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The Prague Remedy

Charlatan

Director: Agnieska Holland

Cast: Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan, Juraj Loj, Jiri Cerny, Jaroslava Pokorna

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Czech and German with English Subtitles

Running Time: 118 minutes

Charlatan is screened virtually at the 8th European Film Festival from 14th – 24th October 2021 – https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/films/

In a similar vein to director Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Polish director Agnieska Holland’s handsome period drama Charlatan tackles the life and love of famed Czech healer Jan Mikolasec  played by Ivan Trojan who developed an uncanny knack for prescribing herbal remedies to patients based on their urine, a diagnosis determined by age and gender.

Ivan Trojek stars as Jan Mikolasec

Most notably, Mikolasec managed to navigate the political and social turmoil of mid 20th century Czechoslovakia as the country was first invaded and by the Nazi’s and then after World War 2, Czechoslovakia fell into the grip an equally totalitarian regime, the soviets as it got incorporated into the Iron Curtain until its liberation into glorious freedom during the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Oscar nominated screenwriter and director of Europa Europa (1990), Agnieska Holland returns to the big screen with this touching film Charlatan about the tormented journey of Mikolasec and his hidden and rapturous love affair with his beautiful assistant Frantisek Palko, a truly stunning and muscular young man perfectly played by Slovakian actor Juraj Loj.

Both Mikolasec and Palko are married to women as a means to conceal their homosexuality as it was completely illegal both under the Nazi’s and under the equally cruel Soviet regime.

What director Agnieska Holland perfectly does is capture the conflicting emotions of this fascinating man, Mikolasec as he is tormented, cruel and gifted. Agnieska Holland who has featured prominently in directing several episodes of the brilliant political series House of Cards, once again highlights the slippery boundaries of sexuality amidst the shifting geo-political landscape in Czechoslovakia from the late 1930’s until the late 1950’s through the Nazi era and onto the Soviet era, a theme she returns to as she did so brilliantly in House of Cards.

Charlatan is a tough watch, it is both beautiful and horrific, and equal parts a semi-mythical tale of a talented herbalist and his beautiful assistant and their forbidden love affair, as they set up a business prescribing herbal remedies to the local population and earning money off their respective ailments.

The narrative is told in a series of flashbacks to Mikolasec’s youth, the younger version of himself ironically played by Ivan Trojan’s son Josef Trojan as he learns the secret of his tradecraft from a mysterious herbalist Mrs Muhlbacherova played by Jaroslava Pokorna.

Beautifully filmed, Charlatan gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is a fascinating period piece about a Czech herbalist who didn’t achieve fame outside of Eastern Europe but went through a harrowing time in his own country. This film is recommended viewing.

The Heracles Project

No Time to Die

Director: Cary Jojo Fukunaga

Cast: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malik, Lashana Lynch, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ana de Armas, Christoph Waltz, Jeffrey Wright, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, Ben Whishaw, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah

Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Running time: 2 hours and 43 minutes

In the highly anticipated 25th Bond film which was delayed for 18 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were determined to wait until they could screen No Time to Die on cinema screens and their wish was granted.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond and Ana de Armas as Paloma in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Finally with the release of No Time to Die, all the original cast from Spectre are back plus some new additions including Ana de Armas (Knives Out, Blade Runner 2049) as Paloma, Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel) as Nomi and the excellent Rami Malek as the villain Lyutsifer Safin. The sophisticated French actress Lea Seydoux (Spectre, The Grand Budapest Hotel) reprises her role back as Dr Madeleine Swann.

Rami Malek stars as Safin in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Oscar winner Rami Malik (Bohemian Rhapsody) relishes the role of Bond villain echoing Dr No, a psychotic megalomaniac who is violent and will stop at nothing for world domination. Naturally Lyutsifer Safin has his own private island in the disputed waters between Japan and Russia, a nod to You Only Live Twice.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Daniel Craig is brilliant in his fifth and final outing as James Bond navigating a shifting cultural and social world, representing in essence the sassy and glorious character of Noni wonderfully played by Lashana Lynch as we first glimpse them interact in a nightclub in Jamaica.

