It’s the time of the year where we view films for the Film Critics Circle of Australia awards and tonight film is “Boys of the Trees”. It is a suspenseful and mysterious thriller that is essentially a coming of age film about growing up, childhood friendship, reality and fiction with a dose of Americanised Halloween in the proceeding. This is a well shot film that is a tad too long in its pacing, but ends up interesting if a little diverting at times. Toby Wallace headlines the film as the high school grad who once left his best mate behind as they grew apart during the high school years. Whilst he is given one night to rediscover their friendship and himself, the film allows us to think back to our own childhood, the time when we have own little world that we shared with some quietly special friends. Wallace does well and shows enough potential as a leading man. Gulliver McGrath plays the friend that grown up to be small and weird and manages to chew the scenery though his mysterious character.
All in all, this is an uneven film that tries hard to stay mysterious throughout. While the resolution raises more questions than it answers, the film manages to make us reflect and think about our own moments and time. Director Nicholas Verso is one to watch for the future.
[NeoFilmShop.com] Downriver (2015) – Australia
As part of the viewage for Film Critics Circle of Australia awards, we visited the redemption tale of Downriver. The story is a simple one about a child murderer out on parole who seek redemption about the missing body and how the events happened. Director Grant Sciciluna shows a lot of potential and uses creative ways to present the simple tale. Lead Reef Ireland manages to portray that mysteriousness and whilst never overacts. Tortured soul and troubled childhood combines well in this lost city within the outback of Australia, where everyone seems to be in the midst of trouble. Thomas Green shows glimpses of potential as the main villain and manages to hold his own with menacing effect. There is a lot of potential in this film, but somehow not entirely fulfilled or satisfying. The finale redeems it somewhat, but it’s a little too late.
[NeoFilmShop.com] The Daughter (2015) – Australia
As we continue our viewing of Aussie films for the Film Critics Circle of Australia awards, we managed to come across a genuine winner in the emotionally resounding film, The Daughter. Led by the ever impeccable Geoffrey Rush as the rich mill owner, we have a terrific ensemble cast of the dependable Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Ewen Leslie and rising talent Odessa Young as the daughter. An adaptation of the famous 1800s play – Wild Duck, director Simon Stone transcends the context to more modern country Australia and succeeds in both its execution and depicting a tragic tale. This is probably the most emotionally engaging Aussie drama I have personally felt for in years and will likely touch the coldest of hearts. Odessa Young puts in a sensational performance and clearly worthy of winning Best Actress award. The way she ponders around seems as though she is going about her day to day life and when required to put up a performance, she simply nailed it in those final 15 minutes. Sam Neill as the grandfather delivers a stellar and dependable performance, while Ewen Leslie is simply intense and charismatic. This is a film about people, the happenings, the twist, the tragedy and life. It’s about time that we get a good old Aussie film that relates and emotes with the audience. If there is one Aussie film you should see a year, watch this one!
Directed by: Rolf de Heer Starring: Daniel Wyllie, Gary Waddell, Bojana Novakovic, Anthony Hayes, Luke Ford and Aaron J. March.
The problem with “The King is Dead” mainly lies with its poor pacing, out of tone humor, distant characters and non existence direction. It is not that the film is poorly acted, but most of the characters seem rather disinterested. Sure, director Rolf de Heer (former Cannes winning recipient) is aiming for an off-beat black comedy, but it certainly doesn’t help when the film lacks focus and not to say the least, the film constantly suffers from poor direction, incoherent editing and amateurish cinematography. At the end of the day, it didn’t feel like a film, but rather like a play on stage and that’s where the real problem exists.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of the film is Bojana Novakovic’s performance and displaying being given a role with almost zero character, she able to be the most realistic human out of the lot. Novakovic have previously impressed in films like “Edge of Darkness” and 2011’s”Burning Man”, but here she seems out of place and most likely a forgettable role in her filmography. Dan Wyllie (“Underbelly”) lacks the conventional leading star presence and his overacting is at times more annoying than convincing. The duo lacks chemistry and their interactions at times seem more awkward than natural. Perhaps the worst actor to grace the film comes in the stoned character of Gary Waddell, who plays the constantly drunk and demented character in an almost deadpan manner. I wouldn’t say, it is performance, as all Waddell does is stare at you and speak like a drunk. Some may call this acting, but when there is zero substance behind it, it all feels rather weird.
All in all, “The King is Dead” is a bad film and probably not the type of the film that will help the Australian film industry. The real disappointment is that both the director, actors and actresses involved have done far better works. When the thing to come out of the movie is the shocker brutal beatings, you know that the film lacks integrity. I am not trying to say that Rolf de Heer’s intention to make a black comedy about annoying neighbours is entirely wrong, but the comic moments are far and in between. Perhaps, if the director is trying to say that it may well be due to the annoying and noisy neighbour that keeps the sparks of the relationship between Novakovic and Wyllie alive and interesting. If that is really the case, this may well be a different film altogether. However, there are far better things to do than sit through 100 minutes of everything bad about film making. (Neo 2013)
Director: Stephan Elliott Writer: Dean Craig Stars: Laura Brent, Xavier Samuel and Kris Marshall
What I look for in comedies are plenty of laughters, lots of laugh out loud moments and essentially a film that is funny right from the get go. It is good news to announce that “A Few Best Men” delivers exactly and in doing so, it even manages to converge both British and Australian humour packaged into a highly hilarious film. Sure, the film takes plenty of situation comic moments from a much bigger film (“Hangover”) including the use of a certain animal as a central gag and a group guys going crazy before a wedding. However, “A Few Best Men” manages to stay fresh, wonderful comic timing and chemistry between British and Australian co-stars and a beautiful landscape of the very best shots of Blue Mountain that one will possibly ever see. Director Stephan Elliott should be proud of this achievement as this is most certainly a massive fun ride.
Xavier Samuel headlines the film as the Britsh guy about to marry his Australian sweetheart (played by Laura Brent). Samuel manages to put in an efficient performance and carries the film like a rock. However, Samuel is easily upstaged by his comic counterparts namely Kris Marshall and Kevin Bishop, In fact, it is Marshall and Bishop combo of comic antics that drives the film forward and providing the audience with plenty to laugh about. Laura Brent who plays the bride to be, is beautiful to look at, without adding much to her role. While, Jonathan Biggins is stoically funny as the retiring senator and father of the bride. As for the much missed, Olivia Newton-John who plays the mother of the bride, simply oozes with screen presences and is always a joy to watch. However, the highlight moment of the film comes in the form of a hilarious extended cameo from Steve Le Marquand whose drug dealer role simply steals the show with an over-the top performance.
All in all, “A Few Best Men” is unlikely to win any awards, but in terms of pure entertainment value, it scores highly by being outright funny. Despite the not being original in its approach to things, the film still manages to have one gag after another. What I truly enjoyed about this film, is its ability to be predictable and hilarious at the same time. Surprisingly for a comedy, “A Few Best Men” at times stunning to look at, this is especially evident the final scenes of the film, where the romantic pair lock lips within the exhilarating backdrop of the vast Blue Mountain. Sure, “A Few Best Men” may not be entirely memorable or worth remembering after the credit ends, but for its entire duration, it is really 90 minutes of fun. Then again, the film is probably funnier if you are either British or Australian. Now let’s insert a ram joke! (Neo 2013)
I rated it 7/10
Writing about Asian and World cinema since 2004 (Member of Film Critic Circle of Australia and Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts)