Tag Archives: Roadshow Entertainment

Mad Max (1979, George Miller)

While the low budget undoubtedly plays a hand in it, Mad Max is the epitome of narrative efficiency. It should have a big concept–a slightly post-apocalyptic future (but people still vacation and get ice cream and the beaches are nice) where the big cities are (probably) gone and the rural highways are run by gangs, the cops just another one of them–but it doesn’t. The script from James McCausland and director Miller spends no time on exposition… ever.

Instead, Max opens with a pursuit, quickly introduces the good guys, and moves on. McCausland and Miller’s narrative structure is very plain. Good guys Mel Gibson and Steve Bisley go after bad guys, things happen, then more things happen. The beauty of Max, besides David Eggby’s photography and Cliff Hayes and Tony Paterson’s astounding editing, is in the scenes. Even when they’re poorly acted (the main villain, Hugh Keays-Byrne, is laughably bad), Miller’s basing them on Western scene templates and they’re extremely engaging.

But the film’s not entirely Western–Brian May’s score is half Bernard Herrmann Hitchcock homage (to fit Miller’s similar style of certain scenes) and half sublime.

Playing the titular character, Gibson doesn’t even become the protagonist until over halfway through (Bisley’s closer to it in the first half). For a fast and cheap action picture, Miller’s telling a distressing, human story.

Nice supporting work from Joanne Samuel and Geoff Parry helps.

Max is sometimes excessive–not to mention homophobic–but never slow; it’s masterful work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by George Miller; screenplay by James McCausland and Miller, based on a story by Byron Kennedy and Miller; director of photography, David Eggby; edited by Cliff Hayes and Tony Paterson; music by Brian May; produced by Kennedy; released by Roadshow Entertainment.

Starring Mel Gibson (Max Rockatansky), Joanne Samuel (Jessie Rockatansky), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter), Steve Bisley (Jim Goose), Tim Burns (Johnny the Boy), Geoff Parry (Bubba Zanetti), Roger Ward (Fifi Macaffee), David Bracks (Mudguts), Bertrand Cadart (Clunk), Sheila Florance (May Swaisey) and Vincent Gil (The Nightrider).


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Rogue (2007, Greg Mclean)

Rogue isn’t just hard to describe, it is–as I try–impossible. While the box cover (it didn’t get a U.S. theatrical release) certainly identifies it as a giant crocodile movie, it’s a lot more. Starting with that description–the giant crocodile movie–Rogue‘s already unique. It’s the only movie of its type (the larger than previously believed possible man-eating animal) where no one ever comments on the size of the animal. It’s visibly monstrous and the people are too busy being terrified–Rogue has a short, pseudo-real time present action–to ponder the animal’s dimensions.

The terror is another strange feature of Rogue. Lead–the movie opens with him, so he’s got to be the lead–Michael Vartan has the most atypical character arc I can remember. He actually assumes the traditional role of a lead female protagonist in a horror film. He kept reminding me of Jamie Lee Curtis in the third act. He spent the first two thirds terrified (though still masculine, but calm among the panicking machismo) to eventually overcome that fear with his intelligence. It works.

Writer and director Greg Mclean’s approach to the material is also what makes Rogue so peculiar. Much of Mclean’s approach is realistic. He populates the film with an interesting disaster movie cast of people–the somewhat bickering married couple, the cancer survivor and her family (including the young daughter who–shockingly–isn’t put in empty peril time and again), the annoying camera junkie and the widower out to spread his wife’s ashes. Mclean handles all of them subtly and respectfully–in some ways, it’s hard to believe the shark–sorry, croc–attack is coming.

Vartan fails in these scenes, since he’s not really on par with the excellent character actors Mclean cast as the fellow bait. Radha Mitchell does quite a bit better, but Sam Worthington’s the big surprise. Not just because Mclean’s script does very well by Worthington’s character, but also because he’s able to convey so much in a few lines. And eventually Vartan gets better.

But back to Mclean’s approach. Rogue‘s very referential to genre standards–particularly the Jaws films, especially with the introduction to the characters and then various little things–and the film is aware of them and is aware the viewer is aware of them. But there’s a barrier. The characters are never aware of their place in a film standard, but Mclean also manages to be incredibly hokey–super-earnest about the fantastic premise–and get away with it. It’s a sublime move and makes the whole experience all the more engaging. It’s impossible to dismiss the film.

