Movie Reviews By Robert Waldman
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The Comedian (PG) * * *
Acid laughs and a bittersweet taste flow freely in The Comedian. Given a top cast emotions are laid bare in this rather sentimental drama from Mongrel Media now in view at The International Village Cinemas.
Being good at comedy is no easy feat. Lots of funny men and women hail from New York with the oldie but still goodie Jackie being in a class of his own. Proven Democrat and liberal leaning Robert De Niro comes in strong in a cantankerous sorry of way as Jackie. Washed-up and largely out of luck this belligerent oldie has a habit of running foul all he time and rubbing people the wrong way.
Bad manners and crude humour run deep with this old fogey forum deep. So against all odds when he meets a younger woman some joy may have crept back into his life. Romance can be fleeting and Leslie Mann is terrific as an equally lost at sea daddy's girl with personal issues of her own. Leave it up to Harvey Keitel to chew up e scenery as a man caught off guard and in The middle
Family problems, slick comedy and generally well-acted moments all contribute to help make The Comedian interesting if not heart-warming despite what some may say is a mild descent into poking fun at the elderly. Complete with salty language The Comedian can make one laugh and sigh and cry at the same time - a worthy if not lofty ambition.
Silence (PG) * * * *
Take a bow Martin Scorcese. Again the notes filmmaker comes through big time with another epic drama called Silence. Ultra strong acting highlights this historic saga from Paramount Films now staking its claim at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas and select Cineplex Theatres in Vancouver and the suburbs.
Religion some say is the root of all evil. Beliefs in God take centre stage as we travel back in time to the mid seventeenth century ( that's the mid 1600s to laymen). Two Christian missionaries head over to the land of the rising sun from Old Europe in hope of finding a lost father. Beat in mind at that time and place Buddhism was the order of the day and Christianity was frowned upon - to out it mildly.
Beautiful cinematography if this ancient mysterious land will transcend audiences as we are transported to an area and a county where any effort at missionary work was met with strict opposition. Under the power of a man called the Inquisitor these two crusading missionaries are humiliated and degraded and punished in vile and wicked ways. Expect an Oscar nomination for Andrew Garfield who is spectacular as one priest while Adam Driver is also heroic.
Current action star Liam Neeson (Taken) complete the white cast while the Japanese officials are as mean and snarly as can be. Rough justice comes easy as bizarre torturous rituals will undoubtedly leave many onlookers shocked and uncomfortable. With the current hatred meted out of radical Muslims and the likes of Isis who think nothing of killing non-believers perhaps Silence is also a reflection of these sorry times. Maybe we just haven't come that far.
Patriot's Day (PG) * * *
How a community comes together loud and clear unfolds poignantly in Patriot's Day. Brought to British Columbia by EOne Films this jarring look at what happened to an innocent community is true to form. See history in the making at countless Cineplex Theatres around B.C.
Never take anything for granted. We live in a dangerous world. One sunny day in Boston in April 2013 locals were just going about their daily routine. Runners the world over are familiar with The Boston Marathon. Few if any could have predicted the tragic events that unfolded that day.
Under the tutelage of first class director Peter Berg we see how normal events were disrupted forever as two fanatical Muslim terrorists laid siege to a city by planting two bombs. What Patriot's Day does so well is focussing On some central figures in the story and then re-creating the carnage of the explosion and the determined effort by first responders and hospitals to tend to the injured.
Efforts to find the bombers and their helpers are we'll depicted with an exceedingly strong cast. Count among them Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman and Kevin Bacon charged with ending a reign of terror.
Serous, tragic and heroic Patriot's Day is a well made movie that most people presumably wished had never had to be made.
Neruda (PG) * * * *
Take a journey to a far flung place in the past and be cast under the spell if Neruda. Just here for a few weeks at the Van City Theatre on Seymour in downtown Vancouver at the Film Centre be sure to check out this release from Taro PR beginning Jan. 20.
Now and again a film comes out that is different, smart and engaging. Neruda looks at the wacky life of a controversial writer/slash politician in Chile just after World War 2. A champion of Communism and worker's write our flamboyant scribe runs afoul of the President and other influential Senators.
