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New releases


(93 min) 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


(93 min) 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


(77 min) 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


(87 min) 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


(150 min) 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



(102 min) 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

Now showing


(136 min) 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's an angular, startled, diffident Peter Parker who, in search of what happened to his parents, discovers remarkable new abilities. PH

General release


(138 min) M  ★★★☆

AN INTELLIGENT period drama from Nikolaj Arcel, set in the conservative, repressive Danish court of the mid-18th century. Mads Mikkelsen plays the royal doctor inspired by the Enlightenment. He has a transforming role in political life via his rapport with the fragile king (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard) and also, more dangerously, his intense relationship with the queen. PH

Selected release


(105 min) R  ★★★

THIS assured, if unpleasant,second feature from South Africa's Oliver Hermanus centres on a married sawmill owner (Deon Lotz), whose carefully managed existence, which includes a gay double life, is disrupted by passion for a young man (Charlie Keegan). Implicitly linking prejudice and hypocrisy, the film is ultimately simple and schematic but if Hermanus can keep his steady gaze, interesting work is promised. JW

Selected release


(104 min) 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


(135 min) M  ★★★

RETOOLING of the action-thriller franchise introducing Jeremy Renner as a new operative with some of the problems of Matt Damon's absent Bourne character - notably the threat from those who deployed him. Renner and co-star Rachel Weisz are very good; there's plenty of action and atmosphere; but the story feels as if it's waiting for a second instalment. PH

General release


(93 min) PG  ★★

PIXAR is unlikely to appease its feminist critics with this strange, compromised animated fairytale about a Scottish princess (Kelly Macdonald) who is more interested in archery than in being a woman but who learns her lesson after she makes a magical bargain. JW

General release


(104 min) 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


(98 min) 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


(95 min) MA  ★★★☆

FIVE college friends head for a weekend at a remote cabin: it sounds like the oldest horror story in the book but it's soon clear director Drew Goddard and his co-writer, Joss Whedon, are bent on upturning the formula. Skewering every horror cliche in sight, this ingenious parody steers clear of moralism but might well be taken as a rebuke to lazy screenwriters. JW

Cinema Nova


(85 min) 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


(93 min) 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 more than he expects. Writer-director Sebastian Borensztein tells a story of transformation in a restrained yet gently unpredictable fashion. PH

Selected release


(99 min) 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


(164 min) M  ★★★★

CHRISTOPHER Nolan's concluding film in the Batman trilogy is grand, grim and occasionally gruelling but is also a powerful, cleverly constructed work that brings together elements of the previous movies in an engrossing fashion. There are some intriguing political dimensions a reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has to face as he seeks to save Gotham City. PH

General release


(102 min) MA  ★☆

ANOTHER serving of bloody mayhem from super-tough mercenaries (Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren star) who fly around the world listening to classic rock and slaughtering. It's directed with little personality by British journeyman Simon West, but the script (co-written by Stallone) is peppered with characteristic dopey touches. JW

General release


(100 MIN) MA  ★★

THIS unremarkable chase comedy would surely have gone straight to DVD were it not for the involvement of familiar TV personalities, such as Parenthood's Dax Shepard, who stars as a reformed crook whose past haunts him when he agrees to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to 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


(116 min) 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 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


(100 min) 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.PH

Selected release


(95 min) 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 Hysteria, directed by Tanya Wexler, also sets out to be a romantic comedy with a message. Despite a spirited performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal as the feminist heroine, there's something mechanical and rhetorical about how this aspect of the film plays out. PH

Selected release


(94 min) 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 children from England, India, Sweden, Morocco and Australia, among other countries. PH

Selected release


(92 min) PG  ★★★

THE fourth instalment in this series is once again a buddy movie with a spectacular prehistoric-disaster backdrop. 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. PH

General release


(86 min) 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 in the kingdom of Papilloma. Although all the familiar elements are there, there is something missing: the verbal inventiveness and dynamics of the relationships that defined the TV series so unerringly are lacking in the extended version. PH

General release


(84 min) 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. JW

Cinema Nova


(110 min) 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. JW

General release


(144 min) MA  ★★★★☆

THE chaotic narrative of Kenneth Lonergan's riveting drama mirrors the shaken-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 make things right. JW

Cinema Nova


(94 min) 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 a contrived tear-jerker, you're not entirely wrong. But it avoids 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


(94 min) PG  ★★★☆

WHIMSY king Wes Anderson returns with this 1960s romance set on an island off the coast of New England, where two young lovers are hunted down by authority figures (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


(99 min) M  ★★

TOMMY Wiseau's unfairly trashed romantic drama might have terrible acting, dialogue and direction, but pay attention - the story actually holds together. Not as bad a film as legend makes out. Cries to be remade. JS

Cinema Nova


(103 min) 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 and Chris O'Dowd's blarney. JW

General release


(99 min) PG  ★★☆

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

Selected release


(106 min) MA  ★★★

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

General release


(90 min) PG  ★★★☆

I'VE rarely laughed at the original Three Stooges shorts but the idea of a blow-by-blow re-creation has a certain moronic beauty. Peter and Bobby Farrelly's tribute is utterly transparent and weirder than anything else in multiplexes at present. Stooges comedy is intensely ritualised: the puns, slaps and eye pokes, and the unified responses to challenges from outsiders. JW

General release


(118 min) 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


(93 min) 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). 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


(96 min) 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


(90 min) 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

The story Now showing first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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