When I did this last year it proved to be a hit (with readers and on the visitors counter) so I thought I would do it again. 2009 was, without a doubt, one of the finest - if not the finest - years of Australian film on record. I didn't quite anticipate that when I did wrote that piece last year, but it was such a wonderful surprise. Movies such as Three Blind Mice, Samson & Delilah, Cedar Boys, Disgrace, Mary and Max, Lake Mungo, Lucky Country, Balibo, My Year Without Sex, Beautiful Kate, The Boys are Back, Charlie & Boots and Mao's Last Dancer are all a testament to that. I haven't seen it yet, but the year has ended with Bright Star, which added a perfect coda to the year that was and has proven to be a box office surprise, too!
2009 also saw several films premiere on the festival circuit that all look promising to varying degrees. Mix those with a selection of exciting-sounding, if untested, films and 2010 is looking to give 2009 a run for its money. Some of the films that I I mentioned last year that didn't arrive in 2009 show up again below so you'll have to excuse them. There are, however, some titles that seem like they'll never find a release. If anybody has details on them then feel free to let me know in the credits, but No Through Road, Offing David, In Her Skin, The Gates of Hell and Devil's Gateway all seem to have been swallowed up, never to be heard from again. Perhaps a DVD release in in store for them somewhere down the line.
Animal Kingdom - A 300lb gorilla of sorts from early word. David Michôd's debut feature-length film has a very fine cast that includes Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce (and his moustache), Jacki Weaver, Luke Ford, Anthony Hayes and Dan Wyllie. It will be a part of the upcoming Sundance Film Festival and the teaser (below) packs a punch in only 38 seconds and no semblance whatsoever of a plot. Seems to be taking an aim at the Underbelly audience - hey, two million viewers a night counts for something' - and has a chance to be the first Aussie classic of the new decade.
Bait 3D - Directed by genre-vet Russell Mulcahy (returning to Australia after movies like Resident Evil: Extinction), this will be one of several 3D genre flicks to come from Australian filmmakers in 2010, although given that it will rely on visual effects it will probably get delayed until 2011. Bait 3D revolves around a bunch of characters trapped inside a shopping plaza, which is infested with hungry sharks after a tsunami washes them ashore. Yes, this does sound amazing! See also: The Reef (further down). Previously written about here.
Beneath Hill 60 - Aiming to be another big release for 2010, this film from Jeremy Sims (whose Last Train to Freo features one of the most bizarre gay subplots of the '00s) stars Brendan Cowell, Gyton Grantley, Jacqueline Mackenzie, Steve LeMarquand, Aden Young and Anthony Hayes. It's set during WWII, not that you would know it from this preliminary poster that the production released to Facebook. Head on over to leave your feedback (mine wasn't positive). Follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Belledonna - Arty co-production between Australia and Poland. Has been making the festival rounds throughout Europe. Follow on Facebook
Birthdday - Haven't the foggiest, but it's another title to add to the list.
Blame - Sounds interesting and has a nice cast. Will premiere at MIFF, but could get theatrical in 2011.
Bran Nue Dae - I included this indigenous musical on last year's list suspecting it would arrive in 2010 and I was right, but only just. Rachel Perkins' adaptation of Jimmy Chi's stage musical is released next week and I'm hoping it can do well at the box office. It stars local celebs such as Geoffrey Rush, Jessica Mauboy, Missy Higgins and Ernie Dingo so the chance is there. I've written plenty about the movie including my review from the Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow on Facebook
Cane Toads: The Conquest - The very first Australian film to be seen in 3D will be this seqeul to Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, a film that as well as being BAFTA-nominated stood as the highest grossing Aussie documentary for over 15 years. It's described as a "documentary horror film about the environmental devastation left in the wake of the giant toads' unstoppable march across Australia." And in 3D, which means there'll be more cane toads being thrown at the screen than whilst driving down a Queensland highway. Gets its world premiere at Sundance.
Daybreakers - Filmed back in 2007, this vampire horror flick from the Spierig Brothers (Undead) is released in America this weekend and in Australia next weekend, although I did hear it had been pushed back. Stars Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Isabel Lucas and Claudia Karvan. Karvan, by the way, has another film made back in 2007, Jamie Blanks' Long Weekend remake that was retitled Nature's Grave for its international DVD release, which is languishing in limbo. Anybody have details on when we will see tht one? Follow on Facebook
Ektopos - This film, a rare Aussie science fiction movie, has been on my radar for ages. Hopefully we finally get to see it in 2010. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Eliminated! - A film to keep an eye on. This "terrorism comedy" comes from the writer/director of arthouse phenom The Jammed. It's a complete 180, but it sounds fascinating. Followers on Twitter were subject to all the filming details (it was filmed in three weeks) as it happened including explosions, sky diving and torrential rain. Follow on Twitter.
