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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas This Week

Head to the flicks to see Liam Neeson's latest formulaic action flick, a Polish Oscar nominee and a boozy South Korean delight.
By Sarah Ward
October 22, 2020
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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas This Week

Head to the flicks to see Liam Neeson's latest formulaic action flick, a Polish Oscar nominee and a boozy South Korean delight.
By Sarah Ward
October 22, 2020
  shares

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.

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KAJILLIONAIRE

When Evan Rachel Wood played a troubled teen in 2003's Thirteen, the then 16-year-old received a Golden Globe nomination. For her work in Westworld since 2016, she has nabbed multiple Emmy nods. So when we say that the actor puts in her best performance yet in Kajillionaire — the type of portrayal that deserves several shiny trophies — that observation isn't made lightly. Playing a 26-year-old con artist called Old Dolio Dyne, Wood is anxious but yearning, closed-off yet vulnerable, and forceful as well as unsure all at once. Her character has spent her entire life being schooled in pulling off quick scams by her eccentric parents Robert (Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water) and Theresa (Debra Winger, The Lovers), who she still lives with, and she's stuck navigating her own street-wise brand of arrested development. Old Dolio knows how to blend in, with her baggy clothes, curtain of long hair and low-toned voice. She also knows how to avoid security cameras in physical feats that wouldn't look out of place in a slapstick comedy, and how to charm kindly folks out of reward money. But she has never been allowed to truly be her own person — and, from the moment that Wood is seen on-screen, that mournful truth is immediately evident.

Kajillionaire introduces Old Dolio, Robert and Theresa as they're falling back on one of their most reliable swindles: stealing packages from post office boxes. But two developments drive its narrative, and make Old Dolio realise that she's far more than just the third part of a trio. Firstly, to make a quick $20 to help cover overdue rent, she agrees to attend a parenting class for someone she meets on the street, and is struck by how far removed its teachings are from her own experiences. Secondly, on a return flight back to Los Angeles from New York as part of a travel insurance grift, her parents meet and befriend outgoing optometrist's assistant Melanie (Gina Rodriguez, Annihilation). So accustomed to playing the role dictated to her by Robert and Theresa, and never deviating from it, Old Dolio isn't prepared for the emotions stirred up by both changes to her status quo. But July's poignant and perceptive movie — a film that's a quirky heist flick, a playful but shrewd exploration of family bonds, and a sweet love story — is perfectly, mesmerisingly equipped to navigate her protagonist's efforts to reach beyond the only loved ones and the only type of life she has ever known. In fact, the result is one of the most distinctive, empathetic and engaging movies of the year.

Read our full review.

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BABY DONE

A relic of a time when women were considered wives, mothers and little else, the public need to comment on whether someone has a baby or is planning to have a baby is flat-out garbage behaviour. In your twenties or thirties, and in a couple? Yet to procreate? If so, the world at large apparently thinks that it's completely acceptable to ask questions, make its judgement known and demand answers. Baby Done offers a great take on this kind of situation. Surrounded by proud new parents and parents-to-be at a baby shower, Zoe (Rose Matafeo) refuses to smile and nod along with all the polite cooing over infants — existing and yet to make their way into the world — and smug discussions about the joys of creating life. An arborist more interested in scaling trees at both the national and world championships than starting a family, she simply refuses to temper who she is to fit society's cookie-cutter expectations. Her partner Tim (the Harry Potter franchise's Matthew Lewis, worlds away from his time as Neville Longbottom) is on the same wavelength, and they visibly have more fun than everyone else at the party.

With a title such as Baby Done, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise when this New Zealand comedy soon upsets Zoe and Tim's status quo. She discovers that she's expecting and, while he starts dutifully preparing to an almost unnervingly sensible extent, she also struggles to face the change that's coming their way. Comedies about the trials and tribulations of parenthood, and of the journey to become parents, are almost as common as people asking "when are you two having kids?" without prompting at parties. But this addition to the genre from director Curtis Vowell and screenwriter Sophie Henderson (both veterans of 2013 film Fantail) approaches a well-worn topic from a savvy angle. Zoe clearly isn't a stereotypical mother-to-be, and doesn't experience the stereotypical feelings women have been told they're supposed to feel about having children — and Baby Done leans into that fact. Also pivotal in her first big-screen lead role is comedian Matafeo. Indeed, it's easy to wonder whether the movie would've worked so engagingly and thoughtfully with someone else as its star. Brightly shot and breezily toned, there's still much about Baby Done that's familiar; however, charting one woman's pregnancy experience, and her backlash to the widely accepted notion that motherhood is the be all and end all of a woman's life, proves poignant and charming more often than not here.

