The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From August 13
Head to the flicks to see a charming French romance, a zombie-fuelled South Korean thriller or Liam Neeson star alongside his own son.
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.
LA BELLE ÉPOQUE
Amelie wasn't the first whimsical and nostalgic French romantic-comedy to grace the silver screen, but its success and enduring presence in pop culture has inspired a plethora of light, quirky Gallic fare over the past two decades. And, on paper at least, La Belle Époque initially seems to be one of them. Starring veteran actor Daniel Auteuil (Hidden, The Closet) as sixty-something illustrator Vincent Drumond — whose career is crumbling, and marriage to the feisty Marianne (Fanny Ardant) looks close to ending, too — this Nicolas Bedos-written and -directed film bets big on an offbeat premise. Here, thanks to a company called Time Travellers, anyone can pay to pretend that they're living in their chosen time and place for a night or longer. Think of it like Westworld, but with each elaborately engineered experience created afresh each time, specifically tailored to the customer, boasting no limits on the kind of setting that participants can choose and using actors rather than robots.
Vincent doesn't own a mobile phone, yearns for bookshops and record stores long gone, and is generally averse to technology and change, so he's not usually someone who'd jump at the Time Travellers experience. But when he's given access to the service as a gift just as Marianne kicks him out, he not only embraces the concept, but asks to recreate the fateful 1974 day at Lyon's La Belle Époque cafe when the pair first met. A family friend, the company's owner Antoine (We'll End Up Together filmmaker Guillaume Canet) spares no effort, even enlisting his on-again, off-again girlfriend Margot (Doria Tillier) to play the young Marianne. For Vincent, everything that follows provides a chance to not only linger in happier memories, or realise why he fell in love in the first place, but learn how he wants to move forward. For viewers, a charming, gorgeously staged high-concept rom-com also eventuates. Bedos crafts this thoughtful and effervescent movie as meticulously and vividly as Time Travellers does its intricate blasts from the past, and with just as much appreciation for the way that some moments in life leave an imprint.
If, prior to 2016, you'd ever wondered what might happen should zombies overtake South Korea, Train to Busan and Seoul Station arrived to answer that question. The first was a live-action thriller that tasked a locomotive full of living, breathing humans with battling the shuffling undead in one of the genre's best and most action-packed outings, while the second served up an animated prequel that detailed the start of the epidemic in another city. Now lands Peninsula, in case if you've since spent the past four years pondering what could occur next. Once again directed by Yeon Sang-ho, as all films in the franchise have been, it leaps forward to the present day to explore the plight of the apocalypse's survivors — including those initially lucky enough to flee via boat to Hong Kong, such as army Captain Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon); and folks like mother Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun) and her daughters Joon (Lee Re) and Yu-jin (Lee Ye-won), who weren't as fortunate.
All of the aforementioned characters cross paths when Jung-seok and Chul-min are recruited by Hong Kong heavies to head back to the abandoned and quarantined Incheon, where a truck filled with cash awaits. Zombies don't care about money, of course, so the city's valuables are there for he taking. But Incheon isn't completely empty, with Min-jung and her children spending years evading flesh-munchers and escaping a brutal rogue militia group that call themselves Unit 631. If Train to Busan took a Snakes on a Plane-esque idea, changed it to zombies on a train and made a top-notch movie in the process, Peninsula opts for decidedly dystopian Mad Max-meets-Fast and Furious-meets-World War Z heist flick setup — and, while it doesn't quiet reach its predecessor's heights or add anything new to the heaving undead genre, it is thoroughly entertaining. Cuts to an English-language talk show that explains what's going on are both needlessly exposition-heavy and cringe-inducing, but the film's grounded performances, ample array of fantastic setpieces and swift editing by Parasite Oscar-nominee Yang Jin-mo are always riveting.
Read our full review.
