Aussiewood: Firestorm (1998)

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Director: Dean Semler

Stars: Howie Long, Suzy Amis, Scott Glenn, William Forsythe

Some of the best-looking films produced in Australia have had Dean Semler working behind the camera. The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Razorback, The Lighthorsemen, and Dead Calm all carry Semler’s imprint as cinematographer. On taking his trade to Hollywood, Semler scored an Academy Award for his stunning work on 1990’s Dances with Wolves, and since then he’s chalked up a downright eclectic CV. Over the last three decades he’s worked on popcorn flicks (XXX, 2012, Maleficent), broad comedies (The Nutty Professor 2, Bruce Almighty, Get Smart), period films with a smidgen of prestige (The Power of OneWe Were Soldiers, The AlamoApocalyptoIn the Land of Blood and Honey), pulpy thrillers (The Bone Collector, D-Tox), and no less than six Adam Sandler films.

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Down Under Flix’s Christmas 2017 viewing

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Down Under Flix took a break over December and early January while I traveled overseas for Christmas. But while you can take the Australian film reviewer out of the country, you can’t take the Australian film reviewer out of the Australian film reviewer, particularly when they also took Australian films to review out of the country. If that makes sense. Either way, here are some short reviews from my Christmas season viewing, all interesting films worthy of full reviews at some point.

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Bush Christmas (1983)

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Director: Henri Safran

Starring: John Ewart, John Howard, Nicole Kidman, Manalpuy, Mark Spain, James Wingrove, Peter Sumner, Vineta O’Malley

Bush Christmas is not, as its title implies, a film about how George H.W. and George W. spend their Christmas vacation. Rather, it’s another entry in Australia’s modest canon of cinematic yuletide yarns. Last year, David Swann’s Christmas comedy Crackers got the Down Under Flix seasonal treatment (read our review here), and this year Henri Safran’s family film goes under the spotlight.

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John Hargreaves double feature: Hoodwink (1981) and Sky Pirates (1986)

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Discounting the film Blackfellas, in which he plays a minor role as a racist policeman, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to cover any John Hargreaves films on Down Under Flix. A six time AFI Award nominee (including for Hoodwink) and triple winner, Hargreaves is one of the best leading men to emerge from the Australian New Wave, and I have particular regard for his work in Don’s Party, Long Weekend, and The Odd Angry Shot. Hargreaves was a natural performer: gifted and charismatic, but not unnecessarily flashy; handsome, but not movie star handsome, and slightly crumpled like a creased jacket. He was a quintessential Australian everyman ala Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown, though he’s less familiar to young filmgoers today, partly due to his untimely passing in 1996 at age 50. This article looks at one of Hargreaves’ best films… and one of his other films…

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Tag team review: In the Wake of the Bounty (1933)

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Director: Charles Chauvel

Stars: Errol Flynn, Mayne Lynton

First viewing, via DVD

Following my earlier tag team reviews of Ghosts … of the Civil Dead (read here) and The Wannabes (read here), this week I team with another friend and contemporary to review the oldest film (thus far) covered on Down Under Flix, 1933’s In the Wake of the Bounty. Directed by Charles Chauvel and starring Errol Flynn, the film chronicles Fletcher Christian’s mutiny against William Bligh on the HMS Bounty and pays an anthropological visit to modern day Pitcairn Island. I’m joined below by Flynn enthusiast and scholar Michael X. Savvas. 

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Yolngu Boy (2001)

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Director: Stephen Johnson

Stars: John Sebastian Pilakui, Nathan Daniels, Sean Mununggurr, Jack Thompson

First viewing, via DVD

There’s no better deal on Earth than the movies. For the cost of a cinema ticket, a monthly streaming subscription, a DVD or Blu rental, or whatever amount of data it takes to torrent a film, you can be entertained, educated, and elevated by everything from Doctor Strange to Pink Flamingos to Tokyo Story. With that embarrassment of riches, it’s little wonder Australian flicks fall through the cracks, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone. When Yolngu Boy was released in March 2001, it generated some really positive notices … which I roundly ignored along with the film, instead showering my not-so-hard-earned cash on significantly less well-received stuff like Dracula 2000 and Proof of Life. I might even have seen Miss Congeniality… on a discount day of course… But anyway, poor life decisions all around…

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