail to soar to cinematic heights.

2.5 Stars

This review was published in The Brag.

Australian release date 1 October 2009.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Visitor (DVD)


Thomas McCarthy has an uncanny ability to capture the curiosity and complexity of our awkward humanity. Following on from his 2003 indie-hit The Station Agent, McCarthy once again tracks one man’s descent into solipsism and the compassionate characters that coax him out of himself.

Richard Jenkins is pitch perfect as Walter, an apathetic economics professor, hiding behind a long overdue book as he mourns the passing of his pianist wife. Forced to present a paper in Manhattan, Walter returns to his pied-à-terre to find it illegally rented to an immigrant couple: Syrian drummer Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend, Zainab (Danai Gurira). Entranced by Tarek’s drum, Walter’s life soon takes on a new rhythm as this pair, along with Tarek’s mother (Hiam Abbas) indelibly alter his world.

As an allegory of post 9/11 America, The Visitor can be a tad tidy at times. The detention centre subplot, the ferry-ride past Ellis Island and a climactic dissolve on an American flag border on melodramatic. However McCarthy’s characters are so wonderfully written and superbly performed that one can overlook such appealing flourishes.

Jenkins is an absolute pleasure to watch. A renowned character-actor probably best known from his ghostly turn in Six Feet Under, it’s marvellous to see him take on this Academy Award nominated role. Also deserving of acclaim is the wide-eyed, effortlessly charismatic Sleiman and the nuance Abbas brings to her worried, world-weary mother.

The DVD extras provide a commentary, deleted scenes and an interview with the director and stars. Combined with a delightful feature on the African djembe, The Visitor DVD will teach you how to drum like nobody’s watching.

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This review was published in The Brag.
The Visitor is available to rent or purchase on DVD.



Monday, September 28, 2009

Good


“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke’s much-quoted adage is exquisitely brought to life in Vicente Amorim’s Good. Adapted from CP Taylor’s play – named among the “100 best plays of the century” – Amorim, alongside screenwriter John Wrathall and an astounding Viggo Mortensen confidently bring this compelling story into the new century.

Mortensen is John Hadler, a university literature professor in interwar Germany. Outwardly he is a good teacher, a good son, husband and friend. But when approached by the National Socialists to expand his novel into a paper on ‘mercy killings,’ Hadler’s life soon transforms; this ‘consultant on humanity’ finds himself slipping down a very dark path indeed.


Too soon, Hadler flees from the family home and into the seductive arms of a young student (Jodie Whittaker). His dementing, desperately ill mother (Gemma Jones) provides an all too personal argument for (or perhaps against?) mercy killings, while his Jewish best friend Maurice (Jason Isaacs) refusing then begging to flee Nazi Germany only compounds Hadler’s well-meaning ineptitude.

This morality play eschews melodrama for a slow burn that reveals the subtle banality of evil. An impressive supporting cast, notably Issacs, Mark Strong and an underused Whittaker, augments Mortensen’s masterfully understated performance. And although the film falls into the adaptation pitfall of weak ‘action’ scenes, Mortensen breathing life into this sophisticated fare is more than worth your time.

Though historiographical theories on Nazi Germany abound, Good distils this horrific history of the Fatherland into the devastating Sonderweg of one otherwise decent man.


The review was published in The Brag.

DVD now available to rent or purchase.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rainbows


Rainbows is the latest music video from Passenger's new album Wide Eyes Blind Love.
It's beautiful and more than a little trippy. Not unlike a Rorschach test methinks.



You can purchase Wide Eyes Blind Love here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Now in Cinemas: Looking For Eric

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Australian audiences may not quite feel like Looking For Eric, after Ken Loach’s stunt at the recent Melbourne Film Festival. The filmmaker unceremoniously withdrew his film after his request for all monies from the State of Israel be boycotted, was politely refused. The fracas made headlines around the world, and probably has done little to endear Loach to local cinemagoers.

That said, Looking For Eric is quite a thoughtful and affectionate look at football fanatics, which should resonate with impassioned film fans. It is a tale of two Erics, which sees down-and-out postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) fraught at the prospect of reconnecting with his ex-wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop), whom he literally left holding the baby some 20-odd years ago.

Woeful, Eric’s well-meaning mates perform a group therapy intervention and attempt some positive visualisation. Surprisingly, Eric – with a few of his stepson’s splifs – is able to conger himself a legendary life coach in the form of football superstar Eric Cantona. Together the Erics muse over the meaning of life and love, and help save the postman from himself.

The phantom Cantona is well executed by the wooden, French philosophic footballer. And Evet’s at turns dejected and effusive Eric nicely compliments this Gallic stoicism. Indeed Paul Laverty's screenplay is at its best when Eric is starry eyed with his idol or at the bottom of a pint with his mates. However the film is weakened by the gangster subplot (though it does make for an amusing climax) and by Loach’s curious decision to stray away from the kitchen-sink and a real investigation of mental illness.

Instead, rather uncharacteristically, Loach forgoes realism for fable. Looking For Eric is a film that seems to ascribe to its protagonist’s philosophy about football; it’s an opportunity to get together with your mates and forget about your life for a couple of hours.

3 Stars

This review was published in The Brag.

Australian release date: 24 September 2009.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sydney Sees Red


Rise and shine everyone! Seeing red? I opened my eyes at 6am and thought the Cylons had attacked!

Slightly perturbing that I then went back to sleep.


Unlike these dedicated people!

UPDATE: Slate explains why we saw red.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toy Story Double Feature


There's an extra reason to celebrate this Boxing Day: a Toy Story double feature! In 3D!!






Toy Story 1 & 2 3D Australian re-release date: 26 December 2009

Toy Story 3D - Australian release date: 24 June 2010

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dr. Horrible Hacks Emmys





And Joss Whedon did win an Emmy by the way. Congrats, Joss et al!

Update: While I'm give some blog love to Neil Patrick Harris, check out his Emmy opening number.

NOOOO WAAAAYYYYYY!!!



Beached Az episode 2 now online. Get ready to meet The Snail.



As a snail, I don't feel safe around so much salt.

Hilarious!

WA Ep11


The newest episode of Worse Addictions is now online for your auditory/film addict pleasure. The team take on Australia's festival darling Three Blind Mice (and its curious theatrical release) as well as the hot topic of remakes.

To remake or reboot, that is the question.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or click here to listen to Episode 11.

Disgrace


Scratch the surface of the 'new' South Africa and you'll find a painful patchwork of old wounds. Steve Jacobs' adaptation of J.M. Coetzee's Booker Prize-winning novel Disgrace fearlessly pares back the layers of post-Apartheid South Africa within the microcosm of a father/daughter relationship.

David Lurie (John Malkovich) is a jaded university English professor, cast into disrepute after an aggressive affair with one of his students. His stunning lack of remorse is matched only by glimpses of self-loathing. "A thing. Not possible to love and condemned to solitude," he pointedly describes in one lecture. Seemingly content to crucify his career, David leaves Cape Town to visit his daughter in the rural regions of Eastern Cape. Immediately concerned about Lucy's (Jessica Haines) vulnerability living on the farm alone, his fears are soon realised when the pair are brutally attacked and the farm ransacked.

This film is not easy going. Jacobs and his cast unflinchingly bring the harsh realities of Coetzee's story to life. Malkovich -- who always tends to play Malkovich -- here softens his trademark clipped diction with a South African accent and embodies David with a wretched and compelling conviction. Haines, in her feature debut, holds her ground with Malkovich. She portrays Lucy with a steely resolve: the devastating inheritance stemming from her father's dogged narcissism.

While both actors shoulder the weighty subject matter, cinematographer Steve Arnold both underscores and contrasts the tone of the film with stark, beautiful images. The craggy mountains that surround Lucy's farm are an omnipresent reminder of how penned in she's allowed herself to become. The landscape is at times lush and bountiful, and at others barren and hostile. Arnold captures it all with a skilful and cinematic eye.

Jacobs' wife, writer-producer Anna-Maria Monticelli, had the intimidating task of adapting Coetzee's work, and the source material is evident at times in the episodic nature of some scenes. But where she, and the entire production team do succeed, is in translating the density and sophistication of the work, particularly in the thematic comparisons between human and animal.

