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P
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May 12, 2021

Angelina Jolie portrays a firefighter in incendiary thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead

P
Pa
May 12, 2021

Jolie plays Hannah, who vows to protect a young murder witness; a headstrong insect embarks on a computer-animated adventure in Maya The Bee: The Golden Orb. Damon Smith discusses.

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD (15, 100 mins)

Writer-director Taylor Sheridan, who was Oscar-nominated for his script for tense thriller Hell Or High Water, turns up the heat on lead actress Angelina Jolie in a high-stakes game of cats and mice co-written by Michael Koryta and Charles Leavitt, adapted from the book by Koryta.

Hannah Faber (Jolie) is a specially trained wildland firefighter or smokejumper, who makes life or death decisions as she seeks to protect the sprawling mountains of Montana from destruction. Haunted by the loss of three lives in a fire, Hannah stumbles upon terrified 12-year-old Connor (Finn Little) and takes the boy to her lookout tower.

She learns that the child is the sole witness to his father’s murder at the hands of ruthless assassin Jack Blackwell (Aidan Gillen) and his son Patrick (Nicholas Hoult). The Blackwells track Connor to the forest and prepare to set the land ablaze to flush out the one person who can testify against them. Hannah uses her knowledge of the wilderness to stay one step ahead of the gun-toting hunters.

MAYA THE BEE: THE GOLDEN ORB

Based on buzzy characters from the German children’s book by Waldemar Bonsels, Maya The Bee first took flight in computer-animated form as a TV series followed by a 2014 feature film for pre-schoolers.

Overarching life lessons about courage, tenacity and friendship are enforced in a jaunty third big screen instalment directed by Noel Cleary, which invites cutesy insects to burst into lyrically simplistic songs to convey their

emotions.

“This here mountain’s no place for ants/Against us beetles, they got no chance,” croons one war-mongering bug (Christian Charisiou), who overcomes his prejudices and appreciates the power of interspecies co-operation by the time the end credits rock and roll.

Screenwriter Fin Edquist harvests sticky sentimentality when the going gets tough but lashings of emotional syrup don’t prevent the solid action sequences

from taking flight, including a frantic chase on a fallen leaf down

eddying water.

The quality of the animation has improved since the first film but water effects aren’t convincing during the river sequence and feathery plumage of a flock of hungry birds noticeably lacks realistic movement in the air.

Coco Jack Gillies continues to radiate sweetness as the voice of the humming heroine, who never thinks twice about flapping her wings to do the right thing.

Maya (Gillies) and best friend Willi (Benson Jack Anthony) cause a commotion by accidentally unleashing a slithering stampede of glow worms during preparations for the Spring Festival.

“No more of your adventures!” despairs the Queen (Justine Clarke), who orders Maya and Willi to collect buttercup sap to repair damage to the hive.

When the youngsters are out of earshot, the frustrated monarch confides to her advisers that she may have to separate best friends Maya and Willi.

“It would take something very special to change my mind,” coos the Queen, which a despondent Maya overhears. During the sap-gathering sortie, Maya and Willi encounter a green ant named Chomp (Tom Cossetini), who is being chased by beetles Rumba (Frances Berry), Boof (Callan Colley) and Henchie (Cleary).

The bees take possession of the Regal Orb of Greenleaf from Chomp and pledge to carry the glittering trinket to the ant colony on Bonsai Peak via the bustling bazaar at Loggy Hollow.

En route, the orb cracks and reveals a cherubic ant princess, who Willi affectionately christens Smoosh (Evie Gillies). Maya The Bee: The Golden Orb is a wholesome escapade, pollinated by sweet vocal performances and heartfelt storytelling aimed squarely at young audiences.

Comic relief courtesy of blundering red ant soldiers Arnie (David Collins) and Barney (Shane Dundas) is pitched accordingly. When one insect nervously comments that the navy life isn’t for him because he has “no sea legs”, his literal sidekick is confused because he can clearly see his buddy’s trembling pins. It’s a hard knock bug’s life. RATING: 5.5/10

THE UNHOLY

Based on James Herbert’s best-selling book Shrine, The Unholy is a supernatural horror set in a small New England town, written for the screen and directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos. Young hearing-impaired girl Alice (Cricket Brown) stuns her congregation by suddenly gaining the power of speech.

She claims to have been visited by the Virgin Mary and professes that she can now heal the sick. Alice performs miracles and news of her gift spreads far and wide, piquing the interest of disgraced journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

He needs a blockbuster story to revive his flagging career and feels sure that Alice is his meal ticket. The Catholic Church dispatches Monsignor Delgarde (Diogo Morgado) to verify Alice’s bold claim. Meanwhile, Gerry aligns himself with Dr Natalie Gates (Katie Aselton) and Father Hagan (William Sadler) to discover the shocking truth about Alice’s powers.