Lashana Lynch stars as Nomi and Daniel Craig as James Bond in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Ralph Fiennes is back as M, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are also back as Moneypenny and Q respectively. Jeffrey Wright is back as CIA agent Felix Leiter. All the usual suspects appear.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond and Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Without revealing any of the complex and protracted plot, containing some massive surprises, No Time to Die is an impressive Bond film, slightly weighty in the middle but cinematically perfect with crisp production design by Mark Tildesley and gorgeous cinematorgraphy by Linus Sandgren.

As the action moves around the globe, from Italy to the tropical beaches of Jamaica to Norway and then to the Safin’s futuristic lair on a disputed island which is clearly inspired by Blade Runner 2049, No Time to Die will simultaneously keep Bond fans in awe and frustrate those that have been loyal to the franchise since its original inception back in 1962 with Dr No. So much has changed.

No Time To Die is a very long film, running at 2 hours and 43 minutes but it’s worth seeing for the glorious scenery, the unbelievable stunt sequences and the amazing plot twists while the screenwriters pay homage to many of the previous Bond films and even transcending the 007 franchise and updating the technology to the 2020’s.

What remains to be seen is where will the franchise go from here?

Beautifully directed by Cary Jojo Fukunaga, No Time to Die is a technically brilliant film with an amazing international cast which will keep audiences literally on the edge of their seat. No spoilers were revealed, so viewers just go and find out what all the fuss is about.

No Time to Die gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing.

A Mother’s Anguish

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Director: Jasmila Zbanic

Cast: Jasna Djuricic, Izudin Bajrovic, Boris Ler, Dino Bajrovic, Johan Helderbergh, Raymond Thiry, Boris Isakovic

Running Time: 102 minutes

This film is in English, Serbian, Dutch and Bosnian with English Subtitles

Please note that this film is not for sensitive viewers

In possibly the toughest watch in the 2021 European Film Festival is the Bosnian war film Quo Vadis, Aida? Which translates to Where are you going Aida?

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2021 Oscars, is director Jasmila Zbanic’s heartwrenching retelling of the Srebrenica massacre in Quo Vadis, Aida? featuring a brilliant performance by Jasna Djuricic as the English speaking Bosnian translater Aida.

Jasna Djuricic should have received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress at the 2021 Academy Awards because her performance rivals that of Oscar winner Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice.

Quo Vadis, Aida? had it’s world premiere at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival and then was also screened at the Toronto Film Festival the same year.

As the Serb and Bosnian conflict reached its peak in the summer of 1995, the Serbian army overran the town of Srebrenica and immediately Aida who works as a Translator for the UN realizes that the population of this town is in desperate need of being saved.

Unfortunately, an ill-equipped Dutch run UN base is all that is guarding the inhabitants of Srebrenica from being annihilated by the Serbian army. On the 11th July 1995, the Srebrenica massacre occurred in which over 8000 men and boys were murdered and then buried in mass graves.

Told through the unflinching eyes of a desperate mother, Aida, a UN Translator is desperately trying to protect her husband Nihad played by Izudin Bajrovic and her two sons, Hamdjia played by Boris Ler and Sejo played by Dino Bajrovic from the Serbian army as the defenceless Dutch make a devil’s bargain with the Serbian army and allow them into the UN compound which is meant to be a safe zone.

Colonel Karremans played by Belgium actor Johan Heldenbergh (The ZooKeeper’s Wife) is out of his depth in a humanitarian crisis which is rapidly spiraling into a complete disaster receiving no guidance or support from those organizational superiors in the UN at the time, all of whom seem to be away on summer holidays.

Aida pleads with Colonel Karremans to save her two sons and her husband, sensing that something utterly tragic is about to unfold.

Director Jasmila Zbanic makes a sharp and harrowing film about a terrible event, which highlights more the ineffectiveness of a huge organization like the United Nations in times of ethnic cleansing, conflict and genocide in the face of humanity’s diabolical capacity for cruelty and violence.

Quo Vadis, Aida? gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 and is a superb film, but not for sensitive viewers. Highly recommended viewing about a horrific period of human history in the mid 1990’s.

Historical source:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srebrenica_massacre

The Lithuanian Radioman that Caused All the Trouble

The Jump

Director: Giedre Zickyte

This film is a feature length documentary

Lithuanian with English subtitles

Running time 1 hour 24 minutes

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

This documentary film will be screened virtually as part of the 8th European Film Festival – https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/films/

Ever heard of Simas Kudrika? Don’t worry if you hadn’t.

