Filmmaker Lee Galea follows up his 2013 film, Monster Pies, with this charming tale of one woman following her dreams and, in doing so, making a difference in the lives of those around her. Stephanie Gonelli plays Gale, a Brit who flies to Melbourne in search of her absent father. Despite making contact with Leonie (Pat Moonie), a trans woman who used to live with Gale’s father, she struggles to make traction on her investigation.
However, all is not lost, for as well as Leonie, Gale makes friends with homeless musician, Axel (Joshua Orpin) and grumpy gardener Frank (Trevor Hanna), who all strive to help her in her pursuit.
Set against the backdrop of a bright and cheerful Melbourne, The Neon Spectrum plays out like a modern fairy-tale, with Gonelli playing Gale as a live action Disney heroine, albeit somewhat more grounded. Hell, there’s even an evil aunt, who tries to prevent Gale from realising her dreams, that you can merrily boo and hiss at whenever she raises her head.
Galea has been quite vocal about his love for MGM’s Wizard of Oz, and its influences run deep from the monochromatic opening bursting into bright colour once we land in Melbourne, right through to Gale’s new trio of friends who are all in pursuit of something to make them feel whole.
Like A Streetcat Named Bob, The Neon Spectrum manages to be a feelgood film, whilst grappling with weighty themes. In this case, identity and loneliness. Whilst Gale, Axel and Frank all have their issues, it’s perhaps Leonie who has the most to tackle. Seemingly confident with who she is, Leonie struggles with how she sees herself being perceived by others. It’s a touching performance from Moonie and contrasts well with Gale’s outpouring of optimism.
Sweet and uplifting, The Neon Spectrum is an emotional journey that will ultimately leave you with a huge grin on your face.
The Neon Spectrum will screen at the following locations with each event followed by a cast/crew Q&A.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself that Indiana Jones should be a bit more like James Bond, or that Uncharted’s Nathan Drake isn’t enough of a bastard, then Dragon Force X, a new web series from director Stuart Simpson (Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla) may certainly scratch that itch.
A crowdfunded collaboration between Lost Art Films and Monster Pictures’ online branch Cult of Monster, the series sees the wonderfully monikered Maddox Montana (Simpson again, under the pseudonym Stuey Chu), hired by mysterious benefactor Nolan Matiess (Glenn Maynard), to track down the mythical Amulets of Fire. It’s the stepping stone to what is essentially a nostalgia fuelled trip into the kind of ‘80s action series you may remember watching as a kid. Albeit with a decidedly more adult ozploitation feel to it.
From the four episodes that we got to see, despite each one’s short running time, the show manages to pack in a hell of a lot. There’s over the top violence, outrageous stereotypes, iffy rear projection and, yes, you guessed it, a brief moment of coordinated nightclub dancing! (Why wouldn’t there be?!) All of which is seasoned with a knowing side eye from Simpson and team that never feels like they’re overzealously prodding you to get the joke.
Aside from the blood soaked, what-the-hell, frivolity of it all, what also impresses about Dragon Force X is the sheer scope of it all. Location shooting in India and New Zealand gives the series a cinematic depth it perhaps wouldn’t have had, had there been an overreliance on green screen. It certainly helps that the scenery looks gorgeous to boot.
Insane, gory, and extremely funny, if the series can keep up the momentum of what we’ve seen so far, Dragon Force X looks set to be a full-on assault to the senses. Fans of cult series Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place will certainly feel right at home.