Talk Hard – Zak Hilditch, These Final Hours

It’s anarchy in the WA! This week, we review the Perth-based apocalypse movie These Final Hours, now in Australian cinemas, and speak to writer-director Zak Hilditch. Get the party ended!

Zak Hilditch

 

Show Notes:

Thanks for tuning in! Apologies for the audio quality of the interview… and the chatty bystanders.

Tell your friends to subscribe to Talk Hard on iTunes and feel free to leave a review. Or, follow our RSS feed.

You can shoot us a line at talkhard@quickflix.com.au. Find me on Twitter here: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

The Top 10 ‘Orange is the New Black’ Inmates

Orange is the New Black

By Simon Miraudo
July 30, 2014

Every sentence is a story, Orange is the New Black‘s tagline punnily promises, and it ain’t lying. Jenji Kohan’s spunky black comedy concerns the highs and lows (okay… mostly lows) of the populace in a female prison seen through the eyes of Taylor Schilling‘s Piper Chapman, a waspy, artisanal soap-maker way out of her element, serving a short sting for smuggling drugs once upon a time.

This being a – sadly – rare instance of a TV show having a largely female, multicultural cast, OITNB smartly begins to shine a light on its gargantuan ensemble as the episodes pass, flashing back to each inmate’s pre-prison life. Thank goodness. Though Piper – based on real-life ex-con and author Piper Kerman – is plenty entertaining, we’re happy to see her take a backseat to some of the more complicated characters marking time at Litchfield Penitentiary; particularly ones with nicknames like ‘Crazy Eyes’ and ‘Yoga Jones’.

Orange is the New Black‘s first season is one of the strongest comedy debuts in recent memory, managing to build to an astounding dramatic crescendo whilst still providing laughter and pathos in equal measure. Never before has a rogue chicken and a missing screwdriver inspired such comedic gold and sweat-inducing panic, respectively. Its second season, somehow, is a step up, expanding its empathetic reach to everyone in Litchfield, no matter how intimidating, and that includes (heaven forfend) the guards. Sometimes this show does miraculous things. Even Born-Again Pennsatucky would have to admit that.

OITNB is up for Outstanding Comedy Series at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards later this month, with an astounding five of its stars competing for their own statuettes. With Season 1 now available to stream on Quickflix and Season 2 rolling out over the next few weeks, I decided to share my ten favourite characters.

Orange is the New Black

10. Carrie ‘Big Boo’ Black

Played by comedian Lea DeLaria, Big Boo has a cutting sense of humour, but that doesn’t make her any less terrifying, especially when she’s threatening her prison wife. But there’s a sweetness underneath; one that comes to the fore once she’s united with a therapy dog, christened ‘Little Boo’. (That is, until things between them “get weird.”)

9. Sister Jane Ingalls

A rebellious firebrand, activist, would-be celebrity and “bad nun,” Sister Jane (Beth Fowler) offers sage advice at Litchfield. Just don’t call her the Pope’s b****. “I like to think of myself as the Pope’s homie.”

8. Gloria Mendoza

Selenis Leyva‘s Gloria is the matriarch of the Spanish crew with a smirk for every occasion. I’d love to get into what makes her great, but that would spoil too much. All I’ll say is that her storyline intersects with that of…

Orange is the New Black

7. Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov

Kate Mulgrew‘s Head Chef, an irascible Russian with a shock of red hair, ties to the Mafia, and the ability to smuggle in all sorts of contraband. You need lip gloss, you see Red. Mulgrew’s up for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her part here, though seeing how she moves closer to the center of the story as the show progresses, you might find her – deservingly – up for Lead Actress alongside Schilling in the coming years.

6. Sophia Burset

Laverne Cox is the first openly transgender person to ever be nominated for an acting Emmy, thanks to her performance as Sophia Burset (whose flashback ep in S1, Lesbian Request Denied, might be the best thing the program’s ever pulled off). Resident beautician, the rest of the girls wish they were as well coiffed as Sophia. Me too, frankly.

Orange is the New Black

5. Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson  & Poussey Washington

I hate to combine two rich characters like besties Taystee and Poussey, but I figure they’d be happy to share a space, if their sister act of ‘Amanda and McKenzie’ is any indication. Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley, you’ll get your nominations soon enough.

 

Orange is the New Black4. Lorna Morello

Australia’s own Yael Stone plays the perpetually-wedding-planning Lorna Morello. I say that up front to partly explain her bizarre, beautifully off-kilter accent, which perfectly hints at the something not quite right beneath her surface. Stone’s heartfelt, compassionate turn here might be the saddest of all.

3. Nicky Nichols

Natasha Lyonne came back with a vengeance in Orange is the New Black, starring as the sarcastic Nicky Nichols, the most eminently quotable, sexually voracious inmate of them all (collecting, you guessed it, an Emmy nom for her troubles). A recovering drug addict, she trades heroin for in-prison conquests. And she’s doing just fine.

Orange is the New Black

2. Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett

Every good show needs its villain, and OITNB gets a big one in the miniscule Taryn Manning, nearly unrecognisable as former meth addict and devoted-to-the-point-of-insanity Christian Pennsatucky Doggett. That we alternately find her adorable and despicable – especially as more and more terrible things from her past emerge – is proof positive Manning’s performance is mighty impressive stuff. Honest to God. Who could have imagined this from the former lead singer of Boomkat?

1. Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren

Our final Emmy nominee – and perhaps only lock for a win – is Uzo Aduba, playing Suzanne Warren, the inmate affectionately nicknamed “Crazy Eyes” for reasons that hopefully don’t need explaining. A manic, energetic force of nature with a lot of love to give – especially to Piper – Aduba (and the show around her) slowly reveals Suzanne’s deeper layers, proving she might be the sweetest, most dangerous person in all of Litchfield. I’m certain I’m not alone in saying she’s earned the top spot.

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Television Revision: ‘The West Wing’ – Season 7

The West Wing S7

By Andrew Williams
July 29, 2014

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and the rest).

Now, this is a story all about how… The Bartlet White House has to deal with one last scandal as focus shifts to the Presidential election between Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda).

The West Wing S7

Happy days? For a series that produced some of the most dramatic finales in television history, this final season of The West Wing is surprisingly low-key, given it features the death of a beloved character and a Presidential election. Showrunner John Wells chooses to eschew the thunderous approach his predecessor Aaron Sorkin took to ending things, instead opting for a calm, almost documentarian tack in filming the battle to become the next President of the United States – and it works like gangbusters.

The season’s astonishing prescience aside (it pitted a charismatic minority-race Democrat against a long-serving ‘maverick’ Republican long before Obama v. McCain was on the cards for 2008) the realism with which Wells depicted a modern Presidential election is nothing short of remarkable. Alda and Smits excel as the candidates and Bradley Whitford anchors the whole season as Josh Lyman finds himself relocated at the centre of the show. The contest ebbs and flows as a real contest would, and there’s even an ambitious live debate episode that works perfectly. The only thing that doesn’t ring true is the alarming amount of mutual respect on display between the opposing sides.

If the season falters at all, it’s back at the White House, where a skeleton staff is basically running out the clock until the new mob comes in (much like the real world, mind you). The ‘leak’ plotline that dominates the White House action for much of Season Seven is controversial, as many feel it betrays a character we’d known for seven years (I think it’s exactly the sort of thing this character would do) and the whole thread feels a bit too much like a lame duck storyline.

The final frontier: The West Wing may have transformed from passionate to dispassionate in its seventh season, but I haven’t. This is the best show ever made, and Season Seven is a worthy part of that legacy.

The West Wing S7

Top three episodes: 7) The Debate. Only The West Wing could stage a live presidential debate between two fictional characters and make it compelling. 6) The Al Smith Dinner. The show tackles the divisive issue of abortion with the kind of intelligence and even-handedness that would come to define this final season. 22) Tomorrow. The show goes out on a minor, but quietly inspiring note.

Worst episode: 5) Here Today. As mentioned, the White House portion of the season is not its strong suit, and this episode situated almost entirely in the White House off the back of a shocking revelation can’t help but leave us impatient to get back to the darn election already.

Season MVP: Whitford’s Josh Lyman would come to be The West Wing’s most crucial original character – from so close to being fired in the pilot to its heart and soul by the finale. He’s the bridge between the old and the new, our familiar pair of eyes with which to view this unfamiliar situation. It’s a credit to Whitford that even as the character begins to come under unbearable pressure, he never loses the twinkle in his eyes while still modulating his performance to fit this new paradigm. He’s the standout member of an impeccable cast.

4.5/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 1

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 2

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 3

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 4

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 5

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 6

The West Wing is available on Quickflix.

Anarchy in the W.A. – ‘These Final Hours’ Review

These Final Hours

By Simon Miraudo
July 29, 2014

There’s never been an end-of-days movie quite like These Final Hours before, an anything-goes orgy of grief, savagery, and sex, with just enough humanity to remind us why maybe farewelling mankind would be a shame after all. Zak Hilditch‘s major feature debut makes Perth the final destination for an apocalyptic event that has already laid waste to the rest of the planet (which makes sense, given the popular definition for W.A. is actually “wait awhile”). With just twelve hours until the west coast erupts in a fiery, meteoric “come to Jesus” blaze, the locals spend their last moments entirely shedding the facade of morality, running amok on machete rampages, fornicating in the streets, and, at the mohawked, methed-out Freddy’s (Daniel Henshall) mansion, enjoying a pansexual, skin-on-skin bacchanalia the likes of which would make Jordan Belfort blush. Good thing the world’s already ending. Otherwise the lot of them would have been rendered pillars of salt.

The flick begins with a familiar lover’s tiff: James (Nathan Phillips) wants to go the party, while his girlfriend Zoe (Jessica De Gouw) would rather stay at home. He can’t bear to “feel” the end of the world, hoping to drown the pain out with whisky, cocaine, and whatever’s available, really. He abandons her at the beach house where she’d like to see out existence, but his trip to Freddy’s is waylaid by some of the nutters wilding in the streets, including a duo of dastardly gents who’ve kidnapped a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice), for nefarious purposes. Conducting the first unselfish act of, perhaps, his entire life, James rescues Rose, who’s desperate to reunite with her father. James toys with taking her to him, though not before stopping off at that party, where Rose is harassed by a distraught young mother (Sarah Snook) and plied with drugs. Hey, if you’ve got to go…

These Final Hours

There’s an appreciated forward momentum to These Final Hours, and not simply because there is a literal ticking clock and a clear conclusion we’re driving towards. (Bonnie Elliot’s camera captures the smothering, smouldering sensation of the unbearable summer heat, amplified by the gradually-increasing incineration of the entire G-ddamn globe). Hilditch directs with great propulsion, and his script swiftly takes us from vignette to vignette, with James and Rose encountering a variety of strangers all enduring their own private drama during These Final Hours. James’ personal journey, from ‘jerk’ to ‘not that bad really’, is satisfyingly travelled too. The dialogue is occasionally overwrought – and Phillips is not always up to the task in the more dramatic moments – however, I don’t necessarily know how you tell this tale in which every person on the planet faces death and not devolve into screeching, histrionic madness. If anything, this hysterical panic and frequent ugly-crying is almost freeing to behold; “Oh good,” we think, “everyone is as emotionally ill-equipped as I’d be.”

