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Typical, US-inspired cheapie, with US unknown Hamlin in lead role, has next to no plot and even less credibility. Okay, it was never supposed to win an Academy Award, but the least Lahiff could have done was tie the thing off correctly! Waste of the combined talents of Holden, Waters & Co.
I've got a number of observations to make, in no particular order:
1. I would hardly have thought of seeing this film if not for the (rather raucous) efforts of those seeking to ban it. I can't see why any film should be banned (assuming it's not snuff, real-life rape, etc...) so I was pretty intrigued. I don't like it when people have opinions about things they don't know anything about. Therefore, to have an opinion, I had to see the film and see what all the fuss was about.
2. 48 of the 50 people in the cinema - including myself - were male. I counted. That's 98%. A vast majority was by himself, and middle-aged. I reckon there are certain, distinct types of people who will see a film like this: (a) those in for a good old fashioned perv; (b) those in for a good old-fashioned perv under the pretext that they're there for academic reasons - this is probably me; (c) those who believe the film should be banned and want to see the film so that people take their opinions seriously; (d) people without like controversy; (e) women who go with their husbands; (f) extreme female liberationists; (g) people who have to see it because it's their job; (h) people who absolutely don't want to see it for moral reasons but cave in under peer pressure. I've probably missed a few out but that's the general demographic.
3. Behind all the vivid sex and violence was a distinct women's lib sentiment: the film is based on a book written by the director, who is female, and who wanted to make a statement along the lines of "this film is mainly for women, but just you watch, lots of men will try to get it banned because of their hangups." True to an extent, but certainly the audience, now that the media has jumped on the bandwagon, is going to be predominantly male. As soon as people hear that there is real life sex in a film, men will come in droves and not particularly care about any hidden message, whereas the women, who the film is aimed at, won't even bother most of the time. For this reason, the director has failed in her attempt to make a film just for women.
4. Without doubt, this film - and probably the book which preceeded it - is controversial for the sake of being controversial. No-one would attempt to include closeup scenes of penetration in today's society without wanting to offend, or at least be intentionally unconventional. Trouble is, the vast majority of films/books/plays/etc which are designed simply to churn up controversy (despite the director's so-called real intentions) are critical and, to an extent, commercial failures. If the film could have somehow incorporated the graphic scenes into the context of a plausible story - and let's face it, it simply can't be done, not when the scenes are of such a graphic nature - then it may have been almost acceptable. Let's not forget that a sex scene even fifty years ago - that's maybe a generation and a half - was defined as having two people on a bed without feet on the floor.
5. If this had been classified as porn, and I had been viewing it with mates on a home VCR, the non-sex bits would have probably been fast-forwarded and the graphic penetration scenes paused (or at least slo-mo'd). It's amazing how different it is when you're in a theatre with a bunch of other people you don't know, many of them much older than yourself, a couple of them middle-aged women. I'm not sure if I was actually offended myself, or embarrassed for the others.
6. Maybe it was a bit of both. I can't actually work out how it passed the OFLC - it had (or had) very strict rules about violence and sex scenes. Basically, if the sex scenes were simulated, then they were ok; if it was the real thing, then the scenes had to be omitted for release. Any sexual violence was not to be tolerated except in very discreet ways which were essential to the story.
7. Remember the thin, largely subjective line between soft-core porn and mainstream hollywood film? It's been shattered. This isn't even Non-Violent Erotica, which I think is banned in South Australia. It's Violent Erotica, which I thought was banned in Australia full-stop.
8. Having said that, it's still good the film wasn't banned. I think it's important that people see things like this, and make up their own minds as to whether it is acceptable or not. The people who bring up crazy arguments like, "well, if it even makes one person out of 1000 go out and commit rape, then it should be banned." I think if you followed that argument through, then we'd still be sitting around watching movies like THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which was a good movie, but there's only so much of it you can take. Then again, does it have to be this violent? I think I'll have to think about whether i'm a democrat, or part-socialist, or just confused. I agree with some governmental intervention, but not to the extent of banning films, unless they contain snuff scenes, or scenes of real-life torture &c for exploitation purposes. Documentaries, however, might be a different thing altogether...
9. All in all, the film was essentially crap. Between the essentially needless violence and sex, there wasn't actually much plot, and it didn't differ too much from your average porno except that it contained violence, which I hadn't actually seen before in a porno film.
10. Is this going to be the future of filmmaking? Probably not immediately. I don't think it's an all too successful experiment, and i think, like most passing crazes, it will be a passing craze. In 50 to 100 years, however, who can say?
