Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dungoona: Shit Hot Project

Alex Rowe as Jared

“It started by accidentally plagiarizing To Sir With Love, then twisting it” is how director Reuben Field describes the creation of his hour-long TV drama, Dungoona. Winning last year’s ONE80PROJECT with the trailer Wauchope, Field and producer Dean Bates set about adapting 180 seconds into an hour spot with the help of their $180,000 prize money (which as been expanded this year to $250,000).

“So when you make the trailer, you don’t necessarily have a film in mind and I didn’t very thoroughly,” Field reveals, “and most critically, after making that trailer, I got around to watching To Sir With Love…and then I sort of shit myself and realised that my plan was to basically remake that without knowing it.”

Darin Berlin as the inspiration Mr. Berlin

Amidst hours of watching inspirational teacher movies (“many of them being crap”), Field teamed up with screenwriter, Jonothan Gavin, “We decided to push it more towards the foul-mouthed, scummy, country school kids and away from the teacher.” The resulting Dungoona (a name that literally means ‘shit shit’) is fronted by the feisty 15-year-old Gemma McNeill (Natasha Bassett) who leads the audience into the motley crew of misfits dumped at the feet of unorthodox teacher Mr. Berlin (Darin Berlin). Any obvious Dangerous Minds (or To Sir With Love) transformative scenes are very quickly dispensed with, as these stylish, snappy and darkly comedic drama follows Gemma and her cohorts as they traverse the drug, sex and alcohol minefield of teen life.

Drawing from personal experience Field says, “It’s actually a mixture of stories between myself, Jonothan Gavin and Dean Bates.

"We all grew up in country towns. I didn’t have a pregnant girlfriend, but there were half a dozen pregnant girls in my school, so it was something I was pretty close to.

“I think the kids in the country have an extra serving of angst as they grow up. They’re agitated. It’s a mixture of boredom, and the limitations of being in the country pisses kids off.”

This personal resonance is something that drew Logie winner Kat Stewart (Underbelly) to the role of Gemma’s trashy mother, Trish. Field puts this casting coup down to the fact Stewart, “saw people from her youth in the character and wanted to do it.”

Kat Stewart

The generational thread of Stewart’s role forms a key part of the story.

“Growing up I thought the rebellion of kids in my school was not really a rebellion at all because they were acting like their parents. These are kids who were being rebellious by getting very drunk and smoking, and their parents are alcoholics who smoked. This totally faulty kind of rebellion seemed absurd to me and I wanted to paint a picture of that.”

However it is the formidable newcomer Bassett who steals the show with her fearless embodiment of Gemma. Field is clearly impressed, “Especially because she’s a SCEGGS girl [referring to the Eastern Suburbs school]. With that in mind she’s really quite unbelievably good.”

Natasha Bassett

Neither director nor actor pull any of their punches, “I wanted the subject matter to be difficult,” Field describes, “but for the film to be nonetheless easy to watch. I wanted the entertainment of it to be a Trojan horse for the themes.”

What: the ONE80Project

Where & When: Voting commences 1 March. Head to

Dungoona is screening on MTV tonight at 8pm - or watch it online.

Published by Street Press Australia

Friday, February 26, 2010

Oscar Competition

The Trespass team have scored some great swag to give away in their Oscar Competition.
All you have to do is pick the Best Picture winner and you can be in the running to win some fab DVDs.

To celebrate the Oscar season, Beth asked us to ditch the politics and decide who should take home the little gold man.

My picks:

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

This is a tricky one. With Up as my number one pick for 2009 and with my pure love of An Education (minus the unnecessary closing voice over), I'm really quite torn. And while the 'groundbreaking' technological wizardry of Avatar may well seize the day, I believe best picture should go to the total package. The Hurt Locker succeeds where Avatar fails with a great script, strong performances across the board as well as dynamic cinematography. The same can be said for Up and An Education, but I think The Hurt Locker just pips them at the post.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow

No, not because she's a female, and certainly not because she's a female who makes action films. The Hurt Locker is a remarkable cinematic achievement and Bigelow deserves to win over her ex-hubby for crafting an intelligent, visceral and wonderfully rendered film.

Best Actor: Colin Firth

I was all for Jeremy Renner (who really is deserving) until I saw A Single Man. Firth's performance is subtle, passionate and supremely elegant. Unfortunately Firth will probably lose out to Jeff Bridges because he's 'due,' but, to be fair, he's also pretty great in Crazy Heart.

