The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From September 17
Head to the flicks to see a glossy rom-com starring two Aussies, a grim thriller or the latest big-screen version of a childhood favourite.
Something delightful is happening in cinemas across the country. After months spent empty, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, Australian picture palaces are starting to reopen — spanning both big chains and smaller independent sites in Sydney and Brisbane (and, until the newly reinstated stay-at-home orders, Melbourne as well).
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 over the past three months, 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.
THE BROKEN HEARTS GALLERY
Romantic comedies routinely trade in cliches, and The Broken Hearts Gallery is no different. Here, aspiring gallery curator Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan, Miracle Workers) endures a traumatic breakup, indulges in a niche hobby that might just change her life, and oozes chemistry with the handsome and brooding Nick (Dacre Montgomery, Stranger Things) after the obligatory meet-cute. Her obsession: turning her hoarded mementos from past relationships, and similar junk collected by other lovelorn New Yorkers, into a cathartic, heartwarming exhibition. Long taunted by her best pals and roommates (Hamilton's Phillipa Soo and Good Boys' Molly Gordon) about her need to hold onto trinkets for sentimental purposes, she's actually motivated to make something of her bric-a-brac after drunkenly mistaking Nick's car for an Uber, unburdening her woes to him as he kindly drives her home, and later visiting the rundown old hotel that he's pouring his heart, soul and cash into as a passion project. From the above description, it should be apparent exactly where this film goes — but, in another rom-com trope, The Broken Hearts Gallery's likeable leads make a big imprint.
Seen at home in Emo the Musical and Janet King, as well as Better Watch Out and A Few Less Men, Australian duo Viswanathan and Montgomery have already made a splash via high-profile US-made TV shows in the past few years — and, in Viswanathan's case, in the film Blockers as well. They're both destined for bigger things, especially the grounded, relatable and very funny Viswanathan, but they make the most of their roles here. Well, they do as much as they can given they're in an immensely standard movie otherwise. Indeed, while there are few weak links among The Broken Hearts Gallery's cast (which also includes Brittany Runs a Marathon's Utkarsh Ambudkar and Mozart in the Jungle's Bernadette Peters), the film's central duo easily make viewers wish that everything around them had more spark, served up more surprises and took more chances. Even when it's upbeat, spirited and delivered with charming talent, a happily by-the-numbers affair is still going to feel formulaic, after all, a sensation that this feature debut from writer/director (and ex-Gossip Girl scribe and story editor) Natalie Krinsky never quite shakes.
AN AMERICAN PICKLE
If an early 20th-century Jewish immigrant found himself walking around in 2019, what would he think of the world? That question comes with a flipside, of course, because it's equally valid to wonder how today's folks would react in response. With Seth Rogen starring as a ditch-digging, rat-catching new arrival from Eastern Europe to Brooklyn, these are a couple of the queries pondered by An American Pickle. It's the latest in a long line of comedies that trifle with time while doubling as time capsules, and it falls firmly from a familiar mould. Indeed, seeing, examining and giggling at the contrast between century-old ways and contemporary ideas is a considerable part of the film. Not only that, but this Simon Rich-penned adaptation of his own short story Sell Out does all of the above broadly and blatantly — pointing out that big, bushy beards have become hipster beacons, for example, and that much has progressed since the 1900s.
Consequently, there's no avoiding just how slight An American Pickle is. Its protagonist might fall into a vat of brine, get sealed in, then emerge in a new millennium, but this movie isn't diving deep. Thankfully, mixed up with all the obvious jokes are two thoughtful performances, both by Rogen, that help the film interrogate the push and pull between the past and the present in a moving fashion. He plays Herschel Greenbaum, a new arrival to US with his wife Sarah (Succession's Sarah Snook), after the pair leave their home of Schlupsk to escape Russian Cossacks and chase a better life — and he also steps into the shoes of app developer Ben Greenbaum, Herschel's great-grandson and only living descendant when he awakens in his preserved (and presumably extra salty) state. The two men are the same age, and look alike, but they sport differences beyond Herschel's facial hair and Ben's technological know-how. It's the usual generational divide, as instantly recognisable to everyone watching. But when An American Pickle lets its star shine, rather than gets weighed down with over-the-top clashes in the service of clearcut gags and satirical observations, this affable but also mostly forgettable film boasts heart and sweetness. It's oh-so predictable, but it also shows an understanding of how the past always leaves an imprint, the future needn't fastidiously be chained to tradition, and that everything old and all things new have a symbiotic relationship.
Read our full review.
Like Agatha Christie and Knives Out before them, the makers of The Translators know that a good whodunnit serves up two major joys. That'd be the puzzle and the journey — because whichever intriguing narrative is being thrust their way, audiences want to sleuth along with the characters, piecing clues together in their heads; and, they want to enjoy each and every one of the story's many ins, outs, twists and turns as all the details unravel, too. In fact, this French film embraces those truths heartily. Writer/director Régis Roinsard (Populaire) and his co-scribes Romain Compingt and Daniel Presley even go a little heavy on convoluted minutiae and attempts to keep everyone guessing. Still, they mostly deliver an entertaining thriller — and, as always proves the case in this genre, if you enjoy the game and the ride enough once, it doesn't really matter if you won't be clamouring for a second helping
The Translators' premise is killer — in a film that doesn't shy away from a body count, but is actually more concerned with stolen pages from the yet-to-be-released last book in the bestselling The Man Who Did Not Want to Die series. The latest novel has only been seen by its secretive author, arrogant French publisher Eric Angstrom (Lambert Wilson, The Odyssey) and the nine translators the latter has assembled to prepare the text in multiple languages for a simultaneous worldwide debut. The enlisted team of experts are working in a bunker under stringent conditions, however, so when Angstrom receives an email threatening to leak the new book unless a huge ransom is paid, he's both perplexed and angry. Also starring Olga Kurylenko (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) as a Russian translator who purposely dresses to resemble the fated heroine in the novel the group is working on, as well as Alex Lawther (The End of the F***ing World) as a noticeably young Brit, The Translators isn't big on depth but still keeps viewers engaged. Hurtling forward like someone furiously thumbing through an airport novel, and offering a slick, swift-moving affair that ticks all the whodunnit basics (even as it gets a little too carried away with the exaggerated drip-fed clues, surprise reveals and reversals) will do that.
Read our full review.
THE SECRETS WE KEEP
First bursting onto cinema screens as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Lisbeth Salander — before Rooney Mara and Claire Foy both played the role in US versions — Noomi Rapace instantly became a star. Since her great performance in that thriller series and the underrated Prometheus, however, she's struggled to secure meaty roles that do her talents justice. And, unfortunately, The Secrets We Keep doesn't redress that situation. In a film that takes a premise already explored in 1990 play and 1994 film Death and the Maiden, but shifts the details to post-Second World War America, she's saddled with a stock-standard revenge narrative that couldn't feel more routine. In fact, Rapace's casting is actually one of the movie's overtly obvious elements. She's famed for her work a woman determined to right past wrongs and unafraid to take drastic actions to do so, and that's what she's asked to do here. Her last big part, as a mother who might be getting gaslit in Angel of Mine, also proves relevant as well.
Rapace plays Romani immigrant Maja, who has set up a life with her physician husband Lewis (Chris Messina, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)) and their young son (Jackson Dean Vincent) in a small American town. Then, in passing, she spies newcomer Thomas (Joel Kinnaman, Suicide Squad). Still haunted by horrors from the war 15 years prior, she's certain that he once brutally attacked her — then changed his identity and moved to her neighbourhood. So, Maja takes matters into her own hands. Quickly, even though he has plenty of doubts, Lewis is enlisted to help. Writer/director Yuval Adler's last film, The Operative, also attempted to wade through a murky plot and similarly had little success. Rapace hits the familiar notes she's asked to with visible gusto, Kinnaman endeavours to play more than just a cookie-cutter possible Nazi, and She Dies Tomorrow filmmaker Amy Seimetz turns in a nuanced supporting performance, but The Secrets We Keep constantly mistakes its solemn tone for substance. A thoughtful, captivating or even just intriguing reckoning with vengeance, trauma and trying to reconcile past struggles, this sadly isn't.