MADE IN ITALY
In Made in Italy, Liam Neeson and his real-life son Micheál Richardson (Vox Lux, Cold Pursuit) recreate their relationship on-screen. In another case of art imitating life, they also play a parent-offspring pair still struggling to cope with the loss of the former's wife and the latter's mother after a tragic accident — with Neeson's partner and Richardson's mum, aka actor Natasha Richardson, passing away following a skiing incident in 2009. But, while this romantic drama's stars might've enjoyed a leisurely trip abroad to relive a situation that's close to their hearts in an immensely scenic location, and get paid for it, Made in Italy isn't a personal or even a sensitive and moving film. If only it was. The feature directorial debut of actor-turned-filmmaker James D'Arcy (Dunkirk, The Snowman), if only it offered anything other than a bland, by-the-numbers tale about two men blighted by grief, forced to confront their issues and pain, and eventually learning how to move on.
Neeson plays Robert, a famous artist who is barely a part of his curator son Jack's (Richardson) life. They're brought together out of necessity, after Jack's soon-to-be ex-wife threatens to sell the gallery he has devoted his career to, leaving him in need of cash — and fast. His solution: to fix up and sell the Italian villa that he inherited from his mum, although his dad also owns half of the property. Cue family dysfunction unfurling in gorgeous surroundings, a stock-standard romance between Jack and a local chef (Valeria Bilello), and a very forgettable appearance by the great Lindsay Duncan (The Leftovers, Sherlock, Le Week-End) as a matter-of-fact real estate agent. As nice as it is to see Neeson apply his very particular set of skills to something other than the routine action flicks that he's been adding to his resume of late (see: not only the Taken franchise, obviously, but also Non-Stop, Run All Night, A Walk Among the Tombstones and The Commuter), here he's in bland and limp as well as unengagingly generic territory. The Italian countryside does look mighty spectacular, naturally, but that really shouldn't be the movie's main and most substantial drawcard.
FORCE OF NATURE
Rarely has a movie ever been in need of killer crocodiles or alligators — or snapping sharks swept up into the air by a tornado, for that matter — than Force of Nature. Either would've vastly improved a film that thinks it's a grim, suspenseful action-thriller, instead skews oh-so-cheesy and ludicrous, and is never self-aware enough to make fun of or even acknowledge its preposterousness. The concept: as a Category 5 storm bears down on Puerto Rico, ex-New York detective Cardillo (Emile Hirsch) and his new partner Jess (Stephanie Cayo) are trying to escort the stubborn residents of one of the island's apartment blocks to safety, all as a merciless killer and art thief (David Zayas) storms the building with his armed henchmen looking to pilfer already-stolen paintings worth hundreds of millions of dollars. If that's not enough, one of the tower's remaining inhabitants (Lovecraft Country's William Catlett) owns a very hungry and savage big cat, while gruff but ailing former cop Ray (Mel Gibson) is simply refusing to leave his flat, despite his doctor daughter Troy's (Kate Bosworth) pleas.
You could excise several plot elements from Cory M Miller's convoluted debut feature script, and Force of Nature would've still been over-the-top, such is the over-stuffed and frequently plain silly storyline. But director Michael Polish (Big Sur, The Astronaut Farmer) lets the ridiculousness pile up, and without presenting a single part of it with winks and nudges. Again, an attacking jungle beast is involved. So are the Holocaust and art dating back to World War II, a tragic backstory for the now world-wearied and even suicidal Cardillo, and a fledgling romance with Troy. Not that they're given much chance to bring their A-game or utter anything but wince-worthy dialogue, but the cast deliver tension-free performances, and the movie's many shootouts and fist-fights prove dully shot and formulaic. That the tone-deaf film also pits its supposedly heroic white characters against villainous people of colour — and places a Nazi German in the middle, because of course it does — speaks plenty about this terrible mess of a feature.
If you're wondering what else is currently screening in cinemas, check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23, July 30 and August 6 — and our full reviews of The Personal History of David Copperfield, Waves, The King of Staten Island, Babyteeth and Deerskin.
Published on August 13, 2020 by Sarah Ward