Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary Featurette Delves Into The True Horror Of The Story

Sometimes dead is better. Right? Obviously, that’s the iconic line from Pet Sematary that’s been plastered all over the marketing, for obvious reasons, but it’s iconic for a reason. In addition to being endearingly wrong-sounding grammatically (even though it is), it’s also pretty insightful in terms of what it’s addressing.

In the film, a man opts to bring his daughter back to life after a terrible accident. Though while her return may seem like a blessing, the reality is far more horrifying. This new featurette for the film explores this idea, and whether or not we should be willing to go to such desperate lengths to bring back lost loved ones. You can check out said featurette above.

“Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, (#StephenKing) #PetSematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (#JohnLithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences. “

What do you think of the featurette? Are you as surprised as I am that this movie isn’t rated? Let us know down below!
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SOURCE: Paramount Pictures

Box Office: Here’s What ‘Shazam’ And ‘Pet Sematary’ Might Gross On Their Opening Weekends
Fresh off the tracking boards, we have the first official pre-release tracking for the big April 5 releases. First up is DC Films’ Shazam, which is currently projected to open with around $45 million in its initial Fri-Sun run. For the record, David F. Sandberg’s DC Films flick cost around $90m to produce, about on par with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Venom, so it doesn’t have to break records in order to break even. Warner Bros. is sneaking the movie on March 23, during which the embargo will drop.

The hope is that the sneak preview will spread word-of-mouth both about the movie’s quality and whether or not it’s safe for kids. I saw the film last night and while I am currently under said embargo, I can say that you can absolutely buy a ticket for one of those sneak preview showings right here. Click on that button right there and presto! Go and take care of that and then come back to this post. Go… do it now!!

The hope is that presumably strong reviews (the social media embargo dropped last week) and solid week-of-release buzz will push that number upward or at least allow it to stay the course. A $40 million-to-$45m launch for a $90m superhero flick would be just fine, especially as the film may or may not be quite different in scope, scale and tone from both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame and thus may well survive getting surrounded by the MCU mega-movies.

Yes, Aquaman, Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse and Glass hit their tracking dead on, but Captain Marvel and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World showed that positive buzz can still push the debut numbers above the initial tracking guestimates. Heck, you can make the case that Shazam’s biggest competition is not the other comic book movies (along with the R-rated Hellboy opening the week after), but Walt Disney’s PG-rated Dumbo opening on March 29. The Tim Burton-directed fantasy is projected to open with around $50m-to-$60m (the review embargo will drop the Tuesday before opening), and that one could bite into Shazam’s kid-friendly demos.

The other big release that day is Paramount/Viacom’s Pet Sematary, which will close out this year’s SXSW festival. The second adaptation of Stephen King’s popular novel (about a cemetery that brings things back to life) is currently tracking at an over/under $25 million launch. That would be a solid start for the Kevin Kolsch/Dennis Widmyer-directed horror story, and again strong reviews out of SXSW could push that number upward. No, we shouldn’t expect A Quiet Place numbers (that was a PG-13 story that didn’t revolve around dead kids and dead animals), but this one is also presumably cheap enough that it won’t need to break records (or necessarily compete with Jordan Peele’s Us) to break even.
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April 5 will also gift us with STX’s The Best of Enemies, which is a true-life tale about Civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) confronting and then befriending Exalted Cyclops of the Klu Klux Klan C.P. Ellis (Oscar winner Sam Rockwell). The North Carolina school integration drama, which is sure to be flooded with think pieces, is tracking for around $7 million on opening weekend. Whether the movie is any good, I have little issue with this considering that Henson has already played an assassin in Proud Mary and a ballbusting sports agent in What Men Want over the last year-and-change, so it’s not like this is the only starring role she has been offered.

If you like what you’re reading, follow @ScottMendelson on Twitter, and “like” The Ticket Booth on Facebook. Also, check out my archives for older work HERE.

Missing Link

This April, meet Mr. Link (Galifianakis): 8 feet tall, 630 lbs, and covered in fur, but don’t let his appearance fool you… he is funny, sweet, and adorably literal, making him the world’s most lovable legend at the heart of Missing Link, the globe-trotting family adventure from LAIKA. Tired of living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Link recruits fearless explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Jackman) to guide him on a journey to find his long-lost relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La. Along with adventurer Adelina Fortnight (Saldana), our fearless trio of explorers encounter more than their fair share of peril as they travel to the far reaches of the world to help their new friend. Through it all, the three learn that sometimes you can find a family in the places you least expect.