THE SECRET GARDEN
When The Secret Garden first reached the page as a serialised story in 1910, author Frances Hodgson Burnett couldn't have known how relevant her tale would feel 110 years later. Obviously she'll never know, as she passed away in 1924 — but if there was ever a time for a new big-screen version of this beloved children's favourite about escaping life's woes by banding together, making the most of things and enjoying the pockets of nature at hand, it's 2020. Indeed, while this new cinematic iteration was actually due to hit screens earlier this year, which means that it was made pre-pandemic, it firmly strikes a chord in these strange times. Whether you loved the book when you were much smaller, you can barely remember it, or you're more familiar with the narrative from the 1993 movie, a lavishly shot fantasy about a unhappy girl plagued by tragedy yet finding solace in the titular space couldn't be more fitting right now.
The narrative, for those who need a refresher, focuses on the pre-teen Mary (Dixie Egerickx, The Little Stranger) — who swiftly segues from from living in India under British rule to being sent to the Yorkshire moors to stay with her reclusive uncle (Colin Firth) when her parents are killed. She's bratty, spoiled and far from content about the new arrangement, but wandering the estate's sizeable grounds soon brings her to a hidden patch of greenery. Under the direction of TV veteran Marc Munden (Black Sails, National Treasure), this version of the tale takes place after the Second World War, but that's not the only change. It relays the same overall details, but it also leans into the darkness and gothic drama of the material in a firm and noticeable way. Perhaps that's another reason why it also feels apt for viewers young and young-at-heart — because overcoming loss, misery and struggle always comes with a sense of weight and, amidst its expected leafy sights and general childhood wonder, this take on The Secret Garden never forgets that.
TROLLS WORLD TOUR
Fuzzy-haired playthings turned into animated heroes, glitter fart clouds and cupcakes poop, and a lengthy list of earworm-style songs: that's what 2016's Trolls served up. It was loud, shiny and sickly sweet, but it also featured lively voicework from Anna Kendrick and standout handmade-looking visuals, which made the film's CGI look as if it had been made from felt and other crafting products. Naturally, the all-ages movie was a hit, like most flicks based on toys and simultaneously designed to sell more toys. So, it's to the surprise of absolutely no one that sequel Trolls World Tour now exists, and that it's once again using bright and bouncy visuals and a jukebox-musical style format to appeal to viewers young and old, and to spread a positive message — again, as efforts like this are known to.
With Kendrick back as the perky Queen Poppy and Justin Timberlake once again voicing her best friend Branch, this follow-up returns to the first film's trolls as they learn that other creatures like them exist. They're not exactly the same, though, with different troll groups favouring varying styles of music — making Poppy's community the 'pop trolls'. Clearly, as the villainous Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) of the hard rock trolls tries to make the separate tribes assimilate under her preferred style of music, there's an overt message about acceptance on offer. It isn't subtle, and it's actually undercut by the fact that the different troll crews (including techno trolls, funk trolls, classical trolls and country trolls) are all given such blatantly stereotypical traits. But, once more, the film is lifted by its cast (complete with Sam Rockwell and Ozzy Osbourne), it's textile appearance and the fact that it actually works its ongoing medley of well-known songs into the story, rather than merely uses them as an easy distraction technique as many fellow Hollywood-made animated movies do.
If you're wondering what else is currently screening in cinemas, check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23, July 30, August 6, August 13, August 20, August 27, September 3 and September 10 — and our full reviews of The Personal History of David Copperfield, Waves, The King of Staten Island, Babyteeth, Deerskin, Peninsula, Tenet, Les Misérables and The New Mutants.
Published on September 17, 2020 by Sarah Ward