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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From July 8

Head to the flicks to watch one of Marvel's best movies yet, an exceptional music documentary and a super-charming queer rom-com.
By Sarah Ward
July 08, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
July 08, 2021
  shares

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 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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BLACK WIDOW

Closure is a beautiful thing. It's also not something that a 24-film-and-growing franchise tends to serve up often. Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has operated with the opposite aim — extending and expanding the series at every turn, delivering episodic instalments that keep viewers hanging for the next flick, and endeavouring to ensure that the superhero saga blasts onwards forever. But it's hard to tick those boxes when you're making a movie about a character whose fate is already known. Audiences have seen where Natasha Romanoff's (Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story) story finishes thanks to Avengers: Endgame, so Black Widow doesn't need to lay the groundwork for more films to follow. It's inexcusable that it has taken so long for the assassin-turned-Avenger to get her own solo outing. It's indefensible that this is just the second Marvel feature to solely focus on a female figure, too. But, unlike the missed opportunity that was Captain Marvel, Black Widow gives its namesake a thrilling big-screen outing, in no small part because it needn't waste time setting up a Black Widow sequel.  Instead, the pandemic-delayed movie spends its 143 minutes doing what more MCU flicks should: building character, focusing on relationships, fleshing out its chosen world and making every inch of its narrative feel lived-in. The end result feels like a self-contained film, rather than just one chapter in a never-ending tale — which gives it the space to confidently blend family dramas with espionage antics, and to do justice to both parts of that equation. 

Sporting an impressive cast that also includes Florence Pugh (Little Women), David Harbour (Stranger Things) and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite), Black Widow begins in 1995, in small-town Ohio. Here, Harbour and Weisz play Alexei and Melina, parents to young Natasha (Ever Anderson, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) and Yelena (Violet McGraw, Doctor Sleep), and the portrait of all-American domesticity — or that's the ruse, at least. The film doesn't revel  in small-town life, neighbourhood playtimes, 'American Pie' sing-alongs and an existence that could've been ripped from The Americans for too long, however, with the quartet soon en route back to Russia via Cuba at shady puppetmaster Dreykov's (Ray Winstone, Cats) beckoning. When the action then jumps forward to 2016, and to the aftermath of that year's Captain America: Civil War, Natasha hasn't seen her faux family for decades. On the run from the authorities, she isn't palling around with the Avengers, either, with the superheroes all going their separate ways. Then the adult Yelena (Pugh) reaches out, because she too has fled her own powers-that-be: Dreykov, the fellow all-female hit squad she's been part of for the last 21 years, and the mind-control techniques that've kept her compliant and killing. There's an unmistakable air of Bourne and Bond to Black Widow from there, but this deftly satisfying flick doesn't trade the MCU's blueprints for other franchises' templates. With Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore and Berlin Syndrome) in the director's chair, this welcome addition to the franchise spins a thoughtfully weighty story about women trapped at the mercy of others and fighting to regain their agency.

Read our full review.

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THE SPARKS BROTHERS

"All I do now is dick around" is an exquisite song lyric and, in Sparks' 2006 single 'Dick Around', it's sung with the operatic enthusiasm it demands. It's also a line that resounds with both humour and truth when uttered by Russell Mael, who, with elder brother Ron, has been crafting art-pop ditties as irreverent and melodic as this wonderful track since 1969. Sparks haven't been dicking around over that lengthy period. They currently have 25 albums to their name, and they've taken on almost every genre of music there is in their highly acerbic fashion. That said, their tunes are clearly the biggest labour of love possible, especially as the enigmatic duo has always lingered outside the mainstream. They've had some chart success, including mid-70s hit 'This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us', Giorgio Moroder collaboration and disco standout 'The Number One Song in Heaven', and the supremely 80s 'Cool Places'. They're beloved by everyone from Beck and 'Weird Al' Yankovic to Jason Schwartzman and Mike Myers, too. They're the band that all your favourite bands, actors and comedians can't get enough of, but they're hardly a household name — and yet, decade after decade, the Maels have kept playing around to make the smart, hilarious and offbeat songs they obviously personally adore.

Everyone else should love Sparks' idiosyncratic earworms as well — and, even for those who've never heard of the band before, that's the outcome after watching The Sparks Brothers. Edgar Wright, one of the group's unabashed super fans, has turned his overflowing affection into an exceptional documentary. It's the Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver's first factual effort, and it's even more charming and delightful than the films he's best known for. That said, it'd be hard to mess up a movie about Sparks, purely given how much material there is to work with. Russell and Ron, the former sporting shaggier hair and the latter donning a pencil-thin moustache rather than the Charlie Chaplin-style top lip he's brandished for much of his career, are also heavenly interviewees. That's the thing about these now-septuagenarian siblings, every Sparks tune they've ever blasted out into the world, and this comprehensive yet always accessible film that's instantly one of 2021's best: they're all joyously, fabulously, eccentrically fun to an infectious and buoyant degree. The world has always needed more Sparks on a bigger stage; now, to the benefit of everyone that's ever loved them and anyone just discovering them, it's stopped dicking around and is finally delivering

Read our full review.

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DATING AMBER

"You look like a shit version of that guy from Blur". Before his reluctant first kiss, they're the exact words that the shy Eddie (Fionn O'Shea, Normal People) hears from the gum-chewing Tracey (Emma Willis, Vikings) — and the rest of their behind-the-building encounter, which is the result of pure peer pressure from Eddie's bullying classmates and zero actual desire on his own part, goes just as well. Afterwards, he soon finds himself face to face with another girl from his grade. This time, the similarly picked-on Amber (Lola Petticrew, A Bump Along the Way) has a far different assessment. In fact, she has a proposal, suggesting that they start dating each other to stop their peers from constantly taunting them about their sexuality. She's gay, she's picked that Eddie is as well, and this arrangement will help them stay in the closet in County Kildare circa 1995 until they finish the school year, graduate, and then both chase different futures. Plucky, no-nonsense and enterprising — she makes cash by renting out caravans in the park her widowed mother (Simone Kirby, Calm with Horses) runs to teens looking for somewhere to have sex — Amber wants to move to London to open "an anarchist bookshop with franchise potential". Quiet, determined to convince himself and the world that he's straight, and accustomed to tiptoeing around his parents' (This Way Up's Sharon Horgan and Extra Ordinary's Barry Ward) unhappy marriage, Eddie is training to join the military just like his dad, a path he clearly doesn't really want to follow.

A warm and witty hormone-fuelled coming-of-age tale about seeking happiness, following your heart and breaking free of others' expectations, Dating Amber charts Eddie and Amber's faux relationship — including the camaraderie they feel as they play their parts, the comic subterfuge that comes with pretending they're the school's hottest couple, and the complications that spring the longer their charade continues. In another rom-com, this charming pair would simply be the queer best friends always by the straight protagonist's side, but thankfully that isn't the film that writer/director David Freyne brings to the screen. Instead, making his second feature after impressive zombie flick The Cured (and demonstrating his ability to hop seamlessly between genres in the process), the Irish filmmaker crafts a movie that's tender, thoughtful, perceptive and hilarious. His knack for 90s-era teen dialogue helps every exchange feel authentic, especially in the schoolyard. Even with the picture clocking in at a mere 92 minutes, the time and space he gives his central characters, as well as their hopes, dreams, fears and yearnings, is always noticeable. He helms a sunny but never visually glossy movie, too; however, alongside his insightful screenplay, he's served best by his core duo. In this amusing and astute gem, O'Shea and Petticrew put in wonderfully nuanced and layered performances that bring depth and emotion to every frame, and give them both a strong calling card for future roles.

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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.

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 and Little Joe.

Published on July 08, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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