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UNDOMPTED SPIRIT: 3 ½ STARS

It’s been almost two decades since The Adventures of a Kiger Mustang stallion named Spirit were nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” lost to another animated entry, “Spirited Away” by Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki, but spawned a cottage industry in the form of television shows and video games.

This weekend, the stubborn horse embarks on yet another DreamWorks Animation feature film adventure in “Spirit Untamed”. Now showing in theaters, it is a reimagined version of the “Spirit Riding Free” television series.

First of all, a little background.

Lucky Prescott’s (Isabela Merced) mother, Milagro, was a fearless rider on horseback from Miradero, a small town in the American Old West.

The legend of Milagro occupies an important place in Lucky’s imagination, but she never knew it. After her mother died, Lucky was raised on the East Coast by Aunt Cora (Julianne Moore), a straight woman who struggles with the wild side inherited from her niece.

When Lucky takes her luck too far, Aunt Cora decides the youngster needs stability in the form of his father, Jim (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the family home of sleeping little Miradero.

Life in the small town is not for Lucky, until she meets her soul mate, a wild Mustang who shares her independent side. The horse, Spirit, is the leader of a herd of wild stallions who become the target of poachers led by the evil Hendricks (Walton Goggins).

In an effort to save the horses from a life of captivity and hard work, Lucky recruits two local riders – Abigail Stone (Mckenna Grace) and Pru Granger (Marsai Martin) – and embarks on a rescue mission.

“Spirit Untamed” contains good messages about independence, but also about being connected to a larger community. Lucky and Spirit are, well, fiery in their own way, but their real strength lies in their respect for the people and the horses around them.

It’s a simple empowerment story that doesn’t gallop onto new ground but, overused as the message is, it remains important to young viewers.

The animation of Margaret Keanesque’s big-eyed character is nicely rendered, accompanied by some energetic vocal work that should appeal to fans of the original. Young viewers, who may not have been around when the original caused a stir, may find parallels between this and the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise.

With “Cruella” taking a dark turn, “Spirit Untamed” is the best family film of the season.

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME MAKE: 3 ½ STARS

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Eight films from the “The Conjuring” franchise, ghosts Warrens, Ed and Lorraine, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, take on their most formidable opponent to date. They fought evil in the form of haunted houses, supernatural spirits, and an evil doll named Annabelle, but in “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”, which is now playing in theaters, the Married Demonologists investigate about a murder with a suspect who claims the devil forced him to do it.

Set in 1981 in Connecticut, “The Devil Made Me Do It” is based on Arne Cheyenne Johnson’s trial – the first case to attempt a defense claim for demonic possession.

The film begins with a priest and the Warrens performing an exorcism on eight-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard) which would give Regan MacNeil a run for his money. As all hell breaks loose, the demon leaves the youth’s body and after Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), David’s sister’s boyfriend taunts him, the demon takes over the man more age. “Leave him alone!” Arne tells the demon. “He’s just a cowardly little boy!” Leave him alone and take me!

Soon Arne’s behavior changes and when he stabs his owner 22 times, the Warrens attempt to prove that he is not guilty due to demonic possession. “The court accepts the existence of God every time a witness swears to tell the truth,” Ed said. “I think it’s time they accepted the existence of the Devil.”

When Arne is indicted in a death penalty case, the Warrens step in to prove his innocence. “We won’t let him down,” Ed says. As the couple work to find out what’s real and what isn’t, the case presents an ever-growing personal danger.

“The devil made me do it” is more of a procedure prompted by Arne’s actions than Arne’s story. He disappears for about 45 minutes as the Warrens unravel the mystery surrounding his crime. Director Michael Chaves maintains the atmosphere of dread with a series of well-executed lighting effects, jump scares, and weird sound cues, but, even if he delivers a few shocks, he knows the real reason for which “The Conjuring” films work is the relationship between Wilson and Farmiga. As Warrens, they are the earth anchor who add humanity to supernatural events.

Sure, there’s an evil water bed – anyone who grew up in the ’70s and’ 80s already knew waterbeds were bad, but the movie makes a compelling case for them too – and a lot of satanic panic, but “The devil made me do It’s not just pentagrams and inverted crosses. He marks in the middle, but as the end credits roll, the relationship between the demon hunters is at stake. the foreground; a testament to the power of love. It might be a cliché, but it adds light to the dark elements of the film and gives Wilson and Farmiga some lovely character building moments.

