Tuesday, July 29, 2008

George. A. Romero at MIFF

The main reason for heading down to Melbourne this past weekend was to interview one of my favourite directors George. A. Romero. The man who gave us, arguably, two of the finest horror films of all time in Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, attended the festival for a career retrospective including rare big screen outings for Martin - one of my personal favourites, Season of the Witch, The Crazies and a whole bloody load of his zombie classics. The gut munchers on display also included the long overdue Australian premiere of Diary of the Dead which the great man introduced as the front few rows of the audience looked on adoringly, caked in fake blood in their finest zombie regalia. Romero was a charming encyclopedia of horror knowledge and an absolute pleasure to meet.

I also interviewed Rusty Nails about his documentary Dead On: The Life and Cinema of George. A. Romero which was an eye opening look into the perils of low budget filmmaking and Olly Blackburn, the director of Donkey Punch, which is very much a cause celebre in the UK at present. I also attended some screenings tied in with the premiere of Not Quite Hollywood including Turkey Shoot introduced by director Brian Trenchard Smith and producer Anthony. I. Ginnane and Long Weekend with appearances by writer Everett De Roche and executive producer Richard Brennan. The afore mentioned also appeared on the Focus on Ozploitation Panel along with stuntman Grant Page and Stone producer David Hannay. Threnchard-Smith and Ginnane in particular were marvellously entertaining company reminiscing on the making of their exploitation classics while passing judgement on modern day Australian cinema…. ‘Ten Empty, more like Ten Empty cinemas!”

On a similar theme I advise all of you horror fans to head to http://www.frightfest.co.uk/ to check out my ‘Dave Down Under’ blog and also to see the incredible line up of films that Messeurs Jones, Rattray and McEvoy have lined up for this years Frightfest Festival taking place at the Odeon West End over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Tickets are on sale now but be quick, they get snapped up fast. Great to see the festival is showing the world premiere of Doug Turner and Stacey Edmonds I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer which I have championed on this site. As always, Sydney is just too far away from London!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not Quite Hollywood

One of the most exciting Australian cinema releases this year will be Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood. A rose tinted paean back to the halcyon days of the Aussie exploitation film and an era of 'boobs, tubes and pubes...and a bit of kung fu' as the poster charmingly proclaims. Hartley has pulled together a startling array of bizarre clips from the darkest depths of Australian film history, many being seen for the first time since their original release in the 70s, especially Wake in Fright which Hartley excitedly told me is being given a deluxe restoration job by the AFI. It is also the first time in many a year that a lot of the directors and actors on show have talked about their experiences. Barry Humphries is hysterical and uber fan Quentin Tarantino shows a fan credentials coining the phrase Ozploitation for good measure. A fabulous benefit of being in Australia means I have been able to interview many of the people involved including the aforementioned Hartley, co-editor and director in his own right Jamie Blanks, Brian Trenchard Smith – director of The Man From Hong Kong, Turkey Shoot and BMX Bandits, Everett De Roche – writer of Patrick, Road Games and Long Weekend and Rod Hay – producer of Night of Fear and Inn of the Damned. I’m also arranging an interview with Hugh Keays-Byrne who starred in the classic biker movie Stone and also played Toecutter in the original Mad Max.

Not Quite Hollywood is the opening film of the Melbounre International Film Festival and I’ll be heading down for the opening weekend to catch screenings of Long Weekend and Turkey Shoot, attend the Aussie Exploitation seminar featuring many of the names mentioned above and interview Australian stuntman extraordinaire Grant Page who made many of these action packed thrillers look so good. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image will be screening a slew of Ozploitation classics throughout the festival so for the brave among you, check out http://www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au/

Meet Dave

For those of you in Sydney I’ll be producing the Cinemascape show on Eastside 89.7 FM at 6pm. This week the show includes reviews of The X- Files: I Want to Believe, Up the Yangtze and my review of the Eddie Murphy comedy Meet Dave. Murphy plays the miniature alien captain of a spaceship, also played by a giant Eddie Murphy. He is visiting earth to recover a strange device that will drain earth of it's oceans but will save his own planet. I was always a huge fan of Murphy’s early career including Delirious, Raw and Trading Places. To be honest his last great comedy performance was Bowfinger with Steve Martin and he was worth the praise he garnered in Dreamgirls but his career has taken a nose dive with rubbish like Norbit, Daddy Day Care and The Nutty Professor 2. In Meet Dave he shows a glint of the comedy genius of his early years while still maintaining the overly saccharin family values that have blighted his recent work. Tune in to hear my full review.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dark Knight on air review

