In the lead up to the release of Wonder Woman 1984 Warner Bros. has given us a very special look at how Gal Gadot became Wonder Woman.
Way back in 1988, yes that year that Australia ended up calling the Bi-Centennial, a piece of Australian cinematic history was about to arrive. Out of Melbourne came a low budget film that became a cult classic – a comedy set during nuclear destruction – Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em. The film re-surfaced a few years ago when it was shown at Australia’s leading cult film festival Monster Fest and tonight it will be shown to an even wider audience as it becomes part of the Friday Fright Night live stream.
To find out a little bit more about this cult classic today I had the pleasure of chatting to the film’s screenwriter/director Ray Boseley who since then has gone on to work on successful television shows including Acropolis Now and Round The Twist.
“I’m just over the moon,” says Boseley when I ask him how he feels about his film being screened right around the world as part of Friday Fright Night. “I put everything I had into making the film some thirty odd years ago and now it is just a joy that it has found this opportunity to be seen by other people and perhaps some people that didn’t have that chance all those years ago to check it out.”
“I was studying film and television at Swinburne, I was in the graduating class of 1984,” explains Boseley as we start to talk about the very beginnings of Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em. “We had to do a major production in Year Three and that is when the idea of Smoke ‘Em first came to me. I sort of pitched that as what i wanted to make for my film and fortunately the lecturers there were a lot smarter than me and they immediately told me that it was not realistic to try and achieve it as a student film. So they said no and I had to come up with something else.”
“Then a few years later after working in the industry for awhile Film Victoria had a grant program and I put Smoke ‘Em in,” he says continuing. “By then I had it fully written. It had kind of just been sitting there waiting to record and that was the first chance I had to do it. They actually gave me more money than I thought I needed but it was still quite a tight budget and quite a tight schedule… it was pretty hard work getting Smoke ‘Em onto the screen.”
That hard work included one of the toughest shoots that Boseley has ever experienced in his career. “It is probably the second hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” he says with a laugh. “It was a really big script. It was really ambitious challenge to create the bomb shelter itself and then a separate challenge was the scenes outside in a devastated nuclear wasteland.”
“The there was a large cast and a lot of tricky things to film,” he says continuing. “There was a few little stunts, there was a fight scene that turned into a brawl at the party. It was basically a list of all the trickiest things that you could possibly write to push a crew to their limit on a fairly limited shoot. I think it was about two and a half weeks for the entire shoot and every shot was just complicated – most shots had a couple of dozen people in the frame. All of that makes it very difficult. Then there were some degrees of special make-up and all the costuming, it had to be lit properly and it led to some very tricky stuff.”
Despite all that Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em did all come together and you can watch it tonight on Friday Fright Night… details below.
Grab your popcorn and cuddle up with a hyena, it’s time to join ACMI in Australia’s first Birds of Prey: The Emancipation Of One Fantabulous Harley Quinn watch party with pop culture critic, ACMI writer and Number 1 BOP fan Maria Lewis.
Starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and brought to life by Robbie’s own production company Lucky Chap Entertainment, BOP is a high octane film of firsts. Not only is it the first big screen all-female superhero team movie, it’s also based on the first all-female superhero comic book team.
BOP’s diverse pool of female talent isn’t just in front of the camera, but behind it as well. Directed by Cathy Yan and written by British-Taiwanese screenwriter Christina Hodson, together they’ve lovingly recreated characters who are dirty, funny and sexy in a way that doesn’t consider the male gaze let alone cater for it.
Find where to buy or rent Birds of Prey on Just Watch.
One of the great initiates that has started up during our pandemic lockdown is that Monster Pictures have re-started their Friday Night Frights but are doing it online. The film screening tonight is the deserved Australian cult classic SheBorg Massacre. We decided that was the perfect excuse to catch up with filmmaker Daniel Armstrong who since directing SheBorg Massacre has also released Tarnation and is currently in post-production for his latest film Nova Star.