The Warrens are unlikely horror heroes, but “The Devil Made Me Do It” proves that you don’t have to be scary to deliver thrills.

ROCKFIELD: THE FARM STUDIO: 4 STARS

'Rockfield: the studio on the farm'

You may not have heard of Rockfield, a recording studio located on a cattle and pig farm just outside the village of Rockfield in Monmouthshire, Wales, but you have heard the songs recorded there.

A new documentary, “Rockfield: The Studio on The Farm”, now on VOD, aims to illuminate the history of a place that helped create the sound of heavy metal, gave the world the iconic Queen song when the group mastered the final section of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the summer of 1975, inspired Chris Martin to write “Yellow” and Oasis to record “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”

“It’s like the ‘Big Brother’ house with tunes,” says Liam Gallagher. “You go over there and you don’t leave until the album is finished.”

The walls of the multi-story studio don’t have to speak, they have the owners Kingsley and Charles Ward to do it. The brothers started out as aspiring farmers and musicians, but soon realized that there was more money to offer a place for bands to get away from the hustle and bustle of the London music scene than ‘to raise pigs.

“Once we got rid of the pigs, we got into the music business,” says Kingsley, the more eccentric of the two. “So it was pretty much the same, except the usage had changed.”

The Ward brothers provide much of the charm of the film. From helping Lemmy find a place to store his drug stash in the group’s living quarters to Kingsley’s colorful, low-key way of telling a story, they form the backbone of the documentary. The stories are then fleshed out by the musicians who have taken up residence at one point or another.

“We started out as a rock band dabbling in drugs,” Ozzy Osbourne says of Black Sabbath, who rehearsed their groundbreaking album “Paranoid” in Rockfield, “and ended up being a drug band dabbling in rock. . “

Gallagher talks about trying to record after spending the day – and night – in one of the local pubs. “You would have tried,” he said, “but you would end up looking like The Pogues. “

Robert Plant says he was “already a cliché” by the time he hit Rockfield to record his first solo album, and seems to have genuine affection for Place and Kingsley. Like so many others before him, he used “this pleasant green wooded land” as a place for reinvention.

Rockfield is still a working recording studio and farm, and this mix of pastoral and music is key to the place’s magic. Chris Martin of Coldplay calls it a “musical Hogwarts,” where bands would live, create and find their sound. “We were sent back to find out,” he says.

“Rockfield: The Studio on The Farm” is an exercise in nostalgia, but it’s entertaining. A look back at the first residential rock’n’roll studio, it’s a guided tour through several generations of British rock.

HEROES: 3 ½ STARS

hero

At the start of “Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life & Times of Mr. Ulric Cross,” a bio-doc on the life of Ulric Cross and now available on premium VOD on the Cineplex store, the subject of the film reads: “When I was appointed High Commissioner in London, the Foreign Office asked: “How did I want to be addressed? »Judge? What I had been. Professor. What I had been. Squadron leader? What I had been.

In the end, the Caribbean High Court judge, Pan-African diplomat, Royal Air Force decorated war hero and BBC producer-presenter keep it simple.

How are we going to address him? “Like Ulric,” he laughs.

Using a mix of archival footage and reconstructions, director Frances-Anne Solomon takes a methodical approach to showcasing Cross’s eventful life. Solomon step by step, with the help of artful editing by Charles Ross and effective performances from a talented cast – Nickolai Salcedo as Cross, Joseph Marcell, Pippa Nixon, Peter Williams, John Dumelo, Adjetey Anang and the Prince David Oseia – tells several stories with Cross as the focal point.

Using Cross as a focus, the film sheds light on his role in the larger histories of British colonialism in the Caribbean and Africa; movements towards peaceful liberation in Ghana, Congo, Cameroon and Tanzania; and efforts to establish the United States of Africa. “He was part of something much bigger,” says his daughter Nicola.

There is a lot going on in “Hero”. Stories of idealism and Cross’s work to change the world sit alongside MI6 intrigues and interviews with his wife Ann. Jessica B. Hill plays Nicola, the girl who connects archival aspects of history to her father’s last days. “My dad gave me a choice,” she says. “Not once when I grew up did I ever feel like something was out of reach. It wasn’t true for him. I have this to thank him for that.

With so much going on, “Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life & Times of Mr. Ulric Cross” falls prey to some episodic stories and at times feels rushed in its attempt to cover the breadth and breadth of Cross’s life. Yet the documentary functions as a thematic look at the life of a remarkable man.

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