Celebrated academic Benedict Anderson described a nation as "an imagined community", existing only as a shared idea in the minds of its inhabitants. For a population still reeling from a tumultuous and devastating history, a united South Africa must seem at times impossible to imagine. "It's finished now," Petrus (Eriq Ebouaney), the black co-owner of Lucy's farm repeats to David. But acceptance does not come so easily for those mired in disgrace.



This review was published on Rotten Tomatoes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I See Love


Passenger's new music video from Wide Eyes Blind Love is now online. I See Love is a song I've been raving about for quite a while now. Depending on what kind of mood I'm in, I'll either avoid or embrace the last few lines. You'll hear what I mean.

The video looks like it's been shot in my beloved Brighton. Despite having lived there, I never quite got over a beach with pebbles instead of sand. Always loved those beach huts though:



You can purchase a copy of Wide Eyes Blind Love here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stone Bros.


Touted as the first indigenous comedy film, Stone Bros. is an Aboriginal Australian road movie, replete with colourful characters and crazy situations. Writer/director Richard J. Frankland sticks cousins Eddie (Luke Carroll) and Charlie (Leon Burchill) in a busted up old Ford and sends them on a coming-of-age journey from Perth some 500-odd kilometres to their home in Kalgoorlie.

In keeping with generic conventions, Eddie and Charlie’s trip is punctuated by increasingly zany occurrences. From hitting a kangaroo, to picking up a mysterious muso (Valentino del Toro), their transvestite cousin (David Page) and gatecrashing a rather explosive wedding, the pair continue to tirelessly track down a sacred stone entrusted to Eddie by their uncle (David Kennedy), which has been given to some hot geologist by another foolish cousin (Heath Bergersen). Meanwhile, Charlie suffers the consequences of doing a runner on his magically gifted girlfriend, all of which culminates in a shamelessly B-movie chase sequence featuring a demonically possessed dog.

There are a lot of laughs to be had with Stone Bros. Some are certainly derived from the impressive bag of 187 joints the boys work their way through, but mostly the fun spills over from the great banter between Eddie and Charlie. Culture, colour and creed are all served up as fair game, while ‘The Apology’ is lampooned in a particularly hilarious dream sequence. And in a parody reminiscent of Warwick Thornton’s short Mimi, white-fella Peter Phelps brings down the big house as a prison-guard desperate to find his dreaming.

While some of the comedy is a bit brash and silly, Stone Bros. definitely succeeds in using humour to communicate some home truths. The importance of culture and family are well conveyed without any saccharine schlock. And as for the politics, who isn’t going to have a giggle at John Howard’s expense when a gigantic photo of our former PM squishes a museum guard’s cat?


This review was published on Concrete Playground.

Australian release date: 24 September 2009.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Partly Cloudy


As if you weren't already champing at the bit to see UP, but here's an extra reason to rush to the cinema. Partly Cloudy is the new Pixar short that screens before the feature and it is, quite simply, delightful.

Harking back to the days of Dumbo, or even Lambert the Sheepish Lion, Partly Cloudy tells the tale of cloud-come-baby sculptor, Gus and his trusty delivery stalk Peck. Alas Gus has quite a talent for creating the feistier of Mother Nature's species, and so Peck must fulfill his duty under increasingly challenging circumstances!


For a 30 second preview, click the image above.

I think I may have run out of superlatives for Pixar. So to director Peter Sohn and his crew I shall simply say, bravo! Bravo indeed!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Up

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Who would have ever envisaged that Pixar could top the galactic heights of Wall-E? And with a story about a cantankerous old man, a boy scout and a flying house no less? Well writer/director Pete Doctor and his team have gone and done it. From the startlingly poignant opening montage to the family friendly action and the geriatric twist on the classic hero’s journey, Up is truly a wonder to behold.


Be warned: your Andy Warhol-style 3D glasses are as much at risk of fogging up due to tears as they are of flying off your face as you throw your head back in raucous laughter. How Pixar strikes such a beautiful balance boggles the mind.

