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Film Review: The Grey (2012)

24 Jan

By Ronan


There must have been a point, probably around the time  that cinematic blight The Phantom Menace was pooped onto our screens, where the once esteemed actor Liam Neeson said, “screw it, I’m just going to do action movies and make millions”. Clash of the Titans, Narnia, Taken, The A-Team and other forgettable outings have reduced him to a handy blockbuster actor. But credit to him, he still manages to add magnetism and actorly resonance to these otherwise superficial roles.  He is, after all, Liam Neeson: Savior of the Irish (Michael Collins) the Scottish (Rob Roy), and the Jewish (Schindler’s List).

The Grey is the latest in Neeson’s roles that revolve around him as a centripetal force, on whom everyone else’s fate hangs. Ottway (Neeson) is a wanderer; heartbroken and suicidal, he finds himself working on an oil-rig in the remote Alaskan wilderness, charged with protecting his co-workers from the roaming wolves that surround the station. A hunter.


After a plane trip home goes spectacularly awry, he finds himself stranded with the survivors; a disparate collection of rugged outcasts. It soon becomes apparent that no rescue is coming, and this dysfunctional group must rely on each other to survive the blizzard, lack of food and, most alarmingly, the large pack of territorial wolves determinedly whittling down their numbers.

 From this point on Director Joe Carnahan’s The Grey becomes a viscerally intense and bloody film, and a respectable member of the snow-survival genre alongside The Thing, Cliffhanger, Alive and The Shining*. The gray wolves are represented with a primal-fear-producing malevolence; It made me hate wolves a bit.  


It’s like jaws on ice.

The Grey is in many respects standard action film fare, but it stands out from the pack for a number of reasons. While sometimes hamstrung by cliché, the performances from the largely unknown cast are excellent. The roles are well carved out, and give shape and colour to a motley group of men reduced to a struggle to fulfill basic needs. It’s also spectacularly shot; Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi captures the harshness and serene beauty of the Alaskan wilds marvelously. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of men in this movie; in fact the only the only female exists in flashback. I mention this, because I like women. Nonetheless, this was bloody entertaining. Forget Twilight for your wolf fix, go see The Grey.

*Could we add Home Alone, Empire Strikes Back and Die Hard to this list? Any others?

Three and a half stars.

In Cinemas February 16 (through Icon Distribution)

SFF 2011: End Of Animal: Surreal Korean Apocalyptia

18 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

South Korean director Jo Sung-hee‘s surreal post-apocalyptic road-movie debut will horrify and delight fans of The Road, Stephen King, Lost and extreme Korean cinema.  A taxi-driver, a young pregnant passenger and a boy find themselves in a desperate fight for survival and sanity amongst a world now devoid of humanity.

A flawless cast, Lee Min-Ji’s performance tears at the soul as she makes her way, pregnant, through this lonely, hostile environment. With tips of the hat to just about every post-apocalyptic film ever made, End Of Animal somehow maintains originality throughout.

Being a fan of desolate horror, zombie and disaster films I can safely say this one’s one of the best. I only caught it accidentally and I’m so glad. If you cannot make it to see at the SFF, I hope for everybody’s sakes, End Of Animal gets a wider (or DVD) release soon.


SFF 2011: The Trip: A Tasty Brit-Com Road Trip

14 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart, Road to Guantanamo) directs The Trip, his latest Steve Coogan (I’m Alan Partridge), semi-biographical Brit-comedy collaboration (following on from 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story).

A feature-length reworking of the six-episode TV series of the same name, Steve Coogan is hired by The Observer to road-trip across the UK’s north, critiquing fine restaurants with his fine young foodie girlfriend Misha. She bails out, and Coogan is forced to ask his best friend and sometimes object of annoyance, Bob Brydon (Human Remains, Tristram Shandy) to accompany. The pair’s lack of  food critic credentials is plainly obvious –”That’s big popcorn” and “It reminds me of snot” being two examples.

The combination of Brydon and Coogan’s snarky impersonation rivalry and Coogan’s morose, mid-life career reflections, will leave fans of Alan Partridge, Three Men In A Boat, and other top-notch British comedies, well fed by this picturesque, ‘over-priced food’ tour.

