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AICN-Downunder: Hero; M; The Night Stalker; Frames; Black Sheep; Highlander 5; Eucalyptus; Napoleon Dynamite

Father Geek here in a cold wet Texas with the latest from our man Downunder (some ancient termite mound). Yes its that time again. Time for Lat and his regular weekly column on the film scene in Australia & New Zealand, etc...

And besides that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?


It's getting damn hot down here. It's rarely a gradual thing: there's always that moment when it suddenly gets fucking hot. That moment was yesterday. Summer is here.

So, while we look forward to air conditioned cinemas, sunburns at the beach and, well, Christmas, here's what's been going on in the film industry...


* For those who haven't heard the news, it seems EUCALYPTUS has lost one of the major players. Our Nic and Ol' Rusty will no longer be joined by Geoffrey Rush, who had to drop out due to scheduling commitments. His not-yet-worn shoes will filled by contractually-obliged-to-appear-in-87%-of-Australian-films Jack Thompson. Thompson will play Nicole's father in the film, and coincidentally played Crowe's father in old-fashioned-father-tries-to-accept-gay-son drama THE SUM OF US. And I promise I won't overuse the hyphens for the rest of the column.

* Brett Leonard, the Australian-based director who allegedly made MAN-THING (how can any of us verify that if the film is never released?) will next be turning his considerable and debatable talent to HIGHLANDER 5, in which it turns out that the entire population of the world is a Highlander except for one man. The tagline? "There Can't Be Only One".

* According to the Hollywood Reporter, New Zealand horror/comedy BLACK SHEEP has been stirring up interest from American buyers and backers. The film, inspired by the fact that sheep outnumbers humans ten-to-one, follows a genetic experiment that turns sheep into human-eating killers.

* Geoffrey Wright of ROMBER STOMPER fame and CHERRY FALLS shame has returned to Melbourne to make M. Not a remake of the Fritz Lang classic, the film will be a contemporary adaptation of MACBETH told in Melbourne's underworld. Macbeth himself may be played by Sam Worthington. Now that OTHELLO has become O and MACBETH has become M, we can look forward to H, JC, MSND and TMOV.

* Finally, condolences to the family and friends of Melbourne-born director Ken Hannam, who passed away earlier this week. Hannam was the director of the classic 1975 film SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY, the 1981 TV movie DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, and 1985's ROBBERY UNDER ARMS. Hannam was eighty-five.



Kent Smith ACS was awarded the Judges' Best Entry for his cinematography work on the short film FRAMES.


Australian films BIRTHDAY BOY and WARD 13 have been short-listed for next year's Oscars, making it to the semifinal round.


The Jones is still at the top, while newcomer WITHOUT A PADDLE didn't quite crack the five.

Annnd the cream be...
  • 4. TAXI
  • 5. HERO


Billy Bob plays a sleazy sex-obsessed weirdo, the Green Goblin kidnaps Martin Bishop, RUSSIAN ARK director Alexander Sokurov attempts multiple shots, Zach Braff steals Edward Burns's schtick, Nicolas Cage gets to be patriotic and adventurous in a Bruckheimer film (finally!), Billy Crudup and Claire Danes dress up as women, and a couple of lions go the Damon/Affleck route and try to forge themselves an acting career in Hollywood.

The new flicks downunder are...



(contains mild spoilers)

I hadn't seen HERO when my housemates came home from a screening. 'One of us hated it and the other loved it,' they told me, referring to themselves in the first person plural pronoun, as they often do, 'but we won't tell you any more until you see it.'

Predictably, I ended up dead centre. I neither love nor hate HERO, a film which is simultaneously stunning and bland.

Chris Doyle's cinematography is, as always, phenomenal. I can't think of another cinematographer less afraid of bright, intense colours. From his thoroughly mesmerising work on FALLEN ANGELS to one of the best depictions of the Australian landscape ever in the brilliant RABBIT PROOF FENCE, Doyle's work is consistently flawless. So when I say HERO is his best work to date, you know where I'm coming from.

Apart from the cinematography and the production values (which are equally flawless), the fight scenes themselves are very well executed; an impressive feat in itself given the Fight Scene is generally the dullest part of any film.

Unfortunately, these elements didn't do it for me. It wasn't enough. HERO has a fascinating story, so why the filmmakers chose to structure it in the dullest way they could muster confounds me. It's a story that lends itself to a great structure, too; the thing practically writes itself. You have a guy telling the story of how he fought the three best assassins in the country. That's the meat of the story, that's your structure right there. Unfortunately, once the first fight is done with, the remaining stories are rushed through so he's finished his tales before the film's hit its halfway point. This in itself isn't such a crime, but the remainder of the story is such an obvious third act that getting to it as soon as possible makes the film feel like it's almost over long before it should. Is this a story about how a warrior took out the three best assassins in the country? Or is it a story about a man sent to kill the king, and the game the two men play? The film isn't sure, and switching gears halfway through is disorienting.

