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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 15.May.24

Lassie: A New Adventure     Ein Neues Abenteuer
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Lassie: A New Adventure
dir Hanno Olderdissen
scr Andreas Cordes
b>prd Henning Ferber
with Nico Marischka, Anna Lucia Gualano, Pelle Staacken, Katharina Schuttler, Justus von Dohnanyi, Dennis Mojen, Maike Juttendonk, Annette Frier, Beniamino Brogi, Larissa Palussen, Xiduo Zhao, Ingo van Gulijk
release Ger 27.Jul.23,
UK 3.May.24
23/Germany 1h31

Is it streaming?

bandit and marischka
There isn't much about this relentlessly family-friendly adventure that could be described as "new", but it's effortlessly cheerful, as director Hanno Olderdissen follows up his 2020 German remake of Lassie Come Home, continuing the saga of a boy and his faithful collie pal. It's enjoyably corny, packed with easy gags and suspense that's never remotely worrying. But both the human and canine performers keep it thoroughly watchable.
When his parents go on holiday to Gran Canaria, young teen Florian (Marischka) decides that he would rather take his dog Lassie and spend the summer in the countryside with his Aunt Cosima (Schuttler) and her foster children, surly adolescent Kleo (Gualano) and her little brother Henry (Staacken). While exploring the local village, they discover that pedigree pups are being kidnapped in the area. Then when Cosima's terrier Pippa goes missing, Flo and Kleo begin investigating, ably assisted by Lassie. And when they find themselves in trouble, it's up to Lassie to save the day.
Ridiculously smart, Lassie does everything from helping Henry bake a cake to going undercover to outfox the dognappers. She can also outrun a speeding van. We know Kleo is troubled because she listens to heavy metal music. And the villainous duo (Mojen and Juttendonk) are slapstick baddies cut from the Cruella de Vil mould. There's also the goofy clean-freak Gerhardt (von Dohnanyi), a family friend who randomly gets entangled in the hijinks. And scenes are populated with a terrific range of energetic dogs, plus some cheeky pigs.

Marischka and Gualano are likeable leads, intrepid young sleuths who dive into several mildly dangerous situations. They also have some dramatic moments together, revealing underlying insecurities that they might be able to help each other to overcome. From the sidelines, Schuttler has a couple of strong moments along the way. Mojen and Juttendonk are cackling and camp, so we can't wait for them to get their just desserts. And of course the feisty pups steal the show.

This is a sharply well-produced movie, even if it never attempts to find an original angle on the usual kids' adventure formula. And the simplistic message about the importance of family is gently affirming in all the expected ways. While the cartoonish narrative will easily hold the attention of youngsters, there may not be much here for grown-ups in the audience. But at least there's some proper nuttiness along the way.

cert pg themes, language 2.May.24

Strictly Confidential
Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5  
Strictly Confidential
dir-scr Damian Hurley
prd Elizabeth Hurley, Philippe Martinez
with Elizabeth Hurley, Georgia Lock, Lauren McQueen, Freddie Thorp, Genevieve Gaunt, Pear Chiravara, Max Parker, Llyrio Boateng, Agi Nanjosi, JT Foxx, Centia Corbie, Caroline Murray
release US 5.Apr.24,
UK 17.May.24
24/UK 1h29

Is it streaming?

hurley and chiravara
Over-egged in every conceivable way, this florid mystery-thriller is a storm of emotions surrounding a group of staggeringly beautiful people in a Caribbean island paradise. Dialog is whispered and pouted with intent as characters move from one clinch to the next without mussing their floaty gowns or glowing makeup. This is high calibre cheese, a riotous collision of camp cliches so ridiculous that it may earn cult classic status.
After devastating events last summer, five friends are hesitant about returning for their traditional holiday break at the St Kitts and Nevis home of Jemma (Gaunt) and her mother Lily (Hurly). But they need closure after Lily's other daughter Rebecca (McQueen in flashbacks) died mysteriously last year. And each of them is also hiding something. Rebecca's still-grieving best friend Mia (Lock) gives into her amorous ex James (Thorp). Rebecca's bereft boyfriend Will (Parker) is struggling to move on, although he feels drawn to Jemma. And stripper Natasha (Chiravara) secretly rekindles her steamy affair with Lily.
Necklines are plunging, bikinis are microscopic, muscles flex and luxuriant hair wafts in the sea breeze, as each scene is staged to look like a fashion magazine spread. Meanwhile, the rampant bed-hopping isn't exactly surprising. Everyone also wonders what actually happened to Rebecca and her father (Foxx), who died falling from a cliff shortly before Rebecca apparently also took her life. Surely the local hunk Sebastian (Boateng) knows more than he's letting on. Indeed, as they unpick the past, juicy secrets come to the surface.

