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The Old Ways

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Catholic horror cinema has seen something of a resurgence over the last near-decade off the back of the Conjuring series (although it may be on its way out, if The Devil Made Me Do It is any indication). But, much like with the prevalence of Catholic doctrine in the Western world, its persistence in modern cinema can give the impression that this is the only way that the natural and spiritual worlds are understood. It grips the spotlight, while its myriad of offshoots around the world, linger in the shadows. Offshoots like Brujeria, a Mexican witchcraft practice that owes as much to the traditions of the indigenous population as it does to those brought over by colonisers.

It is Brujeria which forms the core of this film, a very different look at the standard exorcist horror flick.

As shown through the psychological lens of main character Cristina (Brigitte Kali Canales), the way her reactions and Marcos Gabriel’s writing establish the scepticism of the story is quite effective. First shown bound by the wrists and with a sack over her head, the audience is put in the same position as her, fearing the circumstances that led to this. And throughout, there’s a continual Flanagan-ian tinge, where questions are asked about how much of what is shown is actually happening.

But as the narrative progresses, and more of Cristina’s own history is made evident, the question of how much is real fades away and is replaced by another, potentially even scarier question: Is she still meant to be here?

While framed with Brujeria tradition and an emphasis on demons made corporeal, the film’s structure is closer to the cold turkey scene in Trainspotting than it is to any recent films involving exorcism.

Cristina’s own figurative demons of addiction and childhood trauma are refracted to depict rehabilitation and demonic possession in a similar light: You’ll lie all you need to to get out of being helped, but it’s only with confrontation that the healing can begin.

It adds interesting textures to the larger story, which is made up of two-thirds psychological detail and one-third proper buckwild horror cred. And as captured by Canales’ amazing performance, ramping up the on-screen charisma to match the raw watchability of the film around her, it makes for an invigorating character arc with relatable chuckles and even a genuine moment of fist-pumping badassitude.

The Old Ways is a refreshing change of pace for one of horror cinema’s favourite cliches, imbuing it with equal parts gripping character work, chewy thematic subtext, and a cultural aesthetic that deserves more shine than it usually gets in this part of the cinematic world. It’s a story of personal triumph that, both in-story and on our side of the screen, serves as an example of persevering not just for one’s own sake, but so that others can be helped to overcome their own demons.

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Hating Peter Tatchell

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Adorned in a loud green long-sleeve shirt that strikingly contrasts against the remarkable Moscovian architecture, perennial civil-rights activist Peter Tatchell stands nobly in front of a wave of Russian authorities ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The spindly Tatchell glides into the shot, knowing exactly his mark as if he were walking a runway. He speaks of bold ambition; bringing to the forefront news of the injustices experienced by the LGBTQI+ community.

Risking life and limb in the pursuit of freedom proves yet another day for the rebellious Tatchell, with this scene in particular showcasing many of the provocative qualities Tatchell has acquired in his fifty-three years of ‘civil disobedience’; a wisecrack he takes in great stride.

Directed by Christopher Amos and executive produced by Elton John (who also briefly features), documentary Hating Peter Tatchell explores the career of a dominant, albeit antagonistic, voice in the fight for LGBTQI+ rights.

From his precocious days as a schoolboy in Melbourne to his protest-ready antics on the streets of London, Tatchell’s career has been long engulfed in controversy. Where Hating Peter Tatchell bites hardest is in its dissection of provocation as a tool for awareness. Tatchell has built a profile out of flagrant attempts to attract attention; a feat he is more than ready to defend at the mere mention. How broadcast media shapes community values and standards is one embracingly hijacked by Tatchell; his desire to be heard is matched in its intensity by his agitational behaviour.

Chats with regarded British figures, the highest profile of which being the articulate Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen (that latter making for an exceptional interview), observe the depth which Tatchell’s influence crossed into the media, reinforcing his standing as a prominent figure in the LGBTQI+ civil rights movement.

Some of the film’s wobblier moments come through in how the film posits the difficulties had by Tatchell in his family life to their influence on his activism. His relationship with his mother ends up becoming a metaphor for progression; an effort that feels somewhat half-baked given her conclusion verges on tolerance as opposed to acceptance.

However, you take to Tatchell’s moxie – provocateur or trailblazer – there is no denying him as a person of gall. The film’s big evaluation of the effectiveness of ‘rocking the boat’, unlike Tatchell’s strong-mindedness, remains open-ended, and speaks to the enduring nature of an advocate who continues to chip away at systemic homophobia.

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Disclosure

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Disclosure is a confronting tale about two close couples whose friendships implode through the allegation that one of their children was sexually abused by the other.

All set in one location, Joel and Bek occasionally babysit the 4-year-old daughter of Emily and Danny. However, when a shocking incident occurs between the children that no one saw happen, the couples come together to hash out the allegation.

Initially, the couples retain a semblance of civility, but it soon spirals out of control as personal and professional considerations mire discussions. For example, Joel is a politician seeking re-election, while Danny is a journalist who is also co-authoring a book with Joel. Meanwhile, Emily is a documentary filmmaker whose long absences at home come under scrutiny, while Bek’s past history influences her attitude. The truth itself is hidden among the differing perspectives, which is artfully explored by the film’s director in its opening act.

From the outset, ordinary lives of young children are afforded seismic resonance as slow motion of kids on playgrounds and crossing roads dramatically inverts the audience’s perception of what children are capable of.

In the following scene, ominous dread fills the mood as a busied parent is momentarily distracted from babysitting. As she takes phone calls and writes down notes, she paces in and out of frame as the camera slowly backs away from the kitchen and into the shadows of the house’s corridor, as if frightened of what is about to unfold.

After deafening screams from an unidentified child, the woman lazily opens the bedroom door and warns her 9-year-old son to “leave the little ones alone”, but returns to her business as quickly as she left it. Even further, as she opens the door, a silhouette of the boy emerges from the light cast across the hallway.

This immediately signals the nefarious intent of the boy that will cataclysmically change the lives of those involved. These opening few minutes alone perfectly illuminate broad societal issues illustrated through deft visual touches that permeate the entire film.

The premise functions entirely on the shifting dynamics of the four characters. Their individual power status is represented through the staging and shots of their initial conversation with each other. For example, Danny and Emily are swimming in their pool naked before Joel and Bek arrive unannounced through the back porch. The pool is installed on a lower level to the house, thereby placing Joel and Bek above their counterparts through low-angle shots that infer they are in the dominant and controlling position. Not only this, the embarrassed Danny and Emily are shot in high angles as they scuttle to put clothes on; caught off-guard and vulnerable to the legal onslaught that will ensue.

Even further, director Michael Bentham offers an immediate visual juxtaposition as the wives and husbands sit next to each other. Bek and Joel are wearing formal cocktail attire as they are about to attend a fundraiser, while Emily and Danny are scantily clad and wet.

The film itself is slightly hindered by the constraints of a modest budget, as some production elements appear unpolished. For instance, the lighting of exterior scenes is vulnerable to weather as the background is often over-exposed, with the actors’ faces only clearly visible when shaded. Furthermore, moments of overlapping sound briefly make dialogue hard to discern. Fortunately, these are nit-picky complaints and almost never take away from the gripping tension of the film.

Michael Bentham’s Disclosure gleans from the Rashomon effect, whereby truth is cloaked by the moral obligations of child-to-child sexual abuse claims, while also revealing the fractious impact on parental and professional livelihoods.

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Death Drop Gorgeous

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There are many modern horrors we can load up with queer subtext that have next to no actual LGBTQIA+ characters in them. Hello, Billy and Stu from Scream. Then, there are those classics, where the representation is, let’s say, problematic at best. We’re looking at you, Sleepaway Camp.

Death Drop Gorgeous follows in the footsteps of 2004’s Hellbent and 2018’s Killer Unicorn by being a slasher where the gay community is upfront and central to the plot.

