All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL

As a young boy I was besotted with the television show, The Samurai.  I was eager to follow Shintaro, Tombe the Mist, and the adventures of the Iga ninjas. It was an entrée into an exotic and esoteric world of swords, star knives and stunning acrobatics.

Small screen samurai was superseded by big screen samurai, with epics like Seven Samurai and Ran. The latest in fantastic samurai spectacle is BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL and it’s a stunner.

Takuya Kimura stars as Manji, a highly skilled samurai  cursed with immortality by a witch in the woods who introduces bloodworms into his system.

He thinks he’d be better off dead as he’s despatched his sister’s lover an act that has driven her out of her mind. To make matters worse, she is killed by bounty hunters after his head. But the universe wants him alive so he can wreak revenge on behalf of Rin, who reminds him of his deceased sibling. Continue reading BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL

CHRISTOPHER FOWLER : THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS

A treasure map that is, in and of itself, a treasure trove, THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is a resurrectionist text of literary loot too long buried.

Christopher Fowler has given us a literary atlas which empowers us to become a biblio Indiana Jones, a raider of the lost archive.
THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is “99 stories and a dozen essays about the men and women who reached for the moon, and found that it wouldn’t always be there.”

Fowler’s investigations into forgotten authors found that writers can be ubiquitous, influential and massively successful only to disappear within their own lifetimes.  So he has donned his fedora and cracked his whip and become a tome raider, unearthing writers who deservedly need resurrection and restoration into the imaginative landscape.

Romancing the tome, Fowler discovers authors who have inspired astute adaptors like Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney, been frightful frauds and fakes, or been too utterly human as to being monstrous and behaving shabbily even when their prose and plotting seems heaven sent. Authors who write like angels and behave like devils.

A Booker Award, you would think, would guarantee posterity, but, alas, prize winning is as ephemeral and inconstant as the wind when it comes to lasting fame.

Most of the authors are novelists, whose own lives would make a great novel. Who would of that that many shared a predilection of being church organists!

Among the profundity of prose princes and princesses, so pleased to see superb dramatists included, to whit, the Peters, Nichols and Barnes. Plays become ephemeral if they fail to enter repertoires. The shock of their experience fades and only the scripts remain.

Reading the scripts of both Nichols and Barnes reignites the shock.
Peter Barnes was one of the great proponents of anti naturalism, a dazzling response to the dreary kitchen sinkism of the fifties. At a time when Monty Python was reconfiguring comedy, Peter Barnes and Peter Nichols started incorporating surrealism, disjunction and Pirandello-esque antics into their works.

Arguably, Barnes masterpiece is The Ruling Class, famously filmed with Peter O’Toole as the mad earl and his identification with Christ. His screen writing credits include the Tony Curtis/George C. Scott starrer, Not With My Wife, You Don’t and Enchanted April, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

Peter Nichols plays were robust and cinematic – several were filmed- but he didnt go into the theatrical repertoire as much as his less demanding peers and consequently disappeared. Happily, Privates on Parade and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg have had recent revivals, but a full rehabilitation into the theatrical pantheon hasn’t quite happened yet, which is a shame, as theatre needs his angry, daring humanity more than ever.

Forgotten, maybe, but not gone, all these authors are in print somewhere, either in new editions or old ones, in shops and sheds or goodness knows where.

THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is a self help book for readers. Purchase it and proceed to have it guide you in perusing the shelves and stacks of second hand bookshops like Elizabeth’s in Newtown and Grand Days in Kings Cross.

THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS by Christopher Fowler is published by Riverrun

lucky

Sam Shepard said of Harry Dean Stanton, “His face is the story.”
Shepard sure as shit got that right.  Just point the camera and shoot and the Harry Dean visage gives a narrative.

Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja‘s script for LUCKY utilises that face effectively, affectingly and affectionately in the spiritual journey of a 90-year-old atheist known as Lucky and the quirky characters that inhabit his off the map desert town.

Having out lived and out smoked all of his contemporaries, the fiercely independent Lucky finds himself at the precipice of life, thrust into a journey of self exploration, leading towards that which is so often unattainable: enlightenment.

Acclaimed character actor John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut, LUCKY is at once a love letter to the life and career of Harry Dean Stanton as well as a meditation on mortality, loneliness, spirituality, and human connection.

Lucky is a man of ritual, arising at the same time every morning, doing his callisthenics while simultaneously enjoying a cigarette.
Recreation at home is doing cross word puzzles and watching game shows.  He breakfasts at the same diner every day, gets his smokes from the same grocery store, and walks to the same bar, Elaine’s, to drink bloody Marys.

Much of the action of LUCKY takes place in the bar where he interacts with a variety of regular barflys, the bartender and the publican.  One of his best buddies, Howard, is fretting over the disappearance of his ancient tortoise, Roosevelt, a pet he has had since time immemorial. David Lynch’s performance as the bereft reptile fancier is a beautiful rendition of loss and hope.

David Lynch‘s appearance, other than supplying a virtuoso performance, conjures comparisons that LUCKY has with Lynch’s directorial work, especially the often overlooked and underrated The Straight Story, which, incidentally, featured Harry Dean Stanton.

LUCKY also has a Twin Peaks moment when a fellow barfly played by James Darren accompanies him to a lane way outside Elaine’s where a cosmic light show plies them with mystical wonder.

LUCKY works as a quasi screen biography of Harry Dean Stanton – the desert town location and Mexican music – he gets to sing and play harmonica- are redolent of Paris Texas, Tom Skerrit‘s turn as a fellow veteran recalls their teaming in Alien, and so it goes.

LUCKY is full of zinger lines made all the zingier played deadpan – “One thing worse than awkward silence is small talk”.
The one line from LUCKY that sums up the picture best is “I’m a nothing with everything, isn’t that something?”

We should feel so lucky that we had actors like Harry Dean Stanton gracing our screens making indelible contributions to classic films – The Godfather Part II, Alien, Paris Texas, Repo Man, Pretty in Pink, The Missouri Breaks, the list goes on.

You should be so lucky to ferret out this fine, fine life affirming film.
Funnier than a comedy, laden with special affects rather than special effects, LUCKY lives up to its title and makes one feel lucky to have seen it.

 

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH : ANOTHER ‘GEM’ FROM MICHAEL CONNELLY


If there are two kinds of truth in the realm of detective fiction, both kinds verify Michael Connelly as one of the pre-eminent practitioners of the genre in modern times.

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH is his latest novel, the twentieth to star his stalwart sleuth, Harry Bosch.

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH twines two kinds of stories, one concerning a current case centring on a pharmaceutical conspiracy, the other a devious campaign from a death row rapist murderer who claims Harry framed him thirty years ago.

This odious smear causes Harry Bosch to ruminate on veritas:  “He knew there were two kinds of truth in this world. The truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one’s life and mission. And the other, malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and moulded to serve whatever purpose was at hand.” Continue reading TWO KINDS OF TRUTH : ANOTHER ‘GEM’ FROM MICHAEL CONNELLY

JUNGLE : ANOTHER OUTBACK NIGHTMARE TALE FROM GREG MCLEAN

What is it with Greg McLean?! Has he had a bad experience with backpackers and now wants them to suffer vicariously through his cinematic sadism.

What McLean did for Outback psychos in Wolf Creek, he duplicates for troppo tour guides in South American wilderness in JUNGLE.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe as young Israeli Yossi Ghinsberg, author of the international best-selling 1996 memoir Back from Tuichi: The Harrowing Life-And-Death Story of Survival in the Amazon Rainforest, JUNGLE is a jingle jangle adventure into the depths of self preservation.

