Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review: Into the Shadows

Into the Shadows
Dir. Andrew Scarano
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 90mins

It’s curious to be watching a film such as Andrew Scarano’s Into the Shadows, since a large portion of the film is dedicated to investigating why Australian audiences don’t go see Australian films. And yet I’m sure the one thing Australian audiences want to see less than an Australian film is an Australian documentary on why they’re not going to Australian cinema. Okay, that’s complicated, but I’m sure you followed it.

Read the rest at Onya Magazine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twin Peaks x10

Writing that bit about David Lynch and Twin Peaks put me in a mood. Doesn't it always when you think about Twin Peaks, even just momentarily?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: The Man From Hong Kong

The Man from Hong Kong
Dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith & Jimmy Wang Yu
Year: 1975
Aus Rating: R18+ (DVD: MA15+)
Running Time: 111mins

The Man from Hong Kong begins with a fist fight on top of Uluru and ends with George Lazenby being - very literally - set on fire. In between there are explosions, kung fu, abseiling, hang gliding, sword fights, grenades, sniper rifles, Chinese food, cars flying through weatherboard houses, nudity, party crashers, assassins, slapstick comedy plus "Sky High" by 1970s one-hit wonders Jigsaw as the movie's theme song! Does this not amaze you?

The plot, what litter there is to be attained in between fight sequences, is this: Some Chinese dude must come to Australia to take a drug dealer back to Hong Kong, but he then becomes involved in some sort of mission to bring down Sydney's biggest drug kingpin. Or something to that effect. It really doesn't matter, does it?

The action scenes, courtesy mostly of Jimmy Wang Yu, are what anybody watching this movie in this day and age is after and they don't disappoint. Apart from the opening scene at Uluru, there is the famous stunt wherein Yu kicks a man off of a moving motorbike and - my favourite - the knife fight in the Chinese restaurant, there are battles with a pack of kung fu experts, a car chase along a cliff and a moment that would cause PC cops today to shudder at the media attention it would receive. While making former "James Bond" George Lazenby look like a profession martial arts expert is a challenge, there are moments when the action is full on. You can tell it's real when the dirty footprints are left on the shirt of a man who has just been kicked in the gut by an agile kung fu master.

In other regards the film is not so much of a success. Acting is generally quite woeful with Yu being the worst offender and his occasional love interests - Rebecca Gilling predominantly - all register nil on a score of ten. At least George Lazenby is having fun! Or was he? At least the cinematography by future Oscar-winner Russell Boyd is lively and the score by Noel Quinlan is energetic and exciting like many scores from this period of Australian cinema. I'm surprised Quentin Tarantino hasn't used bits of the score in his films! Actually, the entire car chase that happens towards the end of the film was, surely, the inspiration for the near-identical scene that Tarantino featured in Death Proof.

One of the film's guiltiest pleasures is watching in shock and awe at how incredibly racist the film is. And while it is the Asian race that bares the brunt of it, the white people are presented as such moronic doofuses on many occasions that I can't help but feel writer/director Brian Trenchard-Smith was an equal opportunist in this department! How does one explain the scene in which Yu is kissing a girl and she mentions her surprise at how good it it, to which he responds with a joke about acupuncture! And just moments earlier the woman was making slanty-eye jokes! Or when asked "do you normally sleep with white women" he replies "Only on Tuesdays and Thursdays." I am not making this up! And then there's the barrage of comments from the white police officers such as "I find Chinese make the best servants" and "I never met a Chinese yet that didn't have a yellow streak." My personal favourite, if you can call it that, was "This is Australia, not 55 Days at Peking!" Er, if you say so, but I was sure I saw Charlton Heston sulking around in the background at one point!

