Idris Elba runs into big cat trouble… again: KATE MUIR reviews Beast
Beast (15, 93mins)
Mr Malcolm’s List (PG, 118mins)
Verdict: Gloves-off Regency romance
Beast begins in dark terror and carnage, as poachers trap and kill a pride of lions by night but fail to catch the male lion. He is understandably piqued. He mauls a couple of the poachers and roars off with a new taste for human blood — and revenge.
Yes, it’s The Lion King mated with Jaws, and fresh bait enters this utterly predictable movie in the form of Idris Elba, who plays American Dr Nate Samuels. He has come with his two daughters to visit their late mother’s village in Africa.
We know where this is going to go, but I hoped a great actor such as Elba would elevate man-versus-beast into something more intelligent. Alas, it was not to be. At one point, Elba actually punches the lion on the nose. In the end, the only upside was the cinematography, with breathtaking views over the savannah.
Anyone who is lucky enough to have been on a safari knows you always go out in your Jeep equipped for emergencies, with spare tanks of water and fuel. You do not hug the wild animals.
But Dr Samuels and his wildlife ranger mate Martin (Sharlto Copley) head off with teeny-tiny bottles of water, and Martin play-wrestles with two grown lions he raised as cubs. What could possibly go wrong?
The back story of Dr Samuels’s rocky relationship with his late wife and parental guilt is shoe-horned in without sensible explanation, though Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) and Mer (Iyana Halley) do a fairly good job of screaming at intervals as the lion pops a paw through the Jeep window and flails around.
Beast begins in dark terror and carnage, as poachers trap and kill a pride of lions by night but fail to catch the male lion
Idris Elba plays American Dr Nate Samuels in a film that sees The Lion King mated with Jaws
While Beast might have been fun if it had gone for full B-movie camp, it takes itself too seriously. There is a lot of unpleasant-to-watch suturing and squirting of bloody wounds, since Dr Samuels has to show off his medical skills.
This is not the first time Elba has had an unfortunate cat experience. When he played Macavity in the musical film Cats, the reviews were excoriating and his furry brown onesie left viewers weirded out.
Classic Film on TV
North by Northwest (1959)
Cary Grant, pursued by a crop duster plane through vast dusty fields ‘where there ain’t no crops’, is just one of the iconic scenes in master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, which also stars Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.
BBC2, Saturday, 1.45pm
In Beast, at least the animal visual effects are convincing . . . at first. But by the time the lion has been kicked, shot at and fried, it looks more like an IKEA fake-fur rug that’s come out of the washing machine shredded and forlorn. Frankly, you’ll be rooting for the beast to win.
Jane Austen must be rotating in her grave, thanks to the lack of proper etiquette in the Regency rom-com Mr Malcolm’s List. But in many ways the lead characters — scheming friends played by Freida Pinto and Zawe Ashton — have a refreshing, no-nonsense attitude that Elizabeth Bennet might applaud.
Although based on Suzanne Allain’s recent novel of the same name, the film nods to Pride And Prejudice. Mr Malcolm, an arrogant and exacting bachelor played by Sope Dirisu (previously seen in rougher circumstances in TV’s Gangs Of London) has a handsome fortune. But to avoid seduction by gold-diggers, he also carries a list of ten attributes that his future bride must possess.
Julia Thistlewaite (Ashton) is keen to snare the Hon Jeremiah Malcolm but is let down on a trip to the opera by her ignorance of the 1815 Corn Laws — and her propensity ‘to flutter her eyelashes too much’.
It is clear that Mr Malcolm deserves his comeuppance, which arrives in the form of Selina Dalton (Pinto), the daughter of a country clergyman.
Julia plots for Serena to seduce and spurn Mr Malcolm. Like the television series Bridgerton (but without the nookie), the film has a diverse cast and plays fast and loose with history, continually allowing characters to sneak off without a chaperone.
Sope Dirisu (left) stars as Mr Malcolm and Freida Pinto (right) plays Selina Dalton in the film based on Suzanne Allain’s recent novel of the same name
Like the television series Bridgerton, the film has a diverse cast and plays fast and loose with history, continually allowing characters to sneak off without a chaperone
Selina enters the London Season with a frisson of excitement in the orangery and the ballroom, and Mr Malcolm is entranced — when he’s not ticking boxes that say ‘handsome of countenance’ and ‘converses in a sensible fashion’.
Poor Julia is in her fourth Season in town without making a match: the Regency equivalent of suitors all swiping left on Tinder.
Her jealousy grows when Mr Malcolm and Serena seem to really be falling in love . . . I’ll leave it there, but it’s worth mentioning that the filming took place in Ireland, with Dublin’s streets standing in for London, and much of the stately home action unfurls in Killruddery House and gardens.
The romantic froth is topped by the gorgeousness of the costumes, from sumptuous structured silks to plain linens, all delicate indicators of class and wealth. And as you might expect, Mr Malcolm has an enormous top hat.
Lights, camera, laughter as Cruz takes control
Official Competition (15, 115mins)
Official Competition is a wicked satire on the art of fine filmmaking, which allows three great actors to have a hoot — along with the audience. Penélope Cruz plays a driven, eccentric film director pushing her cast to the limits.
Her mad mop of red hair mirrors her temperament and she pits Felix (Antonio Banderas in smug Puss In Boots mode) against Ivan (Oscar Martínez), a very serious stage actor.
They are rehearsing to play brothers who betray each other in a film that’s financed by a millionaire who wants his name in lights.
Method acting meets don’t-give-a-damn acting and the stars indulge in deception and toddler tantrums, all framed by an elegant brutalist building. Brutality results — but even that is funny.
Penélope Cruz, with her mad mop of red hair, plays a driven, eccentric film director pushing her cast to the limits
Black Mail (15, 97mins)
Black Mail also stars an actor playing an actor: O.C. Ukeje is family man Ray, whose marriage troubles worsen when he gets a phishing email blackmailing him over a private sex video that may destroy his home and work life.
The sometimes clunky film trawls through the sleazy underbelly of London, where Russian hackers exploit compromised victims and watch their every move. Ray has no choice but to behave like a fictional character in one of the crime thrillers he is shooting.
O.C. Ukeje plays family man Ray, whose marriage troubles worsen when he gets a phishing email blackmailing him over a private sex video that may destroy his home and work life
Her Way (18, 97mins)
The brilliant Laure Calamy rose to fame in the French television series Call My Agent, and she stars as Marie, a frazzled mum and sex worker in Her Way. Calamy’s on-screen energy is electric as she struggles to earn enough money to get her expelled 17-year-old son into a private cookery school that may turn around his druggy, listless life.
But Marie’s regular, safe clients are poor payers and she is forced to work in a lurid, neon-lit sex club with all its grim compromises. Nissim Renard plays her son Adrien, a bulwark of teenage negativity, and your sympathies with Marie grow as she struggles to do the right thing, at once righteously angry and vulnerable.
The plot lacks oomph but Calamy shoulders the film, furious in her fishnets, and makes every scene watchable.
The plot lacks oomph but Laure Calamy (pictured) shoulders the film, furious in her fishnets, and makes every scene watchable
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