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Trailer: Cruella

Aussies Craig Gillespie (director, Lars and the Real Girl) and Tony McNamara (writer, The Great) are behind this new vision of the classic Disney character - taking cues from Harley Quinn by the looks of things - starring Emmas Stone and Thompson.
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Trailer: My First Summer

Katie Found's debut feature, a queer coming-of-age romance, produced by Jonathan auf der Heide (Van Diemen's Land) and Alisha Hnatjuk, and starring Markella Kavenagh (Amazon's upcoming The Lord of the Rings series) and Maiah Stewardson (Girl Asleep), was shot in Castlemaine, premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival - next stop, Mardi Gras Film Festival.
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Trailer: Crisis

Can you believe that it's been 20 years since Traffic?! Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Kid Cudi, Lily-Rose Depp and Mia Kirshner star in writer/director Nicholas Jarecki's (Arbitrage) exploration of the modern opioid crisis.
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Days of the Bagnold Summer

Comedy, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Days of the Bagnold Summer is an upbeat, positive comedy that explores the chasm between a librarian single-mother, and her shy but heavy-metal obsessed teenage son.

In its early scenes, the film is set up to explore Daniel, played by Earl Cave, whose planned trip to Florida with his estranged Dad has been cancelled. Instead, he is stuck with his librarian mother for six weeks, whose optimistic personality makes his life miserable. Cave conveys a bleak, anti-social attitude dressed in head-to-toe black attire, while shoving in earphones with heavy metal music to drown out the world’s noise. However, it is clear over time that this persona may be an affectation that does not reflect who he is as a person. With glimmers of care for his mother, and his family dog, as well as a blind rage at his friend Ky for mocking his passions, the film suggests this persona is a veneer to emotionally disconnect from others.

While Daniel feels central early on, the film equally invests in the character of Sue, who evokes greater sympathy as she navigates heavy emotional burdens with an earnest optimism. Monica Dolan expertly instils a nervous twitchiness to Sue that is easy to sympathise with, but also expresses an outpouring of emotion when she bursts into tears in one scene on account of juggling numerous hardships.

On the one hand, she desperately tries to establish a relationship with her disappointed son who cannot go to America, while also combatting her own loneliness. In one sped-up montage, Sue whizzes in and out of the kitchen completing countless daily chores, while Daniel is unmoved on the table on his phone. Meanwhile, sleazy history teacher Mr. Porter, played by Rob Brydon, manipulates her into a romantic interlude with a painful realisation which challenges her sense of goodwill toward people.

Although together as family, they have an icy relationship with very little emotional connection. This animosity thaws as they become understanding of each other’s needs. From the outsider’s perspective, it feels like they have a palpable history that is not contrived in any way. The seamless repartee they engage in feels like their conversations have played thousands of times before, and their lives plausibly exist outside of what is seen on screen.

Notably, the film is very beautifully shot, with symmetrical framing reminiscent of Wes Anderson. In particular, characters are often seen through windows or doorways that symbolises an emotional disconnect, as well as a literal reduction in size that implies being subsumed by a societal pressure.


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Boss Level

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Who would have thought back in 1993 that Harold Ramis’ comic masterpiece Groundhog Day would end up pretty much kick-starting an entire cinematic sub-genre all on its own? That film so ingeniously and engagingly utilised the concept of a “time loop” – whereby the central character is forced to relive the same experience again and again and again, while maintaining the knowledge learned each time – that it has inspired filmmakers across genres of all stripes and colours to give the same concept a crack. From Edge Of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day to Naked, Premature and Palm Springs, the concept has been goosed to varying levels of originality and effectiveness. Enter Boss Logic, the latest bone-cracker from cerebral action man Joe Carnahan (Narc, The Grey, The A-Team), which applies the idea to a series of masterful John Wick-style set pieces, while also taking it into areas of surprising emotional resonance.

The brilliantly named Roy Pulver (an astonishingly ripped and very likeable Frank Grillo, who continues to cement his status as an emerging top-tier action hero) wakes up every day with an assassin’s machete crashing towards his skull. From there, it gets worse, as the hard-hitting former Delta Force operative is relentlessly pursued by a helicopter gunship and then stalked by a crew of colourful paid killers that could have smashed out of the director’s nutty 2006 effort Smokin’ Aces. As Roy responds to his predicament with amusingly world-weary black humour, the question of why it’s all happening slowly starts to impinge on the blood spray and high impact action. It’s all to do with Roy’s ex-girlfriend Jemma (surprise choice Naomi Watts admirably gets into the spirit of things), a high level scientist working with a sinister military type (a scenery chewing Mel Gibson, who really shines in a Christopher-Walken-in-PulpFiction style dialogue sequence) on some kind of time refracting device that could either be the saviour or the end of the world itself. High stakes indeed…

