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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

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

Head to the flicks to watch an evocative existential drama, a female-fronted action-thriller and the return of 'Space Jam'.
By Sarah Ward
July 15, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
July 15, 2021
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Something delightful has been happening in cinemas across the country. After periods spent empty during the pandemic, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, Australian picture palaces are back in business — at present, spanning both big chains and smaller independent sites in 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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NINE DAYS

Androids may dream of electric sheep, or they may not, but that isn't the only metaphysical question that cinema likes to contemplate. Do souls yearn and strive for — and fret and stress over — their chance to shuffle onto this mortal coil? That's the query that Pixar's Soul pondered so thoughtfully and enchantingly, and it's one that Nine Days, which actually predates its animated counterpart but is only reaching Australian cinemas now, masterfully explores as well. "You are being considered for the amazing opportunity of life," a bespectacled, suspender-wearing, serious-faced Will (Winston Duke, Us) tells the candidates hoping to soon live and breathe. They're far more enthusiastic about the process than he is, although he values their prospective existence much more than they can fathom in their wide-eyed eagerness and excitement. Will has seen what can happen next, because it's his job not only to select the best souls to embark upon this thing called life, but to monitor their progress in all the days, months and years afterwards. He's observed the success stories; however, he's also witnessed the heartbreaks as well.

In this stirring and fittingly soulful debut feature from writer/director Edson Oda — a movie that won the dramatic screenwriting award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and that's memorably and evocatively about the texture, experiences, feelings and enigmas that comprise every soul, and every life — Will surveys his next troupe of contenders fresh from viewing the unhappy end that met one of his previous favourites. He's already adrift from existence as we know it, and from almost everyone else who resides in the picture's ethereal yet also earthy pre-life realm, but he's now burdened with a renewed sense of solemnity. His colleague Kyo (Benedict Wong, The Personal History of David Copperfield) tries to get him to see the lighter side — the more human side — of the path his next chosen candidate will take. He emphasises the ebbs and flows that Will, who has become more rigid in his thinking and feelings the longer he's in the role, now fervently discounts. But among a roster of new applicants that includes Kane (Bill Skarsgård, IT Chapter Two), Alex (Tony Hale, Veep), Mike (David Rysdahl, Dead Pigs) and Maria (Arianna Ortiz, Rattlesnake), all of which are given nine days to demonstrate why they should be born next, it's actually the calm, passionate and inquisitive Emma (Zazie Beetz, Atlanta) that challenges the way Will perceives his work and what it means to be alive.

Read our full review.

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GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE

Cutesy name, likeable stars, stylised brutality, a familiar revenge scenario: blend them all together, and that's Gunpowder Milkshake. There's one particular ingredient that's missing from this action-thriller's recipe, though, and its absence is surprising — because much about the film feels like it has jumped from the pages of a comic book. That's one of the movie's best traits, in fact. The world already has too many comics-to-cinema adaptations, but although Gunpowder Milkshake doesn't stem from a graphic novel, it actually looks the part. Its precise framing and camera placement, hyper-vibrant colours and love of neon could've easily been printed in inky hues on paper, then splattered across the screen like the blood and bullets the feature sprays again and again. Writer/director Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves) and cinematographer Michael Seresin (War for the Planet of the Apes) have made a visually appealing film, and a movie with evident aesthetic flair. All that gloss is paired with a generic assassin storyline, however, and a half-baked feminist thrust. It's Sin City meets John Wick but gender-flipped, except that the Kill Bill movies and Atomic Blonde have been there and done that.

Crafting a film that's entertaining enough, but largely in a mechanical way, Papushado and co-scribe Ehud Lavski (a feature first-timer) attempt to complicate their narrative. The basics are hardly complex, though. As skilled killer Sam (Karen Gillan, Avengers: Endgame) notes in the movie's opening narration, she works for a group of men called The Firm, cleaning up its messes with her deadly prowess. It's an inherited gig, in a way. Fifteen years earlier, she was a fresh-faced teen (Freya Allan, The Witcher) with a mum, Scarlet (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones), who did the same thing. Then her mother abandoned her after a diner shootout, leaving Sam to fend herself — and, to ultimately get her jobs from Nathan (Paul Giamatti, Billions), one of The Firm's flunkies. It's on just that kind of gig that Sam kills the son of a rival crime hotshot (Ralph Ineson, Chernobyl), and he wants revenge. Soon, her employers are also on her trail, after she takes another assignment in an attempt to sort out her first problem, then ends up trying to save eight-year-old Emily (Chloe Coleman, Big Little Lies) from violent kidnappers. The cast also spans the impressive trio of Angela Bassett (Black Panther), Michelle Yeoh (Last Christmas) and Carla Gugino (a Sin City alum), albeit sparingly, with all of Gunpowder Milkshake's female figures solely tasked with navigating an inescapably clear-cut scenario.

Read our full review.

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SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY

In the misfire that's always been 1996's Space Jam, basketball superstar-turned-unconvincing actor Michael Jordan is asked to hurry up. "C'mon Michael, it's game time! Get your Hanes on, lace up your Nikes, grab your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we'll pick up a Big Mac on the way to the ballpark," he's told. Spoken by go-to 90s schemester Wayne Knight (aka Seinfeld's Newman), this line couldn't better sum up the film or the franchise it has now spawned. The Space Jam movies aren't really about the comedic chaos that springs when a famous sportsperson pals around with cartoons. That's the plot, complicated in the original flick and now 25-years-later sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy by evil forces that turn a basketball game into a battle ground; however, it's also just a means to an end. These features are truly about bringing brands together in a case of mutual leveraging, as product placement always is. Connect Looney Tunes with the NBA, and audiences will think of both when they think of either, the strategy aims. It has worked, of course — and with A New Legacy, the approach is put to even broader and more shameless use.

Everyone who has ever even just heard of Space Jam in passing knows its central equation: Looney Tunes + hoop dreams. The first Space Jam's viewers mightn't also remember the aforementioned product name-drops, but Warner Bros, the studio behind this saga, hopes A New Legacy's audience will forever recall its new references. All the brands shoehorned in here are WB's own, with its other pop culture franchises and properties mentioned repeatedly. The company also has Harry Potter, The Matrix, the DC Extended Universe flicks such as Wonder Woman, and Mad Max: Fury Road in its stable. Its catalogue includes Game of Thrones, Rick and Morty, The Lord of the Rings, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons like The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, too. And, it holds the rights to everything from The Wizard of Oz, Metropolis and Casablanca to A Clockwork Orange and IT. A New Legacy wants to forcefully and brazenly impress these titles into viewers' minds so that they'll always equate them with the studio. In other words, this is just a Warner Bros ad with LeBron James and Looney Tunes as its spokespeople. You don't need to be a cynic or have zero nostalgia for the OG Space Jam to see A New Legacy as purely a marketing exercise, though, because corporate synergy is literally what the movie's villain, an algorithm named Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle, Avengers: Endgame) that runs the on-screen Warner Bros, aims to achieve in this shambles of a film.

Read our full review.

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SIR ALEX FERGUSON: NEVER GIVE IN

Even among sports agnostics who know next to nothing about football of any code, and don't want to, Sir Alex Ferguson's name still likely rings a bell. The prodigiously successful soccer manager was synonymous with equally prosperous English Premier League team Manchester United for almost three decades between 1986–2013, leading them to 38 different trophies — including 13 EPL titles. He oversaw an era that featured star players such as David Beckham, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, all famous names that are also known beyond sports fans. Accordingly, Ferguson is a highly obvious candidate for a documentary, particularly an authorised film directed by his own son Jason. But the best docos don't just preach to the already celebratory and converted. A piece of non-fiction cinema has the potential to turn any viewer into an aficionado, and to get everyone watching not only paying attention, but wholly invested. As the vastly dissimilar, not-at-all sports-related The Sparks Brothers also does, that's what Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In achieves. It steps through its eponymous subject's life story, all with the man himself narrating the details, sharing his memories and musings, and looking back on an extraordinary career.

Helpfully when it comes to standing out from the crowded sports doco crowd, Never Give In has an angle: in 2018, Sir Alex was rushed to hospital and into surgery due to a brain haemorrhage. At the time, his biggest fear was losing his memories, which the younger Ferguson uses as an entry point — and as a touchstone throughout the birth-to-now recollections that fill the film otherwise. This approach helps reinforce exactly what Sir Alex has to recall, and what it all means to him. It also makes his plight relatable, a feat his footballing achievements were never going to muster (we can all understand the terror of having our lives' best moments ripped from our consciousness, but few people can claim to know what his level of professional success feels like). In his Scottish brogue, the elder Ferguson proves a lively storyteller, talking through his upbringing in Glasgow, his childhood adoration of Rangers Football Club, his ups and downs as a player — including taking to the pitch for Rangers and against them — and the path that led him to coaching first in Scotland, then for Manchester United. A wealth of archival footage assists in fleshing out the tale, as do interviews with players such as Cantona and Ryan Griggs. The result: an easy win of a film, but a nonetheless compelling and skilful one, too.

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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; March 4, March 11, March 18 and March 25; and 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; and July 1 and July 8.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as 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, 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 and The Sparks Brothers.

Published on July 15, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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