Film, News & Commentary

Australian cinema in 2014: 10 films to get excited about

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If your response to the headline above was “hang on, there’s ten?” the short answer is yes. The long answer: after even a cursory glance at the 2014 line-up, there’s little doubt this year will be a bumper one for Australian cinema. A bounty of exciting films are set to premiere over the next twelve months, directed by some of the best names in the local scene.
The last vintage year for the Aussie film industry was 2009, when audiences were treated to a surfeit of quality titles such as Samson and Delilah, Mary and Max, Balibo, My Year Without Sex, Cedar Boys, Bright Star and Disgrace. This year’s batch will be darker. Below are ten water cooler features that will get people talking and, with any luck, get bums on seats. Many of them are genre films. All have serious talent behind them.
The Rover
With a great script, great cast, great reviews and an Oscar nomination for our own Jacki Weaver, film journalist-cum-director David Michod’s 2010 feature debut Animal Kingdom plonked his name firmly on the list of filmmakers to keep your eyes on. Billed as “a dirty and dangerous near-future Western,” The Rover (pictured above, based on a story by Michod and Joel Edgerton) stars Guy Pearce and a bloodied looking Robert “Twilight” Pattinson, playing a man searching for a stolen car and an important object inside it.
These-Final-Hours-webThese Final Hours
Director Zak Hilditch’s sun-kissed apocalyptic drama turned heads at last year’s Melbourne International Film Festival. It wowed audiences, secured theatrical distribution and won The Age Critics’ award for best Australian feature. Like a cross between Walking Dead, The Book of Eli and On the Beach, Nathan Phillips leads the cast as a young man who visits a party held on the last day on Earth.
Wolf Creek 2
Irrespective of the quality of the film, there is already one disappointing thing about Greg McLean’s follow-up to his grisly 2004 cult classic: the amount of time it took to get made. Unlike Hollywood, the Australian film industry isn’t able to respond to audience trends in time to capitalise on them. By the time local productions have been written, financed, shot, edited and released, mainstream audiences have generally moved onto the next flavour of the month. We are capable of making sequels to hits — and a genre pic such as Wolf Creek is perfect grist for the mill. John Jarratt (who spent weeks without showering to prepare for the original) reprises his iconic performance as Mick Taylor, loosely modeled on real-life serial killer Ivan Milat.
Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson and Melissa George, Felony scored instant street cred after premiering at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Written by Edgerton, the story concerns a police cover-up involving a respected officer involved in a car accident with a cyclist. Felony was directed by Matthew Saville, a veteran of Australian television whose credits include We Can Be Heroes, The Secret Life of Us and The Slap. Saville has made a feature film before: 2007’s terrific police murder mystery Noise, in which Brendan Cowell plays a cop suffering from tinnitus.
Kill-Me-Three-times-WEBKill Me Three Times
Genre-hopping director Kriv Stenders continues to surprise, following his enormously successful 2011 family film Red Dog with the somewhat darker sounding Kill Me Three Times. Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End star Simon Pegg leads the cast as a hitman assigned to murder a young musician in the surfing town of Eagle’s Nest. Not much about the film is known other than Pegg’s new killer moustache.
The trailer for Tracks reveals a lot of Mia Wasikowska, a lot of walking and a lot of Australian desert. The film is based on an internationally bestselling memoir by Robyn Davidson, who undertook a 1700 mile camel-back trek across Australia. Last year Tracks played at festivals in Venice, Adelaide, London, Vancouver, Dubai and Dublin.
In 1998 Craig Monahan launched his career as a feature filmmaker with The Interview, a tight, twitchy and deeply engrossing thriller starring E-Street’s Tony Martin as a hardened cop and Hugo Weaving as a suspected murderer. It was an unforgettable debut, at least for the few people who saw it. The Interview was criminally under-watched and under-appreciated, presumably the reason Monahan made only one other film (2005’s Peaches) in the next 15 years. Starring Weaving and Xavier Samuel, Healing is about the relationship between a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a convicted criminal. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. It could work.
i-frankenstein-hi-res-WEBI, Frankenstein
The trailer looks expensive, gothic and action packed. Tomorrow When the War Began director Stuart Beattie’s riff on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein legend is an Australian/USA co-production. Aaron Eckhart stars as Adam, Frankenstein’s monster. The trailer suggests he is roaming the earth looking for things to fight and windows to hurl himself through. Oh, and it’s got Bill Nighy in it.
Identical twins Michael and Peter Spierig kicked off their career with 2003’s zombie comedy Undead, crafting a high-powered genre film out of a minuscule budget. Hollywood noticed and got on board with 2009’s Daybreakers, an innovative twist on vampire movies starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe. Hawke reunites with the Spierig brothers in Predestination, playing a time-travelling government agent. Get excited.
Son of a Gun
Adding even more Hollywood muscle to Australian cinema’s 2014 line-up, Ewan McGregor stars in the first feature from writer/director Julius Avery — a crime thriller about a gold heist that goes wrong. Avery’s 2008 short Jerrycan won a jury prize at Cannes and best short at the AFI and Berlin Film Festival.

22 responses to “Australian cinema in 2014: 10 films to get excited about

  1. “I , Frankenstein” looks like the deformed bastard spawn of “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” and “Van Helsing”.

  2. where is “Rise of the Underdog”?
    That is the Aussie film I’m waiting for this year, but some of these are worth a look.

  3. I love aussie films, cant wait, would watch them all, shame we don’t have an aussie Netflix that we could get them though!!!

  4. Hey Luke,
    How about Anna Broinowski’s inspired Aim High In Creation for inclusion? It’s already been described by The Independent as ‘a brilliant documentary’, and it’s the first film ever made with total access to the North Korean film industry. Nice to see a female in there as well!

    1. 9 out of 10 of these films are about blokes and violence. Surely that’s not all that’s being made… it must just be what Luke likes.

  5. Hey Luke.
    It might have slipped past you as it only had a limited release in Australia, but THE best Aussie film I saw last year was ‘The Playbook’ directed by Darran Scott. An extremely gut wrenching human drama that sucked me right in and then left me gasping for air. Didn’t do much in Australia (no idea why!! – I guess it easn’t supported by the distributor) but have heard it’s sold really well overseas, especially in America. check it out if you can.

  6. Is it really possible that there are no films by women that are exciting? If that’s true it would seem to imply some kind of systemic bias, given Australia’s funding model. This list seems very skewed. Or is it possible that’s in the reporting, hmmm?

  7. You also might want to check out “The Silent City”. A film noir set in a city near you.
    This movie will be premiered in March this year and is well worth the wait!

  8. These Final Hours….saw it at MIFF 2013… just an appalling waste of money on even consider it in this list is insulting to all those people that sat in the cinema scratching their heads about the state of the Australian film industry after watching it…we need more migrant and refugee (african) filmmakers in this country and hear their voices…

    1. Hi, Jackson must have been watching another movie than the one I did. To criticise it on the basis that we need more migrant or African film makers is whacko. I saw it at the Melbourne film Festival and saw no one scratching their heads. This was a great Aussie film – if Jackson wants more migrant films or refugee films that find a filmmaker and fund it. There was a great buzz about the film as I walked out. I really enjoyed it – I’m sure I wouldn’t like Jackson to be choosing my entertainment options. Great movie – in your face at times but great cinema. Perhaps whacko Jacko!!

  9. There’s another Australian director I keep hearing about, Summer Bodhi Nicks who has got a feature called ‘Operation 021’ – teaser trailer looks interesting and pretty action packed.

  10. This seems like a good forum for plugging anyone’s film who didn’t get a mention! Speaking of which, look out for One Eyed Girl by Nick Matthews (sorry – he’s not a chick but he still makes good fillums).

  11. Some of these films look distinctly tainted by more over-powering american culture- ie are they really australian?? Like the new angelina jolie ‘australian’ film being made up in good old Qld me thinks which is american -directed, -acted, -written, -photographed, -produced…but heh us dumb ausssie tax-payers have funded and payed for it yeh!!
    “Hideous an erotic art world tale” & “AWAKE [by an elephant in the room]” out on amazon.

  12. The Babadook by Jennifer Kent.
    Hopefully Strangerland by Kim Farrant will be ready
    THOSE are something to get excited about.

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