Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fantastic Planet Film Festival

The Fantastic Planet Film Festival is entering its terrible twos in spectacular fashion. Tears and tantrums may well spill forth both onscreen and off as a scarily good line up of sci-fi and generally fantastical films take over Dendy Newtown.

It’s Christmas come early with the creepy Finnish number Rare Exports taking opening night honours. A seriously twisted take on the Santa legend, it might well have you wishing you never believed in the big man in red.

Another Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly) novel has been adapted to the big screen and this festival will host the world premiere of Radio Free Albemuth. With a strong performance from infamously 'ironic' singer Alanis Morrissette, director John Alan Simon's cinematic vision purportedly stays true to Dick's original vein of dark paranoia.

Closing night takes the cake with Robert Rodriguez's gloriously gratuitous, 'Mexploitation' revenge thriller Machete. Born of a fake trailer in Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's exploitation experiment Grindhouse, the film stars Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Steven Segal (plus a cameo from Lindsay Lohan). As a prelude to the closing night party, seriously, what more could you ask for?

Check out the program for further features (including Mortal Fools, an existential Aussie adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the short film contingent and info on the Fantastic Filmmaking Forum.

A two year old has never been so accomplished.

Published on Concrete Playground
October 29 - November 5th 2010 at Dendy Newtown

Thursday, October 28, 2010


This little ditty by The xx* is on nigh constant repeat at the moment:

The romantic, fluttery feel you get listening to this song is also a neat segue into explaining my recent absence from le blog. Last week was delightfully taken up with various preparations for the most superb wedding, ever. The expectations were high - particularly after the epic proposal - and even hail, thunder and lightening were no match for the outpouring of absolute joy and love that emanated from over a hundred friends and family witnessing the marriage of two uniquely beautiful souls.

Oh yes, I'm a total sook.

Right, back to business! ;)

*Thanks to my music guru Beth for the recommendation, as always!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kino Kabaret

The cinematically inclined are taking the floor for another year of filmmaking marathons, screenings and parties that make up Kino Kabaret. From seasoned pros to keen-bean first timers, filmmakers from all walks of life have signed up for the mad dash to bring an idea to screen in a mere 32 hours. Now you have the chance to join the fun.

Three separate screening parties are taking place at Chippendale's Fraser Studios on October 20, 22 and 24, each with their respective party themes: Card Sharks, Hardcore Gamers and Roller Riot (cue appropriate puns). Each evening promises to have free-flowing beer, pizza and prizes to compliment the cinematic acts of daring do.

As Artistic Director Matt Ravier reveals: "Kino offers an inclusive, non-competitive experience to give people a taste for filmmaking. Participants pool their resources, ideas, knowledge and equipment. To keep things interesting we're inviting Kino filmmakers from Adelaide, Paris and the US to join in the fun. The result is unpredictable, the energy is contagious ... and in true Kino spirit, the parties — which include live entertainment, snacks, giveaways and open bar — are awesome."

The poster says it best: Game on!

Published on Concrete Playground

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let Me In

It's a crying shame we can't talk about Let Me In without discussing its Swedish forebear, Let The Right One In [Lat den ratte komma in], along with a predictable whinge about why people won't just read the damn subtitles. For on its own, the American adaptation is rather remarkable. It's an incredibly tense, artfully constructed and beautifully acted portrait of loneliness, nascent love and manipulation. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is the choice fodder for local school bullies, while on the home-front he must contend with an absent father and mother whose coping mechanism entails passing out with a bottle of wine. In a deft move, director Matt Reeves never shows the face of Owen's mum, nor do we ever meet the father. He is well and truly on his own, until late one night he spies a young girl and her father moving in to the apartment block. Owen soon encounters the decidedly different Abby (Chloe Moretz) and their fumbling attempts at a friendship are set against a growing number of mysterious murders in the neighbourhood.

