The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From July 16
Head to the flicks to see Judd Apatow's latest comedy, check out Cate Blanchett as a former hotshot architect and watch a WWII-set drama.
Something delightful is happening in cinemas across the country. After months spent empty, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, Australian picture palaces are starting to reopen — spanning both big chains and smaller independent sites in Sydney and Brisbane (and, until the newly reinstated stay-at-home orders, Melbourne as well).
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 over the past three months, including new releases, comedies, music documentaries, 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.
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND
Judd Apatow's latest lengthy arrested development-fuelled comedy (see also: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People and Trainwreck), The King of Staten Island unsurprisingly meanders. Loosely inspired by Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson's life, it's also thankfully candid, raw, funny and exceptionally well-cast. Oozing a different kind of BDE — that'd be big daddy's boy energy here, and even big deadbeat energy — Davidson plays 24-year-old Staten Island resident Scott. A high-school dropout who dreams of opening a combined tattoo parlour and restaurant, he still lives at home with his overworked nurse mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) and his college-bound younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow), and he still can't quite cope with the death of his firefighter father on the job 17 years earlier. Then, after making a poor decision involving a tattoo gun and a nine-year-old, he ends up with irate firey Ray (Bill Burr) first yelling on his doorstep, then dating his mum.
Born and raised in Staten Island himself, 26-year-old Davidson lost his own firefighter dad in 2001's September 11 attacks — and, unsurprisingly, he co-wrote The King of Staten Island's script. Hanging out with someone who is playing a part, but has also mostly been there and done plenty of what viewers see on-screen, the movie always sports a lived-in vibe as a result. This is an Apatow movie, so the usual manchild escapades and humour do apply. But, more importantly, The King of Staten Island is a Pete Davidson movie — and that has a considerable impact. Apatow often shapes his films around his stars; however, in a flick that undeniably relies upon a formula but also boasts rougher edges, the loose, lanky, brutally self-aware Davidson might be his best lead yet.
Read our full review.
WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE
If you'd ever wondered what might happen if Dazed and Confused, Boyhood and the Before trilogy filmmaker Richard Linklater channelled his inner Wes Anderson, well, wonder no more. Where'd You Go, Bernadette answers that question, albeit without a hefty dose of visual symmetry. A quirky collection of characters remains present, though, as does a dysfunctional family dynamic, structural playfulness, eye-catching decor and ample whimsy. But, despite the efforts of both Linklater and his cast — as led by Cate Blanchett in a forceful, fussy but still compelling performance as the eponymous former hotshot architect who's been stuck in a creative rut for 20 years, and also featuring Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne and impressive newcomer Emma Nelson — this page-to-screen comedy-drama largely proves far less offbeat, and far more bland and conventional, than it intends.
Adapted from Maria Semple's novel of the same name, Where'd You Go, Bernadette first introduces its central figure as she's kayaking around Antarctica, then jumps back five weeks to her regular Seattle life. She dotes on her teenage daughter (Nelson), is accustomed to her computer animator husband (Crudup) being too busy with his work at Microsoft and keeps trying to transform the sprawling ex-schoolhouse they call home. She also argues with her busybody neighbour (Wiig) and dictates emails to her virtual assistant in India. But, Bernadette struggles to sleep, is generally anxious and is far from thrilled about the family's impending trip south. Enigmatic, peppery and reclusive, she's a woman in crisis, even if she doesn't completely realise it — and yet, as the film slowly explains why and gives her a new awakening, it frequently plays as simplistic and cliched rather textured and complex.
The horrors of the Second World War are undeniable and should never be forgotten. But those horrors have been brought to the big screen so many times now — and, often, in much the same kind of soft-toned historical dramas that tell their narratives in basically the same way — that movies about the conflict and the atrocious actions of the Nazis don't always hit as hard as they should. Take Resistance, for example. It not only relays an intrinsically emotive story about the fightback in occupied France and the immense efforts to save orphaned Jewish children, but draws upon a remarkable true tale involving the teenage actions of famous actor and mime Marcel Marceau. And yet, although it serves up a heartfelt tribute to the latter, as well chronicling a chapter of the well-documented war that definitely stands out, the end result still feels as by-the-numbers as World War II films come.
With Jesse Eisenberg stepping into the late, great Marceau's shoes, the movie heads back to the performer's adolescence — with his butcher father (Karl Markovics) disapproving of his choice of career, France on the cusp of invasion and his cousin (Son of Saul's Géza Röhrig) overseeing a local effort to help kids in need. The idea of 36-year-old Eisenberg playing a teen doesn't just sound like a stretch, but proves it on-screen, although it's one of the least generic elements of the feature. Written and directed by Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz (Hands of Stone), Resistance ticks every expected box narratively, thematically and stylistically, even when it's championing the life-saving importance of art and showcasing expressive mime work. It also makes little use of the rest of its acting lineup, including Harry Potter's Clémence Poésy, Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey and Edgar Ramírez.
We've long since reached the point where formulaic, thoroughly forgettable horror movies combine social media-driven storylines with heavy lashings of blood-splattered torture porn — and in Follow Me, it's as terrible as it sounds. Written and directed by Escape Room's Will Wernick, this routine Moscow-set shocker jumps on another bandwagon, too, with the filmmaker clearly quite fond of folks trying to puzzle their way out of locked spaces in a limited amount of time (and with death the punishment for failing). The movie's protagonist, Cole (Keegan Allen), is an attention-seeking vlogger who records and streams almost every moment of his existence. He has turned his antics into a career, putting himself in extreme situations with an 'escape real life' angle and motto (shortened to #ERL, naturally), with more than 12 million viewers watching on. Looking to up the ante for his next clip, he jets off to Russia with his pals (Holland Roden, Denzel Whitaker, George Janko and Siya) — where a connected friend of a friend (Ronen Rubinstein) has arranged a grim and gruelling escape room experience that's been tailored specifically to Cole.
Surprises aren't Follow Me's strong suit. Indeed, the film is so laden with cliches and tropes, it's easy to predict where the narrative is headed from the very first frame — even as it tries to trade in twists and tension. Accordingly, the movie becomes an exercise in watching grating characters make stupid decisions that lead to gory altercations, all while running around a series of dark, gritty places that could've been ripped from the Saw or Hostel franchises. To the astonishment of no one, the end result is never as unsettling or entertaining as Wernick thinks, or even unsettling or entertaining at all. And an attempt to serve up a message about the always-on, always-performing nature of social media — and about obnoxious American tourists abroad as well — is as well-worn as the rest of the film.
If you're wondering what else is currently screening in cinemas, check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on July 2 and July 9 — and our full reviews of The Personal History of David Copperfield and Waves.
Top images: Where'd You Go, Bernadette © 2019 ANNAPURNA PICTURES, LLC. All Rights Reserved; The King of Staten Island © 2020 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.
Published on July 16, 2020 by Sarah Ward