Movie Review – Power Rangers

Looks like somebody forgot to pay the power bill.

⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic

Forever young. I want to be, forever young… where did it go so, so wrong?

Power Rangers was meant to be exciting. It was meant to be fun, yet gritty. Humorous, yet dark. The child within me ached for all of this and more. In the end, it didn’t come anywhere close to this, but nevertheless, I’m still hopeful that a future sequel can one day recuperate what has been lost.

For the uninitiated, Power Rangers follows a team of young superheroes who are tasked with protecting the fate of Earth against the many evil forces of the universe. The history of these rangers dates back to the dinosaur era, and we pick up the story with a new batch of heroes who are suddenly recruited in order to prevent the oncoming end of the world. And I truly do mean new: the entire main cast is made up of fresh faces against a backdrop of Hollywood A-listers in Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks. Perth’s very own Dacre Montgomery landed the lucrative role as lead red power ranger, but more on him later.

Let’s break it down.

Power Rangers follows in the footsteps of other failed reboots. It takes an original idea that worked the first time, then throws in some uninteresting characters and ridiculously gimmicky plot devices. Audiences come along to see their favourite characters kick ass in colourful spandex tights, then stay to see these heroes work together and grow together as a team. This is where Power Rangers goes so fundamentally wrong – it offers little opportunity for this team dynamic to unfold.

Amidst a storyline that follows convenience after convenience, none of the characters are as charismatic or charming as our beloved Marvel superheroes. Instead, we’re given a team of Power Rangers who are generic, unfunny, confusing and just downright annoying. Yes, this is the first time we see superheroes from the LGBTQ and autistic communities, but I just wish they were more engaging. Montgomery’s performance is probably the best out of the five (though RJ Cyler as the Blue Ranger has his moments), but this isn’t saying much. The blame inevitably lands with director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac).

Israelite is far too focused on experimenting with different Dutch angles from absurd distances to worry about a little thing called storytelling. For example, moments that were intended to be dramatic accidentally came off as comedic. I couldn’t help but laugh at Elizabeth Banks’ performance with her overacting and horrendous dialogue. Just thinking about it right now makes me crack up.

If you’re after a far better and more worthy reboot to the franchise, YouTube Joseph Khan’s film, which is infinitely more impressive and only 14 minutes long.

Power Rangers is available in Australian cinemas from March 22

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – The Eagle Huntress

A feel-good documentary that both soars in its themes and delights in its unique subject.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

At just 13 years old, Aisholpan sure does make you question what you’ve achieved in your life up until this point. This young and adventurous Mongolian belongs to a family of nomads who travel throughout the Altai Mountain ranges. She belongs to seven generations of eagle hunters, and is determined to be the first eagle huntress in twelve generations.

The harsh terrain and resilient wildlife of the Mongolian landscape is captured beautifully by director Otto Bell. Though not quite up to the standard of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series, The Eagle Huntress certainly offers a unique blend of cinematography by using first person perspectives during interactions with baby eagles. Yes you read that right – baby eagles.

But what holds the story together is the heart of Aisholpan, and her desire to break the stereotypes against her. The concept of a female eagle hunter is unheard of among the elders in her culture.

It’s easy to see why Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) has been chosen to narrate, being a pop culture icon for strong independent females on screen. It’s a solid choice and the two female leads share much in common.

Having said all that, The Eagle Huntress doesn’t do much for engaging you further towards its cause. Its conflicts aren’t particularly noteworthy, or rather, they aren’t as great as they could be. In the end, you know exactly how it will all pan out. But if you’re up for an upbeat nature film infused with the wondrous innocence of a spirited Kazakh girl… then seek no more.

The Eagle Huntress is available in Australian cinemas from March 16

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures 

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

Bill Condon returns to blockbuster filmmaking with his take on a treasured Disney classic, pitting a gorgeous dame with a really hairy companion.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

If you’re going to remake a classic you have to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and with the best possible intentions, not because a bunch of pot-bellied studio execs have decided it’s the “in thing” to do. I blame Cinderella (2015) for this. Oh yes, that remake was a big success and I adored Lily James in the lead, but its triumph proved only one thing: that Disney has found a new creative source to plunder. Itself. Soon, a company that used to crack down on copyright infringement with the tenacity of Mufasa will have cloned every movie in its revered collection for no other reason than profit. Bravo.

This year they give us a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, one of the most loved classics to come out of the Disney Renaissance, and all I can really say about it is “Hmmm…”. No, it’s not terrible, but it’s not astounding either, and I feel it should have been. The original Beauty and the Beast was one of the first animated films to introduce digital illustrations; this new movie consists mostly of digital illustrations and boasts a Dan Stevens who falls into that all-too-familiar trap of spending the majority of the film concealed behind prosthetics and motion-capture accoutrements. Like Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse, the Beast is a stunning achievement in makeup and CGI but terribly vacant as an actor’s performance.

But then this Beauty and the Beast remake isn’t about performances or actors (though Emma Watson as Belle has rarely looked more angelic); it’s about doing what’s been done before, with more sophisticated technology and bigger egos. And about trying to be progressive by (pointlessly) turning a couple of characters gay. It also relies inordinately on our nostalgia for the original animated version. All the songs we’ve come to love are here, played out in vibrant and vigorous set pieces, and indeed they are where the film truly sparkles. Once the plot settles down and dialogue begins to spar with itself, everything simply feels like a recitation of the original. Scenes of drama act as little more than rickety bridges connecting one musical number to the next. There are new songs written and sung specifically for this remake, but they feel out of place and tend to spell out characters’ emotions instead of allowing the audience to ascertain them for itself.

Am I being pedantic? Possibly. It’s hard not to be when reviewing a movie that shouldn’t have existed. It’s no secret that I’ve grown immensely sceptical about the state of Hollywood, with its well of remakes, sequels, prequels, reboots and adaptations, and to know that Disney will be falling in line by converting a great many of its masterpieces doesn’t fill me with much joy.

Don’t get me wrong – for what it is, this Beauty and the Beast just about gets the job done. It is supremely passable and had the girl sitting next to me in buckets of tears. But when an expensive remake comes out and does nothing but make us pine for the original that inspired it, you’re not starting down a new and exciting path; you’re taking a few steps back and tripping over your own feet. Cinderella and The Jungle Book (2016) were happy exceptions. This one isn’t as happy.

Beauty and the Beast is available in Australian cinemas from March 23

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Flickerfest 2017

Josip Knezevic

60 Shorts. 1 Academy Accredited Award for Best Australian Short Film. Yes, it’s the 26th Flickerfest Short Film Festival: a showcase from Australian filmmakers to Australian audiences. Compared to Australia’s most popular short film festival Tropfest, which displays 16 films each year, Flickerfest has the ability to boast a larger catalogue, which will be sure to please anyone’s genre tastes.

But with a larger array of films, it can be more challenging to decipher which ones are worth your time. Never fear: Hooked On Film is here to help. If you do get a chance to see the festival, be on the lookout for these four, which are bound to impress you with what Australia has to offer. While there may be a series of international films also available in the festival, we’re only looking at the Australian entries today.

4. I’m Raymond (17 mins)
Produced by Lib Kelly, Catherine Williams
Written and Directed by Eddy Bell

03 March - Flickerfest Im Raymond
Distorting the lines between fiction and reality, I’m Raymond takes a trivial idea and extorts it to the highest of consequences. 8-year-old Raymond Banks starts a name and shame campaign against his family’s company on the sole basis that they are responsible for jeopardising his future by contributing to global warming. Soon a drug-addicted model becomes involved, an official case is lodged and Karl Stefanovic reports it on the news – see what I mean by the highest of consequences?

Whilst the ludicrousness of the situation escalates on screen, a deeper meaning subsides the visual conflicts. Ultimately this is what elevates Bell’s short film to be in top 4 of this list. It becomes a message not about global warming or climate change but one that deals with the relationships between children and adults.

3. Face (13 mins)
Produced by Luke Tierney, Michelle Hardy
Written by Luke Tierney, Henry Nixon
Directed by Luke Tierney

03 March - Flickerfest Face
Speaking of distorting lines, Luke Tierney’s Face takes it to another level. The pitch: James urgently needs to get to the pharmacy by midnight to receive his “mysterious” pills otherwise his face will literally fall off. Unfortunately it’s 11:30pm and the only one who can drive him is his weird neighbour Steve. OK, let’s go.

What I enjoyed the most about Tierney’s experiment was the way the film was shot and presented. There’s a real lucid like feel to the whole drive and it works incredibly well with the overall tone of the short. It’s strange, but that’s what makes it great. The humour is unique and unsuspecting and you can’t help but be completely induced by its trippy presentation. It’s a stoner’s idea for a movie but thankfully it’s one that holds up to its absurdity and is enjoyable to watch.

