Friday, July 30, 2010

Video: Divers and Submarines



Earlier in the week I blogged about Passenger's beautiful third album, Divers and Submarines. Well, here's the shiny new video, that sees Mike Rosenberg reteaming with Mark Charlton, the creative mind behind the music videos for Wide Eyes Blind Love.



Purchase a copy of Divers and Submarines HERE or via iTunes.

South Solitary


As the first female directed, Australian film to open the Sydney Film Festival* in a very long time, South Solitary its already something of a cinematic beacon. Shirley Barrett’s gorgeously crafted period piece is set in 1927, with 35 year old Meredith Appleton (Miranda Otto) who joins her intractable uncle George Wadsworth (Barry Otto) on his new commission as lighthouse keeper at the eponymous, ferociously remote (and fictional) outpost. Determined to ‘remain cheerful,’ Meredith’s reception is mixed, as the terse Alma Stanley (Essie Davis) makes it clear that her husband Harry (Rohan Nichol) was scandalously overlooked for the position, and the other keeper Flint (Marton Csokas) remains entirely aloof.

The effects of the Great War still hang heavily over each character, with the striking beauty of the lighthouse providing obvious metaphors for solitude and redemption, though Barrett is careful to allow these to speak for themselves. Reteaming with her Love Serenade star, Miranda Otto, Barrett feels more at home with the female characters. Meredith, Alma and her precocious daughter Nettie (Annie Martin) are wonderfully written characters, whose traits and transgressions are teased to the surface. However the male roles are comparatively slight, which saps the film of a little of its promise, though great casting does much to make up the difference.  And the island becomes a character in of itself, stoic in the face of the Roaring Forties, Barrett relishes in the spectacular visuals as well as Edie Kurzer’s delightful costumes and Paul Heath’s production design.



*Published by Street Press Australia during the Sydney Film Festival
Australian release date: 29 July 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Possible Worlds: Canadian Film Festival


Another world of possibilities is unfolding as the Canadian Film Festival once again takes up residence at Sydney's Dendy cinemas. Now in its fifth year, this plucky event is the only annual celebration of Canadian films outside Canada — and what a celebration! The genius of this festival is a program that eagerly mixes premiere screenings with parties, talks and welcome drinks. That's Canadian hospitality for you.

It remains to be seen if the festival can top last year's poll dancing romp, although the militant-ish Fight the Power party that kicks off after Saturday's screening of The Trotsky (fabulously described as Rushmore meets Ferris Bueller's Day Off) might just do the trick. Or there's the aptly named Vampire Ball — a night of djs and debauchery to coincide with the rock'n'roll vamp spoof Suck. There was also the chance to chat with beloved novelist Margaret Atwood about environmental documentary In the Wake of the Flood, but those tickets have already sold out.

So the best bet is to get in quick for the rest of the festival's wonderful line up. The event will open with the Australian premiere of Chloe, the sexy tale from one of Canada's premier auteurs Atom Egoyan (Ararat, The Sweet Hereafter), starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried as the titular escort hired to test a husband's fidelity. There's also the world premiere of Arctic Blast, an Australian-Canadian co-production from one of our Ozploitation legends Brian Trenchard-Smith (Turkey Shoot). Prepare for solar flares and disastrous thrills.

If documentaries are more your scene, then the programme includes the critically acclaimed Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould and another musical number, The Mighty Uke. Last Train Home is a captivating look at the largest human migration of workers returning to their families for Chinese New Year, while Invisible City takes to the streets of a Toronto's housing commission in an engrossing look at the lives of its young male residents.

Closing night honours go to Xavier Dolan’s provocative debut, I Killed My Mother, a gay coming-of-age story fueled by the feisty enthusiasm of its then 19-year-old director. Tickets for this, Chloe and family friendly doco Finding Farley are already selling fast, so don't miss out on this year's window into the various worlds of Canada.




Published on Concrete Playground

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Greenberg


Noah Baumbach is a filmmaker who tends to divide audiences. But love or loath him, there’s no doubt that his unique – some might say solipsistic – world view is expertly written. After etching a sizable cult niche with The Squid and the Whale, and to a lesser extent Margot at the Wedding, Baumbach takes on a new pocket of irrational, indie domesticity in Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller). A 40-something New Yorker, fresh from a breakdown and well down the road to bitter, Greenberg fills his days compulsively applying chapstick and penning rants to various consumer companies he feels have slighted him. House and dogsitting for his well-to-do brother Phillip (Chris Messina) brings Greenberg to LA and into the life of housekeeper and younger lost soul Florence (Greta Gerwig).

