The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas This Week
Head to the flicks to see Jordan Peele's latest horror masterpiece, a riveting documentary about Princess Diana and an Aussie drama set at local music festivals.
August 11, 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.
Kudos to Jordan Peele for giving his third feature as a writer/director a haters-gonna-hate-hate-hate name: for anyone unimpressed with Nope, the response is right there. Kudos, too, to the Get Out and Us filmmaker for making his third bold, intelligent and supremely entertaining horror movie in a row — a reach-for-the-skies masterpiece that's ambitious and eerie, imaginative and expertly crafted, as savvy about cinema as it is about spectacle, and inspires the exact opposite term to its moniker. Reteaming with Peele after nabbing an Oscar nomination for Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya utters the titular word more than once in Nope. Exclaiming "yep" in your head each time he does is an instant reaction. Everything about the film evokes that same thrilled endorsement, but it comes particularly easily whenever Kaluuya's character surveys the wild and weird events around him. We say yay to his nays because we know we'd respond the same way if confronted by even half the chaos that Peele whooshes through the movie.
As played with near-silent weariness by the always-excellent Judas and the Black Messiah Oscar-winner, Haywood's Hollywood Horses trainer OJ doesn't just dismiss the strange thing in the heavens, though. He can't, even if he doesn't realise the full extent of what's happening when his father (Keith David, Love Life) suddenly slumps on his steed on an otherwise ordinary day. Six months later, OJ and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer, Lightyear) are trying to keep the family business running; he does the wrangling, she does the on-set safety spiels, which double as a primer on the Haywoods' lengthy links to the movie industry. The first moving images ever presented, by Eadweard Muybridge of a galloping horse in the 1800s, featured their great-great-great grandfather as the jockey, Emerald explains. His image was immortalised, but not his name — and, although she doesn't say it directly, that's a fate she isn't eager to share.
In fact, Emerald ends her patter by proclaiming that she's available for almost any Hollywood job that might come up. Unsurprisingly, OJ is horrified about the hustle. Her big chance is indeed tied to their ranch, but not in the way that Emerald initially realises either — because who'd predict that something would be lurking above the Haywoods' Agua Dulce property? Just as Get Out saw Peele reinterrogate the possession movie and Us did the same with doppelgängers, Nope goes all in on flying saucers. So, Emerald wants the kind of proof that only video footage can offer. She wants her "Oprah shot", as well as a hefty payday. Soon, the brother-sister duo are buying new surveillance equipment — which piques the interest of UFO-obsessed electronics salesman Angel Torres (Brandon Perea, The OA) — and also enlisting renowned cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott, Veni Vidi Vici) to capture the lucrative image.
Cue plenty of faces staring up in shock and wonder, as Steven Spielberg has made a mainstay of his films — and cue a movie that nods to Jaws as much as Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Peele makes smartly and playfully cineliterate flicks, which aren't content to merely wink and nudge, but instead say "yep" themselves: yep to all the tropes and symbols that the comedian-turned-filmmaker can filter through his own lens, and his determination to unearth the reality of living in America today, just as he did when he was making some of this century's best skits on Key & Peele. Indeed, Nope is keenly aware of the lure and power of spectacle, especially the on-screen kind, which also echoes through in the picture's other pivotal character. Ricky 'Jupe' Park (Steven Yeun, Minari) isn't involved in the Haywoods' attempts to snap upwards, but the former child star runs a neighbouring theme park called Jupiter's Claim, which cashes in on his big hit role in a movie called Kid Sheriff. He's known for short-lived 90s sitcom Gordy's Home, too, starring opposite a chimpanzee, and moments of the show also pop up in Peele's film.
Read our full review.
Finding a moment or statement from The Princess to sum up The Princess is easy. Unlike the powerful documentary's subject in almost all aspects of her life from meeting the future King of England onwards, viewers have the luxury of choice. Working solely with archival materials, writer/director Ed Perkins (Tell Me Who I Am) doesn't lack in chances to demonstrate how distressing it was to be Diana, Princess of Wales — and the fact that his film can even exist also underscores that point. While both The Crown and Spencer have dramatised Diana's struggles with applauded results, The Princess tells the same tale as it was incessantly chronicled in the media between 1981–1997. The portrait that emanates from this collage of news footage, tabloid snaps and TV clips borders on dystopian. It's certainly disturbing. What kind tormented world gives rise to this type of treatment just because someone is famous? The one we all live in, sadly.
Perkins begins The Princess with shaky visuals from late in August 1997, in Paris, when Diana and Dodi Fayed were fleeing the paparazzi on what would be the pair's last evening. The random voice behind the camera is excited at the crowds and commotion, not knowing how fatefully the night would end. That's telling, haunting and unsettling, and so is the clip that immediately follows. The filmmaker jumps back to 1981, to a then 19-year-old Diana being accosted as she steps into the street. Reporters demand answers on whether an engagement will be announced, as though extracting private details from a teenager because she's dating Prince Charles is a right. The Princess continues in the same fashion, with editors Jinx Godfrey (Chernobyl) and Daniel Lapira (The Boat) stitching together example after example of a woman forced to be a commodity and expected to be a spectacle, all to be devoured and consumed.
