Brothers' Nest (2019)

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Direction: Clayton Jacobson
Country: Australia

Led by powerful complementary performances from Clayton and Shane Jacobson, Brothers’ Nest is a resourceful blend of family drama, dark comedy, and infamous crime. An inordinately entertaining low-budget thriller galvanized by a Coenesque style and shrouded in a doomed atmosphere. Clayton directed it from a story by Jaime Browne and Chris Pahlow.

Taking place at a secluded old house in Victoria, Australia, the tale follows two frustrated brothers, Jeff (Clayton) and Terry (Shane), who resolve to murder their stepfather, Rodger (Kim Gyngell). The reason is clear: their mother (Lynette Curran) is dying of cancer and her inheritance is about to be delivered to her longtime partner.

Besides utterly obsessed, scrupulous, and manipulative, Jeff is an annoying smart-ass. As the mastermind of the plan, he has answers for everything and constantly rebukes Terry, who exhibits a more passive temperament. As a matter of fact, the latter doesn’t seem to take the plan too seriously, showing more concern about his ex-wife taking his kids away from him.

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As you’re probably guessing by now, the plan is altered last minute, becoming corrupted with both gut-wrenching anxiety and supplementary violence that ramps up for a tense and tragic finale with some good laughs in between.

Boasting a fantastic score by Richard Pleasance and his Pleasantville band, the film takes some time to build up, but the writing is effective, pointing out to a tough, unrelenting, and intense final part where the brothers’ loyalty is put to test.

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Upgrade (2018)

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Directed by Leigh Whannell
Country: Australia

The first interesting film by the Australian-born actor turned director Leigh Whannell is “Upgrade”, an effective dark blend of action, sci-fi, and horror that may be too moody for everyone’s taste.

The story revolves around Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green), a chip-controlled mechanic that seeks revenge in the sequence of a mugging that left him quadriplegic and killed his wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo). After an unsuccessful attempt of suicide, Trace accepts the help of an opaque tech expert named Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson), who implants a highly-developed artificial intelligence chip in his spine. STEM, the chip, makes him physically active again but also controls his mind and talks to him (Simon Maiden’s voice) by sending sound waves directly to his eardrum. However, he needs the host’s permission to act as a brute force against those who destroyed his life.

Along the way, he gets rid of Detective Cortez (Betty Gabriel), a suspicious mind who doesn’t cease to stalk him; has Jamie (Kai Bradley), a savvy hacker, rebooting his dying system; and hunts down the evil upgrader Fisk (Benedict Hardie).

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The well-told “Upgrade” maintains the dystopian vibrancy until the end, compensating the less vivid moments with a subtle dark humor that fits hand in glove.

With Marshall-Green in top form, expect violent scenes throughout and rip-roaring disclosures, strategically left for the final section.

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Berlin Syndrome (2017)

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Directed by Cate Shortland
Country: Australia

Australian Cate Shortland has earned her filmmaking reputation through sensitive stories centered on female characters. She had her debut in 2004 with the satisfying coming-of-age tale “Somersault”, which featured Abbie Cornish as the protagonist. However, it was with the memorable and critically acclaimed drama “Lore” that she got more visibility, benefiting from a terrific plot and a compelling performance by Saskia Rosendahl in her first screen appearance. Indeed, this was a very special film that raised the bar too high for her next move, which happened this year with “Berlin Syndrome”.

This time around, the central character belongs to Teresa Palmer, an understated actress and model who has here another wonderful opportunity to show her acting capabilities after "Warm Bodies" (2013) and "Lights Out" (2016).   
She plays Clare, an Australian photographer that arrives in Berlin to enjoy some leisure days while working for an architecture project she had in mind for some time. Feeling lonely in a strange city, Clare shows availability to meet new friends and perhaps embark on a casual romance. And that’s exactly what happens after she bump into a handsome schoolteacher, Andrei (Max Riemelt). Despite the unhidden, intense passion they share with each other, there are certain details in Andrei’s behavior that makes us question what goes in his mind. This relentless feeling that something is not right is reinforced by the uncanny musical score composed by Bryony Marks, which sort of works as an alert for the nightmare that follows. 

Little by little, the sweet cosmopolitan romance develops into a disturbing abduction thriller when Clare gets trapped in Andrei’s cloistered apartment after a one-night stand. At first, she believed it was a mistake, but soon comes to the conclusion that the man she slept with was an obsessive psycho whose past was already stained with blood. 

