Caxton Music Schedule

The set times for the live music performances at the Caxton Street Festival this Sunday (October 2) have been released and there is  delicious collection of artists on the menu across two stages.

The music program kicks off at 12.00pm and wraps up with Urthboy headlining the main stage from 9.00pm. There will be 18 artists performing on the two stages, including Stonefield, Last Dinosaurs, Cub Sport and The Creases.

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For more information about the 2016 Caxton Street Festival, including ticketing details and the full music line-up, head to the festival website or follow Caxton Street Festival on Facebook.

Don’t Breathe

Marketed ostensibly as a horror film, Don’t Breathe is tense rather than terrifying and sits much more comfortably within the thriller genre (if we must insist on such labels). A home invasion gone wrong is the premise of this latest offering from Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, whose only other feature production thus far is the 2013 Evil Dead remake. Whilst the film follows a fairly typical trajectory in many ways (you can predict the order in which the characters will meet their demise the moment you meet them and that is exactly how it plays out) and the idea of the victims turning the tables on their attackers in such a situation is certainly nothing new (Home Alone, You’re Next), Alvarez has tossed in a few narrative surprises that do make Don’t Breathe stand apart.

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Mired in the misery of depression-ravaged Detroit, Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) undertake a series of break-ins, using information from the security company for whom Alex’s father works to gain access to properties. Having consciously avoided any large scale operations that would bring severe consequences should they be caught, the group change tack when they learn about a man who supposedly has a large quantity of cash stored in his house. Their target is a former soldier who received a large compensation payout following the death of his daughter. He lives alone in an otherwise abandoned suburb and also happens to be blind, a fact that instils a false sense of security amongst the intrepid trio. Alvarez, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rodo Sayagues, needs us to like at least one of the three crooks so that we care enough about what happens to them to go the distance. This is done with a distinct lack of subtlety mind you; a solitary scene in which Rocky’s mother is presented as such an utterly heinous construct that we are expected to forgive anything that Rocky might do to secure the money needed to relocate herself and her young sister to California.

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As is to be expected, things don’t go according to plan and all manner of mayhem is unleashed when the intended victim (Stephen Lang) – who is known only as The Blind Man – proves to be much more of a threat than they could have imagined. Our hapless home invaders soon find themselves under assault, battling to escape with their lives and it goes without saying that not everybody will. As more of the house is revealed, we also learn more about the blind man and how his determination to eliminate the intruders is about much more than simply trying to protect any money that he may have stashed away. It is these narrative flourishes – some of which I certainly didn’t see coming – that push the film into territory that is a cut above so many others of this ilk.

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There are certainly plenty of moments of high tension and, on more than one occasion, the events seem to have run their course only for the story to kick back into life, but the scariest part of it all is the utter desolation of suburban Detroit. Houses abandoned and entire suburbs devoid of any human habitation; a city ravaged by recession. Levy (TV’s Suburgatory) is the key to making it work and she is impressive in presenting Rocky as much more than the typical one-dimensional doomed damsels that too often populate such stories, while Lang’s blind antagonist is perhaps a little too effective in dealing with the intruders to engender our sympathies as the victim of the piece. Definitely not a horror movie, Don’t Breathe delivers plenty of gruesome goings-on but is unlikely to leave you with any lasting nightmares.

Captain Fantastic

The idea of Viggo Mortenson as a father raising a tribe of kids in an off-the-grid self-sufficient lifestyle hints at something really interesting and, whilst there are some really enjoyable moments in Captian Fantastic, ultimately the film fails to fully realise the potential of the premise. That is not to say this is a bad movie because there is much to like, but it just seems as though writer/director Matt Ross has taken the easy option in the interests of trying to mould an unconventional story about unconventional characters into something that will still satisfy those viewers who like their film narratives to follow a somewhat predictable and, dare I say, happy trajectory.

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Deep in the forests of Washington State, Ben Cash (Mortenson) is a devoted father, committed to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education. The children do not go to school, but they are very intelligent, albeit without any understanding of how the world works beyond the regimented routine that Ben has instilled in them; hunting, physical training (in various forms from gruelling runs, to mountain climbing to hand-to-hand combat) and reading (philosophy, literature) are the staples of each day. They do not celebrate Christmas, instead choosing to celebrate events such as Noam Chomsky’s birthday because, unlike Jesus or Santa Claus, Chomsky is real and important. Ben’s wife Leslie (Trin Miller) has been hospitalised, forcing the family to embark on a road trip aboard the Partridge Family-style bus that is their only means of transportation. The tension of the story lies in the conflict between Ben and his father-in-law Jack (Frank Langella) about the way in which the children are being raised. Much argy-bargy ensues as the arrogant, wealthy Jack threatens to have the children removed from Franks care. It’s hard to delve into much more detail without giving away key plot developments, but in Ben and Frank, Ross has constructed two alpha male characters that could not be any more different.

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Even though we only ever see Leslie in flashbacks/dream sequences, she is very much at the core of the tensions as Frank holds Ben responsible for the circumstances that have led to her hospitalisation. In that regard, the film fails as an exploration of mental illness as it descends into nothing more than two men at loggerheads about what is best for a woman who is never really given any voice of her own. Frank is a reprehensible construct whose superciliousness is too extreme to be taken seriously and Langella’s considerable talents are wasted on a character whose every action is driven by jealousy and an overwhelming sense of superiority. He wants to take the kids from Ben as revenge for what has happened to Leslie. To be fair, Ben is also a somewhat extreme character, but at least he is driven by a genuine desire to protect his family from a world that he sees as toxic; socially, politically and environmentally. Much like Harrison Ford’s Allie Fox in Peter Weir’s Mosquito Coast, in his efforts to protect his children, Ben might actually be putting them at risk.

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Cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine presents the north-west landscape as both menacing and majestic, while Ross’s music choices are unconventional, mostly diagetic and absolutely inspired. A funeral scene that might typically play out as a moment of sombre reflection is actually a moment of uplift and inspiration through the use of Guns n Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine. Mortenson is perfectly cast in the lead role and delivers another typically solid performance, while the six young performers – George Mackay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell –  are universally impressive as the Cash children, whose ages range from 8 to 18. As the oldest, Mackay’s Bodevan has the biggest narrative arc as his desire to attend college is in conflict with Ben’s views on formalised education, but all of them enjoy moments in the spotlight. Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn also feature as the sister and brother-in-law who represent the exact type of banal, vacuous existence that Ben is so desperate to avoid. Amusing, emotional and thought provoking at times, Captain Fantastic is an entertaining romp that is let down by the compromise of the ending, seemingly with an eye to the mainstream of which Ben would want no part.

Big Sound Snaps

No event brings Fortitude Valley to life quite like Big Sound. Whilst there is always plenty happening in Brisbane’s entertainment and live music precinct, including great annual events such as Valley Fiesta, it is only Big Sound that brings artists, music industry representatives and fans together for a feast of  live music over three nights. Wednesday and Thursday evenings feature official Big Sound showcase performances from 150 artists at 15 different venues, with Friday night set aside for the official closing party at The Triffid.

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Throw in the increasing number of pre-festival shows, industry showcases and post-festival events and there is now a week of live music on offer. The 2016 event again featured great performances from an eclectic batch of bands and artists.

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Photos from the three nights of Big Sound 2016 have been posted in the gallery, with images captured at the Night Before Big Sound at The Foundry available here.

The Space Between

The title of this first ever Australia-Italy co-production could easily refer to the myriad spaces between those moments when something actually happens. First time feature director Ruth Borgobello – a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts – has crafted a film that looks beautiful but is lacking in emotional or narrative heft. Themes such as aging, grief, sacrifice and love are touched upon but never really explored in any depth. In fact, other than a couple of brief moments that draw an emotional reaction, the whole thing plays out as a somewhat stilted story that never looks to be leading anywhere interesting and ultimately doesn’t. In fact, when the ending comes, you are never likely to give another thought to this couple who engage in one of the most tepid on-screen couplings we have seen for quite a while. A complete lack of chemistry between Marco (Flavio Parenti) and Olivia (Maeve Dermody) renders their relationship unconvincing, which makes it hard to care too much what happens to them or between them.

