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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From January 27

Head to the flicks to see Penélope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar’s latest collaboration, a televangelist biopic starring a stellar Jessica Chastain and the latest page-to-screen romance set in the publishing world.
By Sarah Ward
January 27, 2022
By Sarah Ward
January 27, 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 releasesStudio 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.



Whatever Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz happen to be selling — and whenever, and in whichever films — audiences should always be buying. It isn't quite right to liken the acclaimed filmmaker's long-running collaboration with one of his favourite leading ladies to commerce, though, so another comparison fits better: whatever this duo birth into the world, viewers should embrace as a parent does a child. Across four decades now, the Spanish pair has gorgeously and soul-stirringly made cinematic art with the utmost understanding of how to make people feel. They know how people feel, too, and have the combined resumes best exemplified by Live Flesh, All About My Mother, Volver, Broken Embraces, Pain and Glory and now Parallel Mothers to prove it. Their shared filmography also constantly demonstrates another essential insight into human existence: that life is emotion, whether facing its beginning, end or both.

Now helming his 22nd feature, Almodóvar has long filled his works with other recurrent inclusions and fascinations, many of which also burst onto the screen again here. When he initially united with Cruz on 1997's Live Flesh, she gave birth on a bus; in their second pairing, the Oscar-winning All About My Mother, she played a pregnant nun; with their most recent collaboration before this, Pain and Glory, she was mum to the writer/director's fictionalised surrogate — so that she's one of his titular matriarchs now is vintage Almodóvar. He brings back another of his veteran stars in Rossy de Palma (Julieta), paints with the vibrant-toned costume and set design that make his movies such a blissful sight for colour-seeking eyes, and focuses on mothers of all shades navigating life's many difficulties as well. Yes, Parallel Mothers is classic Almodóvar, but nothing about that description ever simply unfurls as expected.

As the movie's moniker indicates, Janis, the almost-40 photographer that Cruz (The 355) inhabits with the quiet force and fragility that's second nature whenever she's directed by Almodóvar, is just one of Parallel Mothers' mums. Teenager Ana (Milena Smit, Cross the Line) is the other and, despite the feature's title, their stories keep converging. The two first meet in a Madrid hospital, where they share a room, give birth simultaneously, chat about how they're each going it alone with no father in the picture and quickly form a bond — as different as they otherwise appear, down to contrasting sources of support (Janis' brightly attired magazine-editor best friend Elena, which is where de Palma pops up, versus Ana's self-obsessed and distant actress mother Teresa, played by Estoy vivo's Aitana Sánchez-Gijón). Janis and Ana descend separately into motherhood afterwards, but twists of fate keep bringing them back together.

Soapiness, aka the kinds of narrative developments characteristic of daytime TV, is another of Almodóvar's touches. But while his career has spanned films light and camp, dark and serious, and almost everything in-between, he inherently recognises that the line between what's dismissed as melodramatic contrivance and what people do truly experience is thinner than a blue slash on a positive pregnancy test. He unravels Parallel Mothers' story with that notion beaming underneath, and while also tackling a real and grim chapter of his country's history that he's never overtly confronted in his work. Before Janis and Ana can meet again and again, their lives and those of their infant daughters' forever intertwined, Janis gets in the family way to anthropologist Arturo (Israel Elejalde, 45 rpm) — who she snaps at a job, then asks to unearth the mass grave in her village that she suspects has housed her great-grandfather's body since he went missing in the Spanish Civil War.

Read our full review.



Not for the first time, the eyes have it, but then they always have with Tammy Faye Bakker. Not one but two films called The Eyes of Tammy Faye have told the 70s and 80s televangelist's tale — first a 2000 documentary and now this new Jessica Chastain-starring dramatisation — and both take their monikers from one of the real-life American figure's best-known attributes. In the opening to the latest movie, the spidery eyelashes that adorn Tammy Faye's peepers are dubbed her trademark by the woman herself. They're given ample focus in this biopic, as OTT and instantly eye-grabbing as they they are, but their prominence isn't just about aesthetics and recognition. This version of The Eyes of Tammy Faye hones in on perspective, resolutely sticking to its namesake's, even when it'd be a better film if it pondered what she truly saw, or didn't.

In the path leading to her celebrity heyday and the time she was a TV mainstay, Tammy Faye's life saw plenty. It began with an unhappy childhood stained by her stern mother Rachel's (Cherry Jones, Succession) refusal to be linked to her at church, lest it remind their god-fearing Minnesotan townsfolk about the latter's sinful divorce. But young Tammy Faye (Chandler Head, The Right Stuff) still finds solace in religion, the attention that speaking in tongues mid-service brings and also the puppets she starts using as a girl. Come 1960, at bible college, her fervour and quirkiness attract fellow student Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom!), with the pair soon married even though it gets them kicked out of school. Unperturbed, she keeps seeing their calling to the lord as their way forward, first with a travelling ministry — puppets included — and then with television shows and their own Praise the Lord network.

