Review – ‘Host’

Shudder’s newest original ‘Host‘ takes this pandemic to new horrifying heights when a group of friends summon an unknown evil to join their call after a seance doesn’t go exactly as planned. Blame it on the glitchy internet connection, what serves as another lesson in leaving the dead alone, turns into an hour to die for.

Rob Savage (Strings) solely uses computer- and phone screens, as proven successfully in the past with films such as ‘Searching‘ and ‘Unfriended‘. To make a film during a global pandemic isn’t easy with current restrictions in place, but writers Savage, Jed Shepherd (Multiplex) and Gemma Hurley (Shoot for the Moon) found a way around it and even incorporated the whole new way of isolated living into their story.

Haley (Haley BishopAngel Has Fallen) organises a seance to make it possible for her and her rather sceptical friends, to hopefully contact a deceased loved one. After a bit of goofing around, which starts to piss off Haley, psychic Seylan (Seylan BaxterDoctor Who) unexpectedly disappears from the Zoom call and the group of friends quickly realise they might not survive the night. Savage knows how to build tension by borrowing from Paranormal Activity‘s bag of tricks. Who knew flying chairs and flickering lights would still scare the living hell out of us?!

It’s mostly because of how topical this entire film is, that makes this supernatural home made horror feel like it could happen to you or me on our next FaceTime or Skype-conversation. ‘Host‘ keeps it familiar by expanding very recognisable problems, like a failing internet connection or that one friend who just can’t stop using face-deforming filters, up to the point of inspiring the ominous presence in using the filter as a scare tactic. If you don’t delete Snapchat after watching this film, you clearly have a death wish.

Even though ‘Host‘ isn’t a perfect film, with lots of impossibilities scattered throughout that don’t make sense whatsoever, and introducing interesting characters that then just get killed off to raise the film’s body count, it still works as a solid horror film. The acting from everyone involved is pretty decent for such a low budget film, using an ensemble that’s fairly unknown to the public, which could’ve had a similar effect on movie going audiences if it would’ve been released just like 1999’s genre-changing ‘The Blair Witch Project‘, using a killer marketing campaign that made everyone believe a found footage documentary was real, and the people involved actually died.

Host‘ goes full force supernatural and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The use of social media in times of COVID-19 makes for brutal ways of exploiting the medium and amplifying the horror by hosting a Zoom meeting from hell. Fully committed to the idea, Savage keeps the shocks and twists coming at you with no way to escape due to lockdown restrictions on and off screen. A screwed-up terrifying cyber seance that’ll make you think twice before you join another online friendly get together.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘Host’

Reviewed online, August 5, 2020. Running time: 56 min.

PRODUCTION: A Shudder release of a Shadowhouse Films production. Producers: Douglas Cox, Emily Gotto, Samuel Zimmerman. Executive producers: Craig Engler, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd.

CREW: Director: Rob Savage. Screenplay: Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd. Editor: Brenna Rangott.

WITH: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, Alan Emrys, Seylan Baxter.

Retro Review – ‘Basic Instinct’

Paul Verhoeven‘s erotic thriller got panned by critics back in 1992. Over the decades however, the cult classic has been praised as a genre changer by fans and compared to Hitchcock’s work, as if it’s a contemporary version of Vertigo. Can it stand the test of time or has ‘Basic Instinct‘ aged like milk?!

From its very first scene, Verhoeven (Elle) pulls you right into the action, when a steamy sex scene turns into a brutal murder, with an ice pick as the murder weapon. Interestingly, although we get to see the entire act, we still didn’t get to see the killer’s face. This allows us to investigate and doubt ourselves for the next two hours, tagging along with detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas The Kominsky Method) in his investigation for a murderer on the loose.

Manipulative and seductive novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon StoneThe Laundromat) is Curran’s prime suspect, and has the perfect alibi with the murder described into detail in one of her books, because which sane person would commit a murder after writing about it?! Digging deeper into her past, Curran gets seduced and goes back to his old habits of drinking and taking drugs, while Tramell starts using him to do research for her next novel.

