Monthly Archives: June 2012

Last Ride Opens in US to Rave Reviews; Now Available On Demand

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

Hugo Weaving’s 2009 film Last Ride (directed by Glendyn Ivin) has heretofore been one of his great unsung projects, beloved by fans lucky enough to have seen it (or who own the Australian or German DVD releases) but mostly unknown to the general public. Hugo himself has called the film one of his recent favorites and has openly lamented the fact that even in Australia it was so little-seen. That might be about to change, at least a little. Though Last Ride will never have a Matrix or LOTR-sized media blitz associated with it, it is finally being released in the US and, more crucially, is attracting four-star reviews from influential film critics and positive word of mouth. So far the film is only booked in two cinemas– it opened at Chicago’s Music Box Theater today and will open in New York at Cinema Village on July 6. There’s also a rumored Los Angeles run (though I could find no listing for one yet) and the film might find its way into additional arthouses over the course of the summer.

Hugo Weaving and Tom Russell in Last Ride

But it will probably find most of its audience through a DVD release and Video on Demand: you can now watch the film via iTunes, Amazon or Vudu. Music Box Films‘ webpage for Last Ride will hook you up (and you can still enter your zip code demanding a local cinema engagement.) 😉  Alas, no specifics on the Region 1 DVD/BluRay as yet; Netflix allows you to Saved Queue the film until they become available.

I was heartened by the film’s enthusiastic response from American film critics: I’ll print a selection of quotes below with links to the full reviews. As it turns out, several widely-distributed film critics work for Chicago-based papers. 😉

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: “The film is astonishing in its visual beauty; cinematographer Greig Fraser finds nobility in this arduous journey. As Kev, the veteran actor Weaving gives the performance of lifetime. You may recall him as Elrond in The Lord of The Rings  films. Here he plays a man who never tries to be nice, never tries to be cruel, only responds to his nature. He is down to his desperate final resources and clings to the conviction that somehow he and the boy will find a place where he can be a father….Tom Russell was a 10-year-old Adelaide schoolboy when he made “Last Ride,” his feature film debut. I have run out of words to account for young actors. Untrained, they seem able to reach an instinctive core of natural truth. Russell is in almost every scene, as authoritative as the adult actors. …For director Glendyn Ivin, this is also a debut feature, although he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for a short subject. Remarkable, how he begins with materials that could have given themselves so easily to a road movie formula, and finds such truth and beauty. He knows so surely where he’s going that he arrives at a perfect final shot, that tells us what we need to know about Chook.” Four Stars

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “It’s a chronicle of heartbreak tempered by weird wrinkles of affection: As this pair (“We’re Butch and Sundance,” Weaving mutters) keeps one step ahead of the law, starvation and their own creeping sense of hopelessness, director Glendyn Ivin manages an effective interweave of flashbacks and present-moment tension….[It] certainly stays with you.”

Sam Adams, Time Out Chicago: “Kev loves the boy, but the violence of his own upbringing is never far beneath the surface, and he seems unable to distinguish the line between rambunctious play and outright abuse. As they’re out camping one day, the man throws his son, who can’t swim, into a nearby pond, and laughs as he flails and screams. It’s a tribute to the complexity of Weaving’s performance that the moment is both resonant and irreducible, a thorny fusion of paternalistic sadism and good-natured push-out-of-the-nest encouragement; even he doesn’t seem to know which. Ivin pilots the pair through a series of bleakly beautiful landscapes, including the mirrorlike expanse of inch-deep Lake Gairdner.” Four Stars

Allison Willmore The AV Club: “Against stunning South Australian landscapes, the man and his son try to maintain a tenuous normality in spite of their dire situation, in what’s ultimately a sad, standout showcase for Weaving’s talents as a man whose good intentions can’t fix the fact that irreparable mistakes have already been made…. In spite of that sense of knowing where the film is headed long before it gets there, Last Ride finds poetry in its gorgeous backdrop and its portrait of a complicated character attempting, hopelessly, to set things right after upending the world.”

Brian Orndorf, “Hugo Weaving and Tom Russell spend the run time working to disturb with their unpredictable performances, capturing an uneasy and abusive familial relationship with a natural chemistry, guided patiently by director Glendyn Ivin…The atmosphere of “Last Ride” is skillfully rendered by Ivin, who weaves a sense of history to the trail as Kev shares his childhood memories of their stops, with flashes of fathering managing to shine through a seemingly devious man….With much of the film devoted to the interaction between Kev and Chook, “Last Ride” turns to Weaving and Russell for much of its dramatic insight. The performances are marvelous, expressing an enormous reservoir of suspicion and grief without bleeding into melodrama, preferring to expose naked emotion through looks instead of fidgety gestures. It’s easy to understand the men and their concerns, even with a story that takes its time arriving at revelations and conclusions. The pair holds “Last Ride” together with a questioning, irritable dynamic, forcing the audience to pay attention to the minutiae of their conduct, which often communicates more about the situation than simple storytelling mechanics.”