Jumping effortlessly from the dour and super-serious (Narc, The Grey) to the cartoonish and silly (The A-Team, Stretch, Smokin’ Aces), Joe Carnahan has an absolute ball with Boss Level (which he co-wrote with original scenarists Joe and Eddie Borey), executing a rat-a-tat-tat barrage of hilariously over-the-top kill scenes that take full advantage of the hey-let’s-see-that-again mechanics of the plot. But Carnahan also stays on top of the film’s snaking narrative, keeping in line with its internal logic with aplomb, while also hitting a few unlikely grace notes as Grillo’s wise guy arse-kicker uses the time loop not just to solve the film’s central mystery, but also to rectify his failings as a father. Yep, that might sound lame, but trust us, it works. And so does Boss Level as a whole. The very definition of an intelligently elevated B-movie, this is Fun with a capital F, boasting inventive plotting that doesn’t skimp on thoughtfulness, funny dialogue, and lit-fuse action scenes that are as hilarious as they are thrilling. Yep, Boss Level is next level.

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Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Susan Sarandon leads Roger Michell’s (Notting Hill, Hyde Park on Hudson) film Blackbird as family matriarch for an eventful weekend. Besieged with a terminal illness, Lily gathers her family at her stunning wooden coastal house for a final farewell, as she plans to euthanize herself with the assistance of her doctor husband Paul (Sam Neill). The premise alone, with its many conveniences and insistent pathos, struggles to pass beyond stodgy sentimentality, even under the spotlights of a dazzling cast.

Perhaps only a project with the stamp of a name like Michell could shoe-horn each member into such a film, which, in addition to Sarandon and Neill, boasts Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Rainn Wilson and Lindsay Duncan. Diane Keaton was originally pitted for the terminal lead, but had to pull out, so Sarandon was ushered in as the next Hollywood heavyweight. This is a saving grace given Keaton’s role as the dying mother in The Family Stone – a duplicity which would highlight the emotional over-striving at the heart of Blackbird.

Naturally, the film’s focus is on Lily’s two daughters; Jennifer (Kate Winslet) and Anna (Mia Wasikowska). Jennifer is the responsible and emotionally guarded mother and wife, who is constantly maddened by her younger sister Anna’s flighty behaviour. An image she lives up to when she unexpectedly brings along her on-again-off-again partner, the rebellious charmer Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus). Then there’s Jennifer’s husband Michael, played by Rainn Wilson, who seems to have opted for more humourless roles of late. A humdrum sexless professor, it’s his habit to sporadically chime in with random facts across all subject matter.

A notable addition is British actress Lindsay Duncan, playing Lily’s best friend Liz, who played the lead alongside Jim Broadbent in Michell’s film Le Week-end. Her prowess surpasses the mandate of this film. In Blackbird’s final conflict, after a series of revelations aimed to prevent Lily from her seemingly stoic course of action, it is revealed that Liz and Paul are having an affair, actively encouraged by Lily. It’s as if the actors know how bogus and contrived the arrangement is, seeking to cloud an untenable script with tortured gestures and voices.

Based on the Danish film Silent Heart by Bille August, Blackbird typifies a glossy American uptake filled with an illustrious cast. Its premise and emotional tone are scattered. This might appear to be fertile material for a modestly humane work which is less smooth and controlled. But in reality, it resembles hoaxed stagecraft, with each actor playing their stereotyped role with hammy earnestness.

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A Screenwriting History

There has been relatively little research done into the history of Australian screenwriters so the arrival of a recent book on the subject fills a much-needed gap.
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My First Summer

Australian, Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

My First Summer is a beautifully sensitive Australian coming-of-age film written and directed by Katie Found. The film is the first feature she has directed, and stars Markella Kavenagh (Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Gloaming) as Claudia and Maiah Stewardson (Girl Asleep) as Grace.

When Claudia’s mother, author Veronica Fox (Edwina Wren) commits suicide through drowning, Claudia is left to survive on her own in their remote rural property where she was raised to isolate herself from the rest of the world. But Claudia’s world is forever changed when Grace discovers her whereabouts.

The two of them strike a friendship that blossoms into love, and Grace, in all her colourful, sugary sweetness, works to help heal Claudia’s broken heart as she battles through the painful trauma caused by her mother’s death. But the girls must deal with the harsh adult world that threatens their secret summer love.

My First Summer offers comfort in the thought that supportive relationships exist. Claudia and Grace, earnest in their adolescent relationship, are there for one another when the outside world neglects them. The wispy grade and the general tone of the film earns both tears of joy and sadness. The girls’ connection offers them an escape from the difficulties of life, and there is hope in the sense that they will always love each other. Kavenagh and Stewardson’s sincerity is affecting in this exploration of mental health and first love told through the lens of queer female sexuality.

Although My First Summer is not as impactful as the similarly themed and titled 2004 Pawel Pawlikowski breakthrough film My Summer of Love, Katie Found certainly directs her cast expertly to give us a romantic drama that magnetically draws us into its world.