Archive | June, 2010

Now Showing: Animal Kingdom

29 Jun

The characters may be dressed in Quicksilver and Bonds but the story world of Animal Kingdom should be instantly familiar to fans of classic gangster cinema. As Pope(Ben Mendelson) announces in the films final scene “It’s a crazy world” in which the strong destroy the weak and most of the characters must carry their balls in a wheelbarrow if they want to survive.  Animal Kingdom is Scarface in moccasins, Miami beach comes to Norflanz.

After the death of his mother from an overdose, 17-year-old Josh (James Frecheville) has nowhere to go but the home of his Grandmother (Jacki Weaver) and her family of criminals.  Loosely based on the 1988 Walsh st murders in which two policeman were gunned down in a quiet street in South Yarra, first time writer and director David Michod clearly knows something about how to tell a good story and Animal Kingdom is gripping from the get go. Ben Mendelsohn is terrifying as the sociopathic Pope and Guy Pearce’s performance as the only honest cop is so impressive his moustache deserves its own union card. However its Jackie Weaver’s performance as the criminal matriarch behind the lovable tuckshop lady smile that is the real revelation.

Pearce's award winning moustache.

Despite its bleak subject matter and ultimately nihilistic world view there are touches of humor as well and even the sociopathic Pope has his charismatic moments reminiscent of Mendelsohn’s performance in Idiot Box.  The use of Air Supply’s “Im all out of love” is genius, simultaneously schmaltzy and dreamy, it’s a beautiful and sad moment reminiscent of 3am at a near empty Diner along the Hume.

Usually when I’m enjoying a movie I’m too busy happily shovelling popcorn into my mouth, to bother the people next to me. But when I saw the Seven-Eleven on the corner of Separation St and Victoria Rd in this film I wanted to shout to the person next to me “That’s MY seven –eleven! I know that place. I grew up around the corner”  This is what it must be like for people in New York movie theaters all the time which makes me wonder how they ever review films at all over there because it’s a little hard to maintain your critical faculty when during every other scene you’re wondering “Wait, is that Ivanhoe or Northcote they’re filming in?(…)  Isn’t that the Safeway on Smith St? (…) I recognise that Icebox!” The fact that people who live in New York are so used to this experience must be their secret for being so damn cool all the time

Beyond it’s obvious charm for people with a postcode beginning in 307,  Animal Kingdom is dripping in universal appeal and it will be interesting to see its response at the American box office when it’s released there in August.  C’mon Aussie C’mon, I say.


DVD Review: Mesrine (2009)

28 Jun

Ben Buckingham is hanging out with ultra-violent crooks again. Perhaps I should vary the movies I send him… Want to do Garfield 2: A Tail of Two kitties next time Ben?

Forty minutes in and already there has been two beat downs, a knee-capping, an (off-screen) mutilation, and a murder. The first part of Mesrine, entitled L`instinct de Mort (The Killer Instinct), is living up to its name.

Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One (as it is titled in Australia) is a four hour crime thriller detailing the more lurid aspects of the real-life French criminal Jacques Mesrine. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s he committed numerous bank heists, kidnappings and murders, quickly making himself the number one public enemy in France. Continue reading

DVD review: Cold Souls (2009)

28 Jun

COLD SOULS is constructed around a single original premise: that it’s actually possible to remove the soul from your body and keep it in storage until a later date. With your body ‘de-souled’ you’re no longer burdened by pesky emotions, you feel lighter and you think more rationally. Of course, like any medical procedure there are certain side effects.

Paul Giamatti (playing himself) is struggling with the titular character in a production of Uncle Vanya and when he reads an article about a place dealing in ‘soul storage’ he investigates whether this is the answer to his troubles. Once his soul has been removed he’s surprised to discover it resembles a small chickpea. What should have come as no surprise however, is that being soulless isn’t exactly a great way to live. He picks a new soul out of a catalogue, one that used to belong to a Russian poet and though it greatly helps his performance, once the play wraps he decides to have his original put back in. Unfortunately, his chickpea-soul has been stolen.