What begins as the realisation of a young man’s dream soon turns into a harrowing psychological test of instinctive forbearance and intestinal fortitude.

When 22-year-old Ghinsberg leaves behind a safe future and family in order to chase an improbable fantasy, events take a dark turn. He reaches the enigmatic Lake Titicaca in Peru where he and two new fellow adventurers, Kevin Gale and Marcus Stamm, meet the darkly charismatic Karl Ruchprecter , and follow him on an increasingly nightmarish journey with meagre supplies into the jungle. Continue reading JUNGLE : ANOTHER OUTBACK NIGHTMARE TALE FROM GREG MCLEAN

ALL ABOARD KENNETH BRANAGH’S ‘ORIENT EXPRESS’

There is homicide, for sure, in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, but the hirsute splendour of the consulting detective could necessitate the renaming of the caper to Moustache on the Orient Express.

Taking his cue from his character’s creator, Kenneth Brannagh gathered all written descriptions of Poirot’s moustaches by Agatha Christie, using the extensive resources of the Agatha Christie Estate. After which began the nine-month process of research and development for the requisite face furniture that would live up to what Miss Christie described as “the most magnificent moustaches in all England”.

Walrus handlebar may be a fitting description of this top lip, cheeks and chin concoction.
Apparently, the design of Poirot’s moustache was a key component in finding the character. Branagh says: “It took many months to design the moustache – Carol Hemming [Hair and Make-Up Designer] was behind it, and she came up with a brilliant reference. We began with this line of Agatha Christie’s where she referred to Poirot as having the most magnificent moustaches in England. So “moustaches” was a clue. We know she meant it in the old sense, but Carol’s idea was that there should almost be this double-moustache effect. It had to be, because Christie kept using the words “majestic, immense”. It was almost like a mask. It was Poirot’s superpower. It kept people at a distance. It needed to be in itself, structurally and luxuriously pleasing in appearance, and it needed to make a big impression.”

It certainly makes a big impression, luxurious and luxuriant, a veritable Medusa of a mo. There’s so much mo, so much so, that the Academy may have to create a new category – Best Performance by a Moustache- which he will win by a whisker.

Costume Designer Alexandra Byrne’s impeccable eye for this precise look dramatically enhanced Poirot’s presence on screen. “The first discussion was about the moustache, so that started with Ken and Carol Hemming and helps to define the character,” says Byrne. “Then I joined in, with Ken being very keen that Poirot had a military background. We did a lot of research on what that meant, to be a Belgian with a specific military background. Continue reading ALL ABOARD KENNETH BRANAGH’S ‘ORIENT EXPRESS’

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

“It’s a metaphor.” says one of the characters in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, writer/director/producer Yorgos Lanthimos, follow up film to the critical and commercial success, The Lobster. Lanthimos and his regular collaborator, Efthimis Filippou, co-wrote the project and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is certainly a metaphor.

What’s it a metaphor for is part of the fun and fascination of the film, and though this sacred deer runs out of hart, it has for the most part, a lot of beguiling bang for your buck.

Colin Farrell plays Steven, an eminent cardiothoracic surgeon married to Anna, (Nicole Kidman), a respected ophthalmologist. They are well off and live a happy and healthy family life with their two children, Kim, 14 (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob, 12 (Sunny Suljic). Steven has formed a friendship with Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16 year-old boy whom he has taken under his wing. Continue reading THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

BRIGSBY BEAR : A BEAUTIFUL TALE

Huggable. This could be the most huggable film of the year.

BRIGSBY BEAR is arms around torso, head and shoulders above a mere embrace.

BRIGSBY BEAR is a true original, creating comfort from discomfort, cuddles out of curdles, humour out of humanness.

At the beginning of BRIGSBY BEAR we meet man child, James. To say James’ intensely protective parents have kept their son a bit sheltered is a ginormous understatement.
The family dwelling is a survivalists bunker, and the only way James gets to see anything of the outside world within the strict environs is through a sealed observation points, accessed by an elaborate series of secure procedures.

Apocalyptic holocaust must have happened and Mum, Dad, and James are hermetically sealed in their shelter.

A bright, sensitive young adult, James has grown up with a goofy television kids show called Brigsby Bear, a kind of cross between Humphrey B. and Doctor Who.

Suddenly, James’ rarefied life becomes even more peculiar as a dramatic turn of events render his past a figment with a future founded on a naive nostalgia.

Close bosom buddy of Hal Ashby’s Being There, BRIGSBY BEAR is an inventively offbeat and profoundly uplifting love letter to the redemptive power of creativity, the brainchild of lead actor, Kyle Mooney, whose characterisation of James is pitch perfect.

An added delight to the fabric of this fine film is the casting and performance of Mark Hamill as James’ father, Ted. His presence alone casts the picture into the stratosphere of the pop culture zeitgeist, and a strong, sensitive performance catapults the film further past the orbit of a mere cult cameo.

Greg Kinnear is endearing as a cop with curtailed acting ambition and Clare Danes shines as a shrink.

BRIGSBY BEAR back ends the year with a tale of beauty where all around there are tales of brutality.

Embrace Brigsby and cuddle up to a true original.

 

INGRID GOES WEST : THE WORLD OF SOCIAL MEDIA TAKES A HIT

As fatuous as a Facebook page and the intellectual and emotional weight of an Instagram, the addiction and mental decay attributed to the servility of cyberspace is an insidious problem even with so-called normal people.

Saddled to a sufferer of mental illness, it becomes a singularly sinister cyber stalking issue, the subject of Matt Spicer’s feature film debut, INGRID GOES WEST.

Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid Thorburn, a thorn in the side, pain in the arse, unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing “likes” for meaningful relationships.

Taylor Sloane, played by the always interesting Elizabeth Olsen, is an Instagram-famous “influencer” whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to LA and manages to insinuate herself into the social media star’s life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF.

Spicer sails perilously close to the coast of audience alienation by pretty much populating his picture with unlikable, utterly irritating people. The sole survivor of salvaging any self esteem is Dan Pinto, Ingrid’s landlord and manipulated fuck buddy.

Spicer and co-writer, David Branson Smith, message is clear – only when you display the real you to the world is when the real world will respond to you.

Winner of the Waldo Salt Screen-writing Award at Sundance, INGRID GOES WEST is a savage, seriously squirmy, sometimes hilarious dark comedy that satirises the modern world of social media and proves that being #perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES : STEVE BISLEY’S CAPTIVATING NEW MEMOIR

There’s no Bisley like Steve Bisley, like no Bisley I know.

Missing his first book, Stillways, an oversight I am now committed to correcting, his latest memoir, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES struck me like a rough diamond bullet of high calibre, cut into a quality carat.

Bisley’s prose can turn on a pin into poetry, not the flowery, floury fluff of doggerel but the flinty, truthful eloquence that comes from a life lived with words, working words, interpreting intent, lifting language from the page onto the stage or screen.

Lively, innovative, inventive and reflective, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES is filtered through the sieve of memory reinforced by reservoirs of imagination.

From the sweet smell of soot and cinders that accompanied his journey from the family property, Stillways, to the big smoke of Sydney in 1967 to the very present now fifty years later, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES is a journey of professional combustion and personal conflagration. Continue reading ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES : STEVE BISLEY’S CAPTIVATING NEW MEMOIR

STANLEY TUCCI’S ‘FINAL PORTRAIT’

Gorgeous, sumptuous, sensual, funny, tempestuous, Stanley Tucci’s FINAL PORTRAIT is a work of art and entertainment, a same sense marriage between cinematography and painting, a highlight of the movie going year.

In 1964, while on a short trip to Paris, the American writer and art-lover James Lord is asked by his friend, the world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti, to sit for a portrait. The process, Giacometti assures Lord, will take only a few days. Flattered and intrigued, Lord agrees.

So begins not only the story of a touching and offbeat friendship, but, seen through the eyes of Lord, a uniquely revealing insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and, at times, downright chaos of the artistic process. Continue reading STANLEY TUCCI’S ‘FINAL PORTRAIT’

THE DANCER : INSIDE THE WORLD OF AN ARTIST AND INNOVATOR

Down in adoration falling, THE DANCER is an exquisite film of form, style, grace and the toil, turmoil and torment that goes with being an artist and innovator.

THE DANCER begins incongruously in the wilds of North America, where Loie Fuller and her father live in a frontier town tailing the dying days of the 19th century gold rush.

Dad drunkenly boasts about his diggings along with his faith in his daughter’s artistic destiny. She is a reader of plays, an aspiring Shakespearian, and she gets a taste of tragedy quick smart. He eats lead over his gold aggrandisement and she is forced to eat crow in New York where her mother takes her into her Temperance mission.

Stultified by the uber sober wowserism of her mother, – books, booze, dance are anathema- Loie sails to Paris where her art is appreciated from the Follies Bergere to the Paris Opera. Continue reading THE DANCER : INSIDE THE WORLD OF AN ARTIST AND INNOVATOR

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – JAMES BALDWIN, IN HIS OWN WORDS

Told entirely in the words of James Baldwin, through both personal appearances and the text of his final unfinished book project, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO touches on the lives and assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers to bring powerful clarity to how the image and reality of Blacks in America today is fabricated and enforced.

Medgar Evers, died on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X, died on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr., died on April 4, 1968.
James Baldwin loved these men and was determined to expose the complex links and similarities among these three individuals. He was going to write about them. He was going to write his ultimate book! ‘Remember this House’ was the working title of that book.
But James Baldwin never wrote ‘Remember this House’ and film maker Raoul Peck has stepped in with this ambitious film to partly fill the void. Continue reading I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – JAMES BALDWIN, IN HIS OWN WORDS

PATTI CAKE$ : A UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE

Like 8 Mile out of Precious, PATTI CAKE$ is a rock solid cinematic rap to dreams, aspirations and perseverance.

Written, directed, and with original music and songs by Geremy Jasper, the film stars Danielle Macdonald, an Australian actress fallen on her feet in the American film market.

Macdonald plays the titular Patti Cake$, a Jersey girl tending bar, doing casual catering gigs, and dreaming of making it in the music business as a rap artist. Patti’s rich inner life is depicted in hallucinatory sequences that turn classic hip-hop tropes into surreal dreams, giving the film a delightful dose of cinematic splendour. Continue reading PATTI CAKE$ : A UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE

MOTHER

The Legion of Mary may well take out a fatwa on this Lady of Fatima inversion of Rosemary’s Baby.

MOTHER has a shocking, literally scorching pre title sequence. Fire and ash give way to verdant vistas, a pristine secluded paradise, an Eden of solitude.

The Adam, credited as Him, is a writer, a poet suffering writer’s block. The Eve, credited as Mother, is his handmaiden, renovating their rural abode, cooking, cleaning, creating a space for him to create. They are newly married yet the union has yet to be consummated.

Into their universe of two, someone comes a knocking, a tubercular doctor, a chain-smoking quack seeking succour. Continue reading MOTHER

VICTORIA AND ABDUL

Last time Judi Dench was directed by Stephen Frears, she was nominated for an Oscar.

The film was Philomena.

The last time Judi Dench played Queen Victoria, she was nominated for an Oscar. The film was Mrs. Brown. That was twenty years ago.

Sadly, VICTORIA & ABDUL is not up to the calibre of these preceding films, however there is no denying the technical virtuosity and sheer screen presence of Judi Dench.

Here she plays the Queen as a moribund, morbidly obese monarch obsessed with her bowel movements. Nobody does bedpan as dead pan as Judy!

