TONGUES ON FILM – JANUARY 2010

by Ross Sharp

Here are just a few of the films I’ve seen this last month …

“VAN DIEMEN’S LAND” (2009)

Based on the confessions of Alexander Pearce, Australia’s most notorious convict (I thought our most notorious convict was Dennis Ferguson), it follows the fates of eight convicts on the run who find themselves stranded in a foreign, unforgiving and unyielding wilderness and, as their meager stocks of supplies run out, they begin to look upon their unsavoury fellows as, well, savouries.

Ellery Ryan’s cinematography is so jaw-droppingly awesome, it sometimes threatens to overwhelm the film. There were several points during when all I could think was, “How the fuck did they get a camera and crew there?” However, the environment portrayed is the main character in this film and the fates and lives of the eight puny organisms scuttling about in its undergrowth are barely relevant.

There’s naught in the way of exposition here, which is to say, this is not for the simple of mind, you have to pay attention. Director Jonathan auf der Heide avoids focusing on the obvious topic, that is, the cannibalism, and instead presents a grim tale of human nature and the instinct for survival. Excellent stuff.

David Stratton had this to say

“It is, indeed, a terrible story, but perversely that story unfolds against some of Australia’s most spectacular scenery. And if ever a film was a labour of love, this one clearly is: the actors, all excellent, are obviously undergoing considerable punishment, not to mention the unseen members of the production team, the sound and camera crews and so on. Unarguably, Van Diemen’s Land poses a formidable challenge for audiences, but it’s a challenge well worth meeting and a film you’re unlikely ever to forget.”

Four stars for David.

“I SELL THE DEAD” (2008)

Two eighteenth century graverobbers can barely keep up with the demand for fresh corpses and then they begin to dig up a few things that would’ve been better left un-dug. A vampire, some ghouls, zombies, and an icy little alien, straight out of Close Encounters, who gets zapped up into space as it begins to thaw out.

At which point in the proceedings, you are permitted to exclaim “What the fuck??!”

This is simply enormous fun, a film that harks back to the days of the Hammer and Amicus anthologies from the 60’s and 70’s with more than a passing nod to George Romero’s “Creepshow”. Despite it’s bottom of the barrel budget, it looks marvelous, the period trappings are perfect and everyone is suitably grubby and disheveled. And, unlike some “horror comedies”, “I Sell The Dead” doesn’t set out to pull any sort of self-referential, “cool” in-joke tricks.

Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessendon play the graverobbers, and Ron Perlman turns up as well (check out Ron’s lazy-arse sooky dog in the “Making of” doco on the DVD).

Yes, you should watch this. Is good.

“A PERFECT GETAWAY” (2009)

Some psychopaths are stalking and killing young honeymooning couples who’ve gone a-hiking in Hawaii.

Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich are a honeymooning couple.

There’s a big “twist” the last third. A really, really big twist where things and people turn out not to be what and whom we thought they really were.

Guess what that is?

Yes. That’s right.

You’ll have it about forty minutes in, anyway.

What happens, the filmmakers, they get a time-worn and threadbare scenario (young couple in peril somewhere remote), and then they go, “What if it’s this?!” and then they think “that” constitutes a movie, when in fact all they have is a “this” and nothing else.

Then you have a script which tries way too hard to be clever, and just winds up being irritatingly “clever-clever”, with random in-jokes about screenwriting thrown in. And then you’ve got a couple characters who simply aren’t credible, they’re comical and belong in a completely different movie, so the whole tone of this movie goes seriously out of whack.

And then, when they throw in the big twist, the “this” that’s the only thing they’ve got, you don’t go, “Oh, wow!”, instead you just feel a mite insulted, and inclined to respond, “Do you really think I am so fucking dumb and undemanding that I’m going to be satisfied with that lump of bollocks you’ve just chucked up there as an excuse for a credible fucking twist? It’s a cheap and lazy-arse cheat is what it is and it makes a nonsense of the first third and you ought to be bloody well ashamed of yourselves. Just PISS off …”

Milla looks nice. Steve Zahn’s always good. Hawaii seems a pleasant place, lots of greenery.

“FEAST III – THE HAPPY FINISH” (2009)

Sunday afternoon, housework done, 32 degrees outside, turn on the air-con, turn off the brain and watch a dumb little monster movie.

I was halfway through a bottle of wine when it started and halfway through a second by the time it was over.

I don’t know if watching movies like this whilst getting pissed makes them any better or any worse, but it certainly does numb the impact, so I don’t remember too much about this movie, and I think that may be a good thing.

I might have said “Oh, for fuck’s sake” a few times during.

What else?

It was in colour.

And it had lots of fluids in it.

Me too.

“TAKEN” (2008)

Liam Neeson plays a former spy with “a set of very special skills” who goes to the rescue when his daughter is kidnapped in Paris by a bunch of unshaven Albanians intent on selling her off to the highest bidder.

This is a “punk” film.

“Punk” in the sense that it has only one chord to play and it plays it over and over and over and over again.

It’s also one of those movies where one guy with one gun gets pursued all over the bloody place by dozens of men with dozens of guns, none of whom can shoot for shit.

And there are times when you wonder, “Hang on, what happened to … ?” and “Who was … ?” and “What about … ?”

Yet, despite this, “Taken” does succeed in getting the adrenalin pumping, the editing is top-notch and it has no pretensions to be anything other than what it is – a furiously paced action film. Lots of people die and Neeson wears one expression throughout – grim determination.

And lots of people die.

Lots.

“ORPHAN” (2009)

Director Jaume Collet-Serra contacted the art department at Warner Bros. upon seeing the poster for his film “Orphan” for the very first time …

“Yes, this is Jaume … You think because I am Spanish that I am a fool? You think this is a joke, yes? Why do you make a poster for my movie which makes it look like a Chucky film? Why? I am not intending to make a fucking Chucky film, I am making the thriller, not the fucking Chucky film … I have a good story, it is not Hitchcock but it is alright, I have some good actors, we are not having a big budget, but we work hard to make a nice thriller with a decent twist at end and what do you do? YOU MAKE IT LOOK A FUCKING CHUCKY FILM WITH YOUR FUCKING ARTWORK, LIKE A HORROR MOVIE FULL OF DOLLS WITH FUCKING KNIVES! –”

“Jaume – ”

“I would not see my own movie with this poster, it is shit, you shame me, you shame my mother … I piss on the Warner Brothers. ”

“Jaume –”

“NO! DO NOT SPEAK AT ME! … This is WORST POSTER EVER! … You have testicles like peanuts, little pebbles …”

“Jaume –”

“NO! … I hang up now. You are a cock. Goodbye.”

Advertisements