Australian Movies and New Zealand Movies
Films from Australia and New Zealand
This article recommends Australian movies and New Zealand films. But it focuses in particular on unusual and weird moves from Australian and/or New Zealand. (That is the theme of the site, after all.)
Children of the Revolution
Judy Davis is great as Joan Fraser, the ultimate leftist whose affair with Joe Stalin is the death of the old autocrat. When she returns to Australia and marries one of her old communist chums (played by Geoffrey Rush), she is already pregnant with Stalin's child. Little Joe grows up unsure who his real dad is until the resemblance becomes obvious to all. Sam Neil is pretty good as the double agent, and F. Murray Abraham does a plausible and funny Stalin. Directed by Peter Duncan. 1996. Rated R. 101 minutes.
Kiss or Kill
Nikki (Frances O'Connor) and Al (Matt Day) have this con going where she seduces businessmen, drugs them, and then robs them. It's working pretty well until one of their victims turns up on the 11 o'clock news as a corpse. To complicate matters, they've stolen a blackmailer's video off the guy, and they're stupid enough to try and cash it in. Now they have the cops and the blackmail victim, Zipper Doyle, on their tails. And corpses are piling up in the outback. Kiss or Kill is written and directed by Bill Bennett. Rated R. 1997. 97 minutes.
Australian skin heads stomp Asian immigrants and kill a few for sport. Russell Crow is Hundo, a leader of these Aussie Nazis, and he sure is proud of his white heritage. He and his gang are miffed that their local watering hole has been sold to a Vietnamese businessman. They trash the place, but in the end the newcomers send them packing. It's all very sad, but it's fun to see Crowe at the start of his career. Romper Stomper is written and directed by Geoffrey Wright.
Director Mark Joffe employs a terrific cast in Cosi, a comedy about a theatrical production at an asylum. Lewis gets the job as the director and is in way over his head. He enlists his best friend to try to bring a little theater experience, as he has none. His cast are all characters in their own right, including Barry Otto as Roy, an indomitable thespian who wants them to enact Cosi Fan Tutti. The only problems are that no one speaks Italian, and no one can sing. It was meant to be a stop gap job for Lewis but the infectious enthusiasm of his cast draws him in. His girlfriend, Lucy (Rachel Griffith from Six Feet Under) is an un-supportive law student. Art replicates life as Lewis' friend bets him that Lucy is fooling around. The production is great. Look for Toni Collette from Muriel's Wedding as Julie, the voluntary patient. Rated R. 100 minutes. Australian. 1998.
Welcome to Woop Woop
Director Stephen Elliot, who made Priscilla Queen of the Desert put together an unusual cast for Welcome to Woop Woop, another odd Outback film. Teddy, (Johnathon Scheach) is on the lam after his girlfriend shot two mob enforcers. He goes to Australia because he likes cockatoos, and soon he's mixed up with the randy young Angie. They enjoy each other immensely until she pumps him full of Thorazine and marries his drugged shell. He wakes up in a pig sty and finds that he is stuck in a truly unusual outback town. Kind of an Australian hybrid of John Waters and The Twilight Zone. Angie's Father is played by Rod Taylor (his bio says he was in The Birds) who seems inordinately interested in his daughter's sex life. You may never visit Australia if you believe 10% of what goes on here. Stephen Elliot claims he had a hard time getting funding after this one came out. 1997. Rated R. 97 minutes. Australian.
Picnic At Hanging Rock
This 1975 Peter Weir film has an unusual feel to it that was a good indication of his directing ability. A class outing in Australia gets lost during a turn of the century outing at a place called Hanging Rock. If you haven't seen it, try the library, they'll surely have a copy. Thanks to Matt Kenneke who graciously reminded of of this Aussie classic. 1975. 108 minutes. Rated PG.
The Last Wave
More essential viewing for Peter Weir fans. Recommended by Matt Kenneke who says, "The Last Wave is eerie and entertaining, plus it has the omnipresent David Gumpilil."
An attorney takes a pro bono case defending an aborigine on trial for murder. He gets enmeshed in wild dreams that imply he has little understanding of this mystical culture that surrounds him. 1977. 110 minutes. Rated PG.
The Kerrigan family is a strange bunch, and although they are far from dysfunctional, none of them are playing with a full deck. Perhaps it's the hazardous waste buried in their yard, or maybe it's the radar from the adjacent airport that makes them so dim. Things at chez Kerrigan were going along fine until the local council forecloses on the Kerrigan estate to make way for a new runway. Dad Kerrigan reckons a man's home is his inviolable castle and has no idea where they get off. A battle ensues. Ignore the happy ending and watch it for Aussie and anti-lawyer humor/humour. Directed by Rob Sitch, this might be construed as an Australian version of The Stupids. 84 Minutes. Rated R. 1998.
Christina Andreef directs Soft Fruit, a complex story of a family of weight conscious sisters and their criminal little brother who all come home to watch mom die. Mom is obsessed with Jackie O, and her husband is a Russian émigré to Australia who shoots crows out the kitchen window. There are enough strong characters in Soft Fruit to fill out three films, and this is one peach of a family. There's a great scene when the kids take mom to the beach and they all share her morphine on the drive home. Don't pass this by because you hate depressing movies; it's quite funny. Rated PG13. 90 minutes. Australian.
