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Twenty New Movies You Can Watch Right Now That Have Been Fast-Tracked From Cinemas to Streaming

Get comfy on the couch with two Florence Pugh films, the best music documentary of the year and an unnerving horror hit.
By Sarah Ward
November 25, 2022
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By Sarah Ward
November 25, 2022
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Before the pandemic, when a new-release movie started playing in cinemas, audiences couldn't watch it on streaming, video on demand, DVD or blu-ray for a few months. But with the past few years forcing film industry to make quite a few changes — widespread movie theatre closures and plenty of people staying home in iso will do that — that's no longer always the case.

Maybe you've been under the weather. Perhaps you haven't had time to make it to your local cinema lately. Given the hefty amount of films now releasing each week, maybe you simply missed something. Film distributors have been fast-tracking some of their new releases from cinemas to streaming recently — movies that might still be playing in theatres in some parts of the country, too. In preparation for your next couch session, here are 20 that you can watch right now at home.

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MOONAGE DAYDREAM

Ground control to major masterpiece: Moonage Daydream, Brett Morgen's kaleidoscopic collage-style documentary about the one and only David Bowie, really makes the grade. Its protein pills? A dazzling dream of archival materials, each piece as essential and energising as the next, woven into an electrifying experience that eclipses the standard music doco format. Its helmet? The soothing-yet-mischievous tones of Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane/The Thin White Duke/Jareth the Goblin King himself, the only protective presence a film about Bowie could and should ever need and want. The songs that bop through viewers heads? An immense playlist covering the obvious — early hit 'Space Oddity', the hooky glam-rock titular track, Berlin-penned anthem 'Heroes', the seductive 80s sounds of 'Let's Dance' and the Pet Shop Boys-remixed 90s industrial gem 'Hallo Spaceboy', to name a few — as well as deeper cuts. The end result? Floating through a cinematic reverie in a most spectacular way.

When Bowie came to fame in the 60s, then kept reinventing himself from the 70s until his gone-too-soon death in 2016, the stars did look very different — he did, constantly. How do you capture that persistent shapeshifting, gender-bending, personal and creative experimentation, and all-round boundary-pushing in a single feature? How do you distill a chameleonic icon and musical pioneer into any one piece of art, even a movie that cherishes each of its 135 minutes? In the first film officially sanctioned by Bowie's family and estate, Morgen knows what everyone that's fallen under the legend's spell knows: that the man born David Jones, who'd be 75 as this doco hits screens if he was still alive, can, must and always has spoken for himself. The task, then, is the same as the director had with the also-excellent Cobain: Montage of Heck and Jane Goodall-focused Jane: getting to the essence of his subject and conveying what made him such a wonder by using the figure himself as a template.

Moonage Daydream is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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BODIES BODIES BODIES

The internet couldn't have stacked Bodies Bodies Bodies better if it tried, not that that's how the slasher-whodunnit-comedy came about. Pete Davidson (The Suicide Squad) waves a machete around, and his big dick energy, while literally boasting about how he looks like he fucks. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan Oscar-nominee Maria Bakalova plays the cautious outsider among rich-kid college grads, who plan to ride out a big storm with drinks and drugs (and drama) in one of their parents' mansions. The Hunger Games and The Hate U Give alum Amandla Stenberg leads the show as the gang's black sheep, turning up unannounced to zero fanfare from her supposed besties, while the rest of the cast spans Shiva Baby's Rachel Sennott, Generation's Chase Sui Wonders and Industry's Myha'la Herrold, plus Pushing Daisies and The Hobbit favourite Lee Pace as a two-decades-older interloper. And the Agatha Christie-but-Gen Z screenplay? It's drawn from a spec script by Kristen Roupenian, the writer of 2017 viral New Yorker short story Cat Person.

All of the above is a lot. Bodies Bodies Bodies is a lot — 100-percent on purpose. It's a puzzle about a party game, as savage a hangout film as they come, and a satire about Gen Z, for starters. It carves into toxic friendships, ignored class clashes, self-obsessed obliviousness, passive aggression and playing the victim. It skewers today's always-online world and the fact that everyone has a podcast — and lets psychological warfare and paranoia simmer, fester and explode. Want more? It serves up another reminder after The Resort, Palm Springs and co that kicking back isn't always cocktails and carefree days. It's an eat-the-rich affair alongside Squid Game and The White Lotus. Swirling that all together like its characters' self-medicating diets, this wildly entertaining horror flick is a phenomenal calling card for debut screenwriter Sarah DeLappe and Dutch filmmaker Halina Reijn (Instinct), too — and it's hilarious, ridiculous, brutal and satisfying. Forgetting how it ends is also utterly impossible.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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FIRE OF LOVE

