What Not To Watch This Valentine’s Day

Gone Girl (2014)

not-to-watch-gone-girl
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Valentine’s Day is a manufactured Hallmark fantasy realm of sunshine designed to sell bouquets of roses, mountains of chocolate and giant teddy bears that won’t fit through the front door. In film, that kind of sparkly fairytale is reserved for saccharine adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels.

David Fincher’s 2014 thriller Gone Girl is the antithesis of this. It builds up the illusion of love, marriage and idyllic suburban harmony before shattering it with a jackhammer, forcing a gigantic rift between our expectations and the cold harsh reality. It takes a giant steamroller to the classic white-picket fence storybook home and flattens it.

At first glance, Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne feels like the ‘cool girl’ that every romcom wants you and your partner to fall in love with during a romantic Valentine’s sofa sesh. She’s funny, sexy, fiercely independent and outgoing; nothing fazes her and understandably, Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne is smitten. But years into the relationship, when the fairy dust wears off, their love is shown to be a lie and the whole mirage starts to collapse in on itself.

If you’re looking to get lovey or lucky this Valentine’s Day, best steer clear of Fincher’s uncompromising appraisal of gender politics and the delusion of domestic bliss. It’s ugly, uncomfortable and bloody. In other words, not something that is going to appropriately set the mood on February 14 when you’re trying to get your groove on.


Eraserhead (1977)

not-to-watch-eraserhead
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Now, unless you’re dating someone who thinks dead flowers and sex in a graveyard are acceptable Valentine’s gifts, you might not want to choose Eraserhead as a prelude to all the tender love-making, because in this movie, a whole fried chicken oozes blood and begins to dance on a dinner table like that creature at the end of Spaceballs.

But Eraserhead is a sucker punch for couples anyway, because what it’s really about is poor parenting. Jack Nance plays Henry, a father imprisoned by an alien infant that resembles a diseased turkey, whines all day, and eventually explodes. He is perpetually plastered with an expression of intense sobriety and coasts through life completely unmoved. It’s not exactly a training video for fatherhood.

Then again, neither are any of David Lynch’s surrealistic nightmare concoctions. You could play Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, or even The Elephant Man and still end up with no sex on Valentine’s. But Eraserhead is the criminal mastermind; surely the strangest, most perturbing examination of human frailty. It’s a movie I wouldn’t even want to watch with myself.


District 9 (2009)

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Cody Fullbrook

District 9 is more likely to instigate a political discussion than intimacy, and even then it’s going to be a solemn conversation that’ll put you off your Ferrero Rochers, even more than people exploding into bloody chunks.

Even brutal horror movies can have your partner huddle into you, or even excite them with the gore. Although not a horror movie, District 9 has a protagonist, Wikus, who undergoes a slow, grotesque transformation into an alien “Prawn” that is simply too intricate to be viscerally satisfying. His skin peels off, his fingernails crack apart and he vomits black fluid.  Since all these events are specifically happening to our protagonist, each instance is too personally sickening.

Not only does Wikus yell, lie and patronise “Prawns”, including a child, but he is also berated by his boss, a mercenary, a gang leader and even his alien friend, Christopher, who he later knocks out. Even his caring wife’s desire to see her husband is barely a side plot, disregarded too often to inject much, if any, romance into a story more preoccupied with the savage actions of a terrified, shapeshifting victim. District 9 is a good movie, but completely lacks any joy or warmth to bother snuggling up to.


A Serbian Film (2010)

not-to-watch-serbian

Corey Hogan

There is no conceivable way you could do any worse than Srdjan Spasojevic‘s classic romantic comedy A Serbian Film on Valentine’s Day. It’s one of the most notoriously heinous and morally depraved cinematic atrocities ever committed to celluloid.

It follows Milos (Srdjan ‘Zika’ Todorovic), a retired porn star who lives happily with his wife and son, but still needs to pay the bills somehow. He’s coaxed back into acting one last time; offered an opportunity to star in an “art film” with the promise of a payout that will secure his family’s future. Milos signs the contract and only learns what he’s agreed to far too late – an extremely demented and reprehensible snuff film – and there’s no way out without endangering his life and his loved ones.

