Monthly Archives: March 2014

Longer Healing Trailer Debuts; Manny Gets Censored (feat. Hugo Weaving Narration), The Mule

A second version of the theatrical trailer for Hugo Weaving’s next film, Healing, premiered quietly online yesterday… in fact, the initial post (by Ross Munro) didn’t clarify that this was, in fact, a new edit with new footage, so I accidentally delayed posting because I thought it was another re-post of the first version, which debuted 12 March (D’ooooh!) , until Healing’s Facebook page clarified matters. To be fair, they do have identical intros and the same general structure, but this version is longer, includes new footage (and Hugo VO), and blurbs from preview screenings… there are a few shots in v1 that aren’t in v2 also. So we now have three trailers for Healing: the introductory teaser and two versions of the theatrical trailer. Bonus: the new version is in higher definition than the first, so i was able to get some higher-quality caps. There are a few more hints about Hugo’s character Officer Matt Perry this time too, including a suggestion of family tragedy. (I hope this doesn’t mean Hugo’s character ends up adopting Don Hany’s at the end… though stranger things have happened in the real world…) 😉

Here’s v1:

Teaser:

The Healing will have a preview screening at Cinema Nova in Melbourne on 30 April; director Craig Monahan and Don Hany will attend and participate in a post-screening Q & A. More details here. There’s also an intriguing early review at The Spectator.

UPDATE: A new 4-star review by Margaret Pomeranz is up at Medical Observer: “In lesser hands this could have been quite schmaltzy, but Craig Monahan, working on a screenplay he wrote with Alison Nisselle, relies not just on a stellar human cast but on the ability to create distinctive personalities with his avian actors, for which Monahan gives due credit to bird handler Andrew Payne… Don Hany, who has established an enviable reputation for himself in television as a leading man, is grizzled and grey here as well as very impressive. There is not a weak link in performance, with Weaving, Samuel and Winter particularly convincing… This is the most accessible prison film of memory, certainly it’s the one that aims for the emotional jugular, and actually hits the target.”

Manny Gets Censored

I first heard about this short film last summer but couldn’t confirm much beyond a few vague post-production tweets from the crew suggesting Hugo contributed a voiceover… now the full film is finally completed and has been successfully screened, winning Best Australian Short Film at The Mudgee Film Festival. The first two minutes of the film (which totals eight) have been posted online:

(Ticktock, via Vimeo)

Since the basic conceit of the film — the meta-joke that a character becomes aware his anatomy is suddenly censored with black bars or dots– is at least as old as Monty Python, I hope the rest of the piece does something inspired with the concept… and I don’t mean just having the character also become conscious that his life is being narrated. That’s been done many times too. (In fact, I see near-daily Tweets by people who wish Hugo would narrate their lives.) 😉 Also, I don’t think I’ve seen this sort of censorship since the 90s… lately it’s almost always done via digital blurring. (Granted, current technology tends to either obscure too much or too little, depending on one’s perspective.  😉 In TV comedy bits, it’s almost always obvious that an actor is really wearing flesh-colored underwear… which is to be expected, of course, but it often ruins the joke.)


(Subhadra Young, via Twitter)

On a similar note, I was doing some “spring cleaning” of my Hugo photo archive and lingered on some caps from Bedrooms and Hallways (don’t pretend you don’t know which ones, or that you haven’t done the same thing.) 😉 Anyhow, since I now have decent photo editing software and an HD monitor, I’m now fairly certain that flesh-colored briefs were worn during the swimming-pool sequence (just by Hugo, not by Tom Hollander). Flesh-colored briefs with some…uh…realistic embellishment in front to complete the illusion. This would explain why, despite 15 years of fan efforts, there’s never been a “conclusive” screencap of that scene, and why the sex scenes featuring these characters tend to be edited away from or ended just when things are getting interesting. 😉 But enough of my rumination… and do feel free to prove me wrong about this. 😉 I’m still dealing with less than optimal technology, and so far as I know, B&H has never been released on Blu-Ray. (Probably because the actors are sick of reading fan freeze-frame chat about it online…)

Since short films (other than funny cat videos, music videos or celebrity hijinks) still get short shrift online despite it being the optimal place to see them, I’m going to put it out there that plenty of people ARE willing to pay a reasonable fee to stream or download short films if distributors would simply MAKE THEM AVAILABLE. Yes, I understand the appeal of showcasing them at festivals, but not everyone can make it to the large cities where short film fests happen. and only films lucky enough to receive Oscar nominations are guaranteed widespread VOD availability/DVD compilations/compilation screenings in cinemas. I’ve been a Hugo Weaving fan for ages now, and still haven’t seen about half of his short films. I’ve only seen one (Everything Goes) in a cinema and so far as I know, only two (The Kiss (1998) and The Girl Who Swallowed Bees (2008)) have appeared on DVD compilations, which may now be out of print. (The Kiss, Bees, Little Echo Lost (1999), The Road To Alice (1993), and Everything Goes (2004) have appeared legally online at various times). I’ve never seen The Rose of Ba Ziz (2007), True Colours (1997), What’s Going On Frank (1995) or No Budget (2013).  And don’t get me started on Hugo’s long list of obscure, long-unavailable TV documentaries. Or The Key Man. 😉

The Mule

Though SXSW has concluded, new reviews, podcasts and interviews for The Mule keep appearing, Reviews continue to be largely positive. You can read/hear the latest at Geek Scholars (The Mule is reviewed– receiving a B grade–  into the audio podcast), Crave Online, FearNet, the Sydney Morning Herald, Junkee.com,

Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson’s latest promo interviews, poo recipes, etc are up at Moveable Feast and We Got This Covered.  Alas, still no distribution info available… but the filmmakers MUST now know the film will play well in the US if they market it wisely.

In Other Hugo News:

The Turning will screen at the Hong Kong International Film Festival on 29 March and 5 April. Details and ticketing info here. You can read Bede Jermyn’s review of the recent Australian DVD/Blu-Ray package here. The Limited Edition DVD includes a smaller version of the booklet handed out at Australian special screenings of the film last fall as well as an entire disc of extras. I also have a copy of the larger version of the booklet; since virtual versions of all the film and character pages are available online (at The Turning’s official site) I haven’t made scans of either, but would be happy to do so if there’s a demand. But I do strongly urge fans of the author, actors or filmmakers to buy their own copy or rent/stream when it becomes available. Ideally there will be more international cinema distribution, which is why I haven’t watched my DVD… yet. But I don’t know how long I’ll hold out.

New, well-written Mystery Road reviews are available at Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys) and Filmstalker. More pics of Aaron Pedersen, Ivan Sen and other cast and crew at the recent FCCA Awards are up at The Reel World.

Strangerland begins filming TODAY (according to On The Set); no detailed new information has been made available yet (including final confirmation on the roles) but there are brief updates in The Cowra Guardian and The Australian.

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Hugo Weaving Narrates Cambodian Children’s Trust Video; SXSW Mule Reviews; Strangerland Cast Change

Cambodian Children’s Trust Charitable Appeal

I’ll have several brief updates on Hugo’s upcoming projects shortly, but wanted to prioritize his narration of this new video from Cambodian Children’s Trust, which was announced several weeks ago and debuted online yesterday. Hugo has worked on behalf of many charities over the years, including Voiceless.org and various actors’ equity and arts education groups CCT (a “secular, non-profit Cambodian NGO working to enable children in Battambang to become educated, ethical and empowered future leaders of Cambodia”) has a number of complex and admirable goals which you can read about in more detail on their website and Facebook page; the video is a brief introduction to their plans and achievements:

CCT will also host a benefit concert in Sydney on 21 May; more details and ticketing info here.

The Mule At SXSW

Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson participated in several uproarious interviews promoting The Mule at SXSW; I’ll embed the shortest (and most LJ-compatible) here, but if you’re interested in the film the others are worth a look too, if only to let you know what you’re in for (including a behind-the-scenes factoid that’ll forvever change your perception of Snickers bars). 😉

Screen Rant, via YouTube

More interviews featured at Bloody Disgusting, ComingSoon.net.

The film also earned near-unanimous raves through its four festival screenings; here’s a sampling of the latest with links back to full reviews:

Bradley Gastwirth, Austin Daze: “This may be my favorite movie so far at SXSW Film. Well it’s hard to pick one, but it’s up there. It’s reminiscent of the anxiety felt from Midnight Express (1978) with the Soundtrack straight out of the 80′s. It’s a gritty film that that doesn’t disappoint with its direction….

The Mule is full of betrayal, suspense, and a little bit of mayhem, but Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The LOTR Trilogy) has to be the best contribution to the film. Playing one of the detectives in charge of watching Sampson’s character in a hotel for the 10+ days, he has never been more of a likable sleazebag….

The direction and acting alike is very top notch and again, I have to say that this is a must see at SXSW. If for nothing else, The Mule made me look away for one particularly revolting scene which is always a feat.  Get out and see it and you won’t be sorry. Dig the music playing at the credits.”
*

Peri Nemiroff, Collider: “You better wait to eat until after seeing this one – if you even have an appetite after anymore.  Director Tony Mahony‘s The Mule doesn’t fall in line with the Saw films or Insidious, but co-writer/co-star Leigh Whannell does give it a horrific quality of its own.  You may never want to experience certain sequences from this one ever again, but they do bolster the effect of the full film…

The Mule is well-written and well-made no matter how you look at it, but, regardless, it will come down to whether or not you can stomach the situation.  (No pun intended.)… Sampson is the heart of this film.  No matter who’s doing what, it’s most powerful when Ray is directly involved.  For example, Ray’s father is also being hounded by Pat due to an overdue debt, but it isn’t woven into Ray’s storyline well enough to truly care.  The officers leading Ray’s interrogation run into a similar issue.  Croft and Paris (Hugo Weaving and Ewen Leslie) are two dynamic characters that are fun to track, but only in conjunction with Ray’s situation….
Clearly The Mule’s sub-plots are less effective than the core concept, but even then, those escapes serve a purpose.  In order to make The Mule a watchable film, you need them.  Ray gets more and more uncomfortable each day of his confinement and thanks to the powerful connection to the character, you’ll get more and more uncomfortable watching it.  The Mule is so good in that respect that you’ll never want to experience it again.”[I’m ignoring this particular reviewer’s faulting the film because its characters have “rather thick Australian accents”. That’s you’re problem, not theirs. 😉 ]
*
Adam, Film Pulse: “In theory, a story about a man who is trying not to poop for a week doesn’t sound like enough material for a feature length film.  Fortunately, Angus Sampson’s The Mule proves that theory wrong by presenting a funny and incredibly gripping crime story…
[Angus] Sampson gives a fantastic performance as Ray, a big teddy bear whose love for his mom gets him involved in this nasty drug smuggling business.  Despite acting alongside some really great talents like Hugo Weaving, Sampson proves his abilities as both a director and an actor in providing some stellar work…

The Mule is a perfect example of how to successfully create a fun crime movie.  It’s wonderfully shot, hilariously funny, and contains way more substance than one would imagine.  It’s unique and although I love Whannell and Sampson’s horror efforts, it’s nice to see them breaking off and dominating other genres.  The Mule is fantastic and is an absolute must-see.”
*
Drew McWeeny, HitFix: ” ‘The Mule’ is dark and smart and deeply satisfying, a wicked little crime thriller with a grim sense of humor. Sampson’s work in front of the camera is just as good as his work behind the camera, and I suspect “The Mule” is going to emerge as one of the films that audiences really love from this festival. It may be the most exciting surprise I’ve had since I got here…[John Noble] is crazy scary in the film. He strikes me as the kind of guy who is genuinely behind the scenes, calling the shots. He’s not pretending to be Scarface. He’s just a hard, cold thug with a shark’s smile and dead eyes, and I love the way Noble plays the part. By contrast, [Hugo] Weaving’s having a party from the moment he shows up. You can tell when an actor is taking pleasure in every little thing they get to do, and Det. Croft is such a happy asshole, so pleased to be busting Ray. His partner is far more irritated by it all, and Leslie allows his emotions to rule the way he behaves, a dangerous situation to be in for the detective…
There’s a very tricky tone that the entire movie navigates carefully, sometimes funny, sometimes filthy, sometimes genuinely scary… As you might suspect from the set-up, there is some really gnarly stuff in the film, some grim moments that are going to be hard for some audiences. But a film like this is a gift to a distributor looking to cut a good trailer, because it’s got plenty of familiar faces, and a ton of great moments and images to use. It’s an easy film to explain, and it’s such a stark conflict — will he poop or won’t he? — that it seems like there’s no way that’s enough to drive a whole film. It is, though, and I really hope ‘The Mule’ gets a shot at a real theatrical release in the US. While the film is very Australian, with several characters speaking in fairly dense accents, the film does such an outstanding job of just communicating intent in each beat that I don’t think it matters at all…
‘The Mule’ is still seeking distribution. This confuses me.”
*
Edward Douglas, ComingSoon.net: “It takes a little time for the movie to get going as Sampson is not the most charismatic actor, but the cast they’ve assembled around them, particularly Hugo Weaving and Ewen Leslie as the main detectives in charge of getting Ray to give up the goods inside him, really bring a lot to the story. The general premise leads to a number of truly unsettling scenes as one might expect, but things get more interesting the longer Ray holds out and as we see a number of peripheral characters trying to get to him. ”
*
Matt Donato, We Got This Covered: “Our nefarious duo [Angus Sampson and Leigh whannell] create a criminal period piece oozing new-wave tunes popular with the culture and time, offending viewer’s senses with bodily gross outs that some might find off-putting – but as an adaptation of truths, The Mule surprisingly delights…When I say The Mule is a dark comedy, I don’t mean it’s consistently funny or full of laughs – but instead hesitant chuckles sprinkled throughout an almost tragic tale…Ray Jenkins’ hotel stay focuses more on biological suspense and a subdued gangster backdrop that adds criminal intrigue. A straight-and-narrow balance between tones doesn’t create humor through jokes and goofy predicaments, but instead incredulous human feats and sadder moments that some might consider defeat – but in reality, these are small victories for Ray…

Personally, I wasn’t queasy leaving The Mule, instead indulging in the splendid cast that our team threw together. Aside from Angus Sampson sporting leading man talents while writhing around in bed with a narcotic time-bomb ticking in his belly, and Leigh Whannell playing a shifty deviant contemplating all actions while his mule sits under police custody, one big name boasts commanding presence – Hugo Weaving. Playing bad cop Det. Croft to Ewen Leslie’s Det. Paris, Weaving delivers a gruff, old-school role that balances obsession and intellect, with a little physical torture to boot. A cat and mouse game between Ray and Agent Croft slyly unravels, as obvious clues hint at Ray’s guilty predicament, but Croft is handcuffed by lawful actions. He can’t just cut open Ray’s stomach and extract the drugs, Ray has to pass them “naturally,” and there’s only a small window in which Croft can “gather” the evidence. Weaving’s charismatic intensity makes Croft an addictive, intriguing character, as we wait patiently to see what tricks he’ll implement next that might break Ray’s fecal dam. Good grief…

I found enjoyment through technical aspects and ballsy international filmmaking that takes risks and blends numerous genres in an incredulous yet unique cocktail. Whannell and Sampson offer a unflattering look into drug smuggling culture, one avoiding sugar-coated action sequences or silly stoner comedy. The Mule is a viciously stripped-down bit of periodic storytelling that highlights a drug mule’s worst nightmare, refusing to gloss over the grimiest, most abhorrent visuals imaginable. Raw, intense, and heroically crafted, I’ve never felt more violated by a movie I fully enjoyed.”
*