Read our full review.

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CORPUS CHRISTI

No one wants to live in a world where Parasite, the best movie of 2019, doesn't exist. But if it didn't for some reason, it's highly likely that Corpus Christi would've been this year's Best International Feature Film Oscar winner, rather than just a nominee. This Polish drama also focuses on people pretending to be something they're not. As directed by Warsaw 44 and The Hater's Jan Komasa, and written by the latter's screenwriter Mateusz Pacewicz, it casts a wry eye over much about life in its homeland today, too. And it isn't afraid to call out hypocrisy, societal divisions and greed, either — literally, in the latter case, with its protagonist making a speech about it at the local sawmill. There are few other similarities between Corpus Christi and the movie it lost to, but perhaps the only one that really matters is how blisteringly and rousingly it unfurls its on-screen gifts. Well that, and how striking every second of the film looks, pairing its grey, hazy aesthetics with its complicated account of an ex-juvenile delinquent who poses as a small-town priest.

The imposter's name is Daniel and, as played with soulful intensity by Bartosz Bielenia, he's a complex figure. First seen serving out the final days of his reform school sentence, he has made a fan out of the facility's head priest Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat). In fact, if his criminal record didn't preclude it, he'd follow in the elder man's footsteps and join the seminary. Instead, he's released to work in a sawmill. Through a series of events that never feels convenient or strained, however, he's soon welcomed by the locals as their new spiritual advisor. Daniel genuinely has faith and believes in his task, so the jump from playing lookout as his fellow inmates dispense a brutal beating to endeavouring to help his congregation is easy.  Loosely inspired by real-life details, Corpus Christi gifts its young protagonist an unexpected second chance — and an unlikely opportunity to follow his heart and make a difference to an insular community — but he's not the only figure within its frames with a troubled past to overcome. As a film about a masquerading cleric, tension and foreboding seethes through every second, but it's the bubbling and brooding movie's contemplation of what redemption and benevolence really means that hits the most potent notes.

Read our full review.

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THE WOMAN WHO RAN

Alcohol. Conversation. A scene-stealing cat. Combine all three in one movie, and not only is South Korean great Hong Sang-soo firmly in his element, but he delivers exactly the type of film that has won him a legion of fans. Given how prolific the director is, it'd be easy to assume that he'll soon run out of ways to combine his usual trademarks. Similarly, it'd be understandable to expect that he'll eventually exhaust all of his ideas. But like other impressive filmmakers who seemingly never stop working — Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), Sion Sono (Tokyo Vampire Hotel) and Takashi Miike (First Love) come to mind — Hong's features never run out of new ways to twist his favourite touches, themes and inclusions together. They're often brief, they're usually an equally melancholy and charming delight, and they're always perceptive. If you've seen his past standouts such as Nobody's Daughter Haewon, Hill of Freedom, Right Now, Wrong Then and Yourself and Yours — all of which have done the rounds of Australian film festivals, as all of Hong's movies do — then you'll know what you're in for, and you'll already be excited.

In The Woman Who Ran, which premiered at this year's Berlinale, booze flows freely. (Craving soju while watching Hong's work is a common side effect.) Drinking plenty of it is Gamhee, as played by Hong regular Kim Min-hee, a 2017 Berlinale Best Actress winner for On the Beach at Night Alone. Gamhee is enjoying her first time away from her husband in five years, visiting friends around Seoul while he's off on a business trip. In the filmmaker's typical fashion, much of The Woman Who Ran unfurls as his characters simply chat — about lives, hopes, dreams, problems and, with a pesky neighbour in the movie's funniest moment, about feeding stray felines. Hong's penchant for long, patient takes, playful repetition and echoes, and expertly timed crash-zooms are all used to winning effect, in a movie that slots perfectly into his busy oeuvre (he's made 23 movies since 1996) and yet always feels distinctively insightful. Also, and it cannot be stressed enough, look out for one helluva kitty.