Rating:
PG (for action/peril and some mild rude humor)
Genre:
Action & Adventure, Animation, Comedy
Directed By:
Chris Butler
Written By:
Chris Butler
In Theaters:
Apr 12, 2019 limited
Studio:
Annapurna Pictures

Storyline

The charismatic Sir Lionel Frost considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is none of his small-minded high-society peers seems to recognize this. Sir Lionel’s last chance for acceptance by the adventuring elite rests on traveling to America’s Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of a legendary creature. A living remnant of Man’s primitive ancestry. The Missing Link. Written by LAIKA

The charismatic Sir Lionel Frost considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of myths and monsters. Trouble is, none of his small-minded, high-society peers seems to recognize this. Hoping to finally gain acceptance from these fellow adventurers, Sir Lionel travels to the Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of a legendary creature known as the missing link.

The Kid

Film Review: ‘The Kid’

Ethan Hawke and Dane DeHaan ride tall in Vincent D’Onofrio’s fresh take on the saga of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Director:
Vincent D’Onofrio
With:
Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, Jake Schur, Leila George, Chris Pratt, Benjamin Dickey, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio.
Release Date:
Mar 8, 2019

Rated R 1 hour 39 minutes

The extended dance of death played out by lawman Pat Garrett and outlaw Billy the Kid has inspired countless accounts of varying authenticity in literature, cinema and primetime TV, ranging from Sam Peckinpah’s violently elegiac 1973 Western (featuring a singularly hunky Kris Kristofferson as the desperado also known as William Bonney) to “The Tall Man,” a 1960-’62 NBC series which fancifully imagined Garrett (Barry Sullivan) and Billy (Clu Gulager) as frontier frenemies in Lincoln, N.M.

It’s to the considerable credit of actor-turned-director Vincent D’Onofrio and screenwriter Andrew Lanham that they’ve come up with a satisfyingly fresh take on this familiar mythos in “The Kid,” a consistently involving and often exciting drama in which the two Wild West icons are presented from the p.o.v. of an impressionable adolescent who weighs the pros and cons of each man as a role model.

The title refers not to Billy the Kid — persuasively portrayed here as a cocksure fatalist with a self-aware streak by Dane DeHaan — but rather 14-year-old Rio Cutler (newcomer Jake Schur), who must go on the run with his older sister Sara (Leila George, D’Onofrio’s real-life daughter) after he fatally shoots their drunken father in a vain attempt to keep the rageaholic brute from beating their mother to death. Hot on their trail: Their equally ferocious Uncle Grant (Chris Pratt, impressively unhinged), who plans a monstrously cruel form of revenge for his murdered brother.

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While fleeing to faraway Santa Fe, where they hope to connect with a friend of their mother’s, Rio and Sara find themselves sharing a secluded hideout with a gang led by Billy the Kid, whom Rio instantly recognizes because of the outlaw’s dime-novel notoriety. D’Onofrio boldly fuses history and hagiography when we get our first glimpse of Billy, who appears to us, from Rio’s perspective, as a golden-lit embodiment of the scruffy figure depicted in the most famous confirmed photo of the legendary outlaw. A nice touch: DeHaan’s Billy continues to look like the guy in that circa 1880 tintype – complete with battered hat and sweater — for most of the movie, even as his initial luster diminishes. Outlaws on the run, apparently, have few opportunities for wardrobe changes.

Billy accepts Rio as a kindred spirit — and maybe a surrogate younger brother — but their bonding is interrupted when a posse led by newly appointed sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) arrives on the scene. After a shootout that diminishes Billy’s crew, Garrett captures the outlaw and his surviving men, and transports them, along with Rio and Sara, to a nearby town. Billy continues to be a dangerously smooth-talking charmer, even while restrained with manacles, and maintains a strong influence over Rio. But the youngster also warms, gradually and guardedly, to Garrett, and very nearly reveals to the lawman what he and his sister are running away from. Sara convinces him not to confide in Garrett, however. It doesn’t take long for both siblings to regret their silence.

Schur (son of Jordan Schur, one of the film’s producers) is appropriately compelling as his character is craftily positioned to appear, almost Zelig-like, during key episodes in the oft-told tale of Billy and Garrett. But while he does a creditable job of propelling the narrative, and George is aptly affecting as Sara, the most intriguing scenes in “The Kid” are those that shift the focus to DeHaan and Hawke, as the two well-matched actors illuminate the underlining themes of mythology and destiny in Lanham’s screenplay.

