David O'Connell

Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Joined April 24th 2008

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Avid film score collector, film fanatic, reader (crime fiction/modern literature mostly), sports watcher - from a couch! Also review Australian films at www.infilm.com.au


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Cheap Thrills (Katz, 2013)

April 23rd 2014 04:15

A guy walks into a bar………………………and a thousand generic jokes take shape in parties the world over. But few come with a series of punchlines to match those supplied by Cheap Thrills, a blackly humourous tale of escalating stakes as desperate men lose control of their senses in pursuit of the carrots being dangled before their eyes. Craig (Pat Healy) is having one of those days: an eviction notice pinned to his front door is followed by the loss of gainful employment. He seeks the consoling taste of alcohol but in a down-and-outers bars he runs into an old school buddy, Vince (Ethan Embry). Vince is a debt collector of sorts, using his fists to beat small change out of those with little else to their name.

When a garrulous customer Colin (David Koechner) coaxes the pair into celebratory drinks for his wife and birthday girl Violet (Sara Paxton), cash starts getting recklessly thrown around. Colin wants entertainment for his young betrothed and with Craig and Vince as his designated monkeys, he writes all the rules, watching the pair perform tricks that increasingly place their welfare and dignity at risk. Reconvening back at the couple's opulent abode, Colin will also be testing any notions they have a moral or ethical line that might ever be crossed - and if so, in pursuit of what exactly?

Director E.L. Katz’s deliciously dark debut film, written by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, will not be to all tastes. But this resonant dark parable, with its corrosive streak of nihilism, pushes the irrationality of an ordinary family man into a realm of believability. It’s all masterfully acted by a game cast, especially Healy and Embry as the chief combatants, beginning as old friends with buried grudges who are warped – some might say cartoonishly deployed - into nemeses for the mounting schlock carnage they can generate when dollar signs impede brain functioning. Paxton is slyly cast against type as the femme fatale here; she and Healy previously made a great pairing in Ti West’s superb supernatural drama The Innkeepers (2011). The closing moments of Cheap Thrills (2013) – it’s title both brutally and ironically representative of the film’s subject matter - cement its intoxicating allure, Craig striking a classic, bloodied final pose. A twisted minor classic to savour more than once.

Cheap Thrills is now out on DVD through Madman.



April 22nd 2014 05:20

Aaron Wilson’s debut Canopy (2014) is a riveting tale of a lone fighter pilot’s survival in wartime, 1942. Shot down over Singapore, Jim (Khan Chittenden) wakes disoriented, suspended in a treetop. Meticulously he must re-orient himself and take all measures to avoid being captured. After working alone to lay the groundwork for his immediate survival, he meets a frightened young Chinese soldier, Seng (Mo Tzu-Yi), with whom he gradually builds a tentative trust and rapport. Working in unison, they must combat the harshness of the natural world as well as evade the invading, ever-present Japanese forces.

Wilson’s film, which he also wrote, is an audacious and brave first feature. Limiting his characters, who are unable to communicate verbally, to a single location requires a lot of creativity to prevent Canopy from literally and figuratively bogging down in the murky surrounds. He takes chances narratively, and for the most part, they pay off handsomely. The film is a genuinely immersive experience, establishing a raw intensity and tension in the early scenes; our confused perspective mirrors that of Jim who soon gets his bearings using his small but essential pack of emergency supplies and equipment.

The decision to mute Jim by denying him all but a few whispered intonations of his own name to his companion - no exasperated outbursts or cries of rage, frustration or surrender - may seem a peculiar one. Yet, the longer the film goes on, the idea gains dramatic weight as we watch the pair becoming sealed in the vortex of their intimate, shared experience. The jungle becomes a place in which they must bridge their circumstances with a shared humanity; a place in which words would seem extraneous anyway.

The convincingly physical performances from Chittenden and Mo are strong but the ultimate success of the film can be attributed, largely, to the stunning sound design, which is amongst the most effective I’ve ever heard. A barrage of loud, piercing sound effects of war, emerging from both close at hand and lingering in the distance, are constant, nerve-wracking reminders of an inescapable context for Jim and Seng. Canopy, a co-production with Singapore, was publicly funded within Australia as well. Regardless of its limited budget, it’s an impressive film, one that will likely signal the beginning of a promising career for the highly talented Wilson.

Canopy opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, April 24, 2014.


Only Lovers Left Alive

April 16th 2014 04:03

A resounding return to form after the soulless, clinical miscalculation of The Limits of Control (2009), Jim Jarmusch’s new film effortlessly puts a charge into a wearied, overexposed lifeform – the vampire. Set mostly in the backstreets of Detroit, Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) initially separates the two central lovers: musician Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is lying low in Detroit, contemplating suicide as he hides out from groupies. Rare joy comes from visits from his human friend Ian (Anton Yelchin) who procures vintage guitars for him. Meanwhile, Eve (Tilda Swinton), is doing likewise in exotic Tangier, her source of sustenance being the waning Marlowe (John Hurt). But times are tough for those requiring high quality blood to survive and so Eve treks back to the States to reunite with her immortal beloved.

