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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From April 15

Head to the flicks to watch a heartwrenching drama, a stunning dialogue-free documentary and a lively music biopic.
By Sarah Ward
April 15, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
April 15, 2021
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Something delightful has been 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 back in business — spanning 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, 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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SUPERNOVA

Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth aren't lazy, bad or bland actors. The former has an Oscar nomination for The Lovely Bones, the latter won for The King's Speech, and neither can be accused of merely playing the same character again and again. And yet, whenever either pops up on-screen, they bring a set of expectations with them — or, perhaps more accurately, they each instantly remind viewers of the traits that have served them so well over their respective four-decade careers. In features as diverse as The Devil Wears Prada and the Hunger Games films, Tucci has given a distinctive sense of flair and presence to his many parts, as well as his innate ability to appear bemused and sarcastic about life in general. Whether as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice or as Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones movies, Firth has enjoyed immense success playing reserved, introverted, dry-witted men who are more likely to ruminate stoically than to outwardly show much emotion. Teaming up in Supernova, both talents draw upon these characteristics once more, as writer/director Harry Macqueen (Hinterland) wants them to. But here's the thing about this pair of stars, who shine particularly bright in this affecting drama: far from ever settling into their own comfortable niches, they're frequently delving deeper, twisting in different directions and offering up untold surprises.

A famed novelist less interested in putting pen to paper than in peering up at the stars, Tucci's Tusker knows how to defuse any scenario with his charm in Supernova, but it's apparent that he often uses that canny ability to avoid facing a number of difficulties. An acclaimed musician with an eagerly anticipated concert in the works, Firth's Sam often says little; however, the fact that he's grappling internally with feelings he can't quite do justice to in words always remains evident. Travelling around England's Lakes District, they're not just on an ordinary campervan holiday. Neither man has simply been whiling away their time before their long-awaited returns to performing and writing, either. With stops to see Sam's sister (Pippa Haywood, Four Kids and It) and her family, and to reunite with old friends, the couple are making the most of what time they have left together. Tusker is unwell, with early-onset dementia increasingly having an impact on not only his everyday life, but upon the shared existence they've treasured for decades.

Read our full review.

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GUNDA

Move over Babe, Piglet, Porky and Peppa. Thanks to monochrome-hued documentary Gunda, cinema has a brand new porcine star. Or several, to be exact; however, other than the eponymous sow, none of the attention-grabbing pigs in this movie are given names. If that feels jarring, that's because it breaks from film and television's usual treatment of animals. Typically on-screen, we see and understand the zoological beings we share this planet with as only humans can, filtering them through our own experience, perception and needs. We regard them as companions who become our trustiest and most reliable friends; as creatures who play important roles in our lives emotionally, physically and functionally; as anthropomorphised critters with feelings and traits so much like ours that it seems uncanny; and as worthy targets of deep observation or study. We almost never just let them be, though. Whether they're four-legged, furry, feathered or scaly, animals that grace screens big and small rarely allowed to exist free from our two-legged interference — or from our emotions, expectations or gaze. Gunda isn't like any other movie you've seen about all creatures great and small, but it can't ignore the shadow that humanity casts over its titular figure, her piglets, and the one-legged chicken and paired-off cows it also watches, either. It's shot on working farms, so it really doesn't have that luxury. Still, surveying these critters and their lives without narration or explanation, this quickly involving, supremely moving and deeply haunting feature is happy to let the minutiae of these creatures' existence say everything that it needs to.

The delights and devastation alike are in the details, and the entire movie is filled with both. Filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky (Aquarela) looks on as Gunda's namesake gives birth, and as her offspring crawl hungrily towards her before they've even properly realised that they're now breathing. His film keeps peering their way as they squeal, explore and grow, and as they display their inquisitive, curious and sometimes mischievous personalities, too. Sometimes, this little family rolls around in the mud. At other times, they simply sleep, or Gunda takes the opportunity to enjoy some shut-eye while her piglets play. Whatever they're doing, and whenever and where, these pigs just going about their business, which the feature takes in frame by frame. In one of the documentary's interludes away from its porcine points of focus, the aforementioned chook hops about. Whether logs or twigs are involved, it too is just navigating its ordinary days. In the second of the movie's glimpses elsewhere, cattle trot and stand, and their routine couldn't seem more commonplace as well.

