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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From October 20

Head to the flicks to see a stunning South Korean romantic thriller, the eeriest horror movie of the year and Dwayne Johnson become a superhero.
By Sarah Ward
October 20, 2022
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By Sarah Ward
October 20, 2022
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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.

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DECISION TO LEAVE

When it's claimed that Decision to Leave's Detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il, Heaven: To the Land of Happiness) needs "murder and violence in order to be happy", it's easy to wonder if that statement similarly applies to Park Chan-wook, this stunning South Korean thriller's filmmaker. The director of Oldboy, Thirst, Stoker and The Handmaiden doesn't, surely. Still, his exceptional body of on-screen work glows when either fills its frames — which, in a career that also spans Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Lady Vengeance and English-language TV miniseries The Little Drummer Girl, among other titles, is often. To be more accurate, perhaps Park needs to survey the grey areas that loiter around death and brutality, and surround love, lust, loss, and all matters of the brain, body and heart that bind humans together, to find cinematic fulfilment. Certainly, audiences should be glad if/that he does. In Decision to Leave, exploring such obsessions, and the entire notions of longing and obsession, brings a staggering, sinuously layered and seductively gorgeous movie to fruition — a film to obsess over if ever there was one.

In this year's deserved Cannes Film Festival Best Director-winner, reserved insomniac Hae-joon is fixated from the outset, too: with his police job in Busan, where he works Monday–Friday before returning to Ipo on weekends to his wife (Lee Jung-hyun, Peninsula). That all-consuming focus sees his weekday walls plastered with grim photos from cases, and haunts the time he's meant to be spending — and having sex — with said spouse. Nonetheless, the latest dead body thrust his way isn't supposed to amplify his obsession. A businessman and experienced climber is found at the base of a mountain, and to most other cops the answer would be simple. It is to his offsider Soo-wan (Go Kyung-Pyo, Private Lives), but Hae-joon's interest is piqued when the deceased's enigmatic Chinese widow, the cool, calm but also bruised and scratched Seo-rae (Tang Wei, The Whistleblower), is brought in for questioning amid apologising for her imperfect Korean-language skills.

In the precinct interrogation room, the detective and his potential suspect share a sushi dinner — and, in the lingering looks gazed each other's way even at this early stage, this may as well be a twisted first date. Hae-joon then surveils Seo-rae, including at her work caring for the elderly, which also provides her alibi. He keeps watching her at home, where her evenings involve television and ice cream. In stirring scenes of bravura and beauty, he envisages himself with her in the process, longing for the illusion he's building in his sleep-deprived mind. As for Seo-rae, she keeps stoking their chemistry, especially when she's somehow being both direct and evasive with her responses to his queries. She knows how small gestures leave an imprint, and she also knows when she and Hae-joon are both desperately hooked on each other.

Every intelligently written (by Park and frequent co-scribe Chung Seo-kyung), evocatively shot (by cinematographer Kim Ji-Yong, Ashfall) moment in Decision to Leave is crucial; the film is made so meticulously, with a precision its protagonist would instantly admire, that cutting out even a second is unthinkable. Equally, every scene speaks volumes about this spellbinding movie — but here's three that help convey its simmering potency. In one, Hae-joon ascends up the victim's last cliff by rope, tied to Soo-wan, Busan looming in the background. In another, detailed blue-green wallpaper filled with mountains surrounds Seo-rae. And in yet another, she reaches into Hae-joon's pocket to grab his lip balm, then applies it to his mouth. Perspective is everything in this feature, Park stresses. Minutiae is everything, too. Intimacy is more than everything, actually, in a picture that's also grippingly, electrifying sensual.

Read our full review.

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BARBARIAN

"Safe as houses" isn't a term that applies much in horror. It isn't difficult to glean why. Even if scary movies routinely followed folks worrying about their investments — one meaning of the phrase — it's always going to be tricky for the sentiment to stick when such flicks love plaguing homes, lodges and other dwellings with bumps, jumps and bone-chilling terror. Barbarian, however, could break out the expression and mean it, in a way. At its centre sits a spruced-up Detroit cottage listed on Airbnb and earning its owner a trusty income. In the film's setup, the house in question is actually doing double duty, with two guests booked for clashing stays over the same dates. It's hardly a spoiler to say that their time in the spot, the nicest-looking residence in a rundown neighbourhood, leaves them feeling anything but safe.

Late on a gloomy, rainy, horror-movie-101 kind of night — an eerie and tense evening from the moment that writer/director Zach Cregger's first feature as a solo director begins — Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell, Suspicion) arrives at Barbarian's pivotal Michigan property. She's in town for a job interview, but discovers the lockbox empty, keys nowhere to be found. Also, the home already has an occupant in Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgård, Eternals), who made his reservation via a different website. With a medical convention filling the city's hotels, sharing the cottage seems the only option, even if Tess is understandably cautious about cohabitating with a man she's literally just met. Ambiguity is part of Barbarian from the get-go, spanning whether Keith can be trusted, what's behind their double booking and, when things start moving overnight, what's going on in the abode. That's only the start of Barbarian's hellish story.

Canny casting plays a considerable part in Barbarian's early unease; if you rocked up to a place that's meant to be yours alone for the evening only for Pennywise from the recent big-screen version of IT and its sequel lurking within — sans red balloon, luckily — you'd be creeped out. Skarsgård's involvement isn't the only reason that the movie's first act drips with dread and uncertainty, but it's a devastatingly clever use of him as a horror-film talent, and the Swedish star leans into the slippery and shifty possibilities. Still, after taking a photo of his ID and being wary of drinking beverages he's made, Tess warms to Keith over wine and conversation. He's having a loud nightmare on the couch, too, when her bedroom door opens mysteriously. When she gets stuck in the locked basement the next day, he's out at meetings. Then he returns, and they'll wish that a reservation mixup really was the worst of their troubles.

Clearly made with affection for old-school horror, especially films by genre great Wes Craven, Barbarian feels like a well-crafted take on a familiar premise while it's laying its groundwork. Foolish is the viewer who thinks that they know where the movie is heading from there, though — or who ignores the instant bubblings of potential to zig and zag, plus the lingering inkling that something beyond the easily expected might stalk its frames. Indeed, watching Barbarian recalls watching scary flicks from four and five decades back for the first time, a rite of passage for every horror-loving teen no matter the generation, and being gripped by their surprises. Cregger bundles in twists, but he also establishes a vibe where almost anything can shift and change. Two cases in point: when Justin Long (Giri/Haji) shows up as a smug and obnoxious Hollywood player with #MeToo problems, and when the 80s isn't just an influence in scenes lensed in a tighter aspect ratio.

Read our full review.

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BLACK ADAM

"I kneel before no one," says Teth-Adam, aka Black Adam, aka the DC Comics character that dates back to 1945, and that Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice) has long wanted to play. That proclamation is made early in the film that bears the burly, flying, impervious-to-everything figure's name, echoing as a statement of might as well as mood: he doesn't need to bow down to anyone or anything, and if he did he wouldn't anyway. Yet the DC Extended Universe flick that Black Adam is in — the 11th in a saga that's rarely great — kneels frequently to almost everything. It bends the knee to the dispiritingly by-the-numbers template that keeps lurking behind this comic book-inspired series' most forgettable entries, and the whole franchise's efforts to emulate the rival (and more successful) Marvel Cinematic Universe, for starters. It also shows deference to the lack of spark and personality that makes the lesser DC-based features so routine at best, too.

Even worse, Black Adam kneels to the idea that slipping Johnson into a sprawling superhero franchise means robbing the wrestler-turned-actor himself of any on-screen personality. Glowering and gloomy is a personality, for sure, but it's not what's made The Rock such a box office drawcard — and, rather than branching out, breaking the mould or suiting the character, he just appears to be pouting and coasting. He looks the physical part, of course, as he needs to playing a slave-turned-champion who now can't be killed or hurt. It's hard not to wish that the Fast and Furious franchise's humour seeped into his performance, however, or even the goofy corniness of Jungle Cruise, Johnson's last collaboration with filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra. The latter has template-esque action flicks Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter on his resume before that, and helms his current star here like he'd rather still directing Liam Neeson.

That said, Black Adam, the character, has much to scowl about — and scowl he does. Black Adam, the film, has much backstory to lay out, with exposition slathered on thick during the opening ten minutes. As a mere human in 2600 BCE in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq, its namesake was among an entire populace caught under a cruel ruler hungry for power, and for a powerful supernatural crown fashioned out a mineral called 'eternium' that said subjects were forced to mine. Now, 5000 years later, Black Adam is a just-awakened mortal-turned-god who isn't too thrilled about the modern world, or being in it. Bridging the gap: the fact that back in the day, one boy was anointed with magic by ancient wizards to defend Kahndaq's people (the word "shazam!" gets uttered, because Black Adam dwells in the same part of the DCEU as 2019's Shazam! and its upcoming sequel), but misusing those skills ended in entombment until modern-day resistance fighters interfere.

The above really is just the preamble. Black Adam is freed by widowed professor Adrianna (Sarah Shahi, Sex/Life), who is trying to fight the Intergang, the mercenaries who've been Kahndaq's new oppressors for decades — and, yes, Black Adam gets caught up in that battle. But being out and about, instead of interred in a cave, gets the attention of the Justice Society. The DCEU already has the Justice League and the Suicide Squad, but it apparently still needs another super-powered crew. Indeed, Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad's Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, The First Lady) even shows up to help put this new gang together. That's how Hawkman (Aldis Hodge, One Night in Miami), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan, The Misfits), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell, Voyagers) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo, the To All the Boys movies) don their caped-crusader getup and try to stop Black Adam, or convince him to stop himself.

Read our full review.

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THE GOOD NURSE

It isn't called CULLEN — Monster: The Charles Cullen Story. It doesn't chart the murders of a serial killer who's already a household name. And, it doesn't unfurl over multiple episodes. Still, Netflix-distributed true-crime film The Good Nurse covers homicides, and the person behind them, that are every bit as grim and horrendous as the events dramatised in DAHMER — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Such based-on-reality tales that face such evil are always nightmare fodder, but this Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore)- and Jessica Chastain (The Forgiven)-starring one, as brought to the screen by Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm (A War, A Hijacking), taps into a particularly terrifying realm. The culprit clearly isn't the good nurse of the movie's moniker, but he is a nurse, working in intensive care units no less — and for anyone who has needed to put their trust in the health system or may in the future (aka all of us), his acts are gut-wrenchingly chilling.

Hospitals are meant to be places that heal, even in America's cash-driven setup where free medical care for all isn't considered a basic right and a societal must. Hospitals are meant to care for the unwell and injured, as are the doctors, nurses and other staff who race through their halls. There is one such person in The Good Nurse, Amy Loughren, who Chastain plays based on a real person. In 2003, in New Jersey, she's weathering her own struggles: she's a single mother to two young girls, she suffers from cardiomyopathy to the point of needing a heart transplant, and she can't tell her job about her health condition because she needs to remain employed for four more months to qualify for insurance to treat it. Then enters Cullen (Redmayne), the newcomer on Loughren's night shifts, a veteran of nine past hospitals, an instant friend who offers to help her cope with her potentially lethal ailment and also the reason that their patients start dying suddenly.

There's no spoiler alert needed about The Good Nurse's grisly deeds or the person responsible. Cullen's name hasn't been changed in Krysty Wilson-Cairns' (Last Night in Soho, 1917) script, which adapts Charles Graeber's 2013 non-fiction book The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder, and Loughren's similarly remains the same. The Good Nurse also opens with the quietly disquieting Cullen retreating as someone in a different hospital years earlier goes into convulsions — standing back motionless, he tries to appear anxious but instead looks like a creepy blank canvas. Accordingly, that he's the cause of much of the movie's horrors is a given from the outset, but that's only one of Lindholm and Wilson-Cairns' angles. As aided by centring Loughren's plight, The Good Nurse is also a film about institutional failings and coverups with very real consequences.

Indeed, as set to an eerie score by Biosphere (Burma Storybook), there's a procedural feel to Lindholm's first feature in America; that he helmed episodes of Mindhunter beforehand doesn't come as a surprise. There are cops, too, in the form of detectives Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha, Sylvie's Love) and Braun (Noah Emmerich, Dark Winds), who are brought in seven weeks after a patient's passing just after Cullen arrives. But nurse-turned-administrator Linda Garran (Fear the Walking Dead), who summons the police, is hardly forthcoming — about the almost-two-month delay or with information overall. It isn't in the hospital's interests to be upfront, which is why and how Cullen has kept moving from healthcare facility to healthcare facility, and notching up a body count at each by spiking IV bags with fatal doses of insulin and other medications. No hospital wants to be seen to be at fault, and won't warn fellow institutions, either.

Read our full review.

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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 July 7, July 14, July 21 and July 28; August 4, August 11, August 18 and August 25; September 1, September 8, September 15, September 22 and September 29; and October 6 and October 13.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as 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, Bosch & Rockit, Fire of Love, Beast, Blaze, Hit the Road, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Orphan: First Kill, The Quiet Girl, Flux Gourmet, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Moonage Daydream, Ticket to Paradise, Clean, You Won't Be Alone, See How They Run, Smile, On the Count of Three, The Humans, Don't Worry Darling, Amsterdam, The Stranger, Halloween Ends, The Night of the 12th, Muru and Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon.

Published on October 20, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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