This week on Cinemascape I’ll be reviewing one of the years most anticipated releases; Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Obviously the untimely demise of Heath Ledger has brought the film much unwanted attention but for once, all the talk of the posthumous Oscar nomination is completely grounded. Believe the hype! Ledger’s Joker is one of the most mesmerising celluloid villains of all time. He commands your attention and repulses your senses every time he appears on screen. Not that The Dark Knight is a one man show. Aaron Eckhart is fantastic as Gotham City’s new Knight in shining armour DA Harvey Dent and Christian Bale more than holds his own as the titular superhero. Nolan has put together a Summer movie masterpiece that not only knocks its seasonal contemporaries out of the park but will almost definitely be haled as one of the years best. The multi layered, enthralling plot twists in all the right places and cinematographer Wally Pfister has shot a deliciously gloomy landscape for Batman to duke it out with the bad guys. For anyone lucky enough to live near an IMAX cinema, make the effort and see it there, you will not be disappointed. Tune in to Eastside FM 89.7 FM at 6pm this Friday to hear my review.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Sydney Film Festival round up Part 2

As the dust settles in the State Theatre and the last ticket has been scanned here are my final thoughts on the Sydney Film Festival in my second round up. The final weekend of the festival brought some of my favourite film’s of the event.

Michael Haneke’s shot for shot remake of his own Funny Games was a brilliant piece of audience manipulation that frequently broke the fourth wall, often cruelly taking away the viewers few moments of joy. Naomi Watt’s gave an amazing performance as the beleaguered victim of a very strange home invasion. Tim Roth also made a welcome return to the big screen as her husband but unfortunately spent most of the film with a broken leg. The brilliance of the film was that no explanation is given for the horrendous events that occur; much like real life people’s lives are shattered and destroyed, often at the whim of someone they don’t know. The film divided the audience and created the most verbose response of the festival.

Somers Town; Shane Meadow’s low key follow up to his fantastic This is England was a hugely enjoyable glimpse into the friendship of a young midlands lad and a Polish immigrant. Shot in black and white, once again This is England star Thomas Turgoose enters Meadow’s world as the loner hitting the streets of London and the director brings his customary gritty realism to a surprisingly good natured and entertaining diversion.

American Teen took the template of John Hughes The Breakfast Club and recreated a heart warming and life affirming documentary about the trials and tribulations of being a teen in America. They were all there; the jock, the prom queen, the geek, the rebel and the basket case. The really interesting thing about the documentary is the footage they managed to get, often catching the teens at their most vulnerable. Hilarious, uplifting and moving, one of the feel good hits of the festival.

Brian DePalma’s Redacted has come in for a lot of criticism since it began the festival trail. Returning to the themes visited in the director’s previous excursion into the darker side of war Casualties of War; Redacted takes a very modern approach to tell its story using footage from video cameras, news reels, even Arabic You Tube. Based on true stories, he film is just as much a condemnation of the media as a look at the horrific depths that the armies of young men will go in the face of war. It’s unfortunate that DePalma’s vision is hindered by the often amateur performances but even these do add a certain resonance to some scenes, recommended with reservations. In a similar vein was the new Errol Morris documentary Standard Operating Procedure which looked at the stories behind the infamous photographs taken by American troops at Saddam Hussein’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

A definite surprise highlight was the Icelandic murder mystery Jar City directed by Baltasar Korm├íku. Never taking the easy path, the beautifully shot film is a gripping examination of how a murder touches everyone, no matter how slight the persons connection to the departed. Excellent performances from the entire cast firmly ground this gritty thriller that is as shocking for the Icelandic diet as it is for its twist plot. The closing film was the Oscar nominated animated feature Persepolis which was a beautifully crafted adaptation of Iranian born Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel featuring the voices of Catherine Deneuve and Iggy Pop.

Well that about wraps it up for Sydney, all roads now lead to the Melbourne International Film Festival at the end of July. Tune in soon for more news on the festival line up and some legendary interviews I’ll be conducting.