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Melbourne 2022: MIFF’s 70th Outing Highlights the Titular City’s Filmic History

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Melbourne 2022: MIFF’s 70th Outing Highlights the Titular City’s Filmic History

Having endured lock-down for essentially two years, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) returns with a strong outing covering metro, regional and of course streaming. In addition to this, the festival will use cutting edge technology and installations to broaden the visual and auditory experience for the average punter attending sessions, or even waiting in that frost-bitten queue.

Previously staggered by you-know-what-19, the program highlights launch event was orated by Artistic Director Al Cossar waxing lyrical with a verbose word salad about how lock-down has affected us and disrupted cinephile tradition. Importantly, the 70th anniversary highlights Melbourne city itself, with a retrospective Melbourne on Film that delves deep, paired with strong local highlights and even through MIFF XR’s interactive program.

Highlights from the media release are below, the full program is huge and can be viewed (and booked) right now stay tuned for a Screen Anarchy guide to MIFF, curating our contributors excellent reviews of films that are confirmed to be playing at the festival.

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Apart from the home-grown attention, MIFF’s monumental 70th program overflows with premiere showcases, buzz-worthy international features and special anniversary events in the festival’s first in-cinema Melbourne schedule since 2019.

Overview

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Throughout August, Melbourne’s city and surrounds will be consumed by film, with 257 feature films, 102 shorts and 12 XR works on the bill. The 2022 line-up will showcase 18 world premieres, 12 international premieres and 177 Australian premieres, including a record 61 titles arriving from Cannes. Across the festivities, MIFF’s 70-year role in connecting cinema with audiences will be honored through curated ambassador screenings, star-studded guest appearances, and expertly-executed restorations.

Over 18 days (4-21 August), the 2022 in-cinema program will unfold across familiar metro sites, while a far- reaching suburban and regional program will see MIFF stretch its footprint across the state of Victoria through the month. For those who can’t make the trip, MIFF Play, the festival’s online streaming platform, will host 105 festival features and shorts, enabling audiences to join the party at home and across Australia from 11-28 August.

Of an Age, from MIFF Accelerator Lab alumnus Goran Stolevski, has the honor of being the Opening Night film. Additionally Franklin, from alumnus director Kasimir Burgess, features as the first night film across MIFF’s nine-town regional program.

Awards Program and Bright Horizons Nominees

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2022 will mark the launch of MIFF’s own in-festival competition program Bright Horizons. The award, and continued investment in MIFF, are part of the Victorian Government’s VICSCREEN strategy. In addition to the flagship $140,000 Bright Horizons Best Film Award, The Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award will recognize Australian film-making talent for their work and roles with $70,000 awarded to the winner. Finally, the MIFF Audience Award will also return, with individuals given the chance to vote for their favorite flick from across the program.

Presented by Nicolas Feuillatte, the MIFF Awards Ceremony will take place on 20 August at The Forum Melbourne. Here’s some of the eleven films from debut and sophomore Directors nominated: The Stranger is a taut true-crime thriller starring Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris, direct from Cannes competition; Robe of Gems is a haunting exploration of the murky complexities of the Mexican drug trade and announces a daring new directorial talent. Aftersun, a deeply felt drama about a father-daughter bond and the small moments that build, and those that threaten to break it; avant-garde cyber-musical Neptune Frost confronts ever-changing technology, racial capitalism and human labour. Ten years in the making, this dazzlingly original debut is like nothing you’ve seen before; Director Ariel Escalante Meza has crafted an intensely textural, immersive film in Domingo and the Mist that is both deeply meditative and bitingly political; In Rodeo, a daredevil female motorcyclist revs after a place to belong in this high-octane French genre mashup of gritty underclass coming-of-age story and a biker-gang action flick; First-time writer/director Fran Kranz skilfully stages a confrontation between two couples who come together for a painful emotional reckoning in the aftermath of a school shooting in Mass; Petrol presents an otherworldly version of twenty-something life in Melbourne, complete with share houses, substances and the occult.

