The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From March 3
Head to the flicks to see the latest Robert Pattinson-starring take on 'Batman' and a charming Aussie-made documentary about Zimbabwe's first-ever competitive wine-tasting team.
March 03, 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.
When The Batman begins (not to be confused with Batman Begins), it's with the slaying of a powerful Gotham figure. A shocking crime that scandalises the city, it leaves a traumatised boy behind, and couldn't be more influential in the detective-style tale of blood and vengeance that follows. But viewers haven't seen this story before, despite appearances. It isn't the start of pop culture's lonesome billionaire orphan's usual plight, although he's there, all dressed in black, and has an instant affinity for the sorrowful kid. Behold the first standout feat achieved by this excellent latest take on the Dark Knight (not to be confused with The Dark Knight): realising that no one needs to see Bruce Wayne's parents meet their end for what'd feel like the millionth time.
The elder Waynes are still dead, and have been for two decades. Bruce (Robert Pattinson, Tenet) still festers with pain over their loss. And the prince of Gotham still turns vigilante by night, cleaning up the lawless streets one no-good punk at a time with only trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis, Long Shot) in on his secret. As directed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes' Matt Reeves, and co-scripted with The Unforgivable's Peter Craig, The Batman clocks something crucial about its namesake and the audiences that watch him, however. The caped crusader's every move stems from his inescapable grief as always, but no one has to witness its origins yet again to glean why he's become the conflicted protector of his anarchic city. Instead, here he's overtly anguished, upset, broken, broiling with hurt and working his way through those feelings in each affray — a suave, smooth and slick one-percenter playboy in his downtime, he isn't — and it's a more absorbing version of the character than seen in many of the past Bat flicks that've fluttered through cinemas.
Why so serious? That question is answered quickly. Also, badging Pattinson's turn in the cape and cowl 'emo Batman' is 100-percent accurate. It's meant to be, because violence isn't just about experiencing or inflicting pain, but also about processing the emotions stirred up. Apply the label to The Batman's unrelentingly dark and rainy aesthetic as well and, once again, it suits. Lensed with such an eye for the absence of light by Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser (a Dune Oscar-nominee) that he's painting with the shadowiest of shadows, this is a grimmer Batman than Christopher Nolan's trilogy, moodier than Ben Affleck's stint, and gloomier than the Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney-starring movies (not to mention the upbeat and campy 60s TV series that gave us the Batusi). Like teen shows, the tone of any given Batman entry reflects the surrounding times, and the tenor here is bleak, bruised and battered. Call the prevailing batmosphere cinema's own bat-signal and that's oh-so-fitting, too.
Batman is bruised and battered himself in The Batman. He flinches when jumping from skyscrapers in his winged batsuit, grimaces upon impact and sports contusions beneath his mask before that. In spurts of Taxi Driver-style narration — where he could be one of screenwriter Paul Schrader's lonely men wrestling with the world (see also: The Card Counter) — he seethes about his self-appointed task, past and the state of Gotham, exposing his psychological scars as well. That doesn't change when a serial killer who dubs himself The Riddler (Paul Dano, Okja) and must love David Fincher movies (Seven and Zodiac especially) commits The Batman's opening murder, the first in a chain targeting the city's elite. This other angry mask-wearing vigilante is also waging a war on Gotham's corruption, and leaving puzzles to be solved along the way — with Batman assisting police lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, The French Dispatch), and being aided by nightclub waiter-cum-cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz, Kimi) in turn.
Read our full review.
When Dolly Parton sang about pouring herself a cup of ambition in the giddily catchy 80s hit '9 to 5' — the song that accompanied a film of the same name four decades back, now echoes in a stage musical as well and will never, ever get old — she wasn't talking about wine. But Zimbabwean quartet Joseph Dhafana, Tinashe Nyamudoka, Marlvin Gwese and Pardon Taguzu have lived up to those lyrics one glass of top-notch vino at a time, despite not drinking alcohol as Pentecostal Christians. Clearly, these men have quite the story to tell. It starts with fleeing their homeland under Robert Mugabe's rule, and then sees them each make new homes at considerable risk in South Africa, where they all also eventually found themselves working with the grape. In the process, they discovered a knack for an industry they mightn't have ever even dreamed of contemplating entering otherwise — and, in 2017, they took Zimbabwe's first-ever team to the World Wine Blind Tasting Championships in Burgundy, France.