Poor Man's Orange (1987)
Extension of HARP IN THE SOUTH
I was actually fortunate enough to see both miniseries back-to-back - I'd hired them from the local library at the same time. They were shot simultaneously (same actors, same sets, etc...) and released in the same year (1987) - which is one way to keep costs down, and the main barrier to making miniseries seems to be the cost factor. POOR MAN'S ORANGE, adapted from Ruth Park's sequel to THE HARP IN THE SOUTH, is an extension of the trials and tribulations of the Darcy family, to whom we were introduced in the first miniseries. Like THE HARP IN THE SOUTH, it's nothing overly special, but the characters are loveable, in their own unique ways, and this certainly won't disappoint the masses. 7/10.
The Last Crop (1990)
Not-quite-feature-length telemovie is amusing all the way through without ever being hilarious, and finishes with a classic tie-off. It's a little-known film, but features Noah Taylor (from SHINE) and Les Foxcroft, and is well worth a look, if you can catch it. 67/100.
In 1991 Ernie Paerata was caught at Bangkok airport with 425 grams of heroin. He began a 30-year sentence in Klong Prem, one of the world's toughest prisons - also known as the Bangkok Hilton. The conditions of the prison are such that overcrowding, violence and corruption are commonplace. Jemarl was 17 when his father made the mistake that would change their lives forever. Emotion-driven true story raising moral questions of how right it is that a New Zealander should bear the full brunt of Thai law is an important discussion piece, but is also good for audiences. Slightly nervy delivery can be forgiven in light of the remarkable circumstances; this is one that won't disappoint anyone. Filmed mostly in New Zealand and Klong Prem, and briefly in Western Australia. R:7/10.
Rene Russo wants to know why comedies don't win Oscars?
First, America has to make a good comedy. There hasn't been one - I mean a REALLY good one - for years. THE BIRDCAGE came close, but probably only because it was based on something else. Of course, this was never going to be it - typical Hollywood fanfare with DeNiro and Murphy as two chalk-and-cheese cops is predictable and mostly lame, though it has its moments. I hadn't actually heard of this before a friend dragged me along to see it - I came away feeling as though I wouldn't have missed much if I had been allowed to remain blissfully ignorant of its existence. 5/10.
Heroes' Mountain (2002)
When I first heard that the Thredbo disaster would be made into a telefeature, I was a little skeptical, envisaging similar American "based on true story" telethrillers which have plagued Channel 7's midday movie timeslot for years. But HEROES' MOUNTAIN was very good: Andrikidis obviously was aware that the tragedy and incredible rescue was not five years old in people's minds, and obviously the relatives of those who died might be watching. It was made in co-operation with survivor Stuart Diver, so it was never going to be sensationalised. However, I reckon it could have been a miniseries, with the second episode getting into the aftermath and investigations (ala DAY OF THE ROSES) and Diver's remarkable recovery and his amazing media run, which included being a part of Channel 7's commentary team for winter sports. McLachlan is in just about his best role to date, and everyone else performs admirably to create a film that is definitely not easy to watch (claustrophobes beware), but is important. 7/10.
Brides of Christ (1991)
You don't have to be Catholic...
Incredible account of the sweeping changes that occurred during the Vatican-inspired mini-revolution during the 1960s, focusing on one convent of nuns in Australia. I must admit, not being Christian myself, I was a little skeptical before seeing this series; as it happens, I was so hooked, I watched all six episodes back-to-back (I had it on video), and woke up tired the next morning!! Like the brilliant CHANGI a decade later, each episode revolves around one particular character; unlike CHANGI, each episode is primarily concerned with keeping the plot moving, rather than going back and looking at the character's past, although this comes into it. What we see is a group of women who, for whatever reason, have all chosen to live a celibate life following the teachings of Christ (from the Catholic viewpoint) and of the various religious philosophers of the past millenium. Like any group of people, there are, of course, differences: many of the older women are happy to let the church guide their decision processes, and accept whatever their superiors say. The more educated among the group tend to question the values of the church and, in the opinion of the seniors, threaten to undermine the very substance of what the religious is all about. It was an interesting time for the Catholic church: still regarded as one of the more stringent Christian sects, the western world was undergoing a major cultural revolution, as scientific developments, introductions to new cultures, and different ways of thinking were being encouraged by youth leaders. In an attempt to remain relevant, the Vatican, led by the Pope of the time, recognised that change was inevitable and thus tried to instigate it themselves. A wide number of issues are dealt with here: birth control, abortion, divorce, sex before marriage, interchurch marriages, etc...: many of these issues are, of course, distinct NON-issues among non-Catholics and non-Christians today - birth control, via pills, condoms and surgery, is seen as necessary and, indeed, healthy practice; 50% of marriages in the USA and Australia now end in divorce or separation; most people have sex before marriage. But to Catholics of the time these things were mortal sins, and led to eternal damnation (I can hear non-believers either chuckle or, indeed, gasp with horror, as I did, that all these people were and are wasting their lives, living in fear of something that wouldn't - couldn't ever happen...but it made sense to them, and that's the main thing, it gave their lives purpose...). Every single performance within this miniseries - even down to Russell Crowe's small role as a young man destined to become a conchie - is first-rate, and, when the 330-minute production came to an end, I felt like I had really gotten to know the characters - and indeed that I had seen longer movies with 80 minute runtimes! This is an absolutely top-quality miniseries, comparable with CHANGI, and everyone should see it. 9/10.