The most famous interrogation scene in cinematic history put Sharon Stone deservedly on the map, and although the one thing people seem to remember is that “money shot”, it’s actually the way she uses her sexuality and interrogates the detectives, that makes this iconic scene so legendary. We never really know what to believe. Christine Tramell is designed to make us question her every move, because she loves to screw with people. At a certain point we even lean towards Nick Curran’s suspicious behaviour, that paints him as the true villain of the story, even if he’s not the killer.

Douglas and Stone’s on screen chemistry could make anyone sweat, with sex scenes that get steamier than your local bath house on a Friday night. Basic Instinct might be provocative to some, but you have to remember, these were the 90s. It even has some epic car chases, that uses San Francisco’s streets in a way I’ve never seen in any other film before.

This is one of Stone’s finest work on screen. Basic Instinct IS Sharon Stone. Jeanne Tripplehorn‘s (Mrs. America) Dr Beth Garner deserves some credit too. Her character gets pulled into all of this, while Catherine pulls Nick’s focus away from their sensual escapades. Without her, the story wouldn’t make any sense.

The late Jerry Goldsmith‘s Academy Award nominated music for the film was worthy of that golden statue. His score isn’t erotic in any way, but sets the mood with an urgent sense of danger. Having sex can get you killed in this movie, and that makes the film just so much more pleasurable. Verhoeven has always been the kind of director who doesn’t give any fucks about what anyone thinks. Every aspect of the film, from the music to the twists and even that final fade to black, are created to tease. Even if you already know the outcome of the story, Basic Instinct still has plenty of top-notch qualities to revisit this game changer.

Basic Instinct aka “Who’s Afraid of Catherine Woolf?” is a coked up 90s party in a church-turned-club-experience, where the lines between sleazy and erotic blur just as fast as waking up from a wet dream. Verhoeven created a glorious crime film that still holds up to this day.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Retro Review – ‘Basic Instinct’

Reviewed on Netflix, July 31, 2020, Belgium. Rating: 16+ Running time: 127 min.

PRODUCTION: A Carolco Pictures, Le Studio Canal+ production. Producer: Alan Marshall. Executive producer: Mario Kassar.

CREW: Director: Paul Verhoeven. Screenplay: Joe Eszterhas. Camera: Jan De Bont. Editor: Frank J. Urioste. Music: Jerry Goldsmith.

WITH: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Denis Arndt, Leilani Sarelle, Bruce A. Young, Chelcie Ross, Dorothy Malone, Wayne Knight.

Review – ‘Deerskin’

Quentin Dupieux‘s ‘Deerskin‘ takes the phrase “the clothes make the man” a bit too literal when a middle-aged, recently divorced man finds himself at the brink of his very own midlife-crisis. Paying an extravagant amount of money for a vintage fringed deerskin jacket, Georges (Academy Award winner Jean DujardinThe Artist) discovers a newfound masculinity, while the “oh deer”-moments start piling up.

Georges comically becomes obsessed with his new “killer style” that begins to exert an uncanny hold on him. Set in a sleepy French alpine village, he falls into the guise of an independent filmmaker and befriends a trusting bartender and aspiring editor (Adèle HaenelPortrait of a Lady on Fire) who becomes his collaborator on a movie that will document a surprising new goal he sets himself.

Dupieux, who’s quirky film ‘Rubber‘ is about a rampaging psychic tire that starts killing everyone in its path, channels that same energy in his newest film, but this time gives it a face. French actor Dujardin completely transforms himself into an overly insecure loner going through an existential crisis. Rocking a salt-and-pepper beard to complete the look, Georges’ newly established identity becomes violent. Haenel plays bartender and aspiring filmmaker Denise in a compellingly whimsical way, not letting any cliché define her character. When Georges starts to record his obsession with jackets, Denise, compelled by the fake production, gets a taste of his intriguing story and spends every “buck” to finish the project.

Georges’ narcissism goes full “French psycho” when he hilariously starts to think the jacket has a voice of its own, as he wreaks havoc in the small mountain village with a sword he made out of a hotel ceiling fan blade. The small twists keep the quite “simple” story captivating, and with a runtime only clocking in just over an hour, it’s a wild ride with lots of laughs to be had. Dupieux not only directs, but also wrote, shot and edited his new film, resulting in ageless eye candy, supported by an otherworldly score by Janko Nilovic, who hasn’t composed a feature film score since 1972’s ‘Pic et pic et colegram‘.

