Drama

Ruben Guthrie’s Sobering Message for Australians

Ruben Guthrie kicks off with a bang – a glamourous awards after-party at a sprawling waterfront Sydney home, with an open bar and shimmering pool.

Ad man Ruben Guthrie (Patrick Brammal) living it up at the opening of the flick

Ad man Ruben Guthrie (Patrick Brammal) living it up at the opening of the flick

Ad man Ruben (played by Patrick Brammal) feels on top of the world. He’s ticking all the boxes – rich, successful, with a Czech supermodel as his fiancee (Abbey Lee). He feels so good in fact, that he jumps off his balcony, aiming for his pool and misses… well kind of misses.

With his arm in a sling, he’s given an ultimatum by his fiancee Zoya: go one year without drinking and get another chance. Which is when we start to see beneath Ruben’s – and Australian society’s – shiny veneer.

 

Ruben Guthrie holds up a mirror to Australian audiences and the result is not always a comfortable one. Australians typically love their booze, whether it’s a glass of white with lunch, a champagne toast, a beer with mates or a night on the sauce. Binge-drinking seems to not only be encouraged in Australian culture, but celebrated.

However, the reaction to those who choose not to drink is both surprising and quite baffling.

After initially supporting Ruben’s little dalliance with sobriety, his friends, boss, and even parents do a swift about-turn, repeatedly asking him to have a drink with them.

Ruben's dad has a hard time connecting with his son when wine isn't involved

Ruben’s dad has a hard time connecting with his son when wine isn’t involved

It’s shocking, but what’s most shocking, is how common that scenario is for Australians.

Writer/director Brendan Cowell (right) based Ruben Guthrie recently on his own experiences giving up alcohol

Writer/director Brendan Cowell (right) based Ruben Guthrie recently on his own experiences giving up alcohol

It’s loosely based on writer/director Brendan Cowell’s own experience giving up alcohol for a year, which led to him losing friends and his social life taking a hit. Cowell even developed tips for anyone who doesn’t want to be pestered about drinking (one: to ask for a soda water with ice and a lime, so people assume it’s a vodka soda and leave you alone).

“How brave of you to stop drinking in this alcoholic country,” Zoya says in the film.

Indeed.

Drinking is ingrained into our culture

Drinking plays a big part in Australian culture

A close friend of mine gave up drinking and what she noticed most, was how uncomfortable is made others feel. Friends would pester her, saying, “when are you going to start drinking again? It was so much fun when you drank.” It’s as if being around sober people, 1) makes others feel guilty about wanting a drink and 2) makes them realise how much they need a drink to have fun. So they push their own insecurities outward.

A small comfort is that these attitudes might either be changing, or young people are comfortable enough not to let peer pressure get to them. A new study has shown the proportion of teens abstaining from alcohol altogether has more than doubled, from 28 per cent in 2001 to 57.3 per cent in 2013.

However, for Australians over 40, drinking is still problematic, and heavy drinking is still stable among young adults, according to the study by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

The message hits home in Ruben Guthrie, but it’s not without its problems. Ruben Guthrie was originally a successful stage play by Cowell and I tend to wonder how much this is his message getting lost in the transition from stage to screen.

I firstly did not warm to the amount of blatant product placement. Yes, it helped the film actually get financed and plays into the story of Ruben being in advertising, but ultimately the question has to be, at what cost? Where is the line drawn? It’s an important question, as product placement is likely to play a more and more prominent role in getting an expensive medium like film off the ground. Secondly, I found the characters themselves difficult to empathise with. In particular, I had issue with the depiction of women. Everyone from Ruben’s mother (played by Robyn Nevin), to his fiancee (Abbey Lee) to his girlfriend (Harriet Dyer), are either nasty, selfish, crazy or a little bit of each at different points in the movie.

Abbey Lee, Patrick Brammal and Robyn Nevin star in Ruben Guthrie

Abbey Lee, Patrick Brammal and Robyn Nevin star in Ruben Guthrie

But despite this, Ruben Guthrie is important because it carries a lot of food for thought. It has sparked a conversation about Australia’s drinking culture, which is always a good thing. The more Aussies who watch this film, the better, so people can ponder their own relationship with alcohol and how they might treat a friend who gives it up.