“Hopefully it will help kick a few of the lockdown blues in the nuts,” says Armstrong laughing when we begin to talk about SheBorg Massacre being part of Friday Night Frights. “I only found out about a few days ago, but it should be pretty fun… it should be pretty cool. I checked out Cat Sick Blues when it was on the other week, it is a good thing to do when you are a stuck at home, let the internet entertain you.”
As our discussion goes on we start to think back to the early days of when SheBorg Massacre was still in its infancy. “That is going back to far,” he says laughing again. “I think we shot in 2015 so I probably would have written it back in early 2014. What I remember is coming up with a title – originally it was called SheBorg Prison Massacre. I thought ‘that is the best name for a film, I should write that.’ So I remember writing that and then we couldn’t find a prison or something that looked like a prison to shoot in, but we did know a guy that had a farm that looked like a puppy farm. They were actually old chicken coops but we thought it looked like a really dodgy puppy farm.”
“So then I changed the name to Sheborg Puppy Farm Massacre and then we dropped the Puppy Farm part because it offended too many people,” he says continuing. “Then it became SheBorg Massacre. But yeah it started with a title.”
Despite the film being made on a micro-budget the film does actually contain actual stunts. At one point a car is crashed into a tree and at another point actress Whitney Duff is left climbing on the side of a moving van. That led me to ask how Armstrong shot stunts like that while filming on such a low budget. “To drive into the tree we just had an insane person who was willing to drive a car into a tree,” he explains. “So we just did that for real, we actually drove the car into the tree. With the van stunt we actually got a stunt co-ordinator and we got him in for the day and Whitney is actually wired onto that car. She was talked to about how the best way to do it but otherwise the car is actually driving around with her hanging off the side and back of it. She has a harness connected to the back of the car somewhere so in theory she can’t fall off, and she didn’t fall off so I guess it all went well.”
One of the highlights of the film are the amazing performances of Whitney Duff and Daisy Masterman so I just had to ask Armstrong how he went about discovering both of them. “It is the chemistry between Whitney and Daisy that makes the film fun to watch,” admits Armstrong. “They become legitimately good friends during pre-production and that really shows. That energy really helps you enjoy the film.”
“Whitney just auditioned,” he says continuing. “I don’t know where she would have seen the casting call but she just auditioned and I wrote the part for Daisy. I had worked with Daisy on Murderdrome, she had a very, very small part in that but she was extremely funny and I thought we should put her in a bigger part. I always knew that she was going to be Eddie so Daisy came to all the auditions that people came to for the Dylan character which is the character that Whitney plays. Then we kind of just judged on which applicant had the best chemistry with Daisy on the spot.”
To finish up we let Daniel say something special for all of you out there who are going to tune into SheBorg Massacre tonight. “If you all enjoy the film as much as we did making it then we enjoyed making it twice as much as you,” he says. “Hopefully you just enjoy it, I think it is entertaining and I think it is fun. It obviously has its flaws but it does do some really cool stuff. I think it is just entertaining and fun to watch – it has a good heart.”
SheBorg Massacre screens tonight as part of Monster Picture’s Friday Night Frights series.
Summary: An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 10th October 2019
Thailand Cinema Release Date: 16th November 2019
Australian Home Entertainment Release Date: 22nd January 2020
Country: United States, China
Director: Ang Lee
Screenwriter: David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke
Cast: E.J. Bonilla (Marino), Justin James Boykin (Connor), Ralph Brown (Del Patterson), Marc Demeter (Agent Demeter), Christopher T. Elliott (John), Linda Emond (Janet Lassiter), Douglas Hodge (Jack Willis), Clive Owen (Clay Verris), Will Smith (Henry Brogan/Junior), Igor Szasz (Valery Dormov), Ilia Volok (Yuri Kovacs), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Danny Zakarewski), Benedict Wong (Baron)
Running Time: 117 mins
Classification: M (Australia) 15 (Thailand)
Dave Griffiths Review:
Know your limits! It is the kind of thing that would expect to say to a first time director who wants to bury themselves in an overly-ambitious cinematic project that is destined to fail. It is hardly the kind of thing that you would think a studio or producer would have to tell an experienced, Oscar winning director like Ang Lee.
