THE ROVER [2014]

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Directed by: David Michod

Written by: David Michod, Joel Edgerton

Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson


A man has lost everything; one begins to wonder why he bothers to keep himself alive in this post-apocalyptic Australian outback. It is a stripped-out world that abandoned him long ago. He has no empathy for others, he cares for no one and nobody cares for him. This ruthless personality of Guy Pearce’s character (Eric) is introduced and gradually expanded upon; both through the tight, somewhat sparse but efficient script; and the many extended scenes of deafening silence with his face on screen. Most of the movie’s scenes feature Pearce and while he doesn’t say a lot, his face sure does. His behavior says even more. The silence is all the more unsettling thanks to the score, which stabs into the movie without warning. The score is much like the raw violence in that sense; it isn’t always there, but when it comes it is unexpected and brutal.

Rey, a fantastic Robert Pattinson, is an equally interesting character for a completely different set of reasons: a simpleton from the United States who has been abandoned in this dog-eat-dog world. This movie is a fascinating character study, starting when Pearce’s character comes into contact with Rey – left bloody and abandoned by his brother and their gang after a firefight. Fleeing the scene, the gang happen to pass Pearce as they roll and total their pick-up truck. They proceed to steal the only thing this man has left; and the simple question becomes: how far will he go to get his car back? The scene following this car-jacking was an extremely tense moment; and that overwhelming element of tension did not let up until the final minute.

As Eric and Rey broker a deal that can help them both, their tense relationship begins, ebbing and flowing dramatically in many unexpected ways as the movie unfolds. Many concepts are explored: what a world such as this can do to a man; his trust, faith, family, his concept of relationships, his will to live or to care about other life. The relationship that develops between Rey and Eric becomes more involved and complex after Eric takes it upon himself to bluntly explain to the simple Rey his incredibly bleak outlook on his life, and on Rey’s predicament in particular. In fact, this is more a character/relationship study than a ‘post-apocalyptic’ movie. There is a reason the ‘collapse’ is never explored, and the world that has been created seems to be on the brink of another disaster.


The movie is visually stunning. Whether it is the incredible terrain of South Australia and the Flinder’s Mountain Ranges climbing as far as the eye can see, or the scenes of tense, lingering silence; yet few words, both characters are saying so much. The world that is created in The Rover is beautifully realised in a brutal, visceral and violent way. The entire experience feels incredibly well-made, by international standards. Another gem from David Michod. This year has been kind to Australian film.

One short of a sixer

5/6

Night Moves [2013]

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Directed By Kelly Reichardt

I thought this one was great. Not fantastic, nothing ground-breaking here, but a nicely shot indie flick isn’t something I’ll turn down. This one was tension filled, though the key to this was its subtlety. What happens next can’t be predicted. Yeah, you know that they are planning to blow up a dam, but some basic spanners thrown into the works created some great suspense. The plot is sparse, but enough to make for an entertaining watch. I’m sure it is sure to stir up discussion re- enviro-twits but I don’t think that was the point of this movie at all. That they were who they were was just a setting for the rest of the story to unfold. There isn’t a lot of meat to plot, the ending really threw me off completely as well, but I think this is a good watch for a few reasons.

The tension I thought was great and really well done, the movie was filled with superb cinematography (which was just beautiful on many occasions, on others, simply capturing the emotions of a face, no words spoken) and the ambient-like, subtle soundtrack to accompany the pretty pictures was bang-on and each segment fit each scene. Lastly, I thought Eisenberg (sp?) did a fantastic job, as did Fanning in her role. I’m not sure why so many people seem to dislike Eisenberg, he seems to get some flak, albeit mostly from keyboard warriors; this is now two films from this year with two (or three) really distinct characters (The other movie being him and his double, who he very effectively played as a completely different character).

In this movie his character is entirely different again: he is doing things for reasons he doesn’t seem to fully believe with his heart. He seems to play a criminal with an inkling of a conscience. Its a trait that I haven’t really seen played this well. The other actors had smaller screen time and were all solid, if unspectacular. There were no real deep, intriguing characters. But then again, this wasn’t a character driven movie as much as one driven by emotion, moral beliefs and the behaviors that follow, whether rational or otherwise, and the conflict that can be a result of acting on pure emotion, no matter what it is.

