The screen critic: Adventures with Indiana Jones, robot mayhem, and an adults-only comedy 

Jun 30, 2023
Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Disney); A robot warrior from Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Paramount); Jennifer Lawrence in No Hard Feelings (Sony). Image: Supplied

The one thing we were hoping for above all else was that the new Indiana Jones film would spare us from repeating the travesty of 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, a film so terrible the mere mention of it still prompts grown people to curl up in a ball and sob uncontrollably.

Hurrah, for our prayers, have been answered. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a hands-down ripper.

In fact, the fifth – and last – film in the series (so they say, anyway) is so entertaining and engaging it’s almost good enough to erase the memory of the previous film.

Set in 1969 New York just after the Apollo Moon landing, we find a crusty and withered Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, of course) on the day of his retirement from academia.

Crashing into his life is his adventure-hungry goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame) as they find themselves in a race with Jürgen Voller (Danish icon Mads Mikkelsen), an old Nazi foe of Indiana’s, to locate an ancient relic that can turn back time.

With Ford playing into his age and Waller-Bridge bringing some snarky energy to the show, the film is loaded with plenty of nifty action sequences, great cinematography and the type of premium production values only $300 million can buy. (That’s the going estimate on the film’s budget.)

But beyond all the chases, explosions and fights, the film’s big selling point is its fabulous final stretch, which takes you somewhere you can’t predict.

Full of tension and spectacle – a rare combination in 21st-century blockbusters – the film delivers a great payoff that succeeds in recapturing the spirit of the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. Enjoy.

Another very satisfying franchise film filling the world’s multiplexes is Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.

No surprises here: it’s essentially another prolonged wrestling match between the Autobots – the good robots that want to protect Earth – and the Terrorcons – the bad robots who want to destroy human civilization and make Earth their new crib.

Crammed with A-level visual effects and loads of humour, the giant robots transform into vehicles and back again as they clash in noisy battles and cause huge amounts of property damage – even in the depths of the Peruvian jungle where a new breed of robots join the party.

This is the seventh film in the Transformers series, which has taken more than $5 billion at the box office despite being drubbed by critics. So, it doesn’t look like the fun is going to stop any time soon if this mechanized treat is anything to go by.

In what feels like a throwback to the guilt-free sex comedies of the 1980s, No Hard Feelings sees Jennifer Lawrence in her funniest performance yet in a film that is funny, saucy and with just enough heart to keep it from being too trashy.

Lawrence plays Maddie, a financially desperate woman with no option but to take on the unusual task of bringing shy teenager Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) out of his shell before he heads off to college.

Though there are dirty jokes and sexual shenanigans galore – Lawrence twerks and appears fully naked – the raunch is grounded by a sincere underlying theme about the importance of being your own person.

There’s also a cutting line of gags about how a woman as sexy as Maddie is considered an old woman – at 32.

Over on the arthouse circuit, two treats await. 

From France is Driving Madeleine, a jewel of a film about the friendship that develops between a taxi driver (Dany Boon) and his 92-year-old passenger (Line Renaud) as he takes her across a very busy Paris.

The tone is charming, though the flashbacks tell a dark tale of domestic violence and bravery. It’s rated MA for  good reason.   

Based on the verbatim transcript of an encounter between two FBI interrogators and a government linguist, Reality tells the intriguing tale of Reality Winner (Sydney Sweeney) who is grilled about suspicions she leaked top secret documents about election interference.

Set mostly in her suburban house, it’s a well-directed think piece that will appeal to discerning cineastes looking for something a little off-beat with a lot of bites.

Those in the mood for an unusual take on the romantic comedy genre are bound to enjoy Meet Cute on Prime.

Eager for a healthy relationship, Sheila (Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory) has what seems to be a nice, normal first date with Gary (comedian Pete Davidson) in a Manhattan bar.

Only it’s not really a first date, for Sheila has access to a time machine. Taking her cue from Groundhog Day, she’s reliving the same day, trying to make things perfect.

As we all know by now, you mess with time travel at your peril, an idea that is rendered well in this inventive, underrated rom-com. Check it out when you’ve got 90 minutes to spare.

For more visit jimschembri.com with updates on Twitter at @jimschembri   

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