Right from the start, Billy indicates that he accepts the inevitability of his violent demise as the unavoidable price of his fame. He insists to a credulous Rio that most of what is said or written about him isn’t true. In the same breath, however, he adds: “I guess it don’t really matter, though. I’ve done enough.” Hawke, who dominates the film through dint of his ability to neatly balance authority, sympathy, and moral doubt, chides Billy, an old friend turned elusive quarry, for exploiting his infamy: “You know what it means when they start writing about you? You’re already dead.”

Thanks to standout work by DP Matthew J. Lloyd and editor Katharine McQuerrey, the shootouts and showdowns in “The Kid” are presented with more than enough kinetic flair to please fans of both traditional Westerns produced in the 1940s and ‘50s, and more recent examples, like the 2016 remake of “The Magnificent Seven” (which, not coincidentally, also provided gainful employment for Hawke, Pratt, and D’Onofrio). But the action set pieces, too, are imbued with an awareness of legends and their consequences.

At one point, Garrett cunningly uses his own celebrity to draw a villain into a gunfight. Just a few scenes earlier, however, the lawman grimly acknowledges that what has sparked that celebrity will inspire others to match their gunmanship against his. “Won’t be long now,” he tells his faithful deputy (Benjamin Dickey, star of Hawke’s “Blaze”). What will happen? “People,” Garrett replies, then allows his voice to trail off. He doesn’t have to say anything else. His deputy understands. So do we.

Film Review: ‘The Kid’

Reviewed online, Houston, March 5, 2019. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 99 MIN.

Production: A Lionsgate release of Lionsgate, Mimran Schur Pictures presentation, in association with Suretone Pictures of a Mimran Schur Pictures, Suretone Pictures production. Producers: Jordan Schur, Nick Thurlow, Sam Maydew, David Mimran. Executive producers: Richard Brickell, Carl Stubner, Christian Mercuri, Jonathan Bross, Jonah Loop, Jojo Chehebar, Ali Jazayeri, David Gendron, Samir Patel, Sejal Patel, Dillon Jordan.

Crew: Director: Vincent D’Onofrio. Screenplay: Andrew Lanham; story: D’Onofrio, Lanham. Camera (color): Matthew J. Lloyd. Editor: Katharine McQuerrey. Music: Latham Gaines, Shelby Gaines.

With: Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, Jake Schur, Leila George, Chris Pratt, Benjamin Dickey, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio.

A Madea Family Funeral

Film Review: Tyler Perry’s ‘A Madea Family Funeral’

Madea is alive and kicking, and Tyler Perry is back in lurid form, in a movie that combines weaponized burlesque and primal soap opera.

Director:
Tyler Perry
With:
Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, Ciera Payton, KJ Smith, David Otunga, Rome Flynn, Courtney Burrell, Jen Harper, Derek Morgan.
Release Date:
Mar 1, 2019

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7054636/

“A Madea Family Funeral” is the eleventh Tyler Perry film to showcase Perry in the role of the fire-breathing battle-axe-in-flowered-print-dresses inner-city drag matriarch Madea. Since Perry has said that it will be the last, it seems reasonable to assume that the funeral the movie pivots around might be Madea’s own. Is there anyone left for her to terrorize? Have no fear, though: Madea is alive and well (even if it seems a borderline spoiler to reveal that she doesn’t die). And I’m not convinced that her retirement will be any more permanent than a typical rock star’s. Also still kicking, I’m pleased to report, is her posse — the loose-cannon trio of geriatric relatives who’ve become her backup chorus in cussed infamy, though having been through more than a few Perry films themselves, their voices now come through just as loudly and riotously as Madea’s.

There’s Madea’s brother, Joe, played by Perry as a raunchy white-haired coot with a horny twinkle who still talks about himself as if he’s a pimp (his word). There is Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), with her high coif of blue hair, who fancies herself a prim and proper lady but has a way of spewing whatever she’s supposed to be keeping a lid on. And there’s Hattie (Patrice Lovely), with her wizened pursed-lip gleam and her baby voice (she sounds like a cross between a four-year-old and a siren), who makes the others seem as sober as a church-social committee. (If these three were the Marx Brothers, Joe would be Groucho, Bam would be Chico, and Hattie would be Harpo.)

