Ryan Kwanten

Thrills, Spills & Virtuosos: New DVD/Blu/VOD releases

Production still from Felony

Back in early October, the British book trade celebrated a phenomenon known as Super Thursday, their busiest release day of the year, which sees all the big stocking-filler titles – everything from celebrity memoirs to blockbuster novels and sports annuals – hit shops in the lead-up to Christmas. Well, Australian cinema had its own super day (of sorts) this past week, with four excellent titles released for consumption in the comfort of your own home – Felony, Mystery Road, All This Mayhem and The Last Impresario.

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IN CINEMAS: Mystery Road

Production still from Mystery Road

To celebrate the UK cinema release of Ivan Sen’s potent, highly-charged slow-burn western Mystery Road, this review (of sorts) meanders in search of the film’s place within forty-odd years of through lines in the Australian film industry.

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Australia at Glasgow Film Festival 2014

Still from Wolf Creek 2

After kicking off on February 20, the Glasgow Film Festival is now in full swing, and includes a handful of Australian films, including Mystery Road, Tracks, The Last Impresario, and the UK premiere of Wolf Creek 2.

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FFA 5 Reasons: Not Suitable for Children

FilmFest Australia 2012 kicks off tomorrow, which means it is time for us to take a closer look at the films selected for the UK’s foremost showcase of recent Aussie cinema. But rather than giving the usual superlative-fuelled synopsis extolling the virtues of a film you may never even have heard of (although we’ve done that too), we present five good reasons why you should check them out.

First up is rip-roaring comedy, Not Suitable for Children:

Detail from Not Suitable for Children poster

1) It’s already a proven festival opener…

…having brought the house down at its world premiere slot to open the Sydney Film Festival earlier this year, where it was embraced by a tough crowd of industry bods, film critics and festival hardened punters. Soon afterwards, it also opened the Dungog Film Festival, an annual showcase of the best Aussie films held in the glorious Hunter Valley of New South Wales. To complete the deal, not only is Not Suitable for Children opening FilmFest Australia at the Clapham Picturehouse on Friday September 14, however, it’s also making its European debut!

2) Leading man, Ryan Kwanten

Production Still from Not Suitable for Children featuring Jonah (Ryan Kwanten)He’s come a long way since his burger flipping days on Home and Away, and let’s face it, this guy is pretty hot right now! And hot in more ways than one (apparently), as he enters his fifth season as a t-shirt deficient ladies’ man/werepanther Jason Stackhouse in US southern-gothic vampire series True Blood. Not one to forget his roots, however, Kwanten has made a habit of returning home to take the lead in two recent Aussie cinema faves, Red Hill and Griff the Invisible. Now he’s finally set to go global, with a role in Takashi Shimizu’s (The Grudge) supernatural in-flight chiller 7500 and sharing the screen with Robert de Niro and Gael García Bernal in boxing biopic Hands of Stone.

In Not Suitable for Children, R-Kwan (yep, that’s what I’m calling him now) plays Jonah, a spoilt party animal whose hedonistic lifestyle grinds to a halt when he is diagnosed with testicular cancer. Unable to go the cryogenic route ahead of a life-saving operation, he realises he must sow his seed (and fast!) if he ever wants to become a father. Sure, it sounds like the premise for a horribly bawdy Hollywood comedy – and there are certainly elements of that – but the cast and crew have conspired to inject heart and warmth into an Aussie rom-com that’s more Judd Apatow than Todd Phillips.

3) Future leading lady, Sarah Snook

Rivalling R-Kwan in the hotness stakes is co-star – and on-screen housemate – Sarah Snook. Never heard of her? Well, you might be hearing a whole lot more soon: she’s already on the Hollywood radar, coming within inches of landing the Lisbeth Salander role in David Finchner’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and being dubbed ‘Australia’s answer to Emma Stone’ by The Hollywood Reporter.

