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AACID TUNG: SEPT/OCT 97

AACID TUNG (Urban Cinefileís world weary, sarcastic and cynical sourpuss goes to the movies in the forlorn hope that something will appeal. It rarely does.)

BREAKDOWN
National Release: October 9, 1997

They always go too far, these Americans, piling improbability on top of impossibility, especially when it isnít needed. The thematic sister to The Vanishing, Breakdown is laden with lead: young couple on deserted road have meaningless breakdown - which turns out to be a loose wire. This is a device so Jeff (Kurt Russell) can eventually go driving to look for his wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) who hasnít come back with help as planned, when she stupidly drove off with a strange truckie who stopped to offer help. Jeff stays with his 4WD just for the sake of the plot. The truckie, played by J.T. Walsh, is far too good an actor for a dumb crim who is not only dangerously vicious but a complete gentleman as well. His accomplices and the folk at the bar where Amy supposedly vanishes, are all hired from the talent agency that specialises in redneck zombies. This could have been a terrific thriller with genuine suspense had it been made and cast in England, where they understand characterisation. The final sequence is a tribute to (rip off of) several cliffhanger scenes in other movies, but at least the music is good. Go and hear this film.

DOING TIME FOR PATSY CLINE )
National Release September 25, 1997

A real slap in the face for Tamworth (or a bit naÔve) this film, as the young hero, Ralph (Matt Day) sets off to make his name in Nashville! Straight from his dusty outback home (population three) to Nashville, without stopping on the way? Except he does, of course, get detained, literally. By the cops. Ralph is an object lesson in the evils of hitchhiking: his lift turns out to lead into jail. The Jag driven by Boyd (Richard Roxburgh) and Patsy (Miranda Otto) is stolen; theyíre hauling drugs; theyíve got no scruples. Well, very tiny ones. We spend time in jail with the two boys and the inmate band (gruesome country folk playing lousy music) while Patsy escapes in a truck, but sheís suspiciously ill - suspicious because we can bank on a teary revelation about her sickness. Guess what letter it starts with. Anyway, the biggest problem of this film is its jump from a bitter sweet story into a confused and confusing attempt to either play with time or suggest that Ralph is dreaming. Since the end result is unsatisfying, the device is a failure, and we are left in emotional limbo.

DUST OFF THE WINGS
National Release October 30, 1997

This is a so called low budget movie, shot on video and made with more enthusiasm than money; cheap would be a more accurate term. Itís set in Bondi where sex drugs and rock ní roll are the only recognisable signs of life, if filmmakers Lee Rogers and Ward Stevens are to be believed. (They both also co-star.) The film is a study of a young manís last moments before marriage. It is presented as if itís his last moments alive. The blokey sensibilities will appeal to the blokes, but a tad too much sermonising will put the same blokes off. Bared bums while surfing notwithstanding, itís not really raunchy, except for one very gross joke, but it isnít too sophisticated either. The amateurs & the professionals in the cast come together at the lowest common denominator, with the exception of Kate Ceberano. But even she is not enough to save this from the netherworld of movies that donít appeal to any audience block.

THE FULL MONTY
National Release, October 16, 1997

This overrated little film relies on getting an audience by nudity - male nudity. Actually, by the PROMISE of male nudity. So much for honesty in filmmaking. That aside, Robert Carlyle is his usual engaging self as the strip leader of a group of unemployed men in the provincial English town of Sheffield, whose women happily (with much shrieking and screeching giggling) fork out £20 to see male strippers - despite being broke and miserable. Just goes to show that women are equal spendthrifts to men when it comes to ogling the opposite sex, but at least men do it quietly. The filmís tension is created and held by the prospect of these unlikely men turning into strippers and going the full monty - fully naked. Well, of course the film ends with them going full monty, but the camera is behind them, and the frame is frozen at the crucial moment anyway. So much fuss over so little. We immediately realise weíve been had. Whatís more, the men are still unemployed.

DAYTRIPPERS
National Release: October 9, 1997
We meet a young couple, clearly happy and deeply in love, Eliza (Hope Davis) and Louis (Stanley Tucci), who live in suburban New York. When Eliza finds what appears to be a love letter addressed to Louis, she begins to fear the worst Ė another woman. Her mouth of a mum and deadhead of a father drive her into town to confront Louis at his office in a publishing house. He isnít there, because just coincidentally, heís been given the day off. (By the scriptwriter.) They try and track him down at one of those publishing parties, but eventually find him at a very different kind of party, on the roof. And not with another woman. I wonít spoil it for you, but itís one of those unexpected (and rather sneaky) little devices that writers come up with when stumped for progress. It looks like that because it is completely arbitrary and because the film ends inconclusively, as if the camera just ran out of film. Itís a cheat of a film, although the cast make it a good cheat.