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan

Having now seen The Blind Side, I really don't know what all the fuss is about over Sandra Bullock. She's ok - a bit one-note - but nothing compared with the majesty of Mulligan's performance. Like Firth's, hers is all about nuance, so she too will probably be overlooked for the bigger/brighter/louder Bullock.

Read more and enter the competition over at Trespass.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Retro Nominees

I've already declared my pure love for vintage posters, so my adoration of these Tavis Coburn designs should come as no surprise. Commissioned to create a poster series for the BAFTA best picture nominees, Coburn's work makes great use of his colourful, retro style.

Thanks to the chaps at /Film for featuring these in Cool Stuff and to Luke for the heads up.

Crazy Heart

Like a classic country song, Crazy Heart
traverses the familiar rhythms of a hard-fought life and redemptive love. Adapting Thomas Cobb’s novel, writer/director Scott Cooper follows in the footsteps of films like Walk the Line and The Wrestler with his take on pursuing your life’s passion, reconnecting with family and aging disgracefully.

Jeff Bridges is captivating as one-time country music star Bad Blake, an alcoholic, multiple divorcee and troubadour now relegated to playing bottom-of-the-rung gigs for food, board and whichever local cougar he can coax into his bed. In a fearless portrayal of alcoholism, Barry Markowitz’s camera gets claustrophobically close-up to Bad’s swollen face and bodily fluids. Subtle this isn’t, and yet Cooper introduces some light and shade with an understated Colin Farrell (playing the student who became the star), who teams up with Bridges for some vibrant and wonderful musical interludes. Unfortunately Maggie Gyllenhaal’s love interest doesn’t benefit from the same keen characterisation, though her strong performance compels attention.

Part love-letter to ‘real’ country, part whisky-fuelled ride into oblivion, Crazy Heart lives by its lyrics: 'It’s funny how falling feels like flying, for a little while'

4 Stars

Published in The Big Issue (#348)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Blind Side

‘Wholesome’ is probably the best term to describe The Blind Side. ‘Woefully paternalistic’ is another, but we’ll get to that later. John Lee Hancock’s (The Rookie) film plays out like a feature length episode of 7th Heaven: all squeaky clean, Christian and chock full of life lessons. Were this not a true story, many would be hunting around for the ghost of Aaron Spelling, but instead we can sit back (preferably with milk and cookies) and learn about an underprivileged African American teen, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) being taken in by the wealthy white Tuohy family and helped to academic and football greatness by the Southern force of nature that is Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock).

Adapting Michael Lewis’ novel The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game Hancock titrates his treacley family drama with doses of training montages and game night furor. Australian audiences may well be unfamiliar with the bizarre, body-armored world of American football, but thanks to Leigh Anne, there’s no missing the metaphor, “This team is your family and you have to protect them…Tony is your quarterback. You protect his blind side. When you look at him think of me. How you have my back.”

It goes without saying that this film won’t be for everyone. Indeed it often feels like a Republican curative for Precious, particularly when in an unnecessary closing voice over Leigh Anne intones the fate of athletic young black boys who are being lost to gang violence in a place literally called Hurt Village. Such blatant paternalism is underscored by the characterisation of Oher as a near mute man child (who is at one point captivated by a Norman Rockwell picture), as well as constant references to Christian charity set off by shots of Leigh Anne’s glittering diamond crucifix.

But then again the life altering truth behind this story makes The Blind Side more than just a white-bred trip to Memphis. Bullock carries the film with a strong, compassionate performance, drawing out a mostly hangdog Aaron, while country music star Tim McGraw is largely silent as Sean Tuohy, perhaps reliving his home life as Mr. Faith Hill. Kathy Bates lends her singular charm to the third act as Oher’s private tutor, Miss Sue, with Jae Head and Lilly Collins rounding out the family as Oher’s infuriatingly precocious brother and sweetly smiling sister.

For all the midday movie sentimentalism, The Blind Side does manage to generate some genuinely funny and heartwarming moments. However there’s no turning a blind eye to fact that Oher’s story has been co-opted into a film about Leigh Anne (not to mention Bullock’s Oscar campaign), the irony of which is about as glaringly obvious as her values, “I have prayer group with the DA. I’m a member of the NRA, and I’m always packing.”

Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 25 February 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hitler bombs out of Tropfest

Thanks to Rochelle for the heads up. The only drawback is my German brain started deciphering the dialogue, then became very confused when the subtitles didn't match up. Oh well!