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Madea and her retirement-home-of-the-hood Greek chorus get away with the sort of casual blasphemies that few characters in pop culture could right now. (Joe doesn’t just joke about physical and sexual abuse; he’s for it.) But the dirty fun of their ricochet patter isn’t simply that it’s outrageous. It’s that they’re driven to say these things; they don’t have a whisper of the politeness or decorum that would ever incline them to hold back their thoughts. In their eyes, not saying what you think is “boojie” — in other words, it’s what their descendants who’ve gotten too white for their own good now do.

As a filmmaker, Tyler Perry is their kindred spirit. He’s the sophisticated string-puller who has orchestrated all of this, but Madea, it’s clear, is his id, and the primal soap opera he stages in “A Madea Family Funeral” is Perry’s own form of spewing. You could say that the movie, in tone, is nearly schizophrenic. It divides itself between the over-the-top burlesque of Madea and her cronies, shooting their damn mouths off, and a ripely adulterous melodrama that, in its “serious” way, is every bit as over-the-top.

An extended clan of upscale relatives gather for the anniversary of Vianne (Jen Harper) and Anthony (Derek Morgan), who are like family royalty — only to discover, in the most naked way possible, that the celebration is a sham. When critics make sport of Tyler Perry’s vulgar operatic broadness, they’re talking about stuff like this: In an Atlanta hotel room, AJ (Courtney Burrell), a sullen scoundrel, is shacking up with his brother’s fiancée (Aeriél Miranda). By complete coincidence, Anthony, one half of the anniversary couple, is in the hotel room right next door, where he has just expired during an S&M tryst. Which results in his corpse, with a ball gag in his mouth, being discovered by Madea and her posse.

You could ridicule the insane luridness of this, but here’s the thing: Tyler Perry means it. He believes in the malign flamboyance he’s showing us as gutbucket drama. “A Madea Family Funeral” is raw pulp, but pulp made with conviction — more conviction, I’d say, than Perry has shown in his last three or four films. The ribald comedy and therapeutic “tragedy” work together here. They’re the opposite sides of the same coin: an exposé of the demons that can undermine people still chafing against oppressed options.

The hidden sexual drama worms its way toward its only natural climax: cathartic exposure. But the joke is that Madea and her cronies are exposing the secrets at almost every turn; they can’t not. But they’re such dotty eccentrics that no one registers what they’re saying. Perry has added a new character to his gallery of ancient cranks: He now also plays cousin Heathrow, a legless wreck in a balding fringe of Jheri Curls, who speaks hilariously blunt erotic declarations with a post-throat-cancer voice enhancer that makes him sound like a depraved robot. And when Perry finally stages the funeral, he has a great time satirizing the endlessness of African-American rites of grief; when Madea, the event’s MC, gets up to the pulpit and cuts short a gospel singer as if he were giving an overly long awards speech, you know that the movie has trashed all piety. “A Madea Family Funeral” isn’t good, exactly, but it’s Perry good. It combines weaponized comedy and sexualized soap opera in a way that defuses all shame.

Film Review: Tyler Perry’s ‘A Madea Family Funeral’

Reviewed at AMC Union Square, New York, Feb. 28, 2018. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 102 MIN.

Production: A Lionsgate release of a Tyler Perry Studios, Lionsgate production. Producers: Ozzie Areu, Will Areu, Mark E. Swinton, Tyler Perry.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Tyler Perry. Camera (color, widescreen): Richard Vialet. Editor: Larry Sexton. Music: Philip White.

With: Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, Ciera Payton, KJ Smith, David Otunga, Rome Flynn, Courtney Burrell, Jen Harper, Derek Morgan.

No Manches Frida 2

 

Film Review: ‘No Manches Frida 2’

Thief-turned-teacher Zequi competes to save his relationship, and his school, at a beach-resort competition in this dreary sequel.

No Manches Frida 2 Director Nacho G. Velilla Interview [In Spanish]

Director:
Nacho G. Velilla
With:
Omar Chaparro, Martha Higareda, Aaron Díaz, Itatí Cantoral, Regina Pavón, Mario Moran, Memo Dorantes
Release Date:
Mar 15, 2019

Rated R 1 hour 42 minutes

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9019352/

For proof of American cinema’s global reach, look no further than “No Manches Frida 2,” which like its 2016 predecessor hews to a tried-and-true Hollywood comedy formula, albeit one embellished with distinctly Mexican flavor. Bright, crude and aggressively hackneyed, director Nacho G. Velilla’s follow-up prizes energy over originality. While its humor elicits far more eye-rolls than laughs — and will thus leave franchise newbies cold — its high-octane style should appeal to fans of the first film when it opens nationwide in theaters on March 15, courtesy of Pantelion Films.

