From Annette to Shang-Chi: eight new films to watch as Australian cinemas reopen

As locked-down regions reopen this month, here’s our guide to the best bet for your next night out

A couple of months in lockdown does funny things to the brain. Suddenly, you long to hear the collective munch of popcorn again – or even the crinkling of a chip packet interrupting a pivotal movie scene. Some want to shush other cinemagoers for whispering too loudly; others want to smile vacantly into space as the perfectly haloed lights of a projector wash over them.

As cinemas reopen across formerly locked-down parts of Australia in the coming month, here are some of the most notable new and delayed releases that demand big-screen viewing.

1. Annette

Before Annette premiered at this year’s Cannes film festival, one of its pivotal scenes had already set social media ablaze. It contained, according to its lead, Marion Cotillard, in an early interview, the first – and possibly last – musical number delivered while simulating cunnilingus.

‘A steely-eyed Adam Driver’ in a scene from Annette
‘A steely-eyed Adam Driver’ in a scene from Annette Photograph: BFA/Alamy

As it turned out, this was the least jaw-dropping (sorry) thing about Annette. The French provocateur Leos Carax’s new movie musical also includes a very wrinkled baby with preternatural singing abilities (jaw-droppingly creepy), a glitzy soundtrack courtesy of the art pop band Sparks (jaw-droppingly bonkers), and a steely-eyed Adam Driver (jaw-droppingly handsome).

Cotillard and Driver play star-crossed lovers and artists – she is an opera star, he is a rough-and-tumble comedian. Together, in this 140-minute saga that took home best director from Cannes, they belt their way through death and disaster. If watching A Star Is Born on acid sounds more like your idea of fun than a guaranteed panic attack, then please join me in welcoming to the stage: Annette.

  • Annette is in cinemas now

2. Nitram

Justin Kurzel’s latest was always going to prove controversial; the Australian director built his name on portraits of angsty, tortured, violent men, from Ned Kelly to the Snowtown serial killers. His new film, about the gunman behind the 1996 Port Arthur massacre – the worst single-shooter killing at the time – immediately provoked condemnation from Tasmanian locals when its production was announced last year.

Given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that Nitram is constructed “in a highly self-conscious manner, aware that every sequence will be mined for potential implications”, as Guardian Australia’s film critic puts it in a five-star review. There are no clear answers, much less any form of redemption: only a heady, simmering unease that will cling to you long after the credits roll.

  • Nitram is in cinemas now

3. Black Widow; Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Two Marvel entries in cinemas at the same time; call it Martin Scorsese’s worst nightmare. For the superhero-agnostic, fear not: this is a double bill that requires little prior knowledge of the exponentially deepening wormhole that is the Marvel multiverse.

Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh as sisters in Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh as sisters in Black Widow Photograph: Marvel Studios/Disney/Jay Maidment/Allstar

Black Widow, which is helmed by the Australian director Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore), pairs together Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh as the sisters Romanoff, a venomous duo with fighting abilities honed through years of covert KGB operations. Expect red flags – literally – aplenty.

Meanwhile, Shang-Chi weds the melodrama of Chinese wuxia films with more classically Avenger antics in the debut outing of Marvel’s first big-screen Asian superhero, played by Simu Liu. The keen-eyed among us will have to suspend our disbelief a little harder than usual – even more fantastical than its martial arts sequences is the appearance of a Sydney bus in its so-called San Francisco setting. Filmed predominantly in Sydney, Shang-Chi was one of many productions part of last year’s great influx which saw Australia – briefly – become Hollywood’s home away from home.

  • Both Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are in cinemas now

4. Shiva Baby

Critics love to compare films to Uncut Gems – Adam Sandler’s turn as a diamond dealer in a frenetic race to repay his debt to shady lenders – but this might be its only true spiritual successor. It’s a heart attack masquerading as a feature, except there are no muscly goons here – only the probing interrogations and mannered barbs of distant family friends when Danielle (the comedian Rachel Sennott) is guilted into attending a shiva with her parents.

As old flames and current sugar daddies collide, and the score grows increasingly discordant, Shiva Baby mirrors forced family gatherings for what they truly are: a horror film.

  • Shiva Baby is in cinemas now

5. Pig

There was a period where Nic Cage was derided for his shlocky choices – cheap wigs and dollar-store moustaches, ill-advised satires, direct-to-video disasters – but the Cage-aissance has been upon us for some time now. In recent years the much-maligned actor has leant into his campiest traits with startling results, finding himself at home in movies as nutty as his theatrical chops.