Australian Film Festival

Now Tropfest has jazzed up audiences about our local filmmaking talent, it’s time to take part in the inaugural Australian Film Festival. Launching with the tag line 'It’s a ripper!', the festival promises to celebrate old film favourites as well as introducing Sydneysiders to Australian fare they might never have had the chance to see.

Setting up shop in Randwick’s iconic Ritz cinema, the festival is partnering with Popcorn Taxi for an opening night screening of the groundbreaking Mad Max. Rumoured to be a glorious print, this screening also boasts a Q&A with original cast and crew members including Steve Bisley. The genius of George Miller will be further celebrated with his recent classic, Happy Feet screening (for free!) this Saturday on Clovelly beach.

The festival will also host the acclaimed documentary of India’s first policewoman, Yes Madam, Sir, narrated by Helen Mirren. Director Megan Doneman (who will be in attendance for a Q&A) followed the Asian Nobel Prize winner Kiren Bedi for six years in order to draw her insightful portrait of this fascinating woman.

The rest of the program is stacked with a plethora of films, including Rolf de Heer’s cult classic Bad Boy Bubby. The Future Film Screenwriting Competition sees $1000 up for grabs, while a short film competition will close out the festival alongside a Spot Food & Film day and the addition of Steve Bisley and Claudia Karvan to the Australian Film Walk of Fame.

Published on Concrete Playground

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Wolfman

Man’s fascination with the internal beast is the keystone of the horror genre. In 1941 Lon Chaney Jr. first introduced audiences to The Wolf Man; his now iconic portrayal spawned all manner of cinematic homages, let alone nightmares. Adapted by Se7en and Sleepy Hollow scribe, Andrew Kevin Walker, it’s evident that Curt Zidomak’s original screenplay is in reverent, respectful hands.

Indeed Walker and director Joe Johnson (Jurassic Park III, October Sky) appear content to avoid any new territory in their restaging of the classic, the result being a rather quaint, old-fashioned addition to the genre. Benicio del Toro is Lawrence Talbot, the famed stage actor and exiled son of Sir John (Anthony Hopkins), entreated to return to the manor by Gwen (Emily Blunt) upon the disappearance of her fiancé Ben (Simon Merrells). When Ben’s gored body is recovered, the twitchy townsfolk seek revenge upon the local band of gypsies, but not before the beast attacks again, butchering many and taking a hunk out of Lawrence’s neck.

Most will be au fait with how the story continues. Silver bullets, silvery moonlight and blood – gallons of blood – ensue as this twist on the return of the prodigal son seeks a more gruesome conclusion. Unfortunately, however, Johnson’s film is scare-by-numbers. Though well designed and certainly not short on carnage and entrails, The Wolfman offers no surprises, asking the audience to be satisfied with the standard shocks and gore.

Fortunately the film looks wonderful, as Rick Heinrichs’ production design and Shelly Johnson’s cinematography create a rich world shot in steely blue/grey filters and smoky forest woods. Similarly, Danny Elfman’s score sets just the right ominously atmospheric, yet decidedly theatrical tone.

So too do the cast bring theatricality to their roles. Emily Blunt is watery-eyed, mourning, quaking and querulous in turn. Though more time is given to her alabaster skin than character development, she does well with little. Hugo Weaving and Hopkins fare much better, given great, meaty lines to chew on, these two are well within their comfort zones (austere investigator and cantankerous hermit respectively), but that doesn’t stop them having a lot of fun. Del Toro is more sullen, attempting to anchor the film in high stakes and real strife. Of course he doesn’t succeed, with the rest of the film working against him, but his sunken, darkly circled eyes and penchant for muttering his lines do at least add to the disquieting atmosphere.

Good for a few jumps in a dark theatre and with enough gore to sully the taste of popcorn, The Wolfman is an entertaining, self-aware (if too safe) tribute to a classic.

Published by Street Press Australia

Australian release date: 18 February 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

From Paris with Love

After the shameless revenge romp that was Taken
, audiences could easily be forgiven for thinking Luc Besson and Pierre Morel were on to a winning formula: pimping out Paris for good, old-fashioned American shoot’em-ups. This latest venture even comes with a cheekily reflexive title and The Transporter producer India Osborne. But then again, it also trades in Liam Neeson for John Travolta, and a vaguely intriguing revenge narrative for an absolutely absurd, intellectually insulting buddy cop meets terrorist plot.

