Posts by Travis:
Acute Misfortune chronicles a period of time, where Archibald Prize Winning Artist Adam Cullen’s life was shadowed by aspiring journalist Erik Jensen who was invited in 2008 to live with Cullen and write his biography. Jensen spent four years with Cullen in a relationship that was tense and chaotic. Jensen was shot, pushed off of a moving motorcycle, and worked hard for a book contract that never existed. For both men it was a time of profound reflection. Following court appearances for weapons charges, Cullen died in 2012 at 46 years of age. Based on a true story, Acute Misfortune is a detailed and intimate look into the life of someone who is mercurial, eccentric, and at times, very irrational.
Daniel Henshall is Adam Cullen. Physically, Henshall is a great match for Cullen, and after doing a bit of research and watching some YouTube videos of Cullen himself, the significance of Henshall’s performance becomes greatly highlighted. Cullen was charismatic, alluring, and people were drawn to him. This was not because of super-good looks or because of Cullen’s fame, it was because of his enigmatic personality and his eccentric style. Henshall brings these traits to life on screen and holds your attention with them, entrancing you just as Cullen did in real life. Erik Jensen is played by Toby Wallace and is able to match Henshall’s performance. Jensen is vulnerable, committed, and easily manipulated by Cullen. Wallace’s delivers a confident performance that is gentle and reserved, portraying Jensen as if he’s almost lost and searching for his purpose in life – but he finds Cullen who may, or may not, provide some kind of life guidance.
The tone of Acute Misfortune is perfect, it’s a dark, deep and harrowing look into the lives of two men that are searching for their own truths and find each other. Director Thomas M. Wright has done a great job behind the camera with the script he co-wrote with Erik Jensen himself. Erik’s involvement in the film brought a certain truth to the mix, with Wright saying that much of the script was written with “real dialogue from Adams life” using interviews and Jensen’s notes. Cullen’s estate was also extremely generous, allowing Henshall to paint with Cullen’s actual paint and paintbrushes, and at times, even wearing Cullen’s clothes.
It’s clear that even in death Cullen is still drawing people in. Thomas M. Wright did not know much at all about Adam Cullen, and when he read a small excerpt from Jensen’s book in a weekend newspaper when it was published he “was so taken by it and thrown by it on a number of fronts”. Wright was left “fascinated by the relationship” between Cullen and Jensen and thought it was “an extraordinary relationship to talk about”.
I personally place a lot of importance on the entertainment value of a film, if I am not entertained, then no matter how good the film is in terms of plot, acting, score etc, I won’t really like it too much, or at the very least will never watch it again. Acute Misfortune taught me that it’s not always the entertainment factor that is most important, it can be the subject. Because this film did not entertain me one bit. It enthralled me. It seduced me. Cullen’s essence seemingly seeped through the screen, staying with me for the entirety of the film, and long after I had finished watching.
As discussed with Thomas M. Wright during my interview with him, this is a film that should be experienced in cinema, and he was right. Sadly, here in Adelaide there are no screenings of Acute Misfortune and when I contacted Event, Wallis and Hoyts cinemas, they were all too keen to keep it that way. Palace Nova Cinemas said “We’d love to screen this film, too”, so hopefully they get their wish. But for everyone not in Adelaide, I encourage you to get out and support this film. Acute Misfortune is an instant classic and an essential piece of modern Australian Cinema.
Director: Thomas M. Wright
Cast: Daniel Henshall, Toby Wallace, Max Cullen
Writers: Thomas M. Wright, Erik Jensen
The Realm is based around Antonio de la Torre’s character Manuel Lopez-Vidal: a high-class politician whose life begins to stream out of control when and his party and his corrupt business dealings threaten to become public. Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen co-writes this extremely well-polished story with Isabel Peña, providing a narrative so fluent and compelling that it didn’t matter if you missed out on the odd subtitle here and there.