Where Phillips falters, Rice acts as anchor; a remarkably impressive performance from the 13-year-old actress. Snook and Henshall are similarly memorable in their small, startling turns. What makes the picture most compelling, however, is the fine filmmaking on display, which convincingly turns Western Australia into a hellscape with suspicious ease. (As a Perth resident, it was alarming to see empty streets turned into sites of chaos, as well as how little effort was required to do so.) The energetically assembled party sequence, as a parody of sandgroping bro culture – seen at any music festival, or outback B&S Ball, or on any Australia Day – pierces with devastating precision, and is punctuated by bursts of uncomfortable humour and outrageously graphic violence. On the other end of the spectrum, beyond Freddy’s compound and around each new corner, are countless heartbreaking moments for James and Rose to happen upon, and for us to wince at as they unfold. This won’t be a pleasant experience for many, and you may not want to watch These Final Hours more than once. And yet, it does the job so well, you shouldn’t need to.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

These Final Hours arrives in Australian cinemas July 31, 2014.

Talk Hard – Clio Barnard, The Selfish Giant

Sit down, kids, as we share the fable of The Selfish Giant. Simon Miraudo reviews this acclaimed English drama, in Australian cinemas July 31, and then interviews its director and writer, Clio Barnard.

Clio Barnard

 

Show Notes:

Thanks for listening!

Do tell your friends to subscribe to Talk Hard on iTunes and feel free to leave a review. Or, follow our RSS feed.

You can shoot us a line at talkhard@quickflix.com.au. Find me on Twitter here: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ trailer promises non-stop carnage

Mad Max Fury Road

Almost – almost - confirming that the long-delayed, production-plagued Mad Max: Fury Road actually exists and will be fit for release is this new teaser trailer, fresh from Comic Con.

The clip is just a short excerpt of the lengthy sequence played at the Con, where director George Miller revealed that the entire movie would be one long car chase.

Miller also added that he never wrote a script for the movie, due to the almost complete lack of dialogue, instead relying on a 3500-frame storyboard.

Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson here, playing Max, and he’s joined by Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult; none of them actually Australian, hinting at maybe why there’s so little dialogue.

The teaser is certainly electrifying, and continues to promise a 2015 release. Yeah, we’ll see.

Walrus? Yes! Kevin Smith’s ‘Tusk’ trailer revealed

Tusk

The trailer for Kevin Smith’s podcast-born horror flick – his first since 2011’s Red State – has arrived online, following its premiere at Comic Con.

Inspired by a Gumtree post and discussed on Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast, Tusk will concern a podcaster (Justin Long) who answers a classified ad from a lonely former seaman (Michael Parks), looking for an interesting story, and finding himself in way over his head.

Anyone familiar with Smith’s now infamous Smodcast episode has a fair idea of the grotesque, Walrus-related area the movie ventures into, but the trailer plays it coy, so we won’t spoil it for you here.

This ain’t no Jersey Girl, that’s for sure. Check it out for yourself below.

Tusk arrives in US cinemas this September, with a local release to hopefully follow.

Unexpected ‘King Kong’ prequel, ‘Skull Island’, set for 2016

Film Title: King Kong.

Among the things no one expected to be announced at Comic Con: a remake of Kazaam, a live action adaptation of the ill-fated comic hero Arm-Fall-Off-Boy, and a prequel to King Kong.

So, you can imagine Con-goers surprise when the teaser for a new King Kong movie was played at the conclusion of Legendary’s panel.

Titled Skull Island, the picture will take place in the jungle terrain prior to Mighty Kong’s capture by that pesky film crew in the famed King Kong story.

It’s unknown if it will have any involvement from Peter Jackson, who made the most recent Kong movie in 2005, but we do know its slated for release in November of 2016.

Slashfilm, in their account of the teaser, wonder if a potential Godzilla vs. King Kong movie is being set up by Legendary, which, while hugely speculative, is very, very appealing.

The following is from Legendary’s official press release:

“Previous works have touched on the island, but staying and exploring this mysterious and dangerous place offers Legendary the opportunity to take audiences deeper inside this rich world with a style and scope that parallels other Legendary productions.”

Quentin Tarantino is making ‘The Hateful Eight’ after all

comic-con-django-unchained-panel-jpeg-1968627819

Quentin Tarantino, that tease, revealed at Comic Con he is indeed moving forward with The Hateful Eight, despite suggesting he would abandon the film after the script leaked early this year.

According to Deadline, Tarantino made the confirmation after being prodded by a fan’s question at his Django/Zorro crossover comic panel.

In an earlier report, Deadline suggested QT was lining up stars and producers for an early 2015 filming start.

