Melbourne film listings

New releases

Reviews by Philippa Hawker and Jake Wilson

AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY
★★★½ (91 minutes) M

FINE, engrossing documentary feature by Alison Klayman about Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, a complex and charismatic figure. He is a conceptual artist with a political and collaborative bent who also uses social media in a creative way. Klayman has had plenty of access to him, and has filmed or recorded him at some key moments, whether it's preparing for international shows or taking on authorities in China in an increasingly embattled fashion. PH

Selected release

A MONSTER IN PARIS 3D
★★ (90 minutes) G

SET during the Great Flood of Paris in 1910, this French cartoon involves a shy projectionist (Jay Harrington), nerdy inventor (Adam Goldberg), proboscis monkey, an airship and a giant flea who just wants to be a cabaret star. It should be fun for all ages, but on a relatively low budget, the animators can't hope to match the level of background detail expected from Pixar or Disney, nor do they have the same scope for hectic action sequences and rapid-fire visual gags. JW

Cinema Nova

BAIT 3D
★★ (93 minutes) MA

TAILORED for a drive-in circuit that no longer exists, this cheap-and-cheerful B-movie imagines a tsunami on the Gold Coast that leaves a handful of mainly youthful survivors trapped in a ruined supermarket, with not one but two great white sharks in the immediate vicinity. Mostly, it's frankly awful, though not unenjoyably so. In between the flamboyantly staged deaths, the confessional monologues and testy banter enable some of the most transcendently bad acting in recent Australian cinema. JW

General release

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 3: DOG DAYS
★★½ (94 minutes) PG

THE first movie in this series, based on the popular books by Jeff Kinney, was a good-humoured comedy of youthful awkwardness. But this most recent instalment in the life of young middle-school kid Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) - here spending his holidays dissembling about a summer job at a country club - is a more laboured, episodic work, with little of the first film's saving dagginess. PH

Selected release

LORE
★★½ (104 minutes) MA

EIGHT years after her award-winning Somersault, Australian director Cate Shortland returns with another coming-of-age drama centred on a languidly unsettled blonde teen: Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), the oldest of five children journeying across occupied Germany in the wake of the Allied victory. In its strongest moments, this impressionistic portrait of an innocent Nazi has the uncanny quality of a trip through the looking glass; at worst, the Holocaust is reduced to a backdrop for "universal" adolescent pangs. JW

Selected release

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION
★★★½ (95 minutes) MA

THE fifth of Paul W. S. Anderson's post-apocalyptic video-game adaptations has the indomitable and ever-glamorous Alice (Milla Jovovich) once more battling hordes of zombies and monsters, this time while trapped underground and journeying through a series of manufactured cityscapes under the guidance of former foe Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). With tight pacing, hallucinatory action sequences and a plot that offers special rewards to long-term fans, this is one of the best instalments yet in a still underrated saga. JW

General release

RUBY SPARKS
★★★½ (104 minutes) M

A CLEVER, witty movie about creativity and desire, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), from a screenplay by one of the film's stars, Zoe Kazan. Calvin (Paul Dano) is a novelist struggling with writer's block after his first book was a massive hit. Finally finding a narrative, he also discovers that his fictional subject, a young woman (Kazan), actually starts appearing in his life, Things take a darker turn, but the film maintains a lightness of touch to the end. PH

Selected release

TINKER BELL AND THE SECRET OF THE WINGS
★★ (79 minutes) G

THE latest episode in the Disney computer-animated series sees the ever-curious fairy heroine (voiced by Mae Whitman) embarks on a forbidden journey from her home in Pixie Hollow to the Winter Woods, where she encounters her previously unknown sister Periwinkle (Lucy Hale). It's better scripted and animated than its predecessor, and the directors Peggy Holmes and Bobs Gannaway deserve credit for smuggling in a more progressive message than you'll generally find in a Disney B-feature. Still, adults should steer clear. JW

General release

Now showing 

Reviews by Philippa Hawker and Jake Wilson

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
★★★½ (136 minutes) M

A REBOOT of the series kicked off in 2002 by Spider-Man with English actor Andrew Garfield in the Tobey Maguire role. Garfield is the best thing about the new movie: he makes an angular, startled, diffident Peter Parker who, in search of what happened to his parents, discovers some remarkable new abilities. The second half of the film - when the plot thickens and the action ramps up - feels more mechanical and the villainy and mayhem oddly confused. PH

