The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From April 7
Head to the flicks to see the latest 'Fantastic Beasts' film, a Michael Bay-directed action onslaught and a haunting Tilda Swinton-starring gem.
April 07, 2022
Something delightful has been happening in cinemas in some parts of the country. After numerous periods spent empty during the pandemic, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, picture palaces in many Australian regions are back in business — including both big chains and smaller independent sites in 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, 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.
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE
What a difference Mads Mikkelsen can make. What a difference the stellar Danish actor can't, too. The Another Round and Riders of Justice star enjoys his Wizarding World debut in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, taking over the part of evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald's Johnny Depp — who did the same from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them's Colin Farrell first, albeit in a scripted change — and he's impressively sinister and engagingly insidious in the role. He needs to be: his fascist character, aka the 1930s-set movie's magical version of Hitler, wants to eradicate muggles. He's also keen to grab power however he must to do so. But a compelling casting switch can't conjure up the winning wonder needed to power an almost two-and-a-half-hour film in a flailing franchise, even one that's really just accioing already-devoted Harry Potter fans into cinemas.
Capitalising upon Pottermania has always been the point of the Fantastic Beasts movies. Famously, this series-within-a-series springs not from a well-plotted novel, where the eight Boy Who Lived flicks originated, but from a guide book on magical creatures. That magizoology text is mentioned in the very first HP tome, then arrived IRL four years later, but it was only after the Harry Potter films ended that it leapt to screens. The reason: showing the Wizarding World's powers-that-be the galleons, because no popular saga can ever conclude when there's more cash to grab (see also: Star Wars and Game of Thrones). For Fantastic Beasts, the result was charming in the initial movie and dismal in its followup. Now, with The Secrets of Dumbledore, it's about as fun as being bitten by a toothy textbook.
Nearly four years have passed since The Crimes of Grindelwald hit cinemas, but its successor picks up its wand where that dull sequel left off. That means reuniting with young Albus Dumbledore, who was the best thing about the last feature thanks to Jude Law (The Third Day) following smoothly in Michael Gambon and Richard Harris' footsteps. Actually, it means reuniting Dumbledore with Grindelwald first. And, it involves overtly recognising that the pair were once lovers. The saga that's stemmed from JK Rowling's pen isn't historically known for being inclusive, much like the author's transphobic statements — and it's little wonder that getting candid about such a crucial romantic connection feels cursory and calculating here, rather than genuine. The same applies to The Secrets of Dumbledore's overall message of love and acceptance, which can only echo feebly when stemming from a co-screenwriter (alongside seven-time HP veteran Steve Kloves) who's basically become the series' off-screen Voldemort.
Referencing Dumbledore and Grindelwald's amorous past serves the narrative, of course, which is the real reason behind it — far more than taking any meaningful steps towards LGBTQIA+ representation. Years prior, the two pledged not to harm each other, binding that magical promise with blood, which precludes any fray between them now. Enter magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7) and his pals. Well, most of them. Newt's assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates, Call the Midwife), brother Theseus (Callum Turner, Emma), No-Maj mate Jacob (Dan Fogler, The Walking Dead), Hogwarts professor Lally (Jessica Williams, Love Life) and Leta Lestrange's brother Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam, Stillwater) are accounted for, while former friend Queenie (Alison Sudol, The Last Full Measure) has defected to Grindelwald. As for the latter's sister Tina (Katherine Waterston, The World to Come), she's spirited aside, conspicuously sitting Operation Avoid Muggle Genocide out.
Read our full review.
Michael Bay movies, Michael Bay movies, whatcha gonna do? Since the action-film director leapt from commercials and music videos to his big-screen debut Bad Boys more than a quarter-century back, there's only been two options. Slickly and unsubtly dripping with gleeful excess, his high-concept flicks embrace explosions, chases, heists, shootouts, jittery chaos and perpetual golden-hour hues with such OTT passion that you surrender or roll your eyes — having a blast or being bored by the bombast, basically. Too often, the latter strikes. That proved true of all five of his Transformers films, which are responsible for more cinematic tedium than any filmmaker should legally be allowed to crash onto screens. That his pictures are lensed and spliced as if lingering on one still for more than a split second is a heinous crime usually doesn't help, but it's what Bay is known for — and yet when Bayhem sparkles like it mostly does in Ambulance, it's its own kind of thrilling experience.