Read our full review.

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AALTO

Sometimes, a documentary doesn't need words, as Gunda wholeheartedly demonstrates. Aalto features plenty, all spoken as voiceover and delving into the life of great Finnish modernist architects Alvar and Aino Aalto; however, the film's visuals would've still kept viewers glued to the screen if not even a single syllable was uttered. For the bulk of the doco's duration, savvy director Virpi Suutari (Entrepreneur) fills the screen with the couple's handiwork. Furniture from the 1930s onwards and buildings up until the 1970s are seen in loving detail, with the feature's imagery zooming in on the former and walking through and soaring above the latter. Some might be familiar, especially on the homewares side — IKEA has taken a few cues from some of their designs over the years — but viewers new and well-acquainted alike will find much to catch their eye. With its smooth bends and sculptural look, the bentwood Paimio Chair is a thing of unshakeable beauty. The unpredictable curves in the pair's various wavy vases are just as vivid to behold. Combining an undulating appearance with rough bricks that Alvar complimented as "the lousiest in the world", Baker House at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is far more striking than any other college dormitory. And there's minimalistic grace in the buildings at the University of Jyväskylä, which are among the few sites seen in the feature with people in them.

To see these pieces and places, and others like them, is to be submerged into the Aaltos' way of viewing the world. Aalto doesn't just stare at the marvellous items designed by its namesakes, though. Suutari also draws upon home videos to tell their story, uses multiple unseen narrators to unfurl and comment upon their tale, and gives voice to letters penned between the pair whenever one travelled away from the other. Indeed, this isn't just a professional portrait, but a personal one, too — and a film made with admiration but not devotion. While Alvar became a world-renowned star, he isn't the sole reason that Aalto remains a famous design name. He also wasn't without his flaws. Accordingly, Aalto doesn't blindly sing his praises, peddle stock-standard male genius tropes or solely peer his way. Yes, the documentary's title mirrors its focus. Aino was a pivotal part of his architectural practice; "regardless of how the drawings are signed, they clearly worked as a team," the film's narration offers. After Aino's death, Alvar's second wife Elissa, another architect, also proved just as crucial. It would've been easy to simply worship Alvar, but Suutari cannily broadens the story around his work — and makes a better, and more interesting and engaging doco as a result.

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CREATION STORIES

Whenever someone gets 'Wonderwall' stuck in their head, they partly have Alan McGee to thank. The Scottish music industry executive and Creation Records co-founder happened to be at the same Glasgow bar as Oasis in 1993, and saw the band being turned away by management despite their claim that they were booked to play a gig. When the Manchester-based group was eventually allowed in, McGee checked out their set. He quickly offered them a recording contract and, yes, history was made. His impact upon the music world doesn't end there, either, with McGee managing The Jesus and Mary Chain, putting out records by Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine, and getting involved in the acid house scene as well. That means that Creation Stories has much to cover. The lively biopic initially frames its episodic jumps through McGee's life via a chat between the exec (Ewen Bremner, T2: Trainspotting) and a journalist (Suki Waterhouse, The Broken Hearts Gallery), but that's just an excuse to leap back into his memories. From there, the film pinballs from his unhappy teenage years with his doting mother (Siobhan Redmond, Alice Through the Looking Glass) and stern father (Richard Jobson, Tube Tales), and his early attempts to soar to music stardom in London, to Creation's many financial ups and downs and his involvement in politics.