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Marco is a talented chef who, having abandoned his job in New York following the death of his mother, has returned to his home town of Udine in Italy where he works in a factory and takes care of his father. He and his friend Claudio (Lino Guanciale) hold elaborate dinner parties and it is at one of these soirees that he meets Audrey (Patricia Mason), an Australian restaurant owner who offers him an opportunity to work in Melbourne. As luck would have it, tragedy strikes and Marco finds himself struggling to cope with the fallout when he comes across Olivia – another Australian just in case there was any doubt about the funding arrangements – who is in town to sell an apartment that belongs to her grandparents. Perhaps the most frustrating failing of the piece is the lack of personality that afflicts so many of the other characters that permeate the narrative. With the exception of the elderly couple who run a hotel visited by Claudio and Olivia, there is nobody who possesses the level of flamboyance and charisma we might typically expect from a film set in this part of the world. Sure, you don’t want people presented as ethnic stereotypes, but the supporting players here are all so dull that it is excruciating. Furthermore, we don’t even find out the names of some of them and/or what their relationship is to Marco and each other.

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The northern Italian architecture and the cobblestone laneways, which look particularly fetching at night, are captured to great effect by cinematographer Katie Milwright (Looking for Grace) and, as such, The Space Between looks suitably romantic. It’s just a shame too much time is spent on dream/flashback sequences rather than developing the relationship between the two leads. Neither character is fleshed out in any great detail, but Olivia in particular is a mystery. We learn little about her other than the fact she likes to help herself to other people’s stuff, a proclivity which results in the only real moment of tension between the two. Despite supposedly having fallen for each other, neither Marco nor Olivia seems particularly upset when it appears as though they could find themselves living on opposite sides of the globe.

The film touches on the efforts of those wanting to protect the legacy of somebody after they have died and this is perhaps the most interesting, and emotionally complex, thread of the narrative so it would have been good to see Borgobello, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Mucciarelli, place greater emphasis on this aspect of the story. As an Australian production (well, partly at least) directed by a new female filmmaker, this is the type of movie that you really want to like and, whilst there is plenty to admire in the aesthetics, there just isn’t enough substance to make this The Space Between – the fifth feature with this title in the last six years or so – particularly memorable.

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The Space Between will feature during the 2016 Lavazza Italian Film Festival at Palace Barracks from September 28 to October 19. For festival information, including session times and ticketing, head to the festival website.

Big Sound Starts Now

The annual Big Sound music festival gets underway tonight (September 7) in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Featuring more than 150 bands and musical artists across 15 venues, Big Sound is a feast for live music lovers.

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Amongst those performing over the two nights of the festival are Alex Lahey, Tkay Maidza, Vera Blue, DZ Deathrays, Olympia and The Gooch Palms. The full schedule of performances is available here.

Caxton Festival Music Line-Up Locked In

A stellar live music line-up for the 2016 Caxton Street Festival has been announced, with Last Dinosaurs headlining a bill that also includes Urthboy, Stonefield, Cub Sport, Elizabeth Rose and The Creases. More than 15 musical artists and DJ’s will perform throughout the day, with a new dance stage to feature this year for the first time.

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The festival, which features a cornucopia of seafood, street food and gourmet gastronomic offerings from myriad bars, restaurants and food outlets in the Caxton Street precinct, will take place on the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend (Sunday, October 2).

In addition to great food and music offerings, there will also be an abundance of pop-up bars throughout the event showcasing a variety of wines, beers and assorted refreshing beverages.

For more information about the 2016 Caxton Street Festival, head to the event website or follow Caxton Street Festival on Facebook.