As far as filmmaking goes Lee has always been someone that has never been afraid to push the envelope. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon saw him bring Asian cinema to the American mainstream, while Brokeback Mountain tackled taboo topics in such a way it once again showed why cinema plays an important part in opening up discussions in society. Then there was Life Of Pi – a film which used CGI in a way that no other director had ever dared to imagine.
Therefore it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise when it was announced that Lee’s new film Gemini Man would once again attempt to use cutting edge technology to bring its audience something new and fresh. The technology that Lee decided to use saw the film shot digitally at an extra-high frame rate of 120 frames per second and then modified to 3D. Lee thought the finished product would make audiences feel like they were standing right there amongst the action, instead what has been delivered is a film that is such a terrible cinematic experience it is on par with M. Night Shyamalan’s fall with grace when he helmed the ill-fated The Last Airbender.
When it comes to plot Gemini Man is made up of a story that action heroes like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger would have fallen over themselves to be involved with back in the 1990s. Will Smith plays Henry Brogan one of the Government’s top hitmen. After a hit becomes too close for comfort for Brogan he decides to retire but when he learns a painful secret about his career he suddenly finds another agent, Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is sent to kill him. Then after explaining to her that she is mistaken an even deadlier enemy arrives to finish off the job –a clone of Brogan’s younger self.
With a plot a lot like that you could easily imagine a film that could well deliver an intense exploration of a topic like cloning while delivering all the suspense of a big action blockbuster, sadly though Gemini Man just doesn’t deliver at all. First of all it looks bad. You may remember that this type of extra-high frame rate film technique failed miserable when it was trialled on The Lord Of The Rings franchise and here it does exactly the same thing for exactly the same reason. The problem is it leaves the image way too clear, that results in a sun-drenched look that you would normally see on a television soap like The Bold And The Beautiful. And while some may say that yes that does make the audience feel part of the action that crystal clear vision also means that the filmmaker can no longer ‘hide’ all the magic of cinema. Suddenly fake blood is identifiable as fake blood and as we see here a stunt-man filling in for Will Smith is forced to cover his face in an absolutely ludicrous way so the audience can’t tell that he isn’t Smith. Yes, for the motorcycle sequence you will be gasping in wonder but for the rest of the film you will be groaning with disappointment.
If the visual aspects of Gemini Man doesn’t have you groaning I can guarantee that some of the cheesy lines and woeful dialogue certainly will. There is a scene in this film between Danny, Brogan and the clone where the dialogue is so bad that you would swear that it had been lifted from some terrible family soap opera. Then there is the cheesy dialogue throughout the film that feels like the screenwriter was desperate to try and deliver a catch-phrase but fails miserable. Hearing Brogan declare that he is from Philadelphia as he gives his life story does for once get the audience to laugh, but for all the wrong reasons as they recall the lyrics that Smith sang during the title credits of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.
It is easy to see that what Ang Lee wanted to deliver with Gemini Man was an action film that went down in history for changing the face of cinema, what he has created though is a film so bad that it is likely to become a cult classic for the same reason The Room has become a must-see film – a film that shows young filmmakers how to make a film and has them laughing at the film from start to finish. Perhaps one day a filmmaker will take a look at something as serious as cloning in a way that can open up discussion for the audience but Gemini Man certainly isn’t that film. Like Ang Lee Will Smith rarely delivers a flop but somehow them working together has resulted in one of the worst films of the year.
Average Subculture Rating:
Other Subculture Entertainment Gemini Man Reviews:
Our Gemini Man review that appeared in ‘The Phuket News’ can be read at this link – https://www.thephuketnews.com/double-trouble-will-smith-meets-will-smith-in-sci-fi-flop-gemini-man-73603.php
Summary: Ray Garrison, an elite soldier who was killed in battle, is brought back to life by an advanced technology that gives him the ability of super human strength and fast healing. With his new abilities, he goes after the man who killed his wife, or at least, who he believes killed his wife. He soon comes to learn that not everything he learns can be trusted. The true question is: Can he even trust himself?