In the original “No Manches Frida” (which was a remake of the 2013 German hit “Fack ju Göhte,” and whose title roughly translates to “WTF, Frida”), thief-turned-teacher Zequi (Omar Chaparro) saved Frida Kahlo High School by turning around its wayward students, and successfully wooed nerdy colleague Lucy (Martha Higareda). Now set to marry Lucy, Zequi finds his life in ruins due to a vomitus mishap at the altar. Compounding that calamity, Frida Kahlo High is once again on the verge of being shut down. Under the guidance of stern new principal Regina (Andrea Noli), a long-shot solution is proffered: win an inter-school competition held at a luxury beach resort, and the department of education will forget about foreclosure.

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This makes no logical sense, and neither does the fact that the tournament has nothing to do with academics; rather, it’s a collection of volleyball, chess and dance contests, the school’s strategy for the last of which is assigned to an unwitting Zequi. Most of these matches pit Frida Kahlo’s misfit kids against the evil preppies of St. James, led by selfie-obsessed hunk Mario (Aaron Diaz) — who, it just so happens, is Lucy’s ex-boyfriend, and is soon putting the moves on her. Zequi thus finds himself fighting on two fronts, even as Lucy’s sister Laura (Carla Adell) worries about sleeping with Cristoba (Mario Moran), lest she lose him to rival hotties; and Lucy’s colleague Camilla (Itatí Cantoral) gets drunk and tries to entice any man within earshot with dirty propositions.

“No Manches Frida 2” is a cornucopia of commotion, with brawls, dance-offs, pranks, partying and other assorted hijinks strewn throughout. Director Velilla cuts storytelling corners at every opportunity, the better to maintain a swift, lively pace. From a formal standpoint, his Skittles-hewed visuals — which lean heavily on music montages and fast-forwarding aerial drone shots — lend the proceedings a style reminiscent of “High School Musical.” And like that Disney franchise, his sequel relocates the action from the classroom to an oceanfront getaway, and climaxes with an enthusiastic musical number that resolves all conflicts.

Though it’s constructed like an over-the-top cartoon and marked by an underlying chasteness, “No Manches Frida 2” marries its juvenile corniness with regular doses of adult-oriented crassness involving strippers, underage boozing and — lamest of all — Cantoral’s orgiastic moaning during a conversation about first-time sexual encounters. David S. Olivas, Claudio Herrera and Sergio Adrian Sánchez’s script never comfortably mixes its divergent comic tropes. Instead, it tries to compensate for the dissonance with breakneck speed, refusing to let any scene, or plot point, stick around long enough for viewers to contemplate their irrationality.

Still, the central problem of “No Manches Frida 2” isn’t a lack of tonal or narrative coherence; it’s a dearth of funny scenes and a preponderance of one-dimensional characters whose entire personalities can be gleaned by looking at their pose on the film’s theatrical poster. Higareda and Chaparro smile and scowl with relish, but all the wide-eyed mugging in the world can’t enliven this hyperactive grab bag of romantic clichés and penis jokes.

Film Review: ‘No Manches Frida 2’

Reviewed at AMC 34th Street 14, New York, March 14, 2019. Rated R. Running time: 102 MIN.

Production: A Pantelion Films release of a Lionsgate production in association with Alcon Entertainment, Neverending Media, Selva Pictures, Constantin Film Production. Producers: Edward Allen, Martha Higareda, Mauricio Argüelles, Nacho G. Velilla. Executive producers: Martin Moszkowicz, Clifford Werber, Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Laurence Rosenthal, Fernando Lebrija. Co-producer: Aaron Rivera-Ashford.

Crew: Director: Nacho G. Velilla. Screenplay: David S. Olivas, Claudio Herrera, Sergio Adrian Sánchez. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): David Omedes. Editor: Angel Hernandez Zoido. Music: Juan José Javierre.

