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

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