Mclean’s also an amazing technical director. For the first two thirds of Rogue, every one of Mclean’s shots is perfect. He shoots with a deep focus, Will Gibson’s cinematography mesmerizingly vibrant. The film is a wonder to behold. Between Mclean’s river boat tour to the long night time sequence where the cast tries to escape the crocodile, there isn’t a single false step. Mclean knows what he’s doing.

Rogue–the title has nothing to do with the content, at least not in any of the content presented to the viewer–is a great little big movie. Understanding how it works would require a lot more viewings, because there’s just so much to the film.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Greg Mclean; director of photography, Will Gibson; edited by Jason Ballantine; music by Frank Tetaz; production designer, Robert Webb; produced by Matt Hearn, David Lightfoot and Mclean; released by Roadshow Entertainment.

Starring Radha Mitchell (Kate Ryan), Michael Vartan (Pete McKell), Sam Worthington (Neil Kelly), Caroline Brazier (Mary Ellen), Stephen Curry (Simon), Celia Ireland (Gwen), John Jarratt (Russell), Heather Mitchell (Elizabeth), Geoff Morrell (Allen), Damien Richardson (Collin), Robert Taylor (Everett Kennedy), Mia Wasikowska (Sherry) and Barry Otto (Merv).


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Newsfront (1978, Phillip Noyce)

Newsfront is hard to describe. It’s a sincere attempt to lionize Australian newsreel cameramen, mixing in melodrama, bad music, and some good performances and direction. It’s a film very excited with itself–there’s beautiful production design and costumes of late 1940s to middle 1950s Australia–and very sure of itself. It unabashedly ends with a shot of the newsreels superimposed over the dutiful, incorruptible newsreel cameraman, turning his camera to get the real news, while grandiose music swelling.

On one hand, the film’s so unaware of itself, it’s hard to find fault with the melodrama, on the other hand, it’s so incredibly melodramatic–music frequently swells in ludicrous places, during two person conversations, ruining potentially good moments–it’s hard not to get upset with the film. There’s wasn’t much potential to Newsfront, so it’s hard to get too angry and the film’s barely varies in quality throughout (the end strikes a nasty hit, however), but it’s somehow very watchable.

The film beautifully mixes original newsreel footage with black and white photography, but then for scenes without the newsreels, switches to color. While the color shows off the production design, it ruins the visual continuity of the film. Newsfront‘s direction is particularly bothersome, because many of Noyce’s shots are unspeakably wonderful. Except he has a habit of moving the camera–swirling it around the room–during conversations, drawing all the attention to the camera movement, forcefully pulling the viewer’s attention from… the story.

Besides Bill Hunter’s infinitely perplexing existence as a heartthrob (is this guy really considered good-looking by Australian standards, I can’t believe it, William Bendix was better looking), he turns in a decent performance as the ostensible protagonist. It’s not enough to surmount the script, but it’s good. Chris Haywood is good as his sidekick and has a few nice scenes. Bryan Brown shows up–a young Bryan Brown–and turns in some good work. The film’s also got a really good death scene in it.

I watched the recent Blue Underground DVD release and I can’t think of a better looking presentation of a 1970s film. Maybe the Australians just take better care than anyone else, but this transfer was wonderful. Blue Underground’s run by Bill Lustig, who produced for Anchor Bay back when Anchor Bay was really something. Newsfront is a beautiful disc.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Phillip Noyce; written by Noyce, David Elfick, Bob Ellis and Phillipe Mora; director of photography, Vincent Monton; edited by John Scott; music by William Motzing; production designer, Lissa Coote; produced by Elfick; released by Roadshow Entertainment.

Starring Bill Hunter (Len Maguire), Wendy Hughes (Amy Mackenzie), Gerard Kennedy (Frank Maguire), Chris Haywood (Chris Hewitt), John Ewart (Charlie), Don Crosby (A.G. Marwood), Angela Punch McGregor (Fay), John Clayton (Cliff), John Dease (Ken) and Bryan Brown (Geoff).


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