General release

A ROYAL AFFAIR
★★★½ (138 minutes) M

AN INTELLIGENT, involving period drama from Nikolaj Arcel, set in the conservative, repressive Danish court in the middle of the 18th century. Mads Mikkelsen plays the royal doctor, inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment. He has an important, transforming role in political life through his rapport with the fragile, buffoonish young king (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard), and also, rather more covertly and dangerously, through his intense relationship with the queen. PH

Selected release

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
★★★★ (93 minutes) M

LYRICAL, bleak and punctuated by flights of fantasy, Beasts of the Southern Wild is an apocalyptic fable with a memorable presence at its centre. Directed and co-written by Benh Zeitlin, it is set in the Louisiana bayou, the home of seven-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis). It takes place both in her imagination and in a grim yet poetically evoked world in the aftermath of a catastrophic flood. An ambitious, haunting, and sometimes overreaching work. PH

Selected release

BERNIE
★★★★½ (104 minutes) M

SET on director Richard Linklater's home turf of east Texas, this zany "true crime" story seems as outwardly cheery as the title character (Jack Black), an assistant funeral director with strong religious convictions. With Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey blending seamlessly into the largely amateur ensemble cast, the film is so funny and unpretentious, it's possible to overlook the way it poses a perplexing moral riddle. JW

Selected release

THE BOURNE LEGACY
★★★ (135 minutes) M

A RETOOLING of the action-thriller franchise, introducing Jeremy Renner as a new operative with some of the same problems as Matt Damon's absent Bourne character - most of all, the threats to his life from those who first deployed him. Renner and co-star Rachel Weisz are very good, and there's plenty of action and atmosphere, but the story feels a little incomplete, as if waiting for a second instalment to flesh it out. PH

General release

BRAVE
★★ (93 minutes) PG

THE Pixar animation studio is unlikely to appease its feminist critics with this strange, compromised fairytale about a Scottish princess (Kelly Macdonald) who is more interested in archery than in being a lady, but who learns her lesson after she makes a disastrous magical bargain. Apparently, it's acceptable for girls to rebel, but only up to a point. Technically speaking, Brave is as impressive as anything Pixar has done, but none of the virtuosity makes the story any less dull. JW

General release

THE BULLET VANISHES
★★★ (104 minutes) MA

DESPITE a few scenes of over-the-top gunplay and some impossibly cruel villains, Lo Chi-Leung's period thriller is basically a traditional mystery story, with an eccentric Great Detective (Lau Ching-Wan) looking into a series of killings at an arms factory in 1930s Shanghai. This is a minor film but an elegant one - cinematographer Chi-Ying Chang goes all-out with moody lighting, production designer Silver Cheung supplies a bit of art-deco opulence, and there's a neat solution to the central puzzle. JW

Cinema Nova

BULLY
★½ (98 minutes) M

WHILE the subject of schoolyard bullying will resonate with anyone who survived childhood, there are numerous problems with this documentary, which cross-cuts between victims from middle America. Director Lee Hirsch never gets past the idea of bullies as bad apples, pinning the blame either on the kids or on their guardians. The viewer is invited to feel outraged and uplifted by turns, yet the problem is never defined with precision. JW

Selected release

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
★★★½ (95 minutes) MA

FIVE college friends head off for a weekend at a remote cabin: it sounds like the oldest horror story in the book, but it soon becomes clear that  director Drew Goddard and his co-writer Joss Whedon are bent on turning formula upside down. Skewering every horror cliche in sight with  glee, this ingenious parody steers clear of moralism but might well be taken as a rebuke to lazy screenwriters who can’t be bothered coming up with new plots. JW

Cinema Nova

THE CAMPAIGN
★★ (85 minutes) MA

WILL Ferrell plays a self-serving, sleazy North Carolina politician challenged for the first time by a seemingly meek opponent (Zach Galifianakis), who appears at first glance to be a pushover. Despite a promising cast, directed by Jay Roach, The Campaign is a witless, wasted opportunity with a few topical references but little in the way of political satire or bite. PH

Selected release

CHINESE TAKEAWAY
★★★ (93 minutes) M

DRY, witty, quietly surprising Argentine film about a grouchy, solitary man (Ricardo Darin of The Secret in Their Eyes) who reluctantly offers help to a young Chinese man who speaks no Spanish, then finds his life changes rather more than he expects. Writer-director Sebastian Borensztein tells a story of transformation in a restrained yet gently unpredictable fashion; the film's touch is light, but it has unexpected depths. PH