David Massey, Pop Culture Beast: “If the worth of a film is measured in its audience’s response, the woman dry-heaving next to me definitely got her money’s worth… The initial tone of the film signals that this might be a comedy of some sort but any sense of humor is swiftly lost as a cruel group of police officers (lead by Hugo Weaving in one of his most intimidating rolls to date) starts (let’s say) ‘pressing progress’ toward resolving the case as Ray struggles to ‘postpone the discovery’ of his guilt–lots of innuendo here-throughout 10 days of observation. Along the way, Ray’s circumstance results in a domino effect that uncovers crimes far larger than his own. I couldn’t stay for the Q&A but the film is presented as having been based on true events and, as unbelievable as it was, I never questioned it for a moment. Though Google provides a slew of 1983 Australian drug smugglers, I can’t find a single reference to these events and, as much as I liked this film, if they pulled a ‘Fargo’ on me, I adore it. Co-directors Tony Mahoney & Angus Sampson bring new meaning to anal retentive with this very different sort of horror film.”

Strangerland

Hugo Weaving’s next project to film, Strangerland, had its cast shaken up a bit when original lead Guy Pearce dropped out to pursue a role in a Hollywood film.  He has been replaced by Joseph Fiennes, who’s probably still best known for his bard-themed films Shakespeare In Love and The Merchant of Venice. Deadline broke the story, and seems to be the original source of the news, but provided no new casting news or details. Inside Film provided a bit more intel, including a possible confirmation that Hugo will indeed be playing a local cop (“named David Rae”) on the case rather than the husband of Nicole Kidman’s character. Moviehole begged to differ (insisting Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving play the couple at the center of the film, whose children disappear) but failed to substantiate the claim and sourced only the Deadline article, which included no casting information at all. I suspect they’re just guessing, because Weaving has been connected to the detective role since the first version of this project was announced in 2007, with Anthony LaPaglia and Gia Carrrides cast as the central couple. 😉 Also, I trust Inside Film’s reliability as a source. But we won’t know anything for certain until filming gets underway next month. Since Weaving has played cops or corrections officers in every movie he’s made in the past year, I wouldn’t mind if he switched, but I don’t think that’s happened.

NOTE: As usual, LJ is having inexplicable hissy-fits whenever I try to post direct links to Deadline. Here’s a cut-and-paste version of the link:
deadline [dot] com/2014/03/joseph-fiennes-replacing-guy-pearce-in-strangerland/

Healing

Healing’s new trailer has been warmly received online, with viewers all over the world crossing their fingers for good international distribution. Since the trailer made it to YouTube since my last entry, I’ll embed that (slightly higher-res) version here. More news and promotion for the film, which opens 8 May in Australia, is available at Spotlight Report, Pinnacle Films, Lightning Entertainment, Salty Popcorn, SBS Movies… and of course Healing’s website and Facebook page.

In Other Hugo Weaving News:

Cult Magazine’s wonderful Hugo Weaving interview from November, promoting Waiting For Godot, is now available in digital form here.

“No Budget”, the comedic short film featuring cameos from Hugo Weaving and David Wenham, continues touring Australia as part of Flickerfest, which will visit Sydney shortly. More details here.

Mystery Road will have a UK screening as part of Tyneside Cinema’s sponsored Film Marathon on March 29-30. Details and ticketing info here.

And finally, here are the long-delayed additional Berlin Airport pics of Hugo Weaving and David Wenham arriving for last month’s Berlinale. Apologies it’s taken so long for me to prep these.


Photo: News.com/Infgebe 13 (plus next eight)


Photo: Splash News/Corbis (plus next 19)

Yes, I realize a lot of these photos are very similar. 😉


A higher-res version of Filip van Roe’s beautiful Hugo Weaving Berlinale portrait  Photo: Filip van Roe’s website


Hugo Weaving at The Turning’s gala screening at Berlinale       Photo: Melanie Reinker/Zoonar

Healing Trailer Debuts; Positive Reviews For The Mule at SXSW; Mystery Road & The Turning Win FCCAs

Healing

The first full-length trailer for Hugo Weaving’s forthcoming film Healing is scheduled to appear at any minute, first broadcast on Sunrise at 7 on Australian TV, but it should hit the internet soon thereafter, and I’ll embed it as soon as that happens. A 30-second teaser trailer for the film came out earlier this year. The film opens in Australia 8 May and also stars Don Hany, Xavier Samuel and Mark Leonard. Craig Monahan (The Interview, Peaches) directed. No international distribution plans have yet been announced, but Lightning Entertainment does hold the international rights

STOP THE PRESSES: Turns out, the Healing trailer is already available online at Lightning’s website, and it looks great. You’ll need Quicktime to see this version… I’ll keep working on finding a version I can cross-post here. And here’s the link to Sunrise 7’s video.