In the city of Providence, someone is stalking gay bars in search of helpless victims to drain them of their blood. Paying homage to the loud and lurid colours of Argento’s best work, the film opens with the brutal killing of a twink in a car park, soundtracked by heavy synth.

As the bodies pile up, the film’s writer/directors follow two distinct people caught up in the madness. The first is Dwayne (Wayne Richard), a dejected barman licking his wounds after a recent breakup. Working for the abrasive Tony Two fingers (Brandon Perras), Dwayne is a sweet boy with a big temper who is painted as suspect numero uno in the murders.

Then there’s Gloria Hole (Michael McAdam), a tired and washed up drag queen whose best years are probably behind her. Hole fully channels Dorian Corey from Paris is Burning. Once the hottest name in Providence, she’s reduced to calling out the numbers in drag bingo.

Adding to Gloria’s woes are the newer queens overshadowing her with their youth and talent. Case in point: Janet Fitness (Matthew Pidge). Fitness is a neon coloured, bitchy queen who represents a generation of people who’ve grown up with RuPaul’s Drag Race, thinking the quickest way to the top is to be infamous rather than talented.

If this sounds a little heavy, don’t fear because for all its gory deaths – of which the highlight involves a meat grinder – Death Drop Gorgeous has its tongue stuck in its camp cheek. Think What Ever Happened to Baby Jane with a higher body count.

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Kratt

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For those not up to date with their Estonian mythology, a Kratt is a creature formed of household implements which, with just a little help from the Devil, can be used to complete a bunch of jobs for its master. However, run out of work for the Kratt and it will turn dangerous, if not murderous. Sounds like a ritual children should definitely not get involved in, you say? Yeah, about that…

Directed by Rasmus Merivoo, Kratt tells the tale of siblings Mia (Nora Merivoo) and Kevin (Harri Merivoo), who are packed off to the Estonian countryside for the summer to live with their Grandma (Mari Lill). Although Grandma is a kind old soul, the children soon tire of their rural life and seek excitement elsewhere. With the help of a couple of local kids, Juuli (Elise Tekko) and August (Roland Teima), they stumble on an ancient text that will teach them how to build their own Kratt. Huzzah?

One pact with the Devil and an unfortunate accident with a scythe later, poor old Granny ends up being the carrier for the spirit of the Kratt. Despite their faux pas, the kids think this is great and soon get to work, giving the widow all the tasks they can’t be bothered doing. Things soon turn foul when they are unable to keep up with her demands for jobs.

There’s a lot going for Kratt, which hit all the right notes. It has bags of imagination and the central performance by Lill, who goes from sweet-natured to malevolent being, is scarily convincing. Unfortunately, as the film progresses, the narrative becomes derailed as Merivoo tries to pack in so much to the detriment of his central narrative.

Ostensibly, Kratt is a family orientated horror film – and has been touted as such elsewhere – containing the same kind of mild scares one would get from a Lemony Snicket or Roald Dahl book. However, despite the film overrunning with precocious tweens, it does well to be aware of the jarring tone shift throughout. One minute Grandma is lighting her farts to travel long distances, and the next, she’s graphically mincing up people to turn them into pizza. You can break your neck trying to keep up.

Strangely, Merivoo also uses his film to take stabs at politics and social media. A quartet of politicians make up Kratt’s B-plot, implying corruption in the village. It’s also highly implied that the pollies have always been here in a Stephen King’s Shining kind of way. As one of the quartet realises his fate, he breaks the fourth wall, pleading to the audience that he hopes that he doesn’t come around again when he eventually dies.

Elsewhere, religion gets a paddling, as a hero priest is shown to be against what he sees as ‘gay propaganda’, and a moment involving the American government appears to be a dig at the US being the self-proclaimed saviours in their own movies.

All interesting plots in their own ways, but it does leave the audience asking what any of it has to do with the adventures of Juuli and Kevin. The answer is very little, which is a big problem. At just over an hour and forty, Kratt feels as overstuffed as one of Granny’s pizzas. And, while it could be argued that this is a giant satire of family movies in general, fingers immediately point to the recent Psycho Goreman as an example of how to do it successfully.