Listing comparable moments within The Princess' riveting frames is easy; they snowball relentlessly into an avalanche. Indeed, after the film shows Charles and Diana's betrothal news and how it's received by the press and public, the media scrutiny directed Diana's way becomes the subject of a TV conversation. "I think it's going to be much easier. I think we're going to see a change in the attitude of the press. I think that now she's publicly one of the royal family, all this telephoto lens business will stop," a talking head from four decades back asserts — and it isn't merely the benefit of hindsight that makes that claim sound deeply preposterous. Later, Perkins features a soundbite from a paparazzo, which proves equally foolish, not to mention a cop-out. "All we do is take pictures. The decision to buy the pictures is taken by the picture editors of the world, and they buy the pictures so their readers can see them. So at the end of the day, the buck stops with the readers," the photographer contends.
The Princess isn't here to simplistically and squarely blame the public, but it does let the material it assembles — and the fact that there's so much of it, and that nothing here is new or astonishing even for a second because it's already been seen before — speak for itself. What a story that all unfurls, and how, including pondering the line between mass fascination and being complicit. Perkins eschews contemporary interviews and any other method of providing recent context, and also makes plain what everyone watching already knows: that escaping Diana has been impossible for more than 40 years now, during her life and after her death a quarter-century ago as well, but it was always worse by several orders of magnitude for Diana herself. The expressions that flicker across her face over the years, evolving from shy and awkward to determined and anguished, don't just speak volumes but downright scream. In the audio samples overlaid on paparazzi shots and ceaseless news coverage, that's dissected, too, and rarely with kindness for the woman herself.
Read our full review.
Three friends, a huge music festival worth making a mega mission to get to and an essential bag of goon: if you didn't experience that exact combination growing up in Australia, did you really grow up in Australia? That's the mix that starts 6 Festivals, too, with the Aussie feature throwing in a few other instantly familiar inclusions to set the scene. Powderfinger sing-alongs, scenic surroundings and sun-dappled moments have all filled plenty of teenage fest trips, and so has an anything-it-takes mentality — and for the film's central trio of Maxie (Rasmus King, Barons), Summer (Yasmin Honeychurch, Back of the Net) and James (Rory Potter, Ruby's Choice), they're part of their trip to Utopia Valley. But amid dancing to Lime Cordiale and Running Touch, then missing out on Peking Duk's stroke-of-midnight New Year's Eve set after a run-in with security, a shattering piece of news drops. Suddenly these festival-loving friends have a new quest: catching as much live music as they can to help James cope with cancer.
The first narrative feature by Bra Boys and Fighting Fear director Macario De Souza, 6 Festivals follows Maxie, Summer and James' efforts to tour their way along the east coast festival circuit. No, there are no prizes for guessing how many gigs are on their list, with the Big Pineapple Music Festival, Yours and Owls and Lunar Electric among the events on their itinerary. Largely road-tripping between real fests, and also showcasing real sets by artists spanning Dune Rats, Bliss n Eso, G Flip, B Wise, Ruby Fields, Dope Lemon, Stace Cadet and more, 6 Festivals dances into the mud, sweat and buzz — the crowds, cheeky beers and dalliances with other substances that help form this coming-of-age rite-of-passage, aka cramming in as many festivals as you possibly can from the moment your parents will let you, as well. This is also a cancer drama, however, which makes for an unsurprisingly tricky balancing act, especially after fellow Aussie movie Babyteeth tackled the latter so devastatingly well so recently.
Take that deservedly award-winning film, throw in whichever music festival documentary takes your fancy, then add The Bucket List but with teens — that's 6 Festivals. There's a touch of the concert-set 9 Songs as well, obviously sans sex scenes. Spotting the dots connected by De Souza and Sean Nash's (a Home and Away and Neighbours alum) script isn't difficult. That said, neither is spying the movie's well-intentioned aim. Riding the ecstatically bustling festival vibe, and surveying everything from the anticipation-laden pre-fest excitement through to the back-to-reality crash afterwards, 6 Festivals is an attempt to capture and celebrate the fest experience, as well as a concerted effort to face a crucial fact: that, as much as a day in the mosh pit feels like an escape and is always worth cherishing, it only sweeps away life's stark truths momentarily.
The film's core threesome have their fair share of stresses; pivotally, 6 Festivals sticks with believable dramas. James faces his diagnosis, treatment and his mother's (Briony Williams, Total Control) worries, all while trying to recruit the feature's array of musical acts for his own dream event. Scoring backstage access comes courtesy of up-and-coming Indigenous muso Marley (debutant Guyala Bayles), who graces most of the lineups and shared a childhood with Summer, united by their respective mothers' struggles with addiction — and, now they've crossed paths again, offers to mentor her pal's own singing career. As for Maxie, his drug-dealing older brother Kane (Kyuss King, also from Barons) is usually at the same fests pressuring him into carrying his stash. They're the only family each other has, so saying no doesn't seem an option.
Read our full review.
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 May 5, May 12, May 19 and May 26; June 2, June 9, June 16, June 23 and June 30; and July 7, July 14, July 21 and July 28, and August 4.
You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as 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, Men, Elvis, Lost Illusions, Nude Tuesday, Ali & Ava, Thor: Love and Thunder, Compartment No. 6, Sundown, The Gray Man, The Phantom of the Open, The Black Phone, Where the Crawdads Sing, Official Competition, The Forgiven, Full Time, Murder Party and Bullet Train.