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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Melbourne Cinemas This Week

Head to the flicks to watch a supervillain sequel, an awkward but relatable dark comedy and a phenomenal 17th century-set drama.
By Sarah Ward
August 05, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
August 05, 2021
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It has finally happened again, Melburnians. The city's projectors remained silent, its theatres bare and the smell of popcorn faded over the recent almost two-week lockdown; however, Melbourne's picture palaces are now back in business.

When stay-at-home restrictions are in place, no one is ever short on things to watch, of course. In fact, you probably feel like you've streamed every movie ever made over over the last year or so, including new releases, comedies, music documentaries, Studio Ghibli's animated fare and Nicolas Cage-starring flicks. But, even if you've spent more time than usual over the past 18 months 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 films are hitting cinemas so that you can do just that. And, we've rounded up, watched and reviewed the new movies that have just arrived in theatres this week.

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THE SUICIDE SQUAD

New decade, new director, new word in the title — and a mostly new cast, too. That's The Suicide Squad, the DC Extended Universe's new effort to keep viewers immersed in its sprawling superhero franchise, which keeps coming second in hearts, minds and box-office success to Marvel's counterpart. Revisiting a concept last seen in 2016's Suicide Squad, the new flick also tries to blast its unloved precursor's memory from everyone's brains. That three-letter addition to the title? It doesn't just ignore The Social Network's quote about the English language's most-used term, but also attempts to establish this film as the definitive vision of its ragtag supervillain crew. To help, Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn joins the fold, his Troma-honed penchant for horror, comedy and gore is let loose, and a devil-may-care attitude is thrust to the fore. But when your main aim is to one-up the derided last feature with basically the same name, hitting your target is easy — and fulfilling that mission, even with irreverence and flair, isn't the same as making a great or especially memorable movie. Indeed, a film can be funny and lively, use its main faces well, have a few nice moments with its supporting cast and improve on its predecessor, and yet still fall into a routine, unsuccessfully wade into murky politics, never capitalise upon its premise or promise, keep rehashing the same things, and just be average, too — and right now, that film is The Suicide Squad.

Mischief abounds from the outset — mood-wise, at least — including when no-nonsense black-ops agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) teams up Suicide Squad's Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, The Secrets We Keep), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, Honest Thief) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, Dreamland) with a few new felons for a trip to the fictional Corto Maltese. Because this movie has that extra word in its title, it soon switches to another troupe reluctantly led by mercenary Bloodsport (Idris Elba, Concrete Cowboy), with fellow trained killer Peacemaker (John Cena, Fast and Furious 9) and the aforementioned Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, Bird Box), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior, Valor da Vida) and King Shark (Sylvester Stallone, Rambo: Last Blood) also present. Their task: to sneak into a tower on the South American island. Under the guidance of The Thinker (Peter Capaldi, The Personal History of David Copperfield), alien experiment Project Starfish has been underway there for decades (and yes, Gunn makes time for a butthole joke). In this movie about cartoonish incarcerated killers doing the US government's dirty work, Waller has charged her recruits to destroy the secret test, all to ensure it isn't used by the violent faction that's just taken over Corto Maltese via a bloody coup. The end result is silly and goofy, fittingly — and yet, even when a supersized space starfish gets stompy (think: SpongeBob SquarePants' best bud Patrick if he grew up and got power-hungry), this sequel-slash-do-over is never as gleefully absurd as it should be. Again and again, even when Gunn's gambit works in the moment, that's how The Suicide Squad keeps playing out. 

Read our full review.

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SHIVA BABY

"What are you up to?". It's a familiar question and, when asked by a friend, it's a considerate and good-natured query that shows their genuine interest. But when it's posed by the wrong person, it comes loaded with expectations and inherent judgement — like the type you might find at a gathering of family members and life-long family pals who've turned their gaze in your direction because you're at the age where interrogating every inch of your existence has become their preferred form of sport. In Shiva Baby, this question comes in multiple ways and is asked multiple times. Attending a shiva, the wake-like mourning ritual observed in the Jewish faith, college senior Danielle (Rachel Sennott, Call Your Mother) is on the receiving end of this barrage. Stuck in a house full of enquiring minds, she feels every needling probe thrust her way by relatives and friends of relatives, all asking about her life, future, job, studies and romantic status, and even her weight. She's trapped in an everyday, immensely relatable situation, of course, but one that's never anything other than awkward — and first-time filmmaker Emma Seligman ensures that her audience feels every second of Danielle's discomfort. (Roving and floating camerawork that gets viewers seeing the chaos from Danielle's perspective, and a score that ramps up the unease — its strings rattling nerves just as effectively as every incident and altercation at the shiva — are some of the director's immersive and well-executed flourishes.)

