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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From August 26

Head to the flicks to watch the sharp and stylish new 'Candyman' movie, a spectacular Adam Driver-starring musical and the follow-up to a recent horror hit.
By Sarah Ward
August 26, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
August 26, 2021
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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 Brisbane at present.

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, comedies, music documentaries, 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.

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CANDYMAN

Who can take tomorrow and dip it in a dream? 'The Candy Man' can, or so the suitably sugary earworm of a song has crooned since 1971. What scratches at the past, carves open its nightmares and sends them slicing into the present? That'd be the latest Candyman film, a powerful work of clear passion and palpable anger that's crafted with tense, needling thrills and exquisite vision. Echoing Sammy Davis Jr's version of the tune that virtually shares its name across its opening frames, this new dalliance with the titular hook-handed villain both revives the slasher franchise that gave 90s and 00s teen sleepovers an extra tremor — if you didn't stare into the mirror and utter the movie's moniker five times, were you really at a slumber party? — and wrestles vehemently and determinedly with the historic horrors that've long befallen Black Americans. It'll come as zero surprise that Jordan Peele produces and co-penned the screenplay with writer/director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) and writer/producer Win Rosenfeld (The Twilight Zone). Candyman slides so silkily into Peele's thematic oeuvre alongside Get Out and Us, plus Peele-produced TV series Hunters and Lovecraft Country, that his fingerprints are inescapable. But it's rising star DaCosta who delivers a strikingly alluring, piercingly savage and instantly memorable picture. Alongside bloody altercations and lashings of body horror, razor blade-spiked candy makes multiple appearances, and her film is equally as sharp and enticing.

In a preface that expands the Candyman mythology — and savvily shows how the movie has everyday realities firmly on its mind — that contaminated confectionery is thrust to the fore. In 1977, in the Cabrini-Green housing estate where the series has always loitered, Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove, Chicago PD) is suspected of handing out the laced lollies to neighbourhood kids. Sent to do laundry in the basement, pre-teen Billy (Rodney L Jones III, Fargo) soon comes face-to-face with the man everyone fears; however, after the boy screams and the police arrive, he witnesses something even more frightening. Jumping to the present (albeit absent any signs of the pandemic given Candyman was initially slated to release in mid-2020), Cabrini-Green is now Chicago's current poster child for gentrification. It's where artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen) and curator Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris, WandaVision) have just bought an expansive apartment, in fact. They're unaware of the area's background, until Brianna's brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Generation) and his partner Grady (Kyle Kaminsky, DriverX) start filling them in on the legend that's long been whispered across the local streets — and, struggling to come up with ideas for a new show, Anthony quickly clasps onto all things Candyman for his next big project.

Read our full review.

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ANNETTE

Dreamy and dazzling from its first moments, rock opera Annette bursts onto the screen with a simple question: "so may we start?". As the opening credits roll, the long-awaited latest film from Holy Motors director Leos Carax addresses its audience before it poses that query — via an unseen announcer who tells viewers "you are now kindly requested to keep silent, and to hold your breath until the end of the show" — but the movie doesn't begin to truly kick into gear until the filmmaker himself asks if things can get going. Images of a recording studio flicker, with Carax on one side of the glass and Ron and Russell Mael, of art-pop duo Sparks, on the other. Carax tells his real-life daughter Nastya that the fun is about to commence, and the Mael brothers start singing and playing keyboard, with a band around them. Soon, however, everyone is on their feet and spilling out into the street, with the feature's stars Adam Driver (Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker), Marion Cotillard (We'll End Up Together) and Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) joining them in the glorious, song-fuelled, sing-and-walk scene. No one is playing a character here yet, but they're all still playing a part. They're finally coming together for the big spectacle that is this eagerly anticipated film — which has been in the works since 2016 — and they're setting the vibe in a bold and sensational way. The tune is pure Sparks, with the pair both composing the movie's music and writing the feature itself with Carax. The tone bubbles with the pair's avant-garde sensibilities, too, and the whole song echoes with the promise of remarkable things to come. 