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Ruben Guthrie should be applauded for sparking a conversation about Australia’s drinking culture

 

 

Must See Viewing: Orphan Black

Exciting news Clone Club! BBC America has renewed Orphan Black for a fourth season.
For any of you that have seen this show there is no shame to admit you’re victory dancing right now…

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For any of you that have yet to see this show, don’t despair, just be well aware that when you start watching it, you can say goodbye to your social life for a week or so as you smash through the first two seasons. I’m speaking from experience here people – having just caught up to Season 3, I’m 1) gutted that I know cannot binge watch this series and 2) kind of happy that I can have my life back… but not really.

These people know what I’m talking about.

At this point, I’ve annoyed my friends and colleagues so much by talking about Orphan Black, it’s high-time I raved about this brilliant series online.

Like with most television, I’m jumping on the bandwagon a bit late.
And like with most television, someone told me to watch it about two years ago and I added it to my ever-growing list of “THINGS I NEED TO WATCH”.

I will admit, I’ve been a little disheartened by film at the moment, which seems to be 30% awful, 50% meh and 20% amazing.

bed movies

Earlier this year, I was sucker punched by a two week period filled with Fifty Shades of Grey, Jupiter Ascending and Project Almanac. Yes, film is a business, and I get that it needs to be profitable, but lately it’s been upsetting to see just how much the dollar sign is driving this creative medium.

While there have still been gems so far this year (and with Sydney Film Festival coming up, I’m preparing myself for even more) I’ve been increasingly turning to television and books for stories that really wow me. The latest of which is Orphan Black.

Maslany plays multiple characters often in the same scene.

Maslany plays multiple characters often in the same scene.

A Canadian series by BBC America, it’s about a woman who finds out she’s one of an unknown number of human clones, illegally created in the 1980s. Rather than crazy, out-of-this-world sci-fi, it’s dramatic, thrilling and packs a feminist punch, as these women struggle to claim ownership over their life when so many organisations, whether they’re run by scientists, governments or religious fanatics, believe they have the right to lay claim to them. One of the shows creators Graeme Manson told the New York Times in this fantastic article: “It’s so thematically connected to feminist issues. Who owns you, who owns your body, your biology? Who controls reproduction?”

At the heart of it all are a bunch of characters you get way too emotionally invested in for a fictional show, and even more unbelievable? They’re all played BY THE ONE PERSON. Tatiana Maslany. Aka one of the most phenomenal actresses out there right now, considering she makes each of these clones fully formed, separate characters – so much so, you often forget only one actor is playing them. It’s understandably exhausting work, with some days stretching out to 17 hours long.

Technical achievements aside (she plays multiple characters often in the same scene – see here if you’ve seen Season One), Orphan Black is also a fine example of writers who have crafted unique, complex and compelling female characters for our scenes. From the punk girl with a huge heart Sarah, to the abused childlike killer Helena, to anxious soccer mum Alison and lovable genius Cosima – and that’s just to name a few.

Additionally, these are women who don’t survive because they have a superpower, or can break out some martial arts moves. They get by on their tenacity, their intelligence, their wit. And Orphan Black remains proof that you can have a successful series driven by female characters, who don’t need to get their kit off or be dressed in tight leather or spandex to pull in viewers. As tumblr page hershotonher notes (via Jezebel):

not only does orphan black eat the bechdel test for breakfast lunch and dinner but it abysmally fails the reverse bechdel test

there are literally like three instances in the entire series where two men speak to each other about something other than a woman

what more reason do you need to watch this fucking show

Orphan-Black-S2Props to creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett and the raft of brilliant writers on this series, who also slam you with enough twists and turns that you’re never quite sure who to trust.

Yes, television is showering us with too many fantastic shows to keep up with, but if you’re not in Clone Club already, add this one to your list. 

It is one of the most intelligent, thought-provoking and addictive series out there.

 

Why Netflix Will Change Everything

It’s happened. Netflix has finally launched Down Under, to much fanfare and scrutinisation.

Netflix-Australia

It’s the beginning of a new era in Australian home entertainment, as people around the nation bump up their download limits, and prep their couch cushions and eyeballs for the onslaught of top-notch television and movies.

It’s now been a week since the streaming service hit our various tablet, computer and television screens, and as an early adopter, I can already feel the change it’s had.