Without breaking new ground, Shortland, who directed from a script by Shaun Grant (“The Snowtown Murders”) based on the novel by Melanie Joosten, crafted the captivating first part with heart-pounding conjecture but ultimately allowed things to go astray in the final section, carefully fabricated to provide the ultimate excitement that a thriller requires.

If humiliation and frustration are commonly associated with the genre, compassion and desire are very unlikely to be felt in a harrowing situation like the one Clare was living. In the end, it’s inevitable to think that “Berlin Syndrome” could have been more thrilling and less manipulative than it was. Still, it’s a tolerable exercise that shows Shortland’s potentialities in a genre she’s probing for the very first time.

Hounds of Love (2016)

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Directed by Ben Young
Country: Australia

Hounds of Love” is a terrific crime thriller, period. It’s been a while since a story within this genre had caught my attention, but this one succeeded through a combination of factors that include a feverish direction from debutant filmmaker Ben Young, who also wrote the script with articulated cohesiveness. Moreover, the magnificence of the imagery punctuated with stunning slow-motion sequences, the soundtrack, which invites us to the psychological horror through Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” and releases the tension at the end with Joy Division’s “Atmosphere”, the accuracy of the performances, and the breathtaking plot itself, were also extremely influential in the outcome.

A quiet suburban neighborhood in the Australian city of Perth serves as the backdrop for a harrowing abduction, partly inspired by true events, perpetrated by a jobless, insane couple who embarks on a spiral of sexual abuse, torture, and ultimately killing of random teenage girls.

John and Evelyn, unblemishedly played by Stephen Curry and the former teen model Emma Booth, respectively, belong to those baffling creatures we observe with incredulous petrifaction in a vague attempt to understand the abominating cruelty that dwells in their souls.
John is a spiteful, manipulative monster who easily loses his temper and is clearly proud of himself, while the psychologically disoriented Evelyn lives in a constant state of distress and emotional turmoil. She’s the one who lures girls into their car, offering them a ride when they are alone.

When Vickie (Ashleigh Cummings) sneakily leaves her house without her mother(Susie Porter)'s consent and accepts the couple’s ride, she couldn’t imagine she was being taken to the putrid nest of the devil.
The capture of another victim turns the couple on, and their deranged reaction mirrors the complex, nauseous, and malevolent state of mind they live in.

While chained to a bed in the small torture room where she was thrown in, Vicky quickly realizes that her only chance to escape would be through Evelyn, who often oscillates in behavior and resolution. Deep down inside, the latter is aware of John’s immoral depravity, but cowardice always wins whenever she thinks of breaking the cycle. She is still apprehensive and sore about the lost of her own baby, which happened in mysterious circumstances, yet she's revealed to be as diabolical as her husband.

Curry and Booth carry the film on their shoulders while the sequences of frames are haunting and powerful, displacing the viewer into bizarre scenarios whose highly suggestive visual details stimulate the imagination rather than exposing us to graphic violence.
The chillingly infectious “Hounds of Love” exudes fetid vibes that will force you to ruminate on the darkest side of the human nature.

Partisan (2015)

Partisan (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ariel Kleiman
Country: Australia

Movie Review: Charismatic French actor, Vincent Cassel, who continues very active during this year in “Tale of Tales”, “Child 44”, “Mon Roi” and “One Wild Moment”, sturdily plays Gregori, a commune's polygamous leader whose occupation consists in training his children so they can become remorseless assassins. The Australian “Partisan”, despite vacillatingly opaque in its developments, was a good vehicle for Mr. Cassel reassure his performing capabilities, this time as a controlling, egocentric villain with low moral values and an evil scheme carried out with the children’s mothers’ consent. The 11-year-old Alex (newcomer Jeremy Chabriel) is his brightest son, being always the first in the general knowledge tests, very precise in the shooting sessions, and coldly efficacious in the exterminating missions. Gregori is so proud of him that he constantly forgives the minor disobediences Alex is up to – he collects stuff from the outside world, deliberately interacts with strangers, buys meat for his unstable mother (newcomer Florence Mezzara), besides all the mischief associated with the kids in his age. However, Alex always showed a great respect for his protective, and simultaneously abusive father. On the contrary, Leo (Alex Balaganskiy), another sensitive kid who keeps disarming Gregori with wise words and antagonistic behaviors, doesn’t share this respect. When he fiercely holds onto a chicken in order to protect it from death and avoid its extinction, Gregori manages to punish him in his own guileful way. This is the moment when Alex, who swears to protect his newborn baby brother, starts acting in accordance to his own thoughts and not driven by his untrustworthy father. First-time director and co-writer, Ariel Kleiman, was able to set an appropriate moody atmosphere and also drawing unadulterated cold looks from the father and son. Yet, and without prejudice of what he did well, some secondary scenes are not so natural (Alex’s mother crisis is a good example) while we’re left a bit empty in regard to the motives and beliefs of the intriguing Gregori. Moreover, The film’s disconsolate climax, despite clear and transparent, felt somewhat hasty, triggering those typical bothersome sensations that arise from an undercooked plot.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: George Miller
Country: Australia / USA