Australian Cinema Release Date: 1st March 2020
Thailand Cinema Release Date: TBA
Australian Home Entertainment Release Date: 7th April 2020
Country: United States, China
Director: Dave Wilson
Screenwriter: Jeff Wadlow, Eric Heisserer, Kevin VanHanhook (comic book), Bob Layton (comic book), Don Perlin (comic book)
Cast: Siddharth Dhananjay (Eric), Vin Diesel (Ray Garrison/Bloodshot), Eiza Gonzalez (KT), Alex Hernandez (Tibbs), Sam Heughan (Jimmy Dalton), Johannes Haukur Johannosson (Nick Baris), Toby Kebbell (Martin Axe), Lamorne Morris (Wilfred Wigans), Guy Pearce (Dr. Emil Harting), Talulah Riley (Gina Garrison)
Running Time: 109 mins
Classification: M (Australia) TBA (Thailand)
Dave Griffiths’ Bloodshot Review:
Actor Vin Diesel has become a super-star off the back of the Fast & Furious, XXX and Riddick franchises but over recent years he has rarely strayed from either, perhaps preferring to sticking to what he knows best. That is what makes Bloodshot such an interesting prospect. Arguably, one of the world’s biggest action stars rarely branching out to start something new, and something that from the look of the trailer looks interesting enough to take a chance on.
Based on the popular Valiant Comics series Bloodshot the film centres on Special Forces soldier Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel – The Fast & The Furious) who after returning from a mission is kidnapped and murdered alongside his wife, Gina Garrison (Talulah Riley – Inception).
He then wakes up in the laboratory of Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce – Memento) having being re-animated and turned into a super-soldier. While Harting marvels at his creation he quickly adds him to his team of super soldiers but while working with team leader Katie (Elza Gonzalez – Alita: Battle Angel) he suddenly has flashbacks and decides to seek revenge for what has happened. But what is real and what is a figment of his imagination… that is what he has to find out.
That is actually one of the joys of watching Bloodshot. The film has so many twists and turns that it is impossible to ever work out what is going to happen next. With a brilliant screenplay from Jeff Wadlow (Truth Or Dare) and Eric Heisserer (Arrival) the line between the truth and fiction and is often tested and the audience is left in the dark to what is really happening in just the same way the characters are. The result is a film that contains such a suspense element that it lifts the storyline well above what most films in the action genre can ever achieve.
When it comes to the action genre there is something uniquely intelligent about Bloodshot. The screenplay is suspenseful and thought-provoking while director Dave Wilson (Love, Death & Robots) is a smart enough director to actually keep the action to a level that actually makes the story seem more believable. The fact that Wilson is a first time director is almost unbelievable as he handles this film with the expertise of a seasoned director with the experience of Steven Spielberg. Wilson creates some pretty impressive action sequences, including a sequence in a tunnel that does more than show that he is a director with a big future ahead of him
The only side of the film that lets it down slightly is the fact that after the film delivers its big twist that turns everything on its head, which happens about halfway through the film; it feels like the film then loses its greatest source of suspense. From then on the film seems to become a simple good versus evil storyline that is purely kept interesting by the fact that by that time the audience have become invested in the characters – especially Ray and Katie.
Because of that we should thank goodness that this is one action film that has bothered to put some effort into characterisation, but that can’t be said for all the characters we find here. While the screenplay does give us a pretty good notion of who characters like Ray and Katie are it falls dangerously with the ‘villains’ who become one dimensional and very comic-book like – the kinds of characters that we have seen in films thousands of times in the past.
The result of that also sees up and down performances by the main actors as well. The biggest loser here is Guy Pearce whose talents seem to be completely wasted as he plays a characterless villain who would have been more at home in a video game. On the flipside my biggest fear going into this film was that I would not be able to not see Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto or Xander Cage. Luckily though, the characterisation that the screenplay allows for Ray the film does actually allow Vin Diesel the opportunity to test his acting chops while also delivering so awesome action sequences. He is also well supported by Eiza Gonzelez who grouped with her performances in Baby Driver and Alita: Battle Angel is showing Hollywood why she is one of the biggest stars on the rise.