No, not even rose coloured glasses can rescue this monstrosity. It’s as if Besson didn’t appreciate William Holden’s screenwriting creation in Paris When it Sizzles was satire; such is the rampant ridiculousness of this film that it can’t even be forgiven for being so bad it’s good.

The preposterous plot sees Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing James Reece, a US embassy gopher and undercover agent who rapidly moves up the ranks when assigned to accompany agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta – and yes, they go there with the Karate Kid line) on some secret government business in Paris. There’s no real point paying attention to why Wax starts shooting people, it’s about as baseless as Reece having to hoist around a cocaine filled vase like an oversized handbag.

From Paris with Love doesn’t dwell on the detail. Instead the film careens from one shoot-out to the next; chockfull of cheesy dialogue and awful racial stereotypes, it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The Chinese, Africans and Pakistanis all succumb to Wax’s glorified gun, (which he honestly declares he’s married to) dispatched with gleeful ease, and with no clear cause.

Established in an opening chess game, Reece is supposedly the brains to Wax’s erstwhile brawn (now quite a few ‘Royals with Cheese’ worse for wear), but in actuality Reece is a mere sounding board for Wax’s explosive immorality. “Tell me that wasn’t some impressive shit!” he demands after obliterating one ethnic group or another. Indeed it seems Travolta has regressed to Battlefield Earth standards, with his pudgy, bald-headed performance positively unspooled. It’s occasionally amusing, but mostly he’s just cringe-worthy.

Meyers fairs a little better as the wide-eyed straight man. Though his American accents sticks in his throat, his is perfectly adequate as the audience’s window into this shady Parisian underworld. However the subplot involving Reece’s irreverent fiancée Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), unfortunately requires of him a climactic invocation of love, which couldn’t ring more hollow it he were entombed.

There is honestly nothing to recommend in this atrocious film. The title alone is a smite upon the splendour of the glorious capital. In fact the film only acts as a sad reminder of just how long ago Besson gave us Léon.


Published by Street Press Australia

Australian release date: 18 February 2010


It’s that time of year again. You may or may not have decided this is the year to finally try your hand at a short film, but you definitely know someone who knows someone who has. They've mulled over the Tropfest Signature Item 'dice' and come up with a few quirky ideas, which may or may not involve raiding the Monopoly set. Entries are now closed, the sixteen finalists announced, and it's time to start planning your pilgrimage to the Domain. One hundred and fifty thousand people will descend upon the Domain, with live satellite links across the country and another two hundred and thirty-five thousand odd tuning in on Foxtel’s Movie Extra.

The event kicks off with the little ‘uns, TropJr finalists, screening at 1pm. This year also marks the entry of a new category, the Telstra Mobile Masterpieces, with three finalists screening their mobile phone film creations. Then the main event of seven-minute wonders, consistently boasting ludicrous talent (and usually judged by big name luminaries), which is already on display in Tropfest’s gorgeous, animated trailer. So it’s time to pray for good weather, and prepare for rain. Sydneysiders have done more than one drenched dash out of the Domain come Tropfest night, but that’s just the roll of the dice.

For your diaries: Sunday 21st February

Published on Concrete Playground

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Hurt Locker

If Iraq war films are too close for comfort, then Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker takes discomfort to a whole new level. Intense doesn’t even begin to describe this story of an elite bomb squad, sent in to disarm improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that cause carnage on the streets of Baghdad. The opening scene alone may well be the most insanely gripping and amazingly constructed cinematic moment you’ll see all year.

Jeremy Renner (putting his SWAT skills to good use) stars as Staff Sergeant William James, brought in to very literally suit up for the three-man squad, alongside Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldrige (Brian Geraghty). Clambering into the heavy, unwieldy protection suit, both Renner and Bigelow do well to portray the sweaty, claustrophobic crucible in which James must work.

As a procedural, Bigelow has certainly stepped up a notch or ten from the bloated (but classic) Point Break. She and In the Valley of Elah screenwriter Mark Boal have honed the story down to essentially a few days in the precarious life of this team. And it’s absolutely fascinating. Watching them work – in the most extreme, adrenaline-drenched conditions – is where the film is at its most compelling. Indeed Bigelow should have made the narrative even sparser, as the second act stutters when James leaves the base in search of a lost local boy.

Performances across the board are strong, with Renner leading the way in utter, Oscar worthy commitment to the alpha-male, adrenaline junky James. We are Marshall alums Geraghty and Mackie mostly manage to keep up with him, while Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes show how it’s done in their pitch-perfect cameos. And Baghdad itself is the menacing antagonist, captured in all its ominous, dusty glory by United 93 cinematographer Barry Ackroyd.

