OzFlix Archives (5 posts)

In Her Skin

Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto

In Her Skin (2009). Written and directed by Simone North.

Rachel Barber (Kate Bell) is a 15-year-old student that appears to have everything. She’s a beautiful and talented dancer, has a steady boyfriend and enjoys a great relationship with her parents. 20-year-old Caroline Reid (Ruth Bradley) is Rachel’s former baby-sitter and neighbour from across the street. She is overweight, has bad skin, suffers from depression and has a strained relationship with her parents.

Caroline hates herself and wishes that she could be more like Rachel. She desperately wants to become a new person and devises an elaborate plan that will take Rachel’s life.

When Rachel disappears, her parents Mike (Guy Pearce) and Elizabeth (Miranda Otto) worry about her safety and notify the police. The police are uncooperative and suspect that Rachel is just another teenage runaway.

The film is based on the true story of Melbourne teenager Rachel Barber who was murdered in 1999 by Caroline Reed Robertson. I knew this going into the film and surprisingly, it doesn’t take anything away from this thriller.

The performances by Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto are painful to watch at times because they’re so believable. The way in which they cope with their daughter’s disappearance is a stark contrast with Sam Neil’s performance as Caroline’s father. He sees Caroline as a nuisance.

Ruth Bradley

Ruth Bradley’s performance as the deeply troubled Caroline is quite powerful. At times it feels a little forced but overall, she’ll make you feel very uncomfortable in several scenes. The murder scene is very intense, startling. It comes close to some of the violence that has shocked me in Michael Haneke’s films Caché and Funny Games.

First time director Simone North does a good job at maintaining a certain level of suspense throughout the film. There are some interesting camera moves that borrow from David Fincher’s Panic Room that I enjoyed.

One thing that didn’t work for me at all was the choice of music at the beginning and end of the film. The tone or feeling that the music evokes felt completely wrong. I would have expected something dark and sombre. The whole music video montage at the end of the film felt unnecessary, like it was pasted on during final editing. It’s possible that I saw a working print of the film and it still isn’t finished.

Despite the ending, I enjoyed In Her Skin which had its North American premiere at OzFlix in Toronto. I would love to know how it is received in Australia once it is released.

***

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in OzFlix at 8:56 PM

Cactus

Cactus photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Cactus (2008). Written and directed by Jasmine Yuen Carrucan

Questions abound in this low-budget road movie that takes place in the Australian outback. John Kelly (Travis McMahon) is in desperate need of some money so he takes a job which involves the kidnapping of a professional gambler, Eli Jones (David Lyons). John must deliver Eli to someone in the middle of the outback by following meticulous directions and instructions. Along the way a policeman (Bryan Bell) becomes involved and things get more confusing.

Very little back story is revealed which makes the film exciting yet frustrating. By the end of this journey your patience may wear thin. Like an episode of the TV show Lost, you’ll have more questions than answers.

Cactus is Carrucan’s first outing as a writer and director. With little to no budget, she has made a decent film. It’s beautifully shot and the acting is competent. Unfortunately she left me in the outback without a map and I’m still trying to figure out why the film is called Cactus.

**

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Cactus - Official Film Site.

Posted in OzFlix at 11:41 PM

Not Quite Hollywood

Not Quite Hollywood

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008). Directed by Mark Hartley.

This is a fast-paced documentary about Australia’s “Ozploitation” films of the 1970s and early ‘80s. It’s a celebration of the forgotten action movies, sex comedies and horror films that could never have been made in Hollywood.

Interviews with Quentin Tarantino, Dennis Hopper and Jamie Lee Curtis will pique the curiosity of North American audiences. An endless number of clips accompany the interviews. After 90 minutes you’ll understand why films such as Saw, Wolf Creek and even Death Proof are inspired by some of the Ozploitation films.

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The action movies from this era were unbelievable in their quest for realism. There are tales of live ammunition being fired at actors. Dangerous high speed stunts often resulted in broken bones and sometimes even death. High speed automobile chases were routinely filmed without permits on open streets.

In The Man From Hong Kong George Lazenby was set on fire because a stunt double wouldn’t look as convincing. Of course, Lazenby was burned performing this stunt and he became so angry that he punched the director.

While making the horror film Thirst, Henry Silva refused to hang out of real helicopter. The director found a crane and told Silva that they would suspend him only a few feet off the ground and fake the shot. Once filming started the crane was raised 70 feet into the air with Silva hanging on for dear life.

If you love film then I think you’ll find this documentary to be very entertaining. The opening title sequence and production value are top notch and you’ll be amazed at some of the stories that come out of the interviews.

***

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Not Quite Hollywood - Official Film Site.

Posted in OzFlix at 3:16 PM

Three Blind Mice

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Three Blind Mice (2008). Directed by Matthew Newton.

Three naval officers go on a 24-hour shore-leave in Sydney. Before they ship out for Iraq they plan to have a night on the town. There’s an uneasy tension in each of the officers that grows as the night wears on and the film peels back the layers of their characters. By the end of the night we have a much different understanding of these men and their friendship.

In addition to writing and directing, Matthew Newton plays Harry, one of the three sailors. He’s a chatty, charming version of Vince Vaughan and a lot of fun to watch. The writing is snappy and all of the performances are quite believable.

The film is low-budget and reminded me a lot of Swingers. Forget the fancy crane shots, special effects and sweeping score, this film is all dialogue. So if you enjoy films such as Smoke that rely heavily on writing then you’ll appreciate what Three Blind Mice has to offer from Down Under.

Three Blind Mice screened at TIFF’08 but I was unable to see it then. At the time of this review it still hasn’t found a distributor so I feel lucky to have seen it at OzFlix. If you’re in Scotland you can screen Three Blind Mice on February 16 at The Glasgow Film Festival.

**½

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in OzFlix at 2:54 PM

OzFlix: Australian Film Weekend 2009

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OzFlix is an Australian film weekend in Toronto that runs February 13-16, 2009. It showcases recent Australian films — features, documentaries and shorts.

I’m planning to see these films:

  • Three Blind Mice
  • Not Quite Hollywood
  • Cactus
  • In Her Skin

If you can’t wait for Hot Docs or the Toronto International Film Festival then OzFlix is the perfect way for a film lover to spend a weekend in February.

Visit the OzFlix website for information on tickets and movie times.

Posted in OzFlix at 8:10 PM