There are some things that sadly let down Bloodshot but there is more than enough to make this the perfect film to sat down and watch when you just don’t want to think. So engrossing is the storyline that it does feel like you are watching a television pilot that wants to draw you more into its universe. At the end of the day Bloodshot is well worth watching if you are looking for a good action film to lose yourself in.
Kyle McGrath’s Bloodshot Review:
Average Subculture Rating:
Our Bloodshot review that appeared in ‘The Phuket News’ can be read at this link – https://www.thephuketnews.com/vin-diesel-runs-deep-in-bloodshot-75674.php
One of the films that was most impacted by the Covid-19 closure of cinemas worldwide has been the new action thriller Bloodshot. The film was expected to be one of the biggest earners at the box office in 2020 but when the cinemas closed only days after it opened its earning were severely impacted to the point that the film didn’t even make back its budget.
It is a shame really as the well-plotted action flick starred cult hero Vin Diesel alongside star-on-the-rise Elza Gonzalez. Bloodshot though wasn’t just a film made for what it could potentially earn at the box office, this is a film that came about because of the passion of the team behind it – a passion that seemed to stem from its producer and leaning man Vin Diesel. The passionate gamer and comic book fan is a symbol of passion as he talks about a role that he seemed to be born to play.
“Bloodshot is the central character of the Valiant Comic universe,” he explains as he sits forward in his chair with the excitement of a child talking about Christmas. “He is a character who was formerly a soldier that is enhanced through technology and he is manipulated to become a corporate assassin. The idea though was to honour the spirit of Valiant comic books and Valiant were renegades in their day. They were developing super-heroes who were flawed in a more relatable way. So the idea of making a Bloodshot movie, and this sounds really crazy, but we were trying to create a different spin on the superhero narrative and we really wanted to attack these themes like post-traumatic stress disorder and we wanted to imagine how that plays with our concept of a superhero.”
“I went to see Dave Wilson and I took my son who was eight years old at the time,” explains Diesel as he talks about why he took on the role in the first place. “After Dave had shown us the whole project my son turned to me and said ‘Daddy you are Bloodshot.’”
As a film Bloodshot goes a lot deeper than most action films. Sure it would have been easy for director Dave Wilson to have just let the film become another epic beat-em-up with explosions galore, but here he takes the audience deeper into the world of a character who is extremely scarred from the events that he perceives has happened in his life… including the murder of his wife right in front of him.
The fact that Diesel gets to play with those emotions as he creates the character of Bloodshot means that the character itself ends up very different to many of the super-hero that these days grace our cinema screens. “What makes Bloodshot unique and different to other super-heroes is that there is always that questions of whether or not he is even a super-hero,” explains Diesel as he delves deeper into the character he portrays. “That is what is really compelling here, because he is not waking up and wanting to save the world; his agenda is not to save the planet. When you really get into the story you realise that his aim is to try and stop the insanity that is being induced on him. He is fighting for clarity, and that makes him a really unique kind of protagonist. That is what makes this so unique because it is not your really traditional super-hero movie. I think that was really the intent… in fact I know that was the intent as we started to delve into the Valiant cinematic universe.”
With one of the world’s biggest action heroes in the lead role and a film that has been designed to take its audience on an emotional journey rather than just shock and awe them with spectacular visuals Diesel says he can promise all his fans out there that they are in for something really special. “This is a movie that plays to a wider audience because it deals with real issues,” says Diesel nodding as he thinks about the question. “The idea of the forgotten soldier is something that we are all invested in, but I think it is so dynamic and I think it is a clever movie. I remember Guy Pierce saying at one of our cast rehearsals that he was glad that he had done Momento before he had done this movie because this movie was such a mind twist and to be honest I don’t get to make a lot of movies that have that kind of mind twist like a film like Momento has, so I think people will really enjoy the movie.”
As a film Bloodshot really does live up to the expectations that Diesel has for it so if you are a fan of good quality action that has the ability to take its audience on an emotional journey than this is one film that certainly won’t disappoint.
Bloodshot is available on various streaming platforms right now.