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Moon Rock For Monday

Australian, Home, Home Entertainment, Review, This Week 5 Comments

There is a consistently fascinating tier of filmmaking at work in Australia: small features financed independently of the government funding bodies that boast an undeniably commercial streak, often working in genres that our bigger budgeted films seem to assiduously avoid. The likes of Watch The Sunset, The Taverna, Burning Kiss and more have all punched impressively above their weight, and another contender to add to this list is Moon Rock For Monday, which announces an exciting new cinematic voice in writer/director Kurt Martin, who blends the coming-of-age and criminals-on-the-run genres with a real sense of style and assurance.

Pre-teen Monday (Ashlyn Louden-Gamble) has a medical condition that will likely take her life before she hits sixteen. Her approach to life, however, is sunny and upbeat, but you can see the deep well of sadness that pulls at her protective, home-schooling father, Bob (Aaron Jeffery). Desperate for adventure, Monday falls easily into the orbit of reckless but inherently decent criminal, Tyler (George Pullar), whose impulsivity and poor instincts have seen a jewellery store robbery devolve into a cop killing, which has him on the run and racing against a very sharply ticking clock. Tyler and Monday share an instant sibling-style bond, and decide to light out for The Northern Territory. The detective brother (David Field) of the murdered cop, however, has other ideas, while the distraught Bob begins his own fraught journey to get his daughter back.

Anchored by two truly superb leading performances – first-timer Ashlyn Louden-Gamble is a revelation, while George Pullar (TV’s Playing For Keeps and Fighting Season) is a wonderfully loose-limbed, charismatic and authentic screen presence – Moon Rock For Monday is a beautifully shot road movie. It veers through poetically lensed locations and drops in on various oddball characters (Nicholas Hope and Clarence Ryan are amusingly out there), but never loses sight of the two lost souls at its core. Tyler and Monday are astutely drawn characters, and effortlessly draw audience sympathy, making the film’s impending sense of doom even more heartbreaking. You hold out hope that these two will make it, but the odds are well and truly stacked against them. It’s here that Moon Rock For Monday really sings: while its technical achievements are all top-notch, it’s the emotion that really kicks. Sad, funny, heartbreaking and true, Moon Rock For Monday won’t release you from its grip for days.

 

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Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It

Comedy, Festival, Film Festival, Horror, Review, Streaming, This Week Leave a Comment

Khazakstan is mostly known as the home of Borat Sagdiyev, the alter ego of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, and the birthplace of blockbuster auteur Timur Bekmambetov, of Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter fame. The splatstick comedy Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It signals the emergence of a fresh and wildly energetic cinematic talent from the Central Asian nation.

Dastan (Daniar Alshinov) is an expectant father who can’t do anything right in the eyes of his heavily pregnant wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva). Needing a break from her relentless haranguing, he arranges a fishing trip with his gormless mates: Arman (Azamat Marklenov), who sells erotic toys from the back of his van, and Murat (Erlan Primbetov), a low-level law enforcement officer. The men are childhood friends whose lives have taken them down different paths, but their clumsy interplay soon settles into a Three Stooges-esque rhythm.

After stopping at a creepy service station run by two unsettling yokels, the trio begin their fishing trip in earnest, sailing down the river on a raft made of blow-up sex dolls. Their reverie is interrupted by mobster Kuka (Alamat Sakatov) and his bumbling henchmen, who are carrying out a gangland execution in the secluded countryside.

Adding to this chaos, the two groups are stalked by a hideously scarred psychopath who seems to have lurched straight out of some backwoods slasher flick. A hyper-intelligent horse also plays a small but important role. “I’ve been working as a school district officer for years, but I’ve never seen anything like it,” Murat says aloud while inspecting a mangled corpse. It’s a relatable sentiment, because Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is unlike anything this reviewer has watched all year.