Steve Prokopy, Ain’t It Cool News: “”LAST RIDE is a measured work whose sole propulsive element is a savage performance by Weaving, whose character wants so desperately to be a good father that he allows his son to essentially take over and make the decisions for them even if it means him getting captured (obviously, that’s not his first choice). Weaving is so invested in this man’s struggle that you simply can’t take his eyes off him, and you’re in a constant state of anxiety about what’s going to happen to and between them. LAST RIDE is a film loaded with tension, even at moments I don’t think it’s meant to be there. Weaving just drags it along with him wherever he goes, and it elevates the film beyond simply telling a story to a place where every scene is fraught with emotional weight….And I haven’t even mentioned how unconventionally gorgeous the movie looks…”

Hugo is already deeply immersed in his next project, Mystery Road: according to The Daily Telegraph he’s already appeared on the film’s Queensland set along with costars Ryan Kwanten and Aaron Pedersen. No word on how he’s juggling the film with rehearsals for the New York engagement of Uncle Vanya, which begins July 19… but Hugo’s multitasked on larger projects (he shot Lord of the Rings and the Matrix sequels during the same period).  These two might just be closer to his heart.

Hugo was last photographed at the Sydney Film Festival last month, in this case at the June 16 premiere of the film Dead Europe, which features his former costars Marton Csokas and Ewen Leslie. So here’s that glimpse to tide us over until the Vanya press onslaught. 😉

Photo by Nicky Akehurst, Sydney Film Festival’s Facebook page

THIS JUST IN: A teaser poster for Cloud Atlas, courtesy Circle of Confusion:


Hugo Weaving cast in Australian Thriller Mystery Road

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

When Hugo Weaving sat for an extensive interview with journalist Elissa Blake a couple of months ago, he hinted that, along with a reprisal of Uncle Vanya (at New York’s Lincoln Center in a month) and another theatrical production for STC’s 2013 season (which we’ve since learned is probably Waiting For Godot, costarring Richard Roxburgh) he hoped to film an Australian indie film, but couldn’t divulge more.

Now we’re finally getting some details. The film is called Mystery Road, and it’s a Western-flavored police procedural rife with moral ambiguity and sociological questions. Inside Film first reported the casting, and describes the film as a thriller with “[a] screenplay  which strikes a distinctive balance between its unabashedly genre roots as a murder mystery and its perceptive cultural insights.”  Hugo’s character is described as “a cop with questionable motives” on Deadline Hollywood; as usual, most of the Hollywood-centric entertainment websites are spinning this as another villain role for Hugo, while Australian film sites familiar with the actor’s full career, and Mystery Road‘s gifted director, Ivan Sen (Toomelah, Dreamland and 2002’s Beneath Clouds, a film Hugo praised as one of his recent favorites at the time) are displaying a bit more nuance. I doubt this is another stereotypical baddie role; Weaving’s best roles (Last Ride, Proof, Little Fish, Priscillla, etc) are multifaceted, complicated and deeply human. Most Australian directors cast him knowing there’s something of a gap between how commercial audiences perceive him, and what he’s truly capable of, and use this in conceiving surprising, fascinating characters. Yes, a lot of them have an element of darkness to them, but few are the sort of cackling evildoers he’s unfairly stereotyped for.

The film stars Aaron Pedersen as a “detective investigating the murder of an indigenous girl”, and costars stalwart character actors Jack Thompson and Ryan Kwanten as other locals who may or may not prove suspicious as things unfold.  You can read more details  at Mumbrella, The Film Stage, and Dark Horizons. Ivan Sen will not only direct but edit and shoot the film; he also wrote the screenplay. The production has already begun filming in Queensland, Australia; according to Inside Film, “Mystery Road will be released in Australia by Management of Doubt, a new local distributor, while international sales will be handled by Arclight.”  It’s too soon to speculate about a release date or exactly how the international distribution will unfold; ideally it won’t take this film as long as it’s taken Last Ride to be properly seen abroad. (Remember, Last Ride finally opens in the US on June 29 (NYC July 6) with a Video On Demand and DVD release soon to follow.)   Ryan Kwanten has a substantial international fanbase thanks to his role on the HBO series True Blood, so maybe that will add interest to the film worldwide. Also, though this film sounds superficially similar to Kim Farrant’s oft-delayed Strangerland, another Australian murder mystery Hugo Weaving was attached to, it’s a completely different project. All of the somewhat sketchy, stereotypical character notes about the film (apart from the description of Pederson’s protagonist) originated in the Deadline Hollywood blurb, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in those just yet; it sounds like another example of an initial, pat press release being used to sell a film that defies easy categorization. Even so, this sounds very exciting and rife with possibility. It’s unknown whether Hugo is already on set, or how he will juggle this film and his Uncle Vanya role… and upcoming promotional duties for Cloud Atlas and The Hobbit. As usual, he’s very busy, and has something in the works for every taste. 😉

