In review: Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the Xmas flick Happiest Season, The War With Grandpa staring Robert DeNiro and more

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In review: Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the Xmas flick Happiest Season, The War With Grandpa staring Robert DeNiro and more

Happiest Season
Words by Anthony Morris

Movies are back on the big screen.

You’d think that after months of binging Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and every streaming service under the sun that we’d be well over the movies by now, but honestly, nothing beats a trip to the cinemas.

For whatever the reason, we really love sitting in a dark room, melting into plush comfy chairs , not saying a word to anyone, going to town on the snacks and watching a movie on the big screen. There’s just something about a good movie sesh, and thankfully it’s something we’ve been able to indulge in once again.

So, to celebrate, we got our resident movie reviewer Anthony Morris to head on down and give us his honest opinion of the movies currently screening.


Usually with high concept films the concept is really the action part of the film; the thrills come from getting your head around what the film is about. On top of that, if you come up with a good high concept that’s also visually striking (The Matrix, Inception), get ready because Hollywood is going to give you all the money in the world.

In Tenet the high concept is a mash-up of James Bond and a particular form of time travel, which is a problem because “what if James Bond had a time machine” is a pretty silly idea. Apart from going back to perv on his greatest hits, there’s nothing for Bond in the past – he doesn’t make mistakes, and his regrets are brief at best. “What if someone with a time machine was dropped into a James Bond story” isn’t much better, as the story would rapidly grind to a halt as our hero repeated their actions over and over until they got the best result – It’d be Groundhog Day, only with James Bond.

That’s why for a lengthy chunk of Tenet the story is closer to “what if a Bond villain had a time machine”, which works reasonably well until it’s time for the big action scenes, which are more thought-provoking than thrilling.

The trouble with Tenet isn’t that it’s a mash-up of two much-loved (by Hollywood) concepts – James Bond and time travel – it’s that those two concepts are diametrically opposed to one another. James Bond, and spy thrillers in general, are all about forward momentum, telling a story where things are constantly moving forward; Bond is all but defined by the way he never returns to locations or women.

Time travel by definition is all about going back. And so Tenet‘s troubles begin.

Let Him Go

Kevin Costner’s long been the last holdout of the American western. But the western’s always been a surprisingly flexible genre, and Let Him Go twists a traditional tale of vengeance by having Costner step back and let co-star Diane Lane steal the show.

It’s the early 1960s and the Blackledge family – ex-sheriff George (Costner) and wife Margaret (Lane) are doing it tough. First their son died on their farm in a horse-riding accident, then their daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter) remarried to a somewhat shady character, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). That’s her right, but as the mother of their only grandchild, Margaret is understandably a little concerned. Make that a lot concerned: Margaret isn’t someone who takes no for an answer, which might explain why Lorna remarried so quickly.

So when they vanish, Margaret saddles up to track them down whether George wants to or not. And he’s right to tread carefully; turns out the smarmy Weboy clan are varmints through and through, and their matriarch Blanche (Lesley Manville) is the worst of the bunch.

Director Thomas Bezucha underplays almost everything (until things get violent), showing off a lot of gorgeous scenery but leaving the story feeling a little thin. Fortunately, the stellar cast do more than carry this across the line, with Costner’s thoughtful wariness, Manville’s scenery-chewing villainy and most of all Lane’s desperate protectiveness all impossible to look away from.

It’s a small-scale story that’s best appreciated on the big screen. 

Happiest Season

Christmas movies are tough. There are enough authentic classics out there now that there’s no real need for more than a handful of new holiday-themed films a decade, and with there only really being three approaches to take – serious Christmas, comedy anti-Christmas, and action movie set during Christmas – you’ve really got to hit it out of the park to have any chance of being remembered this time next year.

Happiest Season does not achieve this. What it does manage is to be a mainstream family Christmas movie where the main couple are gay, which is something. Things start off fun, as Harper (Mackenzie Davis) invites her long term girlfriend Abby (Kristen Stewart) home for Christmas then instantly regrets it; her family is hard work at the best of times, and with her father (Victor Garber) about to run for Mayor now is probably not the best time for her to come out of the closet (her parents don’t know she’s gay).

Abby, who is the most understanding girlfriend in the world, goes along with a whole “room mate” ruse – though she does dress in the most blatantly lesbian fashion imaginable, so big tick there – while Harper’s sisters Jane (Mary Holland) (the nice but slightly odd one) and Sloane (Alison Brie) (the bitchy one) and every single one of Harpers’ exes – male and female – complicate things.

At first this isn’t as funny as it could be, then it isn’t funny at all (deliberately), and while the leads have great chemistry and the cast is first class, this ends up as just another standard family holiday movie… only with a gay couple. Which is definitely something.

The Bee Gees: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart

“I am starting to recognise the fact that nothing is true – it’s all down to perception”. It’s not exactly the most reassuring first line to have in a documentary, but we’re talking about the Bee Gees here: even if everything to follow is all made up, at least the Gibbs brothers will provide a few decent tunes. A

s the last man standing, this story is Barry Gibbs to tell: while Robin (died 2012) and Maurice (died 2003) might have a different take on things, they’re not around to give it – though they do get a chance to speak through archival interviews.

Directed by Frank Marshall, this is a career-long overview hitting all the high notes (the disco years seem to have been especially traumatic) and digging deep into the relationship between the trio (Older Barry and twins Robin and Maurice). It’s a solid overview with a few twists towards the end, but the big draw here – apart from the chance to hear a bunch of the hits through a cinema sound system – is the never-before-seen personal footage from the Gibbs throughout their lives, which makes this a much more human and personal take on the superstars’ rise to sustained fame than you might expect.

A number of big names appear to talk about how much the Bee Gees influenced them, but this is really one for the fans – and the fans will get a lot out of it.

This one is screening at Melbourne’s Palace Cinemas.

The War With Grandpa

When Ed (Robert DeNiro) gets frustrated with one of those new-fangled supermarket self-checkouts and ends up (accidentally) stealing a bunch of stuff, his daughter (Uma Thurman) decides the newly widowed old man needs taking care of. Problem is, when he moves in with her and her family, he displaces her son Peter (Oakes Fegley), who finds himself relocated to the attic.

How exactly this leads to a mutual prank war doesn’t really matter – and definitely doesn’t put Peter in a good light; this is Robert DeNiro we’re talking about here, show some respect – but the result is… well, there’s probably a reason why this has been sitting on a shelf since 2017.

A cast over-stuffed with big names (Christopher Walken and Cheech Marin play DeNiro’s eldster buddies, while Jane Seymour is something of a romantic interest) is a depressing reflection of just how few decent opportunities there are for older actors, but it’s still fun to see them on the big screen.

Griping about DeNiro making bad movies is a fool’s move: he’s still making serious dramas, they’re just not making it anywhere near cinemas. That’s no defence of this, which is underdone kids fare that fails to raise more than the occasional smirk. But give the guy a break; without him this would be totally unwatchable instead of merely disappointing.