Bio: Travis grew up on the west coast of South Australia and has been interested in film since seeing Jurassic Park and Predator for the first time in the mid-nineties. Particularly fond of the action and thriller genres, he met his long-time idol, Jean Claude Van Damme, in 2016, talking with 'the muscles from Brussels' about his upcoming films and the hurdles he has faced in the entertainment industry. Some of his favourite films include Jurassic Park, The Salton Sea, Apt Pupil and Any Given Sunday. Travis loves the way a film can make people feel such a diverse range of emotions, from excitement and happiness to fear and sadness. He believes that creativity is what helps the world evolve and that the arts, is the centre of creativity.
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Glass, the latest release from M. Night Shyamalan follows on from Unbreakable and Split, with evil mastermind Elijah Price (Samual L. Jackson) pitting David Dunn (Bruce Willis) against Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) while they are being studied at a psychiatric facility. Elijah, or Mr. Glass as he likes to be known, has a theory that superheroes exist, that the comic books of the world are an exaggeration from things that have happened in real life. He has spent his life trying to prove this theory through the act of murdering thousands (maybe even, hundreds of thousands) of people and seeing if there are any survivors.
In Unbreakable, he finds his prized survivor, his hero – David Dunn, or as his fans have settled with in Glass – The Overseer. David doesn’t believe in superheroes, even after he is able to achieve feats that are seemingly unachievable by the average Joe. He just knows he is different, and that he can help people. His son however, who is the average Joe or Joseph to be particular, loves the idea that his father is immortal. Being 19 years apart, Joseph is able to be played by Spencer Treat Clark, in both Unbreakable and Glass – as a child and as an adult, which is pretty cool. The finale of Unbreakable is extremely unexciting. Dunn enters Elijah’s comic book store to find out that Elijah is responsible for a multitude of incidents causing mass deaths. He walks away for a written conclusion to pop up on the screen. It is bitterly disappointing. Having said that, the tension on Unbreakable is great, M. Night Shyamalan is a master offering up intelligent films with unforeseen, even unthinkable twists.
Split sets the stage for Kevin (James McAvoy), with David Dunn only appearing for a moment, and Elijah not at all. It’s Kevin’s multiple personalities, whom all act in preparation for the arrival of The Beast, Kevin’s darkest, and most ravenous personality – one who also possesses super strength. The Beast arrives to greet – or maim – the girls that the other personalities had previously kidnapped. Among them is Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), whom the beast manages to identify with, realising that she suffers from the same pain that Kevin does and ultimately, after a lot of running and wall crawling, lets her go. Split was a great film, full of tension, and a great performance from James McAvoy. He was able to breeze through characters at will and it was amazing to watch. The character of Kevin was conceived while Shyamalan was writing the script of Unbreakable but opted to not include him, as he could not make it work inside the limits of one movie. So Unbreakable was made, 16 years later came Split and it all set the scene, 19 years on, for Glass.
Unfortunately, before Glass started, I was forced to sit through a stupid as hell Vodafone commercial trying to convince me that Steve Smith was gutsy, talking about making up for his misdeeds. If he was gutsy, he would’ve stood up to Warner’s plan to begin with and now Australian Cricket s doomed. Good one Steve, like that will ever make me sign up to Vodafone. After the ad there were a few trailers and then the lights dimmed. I was excited.
The film opens with a save from The Overseer. Dunn now has his own security business with his son, Joseph, and together they investigate crimes and hunt criminals, all the while selling top notch security products to the everyday consumer. Not long after the opening scenes, David Dunn and Kevin Crumb find themselves locked up at a psychiatric facility. They’re now patients of Dr. Ellie Staple, played by Sarah Paulson, and she has three days to try and convince the both of them that they are not superheroes, despite their delusions. The interviews that she conducts are tedious at best. We, as the viewer, already know the truth and it’s frustrating listening to Dr. Staple trying to convince Dunn and Crumb otherwise.
The fact that she specialises in a disorder where people think they are superheroes sounds odd, and again, it is frustrating to listen to. Why try to plainly convince people they’re something they’re not, attempting to explain away their feats and abilities? Why not just hand Dunn a metal bar to bend and prove that he has superhuman strength?
Elijah is also part of the study. But his genius is so great that he is doped out of his head all of the time so unfortunately, Samuel L Jackson is an afterthought for the first half of the film. But nevertheless, Elijah eventually begins to make his presence known and he is a very welcome addition. His onset really starts to get the ball rolling and his grand plans become known shortly after.
Once again, James McAvoy breezes through his characters personalities at will and it is a great performance, the skill it must take to memorize the order in which he needs to use characters must be awesome. Willis, Jackson and Paulson are all adequate in their roles but neither are in the same league as McAvoy is in this film.