De la Torre’s performance here is fantastic, it doesn’t take a deep understanding of the Spanish language to see that he really has put everything he has into his performance through great non-verbal cues. From the beginning his arrogant, high class ways are evident; for lack of a better word he is a prick. But as the story evolves, his arrogance fades away, showing a man going from desperate to vulnerable to scared. Manuel has everything to lose, he has a great life, a great family, a great career, money, a beautiful home and the situation he finds himself stuck in threatens to take it all away – he has every reason to be scared. His body language and emotional range really are distinguishable here.
One particular scene, set on a balcony, between characters Manuel Lopez-Vidal and Cabrera (Luiz Zahera) is one for the ages. This scene is so intense, especially from Zahera, whose tone fluctuates throughout as he recites his lines. His body language is also fantastic, he feels betrayed and exposed and he shows this through actions, not just words. De La Torre is brilliant, but Luiz Zahera is even more so. His performance impacts the scene in such a way that you actually start to feel for their characters, even though realistically they are arrogant high-roller criminals. Feeling bad for these characters conflicted with my own morals. why should I be sympathetic towards these criminals, these politicians that have taken advantage of their position at every turn. It’s much like the real life political landscape of Australia right now, which makes it all the more conflicting for me to feel sympathy for them.
Co-writers Sorogoyen and Isabel Peña have done a great job with the screenplay. The build-up in tension from beginning to grand finale is great, with the story flowing effortlessly through narrative beats. The cinematography by Alejandro de Pablo was also great, creating visuals that are stylish and sleek, and when matched with the original music by Olivier Arson only helped complement Sorogoyen’s skilled direction.
The only part of the film that I took issue with was the lead character of Manuel Lopez-Vidal as the main character. While Antonio de la Torre gives a genuinely great performance, one that kept me interested in the character, I just don’t respect criminals with little redeeming qualities as the protagonist. Even when his life was spiralling out of control, I just couldn’t bring myself to really care for Lopez-Vidal as much as I would have liked.
Overall The Realm is a fantastic political thriller filled with outstanding performances based around a sleek, well-polished story. Whether you speak Español or not, I certainly recommend The Realm.
Director: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Cast: Antonio de la Torre, Luiz Zahera, Mónica López
Writers: Isabel Peña, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Acute Misfortune is the feature debut from actor Thomas M Wright. This is a film that follows the life of Archibald Prize winning artist Adam Cullen and his time with journalist Erik Jensen. Travis Akbar met up with Thomas to have a chat about the film and what went into making the film what it is.
Ignorance is bliss has never been so true as it is in Israel Cannan’s documentary Fish out of Water. The documentary centres around two men, Tom Hudson and Pete Fletcher, who make the decision to cross the North Atlantic Ocean in a wooden rowboat, with zero sea faring abilities. Tom and Pete are not athletes, they’re not rowers, and they have no experience. The decision to undertake such a feat with such little experience would mystify many, but they men just wanted to rekindle a bit of fire in their burnt-out lives – no matter what the cost to anyone else. But again, ignorance is bliss.
Fish out of Water details the journey very well. It begins in Australia where the duo talks about their plan, the row boat, and their lives. What the pair lack in experience they surely make up for in enthusiasm but it’s not nearly enough. When they arrive in New York, where the men intend on launching their vessel from, they run into all kinds of issues – some of which could have been avoided with better planning. The pair left a raft of things unorganised until they arrived in New York, and with hastily devised shopping lists to supplier issues, the pair do the best they can to deal with all issues that arise, while still hoping to launch the boat on time. The issues are enough to make you hope they didn’t take any bananas with them (it’s a sailing superstition that bananas are bad luck out at sea).
Pete and Tom’s excitement is quite clear, however it doesn’t take long for their ignorance to make itself known. After four days at sea there are relentless problems, many that were also unforeseeable, and the pair must use their own ingenuity to get through each new issue. This is where the documentary gets its most interesting – we get to see how motivated, how staunch, and how resilient Tom and Pete truly are.