The Mule at SXSW

The response to The Mule’s first two SXSW festival screenings has been overwhelmingly positive, with both the industry trades (The Hollywood Reporter, Screen Daily) and the Geek Contingent (Ain’t it Cool News) finding its entertaining aspects outweigh its potentially appalling ones. I’ll post excerpts below with links to the full reviews, with the caveat that some sites give away graphic details of the film’s “biggest gross-out moment”. 😉 We also finally have confirmation that Hugo Weaving is indeed playing a corrupt cop, as I’d long suspected. (Based on about twenty years of type-casting and the knowledge that John Noble was playing the gangster who hired the title character…) But Angus Sampson, not Leigh Whannell, plays the hapless drug mule at the center of the story, and Whannell plays the friend who gets him into all that trouble by talking him into swallowing certain illegal product. Ewen Leslie (who costarred with Hugo Weaving in Riflemind back in 2007) plays another bad cop. Their characters are named John Croft (Weaving) and Les Paris (Leslie).

Review Excerpts:

Eric Vespe (Quint) Ain’t It Cool News: “Based on a true story, the flick is set in the early ’80s and is about a not-so-bright dude (Angus Sampson, who also co-directed) who is convinced to become a drug mule… just once, mind you. He’s a TV repairman and is way slow on the uptake, but he agrees and ends up getting caught at customs on his way back from Bangkok….He overhears that he doesn’t have to admit to any wrong-doing and the longest the cops can hold him is 5 days. So, the best way to ensure his freedom is simply not to give the police their evidence. Yes, that means he has to hold in his poop…

But things start spiraling out of control quickly. The detectives are a bit “hands on” and are led by a scenery-chewing hardass played by the great Hugo Weaving. The rightful owner of the drugs (John Noble) kind of begins to want his product back, as you would expect. His former friends start considering assassination while he’s in custody in order to save their own asses. And, worst of all, a crooked judge keeps extending the amount of time he can be held. All this as he damn near destroys his body to keep any incriminating evidence in his digestive tract….

It was so smart that Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson got Hugo Weaving and John Noble in this picture. Both are men who can chew scenery and while they never share a scene they end up tag-teaming the movie. You’ll get 5 minutes of crooked, asshole detective and then 5 minutes of charming, but scary drug lord and then back to Weaving again. It works really well and keeps the pace rocking throughout….That’s the trick with this film. So much of it takes place in one location (a hotel room), but it never feels unintentionally claustrophobic. It never had me checking my watch….What I was saying, before I went down that rabbit hole of Golgathan proportions, is that the movie is super fun, really intense, shot well, performed well and pretty much checks off all the boxes that would qualify it as ‘good movie.’ ”
*


The Mule’s Aussie contingent at SXSW  Photo: Janeece Keller via Twitter

John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter: “Somewhat more eventful than a film about self-inflicted constipation promises to be, Tony Mahony and Angus Sampson’s The Mule tells the true story of an Australian who, suspected of smuggling drugs back from Thailand, is locked up in a hotel room by cops expecting him to deliver the evidence within a day or so. The wait is considerably longer, and while the film suffers from its own occasional sluggishness, it picks up as the lawmen watching our hero grow as strained as he is. An enjoyably nasty turn by Hugo Weaving, as the lead detective, both keeps the action alive and raises the film’s commercial prospects with American fest and arthouse audiences….

The third act benefits from legal wrangling — with a public defender (Georgina Haig) fighting the cops’ requests for extensions to the period in which they can legally hold Ray. The detectives’ own tempers and misbehavior drive the film more than the gangster subplots going on outside the hotel, adding a twist or two that change the nature of Ray’s ordeal. The conclusion, which finally makes use of the America’s Cup yacht race we’ve been seeing in the background throughout the film, is so clever one hopes it’s true.”
*


Leigh Whannell entertains the SXSW crowd with one-armed push-ups  Photo: Shawn Bajaj via Twitter

Reel Distraction: “It’s a great premise for a short film or short story, but there’s not a lot of interest in watching a guy try to not shit for 90 minutes. So they have to add all sorts of extraneous crime underworld conspiracy bits of the sort that makes me very suspicious they’re based on anything remotely real. Still, one of those bits is Hugo Weaving as a scenery chewing Bad Cop, and the film features one …

This is sort of a perfect fest movie to see at this stage in the fest where things are starting to become a bit of a fatigued blur. I’ll remember the highlights (the mule dude is one of the strangest looking blokes I’ve ever seen even at the best of times, and as he becomes increasingly shit-filled he looks exponentially worse and worse) but probably be unable to recall much in a year other than ‘That’s the movie where the guy has to not shit for a week, right? I liked it.’ ”
*

Mark Adams, Screen Daily: “At heart The Mule is a nicely staged period crime story – there are killings and beatings aplenty – but its genially tasteless dark humour gives it a real edge. This is clear even in the opening prologue scene as Ray bends over for a cavity search and the male and female customs officers play ‘stone, scissor, paper’ to decide who gets to take a look. Hugo Weaving especially has a fine time as a tough cop who will do almost anything to get a result, while Aussie veteran actress Noni Hazelhurst is impressive as Ray’s tough-but-tender mother…

Angus Sampson (who starred in Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2) is great as the naïve but grimly determined Ray – a foolish man rather than a criminal – with his mission to keep his bodily functions at bay oddly honourable.”
*

Evan Dickson, Bloody Disgusting: “It’s not just name recognition that makes this a no-brainer. The film also requires you as a viewer to have the strongest of stomachs, because some of the sh*t that goes down here is a totally different kind of body horror. Sampson stars as Ray Jenkins, a passive mama’s boy who is coaxed by longtime bad influence Gavin (Whannell) into smuggling heroin from Thailand to Australia at the behest of a very, very bad man (John Noble). Ray takes about two steps back into the airport upon his return before he’s nabbed by the Australian Federal Police (Hugo Weaving and Ewen Leslie in a great and twisty good cop/bad cop dynamic)….

