- The Lion King returns to Australia
- Jimmy Barnes releases duets album
- Four generations of August 15
- MIFF highlights - Aug 15
- Jim's cheat sheet - Aug 15
- Champion Fred Cook joins Denis Walter
- Neighbourhood Watch launches kids program
- New release movie reviews - 7 August
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New Release Movie reviews - September 4
YOUR SISTER'S SISTER *** (90 minutes) M
A trident of terrifically earthy performances grounds this sharp, twist-laden romantic comedy from American independent director Lynn Shelton (Humpday). In dire need of quiet time on the first anniversary of his brother's death, Jack (Mark Duplass) is sent to a remote cabin by his friend Iris (Emily Blunt). Expecting to find the place vacant, he encounters her sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who has just broken up with her girlfriend. They bond awkwardly, both emotionally and physically, before Iris turns up to make matters even more complicated. In lesser hands what transpires between the three could have descended into farce, but Shelton, who also wrote the screenplay, keeps focus on the shifting emotional heart of the story. It remains an interesting facet of 21st-century American relationship comedies that, however broad or refined, they all end up consciously punching the values of friendship and family.
MONSIEUR LAZHAR (95 minutes; subtitled) M
After the puzzling on-site suicide of a much-loved primary school teacher, Algerian refugee Bashir Lazhar (Mohamed Said Fellag) is hastily hired to fill the position. With sketchy qualifications, a broken-heart full of baggage and a limited understanding on laws regarding working with children, he has a bumpy time confronting a classroom crammed with kids still recovering from their loss. Lazhar's colleagues also present him with a raft of thorny issues, especially when it comes to corporal punishment. A best foreign film contender at this year's Oscars, writer/director Philippe Falardeau bores into the insecurities of his main character to weave a touching, school-hall drama. Thankfully, the impressive cast of child actors actually behave like children, not like miniature adults. (See our list of best substitute teacher films).
HIT & RUN *** (100 minutes) MA
Fast cars, firearms and a likeable bad guy hungry for revenge fuel this pacy, feather-weight, throwaway chase movie. Charles (Dax Shepard from TV's Parenthood) is a criminal enjoying a happy rural life in witness protection who inexplicably violates the conditions of his contract when he decides to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell, aka Veronica Mars and still struggling to get her film career to fire) to Los Angeles to make a job interview. Eager to intercept them are a bumbling US marshall (a funny Tom Arnold) and the guy Charles squealed on (Bradley Cooper). The wafer-thin story, written by Shepard (who also wrote for Parenthood), is little more than an excuse for a series of nifty chase sequences and comic interludes, all mounted with the kind of fizzy enthusiasm essential for an inconsequential, enjoyable road movie lark to work.
KATH & KIMDERELLA DOG (86 minutes) PG
This isn't a comedy; it's a horror. With their dumpy mate Sharon (Magda Szubanski) in tow, Kath (Jane Turner) and whingeing daughter Kim (Gina Riley) leave the familiar streets of Fountain Lakes for a holiday in Italy where they encounter a financially strapped despot (Rob Sitch) and his scheming acolyte (Richard E Grant). Thus ensues a succession of semi-farcical set-pieces that laughlessly riff on fairy-tale cliches and romantic subterfuge, with Kath's husband Kel (Glenn Robbins) eventually being dragged into the proceedings when he sees them on TV. Almost every fear anyone could have about what could go wrong with a film version of the brilliant Kath & Kim TV series is realised here. Kath & Kimderella unspools like a Carry On movie, minus the wit. With truly dreadful production values, it's a clunky, ugly-looking, unfunny film that feels carelessly slapped together. While every member of the Kath & Kim troupe are rightly acknowledged as immensely talented, occasionally brilliant comedy talents, the film captures the cringe-worthy spectacle of their comic instincts deserting them. And why the story had to leave Fountain Lakes at all is baffling. It's as though the creators forensically identified everything that made the TV series - one of the best character comedies from anywhere in the past 20 years - and had then surgically removed. Brand loyalty is likely to see Kath & Kimderella enjoy an initial pulse of popularity before word-of-mouth takes hold. The 2005 tele-film Da Kath & Kim Code was much better.
WUNDERKINDER (96 minutes; subtitled) M
Seeing the moral terror of war from the perspective of children has rarely been done as well as it is in Marcus Rosenmuller's thoughtful, moving wartime drama. With the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin in place, three musically gifted children from Ukraine embark on a tour of Russia. The fragile friendship between the two Jewish children Larissa (Imogen Burrell) and Abrascha (Mathias Eysen), and the lonely Hanna (Mathilda Adamik) takes on a new dimension when the pact breaks and the Nazis invade. With all Jews marked for special attention, SS officer Becker (a chilling performance by John Friedmann) takes a special interest in the children. His quiet, cultured manner is unnerving and leads to an expression of Nazi cruelty that puts one in mind of Sophie's Choice.