Movie Review: The enthusiastic moviegoers yearning for a rebirth of ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky, immortalized by Mel Gibson in the early 80’s, can rest now. Director George Miller’s fourth post-apocalyptic road movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road”, is a meritorious follow up to the cult trilogy. The quiet loner Max, now played by Tom Hardy, continues his adventures in a dystopian Australia where the immense deserted landscapes sustain high-speed raging battles, most of them inventively crafted through futuristic vehicles, sufficiently freakish props, and gruesome faces. In the breathtaking opening scene, we observe Max being trapped and turned prisoner by the War Boys, the faithful army of the despot, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the one who, from his Citadel, controls all the water supplies of the area. Max becomes the official blood donor of Nux (Nicholas Hoult), an ambitious sick War Boy who, later on, will join him in the fierce rebellion against Joe, led by the one-armed soldier, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Joe’s five beautiful wives, whose existence is resumed to giving birth, flee with Furiosa, who drives a heavily-armored War Rig toward East, looking for the ‘Green Place’, a vivid memory from her childhood. The tyrannical Joe reunites his army to chase the eight fugitives. I simply loved the guy hanging on the front of a car, insanely playing an electric guitar. Max, who keeps tormented by visions of his dead daughter and other ghosts, is the one to engender a risky and yet clever move: turn back to the Citadel. Mr. Miller takes a better advantage of the technology at his disposal, and yet the impetuously wild scenes never felt digitally manipulated. The elementary plot proves there’s no need for elaborate plots or subplots to set up a decent action-packed film. The power of cinema can marvel!

The Water Diviner (2014)

The Water Diviner (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Russell Crowe
Country: Australia / Turkey / USA

Movie Review: With a screenplay by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, the shabby “The Water Diviner” is a product of Russell Crowe whose direction and performance didn’t shine. Inspired by true events, his fictional feature-length debut often struggles to find the path for the heart, in spite of the noble tolerance and perseverance evinced by its main character. Joshua Connor (Crowe) got so happy when he found water in his dried Australian land, that he runs home in an effusive state to tell his wife, Eliza. It was noticeable right away that something was wrong with them because, instead of sharing his happiness, she starts yelling at him. Soon we realize that, four years before, the couple had lost their three sons in the battle of Gallipoli, Turkey. In consequence of the pain, Eliza takes her own life and Joshua travels to Turkey in order to locate the bodies of their boys and take them home, next to their mother’s grave. In Istanbul, he is conducted to a cozy hotel by a smart little boy, but is seen with suspicion by the kid’s mother, Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), who also had lost her husband in the mentioned battle. Joshua is taken to Gallipoli with expected difficulties, ironically conducted by Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan), an influential Turkish official who risks his own life to help. The possibility of one of his sons might still be alive was prognosticated early in the film, while flashbacks were recurrent to better clarify the past happenings, but not even the war was depicted in a convincing or exciting way to involve us. Playing with cultural differences and hazy romance, Crowe tries to push away any glimmer of sentimentality but ends up creating a soft exercise that becomes too dried on all fronts. It would be great if water could be found in this desert…

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kiah Roache-Turner
Country: Australia