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HONEST THIEF

Another Liam Neeson-starring movie, another bland action film with little else going for it beyond its main attraction. The genre must pay well, but it has sadly been years since the Irish actor's particular set of skills anchored a fist-flinging, chase-filled feature worthy of his talents. In Honest Thief, Neeson plays elusive bank robber Tom, who is also known as the 'in-and-out bandit'. A year after unexpectedly falling in love with psychology graduate student Annie (Kate Walsh) — and a year after he last indulged his pilfering urges, too — he decides to turn himself in to the FBI in exchange for a lesser sentence and the chance to make a real future. Answering his call, agents Baker (Robert Patrick) and Meyers (Jeffrey Donavan) are skeptical that he's actual the culprit. When their colleagues Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos) are given the case, however, they take another approach that sees Neeson rushing around Boston and fighting for his life against corrupt, trigger-happy law enforcement officials.

There's only one real surprise in store in Honest Thief, a movie that writer/director Mark Williams (A Family Man) and his co-scribe Steve Ullrich (The Timber) could've almost cobbled together using scenes from other Neeson action vehicles. No one is astonished that, despite being a bank robber, Neeson's character is the movie's hero. No one should expect anything unusual in its workman-like action choreography or by-the-numbers plot, either. But the fact that the movie also features a heap of well-known names and faces alongside Neeson — including The Umbrella Academy's Walsh, The X-Files' Patrick, Fargo's Donovan, Aussie Stateless star Courtney and Hamilton's Ramos — is a little startling. They're all wasted, because Honest Thief only tasks its other actors with giving Neeson someone to talk to, kiss, hunt down or flee. That's how generic this addition to his resume proves. Indeed, 2020 hasn't been great for Neeson fans, even with Made in Italy eschewing action for father-son bonding. His most recent great roles might've only been back in 2016 and 2018, courtesy of Silence, Widows and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but they currently seem like a distant memory.

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NEVER TOO LATE

Jack Thompson and Jacki Weaver rank among Australian acting royalty, with his resume spanning everything from Sunday Too Far Away to The Great Gatsby, and an Oscar nomination for Animal Kingdom sitting among her many credits. James Cromwell might be American, but he has earned a soft spot in many an Aussie's heart thanks to Babe and Babe: Pig in the City. Joining forces for Never Too Late definitely isn't a high point of any of their careers, however. They also feature on-screen alongside local veterans Max Cullen (Acute Misfortune), the New Zealand-born Roy Billing (Mystery Road), British star Dennis Waterman (80s series Minder) and Shane Jacobson — because few Australian films exist these days without the latter — but this broad comedy set in an Adelaide nursing home can't use its recognisable cast to distract from just how lumbering it is.

Known as the Chain Breakers, Cromwell, Thompson, Cullen and Billing's characters all served in Vietnam, becoming famous for a daring escape. But, along the way, Cromwell's Jack Bronson lost contact with Weaver's Norma — until, decades later, he uses some sly trickery to cross her path again at the Hogan Hills Retirement Home for Returned Servicemen and Women. Due to groan-worthy plot contrivances, their reunion is short-lived, inspiring Jack and his now-elderly and ailing pals to concoct another big getaway plan. Cue an Aussie spin on the geriatric heist film genre, in the same vein as Going in Style and King of Thieves but with romance as a motivation and tourism shots of South Australia featuring heavily. Never Too Late attempts to ruminate on the vagaries of ageing, the struggles of living with regret and the fact that it can take a lifetime to chase one's dream, but the film's cast sport wrinkles deeper than the movie's themes. After last directing the abysmal A Few Less Men, director Mark Lamprell is in similarly dismal territory here.

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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 July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23 and July 30; August 6, August 13, August 20 and August 27; September 3, September 10, September 17 and September 24; and October 1, October 8 and October 15.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as The Personal History of David Copperfield, Waves, The King of Staten Island, Babyteeth, DeerskinPeninsula, Tenet, Les Misérables, The New Mutants, Bill & Ted Face the Music, The Translators, An American Pickle. The High Note, On the Rocks, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Antebellum, Miss Juneteenth, Savage, I Am Greta and Rebecca.

Published on October 22, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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