Director Sophie Barthes’ debut has a lot going for it: great premise, beautifully shot and a fantastic performance by Paul Giamatti. It’s also often quite funny, particularly early on when we’re still adjusting to such a service existing (Paul looks up the clinic under ‘Soul Storage’ in the Yellow Pages). Despite all these absurdities though, it leans more towards melancholic drama, which is a shame because deep within this film is the kernel of a much better existential comedy.

Well, maybe not a kernel… more of a chickpea.


DVD Extras: Trailers, Soul Extractor concept sketches.

Tim Burton: The Exhibition (Australian Centre for the Moving Image)

23 Jun

Man et Art

Today saw the unveiling of the latest in the Melbourne Winter Masterpiece series: TIM BURTON THE EXHIBITION at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and I was lucky enough to be there. The exhibit is made up of over 700 pieces from throughout Burton’s lengthy career, sourced from various private galleries, studio archives and even Burton’s own home. It truly is an intimate look into the mind of a man with a very specific and recognisable artistic vision.

The Batmobile sits in the acmi foyer, guarding the entrance to Gallery 1 (where the exhibit is displayed). It’s appearance is shiny, sleek and polished; three words I wouldn’t use to describe any of the works of art deep within the gallery itself. After walking through the entrance, (a large ghoulish mouth,) a bright red glow lights the stairwell and gives the impression we’re descending into the depths of something sinister. At the bottom, a podium had been erected, presumably for the purposes of the unveiling. It was surrounded by items from one of Burton’s most popular films, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, including the character’s Gothic outfit, a topiary stag, and one of the actual ‘scissorhands’. It was here that the likes of ACMI Director Tony Sweeney and Museum of Modern Art’s Ron Magliozzi introduced the exhibit and highlighted some of the statistics behind both Burton’s films (ALICE IN WONDERLAND is now the fifth highest grossing film of all time!) and the exhibit’s original run at MoMA in New York (it’s the third most attended retrospective behind only Picasso and Matisse!).

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Heaven’s Gate (1980): Minute by Minute: Part 30 of 229

19 Jun

The Godfrey-Cimino phenomenon has turned 30. Which is 500 in cow years.

30 of 229

John Hurt?

According to James’ friend who works at the station, immigrants in the area steal cattle to feed their families. It all makes sense now! Christopher Walken’s character has been hired by cows to carry out revenge killings. I wonder where the cows get the capital for such an enterprise. John Hurt? Is John Hurt a cow? No, surely not. Cows, if memory serves me correctly, are rather entrepreneurial and tend to own shops and sell white goods. I’m fairly sure in the nineteenth century you could get a bank loan to murder Hungarians so long as you had a business to borrow against. This is especially likely if cows had moved into the banking sector. I haven’t done the research and nor will I, but I think it’s safe to say that cows were given large amounts of cash from banks interest free for most of the eighteen hundreds and they used the money to hire people to avenge the deaths of other cows. This movie just got interesting and all it took was some bloodthirsty cows and half a fucking hour.

Read the rest of this review by clicking the link at the top of the page. Go on. Find then.

DVD Review: In the Electric Mist (2009)

18 Jun

Tommy Lee Jones is Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux, a former-alcoholic searching for a killer wanted for the grisly murders of a couple of young women in Bertrand Tavernier’s atmospheric thriller IN THE ELETRIC MIST. He’s haunted by some things he’s seen, some things he’s done, and the rather talkative ghost of a Confederate General.

The film features a terrific supporting cast with John Goodman as the lead suspect, a local crime boss by the name of Babyfeet Balboni. Peter Sarsgaard plays a heavy-drinking Hollywood star who’s shooting a film in the area (that happens to be bankrolled by Balboni) and Kelly McDonald plays his actress girlfriend. The musician Levon Helm (former drummer of The Band) plays the ghost of John Bell Hood, the real-life Civil War General who’s aggression and recklessness has plenty in common with the man he’s haunting/helping.

Robicheaux certainly is reckless: slashing tyres, beating information out of suspects and getting answers from the other end of a shotgun, Jones plays him as a man who’s a little fed up with the state of his county post-hurricane, and I don’t just mean it’s appearance.

Smooth jazz, beautiful shots of the swamp area and plenty of violence mixed with dodgy police work. A superb thriller that gets nearly everything right.