Having seen Mark Hartley's Not Quite Hollywood helps, as witnessing the moments discussed in that award-winning documentary is something to behold. Watch as a car door flies perilously close to the camera after an explosion with the knowledge that it actually was that close! Watch as stunt men (or, usually, just regular actors being paid a pittance) get flung about onto cars and into rivers. Watch as George Lazenby accidentally gets set on fire, resulting in Lazenby being sent to hospital, and watch how Yu interacts with the white women in the cast, knowing now as we do that he actually despised white women and would eat bugs before having to kiss one. He was such a lovely man, I'm sure.

Truly a time capsule worth cherishing for ways that, perhaps, aren't the purest, The Man from Hong Kong is a blast of energy that is sorely lacking within the Australian film industry right now. The size and scope of the entire film is impressive - especially since it was Trenchard-Smith's first feature - and it remains mind-boggling that they were able to get away with half of this. People aren't even allowed to walk up Uluru anymore, let alone stage and elaborate fight sequence! It's a hoot and I don't care what you say! B

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: Crush

Dir. John V Soto & Jeffrey Gerritsen
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 77mins

In my effort to review Australian films whenever I can, I sometimes come across a movie that just defies belief. How, in 2009, did Crush happen? It's not 1982 anymore and just like Prey (read about that one here) it is just so fantastical that it's hard to believe anybody thought they were making a movie that legitimate paying audiences would go and see.

Buried within the plot of Crush is a Fatal Attraction via Obsessed by way of The Crush (that Alicia Silverstone movie from the early 1990s if you remember it). Unfortunately it doesn't have the bravado of the former or the campness of the latter titles. I am actually not making it up when I say Crush - the directorial debuts of John V Soto and Jeffrey Gerritsen - is about an American taekwondo champion who now lives in Perth, WA, who works as a house sitter and becomes entangled with a babe who has supernatural powers. I am not joking. That is the plot of a movie released in 2009. Unfortunately, unlike Prey, Crush doesn't have a sense of humour, so when a character starts having sex with a corpse it's icky and not hilarious. There's a fine line there, folks!

Crush stars Christopher Egan, formerly of Home & Away, and he spends only a small portion of the running time sans shirt. Needless to say, what good is gonna do with a shirt on? His American accent is poor and it comes and goes at the drop of a hat. The big misfire of the film, however, is Emma Lung. I'm not sure what forced her to take this role other than the necessity to pay her rent. Lung is a sublime actress and has demonstrated that in films such as Peaches, Stranded and The Jammed, but here she is nothing more than a .5-dimensional babe-in-a-bikini. To make it worse, by the time her character's true evil starts to show it is just not fun. Not as deranged as Glenn Close, nor as absurd as Ali Larter. The rest of the film is filled with people you've never heard of, so no point going there.

John V Soto appears to have decided that he is the next Everett De Roche, saviour of Australian genre flicks. He wrote Prey as well as Crush and has co-directing honours on it too. Somebody within the wheelhouse likes him, but if he wants to bring genre back to Aussie audiences he's going to have to do a lot more than the meagre offerings on offer here. Even when De Roche's work was bad (I'm looking at your Harlequin!) it was original. When he was good it was Patrick and Road Games, which are classic cinema that trade on more than just cheap scares.

Crush looks pretty, that's for sure, although for a movie filmed in Perth they haven't exactly gone out of their way to incorporate that into the movie. I guess Perth suburbs are the same as Sydney suburbs then? A boring and repetitive soundtrack, filled with rock songs (and one incredibly miscast Silverchair number) that would've played at a backyard BBQ 10 years ago, as well as a flat and uninspiring direction make Crush a major disappointment. I really wanted to enjoy this as a hilarious, B-grade effort. It should have been hysterical when Egan accidentally hits himself with a hockey bat, but it's not particularly. When Lung says ridiculous dialogue like "my body is dead, but my soul isn't" I should have been howling, but it's actually just silly. Now if she's fired laser beams from her eyes and made a Ming vase explode I may have jumped on board! Too much taekwondo and not enough pop divas being punched in the face, I say! D-