The bottom of the barrel in the bowels of human decency is scraped and splashed across the screen here in graphic detail – brutal murder, paedophilia, necrophilia and more things far too disturbing to mention here are all served up on a blood-soaked, gore-drenched platter. Whatever metaphor for Serbian government and propaganda Spasojevic claimed his film to be about is lost in a nigh on unwatchable explosion of sin. It’s banned in a number of countries around the world, including Australia, so you’d really have to go out of your way to make A Serbian Film your Valentine’s viewing.

Recommended only for scaring off a bad date as fast as humanly possible (though chances are they’d report you to the authorities afterwards).


Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox, Chapel Distribution/Umbrella Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Accent Film Entertainment

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To Those We Lost In 2016

2016 was a tragic year that saw the loss of many legends across a variety of industries, from Prince to Muhammad Ali. We’d like to take a moment to honour those who lit up the silver screen and remember their greatest career achievements.

Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

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Zachary Cruz-Tan

The manic genius of comedy; Wilder’s career was built on the solid foundation of just a handful of key performances that established his greatness and ensured his lasting presence in Hollywood, even if his grip threatened to weaken as the 1980s rolled in.

Roles like Leo Bloom, Willy Wonka, Dr. “Frunkenshteen” and The Waco Kid have become synonymous with Wilder’s distinct mannerisms – and they’re probably the parts we remember the easiest – but his career began as a serious minor character in a serious film, playing a hapless hostage in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). I’m not sure what Mel Brooks saw in that performance, but he cast Wilder in The Producers just a year later as the squealing, obsessive-compulsive accountant Leo Bloom. And just about all at once, Wilder’s comedic entourage was on the road.

It is true he never quite managed to top the brilliance of his fruitful collaborations with Brooks; Young Frankenstein (1974) was his last charge before smaller, more peripheral roles became the norm. And while he is known far and wide as a comedian, quieter, more intimate films like Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970) displayed his range as an entertainer of immense empathy. You can see his influence now, in roles like Frasier Crane and those of Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell. Wilder introduced a new kind of comedy, one far crazier and simply of better class than his peers.


David Bowie (1947-2016)

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Corey Hogan

David Bowie’s colossal career as a musician needs absolutely no introduction, though it is little known that his songwriting breakthrough is in fact predated by his work as an actor. His early roles were mostly limited to brief appearances in British television series, then following his success on the charts, the Starman took his first lead, quite fittingly, as an alien in Nicolas Roeg’s surreal cult classic The Man Who Fell to Earth. Since, he’s appeared semi-regularly on the silver screen, unquestionably with much more finesse and grace than most fellow singers/actors.

Bowie’s been a go-to supporting star for some of cinema’s most prolific directors, lending his eccentric attributes to Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, Agent Phillip Jeffries in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Not above self-deprecation either, he’s done cameo performance several times; most amusingly in Zoolander. Bowie’s most beloved character, however, is the mystical Jareth, the Goblin King of Jim Henson’s classic Labyrinth. Bowie admitted in an interview that kids would still approach him every year and recognise him as “the one from Labyrinth”.

Before his death, quite some time had passed since his last on-screen appearance, though he had expressed interest in reprising his role in Lynch’s upcoming Twin Peaks revival. Bowie will be remembered as the voice of a generation to many; perhaps the most prestigious voice to ever guest star in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.


Alan Rickman (1946-2016)

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Corey Hogan

An actor of fine talent , Alan Rickman was presented with his best opportunity  at a ripe age. Starring as the sinister Hans Gruber in John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988), the role enveloped Rickman’s penchant for deep tones and snide asides. It remains his strongest performance among many strong performances, and is notable for his cool control of a character who’s not meant to carry John McClane, but accompany him.

Rickman was forty-two by the time Die Hard crashed into his career, having spent many of his younger years traipsing about the curtains and modest cameras of British stage and television. And yet his career in acting seems fully formed, robust and everlasting, as if he had been a Hollywood mainstay for eons.

