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Film round-up: June 26, 2019

MARIA DUARTE and ALAN FRANK review Apollo 11, Robert the Bruce, In Fabric and Support The Girls

Apollo 11 (U)
Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
★★★★★

THIS is the right stuff from director Todd Douglas Miller. He’s come up with a riveting documentary about Nasa’s history-making Apollo 11 mission that first put men on the moon in 1969, eight years after a publicity-hungry President John F Kennedy had pledged to make this happen.

When Neil Armstrong made man’s first step onto the lunar surface, it was estimated some 600 million people followed it on radio and television — an amazing one-fifth of the world’s population at the time.

Making creative use of newly discovered 70mm footage and more than 1,100 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Miller and his collaborators recreate a historic journey, vividly illustrated with compelling footage, previously unseen, of the launch of the moon rocket and its subsequent dangerous mission to go where no man had gone before.

The film features several recordings captured by the Apollo crew during the mission and, fascinatingly for cineastes, those recordings earned Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins honorary memberships of the American Society of Cinematographers.

That really is showbusiness.

Alan Frank

Robert The Bruce (15)
Directed by Richard Gray
★★★

THIRTEEN years in the making, this new film about the legendary warrior Robert the Bruce is a grittier and more intimate portrayal than last year’s The Outlaw King.

Set in 1306, it continues exactly where Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning Braveheart left off and with Angus Macfadyen reprising his role as the future king of Scotland.

The wounded Robert, near death and after seeing the inspirational spider and its web, is befriended by a young widow (Anna Hutchinson) and her orphaned son, niece and nephew. They nurse him back to life in their secluded croft but, with a 50 gold-piece bounty on his head, he is fair game to his enemies.

Directed by Richard Gray and co-written by Macfadyen, the film explores internecine Scottish feuding and Robert’s fight for Scottish independence, with this family representing the collateral damage of the battles he and William Wallace waged.

As he tells Morag (Hutchinson) and the children: “I see now in your eyes what Scotland can be” as they inspire him to continue his fight to unite the nation.

All this as they prepare for a Western-style showdown at the croft with the local sheriff (Gianni Capaldi) — the children’s uncle and Morag’s brother-in-law.

He and his men want to capture and/or kill Robert and claim the bounty.

A fascinating and slow-burning historical drama, it’s a film which for some will reinforce the case for Scottish independence.

Maria Duarte

In Fabric (15)
Directed by Peter Strickland
★★

IF THERE was an Oscar for most pretentious picture, then film-maker Peter Strickland would have it on his mantelpiece for this hyper-conceited shocker.

Strickland’s progressively implausible screenplay is populated with increasingly unconvincing characters and his overheated direction saturates the narrative with sheer silliness.

Illogical chills and thrills are sparked after middle-aged Sheila Woolchapel (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, infinitely better than the role deserves) buys a beautiful red dress in the January sales.

Unfortunately for Sheila — and cinemagoers — the garment turns out be cursed and wreaks supernatural havoc on her. It then goes on to make life hell for its luckless subsequent owners, notably nerdy washing machine repairman Reg (Leo Bill) and his fiancee Babs (Hayley Squires).

“Now I suppose I’ve come full circle as Britain seems exotic to me now,” says British-born filmmaker Strickland, who currently lives in Hungary.

He’s entitled to his opinion.

As for his film — which you have already paid for twice, since it’s co-produced by your licence fee via the BBC and Lottery funds via the BFI — wait for it to turn up on TV.

Then miss it.

AF

Support The Girls (15)
Directed by Andrew Bujalski
★★★★

THIS gentle and unassuming US comedy following a day in the lives of female staff at a Hooters-style restaurant is a celebration of sisterhood. And it shines a light on a slice of Americana that is so incongruous in era of Me Too and Time’s Up.

Regina Hall is magnificent as Lisa, the long-suffering but uber-optimistic general manager at Double Whammies, who has an overwhelming need to help, fix, save and be needed.

Fiercely protective of her young staff who are forced to wear skimpy uniforms and fend off a lecherous clientele, she has a zero-tolerance policy on the latter.

The camera follows Lisa’s increasingly strange day as she tries to put out continual fires everywhere. She deals with an illegal immigrant trapped in the restaurant’s vent, interviews new hires, deals with creepy customers and battles her racist and middle-aged white male boss who refuses to put two black members of staff on the same rota.

Writer-director Andrew Bujalski captures with acute accuracy and sensitivity the sexism, humiliations and pressures women face both at work and at home within this humorous comedy setting — and also on how it’s time to put an end to these sexist establishments.

MD

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