Fragment - I had never heard of this fright flick from Andrew Miles until the other day when I read about its success overseas and the plans to distribute it, finally, in its home country. Good luck to them! Follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Griff the Invisible - How excited am I for Griff the Invisible? VERY! I do believe this is the first Australian superhero movie since The Return of Captain Invincible (starring Alan Arkin!) in the 1980s. Leon Ford's debut feature film (he is also an actor and appears in Beneath Hill 60) stars True Blood's Jason Stackhouse himself Ryan Kwanten as a man who is an office worker by day and a superhero by night. The wonderful Maeve Dermody stars as his love interest. Also? ASHKA!!!!! Follow on Twitter.
And because that publicity still of Kwanten wearing a had and reading a newspaper is just not enough...
The Guardians of Ga'Hoole - Filmed here, partially funded by us (I think) and starring a whole swag of Aussies. I think it counts as an Australian production, but not so much an Aussie film. Very much like Knowing or The Matrix. Directed by Zach Snyder (really?) and featuring the voices of Hugo Weaving, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Sam Neill, Emilie de Ravin (that's funny cause it's about birds!), Helen Mirren, Emily Barclay, Mirian Margolyes and Jim Sturgess.
I Love You Too - One of the most curious films to see will be I Love You Too. Directed by Daina Reid (in her film debut after years of TV work), but known primarily to people locally as the film that was written by comedian Peter Helliar. Brendan Cowell, Peter Dinklage and supermodel Megan Gale (as well as a bunch of other recognisable faces) all star in this very bizarre-sounding romantic comedy.
Jucy - I really really (I used "really" twice, that means something!) liked director Louise Alston's 2007 feature All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, which was perhaps the best Australian romantic comedy of the decade (although if someone would like to remind me of one I forgot, please do) and I am eager to see what she pulls out for the second of her Aussie romcom trilogy. It's not just a romantic comedy, it's "a womantic comedy".
Kin - Despite the impressive cast for Amanda Jane's debut film - Isabel Lucas, Kestie Morassi, Essie Davis, Steve Bisley, Nadine Garner, Josh Lawson, Adam Zwar and ASHKA!!!!! - I have heard next to nothing about it other than its mere existence. Apparently set for release in June so they have time.
Oranges and Sunshine - Doesn't that title just send shivers down your spine? Hugo Weaving, David Wenham and - HELLO! - Emily Watson star in this feature film debut from TV director Jim Loach. Still... that title is truly terrifying. UK/Australia co-production.
The Last Dragon: Search for the Lost Pearl - Not sure what's going on with this Australia/China co-production. The cast list on IMDb is suspiciously low and information seems to be minimal.
Lonesdale - Shohreh Aghdashloo stars in this film that I had never heard about until someone mentioned it in the comments section. Jacek Koman also stars, most of you will know him as the narcoleptic Argentinian in Moulin Rouge!.
The Loved Ones - I have previously discussed Sean Byrne's breakthrough horror flick The Loved Ones when it screened at and won the big prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. It's set for release soon and I reckon it could be a big one. Following in the footsteps of horror hit Wolf Creek, Byrne's film has received the highly restrictive R18+ rating (the strictest rating possible), which already does enough to drum up interest. Stars Xavier Samuels who appears in the next Twilight movie, Eclipse, and I can't freakin' wait!
Lou - I'm sure it features yet another amazing performance by Emily Barclay, but Belinda Chayko's film hasn't had any sort of presence online anywhere so anticipation isn't high. Stars John Hurt, returning after, I guess, having such a fun time making The Proposition five years ago.
Matching Jack - Otherwise known as Love and Mortar, this film marks the Australian return of Nadia Tass, one of the most successful and important directors since her classic 1986 debut Malcolm (the one where Colin Friels drives a car that splits in two!) Love and Mortar sounds like it could be a hit and stars Jacinda Barrett, Richard Roxburgh, James Nesbitt and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Melt - The plot sounds like it could be some god awful Welcome to Woop Woop scenario all over again, which is a frightening prospect. Hopefully Rachael Taylor and Veronica Sywak can make this better than it sounds.
