The buddy cop genre is virtually non-existent in Australian cinema—adding curio appeal to Tony Martin’s enjoyable caper about two idiot detectives who get to the bottom of high level corruption. They’re memorably played by Mick Molloy and Bob Franklin, who are quick to drop a true blue turn of phrase; at one point Molloy yelps “fuck me rigid, he’s fair up the clack!”
Rolf de Heer’s notorious cult film about a tortured soul (Nicholas Hope) who has spent the first 35 years of his life locked in a grubby apartment still, after all these years, almost defies description, laced with unforgettable boundary-pushing scenes discussed only in hushed tones. Bubby’s venture into wider society is an unflinching portrait of mental illness and so much more—including a social critique formed from the protagonist’s, shall we say, unique life experiences.
From the very first scene, in which the camera crawls along a bar towards a sozzled, cigarette-smoking Billy Bob Thornton in a Santa suit, Terry Zwigoff delivers a hilariously lewd heist comedy—and a Christmas movie with a difference. In a totally unsentimental way, the film reveals a heart buried deep beneath the soiled department story costume, through the story of Thornton’s potty-mouthed crook connecting—for want of a better word—with a sweet and chubby little boy (Brett Kelly).
The Coen brothers’ western-themed anthology movie isn’t always a comedy—but the introductory titular segment certainly is, and hot damn it’s delightful. Tim Blake Nelson plays a singing cowboy and silver-tongued devil who is a ridiculously good gun slinger—but you know what they say about pride and a fall. The tone is musical jamboree and live-action shenanigans with cartoon sensibility. The remaining chapters vary in tone, from giddily entertaining to slow-moving and profound.
Michael Keaton is manically transformative as a hyper-powered ghoul decked out in a pin-striped Halloween suit, whose house-haunting abilities are sought after by a couple of amateur ghosts (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis). Tim Burton managed to film what is, in effect, a cartoon in live-action format, stuffing it full of visual wit.
The core challenge in Adam McKay’s playful satire about Wall Street sharks (who saw the GFC coming and conspired to profit from it) makes a dry subject broadly accessible. The writer/director’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach deploys narration, fourth wall breaking and endless analogies, including the following sage words from Steve Carrell: “So mortgage bonds are dog shit wrapped in cat shit?” It’s structurally messy, but it works.
A black comedy; an absurd psychological thriller; an extreme drama about doomed friendship. A characteristically in-your-face, rubbernecked Jim Carrey—high on the fumes of his meteoric rise in the 90s—arrives on Mathew Brockerick’s doorstep, setting him up with illegal cable and successfully integrating himself into the poor sod’s suddenly traumatic life. The comedy is outrageously tense: can’t watch, can’t look away.
Refusing to accept that her elderly father is on the way out, director Kirsten Johnson decides to celebrate his life by killing him off in various ways—from a falling air conditioner to bleeding out on the street. Working on the premise that part of the loveable 84-year-old has already left the building, Johnson uses the personal documentary genre (i.e. Shirkers, Stories We Tell) to construct a Buñuelian outlook, in which the real world is a form of purgatory—a waiting room before the inevitable. It’s weirdly tender and sweet.
There is more than a whiff of Wes Andersonisms in Rosemary Myers’ fastidiously styled coming-of-age film, set around and during the birthday party of a teenage girl (Bethany Whitmore) circa the 1970s. She is warned that “weird shit can happen” before a strange monster-ish creature appears, morphing the story into an enchanted woods adventure. Paul Jennings by way of the Brothers Grimm.
Yet another contemporary take on Cyrano de Bergerac, writer/director Alice Wu finds a fresh queer perspective in the story of a brainiac student (Leah Lewis) who writes love letters for a jock (Daniel Diemer) with wit and heart. Amiable and well paced, it’s the sort of film that comes across as effortless—only because the filmmaker made so many good decisions in the writing and directing. Modest but elevated.
The pretentiousness of golf collides with the dunderheadedness of Adam Sandler, in a comedy about the pain of watching somebody being naturally very good at something others have to work hard for. Happy Gilmore is smarter than its given credit for—with a few things to say about snobbery and class divide.
Margot Robbie’s celebrity-shedding performance is the centre of this real-or-not? biopic about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. Director Craig Gillespie questions who is to blame for the knee-capping incident for which the athlete is best remembered, taking a fourth-wall-breaking approach that crackles and fizzes. The film’s most compelling themes run in contrasts: humour and sadness, reality and artifice.
I am far from the first critic to liken Stephen Chow’s visually zany chopsocky period movie to a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon, but sometimes the collective wisdom gets it right. Chow (also the writer and director) plays a blunderous small-time con artist who, in a rural slum in China in the 1940s, becomes embroiled in an epic brouhaha between the murderous ‘Axe Gang’ and a trio of genuine kung fu masters. The story is fine; the execution is delightful.