Deerskin‘ is so bat-shit crazy, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and shouldn’t be confined to one particular genre. European cinema is a beast of its own, and with this little piece of cinematic surrealism, Dupieux contributes to a library so unique it lifts his status as film maker to cult, with distinction. Ridiculously dark, ‘Deerskin‘ isn’t one for the masses, but “daim” it’s one maniacally amazing ride.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Umbrella Entertainment releases ‘Deerskin’ in cinemas 6 August

Review – ‘Deerskin’

Reviewed online (screener provided by Umbrella Entertainment), July 31, 2020. Rating: MA15+ Running time: 77 min.

PRODUCTION: An Umbrella Entertainment release in association with uFund, Cinémage 13 of an Atelier de Production production. Producers: Mathieu Verhaeghe, Thomas Verhaeghe. Co-producers: Serge de Poucques, Consuelo Frauenfelder, Sylvain Goldberg, Serge Hayat, Nadia Khamlichi, Adrian Politowski, Olivier Père, Jamal Zeinal Zade.

CREW: Director/screenplay/camera/editor: Quentin Dupieux. Music: Janko Nilovic.

WITH: Jean Dujardin, Adèle Haenel, Albert Delpy, Coralie Russier, Marie Bunel, Caroline Piette, Youssel Hajdi.

Review – ‘Blood Vessel’

Blood Vessel‘ – what a terrific title! Not a first in its kind when it comes to ghost ships nor Nazi-horror, it tries to combine the two for a rather original but unsatisfying take on this horror sub-genre.

Near the end of World War II, the survivors of a torpedoed hospital ship cling to life aboard a crowded lifeboat. With no food, water, or shelter, all seems lost – until an eerily silent German minesweeper drifts ominously towards them, giving them one last chance at survival. When this band of brothers starts exploring, wondering what happened to the German crew, and encounters a young Romanian girl, we descend deeper and deeper into the darkness with an ancient evil hiding deep withing the bowels of the vessel.

Australian director Justin Dix, mostly known for his special effects work on Star Wars Episode II & III, explores the WWII sub-genre in his new horror vehicle ‘Blood Vessel‘. Co-written by Jordan Prosser (Tanglewood), their film takes quite a long time to get to that horror part most viewers are waiting for. There’s a diverse bunch of annoyingly underwritten characters, with over-the- top thick accents. Unfortunately Dix also uses tokenism and gender stereotypes, which seems fitting for a film that takes place during WWII, but also horribly uninspired.

In the middle of this bunch of one-dimensional characters, there’s only one actor who is really enjoyable and believable as the Soviet-soldier Alexander Teplov, played by Alex Cooke (Sunshine). He’s here to provide some comic relief and embraces the character with convincingly detailed mannerisms. The rest of the cast try their best, with what’s given to them, but never really leave a lasting impression. ‘Blood Vessel‘ just takes itself way too bloody serious. Given its subject matter and a lurking evil underneath this crew’s feet, it would’ve helped the film to lean towards a more comedic angle. As a horror film, it just seems to be stuck on a sandbank.

Dix’s film does have some incredible set design, that really captures the essence of this war-inspired monster feature. His use of lots of red and blue lights, make Blood Vessel look more polished than it actually is. With its uninspired sound design, the claustrophobic atmosphere that could’ve worked in the film’s favour, never really gets a chance to settle down. The original design of its criminally underutilized big evil, definitely could’ve benefited from a bigger budget. You can tell Dix wanted to go there with the few gorier scenes the film holds, but since these scenes are so sparse, the viewer’s hunger for blood never gets fulfilled. Credit given where credit’s due, this monster feature does have some of the best special effects I’ve seen in a long time in a small budget Aussie-film.