Director Yernar Nurgaliyev has crafted a very silly (and sometimes gruesome) genre mash-up that quickly overcomes its cliched setup. While the characters are a collection of broadly sketched stereotypes, each of them has enough unique quirks to distinguish one from the other, like the thug who dances his way into a scene and proceeds to faint during every moment of bloodshed.

Nurgaliyev and his actors deliver terrific knockabout physical comedy, from simple pratfalls to nail-through-the-hand brutality. The flashes of horror movie violence recall the early Peter Jackson films, such as Braindead and Bad Taste, that paired goofy jokes with outré gore. The action is beautifully shot by Azamat Dulatov, who uses camera trickery, lush scenery and natural lighting to maximum effect.

For a bonkers film with six writers that bounces between just as many different genres, it’s a testament to Nurgaliyev’s talent as a director that Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is as focused as it is funny.

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Fast & Furious 9: Directors Cut Blu-Ray & 4K Ultra HD

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In this wonderfully wacked out age of franchises, blown-out existing IP, interconnected universes, and cross-platform storytelling, the Fast & Furious films (or The Fast Saga, or any number of other names that it’s flown under) stand alone. They’re not cribbed from books, comics or video games, and most curiously, they started small. What is now a big, ballsy, utterly over-the-top slab of international intrigue revolving around world-destroying tech, secret organisations, government agencies and villainous mercenaries actually started as a drag racing undercover cop actioner that lifted more than a few of its moves from Point Break.

The Fast & Furious films have undergone massive upheavals and changes since the release of the first film in 2001, with the tragic passing of lead actor Paul Walker by far the most upsetting. But even that has been worked sensitively and intelligently into the franchise, alongside spin-offs (Hobbs & Shaw), seemingly unconnected stand-alones (The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift), a tenuous connection to a pre-existing movie (2002’s Better Luck Tomorrow), DVD short films, confusing and inconsistent titles, and a fragmented timeline that makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe look simplistic. Fast & Furious 9 brings many of these threads together in a typically thrilling and entertaining manner, with the film occasionally feeling like a massive “greatest hits” compile. Spoilers follow, so slam on the brakes if you’re yet to jump behind the wheel of this installment of The Fast Saga.

Vin Diesel & Michelle Rodriguez

In a ruthless (and slightly suspect, considering its thematic focus on the concept of family) piece of back-engineering, Fast & Furious 9 introduces us to Jakob Toretto, the long lost and never-before-mentioned brother of Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto. A dour, no-nonsense, and wholly intense spy mercenary kind of guy (John Cena’s natural comedic gifts are sadly put on ice here), Jakob is after some kind of tech that has the ability to destroy the world. Dominic and his trusty crew (Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel) jump into action to stop him…but it’s a lot more complicated than that.

From there, the film literally caterwauls from one insanely creative and over-the-top action sequence to another, with brief stops for comedic relief (most courtesy of Tyrese Gibson); very serious flashbacks to Dom and Jakob as young men; and a collection of scenes in which the ever angst-ridden Dom ponders big questions like family, family, and family. There are also call-backs aplenty for Fast fans: Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), appears for the first time since the seventh installment; Helen Mirren (Jason Statham’s mum in the series) drops in for an amusing cameo; Kurt Russell’s shady Mr. Nobody slides in and out of the narrative; the controversially assumed-to-be-dead Han (Sung Kang) is revealed to be very much alive in a massive franchise move; Charlize Theron’s bad guy from The Fate Of The Furious is back to wreak more havoc; Tokyo Drift major players Lucas Black, Jason Tobin and Shad Moss (aka Li’l Bow Wow) are on board for a curious return; Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner makes an almost appearance; and a post-credits sequence hints that the franchise’s next installment will properly address the whole “Justice For Han” issue.

Vin Diesel & director Justin Lin

Fast & Furious 9 is wildly, wonderfully, ridiculously, stupidly, unapologetically over the top (yes, they even make it into outer space this time), but regular director Justin Lin (back after sitting out the last two entries) somehow keeps it all running smoothly, while also jamming a little emotional resonance into the mix as well. As The Marvel Cinematic Universe so expertly does, The Fast Saga always wisely keeps an eye on its characters, even while they’re caught up in a maelstrom of head-softening CGI and stunt-driven madness. It’s no easy feat, but it’s a big part of why these films are so popular, and so profoundly enjoyable.

