New movies this week

Hits & misses at inner west cinemas

Opening this week 16.03


Surprisingly, it was only in 1958 that the US Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in that country. Director Jeff Nichols takes a restrained approach to the material. Some would call that brave, and it will be interesting to see how this film fares at the box office up against Hidden Figures, another movie with a strong anti-discrimination theme. That one took great liberties, bending timelines and facts to suit a neat tub-thumbing message. But in Loving there are no fictionalized surging melodramas, big Oscar-made speeches, impossibly noble heroes and only a couple of nasty white racists to be stomped on by the script.  Even the ultimate court battle is a low-key affair that the couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) whose marriage in Virginia changed the law, didn’t attend. Both are shown as they were in real-life – taciturn, uncomplicated people who only wanted to live quietly in each others arms. Theirs is a beautiful story, and its an important one – but without the Hollywood story-telling flourishes we’ve become used to, it seems oddly muted. PG from Mar 16. ★★1/2

The Eagle Huntress

Mongolian teenage girls face very different problems than our own… like not being allowed to hunt with eagles. Traditionally that’s a task only done by men, but 13-year-old Aisholpan proves she can, and more in Otto Bell’s moving doco. It’s a stunningly visual film, as heart warming as it is epically spectacular. There has been criticism that some of it was staged, and the real-life events twisted to fit First World prejudices about what we label “primitive” patriarchial cultures – contriving to present us with a real-life Katniss Everdeen. There is some evidence that’s true, but does it matter when the result is such stirring cinema? What a girl! G from Mar 16. ★★★★

The Life and Death of Otto Bloom

At the start of first-time director Cris Jones’ intriguingly odd film, Otto Bloom (Xavier Samuel) is called many things: freak, fraud, miracle, madman, saviour, and sham. That’s all from a selection of news headlines, and then from the mouths of a bunch of talking heads and those that knew him best, including his doctor (Rachel Ward) and some-time lover. Otto was decidedly odd too, a young charismatic man who became world-famous because he experiences time backwards, remembering only the future, not the past – yet unlike The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, aging in the usual way. This is “explained” more or less by those expert narrators who keep popping up, at least to the point we can be kept amused by his bizarre life story and the ingenious way its told. Though nagging realities stop us from ever really getting into this. How can he experience normal relationships or even hold a conversation? How does he eat and (ahem, as the SMH reviewer was intuitive enough to ask) know when to go to the toilet? Big questions indeed. M from Mar 16 at Dendy Newtown ★★★

Also showing

Kong: Skull Island

There are no detours for our bloody big ape to New York this time – damn, for we’d love to see Kong climb Trump tower and bring it crashing down. Instead we stay put on his mysterious island of origin this time, where our explorers (Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, Samuel L Jackson) find plenty of critters nastier and more destructive than him. This chimp is way smarter than his predecessors too, he doesn’t get all chunky at the sight of a pretty blonde (Brie Larson).  Big dumb fun wrapped in a sound pro-environmental message. M from Mar 9. ★★★★ 1/2

The Salesman

Take that Trump! Ok, so it’s unfair to imply a political motive to the Academy’s nod to an Iranian filmmaker just because so many of those on stage were so anxious to score points. Truth is Asghar Farhadi‘s (A Separation) typically gut-wrenching domestic pot-boiler is also a slow-burn, exquisitely suspenseful thriller with a third act that (literally) is a heart stopper. A well deserved Oscar. M from Mar 9. ★★★★

David Stratton: A Cinematic Life

Poor David. He fought for an end to film censorship in Oz only to then have to review ultra-violent films he despised like Turkey Shoot. And who can forget the shock of his refusal to even rate Romper Stomper, and that incident’s explosive aftermath? Sally Aitkin’s generous doco about the nicest man in the business reveals all, and is a must for all cinema-lovers. M from Mar 9. ★★★★

Before I Fall

In this YA update of Groundhog Day, Sam (Zoey Deutsh), spends her last day on Earth ignoring her loving family, giggling inanely with her mates, taunting the school loner and then binge drinking at a keg party with her insipid, truly horrible friends. For that she’s condemned to re-live those hours in a perpetual loop, for she dies at precisely 12.38am only, to wake up on the same day forever. So can she learn not to be mean to lesbians, her mum and little sister? Hope so before the sequel! M from Mar 2. ★★1/2

A Few Less Men

The same British nobs (Xavier Samuel, Dacre Montgomery, Kevin Bishop) of A Few Best Men return to transport the corpse of their dead mate, the one who fell off a cliff last time, across Australia in a penis shaped coffin (don’t ask). Inexplicably he has a huge, clearly prosthetic erection, and if that makes you laugh uncontrollably, much of the rest will too. Along the way various respected Australian character actors (Lynette Curran, Shane Jacobson) debase themselves – hopefully in return for lots of money.  MA15+ from Mar 9.

Reviews: Russell Edwards