And don’t forget, Oranges and Sunshine is now out on US DVD (and is available at rental outlets and on VOD.)

UPDATE: Director/writer Ivan Sen provided some intriguing hints about Mystery Road in a December 2011 interview with Reel Bits, before the film was cast: “.. [It’s]   a murder-mystery. It’s about an Aboriginal detective who has to solve the murders of these young Aboriginal girls found under the highway and out of town, and he has to thread his way through the race relations of the town and the local drug scenes just to solve the cases. It will have a very strong Western influence to the film as well. It’s a bit of a cowboy, I call him a cowboy detective. [Laughs]… And there’s a big shoot-out in the film at the end, which I’m looking forward to doing… Yeah, that film has a big influence from No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers film. I think something I really appreciate about that film is that it’s really quite a layered film, quite artistic, but also it’s a commercial film as well and it’s made quite a lot of money and had an impact on the international audience. That’s kind of the area where I want to start heading towards…  I was just talking to someone the other day about commercial movies, and I really don’t think they need to be so bad. There’s a lot that can be done with commercial genre films in a way that hasn’t been done before, and also done with sensitivity. As well as having all of the elements that make them a genre film at the same time. There’s room in Australia to play with that as well….[T]hat’s going to be an amazing experience. It’s very kind of old style, and very restrained. [We’ll be filming] around north-west New South Wales and also into Queensland, and certainly the outback of Queensland as well.”

Hugo Weaving US DVD/On Demand Releases; Cloud Atlas

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

I updated my previous entry to reflect a few updates on Last Ride’s US release, but thought I repeat this new info for anyone who missed it, and take the opportunity to mention a few other Hugo Weaving films finally out on US DVD:

As I mentioned last week, Music Box Films has acquired the US distribution rights for Hugo Weaving’s visceral, memorable 2009 film Last Ride, costarring Tom Russell and directed by Glendyn Ivins. The film will debut on June 29 at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, with a simultaneous video-on-demand release, followed by theatrical screenings in select US cities. (Twitch Films reports that Last Ride will screen in New York starting July 6; more cities and venue details as I find them.) No details on the eventual DVD release yet, but watch this space. 😉 Again, you can request that the film play in your city by visiting Music Box Films’ Last Ride page and entering your zip code.

Hugo Weaving in Last Ride

American fans who missed Hugo’s guest role on pal Richard Roxburgh’s darkly comic series Rake can now buy the full first season on DVD from BFS Entertainment; Amazon is already selling copies, but as always, do shop around. You can read more details on Rachel Griffiths, Sam Neill and Lisa McCune also have guest roles as Roxburgh’s appalling clientele. 😉

Finally, Oranges and Sunshine, which won Hugo the AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a former child migrant, arrives on US DVD and Blu-Ray June 26. The film costars Emily Watson and David Wenham, and was directed by Jim Loach. It will also be available at Netflix, Blockbuster and at other rental outlets. New Video Group is handling the US DVD distribution; bonus features on this edition appear to be similar to the UK DVD, but it will feature the US poster for its cover art.

UPDATE: Warner Bros. has officially moved the US release date for Cloud Atlas up to October 26, which will give Hugo fans some welcome breathing room between this hugely ambitious project and his hugely other ambitious project, The Hobbit, which opens in early December. You can read the full press release (which doesn’t really add any new details about the film, apart from broad hints about changes to Tom Hanks’ set of characters) on Collider, and additional info and speculation at Hollywood Reporter and IndieWire (the latter includes Susan Sarandon’s reaction to some early footage from the project). The October release date also remains squarely in the Oscar Contention zone without being part of the glut of films typically released simultaneously near the end of every year.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses Closes, Sydney Film Festival, The Hobbit, Last Ride’s US Distribution

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

Hugo Weaving’s play Les Liaisons Dangereuses had its final performance on June 9, and since then Hugo’s been seen at the Sydney Film Festival (where he’s a Patron) on a near-daily basis. He’s mostly evaded photographers, as he’s not promoting his own work this year, but he was kind enough to pose on the red carpet for King of Swine, a gritty South Korean animated film:

Photo by Cynthia Scibberas, courtesy SFF’s Facebook page

Hugo will probably be heavily into rehearsals for the New York reprisal of STC’s Uncle Vanya soon, but I’m glad the timing worked out for him to relax at the SFF first. Those who couldn’t get enough of Liaisons can read a final batch of reviews from We All Have Got Knives, Concrete Playground and Julia Dibley-Hall, and I have an unexpected but wonderful special treat from one of my friends in Sydney who attended several performances– some scans of the Liaisons theatre programme! (See below the cut). STC’s programmes have become legendary over the years for their lavish photos, and wealth of academic and production detail. I’ve managed to acquire a few over the years and they put many US programs (and the sorry Washington DC Playbill for Uncle Vanya) to shame. So enjoy these, and remember that my friend Yvette is the source, to whom I am eternally grateful.

Note: While I’m happy for fans to download photos from my Flickr Archive for their personal use, please don’t repost anything from it without crediting me and particularly the original source/source publication/photographer, and don’t crop photos out of context and repost them without this information. I’ve had a lot of problems recently with people doing this, and it can get me in trouble with my sources (and be a source of great frustration to other fans who actually want to know when and under what circumstances a photo was taken.) Most of the people who comment and check in here regularly (and thoughtful fansites like Random Scribblings) aren’t my source of contention, and I feel bad even having to bring this up, knowing the “guilty parties” probably won’t read it, but this had to be said.

Again, credit for these goes to Yvette. Who should be thanked by Hugo in person for being so nice.

Oh, wait! She was.  🙂

Of course, Hugo hasn’t entirely forsaken his film career for the theatre; he’ll be appearing in Cloud Atlas and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this December. Hugo hasn’t participated in any reshoots for The Hobbit as yet, but the window for doing so (at least during the current production block) is narrowing. Most of you have already seen Peter Jackson‘s latest Production Video (#7), which focuses on a rip-roaringly entertaining tour of Stone Street Studios, where the film shoot is gradually drawing to a close after more than a year. (Again, that’s minus any reshoots… and we all know how much Peter Jackson loves reshoots.) 😉 In case anyone missed it, or wants another look, here it is:

Also recently announced was the film’s official premiere date, which will be in Wellington, NZ (of course) this November 28.  The film will then launch in Europe, the US and the rest of the world over the course of December (with many countries getting their first look December 12-14.) Check IMDb for more details. And you can’t go wrong with for day to day up dates on all things Hobbit and LOTR. 😉

Alas, there were no new glimpses of Elrond/Hugo in the current video, just this look at The Fellowship of The Ring behind the scenes in 2000:

Finally, some good news for US fans who’ve been waiting for years for an official US release for Hugo’s 2009 film Last Ride, directed by Glendyn Ivins. The film was well-received in its Australian release and has long been available on DVD there and in Germany, but apart from a pair of screenings at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in April 2011, it has never been released in the US. It features some of Hugo’s most visceral and personal work, and he’s mentioned it among a handful of his favorite performances. Music Box Films has acquired the US distribution rights, and the film will finally open theatrically on June 29 in Chicaco at the Music Box Theater. More cities may be added later– keep checking Music Box’s Last Ride page, and add your city’s zip code in the space provided if you want to bug them to bring it to your local arthouse. 😉 A DVD will surely follow; I have no specifics yet, but Music Box has a DVD distribution arm and a solid record. (They distributed the Swedish version of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy in the US, and more recently The Deep Blue Sea, starring Rachel Weisz.) I’ll keep you posted as new details emerge; you can also reserve a copy in your Saved queue at Netflix.

UPDATE: Twitch Film now clarifies that Last Ride will have a VOD (Video On Demand) release simultaneous to its Chicago premiere on June 29, followed by a theatrical release in New York City (and presumably other locations) on June 6. Still no word on a DVD/Blu-Ray, but I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, check your cable/VOD listings and keep bugging your local arthouse to book this film! 😉

Hugo Weaving in Talks For STC’s Waiting for Godot; Cloud Atlas Updates

Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.