People like myself who used to hire movies frequently have lately been struggling, as one by one, all the local video shops have begun shutting up shop. Lately, iTunes and GooglePlay were the only options, but if you’re paying $5.99 for every new release and $3.99 for any weekly, it can quickly add up. There’s no 5 weeklies for $10 deals anymore.

watchnowBut with Netflix, and other streaming services such as Nine and Fairfax Media’s Stan and Seven and Foxtel’s Presto, basically for the price of what it used to cost to hire a single new release, you can now get an entire library of movies and TV shows. To put it into perspective, I bought the first nine episodes of Orange is the New Black Season (OITNB) 2, with each priced at $2.99, which in itself is already more than I am now paying to have both seasons, as well as the wealth of other content. But also frustratingly, despite the fact the entire season of OITNB was available in the US, I then had to wait week by week, until SBS had broadcast the show, to be able to watch another new episode.

Aussies won't be fighting to see shows at the same time as the US now

Aussies won’t be fighting to see shows at the same time as the US now

Thankfully, the arrival of Netflix heralds a new era when Australian’s aren’t forced to wait months longer than US audiences to gain access to series.

Sure, a lot of people have been whining about the disparity between the selection on Australian Netflix, which carries only 1,116 titles compared to the US version with 8,499. But there’s promises the Aussie figure will grow and really, do you think Netflix was going to lay all the cards on the table at the launch? They obviously have a game plan, to convince all the people down the track who don’t have the service to sign up.

I found it interesting and a bit naive of some financial experts to say Netflix and other streaming services are a waste of money – that there’s not enough original content and Australian users will max out their data limits.

HouseofCardsThe Australian consumer is not an idiot. Anyone that is thinking of signing up to a streaming service is surely going to look around and see which ones offer the shows or movies they like. Presto has Louie, Wentworth, Sons of Anarchy and Modern Family, while Stan boasts shows such as Transparent, Community and Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. The beauty of streaming services is that you can switch between them every couple of months if you don’t need a lock-in contract. Certain services also offer deals with internet service providers and Stan, Foxtel Play and Netflix are giving you the option of a free trial to see if it suits you.

And frankly, what are our other options? If I want to see House of Cards Season 3 and don’t want to download it, what cheaper alternative is there.

While I doubt this will completely curb Australians’ seemingly insatiable appetite for downloading, I do think it will quench some of that thirst, because with streaming services, comes choice. We have a mass of content to choose from now and we can get it at the same time as the US, for a similar price.

That’s right, Australians might finally fork out some of their cash for content, isn’t of heading to their favourite bit-torrent website.

Will streaming services have an impact on piracy in Australia?

Will streaming services have an impact on piracy in Australia?

Where an issue will arise is when it comes to Game of Thrones, which will screen on Foxtel – and not on their streaming service. Most Australians don’t want to pay $25 a month to see a single show – even if Foxtel is trying to ease that harsh truth by promoting all the other stuff you get with a subscription. The problem is that consumers may not want 12 different channels. They want a single show and they want to watch it when they want, for a reasonable price. I believe that is where Foxtel is going to lose customers. If Foxtel were offering it on a streaming service, I would feel differently. For me, it means making the effort of going to the home of a friend or family member who have Foxtel, but I can guarantee others will not.

 

 

8 Book Adaptations To Look Forward To

As the money-making machine that is Hollywood scrounges around for its next big blockbuster, it’s no wonder the studios turn their hopeful eyes to the pages of books or comics.

The-Avengers-Movie-1-Team-Pose

The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, the Marvel movies – some of the biggest franchises in history have been adaptations. They bring with them hordes of devoted fans ready to see how their heroes shape up on the big screen. On top of that, sometimes buying the rights of a book can create enough excitement that sales of that go up, which in turn boosts a film’s hype, until something that was meant to be a small, indie flick (such as Twilight), turns into an enormous financial success.

Twilight

Sometimes the film adaptations can even take the basis of a book and turn it into something far more remarkable. Silver Linings Playbook is a prime example of this – it fleshed out characters and twisted the story into a clever romantic comedy about mental illness. Then you have something like American Sniper, which stirred so much debate that it would seem most of the US saw it, with the adaptation of Chris Kyle’s book raking in US$344 million in the States alone.

Now I’m not going to suggest you read Fifty Shades of Grey, Insurgent, or another drippy Nicholas Sparks novel. I’m not going to recommend any of these books that I struggled to read myself, just because they have been made into movies.

But here are eight upcoming adaptation of books that I think look particularly intriguing. FYI Mockingjay – Part Two is a given, hence why it’s not on the list.