Abrasively narcissistic to her quietly ingratiating, Greenberg and Florence fashion themselves a friendship of sorts, including what must surely be this year’s most exquisitely awkward sex scene. It’s partially a relationship of convenience, with Greenberg stranded sans drivers’ license and Florence keen to keep the boss’ brother happy, and yet through their encounters Baumbach and his wife, actress Jennifer Jason Leigh manage to create some layered, ruefully funny character studies. Their navel gazing screenplay is helped along by perfect casting in Stiller, Gerwig and Rhys Ifans as Greenberg’s harried ‘best’ friend Ivan.

Greenberg the person is as much of an acquired taste as the film, however for those able to stomach the bitterness, Baumbach’s take on an opportunity squandered is surprisingly poignant.  


Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date: 22 July 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trailer: Summer Coda


It's times like these that I find myself marvelling at Twitter. For without this persistently distracting little device, I would not have 'met' and befriended countless film types, including Richard Gray, the creative mind behind this upcoming Australian film Summer Coda.

'Ricky_Hollywood' is quite a character; a fun twitterer (twit? I still don't know the correct parlance), whose infectious frivolity spills over to his blog. As a debut filmmaker he's also achieved the dream: a national theatrical release AND a sold out world premiere on August 4th at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Go Ricky!

The rest of us will have to wait until the Australian release on October 21, but in the meantime, here's the trailer:


Summer Coda - official trailer from Summer Coda on Vimeo.

 The official synopsis reads:

In the vein of Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, Richard Gray's SUMMER CODA is an Australian film with a decidedly unique setting — the stunning orange groves of sun-baked Mildura against the majestic backdrop of the Murray River. Rachael Taylor (Bottle Shock, Cedar Boys) and Alex Dimitriades (Head On) star in the romantic drama, supported by a strong ensemble cast including Susie Porter, Angus Sampson, Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath and Jacki Weaver.

Having grown up with her mother in Nevada, Heidi hasn't spoken to her father since she was seven. Now a young woman, haunted by his memory, she returns to Australia seeking closure. Travelling to her hometown, Heidi is forced to busk for cash and her melancholic violin score catches the attention of handsome orange picker Michael, who offers Heidi a ride. Both are initially guarded, but an unexpected connection soon blossoms.


Fleeing to Michael's orange grove after a family reunion turns sour, Heidi finds the escape and camaraderie she desperately needs. Whilst Michael seems conflicted over Heidi's presence, it's picking season and he is soon immersed in the colourful surrounds and offbeat characters of the arriving citrus pickers. However, when Heidi drops her guard and allows her feelings to flourish, Michael struggles to reciprocate, his wit and charm masking a tortured soul. As the past unravels, Michael and Heidi are forced to confront the future, discovering that their lives and secrets are better shared.


Closure is just the beginning.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Skin


Based the true story of a black-skinned child of white Afrikaner parents in apartheid South Africa, Skin occupies compelling historical ground. In the 1950s Sandra Laing (Ella Ramangwane) was raised a happy ‘white’ child by her loving, shopkeeper parents Abraham (Sam Neill) and Sannie (Alice Krige), only to face virulent bigotry when packed off to boarding school aged ten. In order to secure their daughter’s future in a country with morality laws forbidding mixed-race cohabitation, Abraham shrewdly and tenaciously plays the politics as well as the PR to fight for his daughter’s white race categorisation. But as Sandra comes of age (Sophie Okonedo), she faces the divisive decision to embrace or deny the colour of her skin. 

It is curious that a film so steeped in political history chooses to stay so resolutely with the Laing’s family story. Skin might open with an adult Sandra lining up to vote, but Anthony Fabian’s compassionate film ultimately eschews the contextual turmoil, choosing instead to raise Sandra’s story to an allegorical tale of race relations. A powerhouse performance from Neill carries the film until Okonedo – who is slightly too old to play a 17 year old – gives up her hangdog expression and embraces Sandra’s graceful anguish. That is a sight to see, and though the film sometimes strays into midday movie sentimentality (Abraham’s catchphrase ‘never give up’ is a little hackneyed), the film’s commitment to this remarkable, everywoman stays with you long after you return to today’s post-apartheid world.



Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date: 22 July 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Divers & Submarines


Visitors to this blog may have spotted a recent addition to the sidbar: a soundcloud featuring songs from Passenger's new album Divers and Submarines. This beautifully produced third album is a wry selection of nine songs, most of which will be familiar to those who have witnessed Passenger's unique busking talents.

I'm reposting Passenger's online selection of songs in the hope that you'll all be as stunned as I continue to be with his superbly written songs. Just listen the lyrics in Fairytales and Firesides - they floor me every time.

