Final 2000s comedy round-up: Under the Radar (2004), Charlie & Boots (2009), A Few Best Men (2011)

Cover photo

This week brings one last look at Australian comedies from the noughties, no doubt to some readers’ reflief and other readers’ chagrin. Previous entries grouped films according to theme – romantic comedies, music-centred comedies, small town comedies, with The Wannabes straddling the former two categories – but this week spotlights the three best films (in my opinion anyway) of the series: a sly little comedic thriller, a road movie dramedy headlined by two iconic Australian comedy stars, and a polished mainstream confection.

Continue reading “Final 2000s comedy round-up: Under the Radar (2004), Charlie & Boots (2009), A Few Best Men (2011)”

Resistance (1992)

resist

Directed by: Hugh Keays-Byrne, Paul Elliott

Starring: Helen Jones, Lorna Lesley, Robyn Nevin, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Stephen Leeder, Harold Hopkins, Jack Thompson

First viewing, via DVD

Resistance is a film that’s been on my “to watch” list a long time. A remote-set dystopian action-thriller co-directed by character actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, best known as the antagonist in those other famous remote-set dystopian action-thrillers Mad Max and Mad Max: Fury Road, is an enticing proposition. However, the film was not afforded a conventional theatrical release in Australia, and is not widely available on physical or streaming media. I managed to secure a DVD copy via Amazon, but on receiving and finally playing the disc was disappointed to find the soundtrack was in French and there were no English subtitles. I decided to forge ahead and watch the film anyway, on the chance I mightn’t ever see it in another form, though I hope that Ozflix can one day add it to their collection with its original soundtrack. That wasn’t my only quandary though; I also had to decide whether to review a film which, based on the language barrier, clearly had me at a disadvantage. Again, I decided to forge ahead and do this because, as this review attests, even under imperfect viewing standards the film’s merits are evident.

Continue reading “Resistance (1992)”

Tag team review: Ghosts … of the Civil Dead (1988)

ghosts-poster

Director: John Hillcoat

Stars: David Field, Mike Bishop, Chris DeRose, Kevin Mackey, Dave Mason, Nick Cave, Bogdan Koca, Freddo Dierck, Vincent Gil, Tony Clark

Second viewing, via DVD

Ghosts … of the Civil Dead is a prison drama set in Australia’s Central Industrial Prison. A flagship of Australia’s “New Generation Prisons” based on existing American prison models, Central Industrial Prison is, according to the film’s title card, a “maximum security facility designed to house the prison system’s most violent, unmanageable and predatory inmates”. At film’s start, the facility has just initiated 37 months of lockdown after a long string of violent incidents. The film backtracks to chronicle the lead-up to this event, following the paths of various prisoners as they are systematically abused and dehumanized by each other and the system. For this tag team review, I’ll be joined by music critic and commentator Cristian Stromblad, whose work can be found at the website Ugly ‘n’ Weird.

Continue reading “Tag team review: Ghosts … of the Civil Dead (1988)”

Dead Heart (1996)

dh

Director: Nick Parsons

Stars: Bryan Brown, Ernie Dingo, Aaron Pedersen, Angie Milliken

Second viewing, via VHS

I first watched Dead Heart back in 2000, as part of a course at university. In recent days I’ve been thinking back on all the other Australian films I studied at university (in a degree comprising various screen and literature courses, including one specifically on Australian cinema, there were quite a few) and pondering where those films have landed, culturally speaking, in subsequent years. Wake in Fright, which we watched on a scratchy, dog-eared print, has enjoyed a critical and cultural resurgence in recent years and is soon to be adapted for television by the director of Red Dog. Other films, such as A Sunday Too Far Away and Two Hands, have sort of plateaued, remaining constant in their standing. And others like Dead Heart, then only a few years old, have faded from the spotlight and aren’t really part of the cultural conversation. In this particular case, it’s a shame, because Dead Heart is an excellent flick.