Neither had I until I saw this absolutely brilliant documentary called The Jump by Lithuanian ethnographic film maker Giedre Zickyte whose previous credits included the short documentary film I am Not from Here which won Best Short documentary at the 2016 Budapest International Documentary Festival.

On Thanksgiving Day in November 1970, Lithuanian radioman and aspirant defector jumped off a Russian vessel onto a nearby American vessel off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in American waters.

While the Americans aboard the Vigilant tried to harbour Simas Kudrika and keep him from being captured by the Russian seaman who had boarded the American vessel to hunt for Simas, they ultimately failed, leading to one of the biggest diplomatic muddles of the Cold War, sending ripples through the frosty relationships of the two biggest superpowers in 1970, America and the USSR.

The Russians recaptured Simas and extradited him back to Siberia in Russia and tried him for treason, for betraying the motherland, the almighty USSR.

Simas Kudrika

Meanwhile in America, particularly in political circles under the choppy presidency of Richard Nixon, the Simas Kudrika affair was starting to make waves both in the immigrant Lithuanian communities in New York, Washington DC and Chicago but also for the mere fact that how could those friendly American sailors allow Simas Kudrika to be recaptured by those nasty Russian naval officers when all Simas really wanted to do was defect to the land of the free and the brave, the gloriously opulent United States of America?

From 1970 to 1974, Simas Kudrika remained in freezing Siberian prisons completely unaware that an ocean away, the activists of the Lithuanian immigrant communities in America were successfully lobbying to get him freed and returned to America.

Even former top diplomat and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger (1973-1977) got involved as did President Richard Nixon’s successor President Gerald Ford.

Eventually through a strange twist of fate, the immigrant community in America discover that Simas’s mother was actually born in America so this Lithuanian radioman had some claim to his American birth right.

Documentary film maker Giedre Zickyte expertly blends archival TV and film footage with real interviews with Simas Kudrika in this brilliantly told true story of one man’s journey to defection from the then Soviet controlled Lithuania during the Cold War.

The Jump is a superb documentary, a real slice of cold war historical drama tinged with nostalgia and emotional realism to make the viewer side with who the real Simas Kudrika was, a Lithuanian radioman that didn’t mean to cause so much trouble but just wanted to live in a free country.

The Jump is highly recommended viewing and gets a film rating of 9 out of 10. An absolute treat of a documentary especially designed for history buffs.

The Heart of the Dragon

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chui-Wai Leung, Ben Kingsley, Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Ruffalo, Florian Munteanu

Film rating: 7 out of 10

Running time: 2 hours and 12 minutes

The Glass Castle director Destin Daniel Cretton certainly landed a massive task in directing the Oriental fantasy film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings assembling a mostly Chinese cast with Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu in the lead role as Shang Chi and comedian, rapper and Golden Globe winner Akwafina (The Farewell) as his sidekick Katy.

While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings starts off promisingly with some thrilling action sequences on the streets of San Francisco followed by an equally brilliant fight sequence in an abandoned skyscraper in Macao in China, the rest of the CGI laden fantasy epic just eventually unravels into a simulacrum of the Tales of Narnia mixed with some strange dragon sequences which clearly resemble the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Then there is the problematic appearance of Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) popping up in such a crazy heavily laden special effects film. Does Ben Kingsley really need the money or did Marvel pay him an extraordinary fee to appear in this confusing martial arts fantasy epic which tries desperately to tag along to the more mainstream Avengers films? One wonders.

After the brilliance of Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, despite making an absolute fortune at the overseas box office, is not as well written or directed or even constituted as an action adventure fantasy.

This Marvel venture is certainly entertaining but at 2 hours and 12 minutes, the middle section of the film drags continuously as does the epic dragon battle sequence at the end which is a rehash of other similar Marvel films and nothing unique.

Despite the film industry being in turmoil since the global Pandemic, it is good to know that Marvel is trying to cover all their bases in terms of target markets but seriously Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings could have been so much better and taken inspiration from such superb martial arts films as director Ang Lee’s Oscar winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon especially considering it lured Bond star Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies) to appear in this film too.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is entertaining and has already made its box office takings but as a film, this could have been absolutely brilliant but then again Marvel are just cashing in on the current cinematic trend and appealing to that massive target market in China which has the world’s largest cinema going population outside of India.