First some exciting breaking news: Hugo mentioned that he was in talks to return to Sydney Theatre Company next year in his recent Elissa Blake interview, but was coy about naming the play he had his eye on. Now the STC’s codirectors Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton have let the cat out of the bag: they’re planning a new production of Samuel Beckett’s classic existential farce/tragedy Waiting For Godot, to costar Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh as Vladimir and Estragon. The two will first reprise their roles in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, coming to New York City’s Lincoln Center in July. (Tickets are still available!)  Blanchett and Upton disclosed the exciting news in a promotional interview for Uncle Vanya in Gotham Magazine. Though they’re planning on leaving their roles as STC’s co-artistic directors after next season, it sounds like they want to exit on a high note after four years of superlative work and a greater commitment to touring STC’s productions abroad. The new production of Godot would be directed by Tamás Ascher, who did such revelatory work on Vanya. Here’s an excerpt from the Gotham piece:

Andrew Upton: Because I am in and out of the rehearsal room, I started to have this fantasy of Hugo [Weaving] and Richard [Roxburgh] playing [Waiting for Godot’s] Vladimir and Estragon because there was something about the way Tamás, particularly in the fourth act, was creating this atmosphere between Vanya and Astrov that really reminded me of a Beckett-ian situation. At the same time, Tamás was saying to both of them that one day they should play Vladimir and Estragon together because they would be perfect in those roles. We put those twos and twos together, and we are in talks to invite Tamás back next year to direct both Hugo and Richard as Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, which I think will be a really beautiful culmination of the relationship that those three have formed artistically.

Cate Blanchett: The wonderful thing about Hugo and Richard—and this often doesn’t happen in Uncle Vanya—is that Richard is an actor who has played Hamlet. He is a hero, a leading man, and often Vanya is cast as a misanthropic, no-hope kind of figure. To have two heroes, men who could have walked the same path but made slightly different choices and somehow ended up in the same place, is fascinating. Initially when speaking to them about Vanya, we discovered that they had been talking years ago about playing it and swapping roles each night because, really, even though I think Richard is perfect casting as Vanya, there is a sense that he could also play Astrov. That is something that Tamás really worked with in the way he built the relationship between the two men.”

Of course, Hugo is currently finishing up his run in STC’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, costarring Pamela Rabe and Justine Clarke. It runs through June 12, at which point Hugo will probably transition immediately into rehearsals for Vanya‘s New York run. The “independent Australian film” to possibly follow– also teased in the Blake interview— remains a mystery for now. 😉

Hugo Weaving and Pamela Rabe in Les Liaisons Dangereuses; photo by Brett Boardman

Hugo’s next-released film project is, of course, Cloud Atlas. The film has received several test screenings, including a buzzed-about preview at the Cannes Film Festival which secured the film some international distribution and a December 6 release date in the US. (Yes, one week before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey bows. December will be a gonzo month for Hugo fans.) 😉 You can read more details (and speculation) at IndieWire, /Film,, Film Thrasher and The film (shown in an unfinished, pre-SFX rough cut) was approved for release in its current 2 hour 44 minute edit… that and the Oscar Bait release date suggest Warner Bros. has a great deal of confidence in the film’s prospects. No new details about Hugo’s characters have slipped out, nor have any specific comments or reviews from people who attended these screenings emerged– probably a good thing at this stage. Hugo has has been generally very enthusiastic about the project, and does plan to attend premieres when it’s released… something he hasn’t done for every high-profile film he’s appeared in lately.

Hugo has praised the work of German character actors who’ve been given supporting roles in the mammoth production, which was mostly filmed at Berlin’s famed Studio Babelsberg… one of these actors, Götz Otto, has now returned the compliment in this interview with Matt J Horn… alas, he doesn’t give us any juicy new intel on the film. 😉

Hugo Weaving and Halle Berry filming Cloud Atlas in Glasgow last September; Pacific Coast News photo

Finally, Hugo fans of an academic bent will want to check out two recent podcasts which discuss his work. The first, is Sydney Theatre’s “Tomcast” featuring  STC Associate Director Tom Wright discussing the current production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The second is ABC Radio’s recent “Sunday School” podcast about Hugo’s 2004 film The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, costarring Richard Dreyfuss and Timothy Spall. (Hugo played the deliciously decadent dentist Rubicondo– one of his great unsung performances, in my opinion.) The film’s director Rolf de Heer is among those interviewed. Neither podcast features Hugo himself commenting, but they both provide in-depth, unique insights into some of his more intriguing roles.

And don’t forget that Hugo’s award-winning 2011 film Oranges and Sunshine, costarring Emily Watson and David Wenham, will finally be available on DVD (and Netflix) in the US on June 26!

Photo by Mark Rodgers, 2009
…And I couldn’t resist sharing this great Last Ride promo photo, taken for the cover of Inside Film.

UPDATE: The print version of Sydney Morning Herald’s article about Hugo and Cate Blanchett’s Helen Hayes Awards for Uncle Vanya has now been added to my Flickr Archive; text is the same as the online version, but the photo of Hugo is a little bigger. 😉