Thursday, November 8, 2012

Under The Radar

Easily one of the oddest movies ever made, Little Johnny: The Movie takes on an Australian tradition known as 'Little Johnny' jokes. They usually involve Johnny saying something obscene or being exposed to something obscene. In the good old days, folks would howl at stuff like this. Nowadays, they laugh behind their hands.

The animation is limited and not everything works, but if you're ready to go where most video viewers have never gone before, you'll enjoy this ribald delight.

Directed by Ralph Moser, a well known Aussie production designer, the film runs a scant seventy-eight minutes and boasts mountains of good-hearted "wrong". Mr. Moser ought to be anointed with a crown of some kind for persevering with a project so clearly non-PC as this.

This Shout Factory release snuck quietly onto the market very recently and has remained quiet ever since.


It's a bloody revelation of British rock flicks. Directed, no less, by Richard (Brimstone and Treacle) Loncraine, and starring a classic rock band, it takes a completely unexpected route for a rock flick starring a band at the height of their powers by being about the sleazy and destructive side of the business. 

The Slade members play another band called 'Flame', and the movie documents the band's rise and fall as London's criminal underworld gets its hooks into management. It's more The Long Good Friday than Kiss and Attack of the Phantoms, that's for sure, and it's a good thing, too, because the drama rocks and the Slade members acquit themselves well in roles tailored to their strengths.

The DVD also features an extensive interview with Noddy Holder, who comes across as a charming chap who never took himself too seriously. 

Based on a series of crime novels by Martina Coles, this British TV series is pretty darn amazing, and little seen outside the UK. In fact, during a recent trip back to Australia, I found a vanilla DVD of it selling for $5 out of a bargain bin alongside public domain cartoon compilations.

It stars Tom Hardy as a brutal wanna-be crime kingpin who bullies his way through a family torn apart by violence, jealousy and betrayal. Easily as violent as anything seen off-TV, it's a towering achievement for a burgeoning genre.

The Martina Coles follow-up is The Runaway.

Terrific doco focusing on the thinking, production, and aftermath of Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' album.

Although focusing on one album in particular, it's a rare look into the world of the band and its place in rock history.

The latest from Sion Sono, shot in the ruins of Japan's recent disaster, is a scathing but beautiful love story set in a world of ecological disaster and  -- worse --  homosapien brutality.

The film focuses on the consequences of indifference, of allowing ourselves to disconnect from other human beings.

Like the previous films of this totally original director (Cold Fish, Guilty of Romance, Love Exposure), it tells its story using a unique blend of music, audacious camera movement, subtle performances, and unexpected turns of narrative.

For mine, this is the 2012 viewing experience to beat.

Also known as 'The Murderer', this powerful crime thriller has yet to be released on BluRay in the US, so the UK BluRay is the one to get.

It's a brilliant and bloody misadventure named for a section of the Pacific lying between China and the Korean peninsula.

There are close to a dozen rousing action sequences with a gory knife fight between multiple participants being a highlight. 

Epic Chinese war flick in the tradition of Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War, The Front Line, 71: Into The Fire, and Saving Private Ryan.

The film explores a survivor's guilt at being the only survivor of a massacre. It is brutal and powerful stuff.

This is a strange love story that incorporates unexpected sci-fi elements, but it never telegraphs its turns. It's so well written, you enjoy watching matters develop between the leads, and I didn't once feel that the romance was being contrived.

I'd rather not say too much about this for fear of revealing too many of its virtues.

It was released fairly recently alongside a bigger budget Kiera Knightly flick called Seeking A Friend For The End of The World.  I was originally confused by these films because, although this film is titled Safety Not Guaranteed (a bad title choice ,I feel), the plot and marketing campaign relied on a personal ad the lead male posts that begins: "Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me..." I guess the tones of both movies played silly buggers with my head.

For the record, Safety is way better than the Knightly film (which also stars Steve Carell). Although Seeking begins with a great concept (the world will be destroyed in 21 days!) and offers a very funny scene where a boss is offering a CFO job (and other titles) to any staff member who will take it (all decline!), the script quickly abandons the comic possibilities of nihilism and settles into a predictable romance between Knightly and Carrel.

Although it's not a total success, it's audacious enough to warrant serious attention.

The lead character, Andrea Dunbar, wrote a play called 'The Arbor' about a teenager abused by her alcoholic father. Dunbar herself was living in an outer suburban British shithole at the time.

The film details her life via re-stagings of her plays and lip synced interviews (by professional actors) with people who raised her and knew her.  The zoophile doc Zoo, about the demise of the infamous 'Mr. Hands' employed a similar technique.

The film has received scant distribution outside the UK, but it's well worth your time.

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