Father Geek here with a truely homegrown Downunder Report for this week... Latauro's put together an interesting group of flicks for us... just look at that list of titles... pretty fuk'n esoteric...
Hello, this is Mr. Foreman. If you give my daughter an alcoholic beverage or
a joint, I will hunt you down and neuter you.
It's less than a week until I'll be sitting in a theatre watching THE HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, which is easily the most-anticipated film of my lifetime. I'll go into more detail in next week's review, so for now I'll just dance around a bit in anticipation. And here's some stuff that happened this week...
The CHARLOTTE'S WEB shoot, taking place in and around Melbourne, is suffering problem after problem. Here's the email that arrived in the ol' inbox: "Seems that Mr. Animatronic King (Stan-the-Man Winston) who's supplying the ani-animals on this Oz-locale pic has, allegedly, had a little bit of a hiccup with creature design. Allegedly it seems that the animatronic pigs designed and manufactured in the USofA, based on good ol' USofA looking pigs - have arrived Down Under only to look nothing like the local ozzie non-animatronic piggies on set. Allegedly it seems that they have discovered the hard way that pigs ain't pigs the world over." This follows something passed onto me from an extra working during a county fair sequence. Seems that occupational health and safety may be out the window, with cost-cutting measures seeing a group of two hundred or so extras nearly getting electrocuted when a live wire slipped from its socket. Were it not for the quick catching abilities of a crew member, Dakota Fanning would be feasting on BBQed Aussies for the rest of the shoot. And if that doesn't put you off your breakfast, read the next news item.
* Moviehole's Clint dropped me a line to point out a scoop landed by the Australian site. Seems that J-Antony or Jenny From Wherever or whatever the warbler is calling herself these days is teaming with Australian writer Craig Pearce (MOULIN ROUGE!) for an adaptation of famous Bizet opera CARMEN. I've seen "Carmen" on stage a few times, and it's brilliant, catchy, and never anything short of entertaining. I'd love to see a film adaptation, but can Ms Lopez really handle opera? Any opera singers who read this column are welcome to talkback on the years of training you apparently no longer need to land a lead role in an opera.
AICN-D reader A J Murphy was at a public forum in New Zealand with author Lee Child, he of the Jack Reacher novels. Seems somebody asked about the development hell-based adaptation of the first novel, KILLING FLOOR, and who would be the author's dreamcast pick for main character. "New Line are having difficulty committing an actor to a three-picture deal. Apparently one year ago Keanu Reeves came close, but the production company Mutual Film baulked. In January this year Nicholas Cage turned down the deal which would have seen him receive $20M for the first picture. Of the names yelled out by the audience, Sean Bean got a very good reaction from Lee. Seeing how this was a NZ audience, that name got a very good reaction from us too. All in all, he's a very cool guy." Cheers to Muprhy.
* Ana Kokkonis's THE BOOK OF REVELATION has had to postpone its final week of filming. Most of the way into the Melbourne shoot, lead actor Tom Long broke his ankle during an action scene in a nightclub, on Friday April 15th. Shooting will resume mid-August.
AWARDS AND FESTIVALS
ANGRY FILM FESTIVAL
The organisers have passed along a final reminder for this weekend's festival. Thirteen short films will play, followed by the audience cutting up the rug to the tunes of Melbourne's DJ Waxx. "Thirteen short films will be screening on the night. Make sure you write your name down at the door as each paying entry will receive a credit on the next short film from Angry Productions. That's right! The festival is to raise money to make a short film and you will be part of it. Also we are looking for one main actor for our next project so come and make us aware that you exist."
WHEN: April 26th Tuesday
WHERE: First Floor, 393 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy Melbourne
PHONE: 0417 550 537
TIME: 8.30pm doors open Films start 9pm sharp
COST: $10. Tickets will be available at door MORE DETAILS at www.angryproductions.org.
2005 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
The Cannes Film Festival which will, to answer your question Ms Aguilera, be held in Cannes this year, will feature a whole bunch of local product (by which I mean Australian local, not French local). Short BLUE TONGUE (directed by Justin Kurzel), will play during Critic's Week. Kurzel previously won 2nd place at the 2000 Tropfest. Meanwhile, animated short JEWBOY will play in the Short Competition; YELLOW FELLA will play in Un Certain Regard; and stop-motion animation CLARA will also play in the Short Competition.