This supposed true story unfolds thus:

In 1887,Abdul, played by Ali Fazal, a tall Muslim bookkeeper travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, a task allocated to him merely because he is tall. He is tutored in protocol which he breaks and Queen Victoria is quite amused, beginning an unlikely relationship, reminiscent of the Mr. Brown infatuation. Indeed, the court refers to Abdul as “the brown Brown”.

It is in Scotland that Victoria’s history with John Brown resonates and strengthens her new bond with Abdul. Screenwriter, Lee Hall, observes Glassalt Shiel was Victoria’s remote, private little house where she would retire to be on her own, sometimes with John Brown. After his death, she had avoided going there. But from the diaries found, she took Abdul there. Hall and Frears tap into the resonating romance to the place; they share an appreciation of the glorious landscape. The Queen and Abdul grow closer. Continue reading VICTORIA AND ABDUL

12th LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL @ DENDY OPERA QUAYS

Only a limited window of an extended long weekend opens for the 12th Latin American Film Festival, but it’s chock full of films you may not see otherwise.

A highlight is the Ricardo Darin starrer, KOBLIC, about an ex Argentinian top gun who rebels at his government’s policy of taking political dissidents up in his aircraft and jettisoning them sans parachute.

A study in abusive political power and the power of an individual to to oppose, KOBLIC is a suspenser full of intrigue, subterfuge and romance. Continue reading 12th LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL @ DENDY OPERA QUAYS

TOMMY’S HONOUR : A GOLF STORY FOR THE AGES

Without doubt, my favourite golf movie is Goldfinger.

The sequence where James Bond and Auric Goldfinger club it out for a bar of Nazi bullion is full of suspense, tension, drama and wry humour.

The sequence cemented Sean Connery’s love of the game – he became obsessed with it. Fitting, then, that his son Jason, has directed the film TOMMY’S HONOUR, about a couple of sporting legends and pioneers of the multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on green fees and tees.

By rights, the story of Old Tom Morris and his son Young Tommy ought to be known the world over. Old Tom, Master greens keeper of the iconic St. Andrews Links, struck the very first ball at the inaugural Open Championship in 1860, going on to win the tournament on four occasions. His extraordinary feats were matched by teenage prodigy Young Tommy soon after – establishing the Morris family at the forefront of the emerging sport, and as the pride of their countrymen.

Based on Kevin Cook’s prize winning book of the same name, TOMMY’S HONOUR is a beautifully detailed story of ambition, class politics, and filial conflict. Continue reading TOMMY’S HONOUR : A GOLF STORY FOR THE AGES

GIFTED : A MOVIE TO CHERISH

It’s hard as algebra to find a more charming, feel good movie than GIFTED.

Featuring Fred the monocular moggie, a cute kid maths prodigy, a hunky uncle and a wicked witch from the east, GIFTED is a tacit custody tussle with a controlled tear jerking muscle from the gifted penmanship of screenwriter Tom Flynn.

A Beautiful Mind out of Kramer vs Kramer, GIFTED gifts us Chris Evans as Frank Adler, a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary, played by Mckenna Grace, in a coastal town in Florida. Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven year old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn, a brilliant portrayal by the formidable Lindsay Duncan. Continue reading GIFTED : A MOVIE TO CHERISH

THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

Like a brick through a plate glass window, Michael Brissenden’s debut novel, THE LIST, grabs attention, raises the heartbeat, and showers an all encompassing thriller in shards of intrigue, tension and sharp wit.
Sifting through those shards, the shrapnel of evidence, clues, markers and pointers is primarily the job of the Australian Federal Police’s K Block, a unit doing whatever it takes to to stop terrorist attacks on home soil.