He recently held a live reading of the script with actors Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Zoe Bell, Amber Tamblyn, James Remar, Michael Madsen, James Parks, and Denis Menochet.

Bell confirmed to us she would want to be affiliated with the movie, so maybe we’ll get to see that exact line up living out Tarantino’s upcoming western.

Also in the works: an extended cut of the Kill Bill saga with more animated sequences. Surely one Con soon he’ll spill on Kill Bill Vol. 3.

Marvel reveals ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ concept art, announce ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2′ at Comic Con; Joaquin Phoenix in talks for ‘Doctor Strange’

Avengers Age of Ultron

Marvel, the reigning kings of Comic Con, selfishly dominated the weekend’s news cycle with some juicy new details about their upcoming slate.

First, over the course of the Con they unveiled some concept art character posters, which, when “assembled” make up the above image, showing the Avengers (plus newbies Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Vision) in serious peril.

At their panel – available online in all its glory – the cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron revealed the hotly anticipated trailer, featuring James Spader as the villainous robot Ultron, and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark (sort of spoiler alert) standing amongst his slain fellow superheroes (as recounted by Slashfilm).

The latter sequence calls to mind the famous comic book thread involving Thanos, which many believed was being saved for the third Avengers movie.

However, with Josh Brolin cast as Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy (and him making an impromptu appearance at the panel), perhaps we won’t have to wait that long to see this particular storyline unfold.

Speaking of the Guardians, Marvel has confirmed a July 2017 release date for its sequel, with James Gunn confirming on Twitter that he would return to write and direct. The first film hits US cinemas this weekend, and arrives locally next Thursday.

Finally, though Marvel decided not to comment at the Con, Joaquin Phoenix is reportedly in negotiations to star in Doctor Strange.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal-making is quite far along, meaning Phoenix could soon be announced as the sorcerer in Scott Derrickson’s upcoming film.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman debuted at Comic Con

Wonder Woman

The first image of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince (fitted out in full Wonder Woman garb) has been released online, following its debut at the Batman V Superman Comic Con panel.

Her character portrait joins the previously released posters for Bats (Ben Affleck) and Supes (Henry Cavill), though neither was quite as rapturously received as this one has been.

Perhaps that has something to do with the drab, metallic grey sheen of both; something we’ve seen countless times before.

But Wonder Woman in all her Amazonian glory, in an other-worldly environment? That’s something we’ve never seen on screen.

You never would have imagined people needed a good reason to see a Batman vs Superman movie, but it’s certainly starting to feel that way. If Gal Gadot’s performance (and Zack Snyder’s filmmaking, of course) can live up to the promise of that striking image, then this might actually be an interesting new superhero movie after all.

We won’t find out until it hits cinemas May 2016.

The Top 25 Films of 1989

The top 25 films of 1989

By Simon Miraudo
July 28, 2014

Every year is a good year for cinema, however, few can boast about having as many memorable movies – certainly ones that remain ingrained in our collective consciousness – as 1989 can. With that in mind, I dug into the Quickflix data bank to see which had been deemed the very best, based on thousands of Quickflix subscribers ratings and reviews.

The eventual victor surprised me, mostly because it bested such imposing competition. I mean, consider the contenders: Spike Lee‘s Do the Right Thing, the rare picture to remain as incendiary and important in 2014 as it was upon release twenty-five years ago (it’s also, cutely, what the Obamas saw on their first date, and contains maybe the greatest ever opening credits sequence); Disney’s comeback flick The Little Mermaid, which, despite some questionable sexual politics, rescued the Mousehouse from irrelevancy and could be considered directly responsible for leading to Frozen; the timeless When Harry Met Sally…, the template for the modern rom-com genre, and yet to be topped. That’s not to mention cult favourite Heathers, surprisingly good blockbuster sequels Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Back to the Future 2, and beloved dramas Dead Poets Society and Cinema Paradiso. How beloved? Well, the latter, an Italian ode to cinema, managed fourth place on this chart, while Robin Williams‘ inspirational teacher tale took the top spot. O captain, my captain indeed.

It was such a good year for film, take a look at what just missed out on making this Top 25 and weep: Batman, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, sex, lies & videotape, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Born on the Fourth of July, Henry V, Meet the Feebles, and, depending on how you feel about Nicolas Cage, Vampire’s Kiss. Turner & Hooch snuck onto the list though, so…

I didn’t compile my own 25 – and for my reasoning I’d like to crib from Lethal Weapon 2: Diplomatic immunity!” – but I would have put Do the Right Thing, When Harry Met Sally… and Say Anything… in the top three spots. (Sidebar: What’s with all the titles being styled with an ellipsis in 1989?) Still, it’s hard to argue with any group of people who rate Kiki’s Delivery Serviceand Road House - so highly.

Happy twenty-fifth bday to you all!

DEAD POETS SOCIETY

Quickflix subscribers’ Top 25 Films of 1989.

1. Dead Poets Society
2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service
4. Cinema Paradiso
5. Back to the Future 2
6. The Little Mermaid
7. Jesus of Montreal
8. Glory
9. Do the Right Thing
10. My Left Foot
11. Driving Miss Daisy
12. When Harry Met Sally
13. See No Evil, Hear No Evil
14. Shirley Valentine
15. The Abyss
16. Lean on Me
17. Road House
18. Field of Dreams
19. Steel Magnolias
20. Heathers
21. Parenthood
22. Roger and Me
23. Turner and Hooch
24. Honey I Shrunk the Kids
25. Lethal Weapon 2

Start reviewing those 1990 movies now!