In the words of the always-great and ever-quotable Parton again, Joseph, Tinashe, Marlvin and Pardon waited for their ship to come in, and for the tide to turn and all roll their way. '9 to 5' doesn't actually have a single thing to do with Blind Ambition, the film that splashes through the Zimbabwean sommeliers' story, but their against-the-odds journey is equally infectious and uplifting. The Australian-made documentary about the foursome has also been likened to another on-screen underdog tale, this time about Black men seeking glory in a field that isn't typically associated with their country of birth. Blind Ambition isn't the wine version of Cool Runnings for numerous reasons — it hasn't been fictionalised (although it likely will be at some point) and it isn't a comedy, for starters — but the comparison still pithily sums up just how rousing this true story proves. The reality is far more profound than a Disney flick, of course.
Making their second wine-focused doco of the past decade, Warwick Ross and Rob Coe — the former the co-director of 2013's Red Obsession, the latter its executive producer, and both sharing helming credits here — decant emotion aplenty from the moving and inspiring Blind Ambition. It flows freely from Joseph, Tinashe, Marlvin and Pardon's plights, which the film begins to drip out individually, harking back to before the quartet had even met, then blends together. Getting across the border was especially harrowing for Joseph, for instance, while ensuring that his new life honours his parents back home is particularly important for Pardon. Overcoming poverty and adversity echoes through their stories, as does the hope that their newfound affinity for wine brings — including via Tinashe's desire to plant vines on his grandfather's land one day.
From those histories grows a keen eagerness to turn vino into their futures, and amid those dreams sits the World Wine Blind Tasting Championships. The activity that gives the competition its name is serious business; the first word isn't slang for getting black-out drunk or even just knocking back drinks to the thoroughly sozzled stage of inebriation, but describes how teams sample an array of wines without knowing what's rolling over their palates. Every national squad, all with four people apiece, is given 12 drops. From the six red and six white varieties, they must pick everything they can just by sipping — the grape, country, name, producer and vintage — to earn points. And, they also need to spit out the answers quickly, within two minutes of taking a taste. Yes, it's an event that you need to train for. No, it doesn't involve getting sloshed.
Read our full review.
Daughter of Karl Marx, a socialist activist in her own right, a translator of Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck and Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and first seen in Miss Marx giving her father's eulogy in 1883, Eleanor Marx was many things — but she wasn't a fan of punk music. She simply couldn't have been, thanks to the gap between the timing of her life and the genre's arrival, with seven decades separating them. Still, that doesn't stop filmmaker Susanna Nicchiarelli (Nico, 1988) from soundtracking her biopic about the youngest Marx with rollicking punk tracks courtesy of current rockers by Downtown Boys, including a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark'. Such a decision is anachronistic in fact but not in spirit, Miss Marx contends, and it's a savvy observation. In much about her life — her willingness to break free of her father's and society's expectations, her anti-establishment activism, and her rejection of mainstream norms among them — Eleanor fits the tunes.
If only Miss Marx moshed into cinemas with more than that smart idea layered over an otherwise by-the-numbers period drama — one that, despite its namesake's progressive quest for women's wrights, better working conditions for the masses and education across both genders, focuses on her ties to men, too. It boasts two particularly marvellous and playful scenes, one involving that punk soundtrack and an opium-fuelled dance by star Romola Garai (Suffragette) for the ages, the other toying with the dynamic between Eleanor and her paramour Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy, The Queen's Gambit), but a willingness to break the mould, thrash outside the lines and upset the status quo is rarely part of the movie. Eleanor's existence was defined by her dad since birth, of course. It was then linked to the already-married Edward when she decided to live with him as wife in all but the paperwork. But bringing her tale to the screen with such a focus feels not only much too straightforward, but also reductive.
There's method and meaning in this choice, too; writing as well as directing, Nicchiarelli hones in on Eleanor's bonds with the two pivotal men in her life on purpose. The aim: to examine how someone who toiled for such pioneering causes still routinely put herself second to her father and her partner, and to being a caregiver in general. It's a juxtaposition that Eleanor sees herself, and more than once. She's dismissive when her friend, acclaimed South African writer Olive Schreiner (Karina Fernandez, Killing Eve), offers a word of warning about Edward, but both Nicchiarelli's script and Garai's portrayal convey that Eleanor spies the contrast between her rhetoric and her behaviour. Alas, the answer is as simple as it always is, and treated as such: her love for her dad, for the fellow Marxist activist she tried to spend her life with, and for everyone else she lends her time to. Out of them all, only her young nephew Jean (debutant Célestin Ryelandt) seems to understand her, proving accommodating about her need to travel, research, spread the word and follow her work.