BUDDY
National Release: September 25, 1997
"I threw the pear into Buddyís cage Ė and he rushed after it. I pushed the gate shut and clicked the padlock. He was safe now. . . this was no animal I had tricked back into prison. It was a child of the human stem, a being with the power to think and to love, and to suffer." So wrote Gertrude Lintz in her book Animals Are My Hobby, about her pet gorilla. She was not a total fruitcake, because she managed to convince not only herself but her husband and her entire household Ė along with a good many others who happened to cross her path Ė that her menageries of animals were actually children. She clothed and fed them as if they were. Her husband nodded smilingly as the chimps careered out of control. (It should have been called Gorilla in their Midst.) Her story was irresistible to executive producer Francis Ford Coppola and the Jim Henson company. The latter made a lot of gorilla suits with real good hair for the actors to mimic the gorilla, Buddy, who was all the time mimicking humans. But the film only tells half the story: where does it show these animals reaching puberty and banging each other? Where does it show them pooping on the expensive rugs in the Lintz mansion? Bah, itís all cleaned up. Of course, itís very easy to poke fun at people like Gertrude, with their obsessive pandering to animals who should by all rights be pounding the turf in the wild. Itís easy to suggest they are a few hairs short of a wig for their fanatical obsession. Easy to ridicule a story that ignores the fundamental questions Ė including how Gertie and hubby came to such a pass. So itís easy. So what.

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L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
National Release, Oct 30, 97

James Ellroyís dark world of Los Angeles in the 50s has absolutely nothing original going for it, and the screen version ditto. As some critics have noted, this is a sort of Chinatown, but without Jack Nicholson & Faye Dunaway. Instead, we have Russell Crowe & Kim Basinger, and a very different mood. Crowe plays a vicious, self righteous thug in copís clothing, on the trail of a murder or three - what else is new? Basinger plays a glamorous slut in the arms of a hood. Yawn. Guy Pearce plays a cop who is straight. Cromwell plays a bent cop at the top of the ranks. Gee, really? And the whole thing pivots around Danny de Vitoís sleazy scandalrag editor who sets up celebrities for candid snaps, aided by another cop, played by Spacey. Corruption and lust drive this crowd, as always, and it catches up with everybody just as it always does, at the end of a gun.

MY BEST FRIENDíS WEDDING National Release, Sept 25, 97

You could get credibility strain from watching this movie, notwithstanding that itís directed by Australiaís wedding film specialist, J. P. Hogan. A woman, Julianne (Julia Roberts), approaching 28 hasnít seen her long-ago boyfriend for years, but they were so close they promised to marry each other at 28 if they were both still single. When he calls, she thinks itís time: and is surprised that the man has met someone else. Of course he has: he has a life. This is the first stretch. The second stretch comes when you meet the guy, Michael O'Neal (Dermot Mulroney): itís hard to imagine her being so madly in love with him after all these years that a) she hasnít seen him for so long that his impending marriage is a surprise, b) she is prepared to do outrageous things to kill his romance. Why didnít she just ring him a couple of years ago? Then there is the insipid music, stolen from a past generation, stained with a fay nostalgia that is sickening. Perhaps this was spurred by Rupert Gravesí gay character as Julianneís best friend. But it wasnít his wedding - even the title is confused.

PAWS
National Release, Sept 25, 97

This is not Jaws reworked with a man-eating dog, although you might wish it were. No, this is that nasty Hollywood genre called Ďfamily filmí reworked as Australian dysfunctional family film: neither the family nor the film function. The Hollywood version would have had a comparatively ageing Macauley Culkin instead of our guitar-playing Nathan Cavaleri in the lead role, and the voice of his computer literate dog provided by Tom Hanks instead of Billy Connolly. The silliness of the plot would have remained similar: talking dogís old master is killed by ferocious girlfriend who is after some hidden loot, and dog has the secret to both the loot and the murderer. Dog runs away and is befriended by youngster, who doesnít like his stepfather. Okay, but why not? The man seems the absolutely ideal stepfather, guys! The problem with Ďfamily filmsí is that they are too silly to be emotionally satisfying for adults, and too adult to be entertaining for eight year olds. In this case, a computer-smart, talking Scottish comedian dog is enough of a hook, wouldnít you think, without the need for an unsatisfactory family drama device. Reckon the adult version, with Connolly writing a biting script, may be more to my taste.

PICTURE PERFECT
National Release, Oct 30,97

Would that this be a picture perfect; it is merely an imperfect picture to showcase a TV sit-com actress. With a complete wardrobe. She does look great, but is that quite enough? Can we last 102 minutes just watching Jennifer Aniston? Jennifer with little bits of her hair falling over her forehead to annoy us. Then thereís the central question of whether her clothes are really suitable for her job in an advertising agency, advertising agencies being no more than places for insincere con-men. This is riveting, huh? Blandness threatens everywhere, leading man Jay Mohr included, but Olympia Dukakis does a great hyena impression as the jewish mama who has to know everything about her daughterís life. A tad predictably. Kevin Bacon is charismatic as ever, but shows extreme bad taste for taking the role. Picture Perfect is Popcorn for Poodles.

EVENT HORIZON
National Release, Oct 9, 97

A folded universe, which leads to hell, is the sci-fi premise of this film, in which Sam Neill is miscast, and Eisnerís script is mis-used. It belongs in a comic book in a doctorís waiting room. Perhaps a psychiatristís waiting room. That aside, itís a heartless piece, and predictable. Will somebody please come up with a new design for space-travelling vehicles? Theyíre all covered with little gizmos on the outside, and glittered up with angel lights for the long shots. Inside, the same old crew Ė as in all sci fi stories of ships on a rescue mission - fight off alien mysteries that we donít know or care about, because they are mysteries. Instead of giving us characteristics we can relate to, they have scientific explanations that are meaningless. When the baddie in your film is a black hole, you have to worry. To make an impact, film relies on the shock value of dismembered bodies splattered around the set. Itís best disremembered.








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