The line-up of Aussie films looks promising, at least on paper.
By
18 Jan 2013 - 11:36 AM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2013 - 11:36 AM

Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Sam Worthington, Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Ben Mendelsohn, Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Mia Wasikowska, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, Xavier Samuel, Rachel Griffiths… the Australian films on the release slate for 2013 aren't lacking in star power.

The eclectic line-up includes films from first-time directors Boyd Hicklin, Miro Bilbrough, Catriona McKenzie, Ben Nott, Sarah Spillane and Kim Mordaunt, and writer Stuart Beattie's second turn as director following Tomorrow, When the War Began.

Four indigenous-themed titles are on the slate: Ivan Sen's Mystery Road, McKenzie's Satellite Boy, Spillane's Around the Block and Warwick Thornton's The Darkside. Also upcoming are films from seasoned directors Jonathan Teplitzky and John Curran and an Australian-French co-production from Coco avant Chanel's Anne Fontaine.

[ Watch: Satellite Boy trailer ]

Release dates may vary. First up is Hicklin's Save Your Legs! (February), a comedy starring Stephen Curry, Brendan Cowell (who wrote the screenplay) and Damon Gameau, which looks at a struggling suburban cricket team who get the chance to fulfil their dream of playing in India.

[ Watch: Interview with Save Your Legs! director Boyd Hicklin ]
[
Watch: Save Your Legs! trailer ]

Mark Lamprell's Goddess (March) is a musical comedy which has British stage actress Laura Michelle Kelly as an isolated housewife who becomes a singing sensation on the Internet, with Ronan Keating as her husband.

Richard Gray's Blinder (March) stars Oliver Ackland, Jack Thompson, Josh Helman, Rose McIver, Anna Hutchison and Zoe Carides in the saga of an ex-AFL footballer who returns to his home town after a scandal aiming to face his demons and reunite the team.

Three titles are slated for April/May. McKenzie's Satellite Boy follows Pete, a 12-year-old Aboriginal who lives with his elderly grandfather in an abandoned drive-in cinema. When the joint is threatened with demolition, Pete sets off for the city with a friend, a perilous journey through Kimberley country. The cast includes newcomers Cameron Wallaby and Joseph Pedley together with David Gulpilil.

Sam Worthington, Xavier Samuel (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and Myles Pollard star in Drift, a 1970s-set saga about two surfer brothers whose idyllic lifestyle is disrupted when one gets mixed up with a biker gang. The co-directors are Nott and Morgan O'Neill, who made The Factory and Solo.

Bilbrough's Being Venice is the chronicle of Venice (Alice McConnell), a poet with a penchant for jotting words on sticky notes and picking the wrong guy, and her relationship with her emotionally and physically distant father Arthur (Garry McDonald).

I, Frankenstein (September) is a fantasy thriller adapted from Kevin Grevioux's graphic novel which picks up from the moment that the classic Mary Shelley novel leaves off: with the death of Victor Frankenstein and the abandonment of his creature in the Arctic wilderness. The creature doesn't die or age but returns to a world dominated by a power struggle between two clans, the Demons and the Gargoyles. Stuart Beattie directs the cast led by Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Socratis Otto and Jai Courtney.

Due out in October is Patrick, Mark Hartley's reimagining of Richard Franklin's 1978 psychological thriller about a comatose, angelic-looking guy who tries to seduce his sexy nurse using psychokinetic powers, starring Charles Dance, Sharni Vinson and Rachel Griffiths.

Slated for the same month is Teplitzky's The Railway Man, a drama based on Eric Lomax's tale of confronting his WWII torturer 30 years on, starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and War Horse's Jeremy Irvine. Stellan Skarsgård plays Lomax's wartime buddy and Hiroyuki Sanada is his former tormentor.

Warwick Thornton's The Darkside (November) presents an indigenous perspective on the afterlife via a series of ghost tales related by The Sapphires' Deborah Mailman and Sheri Sebbens, Bryan Brown, Leah Purcell, Aaron Pedersen, Brendan Cowell and Sacha Horler.

The following titles aren't dated yet. Based on Doris Lessing's novella, Anne Fontaine's Two Mothers (pictured) follows two lifelong friends, Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright), who fall in love with each other's teenage sons played by Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville.

The clandestine affairs continue for years until their discovery threatens to tear apart their lives. The film screened at Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program which showcases upcoming dramatic films from established directors.

[ Read: Two Mothers review ]

Sen's Mystery Road stars Aaron Pedersen as Detective Jay Swan, who's called on to investigate a murder and soon realises a serial killer is at work. The impressive cast includes Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Tony Barry, Bruce Spence, Robert Mammone, Roy Billing, Tasma Walton, Damian Walshe-Howling, David Field and Zoe Carides.

Christina Ricci stars as an American drama teacher who reaches out to a troubled Aboriginal teenager played by Hunter Page-Lochard (The Sapphires, Bran Nue Dae) in inner-city Redfern during rioting by the Aboriginal residents in Around the Block.

Kim Mordaunt's The Rocket is set and filmed largely in the mountains of Laos, the saga of a boy, Ahlo, a twin, who fears he is cursed because his tribe is convinced twins bring bad luck. To try to disprove that belief, the kid sets out to build a giant rocket to compete in the lucrative but dangerous Rocket Festival. The Rocket will have its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February in Generation, the section devoted to children and young people, and is in the running for best first feature in Berlin.

[ Watch: The Rocket trailer ]

From The King's Speech producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning comes Tracks, based on Robyn Davidson's chronicle of her nine month journey in 1977 across the outback from Alice Springs to the West Coast with four camels and her dog Diggity. Mia Wasikowska is Davidson, Adam Driver (HBO's Girls) is Rick Smolan, the American National Geographic photographer who joined her on several occasions, and John Curran directs.

Family adventure Nim's Island 2: Return of the Pirates! features Bindi Irwin as the title character (taking over from Abigail Breslin, who starred in the original film), with US actor Matthew Lillard (The Descendants, Scooby Doo) as her marine scientist father, and John Waters, Toby Wallace and Nathan Derrick, directed by Brendan Maher.

Oh, and I guess I should mention Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (May), which is technically an Australian film although I suspect audiences overseas won't be aware of its provenance.

[ Watch: The Great Gatsby trailer ]

My picks of the bunch, based on concept, cast and creative personnel, are Satellite Boy, Mystery Road, Two Mothers, The Railway Man, The Rocket and Tracks.