This B-movie never dives deep enough to get to the bottom of what could’ve been an entertaining creature feature. Unfortunately ‘Blood Vessel‘ keels over, long before true evil (briefly) shows its face.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Blood Vessel’ releases August 5 on DVD at JB Hi Fi and Sanity,
and VOD on iTunes, Google, Fetch, Foxtel Store, Umbrella Entertainment.

Review – ‘Blood Vessel’

Reviewed online (screener provided by Umbrella Entertainment), July 29, 2020. Rating: MA15+ Running time: 95 min.

PRODUCTION: Storm Vision Entertainment and Wicked Of Oz Studios presents in association with Rock Island Films and SunJive Studios an Umbrella Entertainment release. Producers: Justin Dix, Matthew Graham, Steven Matusko, Steven McKinnon, Nathan Phillips. Executive producers: Corey Trent Ackerman, Jeff Harrison, Brett Thornquest.

CREW: Director: Justin Dix. Screenplay: Justin Dix, Jordan Prosser. Camera: Sky Davies. Editor: Dave Redman. Music: Brian Cachia.

WITH: Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland, Robert Taylor, Christopher Kirby, Alex Cooke, Mark Diaco, John Lloyd Fillingham, Vivienne Perry, Steve Young, Jacinta Stapleton.

Short Film Review – ‘COVID ÉIRE’

16 year old student Michael Keane won this year’s Audience Choice Award for his short crime drama film based on the Columbine school shootings ‘Final Shot‘ at “Ireland’s Young Filmmaker Of The Year” awards for the annual 24th Fresh Film Festival. Inspired by the current COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to create a captivating story, that explores a young man’s feelings in an ever-changing situation.

Without any real end in sight at fighting this virus, all of this young man’s hopes and dreams slowly vanish, creating a realistically claustrophobic sense of despair that’s all too familiar to many of us. COVID ÉIRE takes place on a train, while switching between Keane (who also stars in his own short film) and news reports on the virus in Ireland and the rest of the world. While watching home made videos of people having fun, this person reflects on his life before this all started, carefully wishing everything would go back to normal.

All by himself using his film making skills and personal experience from the pandemic, Keane has developed a topical story. Although the short film is only five minutes long, this young filmmaker knows precisely how to create an atmosphere that feels personal to him, but to which we can all relate. The story could’ve benefited from being a tad bit longer, since it builds up to a certain sense of never ending gloom that then abruptly ends.

COVID ÉIRE is an easy watch, even though it shouldn’t be. The loss of happiness and joy is visible on the young man’s face, while the tone of his voice exudes that same feeling. An interesting short that showcases the talent of Ireland’s youngest filmmaker.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Watch COVID ÉIRE right now:

Short Film Review – ‘COVID ÉIRE’

Reviewed on YouTube, July 28, 2020. Rating: G. Running time: 5 min.

CREW: Director/screenplay/camera/editor: Michael Keane.

WITH: Michael Keane.

Review – ‘Babyteeth’

The film literally opens with the image of a babytooth slowly sinking to the bottom of a glass full of water. A shot that comes back in the final ten minutes of the film, translating to the protagonist’s loss of innocence and so much more. Babyteeth tackles a range of weighty subjects, and how this one family deals with them.

The Finlay family thrives on chaos, while living a rather comfortable life in the suburbs of Sydney. When Milla (Eliza ScanlenLittle Women) falls madly in love with Moses (Toby Wallace The Society), it’s her overprotective parents’ worst nightmare. Anna (Essie DavisMiss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears) and Henry’s (Ben MendelsohnThe King) daughter is terminally ill and the last thing they want is for her to hang out with a smalltime drug dealer. When things seem to get more serious, and Milla hangs out with Moses far out of her parent’s sight, it becomes clear Anna and Henry have their own set of problems. With nothing to lose, Milla inspires those around her, exploring the lengths we’d go for love, or at least to feel alive when everything seems to spiral out of control.

Shannon Murphy‘s (Killing Eve) first full length feature film balances mental illness, addiction, age-inappropriate romance, lust and terminal disease. Not an easy feat with such serious subjects, but Rita Kalnejais‘ (Surge) screenplay finds a way to weave situations in a way it all comes together so it doesn’t seem like just a series of events. With chapter titles hinting at what’s to come, Babyteeth keeps an even pace, without ever coming across any unexpected hurdles, and even although the second act feels a bit repetitive, it feels worthy when finally reaching that emotional-bittersweet-tearjerker-ending.