Taut, terrifying and incredibly intelligent, The Hurt Locker takes its cue from the Brian Turner poem that inspired the story. The film has already taken a slew of awards, and it’s very likely Bigelow will go head-to-head with her ex-hubby Jim Cameron for Best Picture at the Oscars. Much has also been made of the novelty that Bigelow is female action film director.

Female shmemale, Kathryn Bigelow is the bomb.

Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 18 February 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love Day


Ja, I'm not really into Valentine's Day.

Then again, this vintage card made me giggle because I often refer to people as 'good eggs'.

Here's a song that befits the day. Those in love should stop listening at 2:45, those feeling a bit bitter can revel in the final refrain.

And regardless of your romantic status, this always goes down a treat:

Happy special, loved up Sunday!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Cove

Twas a dark and stormy night when I finally ventured into The Cove. I'd heard great reviews out of the Sydney Film Festival and during the film's theatrical release, but hadn't managed to catch up with this award winning documentary until last night.

The rain relentlessly hammering on the windows certainly added to the intense atmosphere Louie Psihoyos' film creates. From the opening grey-toned thermal images, it's clear this isn't an ordinary documentary. I was struck how malleable the genre is to Psihoyos' obvious creative intent to present a thriller. I think we're long past the idea that documentaries present the truth; surely they can only ever convey a truth, one highly structured, created and edited to subjective ends. To that end, Psihoyos' efforts to include the Japanese side of the story largely comes across as an afterthought, however I believe this is mediated by his well articulated decision to make The Cove Ric O'Barry's story.

As the trainer behind the watershed TV series, Flipper, O'Barry is haunted by the horrific legacy he's created. He can't put the genie back in the bottle, but he has devoted his life to freeing dolphins from captivity, and trying to prevent the yearly slaughter of 23,000 wild dolphins in the cove of Taiji, Japan. O'Barry's impassioned, borderline paranoid pursuit grounds the film in subjectivity, around which Psihoyo's wraps his Mission Impossible style espionage.

Whether or not such hi-tech hi-jinks (such as ILM designer rock cameras and thermal imaging equipment) are actually required isn't the point. What's important is how Psihoyo's has decided to sell this story, and with a raft of festival awards and an Oscar nomination, it seems his thriller bent has been extremely successful. It'll be interesting to see if this genre-melding style will catch on with other documentarians.

Curiously, The Cove avoids setting the dolphin and whale hunting in historical context. The bitter irony is that the United States encouraged Japan to hunt caeteans as a source of cheap protein in the wake of WWII. There's little doubt this and the downstream reversal of fishing rights of the International Whaling Commission have contributed to Japan's stubbornness on this issue.

For a less stream-of-consciousness review I can recommend heading over to Last Night with Riviera or B Movies. I can also vigorously encourage people to track down The Cove on DVD and educate yourselves about this futile slaughter. I still can't get my head around the fact that the dolphin meat is actually poisoning consumers, and is fraudulently being sold as the more prized whale meat. The sheer bloody-mindedness of this highly subsidised industry beggers belief.

And finally, it looks as though despite protests by the Taiji fishermen, The Cove will hit Japanese cinemas in April this year. I'll be fascinated to read how this provocative, unapologetic documentary goes over with local audiences.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Toys!!

Myspace has released the new Toy Story 3 trailer and it's worth sitting through the ad.


Toy Story 3 Trailer 2 in HD

Trailer Park Movies | MySpace Video

Slight worries about the schmaltz factor between Woody and Andy, but then again Pixar walks that line so well, I doubt they'll overplay it.

Australian release date: 24 June 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Do as she says

Though in the end of year rush I never managed to pen a proper review, Jane Campion's superlative Bright Star came second in my 2009 top 10s.

If that isn't enough encouragement to see this beautiful film, I hope Slate's Dana Stevens is more convincing. Just watching this clip makes me want to rush into the cinema to linger once more upon a Bright Star.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NT Live: Nation

Last year Concrete Playgrounders were introduced to NT Live, the ingenious, democratising brainchild of the UK’s National Theatre, whereby stage performances are beamed into cinemas around the world. While Australia doesn’t quite get the show ‘live’, we do benefit from having the recorded shows screened for us over a weekend.

