The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From August 25
Head to the flicks to see a vivid documentary about volcanologists, Idris Elba fight a lion and Archibald Prize-winner Del Kathryn Barton's first feature.
August 25, 2022
Something delightful has been happening in cinemas in some parts of the country. After numerous periods spent empty during the pandemic, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, picture palaces in many Australian regions are back in business — including both big chains and smaller independent sites in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
During COVID-19 lockdowns, no one was short on things to watch, of course. In fact, you probably feel like you've streamed every movie ever made, including new releases, Studio Ghibli's animated fare and Nicolas Cage-starring flicks. But, even if you've spent all your time of late glued to your small screen, we're betting you just can't wait to sit in a darkened room and soak up the splendour of the bigger version. Thankfully, plenty of new films are hitting cinemas so that you can do just that — and we've rounded up, watched and reviewed everything on offer this week.
FIRE OF LOVE
Spewing fire is so hot right now, and literally always — and dragons aren't the only ones doing it. House of the Dragon and Blaze can have their flame-breathing creatures, and Fire of Love can have something that also seems fantastical but is one of the earth's raging wonders. The mix of awe, astonishment, adoration, fear, fascination and unflinching existential terror that volcanoes inspire is this documentary's playground. It was Katia and Maurice Krafft's daily mood, including before they met, became red beanie-wearing volcanologists, built a life chasing eruptions — The Life Volcanic, you could dub it — and devoted themselves to studying lava-spurting ruptures in the planet's crust. Any great doco on a topic such as this, and with subjects like these, should make viewers experience the same thrills, spills, joys and worries, and that's a radiant feat this Sundance award-winner easily achieves.
What a delight it would be to trawl through the Kraffts' archives, sift through every video featuring the French duo and their work, and witness them doing their highly risky jobs against spectacular surroundings for hours, days and more. That's the task filmmaker Sara Dosa (The Seer and the Unseen) took up to make this superb film. This isn't the only such doco — legendary German director Werner Herzog has made his own, called The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft, after featuring the couple in 2016's Into the Inferno — but Fire of Love is a glorious, sensitive, entrancing and affecting ode to two remarkable people and their love, passion and impact. While history already dictates how the pair's tale ends, together and exactly as it seemed fated to, retracing their steps and celebrating their importance will never stop sparking new pleasures.
For newcomers to the Kraffts, their lives comprised quite the adventure — one with two volcano-obsessed souls who instantly felt like they were destined to meet, bonded over a mutual love of Mount Etna, then dedicated their days afterwards to understanding the natural geological formations that filled their dreams. Early in their time together, the couple gravitated to what they called 'red volcanoes', with their enticing scarlet-hued lava flows. What a phenomenon to explore when romance beats in the air, and when geochemist Katia and geologist Maurice are beginning their life together. From there, however, they moved to analysing what they named 'grey volcanoes'. Those don't visually encapsulate the pair's relationship; they're the craggy peaks that produce masses of ash when they erupt — Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull, for instance — and often a body count.
As narrated by actor and Kajillionaire filmmaker Miranda July, Fire of Love starts with blazing infatuation and devotion — between the Kraffts for each other, and for their field of interest — then establishes their legacy. Both aspects could fuel their own movies, and both linger and haunt in their own ways. And, as magnificent as this incredibly thoughtful, informative and stirring documentary is, it makes you wonder what a sci-fi flick made from the same footage would look like. The 16-millimetre imagery captured during the Kraffts' research trips around the globe, whittled down here from 200 hours to fill just 98 minutes, puts even the most state-of-the-art special effects in a different realm. Pixels can be used to paint gorgeous sights, and cinema has no shortage of movies that shimmer with that exact truth, but there really is no substitute for reality.
Read our full review.
Idris Elba fights a lion. That's it, that's Beast, as far as film pitches go at least. This South Africa-set thriller's one-sentence summary is up there with 'Jason Statham battles a giant shark' and 'Liam Neeson stares down wolves' — straightforward and irresistible, obviously, in enticing audiences into cinemas. That said, the latest addition to the animals-attack genre isn't as ridiculous as The Meg, and isn't a resonant existential musing like The Grey. What this creature feature wants to be, and is, is a lean, edge-of-your-seat, humanity-versus-nature nerve-shredder. Director Baltasar Kormákur (Adrift) knows that a famous face, a relentless critter as a foe, and life-or-death terror aplenty can be the stuff that cinema dreams and hits are made of. His movie isn't completely the former, but it does do exactly what it promises. If it proves a box office success, it'll be because it dangles an easy drawcard and delivers it.
