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Film round-up: November 7, 2018

MARIA DUARTE and ALAN FRANK review The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Outlaw King, Three Days in Quiberon, The Grinch, Overlord and Outlaw King

Overlord (18)
Directed by Julius Avery
★★

SINCE Operation Overlord was the code-word for D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, you might assume that with Overlord you'd be seeing a WWII action film.

And, indeed, director Julius Avery kicks off with a bunch of US paratroopers flying to France on the eve of D-Day to drop behind enemy lines, enter a fortified church and destroy a German radio transmitter.

So far, so standard.

But, when the soldiers, helped by a beautiful French girl, enter the nazi-occupied church the plot bizarrely switches genres. They find nazi scientists crafting lethal “super-nazi” zombies, “a 1,000- year army and its 1,000-year soldiers.” That switch from war action to Hammer horror-style torture porn is fundamentally jarring.

To their credit, the actors work hard and impressively keep straight faces in interpreting a less than credible screenplay.

Here, the paratroopers are predominantly played — effectively enough — by black actors although it's known that US soldiers of African origin were not integrated with white units during the second world war.

An even more amazing aspect of this low-level shocker is that producer JJ Abrams was also behind such hits as Cloverfield, Star Trek and Mission Impossible: Fallout.

Alan Frank

The Grinch (U)
Directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney
★★★

FOR any child who may not have seen How The Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey, should that even be possible, then this new animated version may be ideal.

In it, Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice of the cynical Christmas-hating grump who embarks on a mission to ruin the festive season for the residents of Whoville.

This new adaptation of the classic Dr Seuss story is fun and heart-warming and it's again a reminder of the power of optimism and the holiday spirit.

The Grinch's best friend, his long-suffering dog Max, steals a film that doesn't shed any new or ingenious light on the subject matter and I can't help but ask it we need another film remake about this grumpy green character.

Not being a huge lover of Christmas, I am on team Grinch though.

Maria Duarte

Three Days in Quiberon (12A)
Directed by Emily Atef
★★★

IN 1981, a year before her death, Austrian film actor Romy Schneider was staying in Brittany at a health-spa hotel and, according to best friend Hilde Fritsch “was not in her best form.”

Hardly surprising, given that her ex-husband had killed himself two years before and that she was divorcing another spouse and involved in a custody battle for her son.

The arrival of young journalist Michel Jurgs (Robert Gwisdek) and Schneider’s long-time friend, photographer Robert Lebeck (Charly Hubner), to conduct a now notorious no-holds-barred interview for the German magazine Stern acts as a catalyst for an excoriating encounter that luridly exposes the “real” Schneider.

Marie Baumer’s potent portrayal of Schneider does much to disguise the facile psychology of writer-director Emily Atef (think Freud for Dummies) and characters who seem as much interested in exposing tabloid journalism — Jurgs comes across in truly unpleasant tabloid mode, Lebeck ends up in bed with Schneider — as interacting with the protagonist.

AF

Wildlife (12A)
Directed by Paul Dano
★★

THIS smouldering drama about a family in crisis in the 1960s fails to ignite, despite stalwart performances from A-list leads Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The pair play a couple who have moved to Montana with their teenage son Joe (impressive newcomer Ed Oxenbould) for a fresh start. But, when the volatile Jerry (Gyllenhaal) loses his job and his sense of purpose, he decides to go to battle a major forest fire near the Canadian border to find himself.

After he leaves, his wife Jeanette (a standout Mulligan) suddenly switches from being the perfect housewife and mother to a woman suffering a midlife crisis. She turns to drink and embarks on an affair with a much older wealthy man, while 14-year-old Joe is left to pick up the pieces.

The problem is that her transformation takes places in seconds without any warning, while Jerry is not seen again until the very end of the film. There's a disconnect and it feels like you are a voyeur in the lives of people you couldn't care less about.

Based on Richard Ford's novel, actor turned writer-director Paul Dano's debut feature is exquisitely shot and composed as it shows a crumbling marriage set against the backdrop of Montana's barren sweeping landscapes.

But, sadly, it left me neither shaken nor stirred.

MD

Nine to Five (15)
Directed by Colin Higgins
★★★★

WHEN it comes to film-making, profit rather than the art of cinema has long been Hollywood’s major motivation.

Initially, when studios had a hit they cashed in by making innumerable series of money-making remakes, but re-releases of hit films are bringing in the cash again today, as proved recently with Some Like It Hot and Beetlejuice.

So, 38 years after hitting the box-office jackpot and advancing the cause of women’s liberation — albeit in somewhat simplistic star-driven style — Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and singer Dolly Parton in her screen debut return in fine feisty form in this amusing office-set comedy, where the three women clash with their supremely sexist boss, perfectly played by Dabney Coleman.

The comic exploits of the revenge-seeking trio still make for light entertainment, spiced with revenge fantasy sequences that are still enjoyable.

AF

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (15)
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
★★★

THIS anthology of six surreal tales from the Wild West is a wonderful example of the Coen brothers’ dark, ingenious and furtive imagination.

The good news is that no women or children were raped or killed — a prerequisite, it seems, for Westerns — in any of the stories.

Written, produced and directed by the brothers, the film started life as a six-part Netflix series before the yarns, starring the likes of Liam Neeson, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson and Tyne Daly, were spliced together.

Although they're all stand-alone narratives about different aspects of the wild frontier, each with its individually distinctive style and tone, death seems to be a recurring theme.

The Coen brothers never cease to amaze and all the more so here. They've taken the Western genre and given it a fresh and bizarre twist.

MD

Outlaw King
Directed by David Mackenzie
★★★

CAPTAIN James T Kirk — aka Chris Pine — seems an odd choice to play Robert the Bruce in David Mackenzie's uber-muddy and violent historical drama about how he fought a David-and-Goliath battle against the King of England's occupying army.

But hats off to Pine who does a sterling job holding his own, and his Scots accent, opposite a predominantly Scottish cast.

Of course all the excitement surrounding this film has been sparked by Pine's full-frontal naked appearance — blink and you miss it — which women actors, including his co-star, the superlative Florence Pugh, have been expected to do as a matter of course for years.

But all is fair in the name of equality.

A fascinating and little-known tale, the film lacks the tension and rousing drama that you would expect, though the battle scenes are bloody and brutal.

Definitely worth a watch.

MD

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