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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From September 24

Head to the flicks to see David Attenborough's urgent and moving new documentary, or a comedy set in the music industry.
By Sarah Ward
September 24, 2020
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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From September 24

Head to the flicks to see David Attenborough's urgent and moving new documentary, or a comedy set in the music industry.
By Sarah Ward
September 24, 2020
  shares

Something delightful is 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 starting to reopen — spanning both big chains and smaller independent sites in Sydney and Brisbane (and, until the newly reinstated stay-at-home orders, Melbourne as well).

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 over the past three months, 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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DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET

Since the early 1950s, David Attenborough's stunningly shot documentaries have been awash with revelatory sights and detailed insights from the natural world, sharing the kind of wonders that eager audiences would be unlikely to see or discover themselves otherwise. Seven decades later, after becoming a constant, respected and beloved presence in the field, the now 94-year-old's passionate and vibrant work has earned its place in history several times over — but it might also become a record of a world, and of natural history, that's lost due to climate change. With this in mind, and to motivate a response to combat both global warming and the catastrophic loss of biodiversity blighting the environment, the great broadcaster presents David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. On offer: an urgent and far-ranging exploration of how our pale blue dot evolved to its current state, what might be in store if we continue down this path, and how and why things could and should change. Determined in his tone, the veteran natural historian calls the documentary his witness statement several times within its frames, and it's as powerful and devastating as intended.

Bookended by scenes in Chernobyl that are initially designed to illustrate what can happen ecologically when bad planning and human error combine — a situation that, Attenborough posits, applies to climate change as well — A Life On Our Planet is both broad and intricate, and personal and political too. Cycling through the earth's life to-date to provide a snapshot of the planet's predicament, it delivers a comprehensive overview, a raft of telling facts and figures, and a plethora of reflections from its central figure. It also features the now-requisite array of eye-catching footage that Attenborough's hefty body of work has long become known for, served up here to not only revel in its glory and showcase his exceptional career, but to demonstrate what's fading away due to humanity's impact upon the globe. Accordingly, it's impossible not to be moved by the film. If viewers won't listen to Attenborough on this topic, and as he explains what he's seen and where he sees things heading, then they probably won't listen to anyone. In the documentary's latter third, A Life On Our Planet follows in the footsteps of Australian doco 2040, too, by pondering how the world might adapt for the better — and again, if that doesn't motivate action, what will?

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet opens in Australian cinemas on Monday, September 28, with a chat between David Attenborough and Michael Palin screening with the film. The documentary only hits Netflix on Sunday, October 4.

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THE HIGH NOTE

With 2019's Late Night, filmmaker Nisha Ganatra stepped inside the world of television, contrasting the journeys of a hardworking woman just starting out and a celebrated but stern female veteran of the field who is unsure of what she wants for the future. Switch the setup to the music business, then swap Mindy Kaling's smart Late Night screenplay for a thoroughly by-the-numbers affair by first-timer Flora Greeson, and The High Note is the end result. In this overtly formulaic feature, lifelong music buff Maggie Sherwoode (Dakota Johnson) is a committed and overworked personal assistant to 11-time Grammy-winning R&B superstar Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross). She's also an aspiring producer who's working on a record with up-and-coming musician, David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison Jr), on the side. Maggie toils away at a demanding gig, albeit for a legend, but clearly dreams of more than merely ferrying her idol around town, picking up her dry cleaning and administering enemas on tour. With Grace's latest string of shows wrapping up, a live greatest hits album in the works and no new music released for some time, the singer herself also wants something different; however long-time manager Jack (Ice Cube) is trying to push Grace towards the easy money of a ten-year Las Vegas residency.

There's much that's likeable here, including the soundtrack and the cast. The former spans both new tracks and vintage hits (including an appealing singalong to TLC's 'No Scrubs', and Harrison Jr crooning 1957 classic 'You Send Me' by the king of soul Sam Cooke), while the latter is The High Note's best asset. If only the impressive roster of on-screen talent were working with better material. As well as hitting every obvious note and delivering an awful (and predictable) soap opera-esque twist late in the game, The High Note lacks the resonant commentary that made Late Night as clever and savvy as it was amusing and affecting. The fact that it isn't easy being a woman in music isn't ignored here, but it's pointed out via generic lines of dialogue that simply sound like throwaway soundbites. The reality that both ageism and racism blight the industry too, and that a hugely successful Black woman over 40 still gets ignored by those calling the shots, receives the same cursory treatment. Indeed, The High Note is more content to keep any statements as superficial and easy as a disposable pop song, and to serve up as standard a feel-good fairy tale about chasing one's dreams as an algorithm would probably spit out.

Read our full review.

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If you're wondering what else is currently screening in cinemas, check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23 and July 30; August 6, August 13, August 20 and August 27; and September 3, September 10 and September 17.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as The Personal History of David Copperfield, Waves, The King of Staten Island, Babyteeth, DeerskinPeninsula, Tenet, Les Misérables, The New Mutants, Bill & Ted Face the Music, The Translators and An American Pickle.

Published on September 24, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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