You can order a copy of Divers and Submarines HERE or via iTunes. Needless to say I highly recommend it.

  Latest tracks by Passenger Official

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Interview: Claire McCarthy (The Waiting City)


The crowded streets of Kolkata form the potent backdrop to an intimate portrait of marriage in Claire McCarthy’s The Waiting City - the first Australian production to be shot entirely on location in India. The film follows Fiona (Radha Mitchell) and Ben (Joel Edgerton), who, after an exhaustive two year process, journey to Kolkata to be united with their adoptive daughter.

As director, McCarthy drew on elements from her own experiences living and working in India, as well as extensive interviews with couples waiting to adopt. The result is at once deeply personal and strikingly universal.

Speaking after the first screenings of her film at the Sydney Film Festival, McCarthy explains that the inspiration to travel to India came through her younger sister, Helena. "She’s nine years younger than me and had just finished high school and responded to a family taunt laid down by my mother that she would never survive a day in the slums of Calcutta,” she says.

“So we both went for three months and I started to film her [then] started to realise this is a quite a potent experience for her - being 17 and having never traveled anywhere out of her comfort zone before. And although I had been in Third World countries before, I’d never really experienced it at that level, where we were right on the streets.”

McCarthy developed these experiences into a documentary (Sisters), which, in turn, became the germ of The Waiting City. “We were working in orphanages [and] I just became really fascinated with the relationships between these people and I started to think about how full on it would be, wanting to have a baby and perhaps not being able to," McCarthy says. "And some people, you could tell there was an emotional stranglehold within their relationship and that manifested itself both positively and negatively as they waited for a child.”

When McCarthy interviewed adopting couples around the world, she discovered that the recurring theme was that the process was difficult: “And it should be difficult…but still one could argue that the process is inordinately bureaucratic and takes so long, and you’re faced with this idea that the child could sit for years, sometimes in an orphanage while you’re waiting. How does that affect both the child and the [prospective] parents?”

In the end, finding the right characters to play out this complex question came down to luck and chance. “Radha came to us through serendipity...When we were in India shooting a music video for a band called Old Man River on the banks of the Ganges, we were having a wrap beer at the end of the day and one of our crew asked who was my fantasy star for the The Waiting City [at that stage it was uncast]. I mentioned Radha and why I wanted to work with her - she’s so amazing and has this connection to India."

Later, without McCarthy's knowledge, the crew member published an article in the Times of India, divulging the film's synopsis. "And that article ended up finding its way to Radha, and [it just so happened that] the only copy of the script was on her agent’s desk, so it all started from there!”



Mitchell was an experienced yoga practitioner and frequent visitor to India’s ashrams. But Edgerton had never visited the country before. So both actors were playing against type. As McCarthy puts it:  “In reality [Joel] is a little bit more like Fiona than Radha is and Radha’s a little bit more like Joel’s character. She’s a lot more watery and sweet and Joel’s very driven, very sharp. It was really interesting - they really did a switcheroo!”

There is no doubt, though, that McCarthy is please with the outcome. Mitchell and Edgerton give naturalistic performances that are compelling to behold. “I feel that their chemistry really worked. It was really an honour working with the two of them,” McCarthy says.

But the production was not without incident. In late November 2008, midway through filming, there was a series of bombings in India's largest city: the now infamous Mumbai terrorist attacks. Many crew members were from the beleaguered city, and thus were understandably distressed. “It was one of those things that could totally destabilise a shoot, [but] everyone, to their credit, stuck together and we were really lucky to have such a good team that were able to stay with it in spite of what had happened," McCarthy says. "We did do a lot of things to pay respects; we didn’t just keep soldiering on, but certainly it could have been a lot worse for our team."

Indeed, The Waiting City galvanized both the production team and the long-term relationship between McCarthy and the film’s talented cinematographer Denson Baker (The Black Balloon), who proposed soon after shooting wrapped. And while perhaps this isn’t quite an instance of life imitating art, the now happily married McCarthy concedes: “At the end of that shoot, which was four months in India including pre-production, we just thought if we can get through this than we can get through anything!”



Published in The Big Issue #358
Click HERE to view the trailer and read my review of The Waiting City

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rug Trip


If you were a child of the 90s, there’s a good chance you'll hold fond memories of Aladdin’s magical carpet ride. It is in this mindset that you should head to the Chauvel for Rug Trip, an adventure through the crème de la crème of Flickerfest short films. The evening is in support of Carpets for Communities, a charity that aids child education by helping mothers produce and sell their handmade carpets.

The program boasts award-winning shorts from around the world. Audiences will journey from the heated border between India and Pakistan to Fiji; from New Zealand to, er, Chinatown. And for that extra does of nostalgia, the line up also includes Deborah Mailman's Ralph, a story set in 1984 featuring a schoolgirl with a huge crush on The Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio.