Danielle doesn't quite know how to answer the onslaught, partly because she doesn't want to and feels as if she shouldn't have to. She's right, obviously. Hours earlier — with the film's blackly comic dramas occurring over a single day — she was happily astride the older, richer Max (Danny Deferrari, Private Life) in a lavish Manhattan apartment. That's how Shiva Baby opens, and he gifts her an expensive bangle afterwards, as well as cash as payment. To her parents and relatives, she refers to her job as "babysitting". The film never intimates that Danielle is ashamed of doing sex work, and refreshingly so, but it gives the impression that she'd prefer not to have a conversation about it with all the busybodies already poking their noses in her direction. Accordingly, she doesn't explain that she missed the funeral because she was having sex. When she arrives at the shiva with her parents Debbie (Polly Draper, Billions) and Joel (Fred Melamed, WandaVision), she has to ask which distant relative died more than once. A recent NYU graduate in her mid-20s, Seligman writes and stages this whole scenario with the specificity of someone who knows the claustrophobia, tension, horrors and social distress these gatherings can inspire, and the cringing that happens deep inside every time. She also knows that there's never just one complication, or even just a couple, as occurs here when Max, his wife Kim (Dianna Agron, Glee) and their baby daughter show up at the shiva, as well does Maya (Molly Gordon, The Broken Hearts Gallery), Danielle's ex-girlfriend from high-school.

Read our full review.

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THE ROSE MAKER

The scent of popcorn lingers in the air, and long-standing venues tend to have a particular aroma, but cinema isn't generally an olfactory medium. Smell-O-Vision pops up every now and then, using scratch-and-sniff cards to emit particular tangs tied to specific films; however, any whiffs tickling your nose while you're watching a movie usually have nothing to do what's on-screen. One of the joys of The Rose Maker is that it makes its audience feel like they're smelling the rows and bouquets of roses they're seeing, even though they obviously can't. Filmmaker Pierre Pinaud (On Air) arranges many of his frames with colourful blossoms, with his array of woody perennials in a rainbow's worth of hues basically becoming flower porn. The more these vibrant sights appear, the more your brain fills in the gaps — but that isn't this kind-hearted comedy's only source of charm. Based on the flicks releasing in Australian cinemas of late, the current state of French cinema is sweet, both scent- and sentiment-wise. Let's call it the fragrant French film universe: the realm in which The Rose Maker, which focuses on growing standout roses, and Perfumes, about a perfume-industry veteran with a particularly fine-tuned sense of smell, can co-exist. The two recent movies don't overlap in their narratives (although a pivotal plot point in the former could easily see one character step right into the latter), but as well as flowers and and scents, they do also share an underlying warmth, an interest in how the senses can bring people together platonically and professionally, and a blend of sincerity and insight layered over otherwise formulaic storylines.

In The Rose Maker, Eve Vernet (Catherine Frot, The Midwife) has devoted her life to creating glorious new rose hybrids — and, ideally for her reputation and her business' bank balance, winning awards for them as well. Her dad did the same, and she's carried on the family trade in the 15 years since his death, even though it's becoming increasingly harder in the face of big, slick outfits that have hundreds of workers, spit out new varieties with frequency and don't care about the longevity of their creations. Indeed, when she's beaten at a prestigious annual rose contest by Lamarzelle (Vincent Dedienne, A Good Man), the owner of one such competitor, Eve fears for her future. Vernet Roses is already struggling financially and can't afford workers, and sales are down. Then her long-standing assistant Véra (Olivia Côte, Antoinette in the Cévennes) comes up with the idea of obtaining help through a rehabilitation program, which sees ex-thief Fred (Manel Foulgoc, Poètes), 50-year-old Samir (Fatsah Bouyahmed, Invisibles) and the highly strung Nadège (Marie Petiot, Hippocrate) begin to learn the rose game. Eve is initially skeptical, but more than roses start blossoming as she enlists her new offsiders' assistance with creating a particular hybrid to win next year's prize. There isn't much in the way of narrative surprises here, but the screenplay co-written by Pinaud, fellow filmmaker Philippe Le Guay (Normandy Nude) and three other scribes smartly uses its familiar plot to interrogate the tiers of French society. And, not only the always-excellent Frot but also relative newcomer Foulgoc turn in textured and moving performances. 

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SOME KIND OF HEAVEN

If you didn't know that Some Kind of Heaven was a documentary, you might think that it was a skit from I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. The same kind of social awkwardness that makes the Netflix sketch comedy such an equally savage and hilarious watch is present in this factual look at the retirement community also dubbed "god's waiting room": The Villages, Florida, the world's largest master-planned, age-restricted locale of its kind, and home to more than 120,000 people. This is a place for folks aged over 55 to live in multiple senses of the world. Couples tend to move there, then sign up for some of the thousands of activities and clubs that get them out dancing, kayaking, cheerleading, swimming and more. If a resident happens to be on their own — usually after their partner's passing — they can get involved in the local singles club, too. Around since the early 80s, and also described as "Disney World for retirees", this community is meant to be a dream. It was specifically designed to resemble the kinds of small towns its inhabitants likely grew up in, right down to the shop-filled main street and the large town square, and locals aren't ever meant to want to leave. But as Some Kind of Heaven follows four folks who've made The Villages their home — including one ex-Californian import that's just squatting — it demonstrates the reality that lingers behind the busy facade and glossy sales pitch. Requiem for a Dream's Darren Aronofsky is one of the doco's producers and, while Mother!-style horrors never quite pop up, this isn't a portrait of bliss by any means.

Many of The Villages' residents are clearly happy. In his first feature-lengthy documentary, filmmaker Lance Oppenheim trains his gaze at people who aren't likely to appear in any of the community's brochures, however. Every shot lensed by cinematographer David Bolen (1BR) and boxed into the film's square frame is scenic and striking — Some Kind of Heaven sports an exquisite eye for visual composition — but much of what the movie depicts feels like stepping into a surreal alternative realm. (In one sequence, the camera meets a room filled with women called Elaine, all of whom introduce themselves one after one — and it's a scene that could've come straight out of any one of David Lynch's visions of suburban horror.) Approaching their 47-year wedding anniversary, Reggie and Anne think they've found the place for them. That's what they're both saying, at least, but The Villages means different things for each of them. Reggie has used the move to embrace his love of drugs and doing whatever he wants, and Anne has once again been forced to stand by his side, including when he's sent to court and admonished for his rudeness while representing himself. Then there's Barbara, a widow from Boston who didn't ever plan to live in Florida alone. She still works full-time, a rarity among her fellow residents, and she yearns for the company she thinks a margarita-loving golf cart salesman might bring. Rounding out the interviewees is the sleazy Dennis, an 81-year-old living in his van until he can find an attractive and rich woman to marry. Some Kind of Heaven doesn't judge him, or anyone else in its frames, but it lets these stories speak volumes about a place positioned as a fantasy land and yet really just bringing out the chaotic teenager inside everyone.

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FANNY LYE DELIVER'D

Even on a blissfully sunny day, a devastating storm can darken a dazzling blue sky, cracking through that gorgeous facade with the weather's version of stress and woe. That's the sensation that emanates from Fanny Lye Deliver'd's early shots, which show a quaint, picturesque Shropshire farm shrouded in mist so scenic that the entire image looks like it could've been rendered in watercolours — and painted back in 1657, when the movie is set. But little is perfect behind this bucolic beauty. And, that's the case even before two strangers encroach upon the household, throwing the Lye family into tumult. As they get ready to attend church on what's otherwise an ordinary Sunday, Fanny (Maxine Peake, Peterloo) is under no misgivings about her place in the farm's hierarchy. She's treated with scowling disdain by her Puritan husband John Lye (Charles Dance, Game of Thrones), who sees saving the family's souls as his domain and doing what she's told the sole duty of his other half. Fanny also comes second to the couple's only son Arthur (Zak Adams, Alice Through the Looking Glass) and, like him, she's often beaten with a stick by John to apparently keep her on the right path. When young lovers Thomas Ashbury (Freddie Fox, The Pursuit of Love) and Rebecca Henshaw (Tanya Reynolds, Emma) sneak their way into the Lye home that church-going morning, they come looking for food, shelter, sustenance, and protection from the sheriffs and constables (The Dig's Peter McDonald, Downton Abbey's Perry Fitzpatrick and Cuckoo's Kenneth Collard) on their trail; however, they also expose the tension, turmoil, and patriarchal- and religious-inspired oppression festering under the rural abode's thatched roof.