2. Fish With Legs (10 Mins)
Produced by Nikos Andronicos, Tania Frampton
Written by Nikos Andronicos
Directed by Dave Carter

03 March - Flickerfest Fish with Legs
Short but bittersweet. Fish with Legs effortlessly brushes through the conflicts of science and religion with humour, emotion and beautiful animation to leave a lasting impression long after the credits roll. The story follows a school of fish who awake to discover that everyone in their society has now grown legs. A young enthusiastic preacher of science takes this as the proof he’s been waiting for and declares that evolution is occurring and it is now time for them to take action and move forward out of the seas. What lies ahead is short film that is smarter that what it appears to be.

Andronicos’ script carefully weaves logic with faith to present an array of meanings to take away. This is not a short film bashing those of religious faith over those in the scientific community; it’s a presentation of how these ideas would have manifested in earlier times and how they still reflect the reality of today. Steadied with the careful eye of Dave Carter at the helm, Fish With Legs represents a rare but well overdue gem of Australian animation.

1. The Eleven O’Clock
Produced by Derin Seale, Karen Bryson, Josh Lawson
Written by Josh Lawson
Directed by Derin Seale

03 March - Flickerfest Eleven Oclock

It’s hard to argue against the winner of the Flickerfest festival, Josh Lawson’s The Eleven O’Clock. A cleverly written, sharp and fast paced film that packs memorable lines of dialogue – I can’t wait to watch this short film again. Following the footsteps of iconic comedy routines by Abbott and Costello, the setup involves a delusional patient of who believes he is actually a psychiatrist up against his “real” psychiatrist. As they attempt to treat each other, a battle of wits begins with all glory going to the winner and a tragic end to the loser.

The best part about Lawson’s script is how actively it includes the audience in its story. You become the detective trying to solve the very puzzle itself of who’s who and this is what makes it so much fun. Up until the very last minute, you have no clue on what the outcome is going to, be but looking back, the subtle foreshadowing will make you kick yourself. Truly an equally funny film as it is smartly written.

Images courtesy of Flickerfest

2017 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival

Bonjour Perth! The 28th annual French Film Festival is in town for the next few weeks screening at Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX and The Windsor. We sampled a few of the films on offer.

Tomorrow

Riding on a crest of environmental documentaries comes Tomorrow: a passionate, yet humble look at the positivity global contamination can bring.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

03 March - AFF Tomorrow
You know how the Western genre has become so saturated that, to stand out, it has to come with unique selling points? Like, look – it’s cowboys and aliens! The Environmental Documentary has more or less reached a similar crisis, with each new film threatening to re-tread what the other has said. It’s no longer enough to complain about fossil fuel emissions and global warming – a new angle is required.

Tomorrow provides that angle. Helmed by Mélanie Laurent and her filmmaking comrades, this immensely informative documentary shifts our attention from a dying Earth to a world that can be rightfully repaired and re-energised through solidarity, networking, and positive thinking. It’s great that more households are converting to solar power, but is that enough? Tomorrow posits broader change, change that is already happening in towns and cities throughout the globe. Urban families are micro-farming. Counties have introduced self-contained currencies to benefit small businesses. Schools in Finland place education ahead of status, and their children are better for it.

All this is meant to be encouraging instead of disheartening, and it is. Tomorrow makes me want to convert my backyard into a vegetable garden. It makes the microcosm I live in seem unclean and harmful, and that I should do something to purify it. Leo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood told us what the billionaires are doing. Tomorrow is a bit different – it’s about you and me, and the good we can do from the ground up.


Planetarium

Rebecca Zlotowski’s supernatural period drama offers a wonderful respite for insomniacs.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

03 March - AFF Planetarium
Planetarium follows two American sisters who are believed to possess the supernatural ability to communicate with ghosts. Laura (Natalie Portman) and Kate (Lily-Rose Depp) Barlow, cross paths with André Korben (Emmanuel Salinger), an eccentric French filmmaker, while performing their travelling séance roadshow in pre-WWII Paris. Captivated by their ethereal connections, Korben invites the girls to live with him while they produce a movie centred on their show, but his interest soon transforms into something a little stranger and disconcerting.

Much like the séances it depicts, Planetarium is a vague and obscure dreamlike ritual that disentangles itself from the anchor of time, stretching two hours into what feels like a bottomless eternity. Maybe this elongated, formless structure is intentional; it could mirror Laura and Kate’s ambling and directionless lives or – at a stretch – the lingering limbo of European geopolitics on the eve of war.

Whatever director Rebecca Zlotowski was aiming for with Planetarium, I don’t feel like much of it congealed into a cohesive whole. There is a collection of interesting ideas here; the middle act transforms into a strange pseudo-sexual experience with Korben supposedly navigating beyond the veil to meet with his deceased wife while using Kate as a vessel.