One could say this charismatic pot-bellied man of the people has a flair for the dramatic and that left leading artistic bourgeoisie. Leave it to a hot to trot ace police investigator named Oscar Peluchonneau to try to reel this radical in. Fat chance and good luck to him. By comparison Gael Garcia Bernal looks the part and runs with out. Neruda has a South American Catch Me If you Can feel to it. Solid acting and a few twists and turns makes this a journey worth taking.
Hidden Figures (PG) * * * * *
Worlds collide in outer space and down on earth in Hidden Figures. Feel the passion and pain as three upwardly mobile women try to buck the trend and go against the system in this dynamic tale from 20th Century Fox. And with race relations in The United States at an all time low a movie like Hidden Figures is exactly what is needed to try to heal old wounds and make for a brighter future. Come together to see one of the best films of the year at Cineplex Odeon theatres across B.C.
History and culture come to a head as we delve into the tumultuous lives of three bright women in 1961. Each lady has her own special talents and the friends wind up at NASA in an effort to help the American space program. Better tread softly in hallowed ground and the trio all make their marks in this male dominated institution. Full of smarts beyond belief one of the gals turns out to be a math whiz which turns out to be instrumental to helping chart the course of space capsules in orbit.
Oscar calibre performances are front and centre in this wonderful two hour drama which does have its whimsical moments. Internal fighting among staff and how the men ( and women) treat the so-called people of colour will make some viewers cringe. Complete with nice shots of space flights and all the tension leading up to launch dates helps make Hidden Figures a tremendous journey to witness first hand.
Reliable Kevin Costner (The Untouchables) aces the role of the NASA director with funny man Jim Parsons ditching the humour for some less than hospitable teamwork. And watch out for a strong impression from Kirsten Dunst. Good on all counts Hidden Figures, which is based on true events, is must see entertainment not to be missed.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG) * * * * *
Prepare to be entertained. And enthralled. Hollywood studios dream of making it big by finding the right films. A few years ago Disney bet big by buying Lucas Films and making founder George Lucas an even richer man. Now the second new Star Wars film hits theatres and fans will not be disappointed. Called Rogue One this new film is a great ride. Brave the long lines at Cineplex theatres around BC. And you will be richly rewarded.
Our story begins before the original Star Wars. A single family holds the key to the future. Family man Mads Mikelson (Casino Royale) is a scientific genius with a plan that the forces of evil desire. Taken hostage only his daughter Jyn remains In The hunt. And what a hunt it is. Left alone and to fend for herself for years a day of reckoning awaits.
In a last ditch effort to save the planet this feisty female warrior reluctantly joins the rebels in a final confrontation between good and evil. Visually stunning with hissable villains, heroes you will cheer for, rousing battles and stunning special effects Rogue One has it all. And then some
Elements of the original Star Wars as well as the classic The Empire Strikes back will rekindle fond memories of these superb space operas. Given a great story, outstanding character development, a sense of surprise and tension throughout helps make this movie spectacular fun that the whole family will enjoy. Even the corny jokes and one-liners hit the mark. Made in 3-D folks choosing the less costly option will be just as happy with the on-screen results.
Julieta (PG) * * *
Foreign filmmakers sometimes offer up more unique material than their Hollywood counterparts. Hats off to consummate Latin artist Pedro Almodovor who continues to impress with his latest offering - Julieta. Be sure to see this stunning release from Mongrel Media sure to make waves at the international Village Cinema and select Cineplex sites around B.C.
Thanks to being a hit at Cannes and Spain's entry as best Foreign film for the 2016 Oscars it's somewhat odd that this movie has a unique Canadian pedigree. Julieta is taken from three novels written by noted author Alice Munro with Madrid ably filling in for of all places remote Vancouver. Scenic parallels abound as we follow the sorry path of a now old woman whose life story is anything but uneventful.
Living in Madrid the now mature woman has a storied (if not sordid) past which comes back to haunt her in the most unexpected way. Told through the ages Julieta learns that her long lost daughter may be alive. Emotions run deep through actress Emma Suarez's veins as she valiantly retraces her past and uncovers all sorts of hidden events related to past lovers, former friends and a mysterious daughter she didn't really know.
Strengths in this movie are many and varied. Number one are the unbelievably strong performances and characters. And what a puzzle putting this woman's story together it is thanks to beautiful writing and well defined characters that are complex and meaningful. Add on an air of mystery a touch of dealing with such emotional issues as depression and drop dead Gorgeous scenery in Spain and the enchanting sea and you have a first class first rate film experience.
Told in Spanish with English subtitles that don't distract help make Julieta a feast for all senses.
20th Century Women (PG) * *
Raising kids is no easy feat. A more mature woman tries to come to terms with a rather rambunctious teenage son on in the heady 70s in 20th Century Women. Made I guess for old-fashioned and elderly women is rather unsettling drama is hoping to attract an audience at select Cineplex Odeon Theatres across B.C.
Well-meaning and good intentioned you can't help but escape the trapped world of this young man. At odds with his mom the sour nature of this struggle comes through loud and clear. Almost at her wit's end is Annette Benning (Bugsy) who looks to be showing her age. Rough skin and frowns perfectly represent the trapped nature of this figure who after a failed marriage just can't seem to connect with her equally awkward son. Her solution is to ask two of her son's female friends to treat him better and to help educate him The ways of the world.
Passion and glamour are gone from the mom's DNA and we are left with a real sombre educational effort to rescue a lost teen when it's in reality the mother who may need the help Here a household of victims and losers make for a rather bleak story with not too many high points. Depressing and sad 20th Century Women seems to be a lost cause and a real downer of a movie.
Assassin's Creed (PG) * *
Please do not confuse Assassin's Creed with Apollo Creed the sparring partner of the famed Rocky Films. One thread in common with these two heavyweight dramas is the emphasis on fighting. In a bid to capture fans of the popular Game of Thrones television spectacular 20th Century Fox is gambling that a large screen audience at Cineplex complexes across B.C. Will find such jousting in Assassin's Creed appealing. Let the games begin.
Dark and sombre is this story about a family with a heir to a power base being hated and hunted mercilessly over the centuries. Steep in medieval tradition something wicked comes our way. Said to hold the key to future survival in some warped mind game is Michael Fassbender whose character is some sort of saviour and mainstay of a cloaked gang of warriors called the Assassins. Out to get them are the Templars. Through time travel we go from the days of the Spanish Inquisition to modern America and Europe q as the groups vie for control of a coveted prize that dates back to the days of Adam and Eve,
Far-fetched? To be sure. Going through the motions and trying to keep a straight face are mad scientists Jeremy Irons and Marion Cotillard whose methods lead to further chaos in this rather long and uneven murky tale of deceit and power grabs. Almos two hours In Length Assassin's Creed serves up Los of castle chases , impressive parkour acrobatics but too many muddled characters despite a good gloomy atmosphere.
Sing (PG) * * *
Christmas is a time when people can rejoice. Good holiday greetings come your cinematic way with Sing. Very original this Universal release is perfect fun for the entire family. G means great and Sing is a perfect way to spend the holidays at Cineplex cites around B.C.
Show business plays a big part in the plot of Sing. Like the titles suggests our story revolves around all things musical. First though I would be negligent not to inform readers that this is an animated tale. Good vibes abound in this film as it comes from the creators of the highly acclaimed Despicable Me pedigree. Front and centre in this musical heavyweight is a disgraced hard working impresario called Mr. Moon. Busy as can be Matthew McConaughey voices the down on his luck theatre owner.
Never able to be successful Moon hatches an elaborate plan to hold a music contest. All sorts of rock star wannabes and crooners that would out Sinatra to shame take him up on his offer. Each of the contestants has their own story and you actually feel for all these loveable creatures with their funny appearances .
Full of great songs this almost two hour Sing is a wonderful trip down memory lane . With a rousing finale Sing is smart and extremely creative. Consider to be in seventh heaven especially if you enjoy music, dancing and a great feel good vibe.
Manchester by the Sea (PG) * * * *
Never forget the past. One dark secret manages to haunt a man endlessly in Manchester by the Sea. Again Mongrel Media show their eye for quality as this mysterious drama continues to impress audiences at the International Village and Fifth Avenue cinemas and select Cineplex cites around B.C.
Thought by many to be one of the very best films of the year's Manchester by the Sea sure does offer some stand out performances. Above all else Casey Affleck escapes the shadow of big bother Ben by delivering a tour de force textbook case of acting class as a low level employee whose life is turned upside down by a big mistake which only leads to more mayhem down the road.