***On TONIGHT, see Concrete Playground for more details. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Creation


As ‘the true story of Charles Darwin’, Creation suffers a little from misplaced expectations. Those hoping for Paul Bettany to reprise his sea legs Master and Commander style, and hop aboard the HMS Beagle, will be sorely disappointed. Audiences should instead take heed of the film’s trailer and poster, and set their sights on terra firma, closer to the kitchen sink in fact, for Creation is a relationship drama, and the portrait of a man keening from loss.  

So with nary a swashbuckler in sight, Creation looks to Darwin’s daunting task of turning a lifetime of observations into a book that will effectively renounce the dominion of God. Such dire religious ramifications result in Darwin psychosomatically torturing himself; sickly and seeing things, his protracted writing process stalls until he faces the personal tragedy that is alienating him from his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly). This psychological journey subsumes the seminal manuscript The Origin of Species, as an increasingly atheist husband and his deeply devout wife orbit each other, locked into their separate spheres of grief.  

It’s easy to see why real life couple Bettany and Connelly would be attracted to such a densely layered look at marriage. Their scenes benefit from an obvious intimacy, and the weighty subject matter is explored with a naturalism that may not have been evoked in different hands. Both give themselves over to their roles, with Bettany hauntingly tormented and Connolly grounding the film with her steely stoicism. Director Jon Amiel is also the man behind Sommersby, so he knows a thing or two about costume dramas and playing for good, old-fashioned (in the truest sense of the term) sexual tension.  

(Spoiler alert)
However, one can’t help but note Creation’s similarities to the film that brought Bettany and Connelly together: A Beautiful Mind. Both are burdened with the thankless task of making a cerebral exercise cinematically interesting, and both revolve around a psychological affliction (though the causes are drastically different) that drives the film’s action. This is also where the film falls flat. Martha West’s Annie Darwin is too cheerily one note and Amiel far too often relies upon the arduously clichéd device: ‘and-then-he-woke-up’.  

(Spoiler free)
Like the best of breeds, then, Creation is somewhat of a mixed bag. Great lead performances, unobtrusive period production design and confident temporal shifts can all be well received. For writers, there’s something satisfying about seeing the profession’s inherent torment and the tyranny of the blank page writ large.  

There’s also an impossibly cute, scene stealing orangutan called Jenny.  
But while Creation is at times an evocative look at grief and the vicissitudes of marriage, at others it’s overly sentimental. As a biography it is certainly a different take on Darwin, but it may well leave audiences clamouring for more science.


Published by The Vine
Australian release date: 15 July 2010


Monday, July 19, 2010

Predators


Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) may be presenting Predators, but you can’t help but wish he’d directed it. Nimród Antal (Armoured) does a perfectly adequate job rebooting the franchise, though it feels like an opportunity was missed to elevate the story from B-grade thrills to some genuine creepiness. Then again, perhaps that’s missing the point entirely. Schwarzenegger’s impressive musculature notwithstanding, guns, neon green blood and the vibrant, sensory vision of the aliens are the reasons to see Predator, and this remake serves them all up in spades.

Antal throws his audience straight into the fray as a soldier (Adrien Brody) awakes to find himself plummeting to earth, his parachute opening just in time. Also newly arrived is your stock standard racial and gender mix, barring Topher Grace’s doctor, a.k.a. the comic relief. The audience is then free to ponder the exact order they will be picked off: will it be the murdering rapist (Walton Goggins), the soldier from Sierra Leone or Russia (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali and Oleg Taktarov), the Yakuza or the Mexican cartel member (Louis Ozawa Changchien and Danny Trejo), the doctor or the token female (Alice Braga)?

Designer sweat, mud and John Debney’s ludicrously bombastic score essentially create the ensuing action. Brody proves to be captain obvious, eking the solemnity out of his lines of tortured exposition with a grave, gravely voice. Predators’ thrills may be paint-by-numbers, but there’s still much to enjoy. The broader theme of the predator within is also largely wasted, but then Schwarzenegger’s 1987 original wasn’t exactly Shakespeare.



Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date: 8 July 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Interview: Dieter Brummer & Diarmid Heidenreich (Underbelly)


There’s little doubt the seedy, stylised crime drama Underbelly has struck a chord with Australian audiences. However it may be more surprising to realise the series brought about Home & Away alum Dieter Brummer’s return to the small screen.

“It’s what brought me back,” Brummer confirms as he sits in a Kings Cross café with costar Diarmid Heidenreich.