Movie Review: Wyrmwood’s opening scene gives us the right notion of what the film will be: rural Australian landscapes transformed in ferocious battlefields between zombies, seen as the invaders, and humans, mostly represented by military forces and survivor groups that armed to the teeth, do their best to remain bite-free. The story starts to be built in three fronts: Benny (Leon Burchill) is an aboriginal who didn’t have the guts to shoot his brother in the head when he became a zombie, letting him loose to infect other people; Barry (Jay Gallagher) is a common man who was forced to kill his wife and daughter and for a while tried to kill himself with no success; Brooke (Bianca Bradley) is Barry’s adroit sister, who was captured by two soldiers, falling afterwards in the hands of ‘the Doc’ (Berynn Schwerdt), a frantic researcher and disco music lover. After a freak first encounter, Barry and Benny end up teaming up and joining other anti-zombie fighters. Brooke, in turn, realizes she developed a strange telepathic power that allows her to control the zombies, without avoid gradually becoming one of them. Debutant writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner, who also produced and edited, was able to innovate a little by introducing a couple new elements to the washed-out genre; to give an example: here, the zombies’ blood and breath was proved to be inflammable, so useful in many situation throughout this gory adventure. At times, the energetically foolish “Wyrmwood” can be nauseating in its mayhem, however it’s also technically competent and confers sufficient action to minimally satisfy in this particular film category.

The Infinite Man (2014)

The Infinite Man (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hugh Sullivan
Country: Australia

Movie Review: Australian writer/director, Hugh Sullivan, intelligently picks a washed out idea such as time-shifting, giving it a fresh shape in his debut feature. Sci-fi rom-com “The Infinite Man” doesn’t disappoint, especially due to a more funnier and engaging concept than those used in similar films, cases of “The One I Love” and “Coherence”. Josh McConville is great in the role of Dean, an obsessed man who does everything to provide perfection in the anniversary of his relationship with Lana (Hannah Marshall). He takes her to an abandoned hotel somewhere in Australia where the desert and the beach seems to merge. The obstinately romantic Dean was happy to be in control of the situation when Lana’s infamous former boyfriend, Terry (Alex Dinitriades), unexpectedly shows up to ruin his plans. Marked by frustration and jealousy that ends up in a hysterical threat of immolation, Dean decides to dump Lana, staying by himself at the hotel working on a tech device that makes possible to redo what went wrong: time travel. The unstable time loop created will duplicate situations (past and present) and also characters that fight and trick one another to conquer what they want. Not without some confusion, the indie “The Infinite Man” brings some originality to the subject in an absurdist way, putting side to side the sad original Dean and the happy Dean of the future, and taking on the perfectionism with inventiveness and neat humor. Considering the low budget (filmed in a single location with just three actors), Sullivan did a pretty well job, controlling this surrealistic adventure with steady hand. Let’s wait for his next time hop and see if the future will confirm the promising direction taken here.

These Final Hours (2014)

These Final Hours (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Zak Hilditch
Country: Australia

Movie Review: “These final Hours” is a suggestive example of a dark thriller where the mood overrides the quality of the plot. Australian writer/director Zak Hilditch, brings us an apocalypse tale, set in Perth, that relies on the rescue of Rose (Angourie Rice), a young girl who dangerously fell in the hands of one of the many mad savages who wander throughout the city, after she got lost from her father. With the end of the world arriving in twelve hours, James (Nathan Philips), her savior, tries to find a viable solution for this situation, while simultaneously decides to change his personal life when he learns that his supportive lover, Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), is pregnant of his child. Unsuccessfully trying to reach his sister who would take care of the girl, he ends up in a chaotic private party given by his vicious girlfriend, Vicky (Kathryn Beck), and his maniac brother, where drugs, madness, aggressiveness and orgies are abundant. Even tempted, James opts to put an end to his doomed relationship with Vicky but recklessly leaves the girl behind at the mercy of a spaced-out woman who thinks she’s Rose’s mother. No panic was felt among these people waiting for the end, mostly unsteady characters evincing alienated behaviors. Although Hilditch showed some nerve, I cannot say I was totally engaged by this film, especially in its final moments, which seemed more like an advertisement video clip that ends with the lame words ‘It’s beautiful!’, coming out from Zoe’s mouth when the fatal explosion occurs. Only recommended for enthusiasts of these apocalyptic situations, “These Final Hours”, was presented in torrid yellowish tones that intensifies the heat but doesn’t persuade our hearts.

Son of a Gun (2014)

Son of a Gun (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Julius Avery
Country: Australia

Movie Review: Julius Avery’s Australian crime thriller, “Son of a Gun” lacks inspiration and freshness to get a prominent position within the genre. The story follows 19-year-old JR (Brenton Thwaites), locked up for minor criminal charges in a high-security prison where a lot of abuses are perpetrated among the inmates. In a smart way, JR gains the sympathy of Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor), the most notorious criminal of Australia, who gives him the protection he was looking for. However, this protection comes with a high price, and JR will have to follow Brendan’s ambitious plans to escape prison and then participate in a jeopardous gold heist. In addition to the highly clichéd action scenes, which look old most of the times with the use of staged shootings, a cheesy romance was also introduced when JR falls for a brave stripper. The film can be divided in three uneven parts: the ‘life in the hole’ was capable to draw some attention, the ‘outside robbery’ was both unoriginal and unexciting, and finally the ‘sharing of the gold’, which failed to create any impact or even surprise. “Son of a Gun” also showed to be unattractive in its visuals, while the score by Jed Kurzel (much better in “Snowtown” and “The Babadook”) wasn’t so effective this time. In comparison with “Starred Up”, last year’s most riveting prison crime drama, I can say that filmmaker David Mackenzie did much more with less than Julius Avery could achieve with a messy film whose good twists and thrills were missing all the time. Thwaites and McGregor didn’t convince either with their undistinguishable performances.

Predestination (2014)

Predestination (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers
Country: Australia

Movie Review: With a bewildering plot and incisive storytelling, “Predestination” is a quite surprising sci-fi thriller that pelts us with a positive, intriguing ambiance. It’s the third feature film from Spierig brothers who counted with Ethan Hawke in the main role for the second consecutive time, after the not so convoluted “Daybreakers”, released in 2009. Sarah Snook, in a sort of DiCaprio style, also stars as a disgraced unmarried mother whose life was ruined when forced to become a man after being picked by a Government recruitment bureau that traces virgin teen girls with sublime skills in order to accomplish their mysterious missions. Later on, with the help of a Temporal Agent (Hawke) who’s in possess of a time-machine in the form of instrument suitcase, she will have the chance to get back to 1963 and revenge what they done to her. A discreet start misleads us to think that this would be another banal story, but after an entire hour of preparation, a key element in this case, the film shifts into action - risky missions, time travels, procedural routines and vicious cycles that may be baffling but widely satisfying. The film presents all the attributes to please, not particularly the lovers of visual sci-fi (since the special effects weren’t stunning), but the ones who fancy intricate plots set up in labyrinthine forms, in a similar way to “Looper”, “12 Monkeys” or “Inception”. Shot with good taste and vigorous colors, “Predestination” revealed to be creative enough to keep us ‘alive’ till the end, even if some plot elements, after thoroughly analyzed, leave us ruminating about its logic. Right after “Under the Skin”, this is another satisfying sci-fi release for this end of the year.

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Country: Australia

Movie Review: “The Babadook” is a curious new horror movie, written and directed by former actress and emergent director, Jennifer Kent, based on her short film “Monster” dated from 2005. The story focuses on Amelia (Essie Davis) who still lives in the grief of her husband’s death occurred seven years ago in a car accident, and struggles to cope with the strange attitudes of her six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The latter has a special taste for magic, monsters and the supernatural, in a way that his mother considers abnormal. Samuel’s morbid behavior suddenly increases when he finds a dusty old book in his shelf called ‘Mr. Babadook’. Amelia, clearly in a verge of a breakdown, eventually becomes influenced by her kid’s precise descriptions of Babadook, the monster with top hat and long sharp nails, who threatens in his book and, according to Samuel, wanders through her house. Truly impressive the almost animated sequence of images when Amelia reads the reconstructed book collected at her doorstep, while other scenes mix ridiculousness and creepiness in a smart way, accomplishing the main goal of conveying tension at every frame. The young Noah Wiseman was brilliant as the brave, pale Samuel, the only one whose love can save his mom. This one has everything to provide a creepy night for the fans of the genre, however its finale was the only aspect that didn’t quite work for me. It’s a case to ask if Babadook just needed to be fed to let himself be tamed so easily. Original yet strained, this Australian devilish fairytale deserves attention.