THE PACIFIER is at number one. Our country is officially a bunch of idiots. Still, IN GOOD COMPANY has been pulling in the audiences, so my pick is we see that in, at least, number two spot next week. And that would be heartening.
1. THE PACIFIER
2. THE INTERPRETER
4. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
RELEASED THIS WEEK
Jimeoin stops being funny for ninety minutes, Forest Whitaker chuckles knowingly to himself, Paul Weitz does ABOUT A MAN, the latest blockbuster about 19832 seedy Rio de Janeiro precincts gets a multiplex release, Javier Bardem finds his inner ocean, Robert Connolly loudly announces the average budget for an Australian feature film, and Michael Keaton searches for faint echoes of his long-dead career.
IN GOOD COMPANY
THE SEA INSIDE
There's a slew of Australian films on release, or about to be released. YOU AND YOUR STUPID MATE, reviewed below, comes out on May 5. THREE DOLLARS, also reviewed, is out now. One should be seen immediately, the other should be studiously avoided. Also on release is the Jimeoin film THE EXTRA. I've not yet seen that one, but the reviews have been pretty poor, with most of them comparing it unfavourably with his previous big screen effort THE CRAIC, which I didn't like at all. Pity, given how funny Jimeoin's stand-up work is. Read on for word on the other two...
YOU AND YOUR STUPID MATE
If you're sick of hearing myself along with other (possibly more legitimate) critics constantly flaming the Australian film industry for being irrelevant and appallingly awful, can you imagine how sick we are of writing about it? I get no joy from it. Zero. Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done if we keep turning out the tripe that we have been of late.
YOU AND YOUR STUPID MATE is trying very hard to be an Australian version of DUMB AND DUMBER, but it does not reach such dizzying heights. Hell, it barely scrapes the bottom of DUMB AND DUMBERER: WHEN HARRY MET LLOYD. It's one of those tragic misfires that has the distinct whiff of market research about it. Appealing to the lowest possible common denominator, we're introduced to Jeffrey (Anghus Sampson, "Greeks on the Roof") and Philip (Nathan Philips, TAKE AWAY), two incredibly stupid blokes who grew up together and now live together in a caravan park. Their favourite thing is a soapie called "Sons and Surf", which uses Australia's perplexingly popular exports "Home and Away" and "Neighbours" as a template. "Sons and Surf" stars Emma, played by Madeleine West. West is best known for her role on "Neighbours"; a reference that wants to be ironic, but simply ends up pointing out the weaknesses in both.
What is it about? Well, I'm going to have to refer to the press notes. During the film I wondered when the plot was going to kick; checking my watch I realised an hour had elapsed and there was barely thirty minutes left in the running time. There is next-to-no plot. The government is onto Jeffrey and Philip and their rorting of unemployment benefits, and the boys have to get jobs. Meanwhile, "Sons and Surf" is about to get cancelled and Jeffrey is determined to do something about it. Meanwhile, the caravan park is about to be torn down for construction of a big highway. Meanwhile, Philip may end up finally getting the lead in some sort of Scouts stage play thing. Sounds like a lot of material, doesn't it? None of it goes anywhere.
The unemployment shtick is simply an excuse for a series of unfunny skits showing how incompetent the boys are in their various jobs. (Included is an horrifically unfunny scene involving the attempted killing of a dog.) These skits are not funny, nor are they entertaining, nor do they contribute to the plot in any way. The highway construction plotline is mentioned once at the beginning, and then quickly resolved at the end. For the running time in-between, this plotline is forgotten. The thing with Philip and the Scouts play doesn't make much sense, but does have a resolution of sorts. The main story strand - the "Sons and Surf" cancellation - is what's supposed to drive the story forward, but it takes so long to get from one plot point to another, it's just not funny.
