The Australian cinema ended 2014 on a welcome note, with the plaudits for The Babadook and the attendance figures for The Water Diviner—a genre film and an historic drama, respectively. The question now is what films can surprise and impress audiences, and keep the naysayers in check, during the next six months? Here are the local releases you can expect to see as 2015 takes shape on local screens. (N.B.: If you like post-apocalyptic car chases, all the better).
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
In cinemas: February 13 only, then video on demand
Following in the recent Australian tradition of the Spierig brothers (Undead, Predestination) and Cairnes brothers (100 Bloody Acres), siblings Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner introduce themselves with an independent Australian genre film. A passing comet causes a bloody zombie outbreak that results in a distinctly Australian group of outcasts—including a wisecracking Aboriginal played by Leon Burchill—taking on the undead and a deranged doctor experimenting on all and sundry with the aid of the military; mind control and custom jalopies are also in the mix. A one-day event cinema release paves the way for video on demand availability.
In cinemas: February 14
This local family film heavy on digital effects has already made a splash amongst palaeontologists and amateur dinosaur enthusiasts due to the decision by co-writer and director Matthew Drummond—an Emmy Award-winning visual effects creature designer—to present the dinosaurs in this mystery adventure as feathered beasts. Shot mainly in Vanuatu, and made for a young audience, his film follows a 13-year-old boy (Darius Williams) who is stranded on an island where prehistoric creatures and ghost ships dot the landscape, and a girl who claims to be from the 1950s (Kate Rasmussen) is his partner on figuring out how to return home.
That Sugar Film
In cinemas: Limited Q&A screenings from March 1
Actor Damon Gameau (Balibo, Patrick) follows in the footsteps of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me and makes his body the site of a scientific experiment when he spends 60 days eating the refined sugars from nominally healthy food that he’d previously eliminated from his diet. The result? Mood swings, liver troubles and the beginning of coronary issues. Intent on making the documentary as accessible as possible, Gameau puts the likes of Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry alongside scientific talking heads, while his life models in some sequences are played by prominent young Australian stars Isabel Lucas and Brenton Thwaites. You may regret going to the candy bar before you see this.
In cinemas: March 12
Leading stand-up comic Carl Barron, who already has one of the most successful live comedy DVDs in Australia to his credit, branches out into the movies by writing and starring in the story of Manny Lewis, a successful comic who grapples with loneliness and tries to make a go of a fledgling relationship. Directed by Anthony Mir, the film makes use of Barron’s dry, observational style, with the cast rounded out by Leeanna Walsman, Roy Billing and Damien Garvey.
One Eyed Girl
In cinemas: April 2
Cinematographer Nick Matthews makes his directorial feature debut with this thriller about a psychiatrist, Travis (Mark Leonard Winter), whose life has fallen into despair and potential ruin following the death of a patient, only to succumb to the spell of a cult and its charismatic leader, Father Jay (Steve Le Marquand). The South Australian production was shot several years ago, and it now benefits from the prominence of Tilda Cobham-Hervey, the young actress who made her breakthrough in 2014’s 52 Tuesdays and is now the face of Myer. She plays a prominent member of the doomsday collective.
Mad Max: Fury Road
In cinemas: May 14
The big one: George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic desert battles of former police officer “Mad” Max Rockatansky. Thirty years after Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, English actor Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson as the anti-hero crossing a world where petrol is in short supply, along with compassion and humanity, but haircuts are crazier than ever. Shot in Namibia, after unexpected rains made the Australian outback bloom, Miller’s much anticipated reboot also stars Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, Max’s one-armed ally in what the trailer suggests is an orgy of vehicular mayhem.
In cinemas: Undated
This Tarantino throwback, about a British hitman (Simon Pegg) in a small West Australian town who finds that the local inhabitants tangle of blackmail and murder needs little help from him to become combustible, debuted at Toronto last September and also toured regional Victoria for the Melbourne International Film Festival, so expect it to reach cinemas at some point in the coming months. The not so genial follow-up to Red Dog by director Kriv Stenders boasts a prominent cast, including Sullivan Stapleton (300: Rise of an Empire), Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies), Callan Mulvey (Zero Dark Thirty) and Alice Braga (Elysium).