Felony (2013)

Felony (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matthew Saville
Country: Australia / USA

Movie Review: “Felony” is an Australian cop thriller, written by Noel Edgerton, who also stars and co-produces, and directed by Matthew Saville, filmmaker with a solid background on TV series. The film starts with the tough detective Malcolm Toohey (Edgerton), driving under the influence of alcohol when off-duty. He accidentally runs over a nine-year old kid, calling the emergency number and pretending he found the body by chance. Two other detectives will take opposite sides dealing with the case. While the amoral chief detective Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson) tries to cover up Malcolm, who confesses the crime to his wife and struggles with his conscience, the obstinate newcomer detective Jim Melic (Jai Courtney) finds the truth and wants to deal accordingly, especially after developing a crush on the kid’s mother. The three detectives embark in a moralistic ‘dance’ that unveils crime, corruption and the weight of conscience. Saville gives an attentive look to certain details and doesn’t fall in the temptation of rushing the scenes. However the narrative construction suffers from an apathy that left me with a foot in and a foot out. In a sleepy cadence, it throws up a lot of situations that we already have seen before. This morality tale seemed apathetic, and its characters old and worn. As has been usual, Tom Wilkinson showed his enormous talent, turning the tepid “Felony” a little more bearable, where the bad script and non-shiny execution couldn't go unnoticed.

The Rover (2014)

The Rover (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Michod
Country: Australia / USA

Movie Review: Set 10 years after a global collapse, in a desolated arid town in Australia, “The Rover”, is a natural follow-up to David Michod’s amazing debut feature, “Animal Kingdom”. The austere, dark tones and aggressive scenes are pretty familiar, composing the irrational story filled with irrational characters, but in terms of plot it turned out to be a bit disconnected. Eric (Guy Pierce) is the man we follow; solitary, mournful and with violent past, he goes after three men who stole his car after a failed robbery attempt. The search along the torrid Australian landscape takes him to weird places with even weirder people. Unable to know their whereabouts, he has the fortune of bumping into Rey (Robert Pattinson), the wounded brother of one of the fugitives, remorselessly left behind by his companions. This awkward young man revealed not to be so bad natured and a bond of trust is established between the two. Despite the imminent danger that could be felt, some of the contemplative shots along with occasional action, lacked the expression needed to make “The Rover” a riveting experience. I wasn’t totally immune to its blend of dark crime and drama, in the same way that I wasn’t completely convinced of its unlikely relationship of trust and post-apocalyptic story. Only in the final moments, emotionally intense, I was able to be alert and get my eyes wide open for what was going on. I would say that this finale almost saves the film, however, I felt I needed something more.

Tracks (2013)

Tracks (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Curran
Country: Australia

Movie Review: The always-interesting Australian filmmaker, John Curran (“Praise”, “The Painted Veil”), returns with “Tracks”, a biographical drama set in warm colors and inspired on Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her 1700 miles journey across the Australian desert towards the Indian ocean. Mia Wasikowska very consciously incorporates the lonely adventurer, who travelled in the company of four camels and her inseparable dog. Inspired by her deceased father, Robyn started planning the trip in 1975, moving to Alice Springs to learn survival techniques in the desert and how to work with camels. In 1977, with the sponsor of National Geographic Magazine, she initiates the trip, occasionally followed by the talkative photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), assigned to cover the adventure. She seemed disturbed with his presence but despite of her natural detachment, showed not to be restrained when the need of human contact knocked at the door. Her anti-social character was simply a shield of protection (she often recalls childhood), and she eventually admits she’s lonely and suffering because of that. Along the trip, the help from some locals will be precious, but Robyn will have to face both good and bad experiences on her own. The pacific, relaxed atmosphere is broken with brief moments of tension, so crucial to keep the viewer’s interest alive. Curran’s secret for success was merely reporting the facts, using its natural joys and sadness, confidence and doubts, without the usual stratagems to impress. Even the romance seemed authentic and sober, while the finale became very refreshing in every sense.


Frequencies (2013)

Frequencies (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Darren Paul Fisher
Country: Australia / UK

Movie Review: With the original title “OXV: the Manual”, Darren Paul Fisher writes, directs, and produces his third feature film, the best so far, after the first two disastrous experiences on comedy with “Inbetweeners” (2001) and “Popcorn” (2007). This time he conceived an inventive romantic/sci-fi story set in a strange futuristic reality, curiously depicted with no special effects. It focuses on the peculiar relationship between Marie (Eleanor Wyld), an extremely ‘high-frequency’ girl unable to feel any empathy for anything, and her opposite friend Zak (Daniel Fraser), a genial ultra ‘low-frequency’ boy who falls in love with her and becomes obsessed about the frequency mechanism imposed on the humans. After several years separated from each other, Zak returns, claiming he could help changing Marie’s frequency, in order to make her more human. His strategy consisted in stealing frequencies from the ones who have more than needed, balancing the universe and allowing communication between them. With a dreamlike ambience and an appropriate atmospheric score by Ben Mowat, “Frequencies” let me down in its last part, despite the daring concept. The theories behind the experiments are baffling (mind manipulation or side effects?) and the film could have placed a little more stimulation in several scenes. However, regardless the disappointing conclusions, it’s undeniable that Fisher created an auspicious, charming independent film that is a lesson for all the unoriginal Hollywood attempts in the genre.

