Good, Bad & Ugly Review: Down Under Double Feature

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43% (Critics) / 95% (Audience)
Directed By: Robert Sarkies
Written By: Duncan Sarkies and Robert Sarkies
Starring: Bret McKenzie, Hamish Blake, Maaka Pohatu
Studio: Hopscotch Films

Synopsis: When Nige finds himself in a spot of bother after a series of unfortunate incidents, he is forced to ask Deano for help. The problem is Deano is not really the kind of guy you should turn to in a crisis. (Source)

The Good:
This is a pretty dark comedy and the performances from the three principal characters are pretty spot on. I also enjoyed how the movie took no steps to soften the awkward and uncomfortable relationships in the film. While this may look like a buddy movie on the surface it is actually the complete opposite. The scenery from the New Zealand coastline was shot well and provided a nice contrast to the badly dressed, mulletted stars of the movie.

The Bad:
My biggest issue is that, even ass dark as this film is, it does not go as dark as it probably should have. It was like the people behind the film got right to the edge and then stepped back. There is so much left on the table that should have been explored more: like the relationship between the two main characters (Nige and Deano), Deano was obsessive about Nige in a way tat went beyond fraternal affection and seemed like it was romantic. And Nige’s bizarre fixation on his roommate was more like a fella with a crush than a guy who wanted a new best friend. There was just a lot left on the table in this movie that if shown would have made the events shown in the film resonate a lot more.

The Ugly:
The amount of hacking it takes to chop a Norwegian hiker up so that he fits into a backpack was quite grisly.

Final Verdict: A dark comedy with moments of gruesome fun that never quite finds the nerve to take things to the next level. Worth a look if you have nothing better to do but not something I would go out of my way to see.

Rating: C+

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94% (Critics) / 83% (Audience)
Directed By: Wayne Blair
Written By: Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson
Starring: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell
Studio: The Weinstein Company

Synopsis: 1968 was the year that changed the world. And for four young Aboriginal sisters from a remote mission this is the year that would change their lives forever. Around the globe, there was protest and revolution in the streets. Indigenous Australians finally secured the right to vote. There were drugs and the shock of a brutal assassination. And there was Vietnam. The sisters, Cynthia, Gail, Julie and Kay are discovered by Dave, a talent scout with a kind heart, very little rhythm but a great knowledge of soul music. Billed as Australia’s answer to ‘The Supremes’, Dave secures the sisters their first true gig, and flies them to Vietnam to sing for the American troops. Based on a true story, THE SAPPHIRES is a triumphant celebration of youthful emotion, family and music. (Source)

The Good:
The music performance scenes were very good with the girls in the group (particularly Jessica Mauboy) putting on very entertaining performances. the relationships between the girls (playing three sisters and their cousin) were realistic and fully formed which lent a nice bit of believable drama to the proceedings.

The Bad:
The movie had a penchant for trying to manipulate the audience (especially in the scenes that showed the overt racism that was prevalent in Australia at the time towards Aboriginal people) and the flow of the film was very episodic.
I also didn’t buy the whole relationship between oldest sister Gail (played by Deborah Mailman) and the groups manager (played by Chris O’Dowd). The two actors had zero chemistry and nothing about the coupling worked for me.

The Ugly:
The movie punking out on killing a certain character seemed like yet another attempt to make a feel good movie instead of taking the script where it needed to go organically.

Final Verdict: A fun little movie that takes a look at a time period that has been used in films a million times but puts a nice little twist on things by looking at it through the eyes of a very underrepresented culture. A bit sappy and hamfisted with the melodrama but the musical performances balances that stuff out.

Rating: B+

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