From her mid 20s through until her late 40s, when multiple scandals spelled their downfall — involving Jim's alleged sexual assaults, as well as the misuse of funds donated to Praise the Lord by its loyal viewers — much of Tammy Faye's life was lived in the public eye, too. That gives both Chastain (The 355) and director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) copious materials to draw upon beyond the original The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and also turns their film into a glossy recreation. There's no shortage of details to convey, but that's primarily what Abe Sylvia's (Dead to Me) script is content with. Depiction doesn't equal interrogation here, and does skew closer to endorsement; Tammy Faye's outsized appearance, her makeup and outfits getting gaudier as the Bakkers' fame keeps growing, can border on parody — it's camp at the very least — but that isn't the same as asking probing questions about the movie's central figure.

Chastain serves up a performance that seems primed to delve deeper. With the exceptional Scenes From a Marriage star leading the show, the eyes don't just have it, or the hair that just keeps getting bigger, or the ostentatious clothing. In the twice Oscar-nominated actor's hands — with a third nod likely for this very portrayal — there's heart and soul behind Tammy Faye's larger-than-life persona, thoughtfully and sympathetically so. As she was with The 355, Chastain is also one of The Eyes of Tammy Faye's producers, and her investment in the part is apparent in every aspect of her portrayal. The film was clearly built around her work, which is excellent, but the picture plays like that's its whole point. Indeed, when it comes to seeing past the blatant, already-known and openly endorsed about its subject, and to genuinely unpacking her role in the prosperity gospel her husband promoted, the movie conspicuously stops short.

Read our full review.



Misery loves company in the world of publishing industry-set toxic romance novels, which just keep coming — as do film adaptations of such books. After the Fifty Shades franchise fittingly came After movies, doubling down on idealising unhealthy relationships cast against a literary background. Now, as based on Sally Thorne's tome of the same name, The Hating Game follows the same broad concept as well as the same path from page to screen. For anyone who loves words, there's a sense of romance about the business of immortalising them in print, so perhaps that's why these tales keep plunging into the publishing realm. Or, if you're turning destructive ideas about love into fiction, maybe using the industry responsible as a backdrop just feels apt? As more keep arriving, it could simply be the easiest and laziest choice.

Charting a professional rivalry that eventually (and thoroughly unsurprisingly) sparks a-fluttering hearts — capitalising upon the schoolyard notion that teasing and torment is actually a sign of affection, and legitimising it as an acceptable form of human behaviour as eons of parental advice to children mistakenly has, too — The Hating Game doesn't pretend to stretch its chosen genre. The thin line between love and loathing here is ridden by two duelling assistants at a recently merged publishing house, and the fact that they'll end up together isn't meant to cause any astonishment. Instead, like with all formulaic rom-coms, viewers are supposed to enjoy the journey towards the happy ending. But that's a difficult feat when everything about that voyage proves noxious, from the underlying notion that workplace acrimony will lead to a fairytale romance through to the glaring lack of chemistry between its stars — and, of course, the overstuffed bag of obligatory tropes and cliches.

Narrating the movie, Lucy Hutton (Lucy Hale, Son of the South) is upfront about her disdain for Joshua Templeman (Austin Stowell, Swallow) from the outset. She hails from Gamin Publishing, home to weighty works that exemplify literature as an art form, while he comes from Bexley Books, purveyor of ghost-written sports autobiographies. Creativity meets commerce in this business marriage of convenience; however, since the two organisations joined forces, The Hating Game's chalk-and-cheese central pair have dedicated as much time to annoying each other as they have to their jobs. The dangling carrot that is a big promotion not only ups the stakes but sees Lucy and Josh ramp up their animosity, but then their bickering begets an unexpected kiss. Afterwards, she struggles with lusting after the enemy while still trying to beat him out for her dream position.

After co-starring in 2020's Fantasy Island, Hale and Stowell experience a case of history repeating with The Hating Game. Both movies value predictability over personality, to bland results — and neither film adds a highlight to either actor's resumes. Director Peter Hutchings (Then Came You) and screenwriter Christina Mengert (the filmmaker's co-scribe on The Last Keepers) also endeavour to have things both ways whenever the feature flirts with getting saucier, as the tale does on the page. Although Lucy is candid about sex and, when she realises it, her attraction to Josh, the picture she's in makes the Fifty Shades and After flicks seem far steamier than they are. The Hating Game misses every mark when it tries to be comedic, too, including in its key duo's games of one-upmanship and their exploits at Josh's brother's wedding. The film does take place in a world where the protagonists share a ridiculously spacious office while the company they work for cries budgetary issues, so it's all pure fantasy, but this rom-com's idea of escapism springs from nothing more than riding an already-overdone publishing trend's dispiriting coattails.



