Australia has played host to some of the biggest and most successful Hollywood blockbusters and has been the preferred filming location for hundreds more.
Australia has played host to some of the biggest and most successful Hollywood blockbusters and has been the preferred filming location for hundreds more.
Director : Leigh Janiak
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown.
Approx Running Time : 86 Minutes
Synopsis: A young couple goes on their honeymoon to a secluded cabin in the forest (as you do). Not long after, weird, scary shit starts happening.
What we think : Every man’s horror story, this film. Married, in love and beset by some supernatural forces, the story of one young couple’s sojourn into the woods comes to the same crashing, scary, dimly-lit nightmare most of these kinds of films descend into. Most disturbingly, this one is actually really, really creepy, and actually pretty good. While the story is paper-thin, the film’s crazy atmosphere, sense of tension and foreboding, coupled with some great performances by Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway, make Honeymoon one nuptial trip you won’t soon forget.
Remind me not say “I do” ever again.
Ahh, the beauty of young love. Nothing captures the essence of virginal union quite like two youngsters who are off on their honeymoon, a sanctioned period of copulation and intimacy that – for most people at least – will probably never reach those heights again. It’s a pity that it all has to end up so terrifying, as it does here in Honeymoon, an atmospheric, tense, at times scary film from director Leigh Janiak. Janiak, whose previous credits include production assistance on Europa Report and Mirror Mirror, delivers a convincing first film here, providing the basic story with some chilling visuals that do much to elevate the movie beyond simplistic thrills. Sure, it’s a film complete with standard genre moments (the isolated cabin in the woods, for starters) but somehow, Janiak’s astute construction of this gradual nightmare brings genuine chills to the skin.
Director : William Eubank
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Lin Shaye, Beau Knapp, Robert Longstreet, Laurence Fishburne.
Approx Running Time : 95 Minutes
Synopsis: After apparently being taken by aliens, a young man and his friends find themselves inside a nightmarish facility, being interrogated and held captive by government agents. Or…. are they?
What we think : A mind-bending sci-fi thriller, The Signal starts strong, continues in the same vein, before collapsing in a heap at the end. The Signal has plenty of style – so much so, it’s almost a given that Eubank will end up helming a major Hollywood tentpole one day – although it does crib from a number of other genre films for both style and plot device. There’s plenty to savor here, however, so fans of sci-fi who aren’t afraid to tickle the grey matter will most definitely enjoy it.
The last few years have produced a number of low-range, surprisingly effective (if not always successful) science fiction films that fly in the face of cookie-cutter clones Hollywood’s so eager to produce. Films like The Human Race, Splice, The Colony, The Machine, and Europa Report (which is more sci-fi than horror, truth be told) spring to mind as similarly underdog performers that actually deliver their concepts with a high degree of skill, and a definite style that is hugely memorable. Count The Signal as another contender; with a startling visual aesthetic, a highly stylized narrative and premise, and some creepy, non-confrontational visual effects, The Signal is a remarkably entertaining, utterly baffling who/whatdunnit that fans of independent sci-fi will absolutely love. Like the rest of the films I’ve just mentioned, The Signal isn’t perfect, and no doubt there will be some who come away from it with a little bit of annoyance, but I think as a total entertainment experience, The Signal delivers in a most chilling, melancholy way.
Director : David Michod
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Gillian Jones, David Field, Anthony Hayes, Tawanda Manyimo, Susan Prior, Nash Edgerton.
Approx Running Time : 102 Minutes
Synopsis: A man chases down a trio of thieves in a futuristic wasteland.
What we think : Slow-burn thriller is melancholic, evocative and compulsive viewing, even though it moves at a glacial pace. Guy Pearce delivers a pivotal, standout performance, ably abetted by a nuanced Robert Pattinson, as far removed from his vampiric hunk-dom as is humanly possible. The Rover is remarkably effective.
