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Cinema Film round-up: February 13, 2020

MARIA DUARTE and ALAN FRANK review When Lambs Became Lions, First Love, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spycies, Ghost and A Paris Education

When Lambs Became Lions (12A)
Directed by John Kasbe
★★★★

 

DIRECTOR John Kasbe followed his film’s subjects — Kenyan ivory poachers — for some three years, gaining astonishing access and trust in the process and that endows his fascinating and deeply disturbing documentary with genuine depth and commanding veracity.

 

Timely and compelling, its ultimately bleak narrative compels while its subject inevitably depresses. Poaching the plummeting elephant population is patently evil and deservedly the subject of worldwide attention.

 

The film’s protagonist is a small-time ivory dealer operating in an arid area of Kenya who battles to keep winning out against government forces mobilised to destroy his illegal trade.

 

As well as struggling to avoid Kenyan government forces — “Out here, we’re all hunters. Poachers hunt the elephants and we hunt the poachers,” one declares — they also are forced to face dedicated conservationists who, inevitably, are winning the campaign to value elephant life over ivory.

 

Yet, of necessity, poachers still have no choice except to risk death, arrest and moral outrage in order to provide for their families.

 

Kasbe’s documentary packs the emotional and visual power of a vividly crafted fictional film. But what makes its uniquely important is that it is a major work of fact.

 

Alan Frank

 

First Love (15)
Directed by Takashi Miike
★★★★

 

TAKASHI MIIKE’S film is set over the course of one night in Tokyo, where a young boxer and a call girl innocently get caught up in a deadly drug-smuggling scheme which leads to violence, mayhem and blossoming first love.

 

The pair are pursued by a corrupt cop, a yakuza who’s his nemesis, and a female assassin sent by the Chinese Triads in this totally riveting but bonkers crime caper.

 

It combines violence, comedy and romance in a noiresque gangster film which, slick and stylish, features one of the most colourful and insane fight scenes in a hardware store involving guns and swords.

 

In the mayhem, Masataka Kubota and Sakurako Konishi make a wonderfully sweet and earnest couple on the run, who make you care for their characters and root for a happy ending in what’s a brutal and relentless non-stop action ride.

 

Maria Duarte

 

Sonic the Hedgehog (PG)
Directed by Jeff Fowler
★★★★

IN JEFF FOWLER’S film, the eponymous bright-blue extra-terrestrial hedgehog is now on Earth after escaping from his faraway planet.

 

He joins forces with James Marsden’s small-town Montana sheriff (Tom Wachowski) to thwart mad genius Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey, delivering a memorable pantomime-style characterisation) who plans world domination.

 

Armed with a suitably action-heavy, humorously daffy screenplay, director Fowler delivers a fast and furious comedy destined to delight youngsters and which is likely to amuse accompanying adults.

 

The vividly animated Sonic — “a little ball of super energy, in an extremely handsome package” — plays baseball, dances, slugs thugs in a bar-room brawl and then rises high in San Francisco to save mankind from destruction.

 

Mere human actors do well to hold their own against the scene-stealing blue alien.

 

AF

 

Spycies (PG)
Directed by Guillaume Ivernel
★★★

 

FROM the animators of Despicable Me and Minions comes a delightfully entertaining action-packed spy adventure with an environmental twist.

 

Set in a world populated by talking animals — think Zootropolis meets James Bond — it centres on top spy Vladimir who’s forced to team up with rookie colleague Hector to recover a mysterious consignment stolen by unknown intruders.

 

With a surprisingly decent whip-smart and funny script and fun and colourful characters, there is enough in this animated feature to keep both young and old engaged.

 

MD

 

Ghost (12A)
Directed by Jerry Zucker
★★★★

 

WITH this year’s Oscars still warm in the hands and hearts of their recipients, here’s a chance to see and enjoy again a classic fantasy romance that garnered five Oscar nominations in 1991 and won two — best screenplay for Bruce Joel Rubin and best actress in a supporting role for Whoopi Goldberg.

 

Goldberg is 24-carat comic gold as the initially reductant New York psychic, corralled into helping serve justice by bringing to book the person who murdered New Yorker Sam. His spirit is determined to bring his killer to book so that his girlfriend can finally find psychic peace.

 

Patrick Swayze hits all the right notes as the vengeance-seeking spectre, Demi Moore exudes charm and director Jerry Zucker perfectly blends scares and silliness into this paranormal comic treat.

 

AF

 

A Paris Education (12A)
Directed by Jean-Paul Civeyrac
★★★

 

THE PRETENTIOUSNESS, arrogance and idealism of youth are portrayed to vivid effect in this homage to cinema from French director Jean-Paul Civeyrac.

 

Loosely based on his real-life experiences, it centres on Etienne (a phenomenal Andranic Manet) who travels to Paris from Lyon to attend film school, leaving his long-term girlfriend Lucie (Diane Rouxel) behind.

 

There he makes friends with an eclectic group of budding film-makers who widen his horizons, cheats on Lucie and falls under the spell of the mysterious and uber-critical Mathias (Corentin Fila), who puts others down to bolster himself.

 

Shot in black-and-white, the film has a dreamlike quality and portrays Paris in an even more romantic light than ever.

 

Watching these insecure and angst-ridden characters engaging with cinema and politics as they try to put the world to rights with an idealistic passion takes me back to a misguided youth.

 

Although bordering on the pretentious, this is nevertheless a surprisingly captivating film which will appeal to avid cinephiles.

 

MD

 

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