But a lot of these ideas hang in isolation, disconnected from other ideas that waft gently in and out of the film. It certainly doesn’t help that both Portman and Depp are so reserved in their performances; distanced from genuine warmth or deep emotion. We could have had something special on our hands, if only the rest of the film was as captivating as the production and costume design.


In Bed with Victoria

A quirky concept tackled in a completely mundane way.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Cody Fullbrook

03 March - AFF Victoria
Struggling to raise two daughters while being embroiled in two court cases, one of which involves exposing her own personal life, Victoria Spick (Virginie Efira) is attempting to juggle her personal and professional life.

What could have been a humorous and completely original film about an attempted murder case with the only witnesses being a dog and monkey – which actually does happen – In Bed With Victoria wastes too much time on romantic storylines, tarot readings and other things I’ve now instantly forgotten.

Like all films focusing on lawyers, the most interesting and intense moments are the court scenes, and although rarer than I would have liked, they show the same clinical function and form that I’ve come to appreciate.  Even when it’s just a friend of Victoria’s defending her in court against allegations of colluding with a witness, the delivery is passionate yet sensible. An appropriately slow scene with Victoria enduring the end of her case after overdosing on drugs shows exactly what In Bed With Victoria should have simply been about. A stressed woman handling a peculiar court case.  Nothing more.

Though tolerable with a few funny lines, In Bed With Victoria’s characters and storylines are far too basic and plodding for me to think about recommending it to anyone.


Images courtesy of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 

In Perth from March 15 to April 5: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org 

Movie Review – Loving

4 film reviewers walk into a cinema… here’s what the Hooked On Film team made of the award nominated film Loving.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Loving breaks all the racial problems of 1960s America down to a very simple truth: that a man and a woman should be allowed to marry each other without having to keep a baseball bat by their bed. It uses soft tones and simple language, and boasts two incredibly powerful performances in Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, whose real-life interracial couple (Richard and Mildred Loving) helped bring down the wall of discrimination that kept so many people apart.

Director Jeff Nichols’ film is touching in all the right ways, and portrays the couple as both stubborn and steadfast. But what it lacks, I think, are stakes. Much of the drama comes from Edgerton and Negga, whose problems don’t really amount to a hill of beans. We get the feeling they changed the world not because they wanted to, but because they were simply swept along for the ride.

⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

This lack of stakes is also my main gripe with the film. It’s incredibly tedious to watch; your attention peaks in the opening scene and falls steadily from then on because there’s no conflict. I knew how the story would pan out and it never really engaged me emotionally, aside from a few moments here and there. Coupled with notable plot devices that seemed to be blown out of proportion – where simple solutions could have easily solved the problem – I grew weary from the whole affair.

I’m sure the true story was every bit the touching and inspirational tale Loving wanted it to be, but unfortunately this didn’t translate well on screen.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

While it’s true that Loving is a slow film, it’s less meandering than it is delicate with its subjects and the subject matter. Nichols avoids confining his actors to your standard story structure and opts instead to let Edgerton and Negga live as the Lovings in front of the camera. It’s a brave stroke of realism that pays off dividends in making the pair appear as though they are a real couple, even if it means the more mundane aspects of life must also be present.

The subtleties of the performances are what truly elevates the film, favouring quiet resonance over impact. Edgerton is barely recognisable beneath Mr. Loving’s rough, rustic appearance, and Negga says far more with her saucer-sized eyes than ever comes out of her mouth. The lack of forthright conflict means that Loving is not the most entertaining or compelling film, but Nichols’ nuanced style appropriately reflects the humble motives of its couple; the desire to avoid discord and live a normal life.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

It’s just that, for all its subtle niceties and slavish accuracy, I found the whole affair rather…boring? Loving is told at an almost glacial pace, inching along and offering only minute details along the way that often feed into very little or nothing at all.

The film finally starts to come good when Nick Kroll‘s cheeky civil rights lawyer arrives on the scene, but unfortunately everything leading up to this point is rather dull. Like the others, I can see what Nichols was aiming for – a film that focuses on the quiet life Mildred and Richard so keenly want rather than showy, cinematic moments – but it simply didn’t work for me and I found my attention slipping at numerous points throughout the film.