Australian apocalypse films are perhaps our film industry’s largest contributor. Considering the vast expanses of desolate, uninhabited landscapes at our disposal, it’s little wonder that films set in some post-apocalyptic time-frame are often set within our borders. Perhaps the most famous, the Mel Gibson classic Mad Max, transported audiences into the Aussie Outback with its speed, ferocity and brilliantly evocative locales. The Rover does a similar thing, and no doubt will draw comparisons to Max Max’s underlying tone, plot and setting, yet it’s a less fractious film in its narrative, less archetypal than Miller’s action classic, and contains a terrific performance from Guy Pearce, a man for whom membership on the A-list will never quite be achieved.
Back in 2001, a relatively unknown director by the name of Peter Jackson set about releasing a trilogy of films based on JRR Tolkein’s wildly popular fantasy novel, The Lord Of The Rings. I doubt there’s a person alive today who isn’t at the very least aware of this, if they haven’t seen the movies. Anyone who has sat down to watch the Extended Editions of the three films, The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of The King, will know how difficult the filming process was, how monumentally challenging it was, and how it inevitably revolutionized the way Hollywood studios went about franchising their IP’s to capitalize on what Jackson accomplished. Not only did Lord of The Rings catapult Tolkien’s works back into popular culture, it elevated Jackson to the upper echelon of Hollywood elite. The fact that The Return of The King took home every Oscar it was nominated for during the awards season in 2004, capped off what had been perhaps the pinnacle of Jackson’s directorial career to that point.
Of course, Jackson was a hero in his native New Zealand, feted by all and sundry – hell, he was even granted a New Zealand knighthood, the highest honor that country could bestow. He became a poster-boy for geeks and nerds everywhere, although in fairness, the LOTR trilogy transcended its exclusive dominion of “subculture” and entered the mainstream, a feat not too many fantasy projects have accomplished.
Director : JJ Abrams
Year Of Release : 2006
Principal Cast : Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q, Simon Pegg, Eddie Marsan, Laurence Fishburne, Bellamy Young, Jeff Chase, Sasha Alexander, Aaron Paul.
Approx Running Time : 125 Minutes
Synopsis: Ethan Hunt must locate the whereabouts of the mysterious Rabbit’s Foot before a ruthless black market dealer kills his wife.
What we think : Slick, technically proficient Hollywood hocus-pocus delivers thrills aplenty, as Cruise, Hoffman and director JJ Abrams reinvigorate a floundering franchise with this energetic romp. Nice to spot Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul as a (very) minor character (guess we all have to start somewhere) and to see Michelle Monaghan take it to Cruise in the acting department. A ripper.
“You got a family? A wife? I’m gonna find her, and I’m gonna hurt her. And I’m gonna kill you in front of her.”
Hard to believe that Mission: Impossible III was director JJ Abrams first stint behind the camera for a feature film. Impossible III delivers all manner of exciting, visceral, gut-punch thrills, helmed by a man essentially a freshman to the world of film. Hindsight being what it is, it’s easy now to see how Abrams would go on to deliver a rebooted Star Trek, as well as a throwback to those 80’s child-centric adventure movies in Super 8, but at the time, Mission: Impossible III was something of an unknown quantity. Abrams, who until then had existed primarily in the realm of television, bringing us Felicity (with Keri Russell, who would co-star here), Alias and Lost, was brought on board to change things up from the debacle of MI2, the John Woo film that had done boffo box-office, but was a frankly terrible movie. Although he had plenty of industry credibility, Abrams was an unknown quantity with helming a tentpole franchise flick like a Mission: Impossible movie, so I guess one had some reservations that the guy could bring things back to the level Brian DePalma’s original hit had achieved. By now, Tom Cruise’s couch-jumping shenanigans had made him something of a laughing stock amongst general audiences, who found his antics bizarre, and so with the release of MI3 basking in the awkward afterglow of the superstar’s moment of insanity, the film was hard up against it to draw in the crowds once more.
Director : John Woo
Year Of Release : 2000
Principal Cast : Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Anthony Hopkins, Rade Serbedzija, William Mapother, Dominic Purcell, Roland Kronmeyer.
Approx Running Time : 123 Minutes
Synopsis: IMF Agent Ethan Hunt returns to duty to track down a lethal poison gas threatening to kill millions around the world, unless a terrorist’s demands are met.
What we think : Like being trapped in an elevator with somebody suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Mission: Impossible II rankles the nose and offends the spirit. Bereft of coherence or logic, devoid of passion, and brimming with pompous, gargantuan action that means little, this sequel to DePalma’s sl0w-burn success is borderline unwatchable. If you removed the copious slow-motion in this thing, you’d have a 30 minute travelogue of Australia.
I want to take you on another journey. Back to the end of the 20th Century, in an era of explosive pop-culture expectation perpetuated by the massive phenomenon of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. That film, the first Star Wars film in over a decade, was perhaps the most anticipated film of the 1990’s (hell, there’s even a film about the expectation for Phantom Menace!), until it actually came out and people realized they’d been duped into paying to see a film that was the creative equivalent of a person taking a dump on your chest. A year later, in 2000, John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II came out and, wouldn’t you know it, did almost exactly the same thing. John Woo is most assuredly a far better director than George Lucas, so expectation for MI2’s quality was undoubtedly founded on the history Woo had with a film camera – the man was fresh off Face/Off, the Travolta/Cage starrer that was an insane gangbusting joyride of a thing, and had a cult following from his Asian films like The Killer and Hard Boiled, among others. Here in Australia, Tom Cruise was enjoying a sort-of position as “adopted son” thanks to his marriage to “our” Nicole Kidman, and the fact that a large portion of the movie was filmed on our shores only added to the attention it received here. So you have Tom Cruise, John Woo, and an expectation that the franchise would deliver a superior film to the one DePalma delivered barely four years previous. Again, expectation; a film fans folly.
Director : Brian DePalma
Year Of Release : 1996
Principal Cast : Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristen Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Emilio Estevez, Karel Dobry, Dale Dye.
Approx Running Time : 110 Minutes
Synopsis: IMF Agent Ethan Hunt hunts down the extremely valuable NOC list before all the spies across Europe are hunted down and killed.
What we think : Tense, exciting spy thriller has Tom Cruise in top gear as a superspy, much like James Bond only without the sexy-suave attitude, and although the film plods through some minor talky moments, has more than enough twists and turns to keep this genre fan happy.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it…..
I want to take you on a journey. A journey back into the mid-90’s, to a time when not ever film was a remake, reboot, sequel or imitator. The idea of bringing old TV shows to the big screen was still in its infancy, to the point where it could be argued that Tom Cruise’s production of Mission: Impossible, directed by Brian DePalma, was the jump-off point for Hollywood to start mining the small screen for ideas. The world was simpler then too – before 9/11 and the War On Terror, all cinema had to worry about with its spies was whether they’d prevent a nuclear explosion in the former Soviet Union, or if the Queen had her crown jewels stolen. That was about it. The brain-bending concept of a Mission: Impossible movie had all the hallmarks of Hollywood trying to create their own James Bond, a sophisticated, technologically adept super spy who cracks cases and undertakes missions that nobody else (without tights and a cape, anyway) would even consider. Enter Tom Cruise, in pre-couch-jumping popularity, married to Nicole Kidman, and who came to this project off the success of roles in hits like A Few Good Men, The Firm, and Interview With A Vampire only a few years prior. The thought of Tom Cruise as an uber-spy wasn’t exactly scoffed at (back then), and the film’s potential was solidified by the addition of a number of big name casting decisions, particularly Jon Voight (father of Angelina Jolie), Jean Reno (The Professional) and Kristen Scott-Thomas (The English Patient). With DePalma directing, would Mission: Impossible stack up to the task of retooling the classic television series for a new audience, or would it…. ahem, self destruct in five seconds?
Gerard Parkes, a Canadian actor best known for his appearances in Fraggle Rock and the Boondock Saints franchise, has passed away.
Director : Dean DeBlois
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, TJ Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington.
Approx Running Time : 112 Minutes
Synopsis: When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.
