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Film round-up: September 12, 2019

MARIA DUARTE and ALAN FRANK review Hustlers, Night Hunter, Honeyland, Shock of the Future and Downton Abbey

Honeyland (12A)
Directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Kotevska Tamara
★★★★

IN A deserted Macedonian village, 60-something Hatidze Muratova climbs a vertiginous hillside to check her bee hives nestling in the rocks and removes the honeycombs.  

Back home, she tends to her handmade hives, looks after her elderly bedridden mother and occasionally heads to the capital to sell her honey.

A visually stunning opening introduces this beguiling and character-led documentary which charts the chaos that invades Muratova’s peaceful life when an itinerant family instal themselves next door, destroying her peace with roaring engines, shrieking children and 150 cows.

Directors Ljubomir Stefanov and Kotevska Tamara’s first feature-length documentary premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and deservedly won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary as well as other awards.

Their genuinely affecting true story grabs you from the start as its narrative poignantly dissects gentle lives subjected to modern-day pressures.

Alan Frank

Hustlers (15)
Directed by Lorene Scafaria
★★★★

IN 2007 struggling young Destiny (Constance Wu) finds a new career and a good income when pole-dancer Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) gives her a crash course in pole dancing and the money flows in as she follows the “Green Book road.”

As one happy dancer comments: “I made more money that year than a goddam brain surgeon” but in 2008 Wall Street collapses, robbing the women of their legions of dollar-throwing fans.

Until, that is, Destiny, Ramona and their fellow dancers turn the tables on their all-too-eager Wall Street clients by spiking their drinks with just enough ketamine to have them happily pass over their credit cards.

This “inspired by a true story” narrative reeks of Hollywood at its most box-office ravenous but for once Tinseltown isn’t at fault.

Wittily scripted by director Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers is based on a 2015 New York Magazine story and it’s a hugely enjoyable tribute to male weaknesses and female empowerment with Wu, Lopez and their pole-dancer-turned-table-turners delivering performances totally in tune with Scafaria’s showy storytelling.

AF

Night Hunter (15)
Directed by David Raymond
★★★

A WEARY and hardened detective and a former judge turned vigilante inadvertently team up to hunt down a serial rapist and murderer in this promising debut feature by David Raymond which, while not reinventing the wheel, does reel you in nicely.

Writer-director Raymond has attracted an impressive cast which includes Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillion, with Cavill playing bad cop to Alexandra Daddario’s good cop.

Kingsley is the vigilante who, with young female sidekick (Eliana Jones), ensnare online sexual predators and dish out their own gruesome justice.

Suspending your disbelief is a must in this overly complicated crime thriller which aspires to be The Silence of the Lambs meets Seven.

Although nowhere in their league, it’s elevated by the compelling performances from its high-class cast.

Maria Duarte

Downton Abbey (PG)
Directed by Michael Engler
★★★★★

IT’S been four years since the hit TV series ended and staunch fans have finally been rewarded with a big screen spin-off with this much grander, more lavish and visually stunning Downton.

The original cast is back with some added additions in a tale set in 1927 revolving around Downton’s wealthy owners playing host to King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).

There are a number of subplots seamlessly interwoven into the narrative by screenwriter and the show’s creator Julian Fellowes which deal with Irish republicans, a gay romance and Downton staff staging a rebellion against the visiting royal household members who are snooty, condescending and controlling bullies.

Maggie Smith is at her acerbic best as the acid-tongued and haughty Dowager and again steals the show with her killer put-downs, although Penelope Wilton and Imelda Staunton give her a good run for her money.

As period drama, it’s wonderfully fun and entertaining in capturing the magic of the original series and it lends itself perfectly to the big screen.

Its escapism is aimed squarely at Downton fans and they won’t be disappointed.  

MD

Shock of the Future (15)
Directed by Marc Collin
★★

ALEX, charmingly if not entirely convincingly played by Alma Jodorowsky, wakes up in her Paris apartment where, appropriately, there is a Jean Luc Godard poster on the wall.

She gets out of bed and, since this is 1978 and she is French, lights a cigarette.

Mind you, Alex’s apartment is otherwise unusual. It’s dominated by a massive array of electronic equipment that she’s using to create a new sound to mark the upcoming decades. She intends to create the music of the future.

French musician, film music composer and record producer Marc Collin turns director with this gently engaging picture of the day that changes Alex’s life.

Waking with writer’s block, she has to attend a party packed with pretentious guests and then slowly and ultimately serendipitously, achieves her musical dreams and so confirms women’s key role in pioneering the creation of electronic music.

Definitely a niche film but delivered capably enough.

AF

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