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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From May 27

Head to the flicks to watch a long-awaited horror sequel, an energetic and OTT Japanese gem, and three different compelling documentaries.
By Sarah Ward
May 27, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
May 27, 2021
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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.

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A QUIET PLACE PART II

When every noise you make could send savage aliens stalking, slashing and slaughtering your way, it's the waiting that gets you. When you're watching a nerve-rattling horror film about that exact scenario, the same sentiment remains relevant. In A Quiet Place, the Abbott family went into survival mode after vicious creatures invaded, hunted down every sound and dispensed with anyone that crossed their path. For the characters in and viewers of the 2018 hit alike, the experience couldn't have screamed louder with anxiety and anticipation. Evelyn and Lee (Wild Mountain Thyme's Emily Blunt and Detroit's John Krasinski) and their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck), Marcus (Noah Jupe, The Undoing) and Beau (Cade Woodward, Avengers: Endgame) all silently bided their time simply trying to stay safe and alive, but their continued existence lingered under a gut-wrenching shadow. The critters were still out there, listening for even a whisper. It was a matter of when, not if, they'd discern the slightest of noises and strike again. That type of waiting drips with tension and suspense, and also with the kind of inevitability that hovers over everyone alive. A certain bleak end awaits us all, a truth we routinely attempt to ignore; however, neither the Abbotts nor A Quiet Place's audience were allowed to forget that grim fact for even a moment.

Initially slated to arrive in cinemas two years later, then delayed by the pandemic for 14 months, sequel A Quiet Place Part II isn't done with waiting. Written and directed once again by Krasinski, the film doesn't shy away from the stress and existential distress that marking time can bring, but it also tasks its characters with actively confronting life's inevitabilities. After an intense and impressive tone-setting opening flashback to the first day of the alien attack, when the Abbotts' sleepy hometown learns of humanity's new threat in the cruellest fashion, the storyline picks up where its predecessor left off. It's day 474 — the earlier film spent most of its duration around day 472 — and Evelyn, Regan, Marcus and the family's newborn are grappling with their losses. That said, they're also keenly aware that they can't stay in their Appalachian farmhouse any longer. After spotting smoke on the horizon and setting off in that direction, they reconnect with Emmett (Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders), an old friend who has been through his own traumas. Evelyn sees safety in numbers, but he's reluctant to help. Then Regan hears a looping radio transmission playing 'Beyond the Sea' and decides to track down its source — and a film that's less thrilling, potent and unsettling than its predecessor eventuates.

Read our full review.

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CRUELLA

A killer dress, a statement jacket, a devastating head-to-toe ensemble: if they truly match their descriptions, they stand the test of time. Set in 70s London as punk takes over the aesthetic, live-action 101 Dalmatians prequel Cruella is full of such outfits — plus a white-and-black fur coat that's suspected of being made from slaughtered dogs. If the film itself was a fashion item, though, it'd be a knockoff. It'd be a piece that appears fabulous from afar, but can't hide its seams. That's hardly surprising given this origin tale stitches together pieces from The Devil Wears Prada, The Favourite, SupermanStar Wars and Dickens, and doesn't give two yaps if anyone notices. The Emmas — Stone, playing the dalmatian-hating future villain; Thompson, doing her best Miranda Priestly impression as a ruthless designer — have a ball. Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road costume designer Jenny Beavan is chief among the movie's MVPs. But for a film placed amid the punk-rock revolution, it's happy to merely look the part, not live and breathe it. And, in aiming to explain away its anti-heroine's wicked ways, it's really not sure what it wants to say about her.

Before she becomes the puppy-skinning fashionista that remains among Glenn Close's best-known roles, and before she's both a wannabe designer and the revenge-seeking talk of the town played by Stone (Zombieland: Double Tap), Cruella is actually 12-year-old girl Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, Game of Thrones). In this intellectual property-extending exercise from I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie, she sports two-toned hair and a cruel that streak her mother (Emily Beecham, Little Joe) tries to tame with kindness — and she's also a target for bullies, but has the gumption to handle them. Then tragedy strikes, an orphan is born, loss haunts her every move and, after falling in with a couple of likeable London thieves, those black-and-white locks get a scarlet dye job. By the time that Estella is in her twenties, she's well-versed in pulling quick heists with Jasper (Joel Fry, Yesterday) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser, Songbird). She loves sewing the costumes required more than anything else, however. After years spent dreaming of knockout gowns, upmarket department stores and threads made by the Baroness (Thompson, Last Christmas), she eventually gets her chance — for fashion domination, as well as vengeance.