So, does Let Me In stand up to Let The Right One In? Does it matter either way? Yes, and, unavoidably, yes, but that's not to say fans mightn't end up impressed by Reeves' remake. For one it's superbly shot by up-and-coming Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser. After an impressive run last year with Bright Star, The Boys are Back and Last Ride, Fraser's talents have translated to Hollywood magnificently. His use of focus here is as striking as it is disturbing. Similar praise goes to fellow Aussie Smit-McPhee, who gives a deeply nuanced, achingly resonant performance as the lonely, then smitten Owen. Moretz doesn't fare quite so well in comparison, mainly because Reeves has her playing more sweet and girly than Lina Leandersson's darkly androgynous characterisation as the original Eli.

Reeves' also folds in a Romeo & Juliet reference that isn't necessary, but is nonetheless nicely executed. He markedly fleshes out the policeman role, which allows Elias Koteas to lead the audience into the story and makes the climatic scene all the more affecting. And lastly, Richard Jenkins absolutely owns the role of Abby's 'father'. He is the very embodiment of resignation, loyalty and desperation. So, save for some surprisingly sub-par special effects (you expect more from the man behind Cloverfield), Let Me In is not only a worthy adaptation, but a touching treatise on burgeoning love that also manages to be utterly, viscerally, haunting.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 14 October 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Cinemas: Joan Rivers A Piece of Work

All hail! The (self-crowned) queen of comedy is coming to a cinema near you! But before you baulk in fear of damaging your corneas with exposure to the notorious nightmare that is Joan Rivers' plastic face, you'll do well to know that Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's documentary is quite remarkable indeed. Chronicling the 75th year in the life of the indefatigable and utterly incorrigible Rivers, Stern and Sundberg locate the comedienne's demand for the spotlight and increasingly desperate schedule alongside an illuminating trip into the archives of her distinguished career.

Upon witnessing the impressive strides Rivers' took in what was really a man's profession, as well as the personal tragedy experienced en route, it becomes difficult to dismiss her as merely that loudmouth on the red carpet; she is patently so much more. Complex, driven and oftentimes downright hilarious, Rivers can quip about living in more luxury than Marie Antoinette, yet she too fears when the crowd will turn (as one riveting stand-up scene shows all too well). This documentary leaves no doubt that Joan Rivers is a piece of work, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

Screening in limited release at the Chauvel and the Hayden Orpheum from October 7th.
Published in Concrete Playground
Click HERE to read my interview with Ricki Stern.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giveaway: Summer Coda

***Update 15/11/10: Competition now closed - but the film is still in cinemas, CLICK HERE to read my review. 

Back in July I gave ya'll a heads up about this new Aussie film from debut writer-director Richard Gray. Now the release of Summer Coda is almost upon us and I'm delighted to have some advanced screening passes to give away.

But first, watch the trailer again (and read the synopsis HERE):

Summer Coda - official trailer from Summer Coda on Vimeo.

To win one of ten '2-4-1' (buy one, get one free) passes to see advanced screenings of Summer Coda this weekend (October 15-17), simple email me with your name and address, and SUMMER CODA in the subject line. Winners will be notified by reply. 

Australian release date: 21 October 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Trailer: 127 Hours

"I can do everything on my own." 


Here's a little adrenaline hit to spice up your Friday night:

This trailer struck me as a nice mixture of the kinetic energy Boyle brought to Slumdog Millionaire (which I enjoyed more than some) and the ominous beauty of The Beach. Of course the fact that it is based on a true story intrigues me - I wonder if Boyle took any notes from Sean Penn's sparse and haunting Into the Wild?

The official synopsis reads:

127 HOURS is the new film from Danny Boyle, the Academy Award winning director of last year’s Best Picture, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. 127 HOURS is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s (James Franco) remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale a 65 foot wall and hike over eight miles before he is finally rescued. Throughout his journey, Ralston recalls friends, lovers (Clemence Poesy), family, and the two hikers (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) he met before his accident. Will they be the last two people he ever had the chance to meet? A visceral thrilling story that will take an audience on a never before experienced journey and prove what we can do when we choose life.

Australian release date: 10 February 2011
US release date: 5 November 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ninjas. Damn.