Up enjoys similarly awe-inspiring visuals. The cinematography is as intricate as we’ve come to expect from Pixar and despite not quite making it into space this time around, Carl (Ed Asner) and Russell’s (Jordan Nagai) balloon adventures make for some stunning tableaux. Asner and Nagai’s voice work effortlessly breathes life into the gorgeous animation and charming screenplay. Asner in particular manages to navigate being a grumpy old man with the poignant undercurrent of a devastating loss, while Christopher Plummer positively revels as Carl’s childhood hero turned antagonist Charles Muntz.

Special mention must be made of the dogs. Any dog owner will delight in the hilarious attention to detail given to the idiosyncrasies of man’s best friend. And everyone should enjoy what mileage the film makes from establishing ‘in jokes’… SQUIRREL!

If Wall-E was about the flush of first love, Up takes this bond to its bittersweet conclusion, while also adding a lovely layer of burgeoning friendship. The film is unequivocally a cinematic masterpiece, so of course there is the danger of over-hype. But that said, run, don’t walk, to get on UP.

5 Stars


This review was published in The Brag.

NSW release date 17 September 2009.

Tartan Turtles


N'uff spelt.





Read my interview with the Beached Az boys here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Funny People


Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow has made quite the name for himself as a maker of hilariously loose comedies, written with a lot of heart. From The 40-Year Old Virgin to Knocked Up, Apatow has solidified his presence – and his fanbase – amongst the cynics of Tinsel Town. Funny People, is easily his most ambitious and very probably his most personal. It is the story of George Simmons (Adam Sandler) a comedian dealing with his impending mortality and the ripple effect this has on people in his life, most notably his assistant (Seth Rogan) and the girl-that-got-away (Leslie Mann).

Funny People is certainly a love letter to comedians – those crazy, competitive, penis-joke happy bunch – both past, present and future. The list of cameos is impressive, and the scene where Eminem has a go at Ray Romano is one of many in-jokes. However this film – at over 2 hours – is by no means wall to wall laughs, instead it is quite a serious look at death, loneliness, narcissism, and in the final act, a rather overly sentimentalised portrait of family.

For the most part Funny People is richer for this depth, and certainly the actors make a meal of the material. Adam Sandler is fearless, rivalling his turn in Punch Drunk Love, while great performances abound with Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and a scene-stealing (nay, rescuing) Eric Bana in a welcomed return to comedy.

At its core, Funny People is about the importance of friendship. The film opens with real footage of Sandler making prank calls; he and his friends in stitches. It is this comradery, this community that Apatow so wonderfully captures. Like jazz-musicians, he and his cast riff on what it is to be funny – in its notes both high and low.

3 1/2 Stars



This review was published in The Brag.

Australian release date 10 September 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Manhattan Short

One World. One Week. One Festival.

Cremorne’s charming Hayden Orpheum is the Sydney venue for this unique festival of short films and lots of numbers: of 428 entries from 36 countries, the ten selected semi-finalists will have their films screened 532 times in 173 cities across five continents.

Read more including information about Sydney's entry at Concrete Playground.

For your diaries, party people: Sunday 20th September 2009

Valentino: The Last Emperor

“So many things I did.”

This whispered utterance from Valentino – as his moves through the racks of 45 years of couture – said with such simplicity and almost incredulity, perfectly encapsulates his brilliant career. And yet the Emperor was not without his entourage, as Matt Tyrnauer’s fascinating documentary so telling reveals. Indeed the film is almost evenly divided between the fashion and the business of Valentino – run (aside from the financiers) by his, “friend, lover, employee,” of some 50 years, Giancarlo Giametti. The pair are often captured bickering more like an old (un)married couple, than the creative and business brains behind a billion dollar fashion franchise.

While the documentary is certainly celebration of Valentino’s illustrious career, it is also in part a reverent eulogy. The spectre of loss – in this case Valentino’s retirement from the dizzyingly detailed world of haute couture – hangs over the film. Every interview, every star studded conversation becomes a discussion of, “will he or won’t he?” And as the story builds to the climax of his 45-year retrospective, and the truly astonishing party at the ancient Temple of Venus, it all becomes poignantly apparent that once again the sun is setting on the Roman Empire.


This review was published on Concrete Playground.

Australian release date: 17 September 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

(500) Days of Summer


This is not a love story. This is a story about love.

From the opening (rather pointed) intertitles, this tagline is made abundantly clear. Debut feature film director Marc Webb and his two stars Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel charmingly translate screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s wonderfully comic tale of the 500-day lifespan of an infatuation.


Webb – an established music video director – brings a definite musicality and cracking soundtrack to the film. He even has Gordon-Levitt celebrate his love in an hilarious dance sequence, reminiscent of by-gone musicals and Amy Adam’s romp through Central Park in Enchanted (or even this flash-mob ad for T-Mobile).

The musical fun continues even after (500) Days of Summer, with Webb reuniting with his stars to release the Bank Heist short, as well as a spoof on Sid & Nancy (an in-joke from the film). See both videos, as well as the trailer here.

Great performances, witty repartee and crackling chemistry between the two leads makes for an entirely enjoyable cinematic experience. In keeping with its indie sensibility, the film is steeped in reflexivity, film and music references, as well as a definite nod to The Graduate. All the ironic banter, jumping around in time and winking at the camera could well grate on some nerves. However, those willing to bask in the warmth of a wonderfully fresh take on boy-meets-girl, (500) Days of Summer will fast become a film favourite.

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This review was published on Concrete Playground.

Australian release date: 17 September 2009


UPDATE: Click here to listen to a great interview with Scott Neustadter on the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Will Become of Us


The second music video from Passenger's gorgeous new album Wide Eyes Blind Love asks What Will Become of Us?

Enjoy!

Life

I don't often blog about the non-film world. But on this particular day - steeped as it is in a profound sense of loss - I don't believe it too twee to take a moment to be grateful and indeed celebrate life.

In any case, indulge me while I go a bit Dooce on you.

Those of you on Facebook or Twitter will know I have an extra special reason to be all with the pom poms about life, for on Wednesday (09/09/09) my niece joined the world.

This on Wednesday morning:

Was followed much later by this (a mere hint of the sheer hysteria to follow):


My sister-in-law, wow, what a trooper. What a rock star. And my dear big brother, so patient, protective and effortlessly paternal. I'm still busting with pride for them both.

So yesterday, I waited incredibly impatiently (and given all the writing I have to do, very unproductively!) to meet my niece, Hana. Fortunately there were the internets to distract me, and a Twitter film friend threw me a curve ball:

I didn't want to make it easy for myself, so immediately discounted all Disney/Pixar fare. What immediately sprung to mind was the following:

Bella Marta (Mostly Martha) - a lovely story of aunt and niece, and cooking! Also in my beloved Deutsch. Definitely not to be confused with the Hollywood remake, No Reservations (even if it was directed by Aussie Scott Hicks).

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - doesn't really need an explanation. Though here's hoping this isn't how Hana learns to wag school!

Pride & Prejudice - yes the Joe Wright version, but may cheat and bust out the BBC mini-series as well.

Marie Antoinette - see where I'm going with the strong, female characters? Also I love this film, its style, its playful take on history and Versailles! Ahh, need I say more?

And last but by no means least, some Chaplin. I didn't specify, but perhaps Modern Times or The Great Dictator (for some more history love) - point being I'll be dishing out some cinematic history.

And then FINALLY yesterday afternoon rolls around and I make a beeline for the hospital. Bearing gifts, naturally, this is my first (well, not including the baby-shower pressie) gift for Hana:


Suuuuper cute, right? The delightful toy elephant is by an Australian designer Kate Finn. I actually had a bit of a hard time parting with her, she's just that sweet. The Frenchie card is one I came across in Ariel bookstore in Paddington (a very dangerous, but favourite place to visit) - it jumped out at me not only because it complements the toy perfectly (do you see that beret?!), but crafty friend Kate had already blogged about the designers.

Upon seeing the soft-toy, my film brain immediately thought of this:



While the card just screams Jacques Tati to me. Oh hey, and then you have the whole Mon Oncle connection (too long a bow?).

Well, what do you know, this post turned out to be quite filmy after all!

Welcome to this weird and wonderful world, my darling niece. I can't wait to share it with you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bragging about Beached Az


It's the "little whale that could" - now an internationally renowned online phenomenon. And despite those choice New Zealand accents, it was created by three Sydney lads: Nick Boshier (Bosh), Anthony MacFarlane (Macca) and Jarod Green (J-Rad).