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Headliners

decision to leave headliners miff 70 SA.jpegDecision to Leave is a twisty, bewitching love story wrapped in a thoroughly 21st-century murder mystery that’s deeply erotic. An exquisitely seductive neo-noir from Park Chan-wook – his first film since The Handmaiden need I say more; also coming out of hibernation – David Cronenberg’s first film in eight years, Crimes of the Future, returning to his body-horror discomfort zone, mingling the medical, the erotic and the technological. Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart and Léa Seydoux give enjoyably outré performances in this spectacular film that palpates the possibilities of how humanity will adapt; Acidly hilarious, Funny Pages is the directorial debut of Owen Kline. In this Safdies-produced coming-of- age black comedy, a comic-book nerd thinks he’s hit the mentoring/muse jackpot when he meets a cantankerous fifty-something former colorist. Scoring Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure, The Square) his second Palme d’Or plus an eight-minute standing ovation – and walkouts – Triangle of Sadness is a wildly funny outrageous satire of the vulgarly rich and beautiful.

Australian Highlights

franklin aus miff 70 SA.jpegAustralian talent abounds once again in this year’s program, including the Closing Night documentary portrait of trauma cleaner Sandra Pankhurst in Clean and the record 11-strong Premiere Fund slate, which includes: aforementioned Opening Night film Of an Age; a trio of amazingly accomplished female coming-of-age stories in Sweet As; Moja Vesna and Petrol. Strong focus on key mental health and social issues in Because We Have Each Other, Under Cover and Volcano Man. Present environmental challenges are addressed in Greenhouse by Joost and Franklin; Seriously Red a narrative feature debut that channels Aus classic Muriel’s Wedding into this affectionate celebration of fandom and identity; Based on the acclaimed stage production Shadow is a groundbreaking film from world-renowned theatre company Back to Back that posits whether an AI-led near- future society will further disenfranchise the disability community.

International Highlights

on the count of three international higlights miff 70 SA.jpegCall Jane is a timely story based on the trials and triumphs of the real-word Janes movement and the activists who provided a lifeline to desperate women seeking reproductive autonomy; Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with a funny and moving film about an unlikely family unit on the run with an abandoned baby, starring K-pop singer IU and Parasite’s Song Kang-ho, Broker reaffirms Kore-eda’s status as Japan’s master humanist, capturing the many and magical ways that individuals can be bonded by blood or circumstance; Winner of multiple awards at the Busan International Film Festival, The Apartment With Two Women offers an electrifying portrait of familial rupture. Tempering the film’s darker corners with even-darker humour; Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, the endearing viral video hit is now an A24 mockumentary feature, seamlessly blending stop-motion and live action; On the Count of Three is a Safdies-esque black-black comedy about difficult topics through the lens of a quirky bromance.

Documentary Highlights

diamond hands doco miff 70 SA.jpegAmiel Courtin-Wilson (Ruin) returns to MIFF with this unfaltering, compassionate exploration of voluntary assisted dying. Shot with incredible intimacy, Man on Earth follows Bob Rosenzweig, a 65-year-old Washington state resident and sufferer of Parkinson’s disease who is seeking to end his life; Visionary Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab filmmakers Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Leviathan) craft a visceral hymn to life, death and the body unlike anything the cinema has ever seen. Alternately gruesome and gorgeous, De Humani Corporis Fabrica takes a literal deep dive inside the human organism, using impossibly microscopic cameras, X-rays, ultrasounds and endoscopic images to examine our complex inner ecosystems in unprecedented, harrowing detail; Off the back of SXSW, Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets unpacks the improbable tale of the irreverent sub redditors who took on Wall Street at the height of the pandemic – and caused a financial sensation. Delivered in an antic rush of GIFs, memes and EDM beats this is a funny, provocative and sometimes despairing film for our times; Italian cinema luminary Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) tells the story of Salvatore Ferragamo, whose fancy footwear took him from the silver screen to the runway – featuring appearances from fellow fashion icons Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin, Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams is a real-life rags-to-riches story sure to entice cinephiles and fashionistas.

Music on Film

moonage daydream music miff 70 SA.jpgFrom Cannes comes a thrillingly immersive, kaleidoscopic trip through the art and music of iconic shapeshifter David Bowie, Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream unfurls as both a linear journey and a free-associative mind-trip through a singular career via the kind of avant-garde collage that the star would have loved; Ethan Coen’s solo directing debut is a canny, enjoyable doc about rock ’n’ roll. Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind both speaks for, and damns the man known as Killer; Age of Rage – The Australian Punk Revolution presents a raucous tour of the wild and revolutionary Aussie punk assault of the 1970s and 80s.