You gotta love Geoffrey Rush.

The Warrior's Way synopsis:

The Warrior's Way, a visually-stunning modern martial arts western starring Korean actor Dong-gun Jang who plays an Asian warrior assassin forced to hide in a small town in the American Badlands. Rounding out the ensemble cast are Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns), Oscar(R)-winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine), Danny Huston (The Kingdom), and Tony Cox (The Hustle).The fantasy action film was written and directed by newcomer Sngmoo Lee, and is being produced by Barrie M. Osborne (Lord of the Rings), Jooick Lee (Seven Swords) and Michael Peyser (Hackers).

Australian release date: 26 January 2011
US release date: 3 December 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Diane Kurys' portrait of famed French novelist, playwright and screenwriter Francois Sagan is a committed, if curious addition to the ranks of recent celebrity biopics like La vie en rose and Coco avant Chanel. Obviously made for an audience familiar with Sagan's stardom, Kurys reveals very little about her work, instead focusing on the heady series of soirees and scandals that punctuated Sagan's life.

Opening with the writer as an elderly, abandoned woman in a run-down manor, Sagan is predominantly told in flashback, beginning in 1954 with a 19-year old Francois Quoirez's (her pseudonym came by way of a Marcel Proust character) stratospheric success upon the publication of her most famous book, Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness). This novel was to sell 5 million copies worldwide and its teenage author became a defining figure of an existentialist, partying, post-war Paris.

While Kurys attempts to chronicle the ensuing half-century of whiskey soaked words, failed marriages and dizzying excess, it all ends up feeling disappointingly superficial. Trimmed from its original form as a two part miniseries, one wonders how much detail was lost bringing Sagan to the silver screen. Instead the film succumbs to the pitfall of many biopics, which falter under the weight of their subject's lifetime. So despite Sylvie Testud’s striking embodiment and evocative narration, it is with a sense of mere interested detachment that you learn about Sagan’s lovelorn, reckless existence. And yet, though the film will leave you with a lot of unanswered questions, it may just succeed in piquing your interest to read the book that began it all.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date (limited): 7 October 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Margaret Mead Film Festival

If you like documentaries, then you’ll want to meet Margaret Mead ... in a manner of speaking. Mead is the late, great cultural anthropologist, who clocked some 52 years working at the American Museum for Natural History and championed the popular appeal of her profession. This commemorative festival began way back in 1976, making it America's longest running celebration of international documentaries.

Now coming to Australia for the first time, a select seven documentaries will carve out their very different windows on the world, from the comfort of the Australian Museum. Kicking off the seven weeks of Tuesday night screenings is a Q&A presentation of Darlene Johnson's River of No Return, which ventures alongside 45-year-old mother Frances Daingangan as she is cast in Rolf de Heer's acclaimed Ten Canoes and into a reality vastly different from her own.

In Cooking History, Peter Kerekes tests the old adage, "an army marches on its stomach," while Sergiy Bukovsky’s The Living remembers Stalin's devastating starvation of Ukraine's rural population. The complexities of Hindi culture are personified by an aged medicine man in Babaji, an Indian Love Story, and the experiences of four blind couples are brought to remarkable, sensory depth in Juraj Lehotsky's Blind Loves. The Last Days of Shishmaref starkly show how global warming threatens to end 4000 years of occupation and make the world's first climate-change refugees of the Inupiaq Eskimos, whereas Hotel Sahara finds the meeting of the Saharan desert and the Atlantic Ocean a deeply symbolic setting for the precarious lives of refugees.

Tuesdays from 5th October - 16 November 2010
Published on Concrete Playground

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hamm & Hall


Jon Hamm and Rebecca Hall have done this* stunning, cinematic photo shoot for W as part of their press tour for Ben Affleck's sophomore directorial outing The Town. Their interview is refreshingly down to earth as well.

I'll save my thoughts on The Town for my review, but in the meantime, here's the trailer:

The Town - Australian release date: 14 October 2010

(*Thanks to Paul for the heads up)
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