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Hell on Wheels

Sex, violence and roller skates
Not to be confused with the Tour de France documentary about the same name, but leaning towards the 60's b-movie for inspiration, this movie follows the fortunes of the revived Texas roller derby league over a period of a couple of years detailing the ups and downs of the along the way.

There were a lot of people interviewed in the making of the documentary and you can tell it became as much a part of the director's life as it was the story of the people involved. I never actually noticed the director on screen on the film, which was a nice change as they are not meant to be the focus of the story.

As with any organization with a lot of people involved there is bound to be politics and differences of opinion. The split in the league was unfortunate, but from diversity comes richness as both leagues now seem to be doing well. The original organisers ended up resigning after their struggles, but that often happens after such turbulent events and it is not until you step back from something until you appreciate what you have achieved.

I have to admit not to knowing much about roller derby before this documentary (Bob Log III did play at one of their bouts though) and had only ever heard of the skater Punky Bruiser due to her involvement in a movie. There are lots of opportunities to become acquainted with a whole new group of skaters through this film and it would definitely give me another reason to go to Austin, Texas apart from SXSW.

Action fans will not be disappointed as along with the training, there are quite a few bouts covered and some on a traditional banked track. For the gore hounds, there are quite a few crashes and some blood but it is not dwelt on.

Special guests at the screening I attended were the Victorian Roller Derby League. From the whoops and hollers coming from the rows behind me I can tell they really enjoyed the film and hopefully they will start having their competitions soon after coming up to speed with their training.


The funniest cut of all
A censorship groupie harasses a woman from the censorship board of Singapore in the supermarket, following her out to the car park where he begins a song and dance routine about censorship with a cast of hundreds.

This short was made to protest the cuts made to the director's first film and ironically this movie was itself banned on release.

I had some idea of the political climate of Singapore and restrictions on personal rights as I once was asked if it was "a crime to be openly gay" in Australia by a student studying here, but I didn't know there were still people trying to make films there.

What I liked most about the short that it managed to fit so much information into a short amount of time and still made it fun.

The two main characters are very funny as the woman censor being stuck up and the censorship groupie with a curly wig being very excitable and hyperactive.

I have not heard a censorship medley of songs before, but I thought it was excellent and had over 2000 people singing on it. Out of curiosity I would like to see the re-cut songs from Chicago (with the references to prostitution cut out.) I highly recommend this short to anyone interested in the issue of censorship - Australia's OFLC should see it in particular as they need to get rod out of their arse.

Nippon chinbotsu

Not even manly 70s hair can save Japan!
For some reason I thought this was "Japan Sinks" the 2006 remake, no biggie. I even kept watching it although my copy had no English subtitles, you can still follow the story well enough.

Lots of explosions, people running around on fire, a great "oh my eye!" moment and scientists shouting at each other and and getting into fist fights.

I don't know why they didn't shove the manly 70s hair guy into the Japan Trench as it would have stopped all the trouble in the first place. It has to have been his hair that stopped him being killed all those times. His hair was tougher than he was as he couldn't even throw a punch.

Andrew Hughes steals the show as the Australian Prime Minister: "If we accept 5 million Japanese, they'll simply use our land and resources to build themselves another country."

Australia is the only country in the film not to accept some of the eventual 37 million refugees, they make a point of that for some reason, no idea why...

But What About the Revolutionary George Pocket?

It's a raincoat, but it fits in my pocket!
George invents a pocket raincoat, but he is fired when the company goes out of business. He hatches a plan to infect umbrellas with Anthrax, but a strange woman steals his umbrella. When he knocks on the door of her flat, she agrees to let him come in, but threatens to blind him with fly spray at any time. Will he get his umbrella back or not?

This was a good movie, but it was also very strange which I liked quite a bit. The acting seemed to be really harsh and sharp to suit the mood of the short and made it a lot funnier.

I enjoyed the advertising jingles at the start and the end of the film also. These once used to be more common with advertisers, but clients these days seem to mainly want sound-alike songs in their ads from the latest music.

The production design of the short was unique also. For the first scene there seemed to be a lot of plastic sheeting around, a theme that repeats itself throughout the movie. I thought the interior of the mad woman's flat was great also with all the umbrellas lying around.

Special mention must also go to the fake newscast which I enjoyed as I am a fan of fake newscasts and pretend newspapers. Those of you in the city of Melbourne get to enjoy a fake newspaper on the train home every day, it's called MX…

Heaven's Gate

See the restored version instead
Having heard interviews about this new version of the film, I am aware of the history of this movie. I was prepared to give it a chance as the people talking about this restored version seemed to be really enthusiastic about it. It is important to note that this is not a "Director's Cut" as the original director threw in the towel after the problems with the original release.

The people responsible for this restored version are John Kirk and the cinematographer of the original movie. Kris Kristofferson is also helping promote it and gave a taped introduction to the screening I was at thanking us for coming and saying this version had only ever been seen by the cinematographer and director before.

It is really disappointing that this movie went so badly on it's original release as if it had been made in the 90's it would have done well alongside such films as Dances with Wolves. The money problems it had are dwarfed by films such as Titanic and Waterworld (which made it's money back!) There is no doubt Kris Kristofferson would have got an Oscar nomination for it too.

For those of you who like action, Kris Kristofferson gets to punch up Christopher Walken in this film. Also there Kris walks around shirtless for those of you who think he is sexy.

You can really see where the money went on this production as the buildings look like they are real and the sets are really complete. The costumes are also great and really fit the period also.

Special mention must also go to the soundtrack which mixes traditional songs with a strong orchestral score. Look out for the "Heaven's Gate band" (including the roller-skating violinist) during the town sequences also.

This film is only getting a limited release in cinemas so I would recommend picking it up on DVD. It hopefully should do very well there as people love getting "special editions" of movies. For those of you who think you wouldn't be able to watch it in one sitting, it would also be a great movie to watch over two nights.

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