The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From May 19
Head to the flicks to see an eerie Norwegian thriller about kids with superpowers — or a sex- and age-positive Aussie comedy.
May 19, 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.
Thanks to his Oscar-nominated work co-penning The Worst Person in the World's screenplay, Eskil Vogt has already helped give the world one devastatingly accurate slice-of-life portrait in the past year. That applauded film is so insightful and relatable about being in your twenties, and also about weathering quarter-life malaise, uncertainty and crisis, that it feels inescapably lifted from reality — and it's sublime. The Innocents, the Norwegian filmmaker's latest movie, couldn't be more different in tone and narrative; however, it too bears the fingerprints of achingly perceptive and deep-seated truth. Perhaps that should be mindprints, though. Making his second feature as a director after 2014's exceptional Blind, Vogt hones in on childhood, and on the way that kids behave with each other when adults are absent or oblivious — and on tykes and preteens who can wreak havoc solely using their mental faculties.
Another riff on Firestarter, this thankfully isn't. The Innocents hasn't simply jumped on the Stranger Things bandwagon, either. Thanks to the latter, on-screen tales about young 'uns battling with the supernatural are one of Hollywood's current favourite trends — see also: the awful Ghostbusters: Afterlife — but all that this Nordic horror movie's group of kids are tussling with is themselves. Their fight starts when nine-year-old Ida (debutant Rakel Lenora Fløttum) and her 11-year-old sister Anna (fellow first-timer Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), who is on the autism spectrum, move to an apartment block in Romsås, Oslo with their mother (Blind's Ellen Dorrit Petersen) and father (Morten Svartveit, Ninjababy). It's summer, the days are long, and the two girls are largely left to their own devices outside in the complex's communal spaces. That's where Ida befriends Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) and Ben (Sam Ashraf), albeit not together, and starts to learn about their abilities.
One of The Innocents' most astonishing scenes — in a film with many — springs from Ida discovering what the sullen, bullied Ben can do solely with his brain. Indeed, one of Vogt's masterstrokes is focusing on how she reacts to the boy's telekinesis, as demonstrated by flinging around a bottle cap. Ida is almost preternaturally excited, and she's lured in by the thrall of what Ben might be able to do next, even though she can visibly sense that something isn't quite right. Another series of unforgettable moments arises shortly afterward when her new pal, lapping up the attention from his only friend, cruelly and sickeningly shows off without even deploying his superpowers. It's a deeply disturbing turn in a movie that repeatedly isn't afraid to find evident terrors in ordinary, everyday, banal surroundings, and Ida's response — horrified, alarmed, yet unwilling to completely cut ties — again says everything.
Vogt doesn't shy away from intimating something that society often doesn't, won't or both: that childhood and innocence don't always go hand in hand. En route to their new home in the film's opening sequence, Ida is already spied pinching the non-verbal Anna just to glean what she'll do. Later, as conveyed in economical imagery lensed by stellar cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen — who already has Another Round, Last and First Men, Shirley, Rams and Victoria to his name, and uses blood here with haunting precision — she's seen escalating that pain-fulled experimentation in a gutwrenching fashion. This side to the girl's personality isn't played as a twist or shock, and neither are Ben's skills and proclivities, or the friendly Aisha's telepathic powers (including the ability to communicate with Anna). Instead, The Innocents is positively matter of fact about what its pint-sized characters are capable of, and also steadfastly avoids trading in simplistic ideas of good and evil, or offering up neat rationales.
Read our full review.
HOW TO PLEASE A WOMAN
When Magic Mike stripped its way into cinemas a decade ago, it didn't just turn Channing Tatum's IRL background into a movie and give his chiselled torso oh-so-much attention; it understood that women like sex, boast libidos and have desires, too. Its sequel, Magic Mike XXL, doubled down on that idea, and winningly so — even if the saga dances with a notion so blatant that it definitely shouldn't feel revelatory to see it thrust front and centre in a big-budget Hollywood film. There's no trace of Tatum in How to Please a Woman, and it has nothing to do with the saucy franchise that has a third flick on the way, but this Aussie comedy nonetheless follows in Magic Mike's footsteps. Here, women also like sex, boast libidos and have desires, and that's something that the stuck-in-a-rut Gina (Sally Phillips, Off the Rails) turns into a lucrative business.
When first-time feature writer/director Renée Webster begins her sunnily shot, eagerly crowd-pleasing leap to the big screen — following helming gigs on TV's The Heights and Aftertaste — Gina's relationship with sex is non-existent. She has long been wed to lawyer Adrian (Cameron Daddo, Home and Away), but he still thinks that having a tumble on their last holiday years ago is enough bedroom action to keep their marriage going. Gina's resigned to that fact, too, until her ocean swimming club pals book her a stripping surprise for her birthday. Tom (Alexander England, Little Monsters) shows up at her door, starts gyrating and undressing, and says he'll do whatever she wants. Although her friends are later horrified — and its their eagerness to truly take Tom up on his offer that inspires a brainwave — Gina asks him to clean her house instead.
Men doing housework shouldn't be revolutionary or subversive either, but How to Please a Woman still uses it as a doorway to exploring other female yearnings that are often left unsatisfied. It's as cliched a move as Webster makes — and her movie makes plenty — but it's also part of the film's devotion to celebrating what women genuinely want. Here, a comedy can be overt, easy and obvious (all things that Gina's sex life isn't), and also delightfully well-intentioned in embracing a fact of life that's rarely given much attention, especially if women past their 30s are involved. Indeed, when a suddenly unemployed Gina, devastated by being the only one downsized out of the insolvency firm she dutifully works for, spots a removalist company she thinks she can save — by turning it into a male escort service, covering scrubbing and shagging alike, and both if customers would like — How to Please a Woman is both broad and joyous.