Nine years ago, Carax gave the world a once-in-a-lifetime gem. Annette is a different film to Holy Motors, obviously, but it gleams just as brightly and with the same beguiling, inimitable, all-encompassing allure. There's an ethereal, otherworldly quality to Carax's work — of heightening reality to truly understand how people feel and act, and of experimenting with artforms to interrogate them — and that sensation seeps through every second of his gleefully melodramatic musical, which deservedly won him the Cannes Film Festival's Best Director award. Everything about Annette has been turned up several notches on every setting, from its lush and lavish imagery to its cascade of toe-tapping, sung-through tunes that keep propelling the narrative forward. Every character detail, both external and internalised, has been amplified as well. This is a movie where Driver's Henry wears the same shade of green over and over like a uniform, beaming his envy at every turn. It's a film where sex scenes involve singing, as though they're the only way these characters can really convey their innermost emotions. And, it's a feature where the titular character — the baby born of standup comedian Henry McHenry (Driver) and opera star Ann Defrasnoux's (Cotillard) mismatched but passionate and all-consuming love — is played by a marionette. This is a tragedy and a fairy tale, in other words, as it charts how Henry and Ann "love each other so much", how their dissimilarities tear them in different directions, and how Annette comes into their lives but can't save them from stormy seas.

Read our full review.

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DON'T BREATHE 2

When a horror film spawns a sequel, it often resurrects the villain rather than reunites with the hero for an obvious reason: watching a familiar murderer terrorise new victims is a far easier formula to replicate, and to sell, than tasking the same protagonist with surviving an unnerving ordeal again and again. There are exceptions; typically when the Halloween franchise works best, it brings back both Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, for instance. Some movies also tweak the template slightly, as seen with Don't Breathe 2. This five-years-later follow-up to 2016's grim, gritty and effective genre hit once again focuses on 'The Blind Man', aka Norman Nordstrom, and not only because it makes the most narrative sense. This second effort also brings him back because Stephen Lang (The Good Fight) put in such an imposing and memorable performance as the wrong person to burgle the first time around. Unsurprisingly, there's a purposeful, unshakeable but still unpleasant level of discomfort that comes with siding with a killer who had also kidnapped and forcibly impregnated a woman in the last feature — and tried to do the same thing to one of its home invaders — and it just plays as disconcerting rather than edgy. This is a movie about the lesser of two evils, though, after a shady criminal gang led by the sinister Raylan (Brendan Sexton III, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie) breaks into Nordstrom's home with designs on the now-11-year-old girl, Phoenix (Madelyn Grace, Grey's Anatomy), he's been raising as his daughter for the past eight years.  

Helmed by directing first-timer Rodo Sayagues, who co-wrote the initial feature with filmmaker Fede Alvarez (The Girl in the Spider's Web) and does so again here, Don't Breathe 2 still unleashes much the same violent mayhem in much the same setup. Nordstrom's home is infiltrated, and he subsequently battles back against the culprits — but this time to genuinely save Phoenix, rather than to try to keep someone captive and his secrets safe. The mechanics of the sequel's new cat-and-mouse standoff favour muscular and sinewy physical confrontations as its predecessor did, and rely heavily upon Lang embodying those exact traits. He attacks, reacts and helps bring the gore with almost-preternatural, action hero-esque precision, but it all expectedly feels repetitive now that the series is being given a second spin. One area where the film doesn't repeat itself: its soundscape. Don't Breathe 2 isn't as fussed with toying with acoustics as much, to the movie's detriment — so, gone is the anxiety of feeling that that every noise could spell doom for Nordstrom and Phoenix, even though hiding and keeping silent still plays a large part in the story. And, thanks to the big dose of orchestrated unease that stems from the choice to set two grimy adversaries against each other, tension is mostly absent. Don't Breathe 2 doesn't bother to engage any shades of grey lurking within Nordstrom, either, or truly make its audience question what makes a hero and a villain. Accordingly, as experienced with 80s-era direct-to-video sequels — which this film resembles at every moment — it's hard to care who survives when the movie barely cares about anything but following a formula itself.

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If you're wondering what else is currently screening in cinemas — or has been lately — check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on April 1, April 8, April 15, April 22 and April 29; May 6, May 13, May 20 and May 27; June 3, June 10, June 17 and June 24; July 1, July 8, July 15, July 22 and July 29; and August 5, August 12 and August 19.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Nobody, The Father, Willy's Wonderland, Collective, Voyagers, Gunda, Supernova, The Dissident, The United States vs Billie Holiday, First Cow, Wrath of Man, Locked Down, The Perfect Candidate, Those Who Wish Me Dead, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Ema, A Quiet Place Part II, Cruella, My Name Is Gulpilil, Lapsis, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Fast and Furious 9, Valerie Taylor: Playing with Sharks, In the Heights, Herself, Little Joe, Black Widow, The Sparks Brothers, Nine Days, Gunpowder Milkshake, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Old, Jungle Cruise, The Suicide Squad, Free Guy, Respect and The Night House.

Published on August 26, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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