The ensemble admirably goes for broke, throwing aching glances with abandon as each preposterous revelation emerges from the murky depths of the plot. It's far too corny for anyone to retain even a shred of dignity, but each actor's commitment to the soapy mayhem is impressive, especially Hurley, for a variety of reasons relating to her astonishingly revealing wardrobe and over-the-top make-up. She also earns extra points for gallantly supporting her filmmaker son's first feature.

This movie is so breathtakingly terrible that it's actually entertaining, often feeling like a brilliant spoof. Although the filmmakers miss a trick by shying away from the sex or violence, the sudsiness is impressively relentless, swelling continually from the opening scene to the astoundingly overwrought final moments. So it becomes one of those guilty pleasure disasters that you can actually have a lot of fun watching, preferably with a group of inebriated friends on a spectacular tropical island.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.May.24

You Can’t Run Forever  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
You Can't Run Forever
dir Michelle Schumacher
prd Randle Schumacher
scr Carolyn Carpenter, Michelle Schumacher
with JK Simmons, Isabelle Anaya, Fernanda Urrejola, Allen Leech, Olivia Simmons, Graham Patrick Martin, Andres Velez, Kevin Quinn, Parker Fenady, Max Garfin, Nathan Vincenti, Alet Taylor
release US 17.May.24,
UK 27.May.24
24/US 1h42

Is it streaming?

A horrific shooting spree is at the heart of this dramatic thriller, as a psychopath wreaks havoc on innocent lives. JK Simmons plays this monster unapologetically, directed by his wife Michelle Schumacher (with daughter Olivia as a costar). It's a disturbing depiction of a deranged mind, and the sadistic nastiness sometimes feels excessive. But the film remains grounded thanks to strong female characters who keep the story grounded.
As cold-blooded killer Wade (Simmons) rides his motorbike into town, casually murdering everyone he meets, happy couple Jenny and Eddie (Urrejola and Leech) are expecting a new baby to add to teen daughters Emily (Olivia Simmons), a bright student, and Miranda (Anaya), who suffers from anxiety after a traumatic event in her past. When this family becomes a target, Miranda runs into the forest to hide. And she's pursued by Wade. As the body count grows, the young deputy sheriffs (Martin and Velez) do what they can, while Jenny and Emily get involved as well.
Suspense is cranked up by the remoteness of the wilderness locations, which are shot, edited and scored in ways that ramp up the tension. On her own, Miranda tries to keep her spiralling thoughts under control, offering the audience a compelling route into the story. Along the way, there are further insights into what she's been through, so what is happening now becomes involving and moving, even when the plot takes some rather outrageously random turns.

Diving headlong into Wade's depravity, Simmons never flinches from seriously vile behaviour, creating a terrifyingly conscience-free villain. There are hints of texture in the character, even if his brutality remains relentless. But the film belongs to Anaya, who brings real soulfulness to Miranda, a complex teen grappling with both a terrifying situation and her own darkly troubled past. It's a tough performance, and she keeps the audience gripped. Urrejola also has strong presence as the fiercely determined Jenny.

The film's margins are populated with people who add realistic touches, and the narrative remains believable until a couple of rather contrived events and confrontations in the final act. And it's somewhat frustrating that the movie feels like little more than an exercise in nihilistic violence with an added touch of female tenacity to give the audience a bit of hope. But it's beautifully shot, and the striking performances make it worth a look.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 15.May.24

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