Creation Stories is adapted from McGee's autobiography of the same name, with Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh and playwright Dean Cavanagh penning the script; however, it often feels as if McGee himself saw Rocketman and asked for his own version. That sensation comes through stylistically, thanks to the frenetic pace, vibrant splashes of colour and ample scenes of drug-fuelled partying. It's also evident in the impressionistic approach applied to McGee's life, telling a tale that mightn't always be 100-percent accurate in every minute detail but is wholly designed to capture the wild mood and vibe perfectly. Both movies boast Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrel stars as their directors, too, with Nick Moran (The Kid) jumping behind the lens here. And, the two films also benefit from standout lead performances, with Bremner as stellar as he's ever been on-screen. Indeed, the actor best known as hapless heroin addict Spud couldn't be more important in Creation Stories. So much of the film's chaotic ride through McGee's highlights and lowlights rests upon Bremner's larger-than-life portrayal, peppy presence, mile-a-minute gift of the gab and deceptive charisma, so its central talent was always going to make or break the film. There's no shaking its general adherence to the rock biopic genre, though, but there's also no doubting its alluring energy.

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THE UNHOLY

The Exorcist was not an easy movie to make, as exceptional documentary Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist made clear. But over the past four decades, the horror masterpiece has proven a very easy film to emulate again and again or, to try to ape in anything that pairs religion and scares, at least. Copying it is nowhere near the same as matching it, of course. That's especially the case when most one-note flicks that attempt the feat simply think that crosses, creepy females and stilted, unnatural body movements are all that it takes. The Unholy is the latest example, to uninspired, unengaging, unoriginal, unconvincing and thoroughly unsurprising results. Adapted from the 1983 James Herbert novel Shrine by seasoned screenwriter turned first-time feature director Evan Spiliotopoulos (Charlie's Angels, Beauty and the Beast, The Huntsman: Winter's War), the movie's premise has promise: what if a site of a supposed vision of the Virgin Mary and subsequent claimed miracles, such as Lourdes in France and Fatima in Portugal, was targeted by a sinister spirit instead?  But, despite also boasting the always-charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead) as its lead, all that eventuates here is a dull, derivative and not even remotely unsettling shocker of a horror flick. The fact that The Evil Dead and Drag Me to Hell's Sam Raimi is one of its producers delivers The Unholy's biggest scare.

Looking constantly perplexed but still proving one of the best things about the film, Morgan plays disgraced journalist Gerry Fenn. After losing his fame and acclaim when he was caught fabricating stories, he now makes $150 per assignment chasing the slightest of flimsy supernatural leads. His current line of work brings him to the small Massachusetts town inhabited by Father Hagan (William Sadler, Bill & Ted Face the Music) and his niece Alice (Cricket Brown, Dukeland), the latter of whom is deaf. Thanks to a barren tree, a creepy doll, an eerie chapter of history and a strange run-in with Gerry, however, she can soon suddenly hear and speak. She says that can see the Virgin Mary, too. Swiftly, word about her story catches the church, media and public's attention. Even if Spiliotopoulos had kept the novel's title, it'd remain obvious that all isn't what it seems — the film starts nearly two centuries ago with a woman being burned alive at the aforementioned tree, so nothing here is subtle. But instead of pairing an exploration of the dangers of having faith without question with demonic bumps and jumps, The Unholy embraces cliches with the same passion that satan stereotypically has for fire. The cheap-looking visuals, Cary Elwes' (Black Christmas) wavering accent and the bored look on co-star Katie Aselton's (Synchronic) face hardly help, either.

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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 January 1, January 7, January 14, January 21 and January 28; February 4, February 11, February 18 and February 25; and March 4, March 11, March 18 and March 25; and April 1 and April 8.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Nomadland, Pieces of a Woman, The Dry, Promising Young Woman, Summerland, Ammonite, The Dig, The White Tiger, Only the Animals, Malcolm & Marie, News of the World, High Ground, Earwig and the Witch, The Nest, Assassins, Synchronic, Another Round, Minari, Firestarter — The Story of Bangarra, The Truffle Hunters, The Little Things, Chaos Walking, Raya and the Last Dragon, Max Richter's Sleep, Judas and the Black Messiah, Girls Can't Surf, French Exit, Saint Maud, Godzilla vs Kong, The Painter and the Thief, Nobody, The Father, Willy's Wonderland, Collective and Voyagers.

Published on April 15, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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