What a delight it would be to trawl through Katia and Maurice Krafft's archives, sift through every video that features the French volcanologists and their work, and witness them doing their highly risky jobs against spectacular surroundings. That's the task that filmmaker Sara Dosa (The Seer and the Unseen) took up to make this superb documentary about the couple's lives — although, as magnificent as this incredibly thoughtful, informative and moving film is, it makes you wonder what a sci-fi flick made from the same footage would look like. There's a particular sequence that cements that idea, set to the also-otherworldly sounds of Air, and featuring the Kraffts walking around against red lava in their futuristic-looking protective silver suits. The entire enchanting score springs from Air's Nicolas Godin, and it couldn't better set the mood; that said, these visuals and this story would prove entrancing if nary a sound was heard, let alone a note or a word.

For newcomers to the Kraffts, their lives make quite the tale — one of two volcano-obsessed souls who instantly felt like they were destined to meet, then dedicated their days afterwards to understanding the natural geological formations. More than that, they were passionate about analysing what they dubbed 'grey volcanos', which produce masses of ash when they erupt, and often a body count. Attempting to educate towns and cities in the vicinity of volcanoes, so that they could react appropriately and in a timely way to avoid casualties, became a key part of their mission. This isn't the only doco about them — in fact, German director Werner Herzog is making his own, called The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft — but Fire of Love is a gorgeous, sensitive, fascinating and affecting ode to two remarkable people, their love, their passion and their impact. It also benefits from pitch-perfect narration, too, courtesy of actor and Kajillionaire filmmaker Miranda July.

Fire of Love is available to stream via Disney+. Read our full review.

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THE STRANGER

No emotion or sensation ripples through two or more people in the exact same way, and never will. The Stranger has much to convey, but it expresses that truth with piercing precision. The crime-thriller is the sophomore feature from actor-turned-filmmaker Thomas M Wright — following 2018's stunning Adam Cullen biopic Acute Misfortune, another movie that shook everyone who watched it and proved hard to shake — and it's as deep, disquieting and resonant a dance with intensity as its genre can deliver. To look into Joel Edgerton's (Thirteen Lives) eyes as Mark, an undercover cop with a traumatic but pivotal assignment, is to spy torment and duty colliding. To peer at Sean Harris (Spencer) as the slippery Henry Teague is to see a cold, chilling and complex brand of shiftiness. Sitting behind these two performances in screentime but not impact is Jada Alberts' (Mystery Road) efforts as dedicated, determined and drained detective Kate Rylett — and it may be the portrayal that sums up The Stranger best.

Writing as well as directing, Wright has made a film that is indeed dedicated, determined and draining. At every moment, including in sweeping yet shadowy imagery and an on-edge score, those feelings radiate from the screen as they do from Alberts. Sharing the latter's emotional exhaustion comes with the territory; sharing their sense of purpose does as well. In the quest to capture a man who abducted and murdered a child, Rylett can't escape the case's horrors — and, although the specific details aren't used, there's been no evading the reality driving this feature. The Stranger doesn't depict the crime that sparked Kate Kyriacou's non-fiction book The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe's Killer, or any violence. It doesn't use the Queensland schoolboy's name, or have actors portray him or his family. This was always going to be an inherently discomforting and distressing movie, though, but it's also an unwaveringly intelligent and impressive examination of trauma.

The Stranger is available to stream via Netflix. Read our full review.

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THE QUIET GIRL

When Normal People became the streaming sensation of the pandemic's early days, it made stars out of leads Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, and swiftly sparked another Sally Rooney adaptation from much of the same behind-the-scenes team. It wouldn't have been the hit it was if it hadn't proven an exercise in peering deeply, thoughtfully, lovingly and carefully, though, with that sensation stemming as much from its look as its emotion-swelling story. It should come as no surprise, then, that cinematographer Kate McCullough works the same magic on The Quiet Girl, a Gaelic-language coming-of-age film that sees the world as only a lonely, innocent, often-ignored child can. This devastatingly moving and beautiful movie also spies the pain and hardship that shapes its titular figure's world — and yes, it does so softly and with restraint, just like its titular figure, but that doesn't make the feelings it swirls up any less immense.

McCullough is just one of The Quiet Girl's key names; filmmaker Colm Bairéad, a feature first-timer who directs and adapts Claire Keegan's novella Foster, is another. His movie wouldn't be the deeply affecting affair it is without its vivid and painterly imagery — but it also wouldn't be the same without the helmer and scribe's delicate touch, which the 1981-set tale he's telling not only needs but demands. His focus: that soft-spoken nine-year-old, Cáit (newcomer Catherine Clinch), who has spent her life so far as no one's priority. With her mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Shadow Dancer) pregnant again, her father (Michael Patric, Smother) happiest drinking, gambling and womanising, and her siblings boisterously bouncing around their rural Irish home, she's accustomed to blending in and even hiding out. Then, for the summer, she's sent to her mum's older cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley, Extra Ordinary) and her dairy farmer husband Seán (Andrew Bennett, Dating Amber). Now the only child among doting guardians, she's no less hushed, but she's also loved and cared for as she's never been before.

The Quiet Girl is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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DON'T WORRY DARLING

Conformity rarely bodes well in cinema. Whenever everyone's dressing the same, little boxes litter the landscape or identical white-picket fences stretch as far as the eye can see, that perception of perfection tends to possess a dark underbelly. The Stepford Wives demonstrated that. Pleasantville, Blue Velvet and Vivarium all did as well. Yes, there's a touch of conformity in movies about the evils of and heralded by conformity; of course there is. That remains true when Florence Pugh (Black Widow) and Harry Styles (Eternals) navigate an ostensibly idyllic vision of retro suburbia in a desert-encased enclave — one that was always going to unravel when the movie they're in is called Don't Worry Darling. Don't go thinking that this handsome and intriguing film doesn't know all of this, though. Don't go thinking that it's worried about the similarities with other flicks, including after its secrets are spilled, either.

It'd be revealing too much to mention a couple of other movies that Don't Worry Darling blatantly recalls, so here's a spoiler-free version: this is a fascinating female-focused take on a pair of highlights from two decades-plus back that are still loved, watched and discussed now. That's never all that Olivia Wilde's second feature as a filmmaker after 2019's Booksmart is, but it feels fitting that when it conforms in a new direction, it finds a way to make that space its own. That's actually what Pugh's Alice thinks she wants when Don't Worry Darling begins. The film's idealised 1950s-style setting comes with old-fashioned gender roles firmly in place, cocktails in hand as soon Styles' Jack walks in the door come quittin' time and elaborate multi-course dinners cooked up each night, with its protagonist going along with it all. But she's also far from keen on having a baby, the done thing in the company town that is Victory. It'd curtail the noisy sex that gets the neighbours talking, for starters.

Don't Worry Darling is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video . Read our full review.

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AMSTERDAM

There's only one Wes Anderson, but there's a litany of wannabes. Why can't David O Russell be among them? Take the first filmmaker's The Grand Budapest Hotel, mix in the second's American Hustle and that's as good a way as any to start describing Amsterdam, Russell's return to the big screen after a seven-year gap following 2015's Joy — and a starry period comedy, crime caper and history lesson all in one. Swap pastels for earthier hues, still with a love of detail, and there's the unmistakably Anderson-esque look of the film. Amsterdam is a murder-mystery, too, set largely in the 1930s against a backdrop of increasing fascism, and filled with more famous faces than most movies can dream of. The American Hustle of it all springs from the "a lot of this actually happened" plot, this time drawing upon a political conspiracy called the White House/Wall Street Putsch, and again unfurling a wild true tale.

A Russell returnee sits at the centre, too: Christian Bale (Thor: Love and Thunder) in his third film for the writer/director. The former did help guide the latter to an Oscar for The Fighter, then a nomination for American Hustle — but while Bale is welcomely and entertainingly loose and freewheeling, and given ample opportunity to show his comic chops in his expressive face and physicality alone, Amsterdam is unlikely to complete the trifecta of Academy Awards recognition. The lively movie's cast is its strongest asset, though, including the convincing camaraderie between Bale, John David Washington (Malcolm & Marie) and Margot Robbie (The Suicide Squad). They play pals forged in friendship during World War I, then thanks to a stint in the titular Dutch city. A doctor, a lawyer and a nurse — at least at some point in the narrative — they revel in love and art during their uninhabited stay, then get caught in chaos 15 years later.

Amsterdam is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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THE WONDER

"We are nothing without stories, so we invite you to believe in this one." So goes The Wonder's opening narration, as voiced by Niamh Algar (Wrath of Man) and aimed by filmmaker Sebastián Lelio in two directions. For the Chilean writer/director's latest rich and resonant feature about his favourite topic, aka formidable women — see also: Gloria, its English-language remake Gloria Bell, Oscar-winner A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience — he asks his audience to buy into a tale that genuinely is a tale. In bringing Emma Donoghue's (Room) book to the screen, he even shows the thoroughly modern-day studio and its sets where the movie was shot. But trusting in a story is also a task that's given The Wonder's protagonist, Florence Pugh's nurse Lib Wright, who is en route via ship to an Irish Midlands village when this magnetic, haunting and captivating 19th century-set picture initially sees her.

For the second time in as many movies — and in as many months Down Under as well — Pugh's gotta have faith. Playing George Michael would be anachronistic in The Wonder, just as it would've been in Don't Worry Darling's gleaming 1950s-esque supposed suburban dream, but that sentiment is what keeps being asked of the British actor, including in what's also her second fearless performance in consecutive flicks. Here, it's 1862, and 11-year-old Anna O'Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy, Viewpoint) has seemingly subsisted for four months now without eating. Ireland's 1840s famine still casts shadows across the land and its survivors, but this beatific child says she's simply feeding on manna from heaven. Lib's well-paid job is to watch the healthy-seeming girl in her family home, where her mother (A Discovery of Witches' Elaine Cassidy, Kila's actual mum) and father (Caolan Byrne, Nowhere Special) dote, to confirm that she isn't secretly sneaking bites to eat.

The Wonder is available to stream via Netflix. Read our full review.

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YOU WON'T BE ALONE

Sometimes, a comparison is so obvious that it simply has to be uttered and acknowledged. That's the case with You Won't Be Alone, the first feature from Macedonian Australian writer/director Goran Stolevski, who also helmed MIFF's 2022 opening-night pick Of an Age. His debut film's lyrical visuals, especially of nature, instantly bringing the famously poetic aesthetics favoured by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, A Hidden Life) to mind. Its musings on the nature of life, and human nature as well, easily do the same. Set centuries back, lingering in villages wracked by superstition and exploring a myth about a witch, You Won't Be Alone conjures up thoughts of Robert Eggers' The Witch as well. Indeed, if Malick had directed that recent favourite, the end product might've come close to this entrancing effort. Consider Stolevski's feature the result of dreams conjured up with those two touchstones in his head, though, rather than an imitator.

The place: Macedonia. The time: the 19th century. The focus: a baby chosen by the Wolf-Eateress (Anamaria Marinca, The Old Guard) to be her offsider. The feared figure has the ability to select and transform one protege, but she agrees to let her pick reach the age of 16 first. Nevena (Sara Klimoska, Black Sun) lives those formative years in a cave, in an attempt to stave off her fate. When the Wolf-Eateress comes calling, her initiation into the world — the world of humans, and of her physically and emotionally scarred mentor — is jarring. With Noomi Rapace (Lamb), Alice Englert (The Power of the Dog) and Carloto Cotta (The Tsugua Diaries) also among the cast, You Won't Be Alone turns Nevena's experiences of life, love, loss, desire, pain, envy and power into a haunting and thoughtful gothic horror fable. To say that it's bewitching is obvious, too, but also accurate.

You Won't Be Alone is available to stream via Google Play and YouTube MoviesRead our full review.

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SEE HOW THEY RUN

As every murder-mystery does, See How They Run asks a specific question: whodunnit? This 1950s-set flick also solves another query, one that's lingered over Hollywood for seven decades now thanks to Agatha Christie. If this movie's moniker has you thinking about mouse-focused nursery rhymes, that's by design — and characters do scurry around chaotically — however, it could also have you pondering the famed author's play The Mousetrap. The latter first hit theatres in London's West End in 1952 and has stayed there ever since, other than an enforced pandemic-era shutdown in COVID-19's early days. The show operates under a set stipulation regarding the big-screen rights, too, meaning that it can't be turned into a film until the original production has stopped treading the boards for at least six months. As that's never happened, how do you get it into cinemas anyway? Make a movie about trying to make The Mousetrap into a movie, aka See How They Run.

Was it actor Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson, Where the Crawdads Sing), his fellow-thespian wife Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda, War of the Worlds), big-time movie producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith, Venom: Let There Be Carnage) or his spouse Edana Romney (Sian Clifford, The Duke) getting murderous in the costume shop at the backstage party celebrating The Mousetrap's 100th show? (And yes, they're all real-life figures.) Or, was it the play's producer Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson, His Dark Materials), the proposed feature adaptation's screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo, Chaos Walking) or his Italian lover Gio (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, The Queen's Gambit)? They're among See How They Run's other enquiries, which Scotland Yard's Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell, Richard Jewell) and Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan, The French Dispatch) try to answer. After the death that kicks off filmmaker Tom George (This Country) and screenwriter Mark Chappell's (Flaked) mostly entertaining game of on-screen Cluedo, the two cops are on the case, working through their odd-couple vibe as they sleuth.

See How They Run is available to stream via Disney+, Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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THE GOOD NURSE

It isn't called CULLEN — Monster: The Charles Cullen Story. It doesn't chart the murders of a serial killer who's already a household name. And, it doesn't unfurl over multiple episodes. Still, Netflix-distributed true-crime film The Good Nurse covers homicides, and the person behind them, that are every bit as grim and horrendous as the events dramatised in DAHMER — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Such based-on-reality tales that face such evil are always nightmare fodder, but this Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore)- and Jessica Chastain (The Forgiven)-starring one, as brought to the screen by Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm (A War, A Hijacking), taps into a particularly terrifying realm. The culprit clearly isn't the good nurse of the movie's moniker, but he is a nurse, working in intensive care units no less — and for anyone who has needed to put their trust in the health system or may in the future (aka all of us), his acts are gut-wrenchingly chilling.

Hospitals are meant to be places that heal, even in America's cash-driven setup where free medical care for all isn't considered a basic right and a societal must. Hospitals are meant to care for the unwell and injured, as are the doctors, nurses and other staff who race through their halls. There is one such person in The Good Nurse, Amy Loughren, who Chastain plays based on a real person. In 2003, in New Jersey, she's weathering her own struggles: she's a single mother to two young girls, she suffers from cardiomyopathy to the point of needing a heart transplant, and she can't tell her job about her health condition because she needs to remain employed for four more months to qualify for insurance to treat it. Then enters Cullen (Redmayne), the newcomer on Loughren's night shifts, a veteran of nine past hospitals, an instant friend who offers to help her cope with her potentially lethal ailment and also the reason that their patients start dying suddenly.

The Good Nurse is available to stream via Netflix. Read our full review.

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GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE

People have orgasms every day, but for decades spent closing her eyes and thinking of England in a sexually perfunctory marriage, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande's lead character wasn't among them. Forget la petite mort, the French term for climaxing; Nancy Stokes' (Emma Thompson, Cruella) big wrestling match with mortality, the one we all undertake, has long been devoid of erotic pleasure. Moments that feel like a little death? Unheard of. That's where this wonderfully candid, intimate, generous and joyous sex comedy starts, although not literally. Flashbacks to Nancy enduring getting it over with beneath her now-deceased spouse, missionary style, aren't Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde (Animals) or British comedian-turned-screenwriter Katy Brand's (Glued) concern. Instead, their film begins with the religious education teacher waiting in a hotel room, about to take the biggest gamble of her life: meeting the eponymous sex worker (Daryl McCormack, Peaky Blinders).

For anyone well-versed in Thompson's prolific on-screen history, and of Brand's work before the camera as well, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande inspires an easy wish: if only Nancy had a different job. Back in 2010, the pair co-starred in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, a title that'd also fit their latest collaboration if its protagonist cared for kids rather than taught them. Jokes aside, the instantly charming Leo is used to hearing that sentiment about his own professional choices. Indeed, Nancy expresses it during their pre- and post-coital discussions, enquiring about the events that might've led him to his career. "Maybe you're an orphan!" she says. "Perhaps you grew up in care, and you've got very low self-esteem," she offers. "You could have been trafficked against your will — you can't tell just by looking at somebody!" she continues.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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BLAZE

In the name of its protagonist, and the pain and fury that threatens to parch her 12-year-old existence, Del Kathryn Barton's first feature scorches and sears. It burns in its own moniker, too, and in the blistering alarm it sounds against an appalling status quo: that experiencing, witnessing and living with the aftermath of violence against women is all too common, heartbreakingly so, including in Australia where one woman a week on average is killed by her current or former partner. Blaze has a perfect title, with the two-time Archibald Prize-winning artist behind it crafting a movie that's alight with anger, that flares with sorrow, and that's so astutely and empathetically observed, styled and acted that it chars. Indeed, it's frequently hard to pick which aspect of the film singes more: the story about surviving what should be unknown horrors for a girl who isn't even yet a teen, the wondrously tactile and immersive way in which Blaze brings its namesake's inner world to the screen, or the stunning performance by young actor Julia Savage (Mr Inbetween) in its central part.