This action adventure fantasy gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. It’s fun but not amazing. Catch it in cinemas or on a streaming site in the future.

Searching for Mr Hayes

The Protege

Director: Martin Campbell

Cast: Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Malahide, Robert Patrick

Polish Vietnamese actress Maggie Q embraces her Vietnamese roots in the action film The Protégé deftly directed by Casino Royale director Martin Campbell as she plays an assassin Anna who seeks to avenge the death of her mentor Moody played again by the ubiquitous Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction).

Anna travels from her plush London residence to Da Nang in Vietnam to track down the mysterious Mr Hayes played by Patrick Malahide (The World is Not Enough, Mortal Engines) but first she has to encounter the rather elegant fixer Rembrandt wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michael Keaton (Birdman).

Michael Keaton steals the show in The Protégé lighting up the screen with his razor sharp one liners as he banters with Maggie Q in a sizzling scene stealer at a lavish restaurant in Da Nang, which is clearly inspired by any Bond film more specifically The Man with the Golden Gun.

While the script for The Protégé is a bit sketchy and there are large sections of the storyline which are completely glossed over until the final 15 minutes of the film, director Martin Campbell manages to keep the slick adult action film entertaining and exciting with enough exotic locations to cloak this entire film in a 007 vibe but without the budget or the production studio to elevate the film onto a higher level.

Nevertheless, The Protégé is action-packed and enjoyable, cruel and elegant, an engaging storyline which is saved by a brilliant performance by Michael Keaton who saves this thriller from being formulaic despite a body count to rival The John Wick franchise.

There is a brief appearance by Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) as an American biker guy Billy Boy and Samuel L. Jackson just plays another version of himself which audiences have seen in countless similar roles.

The Protégé is a great way to spend two hours, with plenty of action and enough exotic locations from Romania to Vietnam to keep audiences satisfied, however one cannot shake the feeling when watching this film, that it is entirely B-grade but necessary and fun.

The Protégé won’t win any awards but it’s an entertaining assassin action film with shady characters and an unexpected twist that is both riveting and explosive. Michael Keaton is by far the best in the film.

The Protégé gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is worth seeing just to witness the on screen chemistry between the gorgeous Maggie Q and Michael Keaton.

Project Starfish

The Suicide Squad

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Viola Davis, Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, Sylvester Stallone, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Pete Davidson, Flula Borg, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Alice Braga, Peter Capaldi, Juan Diego Botto, Taika Waititi, David Dastmalchian

Film Rating: 5.5 out of 10

How did Warner Brothers go from the brilliant Oscar winning Joker in the DC superhero universe to this bizarre concoction of the 2021 reboot of Suicide Squad, unimaginably entitled The Suicide Squad?

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn clearly drew on a lot of inspiration from the films of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro specifically the Oscar winning Pan’s Labyrinth and more recently 2018’s The Shape of Water. Clearly, del Toro’s brilliance as a film maker did not shine off on director James Gunn as he delivers a bloated hot mess of a superhero film The Suicide Squad, featuring too many characters, glorified violence and a plot as bizarre as a Kafka novel with drug induced input from William S. Boroughs author of The Naked Lunch.

2021’s The Suicide Squad is so crazy, so unbelievably off the wall, that even the brilliant moments are overshadowed by some truly ridiculous moments which involved a whole new gang of The Suicide Squad attacking a fictional crackpot Hispanic island in which a crazed glorified dictator is harbouring an alien lifeform in the shape of a giant starfish.

Not even Oscar winner Viola Davis (Fences) could steady this crazy ship of fools, nor could Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya, Bombshell) as she dutifully reprises her role of the psychotic Harley Quinn, alongside Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, newcomer Idris Elba as Bloodsport and John Cena, seen frequently in white underpants as Peacemaker.

There are an abundance of sidekicks including David Dastmalchian as the mother obsessed Polka Dot Man, Sylvester Stallone as the talking shark King Shark, beautiful German actor Flula Borg as the gorgeous Javelin and a briefly seen Jai Courtenay as Captain Boomerang.

The scriptwriters killed their darlings in the opening credits of The Suicide Squad, making way for a convoluted plot involving alien life forms, a vain Hispanic dictator on a remote Caribbean island and a giant starfish which eventually attacks a city the size of Haiti. With such a confluence of confusing characters not one of them stood out as remarkably noticeable, although both Idris Elba and Margot Robbie tried their best to steady this sinking ship of wrecked and psychotic superheroes.

