THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Suitable for all audiences. In Sesotho with English subtitles.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.
“The Forgotten Kingdom” is a wonderfully accomplished production from the South African nation of Lesotho. It’s set in a present-day world of sheep herding, shamans and arranged marriages. It follows young, attractive characters seeking their identities, and elders grappling with generation gaps, reminding us how much we have in common with people half a world away. This is a film you watch for the warm, intimate performances and the glorious landscape cinematography: The free-form plot is secondary.
Atang (Zenzo Ngqobe), a swaggering Johannesburg roughneck, hasn’t fit in since his father long ago removed him from their ancestral village. When the old man dies, Atang transports the body home. There he encounters childhood acquaintance Dineo (beguiling Nozipho Nkelemba). A low-key romance blossoms, despite the opposition of her father (Jerry Mofokeng), who expects a huge dowry. Atang explores the stunning countryside with a pesky, pestering little sidekick (Lebohang Ntsane, equally aggravating and adorable). Exotic details aside, there’s plenty here to resonate with Western audiences in search of a novel African gem.
WE ARE THE BEST!
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Profanity. In Swedish with English subtitles.
A raucous, rebellious, refreshing look at female friendship through the lens of punk music. In Stockholm circa 1982, seventh-graders Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are embarrassed by their dorky parents, bored to extinction by school, and ostracized by pretty girls who mock their self-inflicted punk hairdos and shapeless, androgynous clothes. They find a safety valve for their sassy alienation when they grab a guitar and drums at a community center studio and launch into a caterwauling protest anthem against gym class. When a goody-two-shoes classical guitar nerd (Liv LeMoyne) wanders into their orbit, their musical ability rises enough for them to consider performing publicly.
Lukas Moodysson, who has made some starkly tragic films about youthful innocence crushed, flips the script here, going for the helter-skelter energy of youth. The three misfits cohere, support each other, and belt out go-to-hell provocations like a pre-adolescent Pussy Riot. Moodysson sees through their posturing but relishes their spontaneous verve. The young actresses are flawless, and their ear-banging music, which remains awful throughout the film, is nonetheless full of static electricity. They’re so bad yet so gleefully full of themselves that you can’t help grinning.
⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13. Contains some crude language and violence.
Theater: Inver Grove, Oakdale Ultracinema, Southdale.
This good-looking sci-fi thriller has more fashion sense than brains. Tech-savvy MIT students Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) drive cross-country to drop off Nic’s girlfriend, Haley (Olivia Cooke), at school in California. They decide to use the drive as an excuse to track down an anonymous hacker who has been taunting them from afar. They venture into a remote area of Nevada.
Next thing we know, a battered Nic is waking up in a secure underground facility staffed by hazmat-suited scientists, Haley is in a coma and Jonah has been locked away out of sight. “Jonah was never here,” insists the facility’s sphinxlike chief scientist (Laurence Fishburne), a man given to speaking in cryptic riddles. The film parcels out expository details with extreme stinginess, fostering a general state of confusion. Directed by William Eubank, “The Signal” has visual style to burn. And it takes good advantage of the current state of paranoia arising from our surveillance culture and the pervasive mistrust in government.
On paper, this sounds like a good formula. Unfortunately, the figures that the filmmakers plug into their calculations don’t add up to much.
MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN, Washington Post