Read our full review.

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MY NAME IS GULPILIL

Lengthy is the list of Australian actors who've started their careers on home soil, then boosted their fame, acclaim and fortunes by heading abroad. Some have won Oscars. Others are global household names. One plays a pigtailed comic book villain in a big film franchise, while another dons a cape and wields a hammer in a competing blockbuster saga. David Gulpilil doesn't earn any of the above descriptions, and he isn't destined to. It wouldn't interest him, anyway. His is the face of Australian cinema, though, and has been for half a century. Since first gracing the silver screen in Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout, the Yolŋu man has gifted his infectious smile and the irrepressible glint in his eye to many of the nation's most important movies. Indeed, to peruse his filmography is to revel in Aussie cinema history. On his resume, 70s classics such as Mad Dog Morgan and The Last Wave sit alongside everything from Crocodile Dundee and Rabbit-Proof Fence to Australia, Goldstone and Cargo — as well as parts in both the first 1976 film adaptation of Storm Boy and its 2019 remake.

The latest film to benefit from the Indigenous talent's presence: My Name Is Gulpilil. It might just be the last do to so, however. That sad truth has been baked into the documentary ever since its subject asked director Molly Reynolds and producer Rolf de Heer — two filmmakers that Gulpilil has collaborated with before, including on Another Country, Charlie's Country, Ten Canoes and The Tracker  to make something with him after he was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. That was back in 2017, when he was given just six months to live. Gulpilil has been proving that diagnosis wrong ever since. Cue this heartfelt portrait of an Australian icon like no other, which celebrates a star who'll never be matched, reminds viewers exactly why that's the case, but is never a mere easy, glossy tribute. Anyone could've combined snippets of Gulpilil's movies with talking heads singing his praises. In the future, someone probably will. But Reynolds is interested in truly spending time with Gulpilil, hearing his tale in his own words, and painting as complete a portrait of his life, work, dreams, regrets, spirit, culture and impact as possible.

Read our full review.

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FIRST LOVE

When a filmmaker has more than 100 movies to their name and shows no signs of stopping, do they constantly branch out in new and untested directions — or do they keep doing what they already know and clearly love? If you're Takashi Miike, you tick both boxes depending on how the mood strikes you, although First Love plays to the prolific Audition, Ichi the Killer and Yakuza Apocalypse director's established strengths. Pulp violence, a twisty crime tale and the Japanese auteur's gonzo energy all combine in this Tokyo-set noir-thriller. A decapitated head makes an appearance within minutes, and gangsters blasting, slashing and fumbling their way around the city are a key part of the story. Late in the piece, when the frenetic action kicks into another gear, a vibrant animated sequence is also threaded into the film. At this point, why not? Miike's features can't be confused for anyone else's, and First Love is no different; however, even with its hyperactive mood, hectic score, and steep swerves into romance, comedy and slapstick, this is also one of his most straightforward works of late. It's no less fun, inventive, dynamic, enjoyable or brilliant, though, and Miike can never be accused of painting by numbers. Perhaps it's just that everything here fits and works as it should, and that the inimitable filmmaker has found and embraced his wavelength.

When boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota, Diner) receives news that no one wants to hear — he has a brain tumour, it's inoperable and he doesn't have much time left — he takes it as gloomily as anyone would. But when he subsequently crosses paths with sex worker Monica (Sakurako Konishi, Colorless), his evening takes another unexpected turn. She's fleeing the yakuza gangsters who forced her into prostitution, including one particularly scheming underling (Sometani, Detective Chinatown 3) who plans to use her in a ploy with a crooked cop (Seiyô Uchino, 13 Assassins) to eradicate a Chinese triad gang. They start off as strangers, but Leo swiftly becomes Monica's only friend amidst the bloody mayhem. Working with a script from Masa Nakamura, who co-penned Sukiyaki Western Django with him back in 2007, Miike knows that he's playing with a raft of familiar elements. As well as the swathe of touches he rolls out from his own wheelhouse, his protagonist is decked out like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, for instance. But there's a distinctive brand of Miike magic in the movie's blending of gleefully cartoonish mania with a poignant outsiders-against-the-world narrative, and in everything from its jazz-rock score to its immaculately executed hardware store showdown as well.