Eureka Stockade (1949)
Watt...best director of the 1940s?
Director Watt, after the brilliant The Overlanders in 1946, may have even outdone that here, with a spectacular account of the infamous Eureka Stockade, and, more importantly, the events leading up to it. Rafferty is fantastic in the lead role as reluctant hero Lalor in the film which, considering the rather hefty restrictions placed on films in those days, is as close to a no-holds-barred examination of the events. Like The Overlanders, it's as entertaining as it is educational, and highly recommended for all Australians. 8/10.
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
...could have even been longer. Brilliant cinematography, fully depicting the vastness of the Australian centre, combined with simple yet effective storytelling, an emotive script - importantly based on a true story - and fresh acting from some talented newcomers...actually the only disappointing aspect of this film was that it could have been much longer. It struck me as if the editor had done a huge chop-job post-production - if this is true, perhaps Noyce might think about releasing a director's cut in the near future? Of the entire cast, Branagh was the least effective, although obviously in a very difficult role he probably didn't like portraying. The three girls (Sampi, Sansbury and Monaghan) are striking in their respective parts, but for mine, don't be surprised if Dave Gulpilil gets a Best Supporting Actor award at next year's AFI's. As Noyce himself has said, there's a lot of white guilt here clouding audience appreciation: a lot of people are seeing this as a race thing, a chance to say sorry to the Stolen Generation. It certainly is that, and importantly so: perhaps "informal" apologies (for what they're worth) like this - as opposed to an official recognition by the Prime Minister or whatever - are more effective, as they truly reflect public opinion. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it is a real human drama: the heartbreak of seeing families torn apart - for whatever reason - is something surely everyone can relate to, and revives some dormant fear that is always with us. Well done, Noyce: just another example of brilliant Australian cinema - after the success of 2001, if RABBIT PROOF FENCE is anything to go by, we should be in for another bumper year, with films like the controversial duo BLACK AND WHITE and AUSTRALIAN RULES set for release. Rating: 8/10 (would have been at least a 9 had it been about a half-hour longer).
Bullet Down Under (1994)
Throwback to those bad US cop shows of the 80s...
...is set in Australia, where sensitive US cop "Martin Bullet" is assigned as the partner of rogue detective Jack Morant (Jacko Jackson, if you can believe it!!) whose former partner was killed by a mystery professional with an earring. There's not too much that's new here, but it's intentionally bad, with hellish one-liners that'll have you groaning guaranteed, and just enough plot substance to make it watchable. I still can't get over Jacko...OI! 5/10
Alien Cargo (1999)
5 out of 10 is about as good as these ones get...
Don't worry, if you miss this it's nothing you haven't seen before. They've tried to spice up a fairly typical sci-fi script with some fast music (ala BABYLON 5) and some commendable effects (for a telemovie, obviously with a limited budget, due to the fact it was shot in Australia for tax reasons and used mainly Australian actors). Mixed results, but far better than (for example) AIRTIGHT.
Love Serenade (1996)
In the comic tradition of THE CASTLE...
Miranda Otto is, as always, superb as a socially deficient young woman living in a backwater town on the Murray which becomes home to the closest thing she's seen to a real-life celebrity: a disgraced, thrice-divorced former Brisbane DJ - and a sleaze to boot - becomes the town's new radio announcer. Otto and her older sister wage an hilarious war for the affections of the skinny, unnattractive man in his mid-40s, who has more than just a passing resemblance to a fish... Good Aussie film, Stratton gave it 4 stars (he must have seen something in it that I didn't), I'll give it 3 due to the slight lull in the middle. Rating: 7/10.