What we think : Dazzling, exciting, terrific animated sequel delivers tons of fun, some nice characterizations, and some truly jaw-dropping animation. With a stunning voice cast and spot-on storytelling, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is dynamite.
No more training required.
2010’s How To Train Your Dragon was one of the more out-of-the-blue success stories for animated films that year, so it was no surprise that a sequel would eventually flush down the Hollywood pike – naturally, the concern was just how much effort was put into that sequel, and whether it would stack up against the original film’s quality. Helping the sequel along was the success of the animated television series based on the franchise, set between that film and this; reprising their roles on the big screen, Hiccup and Toothless needed a big-screen story to accompany them, to justify the added…. size, if you will. Dragon 2 had to not only recapture the allure of the original, but it needed to enhance and, if possible, supersede it. Where many sequels tend to coast on the coat-tails of the preceding film, Dragon 2 actually attempted to enlarge the world the franchise inhabits; was it, however, a success? Or does Dragon 2 merely retread similar material, albeit with some utterly stupendous animation?
Marvel has a lot to answer for.
In many ways, Hollywood has always taken advantage of the Next Big Thing, what with the glut of war films, romance films, heady dramatic films and all manner of pulp-inspired dreck flooding cinemas since the industry came into being over a century ago. Today, there’s a larger problem rife within Hollywood’s dollar-sign-lovin’ suit-brigade. In the last decade, the rise of Marvel Studio’s enormously successful Cinematic Universe, inhabited by easily identifiable heroes like Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, et al, has bloated the coffers of the industry’s main players, the fallout being that the flow on effect – to Sony’s Spider-Man franchise (which is ailing badly, creatively speaking) and Fox’s X-Men franchise (which isn’t) – has been to boost the profile of these “tentpole” releases, as well as the swollen budgets and box-office receipts.
Director : Oliver Stone
Year Of Release : 2004
Principal Cast : Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Plummer, David Bedella, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Brian Blessed, Gary Stretch, John Kavanagh, Nick Dunning, Joseph Morgan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Denis Conway, Neil Jackson, Rory McCann, Tim Pigott-Smith, Toby Kebbell, Connor Paolo, Elliot Cowan, Patrick Carroll.
Approx Running Time : 167 Minutes
Synopsis: The story of Alexander, King of Macedonia, as he strives to increase his kingdom by conquering the known world.
What we think : Bold, epic, committed film version of the life of Alexander The Great is also a gargantuan misfire – somehow, not even Oliver Stone could make this film work (and he tried four times!). Colin Farrell is a great Alexander, and the rest of the cast do solid work, but the talky script and uneven narrative, lacking cohesive tone or even decent plot, makes for a clunky movie. The soaring score from Vangelis often feels more like elevator music, and Stone concocts some terrific battle sequences, but in the end, the audience can’t invest in anything because it just flat-out sucks.
Fortune favors the bald.
When Oliver Stone’s biographical film of controversial historical figure, Alexander The Great, arrived in cinemas in 2004, it was met with the wet critical acclaim of a sodden turd. Bereft of audience investment and scorned by both critics and casual audiences (because critics aren’t “casual audiences”, apparently), Alexander suffered the ignominy of being nominated for a slew of Golden Raspberry awards, as well as being something of a box office bomb, only barely making back its production budget of $155m. After such a dismal result, Warner Bros allowed Stone to return to the editing bay to produce a “Director’s Cut”, smoothing out many of the film’s troubling subplots, extraneous sequences, and other material audiences felt didn’t quite work. That was in 2005, a year after release. In 2007, Stone again went back to the well, this time throwing everything he liked into the film, producing a 214 (!) minute “Final Unrated Cut”, which restructured the film from the ground up, and added a whole heap of backstory into the narrative. Not content with this, Stone re-edited the film for a fourth time, producing the “Ultimate Cut”, in 2012, which was shorter than the “Final” cut, and once again tried to smooth out narrative lethargy and characterization troubles. Is Alexander the kind of film that warrants four distinct versions of the same film? Not one jot, if I’m honest, although it’s brave of both Stone and Warner Brothers to even try; at least they did try, something which can’t be said of a lot of film-makers today, content to release substandard material and actually call it “art”. Alexander might not be a success either financially or creatively, but the effort cannot be understated. While I lacked the dedication to really go the whole hog in watching all 4 versions of this film, I felt qualified enough with this Director’s Cut to give it a shake on DVD and reappraise a story now a decade old, see if it still stinks like it did originally.