Rickman is most remembered now for his long-enduring turn as the wizard Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films (which may account for his ubiquitous popularity), but my favourite performance of his has to be from Galaxy Quest (1999), a role of tremendous versatility and personal depth. He was also downright hilarious.


Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)

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Rhys Graeme-Drury

Tragically, the list of talented actors and actresses taken long before their time grew even longer in 2016, with Russian-born actor Anton Yelchin passing away aged just 27, leaving behind a body of work that brimmed with potential and, sadly, unfulfilled promise.

Having worked regularly across both TV and movies since his early teens, Yelchin had forged a diverse and admired filmography. Most of us, myself included, would be most familiar with his work in the three rebooted Star Trek films kickstarted by JJ Abrams back in 2009. Yelchin played Chekov and brought warmth, energy and earnestness to the role. He also rose above the murkiness of 2009’s Terminator Salvation, eagerly reviving the iconic role of Kyle Reese.

His work in mainstream blockbusters series’ allowed him to expand and diversify his range as an actor on the side; roles in independent critical darlings such as Only Lovers Left Alive, Like Crazy and most recently Green Room won him a lot of fans from film buffs the world over; a group that Yelchin would have no doubt considered himself a part of.

He was one of those rare actors who had quietly been making a name for himself since childhood, seemingly on the brink of a breakthrough at any given moment. For a young child actor (check out his performance in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 miniseries Taken), he was grounded, talented and certainly would have continued to impress in the years and decades to come.


Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

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Cody Fullbrook

Just as our wounds began to heal, the end of 2016 gave us the biggest sucker punch we could imagine by snatching Carrie Fisher away.

The 60 year old actress, author and activist, best known for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, continued to star as magnetic supporting characters in films such as Drop Dead Fred, When Harry Met Sally, Fanboys, as well as voicing Peter Griffin’s boss, Angela in Family Guy.

Books like Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist detailed her fascinating life, especially her mental issues and drug use. She was very open about her life and supported others with similar issues, so much so that she was awarded the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. In recent years, Fisher was often seen with her support dog, Gary, now in the care of her daughter, Billie Lourd.

What may have been most shocking about Fisher’s passing is that it was quickly followed by her mother, Debbie Reynolds.  The multiple award winner, known for such films as Singin’ In The Rain, Charlotte’s Web and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, was 84 when she died just one day after her daughter.

Carrie Fisher’s inevitable appearance in Star Wars: Episode VII will be bittersweet for millions, but with her snarky humour and grounded outlook on both life and herself, she gave us the exact same thing her iconic Star Wars character did.  Hope.


Images courtesy of United International Pictures, BEF Film Distributors Australia, Roadshow Films, Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm 

3 Directors Who Should Make A Star Wars Episode

Whenever a new director steps up to lead the latest installment of any beloved franchise, there’s always insurmountable pressure from fans who fear their precious series will be inevitably ruined by the hands of a newcomer. But at the end of the day, there’s only one thing fans really want from a new director – just don’t fuck everything up.

No franchise is held more dear in the hearts of fans than George LucasStar Wars. Following the success of The Force Awakens, many have probably forgotten the scrutiny endured by J.J. Abrams prior to its release. Fortunately for fans – and for the livelihood of Abrams – The Force Awakens soared beyond expectations, despite some criticism for its parallels to Episode IV: A New Hope.

Now Gareth Edwards has taken on the latest Star Wars story in Rogue One, and it seems – for the most part – that everyone is pretty chuffed with his efforts, but it got us thinking… if we could see any director take on an episode of Star Wars – who would we like it to be?

DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Of the gazillion directors currently making big-budget action blockbusters in Hollywood, Matthew Vaughn is the only one whose commitment to quality set pieces is matched by his outrageous flare for visual poetry and attention to idiosyncratic characters. Three must-haves for any Star Wars movie to work.

Star Wars has always explored the boundaries of spiritually and duality by allowing the most ludicrous characters to duke it out in the middle of space, like an operatically fuelled galactic sermon for heretic fanboys. Vaughn, whose movies have crossed that great divide between gritty action and implausible violence, has already made two financially successful films about both real and aspiring superheroes. His latest, Kingsman: The Secret Service, took the best bits of the Bond movies and flipped them into a devastating array of exploding heads and sliced bodies. If there’s one thing left for him to do it’s to make a Star Wars movie, obviously not with superheroes or secret agents, but with the same fervour and ingenious craziness that he so often supplies.