Where the Green Ants Dream
Werner Herzog's first all English movie is about aborigines vs. the mining companies in the outback. Bruce Spence (from Road Warriors) is a geologist who changes sides as he listens to the locals. In typical Herzog style there are a few preposterous scenes and large pieces of machinery, but this is probably his most coherent film to date. Too bad. 1985. 99 minutes. Rated R.
The true story of two teenage girls whose obsessive imaginary world lead them to plot and carry out a grisly murder in 1952 New Zealand. Kate Winslet's portrayal is tolerable as a rich socialite used to getting her own way. Her character is interesting for approximately five minutes, when the two school chums indulge in fantasy and lesbianism in the same evening. Based on the journals by one of the girls and interviews with former classmates. Recommended and reviewed by Kim Danbert. Directed by the talented Peter Jackson. 1994. 100 minutes. Rated R.
The burgeoning New Zealand film industry has given us a new twist on cross-cultural love stories. A transplanted Croatian beauty, Nina (Aleksandra Vujcic), forms a romantic alliance with a Maori , Eddy, (Julian Arahanga) against the strong wishes of her old world father ( Rade Serbedzua). It smacks a little of a quirky Montague/Capulet plot I once read, but hey, how many Kiwi films have you seen? Skip the Blockbuster "R" version and go for the NC-17 cut if you can find it. What good is a love story without the steam? 1997. Tristar. 92 minutes.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Three drag queens in a bus speeding across the deserts of central Australia. Directed by Stephan Eliott and stolen by Hollywood for To Wang Foo.100 minutes. Rated R. 1994.
Who would have guessed ballroom dancing could hold your interest for an hour and a half? Unlike most Hollywood dance team films, Strictly Ballroom is fun and interesting. 1992. Rated PG.
Martin doesn't trust anyone, so he takes photographs of just about everything. Because Martin is blind, he must then find someone to render an accurate description of his photos. I thought this one might end up on the perennial losers page, but, in fact, Martin has a great deal of pluck. Well written, well acted, and worthy of your time. 1992. New Line. 90 minutes.
Rikky and Pete
An Australian brother, Pete, (Stephen Kearny) and sister, Rikky, (Nina Landis) leave Melbourne in their mom's Bentley and make for the outback for a change in lifestyle. The basic story, with the domineering father, the understanding mother, and the rage against authority, have all been done before and done better. There are some highlights though, like really good dynamite scenes, and that gangly bad guy ( Bruce Spence) from Road Warriors is a drunken miner. Like all Australian movies, Rikky and Pete has a quotient of drunken scenes and car chases, one on foot. The gorgeous Tetchie Agbayani is Pete's girlfriend, and Pete's pretty handsome himself. 1988. Directed by Nadia Tass/David Parker. 103 minutes and rated R, but just barely.
You really don't have to feel sorry for Muriel even though you feel compelled to. She'll be all right if she can just get past all that bad music she keeps humming. Australian director/writer P.J.Hogan made this simple story into a twisted affair by sheer talent. 1994. Rated R. 100 minutes.
This Jane Campion story tells the tale of diametrically opposed twin sisters who live at odds. Kay falls in love and starts a life of her own, only to have her unhinged sister pop around and muck up the works. In fact, Sweetie has spent her whole life screwing around with her sister's and her parent's lives. Pretty soon Dad shows up, and he moves in too. Sweetie has few cares or inhibitions but many delusions, which may be rooted in early sexual abuse. 1989. 97 minutes.
Hang Your Dog In The Wind
I haven't seen this yet, but I'm looking forward to it. April 1998
Once Were Warriors
Once Were Warriors is Lee Tamahori's kick ass movie about life among the Maori underclass in New Zealand. A bit preachy, but a powerful tale, Once Were Warriors is the story of Jake Hake ( Temeyra Morrison), an abusive husband who is lost and disenfranchised from his tribal roots. He is also one ugly drunk. You may find a strong illusion of realism here, one that is craftily rammed home by the mostly Maori cast. Led by their powerful mother, Beth ( Rena Owens), the family eventually skips over dad and his generation, and the kids regain some strength as they learn their heritage. There is nothing even close to this film's portrayal of life near the bottom and the damage inflicted by Christian/European culture. Unbelievable tattoos. 1995. Rated R. 120 minutes.
So many people wrote in about Brain Dead that we could no longer ignore it. Director Peter Jackson put together this New Zealand spoof which would do George Romero proud. Lionel, played by Timothy Balme, is a hen pecked son of a Wellington socialite. He falls for Piquita, a Spanish grocery clerk played by Diana Penalver. He takes her to the zoo, where his mom gets bitten by a hairless rat monkey. Before long Mom is a zombie, and so is anyone she bites. Sound familiar ? Well, this one is over the top for blood, guts, gore and blood. It could make a morgue attendant gag. At one point Lionel takes an upturned power mower to a roomful of zombies complete with splat and squishing noises. A real zombie jamboree. 1992. Unrated.
Basic rule: If a movie has a junkyard in it, it has to be good. This film reminded me of Steelyard Blues with weird accents. Charlie Sinel highly recommends this one, and he has impeccable taste in movies.
Meet The Feebles
A number of people have written to suggest we review Meet the Feebles. Hubble J said, "I'm sure you've seen or at least heard of this twisted movie. and if you haven't, it's basically a look at Muppet-like creatures off camera. It has plenty of chemical use, sex, violence, gore, and is just plain weird, but above all it's hilarious. "
Someone stole the copy from my local video store which is also a good sign. Thanks also to RPMcMurphee, Jessica Curtwright, and everyone else who suggested this one.
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