Glass showcases Shyamlan’s skills as a director well, and I found it a joy to watch. His use of slow motion was very effective and it complimented the film. Again, Shyamalan uses twist after twist to keep the film stimulating and as usual, they’re as intelligent and surprising as the next, but, by no means are all of them enjoyable. In fact I think in the future, M. Night Shyamalan’s trilogy will be known as the ‘Chubby Checker’ of films there’s that many twists. In conclusion, Glass is a competent thriller and while the film itself is not great, it is a good close to the trilogy. Or the beginning of another – I guess we’ll see.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, James McAvoy
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
So, 2018 is all done and dusted. While I’ve spent a lot of time catching up on old films, I did manage to watch a few new films throughout the year. I feel pretty strongly about a few films from 2018, with a couple really surprising me. With that in mind, here are my top five films for 2018.
Coming in at number five is Brothers’ Nest. A subtle, quiet thriller that really is quite amazing. Written by Jaime Browne (with additional material from Chris Pahlow), the film centres on two brothers – Terry (Shane Jacobson) and Jeff (Clayton Jacobson – also director) who plan on murdering their father-in-law Rodger (Kim Gyngell) because they believe that he will sell off their childhood home after their ill mother (Lynette Curran) passes.
This is a slow burn film. As Terry and Jeff chat about life as they wait for Rodger to arrive home, the nerves begin to kick in and stress begins to take over. It is superbly written. The dialogue between the brother’s festers until they can’t keep it together and thing after thing begins to go wrong.
Its great little thriller that is a pleasure to watch.
Number four is Apostle. Apostle is a brutal horror film of the likes I have never seen before. It’s violent and gory, with twists and turns that don’t let up for a moment. The story revolves around Dan Stevens’ character Thomas, who is headed to a middle-of-nowhere island where his sister is being held captive by a religious group – or are they a cult? He is unsure of whether the ransom he intends to pay to release her will see them both freed or both dead so he joins the cult to get a gist of what is actually going on. Michael Sheen leads the cult as Prophet Malcolm and is great in the role. He and Dan Stevens really light it up in this film, as does everyone else. The entire production is a masterpiece of the horror genre.
Writer/Director Gareth Evans (The Raid and The Raid 2) goes over and above with this film. It is a feast for the eyes, visually enthralling from beginning to end – I started watching it at 2am and didn’t close my eyes once.
Coming in at number three is another Australian Film – Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade. Whannel hasn’t really been the big Hollywood name that he should’ve been. He and James Wan kick-started a new horror genre with their first release – Saw but it was James Wan that has really prospered. With Upgrade, Leigh Whannell, working as writer and director, gives himself every chance to enhance his career.
Upgrade follows Grey Trace, played here by Logan Marshall-Green as he recovers from the murder of his wife and his own injures. A previous client of Grey’s, Eron Keen, offers to give Grey his legs back using an AI implant called STEM. Grey agrees and is given his legs back – and so much more. STEM is capable of overtaking Greys entire body and together they track down the criminals responsible for Grey’s wife’s murder.
Whannell’s writing is masterful, his direction exceptional. Upgrade is a fantastic action film with a simple story and it is delivered with near perfection. If you are a fan of action and you haven’t already seen it – keep your eyes peeled for it.
Second place goes to none other than Mission: Impossible – Fallout. If this film is not in an action film fans top five or ten at the end of the year then something is terribly wrong. I don’t need to go into this film too much here – check out my review for further reading.
For the average film goer you may not be familiar with who directed it (and also wrote it) so I am going to talk about Christopher McQuarrie for a moment. McQuarrie won an Oscar for the screenplay of one of the all-time greatest crime films – The Usual Suspect. He also wrote The Way of the Gun – which is absolutely awesome. It’s a balls to the wall action film that keeps going to the credits. After some hits and misses – Valkyrie, The Tourist, Jack the Giant Slayer, Edge of Tomorrow and The Mummy – it’s clear than when McQuarrie directs Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Mission: Impossible – Fallout), magic happens. None of those films disappoint.
Well we have reached number one and I have to say in the 12 months that I have been reviewing films, if there is one thing I have learnt – it’s that Australian films are not all as average as I used to think they were. Sweet Countrygrabs first place and that puts three of them in my top five. If you read this site, you’ll know that Andrew is extremely passionate about this movie. This is for good reason – the film is an absolute masterpiece. Warwick Thornton has taken a polished script from Steven McGregor and David Tranter and does it an absolute justice.
Sweet Country revolves around Sam (Hamilton Morris), an Aboriginal stockman who kills a whitefulla to protect his family. He and his wife must now go on the run from Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown), who wants to bring Sam to ‘Justice’. Sam Neill tags along as Fred Smith to ensure that Sam doesn’t find an early grave.
It’s an unforgiving and honest film and is well deserving of my number one vote.
That rounds out my top 5 favourite films for the year but a film called The Endless gets and honourable mention. It’s a tripped out film that will keep you guessing till the end. Check it out.
I’m also going to add my three biggest disappointments for the year just for kicks.