I can't imagine bikies liking it...
Apparently a "cult favourite" all over the world, STONE is a low-budget crime-thriller centred around a bikie gang whose members are being murdered one-by-one by a political assassin (that's not a spoiler because we're told this during the opening sequences). Before seeing this film, I expected this to be a true bikie cult classic - instead it's rather soft, with very few expletives, sex scenes, and not much violence, particularly given that it's rated "R". Unfortunately, the film became more of a "let's make the bikies accessible to everyone else" film, as they were portrayed as misunderstood alternatives (thank goodness for the climax!!). The film COULD have been a "cult favourite" but somehow I find it hard to believe that it is... Rating: 5/10
These movies would be okay...
...if they weren't always so DUMB!! In almost every plot development during AIRTIGHT, there's something that's just plain stupid...perhaps that's part of the fun of these low-budget Australian-made American telethrillers, but hell, how much more can we take? Why do they get made, anyway (though obviously I watch them, don't I)?? With so many scripts rejected before they even get past the planning stages, how can bottom-of-the-barrell stories like this one be selected for filming? On the plus side of these films, some of Australia's most well-known actors get paid a hell of a lot more than they would for appearing in locally-funded productions, and they don't damage their careers because hardly anyone sees these films. BLUE HEELERS fans always knew Tasma Walton had it in her: she gets to play your typical sex-goddess in this one. I've just got one major question: what's with the old-style clothing amid the futuristic set designs? Rating: 3/10 for Tasma.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Typical Polanski treatment of well-worn subject
Granted, it wouldn't be easy for anyone to breathe life into a film about the occult/the devil/etc..., but you'd think someone with Polanski's reputation could have done a little better. After boring us for two hours with monotonous drivel lifted out of other like films, the "climax" is not a climax at all, but rather a finishing of pure contempt for the audience: in essence, there was no point to the film in the first place, because what DID happen was what we were PRESUMING would happen. Silly, mindless, stupid and unoriginal...gets 5/10 for the "woman".
Monkey Grip (1982)
Noni Hazlehurst's tour-de-force performance (which won her an AFI award) is at least on par with her effort in FRAN three years later. Colin Friels is also good, and, for those who are interested, Alice Garner appears as Noni's child, and Michael Caton (best known for THE CASTLE) is a bearded painter. (Also interestingly, Hazlehurst is currently the host of lifestyle program BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS, and Caton is the host of property-type programs including HOT PROPERTY, HOT AUCTION, etc...) This film reaffirms the popularly-held belief that Noni was arguably Australia's top female actor during the early-to-mid 1980s. Rating: 79/100.
Turkey Shoot (1982)
...NOT !!! TURKEY SHOOT is an action-comedy-adventure set in the (near?) future when a totalitarian society demands that "deviates" (people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, as far as I can tell) be imprisoned in "camps" for some attitude re-engineering. Good premise - but most of the film relates to the title, as the camp director and authorities let a small group of "deviates" loose and then hunt them down. Tip: if you're going to watch this at all, make sure you don't get the watered-down "M"-rated version - the film was originally classified R18+ for extreme violence and gore which simply doesn't appear on the family-friendly (not quite) version. Rating: 4/10.
Angel Baby (1995)
Not to be missed
Stunning, heartfelt film by little-known director Rymer is most notable for brilliant performances by Lynch and McKenzie, the latter in her best role ever. Maltin called it (incredibly) `over-elaborate treatment of the subject matter' - it's quite the opposite, as mental illness is far too often swept under the carpet in today's society. Friels' character is expertly written, as a brother who cares for his troubled sibling but can't offer any solution, and who doesn't want his family being dragged into Harry's problems. The film's significance was reflected in its performance at the AFI Awards.
Ghosts... of the Civil Dead (1988)
Prisons of the future...or prisons of today??
Stunning, almost horrific statement of the effect prisons have on the rest of society, Hillcoat has created a no-holds-barred, fabricated `report' on the inner-workings of an imaginary future prison that is worth seeing - if you can stomach it. There's certainly no doubting what writers Nick Cave and Gene Conkie think of prisons as Australian society's most corporal method of punishment and rehabilitation: although the on-screen activity is certainly shocking enough, what is perhaps even more so is what is not shown (perhaps because it didn't get past the censors?). Field's best role ever.
Wayne Groom's first feature...
