September 4, 2006

AFI Screenings - Reviews #2

48 Shades, dir. Daniel Lapaine
Plot: A 17-year-old boy whose parents have gone to Europe decides to stay with his 22-year-old Aunt Jacq and her flatmate Naomi in a shared house in Brisbane. As his feelings for Naomi become stronger, he finds himself on the brink of adulthood. A typical house party will eventually result in feelings being aired and secrets being reveals. Other coming-of-age shenanigans occur.

Verdict: Based on the book 48 Shades of Brown, it's a pretty safe bet that if you're of the ages between, say, 16 and your early 20's and this sort of movie is your thing then you will enjoy it. I have many issues with the movie, but in the end I was won over by it's charm. It's not rocket science, it's just trying to be a pleasant movie for teenagers from a country that can sometimes become too adult-oriented (especially with movies like The Book of Revelation and Macbeth making the rounds). It's not in the same territory as the similar Looking For Alibrandi though.

The two girls who play Jacq and Naomi are great. Newcomer Robin McLeavy and Emma Lung (who impressed me mucho in last year's Peaches) really fit these roles. They don't look ridiculously miscast either. One thing Australian teen flicks do is cast actors who look the right age. The general feel of the film too is great. The breezy Queensland attitude of sorts is infectious. The film looks great too.

However, the screenplay has major issues. The entire structure of the film does not work - the house party sequence (although very realistic) goes on waaay too long and then the movie ends soon after, as if they forgot to write more of a third act. And as much as I said the film looks great, the makers decided to throw in way too many shots of the Brisbane Bridge and such. Like, we get that it's set in Brisbane, okay! And the soundtrack was frustrating. It was one of those song-soundtracks, and they tried to fit in as many songs as possible. Sometimes they were completely unnecessary. Oh, and all three main male castmembers were annoying, especially the lead (Richard Wilson). He was a dull fop and I HATED HIS HAIR. I also didn't get how this boy's "coming of age" can occur over the space of about one week.

But, still, I was won over. It's at least realistic, and I identified with it. A late-staged character twist was unnecessary, but didn't affect me so much as it did with Last Train to Freo. In the end, I would say I liked it, even against my better judgement. B-

Last Train to Freo, dir. Jeremy Sims
Plot: Two men get on the last train to Fremantle one night. They muck around the empty carriage, but then a girl gets on the train. Eventually another woman and man get on. From there on, as the two men torment the young woman the true intentions of every train-goer is revealed.

Verdict: Okay, so two thirds of this movie were surprisingly great. I was really going along with this movie. I thought the situation was quite unique and the way the dialogue and action was incorporated was really well done. Performances are all good, my favourites being Tom Budge as the larrakin one of the two original train travellers (Steve Le Marquand plays the leader though) and Gillian Jones as the older woman who has left her husband. Gigi Edgley and Glenn Hazledine play the other travellers.

However, for some reason with the last act the makers decided that their film was too lightweight or something. I'm not quite sure, but I wish they hadn't. The move the makers pulled reeked of desperation, as if they wanted to be perceived as something important. It's sort of insulting that so many movies these day are now using the exact same device. It's annoying and frustrating. I'd tell you what it is, but I wouldn't wanna spoil it for the Aussies who read this - I doubt this will be seen outside of Australia/NZ apart from festivals and I can imagine it being popular at certain festivals, which is exactly why the end is annoying. It just seems like they're trying to pander to a certain audience. And there is the very very end, which gave of the impression that the entire thing was a big fat joke. But, still, the stuff before it was good. C+

Macbeth, dir. Geoffrey Wright
Plot: Er... it's MACBETH, people. This time it's set in Melbourne's gangland underworld. That's it.

The Verdict: Holy hell! Now this is an experience. Starting in a wild frenzy of blood, guts and bullets and ending in it too, Geoffrey Wright's (Romper Stomper) Macbeth is truly amazing. There's not really any movie like it. Much like Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, Wright (and screenwriter/star) Victoria Hill use the Bard's original dialogue but supplant it into a modern day setting. Changes include turning the weird sisters/witches into three horny schoolgirls and so on.

Once the dialogue appears I was disjointed - it didn't sound right coming out of the Aussie actors with their accents (in particular Sam Worthington), but I shortly got used to it and never even thought about it again. Performances from the cast are all great, in particular Victoria Hill, who is having a great year, as Lady Macbeth. She is a marvel. Worthington too is a perfect fit (a mix of bravado, natural leadership and, let's be honest, hotness). Wright knows how to handle this sort of everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style mob violence, and thankfully it's less irksome than it was over 10 years ago in Romper Stomper

For me though, the one thing I just could not take my eyes off was the stunning production values, in particular the art direction and costume design. Phenomenally well done here, these works are Best of the Year candidates (rest assured, these sets at least are a definite Top 3 placegetter from me, no doubt about it). All those deep red motifes and the costumes are perfectly created duds for the characters (Hill gets some particularly ravishing clothes thrown on her). The digital cinematography is also ace.

This movie was just a great experience. See it on the big screen where it deserves to be seen. It's a powerfully made piece of cinema. Yes, it's violent and sexual but... it's freakin' MACBETH so that argument doesn't wash. Macbeth is just further evidence that Australian filmmakers are some of the most invaluablely creative in the world. A-

and this is a shot from Sam Worthington's Macbeth shower scene. Umm...

Raul the Terrible, dir. David Bradbury
Okay, so I don't agree with the things the Argentinean government was doing, as it was portrayed in this documentary, but I really didn't like this movie at all because the protagonist (Raul Castells) is so completely unlikable. None of the things he does to oppose his nation's government is rational and I don't agree with HIM either. Like, he storms into a building and then threatens all the officials and then tells them to not threaten him when they're simply asking him to leave (yeah, the building he stormed with hundres of protestors). What a dick. C-


par3182 said...

i'm confused; is there "not really any movie like" macbeth, or is it "much like luhrmann's romeo + juliet"? the shakespearean dialogue and stunning production values siggest the latter (but is it also irritatingly over-edited?)

and now you've got me all intrigued by last train to freo. so, let me guess... they're dead?

and how did you cope with all that travelling? i can't even be bothered to walk for fifteen minutes to get to the local cinema. kudos

Kamikaze Camel said...

1. It's like R+J in essense but that was set in Venice Beach and it's very bright and techno razzle dazzled. Macbeth is not. It's dark and gloomy and such. The dialogue thing is like saying Memoirs of a Geisha is like Zatoichi because they're both set in Japan. The essential similarity is there, but in context it's completely different.

2. They're not dead, it's even more frustratingly desperate for attention. I can e-mail you if you really want to know about Freo

3. Travelling was much easier than I expected. Turns out I was able to get enough sleep between days. And unlike proper festivals, all the movies were at one cinema so it was merely an issue of getting from Souther Cross station to Fed Sq. and back again.

4. I only have Friday and Saturday nights next week left. Solo and Footy Legends on Friday and then Kenny and 2:37 on Saturday. And then it's over. I still need to see Suburban Mayhem though cause I missed that one.

Simon A said...

I'm missing Macbeth at Toronto! I'm seeing Cashback instead. Maybe I'll try to get to another screening.

Gillian Jones is awesome, she's possibly my favourite thing about Love My Way.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Dude, it'll be released down here in, like, 2 weeks or something.

richardwatts said...

Sorry mate, I thought Macbeth was fucken dreadful.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Richard - Macbeth was possibly the worst film I've ever seen. And funnily enough I thought Last Train to Freo was one of the best (best of the Aussie bunch out now - saw it at MIFF- brilliant!). Funny how differently people see things.