The bronze goes to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I had no idea about this film aside from having watched the trailer which does not tell you it’s some kind of anthology. So I was getting hyped for this film that had a great ensemble cast and looked utterly hilarious. Not to mention – Tim Blake Nelson!
What I got was a 20 minute short that was utterly hilarious with Tim Blake Nelson, followed by a further five shorts that made me want to pull my eyes out. The acting was great, the visuals were great, but overall – I would’ve preferred to watch paint dry, at least then I could’ve used my imagination.
The silver medal goes to Mile 22. Marky Mark has pumped out some great fun action movies (and some pretty bad ones) and the trailer for this one looked like being nothing other than a high octane action film with a side of nitrous oxide. Director Peter Berg has been pumping out great action films, I have kept an eye on him since adventure film Welcome to the Jungle (which I love – Gato, don’t you speak English?) but Berg really let me down here. Mile 22 was bland, its story was boring, the characters were boring and Wahlberg’s character was one of the worst of all time. He was a complete douche. I wanted him to die. They should have killed him off and Ronda Rousey could have saved the day.
But my absolute biggest disappointment for the year was The Predator. This film was a complete load of crap. I was so hyped to see Shane Black’s version of the Predator, given he’s one of the original stars of Predator and writer/director of one of my favourite films – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. But rather than a great sci-fi action film with awesome one liners, I got a full blown comedy with a little bit of sci-fi. The sci-fi that was there was crap, with some of the worst dialogue I have ever heard in a film. “You’re one beautiful motherfucker”. Seriously? Way to ruin a classic line. If you liked and appreciated the original Predator, then I highly doubt that you will enjoy this one.
That’s my top five and bottom three films for 2018. I look forward to whatever films 2019 brings!
Rape Revenge movies. Do we need them? From I Spit On Your Grave 1 through 4 to Big Driver to Bound to Vengeance, they seem to be here to stay – and they all have one thing in common. Even straight up revenge films with female leads – Eye for an Eye, The Last House on the Left and The Brave One – have the same common denominator. Male directors. A male telling a female how to feel when she is being raped, abused, beaten and harassed. It doesn’t seem right. A recent online poll suggests that 81% (more than 3 out of 4) of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, so its likely that any actress in such a role has experienced some form of sexual harassment. It would be like telling a holocaust survivor how to act in a movie about WWII. It just isn’t appropriate. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there are heaps directed by women, and I just can’t find them.
Writer/Director Coralie Fargeat has done wonders with Revenge. It is a great film by all accounts – but I will get to that later. I want to make one more point. In all the films I’ve seen with a rape scene, they all show it, explicitly. Close ups on crotches, thrusts, bound hands and bloodied bodies. Why? Are we men really that depraved? Realistically one only needs to read about the controversy surrounding Last Tango in Paristo answer that question.
Back to Revenge. It’s a simple film with a basic plot. Jen (Matilda Lutz) goes away with her lover Richard (Kevin Janssens) to a rural desert getaway a few days before Richard’s mates are scheduled to arrive and go on their annual hunt. However, Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) rock up early and spoil the party – by having a party. After a night of heavy drinking, Richard heads off to run some errands, leaving Jen alone with Stan and Dimitri. Stan thinks he deserves more than the quick lap dance he got the night before amidst a heap of vodkas and decides to take it. He rapes Jen without a second thought while Dimitri swims laps of the pool to help cure his hangover. After Richard gets back, he tries to fix the situation by giving Jen a sum of money and shipping her off – angry at Richard’s classy get-over-it attitude, Jen runs away. The trio of wealthy married men decide to continue on with the hunt but with a different prey in mind. But Jen doesn’t want to give up and from there you get an idea of what goes on.
Revenge isn’t all that different from other films of this nature – where the girl survives her initial torment and fights back. It’s a basic format that makes for good entertainment – although after watching Revenge I now know that the rape scene does not need to be a part of the film. What differs in this film is the quality of the screenplay from Fargeat. It is excellently written. After the rape, Richard tells Jen “it’s hard to resist you”, like some sort of excuse for Stan’s sexual appetite. It rings true to what we hear after a rape in the real world – what was she wearing? She was asking for it! Lines that are heard so often in such instances. Even at the end Richard is still so up himself that it is cringe worthy but still so realistic.
The male ego – will it ever change?
Fargeat’s direction is crisp. Notably, the extreme close-ups of almost seemingly random things. Dimitris mouth while chewing on junk food, an ant struggling to escape dripping blood – while so simple – they also were great analogies for their respective scenes. And when there is violence it is unrelenting and unforgiving – it was excellent – it kept me on my toes. It kept me shocked, unable to look away.
The performances were above your average low budget revenge film. Matilda Lutz was great as the ignorant and fun-loving Jen. She was joyous but oh so vulnerable without ever realising it, making her turn as a revenge seeking survivalist really turn your head. Colombe and Bouchède as Stan and Dimitri are also great as the creepy friends. Colombe’s Stan especially is so desperate for attention from Jen that it is almost sickening, but again, so realistic.