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Play It Again – Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet

By Glenn Dunks
July 25, 2014

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. Hey, whatever. It fits!

By far one of the most fascinating careers of an American filmmaker is that of David Lynch. To watch his 1986 neo-noir masterpiece Blue Velvet is to be plunged headfirst into the mind of an extraordinary filmmaker whose experiences with the mainstream studio system had left him burnt – his 1984 adaptation of Dune was a long-gestating failure – and who then returned to the world of independent cinema and made one of the finest dissections of the American mythos yet seen, filmed using high-gloss suburban iconography and with heavy use of symbolism and graphic violence.

Upon discovering a severed human ear, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan) and the local detective’s daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern), decide to investigate. They are led to a local nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini) and the sadomasochistic criminal who has kidnapped her family and uses her for his sexual gratification (Dennis Hopper), sending them careening through a nightmarish peek behind the artificial veil of suburbia.

Blue Velvet

Lynch was clearly inspired by the excessively wholesome images of America that television perpetuated in the 1950s and ‘60s and echoing themes that Lynch would go on to investigate in even greater detail in his Twin Peaks franchise. No clearer is the brilliance of his concept seen than in the opening sequence that begins with Bobby Vinton’s titular tune playing over stylized images of red roses, white picket fences, cute puppies, and friendly neighbours that quickly burrows beneath the surface into a cacophony of the grotesque as chomping insects and filthy dirt take over. It’s ugly, yet beautifully intoxicating at the same time.

While Lynch’s command of the movie’s visuals, sounds, and tone are exceptionally on point – he was nominated for the Best Director Oscar, the film’s only nomination – the actors are equally special. McLachlan and Dern are especially tuned into Lynch’s gee-whiz innocence, while Rossellini and especially Hopper as the deranged Frank Booth are the film’s propulsive, dark hearts. (Dean Stockwell also memorably appears as a Roy Orbison-singing creep.) Despite its wild cross of genres and styles, Blue Velvet is an endlessly fascinating and ultimately rather horrifying excursion into the mind of a genius.

5/5

Blue Velvet is available on Quickflix.

Look but don’t touch the saucy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trailer

50-Shades-of-Grey-still-1

Have that fainting couch at the ready! The scandalous trailer for e-book sensation Fifty Shades of Grey has arrived online.

Dakota Johnson plays sexually inexperienced uni student Anastasia Steele in the flick, ultimately seduced by BDSM-loving billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

The teaser – tease being the key phrase here – for Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation is light on the hardcore naughtiness for which E.L. James former-Twilight fan fiction is famous.

Still, there’s enough breathy Beyonce on the soundtrack and brief shots of Johnson in states of ecstasy to suggest that, yes, there will be a lot of sex in this movie.

Fifty Shades of Grey comes out Valentine’s Day, 2015.

‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2′ trailer full of ‘Back to the Future 2′-style shenanigans

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

The sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine you didn’t realise you had asked for hits cinemas next January. For those who are eagerly waiting for it – okay, I’m one of them – this new Red Band trailer should suffice.

The picture sees Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and Clark Duke reeling from the events of the first movie, in which they changed history – thanks to their helpful hot tub – and made themselves into wildly successful futurists.

But when an attempt is taken on Corddry’s character’s life, the trio jumps forward to the 2020s with the intention of tracking down his would-be assassin, and much Back to the Future 2-like madness ensues.

John Cusack is conspicuously absent, though the presence of equally-appealing everyman Adam Scott here makes up for it.

Oh, and Chevy Chase is back too.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 3′ delayed until 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Following the disappointing box office returns for The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro, Sony has delayed the release of its sequel from 2016 to 2018.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3 does not have a specific date in 2018, suggesting that perhaps the studio is waiting to see how their still-slated villain team-up flick Sinister Six fares in 2016 before committing to more movies from this particular universe.

According to Variety, The Amazing Spider-Man 4, once dated for May 2018, has been taken off the slate entirely.

The writing’s been on the wall for some weeks, with TASM3‘s screenwriters having mostly walked away.

TASM2 collected an impressive $706 million worldwide, and yet, because of its gargantuan budget, barely turned a profit. It is also the lowest grossing of the Spider-Man movies, and the worst reviewed to boot. Yes, it score a lower Rotten Tomatoes score than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.

Surely Sony execs are wondering if maybe they’d not be better off retiring Andrew Garfield and rebooting once again in four years time.

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ poster indicates this thing might actually come out someday

Mad Max Fury Road

Despite being in production for approximately, oh, seventy years, Mad Max: Fury Road might actually be nearing release. That is, if its newly debuted teaser poster isn’t outright lying to us.

Though it boasts 2015 as its release date, I’ll only believe this thing exists when I’m sitting down to watch it.

Plagued with delays, George Miller’s Mad Max sequel sees Tom Hardy take over for Mel Gibson, and joined by Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, and Charlize Theron.

Here’s the official synopsis:

“Mad Max is caught up with a group of people fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by the Imperator Furiosa. This movie is an account of the Road War which follows. It is based on the Word Burgers of the History Men and eyewitness accounts of those who survived.”

Again, if it actually exists.

Robert Downey Jr. might be up for ‘Iron Man 4′ after all

Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr. may not hang up the Iron Man outfit so quickly, says the man who makes close to $50 million a pop for playing Iron Man.