Fish out of Water is quite harrowing at times, at one point the pair must ditch 70 spoiled meals – which becomes a major concern later on, but rough seas are also an issue at times, making some of the vision quite confronting. Though, I couldn’t for the life of me believe that they only took a very minimal amount of fishing gear, and what they do have, they don’t seem to use at all, even as they reach the brink of starvation. My criticism however is not directed towards this film, more so toward the decisions made by Pete and Tom. As someone who loves the outdoors and has done a lot of boating and fishing (I’ve never tried to cross the Northern Atlantic Ocean though), I couldn’t help but think that their trip could have been much easier with a bit more forethought.
The documentary itself was quite interesting and very engaging. It also wasn’t very long, just over an hour in fact, which I really loved, I didn’t get bored once. We get to see enough of Pete and Tom’s lives to care about their wellbeing, their journey and if they survive it, and we also get to see enough of their time on the water to see how hard they had it but also how buoyant they are.
Overall, Fish out of Water provides a great insight into the feat’s humans can achieve when they truly want to. Pete and Tom, despite being somewhat crazy considering their minimal experience, are the pinnacle of determination and resilience, which in itself is an inspiration.
Director: Israel Cannan
Neil Patrick Harris would be proud. The legen… wait-for-it… dary Barney Stinson persona that Harris wore so well in How I Met Your Mother has been taken up by none other than – Larrakia actress Miranda Tapsell. How you ask?
One of Stinson’s most popular gimmicks was to accept any and all challenges. Even when best mates Ted, Marshall, Robin, and Lily, had no idea that a challenge had even been asked of him. That is exactly the type of challenge that Miranda has so clearly taken up – one that almost no one else (aside from every other Aboriginal person) realises needs to be completed, and at some stage Miranda must have stood up in a defiant Stinson fashion and shouted, “Challenge Accepted”.
Miranda burst onto the scene as Cynthia in Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires – the successful stage play turned successful film that swept the AACTA Awards that year with eleven wins. Her performance in the film led to her continued to growth as an actress with bit parts in TV series, culminating in a recurring role as Martha Tennant on the Nine Network series Love Child. In 2015, Miranda won a Logie Award for Best New Talent and The Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer for her role on the popular series. Tapsell was also a series regular in Secret City (2016), Newtons Law (2017), and Doctor Doctor (2018). While the proud Larrakia woman has been consistently busy, it is her 2019 works that will define her career.
Let’s set the scene: Comedians Kate McLennon and Kate McCartney have been a staple on ABC Comedy for years, and in 2019 they wrapped up their hugely successful satire of morning breakfast television, Get Crack!n. In the final episode, regular hosts McLennon and McCartney are sidelined by medical emergencies, forcing guests Miranda Tapsell and equally Stinson-esque, challenge accepting Gamillaroi and Torres Straight Islander actress and playwright Nakkiah Lui to test their morning show hosting abilities. In an attempt to keep the “show” running smoothly and to not screw up this rare opportunity of having two Indigenous women hosting a breakfast show, the pair attempt to humorously brush over issues that Indigenous Australians face on a daily basis. These issues however, are not humorous at all and trying to talk to non-Indigenous people about them often ends in an argument. They do not want to hear about Indigenous incarceration rates (especially the overrepresentation of Indigenous women in prison), the stolen generation, invasion, intergenerational trauma, or racism.
Towards the end of the episode, and after trying to so hard to keep quiet and just follow the norm (all the while, the make-up team keep applying more and more white onto her face), Miranda explodes with the following speech while she and Nakkiah are hosting a panel of all white “experts”.
Fuck the fuck up. What do you dickmonkeys know about racism?” she asks. “Ill tell you about racism, because I’ve been living with racism since the moment I shot out of my mum. 30 years of trying to be who they want me to be Nakkiah, but its never good enough is it? Because there’s something about us that they’ll never accept. What is it? If only I could put my little black finger on it. I’m just racking my big black brain. 30 years of smiling and making big eyes and not showing my anger. I’m done, not being angry. I am angry. And if you don’t like me being angry, then by all means Australia take this furious baton and run this race for me. Because we are dying in infancy, we are dying in custody and we are dying decades earlier than you, and you, should be as angry about that as I am. Stop being angry about families fleeing warzones, and schools for teaching kids properly about sex and their bodies, and anything else these bullshit shows tell you to be angry about so they can fill a talk break. Be angry at what is happening to us, to me, so I’m not the only one shouting. But you know what? Until you do that, fuck all of this shit.