Whether comedy, drama or documentary, Winterbottom never disappoints and this is a fun return after last year’s dark American crime thriller The Killer Inside Me. Though I would have preferred to see the original series.


SFF 2011: Troll Hunter: The Other Norwegian Wood

12 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

This Norwegian found-footage romp, in the style of Cloverfield and Blair Witch Project, may not be the most important film of the SFF, but there’s a good chance it may be the one of the most fun.

André Øvredal directs this horror-comedy mockumentary about a student film crew, investigating a mysterious bear poacher, Hans (played by controversial Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen). Hans belongs to the Troll Security Service protecting the unsuspecting public from an ancient and deadly Norse predator.

Combining Norse folklore, spectacular landscapes, dodgy handy-cam and quite decent special effects, fans of the genre will be well satisfied. It’s not going to change the world, but a fun, 100-minute nerd-fest well spent.

See it before the inevitable English remake.


The Troll Hunter is plays again on the Friday 17th June at 8:30pm. Probably Sold-Out.

Film Review: Snowtown (2011)

18 May

Jennifer Walsh reviews potentially bogan-horror (‘Borror’) classic Snowtown

There's no town like Snowtown

Justin Kruzel’s remarkable feature debut takes a very visceral look into what the media dubbed, ‘the bodies in the barrels’ murders. What it reveals is as equally horrifying as it is heartbreakingly mundane.

Being promised a film based on the true story behind an infamous string of murders that took place on the outskirts of Adelaide in the 90s, audiences can be forgiven for expecting a slasher horror akin to the gratuitously violent Wolf Creek. Or at least an appearance by Ben Mendelson. Inevitably, parallels will be drawn to Animal Kingdom: Snowtown similarly employs the perspective of a listless, almost mute teenager, as the guide who takes the audience into the kitchens and living rooms where killers are welcome.

However, the combination of  Adam Arkapaw’s voyeuristic cinematography, the decision to actually shoot in Snowtown and a cast of almost entirely non-professional actors, make Snowtown unique in its ability to convey such a convincing reality. The film generates most of its tension from the uneasy placement of viewpoint and the heedful consideration – in terms of violence – of what to show and what to cut away from.


As the main character, Jamie, slowly accepts and eventually becomes complicit with serial killer John Bunting’s savagery, the camera departs from a documentary style of coverage and lingers more and more on Jamie. This means that by the time the film reaches it’s climax the audience is placed in an awfully intimate and unsettling position with dismal hope for any release.  To offer any more than that would be an injustice to the real victims of these most brutal crimes.

The film does feel long and confusing at times. There is little divulging dialogue and characters so regularly appear out of nowhere or go off the radar without note that it can occasionally be difficult to distinguish exactly what is happening.

Rather than give an account of exact events, the film plays out more like a nightmare; time and events emanate across an ashen landscape of disgraced yards and far off, desolate and seemingly endless dirt roads.


This is a carefully told, cautionary tale, that offers some insight into how such an atrocity can occur. But as to why? Well, there is only so much we can ever really know.

Snowtown will is released in Australian cinemas today, 19 May 2011. It was written by Shaun Grant.

Film review: Insidious (2011)

1 May

James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the two Melbourne lads who wrote and directed Saw and then sold the franchise to America, are back with another thriller.

Insidious opens with Josh (Patrick Wilson), Renai (Rose Byrne) and their young children- Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster and baby Kellie- who have just moved into a new house. From the first night odd things begin to happen; books are rearranged, Dalton falls off a ladder and into a coma, Renai hears noises over the baby-monitor and the house alarm is set-off for no reason. Thus, they move, and it is with this move that the film starts to unravel. Continue reading

DVD review: The Loved Ones (2009)

14 Apr

This film may have too much going on upstairs to please its demographic. This is why demographics are morons and this film should be seen by everyone with a strong stomach.

There’s little denying the lack of bank made by The Loved Ones, but that is not its fault. This is a very good, bloody disturbing piece of cinema. Gore aficionados won’t be happy until around the sixty-minute mark (when things get kicked up a frightening number of notches) which in their minds probably wastes too much of the 81-minute running time. The Art crowd will find the initial limiting of splatter and upping of psychological torture pleasing but the final twenty minutes will laminate the scowls upon their sour-pusses. Continue reading