The pebble that starts the ripple, the murder and mutilation of young Muslim men on the Terror Watchlist, soon becomes a stone around the neck of investigators. They know it’s a message, but from whom and about what? Is it a serial revenge spree perpetrated by a rogue agent or a harbinger of a greater horror to come? Continue reading THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

KILLING GROUND : 5 DOUBLE PASSES TO THIS NEW AUSTRALIAN THRILLER

KILLING GROUND is an attempt at schlock horror channelling Wolf Creek and Deliverance. The deliverance is an ugly cry wolf experience.

A well heeled couple, Ian and Sam, who should be booking a holiday at the Hilton decide to go on a camping trip in a remote spot of the Australian wilderness. Passing through a one horse town, they ask directions to the secluded spot from a pair of suspiciously psycho locals. As you do in films of this genre.

Finally finding the secluded spot, the couple find it not so solitary, as a tent has already been pitched. But where are the happy campers?

Is that the faint twang of Duelling Banjos I hear on the soft, off shore breeze, rustling the leaves of the eerie eucalyptus?

With the other campers at large, Ian and Sam’s discovery of a child wandering alone sets off a terrifying chain of events that will put them through a hellish ordeal and punch a hole in the space-time continuum. Continue reading KILLING GROUND : 5 DOUBLE PASSES TO THIS NEW AUSTRALIAN THRILLER

THE KING’S CHOICE

A grandfather plays hide and seek with his grandchildren in the snow. This simple autumn pleasure will soon turn into a winter of discontent as the grandfather faces the future of a war with Germany.

THE KING’S CHOICE is based on the true story about the three dramatic days in April of 1940, when the King of Norway is presented with the monstrous ultimatum from the Germans: surrender or die.

Erik Poppe’s picture is a slow burn affair, building a calm before the storm so exquisitely that the mounting tension is almost taken for normal until sudden and seismic action comes crashing down.

The hypocrisy of Hitler’s hideous hegemony is highlighted as German ambassador to Norway, Curt Braeuer, desperately tries to find a diplomatic solution to the King’s dilemma – submit sovereignty or assign bloody war to his subjects. It is a duplicitous gambit on behalf of the militaristic territory grabbing Reich, a regime that is quite prepared to use their envoy as a decoy.

Surrounding this central drama, there is the concurrent story of the ineffectual Prime Minister who desperately wants to leave his position and his responsibility.

The opening scene is mirrored, although transformed from playfulness to lethal pursuit as a game of hide and seek between the Nazis and the Royal Family ensues.

With German Air Force and soldiers hunting them down, the royal family is forced to flee from the capital. They decide to go separate ways, not knowing if they’ll ever see each other again. While Crown Princess Maertha leaves Norway with the children to seek refuge in Sweden, King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav stay on to fight the Germans, and bicker amongst themselves about how they should proceed.

THE KING’S CHOICE is a spell binding film of human eminence over dry historical fact.
Jesper Christensen is quietly majestic as the beleaguered monarch, and Anders Baasmo Christiansen is equally absorbing as his son, bridling under the perceived slowness of his father to act.

Karl Markovics as Curt Brauer finely conveys the frustrations of a man whose desperate diplomacy dents his domestic life, a man in crisis due to his conflict between patriotic duty and despotic expansionism.

A terrifically tiered and textured film, THE KING’S CHOICE is a back room view of brutish bureaucracy and a benevolent monarch forced to choose on life and death matters as dictated by a madman.

AMERICAN MADE

Absolution. Welcome back, Tom Cruise, all is forgiven after the misjudged, miscreant mess of The Mummy. AMERICAN MADE is hip, hep and a hoot, and gives Cruise a character to inhabit rather than being a mere cypher action automaton.

Cruise plays Barry Seal, a hotshot airman who gets caught up in a shadowy division of the government—running crates of AK-47s and kilos of cocaine—he makes a fortune as a key player in the Iran-contra affair. From trading arms for hostages to training forces of Central and South American kingpins, Barry becomes an improbable hero working against the system. So, how does he sleep at night? Well, it’s all legal if you do it for the good guys.