Long thought of as the scourge of the town thanks to a past indiscretion our Boston transplant returns home only to find himself considered the go to guy when his nephew needs some guidance. Considerable baggage comes between the pair who are bound by tragedy. Aided by some beautiful cinematography and some very well-timed surprises help make Manchester by the Sea a soaring emotional tale of turmoil, divided loyalties and struggles not soon forgotten.
Jackie (PG) * *
Now with the American presidential hopefully behind us we an all sit down and regroup. Go back In time to explore the so easy less controversial life of another famous First Lady with Jackie. Fondness for the Kennedy era in the spellbinding more raucous swinging sixties. Political junkees may well want to take a flyer on his new release at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
A well decked out Natalie Portman (Black Swan) sure does reign supreme as the wife to magnetic John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Thought by many to be a giant of politics Mrs. Kennedy certainly was a giant in the fashion world as this movie so ably presents. Shot as an Extended interview with tons of recreated scenes in The White House and on that doomed day in Dallas Jackie comes across as a fairly intimate tale of a woman at a crossroads in her life facing pressure from a host os sources in various directions.
Effective research of the family, Associates and friends during these impressive tumultuous times presumably went into constructing this film. Unfortunately what we end up with is an overly dramatic account of what befalls a former fist lady at is extremely dour and downright depressing.
Maybe this is a fair representation of the grieving woman's mindset in The wake of her husband's death. Still this film is quite slow movie, very prodding and its opening musical accompaniment is as dour and depressing as it could get. Instead of focusing more on the early years of Camelot we are left with a it too pretty portrait of a shattered life. Consider this a downer in the extreme.
Allied (PG) * * *
Mixing romance and war can be a tough sell. Able to tackle any shortcomings with blending these two distinct genres is Paramount Pictures with Allied. Mind you having a first class director like Robert Zemeckis (Romancing The Stone) can't hurt a bit. Check out the rather peasant results at Cineplex Odeon screens around B.C.
Cheer on fly boy Brad Pitt (Fight Club) as he takes on the evil Nazis in North Africa circa 1942. Gone is Angelina Jolie while back is French siren Marion Cotillard this time on the surface paying a French resistance fighter. Things get hot in Casablanca, Morocco with the pair engaged In An operation designed to help the Allied cause.
Back in England the pair become involved in additional subterfuge as questions emerge regarding loyalties to the cause. Director Zemeckis succeeds in creating a good war time atmosphere and both Pitt and Cotillard are suitably matched as war torn lovers fighting both the Germans and bureaucratic red tape.
How far one will go for love helps make Allied a meaningful tear jerker that is surprisingly restrained and refreshing to see. Consider this to be a pretty good date film for those ready to fire up the romantic embers on such cold winter nights.
Office Christmas Party (PG) * * *
Now and then you need a good belly laugh. With British Columbians facing sky high real estate prices thanks to the onslaught of foreign buyers, unprecedented food price increases thanks to the Federal Government's misguided aim to lower the Canadian dollar and the coldest snowy weather in years we all need a release. Get your comedy fix big time in Office Christmas Party. Stupid? Yes! But with a heart of gold. Forget about all those would-be Oscar hopefuls that come and go. Instead let loose with this decidedly politically incorrect lark from Paramount Pictures now leading to laughter at all Cineplex Odeon Theatres around B.C. And unlike most movies this is one film that deserves to be seen at a theatre to feel the euphoria surrounded by audience laughs. It's contagious.
Made in Georgia but set in any big North American city Office Christmas Party is just like the title suggests - a flat out after hours bash. Behind the revelry, however,is a sad story. The firm in question is some big corporate behemoth run by a hippy like jerk who seems to can't do anything right. To balance the zaniness if the boss you have the calm and steady GM figure played nicely by the always amiable Jason Bateman. Too bad for them both that the new company CEO is e ultimate bean counter and wants to shut the plant down.
Depressed are the local managers so in one last hurrah they decide to throw the last annual Christmas party. Behind this celebration which may turn out to be a wake or funeral is a devious plan to try to save the business and all the jobs that go with out. Naturally insane fun ensues that will leave viewers dazed with delight.
Office Christmas Party is a brainless nearly two hours of comic mayhem with good performances, interesting characters and even a heartfelt message. Lighten up and get a good laugh by taking it in.