But at the same time, there’s a certain reverence about those films that should never be tampered with and Vaughn’s style will complicate matters. Give him one of the Anthology films and see what happens. You might not get the sheer awesomeness of an Empire Strikes Back, or the emotional power of a Return of the Jedi, but you might just end up with the best damn X-Wing dogfight this side of Tatooine.


DIRECTOR: Amma Asante

Rhys Graeme-Drury

Something of a left-field choice, female writer/director Amma Asante would be a welcome breath of fresh air to the Star Wars franchise. Having helmed two well-received period dramas in the past two years (Belle, A United Kingdom), Asante has proven herself able to handle a sizeable budget and A-list actors like Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo. Comfortable with handling complex political machinations and operatic historical epics, Asante has the experience and the independent angle to steer the series into new territory.

With The Force Awakens introducing a multicultural cast (John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita N’yongo) and the untitled Episode VIII set to broaden that diversity even further, the need for a filmmaker who hails from a similarly non-Caucasian background is greater than ever. Asante, whose parents are Ghanaian, would approach the series with a different lens to the current crop of directors on the slate.

Don’t get me wrong, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, Christopher Miller, Phil Lord and Colin Trevorrow are all capable filmmakers – but they’re safe and predictable choices, particularly Trevorrow. If we want Star Wars to look and feel fresh throughout the next decade and beyond, Disney need to broaden their search to filmmakers other than those who idolise the original films and/or are Spielberg wannabes. Asante would be the best place to start.


DIRECTOR: David Lynch

Corey Hogan

The closest David Lynch ever came to helming a Star Wars film was in his notorious 1984 sci-fi disaster Dune. It was an attempt to kick off an epic franchise to match George Lucas’ success that failed miserably thanks to its complete incoherence for anyone not familiar with the source material. Incidentally, Lynch actually turned down an offer to direct Return of the Jedi in favour of said bomb. But if it ever did come to pass in the future.. what an insane event it would be to witness the darkly surreal, nightmarish style he’s honed in a galaxy far, far away.

With a non-linear narrative, the galaxy would be transformed into a community that holds many malicious secrets beneath its civil exterior; good and evil no longer clearly define and the Force now a subjective metaphor. The Rebels will now depend on magical realism and the cryptic messages delivered in their dreams by backwards-talking droids.

Given the topic of deconstructing Hollywood that his last few films have explored, Lynch taking on the biggest sci-fi franchise of all time would be a golden opportunity for mind-bendingly cynical satire on the industry and its rapid evolution in the ten years since Inland Empire. But creative control is what Lynch stands for; the exact opposite of Disney’s strict, studio-engineered new regime where box office takings are first and foremost. A dream this shall remain.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Transmission Films, Icon Film Distribution, Roadshow Films and Hoyts Distribution 

Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Feature Films

What Lola Wants

Fast, fun, and ferocious – What Lola Wants may just be Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2015’s boldest and brightest feature.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Tom Munday

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Celebrity teenager Lola Franklin (Sophie Lowe) has run away from her Beverley Hills lifestyle into the wild, wild west. Believing she has been kidnapped, her parents stamp down a $1 million reward for her safe return. Lola meets rebellious, pickpocketing loner Marlo (Beau Knapp) in a diner, convinced he is the man of her dreams. Marlo, being hunted by Mama (Dale Dickey), is already neck-deep in trouble. The destructive duo heads out on the road, taking down anyone in his or her path. But which reward will Marlo choose – the girl or the money?

What Lola Wants is one of the biggest surprises of 2015. This crime-thriller is the pitch-perfect example of less is more – relying on character and tone over anything else. Australian writer/director Rupert Glasson injects his frenzying style onto every page and frame. Attributing to Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah, every plot-point, twist, and line of dialogue is drenched in pulp and viscera. Told from its lead’s perspective, it’s tough, sexy atmosphere sparks a thrilling pace. Glasson’s latest venture harkens back to some of Hollywood’s biggest middle-finger thrillers like Natural Born Killers and Badlands.