Production still from Not Suitable for Children featuring Stevie (Sarah Snook)The Adelaide-born actress made the jump from theatre and TV – where she won an AACTA for Best Lead Actress in a TV Drama for ABC series Sisters of War – with a small role in Julia Leigh’s excellent Sleeping Beauty, but has garnered bucketloads of praise for her smart and sassy portrayal of Stevie, Jonah’s hard-partying flatmate and co-conspirator. The Emma Stone comparison has oft been repeated – and not just because they’re both redheads – with Time Out Sydney even suggesting that as well as the comedic skills of Stone, Snook has ‘the dramatic chops of a Blanchett’. Not Suitable for Children certainly seems like the start of something big for Snook, with Screen Daily seeing her performance as a ‘career-launching turn’ whilst the folks over at Quickflix agreed, noting that ‘if Not Suitable for Children is to be remembered for anything, it’ll be as the movie that introduced us to Sarah Snook’. So if you don’t want to miss an introduction to Australia’s next big thing, don’t miss Not Suitable for Children!

4) Rising screenwriter, Michael Lucas

Up and coming multi-screen wordsmith Michael Lucas is on a dream run at the moment – and not just because Not Suitable for Children has landed the FFA opening slot! He’s also a writer and script producer on television dramedy Offspring, which just completed its second season to widespread critical and popular acclaim (no mean feat in the rarefied world of Aussie TV). And for his troubles he recently collected an AWGIE (Aussie Writers’ Guild award) for Best Writing in a Television Series, doubling his tally with a gong for best original feature screenplay for – you guessed it – Not Suitable for Children.

His work on NSFC has certainly garnered widespread acclaim, the AU Review crediting Lucas with a story that ‘brims with heart, soul and sentimentality’, populated by dialogue that Screen Daily called ‘consistently edgy and unpredictable’. Basically…the boy, he write good. You go see now, yes?

5) It brings the LOLs…

Last but not least, nine out of ten cynical film critics agree*, Not Suitable for Children is a veritable LOL-fest! And why wouldn’t it be? It’s about a guy with testicular cancer desperate for children, for gosh sake! And if you’re still not convinced, it also features plenty of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll! Just look at this trailer:

Not Suitable for Children opens FilmFest Australia 2012 on Friday September 14 at the Clapham Picturehouse, followed by a repeat screening on Friday 21/09 at the Hackney Picturehouse. Tickets are available via the FilmFest Australia website.
For more details, check out our festival overview.

* Not an actual statistic, although if it were my money would be on David Stratton as the lone grump! (Joke’s on me…even Stratton gave it four stars!)

Introducing… FilmFest Australia

FilmFest Australia 2012

More astute UK-based fans of Australian cinema may have noticed that March came and went this year with a notable absence on the London film calendar. Over seventeen glorious years, the Barbican’s annual London Australian Film Festival had existed to satisfy our cinematic appetites for all things Aussie.

Sadly, however, the 2011 LAFF was the Barbican’s last, threatening to leave us all high and dry. But fear ye not, UK-based Aussie film fans because the wonderful FilmFest Australia is rising, phoenix-like to take LAFF’s place in 2012 and beyond. Newly independent, but still programmed and coordinated by the core team behind LAFF, FilmFest Australia promises to continue that festival’s dedication to bringing an array of antipodean cinema treats to UK audiences.

Later this month, FilmFest Australia will be inaugurated with a taster festival at two Picturehouse venues in London, kicking off at the Clapham Picturehouse before skipping across town the following weekend to its freshly minted Hackney cousin. In 2013, the festival hopes to expand to LAFF proportions, with a full programme of features, documentaries and shorts showcasing the latest and greatest Aussie films. But this initial 2012 edition is no slouching affair, with one world premiere slotting alongside a host of UK debuts, with every screening preceded by a specially selected short from the team at Flickerfest, Australia’s premier short film festival.

Not Suitable for Children - Australian posterThe FFA 2012 festivites get underway on Friday September 14 at Clapham Picturehouse with the UK premiere of Peter Templeman’s Michael Lucas-scripted testicular cancer comedy Not Suitable for Children starring Ryan Kwanten and Sarah Snook, followed by a festival screening of a film currently on UK general release, Stephan ‘Priscilla‘ Elliott’s rawkus Blue Mountains wedding farce, A Few Best Men. On the Saturday, the south-west London venue plays host to another UK prem – legendary director Fred Schepisi’s Patrick White adaptation, The Eye of the Storm, starring Charlotte Rampling and festival patron Geoffrey Rush – and the first ever public screening (and thus world premiere!) of Mark Lamprell’s Goddess, a kitsch’n sink musical comedy starring Laura Michelle Kelly, Magda Szubanski and Ronan Keating! The Clapham leg of the fest concludes on Sunday September 16 with Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason’s moving dance doco Life In Movement and Ivan Sen’s indigenous gangster tale, Toomelah.

The following weekend sees FilmFest Australia move to the Hackney Picturehouse, beginning on Friday September 21 with encore screenings of Not Suitable for Children and Toomelah, whilst Saturday brings two more UK premieres, the latest feature from the team behind much-loved classics The Castle and The Dish, Any Questions for Ben?, and Craig Lahiff’s twisting outback noir Swerve, featuring rising stars Jason Clarke and Emma Booth. The inaugural festival draws to a close on Sunday September 23 with a repeat showing of The Eye of the Storm and an encore cinema performance of Daniel Nettheim’s recently released feature debut, The Hunter, starring Willem Defoe and Frances O’Connor, and adapted from a novel by Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty).

If those descriptions aren’t enough to whet your appetite, stay tuned to The Far Paradise in the coming week as we present our top five reasons to see each film at this years festival. The ‘5 Reasons’ coverage kicks off with opening night films Not Suitable for Children and A Few Best Men.

Don’t forget to visit the FFA website for the latest news and updates, sign up to their email list for discounted tickets, ‘like’ them on Facebook, ‘follow’ them on Twitter, or watch the spiffing trailer for FilmFest Australia 2012 right here:

Griff the Invisible and Blessed out now on DVD/Blu-Ray

Having previously brought Beautiful Kate and Bitter & Twisted to UK audiences, Matchbox Films -those fine purveyours of Antipodean (and other) delights – have just released two more Australian titles in the UK.

Appearing shortly after the much-lauded Kick-Ass, Griff the Invisible (2010) no doubt suffered a similar fate to fellow super(anti)hero black comedy Super – with endless comparisons between these tales of ordinary guys turned (not particularly) super. In this iteration, Griff is a highly disfunctional office worker who spends his days being relentlessly harassed by his co-workers. At night, however, he dons a cape and roams the streets, protecting the neighbourhood from thugs and lowlifes until he finally meets his match – a girl called Melody who shares his aptitude for daydreaming.

Despite being faintly damned as ‘twee’, ‘shaggy’ and ‘uneven’, many critics praised this Aussie superhero rom-com for being ‘cheefully offbeat’ with ‘moments of pure magic’. Produced by Jan Chapman and providing the feature directorial debut for Aussie actor Leon Ford, the film features True Blood star Ryan Kwanten in the lead role alongside Maeve Dermody (Black Water, Beautiful Kate).

Griff The Invisible is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

UK artwork for Blessed (2009)Also out now on Matchbox is Blessed (2009), the latest feature from Ana Kokkinos, the talent behind the brilliantly unrelenting features Head On (1998) and The Book of Revelation (2005). Relating the interweaving tales of a handful of kids living on the streets of Melbourne, the film is adapted from Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?, a tough theatrical portmanteau borne from a collaboration between a quintet of Australia’s finest writers – Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas and Irine Vela.

Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Frances O’Connor, Miranda Otto, Deborra-Lee Furness, William McInnes and Sophie Lowe, Blessed plays out on the meaner streets of Melbourne over a 24 hour period, and builds upon a moody (some might say ‘gloomy’) atmosphere to provide a lingering portrait of the difficulties faced by children and parents alike as they struggle to cope on the fringes of society.

Blessed is out now on DVD.