While those words may be delivered in an almost humorous way, I can assure you, they have meaning. They’re not funny in the slightest to Aboriginal people, they’re delivered this way to give people who are generally uncomfortable hearing these sorts of things a way to listen without feeling guilty or upset. At the very least they’re enough to get the likes of Andrew Bolt riled up. Bolt had the gall to blame this sort of satire for stoking ‘race wars’ throughout Australia, conveniently forgetting that he is one of the biggest perpetrators of hate speech in this country. He has already been found guilty of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act, and to add to Bolt’s hypocrisy, he frequently claims he should be allowed to say what he pleases because of ‘free speech’, while consistently condemning the speech of others who don’t share his views.
Many Caucasian people still believe racism doesn’t even exist at all – if they don’t experience it, then it simply does not exist, or they falsely believe that reverse racism is a thing. One time while I was at work, I was in conversation with an elderly man, telling him that I was looking for work back around where I grew up and I had an opportunity on the horizon in Ceduna. His response was “there’s too many dirty Abo’s there”. Another time I was walking my dog, she looks very similar to a Dingo, and another elderly man mistook her for one completely. He pulled me up from my walk and asked to pat her, all the while recounting a story from his younger years. It was extremely disturbing. He told me how he grew up in Alice Springs and he and his friends used to take Dingo pups and train them to attack Aboriginal people. The way they did this was to “put them into a sack with old Abo clothes that they stole and kick it, starve it and beat it until it got used to the smell of the old Abo’s”. I was sickened by the story and walked away in shock. The man told me that story as if it was nothing. His racist nature was so ingrained in him that it was just a normal chat.
Through Get Crack!n, Miranda and Nakkiah bring these issues to the surface in such a way that may possibly open a door for people to listen. It really is quite brilliant. It also challenges a few of the mainstream morning shows that seem to want to get involved in Indigenous issues without actually including any Indigenous people, or anyone with any expertise in any of these matters.
Miranda Tapsell is a double-edged sword.
While she is brave enough to get up in front of the cameras and call it how she sees it, while also stating exactly it how it should be from behind the camera.
In Miranda’s latest film, Top End Wedding, which Tapsell co-wrote, she plays Lauren, a lawyer, and a bloody good one at that, making associate in the first ten minutes of the film. An associate lawyer is a great character for Tapsell to portray, creating an fantastic character for Aboriginal people to see on screen, an educated, successful and financially secure, proud woman. Top End Wedding is such a positive film in relation to Indigenous people and culture, its importance in Australian history is undeniable.
Aboriginal culture is a large part of the film and the positive way in which culture is portrayed is fantastic. In most films and TV shows Aboriginal people are written to be criminals, or substance abusers, or living in low socio-economic areas, or feature in films based in newly-colonised Australia where they are victims of cruel circumstances. In Top End Wedding, being Aboriginal seems to be the norm and isn’t questioned by anyone – it’s great to see, feeling refreshing, exciting, and empowering. I’ve worked in retail for the last 13 years and I’ve had my identity questioned by customers regularly over the years. Why are my eyes dark? Why am I tanned? Where am I from? Do I celebrate Christmas? What ‘percent’ am I? Firstly, this is none of their business, but it highlights how everyday white Australians believe it is their ‘right’ to know my ‘right’ to be in their country.
