An unmissable doco for music buffs that pays tribute to the enduring legacy of this sublime and under-celebrated power-pop quartet. Set to play at the ACMI.
A complete manifesto of the most influential band you’ve never heard of, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is as much the story of the titular band as it is of the Memphis rock scene in the 70’s. Director Drew DeNicola has created a documentary that’s in turns flippant and poignant, from a compilation of interviews with everyone who played a part in the turbulent careers of front men Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. The band faced more than its fair share of hardships with their unreliable record labels and bouts of drug abuse and religious fervour. However, they’re now touted as major influences on acts like R.E.M, Belle and Sebastian and The Flaming Lips and if that doesn’t ring any bells, their track “In The Street” was used as the theme song for That 70’s Show.
While the film becomes laborious in its adherence to the details, it does paint an energetic portrait of the eclectic mix of musicians, producers and rock writers who witnessed one of the scene’s most dismal stories. DeNicola avoids over-sentimentality with skill and instead imbues the story with sweet nostalgia, so that it feels a lot like Almost Famous.
So this is the Australian slice of the Fantastic Planet film festival...
It’s been said that local film critics and commentators can be too soft on homegrown produce (unless, that is, you happen to be talking about Australia or A Heartbeat Away). So in writing this there’s a twinge of worry – you may think this blogger is being too kind, leaving the knives in the drawer until the next Hollywood rom-com. Or if I wrote something clichéd like ‘The future of science-fiction and fantasy is in good hands in this country’, you might respond with the sometimes justifiable, ‘They always say crap like that’.
Thing is, the cliché is true – if these two April evenings are a snapshot of the shape of things to come in local genre filmmaking, there’s much to get truly and madly excited about. The evening of Australian fantasy and science fiction shorts was, for me, the best of all the wonderful festival evenings at the Dendy. The wildly diverse bunch of films – many of them coming from the film schools – were all excellently made and acted, and all supremely entertaining. Nothing amateur about ‘em.
Some films are just too good to be tucked away in the art house market. Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land has an excellent script (from eccentric literary tyro Dave Eggers), fine performances and a solid issues-based dramatic narrative which is absolutely topical. If people go to see it they will surely come out of the cinema not only entertained but feeling fired up.
Many people will recall the documentary Gasland (made by Josh Fox in 2010). The film tackled the hot button issue of the extraction of natural gas by the process colloquially known as fracking. Because the gas deposits are miles underground the only way to release them is to inject water right down there and cause a mini earthquake which releases the gas stored in the shale. However, it is the chemicals that are pumped down with the water that can create environmental devastation when they leach back up to the surface. The one image people can remember from Gasland (which has aired on broadcast TV as well as being available on DVD) is where the residents show that you can put a lighter under the water tap and ignite a plume of flame. It is an indelible image about unintended consequences. Promised Land tackles exactly the same issues but, by placing it in the context of an engaging relationships-driven drama, manages to involve us via our hearts as well as our brains.
I’m pissed off with imdb.com. They’ve given Space Milkshake – one of the two solidly entertaining and frequently hilarious comedies to bookend the Fantastic Planet/A Night Of Horror film festivals – the thumbs down.
It’s rated a measly 4.6. What gives? The only bad news about Canada’s Space Milkshake is that you’ve missed it. An opening night film at the twin genre festivals, it’s a gloriously funny satire of Hollywood space dramas – the ones where the world’s about to end and everyone’s talking in meaningless jargon.
Set on a sanitation station in space, its heroes are high-tech garbage collectors – and ones with fine acting pedigrees. The faultless and funny cast includes Billy Boyd (Lord Of The Rings), Kristen Kreuk (Smallville) and Amanda Tapping (Stargate), while the legendary George Takei (Hikaru Sulu from the original Star Trek) lends his voice to a key character and provides much of the humour.
The first feature from writer/director Armen Evrensel, the story itself is crazy – it has something to do with a rubber duck and a device known as the ‘time cube’ and, of course, the world is about to end (or maybe it already has…). Silly but funny, in between the big bang laughs there’s just pure sit-back-and-relax entertainment. Feel god sci-fi.
It opens with deathly and decidedly creepy home movie footage. Next, we see a seemingly carefree family move into a suburban house – a typical launch point for a supernatural horror tale. But rather than being clichéd and predictable, Sinister is something of a classic of its genre. It’s an old-fashioned mysterious yarn that uses the element of surprise – rather than blood – to scare the bejesus out of you (at one devilishly frightening moment, your correspondent actually gasped ‘f@%*’ a little louder than one should in public).
Sinister focuses on true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (a splendid Ethan Hawke). He had a bestseller called Kentucky Blood some 10 years ago and his career is at a dead end. But he senses another hit in the telling and unraveling of an unsolved crime involving the murder of a family – one where a child, Stephanie, remains missing.
The nuclear Oswalt family moves into the house that is the scene of the crime, where Ellison finds a box of home movies that have seemingly been placed there for him. The super 8 movies lead to more questions than answers about a series of mysterious deaths…
$8,000. That’s what this near masterpiece of horror was made for. It’s chilling and disturbing and has nightmare images that will attach to your brain whether you’d want them to or not (and you don’t). But what makes it different and especially intriguing is that, at its pitch black heart, Found is a superior character study.