Following a high-stakes Los Angeles bank robbery that goes south swiftly, forcing two perpetrators to hijack an EMT vehicle — while a paramedic tries to save a shot cop's life as the van flees the LAPD and the FBI, too — Ambulance is characteristically ridiculous. Although based on the 2005 Danish film Ambulancen, it's Bay from go to whoa; screenwriter and feature newcomer Chris Fedak (TV's Chuck, Prodigal Son) even references past Bay movies in the dialogue. The first time, when The Rock is mentioned, it's done in a matter-of-fact way that as brazen as anything Bay has ever achieved when his flicks defy the laws of physics. In the second instance mere minutes later, it's perhaps the most hilarious thing he's put in his movies. It's worth remembering that Divinyls' 'I Touch Myself' was one of his music-clip jobs; Bay sure does love what only he can thrust onto screens, and he wants audiences to know it while adoring it as well.
Ambulance's key duo, brothers Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Matrix Resurrections) and Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal, The Guilty), are a former Marine and ostensible luxury-car dealer/actual career criminal with hugely different reasons for attempting to pilfer a $32-million payday. For the unemployed Will, it's about the cash needed to pay for his wife Amy's (Moses Ingram, The Tragedy of Macbeth) experimental surgery, which his veteran's health insurance won't cover — but his sibling just wants money. Will is reluctant but desperate, Danny couldn't be more eager, and both race through a mess of a day. Naturally, it gets more hectic when they're hurtling along as the hotshot Cam (Eiza González, Godzilla vs Kong) works on wounded rookie police officer Zach (Jackson White, The Space Between), arm-deep in his guts at one point, while Captain Monroe (Garrett Dillahunt, Army of the Dead), Agent Anson Clark (Keir O'Donnell, The Dry) and their forces are in hot pursuit.
Everything from Armageddon, Pearl Harbour and The Island to 2019's Netflix flick 6 Underground has trained viewers in what to expect from Ambulance — plus the movies name-checked in Ambulance's frames, obviously — but Bay is also the filmmaker who gave cinema 2013's exceptional Pain & Gain. His latest doesn't reach the same savvy heights, and it's both boosted by its hearty embrace of Bayhem and occasionally a victim to it, but it's rarely less than wildly entertaining. As the director's best efforts have long shown, he boasts a knack for heist-style films. Capers about break-ins of various sorts, even into Alcatraz, suit Bay because they're typically about chasing hefty scores no matter the cost. Ambulance was made for only $40 million, which is a fifth of most Transformers movies and somehow around half of non-Bay-directed recent release Morbius' budget, but bold moves with eyes on a big prize aren't just fiction in Bay's orbit.
Read our full review.
When Memoria begins, it echoes with a thud that's not only booming and instantly arresting — a clamour that'd make anyone stop and listen — but is also deeply haunting. It arrives with a noise that, if the movie's opening scene was a viral clip rather than part of Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's spectacular Cannes Jury Prize-winning feature, it'd be tweeted around with a familiar message: sound on. The racket wakes up Jessica Holland (Tilda Swinton, The Souvenir: Part II) in the night, and it's soon all that she can think about; like character, like film. It's a din that she later describes as "a big ball of concrete that falls into a metal well which is surrounded by seawater"; however, that doesn't help her work out what it is, where it's coming from or why it's reverberating. The other question that starts to brood: is she the only one who can hear it?
So springs a feature that's all about listening, and truly understands that while movies are innately visual — they're moving pictures, hence the term — no one should forget the audio that's gone with it for nearly a century now. Watching Weerasethakul's work has always engaged the ears intently, with the writer/director behind the Palme d'Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and just-as-lyrical Cemetery of Splendour crafting cinema that genuinely values all that the filmic format can offer. Enjoying Memoria intuitively serves up a reminder of how crucial sound can be to the big-screen experience, emphasising the cavernous chasm between pictures that live and breathe that truth and those that could simply be pictures. Of course, feasting on Weerasethakul's films has also always been about appreciating not only cinema in all its wonders, but as an inimitable art form. Like the noise that lingers in his protagonist's brain here, his movies aren't easily forgotten.
With Weerasethakul behind the lens and Swinton on-screen, Memoria is a match made in cinephile heaven — even before it starts obsessing over sound and having its audience do the same. He helms movies like no one else, she's an acting force of nature, and their pairing is film catnip. He also makes his English-language debut, as well as his first feature outside of Thailand, while she brings the serenity and magnetism that only she can, turning in a far more understated turn than seen in the recent likes of The French Dispatch and The Personal History of David Copperfield. Yes, Weerasethakul and Swinton prove a beautiful duo. Weerasethakul makes contemplative, meditative, visually poetic movies, after all, and Swinton's face screams with all those traits. They're both devastatingly precise in what they do, too, and also delightfully expressive. And, they each force you to pay the utmost attention to their every single choice as well.