Fanny Lye Deliver'd isn't writer/director Thomas Clay's first feature or even his second, with those honours going to 2005's The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael and 2008's Soi Cowboy. More than a decade later, his third film is a work made with a distinctive vision, though. Every visible detail, meticulous performance, powerful and probing line, and weighty rumination upon the subjugation of women and the ills enforced in faith's name — here, during Oliver Cromwell's reign over Britain following the English Civil War — is that fastidious, that intoxicating even when used to depict suffering and brutality, and also that effective. Clay's picture could easily sit in the mud, folklore and farmland anxiety with The Witch, a film that similarly steps into a god-fearing community where the hatred of women ascending beyond the meagre station allotted them has infected every thought and action. It plays like a cousin to that similarly entrancing and potent movie, however, rather than a sibling. It shares similar horrors, but casts them into cinemas like it's doing so anew, and sometimes peppers its efforts with inescapable lashings of dark humour. Fanny Lye Deliver'd also benefits from Peake's ferocious and arresting work in the eponymous role, in what proves a survivalist film in the same fashion as all other features about women attempting to persist amidst violence and persecution (see also: the vastly dissimilar Herself). It's no wonder that the camera loves peering her way, even as it lenses everything around her like it's painting with celluloid.

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THE TOLL

For almost three decades, cash fees at the most isolated toll booth in Wales have been collected by one man. Known to his fellow small-town dwellers just as Toll Booth (Michael Smiley, Gunpowder Milkshake), the Irish import reads books all day, occasionally sticks his hand out of the window to take coins from passers-by, and is also immersed in the quiet locale's shady underworld. And, he's actually a big-city ex-crim who has been hiding out in the sleepy spot. Alas, that status that comes to an end when he's spotted by an old colleague (Gary Beadle, Small Axe) from all of those years ago. Also, this unwelcome reunion occurs on the same day that the booth is held up by gun-toting triplets (all played by Gwyneth Keyworth, The Trouble with Maggie Cole), which is what gets diligent local police officer Catrin (Annes Elwy, Apostle) sleuthing around, and sees Toll Booth's underlings Cliff (Paul Kaye, Creation Stories) and Dom (Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones) become involved. Ever since Guy Ritchie first gave the world his Quentin Tarantino-inspired take on the heist and crime genres, but British — as seen in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch — fast-paced, blackly comic crime capers have rarely been too far from the UK's cinematic output. The Toll is the latest, and it knows its genre. Debut director Ryan Andrew Hooper also owes a debt to the movies of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) and his brother John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, War on Everyone), as well as to plenty of westerns, and even to both the film and TV versions of Fargo.

Always eager to sprinkle in its own personality — a must in avoiding becoming just another formulaic entry in a busy part of the cinematic spectrum — The Toll benefits from perfecting its tone and its central casting. The same proved true of Irish caper comedy Pixie earlier in the year, but there's a greater sense of cohesion and balance here. The Toll doesn't merely coast by on Smiley's always-welcome presence (see also: Kill List, Free Fire and Come to Daddy) and its energy, but builds upon those key facets via its enthusiastic eccentricity, its affable gags about small-town Wales and a great co-lead performance by Elwy. Jokes about Elvis impersonators, mistaking eye pads for iPads, and a stick-up that only pulls in a sandwich, some change and an average watch don't feel tired here, or stretched. Neither do the title's multiple meanings, with the film also contemplating the price paid by Toll Booth to escape his prior life, as well as the cost of Catrin's ongoing quest to ascertain who killed her father in a hit-and-run accident a year prior. First-timer Matt Redd pens a snappy script and cinematographer Adrian Peckitt (In Me) capably lenses quaint details of the characters' rural existence and the sprawling countryside setting alike. Hooper uses a heavy hand with his soundtrack, and makes certain that viewers see this as a modern Welsh western as a result, but he also crafts a likeable movie from start to finish.

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If you're wondering what else is currently screening in cinemas — or has been lately before lockdown — check out our rundown of new films released in Melbourne on March 4, March 11, March 18 and March 25; and April 1, April 8, April 15, April 22 and April 29; May 6, May 13, May 20 and May 27; June 3, June 10, June 17 and June 24; July 1, when the July lockdown ended and on July 29.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as 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, 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, Old and Jungle Cruise.

Published on August 05, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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