The Chauvel, Hayden Orpheum, and Dendy Opera Quays have all signed up for NT Live’s latest broadcast: the stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Nation. Beloved for his Discworld series, Pratchett now maroons an oddly-coupled nineteenth century boy and girl on an island in the wake of a tsunami. The dramatisation sees acclaimed playwright Mark Ravenhill following in the footsteps of previous family-friendly NT shows, including a production of Philip Pullman’s best-selling His Dark Materials series.

Pratchett’s colourful parallel world is brought to exuberant life on stage, where Nation promises to be an enthralling adventure for adults and children alike.

For your diaries: 13th and 14th February 2010

Published on Concrete Playground

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Secret Film Love

Trespass is all about the loving this week and to celebrate, Beth had a few film types admit the films they love despite themselves.

My confessions:

I know it’s cringe-worthy (and more than a little compulsive), but I love having a good cry watching Step Mom. Every time it comes on TV I have to watch it, and end up bawling (aka the ugly cry).

I know it ruins my cred (whatever modicum exists) but I love Michael Bay movies - excepting Pearl Harbour and the latest Transformers travesty. There’s nothing quite like a slightly hungover Sunday afternoon camped in front of Armageddon or The Rock. Shameless gold.

I know it’s not a particularly practical party trick, but I love watching and (annoyingly) quoting along with the following films: Pretty Woman, Princess Bride, LA Story, The Rock (as above) and the original Star Wars trilogy (voices included, naturally).

Read more (and fess up to your own!) over at Trespass.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giveaway: A Prophet

Jacques Audiard
serves up another searing character study of crime with his taut portrait of A Prophet. Following up the beautifully realised The Beat My Heart Skipped, Audiard journeys into the bowels of the French prison system with an illiterate young Arab, Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim). Condemned to a six-year stint for an unnamed crime, Malik falls in with Corsican gangster César Luciani (Niels Arestrup) and pushed to increasingly violent ends in order to survive.

Audiard’s ferocious and fearless filmmaking is being recognised with several award nominations (including a Grand Prix win at Cannes) as well as ubiquitous and prestigious comparisons with The Godfather. A Prophet is 150 minutes of claustrophobic and clawing reality that tears strips off any semblance of ‘rehabilitation.’ As a companion to Jean-François Richet’s epic biography of Jacques Mesrine, Audiard adds a further layer of brutality to the nature of gangsters and the harrowing existence of incarceration.

Published on Concrete Playground - head to the site to win tickets.
Australian release date: 11 February 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Poster designed by Jeremy Saunders

This is a sneaky little 'yay me!' post, so please bear with me.

This week I found out I received an award from the Australian Film Critics Association for my review of Disgrace. It was a lovely surprise, so many thanks to the judges and to all the well-wishers on the interwebs.

"It's been emotional."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Teaser: Red Hill




This teaser has been doing the rounds, but after watching it earlier in the week, the experience is still with me, so I had to share.

Red Hill (not to be confused with Beneath Hill 60 - what's with hills in Australian cinema this year?) has been selected to screen in the Panorama section of the Berlinale, to which I say a hearty congratulations, quickly followed by, "Bitte! Bitte! Darf ich mitkommen?!"

The synopsis reads:

When a young police officer, Constable Shane Cooper, relocates to the small town of Red Hill with his pregnant wife, he does so in the hope of living a quiet and peaceful family life. But when news of a prison break in the city sends the local law enforcement officers – under veteran officer Old Bill – into a panic, Shane’s first day on duty quickly turns into a nightmare.
The escaped prisoner is Jimmy Conway, a convicted murderer serving life behind bars. He returns to the isolated outpost seeking revenge. Now caught in the middle of what quickly becomes a horrifying blood bath, Shane will be forced to take the law into his own hands if he is to survive.
Australian director Patrick Hughes’ feature film debut is a taut thriller, told as a modern day Western. Set against the spectacular backdrop of high-country Australia, the story unfolds with explosive and chilling violence over the course of a single day.

But I say we got all this and more from the teaser, nicht wahr?


Australian release date: 2 December 2010


In addition to my interview with
Cybele and Daniel, here's a little preview that ran on Concrete Playground.

Fans of Sydney street press will no doubt recognise the photography of Cybele Malinowski and Daniel Boud. For five years the couple have been shooting musical greats including INXS, Ben Lee, Ladyhawke, The Precepts, Philadelphia Grand Jury and The Vines, and now their magazine covers (in their original forms) will go on display and for sale at the Mart Gallery.