The only bright moment in The Suicide Squad, was the brief cameo appearance of Oscar winning screen writer of Jojo Rabbit Taika Waititi on a rooftop in Lisbon, Portugal, appearing as Ratcatcher. 

Despite the creative production design, The Suicide Squad is deeply disturbing, a film that glorifies death and violence without ever being responsible about its moral implications for the viewers who watch it. Where Joker was intricate and careful about its psychological makeup, The Suicide Squad is unbelievable careless about their characterizations.

The Suicide Squad gets a film rating of 5.5 out of 10, outlandish and cluttered with dazzling images, psychotic superheroes and zombies. Do not watch this film if you are stressed or taking hallucinogenic drugs.

Daughters of the Red Guardian

Black Widow

Director: Cate Shortland

Cast: Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story; Jojo Rabbit), Oscar nominee Florence Pugh (Little Women), Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), BAFTA Nominee Ray Winstone (Nil By Mouth; That Summer!) Oscar winner William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman), David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko

Film Rating: 8 out of 10 – and this film is currently showing in cinemas

Marvel’s phase four of  blockbuster Superhero films was meant to kick off in 2020 with the highly anticipated release of the spinoff film Black Widow, focusing on the origin story of the more elusive Avenger, Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff and her extended espionage family.

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus Pandemic wreaked havoc in 2020 with theatrical release dates, forcing parent company Disney to push back the date to mid-2021 and also allowing Disney sufficient time to develop their online streaming service Disney Plus.

The Disney owned Marvel studio’s big female driven film of 2020 Black Widow, finally did get released in mid-2021 and simultaneously went onto streaming on Disney Plus prompting the main star Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story; Jojo Rabbit) to sue Disney for contractual misconduct as she was hoping to reap some of the benefits of Black Widow, like she presumably did in the biggest Box office success of 2019, the theatrically released Avengers: Infinity War, which grossed billions of dollars worldwide in cinema ticket sales in the pre-pandemic era of packed cinemas.

Despite all the impending litigation, Black Widow is a superb spy film, directed by Australian director Cate Shortland with a fantastically talented cast besides Scarlett Johansson.

Completely upstaging Johansson is 2019’s Oscar nominated breakout star of Little Women, Florence Pugh as the feisty “younger sister” Yelena Belevoa. Florence Pugh steals every scene in Black widow as the wisecracking Yelena along with the equally talented Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) who plays Black Widow and Yelena’s mysterious “mother” Melina.

There is the Red Guardian himself, the “father” of Natasha and Yelena, wonderfully played with a humorous bravado bordering on the crazy by character actor David Harbour (Black Mass, Suicide Squad, Quantum of Solace).

Black Widow’s entire plot of Russian sleeper agents living in mid-Western America is carefully lifted from the hit TV series The Americans and director Cate Shortland pays homage to the 007 film Moonraker as she steers an entirely female lead Jason Bourne style action film.

Taking place in several global locations including Morocco, Norway and Budapest, Black Widow, which for all its narrative inconsistencies is absolutely saved by superb acting on the part of Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh and the really evil Russian villain, Dreykov superbly played by highly talented BAFTA Nominee Ray Winstone (Nil By Mouth; That Summer!) who is a sinister megalomaniac, who is paranoid about losing control of the sleeper international Black Widow program.

Winston mirrors French actor Michael Lonsdale’s performance as Hugo Drax in Moonraker.

For all the drama, both on and off screen, Black Widow is fantastic to watch, with some memorable female lead action sequences and gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

See it now on the Big Screen and support Scarlett Johansson’s bid to recover her take of the Box Office earnings. Highly recommended viewing and way above standard for a Marvel film especially considering the talent involved.

Lily of the Amazon

Jungle Cruise

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Veronica Falcon, Dani Rovira, Quim Gutierrez

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

If viewers are looking for a fun-filled action adventure film then look no further than Jungle Cruise, a film by Disney based upon a ride at Disney World.

Jungle Cruise has the unique mixture of Pirates of the Caribbean tinged with a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with undertones of Maurice and The Lost City of Z.