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FINAL ACCOUNT

How did something so heartbreakingly, gut-wrenchingly, soul-crushingly abhorrent happen? Why did an entire nation accept what was happening in its name? Wouldn't decent people have spoken out in protest, especially when they saw others being rounded up and taken to their deaths? They're some of the trains of thought that the Second World War has inspired for decades, because humanity so desperately wants to believe that the Holocaust and its atrocities are aberrations in our history. But during the past decade — and the past four years in American politics, particularly — it has been impossible to keep simply wondering how rotten leaders command unquestioning allegiance while they're committing horrendous acts. That recent reality, complete with the rise of hatred-fuelled ideologies and violent deeds carried out as a result, only makes Final Account more grim and potent. Over the course of more than a decade, making what would become his last film, director Luke Holland (I Was a Slave Labourer) set himself a task: to interview the last generation of surviving Germans and Austrians who lived through World War II. Their memories and recollections are chilling, including when they're claiming ignorance, or contending that opposing the Third Reich was impossible, or shrugging off their collaboration with a murderous regime.

For most of the film's octogenarian and nonagenarian interviewees, living with what happened is no longer something they struggle with. That truth is unnerving, and it's on display again and again. Some, but only a few, veer in opposing directions — uttering their disgust, admitting that everyone knew and describing how the smell of burning bodies would linger for kilometres around concentration camps; or calling the Waffen SS heroes, polishing their medals and other Nazi insignia, and voicing their agreement with Hitler. Each admission either way, and the multitude of opinions in-between, remains haunting. Some come from soldiers and camp guards, others from Hitler Youth members, and others still from bystanders. The quality, both of the discussions and the footage capturing it, wavers from clip to clip, but nothing can temper the overall impact. Also distressing: the journey that Final Account takes through the sites of former concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen and Auschwitz. Even merely via the screen, each location seethes with pain and torment. Holland could've made a far larger work, perhaps on par with Shoah. He could've fine-tuned his focus here, too. Still, the end result delivers an equally unsettling and essential testament not just about one specific chapter of history, but about the kinds of people who let it happen.

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KING OTTO

With a title like King Otto, this documentary about soccer player-turned-coach Otto Rehhagel wears its celebratory spirit on kit sleeves. That doesn't dull its impact, however, because director Christopher André Marks (Tiger Hood) understands that an against-the-odds underdog story told well is one of the most engaging narratives there is. For the unacquainted, the German-born Rehhagel was a star footballer in his homeland from the late 40s until the early 70s. Then, a managerial career beckoned, also on home turf. In 2001, he was appointed to lead the Greek national team — a squad that had never won a tournament match and were considered one of the weakest in  Europe. The fact that this film even exists instantly signals that there's a tale worth relaying here. Rehhagel's time at the helm started with a big loss, then a period of rebuilding, but when the team qualified for the 2004 Euro Championships, they weren't expected to do well. That assumption only grew when they were drawn to play powerhouse host nation Portugal first up, and yet the surprises kept arriving from there. Even if you know how it all turned out, King Otto is alway rousing. Even if you've seen every similar sports story there is — and there are plenty, both fictional and true — that remains the case. And even if you're rarely moved by such antics, this film is still bound ot strike a chord.

Marks doesn't do anything revolutionary in terms of his style and approach. Talking heads feature prominently; interviewing the forthright Rehhagel in a space that looks like a palace is one of the documentary's flashiest touches. The film surveys players such as Giorgos Karagounis, Traianos Dellas and Antonios Nikopolidis, plus other officials like administrator Vassilis Gagatsis and assistant coach Ioannis Topalidis, too, hearing their thoughts and recollections about the roller coaster period — and makes heavy use of archival footage of the Greek national team's matches, including at their best and their worst.  Savvy editing maximises the anticipation and suspense, though, as well as the excitement and eagerness. After hearing about how poorly the squad was regarded, spanning negative comments from opponents such as France's Thierry Henry in advance of their game and the soccer-covering media regarding Rehhagel's defensive-first tactics afterwards, even the most sports-ambivalent viewers will be hoping for and investing in their wins. And as the feel-good trajectory inches closer and closer, so does the film's warmth, sense of catharsis, and respect for its subject and his achievements alike.

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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; and May 6, May 13 and May 20.

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 and Ema.

Published on May 27, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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