The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From June 23
Head to the flicks to see Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic, a supremely naked New Zealand comedy and a grand French drama.
June 23, 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.
Making a biopic about the king of rock 'n' roll, trust Baz Luhrmann to take his subject's words to heart: a little less conversation, a little more action. The Australian filmmaker's Elvis, his first feature since 2013's The Great Gatsby, isn't short on chatter. It's even narrated by Tom Hanks (Finch) as Colonel Tom Parker, the carnival barker who thrust Presley to fame (and, as Luhrmann likes to say, the man who was never a Colonel, never a Tom and never a Parker). But this chronology of an icon's life is at its best when it's showing rather than telling. That's when it sparkles brighter than a rhinestone on all-white attire, and gleams with more shine than all the lights in Las Vegas. That's when Elvis is electrifying, due to its treasure trove of recreated concert scenes — where Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) slides into Presley's blue suede shoes and lifetime's supply of jumpsuits like he's the man himself.
Butler is that hypnotic as Presley. Elvis is his biggest role to-date after starting out on Hannah Montana, sliding through other TV shows including Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries, and also featuring in Yoga Hosers and The Dead Don't Die — and he's exceptional. Thanks to his blistering on-stage performance, shaken hips and all, the movie's gig sequences feel like Elvis hasn't ever left the building. Close your eyes and you'll think you were listening to the real thing. (In some cases, you are: the film's songs span Butler's vocals, Presley's and sometimes a mix of both). And yet it's how the concert footage looks, feels, lives, breathes, and places viewers in those excited and seduced crowds that's Elvis' true gem. It's meant to make movie-goers understand what it was like to be there, and why Presley became such a sensation. Aided by dazzling cinematography, editing and just all-round visual choreography, these parts of the picture — of which there's many, understandably — leave audiences as all shook up as a 1950s teenager or 1970s Vegas visitor.
Around such glorious centrepieces, Luhrmann constructs exactly the kind of Elvis extravaganza he was bound to. His film is big. It's bold. It's OTT. It's sprawling at two-and-a-half hours in length. It shimmers and swirls. It boasts flawless costume and production design by Catherine Martin, as his work does. It shows again that Luhrmann typically matches his now-instantly recognisable extroverted flair with his chosen subject (Australia aside). Balancing the writer/director's own style with the legend he's surveying can't have been easy, though, and it doesn't completely play out as slickly as Presley's greased-back pompadour. Elvis is never anything but engrossing, and it's a sight to behold. The one key element that doesn't gel as convincingly: using the scheming Parker as a narrator (unreliable, obviously) and framing device. It helps the movie unpack the smiling-but-cunning manager's outré role in Presley's life, but it's often just forceful, although so was Parker's presence in the star's career.
In a script by Luhrmann, Sam Bromell (The Get Down), Craig Pearce (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby) and Jeremy Doner (TV's The Killing), the requisite details are covered. That includes the singer's birth in Tupelo, Mississippi, and extends through to his late-career Vegas residency — with plenty in the middle. His discovery by Parker, the impact upon his parents (Rake co-stars Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh), his relationship with Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge, The Staircase), Graceland, America's puritanical reaction to his gyrating pelvis, the issues of race baked into the response to him as an artist: they're all featured. Thematically, those last two points thrum throughout the entire movie. Elvis questions why any hint of sex was such a shock, and why it was so easy for a white man who drew his songs, style and dance moves from Black culture, via his upbringing, to be dubbed a scandal.
Read our full review.
In Nude Tuesday, you can take the unhappy couple out of their daily routine — and slip them out of their clothes in the process — but escaping to a mountainside commune, ditching the dacks, palling around with a goat and gleaning relationship advice from the author a book called The Toothy Vulva just can't solve all woes. What that list of absurd plot points and experiences can do is fill out a film that's gleefully silly, often side-splittingly funny, and also just as perceptive as it is playful. The basic premise behind this New Zealand sex comedy borrows from plenty of fellow movies and TV shows about stuck-in-a-rut folks seeking bliss and renewal, plus solutions to bland marriages, with a gorgeous change of scenery. But helping make Nude Tuesday such a winner is every offbeat choice that's used to tell that tale. Getting naked is only part of it, given that not a lick of any recognisable language is spoken throughout the entire feature — although plenty of words and sounds are audibly uttered.