As Jessica, Swinton plays a British expat in Colombia — an orchidologist born in Scotland, residing in Medellín and staying in Bogota when she hears that very specific din. After explaining it in exquisite detail to sound engineer Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego, My Father), he tries to recreate the noise for her, but only she seems to know exactly what it sounds like. At the same time, Jessica's sister Karen (debutant Agnes Brekke) is in hospital with a strange ailment. Also, there's word of a curse that's linked to a tunnel being built over a burial ground, and Jessica consults with an archaeologist (Jeanne Balibar, Les Misérables) before heading from the city to the country. Grief echoes as strongly through Jessica's life as the bang she can't shake, and she wanders like someone in a dreamy daze, whether she's roaming around an art gallery or crossing paths with a rural fisherman also called Hernán (Elkin Díaz, Besieged).
Read our full review.
NOBODY HAS TO KNOW
Before Belgian actor and filmmaker Bouli Lanners started gracing screens big and small — writing and directing projects for the former as well — he trained as a painter. If you didn't know that fact, it'd be easy to guess while watching Nobody Has to Know. He helms and scripts, as he did 2011 Cannes award-winner The Giant, plus 2016's The First, the Last. He acts, as he has in everything from A Very Long Engagement and Rust and Bone to Raw and Bye Bye Morons. But it's the careful eye he brings to all that fills Nobody Has to Know's frames that immediately leaves an impression, starting with simply staring at the windswept Scottish scenery that provides the movie's backdrop. It's picturesque but also ordinary, finding visual poetry in the scenic and sweeping and yet also everyday. That's what the feature does with its slow-burning romantic narrative, too.
On a remote island, Philippe Haubin (Lanners) has made a humble home. Working as a farmhand, he stands out with his arms covered in tattoos and his accent, but he's also been welcomed into the close-knit community. And, when he's found on the beach after suffering a stroke, his friends swiftly rally around — his younger colleague Brian (Andrew Still, Waterloo Road), who spreads the word; the latter's aunt Millie (Michelle Fairley, Game of Thrones), who ferries him around town; and her stern father Angus (Julian Glover, The Toll), who welcomes him back to work once he's out of hospital. But Phil returns with amnesia, which unsurprisingly complicates his daily interactions. He doesn't know what Brian means when he jokes about Phil now being the island's Jason Bourne, he has no idea if the dog in his house is his own, and he has no knowledge of any past, or not, with Millie.
As a filmmaker, Lanners splits Nobody Has to Know's attention between Phil and Millie as they're drawn to each other — through natural chemistry, thanks to her kindness in helping him learn to navigate his life again, and courtesy of secrets and twists that speak to emotional truths even if they involve lying. And, it's due to finessed performances on both parts that the film always resonates with both tenderness and authenticity, befitting its restrained but still affecting tale of pain, guilt, regrets, isolation, identity and yearning. He plays a man who quickly made an imprint in a new place, but has a past he's been fleeing, and now finds himself facing them both anew. She plays a woman cruelly nicknamed 'the Ice Queen' because she's single, quiet and of a certain age, and remains just as eager to unearth her true self. Indeed, as she copes with Phil's new situation, she makes a bold leap to follow her heart.
In lesser hands — with lead actors who weren't so adept at understatement, or didn't possess as convincing natural chemistry; with a writer and/or director more fond of leaning into melodrama; with a cinematographer other than the poised Frank van den Eeden (Patrick, Girl), too — Nobody Has to Know could've been relegated to a movie-of-the-week-style weepie. Thankfully, that isn't Lanners' film, which cannily eschews the easy for the deep and evocative. He takes as much care with the feature's sensitive pace, reflecting how tentatively his characters have been willing to embrace their real feelings, as he does with that painterly scenery that makes the utmost of the Scottish islands of Lewis and Harris, and with key performances that convey a lifetime of worries without uttering a word. His is a picture that builds in impact, quietly but unmistakably, like taking the time to truly stare at and soak in everything about a piece of art hung on a gallery wall.
If you're wondering what else is currently screening in Australian cinemas — or has been lately — check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on January 1, January 6, January 13, January 20 and January 27; February 3, February 10, February 17 and February 24; and March 3, March 10, March 17, March 24 and March 31.
You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Ghostbusters: Afterlife, House of Gucci, The King's Man, Red Rocket, Scream, The 355, Gold, King Richard, Limbo, Spencer, Nightmare Alley, Belle, Parallel Mothers, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Belfast, Here Out West, Jackass Forever, Benedetta, Drive My Car, Death on the Nile, C'mon C'mon, Flee, Uncharted, Quo Vadis, Aida?, Cyrano, Hive, Studio 666, The Batman, Blind Ambition, Bergman Island, Wash My Soul in the River's Flow, The Souvenir: Part II, Dog, Anonymous Club, X, River, Nowhere Special, RRR, Morbius, The Duke and Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Top image: ©Kick the Machine Films, Burning, Anna Sanders Films, Match Factory Productions, ZDF/Arte and Piano, 2021.
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