So yes, this movie is about a man trying not to poop. For a long time. Aided by a charismatic attorney (Georgina Haig) he withstands the temptation to defecate for days… and days… and days. Your mind can fill in some of the blanks here when it comes to the gross stuff (though probably not all of them). But The Mule is also about the people waiting for Ray to defecate. From the cops to the evilly banal crime lord to Gavin, who got him in this mess to begin with. And the movie succeeds at deftly juggling all of these story lines. It’s a classic working class crime film. When I first heard the synopsis, I thought this whole thing was going to be played too broadly – but The Mule actually has a beating heart and a high sense of peril. When people die it can be shocking and brutal, but never in a way that makes it feel like Whannell and Sampson are paying fan service. The film also looks great, wringing an impressive amount of production value from what I imagine was a small budget.”
*

The film’s SXSW premiere venue  Photo The Mule’s Twitter feed
*

Bradley Gatsworth, Austin Daze: “This may be my favorite movie so far at SXSW Film. Well it’s hard to pick one, but it’s up there. It’s reminiscent of the anxiety felt from Midnight Express (1978) with the Soundtrack straight out of the 80′s. It’s a gritty film that that doesn’t disappoint with its direction….

The Mule is full of betrayal, suspense, and a little bit of mayhem, but Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The LOTR Trilogy) has to be the best contribution to the film. Playing one of the detectives in charge of watching Sampson’s character in a hotel for the 10+ days, he has never been more of a likable sleazebag….The Mule will get laughs, but even with fat trimmed away, it is a fantastic film at its core. The direction and acting alike is very top notch and again, I have to say that this is a must see at SXSW.”
*

CJ again: I want to add that I find it rather insulting to label Hugo’s acting :”scenery-chewing”, which to me has always implied indulgent, broad overacting, which I’ve never found him to be guilty of. Yes, Hugo is often asked to play broad, over-the-top characters, but I’ve never found him to be hammy or self-indulgent. I realize that these reviewers aren’t trying to be insulting, but that terms has always had negative connotations and I disagree with its use here. Just my two cents.

Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson participated in a Q&A after the film’s March 9 premiere which most viewers on hand deemed highly entertaining and a few deemed “drunken”… video was supposedly rolling, but nothing but still photos have appeared online as yet. Whannell gave a lengthy audio interview to Tim Drake’s On The Mic Podcast that covered a wide range of topics including the state in indie film distribution and some of his more commercial projects. He sounded reluctant to divulge much detail about The Mule or how it might be widely released, but had high praise for his cast and curiosity about how Americans might react to the potentially queasy subject matter. (Apparently he hasn’t seen that many American films in the past few years… these days even Disney product goes in for bodily function humor. We Yanks have always been an uncouth bunch under that Puritain exterior…) 😉

Whannell was ambivalent about the film’s chances of seeing cinematic distribution on a wide scale… I personally hope that the film is given a proper cinematic release and not shuttled off to VOD/streaming. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer to see films in a theater with an audience. I know that this distribution method often does smaller indie films no favors, and that many in the industry believe only big-budget SFX extravaganzas will be released this way, but I think that would be a travesty. Certainly VOD has an important place in getting many films seen by a wide audience, and some would argue they don’t necessarily need to see the contents of Angus Sampson’s bowels blown giant-size… but those of us who live beyond the reach of the festival circuit shouldn’t be shut out from seeing films in cinemas that don’t involve superheroes or princesses in sing-alongs.  On a more universally positive note, Whannell confirmed that he and the other filmmakers are currently preparing the film’s trailer, and that they do have high hopes for it beyond the festival circuit.

Mystery Road Wins Best Picture, Director at Film Critics Circle Awards

The Australian critics have continued to counterbalance the Hollywood-biased results of this year’s AACTA Awards; first the Australian Film Critics Awards handed Mystery Road six prizes, now the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA) has given the film three of its most prestigious awards, including Best Picture (a tie with The Rocket), Best Director (Ivan Sen) and Best Lead Actor (Aaron Pedersen). Hugo Weaving tied for Best Supporting Actor with Joel Edgerton; this time his performance in Tim Winton’s The Turning was recognized. More details and the fill list of awards recipients are available at Urban Cinefile, The Sydney Morning Herald, and Sydney Arts Guide.  The film’s latest rave review can be read at The Movie Blog (JDIFF screening review.)


Aaron Pedersen (middle, front row), Ivan Sen (behind him) and other members of Mystery Road’s cast & crew celebrate the film’s FCCA wins  Photo: FCCA’s Twitter feed

Mystery Road Wins Six AFCAs, The Mule to Debut at SXSW, More Berlinale Pics & Interviews

Apologies for the long delay in getting this entry posted; over the past few weeks I’ve had to deal with illness (both my own and in my family), extra work hours, and– more happily– New York theatre adventures with my boyfriend. But all the while the Hugo News has been piling up, and it’s time I assembled the “notes” from my Twitter feed into a more comprehensible form.