Nude Tuesday understands one key point, as everyone watching it will: that relationships are all about communication. The film is also well aware that so much about life is, too — and storytelling. Here, though, expressing emotions, connections and narrative details all boils down to gibberish and bodies. This amusing movie from writer/director Armağan Ballantyne (The Strength of Water) and writer/star Jackie van Beek (The Breaker Upperers) does indeed strip down its performers in its last third, living up to its name, but it saddles them with conveying almost everything about their characters via body language before that. Each piece of dialogue spoken echoes in unintelligible nonsense, using completely made-up and wholly improvised terms. Even covers of 'Road to Nowhere' and 'Islands in the Stream' do as well. And while subtitled in English by British comedian Julia Davis (Camping), that text was penned after shooting, in one of the film's other purposefully farcical twists.
The result is patently ridiculous, and marvellously so — and hilariously. It's such a clever touch, making a movie about marital disharmony and the communication breakdown baked within that's so reliant upon reading tone and posture, as couples on the prowl for the tiniest of micro-aggressions frequently hone in on. Initially, the feature needs a few scenes to settle into its unfamiliar vernacular, which takes cues from The Muppets' Swedish Chef in its cadence. Via an opening map, which situates the story on the fictional pacific island of Zǿbftąņ, Nude Tuesday's language also resembles an IKEA catalogue. But once Ballantyne, van Beek and the latter's co-stars find their groove — with a literally bloody attempt to make adult nappies sexy, a supermarket tantrum involving tossed cans and a tense anniversary dinner — everything, including the movie's chosen tongue, clicks into place.
Van Beek and Australian The Tourist actor Damon Herriman play Nude Tuesday's central pair, Laura and Bruno. In the first but not last example of just how compellingly they use their physicality, the talented lead twosome paints a picture of relatable malaise from their introductory moments together. Laura and Bruno are bogged down in a dull cycle that revolves around working at jobs neither loves — she spruiks those mature-age diapers, he sells bathroom fixtures — then trudging home exhausted and exasperated to deal with their kids, and later crumbling into bed knowing they're going to repeat it all the next day. Sex doesn't factor in, and neither is content with that, but resolving their troubles themselves is out of reach. Then, they're gifted a getaway to ẄØnÐĘULÄ to assist. But this woodland getaway, run by charismatic and lustful sex guru Bjorg Rassmussen (Jemaine Clement, I Used to Go Here), wants its new guests to expose all in multiple ways.
Read our full review.
Stop us when Lost Illusions no longer sounds familiar. You won't; it won't, either. Stop us when its 19th century-set and -penned narrative no longer feels so relevant to life today that you can easily spot parts of it all around you. Again, that won't happen. When the handsome and involving French drama begins, its protagonist knows what he wants to do with his days, and also who he loves. Quickly, however, he learns that taking a big leap doesn't always pan out if you don't hail from wealth. He makes another jump anyway, out of necessity. He gives a new line of work a try, finds new friends and gets immersed in a different world. Alas, appearances just keep meaning everything in his job, and in society in general. Indeed, rare is the person who doesn't get swept up, who dares to swim against the flow, or who realises they might be sinking rather than floating.
The person weathering all of the above is Lucien Chardon (Benjamin Voisin, Summer of 85), who'd prefer to be known as Lucien de Rubempré — his mother's aristocratic maiden name. It's 1821, and he's a poet and printer's assistant in the province of Angoulême when the film begins. He's also having an affair with married socialite Louise de Bargeton (Cécile de France, The French Dispatch), following her to Paris, but their bliss is soon shattered. That's why he gives journalism a try after meeting the equally ambitious Etienne Lousteau (Vincent Lacoste, Irma Vep), then taking up the offer of a tabloid gig after failing to get his poetry published. Lucien climbs up the ranks quickly, both in the scathing newspaper business — where literary criticism is literally cash for comment — and in the right Parisian circles. But even when he doesn't realise it, his new life weighs him down heavily.
Lost Illusions spins a giddy tale, but not a happy one. It can't do the latter; exactly why is right there in the title. As a film, it unfurls as a ravishing and intoxicating drama that's deeply funny, moving and astute — one that's clearly the product of very particular set of skills. No, Liam Neeson's recent on-screen resume doesn't factor into it, not for a second. Instead, it takes an immensely special talent to spin a story like this, where every moment is so perceptive and each piece of minutiae echoes so resoundingly. The prowess behind this seven-time César Award-winner belongs to three people: acclaimed novelist Honoré de Balzac, who wrote the three-part Illusions perdues almost 200 years ago; filmmaker Xavier Giannoli (Marguerite), who so entrancingly adapts and directs; and Jacques Fieschi (Lovers), who co-scripts with the latter.
