Review from the Vault: NEWCASTLE

In honour of my review from last night of the new and amazing Australian surf film, DRIFT, here is my review of NEWCASTLE from November 2008. It should be noted this is in my top 10 Australian films of all time and it is truly cool 🙂 NEWCASTLE – The Movie 10/10. It was also the second time I saw and fell in love with Aussie hottie Xavier Samuels. Get it out – 

 

Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel
Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel

 

RE-POSTED AS RELEASED TODAY (06/11/08) ON LIMITED RELEASE – HUNT IT DOWN!!! When I looked through the program for the Sydney Film Festival months ago now I circled this one for pure self indulgent pleasure. The pic from the film in the guide was of four of the hottest surfers I had seen. I thought – hell yeah, I am not missing this perve fest. And I am SO bloody glad I went to see this film. Not for it’s incredibly hot actors and beautiful scenery but for its amazing story and for the fact it was a TRULY BRILLIANT AUSTRALIAN film.

This feature debut from director Dan Castle (The Visitor) follows 17-year-old Jesse Hoff (Lachlan Buchanan) as he narrowly loses his spot on the international circuit to his best friend, Andy, who’s also an object of desire for Jesse’s twin brother Fergus (Xavier Samuel). A weekend getaway is planned, which is intended to be an escape full of surf and sex for Jesse and his circle, but events take a tragic turn with the arrival of Jesse’s brooding half-brother Victor, a pro surfer sidelined by injury. Though Castle’s coming of age tale is full of lush action shots, there’s more to it than wave porn. At its heart, Newcastle is about the joy and fragility of adolescence.

Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel
Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel

I was stunned at how good this film was. It has some exceptional under and above water surf cinematography, the setting (Newcastle) underutilised and an amazing surfing backdrop of ocean tankers in the background. Apparently a week or so after the shoot ended the Pasha Bulka decided to beach itself on the set. The cast is quite amazing for an Australian one. Lachlan Buchanan is OK as the lead actor of an ensemble cast. He has some lines my friend Paul claims were delivered dubiously but his looks made up for it. Hehe. The father is good old pooh man himself Shane Jacobson (Kenny) who plays the working class battler with aplomb. His breakdown scene had me crying. He is a father who works himself to the bone and misses out on most of his kids lives.

Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel
Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel

Barry Otto plays “gramps” with his usual professionalism and presence. I thought “gramps” could have been used more, his role was slightly blurry but did emphasise the differences between the two younger brothers. He actually reminds me of my own grandpa. Miss you pops! The surfing bunch is a great ensemble and you can tell they all had heaps of fun together and provide a realism to the situation. There is abundant swearing and showing off, screwing around with “chicks” and trying to get naked as much as possible. YES – this all happens for a teenage surfer. I lived it. But I lived my life as the star of the film, the guy who stands out and as an Australian actor has three sensational Oz films on his resume and who I will bank money on becoming the next big Hollywood Aussie actor. He is HOT, he can act. He started his acting in 2:37 as a lead, he then starred in another film I raved about a month ago called September (read reviewHERE) and now he is one of the leads in this. His name is Xavier Samuel and you heard it here first, this guy is going to be HUGE!!!! Samuel plays Fergus, the Emo styled gay younger brother who has a crush on one of his brother’s friends. This is one of the angles of the film I believe the production company is avoiding to promote in fear of losing a massive chunk of homophobic audience. This one of the strongest themes of the film and a part I lived as a teenager. A gay boy fitting into a straight surfers world of constantly near naked hotties. It is an acceptance story for him and while I found their initial taunting a bit unnerving my friend Paul felt this was more of a mates knocking mates style of acceptance into their “world”. I think maybe this character is based on the life of the director Dan Castle (although this is only a presumption) as the shots of the guys are quite beautiful with a leading fixation to some naked butts and they really do show off the guys.

Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel
Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel

One of the other actors also has some unknown cred, Israel Cannan (the guy with the bandanna in the first picture who plays Scotty). He sang the theme song for “Home and Away” (1988) for the first 3 months of 2007. He also sings the majority of the songs on the brilliant soundtrack to this film and is the exceptionally played eccentric comic relief of the film.

Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel
Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel

The film manages to capture a true surfing Australia as well as a great real life story of a Newcastle battling family. Their are cameos from Layne Beachley, Andrew Johns and a few of our surf heroes who I cannot remember names of, apologies. It is all believable and missing the Hollywood stylings. There are a LOT of swear words, but this is part of the culture. The girls of the film are so real, the fun loving teenage promiscuous surfer chicks talk about all the guys when they aren’t around, with quite a bit of humor for the viewer. Another thing Paul mentioned that I found interesting. When watching Oz films he says for the first 15min he finds an Australian accent so annoying but then gets used to it. I think it’s more that we are so accustomed to American films that we actually NEVER notice their accents when watching U.S. films as opposed to films made on our home soil. When we watch an Australian film it sounds unusual, but after 15min we realise that while different it’s closer to what we hear every day, without notice, and not the assimilated vocal sounds of film we expect.

 

Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel
Newcastle starring Xavier Samuel

 

I could ramble on for ages about this one. I just want to promote a good Oz flick. It’s budget, while fairly minuscule, appears as though made on a budget more suited for a Hollywood flick. I will say that I hope the distributors (ICON) give this a wide release and that they promote it well and if they do – go and view this great film. Support your locals people!!! This one’s worth $15- And below I will end with another reviewers final paragraph because I could not write my closing any better. Thanks to larry-411 from NY (viewed at film’s world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival)

With “Newcastle,” Dan Castle pushes the boundaries of the typical American coming-of-age slash sports competition film (in this case, surfing). Perhaps he can do it because it is not, in fact, an American film at all but hails from Australia. Perhaps he can get away with it because it wasn’t churned out by a Hollywood studio and didn’t have the hand of the usual producers and distributors whose financing would undoubtedly come with strings attached. Or perhaps it’s just because he had a vision and the tenacity to surround himself with others who wouldn’t compromise. In the end, nothing is as it seems at first glance. “Newcastle” is a totally unexpected film at a time when there are far too few.
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