And Kevin Janssens is great as Richard. The alpha male. The leader of the pack. Solving problems and shouting orders like any ‘great’ man would do – only to find that he doesn’t help himself in any way, shape or form throughout the film. In fact, like in many situations where an alpha male takes the reigns – he ignores advice from his betas, that would have helped, a lot. And his confidence is second to none – while never fully having the upper hand at any moment during the film he berates Jen – after all her efforts in surviving, her grit and determination mean nothing to him. “Women always have to put up a fucking fight” he says. Such a perfect line in terms of women social status in the world today. Much like people of colour, women are also still fighting to have themselves heard and to get what from middle-aged wealthy white men? The same attitude Richard has.
Keep an ear out for the cool 80’s electro sound track too, Robin Coudert gets an A+ plus here. It made the film noticeably more enjoyable which for me is a rarity when it comes to the soundtrack. The other part of the film that is crazy and worth noting is the fake blood slip and slide toward the end of the film. It’s so hectic and ridiculous but oh so pleasurable.
Director: Coralie Fargeat
Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe
Writer: Coralie Fargeat
A dystopian future, gang violence and road trips. It’s a formula so familiar that I don’t even need to list any familiar examples because those three plot themes just had fifty plus film titles running through your head. The Domestics however, tried to be original. Oh, wait – no it didn’t.
Kate Bosworth (Straw Dogs) and Tyler Hoechlin (Road to Perdition, TV’s Teen Wolf) headline this dull glimpse into an extremely unlikely (but with Trump in office anything is possible) American future. Most of the American population has been culled and the survivors have all split into separate gangs, all with their own territories that Nina (Bosworth) and Mark (Hoechlin) must go through on the way to Nina’s parents place to somehow save their marriage. Nina and Mark were mid-way through a divorce when it all hit the fan and since the apocalypse started, have decided to stick it out.
This was a huge mistake from screenwriter Mike P. Nelson (also director) because for most of the duration, Nina hardly talks to Mark and is pretty rude when he tries to talk to her – and Mark is a nice guy, not perfect, but clearly loves her. Nina’s attitude is so annoying – I’m trying to care for these lead characters, to invest in them so that I care about the film itself – there’s no point watching it if I don’t care about the characters. Nina has almost no character development bar one scene when Mark is off exploring an abandoned property and she starts listening to some screamo music and moshes in the comfort the empty, abandoned home they found in the middle of nowhere.
I could not care less for Nina, I felt sorry for Mark for putting up with her for the duration of the film. Kate Bosworth really did not seem to suit the role either, not to say that she isn’t suitable in terms of her capability, but I felt the character was so monotone and bland that she was just bored. Maybe a lesser known actress who would have just been excited to be in a film at all would have been better.
Tyler Hoechlin however is quite likeable. Mark is a sincere and generous person. we get to know him because he does most of the talking, driving, moving, thinking and pretty much everything else. He has actual character development, he tries to make friends and still has trust in the human race. I like Mark and Hoechlin played him well. Lance Reddick (TV’s Bosch) makes an appearance and is fantastic as a kind soul who invites the couple to his place for dinner in the middle of a shootout.
The pacing of the film is also a disappointment, for the most part it is quite slow until the final 20 minutes. This was another reason that Nina’s character was unlikeable, there was not enough excitement on screen to be able to deal with an unlikeable character for so long. Every morning in the film there’s a radio broadcast by “Crazy Al” (Allyn M. Schmitz). These were a complete waste of time and would have been better spent giving the lead characters more development.
Another issue in the film is that throughout the duration of almost the entire film, Nina is almost completely docile then in the final shootout she becomes GI Jane with a lever action rifle. There is no consistency. In those final moments of the film however, I saw a glimpse of what Nina could have been. A bad ass survivor who doesn’t take any crap. It is a shame that this version of Nina only went on for 10 minutes, if she was in the whole film, it would have been quite enjoyable.
Director: Mike P. Nelson
Cast: Kate Bosworth, Tyler Hoechlin, Lance Reddick
Writer: Mike P. Nelson
In 2004 Zack Snyder released his remake of Dawn of the Dead. It was a great film. One of the positives for me was that it was straight into it – not flinching for a moment after the first neck being torn apart do we delve into utter chaos and mayhem. Not knowing what has caused this zombie outbreak was something that a lot of people I knew said annoyed them. What was going on? What was causing them to turn? Were questions I heard constantly during our school class viewing of the film. My answer is – if we were in the same situation, we would have no idea exactly what was happening, so why do they need to tell us in the film. It’s also an opportunity for more action, horror, shock, whatever the theme may call for.
Overlord is also in its own right a great film. It revolves around a group of soldiers that are undertaking an important mission during World War 2. Once they get to their target, while still focusing on the mission, they also find something else they need to deal with.
The three lead characters I found were great. Jovan Adepo (Cory from the performance driven, Denzel Washinton directed Fences) played Boyce. A young man intent on being a good one – with good values, morals and all that does not belong on the front line. The other soldiers see this, and he cops grief for it – he’s “soft”. Jovan plays the role well, without any real fault. Mathilde Ollivier is also great as Chloe. A French woman whose only reason for being stuck in a Nazi occupied town, with her younger brother, is the sake of her sick Aunty. She is also being forced into a relationship with a Nazi officer, Wafner (Pilou Asbæk). Ollivier does a great job, her contempt for the Nazi’s is real, her fright for her younger brother is real and that’s all you can ask. Asbæk is also great as the lead villain Wafner. He is an unreserved psycho whose want for power is undeniable. His greatest parts of the film however come toward the end when he finally gets to grip the power he is so clearly after.
Wyatt Russel, the son of ageing star Kurt Russel rounds out the people we’re supposed to care about as platoon Sergeant Ford. A war torn, battle hardened tough guy whose disregard of anything emotional is a clear sign of the trauma he has suffered during war. Russel is great in the role and I hope to see him in more action films in the future, maybe he could go the direction of his father and become a household name. You can also check Russel out in Cold in July – a great film from 2014 also starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. The rest of the characters of the film, aside from Rensin (Bokeem Woodbine) are forgettable.
Director Julius Avery (director of Aussie gem Son of a Gun) does a great job for the most part from a somewhat shaky script from Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith. The opening 15 minutes in a plane were among some of the best scenes (Bokeem Woodbine as Rensin makes the absolute best of his 15 minutes in the film) and the scene where the camera is trained solely on Boyce during his free fall before opening his parachute was fantastic.
While I said Overlord is a great film in its own right, it also has its faults. Almost half of the film is spent inside an attic and as a viewer knowing that some fun and horrible action awaits it can become frustrating. In this way it differs from the 2004 horror film Dawn of the Dead. There is a great opportunity in Overlord to just get right into the action, but after the opening scenes it decides to wait – for far too long. This is an action/horror. The type of people who this film is made for don’t want to wait until two thirds into the film to get to the rub of it. While the time spent in the attic (aside from one scene) is well written, those scenes felt like they belong in a different film.
Overall it is a solid movie – exciting in parts and boring in others – like many movies are. It just lucky that the cast and the film makers were able to put it together so much better than your average B movie.
Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Olliver
Writers: Billy Ray, Mark L. Smith
After 2 years of looking for a way to bring her young son David (Morrison Gammon) out of a coma, Dr. Amy Wintercraig (Megan Drury) finds herself pulled into an eerie underworld filled with ghosts, dead bodies and other creepy creations. To find her way back to reality she must navigate this supernatural School to not only find herself, but also find her son.
Megan Drury (The Fighting Season, Manny Lewis) heads the cast as Dr. Wintercraig and she holds her own against the monsters of the underworld, giving a tough yet desperate performance. You can tell that she is at breaking point and is desperate for David to wake up – but she is also determined to find him and not let him down. Nicolas Hope (Bad Boy Bubby) plays Dr. Peter Masuta, Amy’s colleague and friend at the hospital that she works, his role is not a large one nor is it important. Hope surely realises this and is just going through the motions, his performance is neither her nor there.
Jack Ruwald plays Timmy, a ghost and part of some sort of ghost gang that punish other paranormal beings for things like singing or crying. Timmy is just a young lad scared witless by the gang’s leader Zac (Will Macdonald) and wants to help Amy. He is a quiet achiever in this film with the young lads performance one of the better ones in the film. Amy is also assisted by Becky and Jien played by Alexia Santosuosso and Milly Alcock and both the girls are fine in their roles without being anything to rue over. Will MacDonald does great as Zac though and is quite the psycho. From choking little girls to burning faces off Zac has it all covered in his overt display and is on his way to making a great Villain – It’s just too bad the rest of the film is all over the place.
The School is pretty much right into it with Amy waking up in a what looks like a blood filled bath and begins with some great opening scenes. While Aaron McLisky’s cinematography is quite good throughout the entire film you can’t help but feel a sense of low budget TV show about it. There are times where the mostly good performances drop off, line delivery goes out the window and the score does absolutely nothing to help. Michael Lira, who clearly has talent as he has a decent amount of ‘upcoming’ Composer credits to go with his already long list on IMDB – utilises a score that sounds almost epic. It seems like it belongs in some sort of Medieval film or possible on a video game, but it’s too much here given how slow The School moves, how eerie it is trying to be (but isn’t) and how little is actually happening.