Something of an online icon with his award-winning site Boudist, Boud broke into the photographic world shooting live music. “With a live band everything is presented for you,” he says, “The artist is performing already, they’re lit by a lighting designer, they’re on a stage that’s already been dressed, so as a photographer you’re more of a documentarian. Whereas a cover shoot, it’s a blank canvas. It’s completely up to you in terms of how you present the person, what you get them to do, what they’re wearing, what backdrop you’re using, how you light them. There’s a lot more of your photographer’s work in a cover shoot than it is shooting a live band.”

Covers is the their first joint exhibition, and they will be donating proceeds to the youth support network Oasis.

For your diaries: February 5 - 20 at the Mart Gallery.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Masters of Flash

In a celebration of photography, street press and Australian music culture, acclaimed photographers Cybele Maliowski and Daniel Boud are bringing a sampling of their work to the Mart Gallery with an exhibition called Covers. The exhibition will showcase 25 magazine covers Maliowski and Boud have notched up over five years in the businesses - including some for the magazine you're holding in your hands right now.

“We have a plethora of artists.” Malinowski says,.“Although we have shot some international acts for covers, we’ve decided to just focus on the Australian musicians, cause we’re such patriots!” In which case you can expect to see the likes of Ladyhawke, the Presets, INXS, Ben Lee, Philadelphia Grand Jury and Blue Juice on display at the couple's first show.

“...And it may be our last,” Malioswki laughs.

“We couldn’t agree on actually doing a project together so we ended up just showing the works we’d already released,” Boud jokes.

“Look we are competitive," Malinowski continues, "I really do think over the years that’s what’s really pushed me and Dan. He’ll do a great job on a shoot and I’ve got to up the ante the next time and visa versa. In choosing the images, I’ve noted what Dan’s put in the exhibition and made sure that…mine are better!”

Lively competition aside, the exhibition also highlights the changing nature of music photography in the digital age. With his award winning blog Boud frankly admits. “If it wasn’t for the Internet, I wouldn’t have this career as a photographer."

"I’ve been able to showcase my work online and become a better photographer by shooting for my website, and it’s given me a platform to move into traditional media.” “[Yet] because so many people get their music news through the Internet now, print publications are dwindling. Music magazines are really suffering and so they often don’t have much money to commission original shoots and so it’s a shame to see a lot of magazines just run stock standard promo shots on covers.”

Malinowski agrees, “[The Internet has] kind of devalued us, particularly with live music. There’s 20 photographers in the pit, they’re all taking shots and those images are up online straightaway and before, when perhaps someone would have had to commission you to shoot, now they can basically just go and download the shots for free.”

However the flipside of digital technology is the malleability of the medium. With Photoshop the lingua franca of this generation of photographers, Malinowski concedes they have the advantage.

“Dan and I got into photography when digital was really taking off. It’s easier for us, Photoshop and Lightroom, they’re second nature to us.”

“The beautiful thing with a digital photograph is that it’s a raw image and you can just apply whatever you want onto that… you can really just change the entire feel of a photo with just a few clicks, it is kind of amazing.”

Bringing these skills to next generation is also part of the exhibition, with proceeds being donated to Oasis, a youth support network for homeless teens and young adults. Malinowski points out that start up costs for photography are prohibitive to some and so in partnership with Oasis, she hopes to, “give them a chance to take photos themselves, and [their] incredible world that I would encourage them to document.”

Covers is a photographic call to arms in more ways than one.

“I’d really like all the music press in Australia to think about commissioning shoots for covers,” Boud says. “We want more original photography for the magazine covers.

“Hopefully [the photographer is] creating an iconic image, that when people think of a band, they think of your photograph. That’s the special thing about music photography.”

What? Covers

Where & When: Mart Gallery, Thursday 4 - Saturday 20 February

Edited versions of this interview were published in Interval (Street Press Australia) magazines.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Edge of Darkness

After some seven years away from the silver screen (but not the spotlight), Mel Gibson is back in action. Donning the ubiquitous trench coat and a Boston twang, Gibson plays Thomas Craven, your classic Irish Catholic veteran police detective (though one who has given up the booze), whose measured and solitary existence is razed by the gruesome murder of his visiting daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic*). The initial assumption that the gunman was really out for Thomas is soon undone as the increasingly untethered father traces the truth further and further up the political food chain.

25 years since Martin Campbell (Casino Royal) directed the critically acclaimed BBC miniseries Edge of Darkness, he has returned to make the feature film. Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell (Lantana) and Oscar winner William Monahan (The Departed) relocated the action from Leeds to the streets of Boston, though the political and nuclear subplots prove as compelling today as they did back in 1985.

