The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From November 11
Head to the flicks to see Daniel Craig's long-awaited last stint as Bond, a phenomenal New Zealand-shot western and Lin-Manuel Miranda's filmmaking directorial debut.
November 11, 2021
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.
NO TIME TO DIE
James Bond might famously prefer his martinis shaken, not stirred, but No Time to Die doesn't quite take that advice. While the enterprising spy hasn't changed his drink order, the latest film he's in — the 25th official feature in the franchise across six decades, and the fifth and last that'll star Daniel Craig — gives its regular ingredients both a mix and a jiggle. The action is dazzlingly choreographed, a menacing criminal has an evil scheme and the world is in peril, naturally. Still, there's more weight in Craig's performance, more emotion all round, and a greater willingness to contemplate the stakes and repercussions that come with Bond's globe-trotting, bed-hopping, villain-dispensing existence. There's also an eagerness to shake up parts of the character and Bond template that rarely get a nudge. Together, even following a 19-month pandemic delay, it all makes for a satisfying blockbuster cocktail.
For Craig, the actor who first gave Bond a 21st-century flavour back in 2006's Casino Royale (something Pierce Brosnan couldn't manage in 2002's Die Another Day), No Time to Die also provides a fulfilling swansong. That wasn't assured; as much as he's made the tuxedo, gadgets and espionage intrigue his own, the Knives Out and Logan Lucky actor's tenure has charted a seesawing trajectory. His first stint in the role was stellar and franchise-redefining, but 2008's Quantum of Solace made it look like a one-off. Then Skyfall triumphed spectacularly in 2012, before Spectre proved all too standard in 2015. Ups and downs have long been part of this franchise, depending on who's in the suit, who's behind the lens, the era and how far the tone skews towards comedy — but at its best, Craig's run has felt like it's building new levels rather than traipsing through the same old framework.
In No Time to Die, Bond does need to look backwards, though — to loves lost, choices made and lingering enemies. Before Billie Eilish's theme song echoes over eye-catching opening credits, the film fills its first scenes with the past, starting with returning psychiatrist Madeleine Swan's (Léa Seydoux, Kursk) links to new mask-wearing villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek, The Little Things). There's patience and visual poetry to these early minutes amid Norway's snowy climes, even while littered with violence. No Time to Die is a lengthy yet never slow feature, and Bond first-timer Cary Joji Fukunaga doesn't begin with the pace he means to continue; however, the director behind True Detective's stunning first season establishes a sense of meticulousness, an eye for detail and an inclination to let moments last — and a striking look — that serves him exceptionally moving forward.
Back in post-Spectre times, Bond and Swan enjoy an Italian holiday that's cut short by bomb blasts, bridge shootouts and other attempts on 007's life — and Fukunaga is quickly two for two in the action camp. No Time to Die segues commandingly from slow-building and foreboding to fast, frenetic and breathtaking in its two big opening sequences, setting itself a high bar. At this point, the narrative hasn't even properly kicked into gear yet. That happens five years later, when Bond is alone and retired in Jamaica (in a nice nod to where author Ian Fleming wrote his Bond stories). His old CIA pal Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright, Westworld) comes knocking, new politically appointed offsider Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen, The Many Saints of Newark) in tow, asking for the now ex-MI6 agent's help to foil the latest nefarious plan — involving a DNA-targeting virus fuelled by nanobots, of course — that's been hatched by terrorist organisation Spectre.
Read our full review.
THE POWER OF THE DOG
Don't call it a comeback: Jane Campion's films have been absent from cinemas for 12 years but, due to miniseries Top of the Lake, she hasn't been biding her time in that gap. And don't call it simply returning to familiar territory, even if the New Zealand director's new movie features an ivory-tinkling woman caught between cruel and sensitive men, as her Cannes Palme d'Or-winner The Piano did three decades ago. Campion isn't rallying after a dip, just as she isn't repeating herself. She's never helmed anything less than stellar, and she's immensely capable of unearthing rich new pastures in well-ploughed terrain. With The Power of the Dog, Campion is at the height of her skills trotting into her latest mesmerising musing on strength, desire and isolation — this time via a venomous western that's as perilously bewitching as its mountainous backdrop.
That setting is Montana, circa 1925. Campion's homeland stands in for America nearly a century ago, making a magnificent sight — with cinematographer Ari Wegner (Zola, True History of the Kelly Gang) perceptively spying danger in its craggy peaks and dusty plains even before the film introduces Rose and Peter Gordon (On Becoming a God in Central Florida's Kirsten Dunst and 2067's Kodi Smit-McPhee). When the widowed innkeeper and her teenage son serve rancher brothers Phil and George Burbank (The Courier's Benedict Cumberbatch and Antlers' Jesse Plemons) during a cattle-run stop, the encounter seesaws from callousness to kindness, a dynamic that continues after Rose marries George and decamps to the Burbank mansion against that stunning backdrop. Brutal to the lanky, lisping Peter from the outset, Phil responds to the nuptials with malice. He isn't fond of change, and won't accommodate anything that fails his bristling definition of masculinity and power, either.