One aspect of the film that is great is the make up artistry and the set design, it is top notch. An amazing little universe is created for the film, but it really is not used anywhere near as much as it should have been. One of the issues here is that Amy runs rings around the old education facility and we see the same sets too often. There was so much opportunity to explore, but so little exploring is undertaken. The screenplay, by director Storm Ashwood (with contributions from Tessa Alana) is also an issue in that again, he has thought of almost a unique environment but really hasn’t used it to its full measure. Imagine if in Lord of the Rings, all they did was walk from one tree to another with nothing happening. There was also opportunities for jumps and scares throughout the entire film – but when a “Wheeper” appears, while looking creepy, it just slowly slides past and doesn’t bother the protagonist in the slightest. I found that the film really didn’t know what it wanted to be, while I got the impression it was to be a horror, after watching, it certainly isn’t. It wasn’t an action or a thriller either, or a drama. My best description of it would be a supernatural-mystery.
Ashwood has certainly created a great atmosphere but due to some shonky writing and an underdone plot has let himself, and us, down. The potential was there but the finished product will look out of place on the big screen and truly needs a good 3 hours to fully explore the environment and some more shocks.
Director: Storm Ashwood
Cast: Megan Drury, Will McDonald, Nicholas Hope
Writers: Storm Ashwood, Tessa Alana
A letter to the President is a film that follows the story of Soraya (Leena Alam) whom is the head of the Kabul Crime Division. She is called to an incident where she is forced to protect a young woman by arresting her. Others are unhappy with Soraya’s decision and it begins to adversely affect her personal life in which she already suffers abuse from her violent husband (Mahmoud Aryoubi). Then,following an incident caused by colleague Behzad (Aziz Deldar), her husband attack sher and she accidentally kills her while defending herself, she is then herself arrested and sentenced to death. Soraya then writes a letter to the president(Mamnoun Maqsoudi) to contest her penalty and claim her innocence.
Leena Alam portrays Soraya perfectly. In her performance she displays passion and intensity but also vulnerability. It is easy to see the pressure that her work puts on her. Her want to do the right thing but the frustration of the fact that she is in a male dominated space where women’s opinions and expertise are not valued. Socially, she experiences the same things, a lack of respect from her husband, her father in law and his business partners, and her distaste for this shows.
Aziz Deldar, whom also wrote the film, performs his role admirably, his actions which ultimately resulted in the arrest of Soraya are something that clearly bothers him. He is able to show regret, while also trying to help Soraya once she has been detained. Sorayas father in law, played by Asad-Ullah Tajzai is also worth noting. He is an evil man with connections to corrupt politicians and law men. He is partly the reason Soraya was sentenced to death in the first place. He gives a chilling performance and is very scary.
The president, played by Mamnoun Maqsoudi is also a great performance. The film transpires as he reads the letter, well, more of a novel,flicking back to the presidential office from time to time. He struggles to come to terms with what he is reading and ordering a stay of execution becomes of the decision he must make. Luckily his wife is there to help him through it –Zareen Nory is the first lady and she plays the role brilliantly. Her demeanour and advice also keep the president calm and helps him with his decision. It was a pivotal role and Zareen played it well.
A Letter to the President is well directed by Roya Sadat. The film is a testament to her ability to make a story resonate with social issues and also keep an audience entertained. The film is classified as a drama, but could also count as a thriller due to the intense nature and theme of it. What helps it along is the structure of the film, cutting back to the president’s office as he reads the letter helps split the film up, if it weren’t for those scenes, the film would have dragged on a bit. It also helped raise the tension, with a decision on whether to stay Soraya’s execution the stress levels in the office are evident.The film is Afghanistan’s official submission for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the academy awards in 2018. I have not watched too many other foreign films – but I think this one has a shot.
Director: Roya Sadit
Cast: Mamoun Maqsoudi, Zareen Nory, Leena Alam
Every now and then a film comes along that, for you, will never become irrelevant. The themes that it carries, the messages it sends, the honesty and compassion it expresses just align with what you feel and who you are.
For me, Samson and Delilah is one of those films. I’ve only seen it the one time, ten years after its release and it is now one of the most important films that I have ever seen.
The film revolves around two Aboriginal youths, following them from their tiny outback community to their travel to the closest regional hub and then back out bush. The trials in tribulations that the pair face on their travels are not uncommon and I have read about them myself, I have seen them myself and I have even been victim to them myself.
I have been followed around stores; I remember one occasion in K-Mart in which a young man followed me everywhere I went to the point I asked him if he needed a hand. He panicked and walked away silently. It’s an embarrassing feeling that messes with your self-esteem and ironically enough I was actually a department manager at the Coles next door at the time. I have experienced racism, at work – from customers and co-workers, at school, in social settings and more. Samson and Delilah brought all of that up for me. I connected to the film on so many levels.
The community in which Samson and Delilah reside is such a brutally honest place. It reminds me of spending time in Yalata with my father, a remote place. It had one tiny store. I met an older Aboriginal man, a friend of my father, he lived in an old caravan and it was nearly about ready to collapse. 30 degrees must have felt like 50 for him on a hot day. It also brought up a few years ago when the Tony Abbott and the government started to force the closure of Aboriginal communities. The same once they forced them onto decades earlier and then have the nerve to say it’s a “lifestyle choice” – I wonder if Abbott would say the same thing to farmers affected by drought.