While material like this is below Nathan Philips (who has displayed good comic talent in the past), I did admire the fact that his energy and enthusiasm never tapered off. It's so off-putting to see actors embarrassed to be in films, be it THE ITALIAN JOB remake (stand up, Mr Norton), or shite like this. It's also well below the usually-brilliant William McInnes, here relegated to the buttoned-up evil government official suffering Principal Skinner-style flashbacks to when some kids made fun of him. He also has a very "funny" birthmark on his face. Samir Malik also has some awful stuff to work with, but does seem to come out of it with a few scraps of dignity in his role as the boys' neighbour, a Somalian cab driver. Madeleine West doesn't make much of an impression, aside from the scenes in which she's dressed only in a bikini, which, admittedly, occurs in the majority of the film. Rachel Hunter also appears in a confusing (though, in one scene towards the end, briefly amusing) cameo.
I get no joy from trashing an Australian film, but I get even less joy from sitting through crap like this.
So what do I get joy from? Telling people about a very, very good Australian film that manages to avoid clichÃ©, and gives us a wholly satisfying cinematic experience.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to THREE DOLLARS.
This really is as good as everyone says it is. In particular - and at the risk of demonstrating why it is I don't write for a major broadsheet - David Wenham fucking rules. It's taken me a while to warm to the actor. He's got a particular style of speaking that I found a little disconcerting in films such as THE BANK (also by Robert Connolly). Slowly, however, I've grown used to him, to the point that I loved him in LORD OF THE RINGS. THREE DOLLARS, though, is easily his best performance. He plays it all here; drama, tragedy, comedy, even doing a decent Cary Grant impression in a nicely-handled NORTH BY NORTHWEST homage. If the film wasn't good, I'd probably still recommend it on the strength of Wenham's performance. The film, however, is very good. So you get it both ways.
It's the story of a family man who, during a turbulent time in his professional life, thinks back on his life up until now, focussing mostly on the girl he sees once every nine-and-a-half years. It's a great device, and one that actually manages to use pop culture references to great effect. While I've never enjoyed hearing characters sing the Chicken Tonight theme, the references to Joy Division and the like worked really well. And I'm not just saying that because I got them (a tempting trap to fall into). It's used nicely to set up a time and a feeling, and it's a terrific call back as the film progresses.
Frances O'Connor also gives what could be a career-best, playing a pressured wife also suffering from job woes. She has so many opportunities to become unlikeable, it's a testament to O'Connor that she avoids becoming unsympathetic. Sarah Wynter probably has the least to do, but still creates a memorable and interesting character in her brief moments on screen. The real revelation, though, is Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnik, who plays Wenham and O'Connor's young daughter. The chemistry she shares with her on-screen parents is palpable, and every moment she plays is believable without being precocious. (I'm pretty sure she's the girl in the "Don't chop the dinosaur!" ad, for those of you playing at home.)
The only thing that makes this a very, very good film instead of a great film is where it goes in the third act. It's not disappointing, nor goes it even come close to going off the rails. In fact, the third act is quite brilliantly executed and a really interesting turn for Wenham's character. The only qualm I have (and, I stress, it's minor) is that the third act doesn't quite live up to the promise displayed in the first two. Maybe it's just the promise I invented in my mind, but the first act in particular keeps the pace to a maximum, and comes close to perfection. The third act is still very, very good, but didn't go where I felt it would naturally go. Maybe you won't feel the same way. Maybe I won't on my next viewing.
The pessimistic part of me feels there won't be a good Australian film until next year. If we follow the rule from the past few years, the one that states we only get one good Australian film each year, then this is quite obviously The One. It's the exception to the rule, and proves that we can in fact make incredibly good films that don't try to ape what's being done overseas.
This is the quality of film we deserve. It's not unreasonable to have high expectations, particularly if work like THREE DOLLARS can meet them. See this film and hope we get more like it.
- Kevin Smith to follow up PASSION OF THE CLERKS with a look at CHASING AMY's Banky Edwards exploring lesbianism in A FISTFUL OF ALYSSA
- Olay sues Dino De Laurentiis, after it's revealed that the brand new Hannibal Lecter movie HANNIBAL THE SHRINK, which explores the therapy sessions between Lecter and Buffalo Bill, will feature the tagline "Love the Skin You're In"
- Following news that Jennifer Lopez will star in an adaptation of CARMEN, another Bizet opera THE PEARLFISHERS will go into production with Justin Timberlake and Jesse McCartney as two high schoolers who go on a fishing trip