A Long Ride for the Gentlemen Outlaw Ben Hall

script by Noel T. Manning II

stagecoachMy grandfather Earl Reagan was a huge fan of the original American genre, the Western. He turned me on to some of the great classic feature films (and stars) including the works of John Ford and John Wayne.

These films in many ways explored the challenges of chasing one’s dream during the 1830s – early 1900s in the USA. It was about the thirst for adventure and the examination of the American spirit, and the American people. With uncertainties, lawlessness, and life-threatening challenges associated with the United States westward expansion, these films captured the essence of what it means to explore opportunities for a better future … even when one’s own life is at stake.  But, even though this genre is United States born and The_Legend_of_Ben_Hall_Poster,_Ross_Morgan,_Oct_2016raised, it doesn’t mean filmmakers didn’t borrow ideas and stories from other cultures (check the origin of the Magnificent Seven for example), or that other countries don’t have their own versions of a wild west life style. That is definitely the case with writer, director, producer Matthew Homes’ Australian film “The Legend of Ben Hall.”

This revisionist western-style biopic is based on the final nine months of the real-life Australian bushranger and well-known gentlemen criminal Ben Hall. During Hall’s lawless life and wild reign of robberies during the 1860s, he was said to have committed over 600 crimes, all without killing a single person. In this film, we meet a man at struggle with himself, his circumstances, the friends in which he’s associated, and the family life he’ll never really have because of bad choices.

5bd7d3fcc2f27cf5beeba57ac807cc66_originalFilled with gunfights, stagecoach robberies, barroom dances, horse chases, and wide open spaces, this film is filled with spectacular scenic vistas, a rich set production design, excellent detail to period costumes and props, and absolutely stunning cinematography. Actor Jack Martin takes on the lead role of Ben Hall, and he is wonderful in portraying the emotional and physical complexities of this infamous Australian outlaw.

The Legend of Ben Hall was originally released as a 40-minute film after a successful post1Kickstarter campaign, before eventually being picked up and partially funded for a feature-film production from Fox Australia.  This extended theatrical version takes audiences deeper into the characters, the story, and the vast landscapes of the Australian wilderness.

maxresdefaultWriter and director Matthew Homes paid extremely close attention to detail in dialogue and story, focusing on historical accuracies, and pulling many quotes and scenes directly from newspaper accounts. This can be a great thing if you’re hoping to explore and document history in a film narrative format. But at some point, hard decisions need to be made to cut the fat and the extra weight from a story to have a digestible piece of cinema that can inform while also entertaining audiences. For this film, with a running time of two hours and 22 minutes, I found that the lack of a strong story question and compellingly delivered crisis didn’t match the length of the film. Many scenes felt unnecessary, or too drawn out, and that, combined with some weak acting (and even overacting almost bordering parody) from some supporting cast, really took away from what could have been a great movie. Adding too many extra minutes, scenes and layers to a story isn’t always a good thing, and that is the case here.1496796765207

It is difficult at times when filmmakers are so closely connected to a film, especially a biopic, or based on a true story film, to be completely objective and scale back the essentials of telling the story. I’ve been there as a filmmaker myself, and made that mistake, so I understand the temptation to put in more than you really need into a final cut. As a viewer, I definitely got that vibe with “The Legend of Ben Hall.” It had amazing potential, yet tried to over deliver, and in doing so, it fell short in providing a memorable piece of cinema.legend-of-ben-hall-movie-australia-1024x578

I’m giving this film a “C-“ Cinemascene grade.

“The Legend of Ben Hall” is scheduled to be the first of four historical films capturing the lives of infamous Australian Bushrangers. Filmmakers are currently seeking funding for this first anthology of its kind using many of the same actors to reprise their roles. More information on the Legend of Ben Hall is available online at https://www.thelegendofbenhall.com/

You can follow me on Twitter @CinemasceneUSA .



Releasing the Monster Within

maxresdefault14-year old Lewis MacDougall gives one of the 2016’s best performances in a film that is compelling & beautiful. A Monster Calls explores faith, letting go, and the search for healing.

Based on the award-winning book by Patrick Ness, J.A. Bayona directs this drama/fantasy that takes audiences into the unique world of young Conor (MacDougall) who explores life, death, fear, and uncertainty with the assistance of a great and magnificent tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson). Rogue One’s Felicity Jones and the legendary Sigourney Weaver round out the cast with strong acting and thought-provoking characters.1477624734-1196749690_n

This is a film that offers deep and rich layers in nearly every aspect of filmmaking. With captivating and stunning music (by Fernando Velazquez), wonderful cinematography, and excellent CGI, this flick also has one of the best set designs and sound designs of any film of 2016.


A Monster Calls provides valuable lessons for living in a world of chaos and rage, for exploring what scares you, and for understanding that even through our most difficult times … we are never fully alone.

A Monster Calls earns a Cinemascene grade of “A+”

  • Noel T. Manning II


When Men Were Men

by Noel T. Manning II

last-man-club-LMC_Corbin_2mb_rgbDirector Bo Brinkman‘s Last Man Club offers a funny and poignant road trip dramady about a World War II veteran escaping the destiny of forced retirement home living in search of friendship’s past. when Eagle (played by Jim Mackrell) discovers that the life he once knew has long-gone, and he may be forced to nearly exist, he chooses one last adventure and travels the US searching for old war buddies. Along the way he develops an unlikely friendship with Romy (played by Kate French), a young woman escaping an unwanted past, present, and future of her own. The friendship gives fuel to a wild and crazy journey complete with car chases, airplane crashes, shoot-outs & the search to reignite life’s meaning when one discovers things didn’t quite turn out like you planned.

This is truly a sweet story of friendship (old and new), and it explores morality and last-man-club-Presskit-5-Jim-MacKrell,-W_rgbmortality and offers the simple lesson – “Growing old ain’t never easy.” Last Man Club offers an interesting perspective on the choices we all have to make as we age, or as we see those we love age around us. It is a film filled with humor, beautiful scenery, and an excellent story of the power of friendships and commitment. The film is a cross between “Grumpy Old Men”, “Thema & Louise”, and “Cocoon” and offers a wonderful salute to those who serve in America’s armed services past and present, and reminds us that  a war-time experience is a difficult thing to survive, but so is coming home.

last-man-club-Eagle_and_Will_having_a)_look_at_an_old_stearman_ bi-plane_rgbFamiliar faces fill out the cast including Barry Corbin, William Morgan Sheppard, Richard Riehl & Jake Busey. Last Man Club was written, produced, and directed by Bo Brinkman. It is a film Brinkman says has been in the works for decades and was the film that nearly never happened. Check out the interview below for the full story.