Speaking to EW from the set of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Downey Jr. indicated he wasn’t entirely opposed to a fourth Iron Man film (he’s only contractually obligated to star in an additional Avengers sequel).

“It’s down to Kevin [Feige, Marvel Studios president] and Ike [Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Entertainment] and Disney to come to us with what the proposal is, and that’s on us to agree or disagree… When things are going great, there’s a lot of agreement.”

Here’s where he starts leaning towards the prospect of IM4:

“It’s that thing of: Why give up the belt when it feels like you can barely get jabbed? Most people are saying that right when they get knocked out.”

So, he’s considering it, at least. We’ll take it!

Here’s what SpongeBob Squarepants looks like in real life, kinda

SPONGEBOB: SPONGE OUT OF WATER

A new SpongeBob Squarepants movie is in the works and OH GOD WHAT IS GOING ON?

In the first official image, released at ComicCon, we see SpongeBob and his pals in live-action, kinda, not really.

The movie, subtitled Sponge Out of Water, will see the characters interact in both live-action and animated environments.

So much has changed. At least we know that Tom Kenny is still providing Bob’s voice.

Directed by Paul Tibbitt, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water hits cinemas April 2015.

Television Revision: The West Wing – Season 6

The West Wing S6

By Andrew Williams
July 23, 2014

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and the rest).

Now, this is a story all about how… President Bartlet’s presidency begins to wind down, and the Democratic and Republican parties begin the long nomination process to find their own successors to the throne.

The West Wing S6

Happy days? Anyone who enjoys American politics (even in a watch-it-through-your-fingers sort of way) knows that their Presidential elections can be absolutely enthralling. Trying to corral a massive (and massively diverse) country into making a single decision between two potential leaders is a gargantuan, almost foolhardy task. The incredibly complicated path to making that choice is a fascinating thing to behold, and one of the most fascinating things about it is the primary process, which determines who the two respective candidates will be.

It’s that process that The West Wing bases the majority of Season Six around, and it is that decision that would return the show to greatness.

They say no one wants to know how the sausage gets made, but the sausage making in the last two seasons of The West Wing creates some compelling viewing. The John Wells-led version of the show is a much more cynical and matter-of-fact version than the one Aaron Sorkin originally created, concentrating much more on how it is than how it might be. Yet, it’s thrilling all the same as we race through primary season to determine the Presidential contenders to replace Martin Sheen‘s Josiah Bartlet. Will it be the Obama-like Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits? The opportunistic Bob Russell (Gary Cole)? Or the blisteringly intelligent and very popular liberal Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda)? One thing’s for sure: it’s a lot of fun to watch.

The final frontier: Though Season Six of The West Wing is not the same show it once was, that doesn’t mean it’s not still a great show.

The West Wing S6

Best episode: 22) 2162 Votes. The madness of the Democratic nominating convention is spectacularly handled by director Alex Graves and writer Wells; it’s a brilliant portrayal of the kind of wheeling and dealing required to win such a coveted and controversial role. And by ending the season on both a cliff hanger and a note of hope, Wells proved there was still a little bit of Sorkin left in the show after all.

Worst episode: 2) The Birnam Wood. There are things we understand are possible in this alternative, still relatively optimistic political universe: solving a government shutdown, winning an election comprehensively in a single debate, taming the press with a few charmingly self-deprecating gags… however solving the crisis in the Middle East is a bridge too far, even for this show. It’s representative of a wider problem with Season Six, which is that the White House plots became somewhat less compelling than the election material.

Season MVP: This is a weird one: whomever was in charge of casting for The West Wing deserves some sort of medal. Season Five aside (curse you, Jesse Bradford!) the casting is impeccable: Smits & Alda are perfect additions, as are traditional comedy actors like Ed O’Neill (who knew?) and Gary Cole in dramatic roles. But for Smits & Alda alone, the casting director of The West Wing (along with John Wells) gets this prize.

4/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 1

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 2

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 3

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 4

Television Revision: The West Wing - Season 5

The West Wing is available on Quickflix.

Game of stones – Pompeii review

Pompeii

By Richard Haridy
July 23, 2014

Pompeii is what some critics will label a “guilty pleasure.” It’s trash. Unadulterated, cliché-ridden junk that is also simply damn fun to watch. I tend to rail against the term “guilty pleasure” as one should never feel guilty about enjoying something. Pompeii is a grand B-grade mash up of a movie bringing together Gladiator and Titanic under the ash-cloud of a giant disaster film.

A gloriously hammy prologue sets up the entire feature: The evil Roman Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) wipes out an entire Celtic village leaving only one survivor, a young boy named Milo. Captured by slave traders, Milo spends the next 17 years of his life becoming a talented gladiator – and looking like Game of ThronesKit Harington – yet still harbouring dreams of vengeance. You guessed it, Milo ends up in Pompeii just as the villainous Corvus arrives, while also falling in love with Cassia (Emily Browning), daughter of the current ruler of Pompeii, Severus (Jared Harris).

Pompeii

This is all necessarily convoluted but incredibly one-dimensional. B-grade auteur Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for his numerous Resident Evil movies, orchestrates with a swift sense of purpose. For the first hour we simply get a satisfying replay of Gladiator and Titanic with the occasional cutaway to an ominously growling volcano. The final act then moves into full disaster overdrive, giving us the inevitable volcanic eruption spewing chaotic fireballs down onto the town as major carnage ensues.