The way this was shot and the soundtrack give it an extra point from me.

8/10

20,000 Days on Earth [2014]

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Directed By Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard

Written By Nick Cave, Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard


Any creative person needs to see this. Musician, writer, anything, if this film doesn’t inspire you, then it will surely influence. Personally, Cave’s very frank and fascinating philosophies on the creative process were stirring, moving even, especially when one of these ideas is laid out in the narration and followed by a very up close and personal live performance. Or, a ten minute, uninterrupted sequence of the band jamming out a song. It was in that latter scene you can see the conducting skills Cave possesses, as while playing the piano he is leading the band into the song’s dips and crescendos. This look into the journey an idea goes on until it becomes a story, or a song in this instance, is almost intimate and extremely honest, while still managing not to spill too many beans. The unconventional nature of the film helps this aspect.

I really do think that if you write or create in any way, watch this film as soon as you can. I’m having to stop myself from going to see it again three days after i saw it. Note: this is not a documentary, but it isn’t a movie either, as you’d normally think of it anyways. This film is most certainly unique, and one of the most thought provoking pieces of art that I ever ever seen, read or heard. Even his conversation with pop-singer Kylie Minogue (sp?) was interesting, as they candidly discuss different issues related to performing on a stage.

There is not much action physically, but the way Cave is so spiritual about how he see and treats the creative process makes every second riveting. The film is also superbly shot, and on occasion Cave’s narration become almost lyrical in nature, which just made him that much better to listen to. I was not a fan of Cave or his music before seeing this, so I don’t feel that this is a requirement in any way either; although this film most certainly has turned me into a fan of his.

I didn’t want this one to end. For me, this was inspiring on a level that I have never felt before.

10/10 – I cannot think of anything wrong with this.

What We Do In The Shadows [2014]

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Directed By Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi

I wasn’t sure about this one, I cannot remember anything about Flight of the Concords (sp?) and comedy is a sticky thing for me. I find that I laugh out loud more often during dramas, horror, thrillers etc than comedies.. But this one surprised me.

Blade, Twilight, Werewolves, Zombies, they all make an appearance. The plot is actually quite funny in itself… it isn’t meaty by any means, but it is a joke in itself: as a documentary team follows three vampires ‘flatting’ together: one who is very… camp, shall we say, another who is self-described as being hot… because he is a vampire, of course, and another who seems like a piss-take on your stereotypical long-hair/metal-head. Oh, and an 8,000 year old friend living in the basement who doesn’t seem to possess the skills of communication.

They begin to talk the crew through how they try to socialise, which leads to some amusing scenes of vampires trying to have a nightlife. Then they talk the crew through how they capture/seduce people in order to drink their blood. More funny scenes follow, leading to one of these victims escaping from the flat. But of course he doesn’t die. He becomes the new vamp in the gang! Unfortunately he is rather thick, and when he introduces his human friend Stu to his vampire friends, you just know it’s not gonna end well. I won’t go any further, but from here the plot delves the movie into comedic chaos. I was missing jokes because I was laughing at the one previous!

I feel that because this is from New Zealand, there are no immature fart-poo-wee jokes, there aren’t any jokes that make you cringe in their lame delivery…. Even though they are throwing a lot of shit at the wall, most of it sticks. It is a fresh approach to comedy after being worn down by so many sub-par US ‘comedies’. It is also filled with comedic variety. Physical humour, plain old slapstick, facial expressions/body language (especially the camp vampire who always leads the doco crew around – his facial expressions and eye-movements when following the cameras had me holding my sides), and obviously sarcasm and satire.

This thing felt that it was running on all cylinders for the entire movie. It also manages to feel effortless; there was no sense of trying too hard for laughs – the mockumentary setting helped the film in this sense, despite the plot being thin and in itself a joke; one big piss-take. But, the wide range of comedy used, from slapstick to satire and everything in between, is probably the biggest reason why this movie does not feel forced, making way for one hilarious movie.