Following the adaptation of State of Play last year, it seems it’s boon time for the BBC, selling the feature rites to their back catalogue of miniseries. And like State of Play, Edge of Darkness suffers somewhat from the downsizing. At 116 minutes, the film certainly takes its time, and yet certain subplots and antagonists, including a creepy Danny Huston and an annoyingly enigmatic Ray Winstone aren’t mined for all their worth, while other translations, like Emma’s lingering presence, feel cloyingly sentimental.

Fans of Lethal Weapon, Payback or Ransom should be happy to see Gibson back to knocking heads and dealing vengeance. The film is also reminiscent of Liam Neeson’s recent turn in Taken, though Edge of Darkness takes itself much more seriously. Monahan and Bovell have crafted a character study along the lines of an old school noir, and while Gibson is no Bogie, he definitely lends gravitas as well as his gravely voice to a man with nothing to lose.

Edge of Darkness is a passable procedural thriller driven by solid performances and an intriguing, if undercooked premise. While it’s not quite a return to form, the film is welcome comeback vehicle for Gibson, who heralds the beginning of a new era by co-writing the closing song, performed by his new leading lady Oksana Grigorieva.

*Australia's own (via Serbia). I knew I recognised her, and thanks to IMDB I now know that it was as Tippi from Satisfaction.

Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 4 February 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010



was never going to be a light-hearted trip to the cinema. Harrowing to the point of being labeled “poverty porn,” it is the story of Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a morbidly obese, illiterate African American teenager, who is raped by her father, beaten by her mother and pregnant with her second child of incest. Based on the novel Push, by Sapphire, it’s worth noting that Precious is an amalgam, a combination and terrifying representation of Sapphire’s experiences as a teacher in Harlem. This no doubt explains the sympathetic, borderline angelic characterisation of Precious’ teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), whose dedication and tenacity resembles a slightly more realistic version of Michelle Pfeiffer circa Dangerous Minds.

So why subject yourself to 109 minutes of horrible abuse? Surely rumours of Mariah Carey’s make up free face and Glitter-salvaging performance won’t quite do the trick. It’s honestly a tough call, other than to say Sidibe fearlessly embodies a member of society that deserves recognition. Illiteracy, obesity and abuse are tragic and uncomfortable realities that Precious goes a long way to demystify. Mo’Nique cleaning up the awards season for her brutal performance as Precious’ fatally flawed mother shines the spotlight brighter still on the vicious, generational cycle of violence.

But lest this review descend into a public service announcement, suffice it to say that as much as director Lee Daniels doesn’t shy away from the horrifying reality, nor does he forget the rich, soothing and supporting realm of fantasy. Every time Precious is pushed down (hence the original title), she escapes into a utopian dreamscape of wealth, fame and love. The journey of this film is the intersection of these two worlds, where Precious equips herself with the skills to carve out her own life, somewhere in the middle.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 4 February 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010


At first glance, one of Australia’s most anticipated films of 2010 hardly looks like a local. With Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe taking the leads, Australian twin brothers Peter and Michael Spierig are doing their bit to cash in on the current vampire craze. It’s 2019 and ten years after a vampire pandemic brought about the dusk of humanity. Indeed, humans are now too rare a commodity, and with blood supplies perilously dwindling, bank runs take on a whole new meaning.

Reluctant vamp and haematologist Edward Dalton (Hawke) is under the gun from his steely boss (Sam Neill), trying to manufacture a substitute (oh for some True Blood!), while a starving population starts feeding on itself, to rather gruesome ends. However a chance encounter with a band of humans leads Dalton to team up with the plucky Audrey (Love My Way’s Claudia Karvan), a wry Elvis (Dafoe) and to discover a truly revolutionary opportunity.

Despite this fascinating premise and the careful construction of ingeniously retrofitted world, Daybreakers fails to dazzle. Granted, it’s fun to watch local talent like Karvan, Vince Colosimo (Underbelly), Isabel Lucas (Transformers 2) and Michael Dorman (Prime Mover) bandy about with crossbows and American accents, however the scripting of these underdeveloped characters render most mere plot points.

But fans of the genre won’t be disappointed. The Spierig brothers aren’t afraid to get very bloody – and although the climactic shootout looks like it takes place on the Matrix lobby set, it (and the rest of the film) is packed with gruesome, gory goodness.


Published on Concrete Playground

Australian release date: 4 February 2010

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