DVD Extras: Trailers.


GJB’s most illuminating and lovely blog, Sounds Like Cinema

A review of In The Electric Mist in French

ITEM is distributed locally through Madmen

DVD review: Bronson (2009)

17 Jun

Cinecultania’s Ben Buckingham goes into lockdown with Britain’s most notoriously violent criminal Mr Charlie Bronson

“They don’t give you a star on the walk of fame for ‘not bad’ do they?”, so states Charlie Bronson rhetorically, setting forth  the agenda for his life: being bad, and being very good at it. Here we have a bio-pic of a different sort: the real life shenanigans of Britain’s most notorious and violent criminal.

Since his initial imprisonment, a 7 year term for armed robbery in which he made off with almost nothing, he has spent little more than 4 months outside of prison walls as a result of hyper-aggressive behaviour. Hostage situations, endless fights with prisoners and guards, and generally psychopathic behaviour have been the cause of this endless incarceration.

Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson doesn’t try to explain this strange creature; there are no quick answers in his upbringing and it does not glorify violence nor the criminal world. Bronson is unlike all the film criminals we have seen before, and Refn’s unusual film reflects this, preferring to ask questions of happiness and how do we live our lives than become an action piece or social commentary. Bronson is a deeply philosophical film. It is less about the individual, less about the specific events of Charles Bronson’s life, a man of masks, than it is about the niches we carve out for ourselves in order to survive. Refn has skillfully created a film which speaks beautifully of the failure of acceptable norms of existence. For this reason, the reactions to this film will always be complex and difficult.

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Campaign: Stephen Fry *Updated* *Success!*

12 Jun


Sitting is just one of the things Stephen Fry does well.

WELL! well well well well. We did it! Mr S Fry has plans to join us in fair (well not at this time of year, but shhh don’t tell him) city of Melbourne.

Here is the holy tweet of confirmation.

Stephen, if Melbourne didn’t adore you already, they sure do now!

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MIFF recommendations #2: Neighbourhood Watch

9 Jun

I wanted to write a brilliant summary of the varied films that come out of Asia, but tried for 10 minutes and then gave up.

Basically I want to say, Asian cinema = good. Asian cinema = surprising.

From the announced films in MIFF’s Asia-land section, I am DEFINITELY seeing Love in a Puff. Might take a recently quit smoker with me to torture them.

Speaking of torture, City of life and death looks amazingly well-shot, and certainly one to see in the cinema. However, it looks quite traumatic, so you might need to do some mental preparation first.

I am not sure about Love Doll – while quirky Japanese comedies are my thing, this just looks a bit gross. It’s about a love doll that comes to life and has an enchanting magical adventure in real life, including striking up some sort of r/ship with her owner. But has she effectively been getting raped by this sad fellow? Not quite sure how they are going to deal with that one.

I’m looking forward to the complete program. So much.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Open ended question, I know.

MIFF 2010 recommendation #1: Documentary

8 Jun

Hello dear friend,

The greatest time of the year for local cinephiles is approaching: The Melbourne International Film Festival. For about 18 days, across 4 sites and about 8 cinemas the MIFF manages to pack a lot films in; most of which never receive a general or arthouse cinematic release (despite deserving to).

The elves over at the MIFF workshop announced the ‘first bite’ of films last week; you download the brochure here. What do you think looks great? For me, the documentary program always stands out.

Videocracy: Seems to explore the Eurotrash side to Italy, and also the immense power TV wields over there (as evinced in the long running success of that most vile and disappointing of humans, prime minister Berlusconi).

I’ve often been fascinated by, and felt deeply sorry for, the people who live amongst garbage villages. A new documentary, Wasteland , winner of the doco audience award at Sundance, explores this phenonomen of extreme adaptation: but it does so with a very artistic and self-aware twist. Looks like it’ll make me cry. I like weeping in the cinema, but I try to finish it before the lights come up, which is not always easy.

That’s it for now, do let me know if there is anything you think is a must see. I’ll be taking submissions during this period as well; if any one feels moved (positively or negatively) to get something across to the AFR’s 3 readers send it my way!