As Eleanor, Garai gives a deeply committed and thoughtful performance that makes viewers wish that the movie itself matched her, mirroring the same sentiments that Miss Marx's punk soundtrack inspires. She's the spark that keeps the romantic and domestic dramas as alight as they can be, and the politics-heavy sections of the film that explore her ideas and deeds as well — whether Eleanor is opening by farewelling Karl with her words ("he died in harness, his intellect untouched," she shares), arguing with Edward as they perform The Wild Duck or weathering the fallout from her unhappy relationship. In a feature that's always handsomely shot, far less engaging is the subplot involving the relationships surrounding Friedrich Engels (John Gordon Sinclair, Traces), her father's The Communist Manifesto co-author. It helps add extra strokes to the overall portrait of how women and family members around lauded men are treated, but it too is a stock-standard inclusion in a movie that openly pines to be otherwise.
When The Father tackled dementia, it won Anthony Hopkins an Oscar. When Still Alice had Julianne Moore grapple with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, it earned her an Academy Award, too. Led by Live and Let Die and Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman star Jane Seymour, Ruby's Choice follows in their footsteps thematically; however, it won't nab its lead actor the same shiny trophy. The Australian drama's high-profile star turns in a committed performance as the movie's eponymous figure, whose memory has begun to recede without anyone realising, but it's also a portrayal that ticks every expected box. The feature she's in garners the same description as well; getting a famous face to explore an illness on-screen is a formula that spreads well beyond on-screen depictions of neurodegenerative conditions, of course, but Ruby's Choice sticks to a template that's been trotted out so many times that it'll always be recognisable.
Following Ruby and her family as they wade through the consequences of her faltering mental faculties, this is also a film designed to raise attention, with 50 percent of its profits set to be donated to dementia research. Clearly, it champions a worthy and important cause, and also takes the job of conveying the experience of both suffering from dementia and having a loved one afflicted with it as seriously as it can. But unlike The Father and Still Alice, Ruby's Choice peers on rather than plunges in. It presents how dementia looks from the outside rather than diving deep enough to express how it truly feels. It still makes it plain that this is a condition no one wants, and that dealing with it is immensely difficult — and, in its on-screen postscript about donating funds, that more cash for more research is needed — but it's a case of telling far more than showing.
The titular Ruby (Seymour, The War with Grandpa) has spent five years living alone since the death of her husband and, attitude-wise, remains fiercely independent — but she also thinks that her deceased partner is just perennially away on a business trip. Her daughter Sharon (Jacqueline McKenzie, Malignant) plays along with the pretence because it is kinder than seeing her mum mourn her dad anew again and again, and also thinks it's harmless. Then Ruby forgets that she's driven her car to the library, starts a fire at home after forgetting she's cooking lamb chops and, after temporarily moving in with Sharon, her husband Doug (Stephen Hunter, The Tourist) and teenage daughter Tash (Coco Jack Gillies, Mad Max: Fury Road), forgets what she's doing several times over when left in charge of feeding pets and other household tasks for a day. Soon, Ruby's family can't deny that she needs help, but doing what's best — caring for her 24/7, contemplating whether finding a nursing facility is the better solution and affording either option — is hardly straightforward.
From Never Too Late and June Again to A Stitch in Time and now Ruby's Choice, Australian cinema has turned its attention towards ageing protagonists and the reality that comes with their advancing years with frequency of late. And, excluding the first flick on that list, it has done so with sensitivity. Director Michael Budd (Life of the Party) and screenwriters Paul Mahoney (Mainland Tonight) and Ellen Shanley (a feature first-timer) are compassionate here, but also schematic. Layering on complications — including the arrival of Doug's brother Ken (Brendan Donoghue, June Again) and his teen son Ned (Rory Porter, The Dressmaker), fresh from their own troubles at home; issues with Tash, Ned and bullies at school; and family secrets let slip as Ruby increasingly thinks she's stepped back decades — they too bluntly try to tug harder at heartstrings that are already given a workout. Ruby's Choice still tackles an important subject with empathy, but also with as much force and formula as care.
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 November 4, November 11, November 18 and November 25; December 2, December 9, December 16 and December 26; January 1, January 6, January 13, January 20 and January 27; and February 3, February 10, February 17 and February 24.
You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Eternals, The Many Saints of Newark, Julia, No Time to Die, The Power of the Dog, Tick, Tick... Boom!, Zola, Last Night in Soho, Blue Bayou, The Rescue, Titane, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Dune, Encanto, The Card Counter, The Lost Leonardo, The French Dispatch, Don't Look Up, Dear Evan Hansen, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Lost Daughter, The Scary of Sixty-First, West Side Story, Licorice Pizza, The Matrix Resurrections, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Worst Person in the World, 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 and Studio 666.