The aspect I loved absolutely about Top End Wedding is that there is no racism in the film. Aboriginal people should be allowed to see themselves on screen without being racially abused. I don’t recall ever seeing a film with Aboriginal actors or Indigenous themes in which race wasn’t made a conscious factor in a negative way. Aboriginal culture was made a huge part of this film, and it’s all presented in a positive way. I had the privilege to speak to the stars of the film, Miranda Tapsell and Gwilym Lee, prior to the films release. On the process of making more Aboriginal films, Miranda said:
On this film I felt like there was a lot riding on my shoulders, to make sure that it was honest and authentic, and we got it right. But I think the reason that I push for more facets of the Indigenous experience to be shown is because I then can tell the stories I want to tell, and people know it’s not reflective of the whole Aboriginal experience. And this is what I hope for, that a lot of Aboriginal people watch this film, that a lot of non-Aboriginal people watch this film and they find something that resonates with them. I also want people to see this film and go OK well that’s, I mean this is a very specific story and that’s great too. Then the Warwick Thornton’s of the world can make Sweet Country and that be a valid story and there’s more of them and we can show more than one part of ourselves.
As an aspiring screenwriter myself, I loved hearing this. I believe that films can be used to tell all kinds of stories to help integrate Aboriginal culture into modern society. To merge both reality and fiction into one entity to help further peoples understanding of Aboriginal people and issues that we face daily, and I feel what Miranda said reinforces that.
I also asked Gwilym about what he learnt about Aboriginal people and culture during filming, he summed up his experiences with the following, which I really enjoyed hearing:
Coming here and speaking to Aboriginal people everywhere we went, kind of just gave me a different perspective that I try to take with me wherever I am really. Even in the kind of cold, dark, city of London.
The rest of what he said was also quite genuine and I felt he really resonated with Aboriginal culture and was able to take away some positive lessons.
Miranda has been pushing for change for quite some time now, using her speech after winning her Logie in 2015 to call for more diversity on Australian screens. Later that year on The Verdict, she revisited the topic, and when asked is she identified as Australian by Karl Stefanovic she answered ‘no’, saying:
When I go to Australia Day, I don’t feel Australian on that day because essentially people are telling me a cant be a part of that.
After her comments on the show social media was lit up with people claiming to be “offended” by her words. Racial and derogatory terms were thrown around for weeks and it only proved what she had been saying all along. Oh, the irony. Adding another experience of my own, in 2016 I was on my way to volunteer at an Invasion Day event when I pulled up at some stop lights. A car full of teenagers pulled up next to me and when the light finally turned green, they yelled “boong” quite aggressively at me and then sped off. When this is a daily event, it’s hard not to see why Indigenous people don’t feel Australian, or want to identify as ‘Australian’.
‘Aboriginal Leader’ is a term that is thrown around by mainstream media at times, it usually isn’t the correct term to use in the context they mean, and I suspect they know that, but that is what Miranda is. She is a leader and a role model to all Aboriginal people. She is pushing for change for all Aboriginal people, and for Australia as a whole. I suspect this will prove to be one of the greatest challenges she will ever face, but I am surely glad that someone of her calibre has accepted it.
Easily one of the biggest Australian films of the year is here – Top End Wedding. We’re pretty excited for it here at The Curb, with Travis Akbar giving it a glowing review here. Travis was lucky enough to catch up with stars Miranda Tapsell and Gwilym Lee to chat about their film while they were in Adelaide. Give it a listen above.
And make sure to RSVP for Top End Wedding – it’s one of the best films of the year.
Yes, bloody yes, Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) exclaims after overly excited fiancé-to-be Ned (Gwilym Lee) bends down mid-sentence to ask her one simple question. Will you? Well I, too, say yes, bloody yes, save the date. May 2, 2019.
Top End Wedding opens hilariously with Lauren about to become the newest associate at her law firm – provided she overcomes a few hurdles to lock in a major deal and land some new clients. Ned’s day, however, isn’t so bright as he himself in the unemployment line after realises that being a prosecutor isn’t where his heart lies. It’s this realisation that leads to his sweet proposal, but his failure to disclose his dire predicament sets the film up for a amusing and often side-splitting road trip. The pair travel to Darwin to get the wedding planning started only to find that Lauren’s mum Daffy (Ursula Yovich) has walked out on her husband, Trevor (An in-form Huw Higginson). Together the soon-to-be-wed couple hit the road in Trev’s Mitsubishi Pajero in search of Daffy to be sure that she will be home in time for the big day.
Tapsell’s performance in Top End Wedding is one to be revered. Co-writers Tapsell and Joshua Tyler have created a character in Lauren that is consistently funny, authentic is great to spend time with and Tapsell has portrayed her perfectly. Miranda’s wide smile is also a great feature in the film, adding extra depth and warmth to key scenes.
Gwilym is also great as the goofy, lovable nice-guy Ned. He’s comical and at times he is super awkward but his love for Lauren is true, with it being clear that he really just wants her to be happy. On paper, Ned and Lauren make a great couple, but it’s Miranda and Gwilym’s chemistry that rings true, making their on-screen relationship really shine.
Huw Higginson’s performance as Trevor is just delightful. Broken hearted after Daffy walks out on him for reasons he can’t comprehend, Trevor expresses his sadness in the most hilarious way, one that brings a bit of extra charm to the film.
Speaking of Daffy, Ursula Yovich is also a winner. Her performance itself is as touching as it is heartbreaking and will reduce you to tears. Ursula is a wonderful actress; I particularly enjoyed her performance in a great little series from 2014 called The Gods of Wheat Street, so it was great to see her here. Kerry Fox also stars as Hampton, Lauren’s hard as nails boss who doesn’t take no for an answer or accept anything less than the best. Hampton is also on her own journey to learn how to open up and not be so darned stubborn. Dalara Williams, Elaine Crombi, and Shari Sebbens co-star as Laurens besties, they don’t all see each other all the time, but they come to the rescue when needed most.
Wayne Blair does a great job at the helm and after some time in the US he returned to Australia to make Top End Wedding and picks up where he left off with smash hit The Sapphires. Blair is clearly a capable director and is able to get the best out of key crew members. The cinematography by Eric Murray Lui is fantastic, it showcases the beautiful landscapes of the Northern Territory as well as any advertisement can. The music by David McCormack and Antony Partos is also a great feature and keep it incredibly upbeat.
Top End Wedding is exactly what the Australian film industry needs, from the laugh-out-loud jokes to the touching family moments it’s great fun. It’s a hilarious road trip rom-com that not only gets you in stitches but its sincerity also has the ability to touch your soul and really move you. So, save the date. May 2, 2019.
Director: Wayne Blair
Cast: Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee, Kerry Fox
Writers: Miranda Tapsell, Joshua Tyler
As much as I shouldn’t be, I’m comparing Neil Marshall’s Hellboy to the Guillermo Del Toro efforts of the mid 2000’s. I just can’t help myself. What Del Toro did with those films was create a wonderful universe with interesting and rousing characters. Ron Perlman was great in the role; he delivered his lines perfectly and gave the character a big heart. John Hurt was perfect as Professor Broom – he loved his adopted son Hellboy from the get-go and his performance showed that. The list goes on – Rupert Evans, Doug Jones, Selma Blair – they all performed admirably. Del Toro delivered a film that you could just watch and enjoy, and he did just as well with the sequel. Also, not since I stopped reading the Phantom comic strips in the Sunday newspaper every week in the year 2000 have I read a comic book, so can’t compare it to the source material.
In saying the above, I believe there are no words that can truly explain Neil Marshall’s (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) adaptation of Hellboy as written by Andrew Cosby. This “reboot” was completely and utterly pointless – being as B-grade as it gets (and not in a good way). In an alternate reality, a great Hellboy remake would have been released, and this film would be the Asylum rip off – The Adventures of Demon-Man and Leopard-Lad. We all enjoy those Asylum films at times, the unbelievable acting, the dodgy CG, the ridiculous gore and the excruciatingly bad editing. Except here it’s just a big ol’ Hollywood production.
