Movie Review – Son of a Gun

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Son of a Gun (2014)
Written & Directed by Julius Avery

son of a gun

JR is sent to prison for a minor crime and crosses paths with notorious armed robber Brendan Lynch. Lynch helps JR out with a group other prisoners giving the young man a hard time. When JR is finally released, he is hooked up with Sam, a Russian crime boss who Brendan works for. He also meets Tasha, one of the women working at Sam’s strip club and one whom he sees as his personal property. Of course, JR falls for her which will lead to deeper problems. Brendan eventually gets out of prison, and Sam is ready with a heist at a gold mine. Events do not play out as planned and cliches cascade on top of each other.

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Movie Review – The Rover

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The Rover (2014)
Written by Joel Edgerton & David Michôd
Directed by David Michôd

the rover

A man sits on the side of a dusty Australian road. He exits his car and enters a bar where he has to pour himself a drink. Meanwhile, a trio of men speeds down the highway having escaped some sort of shootout. The paths of these men and the nameless rover on the side of the road will cross. He will make them his mission to hunt down and put an end to. This is ten years after the collapse of society, so some pockets are attempting to retain order. The military patrols the outback. Store owners still want paper money in exchange for goods. But everyone is packing a weapon and death can come in the blink of an eye.

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Movie Review – Hounds of Love

Hounds of Love (2016)
Written & Directed by Ben Young

hounds of love

It’s 1987 in Perth, Western Australia and Evelyn and John are on the hunt. What they hunt for are lone young women whom they abducted, sexually and physically violate, and then kill. Teenage Vicki is distraught over her parents pending divorce and slips out at night to attend a party. Her path crosses with the predatory couple who lure her to their home with the promise of weed and a drink. Once inside her nightmare begins and she learns about their interpersonal conflicts she uses it in her fight to survive.

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Movie Review – Girl Asleep

Girl Asleep (2016, dir. Rosemary Myers)

girlasleep

14-year-old Greta Driscoll has just moved to a new town and like many adolescents is having trouble fitting in. She makes friends with the kind, but awkward Elliott and quick enemies with Jade and her mean girl crew. Things get worse when her mother decides to invite everyone at her school to Greta’s 15th birthday party. Greta is crushed after being humiliated by Jade during the party and ends up slipping away into a magical world just beyond the woods of her home.

From the first moments, there is a strong Wes Anderson vibe to the aesthetics of the picture. But I knew there was something slightly different I couldn’t put my finger on. After a few more scenes it was apparent, this film has much more overt warmth than your typical Anderson fare. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wes Anderson, but I have rarely had a strong emotional reaction to any of his films. Girl Asleep has all the quirky characters and the style, but with a sense of life and energy, Anderson’s films intentionally refrain from. It is not a perfect movie, though, and while characters are warm and full of life, they are still painted in broad strokes.

Another piece of inspiration appears to the British television series The Mighty Boosh. The magical land of the woods and its inhabitants are presented in the style of a young child’s imagination. One central figure is clad in a banana yellow rain slicker with pink and blue crayon tones across their masked face. There’s a high similarity to the costumes seen in Moonrise Kingdom but with zanier, more fantastic visual accents.

The performances in Girl Asleep are excellent and capture the specific traits each character needs to present. Greta (Bethany Whitmore) is vulnerable and fierce, able to balance the many facets of her character going through a period of tremendous growth and change. Elliot (Harrison Feldman) is one of those actors who makes performance look easy. He is effortless and funny, awkward and genuinely charming. Greta’s parents, played by originators of the story on stage, Matthew Whittet, and Amber McMahon, are entirely exaggerated parents without being unsympathetic.

Girl Asleep won’t be my favorite film of the year, but it does take a very well-worn genre, coming of age, and adds some freshness to it. The magical aspects of the story make it something different. The performances, particularly Bethany Whitmore, are very charming and endearing. I could see this being an excellent film to introduce a neophyte film geek to art cinema and non-American films.

Double Feature Theater: Walkabout/Rabbit Proof Fence

This is a new feature I’ll be doing alongside Hypothetical Film Festivals. The thought behind Double Feature Theater is to pair two films that share some similarity; be it thematically or actor or, even most interesting, the two films contradict each other in some way. Hope I can provide you with some ideas for your own double features.


Walkabout (1971, dir. Nicolas Roeg)
Starring Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, Luc Roeg


Rabbit Proof Fence (2002, dir. Phillip Noyce)

Starring Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, David Gulpilil, Kenneth Branagh

The relationship between the Australian aborigine and the Australian settler has been as volatile, if not more than, the Native American/American settler relationship. The aggression seems to have come mainly on the British side of things, as the indigenous Australians seemed quite helpful to the settlers in the early days. Each of these films chronicles the interaction between the two cultures and shows high points of cooperation and low points of conflict.

In Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout we’re introduced to the world of the Australian Outback through violence. An unnamed teenage girl and her younger brother are taken for a picnic by their father deep into the wilderness. Once there, he suddenly begins shooting at them, having what appears to be a complete nervous breakdown. As the terrified girl and boy hide in the nearby rocks, their father sets himself and the car on fire and burns to death. The siblings journey farther into the desert and eventually meet a young Aborigine boy on his walkabout. The Aborigine takes a liking to them and helps find water and food, while experiencing deepening feelings for the teenaged girl.
Nicholas Roeg is one of the great editor-directors of all-time. The way he intercuts scenes to emphasize connections between characters or actions is masterful. There is one sequence where the Aborigine hunts, kills, and butchers a kangaroo which is mixed with quick cuts of footage of an English butcher at work. There are constant shots of the flora and fauna of the Outback and Roeg seems intent on getting across to us how alive this place is. Despite its arid conditions, so much thrives here. One of the key themes of the film is communication and our inability to do so effectively. As the content becomes more abstract, the line of communication begin breaking down between the Aborigine and the girl until she becomes unnecessarily frightened of him and they must part ways. The sadness of these characters is how impossible it is for them to get across their thoughts and feelings despite standing in front of each other.
While Walkabout tells the story of the Aborigine/settler relationship through a lens of abstraction, Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence takes a more factual, historical approach. Based on the novel by Doris Pilkington, the film follow three girls from the Jigalong village in southern Australia. The three girls are taken by Australian police as part of an effort at the turn of the century to breed the Aborigine peoples out of existence. They’re taking to the Moon River Settlement, north of Perth to be trained as part of a servant class, but escape and begin a 1,500 trek home on foot through some of the brutal conditions the Outback can throw at them.
On the surface, Fence highlights a great injustice that was done to the Aborigine people which the government of Australia has been slow to make reparations for. Kenneth Branagh plays A.O. Neville, the government official assigned to oversee the Aborigines and believes in some twisted way is protecting them through these inhumane policies. On a deeper level, the film is meditation on the contemporary Aborigine’s connections to their ethnic roots. Author Pilkington is the descendant of the girls in this story is based on and the retracing of their steps through the narrative is a retracing of the history of the natives of Australia. In addition, Fence’s cinematography is a stunning achievement. Every thing about the wilderness has a dreamlike veneer over it, causing this world to be both familiar yet eerily alien.
Both films, tell the story of a group of people we rarely hear about, and do so in very different, yet equally interesting ways. If you have an interest in learning more about the fascinating continent of Australia or have an interest in global human rights, I highly recommend these pictures.