With: Omar Chaparro, Martha Higareda, Aaron Díaz, Itatí Cantoral, Regina Pavón, Mario Moran, Memo Dorantes

No Manches Frida was a surprise comedy hit back in 2016. It’s certainly not a surprise that Zequi returns for another round with children in No Manches Frida 2.

The sequel follows the now reformed ex-con Zequi as he’s about to marry the love of his life, Lucy. With wedding day jitters, it turns into a major fiasco that Lucy called off the wedding. As the school going through its own troubles, Zequi takes the students to the beach for a tournament of their lives. At the seaside event, Lucy meets her high school sweet Mario, who transformed himself into an attractive hunk and happens to be the opposing coach. Zequi finds himself competing for his love back and to save the school by leading them to victory.

The film stars Omar Chaparro, Martha Higareda, Itati Cantoral and Aaron Diaz.

LRM Online had a sit-down interview with director Nacho G. Velilla. Velilla directed the first successful original film. He has directed multiple television series in the past, including 7 Vidas, Aida, Los Quien and Fenomenos.

No Manches Frida 2 is playing nationwide in theaters tomorrow.

Check out our exclusive interview above.

The Aftermath

The Aftermath review – forbidden love lost in the postwar fog

Keira Knightley plays a lonely military wife who falls for a German widower in a tragi-romantic drama set uneasily amid Hamburg’s smouldering ruins

Suite Française meets Lady Chatterley in this hammy and preposterous 1940s romantic drama set in the aftermath of the second world war, the “aftermath” alluding also to the consequences of matching tragedies in the lovers’ personal lives.

Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Clarke give honest performances, directed confidently enough by James Kent, working from Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse’s adaptation of the 2013 bestseller by Rhidian Brook. There are some nice enough moments. I liked the German and the Brit agreeing that the “Deutsche See” and the “North Sea” are the same thing and that it is “all the same sea in the end”.

But this kind of wartime star-cross’d swoon is our modern film industry’s equivalent of France’s bygone cinéma de papa: a sclerotic classiness. It is a luxury period piece: cigarettes and antique automobiles, digitally rendered bomb devastation, menfolk variously dashing in uniform and evening dress and the women elegant and sexy, seen in gowns and various states of long-shot déshabillé, and all supposedly exalted by the postwar setting and its historical importance.

The year is 1946 and Colonel Lewis Morgan (Clarke) is part of the British military posting in Hamburg, a decent man but emotionally cold. He is there to administer the postwar settlement, to keep order among the fractious civilian population – traumatised by the devastating British bombing – and to supervise the “denazification” process, the purpose of which is to root out unrepentant Hitlerites. With him, Lewis has brought his beautiful, emotionally brittle wife Rachel (Knightley) who is trying her best to confront the secret pain in their marriage, about which Lewis is in denial.

The Morgans have the right to requisition un-bombed German houses as their living quarters and they are assigned the beautiful home of Stefan Lubert (Skarsgård), sensitive architect, widower and non-party-member and his difficult teenage daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann). In theory, Stefan and Freda should be packed off to a camp, but Lewis has the grace to be embarrassed about this, and allows Stefan and Freda to live in the attic, with Stefan permitted to do humble work in the garden. And so, with an awful inevitability, Lewis is away all day neglecting his wife’s emotional needs, and leaving her to brood over the beautiful Steinway in the house. She plays. So did Stefan’s late wife. And these lonely souls are drawn together.

The emotional flashpoints of this secret love are frankly forced and unconvincing. The pair’s first kiss is lacking in the despairing passion that it is supposed to radiate. But, even if it did look plausible, there is something too easy in the way the horrors and guilt of the second world war are slathered in this tragi-romantic syrup. It is reminiscent of Suite Française – though not quite as glib as that other prestigious period production about postwar love and guilt, The Reader.

And other parts of the film seem borrowed, too. Freda meets up with Albert (Jannik Schümann), a menacing young man from the town, and it is eerily like Liesl, the 16-going-on-17-year-old widower’s daughter in The Sound of Music, having her covert assignations with telegram boy Rolf, with his sinister loyalties.

Rachel is in the habit of taking tea with an expat acquaintance in Hamburg, Susan Burnham (Kate Phillips), the wife of a boorish intelligence officer, played by Martin Compston. Mrs Burnham loves to gossip, though with an edge of shrewdness and spite. She is almost a darker version of the chatty, insensitive Dolly Messiter in Brief Encounter (1946).