Harrington has an amusing cardboard blandness; his flat, matinee idol delivery really works for this type of sword and sandal cheese. Sutherland, Browning, Harris and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, meanwhile, all pitch themselves perfectly to the low-brow tone of the material.

Anderson knows exactly what he is doing with Pompeii and he executes this type of gleefully trashy entertainment with a sense of pace and style that is unexpectedly refreshing. This is not great art but it is great entertainment (if approached with the right sense of fun). Sure, every character beat is hammy and predictable, but hey, not everything can be fine dining. Sometimes you just want a good cheeseburger and fries.

3.5/5

Pompeii is now available on Quickflix.

Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook loop-de-loop in time-skipping ‘Predestination’ trailer

Predestination

The Spierig Brothers – those rascally twins responsible for Aussie genre fare Undead and Daybreakers - are set to debut their new film Predestination at the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival’s Opening Night Gala. But why wait until then when you can, at least, watch the trailer right now?

Starring Ethan Hawke as a “temporal agent” who can travel through time to stop crimes before they’ve even been committed, Predestination is certain to draw comparisons with Minority Report, Looper and 12 Monkeys.

But none of those movies has Sarah Snook, the fantastic Aussie actress who charmed us in the rom-com Not Suitable for Children and seems to embark on a hugely complex role in this new sci-fi thriller.

Underestimate the Spierigs at your own peril. After their surprisingly excellent Daybreakers, we’d still look forward to their latest movie even if its trailer was terrible.

Helpfully, this trailer is awesome.

After debuting at MIFF on July 31, Predestination will arrive in cinemas August 28.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the Oscar game in trailer for ‘The Imitation Game’

imitation game

Benedict Cumberbatch will likely find himself in the Oscar game thanks to his starring role in The Imitation Game, if the newly released trailer is any indication.

Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing – the brilliant, difficult scientist who helped crack the German Engima Code for the Allies – in this Morten Tyldum-directed flick.

The trailer seems to focus entirely on his efforts to unravel Enigma (with the help of Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and the Irish driver from Downton Abbey), but hopefully the film also highlights Turing’s post-war struggle and prosecution for homosexual acts in 1952.

Turing was posthumously pardoned by the Queen just last December.

The Imitation Game arrives in US/UK cinemas this November, and lands locally January 1, 2015.

First look at Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow’s ‘Trainwreck’

Trainwreck

The first image from Judd Apatow’s latest directorial effort has been shared by the New York Times, in a profile on its writer and star, Amy Schumer.

Of course, that’s not an image from within their movie, titled Trainwreck, unless Apatow has cast himself as Schumer and Bill Hader’s buddy, and they are at some kind of camera convention.

There’s no official plot summary for Trainwreck out there, though Schumer – an incredible stand-up whose brilliantly skewering sketch show Inside Amy Schumer was recently nominated for an Emmy – is said to play “a basket case who tries to rebuild her life.”

Joining Schumer and Hader is an eclectic cast that includes Barkhad Abdi, Tilda Swinton, Daniel Radcliff, Brie Larson, and LeBron James.

Trainwreck arrives in cinemas July 23, 2015, and you should all be super psyched for it.

Angelina Jolie to star opposite and direct Brad Pitt in ‘By the Sea’

Mr and Mrs Smith

Auteur Angelina Jolie will slum it on-screen with actor Brad Pitt in upcoming film By the Sea.

Oh, and apparently they are an item, too.

Jolie and Pitt will reunite for the first time since Mr. and Mrs. Smith in what Universal called in their press release an “intimate, character-driven drama.”

Jolie will direct the flick, while both Jolie and Pitt will produce.

Though Pitt is certainly no slouch in the world of cinema, Jolie is on something of a roll, celebrating her biggest live action hit this past month with Maleficent, and having completed two prior directorial efforts (the latest, Unbroken, seeming Oscar bound).

There is no release date yet for By the Sea, though Unbroken will hit cinemas January 8, 2015.

Matthew McConaughey might be The Company Man

dallas buyers club

Matthew McConaughey would seem to have his pick of the litter when it comes to selecting a new project, regardless of whether or not he’d be appropriate for the part. Coming off his Dallas Buyers Club Oscar-win, True Detective Emmy nomination, and upcoming starring role in eventual blockbuster Interstellar, if he wanted to play Shirley Temple, producers would have a hard time turning him down.

So, it’s a big deal that he’s reportedly eyeing the script for The Company Man, which concerns CIA agent Edwin Wilson’s meteoric rise in the wake of the Cold War, and eventual designation as “public enemy No. 1″ to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Those descriptions come from an uncharacteristically cautious Deadline, who temper our excitement by reminding us that nothing is set in stone.

According to McConaughey’s reps, he’s seeking a suitable director to helm the flick before deciding to come aboard himself.

The script comes from Andrew Cypiot, and it was featured on a recent Black List, in which the best unproduced screenplays of any given year are ranked by Hollywood insiders, whatever that means.

Amy Ryan the latest amazing person to join Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg/Coen brothers collaboration

Amy Ryan

Amy Ryan, an Oscar nominee for Gone Baby Gone and essential supporting player in most everything else, is set to star opposite Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming, untitled Cold War thriller.

As if the flick didn’t already have an impressive pedigree, Matt Charman’s screenplay was recently retooled by the freaking Coen brothers.

