Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Week In Film #315: Oz & Octobrists

Ghosts… Of The Civil Dead title screen
Ghosts… Of The Civil Dead
John Hillcoat’s immensely powerful debut feature, set in a privately operated high security gaol located somewhere in a desolate Australian desert, somewhere in the near future – or an alternate today.

Difficult to pin it down, plot-wise – just that if you deny people their dignity, then horrific things will happen.

A fruitful start to the partnership between Hellcat and Nick Cave, who as well as co-scripting the film also has a memorable turn as a psychopathic prisoner.

The Chekist title screen
The Chekist
Dark and depressing look at the internecine bloodbath that was the Russian Civil War through increasingly paranoid eyes of a Bolshevik secret police execution squad. Excellent if emotionally draining work from Aleksandr Rogozhkin.

Son Of A Gun title screen
Son Of A Gun
Another Australian prison drama, though not of the same calibre as Hillcoat’s masterful work, though still enjoyable, thanks to engaging turns from Brenton Thwaites as an incarceration ingenue, Ewan McGregor as a cellblock godfather, Matt Nable and Eddie Baroo his formidable lieutenants, and Alicia Vikander as his moll. A commendable first feature from writer-director Julius Avery.

A Week In Film #314: Monkey business

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes title screen
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
I was sceptical about this reboot of the remake of Schaffner’s screen adaptation of Boulle’s novel, but damn if it doesn’t hit the spot. It’s present day, no spaceships, just a biotechnology company messing around with viral treatments for Alheimer’s – and testing on monkeys,naturally. With James Franco, Frida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton and David Oyelowo, and Andy Serkis as a CGI/motion capped smart chimp, Caesar. Exquisitely marshalled by Rupert Wyatt, whose only previous feature was the elegiac prison flick The Escapist, working from a script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver that harks back to and alludes to pretty much all of the five original movies.

Two Weeks Notice title screenTwo Weeks Notice
Fun, throwaway screwball/romcom, with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock as a feckless property magnate and a leftie lawyer drawn together in New York. Writer/director Marc Lawrence went on to do the even better Music & Lyrics, and then Did You Hear About The Morgans?.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes title screen
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
JJ Abrams associate Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) takes over the director’s chair, whilst Mark Bomback (tedious fourth Die Hard movie, unnecessary remakes of Race To Witch Mountain and Total Recall) joins the writers’ table alongside Jaffa and Silver. But it’s not as bad as that sounds – in fact, it’s pretty good.

We’re now post-monkey virus, in a world where most of the humans have been killed off, whilst a generation of intelligent apes is vying for top-of-the-food-chain rights. Jason Clarke tries to maintain a sense of right and wrong amongst his small group of human survivors near San Francisco, whilst Caesar (Andy Serkis again) similarly tries to give direction and purpose to his tribe of evolved apes. Only by working together will they, etc etc.

A Week In Film #313: Furrens

The Square title screen
The Square (2008)
Bringing to mind the Coens’ Blood Simple, here we have the Egerton brothers (Nash and Joel) serving up a dark feast of tragic inevitability when deceit and carnality spiral out of control for adulterers David Roberts and Claire van der Roberts. At times properly terrifying, and some wonderfully ‘unAustralian’ visuals.

Les Lyonnais AKA A Gang Story
Superb, lyrical, measured lament for youth and acceptance of one’s fate, fermented through a genre tale of gangsters. Olivier Marchal captures marvellous performances from older actors including Daniel Duval, Gérard Lanvin, Tchéky Karyo and Lionel Astier. A real treat after the pornography of nostalgic violence presented in similarly themed films of recent times.

À Bout Portant
Frantic peril/chase thriller from director Fred Cavayé, with nurse Gilles Lellouche caught up in a battle of wits between ruthless villain Roschdy Zem (Indigènes, 36 Quai Des Orfevres) and bent cops. At times exhilarating, and easily the match of similar US movies.

A Week In Film #312: Cued up

Snowpiercer title screen
South Korean/French SFer, set in a dystopian future world where climate collapse has led to an ice age, leaving humanity’s survivors trapped in a class-segregated super train trundling forever along its tracks.

Director Bong Joon-Ho keeps things visually arresting, despite the claustrophobic setting, Chris Evans makes a great everyman blue collar joe trying to do the best for his comrades stuck in the shit pit at the back of the train. Tilda Swinton turns in a memorable performance as a higher caste passenger.

Red Hill title screen
Red Hill
A modern High Plains Drifter/Ox-Bow Incident-style noir-western set out in the Australian bush, with Ryan Kwanten (a Home And Away alumnus best know for True Blood) as a city cop transferred out into the country with his pregnant wife Claire van der Bloom. Steve Bisley is brimming with testosterone as the local ’sheriff’. An impressive first feature from writer/director Patrick Hughes.