The Handmaiden (PG) * * * *
Smart cinephiles know just how good South Korean movies can be. Bound to make quite an impression on local Cineplex Odeon screens is The Handmaiden. Totally original this romantic thriller from Mongrel Media is decidedly different decadent fun.
Mixed up identities, illicit subterfuge , extraordinary schemers and Lucius cinematography come full circle in a story essentially about some local yokels out to get ahead. An elaborate scheme is hatched by a slick and sick smooth as silk Korean gangster that involves one of his hand-picked operatives going undercover to infiltrate the home of a Wealthy Japanese bookworm of a recluse. Her assignment is to befriend the rich man's niece and prime her for a possible marriage to the cad, oops I mean The Count.
You can count on lots of mild erotica and new love alliances forming as the quest for sex and money motivate the members of this motley crew whose hope is to plunder the lives and lifestyle of this odd and bizarre powerful figure. Superb acting and some highly charged woman to woman boudoir scenes set the stage for Some great twists and turns in this seductive charmer that will keep you guessing throughout as to how it will all turn out. Even some mild,torture rears its ugly head as does some salty dialogue among the English subtitles.
Go ahead, get a little hot and bothered as The Handmaiden is a smart sophisticated sexy thriller that will keep you thoroughly engaged throughout its 141 minute run.
Inferno (PG) * * *
Wait for the build-up and you may just get just rewards. Hope like this follows the lead character in Inferno. Full of ingenious surprises this hit button thriller from Sony Pictures certainly lives up to its literary tradition. Settle in for a grand chase at Cineplex Odeon Theatres around B.C.
Based on the hit Dan Brown religious tinged novels this third global adventure sees e very existence of the world put to the test. And only one man can stop this impending Armageddon. And we're not talking Agent 007 here. Substitute the mild mannered professor Robert Langdon for the smooth tuxedoed James Bond and you're up to speed. Busy as can be Tom Hanks is solid gold as the reluctant sleuth somehow caught up in A devilish plot to unleash a modern plague. Ian Fleming could not have devised a better adventure.
Given a series of clues it's audience participation fun to try to keep up with Langdon as he goes on a wild goose chase to find a deadly virus. Director Ron Howard lays on the style and thrills as our story makes great use of gorgeous Florence, Istanbul and Venice hot on the trail of some very evil people.
Truth form nothing is exactly as it appears as Inferno is full of subterfuge and hidden surprises with a style and panache similar to producer Brian Grazer's earlier triumphant Inside Job. Bolstered by fine acting by Ben Foster and Felicity Jones Inferno turns into a two hour great escapist flag that is well paced. Beautiful shots of three iconic Mediterranean cities will likely lead to a surge in Tourism for this region.
Denial (PG) * * * *
History has a way of repeating itself. Amidst the chaos of the horrors in Syria comes the tale of a compelling struggle to verify a historical injustice. Made with an eye to the past and those who blatantly want to distort the truth in the present is Denial. Brought to the world by progressive Participant Media and Elevation Pictures this heartfelt film is now riveting audiences possibly at The Fifth Avenue Cinemas and/or The International Village Cinemas
Based on real events with multiple Canadian connections Denial takes a penetrating look at a notorious Holocaust denier and an American author and expert on events related to the Jewish slaughter by the Nazis in World War 2. Here we see how a well educated British based author called David Irving takes on a devoted American university professor named Deborah Lipstadt.
Impressive performances by Timothy Spall and Rachel Weisz will mesmerize audiences as each actor does what they can to win the day in a British courtroom.
Raw emotion and heated passion lights up the trial proceedings as both sides engage in a tricky tug of war to win both the judge's verdict as well as in the court of public opinion. Lead counsel Tom Wilkinson shows a steady as he goes calm demeanour as he meticulously tangles with Mr. Irving who is also fairly compelling and as slippery as an eel.
Holocaust movies are not new. What sets Denial apart from most is a truly magnetic performance from Rachel Weisz whose restraint here is both thoughtful, believable and endearing, Hard words are exchanged by both inside the courtroom and beyond as this important issue could be applicable today when dealing with discrimination, the truth and a desire to expose bigotry.
Sure to provoke questions on a wide range of issues and leaving audiences guessing to the very end Denial turns out to be a well presented retelling of a vital issue with ramifications for us all. It should not be missed as it's an important story to tell and remember.