Selected release

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS
★★★½ (99 minutes) M

AFTER a 13-year hiatus, urbane fogey Whit Stillman (Metropolitan) returns with this frequently funny, obscurely despairing fairytale set in an imaginary land where retro fashion and formal discourse are the norm. The inimitable Greta Gerwig stars as the high-strung leader of a clique of college girls committed to manners, hygiene and self-improvement. Striving for an elegance that remains out of reach, the film still works much better than it should, if partly as a commentary on its own failure. JW

Cinema Nova

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
★★★★ (164 minutes) M

CHRISTOPHER Nolan's concluding film in the Batman trilogy is grand, grim and occasionally gruelling, but it's also a powerful, cleverly constructed work that brings together the elements of the previous movies in an engrossing fashion. There are some intriguing political dimensions to the challenge that a broken, reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is forced to contemplate, as he seeks to save Gotham City. After a bravura opening sequence, The Dark Knight Rises is in many ways a sober spectacle, until its explosive, quasi-apocalyptic final stages. PH

General release

THE EXPENDABLES 2
★½ (102 minutes) MA

JUST in time for Father's Day comes another serving of bloody mayhem courtesy of the band of super-tough mercenaries - played by Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and other superannuated action "stars" - who spend their time flying around the world listening to classic rock and slaughtering local henchmen. A step down from its nutty predecessor, this violent action-adventure is directed without much personality by British journeyman Simon West, but the script (co-written by Stallone) is peppered with characteristic dopey touches. JW

General release

HIT AND RUN
★★ (100 minutes) MA

THIS unremarkable chase comedy would surely have gone straight to DVD if not for the involvement of familiar TV personalities such as Parenthood's Dax Shepard, starring as a reformed crook whose past comes back to haunt him when he agrees to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to Los Angeles for a job interview. The structure is as wobbly as the tone, but as a study of compromise within a long-term relationship this is far more fair-minded than The Five-Year Engagement. JW

General release

HOLY MOTORS
★★★★½ (116 minutes) MA

FRENCH director Leos Carax's beautiful, exhilarating and reflective film is in part about the nature of cinema, but it's also a work about human possibilities. Denis Lavant, Carax's signature actor, plays a man whose occupation apparently involves a kind of performance. We follow him during the course of a day and a night as he moves from assignment to shape-shifting assignment. Kylie Minogue appears in a haunting, poignant cameo. PH

Selected release

HOPE SPRINGS
★★½ (100 minutes) M

MERYL Streep (wistful, fluttering) and Tommy Lee Jones (crusty, uncommunicative) play a couple married for more than 30 years who attend a week-long course with a couples therapist (Steve Carell, playing it straight). Director David Frankel presides over a modest work, with occasional comic moments. It's a tale of diminished expectations and tentative moves towards intimacy, although he can get heavy-handed with musical cues. PH

Selected release

HYSTERIA
★★½ (95 minutes) M

THERE are some wonderfully absurd moments in this tale of how medical intervention in the lives of Victorian women led to the invention of the vibrator. But as well as exploring this subversive tale, Hysteria, directed by Tanya Wexler, also sets out to be a romantic comedy with a message. And despite a spirited performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal as the idealised feminist heroine, there's something mechanical and rhetorical about how this aspect of the film plays out. PH

Selected release

I AM ELEVEN
★★★½ (94 minutes) G

MELBOURNE filmmaker Genevieve Bailey headed around the world for several years with a camera and a plan to film 11-year-old children in every country she visited. The result is a lively and delightful documentary in which we meet smart, funny and moving 11-year olds, who live anywhere from England to India to Sweden to Morocco and Australia. They all have distinctive voices, but also seem to speak across the film to each other and have common observations and hopes. PH

Selected release

ICE AGE 4: CONTINENTAL DRIFT
★★★ (92 minutes) PG

THE fourth instalment in this series is once again a buddy movie with a spectacular prehistoric disaster backdrop - the familiar mammoth, sloth and sabre-toothed tiger join forces to save their animal comrades. There’s also a pirate plot (with a villainous ape buccaneer voiced by Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones) used to underpin a moral about the importance of community - but there’s saving humour amid the spectacle as well. PH