Somehow it's ended up as a TV series on ABC - and along the way the boys enlisted scriptwriting advice from John Clarke (The Games), and reject the voice talents of authentic New Zealander Sam Neill. The Brag's Alice Tynan caught up with two of the bros, to see where moments of genius inspiration really come from...

How did you three end up Beached Az?



J-Rad: Bosh, Macca and I have been laughing at each other's surreal sense of humour for years, and have been fortunate enough to be born in an age where we can share our ideas easily across social networks. Ten years ago we'd probably have to have formed a travelling "Beached Az Puppet Show" and pedal it around to 5 million people. I doubt it would have been as successful, especially given Bosh has red hair which I think was considered a form of witchcraft back then.



Your physical preparation for the role looked fairly arduous, but how did you find your New Zealanderian accent?


Bosh:
I was inspired by Turanui's famous line when he got pulled up for a head high tackle.... and I [mis]quote, "c'mon ref, we're not playing tuddly wunks here." The fact that Turanui looks much like Satan and/or The Predator but said something almost...lovely, calm and justified given the heat of the situation it made me really appreciate the softness of the NZ accent verses how big and mean they can look.



How do you feel about collaborating with John Clarke, but rendering Sam Neill unemployed?

J: John Clarke really helped guide this production in a fatherly, supportive and non-royalty-deserving way, and for that we're extremely grateful (emotionally and financially). 


B: The thing is, Sam Neill has a winery to fall back on....you know? So I don't actually feel that bad about the fact that Sam is now unemployed....nay.....unemployable (at least as a Kiwi-whale voice over actor).

Can we please have more spelling lessons from the Tartan Turtles?

J: The Tartan Turtles will return... We have a taste for sequels now!



Any buckets, hoses or chips surface in the new series?

J: Yes, the long-spoken-of bucket finally makes an appearance, and there's a few new catchy phrases in there that will make you giggle.

And if people have no earthly idea what we’re talking about here?

J: We're talking about Beached Az - the online film viewed 4.9 million times by Mum now an eleven-part TV series on ABC.

What: Beached Az, Series One
When: debuts Thursday September 10 at 9:25pm
Where: on ABC2
More: abc.net.au/beachedaz


This interview was published in The Brag.

****UPDATE - NOOOOO WAAAAYYYY!! The new Beached Az episode is available to view online. All eps will be on the web as they are screened on the ABC.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Critics' Corner

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Whoa! Look what I just stumbled across over at the Australian Film Institute website.

Thanks guys, you've totally made my day!

Worse Addictions


Third time's the charm! My podcasting debut with Worse Addictions is now on the internets for your audio enjoyment (hopefully!). The Lost Podcast can now be relegated to random, not-legitimately-legendary status, for Scott, Matt, Alex and I finally managed to reunite and have a great chat about Inglourious Basterds, pashing* in the cinema, as well as some highlights from the recent Canadian Film Festival.

Check out all the action here. And, well...be kind.

***UPDATE Ok, I've listened to the episode now and I didn't sound nearly as bad as I'd imagined! Phew! Thought I'd put up a few links to my reviews of the films I mentioned: Lemon Tree, I've Loved You So Long, and The Young Victoria (see the comments section for Kate's 'chopping vegetables' line).

*Oh and for any overseas readers out there, 'pashing' is Aussie for kissing/snogging/making out. A colloquial gift from us to you!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Blessed


The intractable bond between mother and child is scrutinised in Ana Kokkino’s heart wrenching new film. A multi-narrative tale based on the play Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?, Blessed brings together an impressive cast of child and adult actors to weave together a confronting portrait of love, loss and the meaning of home.

The film’s structural separation into two parts – The Children and The Mothers – underscores the emotional schism that divides each child from their mother. Homelessness, sex, alcohol and theft are but symptoms of this underlying malaise. Beginning with the children, Kokkino asks much of her child actors, most of whom tackle their harrowing storylines with conviction – albeit occasionally appearing a little forced. Cillian Murphy look-alike Eamon Farren is a stand out as the sexually exploited Roo, while Harrison Gilbertson lays himself emotionally bare as little-boy-lost, Daniel.

Blessed moves on to more assured ground with the mothers. Deborah-Lee Furness, Miranda Otto and newcomer Victoria Haralabidou flex their fine acting muscles with impressive nuance. While William McInnes inverts his masculine gravitas as a disaffected husband, struggling to turn a blind eye. Wayne Blair and Monica Maughan deserve special mention for their affecting reminiscence on a mixed race adoption, however it is Frances O’Connor who steals the show. As the neglectful, unredeemable Rhonda, O’Conner is utterly captivating, and her climactic scene is delivered with an unforgettable, visceral power.

This is obviously not a light-hearted trip to the cinema. Indeed it may well test your threshold for dysfunctionality. And yet while Kokinno is fearless in her pared down, naturalistic approach to the film, Blessed is perhaps better suited to the more intimate arena of the stage.


This review was published at Concrete Playground.

Australian release date: 10 September 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shakeytown


A film friend of mine has just made a cracking music video for an up and coming Aussie band I Heart Hiroshima.

Shakeytown is a Michael Mann in miniature inspired cops and robbers romp through a cardboard city. Very cool stuff. Check it out.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Sydney Brick


So here's the skinny...

Rian Johnson's impressive 2005 teenage neo-noir Brick has been adapted for the stage. A clever chap, Chris White put the production together with his drama class at J.L Mann High School in Greenville South Carolina. For serious, here's the poster:


So then die-hard Brick fans and Filmspotting podcast hosts Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson interviewed White about his play, and - by the power of the internets - Macquarie University Drama Society member Christopher Marchand heard the podcast and set about bringing Brick and White to Sydney. (The Filmspotting guys also tell the tale in this week's show (at about 1h4m) - worth a listen just to hear Adam butcher the name 'Macquarie.')

Intrigued? Well you can help send White to our fair shores (or at least the charming concrete jungle that is Club Mac) but pitching in a few bucks here. According to White's blog, Brick will be performed 8pm Friday October 16 at the Lighthouse Theatre at Macquarie University. Additional performances TBA.

Consider me there.

UPDATE: Click here for more news.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Inglourious Basterds


Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France.


From the brilliant and bizarre mind of Quentin Tarantino comes the ultimate revenge fantasy. Like the title’s misspelling suggests, Inglourious Basterds takes no heed of reality, turning the history of World War II on its head and serving up some bloodthirsty justice instead. What if Hitler, Goebbels and the entire Nazi elite were to be wiped out during a trip to the cinema? Doesn’t that sound exactly like Tarantino’s personal brand of revenge? The result is of course an entirely self-indulgent film, but one that is infectiously so.

From its 2 ½ hour running time, with its long, long stretches of dialogue, to its delineated chapters – each with their own aesthetic style – Inglourious Basterds flirts tantalisingly with hubris. This is an auteur’s film; Tarantino even has a character spell out that this is his ‘masterpiece’. And yet his blatant love of cinema elevates the film from an exercise in narcissism to something wonderfully complex and dizzyingly referential. Indeed, an unofficial list of film references found in Inglourious Basterds is impressively long, while Tarantino – clearly unable to help himself – also released a trailer for the German propaganda film Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride) that premieres within his movie.

Helping Tarantino bring his intractable fantasy to life is a remarkable cast of characters. Christoph Waltz’s astounding performance as “the Jew Hunter” is worth the price of admission alone, though Melanie Laurent’s revenge-fuelled cinema owner and Michael Fassbender as a British film critic turned commando are similar stand-outs. Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine is pure, hilarious caricature, and probably as much fun to watch as it was to create.

Inglourious Basterds may have a fairytale opening, and even a Cinderella slipper scene, but this blood stained love letter to cinema shows the Brothers Grimm ain’t got nothing on Tarantino.


This review was published at Concrete Playground

Australian release date: 27 August 2009

***UPDATE If you fancy hearing me prattle on more about Tarantino's self-indulgence, Inglourious Basterds in general, as well as Canadian Film Festival gems and whether or not you should pash at the cinema, check out Episode 10 of Worse Addictions.

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