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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas from September 3

Head to the flicks to see a horror-themed spin on 'X-Men', a visually sumptuous Chinese drama or a faith-driven true tale.
By Sarah Ward
September 03, 2020
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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas from September 3

Head to the flicks to see a horror-themed spin on 'X-Men', a visually sumptuous Chinese drama or a faith-driven true tale.
By Sarah Ward
September 03, 2020
  shares

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.

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THE NEW MUTANTS

For the 13th film in the X-Men franchise, The New Mutants has come up with the perfect way to explain where this series currently sits. The movie traps five teenagers in an eerie, inescapable facility, tries to placate them by promising that they'll soon be able to venture to greener pastures if they just dutifully stomach what they're being subjected to for now, but taunts them with pain and terror while they wait. Logan aside, that sums up this saga's past five years rather astutely. Fans have sat through average and awful chapters in the hope that something better will come in the future, only to be met by more of the same (or worse). Yes, Deadpool and its sequel were hits, but squarely of the one-note, overdone, easily tiring variety. And the less remembered about the overblown and underwhelming X-Men: Apocalypse, the instantly forgettable Dark Phoenix and now the teen horror-meets-X-Men mashup that is The New Mutants, the better.

Shot in 2017 but delayed several times since, The New Mutants takes a concept that's equal parts The Breakfast Club and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, adds in angsty adolescents just coming to terms with their hormones and superpowers, and serves up a thoroughly flat affair. When Native American 16-year-old Dani Moonstar (Another Life's Blu Hunt) survives a traumatic incident on her reservation that she can't remember afterwards, she awakens in a hospital run by Dr Cecilia Reyes (Kill Me Three Times' Alice Braga), which she's told is for kids just like her. Her fellow patients (Emma's Anya Taylor-Joy, Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams, Stranger Things' Charlie Heaton and Trinkets' Henry Zaga) are all aware of their extra abilities, though. Dani doesn't even know what she's capable of; however the fact that her arrival coincides with a series of unsettling incidents needling through the minds of her new pals gives everyone a few clues. Alas, all it gives the film is a flimsy excuse to trot out a heap of teen, horror and superhero tropes, with writer/director Josh Boone (The Fault in our Stars) and his co-scribe Knate Lee delivering a suitably moody but also oppressively generic film. Indeed, when Buffy the Vampire Slayer clips play in the background in a couple of scenes, they're instantly more entertaining than anything The New Mutants has to offer.

Read our full review.

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WILD GRASS

Gazing out of her window, banishing away the sounds of home via her walkman, teenager Yun Qiao (Ma Sichun, Somewhere Winter) dreams of a different life. A talented dancer with big plans to leave for a lucrative career in Japan, Li Mai (Zhong Chuxi, Adoring) shares the same hopes — as does trumpet player Wu Feng (Huang Jingyu, Operation Red Sea), who tries to get by doing odd jobs for local heavies. It's the 90s, and these three strangers are all eager to change their futures. Fate, however, has something else in store. Jumping between its three protagonists, Wild Grass weaves these tales together, never leaving any doubt that the trio's plights are all related. Accordingly, this Chinese drama asks audiences to spend their time joining the dots as climactic events — car accidents, brutal attacks and gangster showdowns, for instance — upend its characters' intersecting lives. The overall message, and hardly an unexpected one: that they'll each weather their significant woes, twists and turns, and ideally come out stronger on the other side.

Thankfully, what Wild Grass lacks in narrative or thematic surprises, it makes up for in its sumptuous imagery. The debut feature from Chinese director Xu Zhanxiong (writer of 2017's Ash), this is an instantly visually mesmerising film — especially when it lurks in alleyways, clubs and other neon-lit spaces; watches Li Mai showcase her fancy footwork across a plethora of different venues in both joyous and troubling circumstances; and stares deeply at its characters' often-pensive expressions. While The Wild Goose Lake will take some time to unseat as the best-shot, most alluringly lit Chinese film to reach cinemas of late, Wild Grass and its sometimes inky, sometimes glowingly amber-tinted frames take a firm stab at the title. The movie's three lead performances also hit their marks, especially when the plot proves a little too content to cycle through a parade of obvious developments.

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FATIMA

When a ten-year-old Portuguese girl and her young cousins claim to see a vision of the Virgin Mary as the First World War rages, the faithful come running in Fatima. Based on the true tale of Lúcia dos Santos — also known as Sister Lúcia after becoming a nun later in life and, 15 years after her death in 2005, currently in the process of being canonised by the Catholic Church — the film's powers-that-be clearly hope their movie will incite the same reaction. Primarily dramatising events from over a century ago, Fatima may also step forward to 1989 and cast Harvey Keitel as a sceptical writer determined to query Lúcia's story, but there's no question where the feature's allegiances reside. Indeed, from the moment that the film begins with the girl's (Terminator: Dark Fate's Stephanie Gil) first encounter with the mother of Jesus (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote's Joana Ribeiro), it splashes its devotion across every frame.

As a result, while it plays up the clash between believers and cynics across two time periods, Fatima always remains a tension-free affair. When Keitel's Professor Nichols chats with the great Sônia Braga (Aquarius) as Lúcia, it's immediately clear that he'll warm to her candid and open demeanour. And, in the details she's recounting, it's also always evident that her steadfast commitment to her faith as a girl will win out. In its 1917-set scenes, Lúcia's own devout mother (Hero on the Front's Lúcia Moniz) proves doubtful, and the town mayor (Santa Clarita Diet's Goran Visnjic) is downright contemptuous — but, in constantly counteracting their distrust with lyrical imagery of scenic fields, other rural landscapes and even glowing skies, writer/director Marco Pontecorvo (Partly Cloudy with Sunny Spells) couldn't paint a clearer picture in support of their protagonist. Visually, he's following in Terrence Malick's footsteps, but without the same texture, thoughtfulness or impact. Thank goodness, then, for strong performances by Gil, Moniz and Braga, which are the only elements of Fatima that stand out.

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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, August 6, August 13, August 20 and August 27 — and our full reviews of The Personal History of David Copperfield, Waves, The King of Staten Island, Babyteeth, DeerskinPeninsula, Tenet and Les Misérables.

Published on September 03, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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