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Entries in Low Budget (3)

Tuesday
Jun272017

FAGS IN THE FAST LANE

Stars: Chris Asimos, Matt Jones, Oliver Bell, Sasha Cuha, King Khan, Aimee Nichols, Puggsley Buzzard, Luke Clayson, Justine Jones, El Vez, The GoGo Goddesses and Kitten Natividad. Narrated by Tex Perkins.
Writers: Josh Sinbad Collins and Steven G Michael.
Director: Josh Sinbad Collins.

WORLD PREMIERE: June 27 at The Astor Theatre, St Kilda.

Rating: 4/5

Primed to fearlessly thrust its phallic fixation into the faces of wildly enthusiastic midnight-movie crowds the world over, Fags in The Fast Lane is a terrifically tawdry, gloriously distasteful celebration of giggly homoeroticism and punkish shock tactics. That it also works well as a bold statement in favour of personal expression and acceptance feels like an added bonus, given its main aim is clearly to entertain and disgust, usually in that order.

Although it defies categorization at every turn, the DNA of director Josh Sinbad Collins’ comedy/musical/splatter/soft-core romp would include the cult classic Flesh Gordon and the lo-fi genius of Mike and George Kuchar. Collins has drawn upon edgy pop culture influences (the ‘Sin City’-inspired opening, for example) to craft a super-hero/revenge narrative about a goofy he-man vigilante named Sir Beauregard, aka The Cockslinger, played by Chris Asimos. The actor is the perfect central figure to bring Collins’ frantic vision to life, his appearance not unlike a muscle-bound Sacha Baron Cohen (comic timing intact).

With a trusty ensemble that includes sidekick Reginald Lumpton (the imposing Matt Jones), converted homophobe Squirt (Oliver Bell) and Persian princess, Salome (lithesome beauty Sasha Cuha), Beau sets off after the ‘Grotesque Burlesque’ troupe The Chompers, led by Wanda the Giantess (Aimee Nichols), whose raid upon the GILF Pleasure Palace has snared them the priceless jewels of madam and Beau’s mother, Kitten (legendary B-queen, Kitten Natividad, in her heyday the muse of sleaze maestro Russ Meyer).

The quest allows for the bawdy band to visit the Bollywood-themed den of iniquity, The Bang Galore, where they meet the distraught Hijra (Indian rock legend King Khan), who joins the gang hoping to recover his stolen Golden Cock, a metallic dildo with supernatural powers. The journey takes them via a swamp, populated by penile-shaped flora and fauna, and the Thunderdome-like ‘Freaky Town’, where The Cockslinger’s gang and The Chompers finally face off.

Collins brings a dazzling sense of invention to the design work on the Fags in The Fast Lane, employing everything from handcrafted puppetry and miniature work to slick animation and desktop effects enhancement. The production matches the OTT enthusiasm of the acting troupe with set dressing and costuming (courtesy of the director’s partner, Barbara ‘Blaze’ Collins) that references tiki culture, Aztec influences, drag queen excess and good ol’ B-movie cheese’n’sleaze.

The all-or-nothing energy of Fags in The Fast Lane is no surprise given the crew list features some of Melbourne underground cinema’s high-profile names, amongst them DOP Stu Simpson (director of El Monstro Del Mar and Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla); script editor Lee Gambin (author and head of the popular Cinemaniacs collective); and, actor Glenn Maynard (…Vanilla; Mondo Yakuza). The shoot also represents a fitting farewell for Collins’ now-shuttered nightclub The LuWOW, which served as an ideal backdrop for several of the scripts vividly imagined settings.

Certain to become a must-own for student digs across Australia is a soundtrack that includes The Mummies, Hot Wings, Sugar Fed Leopards and The Seven Ups; music cred is upped even further with the involvement of TheCruel Sea frontman Tex Perkins, who narrates The Cockslinger’s journey.

Thursday
Feb092017

ROUGH STUFF

Stars: Gareth Rickards, Vincent Andriano, Sam Glissan, Hayley Sullivan, Katie Garfield, Jamie Kristian, Adam Horner, Bobby Babin and Ernie Dingo.
Writer/Director: Jonathan Adams

Rating: 3.5/5

A raucous, rambling off-road romp that plays unashamedly broad and loud, director Jonathan Adams makes up for a complete disregard for subtlety by delivering a ballsy, sweary celebration of all things alpha-Aussie in his debut effort, the appropriately titled Rough Stuff. Both soft-hearted and tough-as-nails, the ladish adventure so adores its depiction of the ‘Australian Male’, it may stir patriotic yearnings for the rugged bushman of local cinematic lore and emerge as a box office bloke-buster.

From the film’s first images – a kookaburra, a thorny lizard, a vast dusty expanse about to be ravaged by a wild 4WD ‘bush bash’ – Adams and his DOP Jack Crombie make no bones about the sort of tale they are going to tell. Nor do they flinch in referencing influences from our century-old silver screen history. Intentional or otherwise, nods can be found to everything from Crocodile Dundee and Wolf Creek to The Chain Reaction and Ground Zero in Adams’ patchwork plotting, suggesting Rough Stuff is as much a homage to our film heritage as it is a love letter to the land.