Glasson’s hyperkinetic, frivolous visuals bolster What Lola Wants’ simple-yet-effective narrative. Its lurid cinematography flaunts the American Heartland’s glorious scenic vistas. In addition, its scintillating score pays tribute to the dark, disturbing heart of the western genre. Indeed, touches including an animated credits sequences and comic-book-esque scene transitions deliver multiple surprises. Most importantly, the performances take charge from the outset – with Lowe and Knapp’s chemistry establishing their significant talents.

Bolstered by style and substance, What Lola Wants has more brains, brawn, and heart than anything 2015’s big-budget slate has offered thus far.

Screening:
Sat 11th July, 6:45pm, Luna Leederville


Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites

 Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites, though not for the faint-hearted, is a unique and mind-altering experimental-drama/black-comedy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday 

Teik Kim Pok in Alvin’s Harmonious World Of Opposites

The plot of Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites is, inexplicably, more intricate and perplexing than its title. Alvin (Teik Kim Pok) has not left the confines of his one-bedroom apartment for over 18 months. The agoraphobic nobody lives only with bizarre collections of toy pandas, Prince Charles and Princess Diana memorabilia, and vintage flour containers. Human interactions include obnoxious neighbour Virginia (Vashti Hughes) and video chats with his boss Angela (Allis Logan). With work and home-life difficulties building up, Alvin becomes paranoid after brown ooze begins dripping through the ceiling.

Writer/director Platon Theodoris’ feature debut is a unique and nightmarish examination of the Average Joe. His project meddles with several genres, concepts, and themes, with the first-two thirds highlighting the long-standing tedium of Alvin’s decaying existence. Sticking with Alvin inside his claustrophobic abode, the narrative’s repetitiveness and peculiarity illicit a unique physical, mental, and spiritual response. Similarly to David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Theodoris’ writing and directorial ticks put the audience on edge throughout its steady 73-minute run-time.

Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites’ final third becomes a Rubik’s cube-level obstacle course through awe-inspiring visuals and intricate ideas. Delving into Alvin’s baffling subconscious, Theodoris’ project switches valiantly from black comedy to existential angst. Scenic vistas and a stirring score establish the dramedy’s discussion of introspection, loneliness, and voyeurism. Pok, carrying every scene, conveys a bevvy of complex emotions with several key facial expressions.

This drama-thriller/black-comedy is a bizarre yet rewarding trip through Alvin’s dreamscape. Theodoris’ feature debut is set to be the “Did you get it?” flick of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

Screenings:
Thurs 9th July 8:30pm – Cinema Paradiso
Sat 11th July 3:30pm – Luna Leederville


Plague

Here we go again…Plague is yet another exploration of the decisions we may be faced with if the world was to end in a zombie apocalypse.

⭐ ⭐
Review by Chantall Victor

Scene from Plague

Scene from Plague

Directed by Nick Kozakis and Kosta Ouzas, Australian film Plague aims to present itself as a horror film, but comes off as more of a psychological thriller – at least for the first 20 minutes. From then on it’s all downhill as sadly, the film meets its own death, and decays on the screen before the audience’s eyes for the remainder of its runtime.

Evie (Tegan Crowely) is stuck with a group of survivors in an Australian barn when she is confronted with the difficult decision of whether to stay and wait for her husband (Scott Marcus) – who may have been turned into a zombie – or go with the group in search of safety. Of course, true love abides, and she stays behind, only to encounter an unexpected guest.

I always look forward to an Australian made film because I believe the Australian industry has such potential, but unfortunately, this film will have to be an exception to my rule. Although visually pleasing — thanks to the make-up department, and cinematographer Tim Metherall — the film suffers from a lack of character development, and endless plot holes. At times the story becomes so unconvincing that it’s laughable — think the Australian version of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room – and so many elements are left unexplained. Overall, the aesthetics are just not enough to save this vague zombie flick.

Screening:
Sat 11th, 8:45pm – Luna Leederville


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Rupert Glasson, Big Name Studios & Burning Ships Productions