Nicolas Cage in Pig
‘Cage plays a former chef ... desperate to find his porcine companion at any cost’ in Pig Photograph: David Reamer/Melbourne international film festival

Pig is the latest of these, opening with a deceptively simple premise: what if man’s best friend … was a pig? And what if that pig … was violently kidnapped by assailants for her truffle-foraging abilities? Cage plays a former chef and current forest recluse desperate to find his porcine companion at any cost, embarking on an odyssey into Portland’s culinary underworld that’s far more subtle than its revenge thriller set-up might suggest.

  • Pig is in cinemas now

6. Lamb

Continuing Old McDonald’s cinematic dabblings, here comes another film named after a single-word farm animal, though this one is markedly chillier than its cuddly title. A glacial mix of Scandi noir and lightly fantastical horror, this Cannes winner situates itself in rural Iceland, where a couple have adopted a half-lamb, half-human baby with a dead-eyed gaze. Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is fantastic as a new mother slowly undone by her strange hybrid child and stranger happenings amid the permanently misty mountains. To paraphrase that old saying: in Iceland, no one can hear you scream.

  • Lamb is in cinemas 14 October

7. Malignant

For any other film, the phrase “franchise-ready” might sound like a sledge, connoting commercialism over quality, but here it’s merely a given.

The latest from Australian scream king James Wan, creator of frighteningly profitable horror franchises Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, Malignant takes our heightened health-related fears of the past 18 months and bottles them into one medical nightmare. The result: a graphic piece of body horror that pays homage to the dazzlingly saturated set pieces of giallo.

  • Malignant is in cinemas 21 October

8. The Last Duel

Ben Affleck in The Last Duel
‘An astonishingly blond Ben Affleck’ in The Last Duel Photograph: PR

It seems entirely fitting to bookend this list with two Adam Driver entries – the only thing that screams Hollywood more than his famously luscious locks is his famously luscious locks alongside an astonishingly blond Ben Affleck and a goateed Matt Damon. Yes, there is something here about a 14th century legend and a battle of epic proportions, but really, this movie is about the hair – and a reminder that even multimillion-dollar productions directed by Ridley Scott cannot resist the pull of a supermarket dye job. And that’s the magic of cinema.

Jodie Comer also stars as a fancy French noble. Her hair is unfortunately normal.

  • The Last Duel is in cinemas 21 October


Michael Sun

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
From Relic to The Invisible Man: the best Australian films of 2020
Guardian Australia’s film critic picks the crop from the movies that made it to market in a year that has been anything but ordinary

Luke Buckmaster

17, Dec, 2020 @4:30 PM

Article image
Dev Patel, Eddie Izzard and the director of The Babadook: 10 Australian films to watch in 2018
From Hotel Mumbai, which stars Patel, to Jennifer Kent’s next film, 2018 is looking good for Australian cinema

Luke Buckmaster

15, Jan, 2018 @5:00 PM

Article image
Annette review – Adam Driver magnificent in wild Sparks musical
Driver and Marion Cotillard brim with nervous energy in this bizarre musical collaboration between Leos Carax and the Sparks brothers, which kicks off this year’s film festival

Peter Bradshaw

06, Jul, 2021 @7:45 PM

Article image
From Mountain's majesty to Lion's roar: the best Australian films of 2017
Film-makers released a bunch of squeamishly effective scary movies in a year that was revitalised by first-timers

Luke Buckmaster

20, Dec, 2017 @5:00 PM

Article image
A Sunburnt Christmas review – a very Australian bad-Santa comedy for a jolly holiday season
Bondi Hipster Christiaan Van Vuuren’s outback romp about a nogoodnik St Nick is spirited and sweet in a backhanded way

Luke Buckmaster

14, Dec, 2020 @4:30 PM

Article image
No cape required: your guide to the best alternative films this summer
While the multiplex might be overrun with superheroes, dinosaurs and space cowboys, the season also offers up a set of films untouched by sequelitis

Benjamin Lee

30, May, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
From Hollywood to teaching high school: how a film-maker dealt with failure
After support for his projects repeatedly fell through, Book Week director Heath Davis had to come back from a ‘dark place’

Simon Miraudo

29, Oct, 2018 @5:00 PM

Article image
Brothers' Nest review – a comedy-horror so black that it's not funny
Eleven years after Kenny, Shane and Clayton Jacobson team up again for another comedy classic – this one stranger, darker and ickier

Luke Buckmaster

21, Jun, 2018 @1:52 AM

Article image
The 10 best Australian films of 2018: zombies and swingers and ghosts, oh my!
Bold and distinctive voices put forward uncompromising visions spanning many genres

Luke Buckmaster

12, Dec, 2018 @5:00 PM

Article image
That's Not Me review – smart, low-budget dramedy putting creators on path to stardom
An outstanding performance from emerging actor Alice Foulcher takes this lean and plucky film about stymied ambition to another level

Luke Buckmaster

06, Sep, 2017 @4:11 AM