Call Me By Your Name
It’s 1983. Precocious, bright teenager Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is wiling away a summer with his parents in the Italian countryside when his father’s protégé Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives. Oliver’s a decade older, beautiful, confident and magnetic, and the two form a bond, which becomes a romance. "Call me by your name and I will call you by mine,” Oliver says to Elio as they become inseparable in a summer-long microclimate of desire.

This love story was a critical darling at MIFF last year, has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and was named by many as one of the best films of the year. Everyone is right about it, and I can’t understate it: Call Me By Your Name is a masterpiece: a heart-rending, amorous embrace of a film. It’s visually arresting, with radiant, sunny cinematography and no shortage of beautiful people, but it’s as much about minds as it is about bodies, and discusses romance and desire with raw and focused passion. Chalamet’s boyish exuberance glimmers. Hammer’s easy charm glows with warmth. It’s an emotional powerhouse against which the most stoic cinema-goer doesn’t stand a chance: as the credits roll, you’ll hear audible cathartic cries evaporate from the theatre as you’re cruelly ejected back into real life. A love story of rare beauty.

Call Me By Your Name is playing at Palace Nova Cinemas East End and Prospect. Watch the trailer and read our chat with director Luca Guadagnino here

The Florida Project
On the urban fringe of Orlando, Florida, somewhere near Disneyland, lies a bunch of run-down hotels with names like Magic Castle and Futureland. These are not destinations. They’re transient places on the side of a highway, full of people who aren’t quite part of society, their names betraying lost promises and the flimsy leftovers of Disney’s capitalist paradise. The Florida Project is a realist look into the lives of those stuck in this impoverished world, held together by a lick of gaudy paint and a handful of food stamps, ever on the verge of collapse. We see most of it through the eyes of a gaggle of barely-supervised children as they run rampant through the neighbourhood, as well as single mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and hotel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Halley is unstable and perpetually unemployed. Bobby’s efforts to run the hotel are inadvertently stifled by becoming a father figure to just about everyone.

This is Trump’s America: a landscape of roads to nowhere, dotted with abandoned dream homes and burgeoning slums. Sounds grim. But The Florida Project is a bright and hopeful film. The kids are the real stars here. They’re easily charming and perfectly natural in their largely improvised roles, getting into endless trouble and making fun out of nothing. As a document of the new American underclass, it follows in the steps of director Sean Baker’s last film Tangerine (2015). And like that film it’s not condescending or judgmental or syrupy (it’s certainly not as mawkish as the trailer makes it look). It’s a simple, restrained and effective two hours in the company of people with no control over their circumstances doing the best they can.

The Florida Project is playing at Palace Nova Cinemas East End. Watch the trailer.

Swinging Safari
Set in sun-drenched coastal Australian suburb, somewhere in our collective memories of the 1970s, the new film from Stephan Elliot (director of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Welcome to Woop Woop) is an extremely broad comedy. It’s led by an ensemble cast including Guy Pearce, Asher Keddie and an unrecognisable Kylie Minogue, playing the lax parents their generation grew up with. They ham it up to the nth degree, and everyone involved clearly had a good time. It’s a humourless person who can’t laugh at this extreme show of poor taste and crassness, served in the spirit of nostalgia.

Most of the laughs are drawn from the decade’s slack parenting styles, from a total lack of supervision to extremely poor role-modelling. But there are too many missed opportunities and dead ends for it to feel like a satisfying whole. Dramatic moments are poked and prodded, but never explored fully. Elliott seems itching to get back to a set-piece about violent attacks on a family dog, or the carnage of bonfire night. And the parade of seventies references too often feels like re-heated, third-hand memories. That said: it’s genuinely very funny. If men with handlebar moustaches spilling fondue on the shag carpet at a suburban key party makes you laugh, you’re going to lose your shit at Swinging Safari.

Swinging Safari is playing at Palace Nova Cinemas East End and Prospect. Watch the trailer.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Grieving mother Mildred (Frances McDormand) doesn’t think the police have done enough to catch the man who murdered her daughter. So she buys advertising space on a series of billboards outside her little Midwest town, calling out local law enforcement for their inaction. Tensions spark and recriminations reverberate throughout the town. Violence (and comedy) ensues.

Director Martin McDonagh makes very funny black comedies like The Guard, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. And this is very, very funny, and a little more mature than his priors. It’s packed full of ideas, and can be a bit uneven, veering pretty wildly from lols to poignant moments to shocking violence, often in the same scene. The ensemble cast shines. The lead role was written for Frances McDormand, and it shows: she inhabits the blunt wit and anger of the scorned mother perfectly. Woody Harrelson is spot on as the fatherly sheriff; Sam Rockwell is a perfectly nasty idiot; and the jittery and hilarious Caleb Landry Jones (Twin Peaks) adds his own comic idiosyncracies to every scene he’s in. Abbie Cornish is there too, speaking in her own Australian accent (we think – at times it veers southern), which is a disconcerting thing to hear in the Midwest, and Peter Dinklage is as good as ever, even though he’s not given enough to do. But when the dust settles we’re left with a pretty affecting discussion of the pitfalls of revenge.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is playing at Palace Nova Cinemas East End and Prospect. Watch the trailer:.