Now available on OzFlix, we take a look back at the difficult path taken to the screen by the uncompromising Australian drama, The Nothing Men, starring Colin Friels, David Field and Martin Dingle-Wall.
If you're old enough to remember 1988's Frank Oz comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, then this is a reboot/remake starring Anne Hathaway and our very own Rebel Wilson. Come down bros.
The Australian independent distributor that brought Japanese animation to this country more than 20 years ago has struck a multi-million dollar sale of its highly profitable anime arm to Sony owned anime division, Aniplex.
During the 1990s, a young man by the name of Robert Rodriguez was one of the most exciting and inventive directors around. He burst onto the scene with the micro-budgeted El Mariachi in 1992 and kept cranking out the hits, with gems like Desperado (1995), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Sin City (2005) released to much acclaim. Post Sin City, however, it seemed that Rodriguez missed a trick or two. And though his output still had some appeal (2007’s Planet Terror remains an underrated flick) there were some significantly disappointing efforts like Machete Kills (2013) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014). Well, friends, it pleases us greatly to inform you that Robert Rodriguez is back and all it took was a little robot girl and a bit of James Cameron magic.
Alita: Battle Angel is based on the manga Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a multi-volume cyberpunk series released in the ’90s. In fact, producer James Cameron has been trying to get the adaptation made since the late ’90s/early 2000s, which gives you an idea of the torturous route this project has taken.
The story takes place in 2563 and revolves around the (very) wide-eyed cyborg, Alita (Rosa Salazar), who is saved from the literal scrapheap by cyborg Scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). The two bond, and Ido attempts to teach Alita about society; the underclass who live in grungy Iron City and the upper class who live in a sky city called Zalem.
Alita: Battle Angel is many things – exciting, propulsive, full of spectacle – but it’s certainly not subtle or in any way “hard” science fiction. The movie plays out more like a technology-infused fairy tale, with Alita uncovering her history, unexpected strengths and even a burgeoning relationship with affable human spunk, Hugo (Keean Johnson). It also feels as if the plot contains about three trade paperbacks worth of story and even at 122 minutes zips along at an occasionally dizzying pace. That means that the narrative, involving menacing cyborgs, dark conspiracies and unexpected betrayals doesn’t always have time to give every moment space to breathe. Unfortunately that means a few subplots, including one involving Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali, feel under-cooked when set against the rest of the film.
That aside, however, Alita: Battle Angel is an absolute hoot. The world of Iron City feels rusted and lived in, the characters all have clear agendas and the action is superbly executed, with genuinely exciting set pieces that build to a glorious climax. It’s not a perfect film, at times the dialogue can be wince-inducing and the pace inconsistent, but there’s a joy and excitement here that mirrors Alita’s gleeful appreciation of life itself. Rosa Salazar gives a spectacular performance (albeit one augmented with hefty amounts of CGI) and makes Alita an extremely appealing heroine. If you had fears about taking a trip to the uncanny valley from the trailers, just know that in the final product it all works spectacularly well.
Alita: Battle Angel is gorgeous and at times an unwieldy and profoundly strange beast, that doesn’t always work as well as it could. It’s also consistently enjoyable from start to finish and exciting and wide-eyed in a way that should liven even the most jaded and black-hearted audience member. If you can get in line with its gleeful, cyberpunky charms you’re in for a grand old time at the cinema. Welcome back, Robert Rodriguez, we’ve all missed you.
An insightful examination of the threats from irrigated agriculture, pastoralism and intense mining to Kimberley’s remote Aboriginal communities, Undermined – Tales From the Kimberley focuses attention on the often unheard voices and commentaries of people living amidst this ongoing struggle.
Written and developed with producer Stephanie King, Nicholas Wrathall’s (Gore Vidal – The United States of Amnesia) film is an eye-opening look at the impact of sustained pressure from big business on the culture and society of residents in the Kimberley. The film follows veteran cattleman Kevin Oscar, Senior Elder June Davis and community leader Albert Wiggan as they strive to preserve their country and their culture. Also including commentary from Dr. Anne Poelina, the film is an urgent call for greater communication and understanding.
The vast unspoilt wilderness of the spectacular Kimberley region in the north west and its superb coastlines are captured beautifully. The magnificent ancient land is set to the music and words of the people, with folk music from the communities involved painting an extra layer of meaning and resonance.
The Kimberley is currently at the centre of not only an unprecedented land grab, but is also the location of a spate of recent youth suicides. These are tragedies that have, after intense scrutiny, been judged by coroner Ros Fogliani to have been shaped by “the crushing effects of inter-generational trauma”.
Made before this judgement, but very much in full knowledge of the devastation experienced in the land, the film looks at the damage done to not only the land, but also to the culture and identity of First Nations people of the region. As deals and proposals for projects continue to roll in, it asks ‘for whose benefit is this development?’
The film skilfully deploys a non-traditional, hybrid style of documentary, driven not only by thorough investigative journalism, but most importantly by the personal stories of the characters at the front line.
It is the connection between country and culture that is at the heart of the tales detailed in the film. Panning out of the close ups on local communities whenever relevant in order to provide context and background, the painful facts surrounding the narratives of the central figures are given in full detail. We discover that attempts to develop and impose an outside way of using the land are often proposed quickly, with unfavourable terms offered. The status of land rights, and how they can be used to give authority to a proposed business venture, is also closely studied.
Inextricably linked to the process of unwanted development is the forced closure of communities and the relocation of First Nations residents; effectively leaving young people lost and homeless in towns and cities far away from the country that they so strongly identify with. The film visits lost Kimberley communities, where all the young have been forced to move, either through necessity or otherwise, and finds places lost in pain and hurt.
Acting as a stark reminder of the importance to look at issues that are at once both complex and straightforward, Undermined – Tales From the Kimberley is a powerful and enlightening film. It highlights the fundamental necessity to hear, listen and understand from those that know the realities of the situation far better than anyone else.