Murphy isn’t afraid to use lots of colour and music in her film, which isn’t something you easily find in most coming-of-age dramas with such a devastating outcome. Her creative way of film making is audacious, and that’s something to celebrate. International cinema keeps rising above typical Hollywood productions by telling unique stories that don’t feel rehashed. With Babyteeth, Murphy and writer Kalnejais catapult themselves to the top of Australian new talent we should keep an eye out for.

Eliza Scanlen’s carefree performance expands her role in ‘Little Women’, while accepting her fate in a rather stoic way. Her mostly expressionless face makes it quite hard to look behind the facade Milla sets up, to hide the pain that lingers deep inside her. Mendelsohn and Davis both play the house down in their respective roles, which can be expected from these talented actors, but it’s Toby Wallace who impresses the most. Covered in tattoos (they’re fake FYI) and looking quite shabby, Wallace exudes a certain type of energy that infects the entire main cast. Just like with his character Moses, everyone around him sort of has to pay a toll that was long overdue. Moses is troubled, because of his own messed up family, and Wallace channels that desperate need for attention by taking it up a notch with every new scene he’s in.

What seems like your typical sappy teen-flick, is much more than that. Babyteeth is about a dysfunctional family trying to keep its heart from taking that final beat. A coming-of-age story that isn’t one, thanks to some meticulous film making, distancing itself from the typical genre tropes.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘Babyteeth’

Reviewed online, July 25, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 118 min.

PRODUCTION: A Universal Pictures release of a Screen Australia presentation in association with Create NSW, Spectrum Films, Weiranderson.com, Jan Chapman Films of a Whitefalk Films production. Producer: Alex White. Executive producer: Jan Chapman.

CREW: Director: Shannon Murphy. Screenplay: Rita Kalnejais. Camera: Andrew Commis. Editor: Steve Evans. Music: Amanda Brown.

WITH: Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Essie Davis, Ben Mendelsohn, Michelle Lotters, Zack Grech, Georgina Symes, Emily Barclay, Eugene Gilfedder, Charles Grounds.

Review – ’23 Walks’

People who take their dog on the same walk or even go to the same park every day, can in some way relate to what goes on in 23 Walks. You see the friendly faces you see almost every day and your dogs get used to playing with each other. You talk about the little things and bond over your pet. Dave (Dave JohnsFisherman’s Friends) and Fern (Alison SteadmanGavin & Stacey) meet walking their dogs in a North London park, and over the course of twenty-three walks together romance begins to blossom. 

Their first encounter didn’t exactly go as you’d suspect. Fern, visibly worried about her own dog’s safety, notices Dave’s much larger dog than hers and gets annoyed when she notices this man’s best friend is not on a leash. Dave, clearly impressed by Fern’s outspoken reaction, makes sure he brings a leash with him on his next walk. Both carefully connect and talk about life. While their walks become longer and the conversations get more intense, we discover Dave and Fern haven’t been completely honest with one another and their future together may be threatened by the secrets they have withheld.

Director Paul Morrison‘s (Little Ashes) first feature film in over ten years doesn’t really break new ground, but knows just which heartstrings to pull. What lacks in pacing, the film makes up with honest portrayals of both Dave and Fern. Johns, who’s started his acting career much later in life than most other actors in the business, brings a sort of seasoned look at life, just like his character in the film has. The events of Dave’s life are realistic and make for raw emotional moments, which make you re-think his actions and goodwill, while also raising conflicting feelings about the way he’s handling his big secret with Fern. He is the beating heart of the film, with Steadman doing a fine job, evolving Fern throughout the entire film. She’s able to turn a very sad flower into a blossoming new rose who opens up about her own struggles in life. Even though she doesn’t come across as convincing as Johns, because there isn’t much flesh on her character’s bones, Steadman benefits from the charismatic performance of her on screen walking partner.

