This is a very strong week at the cinema. New releases include Canadian drama Monsieur Lazhar, nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 2011 Academy Awards and winner of the Audience Award at the 2012 Sydney Film Festival and Your Sister's Sister, the hilarious, heartwarming and unconventional new romantic comedy from Lynn Shelton, featuring fantastic performances from Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt. Also making an exclusive visit to Dendy Newtown is Killer Joe, William Friedkin's controversial and macabre tapestry of southern redneck debauchery, offering up a serving of brutality and hilarity in near-equal measure and another stunning performance from Mr. McConaughey. Also hitting cinemas are Kath and Kimderella (which looks diabolically awful), Hit and Run, and for Melbourne only, Damsel's in Distress. It has been announced that the latter will hit Sydney screens from September 13.
Monsieur Lazhar - In Montreal, an elementary school teacher dies abruptly. Having learned of the incident in the newspaper, Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag), a 55-year-old Algerian immigrant, goes to the school to offer his services as a substitute teacher. Quickly hired to replace the deceased, he finds himself in an establishment in crisis, while going through his own personal tragedy. The cultural gap between Bachir and his class is made immediately apparent when he gives them a dictation exercise that is beyond their reach. Little by little, Bachir learns to better know this group of shaken but endearing kids, among whom are Alice and Simon, two charismatic pupils particularly affected by their teacher's death. While the class goes through the healing process, nobody in the school is aware of Bachir's painful past; nor do they suspect that he is at risk of being deported at any moment. A near-perfect film. A must watch.
Your Sister's Sister - A year after his brother Tom's death, Jack (Mark Duplass) is still struggling emotionally. When he makes a scene at a memorial party, Tom's best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) offers up her family cabin on an island in the Pacific Northwest so Jack can seek catharsis in solitude. Once there, however, he runs into Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt) who is reeling from the abrupt end of a seven-year relationship and finds solace in Tom's unexpected presence. A blurry evening of drinking concludes with an awkward sexual incident, made worse by Iris' sudden presence at the cabin the next morning. A twisted tale of ever-complicated relationships is set in motion with raw, hilarious and emotional performances from the cast. The indie comedy of the year so far.
Killer Joe - When 22 year-old drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) has his stash of drugs stolen from him by his mother, he has to come up with six-thousand dollars quick, or he's dead. Desperate, he goes to the trailer-park to see his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), and he lays out the plan. Chris's mother has a life insurance policy that would clear up his debt and make them all rich. The problem is that Chris' mother is very much alive. Enter Detective "Killer" Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a hired hit man with the manners of a Southern gentleman, who will do the job - for an upfront fee, that Chris and Ansel can't pay. Just as Joe is about to leave, he spots Dottie (Juno Temple), Chris' innocent younger sister. Joe makes Chris an offer, he'll keep Dottie as sexual collateral until the money is collected and his fee can be paid. A greasy bucket of scum...in a good way.
Hit and Run - a comedy about a young couple (Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard) that risks it all when they leave their small town life and embark on a road trip that may lead them towards the opportunity of a lifetime. Their fast-paced road trip grows awkwardly complicated and hilarious when they are chased by a friend from the past (Bradley Cooper), a federal marshal (Tom Arnold) and a band of misfits.
Damsels in Distress - Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress is a comedy about a trio of beautiful girls as they set out to revolutionize life at a grungy American university - the dynamic leader Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), principled Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and sexy Heather (Carrie MacLemore). They welcome transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group which seeks to help severely depressed students with a program of good hygiene and musical dance numbers. The girls become romantically entangled with a series of men-including smooth Charlie (Adam Brody), dreamboat Xavier (Hugo Becker) and the mad frat pack of Frank (Ryan Metcalf) and Thor (Billy Magnussen) - who threaten the girls' friendship and sanity.
Weekly Recommendation: Run to see Monsieur Lazhar, Your Sister's Sister (both @ Palace Norton St. and Verona) and Killer Joe (Dendy Newtown).