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Melbourne 2022 Short Review + Q&A: VICTIM Resonates Well After viewing

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Melbourne 2022 Short Review + Q&A: VICTIM Resonates Well After viewing

An ominous voice-over, scenes of suburban decay, dour grey skies and desolate exterior shots. This is how Director Robin Summons’ latest short Victim is introduced; a moody landscape to paint the equally stormy relationship between a mother and son.

The mum Chrissy (Kat Stewart, Offspring, Underbelly) is desperate and distressed, her house is dilapidated, her nerves frayed as her son Beau (Ned Stanford) continually ignores her in his locked room where she coaxes him out for take-out, it is her birthday after-all. Hardly a word is said as the clearly antisocial boy and the mum eventually eat in awkward forced conversation and stilted body language.

The dysfunction is evident, the physical clues and absence of father hinting at the darkness beneath the surface of soft-spoken Beau; a commitment to an incel (involuntary celibate) methodology, this particularly toxic strain of ‘self-help’, a misogynistic call to action that sadly rings true today, particularly in the States.

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In Victim there is a mystery element to these themes, cookie-crumb conversations and estranged isolation are given a real edge when the kitchen knife drawer is securely padlocked, what has Beau done? This estranged vibe is given further credence when friends dare not go inside to drop off Chrissy’s gift, or comes in pairs should they step inside.

Despite the themes of potential indoctrination, Victim is a purely personal matter, a mothers internal struggle, existing on the edge of keeping it all together, a tremendous performance to convey given the length. Beau is quietly violent, ready to erupt at any moment. The discordant sound score and Jordan Peterson-esque narration warp the notions of identity and being preyed on during isolation, quiet moments of antisocial behavior that quickly spiral into something far more dangerous.

Q&A

I had the fortunate chance to flick some questions about Victim to Director Rob Summons, his gracious responses below.

Kwenton Bellette: How did the casting come about?

Robin Summons: I initially created a list of about forty or so Australian actors I thought would be right for the lead role of Chrissy. Kat Stewart was top of the list. Her humanity and vulnerability as an actor seemed perfect for this role. I then approached our casting director Daniella Friedman who loved the script and jumped on board. Daniella totally agreed Kat was the one. We weren’t sure Kat would say yes so we compiled some back up options. Lucky for us, Kat dug the script and we were able to shoot between her other projects.

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We had a traditional audition process for the role of Beau and found Ned Stanford. He blew us away with the way he carried the last scene of the film.

After Daniella compiled some suggestions for Chrissy’s friends Greta and Tanya, I simply met with Harlene and Krista. I felt they both had the bubbly energy that could show a window into Chrissy’s life prior to the current complications she is having with her son.

KB: Where was Victim filmed? Seems like a forgotten dilapidated place, the dour / grey tone and isolated community reminded me of Snowtown, and I felt as equally uncomfortable.

RS: We shot the majority of the interiors in one place in a small house in Preston, in the northern suburbs of Melbourne Australia. We wanted somewhere atmospheric that could evoke that sense of dread you are referring to. We were hoping Beau’s glum, spare room could feel like it had kind of taken over the house. We shot the running exteriors out west around Atwood. nine out of ten days the opening shot would have had a backdrop of the city behind it but on the day we shot it was rainy and totally glum. We leant into it. We also shot some of the abandoned house stuff out east around Berwick. So we kind of shot all around Melbourne for the exteriors.

KB: Seemed like most people wanted to stay away from the home with the locked kitchen drawer, but the mum’s friends were oblivious, why was that?

RS: We cut a scene where Chrissy’s friends more overtly discussed Beau’s problems. One of them took it more seriously than the other. When friends are going through heavy things, some of us want to talk about it, to check in on them, and others of us want to just show our friend a good time and forget about it. With Chrissy kind of downplaying the situation for her own reasons, we felt this led to a good sense of dramatic tension between the three of them.

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KB: The perspective was through the mother, but there were scenes of her son running through overgrown fields, was she imagining this? I assume he’s done something similar before?

RS: I’ll leave the audience to decide that but I will say there is a chronology to these scenes with the son.

KB: Without highlighting the tech or internet/social media you made a minimalist statement about themes that exist because of those mediums, was there any intention to show more of that digital space/use?

RS: Personally I am a bit of a luddite and tend to think we would all be better off without the internet. I’m aware of its many benefits and how ridiculous this sounds, but I can’t help but lean that way. In terms of the film, we wanted to be with Chrissy’s perspective throughout the film, apart from the montages sequences with the voiceover. So we never wanted to sit alone with Beau and his computer to reveal what he is up to, it was more about a parent trying to connect with their child whilst getting the faintest hint of what they are up to. To be honest, the content of incel forums and the like are so abhorrent, I’m not sure I could put them on screen. It’s a really scary online world. We were more interested in the effects of that online world on the characters, than looking too specifically at the world itself.

KB: I loved the Jordan Peterson-esque voiceover, what he was actually saying had positive connotations but given the context of Victim it was more of a creeping dread of inevitability. Do you think that patriarchal figures such as this offer anything positive or helpful to society/men?

RS: I do think patriarchal figures such as Jordan Peterson offer some positive ideas to men. A lot of them are pretty ‘common sense’ which I think is why they are so appealing. But even the more positive ideas are underlined with a sense of individualism that I personally don’t respond to or think will lead to a healthier community. And then there are some quite pernicious ideas in there, dressed up amongst the appealing self-help points, particularly regarding men losing power in the world. This kind of stuff is the gateway drug to joining the angry communities of men on incel forums who ultimately hurt women. Men still have so much power – look around at our leaders, workplaces, households. The list goes on. So I think these ideas are misplaced and ultimately dangerous. If you listen to the ones in the trailer to the film, they don’t feel positive to me. However, to your point, we did want to make this voiceover intoxicating in a similar way to the way these Men’s Rights modern gurus sound on their podcasts and at their forums. Many of them are great at speaking and sound like people you want to listen to. So it was a tricky balance, but we hoped that the audience could understand how Beau has been indoctrinated into this world.

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Thanks for your time Rob!

Catch Victim right now, playing as part of MIFF’s Accelerator Shorts program in-cinema, or for free on MIFF’s streaming platform MIFF Play.

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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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