The 4K Ultra HD release (which also houses a Blu-ray) includes both the theatrical cut of the film and the director’s cut.  While the theatrical cut is packed so hard to the gills that it’s difficult to imagine that anything was left out, the director’s cut includes another seven minutes of footage, most notable for another appearance from pop superstar Cardi B, which makes much more sense of her initial cameo. There’s more action, more humour from Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, and more flashbacks too. While these new inclusions are a lot of fun, they’re not exactly essential either.

Vin Diesel & John Cena

Like an old-school blockbuster home entertainment release, the Fast & Furious 9 set is jammed with extra features, led off by a wonderfully informative and entertaining audio commentary from co-writer, producer and director Justin Lin. His enthusiasm for and commitment to The Fast Saga is infectious and he lays down a terrific inside track. There’s also a very, very long list of entertaining but puffy featurettes (count the on-set hugs and handshakes, which will likely warm the cockles of your locked down, socially distanced COVID heart) which take the viewer into all aspects of the production. All involved appear to genuinely love the films of The Fast Saga, which means that the vibes are consistently good.

Fast & Furious 9 is a massive, shimmering, non-stop entertainment machine, and the Blu-ray package follows suit.

Fast & Furious 9 is available now on digital, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD. 

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You Cannot Kill David Arquette

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If you know your wrestling lore, you know that the darkest day in the ring wasn’t the passing of Andre the Giant. Nor was it realising Vince McMahon supports Trump. It wasn’t even the actions of Chris Benoit. No, the real tragedy was actor David Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship belt. No, really.

Used as a storyline to promote Arquette’s 2000 comedy Ready to Rumble, the Scream actor happily played up to the cameras, roping in his then-wife Courtney Cox into the deal. Standing on the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like too big a deal. However, to a large number of – primarily toxic – fans, Arquette’s ascent to the top made a mockery of everything they held dear, threatening to expose the fallacy that is the sport’s scripted nature.

Twenty years later, You Cannot Kill David Arquette follows the titular Arquette as he tries his hand at wrestling again in an effort to clear his name and that of professional wrestling as a whole. Interviews with his family and friends suggest that Arquette never really got over being the punching bag of corporate cross-promotion. Something that is quite easy to believe in a world where Star Wars ‘fans’ will bully POC actors off Twitter for being – checks notes – a woman in a sci-fi movie about space wizards. Over the next 90 minutes then, directors Price James and David Darg follow the Never Been Kissed star as he reimagines himself as David ‘Magic Man’ Arquette.

As with the sport that Arquette loves and grew up with, You Cannot Kill David Arquette has a touch of the histrionics about it that means it’s wise not to believe everything you see on screen. Knowing that our subject is a huge Andy Kaufman fan is something to hold onto as you wade in. For example,  in his first interview on screen, Arquette tells us that he hasn’t passed an audition in 10 years. A quick squiz on IMDB will show that that’s not entirely true. Later, the actor goes to a bar and gets into a fight with the mulleted Nasty Boys, which smells just a little of Kaufman’s bout on The Letterman Show with Jerry Lawler. Yes, it’s pretty clear that, like 2016’s Kate Plays Christine, this is more of a docudrama than it is a full-on documentary.

With all that said and out of the way though, what remains is an addictive tale of one man’s passion. Which is why when reality does kick in, it hurts the most. Such as when professional wrestler Nick Gage, a man with huge experience as a deathmatch wrestler, fails to take care of his amateur sparring partner during a match. As Arquette is carted off to the hospital by the late Luke Perry, the film reminds you that everything Arquette has been doing in wrestling is real.