While driving a convertible with no hands (naturally) Arnold Schwarzenegger fires a bullet at an assailant. This inadvertently causes an ice cream cone to kill a man by flying into the back of his head. “Iced that guy,” says Arnie, “to cone a phrase.” Best or worst one-liner ever? Last Action Hero is nothing if not self-conscious. The film—about an 11-year-old kid who enters an alternate universe—is half-hearted as a satire but trashily enjoyable.
Nadia Tass’ endearingly odd comedy-drama about an on-the-spectrum inventor (Colin Friels) who teams up with a career criminal (John Hargreaves) has a homely everyday aesthetic, which elevates its famous kooky contraptions. They include remote control rubbish bins and a yellow 1970 Honda Z that splits in half, becoming two motorbike-like vehicles—a perfect and irresistibly absurd getaway car.
Woody Allen’s enchanting rumination on art, romance and history follows a well-off writer (Owen Wilson) transported back in time to the 1920s while strolling the streets of Paris. Soon he meets the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald then falls in love with Picasso’s mistress (Marion Cotillard). Midnight in Paris contemplates the foggy charms of nostalgia, finding a fun and fresh perspective on romanticizing the past.
British troupe Monty Python had a great knack for merging realities, crafting jokes sort of from this world and sort of not. Instead of riding a horse, for instance, Arthur (Graham Chapman) mimes riding one while a man behind him simulates the noise of horse hooves. The joke makes no sense but it doesn’t have to. The film’s structure is patchy and sketch-like, though we wouldn’t have it any other way given the gags flow thick and fast.
He’s not a messiah, he’s a very naughty boy! Monty Python’s beloved satire on western religion observes history and legend from a just-to-the-side perspective, with a protagonist (Graham Chapman) who was born in the stable next door to Jesus. What could have been an exhausting single joke comedy is padded out into a consistently entertaining (at times riotously so) film full of mirth—all the way till the final rib-tickling musical number.
Tilda Swinton plays the Willy Wonka-esque CEO of a company that produces a not-so-sweet product: giant genetically engineered pigs to carve up and sell worldwide. Chaos ensues when a young girl (Seo-Hyun Ahn) puts up a fight to save the titular character’s bacon. There’s Spielbergian largesse in Bong Joon Ho’s brisk direction, but he goes places Spielberg wouldn’t—with prickly messages about anti-meat consumption and corporate malfeasance.
The titular character’s dialogue-free movie spin-off sends Shaun and co to the big city, on a mission to find and return their amnesia-afflicted farmer. Evoking the craftsmanship of great silent era comedies, in addition to stylistic and thematic inspirations ranging from Jacques Tati to Luis Buñuel, co-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak construct an utterly delightful work of art: spirited, lively, inventive, humane.
Shot on a shoestring budget over a couple of weeks, Spike Lee’s film about a polyamorous woman with three lovers is regarded as a breakthrough in depictions of African Americans (focusing on urbanites, intellectuals and deep thinkers) as well as in the American indie movement more broadly. Lee dabbles with different styles, including documentary techniques, in an affecting early work that has the decorum-breaking chutzpah of a young iconoclast.
There’s a dangerous energy in Greg Mottola’s potty-mouthed coming-of-age flick, which gets away with a lot in the name of characterization. Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) talk trash, go to the parties and get wasted, the film balancing earnestness and obscenity in surprisingly effective ways. Plus there’s McLoven. Long live McLoven.
Uproarious non-PC comedy is par for the course for enfant terrible Seth MacFarlane, summoning to life a lewd bong-smoking teddy bear who is besties with Mark Wahlberg. The film’s subtext (yes, it has one) plays out like a reverse Toy Story: instead of saying goodbye to aspects of childhood, formative experiences transmogrify into forces that stunt a person’s growth as an adult. It’s highly entertaining, filthy, facetious.
“It’s got nothing to do with the B3 Bomber!” Barry Levinson’s razor sharp satire stars Robert DeNiro as a spin doctor who hires a big shot producer (Dustin Hoffman) to stage an imaginary war—via some good old Hollywood spectacle—to distract from a presidential scandal days before an election. A great script is snappily executed and irresistibly acted, leaving much to think about—though in the post-Trumpian age of misinformation, its once cutting edge commentary feels antiquated.
Martin Scorsese dines on tales of personal and corporate excess, not to mention outright misogyny, drawing on the debaucherous memoir of former stockbroker (and convicted criminal) Jordan Belfort. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort and Jonah Hill as his right-hand man, hubris and hedonism is the name of the game—in a loud, fast, incongruous film that runs for three frantically paced hours.
This guide is regularly updated to reflect changes in Netflix‘s catalogue. For a list of capsule reviews that have been removed from this page because they are no longer available on the platform, visit here.