Now, longtime readers of this space know that I haven't always been easy on the local Australian population (they haven't always been easy on me either, as a waiter or a citizen), but I'm a longtime fan of the Australian film industry. Rabbit-Proof Fence, Dead Calm, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Mad Max — there are shitloads of awesome, creative and engaging Aussie films out there and just as many incredible Aussie actresses. The problem is Hollywood needs to hire more of them to play the new Australian characters that are popping up.
To be fair, that show Love on Netflix did hire Aussie comedian Claudia O'Doherty (her accent seems Hollywood-ized though), but the same can't be said for Rough Night, opening Friday at the Village 8.
Essentially a mash-up of Weekend at Bernies', The Hangover and Very Bad Things, but with women, Rough Night stars Scarlett Johansson as the alpha-female of a group of college friends who reunite a decade later for a staggette in Miami. The cast is excellent and the humour looks raw enough, but Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, SNL) stars as "Pippa," a hard-drinking Aussie cliché whose sole purpose is to poke fun at North American culture.
This is fine, except Kate is from New York, and while her Aussie accent actually seems better than the real Aussie chick in Love, it's still not very ripper. I'm probably the only person complaining about this, however. If it had been a white chick playing any person of colour, the Internet would have shit bricks, but "Aussie" is a culture, not a race, so apparently no one really cares. Still, though, it would have been nice to see a real Aussie like Naomi Watts, Isla Fisher or Margot Robbie elevate this character without having to use their acting to sound legit.
I haven't seen Rough Night yet but, lack of legitimate Aussie-dom aside, it looks worth checking out. The director (and co-writer) is Lucia Aniello, who once helmed a TV show called Time Traveling Bong, so she is likely more than capable of handling this one. Even with Wonder Woman's recent box-office domination, it's still important to support films made by and for women. Plus, the only other new flicks this week are for kids.
Cars 3 is a digitally animated cartoon about the old guard not giving over to the technologically advanced new generation... but shouldn't they have went with hand-drawn animation then? In any case, this installment sees Lightning McQueen back in the good old USA focusing on what matters most — 10 zillion lefthand turns around a track. It's a mid-life-crisis, old-dog-comeback film that's as much Rocky Balboa as Days of Thunder, but kudos to Pixar/Disney for opting out of a love-interest subplot with the new female trainer car.
Personally, I liked the gonzo/enviro/espionage story behind Cars 2, but that one ground a lot of people's gears. This is a return to form for this time-tested toy advertisement franchise.
The Download/Stream of the Week is The Girl With All the Gifts, an English-made zombie flick that brings a new idea to the shambling undead genre.
In an infected world desperately seeking a "cure" for a viral fungus that turns people into "Hungries," Gemma Arterton (Byzantium) stars as a teacher in charge of a classroom of children born with the virus who manage to keep their humanity, so long as they can't smell fresh flesh nearby. Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction) steps in as the obsessed scientist sacrificing the kids in her quest for a vaccine, and excellent newcomer Siennie Nanua is the titular girl who straddles the line of the living and the dead, and offers either hope or doom for humanity after the last defences fall.
The Girl With All The Gifts is not perfect (the camerawork is a bit too video game-y) but it is based on a (really good) book by M.R. Carey, so solid plot and conflict are built into the story. Arterton's character is a bit light compared to the literary version, and the filmmakers could have examined how we act when society crumbles a bit more, but give them full props for genre-suiting gore, a scientifically plausible premise, and for having the balls to embrace the kind of ending that so many Hollywood sci-fi and horror films refuse to consider.