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Film round-up: April 15, 2019

The Star's critics review Mid90s, Yuli — The Carlos Acosta Story, Wonder Park, Little, and A  Deal with the Universe

Mid90s (15)
Directed by Jonah Hill
★★★★

Hollywood actor Jonah Hill’s impressive directorial debut feature is a nostalgic and totally captivating coming of age tale set in ’90s LA which captures a slice of a much simpler but nevertheless harsh time.

Written and directed by Hill it follows 13-year-old Stevie (a stunning Sunny Suljic) who in the Summer of 1995, in a bid to escape his troubled working-class home and brutal beatings from his older brother (a frightening Lucas Hedges), starts hanging out with a group of older skateboarding kids that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.

Skateboarding becomes a rite of passage for Stevie as he bonds with these guys who become his friends and introduce him to a wide range of experiences he is far too young for.

Shot in 16mm and 4:3 aspect ratio is what gives this film its mid-’90s look and feel about it while its mainly non-professional cast provide its heart and soul.

Hill shows as much promise behind the camera as he has shown in front of it.
MD

Yuli — The Carlos Acosta Story (15)
Directed by Iciar Bollain
★★★

This rags to riches story of the boy who didn’t want to be a ballet dancer is inspired by the real life tale of legendary Cuban star Carlos Acosta who is generally considered to be one of the greatest male dancers of his generation.

Based on Acosta’s 2007 autobiography No Way Home this unconventional cinematic biopic, penned by Paul Laverty and directed by Iciar Bollain, portrays his story through modern dance and flashbacks to his impoverished childhood and youth.

It is a compelling drama that explores Acosta’s love/hate relationship with ballet and his father, plus the influence his homeland and its culture and history had on him throughout his career.

Featuring Acosta as himself in the present day this visually sumptuous and richly captivating film is also brought to life by the remarkable and indelible performances by Edlinson Manuel Olbera Nunez and Keyven Martinez as Acosta as a boy and young man.
A must see for ballet lovers.
Maria Duarte

Wonder Park (PG)
Directed by Dylan Brown
★★★★

If this wild and wacky animated adventure has a moral, it could be “Mind what you wish for — it could come true and then you’re in for one helluva wild time!”

Which is exactly what the film delivers without patronising its potential young audience, delivering an increasingly zany escapade which should provide plenty of daffy fun for youngsters and not be too painful for accompanying adults.

Life is great for young June (voiced by Brianna Denski) when she and her mother (Jennifer Garner) spend their evenings together building her amazing Wonder Park that makes Disneyland (and I’ve been there) resemble a pilot production.

But June’s life falls apart when her mother is hospitalised. She runs away on the way to maths camp and, lost in the woods, she amazingly, lands up in a “genuine” Wonder Park that’s been take over by an evil monkey.   

And it’s up to June to save the day — and her park.

While some of the narrative may be predictable, inventive storytelling replete with  ingeniously created fun characters (I particularly liked the porcupine with a posh English accent) keeps you entertained and even though the denouement is predictable, watching the park come alive is great fun.
Alan Frank

Little (PG)
Directed by Tina Gordon
★★★

Ego-driven businesswomen don’t come much meaner than Jordan Sanders who enjoys constantly belittling her employees (and her undervalued assistant April) and making their lives hell.

Thanks to her all-for-me performance, Regina Hall makes Jordan a memorably nasty character desperately needing improvement.

Which happens with Jordan’s satisfyingly amusing punishment when she foolishly pushes her 13-year-old namesake (engaging Marsai Martin) into cursing her to become a 13-year-old.

Cue silly but endearing body-swap comic capers infused with sometimes over-heart-warming subtexts as Hall’s Jordan adapts to her new body and Martin replaces her as the company manager.

There’s plenty of amiable, family-friendly humour put over with genuine enthusiasm to entertain easy-to-please family film fans,
(Incidentally, Marsai, inspired by Tom Hanks’s happy hamming in Big, pitched the idea for “Little” before becoming a teenager).

Here, unlike Big, director Tina Gordon delivers comedy and warmth and happily doesn’t aspire — Tom Hanks-style — to soak the show in saccharine.
AF

A  Deal with the Universe (15)
Directed by Jason Barker
★★★★

Nowadays with scads of new movies appearing weekly it’s increasingly rare to a see a genuinely different film.

I guarantee however, you’ll never have seen anything even vaguely similar to Jason Barker’s extraordinary one-of-a-kind documentary which fascinatingly charts the unique story of how he came to give birth to his child.

Claiming “I’m continuously optimistic” Barker’s debut feature — a uniquely personal chronicle of how he bore a child emerges as both amazing and simultaneously as a potent tribute to how LGBT life has finally moved culturally, legally — and quickly.

By using fascinating filmed documentary footage made over the last 10 years we are made privy to how Barker came to give birth to a child in a compelling record of transgender parenthood.

Queer history achieves potent impact in a riveting story that as fiction would almost certainly have been misunderstood — but emerges here as both poignant and important viewing.

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