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Issue #1851      December 5, 2018

Film round-up

Robin Hood

The fabled bandit of Sherwood Forest made his screen bow (sorry) 110 years ago in 1908’s Robin Hood and His Merry Men, followed by over 200 movies and television shows. And in this remake he’s buckling his swash like crazy once again to make life hell for the malevolent Sheriff of Nottingham.

Traditional genre tropes – Robin, his Merrie Men, Maid Marion and a memorably malign Sheriff of Nottingham, along with sufficient whizzing arrows and assorted violence – are all there to satisfy fans of historical action and adventure.

Director Otto Bathurst, screenwriters Ben Chandler and David James Kelly and a praiseworthy hard-working cast deliver a riotous revisionist take on the legendary story.

Early on, we’re told to “forget everything you think you know ... this is no bedtime story” and the adrenaline-loaded mélange of adventure and action should keep most film goers awake.

We first meet Hood, played by an admirably straight-faced Taron Egerton, fighting in the Crusades in an action-packed high-body-count sequence featuring a futuristic automatic-firing crossbow before returning to Nottingham with Jamie Fox’s Little John.

Cue more action as Robin, Little John and the not always so Merrie Men wreak havoc and chaos as they set out to destroy the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham (a show-stealing Ben Mendelsohn) and so on and so forth.

It’s been filmed in Croatia and thus depicts a uniquely mountainous Nottinghamshire and the international bent continues with a cast including US actors Jamie Foxx, Mendelsohn and F Murray Abraham, while Fifty Shades of Grey’s Ulsterman Jamie Dorman appears this time with his kit on as Will Scarlet.

Alan Frank

Back to Berlin

With the shocking rise in fascism and the far right, Catherine Lurie’s moving and poignant documentary is a timely reminder of why we should never forget.

It follows 11 bikers in the summer of 2015 as they set off from Israel to Berlin on an epic 24-day trip across nine countries to take the Maccabiah torch to the site of the infamous 1936 German Olympics. The riders, ironically astride German-made BMW motor bikes, were retracing the journey of the original Maccabiah Riders of 1935.

Seven were descendants of Holocaust survivors, two were actual survivors and another pair were the grandsons of the 1930s Maccabiah riders.

While nothing dramatic or untoward unfolds during this emotionally-charged journey, what hits home and moves to the core is how they try to come to terms with their painful and dark past, along with the admission by the Holocaust survivors of the horrors they witnessed at German concentration camps which they have never spoken about.

Their detour to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp rakes up horrendous memories and emotions, as a father reveals to his biker son how he watched Nazis stamp on Jewish babies and old people to kill them.

The facts and figures of the numbers of Jews that were killed in each country they ride through speak for themselves, but it is the personal anecdotes, punctuated by archive footage, that really makes an impact. It’s hard to even begin to imagine what any of these survivors went through.

What rings out loud and clear from this powerful film is that this must never be allowed to happen again.

Maria Duarte

Assassination Nation

“This is the story of how my town of Salem lost its motherfucking mind,” a voice announces at the start of this increasingly repellent amalgam of horror, teenage sex and bloodshed which, I assume, writer and director Sam Levinson sold to backers as a pungent take on small-town mores and miseries.

He kicks off by signalling what’s to follow in an urban setting whose sanitised-by-Spielberg-style bland streets and suburbs soon become the scene of mounting nastiness.

The key protagonists – high school senior Lily (Odessa Young) and her three best female friends – enjoy typical US teen lives. They talk about, and have, sex and enjoy the wonderful world of selfies and texts until an anonymous hacker poisons the place by revealing the personal lives and secrets of thousands of townspeople.

Before long, society starts collapsing and purge-style violence erupts, leaving Lily and her friends to fight for their lives against gangs of armed attackers.

As the mad mobs poison the town, Lily – sporting the Stars and Stripes as a mask, something less subtle than a piano falling on you from a great height – takes to sporting a rifle and using it.

Levinson lays on the violence thick and bloody in a shocker that could have been better used to satirise Trump’s US rather than simply satisfying himself with a slick and frequently nauseating money-making horror flick.

Alan Frank

Postcards from London

Writer and director Steve McLean’s offbeat one-of-a-kind story begins with beautiful 18-year-old Essex boy Jim (Harris Dickinson) telling his father and mother: “This will be my education” and then leaving home and heading for London in search of a more intellectually stimulating life.

He ends up sleeping in a cardboard box in darkest Soho, but his luck changes when he meets and then joins the Raconteurs, a band of upper-class male escorts offering intellectual conversation as well as the expected carnal stimulation.

After learning a great deal about art, Jim becomes popular with the high end of the market – “I’m not a rent boy, I am a muse” – before his rise and rise is halted when he finds that he’s suffering from Stendhal Syndrome, which has him fainting in front of beautiful baroque paintings.

In synopsis, MacLean’s narrative seems far-fetched but, thanks to Dickinson’s unexpectedly credible performance, Postcards from London holds the attention most of the time, while Jim’s segue from rent boy to “art expert” almost convinces.

Maria Duarte

Morning Star

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