Victoria Wharfe McIntyre’s 24-minute indigenous themed film is unlike anything we have seen in this country, and with her feature film The Flood arriving in 2020, we thought that there is no better time to spotlight this unique talent.
The Australian actor, who made a huge impression leading the #MeToo protests while acting as President of the Cannes jury in 2018, has now been appointed the same job in Venice, presiding over a 2020 competition that is set to include major Oscar contenders.
Arguments against our cinema being government supported should be immediately put to bed if you consider the impact of family films such as Go! In a marketplace dominated by corporate Hollywood franchises and US-based online platforms, it’s essential for our cultural identity that our children see themselves reflected on the screen. What’s more, it is these films that outperform at the box office – see Ride Like a Girl, Paper Planes, Red Dog, Babe, going all the way back to 1976’s Storm Boy.
Go!, originally titled ‘Go-Karts’, is from the writer of Paper Planes, Steve Worland, who announced himself back in 2000 with Bootmen and a Hollywood deal, before finding his groove with 2014’s Paper Planes and a sideline in thriller novels. His fiction is formulaic, but it’s also recognisable and entertaining. Here, he takes the against-all-odds family sports movie trope Mighty Ducks, Bad News Bears, etc) and applies it to small town Australia.
The story sees good natured teenager Jack (Lodder) and his single mum Christie (O’Connor) turning up in a small coastal town (shot in scenic Busselton in WA) to start afresh after the death of Jack’s dad. Jack soon turns up at a go-karting track, where he meets the awkward Colin (Darius Amarfio Jefferson), the world-weary track owner Patrick (Richard Roxburgh), arrogant golden boy Dean (Cooper Van Grootel) and his under-appreciated sister Mandy (Anastasia Bampos). Before you can say Mr Miyagi, Jack is cleaning the track with promises of time behind the wheel and training from ex pro with a dark past, Patrick.
On directing duties is Owen Trevor, who has taken a roundabout route to his first local feature. After making short films and moving into the commercial world, he directed multiple episodes of the original Top Gear TV phenomenon, and now returns home with Go!, adept at making crowd-pleasing entertainment. Trevor’s work here is highly commendable, all about keeping things simple and serving the material without bringing attention to himself or any of the potential visual trickery that could have been the downfall of a lesser filmmaker.
Key to Go!’s success is the casting, with charismatic first timers William Lodder and Anastasia Bampos able to carry the story’s emotional stakes. Supported by the experienced players, including Dan Wyllie’s comedic cop and Damian de Montemas’s cashed-up adversary, who all give the potentially cliched story and characters their full investment and surround the young cast with believable, three dimensional human beings.
It may not have the budget or big stars of its Hollywood counterparts, but Go! has something that Dolittle, etc, could never achieve, believable and admirable Australian characteristics that local audiences will be able to identify with, be proud of, and truly worth rooting for. Warning: you’ll be seeking out the closest go-karting track for you and/or your family straight after the movie.
From the team that brought you the never-ending It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, comes this 9x half hour episode first season, partly produced by Ubisoft. It also features direction by Aussie Catriona McKenzie and features Charlotte Nicdao (Content, Thor: Ragnarok, Please Like Me) in the cast.
Found footage movies are considered by many to be a relatively easy go-to for the independent filmmaker. At least, that can be the takeaway if you digest the vast quantity that are released each year. Since the days of The Blair Witch Project (and before that), everyone and his dog has had a crack at some shaky cam narrative; making its way into episodes of Doctor Who (Sleep No More), the Paranormal Activity franchise, numerous Asylum knock offs of said franchise (Paranormal Entity), and even faith based movies centred around the evils of pornography (2014’s The Trap). Most, if not all of them, nailing their colours to the mast of some kind of supernatural vessel.
Australian film Mad House, directed by Ross Perkins, can certainly rub shoulders with its horror counterparts. At least initially, when you look at the brief: a well-off banker and his family are home invaded by a trio of methheads looking to grab some serious cash. Cass (Jess Turner), Wes (Perkins again) and Bryce (Aaron Patrick) bully and torture the family in the hopes of striking big. Those who have seen, or are aware of James Cullen Bressack’s Hate Crime, which purports to be the found footage of a family being needlessly harassed by skin heads, may have already declared a loud ‘no, thank you’ and moved elsewhere. But come closer, reader, for Mad House has moments that outshine its torture porn possibilities.
Using a pinched smartphone to capture their crimes, seemingly because they’re not too quick on the uptake that this can all be used as evidence, the device slowly becomes a comfort blanket to the gang as they realise that they might be in over their heads. As the minutes turn into hours into days, Perkins pulls out choice little moments to make you – gasp – care for the motley crew.
A standout scene centres around Cass, a former socialite fallen on hard times, who uses the phone as a confessional to her unborn child; encouraging him not to trod the path she has. When Wes’ fate grows ever worse, the phone becomes his diary to record what he sees as his final days. It’s not only a way to get us to know these people, but it acts as a handy way of explaining away why everyone is recording every bloody thing that happens – something which curses every found footage film ever.
Obviously, your mileage will vary with this kind of emotional mugging. Your thoughts and prayers should be focused on the harassed family after all. However, it’s a credit to the writer/director that he’s tried to craft humans out of what could easily just have been played as feckless drug takers, the like of which would make the Herald Sun shake their fists at a cloud. Equally, Perkins, Turner and Patrick turn in performances that never stray into Housos territory. Sure, they are going to do some terrible things before our time together is over, but spoilers: real people do real bad things sometimes.
Starting slowly but finding its pace once all the players are on the stage, Mad House manages to breathe life into a genre that’s been on its last death rattle for some time and does so with a hell of a lot of confidence.