According to the press notes, screenwriter Gary Spinelli had recently seen Argo, which had piqued his interest in other untold CIA scandals of the era. After a bit of research on key players of the time, he had come across a man called Barry Seal, a fascinating character in recent American history—one whose devilish swagger and zest for life affected all he met.

In AMERICAN MADE, we are introduced to Barry as captain of a TWA airliner, an accomplished aviator reduced to cruise control and automatic pilot. The thrill of flying has dissipated and he spices up his routine life by taking the airliner’s controls from time to time to create a little turbulence, and also by smuggling contraband Cuban cigars.

Sprung by the CIA, he is given the option of serving time in the penitentiary or being sequestered into the secret world. Seal can’t wait to trade TWA for CIA.

Set up with a plane and a company called AIC stationed out of a small town in Arkansas, Barry was sanctioned by the CIA to run guns into Central America, especially to arm the Contras in their struggle against the Sandinista in Nicaragua. Continue reading AMERICAN MADE

47 METRES DOWN

Hook, line and sinker,47 Metres Down is a stinker, a John Dory of two sisters, Americans, whose holiday of a lifetime becomes a living nightmare when they become trapped in a shark observation cage at the bottom of the ocean in Mexico.

Hello! Mexico? Could this be the first bit of Hollywood halibut inspired by the great trout, Trump? Forget the wall, here’s a great idea, let’s put up a shark net between America and Mexico. Really great!

With oxygen running low and great white sharks circling, it becomes a race for survival for these two siblings, one an adventurous party girl, the other a sedate bore, a prim and proper whose lack of challenge has cost her her marriage. Trouble is, the film itself runs out of puff, a lack of narrative oxygen afflicting the film with a fatal case of the bends. Continue reading 47 METRES DOWN

TERMINATOR 2 : JUDGEMENT DAY 3D 4K RESTORATION

August 29, 1997 has come and gone but T2 is back and it hasn’t really aged a bit.

A quarter of a century ago, when Terminator 2 was freshly minted, August 29, 1997 was mooted as Armageddon, the day Skynet triggered World War III and the rise of the machines.

Twenty years on from that inglorious date Terminator 2 has been newly minted as T23D4K.

It’s the same thrill ride movie from 1991 enhanced by 4K restoration and 3D conversion.

Some seven years passed between Terminator and this sequel, clearly not a rushed job, and the care and detail in the honed and polished script is all up there on the screen, from performance, cinematography, special effects that are special and effective, and good old fashioned startling stunt work.

From its first skull crunching frame to the self sacrificing cyborg finale, director James Cameron makes that rarity – a sequel that is the equal or better than the original. And for all its macho gun play, T2 is a masterpiece of feminist pacifist cinema.

Sarah Connor, is a tough woman, working on emotion and instinct to protect her son and mankind from assured destruction. Like Ripley in Aliens, another James Cameron sci fi/actioner masterpiece, Sarah is not some passive adjunct to a male driven story, she’s a driver not a passenger. Linda Hamilton is fantastic in the role.

And John Connor, the savior of the human race, illustrates his humanity by ordering the robot sent to protect him not to kill anybody. So the death toll is depleted even among all the destruction. Mayhem without mass murder!

The killing is left to the shape shifting assassin cyborg T-1000 played with steely confidence and deadly droid focus by Robert Patrick.

And, of course, there’s Arnie, reprising his role in a most surprising and satisfying way, with deadly deadpan delivery and convincing robotic bulk.

T2 was a triumph when it was made and remains a triumph today – in mood, textures, concerns. Meticulous in its manufacture, it is a text book example of cinematic craftsmanship.

The 4K 3D are enhancements to be savoured, especially on the big screen, where its size and spectacle can be best appreciated.

Make sure you get in early – who knows what may happen come August 29, 2017.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is hitting cinemas for one-week-only on August 24.