General release

KATH AND KIMDERELLA
★★½ (86 minutes) PG

KATH and Kim are not only on the big screen, they're also on the world stage. At any rate, they are out of Fountain Lakes and into the European high life, taking a trip to the small kingdom of Papilloma. But although all the familiar elements are there, there is something missing: the verbal inventiveness and the dynamics of the relationships that defined the TV series so unerringly are lacking in the extended version. PH

General release

LOVE (ANGELS AND AIRWAVES)
★ (90 minutes) M

COMMISSIONED to accompany an album by the band Angels and Airwaves, this dreary science-fiction mood piece from newcomer William Eubank starts out like a feeble imitation of The Thin Red Line before developing into a feeble imitation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Using an impressive range of technical tricks to make up for the limited budget, Eubank may well have a future as a cinematographer, or in special effects - but a filmmaker he ain't. JW

Cinema Nova

MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE'S MOST WANTED
★★★ (93 minutes) PG

THE third instalment of the DreamWorks kids' animation finds the core quartet of zoo animals eager return to New York. Their journey takes them via Monte Carlo and an encounter with creatures from a down-at-heel circus, as well as a run-in with a French hunter. The plot feels constructed around gags and character routines, but there's a likeable verve to the visuals. PH

General release

MAGIC MIKE
★★★★ (110 minutes) MA

STEVEN Soderbergh's most accessible film in ages, this crowd-pleasing dramedy about a male stripper (Channing Tatum) offers a glimpse into a rarely portrayed subculture, a veiled statement about how the capitalist system erodes substance, and an excuse for the director to amuse himself with surprising visual choices. Tatum deploys his meathead jock persona with crafty ease and Matthew McConaughey is hilariously smarmy as the manager of the Florida club where the boys do their thing. JW

General release

MAKE HUMMUS NOT WAR
★½ (77 minutes) PG

COULD a chickpea recipe be the key to peace in the Middle East? The answer is clearly "no" but that hasn't stopped Australian documentary veteran Trevor Graham from proceeding with a foodie travelogue that doubles as a plea for cross-cultural understanding. At best the film makes a valid point, using hummus as a symbol of the ancient links between various cultures in the region; at worst, the cutesy digital graphics and folksy anecdotes seem calculated to trivialise the issues at stake. JW

Selected release

MARGARET
★★★★½ (144 minutes) MA

THE chaotic narrative of Kenneth Lonergan's sprawling but riveting drama mirrors the shook-up psyche of the protagonist (Anna Paquin), a New York teenager whose show-off behaviour plays a role in causing a fatal bus accident. After her initial shock, she sets out to do what she can to make things right, in her typically headstrong way. One of the films of the year, this runs for nearly two-and-a-half hours but still leaves you wanting more. JW

Cinema Nova

MONSIEUR LAZHAR
★★★ (94 minutes) M

NEWLY arrived from Algeria, an enigmatic substitute teacher (Mohamed Fellag) helps his pupils deal with the death of his predecessor, at the same time working through his own traumatic past. If you think this sounds like the plot of a contrived tearjerker, you're not entirely wrong. But this French-Canadian production avoids early all the obvious pitfalls, thanks to restrained direction, an elegant leading man, and a script that explicitly poses the question of how to be caring yet non-intrusive. JW

Selected release

MOONRISE KINGDOM
★★★½ (94 minutes) PG

WHIMSY king Wes Anderson returns with this dreamy 1960s romance set on an island off the coast of New England, where two young lovers are hunted down by a pack of authority figures played by Bruce Willis and Tilda Swinton, among others. It's been clear for a while that Anderson is bent on constructing a private mythology one film at a time; more than ever he comes across as an anxious American dandy, flaunting his connoisseurship while yearning for impossible innocence. JW

Selected release

NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS
★★★ (87 minutes) PG

DIRECTOR Jonathan Demme's third collaboration with Neil Young shows the singer-songwriter returning to and reminiscing about childhood haunts in rural Ontario, and giving a solo concert in Toronto. It's calculatedly low-key: the mood is leisurely but the music still feels urgent. On stage, Young presents spare but powerful performances of songs with an interval of more than 40 years between them. PH