Night Shift

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watcher night shift miff 70 SA.jpegBodies Bodies Bodies is a whip-smart horror-comedy from Dutch director Halina Reijn, starring Rachel Sennott, Amandla Stenberg and Pete Davidson, a bloody, wildly funny Gen-Z horror-comedy that mixes the classic whodunnit with reality-show sass; much as they did in The Endless and Spring, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead direct, produce, edit and star in Something in the Dirt, a DIY sci-fi mind-bender with the kitchen-sink thrown in – a blackly comic take on filmmaking itself via a highly meta, mockumentary framework; feminist horror director Chloe Okuno injects female agency into the ‘vulnerable woman stalked’ trope in her feature debut, Watcher, which premiered in competition at Sundance. Maika Monroe (It Follows) stars.

MIFF XR and Highlights

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MIFF’s exploration of the emerging world of extended reality continues with MIFF’s first commission, Night Creatures by long-term collaborators Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine, set to delight online and in cinemas in a celebration of that sacred space, the MIFF queue. The inaugural XR Commission has been developed and supported by artist and philanthropist Ling Ang. Meanwhile groundbreaking new works are ready to be discovered for free via the MIFF XR Gallery, accessible at home to anyone with a computer or at ACMI with headsets supplied by HTC. Katrina Channells’ Speak of Country will allow users to soar across the spectacular Yuin Nation coastline in an airborne Kombi van and search for seven interactive objects that unlock cultural stories.

MIFF Signatures will see three of Australia’s most exciting filmmakers producing exclusive new works in honour of the 70th edition of MIFF. Justin Kurzel (Snowtown), Ivan Sen (Mystery Road) and Soda Jerk (Terror Nullius) will each pen their own cinematic love letter to the festival, prompted by the statement ‘the moment a film and audience meet’.

Meanwhile, a terrific treat awaits at Hamer Hall, where Orchestra Victoria will celebrate local cinema with performances of some of the most beloved scores from Victorian film history, including Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Railway Man, Mad Max, Noise, The Dressmaker and more.

A screening of Rob Murphy’s ode to projected film, Splice Here: A Project Odyssey will be held in tribute to the late David Thomas, MIFF’s Technical Manager for more than three decades. Featuring filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and critic Leonard Maltin, this new documentary is a personal journey through the rise, fall and rebirth of projected film. David Thomas, the man responsible for much of MIFF’s magic in the cinema sadly passed away in 2020 and is much missed.

The work of pioneering Hungarian auteur Márta Mészáros and French-Bosnian writer and director Lucile Hadžihalilović will also be honoured with two expansive Director in Focus programs.

Melbourne on Film Retrospective

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Dogs in space Melb miff 70 SA.jpegTo coincide with the highly-anticipated book release of Melbourne on Film: Cinema That Defines Our City, and in celebration of the festival’s platinum anniversary, MIFF 70 will present a curated collection of undiscovered and rediscovered Melbourne films from the city’s colourful cinematic past; icons like the suburban black comedy, Death in Brunswick and the Michael Hutchence-led Dogs in Space, to groundbreaking works like Barbara Creed’s Homosexuality: A Film for Discussion or the rarely screened Violence in the Cinema…..Part 1 by George Miller, and acerbic cult madness like Bodymelt and Pure Shit – the program spans decades, genres and hair-dos. The strand launches with a screening of Emma-Kate Croghan’s 1996 romantic comedy, Love and Other Catastrophes.

Published in partnership with Black Inc., Melbourne on Film: Cinema That Defines Our City is an engaging accompanying collection of essays that pays tribute to the city’s unique creative history with writing from beloved Melbourne names, including Christos Tsiolkas, Sarah Krasnostein, John Safran, Osman Faruqi, Tristen Harwood and Judith Lucy.

The 70th Melbourne International Film Festival will be presented In-cinema – 4-21 August

MIFF Play streaming and Regional – 11-28 August. Click here for full program.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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