...is his best, which doesn't say all that much. It's a mixture of futuristic science fiction woven into a corny love story that probably would have worked, but for the script, which contained so much constant nudity and sex that mainstream actors would have been highly unlikely to accept the roles. Add to that budget constraints - Groom, as producer of this one, would not have had access to the funds he has now (although the Australian Film Corporation gets a plug here) - and what we're left with is an Australian foray into very soft porn that has trouble finding a mainstream audience because of the acting quality. Just who the hell are Kylie Foster and Paul Trahair? A quick search on IMDb tells us that Trahair's only other role was as a young detective in SQUIZZY TAYLOR. Foster is much more travelled: she had character roles in the TV series PRISONER and SKYWAYS, and then found parts in KITTY AND THE BAGMAN, MELVIN and QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER - though how is a mystery, noting her acting "talent" in CENTRESPREAD. Indeed, while CENTRESPREAD could have become an Australian cinematic landmark akin to MAD MAX, the best parts remain the opening and closing themes, the former of which could easily have become a mainstream pop classic. Rating: 5/10
Doug's 1st Movie (1999)
This is one of those kids' films that adults can't sit down and watch as well. Okay, it's got nice morals, but pleeeeease, no DOUG'S 2ND MOVIE !!!!! Boring attempt to stretch a tiny DOUG episode into a feature-length production...didn't work. 4/10
The Color Purple (1985)
Is this what passes for quality drama in America???
I have never read the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, but if it's anything even remotely like this film, I'm damned if I know how it even got nominated, particularly seeing as it was published in 1982. Obviously Spielberg got the entire thing wrong: I thought SCHINDLER'S LIST was extraordinarily well done, but his first experiment outside "pure entertainment" could be said to be a failure. Absolutely nothing happens in the film for the first 100 minutes - rather, things DO happen but not so you'd know. It's always difficult to adapt a sprawling novel to a film with limited runtime, but, to me, Spielberg glosses over some very important issues near the beginning: he could have expanded these (such as the father's influence on the two girls), and left out some fairly trivial scenes through the middle and towards the end. Again, I'm not sure how the book finished, but to climax in such a contrived "happy ending" is almost demeaning to the audience, who should have been sitting there for well over two hours absolutely engrossed in the on-screen drama. Things like this simply don't happen - Whoopie Goldberg's husband, for instance, changes his personality overnight and arranges a reunion between her and her sister. Where did they get this stuff from?!! I felt, as I was watching it, that I could never really relate to the characters: they were presented, but not explored. Noting that Spielberg, for all his great qualities, is still a white man, one can understand this: he never had any real feel for the oppression of the characters. The film, in fact, became more of a comedy - again, I'm not sure how the book was written but I'm sure that even if it did contain humorous notes throughout, the sheer tragedy of the situation would have come through loud and clear. All in all, I was disappointed with this film: a great director handling a (reputedly) great story, and it fell in a heap, with only an emotive happy ending that was any good. Rating: 6/10.
Jurassic Park III (2001)
Wam! Bam! Eeee!!! THUMP. Crunch!!
The first JURASSIC PARK film not to be based on a Crichton novel (although no.2 certainly avoided most of his ideas) and it shows - while it's probably better than No.2 this is only because of increased simplicity, even better (!!) effects and more action. There is minimal plot here - no scientific jargon or plausability whatsoever, though, and compared to the original it is almost a failure. Based on two premises, (1) that velociraptors can communicate with each other on a high level, and (2) that a recently separated couple's 12-year-old kid goes missing on a dinosaur island off Costa Rica, you can probably figure out where the film's going to go if you've yet to see it, given twenty seconds thinking time. Great action scenes, and those dinosaurs are continually going to amaze me - in particular the scene in which two massive carnivores are going at it while the small party of humans, led by Sam Neill, tries to avoid being squished in the process. I gave it a 6/10 for pure entertainment; outside of effects and possibly sound, no awards here.
Road to Nhill (1997)
I can't believe this only gets 5.1/10!!!
With genuine crap out there scoring mid-60s (pick any Jet Li film, most Hollywood action-thrillers or any American gross-out teen comedy, for example), I suppose it's only academic that a film of this subtle quality would score so low. Okay, the guys on THE MOVIE SHOW may have jumped the gun when they said it was "far superior" to THE CASTLE, but still, it's an amusing, entertaining comedy based on events which could have happened - but never did - in a small town beyond the black stump. I was going to say "woop woop" but that was another film. I'd give it 7/10 - the climax could have been a little better put-together, but all in all, it's a film which definitely grew on me.