Selected release

THE SAPPHIRES
★★★ (103 minutes) PG

THE Sapphires, Australia's first indigenous girl group, got their big break when invited to entertain US troops during the Vietnam War. The premise could fuel a politically charged epic, but Wayne Blair's adaptation of Tony Briggs' fictionalised play glosses over anything too painful. Still, you can't go far wrong with a musical comedy built on Jessica Mauboy's voice, Deborah Mailman's acting chops and Chris O'Dowd's gift for blarney. JW

General release

STEP UP 4: MIAMI HEAT
★★½ (99 minutes) PG

THE best scenes in this movie are those in which a guerilla dance group known as "the Mob" puts on extravagant flash-mob dance performances in the middle of Miami. The plotline - in which the Mob takes on a developer who plans to transform their neighbourhood - is pretty fatuous. And it's debatable, in the end, which side actually sells out. PH

Selected release

TED
★★★ (106 minutes) MA

MARK Wahlberg plays a downbeat thirtysomething who spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend from childhood - a teddy bear who miraculously acquired the gift of speech. Creator of Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane, co-wrote and directed this movie, and provides the voice of the crass slacker bear. Ted has its comic moments and there's some of the gratuitously offensive flair of Family Guy in the movie, but not quite enough to save it from predictable male arrested development. PH

General release

THE THREE STOOGES
★★★½  (90 minutes) PG

THOUGH I've rarely laughed at the original Three Stooges shorts, the idea of a blow-by-blow recreation has a certain moronic beauty. Peter and Bobby Farrelly's feature-length tribute is both utterly transparent and weirder than anything else in multiplexes at present. In itself, Stooge comedy is intensely ritualised: the puns, slaps and eye-pokes, the unified responses to challenges from outsiders. The new film is faithful to all this, as if to remind us that even Stooges are worthy of love. JW

General release

TOTAL RECALL
★★ (118 minues) M

THE original Total Recall (1990) exemplified Paul Verhoeven's ironic approach to pulp fiction, with an everyman hero who hands his brain over to a company that implants customers with fake memories. The sarcasm is less firmly underlined in this mundane remake starring Colin Farrell. Hack director Len Wiseman is far less concerned with the deeper meanings of a story about the quest to separate reality from illusion. JW

General release

VULGARIA
★★★½ (93 minutes) MA

NON-PRUDISH viewers should find much to enjoy in this friendly, unbuttoned, often hilarious skit on the Hong Kong film industry, made on a low budget and filled with self-referential humour. The hapless hero is a B-movie producer (Chapman To), who recounts a series of scandalous tales from behind the scenes of his current film. The dialogue is as offensive as possible, but there's no onscreen nudity and a great deal is left to the imagination. JW

Cinema Nova

WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE
★★ (150 minutes) MA

THIS big-budget Taiwanese battle epic is based on an actual incident from 1930, when an indigenous forest clan rose up in doomed revolt against the Japanese occupiers of their land. Yet it remains essentially a romantic daydream in the vein of Avatar: the camera swoops over lush green hills, swords clash and pan pipes warble, while blood spurts in suitably tasteful amounts. The martial code of the heroes can seem bracingly strange, but more frequently the film is dominated by sheer kitsch. JW

Selected release

THE WATCH
★★ (102 minutes) MA

THOUGH the plot centres on an alien invasion, this is yet another comedy about a gang of bored suburban guys desperate to escape their adult responsibilities. The above-average cast includes usual suspects Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill, plus Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd, who scores many of the biggest laughs. This is a male bonding film where, for once, the men seem to enjoy each others' company; too bad this pleasure seems dependent on the prospect of killing something. JW

General release

WUNDERKINDER
★★★ (96 minutes) M

THREE musically gifted children - two Jewish, one German - are caught up, to devastating effect, in the events of World War II, in this German-language movie from director Markus Rosenmuller. Music provides the strongest, most engaging moments of the film, and one particular performance, seen twice, takes on a particular emotional charge. But there's something a little too simplified and predictable about the marrying of historical events and individual trauma; it's the child's point of view, rather than adult explanation and context, that works best. PH

Selected release

YOUR SISTER'S SISTER
★★★½ (90 minutes) M

AMERICAN writer-director Lynn Shelton specialises in chamber pieces that have a casual, quasi-documentary air, and involve the strong creative participation of her cast. Here, she explores what happens when two half-sisters (Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt) and a friend of the latter (Mark Duplass) become embroiled in a shifting triangle of loyalties and uncertainties in a remote holiday cabin. Deceptively meandering, unexpectedly complex, teasingly incomplete. PH

Selected release

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