Saturday July 6th, 6.30pm, Sunday July 14th, 6pm, & Tuesday July 16th, 8.40pm (Luna)
All noir tales paint a picture of greed and deceit, and pepper it with vengeance and violence. The protagonist always has skeletons in the closet, and the help might not always be good for them. In Heath Davis’ third feature he tackles well-worn territory, but does so with a tight script, penned by Angus Watts (on his first feature as screenwriter, with another two genre pics already in development), and the movie sports a terrific cast.
City slicker Ryan Black (Ben Guerens) has returned to the Aussie outback, ex-mining town, Serenity Crossing (shot in Broken Hill, on some of the same roads used in Mad Max 2), to attend his father’s funeral, make amends with his loose canon brother Tyson (Nathaniel Dean), and sort out his dad’s affairs (played by Stan Black in flashbacks). There’ll be plenty of baggage. This includes the goons who’ve got an extortion score to implement, Cain (Steve Le Marquand), Davo (Damian Hill), and young Caleb (Ryan Morgan), but also Izzy (Jess McNamee), who wants a piece of Ryan too, since he walked on her, all those years ago. And there’s Jake (Andy McPhee), in the background, the farmer with a dark secret.
Locusts - the title referring to the insect that ravages the landscape with its insatiable hunger - sweats and grunts with good pace and plenty of character. The performances are strong, especially Guerens, McNamee, and McPhee, with Marquand adding yet another authentically menacing crook to his well-notched belt. Chris Bland captures the dust and grime and harsh sunshine with terrific cinematography, whilst Burkhard von Dullwitz (yup, that’s his real name) provides a solid score. Heath Davis balances a subtle sense of humour with the dark drama, and he’s a director to watch.
Saturday July 6th, 4.15pm Monday July 8th, 3.45pm, Wednesday July 10th, 8.15pm, & Sunday July 14th, 3.45pm (Luna)
A teenage girl scrawls “True Story” on a piece of paper, and then scribbles it out. Cut to a young, ripped man in menacing clown-like makeup, itching to do a piece to camera, as a clapperboard reveals the name and director of the movie we’re about to watch. These two moments inject the film with a kind of meta-data, one seemingly contradicting the other. The story itself is about contrast and hypocrisy, about desire and hatred, about friendships under pressure, about racial tension and fractured identity.
Jason (Will Brittain), Lucas (Sasha Feldman), and Hyde (J. Michael Trautmann) are wannabe rappers, honkies desperate for recognition, for fame, stuck in a deadbeat small US town. Elena (Grace Victoria Cox) and her girlfriend, Stephanie (Chloë Levine), who is already a teenage mother, are itching for something, anything. Afro-Americans Gabe (Tequan Richmond) and Mike (Mitchell Edwards) have obligations, but making fash cash selling weed is a good distraction. Soon enough the lives of these six disenfranchised souls will collide, with tragic results.
Writer/director Michael Curtis Johnson has fashioned a mostly solid drama, plucked from the true statistics of Somewhere, Anywhere, USA. He injects a palpable tension through the narrative, an air of genuine unease floats around these young and restless teens, as they make bad decision after bad decision, like a domino effect. You can sense violence is going to erupt, you know it’s not going to end well. The climax isn’t as shocking or savage as it demands to be, and the ending is abrupt and curiously unsatisfying, but the mise-en-scene, cinematography, and performances are all top notch, with the leads all actors to watch, as I’m sure they’ll be big stars soon enough, and sometimes that’s punch enough.
Sunday July 7th, 4pm, Tuesday July 9th, 6.20pm, & Sunday July 14th, 9pm (Luna)
Monos (which translates as “monkeys”) is a very loose adaptation of William Golding’s classic tale of order and anarchy, The Lord of the Flies, but set high up on a remote Latin American alpine tundra, in and around an abandoned arcane concrete outpost, and later down in the thick of the jungle. Instead of school lads, it’s a ragtag group of adolescent guerilla soldiers, boys and girls, with an adult hostage, and the responsibility of a milk cow. These rebels, with nicknames such as Rambo, Smurf, Bigfoot, Wolf, Dog, and Boom-Boom, receive sporadic adult command from The Organisation (who are heard over radio, but never seen), but their immediate reality is much more juvenile and impulsive, their mission inevitably under threat from within.
Director Alejandro Landes constructed the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Alexis Dos Santos. It’s a co-production between Colombia, Argentina, and Uruguay, with Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The beautiful cinematography is courtesy of Jasper Wolf, with powerful music by Mica Levi. The performances are uniformly excellent, with the cast a mix of experienced actors and non-professionals, but a special nod to Anglo-Saxon Julianne Nicholson as the long-suffering prisoner they call Doctora.
Through the mountain mist probes the fog of war. Loyalty and stability are only as strong as the night is long. Language is a virus, a weapon, and trust as tenuous as the spoken word. Monos rambles and drifts, shouts and screams, scratches and punches, a powerful, surging, atmospheric study of power and hostility, and demands to be seen on a big screen.
All the Gods in the Sky
Thursday July 11th, 7.45pm, Sunday July 14th, 8.45pm, & Tuesday July 16th, 6.15pm (Luna)
Simon (Jean-Luc Couchard) is a weary man, who looks much older than his thirty years. But you would too, if you lived alone with your paranoid thoughts, in a massive, crumbling stone farmhouse, harbouring demons, and had resigned yourself to caring for your severely disabled younger sister (Melanie Gaydos), whilst convinced the guilt that has governed your life was for a higher cosmic purpose, a kind of darkness calling from the stars.
French writer/director Quarxx (!) has expanded his 2016 thirty-minute short, A Perfect Blue Sky, into a feature length study of madness and abuse, of morality and mortality. The feature is no less confronting and cryptic than the short, as equally fascinating and disturbing. A powerful drama, in moments nightmarish (with a Lovecraftian edge), and at times tender, then perverse. It’s a truly original hybrid that feels pulled from the pages of a weird science fiction horror novel.
The high production values Quarxx employed on the short carry over onto the feature, with many identical scenes, and the two main actors reprise their roles. It’s a difficult movie in terms of empathy for the protagonist, yet one can’t help being drawn into his complex and increasingly frightening reality. All the Gods in the Sky is a hugely assured and captivating movie, despite a level of impenetrability. Stunning on the big screen, with rich widescreen cinematography from Antoine Carpentier. You won’t have seen a movie quite like this.