23 Walks struggles a little bit in keeping that emotional buildup going to the very end, where it somehow fizzles into a somewhat cheesy conclusion. It’s wonderful to see a mature romantic dramedy. Instead of always showing the same old teenage romcoms that don’t explore any new topics, we get less beating around the bush, and just get to the point with two protagonists who know exactly what they want. They just need to realise it’s right in front of them. There is an audience for these type of harmless, realistic love stories, that will definitely appreciate what Morrison has created. Dogs, love and walks with their own set of hurdles.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rialto Distribution will release 23 Walks in cinemas nationally 30 July. (Victoria to follow late August)

Review – ’23 Walks’

Reviewed online (screener provided by Rialto Distribution), July 23, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 103 min.

PRODUCTION: A Rialto Distribution release of a Met Film Production. Producers: Stewart Le Marechal, Anna Mohr-Pietsch, Maggie Monteith. Executive producers: Daniel Flexer, Jonny Persey, Chris Reed.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Paul Morrison. Camera: David Katznelson. Editor: Bruce Green. Music: Gary Yershon.

WITH: Dave Johns, Alison Steadman, Oliver Powell, Natalie Simpson, Vivienne Soan, Rakhee Thakrar.

NZIFF Review – ‘Rūrangi’

New Zealand’s powerful new web-series offers genuine representation of Aotearoa’s transgender community in both performative and production roles. With a five-episode story arc, the debut season of Rūrangi explores issues that directly affect the trans community, including important conversations about mental health, familial tensions, and the impact we have on the environment.

Burnt out trans activist Caz Davis returns to Rūrangi, the rural dairy community he fled ten years ago, hoping to reconnect with his father who hasn’t heard from him since before Caz transitioned. As father and son slowly reconcile, Caz finds new, life-affirming purpose, spearheading the town’s environmental fight against ‘Big Dairy’.

Murdering bigotry one poster at a time, with slogans like “Support gender diverse youth” and “Trans is beautiful“, Caz gets introduced to us as a strong willed man who has a great group of friends, a loving successful partner and is a role model within Auckland’s trans community. An eight month time jump shows a completely different Caz. Depressed, lost and insecure, he’s unsure why he’s on his way back to his hometown, but sometimes going back to the life you left behind can help with closure and embracing a new beginning.

Caz’s difficult relationship with his estranged father plays an important part in moving forward towards a happy life. Gerald (Kirk Torrance The Dark Horse) suspects the chemicals that are being used in farming around this small rural town to be the cause of his wife’s death many years ago. That loss makes for a sensitive topic both seem to avoid in fear of finally embracing each other’s differences.

Elz Carrad takes the lead as Caz in his searing screen-debut, bringing his personal experiences to the role. Carrad is a star in the making, exceeding expectations while embodying his onscreen character’s tribulations giving one of New Zealand’s most convincing performances in recent history. This isn’t just a story to Carrad, this is something far more personal. His powerful line delivery and innate ways of embracing the character as his own is truly inspiring – cheeky grin included. Arlo Green (A Streetcar Named Desire) who plays Caz’s high school sweetheart Jem, is perfectly cast, bringing an insecure cis male to rethink his way of thinking about sexuality and gender, surprising himself along the way. Not only does he make you giggle with his clumsiness, it’s Green who brings an otherwise possibly caricatural part to life with plenty of heart and kindness. Āwhina-Rose Ashby (Dear Murderer) plays Caz’s best-friend-left-behind Anahera, who struggles with her own heritage, while absolutely not caring about what her small town neighbours think about her. She’s the lighthearted but unmissable core of this trio of characters. Ashby has a captivating spark in her eyes, you can just tell she was born to play this part.

Rūrangi is one heck of a beautiful show. The composition, lighting, use of colour, music and clever editing is something film geeks are bound to drool over. Director Max Currie (Everything We Loved) knows when shaky cam is worth using and when a shot is meant to be steady, which proves more than once that with contributing to the making of one of NZ’s most groundbreaking series, he’s a name worth memorising. Johannes Louis‘ wide shots showcase the natural beauty of “the land of the long white cloud” with Ngatea forming the backdrop for the fictional town of Rūrangi, while the graceful tui’s singing can be heard in the background, completing the picture perfect scenery.

Trans inclusion is vital, and by providing creative opportunities to the trans community of New Zealand, you can really start talking about a truly inclusive and empowering project that showcases not just the talent but the message and story that are highly important to be seen by gender-diverse people from across the globe. Representation matters and is so important to those who feel overlooked in society and pop culture. In Rūrangi, all transgender characters are performed by trans actors, and gender-diverse actors also star in several cisgender roles. The series is done in such a respectful and validating way, it’s hard for anyone who comes across it, to look away or ignore it.

Trans advocate and co-writer of Rūrangi, Cole Meyers, did an incredible job at creating a heartwarming, realistic narrative that celebrates the trans community, Māori culture (supported by an incredibly talented Māori cast), showcasing the importance of family – chosen or born with – and friendships that transcend gender and sexuality. A momentous victory for trans representation.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rūrangi‌ is having its World Premiere in cinema at ASB Waterfront Theatre in Auckland, on Sunday 26 July at 7.00PM

Rūrangi‌ is also screening in select cinemas and venues across the country, and online.

NZIFF Review – ‘Rūrangi‌’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), July 20, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 96 min.

PRODUCTION: An Autonomouse production. Producer: Craig Gainsborough. Co-producers: Cole Meyers, Max Currie, Tweedie Waititi, Melissa Nickerson.

CREW: Director: Max Currie. Screenplay: Cole Meyers, Oliver Page. Camera: Johannes Louis. Editors: Brough Johnson, Dan Kircher. Music: Lachlan Anderson.

WITH: Elz Carrad, Kirk Torrance, Āwhina-Rose Ashby, Arlo Green, Ramon Te Wake, Renee Lyons, Aroha Rawson, Renée Sheridan, Sonny Tupu.

Review – ‘House of Cardin’

Directors Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole (Mansfield 66/67) go back in time and take a closer in depth look at visionary fashion and design icon Pierre Cardin‘s work and personal life in ‘House of Cardin‘.

Millions know the iconic logo, but few know the man behind the larger than life label. In this exhilarating and flashy documentary, Hughes and Ebersole design an impressive portrait of the larger than life man himself, by introducing his many talents, incredibly fascinating innovations and his way of changing people’s perception on fashion throughout several decades. This rare look into the mind of the genius Cardin takes you on a fascinating journey, while featuring many interviews with famous names including Naomi Campbell, Sharon Stone, Dionne Warwick, Alice Cooper, Jean-Paul Gaultier, etc., who one by one celebrate this true original fashion genius.

Featuring rare footage, House of Cardin recounts his first steps as an employee at Paquin in Paris in 1945, where he worked on the exquisite costumes of Jean Cocteau’s classic Beauty and the Beast, to becoming the head of Christian Dior’s atelier and then founding his own label in 1950. Combining acute business acumen with an almost unrivaled creative vision, Cardin was a fashion revolutionary whose designs from the 1960s and 70s still appear modern decades later.  In what was perceived as a shocking move at the time, he was also the very first designer to branch out from haute couture into ready-to-wear, and expand his range to incorporate fashion accessories – all accepted as standard practice today.

Even those who aren’t familiar with Pierre Cardin, the man and the brand, get a crash course that’s not only enthralling but makes you grow an unprecedented respect for his influence on fashion as we know. As the documentary shows through archival footage, the global fashion brands of today, such as Louis Vuitton, Dior or Saint Laurent, owe Cardin as a person and a brand to pave the way for them. In 1959 he was even thrown out of the French federation for haute couture when he decided to make designer dresses on a budget for the mass market.

Unlike all the other designers, Cardin, who is now 97, never sold his company to a multinational. Instead, he kept investing and discovering new ways to spend his money and make a new for himself elsewhere, just like he did with his fashion empire. He now owns a theatre and bought famous restaurant Maxim’s in Paris, after once being turned away for not wearing proper attire. That restaurant is now a worldwide chain.