Sure, I did enjoy one aspect of the film – the ridiculously gory action. I honestly haven’t seen anything like that in the cinema, and that element alone was kind of fun. But I won’t be doing it again. I’m perfectly happy to watch the (Neil Marshall) Hellboy’s and Drive Angry’s of the world at home in my living room for a couple of bucks on my PS4. Not the $15+ I paid at the cinema. While these films can be entertaining, they often have zero substance. That’s the other issue with this film – they’ve ‘rebooted’ a series (Del Toro’s Hellboy) that was quite rich in heart, substance and style and haven’t added any of that here. What is the point of rebooting a series it if you have nothing new to offer?
David Harbour was possibly the perfect choice for Hellboy (after all, who can truly take over from Ron Perlman?), but is seriously let down by the script. Cosby’s screenplay is all over the place, full of terrible jokes and bad speeches, both of which are let down even further by atrocious editing. Ian McShane as Broom is completely wasted – his gravelly voice was too much either way, not a shred of compassion or love towards Hellboy until his very end – unlike John Hurt’s Professor Broom, who was able to show care and affection for Hellboy easily, which helped to not only create a bond between Broom and Hellboy, but the audience and both of those characters. Marshall not only missed the hoop, he completely missed the backboard here.
Daniel Dae Kim is another wasted talent here. I’ve always enjoyed his performances, even in cinematic duds like 2005’s The Cave but here he just seems disinterested in what’s going on. His Leopard alter ego was also terribly underused. I liked Sasha Lane as Alice, but again, as with the rest of the cast, she was horribly let down by the script. The films antagonist Nimue aka The Blood Queen, as played by Milla Jovovich, and her sidekick Gruagach (Stephen Graham) are also two of the worst bad guys I’ve ever seen. Jovovich’s Nimue is a complete bore and Graham’s CG half-pig/half-man character (while entertaining at times) looked terrible. Give me Karl Roden’s Rasputin from del Toro’s first Hellboy anytime.
On top of all of this, Hellboy also features the grossest kiss ever put to film. Ever.
On one hand, if you are a big fan of R rated b-grade gory action films, you may possibly get a kick out of Hellboy – but I offer no guarantees. On the other hand, if you are not the specific target market I just mentioned, steer clear.
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Daniel Dae Kim
Writer: Andrew Cosby, (Based on the comic book series “Hellboy” created by Mike Mignola)
Jordan Peele, the genius behind Get Out comes back to scare the bejesus out of us with, well, Us. All he had to do to scare me though was just make a movie about people eating toffee apple. That is gross.
Us features Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex, and Shahadi Wright Joseph as the Wilson family. They’re on holiday at Adelaide’s (Nyong’o) childhood home near Santa Cruz beach, and while things are great at first, they are soon terrorized by their doppelgangers: alternate versions of themselves that have appeared – seemingly – from nowhere.
The first thing (or should I say person) to circle out is Winston Duke is as Gabe. For me Winston makes this movie, giving a hilarious and great performance. While Us would still be an ok film without him, it is so much better because of him. Lupita is also great; I don’t think she could put in a bad performance is she tried. Her movements and her expressions are great at helping build powerful characters. Evan and Shahadi are Jason and Zora are also really good, it great to know that the acting industry is not short of great young actors. They are all also equally great as their doppelganger counterparts – Abraham, Red, Pluto and Umbrae.
Also, in the mix is Elizabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler and Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler as the Wilson’s family friends. Moss is great as Kitty; her facial expressions are fantastic, and she has an fabulously bitchy tone that is intentionally very annoying. However, it’s Tim that steals the scenes between the two as his chauvinistic wanker is someone who thinks everyone likes him, when it’s clear many wouldn’t. While the actors provide purposely irritating performances, and absolutely nail them, their characters have the worst chemistry which is also clearly intentional.
Us starts off great. It’s creepy, almost frightening and when the doppelgangers show up, as they cause all kinds of terror. Peele does a great job at keeping it dark, allowing us to feel the terror that the Wilson’s feel. The dual performances from the actors as their doppelganger counterparts is great, with their movements and expressions changing completely, making it exciting to watch them act against each other. Their movements lift the creepiness of the film entirely.