There's more to Lucien's story — pages upon pages more, where his tale began; 149 minutes in total, as his ups and downs now play out on the screen. When Louise decides that he doesn't fit in, with help from the scheming Marquise d'Espard (Jeanne Balibar, Memoria), spite rains his way. When Etienne introduces him to the realities of the media at the era, and with relish, he's brought into a dizzying whirlwind of corruption, arrogance, fame, power, money and influence. When Lucien starts buying into everything he's sold about the whys and hows of his new profession, and the spoils that come with it, Lost Illusions couldn't be more of a cautionary tale. Everything has a price: the glowing words he gleefully types, the nasty takedowns of other people's rivals and the entire act of spending his days doing such bidding for the highest fee.
Read our full review.
MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU
What's yellow, round, inescapably silly and also just flat-out inescapable? Since 2010, when the first Despicable Me film reached screens, Minions have been the answer. The golden-hued, nonsense-babbling critters were designed as the ultimate sidekicks. They've remained henchman to malevolent figures in all five of their movie outings so far, and in the 15 shorts that've also kept telling their tale. But, as much as super-villain Gru (Steve Carrell, Space Force) would disagree — he'd be immensely insulted at the idea, in fact — Minions have long been the true drawcards. Children haven't been spotted carrying around and obsessing over Gru toys in the same number. The saga's key evil-doer doesn't have people spouting the same gibberish, either. And his likeness hasn't become as ubiquitous as Santa, although Minions aren't considered a gift by everyone.
At their best, these lemon-coloured creatures are today's equivalent of slapstick silent film stars. At their worst, they're calculatingly cute vehicles for selling merchandise and movie tickets. In Minions: The Rise of Gru, Kevin, Stuart, Bob, Otto and company (all voiced by Pierre Coffin, also the director of the three Despicable Me features so far, as well as the first Minions) fall somewhere in the middle. Their Minion mayhem is the most entertaining and well-developed part of the flick, but it's also pushed to the side. There's a reason that this isn't just called Minions 2 — and another that it hasn't been badged Despicable Me: The Rise of Gru. The Minion name gets wallets opening and young audiences excited, the Rise of Gru reflects the main focus of the story, and anyone who's older than ten can see the strings being pulled at the corporate level.
Gru's offsiders are present and cause plenty of chaos, but whether he gets to live out his nefarious boyhood dreams is director Kyle Balda (Despicable Me 3), co-helmers Brad Ableson (Legends of Chamberlain Heights) and Jonathan del Val (The Secret Life of Pets 2), and screenwriter Matthew Fogel's (The Lego Movie 2) chief concern. His ultimate wish: to become one of the Vicious 6, the big supervillain team of 1976, when Gru is 11. That sinister crew happens to have an opening after some infighting and double-crossing among Belle Bottom (Taraji P Henson, Empire), Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Haters), Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless, My Life Is Murder), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren, Aquaman), Stronghold (Danny Trejo, The Legend of La Llarona) and Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method). Accordingly, when Gru receives an invite to audition, he's as thrilled as a criminal mastermind-in-training can be.
The Minions are hired as Gru's assistants and, after his tryout for the big leagues ends in him stealing the Vicious 6's prized possession, quickly spark the usual Minion antics. Of course they lose the pivotal object. Of course the Vicious 6 come looking for it. Of course the Minions do everything from learning kung fu (from Master Chow, voiced by Everything Everywhere All At Once's Michelle Yeoh) to virtually destroying San Francisco. There's more calculation than inspiration behind their havoc, however; rather than Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton-esque heights, their slapstick hijinks feel as structured and obvious as the film's nods to a wealth of genres (martial arts, spy, road trip, blaxploitation and more) and its hefty list of blatant era-appropriate needle drops ('Funkytown', 'Fly Like an Eagle', 'Born to Be Alive' and the like). It also plays like colour and movement around Gru, rather than the central attraction viewers want it to be. Also, something can't be surreal if it's so thoroughly expected, as the bulk of Minions: The Rise of Gru is. It isn't clever enough to be gloriously ridiculous, either.
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 March 3, March 10, March 17, March 24 and March 31; April 7, April 14, April 21 and April 28; and May 5, May 12, May 19 and May 26; and June 2, June 9 and June 16.
You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as 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, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Fantastic Beasts and the Secrets of Dumbledore, Ambulance, Memoria, The Lost City, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Happening, The Good Boss, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Northman, Ithaka, After Yang, Downton Abbey: A New Era, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, Petite Maman, The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Firestarter, Operation Mincemeat, To Chiara, This Much I Know to Be True, The Innocents, Top Gun: Maverick, The Bob's Burgers Movie, Ablaze, Hatching, Mothering Sunday, Jurassic World Dominion, A Hero, Benediction, Lightyear and Men.
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