“The recognition has increased again, being back in the public consciousness. It’s been interesting coming back to that after the best part of ten years off. Hopefully from here on we’re not always referred to as former Home & Away heartthrob and former pizza delivery boy.”

Brummer and Heidenreich’s crooked cops certainly mark a dramatic departure from their 1990s fame as Shane Parrish and Dougie the pizza guy. Brummer plays the infamous Trevor Haken, the woefully corrupt detective and key witness in the watershed Wood Royal Commission, the lead up to which informs the action of Underbelly’s third series, The Golden Mile. As fictional character Eddie Gould, Heidenreich is an altogether more nasty piece of work, and it’s a role that proves playing the baddie isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“Look the process of it is fun, and the challenge of it is fun,” Heidenreich says, “But there’s nothing fun about handcuffing a woman to a table in a room full of blokes. I didn’t feel good afterward. I didn’t give myself a high five.”


And yet it is the confronting scenes like the one Heidenreich describes that go to making Underbelly the compelling local television he is so passionate about.

“I hope [Underbelly] raises the bar in Australian television in general,” he says. “If we’re going to make a show about cops, let’s make a true show about cops…let’s not make it pavalova and add sugar to it to make it easy to swallow; let’s make it gritty, and have really interesting characters that make you think about things, confront you and scare you.”

“Let’s not do the typical happy ending for everything,” Brummer adds. Both actors cite HBO series like Sopranos and Deadwood as instrumental to the changing tide of television culture that now embraces high quality dramas. “There are only so many reality shows that the public can bear,” quips Brummer.

However Heidenreich is outspoken about Australians investing in local content. “I don’t care about America,” he says. “American pop culture, great, that’s theirs, it’s not ours. This is Australia. What did we do?”

“I would much rather have had a beer with Ned Kelly than Wyatt Earp!”

Indeed Underbelly does seem to tap into Australia’s rich history and enduring fascination with outlaws; the show just changes up the location. “I think the Cross is the star of it. You only have to go to the Cross once and you get it,” says Brummer.

For Heidenreich, the script is the source of show’s success. “Without a story you’ve got nothing. You can have great costumes, great locations, great actors, but if there’s no story you can’t polish a turd.”

Published by Street Press Australia
Underbelly: The Golden Mile is
out now on DVD

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Karate Kid

Die-hard fans of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san may well be ruing the day this remake got the green light; a film that replaces Los Angeles for Beijing, a teen for a tween and karate for kung fu (or, more specifically, wushu) seems to be taking egregious liberties with the beloved original. But somehow, this Karate Kid has got it right, capturing the awe-inspiring essence of the 1984 classic and bringing it to a whole new generation.

The latest Karate Kid very much belongs to a post-Global Financial Crisis, post Beijing Olympics world. Dre (Jaden Smith) and his mother Sherry (Taraji P. Henson) are forced to up sticks from the bankrupt motor industry in Detroit and transfer to bustling Beijing. This economic landscape won’t go unmissed for the adults in the audience, but for the kids (and kids at heart) there are plenty of school bullies and stylish training montages to see them begging their parents for kung fu lessons.

Smith appears to have inherited much of his father Will’s charm and athleticism, convincingly carrying this film, with all its weighty expectations. As Mr. Han, the cinematic gem Jackie Chan superbly supports, not only showing a more emotional side, but also never failing to impress with his stunt team’s dazzling kung fu choreography. Though at 140 minutes film is too long for its target audience, there is no doubting the martial arts alchemy Mr. Han and his Shuo Dre bring to the screen.

Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date: 8 July 2010


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The blessing and the curse of The Twilight Saga is its source material. Stephanie Meyer’s angsty, torturous prose makes for some truly terrible dialogue, regardless of screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s salvage attempts. This latest installment even manages to basterdise Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice, but then again the books are also responsible for setting many hearts aflame with fated lovers Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) and their third wheel Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Here Eclipse won’t disappoint Twihards, with British director David Slade (30 Days of Night) carving at least two-thirds of the film from lingering close ups of his stars’ sparkly faces (in Edward’s case, literally).

Slade seems to think these close-ups communicate emotion, when really all they do is leave you pondering just how much CGI they’ve done to make the actors’ pores disappear. On the big screen, the giant, glossy faces are quite distracting, though that may be precisely the intention, especially when you consider the storyline stems from the Party of Five/Dawson’s Creek playbook of one breathlessly intense conversation after the next.

Though Slade might not have the assured hand Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke did on her character’s inner teen turmoil, he sure does smash the action. The mercifully improved CGI makes for some legitimately tense fight scenes, wherein Australian Xavier Samuel (The Loved Ones) proves himself a worthy addition to the franchise. The rest (including Victoria replacement Bryce Dallas Howard) know their places. It’s conflicted, passionate, postulating business as usual.

Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date: 1 July 2010


Monday, July 12, 2010

Interview: Kristen Stewart


The air of hysterical celebrity that surrounds Kristen Stewart is as bizarre as it is intense. The screaming fans, the litany of magazine covers featuring endless romantic rumours, which in turn leads to strict provisos for interviewing press: no personal questions. Yet perched on a chair in a sunny Sydney harbourside hotel, legs folded under her, Stewart looks very much like your everyday, fresh-faced 20-year-old. She’s bright and personable, with only an absently twitching leg belying the truth behind what must be an interminable junket promoting the monolith that is Twilight. “I had no idea Twilight was going to be such a big deal,” Stewart says of the furor surrounding her. “I didn’t even know for sure that we were going to make a sequel.”

For those left unflustered by Bella Swan and her vampire predilections, fortunately there is much more to Stewart than Twilight. The accomplished actress has featured in an impressive number of movies for her young age, including starring opposite Jodie Foster in David Fincher’s Panic Room. And in between Twilight installments Stewart has racked up quite a collection of independent films, such as a scene stealing cameo in Sean Penn’s superb Into the Wild, as Meg Ryan’s feisty daughter In the Land of Women and as the troubled femme fatale in Greg Mottola’s Superbad follow up Adventureland.

“I choose my work very impulsively. There could be a part in a script that fits my description, but that doesn’t mean it connects in a way that I could bring it to life. It’s really about gut instinct,” she says. “I haven’t deliberately tried to switch it up in between the Twilight movies; it’s just generally what I’ve been attracted to has been what’s appealed more to [an] indie audience. That’s just what I’m into.”

This sentiment certainly holds for Stewart’s turn in rock n’ roll biopic The Runaways. Releasing a mere fortnight after The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Stewart embodies rock legend Joan Jett in a drug, alcohol, and sex-fuelled portrait that would surely ruffle Edward Cullen’s Victorian feathers.

“They were epic, so I hope that we did them justice,” says Stewart of the titular American all-girl rock band. “What I’m really excited about is that everybody sort of knows who Joan Jett is, but nobody knows where she came from and that the first band that she was in was really one of the first all girl bands that took a lot of shit for being the way they were.”

The Runaways is based on lead singer Cherie Currie’s autobiography Neon Angel and follows the band’s meteoric rise during the mid 1970s. Dakota Fanning may be Stewart’s Twilight nemesis Jane, but in The Runaways she plays the blonde bombshell frontwoman and the two spark off each other incredibly well. Impressively, they also sing the band’s smash hits Cherry Bomb and Queens of Noise.

“It’s really good music and it captures the '70s really well,” says Stewart. “There’s a real good sense of freedom and abandon that I love about [The Runaways] and it’s got good feminine qualities to it as well. It makes you feel good about being a girl.”

Stewart will soon be soaking in wild abandon again, sans band, in an adaptation of the seminal Jack Kerouac novel On the Road. “I’m flipping out!” she enthuses. “We have a four week, beatnik boot-camp, where we going to spend all of our time together and we’re going to read everything that they read, and listen to all the music, so that’s awesome.”

“Walter Salles [The Motorcycle Diaries] is directing, and with anyone else we wouldn’t be given that much time, so I’m really excited, because I think they’re going to do it right. It’s so impulsive, so it’s going to be cool.”

Stewart will play Dean Moriarty’s wife Mary Lou, described by Kerouac as a “beautiful little sharp chick,” in his transparently autobiographical account of spontaneous road trips that became the iconic testament to the Beat Generation.

“I actually recently took a road trip because I hadn’t done it and I’m not going to have time – because I promote [Twilight] forever then I’m going to go back and go straight to rehearsal [for On the Road]. So I drove with two of my friends to Ohio from LA - which is almost all the way towards the East Coast - and back in four days. It’s hard! I think I’m much better at pretending [to be on the road].”

And a pretend Stewart has, in a fair few films. There’s her turn as musical waif in Christopher McCandless’ epic, tragic adventure Into the Wild; a film she counts as, “one of my favourite movies; it’s incredible.” Stewart has also gone on a road trip with William Hurt for The Yellow Handkerchief, as well as touring for The Runaways. So what attracts Stewart to these literal, filmic journeys?

“I think I love those stories because I’m a control freak,” she admits. “Sometimes I get nervous; it freaks me out not to know what’s going to happen, and so I admire characters who don’t even think about that. I envy them.”

With On the Road, Stewart is also well aware that she’s taking on yet another beloved author in Kerouac, who (like Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight saga) comes with his own passionate following. “I’ve played parts that really are important to other people,” she says. “It’s different because typically it’s really important to you and it’s really important to the director, and the other people making the movie, but until it comes out, nobody knows and nobody cares.”

“I’m intimidated by [the weight of expectation] but at the same time that really is the driving force.”

Another in her indie line up sees Stewart star with James Gandolfini in Welcome to the Rileys. The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and Stewart describes her character Mallory as, “an incredibly vivacious, seemingly really solid girl, but she was a 16-year-old runaway, stripper, prostitute who was absolutely so completely corroded and broken. She’s like a broken toy; it’s fun, but it doesn’t really work right.”

Mallory is a character Stewart is obviously passionate about.

“I met a lot of girls who were gone, they’d just sort of clicked out and it was like they had just been messed with too much, they were used up. And [Mallory] wasn’t used up yet but she was almost - it was like she was going to let herself be unless she met [Doug Riley, played by Gandolfini] in the movie, and the movie happens and she finds in herself the capacity for love and human connection. I really loved making it.”

Welcome to the Rileys therefore marks a further, striking departure from the Twilight verse, though this is something Stewart is keen to clarify: “People always want to compare experiences in movies, but they’re so completely, uniquely separate and different. I wasn’t thinking about how it related to Twilight, it was just its own thing.”

Twilight is the most indulgent, amazing experience I’ve ever had, because you’re never done, and you can just always keep thinking about it. So I will be sad when it’s over, definitely. It will be weird, because this is the longest thing I’ve ever done.”

Stewart might not take on such dramatic departures from Bella Swan in a calculated fashion, she is eager to embrace change.

“[Bella] would feel much too much like an alter ego if it was just one part for years,” she says. “It’s healthy to feel the part being ripped from you at the end of the six week shoot. So if I didn’t have movies in between, I would just be too close to it, I would become obsessed. You need to switch it up.”

Transexuals, Crystal Meth, and Queensland: The 'Other' Side to Kristen Stewart

Australians have a rather odd habit of claiming film celebrities as our own. Just think about it. There’s (Kiwi) Russell Crowe, (American) Mel Gibson and (British) Naomi Watts, not to mention Jane Campion and Sam Neill (more Kiwis - perhaps this is a trend). And so it seems we are keen to share in a little of the Twilight spotlight, by clamouring for Kristen Stewart’s Aussie roots.

It is true that her mother, Jules Mann-Stewart is an Australian, a Queenslander to be precise. She is a script supervisor turned writer/director, whose first feature K-11 might just star her darling daughter, if financiers can get over the fact Stewart will be playing a male, in jail. But for all the troubled teen roles Stewart is stacking up – Bella Swan included – is it really too long a bow ask audiences to see her as an autistic, female transsexual named Butterfly? For a time the production also had Twilight’s Nikki Reed attached to play Mousey, a transgender prostitute and meth addict. Perhaps one can begin to appreciate the reticence after all…

If K-11 does get off the ground, you can rest assured there will be a flood of film articles promoting the local connection, alongside a flurry of calls for Stewart to follow in her mother’s footsteps and attend the University of Sydney. But alas these are rumours Stewart is quick to quash.

“I said [that I wanted to go to Sydney University] all the time when I little and now I’m sort of kicking myself for it. Not because I wouldn’t want to, but because life’s changed a little bit,” she says. “When I was little and I said I wanted to go to school, everyone was like, ‘You’re going to get obsessed with making movies and it’s never going to happen.’ And they were absolutely right.”

Published by Street Press Australia
The Runaways Australian release date: 15 July 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Trailer: The Loved Ones


I'm waaaay too squeamish to enjoy horror films, but there's something appealingly offbeat this newly released trailer for The Loved Ones, so I may have to give it a go.

***Update: According to this blog, the trailer gives away too much, in which case you might not want to watch it after all! Consider yourself warned:



What do you make of it?

The synopsis reads:

Brent (Xavier Samuel) never recovered from the car crash that killed his father: the crash that he was responsible for. His only solace is his loving girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). But there's another girl who yearns to comfort Brent, the quietest girl in school, Lola (Robin McLeavy), and when he turns down her invitation to the end of year dance he enters a nightmare beyond imagining.

A terrifying series of events take place under the light of a mirrored
disco ball, involving pink satin, glitter, syringes, nails and power drills. Brent must summon every ounce of will he possesses if he is to survive and prevent Lola and her father from extending their revenge to those he loves the most.

***UPDATE: Australian release date: 28 October 2010

Alma


An altogether more disquieting toy story:



This Spanish short film was created by Rodrigo Blaas, an animator who boasts a prestigious Pixar pedigree with a bio that includes films like Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up (as well as the gorgeous short Partly Cloudy). However, in tone, Alma reminds me more of Henry Selick's Coraline.

Learn more about Alma at the film's official site.

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(Another great recommendation from The Ebert Club)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Teaser 2: The Social Network

Here's another teaser made up of more great dialogue from Aaron Sorkin.

One of my favourite lines:
We're gentlemen of Harvard. You don't sue people.



Australian release date: 25 November 2010

Crossbow



With the US release of Animal Kingdom coming up (August 13th) and the film doing some good business in the local box office, I thought I'd post David Michôd's masterful short film, Crossbow. Tonally and stylistically there are a lot of elements here that can be seen in Animal Kingdom, as well as of course the young male protagonist.



What did you think?

The Blue-Tongue Films YouTube page is a great archive of short films and music videos created by the collective, so be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Am Love


Sumptuously styled and abundantly cinematic, I Am Love is superb to behold. Writer-director Luca Guadagnino constructs this visual feast from a very familiar tale of the trappings of wealth verses the freedom found in following your heart. Indeed, Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) is a veritable force of nature in her portrayal of Russian beauty turned Milanese high-society wife Emma Recchi, whose passion is reignited by son’s friend Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). In a pitch perfect performance Swinton captivates with her palpable attraction, electrifying a film that is otherwise rather slightly written.

It's disappointing that Swinton’s nuanced portrayal, Yorick Le Saux’s lush cinematography and John Adams’ bombastic score can’t quite make up for the stock-standard characterisations of other members of the Recchi family, and a bare understanding of Antonio himself. But despite this lack of substance elsewhere, Emma’s story is beautifully hewn. Mirrored in her surroundings, she develops from an impeccably groomed but austere wife, to a vibrant, bucolic lover - shedding her façade as she does her glossy mane of hair. Her journey is as captivating to watch as its consequences are heart-rending.


Published by The Big Issue (#337)
Australian release date: 24 June 2010


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cover Girl


Check it out, my first cover story (and with Kristen Stewart no less)!

You can read the digital version HERE, and I'll post the story on the blog next week.

Festival Picks


Who can believe it's been a fortnight* since we bid adieu to the 57th Sydney Film Festival? Something about the heady cocktail of sleep deprivation and party's over syndrome provides quite the rocky welcome back to reality; what do you mean we can no longer spend days in the cozy confines of the State Theatre watching back-to-back films?

Fortunately, however, the party can continue, as a raft of festival favourites will soon be making their way back onto Sydney screens. Here are some of the cinematic gems you should begin eagerly anticipating:

Boy
Taika Waititi’s Kiwi comedy is breaking all the records in New Zealand and may well do the same here when it’s released on August 26 (it already took out the festival Audience Award for best Fiction Feature). This is an utterly charming coming-of-age story about an eleven year old (James Rolleston) reuniting with his father (Waititi), and, set in the 1980s, there are E.T., Michael Jackson and Shogun jokes a plenty. You'll definitely laugh and may just need to wipe away a tear or two as well.

Four Lions
British satirist Chris Morris is known for his fearless brand of comedy (if you haven’t heard of Brass Eye, here’s a taste) and doesn’t disappoint now he’s taken on terrorism. The concerted efforts of a group of British Muslims preparing for jihad make for comedy gold; just take a look at the trailer. There’ll be more news from Concrete Playground in the lead up to the film's release on August 19, so stay tuned.

The Waiting City
A tender and honest Australian love story set against the chaos of Calcutta, this debut film by writer/director Claire McCarthy features truly wonderful performances from Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton. Marriage, motherhood, trust and loss are all tied up in a spectacularly photographed film that will be released on July 15.

The Kids are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko’s sublime take on the modern family closed the festival to many chuckles and much applause. The brilliant cast sees Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a married couple with two teenage children (Josh Hutcherson and Australia’s Mia Wasikowska), who go behind their mums' backs to meet their biological father (Mark Ruffalo). It’s a warm, wonderful comedy with many intelligent observations to make. You’ll have to wait until September 2 for it’s theatrical release, but in the meantime, go and rewatch Cholodenko's fabulous Laurel Canyon.

And just briefly, here are four films without set release dates, but they deserve to be on your radar: Spenser Susser’s debut film starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as an anarchic, heavy metal squatter Hesher, James Franco in powerful Allen Ginsberg biopic-cum-poetry recital Howl, the impossibly cute documentary Babies and the fascinating tribute to indefatigable New York fashion photographer and octogenarian Bill Cunningham New York (which won an Audience Award for best documentary at the festival).

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Published (*22 June) on Concrete Playground

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