Throughout Us, the scope begins to change – the plot thickens, the narrative changes as do the characters, and everything starts to spin out of control. Everything you were thinking in the first half is thrown out of the window in the second half. While it never loses its franticness, it certainly loses its creepiness – except for when Lupita Nyong’o as Red is on screen. When the second and third acts happen, Us becomes less tense and less enjoyable – but, it’s worthwhile noting, not to the point where it is unenjoyable. The change in the tone of the film isn’t necessarily a bad one, it’s just a completely unexpected one. It felt like the first half of Us was just put in front of the second half of a different film, making it feel disconnected.
As with Get Out, one of the massive positives to take away from Us is the talent of Jordan Peele. The guy is coming up with original stories and has the facilities to execute his visions. With Us and Get Out being so successful, it means we have many more warped originals to look forward to.
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elizabeth Moss
Writer: Jordan Peele
Netflix’s newest feature, The Highwaymen, tells the story of retired Texas Ranger’s Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) as they take on a special assignment to track down and finally catch infamous crooks Bonnie (Emily Brobst) and Clyde (Edward Bossert).
Director John Lee Hancock made The Highwaymen to be as historically accurate as possible, a fact that left me stunned. The portrait Hancock paints of 1930’s America is an extremely dim one, with rundown buildings, tents, and broken-down cars all being used as housing. This is quite confronting at first as these scenes are quite stark in comparison to Australia, however if you look closely, modern day Australia has its own homelessness issues. On my last trip to Melbourne, there were homeless people on almost every corner.
As in real life, Bonnie and Clyde are literal celebrities – to the point where they are mobbed by crowds of people wanting to meet them. Let me clarify – these criminals are glorified celebrities. Sadly this is no different to Australia, Ned Kelly is a national icon, Chopper Reid had a movie and a TV series made about him, as did the Moran brothers (Underbelly) and taxpayers foot the bill for Senator Anning to fly across state lines to meet convicted violent criminals.
But this isn’t a celebration of Bonnie and Clyde, with no real homage being given to their notoriety, as they are very rarely in the film and we hardly see their faces. Fortunately, the focus is mainly on Frank Hamer and Maney Gault and their efforts to find the well-known criminals.
Costner as Hamer simply does not put a foot wrong here, reminding us why he’s won 2 Oscars and been nominated for numerous awards. His performance of the old timer lawman is flawless on all accounts, with his line delivery being particularly excellent. After being asked “Why should I trust you?” Hamer replies “Coz I said so”. It’s to the point, direct and he says it in such a commanding tone that you would do just that. Trust him.
Harrelson is also fantastic. Heading into retirement, Gault hadn’t made the same sound financial decisions as Hamer and is a victim of the Great Depression. Harrelson is able is reflect this by playing Gault as a weathered alcoholic. Harrelson also changes his physical actions to suit the role with Hamer stating he moves like a 75 year old. Clearly suffering the effects of the great depression is a bad thing but this aspect of Hamer’s life allows him to relate with others they meet on the road, aiding the ex-Texas Rangers on their final assignment.
William Sadler is also worthy of a mention as Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father. Barrow and Hamer’s conversation in Barrow’s workshop is fantastic viewing and both actors nail the scene. There is also a scene at a poker table with Harrelson’s Gault recounting how he first met Hamer. The backstory is both thrilling and horrifying.
The film isn’t fast paced, but it doesn’t need to be. The two lead characters on their journey is intriguing. Two ageing professionals on one last job, how will they fare? What will they find? I was genuinely interested in the answers.
Overall, The Highwaymen is great. John Lee Hancock does a valiant job in the directors’ chair, he even recreates the final confrontation between Hamer, Gault, Bonnie and Clyde in the same location where it happened in real life, with the scenes following that moment being very traumatic. Not because of how bloody and gory they are, but because they show how truly celebrated the killers were.
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates
Writer: John Fusco