Needle - From the man that made the truly dreadful Crush comes Needle. It has a much better cast this time including Ben Mendelsohn, John Jarrett, Khan Chittenden, Jessica Marais, Michael Dorman and Luke Carroll amongst it. Although it does also feature people like Travis Fimmel and Tahyna Tozzi, which brings it down several pegs.
Playing for Charlie - The official website states early 2010 for this movie that premiered at MIFF two years ago.
Punishment - A truly vile movie that I saw a couple of years back (although in what form I don't know since it has apparently been rejiggered) and is apparently gearing up for some sort of release. It's sorta like arthouse torture porn (literally, there is plenty of torture), but even shitter than you imagine.
Red Hill - On the heels of The Proposition and Lucky Country comes this western starring the ubiquitous Ryan Kwanten. It is set to premiere at Berlinale and I'll be keeping my eyes on it.
The Reef - Definitely excited for this one! From one of the directors of the extraordinary Black Water, The Reef revolves around a bunch of boaters getting stranded in the Great Barrier Reef after their boat capsises and they get stalked by a shark. Doesn't sound all that exciting, but neither did Black Water and that was phenomenal and one of the best horror flicks of the decade. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Road Train - Great title, interesting cast (Xavier Samuel again, plus Sophie Lowe) in a "sci-f/thriller" (apparently). Sounds kinda like a teenage version of Duel.
Sanctum - Aka "James Cameron's Sanctum". Cameron produces this film from director Alister Grierson (Kokoda) that will be filmed in the same brand of 3D that Avatar was and is about a group of divers being trapped in an underwater cave. Being filmed here in Australia and with a host of Aussie cast and crew. Probably won't surface (omgsofunny) until 2011 given the amount of time it will probably take to render, but you never know.
South Solitary - Mirando and Barry Otto star in this new film from Shirley Barrett whose big breakthrough was the Camera d'Or-winning Love Serenade. Set around a lighthouse and was meant to star Maggie Gyllenhaal and Paul Bettany! Such a shame.
$quid: The Movie - Ed Kavalee and Josh Lawson is all I need to know. Sure, it could be hopeless direct-to-DVD amateur hour (it is about a giant squid from the Brisbane River after all), but... Ed Kavalee and Josh Lawson! There are worse things than spending 90 minutes with them. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Summer Coda - This project, from debut director Richard Grey, came second in the inaugural season of Project Greenlight Australia and is only now getting off the ground. Guessing from its name and filming locations (Echuca) I am sure it will be filled with a lot of beautifully photographed sunshine. While I am most definitely not a Nathan Phillips fan, I can't say Rachael Taylor (really shining in a lot of Aussie films this year despite breaking into Hollywood with Transformers 2), Cassandra McGrath, Susie Porter and Alex Dimitriadis don't make up for it. Follow on Twitter.
Tomorrow, When the War Began - A big budget, big screen adaptation of one of the most enduring young adult book titles. Sure to divide fans of the books (it's already happened in regards to the kind of HAT the main character is wearing in a publicity still, oy). The film is the directorial debut for well known screenwriter Stuart Beattie (Australia). Follow on Facebook.
The Tree - Julie Bertucelli returns after the sublime Since Otar Left... with this Australia/France co-production starring Charlotte Gainsbourg. One of the supporting actors, Penne Hackford-Jones, even contacted me when I last spoke of it! omgomg. I'm sure it's a load of wank, but I'm still kinda looking forward to it. Follow on Twitter.
The Waiting City - Radha Mitchell, Joel Edgerton and Isabel Lucas star in this uber-arthouse (apparently) film set in India from director Claire McCarthy.
Wog Boy 2: Kings of Mykonos - Back in 2000/2001 writer and star of The Wog Boy, Nick Giannopoulos, was going around telling anyone who would listen that his film had made tonnes of cash. Good for him. 10 years and a flop or two later he is back with this sequel. It baffles me that Australia doesn't make sequels to hit movies, but here is one. Can't say I'm going to see it, but I'm sure some people will. Vince Colosimo also returns. Alex Dimitriadis and, er, Kevin Sorbo are also floating around.
As always, if you have any extra information on any of these titles regarding release dates of festival screenings then speak up in the comments. Did I forget any titles? Ditto.