I walked out of this movie in pain from laughter. After only 87 minutes! The entire cinema was in stitches for the entire movie, and I saw people from all age-groups as I walked out, all with giant grins on their faces, talking about this or that scene. I’m chuckling as I am writing this as its stimulating my memory and I am seeing it in my head.

“We’re Werewolves, not Swear-wolves!!!!”

Watch this movie when you can. You will hurt from laughter. Horror comedy is notoriously hard to get right, and this film nails the formula at nearly every bend. More comedy needs to be this fresh, rather than tripe like ‘Lets Be Cops’ – just one of many US comedies that fall flat, lacking any originality. This movie couldn’t be more different. Highly recommended.

4.5/5

written by epilepticmoondancer

Lucy [2014]

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Directed by Luc Besson

I’m glad I caught this on the big screen. Fuck me sideways it looked good, which was what I was counting on initially, as I thought I’d need to (attempt) to stop my brain from over-thinking every. single. fucking. thing. always. But once it got started, I was hooked. Some of the science talked about was good stuff, and the way Lucy developed emotionally in the second half of the film was quite thought-provoking. I thought that aspect could have been explored more.

I did have to really suspend belief a couple of times with the 10% malarkey, though only near the beginning. One can’t help but feel like this could have been amazing with just a few alterations to that concept… But on the other hand, once I got into the flow of the movie it didn’t bother me after the first act. It certainly helped that I’ve watched three superhero movies in the last few days, as I just kinda treated it like that and enjoyed the ride. But given the ride was so incredible visually, I again can’t help but think that if the base concept was even semi-plausible, I’d have loved it even more.

Or maybe not, who knows.

I was disappointed with the action sequences, if you could call them that. I found myself hoping for more in most of the action scenes after Lucy decides to find vengeance. There wasn’t exactly a lack of action, but I was hoping for more creativity in the action, rather than “well she can do anything!”, which took some (most) of the tension away from those particular scenes. That aspect made the (thankfully short) car chase the only part of the movie that I really didn’t like. That, and the cars going over ramps and flipping over like how many other silly action movies? But, that chase did lead to a very satisfying ending, and other than that car chase, this entire movie is just a visual feast all the way through.

Near the start, when flashes of wildlife are chopped into the film to relate to the action as it happens.. Honestly one of the best visual displays (classic film technique-wise) I have ever seen in a recent film, it actually gave me a weird chill a couple of times. Then, once she began to change, every time the viewpoint delved into her body- showing cells and nerves and whatnot I couldn’t help but just gape in amazement. I’m sure my jaw was on the floor. I wanted more! Especially for that final sequence, those visuals gripped me the way the Stargate does in 2001. If only that sequence was just a little longer!

Visually, this is my favourite movie of the year, of any year almost… I can’t think of much to compare it to, it blends both classic film-making techniques with beautiful, looks-so-good-I-could-frame-it CGI scenes perfectly, effortlessly it seemed. THE ZERO THEOREM is the closest thing I can think of, obviously ‘cos it is recent, but that also looked incredible from both an analog and digital viewpoint.

The spectacular visuals rescue this film, as the flimsy plot and especially the underwhelming action scenes were something I thought Luc Besson would have realised in a better, more stylish fashion. This is his best movie for a good while, but that isn’t saying a lot. Compared to The Fifth Element, this feels worlds away.

3/5 – Generous, but those visuals really were unlike anything I have seen before.

Boyhood [2014]

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Directed by Richard Linklater

Is it just me or has this year been insanely productive for indie/non-mainstream movies? Or perhaps I am just finding more good stuff. Which brings me to this incredible film, which transcends any genre given the main character literally grows into a man on film, shot over 12 years. It is quite remarkable – at first I’ll admit that I thought it was a bit of a gimmick – but as the the film progresses it immerses you into his world in an incredible way as you watch him not only age literally, but go through countless rites of passage for young boys. Inevitable childhood moments such as coming home drunk for the first time. I lost count of how many scenes reminded me of my own childhood – and I guess that is what would ultimately determine the extent the viewer someone could identify with this.

