Wilson
Woody Harrelson is perfectly cast as an embittered, lonely fuck-up in this caustically funny character study. Our hero’s utterly empty life – which mainly consists of accosting strangers in the street and feeding them his own homespun philosophy – is upturned when he reconnects with his ex-wife (Laura Dern) and discovers that he has a teenage daughter that she gave up for adoption. He’s determined to find her and cobble together the ad-hoc, messy family he thinks he deserves. Wilson is an excellent character: a socially inept, misanthropic and filterless know-all who somehow remains sympathetic, even when he’s sidling up to a man in a urinal to strike up an unwanted conversation. This film is written by Daniel Clowes (Ghost World), based on his 2010 graphic novel.

Wilson is playing at Palace Brighton Bay and Cinema Nova.


20th Century Women
Don’t let the title fool you: this is a film about a man. Director Mike Mills has loaded up on a stellar female cast including Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig, and used them to tell a story about three misfit women working out how best to turn a teenage boy (Lucas Jade Zumann) into a good man. California, 1979: As 16-year-old Jamie comes of age, 50-something bohemian mother Dorothea (Bening) feels the generation gap more than ever, and enlists eccentric lodger Abbie (Gerwig) and Jamie’s very, very close friend Julie (Fanning) to be there for him. Despite Mills never quite being able to pull himself away from the boy for long enough to talk about, well, 20th century women, this is a light, breezy two hours. Well-drawn characters, wittily written and beautifully shot, bask in ’70s alternative nostalgia, adolescent angst and retro feminist theory.

20th Century Women is playing at Cinema Nova, Sun Theatre, Palace and all major cinemas.


Hounds of Love
This is the latest in a long line of utterly brutal Australian crime dramas, and the second Australian film in as many months about kidnap, prolonged incarceration and assault of a young woman (see also Berlin Syndrome, if you can stomach it). Luckily Hounds of Love succeeds where Berlin Syndrome failed, by letting the characters and atmosphere lead the charge. First-time director Ben Young paints us a picture of a sweltering summer in the oppressive suburbs of 1980s Perth, where teenage Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) is sneaking out for the night. She’s offered a ride by dodgy-from-the-start couple John and Evelyn (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth), who kidnap her and keep her for purposes I’d rather not go into. The plot, involving escape attempts, domestic arguments and flashes of violence, is perfunctory, but Emma Booth is captivating as a woman trapped in an abusive, controlling relationship, and Stephen Curry is chilling. However well crafted it is, be warned it’s still a confronting watch.

Hounds of Love is playing at Cinema Nova and Lido.


Graduation
In a small, ugly Romanian town, all Romeo (Adrian Titieni) wants is for his teenage daughter Eliza to pass her exams and escape to a good university overseas. But then Eliza, played by Maria Drăguș, is assaulted on the street and is too traumatised to complete her exams. It sends her father into murky, corrupt deals to ensure her academic success, just another in the series of ugly compromises that typify his life: his sham marriage, an affair, and his very presence in this country he considers a mess. The town is as drab as it is dangerous. Paranoia spirals out of Romeo’s control, and Eliza gets a tough introduction to the amorality of adult life. Acclaimed Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (he won the Palme d’Or in 2007) spins a matter-of-fact, understated tale that slowly builds into something unnerving. You’re just waiting for the web of corruption and lies to implode – but in a complex world, it never quite does.

Graduation opens June 8 at Cinema Nova.


Do the Right Thing
It’s Kino Cinemas’ 30th birthday, and to celebrate it’s screening some of its greatest hits including this, Spike Lee’s finest. On a swelteringly hot day, a massive ensemble cast featuring Samuel L Jackson, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and John Turturro mingle around a street corner in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood. You know you’re in for something special right from the opening credits – a dayglo dance routine set to Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. From there, Lee crossbreeds the fury and the exuberance of late-’80s New York City, with cartoonish set pieces, fourth-wall breaking monologues, snappy characters, escalating racial tension and tragedy. Nearly 30 years on, Do the Right Thing has lost none of its potency or relevance, and never feels retro or dated. It’s fast and hilarious, the writing is knife-edge sharp and the sprawling cast gives memorable moment after memorable moment.

Do the Right Thing is playing at Palace Kino on June 24.