There's a caper attitude to Gina's operations from there, after convincing Tom's removals colleagues Anthony (Ryan Johnson, Doctor Doctor), Ben (Josh Thomson, Young Rock) and Steve (Erik Thomson, Coming Home in the Dark) to widen their professional repertoire. She's skirting the law, Adrian's none the wiser, and the customers (including characters played by Blacklight's Caroline Brazier, Mystery Road's Tasma Walton, Rams' Hayley McElhinney and The Heights' Asher Yasbincek) keep coming. Sometimes, those between-the-sheets antics are clumsy, and Gina's new stable of prostitutes need a few pointers. That applies to getting their paying clients' homes spick and span, too. And, it also covers How to Please a Woman overall, which is always cosier and less risqué than its sex-positive, age-positive and female-focused premise implies. It also leans on the expected rather than takes risks, but remains wonderfully cast — especially Phillips — and gleefully wears its message about finding happiness by knowing what you need and going for it.
LAST SEEN ALIVE
Perhaps the most positive thing that can be said about Last Seen Alive is this: it's definitely a Gerard Butler-starring kidnapping thriller. That isn't meant as praise, though; rather, the film simply manages to be exactly what viewers would expect given its star and premise. There's clearly far less cash behind it than the also-terrible trio of Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen and Angel Has Fallen — or Geostorm, Den of Thieves, Hunter Killer and Greenland among the Scottish actor's career lowlights over the past decade, either. There's visibly less effort, too, and more of a phoning-it-in vibe. The second collaboration between actor-turned-filmmaker Brian Goodman (What Doesn't Kill You) and producer/writer Marc Frydman after 2017's Black Butterfly, it plays like something that a streaming platform's algorithm might spit out in an AI-driven future where new movies are swiftly spliced together from pieces of past flicks. Yes, among Butler's output and with its abduction storyline, it's that derivative.
Butler plays Will Spann, a real estate developer who already isn't having a great day when the film begins — but it's about to get worse. He's driving his unhappy wife Lisa (Jaimie Alexander, Loki) to her parents' home, where she's keen to decamp to find herself and take a break from their marriage, and Will is desperate to convince her to change her plans en route. His charm offensive isn't working when they stop at a petrol station mere minutes away from their destination, and he has zero charisma for anyone when Lisa unexpectedly disappears while he's filling the tank. Fuming that local police detective Paterson (Russell Hornsby, Lost in Space) hasn't just dropped everything immediately, and that he also has questions about their relationship, Will decides to chase down any lead he can himself. Meanwhile, Lisa's unsurprisingly wary parents (Queen Bees' Cindy Hogan and Master's Bruce Altman) direct their suspicions his way.
Perhaps the most backhanded compliment that can be given to Last Seen Alive is this: it'd make a better Liam Neeson movie. Both Frydman's script and Goodman's execution feel like they're aiming for Taken; instead, even this year's dismal Blacklight looks better. With Butler in the lead, Will comes across as overbearing and insufferable rather than concerned and committed to doing whatever it takes — and nothing that the character does makes much sense as a result. He refuses to let the cops investigate because, basically, he's played by an angry Butler. He can't even wait at the petrol station that Lisa disappears from for seemingly the same reason. When he gets a tip about a suspect, he takes matters into his own hands rather than tells Paterson because, you guessed it, he's played by an angry Butler. Accordingly, the entire movie is little more than an exercise in answering the same question over and over again: what would a jerk of a character played by an angry Butler do in any given situation?
It doesn't help that Last Seen Alive is shot as if the bane of every recently made television's existence, motion-smoothing settings, were already set in-camera. There's low-budget naturalism and then there's the flat, dull, soap opera-style look that this film sports. And, the special effects used for explosions simply demonstrate how vast the gap between unconvincing CGI and the real thing can be. Similarly doing the film no favours: the complete and utter absence of tension that stems from its central casting, and also its eagerness to prove as generic as possible. Little that Spann does is logical, but it's also ridiculously predictable because it's exactly what has to happen with Butler in the part. That he's easily and quickly overshadowed by Ethan Embry (First Man) in a thankless supporting role says everything it needs to.
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 February 3, February 10, February 17 and February 24; and March 3, March 10, March 17, March 24 and March 31; April 7, April 14, April 21 and April 28; and May 5 and May 12.
You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Belfast, Here Out West, Jackass Forever, Benedetta, Drive My Car, Death on the Nile, C'mon C'mon, Flee, Uncharted, Quo Vadis, Aida?, Cyrano, Hive, Studio 666, The Batman, Blind Ambition, Bergman Island, Wash My Soul in the River's Flow, The Souvenir: Part II, Dog, Anonymous Club, X, River, Nowhere Special, RRR, Morbius, The Duke, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Fantastic Beasts and the Secrets of Dumbledore, Ambulance, Memoria, The Lost City, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Happening, The Good Boss, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Northman, Ithaka, After Yang, Downton Abbey: A New Era, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, Petite Maman, The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Firestarter, Operation Mincemeat, To Chiara and This Much I Know to Be True.
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