Continue reading “Dead Heart (1996)”

Liquid Bridge (2003)

lb-poster

Director: Phillip Avalon

Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Simone Kessell, Jeremy Sims

First viewing, via DVD

Most of what I know about surfing I learned from watching Point Break. And given that surfing is maybe only the eleventh most interesting thing about that delightful film, it’s safe to assume I know very little about surfing. But director Phillip Avalon is well versed in the art and sport of surfing. Liquid Bridge is the former professional surfer turned filmmaker’s feature directing debut, though he’d accumulated a solid number of credits as producer, writer and actor over the years. Fittingly, Avalon’s first major project working in all three of those capacities was another surf-centric flick, 1977’s Summer City, co-starring Mel Gibson and John Jarratt.

In Liquid Bridge, protagonist Nick (Ryan Kwanten) works at his father’s garage and dreams of being a professional surfer like his dad (Tony Bonner), whose pro career was cut tragically short by an accident. He joins his recently widowed friend Dane (Jarrod Dean) on the pro circuit, but when Dane dies of an overdose and drugs are found among their possessions, Nick is wrongly accused of smuggling and put on trial.

Continue reading “Liquid Bridge (2003)”

Metal Skin (1994)

EMBIGGEN Metal Skin

Director: Geoffrey Wright

Stars: Aden Young, Ben Mendelsohn, Tara Morice, Nadine Garner, Chantal Contouri

First viewing, via DVD

Metal Skin is director Geoffrey Wright’s follow-up to Romper Stomper, his controversial, barnstorming 1992 film about young neo-Nazis in Melbourne. That film announced both Wright and star Russell Crowe as ferocious, major new talents, scoring the former a Best Director nomination and the latter a Best Actor gong at that year’s AFI Awards.  Wright remained on Melbourne’s mean streets for Metal Skin (and would revisit them again in 2006’s Macbeth) and the city proves once more a dark, seedy muse for the filmmaker.

The film opens with a distressed scream over pitch black, before cutting to a dazed, visibly injured woman wandering through a maze of shipping containers. It’s a fitting opening for a film that feels, at times, like a celluloid manifestation of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. From there, the film plots tragic courses for its four young protagonists: Roslyn (Nadine Garner), the woman glimpsed at film’s start; Dazey (Ben Mendelsohn), her disaffected and cheating boyfriend; Savina (Tara Morice), a troubled young woman who rebels against her devout mother (Chantal Contouri) by dabbling in the dark arts; and Joe (Aden Young), a rodent-faced twentysomething charged with looking after his ill father. When Joe starts a new job alongside Dazey and Savina, he falls for Savina, who is infatuated with Dazey, who uses and discards her, and the film follows the fallout of this damaged love triangle.

Continue reading “Metal Skin (1994)”

Macbeth (2006)

MACBETH

Director: Geoffrey Wright

Stars: Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Gary Sweet, Lachy Hulme

Second viewing, via DVD

It’s fascinating that in the short space of ten years, two Australian filmmakers have adapted William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. While the Bard’s play is an all-timer, and has been adapted in the past by master directors like Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, and Roman Polanski, film adaptations haven’t exactly been abundant. So the fact that two Australians would choose to steer it to the screen less than a decade apart is a weird anomaly, though not inexplicable. One could conjecture at length about the 400+ year old “Scottish” play’s relevance to contemporary Australian identity, the timelessness of its depiction of ambition, greed, conspiracy, regicide, guilt, and hubris… but really, it’s just a terrific, badass piece of source material.

I really wanted to like Justin Kurzel’s 2015 adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender. Kurzel’s a very good filmmaker – his 2011 film Snowtown, about the murders that transpired in the South Australian town of the same name, is exceptional – and I like that he committed to a very particular take on the source. I just wasn’t a fan of that relentlessly gridmark take. I also can’t help but question the casting of Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth: she’s a tremendous actress, but also possibly the least Scottish person on the planet, and that planet includes Jackie Chan, Deepak Chopra and Usain Bolt.

Continue reading “Macbeth (2006)”