The Turning at Berlinale

New photos and stories from Hugo Weaving and David Wenham’s Berlinale appearance promoting Tim Winton’s The Turning continue to appear online. The most exciting of these is an audio interview posted by Fred Film Radio, which features some lovely moments from both actor and director, about their collaboration on “Commission” and how the film’s theme of transformation is reflected in their own lives. Hugo’s discussion of his own “turning points” is something every fan will want to hear.  I’ll also repost the link to the Film3Sixty dual interview IO cross-posted in the previous entry in case anyone missed it.  In addition, I’ll share all the Berlinale photos of the two that have been posted online since that last entry throughout this one, with the caveat that some have incredibly annoying watermarks. (As always, if anyone has seen  clean versions of these… please let us know.) 😉


Hugo Weaving at Berlinale by Sascha Werner via Instagram


Hugo Weaving at Berlinale by Filip van Roe (plus next one)


Fabrizio Maltese via Contour/Getty Images (plus next three)


Francois Berthier via Contour/Getty Images (plus next three)


The film had a unique showcase at Melbourne’s White Night event on 22 February, with each segment shown in a different location across the city, encouraging fans to travel to and experience each in situ. This short video of highlights which originally appeared on the film’s Facebook page, and Robert Connolly shared all of the screening locations via Instagram, including that of “Commission”:


(Madman Films via YouTube)


“Commission” screens at White Night Melbourne   Photo: Rob Connolly, via Instagram

The Turning is now available on DVD/Blu-Ray from Madman Films, with the DVD version available in both regular and Limited Edition packages. If you’ve missed all of the numerous online giveaways for the film (some have only been open to Australian residents), the least expensive retail outlets include JBHiFi and Devoted DVD; the compendium is also still streaming on iView (Australian viewers only) on a segment-by-segment basis as well as the full three-hour film.  Recent reviews are available at Quickflix, Issimo Magazine.

Mystery Road Sweeps The Australian Film Critics Awards

Some welcome news for fans of Mystery Road who might have been frustrated by its poor treatment at this year’s Hollywood-fixated, Baz Lurhmann-pandering AACTA Awards: Ivan Sen’s film turned the tables at the Australian Film Critic Awards on March first, winning six out of the eight main awards presented, including well-earned statuettes for Best Picture. lead actor Aaron Pedersen (who attended to collect the film’s haul), supporting actor Hugo Weaving and director Ivan Sen. The film also won Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography.  For more on the AFCAs, check out Inside Film, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, An Online Universe and of course AFCA’s website.


Aaron Pedersen with some of Mystery Road’s AFCAs (via the film’s Facebook page)

Mystery Road is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray in Australia from Transmission Films. Distribution deals for the UK and North America are in place, but so far no specifics have been announced. The film was screened to wide acclaim at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and Glasgow Film Festival last month. You can read recent reviews from these festivals (and the recent DVD release and Australia TV screening) at Movies Films And Movies, ViewLondon, Scotland Herald, The Horror Club, Spooool.ie and The Irish Times.

The Mule To Screen At SXSW, Poster Debuts Online

Hugo’s next film The Mule, costarring John Noble, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Ewen Leslie  and Noni Hazelhurst (who also costarred with Hugo in 2005’s Little Fish), is scheduled to premiere tomorrow at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, TX. The film has “good advance buzz”, according to Austin 360, and a “hand-painted promo poster” created just for the festival debuted at Twitch Film yesterday, and was promptly cross-posted on many other sites, including FirstShowing.net, Live For Films and Film Pulse, which gushed “The movie sounds completely gross and ridiculous and I absolutely can’t wait to check it out next week.” SXSW will feature four screening of The Mule, on March 9, 10, 13 and 15. More details (and tickets available) here.

Though the film’s marketing continues to leave very little to the imagination ;), we still have no specifics on Hugo’s role, though that should change as soon as the premiere happens and the first reviews roll in. Here’s the only image of Hugo as he appears in the film that we have so far:

I’m still guessing he plays someone in law enforcement, as we know John Noble plays a drug kingpin/club owner and Whannell (probably) plays the title character. I hope the film isn’t just one long bodily function gag, because it’s been too long since we’ve seen Hugo in a good black comedy. I also hope it fares better than Hugo’s last black comedy/crime caper to debut at SXSW: The Key Man, which still hangs in a strange limbo, with legal screenings in only a far-flung handful of countries.  (Screencaps taken from these streaming sites have appeared several places online, including a group of what could rival Bedrooms & Hallways among Hugo Weaving films for most freeze-frames per scene should the film ever be widely released:


Hugo Weaving and Brian Cox in They Key Man   Photo:  zakharvlad1 via Flickr (one of 14 screencaps of this scene) No idea what sort of relationship these characters have. 😉

You can read a little more about The Mule as well as the other Australian films screening at SXSW at BlouInArtInfo.