For me, the broken home, abusive drunks, the weekend dad who is trying his goddamned best; even the way the boy matured and the portrayal of his emotional development; it felt eerily similar to my own upbringing. One the surface it seems like a somewhat typical story of any given family, but if one digs a little deeper, you’ll find the impact seemingly minor events can have. It felt like a lite version of the pure hell a family can go through, not to mention an absurdly accurate depiction of its title.

I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling that relation to the story, but I could also see why someone who hasn’t really experienced anything like what occurs would think this is a close-to-three-hour drama about a family with issues. Those 160-odd minutes really do not linger and feel overlong in any way. It didn’t get too sappy, it didn’t devolve into scenes of out of place romance… Honestly there didn’t feel like there was anything out of place at all. Most importantly, everything that happened in the film felt real. This was a real family that went through many real-life problems that countless families face. Each family member gave you a reason to care about them, and it of course doesn’t hurt that the main character is literally developing into a man as the film goes, so it is a semi-documentary in a sense; and one that sucks you into its world. I felt it also said a lot about modern relationships, the prevalence of fighting between parents/partners, and it comments accurately on the concept of growing up in today’s society. I don’t feel movie missed a beat for its long running time.

The other characters aged very convincingly on an emotional (and obviously physical) level, especially Ethan Hawke, who I think was incredible in portraying the type of father that he did. Coming from a broken home myself, I found that his performance felt very familiar; definitely a positive element. The same can be said about Patricia Arquette; a very accurate depiction of a struggling single mother. Every actor did an amazing job, I did feel that Mason’s sister could have been cast better, as she seemed to have one of those faces that looks anywhere from 15-24, and unlike every other character, she didn’t seem to physically age. This is easily forgiven though, both because this is in comparison to Mason growing from six years of age, whereas she was years older, plus the emotional development was fantastic and played against the development of the Mason Jr. fantastically. This development of characters was apparent across the entire cast, and it again made the film transcend genres into a semi-documentary, as not only was Mason growing up on camera, but every situation the family faced wasn’t exaggerated. It was real. I think those three words sum the film up perfectly.

9.5/10 – unlike any other film I have ever seen, by a long way. I really hope this sees the cinemas here, I think it’d be amazing

These Final Hours [2013]

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Directed by Zak Hilditch

The world is coming to an end; a meteoroid strike has caused a chain reaction that is gradually engulfing the entire planet. When we start, a radio announcer informs us of the situation in a grim tone, telling us nonchalantly that Europe no longer exists. The end of the world is 12 hours away, and the same radio announcer occasionally is heard in between scenes, informing us of the destruction of the rest of the planet. With this certainty approaching, the lead character James (Nathan Phillips) decides that he doesn’t want to feel it, and just wants to get ‘fucked up’ in true Australian style. So, despite some major emotional obstacles, James decides that he cannot miss this party to literally end all parties. But when he witnesses Rose (Angourie Rice) being abducted, he cannot bring himself to steal the abductor’s van for his own use as he hears her screams. Suddenly, this stereotypical alpha-male has to decide if he can really be a man and look after this young girl.

Both lead actors put in stellar performances, with only the script holding them back from being close to perfect; as on a few occasions the script sunk into sentimental soap opera territory. Thankfully these moments were few. Nathan Phillips did a solid job; the way his acting progressed alongside his character’s development as the film went on was great work. However, I was extremely, extremely impressed with the young Angourie Rice. She is plunged into a bleak and very messy world, but has the acting chops to pull off a variety of emotions that couldn’t have felt more natural, and put many experienced actors to shame. Moreover, the chemistry between the two leads was perfect, as both their characters, and their relationship, developed steadily and deeply as the film moved along. This is a brutal movie with many violent scenes; but it has a heart.

It very much starts off with a bang, as the title of the movie is shown in a very abrasive fashion, and barely five minutes in there is tense conflict. It also has some great, albeit very dark, Australian humour that may or may not go down with viewers abroad. The narrative/plot is sparse, and rather than a story, the movie feels more like a series of events unfolding until the credits rolled, presenting a character study of this egotistical young man who has to really look within himself. Given the post-apocalyptic concept turned upside-down though – they know the end is coming – this skinny plot is more than enough. There is also more than enough action, and while this isn’t intensely violent, when it is, the blood really does spill.