Essentially, Jungle Cruise is about headstrong British explorer Lily Houghton brilliantly played by a blonde haired and gorgeous looking Emily Blunt who teams up with alpha male Frank Wolff played again by Dwayne Johnson, who is lovable in this part but entirely miscast, as they journey down the Amazon river in search of a rare petal, called tears of the moon which promises immortality and a range of exotic cures for Western ailments.

Jack Whitehall plays the prissy younger brother MacGregor Houghton, channelling a younger Hugh Grant, but eventually just emerging as a gay caricature. Nevertheless, Whitehall makes the most of his role as MacGregor who is largely superfluous to the action, but who acts as a foil for his older sister Lily, who is all strong and adventurous.

Unfortunately for Jungle Cruise, there is no clear villain, so the plot gets as entangled as the thickest vines of the Amazon, as two actors Edgar Ramirez (Resistance, Zero Dark Thirty, Domino) and Jesse Plemons (The Irishman, Battleship) both vie for the roles of the main villain.

Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez should have been the quintessential villain, but his role is upstaged by character actor Jesse Plemons playing the young son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Prince Joachim who is after the mysterious petal in a German submarine so that he can obtain the rare flower to help Germany win the First World War.

The plot is outlandish, the action is at times messy but fortunately Emily Blunt is a skilled enough actress to make her role as the dynamic Lily Houghton believable and recognizable.

Suspend your disbelief at the door as Jungle Cruise is that crazy adventure film set in Brazil in 1916 during the First World War about British explorers, conquistadores, jaguars and disgruntled German princes.

Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) and Mexican actress Veronica Falcon are wasted in extremely small roles. Jungle Cruise is all about a satisfying adventure film and in this respect it achieves its goal and delivers.

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra steers a solid action packed adventure film which should please the entire family. Jungle Cruise might be as bumpy as a Disney ride, but it is enjoyable and light entertainment disregarding many of its classic film inspirations.

Jungle Cruise gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 but it could have been so much better.

It is surprising that Collet-Serra did not fight for more representation from the vastly talented pool of Latino actors that he had at his disposal namely Edgar Ramirez and Veronica Falcon. Fortunately for all its faults, Emily Blunt shines as Lily of the Amazon.

The Pink Whale

The Rain Falls Where it Will

Director: Majid Barzegar

Cast: Nazanin Ahmadi, Mazdak Mirebedini Alireza Sani Far, Arshia Nikbin, Hamidreza Maleki, Kaveh Hadi-Moghaddam

This film is in Farsi with English Subtitles

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

The 2020 film The Rain Falls Where it Will is Iranian director Majid Barzegar’s contemplative multi-generational character study of a family in crisis.

Majid Barzegar has not achieved the international status of his fellow Iranian director Asghar Farhadi who walked away with the Best Foreign Language film Oscar in 2016 for his superb film The Salesman, however Barzegar does explore the intricate relationships of a family as his nuanced story with the somewhat lackluster title of The Rain Falls Where it Will which follows a middle aged nurse Sara expertly played by Nazanin Ahmadi who is sent away from Tehran up north to look after a wealthy patriarch who has had a stroke.

Sara arrives at a remote and somewhat palatial mansion near the ocean and has to deal with a Grandfather whose three children, a son and two daughters are all pessimistic that their father won’t recover as he lies bedridden with a stoke.

As a nurse, Sara intuitively feels that her patient has a chance of recovery and that the family should not make the critical decision to switch off the life support machines which are keeping the patriarch alive.

The emotional crux of this nuanced Iranian film are the scenes between Sara the hired nurse and the grandson Aria who explains that he thinks his grandfather has a chance of recovery. Upon further discussion, Sara discovers that the cheeky and petulant grandson had given his grandfather weed which possibly made his grandfather see a Pink Whale on the shoreline near their family estate.

The Rain Falls Where it Will is a slight and fascinating film about a family who are contemplating the impending death of their patriarch while the nurses discovers that sometimes questions of life and death are sometimes more intuitive than medical.

This nuanced family drama is a melancholic contemplation of life, death and family from an entirely different perspective. Iranian cinema is rarely seen in the Western World so it is always a treat to watch some brilliant cinema even if it is that brief glimpse into a nation which is exiled from the media and labelled a pariah state.

Cinema transcends geographic boundaries so viewers take a chance on The Rain Falls Where it Will, which gets a film rating of 7 out of 10, which is recommended viewing.

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