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CINEMA Film round-up

Reviews of The Sparks Brothers, The Most Beautiful Boy In The World, Settlers, The Suicide Squad, Jungle Cruise and Spirit Untamed

The Sparks Brothers (15)
Directed by Edgar Wright
★★★★★

A QUIRKY and inventive documentary introduction to the greatest band who never made it from director Edgar Wright is a historic intertwining over five decades of fan-favourite anthems with cinematic works and performance.

It offers up a bevy of gleeful stylistic opportunities, which Wright seizes upon to offer more than enough of a modern glam-rock classic.

Chock full of talking heads like Patton Oswalt, Mike Myers, Weird Al and Jonathan Ross, the film includes a half-century of rocking tunes and whacky personalities.

Impressively, it allows them to shine through, individuals so absurd yet so loveable, that they — like the movie — just sparkle.

VAN CONNOR

The Most Beautiful Boy In The World (15)
Directed by Kristina Lindstrom and Kristian Petri
★★★★

IT HAS been half a century since Bjorn Andresen was hailed as “the most beautiful boy in the world” by Italian director Luchino Visconti after appearing in his 1971 film Death in Venice.

It’s a label which has plagued him all his life, as he explains in this fascinating and insightful documentary in which he attempts to put the record straight.

The accolade made the shy 15-year-old famous overnight and turned him into a gay icon. Watching his audition for the role of Tadzio makes the flesh crawl as the exquisite but fragile-looking teenager is asked to remove his shirt by Visconti as he wants to see his naked torso.

He looks extremely uncomfortable getting undressed and later as he is photographed in just swimming trunks.

Andresen, now in his sixties, reveals how he was given pills to make him feel better and cope with having to make six or seven public appearances in one night. His girlfriend sums it up in a nutshell: “It’s goddam child abuse.”

Through archive film footage and interviews with Andresen, his family and friends and those involved in the making of Death in Venice, writer-directors Kristina Lindstrom and Kristian Petri deliver a powerful examination of the world’s obsession with beauty and its devastating effects on Andresen.

They also help him in his search to learn the truth about his mother’s death, which is heartbreaking to witness, and his father’s identity.

By the end, you just wish someone could have run into that audition room and rescued the most beautiful boy in the world.

MARIA DUARTE

Settlers (15)
Directed by Wyatt Rockefeller
★★★

BILLIONAIRES fleeing to space would do well to watch this cautionary tale, in which poverty and frontier survival are the name of the game on a colonised Mars.

In it, a young settler (Brooklynn Prince) and her colonising parents (Sofia Boutella and Jonny Lee Miller) come under siege by bandits and are forced to endure ongoing dangers in the presence of armed former coloniser Jerry, a suitably menacing Ismael Cruz Cordova.

A thin plot is carried by a solid aesthetic and angsty performances, yet Settlers never shakes off the feeling of a pretty good Black Mirror or Twilight Zone episode blown out needlessly to feature length.

Its drama lacks substance, its sci-fi angle is too absent and its tension is obviously telegraphed.

Well put together otherwise, Settlers is worth planting a flag for. But you wouldn’t want to put down roots.

VC

The Suicide Squad (15)
Directed by James Gunn
★★★★

SWITCHING to DC after Marvel, albeit briefly, writer-director James Gunn has done for The Suicide Squad what he did for Guardians of the Galaxy, turning it into a humorous yet non-stop action-packed blast of a rollercoaster ride.

With more super-villains than you can count in this sequel than ever before, the Squad now includes Bloodsport (Idris Elba) Peacemaker (John Cena), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and of course Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), to name but a few.

They are on a covert search-and-destroy mission to Corto Maltese with Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). Following a military coup on the Hispanic island, the US government is aiming to clean house of its dirty little secrets.

Deliciously gritty, bloody and irreverently funny as it emulates The Dirty Dozen crossed with Kelly’s Heroes, no leading villain is safe in this sequel, and blink and you’ll miss them.

As usual Harley, with no short shorts in sight and more badass than ever, steals the film in two sublime solo inspired sequences.

The obligatory after-the-end-of-credts footage is worth seeing too in what is one hell of a ride — it’s everything Suicide Squad should have been but wasn’t.

MD

Jungle Cruise (12A)
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
★★★

THE garrulously dad-humour-driven Jungle Cruise is Disney’s latest attempt to carve a cinematic franchise.

Combining the action-comedy chops of megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Frank Wolff with the game romantic-adventure charisma of Emily Blunt, the stage is set for something a cut above the usual, with lively and exhilarating set pieces peppered with fun characters and enjoyably delivered whipsmart banter.

Jungle Cruise sees Lily Houghton (Blunt) journey to 1916 Brazil in search of the fabled “Tree of Life” but soon finds Wolff as the only guide willing to take her down the deadly river trail.

After a strong opening, carried admirably by the playful chemistry between its leads and riotous comedic support from the ever under-appreciated Jesse Plemons, the sparks fizzle out once Jungle Cruise begins to allow reverence to, or even just the need to fleetingly rip off, the clear inspirations steering its rudder.

Factor in a needlessly bloated run time, and it only just stays afloat as it fights being pulled under by the weight of the baggage it should have left at port.

VC

Spirit Untamed (U)
Directed by Elaine Bogan
★★★

AN UNRULY and headstrong young girl meets a kindred spirit when her path crosses that of a wild horse in this sweet and uplifting sequel to the 2002 Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

When Lucky Prescott (Isabela Merced) ruins her wealthy grandfather’s election campaign, she is sent off by her Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore) to spend the summer with her estranged widowed father (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the small frontier town of Miradero. That is where her Hispanic mother died in a rodeo accident when she was a baby.

Against her dad’s wishes, she befriends a wild mustang named Spirit who, with the help of two horse riders Abigail (Mckenna Grace) and Prudence (Marsai Martin), she tries to save from evil horse wranglers.

A rather predictable animated feature-by-numbers by first-time director Elaine Bogan ensues, but its inclusivity and heart is in the right place as Lucky/Fortuna attempts to find her voice and connect with her mother’s legacy and her Mexican heritage.

Young kids are sure to be enthralled by the vibrant animation, exciting action sequences and engaging characters, based on the TV series, while their parents will applaud the film’s inspiring message.

MD

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