What’s on ‘Built For Speed’, Friday 20th July 2018

This week on ‘Built For Speed’ we take a look at the latest offering from that now rare film genre, the musical, as we review the singing and dancing extravaganza of ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’.  We’ll also take a look at droll Kiwi comedy ‘The Breaker Upperers’.  There are many fine tunes for you to enjoy as we play some of Sweden’s best artists, new Aussie tracks, classic rock and indie favourites from the 2000’s.  Don’t forget our regular preview of gigs and TV for the week.  Check out ‘Built For speed’ Friday 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.

What’s on ‘Built For Speed’, Friday 13th July 2018

This week ‘Built For Speed’ risks life and limb to review action blockbuster ‘Skyscraper’ which, like most movies these days, stars Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.  On a slightly different note we take a look at a poignant offering from the Scandinavian film festival, Norwegian family drama ‘What Will People Say’.  There’s also a feast of fine music with new Aussie tracks, classic rock, touring artists and indie tunes from across the decades.  Don’t forget our regular preview of gigs and TV for the week.  Check out ‘Built For Speed’, Friday 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.

Film review: ‘UPGRADE’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The idea of human bodies being enhanced with technology has been a frequent sci-fi theme for decades with Robocop and The Six Million Dollar Man just two examples. Aussie writer director Leigh Whannell explores this theme in the futuristic action flick Upgrade but ads a sniff of the violent horror for which he became renowned with the disgusting Saw franchise.

Upgrade is set in a dystopian, near-future America (but very obviously filmed in Melbourne) filled with self-driving cars, ever-present police drones and 3d printed food. In this world, old school technophobe auto-mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) increasingly feels alienated preferring a more hands-on approach to life. When criminals kill his wife and leave him a quadriplegic, Grey is offered a new life through a secret revolutionary chip implant that not only restores regular movement but gives him near-superhuman speed and strength. Equipped with these abilities, Grey launches into a search for his wife’s murderers a quest that will have consequences beyond anything he could have imagined.

Upgrade boasts inventive use of technological ideas, reasonably tight scripting and dynamic action. Still, as Grey tracks the killers, Upgrade at times threatens to transform into Death Wish-style revenge porn complete with over-the-top gore. Fortunately, Whannell diverts from this path often enough to at least touch on more interesting sci-fi concerns such as the dangers of technology combined with hubris and the existential crisis of humanity being submerged within a cyber world. Like the 1990’s video store beer and pizza movie that it often resembles, Upgrade doesn’t explore these issues in enough depth but it’s a brave attempt.

The film falls down in a couple of areas. It has that slightly cheap and shonky look typical of movies shot in familiar Melbourne locations masquerading as an American city. Also, performances aren’t particularly convincing or compelling. Marshall Logan-Green (who is oddly reminiscent of Gerard Butler) isn’t a very interesting or sympathetic as Grey so his experiences don’t have the emotional impact they should have had. Betty Gabriel (Get Out, Westworld) delivers a reasonably strong performance in a standard investigating cop role while others such as Harrison Gilbertson as creepy young tech wiz and Leo di Caprio lookalike Eron Keen and Benedict Hardie as his chief assassin Fisk, are a little hammy. One of the more compelling characters is the voice of the upgrade computer chip named STEM which has a sinister quality reminiscent of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Like much of Whannell’s previous horror output, Upgrade is in many aspects flawed but still clever and often unsettling.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Sci Fi/ Action.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Leigh Whannell.

Release date: 14th June 2018.

Running time: 95 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

Film review: ‘BROTHERS’ NEST’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Brothers’ Nest is the latest collaboration between brothers Shane and Clayton Jacobson, the pairing that brought us the breakthrough Aussie hit KennyBrothers’ Nest, a Cohen Brothers-esque murder drama infused with family resentment and a touch of Hitchcockian creepiness is, however, a very different beast to Kenny.