In the film, Delilah is taken from the street – kidnapped – most likely sexually abused and beaten. It reminds me of Tiahleigh Palmer, who was sexually abused by her foster brother and killed by her foster father. Her foster father, Rick Thorburn, was a man with a criminal record that spanned across two decades and he was still allowed to become the foster carer of Tiahleigh, a 14 year old Aboriginal girl. The film brings to mind the killing of Kwementyaye Ryder in Alice Springs. In this incident, a car load of five young white males drove around an area were Aboriginal people were camped, they drove right up to them, nearly hitting them. When Kwementyaye threw a bottle at the car that was driving straight at him at a high speed, the car stopped, the men jumped out of the car and beat him to death.
Delilah is also hit by a car in the film and while the circumstances are not the same it brings back memories of hearing about the death of young Elijah Doughty after he was run over by a land cruiser and killed. The driver of the vehicle was purposefully chasing Elijah because he thought he was riding his stolen motorcycle, instead of letting the police do their jobs, the man took the law into his own hands. The incident resulted in a riot in the main street of Kalgoorlie. This issue struck home for me because my mob are from that area. I lived there when I was 18 to work with my father whom had returned to country and still have two brothers among other family still living there.
Samson and Delilah have barely any dialogue in the film. Director Warwick Thornton said during the Q and A that this was intentional. Because we as Aboriginal people don’t have a voice. This action by Warwick Thornton could not be more relevant as it is today. The Uluru Statement from the Heart called for a First Nation Voice to be established in the constitution as well as a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement making and truth telling between the government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This request has been completely ignored and instead we have been handed a “special envoy for Indigenous affairs” in the form of Tony Abbott – of all people. Another example is the absence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices on TV – in particular breakfast television, and to be even more specific – Sunrise. The Channel 7 morning breakfast show that ignored facts and reality to tell blatant lies about Indigenous children and the processes regarding them when being taken from family.
There are more examples in the film such as the extortion of Aboriginal art work and the lack of services available in the community and homelessness. These themes and issues are still as big of a problem in 2018 as they were back in 2008 when the film was released. It was relevant in 1998, 1988, 1978 and will be relevant in 2028 – such is the political climate in Australia. The themes in the film, and the film itself are sadly timeless.
During the screening I heard gasps and crying and I just wonder if the people that the film upset so much realise how brutally honest the film is. The film truly is heart breaking, I went in thinking it was purely a love story, but I was so wrong. While yes, it is a love story it is also a story of struggle, commitment and survival.
The relationship that slowly develops between Samson, played by Rowan McNamara and Delilah, played by Marissa Gibson blossoms perfectly. They are just two kids who learn the be there for each other, but there not perfect. Their performances are though. They are both amazing in their roles. As is Scott Thornton as Gonzo, a homeless Aboriginal man that they befriend for a short time.
Writer, Director and Cinematographer Warwick Thornton has done a truly amazing job with this film. He has really put a lot of thought into it and produced a perfectly structured social commentary that is going to reflect Aboriginal lives for a long time to come.
Cast: Rowan McNamara, MarissaGibson, Scott Thornton
Writer: Warwick Thornton
In 2014 Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook was released. The ultra-creepy Australian film was her first feature and it was the highest of quality. The film won a host of awards as did the director. It’s a hard film for any director to follow up. Bring on October 2018 and Jennifer’s second feature film The Nightingale has just had its Australian Premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival.
Set in the early 1800’s the film centres on Clare, a young Irish convict whom is waiting on her freedom from a British officer, Hawkins, so her and her husband Aidan and their son can finally put the past behind them and move on with their lives. The British officer that can grant Clare her freedom is obsessed with her beauty. This causes tension between the young Irish family, and after an extremely violent confrontation Clare is left for dead. Upon coming to terms with the events, a recovered Clare hires a young Aboriginal tracker, Billy, whom has a tragic past of his own, to help her track down those that harmed her.
Clare is portrayed by Aisling Franciosi and she is great in the role. Her character transforms from confident, independent convict on the way to freedom to a completely broken, yet determined woman and Aisling displays this perfectly. Whether it’s confidently standing up for herself against a group of drunk soldiers or breaking down in tears on the forest floor, Aisling does it all. She displays anger, compassion, and empathy and really makes the performance her own.
Aiden is played by Michael Sheasby who is stellar. He is absolutely determined to free his wife from the clutches of the British officer Hawkins and his frustration and torture shows. At the same time he is able to believably show his love for his family.
Baykali Ganambarr is Billy. He is a force. His performance is great, and it earned him the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor/actress at the Venice Film Festival. Billy is also broken, he was stolen from his family to be treated like a dog. His distrust for Clare shows but his commitment to his word is also prevalent to him. Clare and Billy share a very complicated relationship. Two people that, essentially, hate each other are forced to work together but it is not always like this. As Clare and Billy venture further into the wilderness to get their targets their relationship deepens. A trust begins to form, and the pair are able to bond over their tragic experiences. It is a joy to watch the characters develop together, to begin to care for one another when caring for nothing in the beginning.