Mean Dreams (PG) * * * *
Good films can be had at the Vancouver Film Festival where one can see some enticing foreign fare. Set to get a general release later on is the Canadian made north of the 49th parallel shot Mean Dreams. Here courtesy of Elevation Pictures there is one more surprise concerning this Canadian film - it's actually good! See it at The Fifth Avenue Cinemas or International Village Cinemas,
Bolstered by a capable veteran cast Mean Dreams explores young romance home on the range. Life on the farm can be tough - as can be settling in at a new home In a foreign territory. So when shy farm boy from the sticks Jonas Ford, the ultimate momma's boy, meets up with new neighbour and more experienced Casey Caraway there's nothing seedy about their budding romance. Both Josh Wiggins and Sophie Celisse have the chemistry and acting chops to pull this affair off. Too bad for them but not for us that one sleight wrench in The relationship takes that new friendship in a whole new direction.
Daddy dearest Wayne Carraway is not too thrilled with his daughter's new beau and decides to lay down the law which is not too hard since he is an officer of the law. Bill Paxton (True Lies) is down right scary an an overbearing papa who decides to use his badge to deter Jonas from seeing his daughter as things spiral out of control
Filmed at the lakeside and in the wooded forests around Sault Ste. Marie where the scenery is drop dead gorgeous Mean Dreams is a first class coming of age drama laced with danger
The Girl on the Train (PG) * * *
Be careful who you befriend let alone marry. Relationships and voyeurism lead to panic and pandemonium in The Girl On The Train. Hot off the presses and based in the hit international bestseller this savvy thriller from Universal Pictures certainly delivers the goods at Cineplex Odeon cinemas across B.C.
Marital infidelities can lad to chaos. No shortage of men and women have had to come to terms with stepping out. One lady woman just seems u able to shake off the past, day by day Rachel takes the trail To who knows where. Dazed and confused and maybe just a tad mentally unstable is is lass who is excellently portrayed warts and all by Emily Blunt. Still reeling from a failed marriage Rachel gets untangled I a we. Of deceit when one day on her normal commute she witnesses two people in a romantic embrace from afar.
My how fast can things unravel. Passions rise to the surface when Rachel's ex resurfaces and the woman simply can't let go. Maybe she is jealous of her ex's sexy young wife. How this relates to the miser of a woman down the road sets off a frenetic journey Into deceit, Lust and. series of grisly discoveries. Throw in a shrink or two, some hot to trot women, confused cops and one woman that no one in their right mind believes is sane and you have a delicious adult sexual thriller that will keep you guessing to the very end.
Clever mysteries need good acting and plausible suspects and The Girl on The Train serves both up impeccable well. Bring on the chills as Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson play coy as can be ladies in waiting with male egos lurching to the surface by way of Justin Theroux and Edgar Ramirez.
Whether you have read the book or not the screen treatment of The Girl on the Train will make you think twice about cheating in your partner amongst other things.
The Lovers and the Despot (PG) * * *
What to make of The Lovers and The Despot? Surreal and effective turns out to be this dynamic tale of ruthless ambition run amuck. Just how real is this quasi documentary may be open for debate. Here for just a few showings at The Vancity Theatre on Seymour Street in Vancouver from Oct. 24-27 consider this movie to be the ultimate head-turner.
Behind the veils of secrecy we go as this film recounts the almost unbelievable story of how a major star in South Korea winds up in the clutches of North Korea's head honcho during the 1970s. Sure to set any goodwill between these two countries back (let alone the rest of the world) for decades The Lovers and The Despot makes the musings in Seth Rogen's much maligned The Interview pale in comparison.
Recounted through clandestine messages of firsthand accounts of the plight of Choi Eun-hee who was picked off the streets of Honk Kong by foreign agents and smuggled to the North where a movie mad dictator Kim Jong-il took a decided fancy to her. As if that wasn't good enough having an international star as your reluctant and permanent house guest Kim upped the ante and also kidnapped noted director Shin Sang-ok. Put simply their mission Was to create film industry in North Korea to rival the south and ultimately those nasty Americans in Hollywood. How it all plays out is truly a sight to behold.
Effective use of real footage from North Korea gives this film an added sense of plausibility. Strong acting, a riveting atmosphere, good pacing, compelling acting and a fantastic story turn The Lovers and The Despot into a cause célèbre that's fun to watch and totally off the wall original.