As a love story, the film is supposed to derive a kind of energy from the devastation itself, a sense that with everything flattened, things can be reimagined. Lives can be begun anew. As Stefan says, it is “Stunde Null, Year Zero, everything can start again”. But there is no real commitment to this idea in the drama. It is more of a holiday romance and the well-intentioned performances lead nowhere.

The Mustang

‘The Mustang’ Review: A Man, A Horse and A Shot at Redemption

Filmmaker Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s story of a troubled convict bonding with a wild mustang is a striking debut — and a tender exploration of male rage

‘The Mustang’ Review: Kindred Spirits in Collision

A prison inmate bonds with a wild horse as he trains it in Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s debut feature.

It’s rare when a young female filmmaker scores a breakout like Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre did when she unleashed The Mustang at Sundance 2019. Now audiences can see what all the shouting is about. The ticking time bomb of male rage — dangerous if you get too close — may seem like an unlikely topic for a French actress to tackle in her feature debut as a director. But don’t expect this firebrand to stay corraled by sexist preconceptions. Clermont-Tonnerre comes from a place of defiance, and her fearless instincts surge through every frame. Each time you think you have this movie pegged, it’ll knock you for a loop.

On the surface, the film is a prison drama mixed with an animal-bonding movie — think The Shawshank Redemption meets The Black Stallion. Roman Coleman (an incendiary, indelible Matthias Schoenaerts) is a hardened convict who can’t exist within the system. “I’m not good with people,” he says. Talk about an understatement. Released from solitary confinement, Roman blinks into the light like a caged gladiator entering a combat ring. He bristles when a shrink (Connie Britton) at his Nevada correctional facility sentences him to a state-mandated rehabilitation program involving horse therapy. These are the facts, per the movie: There are more than 100,000 wild mustangs roaming free in the U.S., many about to be euthanized in the name of overpopulation. A few hundred of them are sent to prisons where those that can be are broken and trained by inmates, then sold at public auction.

It sounds like a cornball setup for love at first sight between a convict and his mustang, who eventually will take on human characteristics that deny the animal’s feral DNA. In short, the usual Disney-movie bullshit. Not this time. Clermont-Tonnerre worked at the Sundance lab to develop a sparse, sharp script with Mona Fastvold and Brock Norman Brock. Roman and the horse he calls Marcus don’t meet cute. In a scene of wince-inducing cruelty, Roman flies into a rage and smashes the steed’s ribs with his fists.

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By now you’ve probably guessed that Clermont-Tonnerre and her dynamite actors are allergic to anything predictable. Bruce Dern is all grizzled authority as the old-timer in charge of the horse-therapy program. And the reliably superb Jason Mitchell plays a fellow inmate who serves as the manager’s right-hand man, one whose ingratiating smile reveals a man who’s learned how to game the system. Everyone stands alone, including Roman’s pregnant teen daughter (a terrific Gideon Adlon), who can’t crack the shell of a father still scarred by the crime that put him in prison. The film withholds the core of Roman’s torment until the end. But Schoenaerts silently tells you everything you need to know in his quietly devastating performance. Best known as Marion Cotillard’s bouncer lover in Rust and Bone and the Putin-esque uncle of Jennifer Lawrence in Red Sparrow, the Belgian actor hits you where it hurts. You’ll cry over his final scenes with the horse. But the tears here are honestly earned, and they sting like hell.

Comparisons will be made to The Rider — another man-meets-horse saga directed by a woman (Chloé Zhao). But Clermont-Tonnerre’s savage plunge into the ferocity and fragility of the male ego is its own animal. What Roman and Marcus find in each other is an understanding that’s forged in loneliness. The give-and-take between the two beasts is emotionally crushing. The movie missteps with a drug-sting subplot, but quickly recovers it footing, and the soaring poetic majesty achieved by cinematographer Ruben Impens and composer Jed Kurzel ease the hurt in this open wound of a movie. Above all, The Mustang marks the birth of an exceptional new filmmaker, a woman hellbent on bucking Hollywood gender bias. By any standard, that’s cause for celebration.

Getting a good idea for a movie doesn’t guarantee that the movie will be good. Clichés beckon. Pitfalls multiply. Parallels invite clarification. Symbols beg for emphasis. “The Mustang” starts with a fine idea—an incorrigible prison inmate learns to tame his own wild rages by taming, and training, a wild mustang. Far from going wrong, though, this debut feature by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre opens strong,