The Railway Man (2013)

The Railway Man (2013)
Directed by: Jonathan Teplitzky
Country: Australia / UK

Movie Review: Australian film director, Jonathan Teplitzky, drastically changes tones with “The Railway Man”, his new drama based on the real experiences of British soldier Eric Lomax during the WWII, comparatively with his abuzz work dated from 2011, “The Burning Man”. The film stars Colin Firth as Lomax, a traumatized and railway enthusiast British soldier who was made prisoner in 1942 by the Japanese forces in command, having been heavily tortured and accused of conspiracy with the Chinese. Deeply affected, Lomax counts with the help of his understanding and patient wife, Patti (Nicole Kidman), and his best friend, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard). After years of suffering, he decides to meet Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada), a former Japanese translator who was responsible for many of the inflicted tortures. Making him prisoner, Lomax will teach him a late yet valuable life lesson that will ease their tortured souls . Despite the challenging score, the film was never unsettling and couldn’t totally escape to sentimentality. Moreover, the uneven pace makes the film drag in several occasions, giving the sensation of being much longer, while the performances, especially those by the young Japanese soldiers, didn’t seem so authentic as expected. Humanity and forgiveness are always to praise, but I felt that the unstimulating “The Railway Man” needed so much more to triumph as a drama, and thereby follow the success of Lomax’s bestselling autobiography of the same name. Garry Phillips’ cinematography deserves to be mentioned but my final verdict is: skippable.

The Rocket (2013)

The Rocket (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kim Mordaunt
Country: Australia / Laos / Thailand

Movie Review: Written and directed by Kim Mordaunt, “The Rocket” is a gentle Australian drama set in Laos, bringing us fresh adventure filled with rituals and traditions, perseverance, well-defined characters, and even supernatural connotations. In a full-moon night, Mali gives birth to twins, helped by her mother-in-law, Taitok. The first baby comes healthy but the second was born dead. An ancient village creed says that one of the twins is always cursed, bringing bad luck, while the other is blessed. Mother and granny decide to keep the baby alive, hiding the secret from everyone, with hope he can be the good one. Ahlo is his name, and at the age of ten, he shows to be very clever and full of life. One day, they are informed that a second dam is about to be constructed in the area, which will make the village disappear underwater. Relocated with promises of hot water and electricity, the family encounters a completely different reality, but will discover friendship, trust, self-respect, and an amazing Rocket Competition that can change their lives. The characters are stereotyped and the pace not always expeditious, but Mordaunt finds some balance through affectionate strokes, while the images with exotic landscapes in the background catch our eye. James Brown is joyfully revived with his funky tunes and through the character of uncle Purple, a semi-conscious traumatized of war. “The Rocket” was an award conqueror at Berlin and Tribeca film festivals.

Mystery Road (2013)

Mystery Road (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ivan Sen
Country: Australia

Movie Review: Set amidst Australian desolated fields and dusty roads, “Mystery Road” takes us into an obscure world of crime that promised so much with its intriguing first moments but ultimately faltered along the way. When the body of an Aboriginal teen girl is found in a deserted highway, local detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), recently returned to rural town of Winton, Queensland, becomes in charge of his first big case. After make several probing inquiries to a bunch of unfriendly and elusive people who could directly or indirectly be connected with the victim, Jay will get more and more closer to the truth, learning that she was involved on drugs and prostitution business. Police involvement seemed pretty obvious to me since the first minutes, when the suspicions fell on sly officer Johnno (Hugo Weaving), caught in secretive operations in the middle of the night with his colleague Robbo (Robert Mammone), but the plot reserves some mildly surprising revelations. At the same time, Jay struggles with the possibility of his estranged daughter might be involved in the same wrong paths as the victim was. With a beautiful crepuscular cinematography and a boisterous shooting scene, this noir Australian drama presented discontinuous moments of thrill within an atmosphere that tries to get close of “Winter’s Bone” or “Frozen River”. The problem was the time the story took to evolve (I found the film overlong) and a sort of apathy in some scenes. Having said this, “Mystery Road” is watchable yet not unforgettable.