If your response to the headline above was “hang on, there’s ten?” the short answer is yes. The long answer: after even a cursory glance at the 2014 line-up, there’s little doubt this year will be a bumper one for Australian cinema. A bounty of exciting films are set to premiere over the next twelve months, directed by some of the best names in the local scene.
The last vintage year for the Aussie film industry was 2009, when audiences were treated to a surfeit of quality titles such as Samson and Delilah, Mary and Max, Balibo, My Year Without Sex, Cedar Boys, Bright Star and Disgrace. This year’s batch will be darker. Below are ten water cooler features that will get people talking and, with any luck, get bums on seats. Many of them are genre films. All have serious talent behind them.
With a great script, great cast, great reviews and an Oscar nomination for our own Jacki Weaver, film journalist-cum-director David Michod’s 2010 feature debut Animal Kingdom plonked his name firmly on the list of filmmakers to keep your eyes on. Billed as “a dirty and dangerous near-future Western,” The Rover (pictured above, based on a story by Michod and Joel Edgerton) stars Guy Pearce and a bloodied looking Robert “Twilight” Pattinson, playing a man searching for a stolen car and an important object inside it.
These Final Hours
Director Zak Hilditch’s sun-kissed apocalyptic drama turned heads at last year’s Melbourne International Film Festival. It wowed audiences, secured theatrical distribution and won The Age Critics’ award for best Australian feature. Like a cross between Walking Dead, The Book of Eli and On the Beach, Nathan Phillips leads the cast as a young man who visits a party held on the last day on Earth.
Wolf Creek 2
Irrespective of the quality of the film, there is already one disappointing thing about Greg McLean’s follow-up to his grisly 2004 cult classic: the amount of time it took to get made. Unlike Hollywood, the Australian film industry isn’t able to respond to audience trends in time to capitalise on them. By the time local productions have been written, financed, shot, edited and released, mainstream audiences have generally moved onto the next flavour of the month. We are capable of making sequels to hits — and a genre pic such as Wolf Creek is perfect grist for the mill. John Jarratt (who spent weeks without showering to prepare for the original) reprises his iconic performance as Mick Taylor, loosely modeled on real-life serial killer Ivan Milat.
Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson and Melissa George, Felony scored instant street cred after premiering at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Written by Edgerton, the story concerns a police cover-up involving a respected officer involved in a car accident with a cyclist. Felony was directed by Matthew Saville, a veteran of Australian television whose credits include We Can Be Heroes, The Secret Life of Us and The Slap. Saville has made a feature film before: 2007’s terrific police murder mystery Noise, in which Brendan Cowell plays a cop suffering from tinnitus.
Kill Me Three Times
Genre-hopping director Kriv Stenders continues to surprise, following his enormously successful 2011 family film Red Dog with the somewhat darker sounding Kill Me Three Times. Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End star Simon Pegg leads the cast as a hitman assigned to murder a young musician in the surfing town of Eagle’s Nest. Not much about the film is known other than Pegg’s new killer moustache.
The trailer for Tracks reveals a lot of Mia Wasikowska, a lot of walking and a lot of Australian desert. The film is based on an internationally bestselling memoir by Robyn Davidson, who undertook a 1700 mile camel-back trek across Australia. Last year Tracks played at festivals in Venice, Adelaide, London, Vancouver, Dubai and Dublin.
In 1998 Craig Monahan launched his career as a feature filmmaker with The Interview, a tight, twitchy and deeply engrossing thriller starring E-Street’s Tony Martin as a hardened cop and Hugo Weaving as a suspected murderer. It was an unforgettable debut, at least for the few people who saw it. The Interview was criminally under-watched and under-appreciated, presumably the reason Monahan made only one other film (2005’s Peaches) in the next 15 years. Starring Weaving and Xavier Samuel, Healing is about the relationship between a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a convicted criminal. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. It could work.
The trailer looks expensive, gothic and action packed. Tomorrow When the War Began director Stuart Beattie’s riff on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein legend is an Australian/USA co-production. Aaron Eckhart stars as Adam, Frankenstein’s monster. The trailer suggests he is roaming the earth looking for things to fight and windows to hurl himself through. Oh, and it’s got Bill Nighy in it.
Identical twins Michael and Peter Spierig kicked off their career with 2003′s zombie comedy Undead, crafting a high-powered genre film out of a minuscule budget. Hollywood noticed and got on board with 2009′s Daybreakers, an innovative twist on vampire movies starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe. Hawke reunites with the Spierig brothers in Predestination, playing a time-travelling government agent. Get excited.
Son of a Gun
Adding even more Hollywood muscle to Australian cinema’s 2014 line-up, Ewan McGregor stars in the first feature from writer/director Julius Avery — a crime thriller about a gold heist that goes wrong. Avery’s 2008 short Jerrycan won a jury prize at Cannes and best short at the AFI and Berlin Film Festival.