Towering over the film in a performance as big as Australia itself is leading man Gareth Rickards, a barrel-chested and naturally gifted screen presence who recalls the square-jawed appeal of past Antipodean 'real men' like Andrew Clarke and Errol Flynn. Rickards plays ‘Buzz’, a contemporary incarnation of colonial bush-lifers known as ‘Rovers’, a man who has dedicated his life to searching for a mythical deposit called Stray’s Gold, his best mate Abe (Vincent Adriano) by his side. When an eco-activist documentary crew entice Buzz and Abe (alongside Sam Glissan’s trusty mechanic Scraps) to guide them through treacherous bushland with a map to the legendary mother lode, the duo reluctantly sign on.

Villains in blue-collar adventures such as Rough Stuff can be spotted a bush mile away. Pony-tailed, clean-shaven vegan Eric (Jamie Kristian) and snooty offsider Tom (Adam Horner) have ulterior motives which have little to do with a gold strike; they have coerced an out-of-her-depth Tori (a particularly fine Hayley Sullivan) to tag along and teach her mining magnate father Daniel Madsen (Bob Babin) a lesson in green terrorism. Not in on the ruse, spunky documentarian Skye (Katie Garfield) finds herself caught up in the increasingly dangerous events.

Adams’ deftly sets up a strong set of principal characters, exhibiting natural skills as a storyteller, before a cumbersome third act stalls the momentum. Throw in a mysterious, menacing vigilante figure called ‘The Ranger’ who appears intermittently and it becomes increasingly evident that not all story strands and character arcs are going to gel. International territories beckon, given the flavoursome Aussie imagery and Rickards’ broad-shouldered He-man hero, though sales agents are likely to demand some judicious trimming of the 119 minute running time.

Shortcomings aside, Rough Stuff proves an always engaging, rousing tale that celebrates the spirit of our bush folk without a hint of irony. It is not a film for the ‘cultural cringe’ crowd, that elitist niche who resent any depiction of our population as descendants of rough’n’tumble rural folk. But nor is it meant for them. In one of the most impressive calling card pics in recent memory, Jonathan Adams has rediscovered and contemporised the charms of a terrific bush yarn.

Sunday
Sep112016

THIS PAPIER MACHE BOULDER IS ACTUALLY REALLY HEAVY

Stars: Christian Nicolson, Sez Niederer, Daniel Pujol, Lewis Roscoe, Joseph Wycoff, Tansy Hayden and Jarred Tito.
Writers: Andrew Beszant and Christian Nicolson.
Director: Christian Nicolson.

Rating: 3/5

Playing sweet and silly while keeping irony in check is one of the many endearing traits of multi-hyphenate Christian Nicolson’s fan-boy movie-gasm, This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy. The Auckland-based writer-director’s passion project is roughhewn but undeniably crowdpleasing, deriving some big laughs from a barrage of references that draw upon the two great periods of popular science fiction entertainment –the B-movie cheapies of the 1950s and the post-Star Wars boom of the 1980s.

Working with co-scripter Andrew Beszant and exhibiting an unwavering commitment to improvised energy, the premise stems from Nicolson’s deep understanding and clear affection for such properties as Blakes 7, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Red Dwarf and Star Trek (whose fan base are already nodding knowingly at the title); large dollops of comedic inspiration come from the likes of Monty Python, the Simon Pegg series Spaced and, in one nutty nod, The Benny Hill Show. Low- to no-budget constraints clearly posed zero concern for the cast and crew, who commit to their director’s enthusiastically loopy vision regardless of wobbly sets, home-stitched costuming and paddocks-as-planets location shoots.

Nicholson stars as Tom, the almost-cool one in a mismatched trio alongside schlubby eye-roller Gavin (Lewis Roscoe) and sci-fi geek Jeffery (Daniel Pujol). Reluctantly roped into a day at the mini-con ‘Quest Fest’, they are drawn to a screening of the schlocky space-opera, Space Warriors in Space. With barely a paragraph of cumbersome exposition, the three are zapped into the film, where Jeffery morphs into the fictitious Captain Kasimir, the trio put offside the evil galactic battle lord Froth (Joseph Wycoff, very funny) and Tom fosters affections for the feisty heroine Emmanor (Sez Niederer). Developments involving giant lizards, leery bikini-clad Amazons, a muppet and tribesmen with a Groot-like economy for words add to the overall air of free-for-all lunacy.

The meta-friendly ‘trapped-in-a-movie’ device allows for lots of knowing satire, utilisation of well-worn tropes and examination of the fan-to-film dynamic. Unlike the melancholy romanticism of Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo or smart social commentary of Gary Ross’ Pleasantville, Nicolson uses the structure to play for broad laughs, as Peter Hyams did in the 1992 cult item Stay Tuned, which saw John Ritter and Pam Dawber cast into a cable TV nightmare. The other clear inspiration is Dean Parisot’s 1999 hit Galaxy Quest; less obviously, due to it barely having seen a release outside of the UK, is Alan Donohoe’s Star Wars fan-pic, I Have a Bad Feeling About This, which recounts the odyssey of two Lucas-obsessed lads determined to catch a screening of the original trilogy.

In hindsight, Nicolson may have handed his post-production hyphen over to a fresh pair of eyes; at 112 minutes, the whimsy is not always maintained and the film could do with a tight trim. But one can’t begrudge Nicolson and his cast and crew the urge to put all they shot on-screen for all to see; the sense that every set-up was forged with passion and persistence imbues this giggly, goofy and genuinely likable genre farce.

This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy begins an exclusive New Zealand screening season on September 14 in Auckland. Full screening and ticketing information on the film’s official website.