There is slightly more to Beast than Idris Elba brawling with the king of the jungle, of course — or running from it, trying to hide from it in a jeep, attempting to outsmart it and praying it'll tire of seeing him as prey. But this tussle with an apex predator is firmly at its best when it really is that simple, that primal and, with no qualms about gore and jump scares, that visceral. Elba (The Harder They Fall) plays recently widowed American doctor Nate Samuels, who is meant to be relaxing, reconnecting with his teenage daughters Mare (Iyana Halley, Licorice Pizza) and Norah (Leah Jeffries, Rel), and finding solace in a pilgrimage to his wife's homeland. But Beast wouldn't be called Beast if the Samuels crew's time with old family friend Martin (Sharlto Copley, Russian Doll), a wildlife biologist who oversees the nature reserve, was all placid safaris and sunsets.
Kormákur doesn't even pretend that bliss is an option, or that the stalking, scares and big man/big cat showdown aren't coming. Ramping up the tension from the outset, his feature begins with the reason that its main maned (and unnamed) creature wants to slash his way through Nate and company: poachers hunting, with the culprits sneaking in at night to elude human eyes and snuff the light out of every feline in a targeted pride, which leaves one particularly large animal, the patriarch, angry and vengeful. Arriving unknowingly in the aftermath, the Samuels family have just chosen the wrong time to visit. Their first encounter with another pride, which Martin helped raise, leaves them awestruck instead of frightened; then they spy Beast's killer beast's handiwork at a nearby village, and surviving becomes their only aim.
Swap out Elba from the 'Idris Elba fights a lion' equation and Kormákur would've had a far lesser film on his hands. His premise, wonderfully concise as it is, wouldn't work with any old actor. His entire movie wouldn't, and Beast works on the level it's prowling on — mostly. Screenwriter Ryan Engle (Rampage), using a story by Jaime Primak Sullivan (Breaking In), gives Nate grief and guilt over his past mistakes to grapple with as well as that persistent lion. Yes, the script is that cliched, because action heroes almost always seem to be wooing, worrying about or mourning a woman while they're endeavouring to save something, be it the world, their families or themselves. Elba dances the bereaved absent father dance well, though, with the Beast's depths springing from him rather than the material and its deceased spouse/regretful dad/seize-the-day tropes.
Read our full review.
In the name of its protagonist, and the pain and fury that threatens to parch her 12-year-old existence, Del Kathryn Barton's first feature scorches and sears. It burns in its own moniker, too, and in the blistering alarm it sounds against an appalling status quo: that experiencing, witnessing and living with the aftermath of violence against women is all too common, heartbreakingly so, including in Australia where one woman a week on average is killed by her current or former partner. Blaze has a perfect title, with the two-time Archibald Prize-winning artist behind it crafting a movie that's alight with anger, that flares with sorrow, and that's so astutely and empathetically observed, styled and acted that it chars. Indeed, it's frequently hard to pick which aspect of the film singes more: the story about surviving what should be unknown horrors for a girl who isn't even yet a teen, the wondrously tactile and immersive way in which Blaze brings its namesake's inner world to the screen, or the stunning performance by young actor Julia Savage (Mr Inbetween) in its central part.
Savage also has a fitting moniker, impeccably capturing how ferociously she takes on her starring role. Blaze, the Sydney schoolgirl that she plays, isn't always fierce. She's curious and imaginative, happy dwelling in her own dreamy universe long before she flees there after witnessing a rape and murder, and then frightened and fraying while also fuming. In how she's portrayed by Savage, and penned by Barton with co-screenwriter Huna Amweero (also a feature first-timer), she's intricately fleshed out, too, with every reaction she has to the assault proving instantly relatable — especially to anyone whose life has been touched by trauma. We don't all see dragons made out of fabric, felt, feathers, papier-mâché and glitter, helping us through times good and bad, but everyone can understand the feelings behind that dragon, which swelter like the creature's fiery breath.
Game of Thrones or House of the Dragon, Blaze isn't — although Jake (Josh Lawson, Mortal Kombat), who Blaze spots in an alleyway with Hannah (Yael Stone, Blacklight), has his lawyer (Heather Mitchell, Bosch & Rockit) claim that his accuser knows nothing. With the attack occurring mere minutes into the movie, Barton dedicates the feature's bulk to how her lead character copes, or doesn't. Being questioned about what she saw in court is just one way that the world tries to reduce her to ashes, but the embers of her hurt and determination don't and won't die. Blaze's father Luke (Simon Baker, High Ground), a single parent, understandably worries about the impact of everything blasting his daughter's way. As she retreats then acts out, cycling between both and bobbing in-between, those fears are well-founded. Blaze is a coming-age-film — a robbing-of-innocence movie as well — but it's also a firm message that there's no easy or ideal response to something as awful as its titular figure observes.