Based on a true story, the flick will star Hanks as James Donovan, a CIA attorney who must negotiate with Russia the release of a captured American pilot.

Ryan will play Donovan’s wife.

Death takes a holiday – Still Life review

Still Life

By Glenn Dunks
July 22, 2014

The life of a man with what could surely be described as one of the most depressing jobs in England is examined with fine precision in Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life. The subject matter may appear overly dour for the man who was Oscar-nominated for producing feel-good comedy The Full Monty, but its unassuming balance of the touching and melancholy is rather enchanting. Pasolini’s film about death, memories, and our innate desire to not be forgotten by the ones we love may just sneak up on audiences looking to be charmed and moved.

John May (Eddie Marsan) works for a British council attempting to locate next of kin for people who died unacknowledged; as in, without seemingly anybody caring. Somewhat avoiding the modern advances of technology, John personally sees to everything, including planning funerals and cremations when nobody can be located, while writing eulogies for the priest to read to an empty church hall. Fired from his job, his life potentially changes for the better when he meets Kelly Stoke (Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt) and begins to re-evaluate his own existence in the process.

Still Life

Given the focus on death, the potential was there for something unpalatable and miserable, though despite the grey, overcast colour palate and reserved, muted atmosphere, something poignant emerges. Certainly, as far as movies about British council estates go, this one isn’t as bleak as Fish Tank or Harry Brown. It’s not a comedy of the uproarious kind, yet its wry observations keep the tone light on its feet, while the relationship between Marsan’s John and Froggatt’s Kelly is sweet and allows for Pasolini to observe the nature of loneliness across generations, which many audiences will likely find hits close to home.

Ultimately Still Life is actually quite celebratory towards life. It asks audiences to assess the validity of what they do and turns the character of John from one of sorrowful pity to one of genuine warmth and tenderness. The idea of somebody, somewhere being affected by what we do (even if what we think we do is unappreciated) shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s far from glamorous, but Still Life is ultimately a humble piece of heartwarming fare.

3.5/5

Still Life arrives in Australian cinemas July 24, 2014.

Talk Hard – Eric Bana, Deliver Us From Evil

What an excellent day for an exorcism! This week we chat with returning guest Eric Bana all about his first venture into horror cinema, Deliver Us From Evil, in Australian cinemas July 24, and New Zealand July 31. A review from Quickflix critic Simon Miraudo follows.

Eric Bana

 

Show Notes:

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You can shoot us a line at talkhard@quickflix.com.au. Find me on Twitter here: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

Devil may care – Deliver Us From Evil review

Deliver Us From Evil

By Simon Miraudo
July 21, 2014

Deliver Us From Evil is this year’s exorcism movie. (Hollywood is considerate in few ways, but at least it knows to spread these things out every twelve months.) To spare us from boredom, writer-director Scott Derrickson adds the crinkle of it also being a police-on-the-beat movie, with Eric Bana acting as a Bronx detective who can no longer rationally explain the ungodly crimes he keeps happening upon. His character, Ralph Sarchie, is based on the real-life ex-cop who encountered such supernatural goings on and literally wrote the book on the subject. Sarchie’s a self-proclaimed “Demonologist” these days, which is one of those job titles people make up for themselves and hope no one asks for any credentials.

This being a cop flick, Bana’s Sarchie is paired with a buddy. Two in fact, the first played by Joel McHale and the second, Edgar Ramirez. Do I need to tell you which partner spends most of the flick cracking wise? Ramirez, on the other hand, depicts a brooding, badass Jesuit priest (aren’t they all?) with a personal investment in Sarchie’s latest case: a woman who, seemingly under the spell of a mysterious hooded figure, threw her child into the lion pit of the Bronx Zoo and subsequently devolved into a feral, Linda Blair-esque, scratchy-voiced shell of a woman. Anyone who’s seen a motion picture before can tell she’s possessed. It takes Deliver Us From Evil more than 100 minutes to get to that conclusion, and then spends the final eighteen minutes exorcising someone else completely.

Deliver Us From Evil

The exorcism is this genre’s equivalent of a money shot, so it better count, especially after two hours of pent-up audience aggression. It mostly does here, arriving in all its Earth-shaking, God-cursing glory. Still, making us endure all that preamble is nearly unforgivable. These features can barely survive more than seventy-minutes of our suspended disbelief. Not even the steady flow of jump scares, crucified cat-sightings or unprovoked arm-bitings (of which there are many) make Deliver Us From Evil worth the extended wait.

If Sarchie’s very familiar arc (he also has a nagging wife, played by Olivia Munn, and a neglected daughter too) is watchable at all, it’s because of Bana, a far more talented actor than the likes who usually anchor flicks of this ilk. Scott Derrickson is also working hard for his paycheck. His is only a serviceable script (co-written by Paul Harris Boardman), however, it’s delivered with some visual panache. All that said, the real saviours are the sound designers, who might very well be prodding spirits and the undead to get the inhuman screeches they achieve here. Deliver Us From Evil is very loud, which is maybe the kind of criticism you’d expect from a doddering old reviewer who is no longer able to discern any of a film’s other qualities, yet I can only report on what I walked away thinking most, and what I was thinking most, was: “That was loud.” Deliver Us From Evil may indeed be a marvel of sound design, but it’s otherwise three miracles short of a canonisation.

2.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Deliver Us From Evil arrives in cinemas July 24, 2014.

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