Sam Claflin plays British officer Hawkins and he is a great villain. He is a complete menace, not only to Clare but to his own regiment. Determined to be promoted he will stop at almost nothing to get what he wants. Long time character actor Damon Herriman is also a part of the fray as British officer Ruse. He is also a tormentor of Clare’s and he also make for a great villain. He is a complete psychopath and yet, also a complete coward when it comes to Hawkins.
The violence in the film is a is something that will leave viewers stunned. During the premiere many people were in complete shock over what they saw, me included at times. But realistically, the only real reason it is an issue is because it is an Australian film – we are not used to seeing such shocking scenes thrust upon us in Australian movies. The film is not shy on bringing in historically accurate content either – Aboriginal people chained, massacred and decapitated is displayed on screen and while people were again shocked at these scenes, if they read a bit more about Australia’s shocking treatment of Aboriginal people during colonial times (not that it’s all better now), they would be even more so. No stone is left unturned though, every demographic is affected by violence here – take that as a warning if you have a weak stomach.
It really is an exciting time for Australian cinema – with more and more risky films being made. Not long ago you would be hard pressed to find a film that demonstrates what colonisation did to Aboriginal people, but in the last few years several have been released.
The cinematography is also beautiful. Shot in Tasmania you couldn’t ask for more beautiful scenery. Radek Ladczuk, who also did the cinematography on The Babadook has done an absolutely phenomenal job here. Writer/director Jennifer Kent has put together an amazing film. A tale of not only revenge, but also healing and it is absolutely beautiful to watch. With her ability to be completely uncompromising in what she wants to portray I really look forward to her next entry. May it be bigger and bolder.
Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Sam Claflin
Writer: Jennifer Kent
In Like Flynn, the latest offering from iconic Australian director Russel Mulcahy is a bumpy ride. Mulcahy, whose credits include Razorback, Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction, the underrated Give ‘em Hell Malone among a host of music videos and other feature films gives it his best, but never really gets the film off the ground.
Based on his adventures before his rise to superstardom, Flynn (Thomas Cocquerel) starts off in Papua New Guinea as a fearless guide for two American film producers (Dan Fogler and B-grade movie icon Lachlan Munro) who are looking to film some stock footage of an indigenous tribe. The opening sequence is very Indiana Jones like and is a lot of fun, although quite violent. It was surprising to say the least. From there Flynn, heads back to the mainland and finds himself on the run from two groups of gangsters. He escapes with friends Dook (William Mosely) and Rex (Corey Large – also the films co-screenwriter) along with new acquaintance Charlie (Clive Standon). The group navigate the eastern coast of Australia in a yacht that may or may not be stolen on the way back to Papua New Guinea – and hopefully gold.
Cocquerel is absolutely fantastic as Flynn, he is charismatic, bold, tough and has a bright future. His efforts in the opening scene in Papua New Guinea reminded me of Indiana Jones, and it had me excited for the rest of the film. William Mosely is also in top form as Dook, a crack shot with the pistol and a level head. Corey Large also puts in a competent performance as a seasoned boxer. Unfortunately, Clive Standon, playing an unenthused drunk, puts in about as much effort as one. His performance is boring, and at times he is a dead ringer for Dominic Purcell.
In Like Flynn also stars a host of home grown talent including David Wenham (Three Dollars), Nathalie Kelley (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), Isabel Lucas (Daybreakers), Nathan Jones (Troy), Callan Mulvey (The Hunter), Costas Mandylor (Virtuosity) and Andy McPhee (The Condemned). As you can see, the casting agency certainly went all out with its casting and tries to do the same with its production.
While the film is quite exciting in the beginning – bar fights, brawls, poker and adventure – it sadly fizzles out about half way through when the crew gets out to sea. The pacing changes, the dialogue changes, and it becomes quite the bore. A quick stop in at Townsville brings a bit of fun back into it, but David Wenham’s slimy character puts an abrupt end to it. From there the seafaring continues until its tragic and sudden ending.
In Like Flynn starts, promising a good time and a grand adventure, however with the off pacing it almost feels like a large scale TV show or mini-series. To be honest I think the biopic should have been a mini-series as it tries to fit in too much, more than it can handle. It also should have expanded on the time in Papua New Guinea and Townsville, where it let a lot of fun and interesting characters come and go without enough attention, choosing to spend too much time on the ocean with only the four main characters. While they’re all interesting in their own right, aside from Errol, they do not have enough presence to warrant the amount of screen time they get, which is where I found it got overly boring.
In Like Flynn is not a terrible film but it’s also not a good film, it is one of those stuck in between ones where you watch it and keep on moving without really thinking too much about it.
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Cast: Thomas Cocquerel, William Mosley, Corey Large
Writer: Corey Large, Marc Furmie, Steve M. Albert, based on the life of Errol Flynn