We watch a ridiculous amount of movies here at VJ. Most of these films never get a write up in these pages, so we thought it would be fun to post the Top 10 most noteworthy hits and misses of our month of video mainlining. The coulda-beens that we decided not to bother with giving full reviews for one reason or another.
ROAD HOUSE 2 (2006): We all know Aussies make awesome movies in Oz, but take them to Hollywood and Sampson loses his hair, or just goes completely batshit crazy like that one dude who made that Christ movie. I know what you're thinkin', "it's a DTV sequel to ROAD HOUSE, and you thought this would be good, why?" C'mon, now, you got Richard Norton (with what appears to be someone else's face) and more importantly, William Ragsdale cast as a bouncer! Yes! A bouncer, actually the head bouncer! A few amusing moments, but this is one rough HOUSE, desperately trying to be an Isaac Florentine film, but epic failing by fudging all the fight scenes with rapid edits of close-ups of body parts. Almost feels like watching porn in fast forward. So yeah, director Scott Ziehl (also responsible for the Sci-Fi Channel's '91 non-remake EARTH VS. THE SPIDER), can now be added to the Aussie Wiki under "Exception to the Rule".
THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB (1966): My obsession with Aussie cinema has gotten to the point where I'm starting to do some serious digging. So maybe my idea of buried treasure ain't for everyone, but for my money this '60s classic (that is reviled by the hoity-toity), is well worth the price of admission. After arriving in Oz, Italian immigrant Nino (Walter Chiari) finds that his cousin has disappeared leaving a mountain of debt in his wake. So Nino does what all good Italian's do, rolls up his sleeves and dives in head first. Getting a job in landscaping and learning the way to King's Bloody Cross and the subtle etiquette of Australian drinking rituals. Dated, sure, but some of it is flat-out hilarious. More than a little un-PC, and that's half of it's charm, if you ask me. And in case you ever wondered, yes, the Pope is a deigo.
MALCOLM (1986): If RAINMAN had Colin Friels, John Hargreaves and was about armed robbery, model trains and robots, it would have been a damn sight better in my humble opinion. This was a sleeper hit in the US back in the day, and it's easy to see why. Since it's an Aussie film, it sidesteps a lot of the Hollywood trappings and creates a rather safe, quirky comedy about a mentally handicapped man (Friels) who is obsessed with building machinery, from model trains to a car that splits in half. To solve his money issues, he takes some advice from a neighbor and rents a room in his house... to an ex-con (Hargreaves) who is looking for another score. Pretty tame stuff compared to our usual fixes here at VJ, but hey, it's Aussie, so it's good!
BLIND FURY (which, for the record, I really like), that Noyce made some really interesting movies down under. Actually, a lot of movies down under. This is more of a drama than a thriller, but flat-out refuses to explain the mystery as would a Hollywood film and lets the audience piece it together, right down to the end credits. Sort of a SILKWOOD kinda thing, but not really. An architect (Richard Moir) involved in building a new super-modern apartment complex for the wealthy gets involved with an activist (Judy Davis) who is fighting to save the tenants from being forcibly evicted from their homes that stand in the way of this new building. When a tabloid journalist who is helping to spearhead the rebellion disappears, things start to get ugly. The use of Sydney during a brutal Christmas heatwave is brilliant in and of itself. The movie is flawed and Davis is a bit too shrill to be believable as anyone's love interest, but it's still worth checking out, if for no other reason than to see how un-Hollywood Noyce was at one time.
|The only on-screen bit of|
nastiness in the entire film
END PLAY (1976): They don't make this type of murder-thriller any more, not even in Oz. No opportunity for CG effects I guess. Damn, I'm turning into a cranky old man. Tim Burstall goes all in with this nifty thriller that draws inspiration from Hitchcock's seedier works (why are Aussies always the best at that sort of thing?) and, at the time, modernized parlor-room murder thrillers like SLEUTH (1972). Though there is no comic relief to be found here, this is a vicious little pug. I can't say too much about this as not knowing what is going to happen next is key, but John Waters (no, not that one) and George Mallaby star as unusually close step-brothers who are somehow involved with murdered hitchhikers in a rural town. Excellent acting and neat little twists overshadow the fact that modern cinema nerds will probably be able to piece together the twist before it is revealed, but getting there is pretty damned entertaining.
DAMNATUS: THE ENEMY WITHIN (2008): Hmmmm… maybe there is a reason Games Workshop doesn't want this movie seen. Haven't had this much fun since Albert Pyun's ADRENALIN. Well meaning Huan Vu (who brought us the far more entertaining and only slightly less convoluted Lovecraft adaptation, THE COLOR), clearly worked his ass off making this low-budget, SOV action-horror effort set in the Warhammer 40K universe. Boasting a relentlessly complicated plotline that can be easily stripped down to the simple fact that it is an underground bug-hunt. A group of marines (really? The ALIENS cliche, in this day and age?) are recruited to trudge through some sub-terranean passages in pursuit of some heretics who are trying to summon a massive demon that will threaten all life as we know it. I really hate to beat Vu up about it because he does accomplish a lot on what is obviously very little resources. Even at it's worst, for an amateur German effort, it's head and shoulders above Timo Rose and Andreas Bethman, but even at a scant 80 minutes (10 of which is credits), it is a long, slow slog. I don't know much about Warhammer 40K, but what I have seen had power armor and space orcs and stuff. None of that is here, but there are lots of long winded speeches in the vein of TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE, which is the modern excuse to pad out the running time and replace the action that the SOV filmmaker can't afford. The tons of W40K details that are packed in here will appeal to people whose idea of a fun Saturday night is sitting around discussing the intricacies of the W40K timeline, but for everyone else it's like washing back a handful of Sominex with a bottle of Nyquil.