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Jim Schembri’s new release movies – May 5



A DOG’S PURPOSE **** (100 minutes) PG

Lovers of dogs and of the movies that celebrate them, rejoice! The adorable A Dog’s Purpose essentially gives you five dog movies in one as we follow the life-and-death cycle of a dog’s soul as it is reincarnated across several breeds, spanning in time from the 1960s to the present day. Director Lasse Hallstrom proved his dog-movie credentials with the modern classic Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009) and here pulls on every heart-string without ever going off key. A beautiful film and a huge hit, the film’s global take of $190 million maes it the second biggest dog film of all time after Marley & Me at $240 million. Period recreations are fab – especially 1970s New York when the dog becomes a cop – and the animal acting from the different breeds is Disney-standard superb. Footnote: Accusations that a German shepard was mistreated on-set were officially investigated and proved to be baseless, with video of an alleged incident of the dog in distress dismissed as being deceptively edited to create a false impression. Suspicion about the charge was compounded by the fact the video was sold to scandal-loving TMZ upon the film’s release, 18 months after it was shot.     


GET OUT **1/2 (104 minutes) MA

An intriguing attempt at a savage satire on racism starts and steams along nicely for two acts before going way off the rails once the hard issues start to boil. A white girl (Allison Willims) takes her black boyfriend (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her well-to-do, decidely liberal parents (Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford). They seem welcoming and accepting, but a weird vibe enters the fray once other members of their circle come into the picture, leading to a strange left turn into B-movie territory. The film has enjoyed huge word-of-mouth success, taking about $200m worldwide (not bad from a tiny $7m budget) yet it ultimately seems too frightened to face down the spectres of modern racism that it rouses. As pure genre entertainment, however, it does deliver sufficient bang.    


PORK PIE *** (105 minutes) M

Fun, slick remake of Geoff Murphy’s classic 1981 New Zealand road film, directed by his son Matt Murphy. The film doesn’t have the craziness or daring of the original – if it did the filmmakers would be in jail for safety violations! – but it does zip along at a breezy clip as a failing writer (Dean O’Gorman) desperate to see his estranged wife hooks up with a car thief (James Rolleston) and speed across New Zealand. En route they pick up a young female passenger (a high-spirited Ashleigh Cummings), whose presence is clearly designed to offset the original’s rather blantant sexism. A fine, diverting road trip with some cool stunts – all done practically – and lovely scenery (of course). 


THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE *** (126 minutes) M

The ridiuclously versatile Jessica Chastain nails it again with a terrific, touching central performance in this truel-life wartime drama. She plays Antonina Zabinska, the co-manager of the Warsaw Zoo who finds herself having to negotiate with a local Nazi (Daniel Bruhl) for its survival during the invasion before using the facility to smuggle Jews to safety. With an obvious eye on restraint – even with digital animation, people don’t like seeing animals killed or hurt – Kiwi director Niki Caro (Whale Rider; North Country) does an effective job shaping a humanist drama out of the mayhem.


THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 **1/2 (136 minutes) M

Looks like the law of diminishing returns has already kicked into this Marvel sub-franchise, a sequel to the hugely enjoyable 2014 hit. There is fun to be had as the team of renegade space pirates return, lead by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), with some funny, impressive action sequences both delivering the type of spectacle we expect while spoofing them. With the apparently ageless Kurt Russell on board, the film’s initial storyline about Peter’s parentage turns into a high-concept mess involving reel upon reel of planetary destruction that fills the film with showers of rubble, a VFX cliche we are seeing way too much of. The infant Groot is an enjoyable presence and Rocket the racoon is a sarcastic delight, but the adventure could have done with something far more down to earth.   


FREE FIRE *1/2 (91 minutes) MA

A group of thugs arrive at a warehouse to make a gun deal, things quickly go south and they spend an hour shooting at each other. Trouble is, director Ben Wheatley – who gave us the fabulous Kill List and Sightseers – can’t make us care about any of them. And what a waste of a terrific cast, which includes Sharlto Copley (District 9), Brie Larson (Oscar-winner for Room), Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Cillian Murphy, Sam Riley and Noah Taylor. Pity. This could have been so good.