The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From June 3
Head to the flicks to see a smart and savage sci-fi film, a new horror sequel and a documentary about the unifying power of food.
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.
THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT
Starting in 2013 with The Conjuring, expanding with 2014's Annabelle, and also including The Conjuring 2, both terrible and much better sequels to Annabelle, the dismal The Nun and the formulaic The Curse of the Weeping Woman, The Conjuring Universe now spans eight evil-fighting flicks — and they're all as straightforward as it gets when it comes to battling the nefarious. Circling around real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the franchise posits that the supernatural exists, darkness preys upon the innocent and its central couple usually has the tools to combat everything untoward. That template remains firmly in place in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. With director Michael Chaves (The Curse of the Weeping Woman) and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Aquaman) doing the honours — taking their cues from James Wan, the Australian Saw and Insidious co-creator who helmed the first two Conjuring flicks — it once again serves up the usual bumps, jumps and scares that have haunted this franchise since day one. That said, the third Conjuring flick within the broader Conjuring realm does attempt a few changes. Rather than getting creeped out by haunted houses, it gets spooked by a kid and then a teenager who are both possessed. True to form, bone-shakingly horrific things can't simply occur without some kind of excuse and entity at play.
The Warrens (Patrick Wilson, Aquaman, and Vera Farmiga, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) are first tasked with saving eight-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard, WandaVision) from a demon after his family moves to stereotypically sleepy Brookfield, Connecticut. Their efforts seem successful, even if Ed has a heart attack mid-exorcism, but the evil force they're fighting has really just jumped ship. Arne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor, The Spanish Princess), the boyfriend of David's sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook, NOS4A2), is quickly besieged by strange occurrences. He's soon also covered in blood after stabbing his landlord to Blondie's 'Call Me'. The death penalty beckons; however, the Warrens convince Arne's lawyer to plead not guilty by reason of demonic possession — the first time that ever happened in the US — and then commit to unearthing whatever paranormal details they can to save his life. The trailer for The Devil Made Me Do It teases legal thrills, but in a bait-and-switch way, because this film is barely concerned with Arne's court case. The true tale, which was previously dramatised in a 1983 TV movie starring Kevin Bacon, merely provides an easy setup for souped-up demonic antics and a routine, happily by-the-numbers, never remotely terrifying threequel. Indeed, the fact that more flicks will undoubtably still follow is the scariest thing about the film.
Read our full review.
9 to 5 and Working Girl hail from the genre. Everything from Office Space to The Assistant do, too. But films about working in offices, TPS reports and navigating the desk-based daily grind might eventually become a dying breed or a nostalgic retro curiosity. Because art always mirrors life, the gig economy may swoop in and draw the silver screen's focus instead. Sorry We Missed You already has in a resonant warts-and-all manner, and Lapsis now endeavours to do the same via a smart and searing sci-fi satire. There's much to ponder, probe and dissect about the mode of employment that's becoming the status quo, after all, and that isn't bound to change as it spreads and grows. Corporations don't just dictate workers' behaviour during office hours now, supplying a reliable wage and perks such as holiday and sick leave in return. Attempting to monopolise entire fields such as food and package delivery, transportation and caregiving, big companies (you know the ones) hire independent contractors, scrap the benefits, and keep them toiling on-demand or on-call just to earn the bare minimum. This new kind of technology-driven rat race has been normalised, and quickly — and what it means for the labour force, employment, capitalism, corporate greed, class structures and basic human rights demands to be interrogated in thousands of movies as sharp and scathing as this one.
In Lapsis and its alternative vision of New York via writer/director Noah Hutton, quantum computing is the next big thing. It requires a network of giant metallic cubes connected via thick black wires, with stringing them together the gig economy's new growth area. It's such an in-demand field and so lucrative for workers, in fact, that cablers can earn thousands of dollars just for a weekend's work. They can also pay off their mortgages within months — if the advertisements spruiking the supposed new employment dream can be trusted, that is. Technology-phobic delivery driver Ray Tincelli (first-timer Dean Imperial) is sceptical, so much so that he won't even use a quantum computer himself, even though they're essential to viewing up-to-date websites and just generally existing in Lapsis' parallel world. But his unwell brother Jamie (fellow debutant Babe Howard) suffers from a pervasive form of exhaustion called omnia, and requires expensive medical treatment. After finding a way into the cabling industry via acquaintance Felix (James McDaniel, The Deuce), Ray's need to make a quick stash of hefty cash quickly overrides his misgivings.
Read our full review.
BREAKING NEWS IN YUBA COUNTY
Celebrity worship is one of popular culture's stupidest side effects. Stars get paid well beyond the average person and live far more lavish lives, but yes, they're people too. And, even if you round up a hefty number of famous faces in the one movie — award-winners and -nominees among them — they can still make absolutely terrible career decisions. Case in point: Breaking News in Yuba County, exactly the type of film that dispels any ridiculous notion that well-known actors opt for better choices than the rest of us. No one has done themselves any favours by featuring in this equally derivative and preposterous mess. No one will by watching it either. Director Tate Taylor might have both The Help and Get On Up to his name, but this addition to his resume sinks lower than The Girl on the Train, Ma and Ava. First-time screenwriter Amanda Idoko pens a script that aims for quirky crime-comedy with a side serving of societal satire, but really just repackages every tired cliche and trope her chosen genre has ever brought to the screen, and every obvious observation about small-town life, middle-aged women and the media as well. Also, every performance seems pitched at a different type of picture to each other — and, even in the silliest cases, none of them gel with the film's perky, almost sitcom-esque aesthetic.
Allison Janney (Bombshell) plays Sue Buttons, dutiful wife to local banker Karl (Matthew Modine, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal). He's inattentive at the best of times, and she's too meek-mannered to say anything — but when she sneakily follows him to a hotel on her birthday, which he seems to have forgotten, their marriage takes a turn. Soon she's telling whoever will listen that Karl has gone missing. Her sister (Mila Kunis, The Spy Who Dumped Me) is a local news reporter, so TV attention follows. But Sue really just wants to be on one particular host's (Juliette Lewis, Music) show, and to elicit the kind of reaction the town has been giving the parents of a missing young girl. That's only part of Breaking News in Yuba County's narrative, though. Karl'x brother (Jimmi Simpson, Unhinged) is trying to go on the straight and narrow to please his pregnant wife (Samira Wiley, The Handmaid's Tale), but his ex-boss (Awkwafina, Raya and the Last Dragon) and her henchman (Clifton Collins Jr, Waves) would prefer otherwise. Jokingly at first, so would his new employer (Wanda Sykes, Black-ish), who is bored of just owning and running a furniture store. The more all of these characters' paths intersect — and those of a local detective (Regina Hall, Little), one of Karl's colleagues (Chris Lowell, Promising Young Woman) and his mistress (Bridget Everett, Unbelievable) as well — the more obvious three things are. Firstly, Idoko has clearly seen To Die For and Fargo more than once. Secondly, her script feels like it was written in the 90s, too, and then barely read again before filming started. And thirdly, this doesn't even approach the same league as its influences, or work as a goofier farce either.
BYE BYE MORONS
When Bye Bye Morons begins, it's with the kind of overdone setup that hardly screams 'Best Picture winner'. The film did indeed garner that gong at this year's César Awards — and six others as well — and, thankfully, twists its template beginnings into something far more intriguing than it initially seems set to deliver. When hairdresser Suze Trappet (Virginie Efira, Police) is told that she's afflicted with an auto-immune disease that stems from the chemicals she uses at work, and that it'll soon take her life, she's shocked and horrified. She also has unfinished business to attend to, after giving up a baby for adoption almost three decades earlier. That quest brings her into the path of civil servant Jean-Baptiste Cuchas (Albert Dupontel, also the movie's writer and director), who is being replaced by new technology at his paper-pushing job and happens to be staging a suicide attempt when Suze visits the office trying to track down her child. Soon, they're unlikely allies alongside a blind archivist (Nicolas Marié, Knock), and they're all endeavouring to thwart the multiple systems and bureaucracies that have defined and dictated so much of their lives. As its name makes plain, subtlety isn't Bye Bye Morons strong point, but when it finds its heartfelt groove, this French comedy also finds its charm.
It helps that Dupontel has cast his feature superbly, including via his own involvement. The See You Up There filmmaker and star turns in a performance that's far more nuanced than the overwhelming bulk of the movie itself, as does the always-watchable Efira — with the pair playing exasperated ordinary folks who leap into outlandish territory not so much out of necessity, but in utter and gleeful defiance of the misfortune-laden cards that the world keeps dealing them. It also helps that, scripting with contributions from collaborating writers Xavier Nemo (Girafada) and Marcia Romano (Losing It), Dupontel fleshes out his characters more than his scenario. In fact, he makes his own on-screen job easier as a result. And, he gives his audience a much-needed anchor amidst all the broad, loose, chaotic and often over-the-top comedy he repeatedly swings in Suze and Jean-Baptiste's direction. Bye Bye Morons isn't short on plot, but when the feature is at its sweetest and most poignant, it's because viewers have become invested in its protagonists, their plight and their connection, rather than the ins and outs of their intertwined crusades. In fact, when the film is at its silliest — and when it attempts to wring easy comedy out of its absurdist and anarchic energy — it's a far less entertaining affair.
Food unites us all, or so the oft-spouted rhetoric tells us — and now documentary Breaking Bread does as well. On paper, it mightn't seem hard to demonstrate that every single one of us shares a need for sustenance and a love of culinary delights; however, debut writer/director Beth Elise Hawk doesn't merely explain what we already literally know in our guts. Instead, the filmmaker focuses on Dr Nof Atamna-Ismaeel. Originally a microbiologist, she became the first Arabic contestant to win Israeli's version of Masterchef back in 2014. After that pioneering feat, she set her sights on another: founding the A-Sham Arabic Food Festival in Haifa. Unity is baked into the fest's very existence, with the event bringing together chefs of both Arabic and Jewish descent to cook a range of Levantine dishes, and then share their creations with eager attendees. And, the festival's purpose is never far from view on the plate or in discussions with the participants. The common sentiment: while the conflict in Israel commands the bulk of the attention directed the country's way, that isn't the lived reality for most of the region's residents. Breaking Bread releases in Australia just as headlines again document rising tensions and increasing combat in the area, but Atamna-Ismaeel and her fellow chefs endeavour to espouse the opposite in their delicious-looking meals.
The usual food documentary advice applies here, unsurprisingly, because watching on an empty stomach will only get tastebuds watering and hunger pangs grumbling. Hawk isn't above using slow-motion culinary shots that actively attempt to entice salivation, and to use them to pad out the already brief 86-minute feature. That said, every glimpse in the kitchen or at a plate is handsomely filmed, framed and staged, and is never too far away from lively conversation as well. Indeed, the movie's wide range of dishes might whet the appetite, but they're really just the entree. Alongside the engaging Atamna-Ismaeel, the festival's chefs speak through their backgrounds, cooking dreams, experiences with conflict and generational traumas in their own talking-head segments. The doco hears multiple accounts of how the simple act of eating, or of combining different types of food, can and has brought people together, and yet that kind of sentiment will never prove repetitive. Perhaps because of Atamna-Ismaeel's TV background, it's easy to see how a longer project that spent an entire episode or several with these interviewees would provide a satisfying meal — and get its audience thinking even further about the region, food and unity.
It has been ten years since Johnny Depp starred in The Rum Diary, openly inviting comparisons to — and happily standing in the shadows of — his role in fellow Hunter S Thompson adaptation Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 13 years earlier. Minamata boasts no ties to the gonzo journalist, but it does initially endeavour to ape Depp's past work; playing a hard-drinking member of the press will do that. This drama draws its details from reality, though, not mere impersonation. Its subject: photographer W Eugene Smith, and his late-career series of snaps in the titular Japanese town. Informed of a story worth his and the world's attention by a translator, Aileen Mioko (Miami, Tezuka's Barbara), who'll later become his wife, Smith (Depp, Waiting for the Barbarians) convinces his Life magazine editor (Bill Nighy, Emma) to dispatch him to capture the results of chemical company Chisso's dumping of mercury in the local water. It's an important story, both for the celebrated Second World War photographer at the waning end of his career and for the movie now telling the tale, although second-time director Andrew Levitas (Lullaby) stages his earnest adaptation of Aileen and Eugene's book in a blunt manner. It doesn't help that his film arrives after the far superior Dark Waters and its own story of corporate poisoning, or that Depp is once again the point focus in a story where his character is a white outsider looking in, as he also was in the woefully misguided City of Lies.
As it charts Smith's quest to bring the coastal spot's plight to the world, as aided by activist Kiyoshi (Ryô Kase, To the Ends of the Earth), Minamata does boast one crucial factor — other than its grim real-life basis. Whether seen for the first time or the thousandth, Smith's photos of Minamata residents afflicted with mercury poisoning (or Minamata disease, as the severe neurological condition particular to the town has been dubbed) are nothing short of striking. Indeed, they say so much in their single frames that a movie like Minamata was always going to feel as if it's merely sketching in filler details around these unforgettable images. As a director working with first-timer David Kessler's script, Levitas clearly understands this, and obviously appreciates the weight and importance of Smith's revelatory snaps. Accordingly, the film is as much an origin story for these famous pictures as it is an explainer for the context around them. The most recognisable photo of all — Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath, which depicts mother Ryoko Uemura bathing her daughter Tomoko — understandably garners the most focus. It's here that Minamata is at its most urgent and affecting, but so much that surrounds it proves the antithesis of Smith's shots: derivative and cliched.
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; and May 6, May 13, May 20 and May 27.
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, 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 and My Name Is Gulpilil.
Published on June 03, 2021 by Sarah Ward