The situation is established quickly and seen through fifth-grader Marty’s eyes. He makes a gruesome discovery in his older brother’s bedroom, soon understanding that his only sibling Steve is a serial killer. Part of what makes this so good is that it’s via Marty that we see what’s happening – how he responds to new information and the changing landscape around him. This is a strong character, a bullied boy who has certain fortitude. Marty’s easy to feel and care for as Found slowly uncovers what’s behind the façade of his ‘normal’ family.
Based on the novel by Todd Rigney, director/co-writer and editor Scott Schirmer has made something that sits in the left field of the horror genre. This is a thoughtful film, building the sense of dread to disturbing levels. As Marty, newcomer Gavin Brown is flawless, while screen brother Ethan Philbeck is increasingly frightening as the soft-featured psycho-killer Steve.
Imagine pitching this to a big brand Hollywood studio: A superhero movie based on characters the public has never heard of, with no fancy effects, no tongue-in-cheek humour. No camp. An American superhero movie that takes itself deadly seriously – and one where its superhuman stars are, effectively, without any powers.
It’s not until later that you wonder how the filmmakers managed getting away with a true-to-the-genre superhero movie that is, well, just some guys and a girl running around in costumes. But that’s its brilliance. Made on the flimsiest of shoestrings, All Superheroes Must Die owes more to film noir than Spider-Man in style, and its substance is based on strong characterisations and an unfolding of the story behind the heroes and their inter-relationships.
The film hooks you early – forcing you to wonder about these four characters that have just been awoken, without their powers, not knowing how long they’ve been unconsciousness.
Underneath every indie horror/comedy is an unspoken desire to become a cult sensation. But too often, movies in this sub-genre are only enjoyable to a point – the jokes and the scares run out of steam, and instead of becoming cult smashes, the films see out their days as DVD bargain bin fillers. It takes a particular talent to make horror/comedy that really works. That isn’t disposable. That makes you scared, makes you laugh, and actually sustains your interest. Which makes Canada’s Mon Ami such a find. It starts funny and gets funnier as the dumb and dumber kidnappers brilliantly, thoroughly and utterly hilariously screw up their plan.
Hardware store employees Teddy (Mike Kovac, Yesterday) and Cal (Scott Wallis, Prom Night) are best buddies, but with their taste for listening to classical music while smoking pipes, they’re of a different breed from the usual, predictable dudes. The duo’s friendship was somewhat fractured when Teddy tied the knot with Liz (Teagan Vincze), but they’re set for quality buddy time together when they kidnap Crystal (Chelsey Reist) – their boss’s daughter and colleague at the store. They’re pissed off employees after ransom and revenge, but they’re nice dudes and don’t really intend to hurt Crystal. But – of course – things do not go as designed…
FilmInk's Roger Smith witnessed some of his favourite flicks as he's never seen them before...
The opening night of the Adelaide Fringe is hot and packed, and nowhere is hotter or more packed than the season’s first performance of At The Movies. But Margaret and David won’t be making an appearance this evening, instead the sweaty crowd are stuffed into the backroom of the Soul Box Café on Hindley Street eagerly awaiting Miss Luna Eclipse and Miss Sapphire Snow to take to the stage for a Burlesque take on some of your favourite movies. In dazzling red sequined gowns with thigh high splits all the way up to there, Luna and Sapphire sashay their way through “Two Little Girls From Little Rock” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with all the winks and wiggles in all the right places that would make Marilyn and Jane proud.
With temperatures rising in the packed house after the first number, comperes Rohan Watts and Lady Cara Louise finally address the white elephant that’s been in our midst since we walked in the door, yes, Burlesque. You know the movie with Christina Aguilera and Cher? Didn’t see it? Don’t worry, no one did. So long story short, (yes I’ve actually seen it), it’s about a burlesque club in LA that only features about three minutes of actual burlesque in the whole movie. So condensing all the best bits and wrapping them up in strings of pearls and ostrich feather fans, Sapphire shakes and shimmies the way Christina could only hope.
Jeanne Moreau's talent and versatility is obvious in ACMI's new season Focus on the French screen siren, according to Andrew Moraitis.
A childish gambler who utilises her looks to scam money from strangers, a beleaguered wife unsure of her marriage to a cheating writer, a kindly chambermaid who would risk her life to achieve justice, a sociopathic manipulator willing to destroy others’ happiness for her own vindictiveness, an increasingly depressed heroine that falls in love with one man but marries his best friend: in their physical and psychological challenges, these roles demand an extraordinary degree of range and skill. In retrospect, it’s astonishing to realise that one actor could have convincingly portrayed all these roles in a relatively short amount of time. Yet Jeanne Moreau, working with directors as distinctive as Roger Vadim, Luis Buñuel and François Truffaut, managed to bring versatility, focus and magnetism to these roles, cementing her deserved reputation as one of the finest French actresses of the 20th Century with her vivid and imaginative performances in these roles.
Other performers can credibly transform themselves (with the help of make-up, costume design or even prosthetics) into a range of disparate characters with physical skill, but cannot divorce themselves from their mannerisms, eventually succumbing to repetition in acting choices as a result of their lack of emotional range or sensitive acting technique. Moreau, however, disappears less with physical apparatus than with an extreme level of focus and precision in her acting choices. Probably best known for her enigmatic and alluring performance in the iconic New Wave film Jules et Jim, she disappears into the respective psychologies of her characters, hinting at tensions simmering beneath a poised surface. It’s thrilling to see someone in such command of her craft … and the films aren’t bad, either.