Both the visuals and the sound of this movie are something to admire. For a first feature film, Zak Hilditch has created a very unique style for himself, with many interesting shots of the sun, the clouds; the nature that is ready to be burnt alive, not to mention the stunning, spine-chilling visual feast of the final scene. It will take your breath away. The sound was also extremely well executed; not only was the soundtrack appropriate for the movie, silence was used very effectively, and subtle effects like the sound of ears ringing, blocking out all other sound, were used purely to convey the intensity of the emotion on screen, and these two elements of the movie were perfect.

This isn’t your average movie. It is visceral and endlessly pessimistic, but at the same time is filled with emotion and hope. While the script does let the movie down at times, these times aren’t often. The movie is predominately populated by memorable, eccentric characters, many with heads full of eclectic drug-cocktails. The subject matter is heavy, but it is handled deftly and with a heart, culminating in a brilliant film, even more-so considering this is the first feature film for the Aussie director.

4/5

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Under The Skin [2013]

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Directed By Jonathon Glazer

This is an ‘art’ film in the truest sense. I’m still wondering if it had more dialogue than Space Odyssey.. At times it felt like a silent film! It was like a combination of everything I love about cinema.

The score was extremely unsettling, dissonant but subtle, mainly in the background, and had my body tensing up without me realising. I was still staring at the screen through the credits, hypnotised. That reaction was also a result of the camerawork – very unique, combining a documentary style (with hidden cameras, in the streets of Scotland and whatnot) with an extremely artistic, static style of shooting that reminds me a lot of Tarkovsky – several shots could be framed as a painting/photo. It was a visual experience for sure, I was frozen at several points, my eyes glued to what was on the screen.

It is very much left to interpretation, one could argue it was vague – but I think that was the intent, he wanted to make the source novel material more ambiguous and up to the viewer to decide. This movie is something else, the only thing I can think of that comes close is UPSTREAM COLOR, but only in the approach – throwing all the normal techniques of cinema out the window to create something that just sticks in your head, I’m gonna guess for about a week.

9.5/10 – unlike any film, or any piece of art, that I have ever seen. Unclassifiable and unmissable.

Venus In Fur [2013]

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Directed By Roman Polanski

The short plot synopsis for this film is so misleading. But you know it is Polanski, so naturally something, probably strange, will begin to transpire.

And strange it is. The actress arrives covered in rain, hours late, and is not on the audition list. Yet, with much persuasion, the director, reluctantly, agrees to read some lines with her, and after she starts he begins to take her seriously. He stops thinking she is a lunatic.

Suddenly his enthusiasm picks up and they are engaged in the lines. But as they rehearse, they argue over trivial matters like the placement of one of their characters, to the actresses’ perceived misogynistic take on the book the play as based on.

Each time they argue, something pulls them back into the story, and they are suddenly and instantly back in character. It is an interesting setup.

From this point on, there this a story within the play unfolding, and it begins to get very strange as you watch them rehearsing, then suddenly you realise they have actually been arguing for the last minute! It keeps you guessing constantly, and as they explore the subject matter further, the blurring of the play and reality increases as they both become more passionate about the subject matter. And into Polanski territory the film goes.

This movie is easily the best film he has made in the last 30 or so years. It reminds me of The Tenant, it has that sorta of weird, surreal and creepy vibe.

Kudos to Polanski, who, much like in Carnage, makes full use of the single set, in this case a small theater, with the final act of the movie actually taking place on the stage itself. The camera is constantly moving around the theater, not once was I bored, as while looking great, the dialogue is very intriguing; funny in a dark way at times, but also pretty messed up, which I guess is due to the original text, and who does messed up films better than Polanski?

I’m not sure of the running length, but this film felt like it was an hour long. It flew by, the ending was incredible, and due to the deft handling of the dialogue, the switching between play and reality, this is something I want to watch again immediately!

Word has it that he is working on a third adaptation right now. After the hilarious Carnage, and now this film, I can’t wait to see what it will be about. These last two movies couldn’t have been more different, bar the fact they are adaptations of plays. Where will he venture next?

And some say this master filmmaker has gone senile!? This is easily his best movie since The Tenant!

4/5

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