It’s his personal story that almost impresses more than his professional one. His demanding and perfectionist personality made him succeed at everything he worked hard for, but under that hard shell lies a gentle soul. He is the kind of man who fought hard for equal rights, visibility and representation in fashion, making sure he inspired millions of people along the way with the power he had in this very exclusive world. The one thing ‘House of Cardin’ brushes over is his love life that involved his marriage with Jeanne Moreau, and later suggesting at a romantic relationship with Andre Oliver.

The music throughout is upbeat, keeping House of Cardin a fun informative watch with fast editing, that tells the story of Pierre Cardin in chronological order, even hinting at the future ideas he has in store. At the age of 97, the man himself doesn’t seem to plan on stopping anytime soon, surrounded by family members who support him and praise his work on a daily basis.

House of Cardin is one of the most inspiring fashion documentaries, making it essential viewing for anybody who loves fashion.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

House of Cardin, in select Australian cinemas 23 July

Review – ‘House of Cardin’

Reviewed online (screener provided by Umbrella Entertainment), July 18, 2020. Rating: G. Running time: 97 min.

PRODUCTION: An Umbrella Entertainment release of a The Ebersole Hughes Company production. Producers: Cori Coppola, P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes. Executive producers: Matthew Gonder, Margret Raven.

CREW: Directors: P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes. Camera: Laurent King. Editors: Brad Comfort, Mel Mel Sukekawa Mooring. Music: James Peter Moffatt.

WITH: Pierre Cardin, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Philippe Starck, Naomi Campbell, Sharon Stone, Guo Pei, Jean-Michel Jarre, Alice Cooper, Dionne Warwick, Jenny Shimizu.

Review – ‘The Vigil’

Set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn’s Hassidic “Boro” Park neighborhood. Having lost his faith, Yakov (Dave DavisGreyhound) isn’t eager to go back to the insular religious community he only recently fled. But when Reb Shulem (Menashe LustigMenashe), a rabbi and confidante, approaches Yakov after a support group meeting and offers to pay Yakov to be the shomer – a respected position of someone who watches over the body overnight to keep it from demons – for a recently deceased Holocaust survivor, he reluctantly accepts the job. Shortly after arriving at the dilapidated house, Yakov realizes that something is very, very wrong.

The concept of The Vigil looks good enough on paper to get excited about. The film could’ve explored territories that are fairly unknown for many of us who aren’t part of the Jewish community, with stories that often involve the supernatural and afterlife. Instead of turning into a 21st century “Jewish Excorcist”, it rather takes the easy route and goes for a more lighter version of ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe‘. The film takes place in one extremely underlit house, where creepy knocks and creaks help build an ominous atmosphere. What starts off strong quickly gets annoying when rough sound design and annoyingly ineffective jump scares take over, unfortunately losing any emotional impact the story could have created by the end of this haunted night.

Director Keith Thomas seems lost in his own screenplay and never elevates what makes his first feature film stand out: the atmosphere. Those dark rooms sure raise questions, as to why Yakov doesn’t turn on more lights and keep them on when he starts witnessing shadows in the corners of the room. The problem with the overpowering darkness is that at one point, that isolating feeling loses its effect and every shadow just becomes a blur. Luckily Davis knows how to handle himself, in what’s basically a one-man show.

The Vigil never reaches for that light at the end of the tunnel, relying too much on clichés and overused scare tactics. By keeping it all a bit too vague, it loses any sense of terror it so successfully built up in the first half of the film, making it an unfortunate mishap that could’ve been an unforgettable original addition to the horror genre.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

‘The Vigil’ is set to be released in cinemas all over Australia on 23 July.

Review – ‘The Vigil’

Reviewed online (screener provided by Rialto Distribution), July 17, 2020. Running time: 88 min.

PRODUCTION: A Blumhouse Productions presentation of a BoulderLight Pictures production. Producers: J.D. Lifshitz, Adam Margules, Raphael Margules. Executive producers: Karen Barragan, Jason Blum, Daniel Finkelman, Ryan Turek.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Keith Thomas. Camera: Zach Kuperstein. Editor: Brett W. Bachman. Music: Michael Yezerski.

WITH: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, Lynn Cohen, Fred Melamed, Nati Rabinowitz, Moshe Lobel.