Loving is available in Australian cinemas from March 16

Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films

Movie Review – A Few Less Men

This Aussie comedy sequel no one asked for may be flogging a dead corpse, but surprisingly it isn’t quite dead on arrival. Only just, though.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan 

Immediately following David’s (Xavier Samuel) farcical wedding (the events of A Few Best Men), his honeymoon plans are put on hold when his drunken friend Luke topples off a cliff and is crushed to death by a rock. David and his remaining friends, Tom (Kris Marshall) and Graham (Kevin Bishop), board a plane to return Luke’s body to England, but things naturally go awry when Graham accidentally causes the plane to crash land in the middle of rural Western Australia. The boys must now find their way to Perth carrying the corpse, depending on the colourful characters of the outback they come across, before missing Luke’s funeral and facing the wrath of his violent cousin Henry (Ryan Corr).

Australian cinema has become a truly respectable entity, especially these past few years, consistently releasing content that rivals the best of Hollywood’s recent offerings. And yet, every once in a while, there still seems to be an incessant need to drop all standards and fart out a mindless, lowbrow raunchy comedy to appease the masses. Why a sequel to 2011’s A Few Best Men was thought necessary is perplexing, given its forgettable critical reception and lukewarm box office takings.

On the bright side, A Few Less Men is definitely an improvement on its predecessor. It’s still completely braindead, of course, but in shaking off the single setting and ensemble nonsense of the first film, it finds firmer ground as a ridiculous road trip, focusing on the mismatched dynamic of its three leads – now essentially Australia/England’s Hangover trio. Each has a more clearly defined role in the group – the straight man (David), the sex-obsessive (Tom), the moron (Graham) – so each bounces off the other and gives a neater flow to their reactions in the many zany situations they find themselves in.

The plot of Dean Craig’s script (who also wrote Death at a Funeral) is essentially an afterthought; all that really matters here is what ludicrous character the boys will be forced to seek the help of, or what is going to go wrong for the boys next. The supporting cast are clearly having a ball with their eccentric weirdos – Chloe Hurst’s horny backpacker, Lynette Curran’s 70-year-old sexual deviant, and Shane Jacobson’s Norman Bates-esque crossdresser all raise amusing hell for our trio. But it all becomes a bit too repetitive, fizzling out and becoming tiresome as the frequent finding and losing Luke’s body out of stupidity becomes numbing. And despite a well-intentioned emotional scene near the end, it’s impossible to become invested or feel anything in a story so relentlessly silly.

It’s a scrappy affair, but raunchy comedy aficionados should be satisfied enough with all the corpse boners, granny shagging, pants shitting and penis-shaped coffins. It’s unlikely to win any AACTAs, but there are enough cheap laughs to make for a modestly amusing, switch-off-your brain time. Maybe just down a few beers first.

A Few Less Men is available in Australian cinemas from March 9 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal

Interview: Chloe Hurst – A Few Less Men

Corey Hogan

It’s probably the oldest cliché in the book; chasing your dream in the city of stars itself, Los Angeles, and leaving your life behind to make it big on the silver screen. But it’s another thing entirely if you’re actually achieving that dream, like 26-year-old Perth girl Chloe Hurst is currently. Skipping the humble beginnings most up-and-comers are forced to endure, Chloe’s been on a consistent roll since relocating; kicking off in New York with Broadway smash hits, then landing film roles opposite massive stars like Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe and Stephen Baldwin. In between her Hollywood acting, she’s taken a trip back home to appear in the sequel to the 2011 Aussie/British comedy A Few Best Men – now A Few Less Men. It’s safe to say Chloe’s blown that cliché out of the water.

I talked to Chloe about everyday life amongst the biggest names in film, the different experience of working at home on A Few Less Men (her very first Australian film) and her continuing dream run.

HOF: For starters, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what got you onto the performance and filmmaking scene?

CH: Sure! I’ve been in performing arts since I was a kid, but mainly doing theatre, musical theatre and stage stuff actually until about two years ago, when I went on a trip to L.A. to visit for two weeks from New York; I’ve done I think nine films back to back ever since. It’s definitely been a journey, and I guess the transition from stage to screen is sort of what I’m going through at the moment, and I’m loving every second of it.

HOF: You’ve had an impressive run in theatre with massive productions like Into the Woods and A Chorus Line, how have you found the transition from acting for the stage to acting in film?

CH: The actual process for me – I’ve been working with a lot of incredible coaches who’ve helped along the way, but the biggest difference I’ve found is the transition from New York to L.A., not necessarily the work aspect of it. That shift was huge in terms of lifestyle, but in terms of the work… I’m just surrounded by incredible people that are doing incredible things, and I think when you’re in good hands it makes that transition so much easier because you’re sharing the experience with these pros who have done it for years. In that respect I just find that I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been thrown into the hands of incredible professionals that have ten times the amount of experience I do, and I’m just learning every day from them.