Squandering veteran acting talent in insulting comedies about being senior citizens has to be one of cinema's most infuriating moves. It's a fate that's claimed too many stars  — Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Diane Keaton and Pam Grier included in just the past few years — and, following the likes of Poms, Dirty Grandpa and The War with Grandpa, Queen Bees is the latest film to jump on the bandwagon. Where the also female-focused Poms endeavoured to bring Bring It On to older age, this Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of a Woman)-led effort does the same with Mean Girls. It knows it, too, with Donald Martin's (Christmas Town) script saddling Burstyn's Pine Grove Senior Community newcomer Helen Wilson with describing her cliquish fellow residents as "like mean girls, but with medical alert bracelets". That line alone is the extent of Queen Bees' self-awareness, however.

Widowed for three years and dwelling in the memories that her marital home still holds, Helen is fiercely independent, but also increasingly forgetful. Her doting grandson Peter (Matthew Barnes, Little Fires Everywhere) helps her laugh off the repeated times she locks herself out of the house, but when she accidentally starts a fire one night, it leads to her interfering daughter Laura (Elizabeth Mitchell, The Expanse) convincing Helen to spend the month it'll take to fix the place seeing what Pine Grove is like. The word 'temporary' gets bandied about constantly upon her arrival, and she's just as adamant about steering clear of the retirement community's locals. And the fact that the group of women who've gleefully adopted the movie's moniker — led by the sniping and stern Janet (Jane Curtin, The Good Fight), with Margot (Ann-Margret, Going in Style) and Sally (Loretta Devine, The Starling) always by her side — are instantly unwelcoming only solidifies Helen's resolve.

Flatly directed by Michael Lembeck (A Nutcracker Christmas), Queen Bees does bring something closer to its target audience than Mean Girls to mind, but trying to follow in The Golden Girls' footsteps is a fool's errand. There isn't a laugh to be found here regardless of what the film is aping at any given moment, but Martin's screenplay does take the sitcom approach to its attempts at both comedy and drama, wisecracking one-liners and big narrative developments included. It also leans heavily on its cast to make its thin, formulaic writing spark, but no one can improve such rote material. Burstyn has tackled many horrors on-screen, including in The Exorcist and Requiem for a Dream — both of which earned her Oscar nominations — but seeing her stuck attempting to do her best with something this contrived, condescending and insincere is a true horror show.

In the narrative, contrivance abounds, including to shoehorn more acting greats into the movie's on-screen roster. James Caan (Out of Blue) plays a kindly love interest for Helen — one of the reasons she might change her tune about Pine Grove, which'd be a lucrative result for the facility's manager (Curtain's Third Rock From the Sun co-star French Stewart) — while Christopher Lloyd (Nobody) gets the movie's most thankless role as another new arrival. The only charms that Queen Bees boasts spring from watching its overqualified talents share scenes, but again, that isn't enough to salvage everything around them. Retirement home comedies should be retired after the excellent 2020 documentary Some Kind of Heaven anyway, which showed that reality truly is wilder than anything these bland fictional flicks will ever conjure up.


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 September 2, September 9, September 16, September 23 and September 30; October 7, October 14, October 21 and October 28; November 4, November 11, November 18 and November 25; December 2, December 9December 16 and December 26; and January 1, January 6, January 13 and January 20.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Streamline, Coming Home in the Dark, Pig, Big Deal, The Killing of Two Lovers, Nitram, Riders of Justice, The Alpinist, A Fire Inside, Lamb, The Last Duel, Malignant, The Harder They Fall, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, Halloween Kills, Passing, Eternals, The Many Saints of Newark, Julia, No Time to Die, The Power of the Dog, Tick, Tick... Boom!, Zola, Last Night in Soho, Blue Bayou, The Rescue, Titane, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Dune, Encanto, The Card Counter, The Lost Leonardo, The French Dispatch, Don't Look Up, Dear Evan Hansen, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Lost Daughter, The Scary of Sixty-First, West Side Story, Licorice Pizza, The Matrix Resurrections, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Worst Person in the World, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, House of Gucci, The King's Man, Red Rocket, Scream, The 355, Gold, King Richard, Limbo, Spencer, Nightmare Alley and Belle.

Published on January 27, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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