Shane and Clayton play Terry and Jeff, two middle-aged brothers who have decided the way to deal with their crumbling lives is to knock off their stepfather (Kym Gyngell) in their old family farmhouse, make it look like suicide and hopefully inherit the estate. With the meticulous but unbalanced Jeff and the dim-witted Terry on the job, things of course go haywire.

Brothers’ Nest shifts fairly smoothly from black comedy, to family drama, to thriller and even to gory horror. The script by Jaime Browne and Chris Pahlow (Squinters, The King) keeps us intrigued rather than rivetted as the events veer off the rails and dark secrets about Jeff and Terry emerge.

As well as the more obvious Hollywood influences there are European cinematic references here and Clayton Jacobson shows himself to be a director with an, at times, striking visual sensibility.  Despite his inventive direction, the physical limitations of the story – which is set almost entirely within the old family home – give this film a stagey quality. To off-set this the film needed to have sparkling dialogue but the back and forth between Jeff and Terry is only mildly amusing and occasionally insightful.

Clayton Jacobson is appropriately creepy as the maniacally driven Jeff but it’s a little hard to see past Shane Jacobson’s jovial goofball persona established in Kenny and various TV appearances. Two veterans, Lynette Curran who appears as the boy’s flinty mother and Kym Gyngell who plays their folksy stepfather, deliver the best performances. Sarah Snook appears briefly and it feels like a waste having such a fine actor in a minor role.

Aussie cinema isn’t known for its genre films so it’s always refreshing when we take on that challenge. Brothers’ Nest is flawed and certainly not in the rarefied air of the films that influenced it but it’s engaging enough by itself and provides encouraging signs for the Aussie film industry.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Thriller/ family drama/ horror.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Clayton Jacobson.

Release date: 21st June 2018.

Running time: 98 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

Film review: ‘MARY SHELLEY’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

A film that focuses on the period in which Mary Shelly wrote her sci-fi horror classic Frankenstein should be a thrilling prospect for anyone with a literary bent but director and co-writer Haifaa al-Mansour has transformed the biopic, Mary Shelley, into a slightly steamy, mildly gothic romance between two Derek Zoolander-approved really really good-looking people.

Elle Fanning plays Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin who, as a teenager, begins an intimate relationship with the famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth) when he comes to work for her publisher and political activist father William (Stephen Dillane). Courting scandal in early 19th century London by living together unmarried, they embark on a troubled romance that sees them scraping a living and fleeing creditors while hobnobbing with likes of Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge).

Fanning plays Mary with an engaging if not riveting mix of fragility and determination but little of the rebelliousness of which she was apparently known or the darkness that might have compelled her to produce a novel like Frankenstein. Her assertiveness in the face of a sexist publishing world who don’t want a woman’s name on a book like Frankenstein is uplifting but this film is hardly a feminist triumph.

As Percy Shelley, Douglas Booth, who looks like a hybrid of Robert Pattinson and Ansel Elgort, is more silver-tongued pretty boy than literary genius but he’s still a memorable screen presence. Tom Sturridge is amusing as Lord Byron (with whom Mary and Percy spent an infamous holiday in Geneva) but he’s not the show-stopper a character like that should have been. Sturridge, who looks like he’s from an early 80’s New Romantic band, depicts Byron more as a creepy reprobate than the famously impassioned artist.

The film offers samplings of the various poets’ works but not enough to satisfy devotees. Instead Haifaa al-Mansour employs quasi-poetic dialogue that sounds a little odd as the characters spout long-winded verse at each other while trudging through the mud of 19th century London.

She and cinematographer David Ungaro do, however, fashion a suitably vivid goth-influenced 19th century world where life looks pretty harsh for most people.

With its emphasis on youthful romance, this isn’t the celebration of literary inspiration it should have been but there are entrancing moments.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Biopic/period piece/ romance/ drama.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Haifaa al-Mansour.

Release date: 5th July 2018.

Running time: 121 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

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