HOF: There’s obviously a huge difference between performance work in Australia and work in L.A., what makes it that way? How does the process differ?

CH: For me, my only experience of working in Australia is A Few Less Men; most of my work has been in America! So this is actually my first real, professional experience with Australian film, and I loved every second of it. Being in my home town and shooting the film was a dream come true, and obviously I’d love to do more and more and more of that. And just seeing how passionate the Aussies are about what they’re doing, their work ethic is incredible. I think often with these big Hollywood sets… they do this all the time; they follow a protocol, they have routine and rules to stick to, whereas I feel like in Australia the energy on set and the excitement to be doing what they’re doing every day is just contagious. Like I said I haven’t had much experience in Australia, so this was such an incredible first introduction to how Aussies work and the comradery that’s created on set is totally different; it’s much more of a family aspect rather than a business. I think we’re all super supportive of each other creating these awesome things and just getting the best out of people from a personal, artistic point of view.

HOF: How did you become involved in A Few Less Men? What latched you on to a production back in Australia?

CH: So I auditioned from L.A., I caught wind that there was this film shooting in my home town called A Few Less Men, and I’d heard about the first one but I hadn’t actually seen it before auditioning. I sort of knew the cast that was attached, and even just being given the scenes that I auditioned with, I could see the comedic aspects of it, and I just thought it was written so incredibly well that I was actually laughing when reading the script – I always think that’s a great sign for a comedy. So I actually put myself on tape out here, and funnily enough one of my best friends Saskia (Hampele) was also taping herself for it from out here, so she came into my audition to read with me, and it turned out the two of us actually booked Lisa and Angie, the two best friends that are travelling in the film together. I think a part of the audition process, having her in the room and reading with me and bantering off each other like that; I feel like sending that across is probably what got us both the roles, so we were both in it together from the very beginning.

HOF: You play Lisa, who is (sort of) a love interest for Tom (Kris Marshall). Tell us a bit about the character.

CH: She’s a fling. She’s not far from me in real life I’d like to think, except perhaps a little more forward and sexual [laughs]. I basically intercept the boys; I’m on this big road trip with Saskia’s Angie in the film and we come across the boys stuck in the middle of the desert, and we take them to this party that I think ultimately resembles a Burning Man type festival. It leads to… I guess you could call it love at first sight with Kris Marshall? I try to get involved with him and proposition him for a threesome and divert their journey; they’re on a mission and we prevent that from happening, we’re giving them an ulterior motive.

HOF: How did you find working opposite all these funny actors like Kris Marshall and Kevin Bishop? Is comedy your thing?

CH: My cheeks were sore every single day; I could not stop laughing with these boys. I can’t even explain to you… they are, I think, the funniest people I’ve ever been in a room with at the same time. And when you get to develop that while shooting seriously, it only gets funnier. They are the kindest, most genuine men, and they are just a scream… what you see in the film is just so similar to what you see on set. Comedy is not my strength at all; I’m working on it at the moment actually, I’m doing an intensive class out here in L.A. just to be as good as these boys at comedy.

I was certainly intimidated to begin with working with Kris; we met, and five seconds after saying “Hi I’m Chloe, nice to meet you,” we filmed the scene where we were making out and doing… you know… [laughs] all of a sudden our tongues were doing each other’s throats. So that was certainly my first experience of being thrown in the deep end, but if anything we got the awkwardness out of the way first, so that was great.

HOF: You were in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys last year, how was it acting with such a prolific director and huge stars like Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe?

CH: I’m still speechless to this day. I think Shane’s casting and directing… he’s a genius, as a writer, as a director, as a mentor, he’s just so incredible. And to get to work with people like Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe… that’s what I mean when I say I’m learning from the best of the best, they take you under their wing and guide you and it’s the reason they are so successful. They’re just the most humble people.

HOF: You had the starring role in the indie film Scarlett, could you tell us a bit about that?

CH: Yeah! Scarlett is a film with Stephen Baldwin and myself from last year which came out… I think it’s doing a state by state release in America at the moment, so it’s come out in Texas, and Colorado I believe so far. That was my first feature film ever, and to play the title role in a film with so little experience was certainly a big responsibility on my part. Of the one hundred page script I think I had about ninety of dialogue, so it was a big responsibility on my part, but I absolutely loved every second of it and would greet the challenge again with open arms. And obviously to work with Stephen Baldwin on your first film… so I was picking his brain for advice, and I got to take away so much from that that led to things like The Nice Guys and now A Few Less Men.

HOF: You’re a bit of a fashion icon too on top of your acting. What do you enjoy the most, or does it all sort of play off each other?

CH: You know, it does play off each other; I’m certainly much more of an actor than a model, I’ve been so blessed to be able to model as my side job all these years. I joke about how modelling is my waitressing, which most actors end up having to do at some point, and I’ve been very blessed that modelling has been that for me. In terms of being a fashion icon… wow. That’s like… that’s a big call. I was flown back last year to be the ambassador of the Perth Fashion Festival, and that was an incredible experience. I basically got to meet a lot of local Perth designers that I’m still in discussion with now, because obviously I want to support where I’m from and the fashion people that are coming up in the world from Perth. I just think there’s nothing better than being supportive of the people who are trying to do their best with what they’ve got or where they’re from; I will always be so supportive of Australian fashion.

HOF: You’re based in L.A. now of course, but would you take the opportunity if more roles in Australia presented themselves?

CH: Yup. Yup, hands down. I struggle everyday living so far away from the people I love the most, so any opportunity to be brought closer to them and still be able to do what I love is a dream for me. I also love what Australians are doing with scripts and films and companies like StudioCanal are obviously being really supportive of the film industry over there, and I want to be a part of that. Like I said A Few Less Men is my only experience so far in Australian film, and I would love to grow that over the next few years, and after that as well. Fingers crossed!

HOF: I guess that brings us to what’s next for you. Are you working on anything at the moment; are there any projects on the table?

CH: So this is actually a really interesting year for me, I got my green card for the US so that in itself has opened a lot of doors over here. It’s pilot season, so I’m currently on the hustle and grind auditioning back to back for TV shows; because I’ve never worked in TV that’s something that my team and I are working on together to try to achieve this year.

A Few Less Men is available in Australian cinemas from March 9 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal

Movie Review – Kong: Skull Island

Gorgeous retro posters and a star-studded line-up don’t stop Kong: Skull Island from missing the mark completely.

⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

In addition to all the rehashing Hollywood is doing these days, it has become very fond of something called the Cinematic Universe, thanks, no doubt, to Marvel’s business model. It wants every property and franchise to interconnect and speak to each other, often discarding relatively new iterations. Remember Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man? I don’t, and that was just 2 years ago. And now you’re telling me they’re doing another King Kong movie? What was wrong with the old one?

Nothing, of course. It just didn’t fit in with the plan. So here comes Kong: Skull Island, the brand new adventure that’s supposed to up the ante, raise the stakes and deliver on its promise to usher in a new Shared Universe with Godzilla. And if its marketing campaign is anything to go by, it should be a wild, thoroughly satisfying ride. But let me just say – it’s really, really not. This is a dumb old movie, quite possibly the Jurassic World of 2017.

It’s rather remarkable how little actually happens here, despite all the larger-than-life creepy crawlies the CGI puts on display. The great beast is revealed way too early, killing all suspense. There is an entire scene devoted to Kong tearing a giant squid to pieces, y’know, because he can. There is literally a standoff between Kong and Samuel L. Jackson as a horde of exploding helicopters rains down around them. And the cast. My word. Not for a long while have I witnessed such an expansive cast do absolutely nothing in an action movie.

Tom Hiddleston plays James Conrad, a tracker basically hired to sift through some sand and look off ominously into the distance, while Jackson’s army colonel Preston Packard huffs and puffs and tries to bring the ape down with toothpicks. John Goodman and Corey Hawkins play the scientists responsible for bringing everyone to the island in the first place. Brie Larson’s “photojournalist” does nothing but take pointless pictures and wear skin-tight tops. And, of course, there’s your token Asian presence, pencilled in by Jing Tian, who’s not even important enough for an introduction. Fifty points if you can tell me her name and what she does.

Kong, therefore, can’t rely on its human characters for any kind of support. The entire film is essentially a two-hour setup for the future and a needless reminder of the past, with Goodman babbling on about how the Earth actually belongs to prehistoric creatures and will become the stage for a mammoth showdown. Didn’t we hear all this in Godzilla (2014)?

What it does do well is deliver a few impressive action sequences – but then how many modern blockbusters don’t? Scenes in which Kong fends off numerous overgrown lizards are edited with urgency and pump some blood into the movie’s otherwise limp veins, but even they seem like hollow echoes of Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) – a vastly superior giant gorilla picture.

