John Lui Film Correspondent recommends

Film picks: The Good Dinosaur, The Program, Macbeth and more

The Good Dinosaur.
The Good Dinosaur.

THEGOOD DINOSAUR (PG)

101 minutes/4/5 stars

In an alternate universe, dinosaurs did not become extinct and have learnt to create communities.

Young Arlo comes from a family of farming dinosaurs. He tries to be a good son to his father, but is held back by his fear of everything.

A raging river sweeps him far from home one day and he has to make the return trek, dogged by a feral humanboy he names Spot. Just as you are about to relax into what looks like a movie for the under-10s, something happens to turn it all upside down. Arlo, the lost dinosaur, sees someone close to him die in a horrifying way, early in the movie.

First-time director Peter Sohn is ready to make scenes as strange and scary as a child’s survival story needs to be. The Good Dinosaur is a masterpiece of minimalism.


THE PROGRAM (NC16)

104 minutes/4.5/5 stars

“We transformed your lousy little Eurosport into a global brand,” spits American cycling team manager Bill Stapleton (Lee Pace). The sneer is aimed at an anti-doping official who has the temerity to suggest that American cyclist Lance Armstrong’s test results are not as clean as they should be. Stapleton’s contempt for the official doesn’t just show the kind of bullies he and Armstrong could be. It reveals the imbalance of power between athletes and the bodies that struggle to govern them. Not only that, but you also get an idea of how the Tour de France became so riddled with money politics that only cheaters could win. Stephen Frears directs with a clear and damning moral centre. Ben Foster’s Armstrong is cinema’s best villain in ages, a manwho was a thug when he was on top and, after the fall, saw himself as a victim.


MACBETH (NC16)

113 minutes/3.5/5 stars

A Scottish general stabs his way to a thone because of a prophecy, then finds that forecasts from witches come with rolls of fine print. Leave to others ideas about setting Shakespeare’s plays in non-traditional places and periods. Australian director Justin Kurzel gets mediaeval on you: The world of Macbeth is frontierland, a wild place cloaked in fog,mud and grass.

Everything looks lived-in and worn out. He mutes colour so much the film looks near-monochrome. Buildings are dark and squat, with the royal chambers as bare as monasteries. The action takes place mostly outdoors. While you feel sorry for everyone standing exposed to what looks like freezing weather, each frame, composed with the deliberation of a Zen garden, is beautiful.


RENDEZVOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA

This year’s festival continues the focus on films feted at the Cannes Film Festival. Opening night feature Dheepan (NC16, 114 minutes) won the Palme d’Or this year. Directed by Jacques Audiard (Rust And Bone, 2012; A Prophet, 2009), the drama centres on a former Tamil Tiger fighter who finds asylum in France under a false identity. Another highlight is the critically acclaimed comedy Microbe Et Gasoil (Microbe And Gasoline, rating to be advised) from Michel Gondry (The Science Of Sleep, 2006; Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 2004). WHERE: Alliance Francaise Theatre, GV Plaza, The Cathay Cineplex, Shaw Theatres Lido MRT: Various WHEN: Dec 5 to 13 ADMISSION: Various prices INFO: www.rendezvouswith frenchcinema.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Film Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe