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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From October 7

Head to the flicks to watch a tense and thoughtful documentary about mountaineering, and a sensitive look back at Australia's 2019–20 bushfires.
By Sarah Ward
October 07, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
October 07, 2021
  shares

Something delightful has been happening in cinemas in some parts of the country. After numerous periods spent empty during the pandemic, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, picture palaces in many Australian regions are back in business — including both big chains and smaller independent sites in Brisbane at present.

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 releasesStudio 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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THE ALPINIST

Standing atop Yosemite National Park's El Capitan after scaling it alone and without ropes, harnesses or any other safety equipment, Alex Honnold cut a surprisingly subdued figure. As the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo captured, he was obviously ecstatic, but he isn't the type to leap and scream with excitement. So, he smiled blissfully. He also advised the cameras that he was "so delighted". In the opening moments of new doco The Alpinist, however, he is effusive — as enthusiastic as the no-nonsense climbing superstar gets, that is. In a historical clip, he's asked who he's excited about in his very specific extreme sports world. His answer: "this kid Marc-André Leclerc."   

Zipping from the Canadian Rockies to Patagonia, with ample craggy pitstops in-between, The Alpinist tells Leclerc's tale, explaining why someone of Honnold's fame and acclaim sings his praises. Using the Free Solo subject as an entry point is a smart choice by filmmakers Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen — industry veterans themselves, with 2014's Valley Uprising on their shared resume and 2017's The Dawn Wall on Mortimer's — but their climber of focus here would demand attention even without the high-profile endorsement. Indeed, dizzying early shots of him in action almost say all that's needed about his approach to great heights, and his near-preternatural skill in the field. Scaling hard, immovable rock faces is one thing, but Leclerc is seen here clambering up alpine surfaces, conquering glistening yet precarious sheets of ice and snow.

Any shot that features the Canadian twenty-something mountaineering is nothing short of breathtaking. Describing it as 'clambering up' does him a disservice, actually, and downplays The Alpinist's stunning footage as well. Leclerc is just that graceful and intuitive as he reaches higher, seemingly always knowing exactly where to place his hands, feet and axe, all while heading upwards in frighteningly dangerous situations. As Mortimer notes, narrating the documentary and almost-indulgently inserting himself into the story, alpine free soloing is another level of climbing. No shortage of talking-head interviewees also stress this reality. Protective equipment is still absent, but all that ice and snow could melt or fall at any second. In fact, the routes that the obsessive Leclerc finds in his climbs will no longer exist again, and mightn't just moments after he's made his ascent. 

Simply charting Leclerc's impressive feats could've been The Alpinist sole remit; Mortimer and Rosen certainly wanted that and, again, the film's hypnotic, vertigo-inducing imagery is just that extraordinary. Some shots peer at the mountains in all their towering glory, letting viewers spot the tiny speck moving amid their majesty in their own time, before zooming in to get a closer look at Leclerc. Other nerve-shattering scenes intimately capture every careful choice, every movement of his limbs and every decision about what to hold on to, inescapably aware that these are sheer life-or-death moments. But The Alpinist isn't the movie its makers initially dreamed of, because Leclerc isn't Honnold or The Dawn Wall's Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. While affable when posed in front of the camera, he's also silently begrudging, because he'd visibly rather just be doing what he loves in total anonymity instead of talking about it, having it filmed and earning the world's eyes.

Read our full review.

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A FIRE INSIDE

Some colours only exist in nature, as much as paints, dyes and pixels attempt to pretend otherwise. The raging reds, blazing oranges and burning yellows seen in A Fire Inside's bushfire footage are some such hues — and, away from the safety of a cinema screen, no one should ever want to spy these specific searing tones. They're haunting enough as it is to look at in a movie. Taking up entire frames of on-the-ground footage shot during the summer of 2019–20, they're scorching in their brightness and intensity. This documentary about the national natural disaster just two years ago, when swathes of Australia burned for months, deploys those apocalyptic colours and the imagery containing them sparingly, notably; however, even when they only flicker briefly, those shades aren't easily forgotten.

After everything the pandemic has delivered since the beginning of 2020, just as the 'Black Summer' bushfires were cooling, that chapter of history might seem far longer ago than just a couple of years. A Fire Inside is also an act of remembrance, though. Directors Justin Krook (Machine, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead) and Luke Mazzaferro (a producer on Girls Can't Surf and The Meddler) firmly look backwards, pushing these events back to the top of viewers' memories. That said, they also survey the situation since, as the rebuilding effort has been complicated and elongated by COVID-19. This approach also enables them to survey the lingering aftermath, including the homes that still haven't been rebuilt, the people still residing in makeshift setups, and the emotional and mental toll that's set to dwell for much longer still. Accordingly, what could've merely been a record of a catastrophe becomes a portrait of both survival and resilience.

Unsurprisingly, interviews drive this Australian doco, focusing on the afflicted and the volunteers. Folks in each group chat about their experiences, and the lines between them frequently blur. Firefighter Nathan Barnden provides the first and clearest instance; the film's key early subject, he saved seven strangers and retained his own life in an inferno on the very first night that the fires reached New South Wales' far south coast, but also lost his cousin and uncle to the blazes the same evening. Barnden claims Krook and Mazzaferro's attention for multiple reasons, including his initial youthful eagerness to pick up a hose — following his father, who had done the same — as well as his candour about his distress in the months and now years afterwards. Often overlooked in tales of such events, that kind of emotion sears itself onto the screen with unshakeable power, too.

A Fire Inside spends time with others affected, residents and volunteers alike. RFS captain Brendan O'Connor saved his community, alongside his crew, but suffered in his personal life — and his is just one of the film's stories. Krook and Mazzaferro don't loiter on the same kinds of details over and over again, but whether talking to food bank staff, backpackers helping with re-fencing damaged farms or locals who saw everything they belonged succumb to the flames, the duelling sensations of both endurance and loss remain throughout their doco. The mood: careful, caring, sensitive and poignant. This is a movie that conjures up every sentiment expected, but also one that earns every reaction. Heartbreak and hope seesaw, and recognising that back-and-forth ride is one of the film's canny touches.

Read our full review.

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LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE

Love Is Love Is Love starts with a setup so clunky it can only be pure movie gimmickry, following a couple navigating their latest long-distance stint. Film producer Jack (Chris Messina, I Care a Lot) is on location, while caterer Joanne (Joanne Whalley, Daredevil) remains at home — and, when apart, they still have dinner together via video chat. In a ritual that can only have been in place as long as the necessary technology has existed to enable it, they get dressed up and take their respective laptops to restaurants. Then, they order, eat, drink and chat. It's a common occurrence; at the pair's local, where Joanne sits, the staff are clearly used to it. The idea sounds like a clumsy rom-com contrivance, and it is. It's also the kind of on-screen concept conceived to make shooting easy. And, across this anthology film's opening chapter, it plays as both laboured and all-too-neat. 

Jack and Joanne's uninteresting dinner kicks off Love Is Love Is Love as it then goes on, in what proves a struggle of a movie from start to finish. Comprised of three shorts all unpacking the titular concept, the film presents skin-deep sentiments in needlessly forced situations, and offers about the same level of insight and entertainment (and empty visual gloss and warmth) as a greeting card. Writer/director Eleanor Coppola has been in similar thematic territory before with 2016's Paris Can Wait, a feature that was also far too slight, simplistic and obvious. And, as she did then, the filmmaker fills her latest leisurely romantic drama with cliches and thinly written characters while eschewing authenticity.

In its second chapter, Love Is Love Is Love moves to another duo: the long-married John (Marshall Bell, Reservation Dogs) and Diana (Kathy Baker, The Ranch). They've spent decades together, but have become a little too comfortable following their own interests. That no longer satisfies John, who announces that he's been thinking about getting a girlfriend. So, despite suffering from seasickness, Diana agrees to go sailing with him. Again, it makes for a straightforward and trite tale — as does the film's final chapter. In the closing entry, Caroline (Maya Kazan, The Little Things) hosts a lunch filled with women. Every other attendee was a friend of her recently-deceased mother, but has been a stranger to each other. Now, they come together to sit, talk, eat, drink, reminisce and share intimate tales about the person they all clearly miss. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Love Is Love Is Love is how Coppola often casts actors known for their link to others; Whalley was wed to Val Kilmer, Kazan's sister is Clickbait's Zoe, and Tom Hanks' wife Rita Wilson (Gloria Bell) and Arquette sister Rosanna (Ratched) also pop up. The movie's tales also speak to interpersonal imbalances, having a husband busy in the film industry, and wanting more time between a mother and daughter — all from a filmmaker married to The Godfather and Apocalypse Now's Francis Ford Coppola, and who gave birth to On the Rocks' Sofia Coppola. That doesn't give Love Is Love Is Love any depth, however. Rather, it makes it both flimsier and more indulgent. Love might be the topic of discussion but, helming just her second fictional narrative, its 85-year-old director can't inspire her audience to feel much for the movie itself.

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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 May 6, May 13, May 20 and May 27June 3, June 10, June 17 and June 24; July 1, July 8, July 15, July 22 and July 29; August 5, August 12, August 19 and August 26; and September 2, September 9, September 16, September 23 and September 30.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as 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, The Sparks Brothers, Nine Days, Gunpowder Milkshake, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Old, Jungle Cruise, The Suicide Squad, Free Guy, Respect, The Night House, Candyman, Annette, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Streamline, Coming Home in the Dark, Pig, Big Deal, The Killing of Two Lovers, Nitram and Riders of Justice.

Published on October 07, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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