Strangerland Begins Filming Next Month

We finally have some concrete news on Hugo’s next project to shoot: the crime drama/psychological thriller Strangerland, costarring Nicole Kidman and Guy Pearce. According to two articles in The Canowindra News and associated papers, some scenes will be filmed next month in Canowindra, NSW next month. A second article notes that extras (including “teenage dirt bike riders” and young boys) are being sought for the location filming, and that other scenes will be shot in “far western NSW, Sydney and the central west, with at least some scenes to be shot in Canowindra’s main street, Gaskill Street.”  According to Fairfax Media’s synopsis, “The mystery drama centres around a couple whose lives unravel after their two teenage children go missing in a dust storm.” Kim Farrant will direct from a screenplay by Fiona Seres and Michael Kinirons. No specifics on roles have been officially announced yet, but Nicole Kidman and Guy Pearce probably play the couple in question. An earlier incarnation of the cast featured Hugo as a police investigator, but this may have changed.

Hugo Takes Part In Light The Dark Sydney

Hugo Weaving’s most recent public appearance was an informal one, at Light The Dark Sydney.  The Light the Dark vigils were held across Australia on 23 February to protest the slaying of asylum seeker Reza Barati while he was held in custody by Australian immigration last August, and raise awareness about the treatment of refugees who attempt to enter Australia. (You can read more about the issue and the event at NineMSN, The Guardian and Buzzfeed.)


Hugo Weaving and Katrina Greenwood at Light The Dark   Photo: Susan Darling via Twitter/Instagram


Hug Weaving with Harry Greenwood (center) at Light The Dark Sydney  Photo: Adam Marsters via Twitter/Instagram

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Hugo Weaving and David Wenham’s less-heralded recent short film, “No Budget” (directed by Christopher Stollery) will screen at several locations in Australia as part of Flickerfest between now and May. For more details, go to Film Ink or the Flickerfest website.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert costume designer Tim Chappel was interviewed by ABC as a selection of Oscar-winning original costumes (including Mitzi del Bra’s infamous Thong Dress) from the 1994 classic go on display at the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) collection in Canberra. ” ‘There was blood, I have to admit there was blood,’ Mr Chappel said….’But they looked great!’ “

I don’t want to give the pathetic Star Wars rumormongering any more publicity, but do feel a need to challenge how the bulk of entertainment media websites have covered the recent news that Adam Driver appears to have clinched the villain role in the forthcoming trilogy. Though the Hollywood Reporter posted some unfounded (and since proven false) rumors that Hugo Weaving was in contention for the role, he never actually was, never met with JJ Abrams or “auditioned” and, indeed, never knew about the rumors in the first place until asked at last month’s Berlinale. (See video below.) Variety broke the Driver story and reprinted THR’s vague assertions that Hugo and Michael Fassbender might have also been “under consideration” for the role. Everyone else is now ludicrously spinning this gossip as
Driver “beating out” Weaving and Fassbender. In fact, we KNOW Hugo was never interested, and Fassbender likely never was either. JJ Abrams has said most of the casting rumors about the film are “hot air”, and he’s never mentioned Weaving or Fassbender. I suspect the rumors were started either by Disney, in an attempt to gin up publicity for the film, or by various Hollywood agents trying to get their clients in the running. Or, possibly, they were conjured out of thin air by fanboys who work at media websites who want these actors to keep being typecast for the rest of their lives. But it’s likely Abrams always sought to cast up-and-coming younger actors to play new characters in Star Wars VII. And I hope this is the last time I have to say this: Hugo Weaving never WANTED to be in this film, theredore he wasn’t “beaten out” by anyone else. He simply has different goals as an actor than most entertainment sites (including those in Australia, which should know better) seem to be able to comprehend. And anyone who actually fact-checked the story knows Hugo Weaving would be filming Strangerland and then starring in Macbeth at the time Star Wars VII is supposed to go before the cameras.

SuperPopAccess via YouTube

The Cult Magazine Hugo Weaving Interview/Cover Story

Finally (and, with apologies, very belatedly) here are my scans of Hugo Weaving’s amazing interview for Cult Magazine which was originally published (in print format only) last November in advance of Waiting For Godot’s STC run. Hugo discusses the challenges of playing Vladimir in Beckett’s play (alongside Richard Roxburgh) and drops a few hints about next year’s production of Macbeth (tickets still available here– but going fast!) and how Godot played into his own existential crises. It’s an insightful, often endearing interview. In addition, the piece features several of Michelle Aboud’s striking promotional images for STC’s Macbeth, including one I hadn’t seen before.

NOTE: To view full-size scans, right click images, then click “open in a new tab/window”, then magnify as desired

Off-Topic Asides (aka Friends Of Hugo News)

Congratulations to Cate Blanchett on her well-deserved Oscar win, which followed every other major Best Actress prize on the Hollywood awards circuit this year. Blanchett’s acceptance speech emphasized the importance of the Sydney Theatre Company in her career.

Also, I recently was lucky enough to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land, after having seen their take on Waiting For Godot last fall. This time around I was lucky enough to get autographs from the full cast after the show… the four actors (including Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley) were kind enough to sign for dozens of fans who waited outside the stage door after the matinee on March 1. If they do this after every performance, I’d worry about them getting carpal tunnel (also, it was bitterly cold that afternoon.) You can see my boyfriend John’s pictures of the signing here. Ideally US fans will be able to compare this Godot to STC’s sometime next year… our Sydney Correspondent Yvette asked Richard Roxburgh (during an online Rake-promotional Twitter feed) if a 2015 US or international tour was still possible, and he replied that there were “Some mutterings about various foreign ports currently.”… which means, roughly, that he can’t say anything definitive, but it might happen. 😉