The pivotal sequence, lensed by cinematographer Jeremy Rouse (The Turning) and spliced together by editor Dany Cooper (The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson) to be as jarring and unflinching for Blaze's audience as it is for Blaze, is nightmarish. Avoiding agony and anguish isn't Barton's way — and it can't be with this subject matter. While never as harrowing in the same manner again, Blaze is styled by its artist-turned-writer/director in the same expressive, impressionistic way from start to finish, so that watching its frames flicker feels like diving inside its lead character's heart and mind. That internal realm is a place where a pre-trial proceeding erupts into flames spat from Blaze herself, via a tiny white dragon figurine she places between her teeth. Unsurprisingly, that's a spectacular and gloriously cathartic sight. Barton isn't afraid of symbolism, but she's also allergic to emptiness; not a single image in her kaleidoscopic trip through her protagonist's imaginings is ever wasted.
Read our full review.
HIT THE ROAD
How fitting it is that a film about family — about the ties that bind, and when those links are threatened not by choice but via unwanted circumstances — hails from an impressive lineage itself. How apt it is that Hit the Road explores the extent that ordinary Iranians find themselves going to escape the nation's oppressive authorities, too, and doesn't shy away from its political subtext. The reason that both feel ideal stems from the feature's filmmaker Panah Panahi. This isn't a wonderful movie solely due to its many echoes, resonating through the bonds of blood, and also via what's conveyed on-screen and reality around it, though. It's a gorgeously shot, superbly acted, astutely written and deeply felt feature all in its own right, and it cements its director — who debuts as both a helmer and a screenwriter — as an emerging talent to watch. But it's also a film that's inseparable from its context, because it simply wouldn't exist without the man behind it and his well-known background.
Panah's surname will be familiar because he's the son of acclaimed auteur Jafar Panahi, one of Iranian cinema's best-known figures for more than two decades now. And Jafar's run-ins with the country's regime will be familiar as well, because the heat he's felt at home for his social commentary-laden work has been well-documented for just as long. The elder Panahi, director of This Is Not a Film, Closed Curtain and more, has been both imprisoned and banned from making movies over the years. In July 2022, he was detained again merely for enquiring about the legal situation surrounding There Is No Evil helmer Mohammad Rasoulof and Poosteh director Mostafa Aleahmad. None of the above directly comes through in Hit the Road's story, not for a moment, but the younger Panahi's characteristically defiant movie is firmly made with a clear shadow lingering over it.
When filmmaking becomes a family business, the spectre of the parent can loom over the child, of course — by choice sometimes, and also purely thanks to their shared name. In the first category, Jason Reitman picked up his father Ivan's franchise with Ghostbusters: Afterlife, for instance; Gorō Miyazaki has helmed animated movies for his dad Hayao's Studio Ghibli, such as Tales From Earthsea, From Up on Poppy Hill and Earwig and the Witch; and Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral and Possessor are chips off The Fly and Videodrome great David Cronenberg's body-horror block. Panahi's Hit the Road also feels like it has been handed down, including in the way it spends the bulk of its time in a car as Jafar's Tehran Taxi and 3 Faces did. That said, it feels as much like the intuitive Panah is taking up the same mission as Jafar as someone purely taking after his dad.
Hit the Road's narrative is simple and also devastatingly layered; in its frames, two starkly different views of life in Iran are apparent. A mother (Pantea Panahiha, Rhino), a father (Mohammad Hassan Madjooni, Pig), their adult son (first-timer Amin Simiar) and their six-year-old boy (scene-stealer Rayan Sarlak, Gol be khodi), all unnamed, have indeed done as the movie's moniker suggests — and in a borrowed car. When the film opens, there's no doubting that the kid among them sees the world, and everything in general, as only a kid can. The mood with the child's mum, dad and sibling is far more grim, however, even though they say they're en route to take the brood's eldest to get married. Their time on the road is tense and uncertain, and also tinged with the tenor of not-so-fond farewells — and with nary a glimmer of a celebratory vibe about impending nuptials.
Read our full review.
If you're wondering what else is currently screening in Australian cinemas — or has been lately — check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on May 5, May 12, May 19 and May 26; June 2, June 9, June 16, June 23 and June 30; and July 7, July 14, July 21 and July 28; and August 4, August 11 and August 18.
You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Petite Maman, The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Firestarter, Operation Mincemeat, To Chiara, This Much I Know to Be True, The Innocents, Top Gun: Maverick, The Bob's Burgers Movie, Ablaze, Hatching, Mothering Sunday, Jurassic World Dominion, A Hero, Benediction, Lightyear, Men, Elvis, Lost Illusions, Nude Tuesday, Ali & Ava, Thor: Love and Thunder, Compartment No. 6, Sundown, The Gray Man, The Phantom of the Open, The Black Phone, Where the Crawdads Sing, Official Competition, The Forgiven, Full Time, Murder Party, Bullet Train, Nope, The Princess, 6 Festivals, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Crimes of the Future and Bosch & Rockit.
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