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Film round-up: September 23, 2021

Van Connor and Maria Duarte review of The Green Knight, Sweetheart, Percy vs Goliath, The Many Saints of Newark and Oasis: Knebworth 1996

The Green Knight (15)
Directed by David Lowery
★★★

THIS bold and surreal retelling of the 14th-century epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight provides a fresh spin on the Arthurian legend from writer-director David Lowery.

It stars Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s (Sean Harris) headstrong nephew, who volunteers to take part in a ridiculous game in which the price of winning is losing his life. After chopping off the head of the eponymous Green Knight, he agrees to meet up with him a year later — when the gigantic stranger can return the favour.

Sir Gawain is confronted with some odd characters including ghosts, giants, thieves and a talking fox during his off-kilter quest to prove his worth.

Lowery delivers a visually captivating fantasy adventure driven by compelling performances by Patel and his superb supporting cast, including Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton.

It is a truly bizarre tale which highlights the tension between Christianity and Paganism in this parable featuring temptation, wandering and a metaphorical crucifixion.

There is a lot to digest in this weird and extraordinary medieval ride.

MD
In cinemas September 24

Sweetheart (15)
Directed by Marley Morrison
★★★

THE pains of growing up, grappling with gender identity and sexuality along with young love are explored with humour and much tenderness in this wonderfully uplifting lesbian coming-of-age tale about a socially awkward teenage girl who is dragged to Dorset on a family holiday from hell.

Inspired by her own teenage years, writer-director Marley Morrison’s charming debut feature breathes new life and heart into this genre, while paying homage to the quintessential Britishness of the seaside holiday park — think Hi-de-Hi! — which seems magical when you are eight but not so much when you are 17.

It is powered by a sensational performance from Nell Barlow, in her first leading role as the environmentally conscious AJ, who hides behind sunglasses and oversized masculine clothes and is at loggerheads with her overbearing single mum (Jo Hartley) and her older sister (Sophia Di Martino from Loki).

But her holiday brightens up though when she meets and falls for lifeguard Isla (Ella-Rae Smith) — sparking new angst.

Delightful and refreshing, I am excited to see what Barlow and Morrison do next.

MD
In cinemas September 24

Percy vs Goliath (12)
Directed by Clark Johnson

THE kind of trash drama usually reserved for petrol station DVD discount bins and Tuesday premieres on Sky Cinema, Percy vs Goliath (the “vs Goliath” added exclusively for UK audiences) stars Christopher Walken, Zach Braff and Christina Ricci among a cast that might be exciting were they not also unfortunately the 2021 iterations of Christopher Walken, Zach Braff, and Christina Ricci.

Though it’s ghoulish to rag too hard on a film clearly crafted with the best of intentions, it’s borderline irresponsible not to in the case of something as mystifyingly ill-judged as this Hallmark-grade courtroom drama.

Walken is the crotchety farmer dragged to court by Big Farming to advocate for ownership of his seeds, with Braff the lawyer and Ricci the idealistic crusader.

The only crusade of note here though is of cinematic worth, of which Percy vs Goliath offers none. Literally as engaging as watching crops grow, it’s a pretty barren experience.

Van Connor
In cinemas September 24

The Many Saints of Newark (15)
Directed by Alan Taylor
★★★

CONSIDERING the last void of content-creation during the 2008 writers’ strike gave us a deluge of disposable TV franchise spin-off features, it’s fitting that the tail end of Covid should see the return of The Sopranos in the solid but very deeply flawed prequel, The Many Saints of Newark.

Shifting the action to the late ’60s heyday of oft-mentioned legacy character Dickie Molitsanti (bought to life here by Alessandro Nivola), Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor and series figurehead David Chase take us through the tumultuous race riots of the Long Hot Summer of 1967 and subsequent years of change for not only what will become the infamous Soprano crime family, but the lives of those they cross paths with along the way.

Nivola makes for a solid mobster lead, nailing the humanity and hard-bitten masculinity of the Sopranos universe for good worth.

Outside of Nivola, however, there really aren’t many saints to be found — series acolytes doubtless set to be mystified by the Star Wars-esque level of origin stories for every minute legacy element, and everyone else sure to be equally baffled by what the focus of this otherwise just-about-average mobster flick is meant to be.

VC
In cinemas September 24

Oasis: Knebworth 1996 (15)
Directed by Jake Scott
★★★★★

THE most iconic gig of the ’90s gets the documentary treatment, courtesy of Plunkett & Macleane helmer Jake Scott, with the riotous rock-chronicle Knebworth 1996.

Part concert-flick, part fan-fuelled love letter, it’s an amp-cranking pulse-pounding weekend in that legendary field brought to near-overpowering life.

Cleverly structured as to appease both general documentary viewers and those assuming they were in for a boilerplate concert movie, Knebworth hedges its bets by serving each and indulging neither — a two-thirds-of-a-song formula proving the perfect amount for Scott’s gleefully frayed but deceptively clever vibe.

Most impressively, Knebworth 1996 stands out as a music documentary by being, first and foremost, a music documentary rather than an explicitly Oasis one. This ride is about that ride, that experience and that weekend — the band involved are immaterial.

It helps create history, though, when it’s one of the biggest and best of all time.

VC
In cinemas September 24

 

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