There are imagined dragons in Blaze, but Game of Thrones or House of the Dragon, this isn't — although Jake (Josh Lawson, Mortal Kombat), who Blaze spots in an alleyway with Hannah (Yael Stone, Blacklight), has his lawyer (Heather Mitchell, Bosch & Rockit) claim that his accuser knows nothing. With the attack occurring mere minutes into the movie, Barton dedicates the feature's bulk to how her lead character copes, or doesn't. Being questioned about what she saw in court is just one way that the world tries to reduce her to ashes, but the embers of her hurt and determination don't and won't die. Blaze's father Luke (Simon Baker, High Ground), a single parent, understandably worries about the impact of everything blasting his daughter's way. As she retreats then acts out, cycling between both and bobbing in-between, those fears are well-founded. Blaze is a coming-age-film — a robbing-of-innocence movie as well — but it's also a firm message that there's no easy or ideal response to something as awful as its titular figure observes.

Blaze is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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HIT THE ROAD

How fitting it is that a film about family — about the ties that bind, and when those links are threatened not by choice but via unwanted circumstances — hails from an impressive lineage itself. How apt it is that Hit the Road explores the extent that ordinary Iranians find themselves going to escape the nation's oppressive authorities, too, given that the filmmaker behind it is Panah Panahi, son of acclaimed auteur Jafar Panahi. The latter's run-ins with the country's regime have been well-documented. The elder Panahi, director of Closed Curtain, Tehran Taxi and more, has been both imprisoned and banned from making movies over the past two decades, and was detained again in July 2022 for enquiring about the legal situation surrounding There Is No Evil helmer Mohammad Rasoulof. None of that directly comes through in Hit the Road's story, not for a moment, but the younger Panahi's directorial debut is firmly made with a clear shadow lingering over it.

As penned by the fledgling filmmaker as well, Hit the Road's narrative is simple and also devastatingly layered; in its frames, two starkly different views of life in Iran are apparent. What frames they are, as lensed by Ballad of a White Cow cinematographer Amin Jafari — with every sequence a stunner, but three in particular, late in the piece and involving fraught exchanges, nighttime stories and heartbreaking goodbyes, among the most mesmerising images committed to celluloid in recent years. Those pictures tell of a mother (Pantea Panahiha, Rhino), a father (Mohammad Hassan Madjooni, Pig), their adult son (first-timer Amin Simiar) and their six-year-old boy (scene-stealer Rayan Sarlak, Gol be khodi), all unnamed, who say they're en route to take their eldest to get married. But the journey is a tense one, even as the youngest among them chatters, sings, does ordinary childhood things and finds magic in his cross-country road trip, all with zero knowledge of what eats at the rest of his family.

Hit the Road is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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FLUX GOURMET

Flickering across a cinema screen, even the greatest of movies only engage two senses: sight and hearing. We can't touch, taste or smell films, even if adding scratch-and-sniff aromas to the experience has become a cult-favourite gimmick. British director Peter Strickland hasn't attempted that — but his features make you feel like you're running your fingers over an alluring dress (In Fabric), feeling the flutter of insect wings (The Duke of Burgundy) or, in his latest, enjoying the smells and tastes whipped up by a culinary collective that turns cooking and eating into performance art. Yes, if you've seen any of his movies before, Flux Gourmet instantly sounds like something only Strickland could make. While it's spinning that tale, it literally sounds like only something he could come up with as well, given that his audioscapes are always a thing of wonder (see also: the sound-focused Berberian Sound Studio). And, unsurprisingly due to his strong and distinctive sense of style and mood, everything about Flux Gourmet looks and feels like pure Strickland, too.

The setting: a culinary institute overseen by Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones), that regularly welcomes in different creative groups to undertake residencies. Her guests collaborate, percolate and come up with eye-catching blends of food, bodies and art — hosting OTT dinners, role-playing a trip to the supermarket, getting scatalogical and turning a live colonoscopy into a show, for instance. Watching and chronicling the latest stint by a 'sonic catering' troupe is journalist Stones (Makis Papadimitriou, Beckett), who also has gastrointestinal struggles, is constantly trying not to fart and somehow manages to keep a straight face as everything gets farcical around him. Asa Butterfield (Sex Education), Ariane Labed (The Souvenir: Part II) and Strickland regular Fatma Mohamed play the three bickering artists, and their time at the institute get messy and heated, fast — but this is a film that's as warm as it is wild, and stands out even among Strickland's inimitable work. Also crucial: riffing on This Is Spinal Tap.

Flux Gourmet is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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TICKET TO PARADISE

Here we go again indeed: with the George Clooney- and Julia Roberts-starring Ticket to Paradise, a heavy been-there-done-that air sweeps through, thick with the Queensland-standing-in-for-Bali breeze. The film's big-name stars have bounced off each other in Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Money Monster before now. Director Ol Parker has already sent multiple groups of famous faces to far-flung places — far-flung from the UK or the US, that is — as the writer of the Best Exotic Marigold flicks and helmer of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Enough destination wedding rom-coms exist that one of the undersung better ones, with Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder, is even called Destination Wedding. And, there's plenty of romantic comedies about trying to foil nuptials, too, with My Best Friend's Wedding and Runaway Bride on Roberts' resume since the 90s.

Hurriedly throw all of the above into a suitcase — because your twentysomething daughter Kaitlyn Dever, Dopesick)  has suddenly announced she's marrying a seaweed farmer (Maxime Bouttier, Unknown) she just met in Indonesia, if you're Clooney (The Midnight Sky) and Roberts' (Gaslit) long-divorced couple here — and that's firmly Ticket to Paradise. As The Lost City already was earlier in 2022, it too is a star-driven throwback, endeavouring to make the kind of easy, glossy, screwball banter-filled popcorn fare that doesn't reach screens with frequency lately. It isn't as entertaining as that flick, and it certainly isn't winking, nodding and having fun with its formula; sticking dispiritingly to the basics is all that's on Parker's itinerary with his first-timer co-scribe Daniel Pipski. But alongside picturesque vistas, Ticket to Paradise shares something crucial with The Lost City: it gets a whole lot of mileage out of its stars' charisma.

Ticket to Paradise is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime VideoRead our full review.

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CLEAN

"It's a shock to the system. It's a change to the everyday, regular routine. It's where the unhappy gene comes out — and it's a sign of the times today." That's the gloriously candid and empathetic Sandra Pankhurst on trauma, a topic she has literally made her business. Later in Clean, the documentary that tells her tale, she describes herself as a "busy nose and a voyeur"; however, that's not what saw her set up Melbourne's Specialised Trauma Cleaning. For three decades now, her company has assisted with "all the shitty jobs that no one really wants to do," as she characterises it: crime-scene cleanups, including after homicides, suicides and overdoses; deceased estates, such as bodies found some time after their passing; and homes in squalor, to name a few examples. As she explains in the film, Pankhurst is eager to provide such cleaning services because everyone deserves that help — and because we're all just a couple of unfortunate turns away from needing it.

The 2008 movie Sunshine Cleaning starring Amy Adams (Dear Evan Hansen) and Emily Blunt (Jungle Cruise) fictionalised the trauma-cleaning realm; if that's your touchstone at the outset of Clean, prepare for far less gloss, for starters. Prepare for much more than a look at a fascinating but largely ignored industry, too, because filmmaker Lachlan Mcleod (Big in Japan) is as rightly interested in Pankhurst as he is in her line of work. Everything she says hangs in the air with meaning, even as it all bounces lightly from her lips ("life can be very fragile", "every dog has its day, and a mongrel has two" and "life dishes you out a good story and then life dishes you out a shit one" are some such utterances). Everything feels matter of fact and yet also immensely caring through her eyes, regardless of the situation that her Frankston-headquartered employees are attending to.

Clean is available to stream via SBS On DemandRead our full review.

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SMILE

If high-concept horror nasties get you grinning even when you're squirming, recoiling or peeking through your fingers, then expect Smile to live up to its name — in its first half, at least. A The Ring-meets-It Follows type of scarefest with nods to the Joker thrown in — even though it springs from debut feature writer/director Parker Finn's own 2020 short film Laura Hasn't Slept — it takes its titular term seriously, sporting one helluva creepy smirk again and again. The actual face doing the ghoulish beaming can change, and does, but the evil Cheshire Cat-esque look on each dial doesn't. Where 2011's not-at-all spooky The Muppets had a maniacal laugh, Smile does indeed possess a maniacal, skin-crawling, nightmare-inducing leer. In the film, the first character to chat about it, PhD student Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey, Bridge and Tunnel), explains it as "the worst smile I have ever seen in my life". She's in a hospital, telling psychiatrist Rose Cotter (Mare of Easttown's Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick), who clearly thinks she's hallucinating. But when the doctor sees that grin herself, she immediately knows that Laura's description couldn't be more accurate.

