If last year's Etre et avoir had viewers hankering after a simpler life in a French mountain village, then The Story of the Weeping Camel (U) could get them taking up residence among the shepherds of southern Mongolia. It's one of this year's must-see documentaries. Rich with humanity and a quiet respect for conservation, it excels both as an absorbing, ethnographical study of a pre-industrial lifestyle and as an opportunity to get all mushy over the cuteness of Mongolian toddlers and camels so woolly they look like sheep who've been racked.
Strictly speaking, though, it's not a documentary at all. The writer-directors, Luigi Falorni and Byambasuren Davaa, took their cameras to the Gobi desert with a plot in mind, and the film has a classic quest structure: when a camel rejects its newborn colt, the owners decide that a musical ritual is needed, so they send their two young sons across the tufty sands on camelback to fetch a musician from the nearest town, 50km away. But the film's stars aren't actors. The four generations of laconic herders who share three surprisingly colourful yurts are a real family, and everything they do in the film is what they do in their everyday lives. For all of the directors' manipulation of the material, there's no fakery involved in the scene of a camel giving birth. And, when the titular Bactrian does finally weep, it might well bring a tear to your eye, too.
While the average Hollywood blockbuster is as expensive and as precisely engineered as a NASA launch, Around the World in 80 Days (PG) is like the aeroplane that Phileas Fogg knocks together on day 79. It's a ramshackle contraption that should crash to the ground, but somehow doesn't. Steve Coogan's prattish, distinctly Steve Cooganish Fogg keeps it afloat, and Jackie Chan, as Passepartout, fuels it with martial arts stunts that culminate in a fight inside the head of the Statue of Liberty. Bolt on a foxy French love interest, a fistful of celebrity cameos, and the humour's winning compound of dry irony and all-out silliness, and you get a bank-holiday family adventure that takes flight against the odds.
Walking Tall (15) stars The Rock - a sort-of wrestler turned sort-of actor - as a soldier who retires from the Special Forces only to find that his home-town has become a den of vice and corruption. Well, someone's opened a casino there, anyway. The Rock is so annoyed that he smashes up the villain's premises with a big stick, an orgy of GBH and vandalism that results, naturally, in his being elected sheriff. He then smashes up the villain's car with a big stick, and so it goes on. A loose remake of the 1973 film of the same name, Walking Tall would be a troubling glorification of police brutality if it didn't operate on a reality level just below that of The A-Team.
In Twisted (15), Ashley Judd stars as a San Francisco homicide cop whose only personality trait is a penchant for assaulting handcuffed suspects by day and picking up strangers in bars by night, so when her many ex-lovers start dropping dead it's hard to care whether she is, as she suspects, a schizophrenic serial killer or whether one of the film's other obnoxious characters is the murderer. With more red herrings than Rick Stein's recipe book, this trash is a new low for Judd's co-stars, Samuel L Jackson and Andy Garcia, but it's the same old low for Judd herself.
In Falcons (15), Keith Carradine's American ex-con travels to an Icelandic village to commit suicide. Alas, he changes his mind and goes on a ludicrous bird-smuggling road trip with the kookiest woman in Iceland - and that includes Björk. Insultingly bad in all departments, Falcons is a turkey.Reuse content