In a career-best, awards-worthy, downright phenomenal turn by Cumberbatch, Phil is all hawkish menace and bravado; he viciously calls his brother 'Fatso', his initial taunting of Peter over paper flowers and effete mannerisms is all the more ferocious for its dinner-table audience, and he's effusive in his admiration for Bronco Henry, the man's man who taught him everything he knows. Indeed, Phil's hyper-masculine air, complete with threatening and mocking banjo-plucking, soon drives Rose to drink. He'd rather still be bunking in with George, as they have for the quarter-century they've run their inherited ranch. He'd rather scare everyone away by failing to bathe, unless he's stealing off to a secret water hole — and by mixing his Yale classics degree into his sneering, too. The key to Cumberbatch's commanding performance isn't softening Phil or playing up his charisma, but conveying the battle of repression and self-resentment raging within; the cattleman has long tanned his own public persona, but he's as complex as rawhide.
Adapting Thomas Savage's 1967 novel of the same name, Campion gives Phil's chomping misery ample company: in the sauced Rose, in the intimidating attitude that rolls around the ranch like a stubborn tumbleweed, and in Peter when he returns from his medical studies for the summer. The Power of the Dog lets this unhappy stew fester, adding grit to its brew with each passing scene and deepening its rich character studies in the process. The film's only misstep is pushing George aside, although the fact that his passivity — his main trait alongside tenderness — earns him less attention is an incisive touch. Rose becomes a supporting player as Phil and Peter's initially antagonistic relationship finds deeper dimensions but, in Dunst's hands, this is still an intense portrait of a woman heartbreakingly accustomed to being at others' whims. As a raw-boned young man who proves exacting and steely inside, Smit-McPhee isn't just similarly exceptional — he's revelatory.
Read our full review.
TICK, TICK... BOOM!
"Try writing what you know." That's age-old advice, dispensed to many a scribe who hasn't earned the success or even the reaction they'd hoped, and it's given to aspiring theatre composer Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield, Under the Silver Lake) in Tick, Tick… Boom!. The real-life figure would go on to write Rent but here, in New York City in January 1990, he's working on his debut musical Superbia. It's a futuristic satire inspired by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and it's making him anxious about three things. Firstly, he hasn't yet come up with a pivotal second-act song that he keeps being told he needs. Next, he's staging a workshop for his debut production to gauge interest before the week is out — and this just has to be his big break. Finally, he's also turning 30 in days, and his idol Stephen Sondheim made his Broadway debut in his 20s.
Tick, Tick… Boom! charts the path to those well-worn words of wisdom about drawing from the familiar, including Larson's path to the autobiographical one-man-show of the same name before Rent. And, it manages to achieve that feat while showing why such a sentiment isn't merely a cliche in this situation. That said, the key statement about mining your own experience also echoes throughout this affectionate movie musical in another unmissable way. Lin-Manuel Miranda didn't write Tick, Tick… Boom!'s screenplay; however, he does turn it into his filmmaking directorial debut — and what could be more fitting for that task from the acclaimed In the Heights and Hamilton talent than a loving ode (albeit an inescapably overexcited one) to the hard work put in by a game-changing theatre wunderkind?
If this was a case of telling viewers that this is Miranda's movie without telling them, the concept would obviously do the trick. So would a few notable cameos in a standout song-and-dance number that's best discovered by watching. There's plenty in Tick, Tick… Boom! that was already layered with musical theatre history before it became a film, too; in the source material, Larson even wrote in a homage to Sondheim's own musical Sunday in the Park with George. That's the level of insider knowledge that's a foundation here, and the film frequently reverberates in an insular, theatre-obsessive, spot-the-references register. As great as it is if you stan the same productions and people, it also makes Tick, Tick… Boom! less accessible and resonant. It's as if Miranda can't choose between indulging his own adoration or truly sharing that love with his audience. (Tick, Tick… Boom! also became a three-person stage musical in 2001, and Miranda played its lead in a 2014 revival opposite Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr and In the Heights' Karen Olivo.)
Garfield's sing-to-the-rafters version of Larson is first seen in faux home-video footage, performing the rock monologue iteration of Tick, Tick… Boom!, his bouncy hair waving about as he croons and plays piano. Miranda and screenwriter Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen) then segue between the lively presentation and the tale it also tells about Superbia, the looming workshop and the impending birthday. In the latter scenes, Larson can't come up with the missing song, earn enough as a composer to keep the power on, or juggle his pursuit of his dream with the complexities of his personal life. The alternative: opting for a safe career, which his ex-actor ex-roommate Michael (Robin de Jesus, The Boys in the Band) has done in advertising, and his dancer girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp, X-Men: Dark Phoenix) is contemplating with teaching.
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 July 1, July 8, July 15, July 22 and July 29; August 5, August 12, August 19 and August 26; September 2, September 9, September 16, September 23 and September 30; October 7, October 14, October 21 and October 28; and November 4.
For Sydney specifically, you can take a look at out our rundown of new films that released in Sydney cinemas when they reopened on October 11, and what opened on October 14, October 21 and October 28 as well.
And for Melbourne, you can check out our top picks from when outdoor cinemas reopened on October 22 — and from when indoor cinemas did the same on October 29.
You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as 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, The Night House, Candyman, Annette, 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 and Julia.
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