American actress Elizabeth Pena, who appeared in films such as Jacob’s Ladder and Rush Hour, has passed away.
Director : Alfred Hitchcock
Year Of Release : 1928
Principal Cast : Isabel Jeans, Robin Irvine, Franklin Dyall, Eric Bransby Williams, Ian Hunter, Violet Farebrother, Frank Elliot, Dacia Deane, Dorothy Boyd, Enid Stamp Taylor.
Approx Running Time : 80 Minutes
Synopsis: A divorcée hides her scandalous past from her new husband and his family.
What we think : Bland, innocuous romantic drama from Hitch, with a palatable story and character sliding down like fast-food. Hitch’s technical skill seems to have gone missing; the film isn’t as showy or as stylish as some of his other work (not even his earlier work!), and there’s an almost mechanical feeling about his direction here. Easy Virtue bases itself on scandal and mystery, but lacks grace or depth.
If people were only honest, all this crap wouldn’t matter.
Divorce. It’s an ugly word, although perhaps nowadays it is a little less influential on society’s perception of one who’s been through it, thanks to our apparent ability to wed and divorce almost at will – one third of marriages end in divorce, a staggering statistic that remains among on of modern culture’s more taboo topics. In the 20’s, however, people who were divorced apparently became social lepers, if the premise and execution of Hitchcock’s 6th available film are any indication. Released in 1928, Easy Virtue is a story about divorce, and the embarrassment and stigma surrounding it – in the early 20th Century, people just didn’t get divorced, because “’til death do us part” actually meant something. Weirdos. Hitchcock was still finding his way with different genres and stories, easing himself into something comfortable (obviously becoming most famous for his thrillers and mysteries than anything else), so to watch a film with a romantic premise, love and secrets, is something truly bizarre. Hitchcock, making an early romantic genre flick? Interesting – is it up to the same level as his other, earlier work, which had to that point included a thriller, a comedy, a sporting movie, and a drama? (more…)
Director : Nicholas Stoller
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jerrod Carmichael, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Lisa Cudrow, Craig Roberts, Hannibal Buress, Halston Sage, Ali Cobrin,
Approx Running Time : 97 Minutes
Synopsis: A happily married couple are horrified to learn a fraternity has moved into the place next door. Tensions rise when said couple call the cops on the party boys, and things escalate from there.
What we think : You know that old saying, the one that goes “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”? Bad Neighbors (or just Neighbors if you’re outside Australia) is one of those comedy films that is just far, far too loud. Which means I’m too old. Obnoxiously ribald, smothered in crass, and hard to watch an actress of Rose Byrne’s caliber descend to this kind of material, Bad Neighbors is offensively unfunny and tediously stupid. Seth Rogen is his usual self, Zac Efron is kinda cool, but the rest of this mess is just a hodgepodge of bad, badder, and worse decisions.
I’ll bite – comedies that rely on stupid people making stupid decisions to draw out a laugh irritate me more than they entertain, so naturally I read the synopsis of this film, a tit-for-tat lets-be-nasty flick, with a fair amount of disdain. Prejudiced? Yes. Warranted? Absolutely. Here in Australia, we already have a long-running soapie show called Neighbours, so the promotional department tagged “Bad” onto the title just to make sure dumb people knew they were going to watch a dumb movie, not a dumb television show. Bad Neighbors is the kind of bad taste “adult” comedy that bases its entire premise on a bunch of people being idiotic, and not like actual people. For some, that might make for an entertaining night in front of the box, but for an old fart like me, this represents all that’s crass, ugly and terrible about American comedy. The fact a terrific Aussie actress like Rose Byrne is involved just makes this bitter, asinine comedy pill even harder to swallow.
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