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Child 44 by tom rob smith

Tom Hardy often chooses complex character roles and it looks like his part in this adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s acclaimed thriller is no exception. Set in Soviet Russia, Hardy plays disgraced MGB Agent Leo Demidov, who investigates a series of gruesome child murders. Gary Oldman and Noomi Rapace also star, while Daniel Espinose (who helmed Safe House and Easy Money) is in the director’s chair. It’s the first novel in a trilogy, so if it does well, don’t be surprised to hear of more in the pipeline.

 

junglebook

The Jungle Book by rudyard kipling

The beloved classic, which Disney turned into a catchy animated romp in 1967 is getting a live-action makeover (with CGI animals) – something which the Mouse House seems to be doing with all its iconic flicks. This one is being directed by Jon Favreau, aka the guy who directed Iron Man and really helped get that little thing called the Marvel universe off the ground. With Scarlett Johansson providing her husky tones to the slithery serpent Kaa, the loveable Bill Murray voicing the loveable Baloo and Christopher Walken monkeying around as King Louie, on paper it’s sounding pretty spectacular.

 

the-martian-andy-weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

Did you like Gravity? Well, this could be the next big survival-driven space flick, with Matt Damon starring as an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars, after his crew believe he dies in a dust storm. Directed by the man who made space claustrophobic way back in 1979 with Alien – Ridley Scott – it also boasts a jaw-dropping cast. Aside from Damon, there’s Jessica Chastain (fresh off that other high-concept space movie Interstellar),Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Donald Glover and Sean Bean. History would tell us the last cast-members’ character won’t be around long, but you never know.

 

victor-frankenstein-393297l

frankenstein (aka Victor Frankenstein) by mary shelley

James McAvoy might star as the titular character, but in this twist on the classic horror novel, the story focuses on his young assistant Igor, played by Daniel Radcliffe. Told through his perspective, it focuses on Igor’s dark backstory, his friendship with medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein and, of course, how they created the ‘monster’ Frankenstein. It’s a different take to what we’ve seen – let’s just hope it’s better executed than last year’s dismal, I, Frankenstein.

 

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In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel philbrick

Based on a true story, Aussie Chris Hemsworth, Ben Whishaw and Cillian Murphy star in this adaptation of the award-winning nonfiction book about an eighty-foot sperm whale which attacked the whaleship Essex and left its crew stranded at sea with limited supplies. If it sounds familiar, it probably is – it was the incident that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  Hemsworth re-teams with his Rush director Ron Howard to bring it to life and with the release date recently being pushed back to December – aka near awards season – it could mean the studio expects big things from this ocean epic.

 

carol-2

The Price of Salt (aka carol) by patricia highsmith

Patricia Highsmith’s novels have proved something of a goldmine for filmmakers, although the results have been largely hit and miss. There is, of course, Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) and The Talented Mr Ripley on the high end of the scale, while last year Two Faces of January took an ambitious stab at the material, but was a bit undercooked. This adaptation of Highsmith’s 1952 novel stars Aussie Cate Blanchett as a suburban housewife who has a love affair with a young woman (played by Rooney Mara) who’s stuck in a department store job she hates. Directed by Todd Haynes, who helmed Far From Heaven and Safe, this is ticking all the boxes for a compelling drama so far.

 

truth

Truth and Duty (aka truth) by mary mapes

Cate Blanchett is certainly keeping busy, with this political drama also in the works. Filmed in Sydney last year, it stars Blanchett as former CBS television producer Mary Mapes, who penned her memoir after she and news anchor Dan Rather (played by Robert Redford) were fired for reporting that George W. Bush evaded serving in the Vietnam War. The film takes place during Rather’s final days at the network, in the lead-up to him broadcasting the damaging report. It’s the directorial debut for James Vanderbilt, who wrote the screenplay and penned movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man and White House Down. With a strong cast (also including Elisabeth Moss and Topher Grace) and intriguing story, this definitely shows a lot of potential.

 

charlize-theron-dark-places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

After the success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, it’s no surprise to see another of her chilling novels getting repackaged for the big screen. This one stars Charlize Theron as a woman who survived the brutal killing of her family as a child, but is being forced to face the events of that day again by a secret society who want to find out what really happened. Also starring Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Grace Moretz and Christina Hendricks this thriller is sure to shock and surprise.