While some of the narrative might be embellished, Arquette’s commitment and love of wrestling is evidently not. Opening up about his alcoholism and anxiety, it’s clear that the actor might actually need something like being a wrestler to help him keep his demons in check. This could have just been a vanity project where he loses some weight for the camera and counts down the days till Scream 5 comes out. Instead, Arquette is rarely seen without a big smile on his face as he explores the different kinds of wrestling in the world. From the amateur hour of backyard wrestling to the exuberant gymnastics of Lucha libre, this is a love letter to wrestling and he looks genuinely honoured to be part of it.

An exhilarating and funny portrait of a sport that many turn their noses up at, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is weirdly one of the feel-good movies of the year.

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Amelie

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Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie begins with a sequence that transports us to several locations in Paris, capturing different moments all happening at the same time. A fly landing on a street, tablecloths dancing in the wind at a restaurant, a man erasing a friend’s name from his address book and the conception of our titular character: Amelie.

Immediately, you begin to realise the billions of moments that people are living through at every second. Some magical, some terrible and some just plain boring.

Amelie is a film that reminds us that everyone has their own story and their own thing going on. A welcome reminder for a human race that is prone to think about themselves, and themselves alone.

20 years on from its original release, Jeunet’s award-winning film is still as relevant as ever.

The story centres around Amelie, a Parisian girl who has been isolated from people most of her life (uncomfortably relatable during a state-wide lockdown in various Australian states). With her mother tragically killed and her father emotionally unavailable, she is forced to survive childhood through her imagination. The film’s narrator (Andre Dussolier) remarks, “In such a dead world, Amelie prefers to dream until she’s old enough to leave home.” She is left introverted and solitary, often preferring to observe others and think about them rather than socialise.

Nevertheless, she moves out, begins working at a cafe and is surrounded by a whole cast of odd characters that jump in and out of the story. We are introduced to each character with a brief description of a personal thing that they like and dislike. The owner of the cafe dislikes when fathers are humiliated in front of their sons, the lady who gets Amelie to look after her cat likes the sound the cat’s bowl makes on the tiled floor. Small intimate details like this reveal so much about the characters immediately.

All things change for Amelie when she randomly stumbles upon a small box in her apartment. The box is filled with different items hidden by the apartment’s previous owner forty years earlier. Amelie decides to return the box and in an emotional scene, we see the owner begin to weep as his youthful memories return. Amelie, struck by his reaction, makes it her will to try and better the lives of those around her.

Amelie does this in small ways and from behind the shadows, fulfilling the film’s tagline that ‘one person can change your life forever’. She leads a blind, homeless man to the train station whilst describing what is happening around them. She subtly sets up the jealous man who is a regular at her cafe with her hypochondriac co-worker. She manufactures a long-lost letter from the dead husband of her concierge.

In an iconic scene, she even begins to deal out small punishments. After seeing her grocer belittle his poor co-worker, we see Amelie go into his apartment and tweak little things. She changes his door handle, she switches his toothpaste, she sets his clock to the wrong time. We see once again that little things can make a huge difference when we watch the grocer in pure agony because of all the minuscule issues with his apartment.

All of this she does invisibly, refusing to propel her own life forward or anywhere at all. But, things change when she begins to fall in love with Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz), a man who collects discarded photographs from a passport photo booth. She must decide whether she will continue observing and remain unseen or do for herself, what she has done for others.

Amelie is a gorgeous film filled with countless colour coordinated scenes that feel intimately detailed and complex. Different shades of green, red and blue are constantly dancing across the screen and filling our eyes with joy. Standout moments occur when we enter Amelie’s mind and see paintings talk, and television segments examining her life.

Remastered for its twentieth anniversary, the film’s satisfying sounds of cracked creme brûlée, tea cups on saucers and rocks being skimmed, combined with its whimsical French score, sound delicious to the ear. And Audrey Tautou’s exquisite portrayal of the main character is tantalisingly sweet and a joy to watch.

The film is about the small details: the mise-en-scene, the loudness of each sound, the life of each minor character and the outcome of each action. Jeunet teaches us to appreciate these details because they are easily lost and forgotten.

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