Though thin in terms of plot, it’s the rich texture of Jarmusch’s film that helps maintain a hypnotic hold. It's drenched in lazy, random rock riffs, swirling, depleted colours and plenty of dreamy visual asides that illuminate the slowly passing lives of these timeless lovers with an eroded poetic grandeur. It goes without saying that the performances are exceptional. Swinton has long possessed an otherworldliness, a fact used to great effect by Jarmusch. And yet the very notion of her ‘alienness’ is turned on its head by Eve’s ‘humanity’, her decency, exquisite taste and capacity to love. There’s a gentle, sustaining poignancy at the heart of the film that’s only enhanced by the most seemingly mundane scenes of the pair cruising the streets at night or reliving centuries old memories with wry observations. Hiddleston, in a less sympathetic role, is equally good as Eve’s man, whilst Mia Wasikowska steals a chunk midway through as Eve’s carefree, troublesome younger sister Ava.

From the perspective of these centuries’ old beings, the humans are the zombies, the wastrels sucking the blood out of one another in mindless pursuit of their own meaningless holy grails. Jarmusch has wicked fun at our expense in sculpting the parameters of this dark void as well as slyly jabbing away at literary and art history with tongue planted firmly in cheek. This ever ironic, idiosyncratic director, thankfully, is back, in a rich vein of form, and even if it doesn’t quite match his finest work, Only Lovers Left Alive is bloody delicious all the same.

Only Lovers Left Alive opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, April 17, 2014.


How I Live Now (Macdonald, 2013)

April 14th 2014 06:42


The Grand Budapest Hotel

April 8th 2014 05:12

Ginger and Rosa (Potter, 2012)

April 3rd 2014 01:51

The Lego Movie

April 1st 2014 03:47


March 31st 2014 04:31

20 Feet from Stardom (Neville, 2013)

March 26th 2014 03:43


Recent Comments

Comment by David O'Connell
on How I Live Now (Macdonald, 2013)

April 15th 2014 06:34
I've heard that. Would definitely like to read the book at some stage to see how much has been altered.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on In Bob We Trust

October 31st 2013 02:06
Many thanks for the anecdote fog, hope you're doing well these days mate!

And yes, Father Bob is indeed a truly great man! A national treasure.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Kick-Ass 2

August 21st 2013 04:44
Thanks Bryn, you're a harsh man! But I do remember you not quite getting onto the original's wavelength too. The film is superfluous in the extreme - I'll be the first to admit that, but I just can't hate it.
I actually loved Carrey in this but his role is absurdly underwritten; there was real potential there I think for something great.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Antiviral

April 17th 2013 06:01
Hey Bryn, Rialto Distribution have got this. Had the media screening last week and sadly it's only screening at the one cinema - the Nova - down here from the 25th. Hopefully it's getting some sort of a look in up your way too.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Killing Them Softly

April 2nd 2013 01:05
Great to hear that JD. It baffles me though how many people tell me how much they couldn't stand this. Obviously incapable of appreciating its finer, subtler qualities, which is a real shame.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Side Effects

March 10th 2013 10:36
Yeah mate, apparently it's painting and occasional theatre that will occupy his immediate future, perhaps TV work too if it's top-notch. But says he's done with features - a little sad, I love his chameleonic qualities even if his rapid output means he's a little hit and miss. The Limey, Underneath, King of the Hill and Out of Sight will long remain favourites.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on The Woman in Black

March 10th 2013 10:32
Yeah, quite looking forward to seeing this again on DVD Janice, very underrated little film - and a creepy one too despite the conventional, manipulative chills.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Skyfall (2012) - Trailer Included

February 18th 2013 04:27
Audacious choice JD, can't say I'm with you despite enjoying it a lot, but you're a critic of great conviction.

My favourite scene of the film, hands down, is the intro to Bardem's character: that single, long take shot over the tied-up Bond's shoulder, with Bardem descending in the lift at the other end of the building, then delivering that brilliant monologue as he slowly approaches. Magic. Just a brilliant scene in the way it's both devised and executed. So simple and yet, in today's rapid-editing overload how often do we see something similar in a big blockbuster? That's the true benefit of hiring artists like Mendes and Deakins.

I do love Thomas Newman's score too, one of modern cinemas most influential composers really stretching himself in a type of film he's never really been handed before.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Compliance

February 18th 2013 04:17
Thanks JD, really is an interesting and little film - and certainly disturbing in its implications. Passed by in one cinema here without registering a blip on the radar, sadly, as so many smaller films do.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on JDMs Favourite Films of 2012

January 8th 2013 06:15
Great work JD!

Skyfall is a weird top choice alright. Never been a Bond enthusiast though I did surprise myself with how much I enjoyed this - Javier Bardem certainly was a huge part of that. Loved his work here.

Safety Not Guaranteed almost tops my own Best of list too. Loved it with a passion.

Wes Anderson is a favourite of mine and I agree with what Bryn heard about it being one of his most accessible. It is - and one of his best for sure!

Looper was Rian Johnson's third excellent film though I prefer Brothers Bloom I think for its quirkier aspects.

The Master, Killer Joe, The Raid, Cabin in the Woods, Kevin, The Grey - I'm with you on all of those.

Prometheus though I was non-plussed by. Awful dialogue, overblown effects and the dire Noomi Rapace. Fassbender was the one shining light for me - yet another astonishing, commanding performance - even as a droid!
Bored witless by John Carter and The Dark Knight Rises was very good but well below the Ledger-infused perfection of the last film.

Chronicle was definitely a guilty pleasure.

Haven't seen Haywire, Bellflower, Savages, Coriolanus or Django yet.

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