The only thing that bothered me more than that were the subtitles. These are the most dumbed-down subtitles I've ever seen, and it was only later that I figured out why. The film was prepped for a wide-release in North America, and so the subtitles should be as simplistic as possible so the masses can keep up. Consequently, the dialogue sounds like absolute rubbish. (The dialogue may well be absolute rubbish, but I don't speak Cantonese and have no way of knowing.)

HERO forces comparisons with CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, and the comparisons aren't favourable. I understand I'm in the minority here, and I'm okay with that. If this film helps open up audiences to foreign language films, that's great. If it helps get rid of a bias against "films with subtitles", then I'm all for that. But story is key, and I'm not going to forgive lazy storytelling for some of the best visuals I've seen this year.


It's an interesting concept: a group of characters who'd be considered too weird to be blink-and-they're-gone cameos in a mainstream teen flick given starring roles in an indie film.

The film is full of Wes Anderson-inspired weirdness, but the obvious inspiration isn't so much that you're waiting for Owen Wilson to show up. Director Jared Hess is fascinated with the moments where characters appear to do nothing. Napoleon's blank, closed-eye stares; Pedro's blank, distant stares; Rico's blank, delusional stares. They're moments highlighted by an almost self-conscious use of oddball, dorky language. (Gosh!)

The seen-it-before story is a minor concern, and despite its clichés (nerds want to be cool, get the girl, beat the tough guys) it works as a clothesline to hang what is, in actuality, a very original character.

How much of the character is the script and how much is the Jon Heder is hard to tell. It reminds me of WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE?. When I first saw it, I'd never heard of DiCaprio and was therefore amazed at the quality of performance that Hallstrom had managed to get out of a mentally-challenged kid. It didn't even occur to me that it was acting, I was so convinced by the performance (then Leo became a movie star and has since becomes one of the dullest actors working, but that's neither here nor there). I'm curious to see what Heder is like in other films, because this is as unique a performance as I've ever seen. This is Real Nerd, not Hollywood Nerd. I'm a big fan of THE O.C., but does anyone buy Adrian Brody as a social outcast? What about Hillary Duff in CINDERELLA STORY? No, Napoleon is so convincing as a geeky, awkward social reject that I was surprised not to see a scene in which he writes a talkback on AICN.

While there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen, or plotlines that go anywhere but where you're expecting (Kip and his internet girlfriend, anyone?), it's damn entertaining, and had the audience I saw it with in hysterics at regular intervals.



I wasn't in the best of moods when I put this in the ol' player. I've been exhausted all week, I had a newspaper beside me, I really didn't think it would capture my interest. But I decided to be somewhat unreasonable and give it thirty seconds of undivided attention before I let myself get distracted.

THE NIGHT STALKER is brilliant. It's a total classic, and I don't mean it's one of those classics that aren't really that fun to watch but we nod and acknowledge its important out of respect. It's a classic in that I didn't look away from the screen for the entire running time. It's a classic in that it's moody and scary and funny in perfect increments. It's a classic in that Kolchack is a classic character; funny, egotistical, stuck-in-the-50s, bloodhound reporter who refuses to give up on his story.

It's an obvious forerunner to "The X-Files" (you may remember star Darren McGavin appearing in two "X-Files" episodes); the one believer fighting against the authorities who can't deal with The Truth. Only, he's not just some crazy Believer. He's just a reporter, and we get to see the incidents that force him into the only possible explanation he can come up with: that a vampire is killing Las Vegas residents.

While THE NIGHT STRANGLER isn't as brilliant as its predecessor, it's still worthy and damned entertaining. These two telemovies were followed by a 20-episode series that I'm hoping gets a DVD release soon.

While there are no extras on the discs themselves, the region 4 release has a very large accompanying booklet that reads like it was written by a Kolchack-type reporter. It's a good read, and more than makes up for the lack of disc features.


- Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Cathy Moriarty and Kathleen Turner star in GRAVEL, about a troupe of ageing folk singers whose deep, vibrating voices are used by the CIA as a deadly weapon

- Patrick Bergin to play the dual roles of Jimmy-Ray Danker and Jack Conealy in anticipated prequel SINGLE CROSS

- Brett Leonard promises to ignore the crap continuity in HIGHLANDER 2, and will reveal the Highlanders to be the result of a futuristic genetic experiment gone wrong and sent back in time to kill the woman who will give birth to the scientist who made them

Peace out,


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