Toothy, deranged, preternaturally stretched and also frozen in place, the smile at the heart of Smile isn't easily forgotten — not that Rose need worry about that. Soon, it's haunting her days and nights by interrupting her work, and seeing her act erratically with patients to the concern of her boss (Kal Penn, Clarice). Rose upsets a whole party at her nephew's birthday, too, and makes her fiancé Trevor (Jessie T Usher, The Boys) have doubts about their future. There's a backstory: Rose's mother experienced mental illness, which is why she's so passionate about her work and her sister Holly (Gillian Zinser, The Guilty) is so dismissive. There's a backstory to the diabolical frown turned upside down also, which she's quickly trying to unravel with the help of her cop ex Joel (Kyle Gallner, Scream). She has to; Laura came to the hospital for assistance after her professor saw the smile first, then started beaming it, then took his own life in front of her — and now Rose is in the same situation

Smile is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime VideoRead our full review.

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ON THE COUNT OF THREE

What happens outside an upstate New York strip club at 10am on an ordinary weekday? Nothing — nothing good, or that anyone pays attention to, at least — deduces the unhappy Val (Jerrod Carmichael, Rothaniel) in On the Count of Three. So, he's hatched a plan: with his lifelong best friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott, The Forgiven), they'll carry out a suicide pact, with that empty car park as their final earthly destination. Under the harsh morning light and against a drably grey sky, Carmichael's feature directorial debut initially meets its central duo standing in that exact spot, guns pointed at each other's heads and pulling the trigger mere moments away. Yes, they start counting. Yes, exhaustion and desperation beam from their eyes. No, this thorny yet soulful film isn't over and done with then and there.

There are many ways to experience weariness, frustration, malaise and despair, and to convey them — and On the Count of Three surveys plenty, as an unflinchingly black comedy about two lifelong best friends deciding to end it all should. Those dispiriting feelings can weigh you down, making every second of every day an effort. They can fester, agitate, linger and percolate, simmering behind every word and deed before spewing out as fury. They can spark drastic actions, including the type that Val and Kevin have picked as their only option after the latter breaks the former out of a mental health hospital mere days after his last self-harming incident. Or, they can inspire a wholesale rejection of the milestones, such as the promotion that Val is offered hours earlier, that everyone is told they're supposed to covet, embrace and celebrate.

On the Count of Three is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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THE HUMANS

If you're the kind of cinephile who likes to theme their viewing around the relevant time of year — holiday-related, primarily — then you're clearly always spoiled for choice. Christmas movies, horror flicks at Halloween, Easter-relevant films: you can build a binge session out of all of them (several in fact, depending on the occasion). The same applies to Thanksgiving, all courtesy of the US, and The Humans is the latest addition to the November-appropriate list. But while it ticks a few easy boxes, including bringing a family together to celebrate the date, steeping their get-together in awkwardness, and having big revelations spill out over the course of the gathering, this A24-distributed release is far creepier and more haunting than your usual movie about America's turkey-eating time of year. Based on Stephen Karam's Tony-winning play, and adapted and directed for the screen by Karam himself, it's downright unsettling, in fact, and for a few reasons.

There's the tension zipping back and forth between everyone in attendance, of course; the bleak, claustrophobic, rundown setting, in a New York apartment close to ground zero; and the strange sounds emanating from other units. As a result, seasonal cheer is few and far between in this corner of Manhattan, where the Blake family congregates in Brigid (Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart) and her boyfriend Richard's (Steven Yeun, Nope) new abode. Also making an appearance: parents Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell, Only Murders in the Building) and Erik (Richard Jenkins, Nightmare Alley), Brigid's older sister Aimee (Amy Schumer, Life & Beth), and their grandmother Momo (June Squibb, Palmer), who has dementia. No one is happy, and everyone seems to have something that needs airing — but there's always the feeling that, in any other location, this might've truly been a joyful affair. Discussions about dreams and nightmares prove revealing, but The Humans points out the thin line between both, whether we're slumbering or waking, several times over in its talky frames.

The Humans is available to stream via Google Play, YouTube Movies and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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Looking for more at-home viewing options? Take a look at our monthly streaming recommendations across new straight-to-digital films and TV shows — and our best new TV shows, returning TV shows and straight-to-streaming movies from the first half of 2022.

Published on November 25, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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