What we end up with is a reboot that succeeds only on a superficial level, by shifting the timeframe of the story from the 1930s to the 1970s and doing away with the film crew and the damsel in distress. On a deeper front, Kong: Skull Island is one big mess, offering a pointless human element, some inadvertently laughable moments, and a genuinely underwhelming experience. 1933 Kong must be turning in his grave.

Kong: Skull Island is available in Australian cinemas from March 9

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

5 Directors That Made You Go Hmmm…?

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Ever since the rumour of Mel Gibson signing on to helm the next awful Suicide Squad movie got out, I’ve been trying to figure out why a man who just woke up from a professional coma would want to chain an anchor to his leg and throw himself into a river. Could it be the voices in his head? Maybe a sign from God? Yes, yes, a sign from God. This train of thought only lasted fleetingly, of course, when I realised I didn’t really care anymore. Gibson wouldn’t be the first, and probably not the last. Here’s a look at five other successful directors who’ve made inexplicable creative decisions throughout their careers.

Joel Schumacher
Batman Forever (1995)

03 March - 5 Directors Batman Forever
While it’s really the sequel (Batman & Robin) that should be disembowelled and tossed off a very high wall, Joel Schumacher’s introduction to his re-envisioned Batman universe is just as flamboyant and uncharacteristic. His is the Gotham City that’s hoisted on the shoulders of gigantic naked male statues, and his is the Dark Knight who really has a thing for nipples and close-ups of butts. Take that, Joker!

Schumacher’s filmography leading up to Batman Forever was occupied mostly by teenage vampires and boring courtroom dramas. His filmography after Batman & Robin contains Gerard Butler singing opera and Jim Carrey freaking out with numbers. All very serious stuff. You can see why his version of Batman sticks out like a really colourful sore thumb. Not to mention both movies have gone down in history as some of the worst superhero adaptions to have ever been made.

George Miller
Happy Feet (2006)

03 March - 5 Directors Happy Feet
Happy Feet stands at the epicentre of George Miller’s creative divide. On the one hand: blood, leather, dirty roaring machinery. On the other: animated dancing birds. Are we still certain the same man is responsible for both? It could be argued, of course, that Miller was gradually building up to Happy Feet by first dunking his elbow in The Witches of Eastwick (1987) and Babe 2 (1998), but surely no one in the world would’ve expected Mumble the penguin to stand alongside Max Rockatansky as two of Miller’s cinematic brainchildren. What we need now is a crossover in which Max travels to Antarctica and has to ferry a colony of tap-dancing penguins through a dangerous wasteland of talking pigs. Perfect Oscar-bait.

Francis Ford Coppola
Jack (1996)

03 March - 5 Directors Jack
Here’s a sure-fire way to kill your film career in its tracks: Make a movie about gangsters, and make it so well people all over the world will have no choice but to call it one of the greatest movies of all time – the yardstick against which all future gangster movies will be measured. And then make a movie about a 40-year-old man-boy who attends elementary school and looks like Robin Williams.

I have no idea who or what encouraged Francis Ford Coppola to undertake Jack, and to make it as uninteresting as possible. Perhaps even he doesn’t know. All that’s certain is his career dove into a black hole after it premiered and he decided to relocate his creative efforts to stomping on grapes in Napa Valley and watching them ferment. I don’t even know if he’s alive anymore.

Spike Lee
Oldboy (2013)

03 March - 5 Directors Old Boy
How does a director lose street cred? By establishing his career with extreme political race-related masterpieces and then making one of the least political, undoubtedly questionable remakes of all time.

The original Oldboy (2003) stands alone, untouchable, unattainable. It needs no remake, least of all by the money-grubbing, destructive hands of Hollywood. But fine, they decided to adapt it for American audiences, and they did. Where, though, does Spike Lee come in? There is not an ounce of him in this bloodless film, which treads the still waters of the original so timidly it ends up leaving us all cold to the touch.

Robert Altman
Popeye (1980)

03 March - 5 Directors Popeye

Let me just start off by saying that no matter who directed Popeye, they’d find themselves on this list. This is a movie that doesn’t belong in any director’s oeuvre. I mean, it’s a live-action musical about Popeye the sailor. It’s a miracle it was made at all. It’s even more miraculous that Robert Altman, master of the ensemble cast, was the one who made it.

Maybe the source material needed an ensemble master, since most musicals stage lavish production numbers and require boatloads of singing, dancing extras. But take a trip to Altman’s IMDb page and study his filmography. Where exactly does Popeye fit in? It exists, I assume, in its own universe, and Altman was just an innocent traveller passing through.

Images courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, Roadshow Films, Universal Pictures, Guo Film Distribution & Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures