April 04, 2020

Falcon documentary excellent

In Theaters

KESTREL’S EYE Directed by Mikael Kristersson. 85 minutes. No rating. Now playing, Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville.

Mikael Kristersson’s excellent documentary, “Kestral’s Eye,” follows the life of a family of kestrel falcons living high in the walls of a 13th century Swedish church.

It is wonderful, using an array of hidden, remote-controlled cameras and microphones to capture the day-to-day world of these birds as they hunt for food, mate in midair, raise their offspring from chicks to full-grown adults, all while observing life in the small village above which they live.

Beginning in late fall and extending deep into spring, the film, which will remind some of Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou’s marvelous film, “Microcosmos,” is an intimate view of a world we never truly see.

Without the aid of narration, scripted dialogue, multimillion-dollar special effects, overpaid actors or overhyped directors, “Kestrel’s Eye” is bare-bones, but blessedly so.

In its hands-off minimalism, it allows the kestrels to make their own busy, chattering comments on the funerals that take place in the cemetery below them, the parades that move through the otherwise quiet streets, the grooming of the church’s immaculate grounds, and at one point, on a wedding that takes place directly below them in the church’s courtyard.

Here, in the film’s one truly hilarious moment, the kestrels turn their backs to the proceeding and comment on them – not to mention on the bride and groom – in the most unpleasant way imaginable.

At their core, movies are supposed to take us into worlds we’ve never before seen or experienced. At their best, they allow us into lives that surprise and startle even if, going into the film, we mistakenly believed they were familiar. Though many of today’s mainstream directors, writers and actors have lost that philosophy of film, “Kestrel’s Eye” ignites it and makes it true again.

It’s an unforgettable film that shouldn’t be missed.

Grade: A

On Video and DVD

NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS. Directed by Peter Segal. Written by Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz. 110 minutes. PG-13.

Peter Segal’s “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” proves that if a director doesn’t have a strong script to back even the most talented actors, the overall effort will die – in this case from comedic starvation.

Just as in the last “Professor,” this new effort revolves around Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy), a hugely likable scientist who, this time out, has discovered a formula for turning back the aging process. It’s an event that would have been worth celebrating if Buddy Love – Sherman’s vicious alter ego – hadn’t burst free from Sherman’s DNA to cause a boatload of trouble.

Whatever. The only reason this film was made was so that Murphy could slip into makeup artist Rick Baker’s ingenious, Academy Award-winning costumes and become the Klumps. That’s good enough reason for me, especially since this film is at its best when leaving its lame plot behind to focus on a family Eddie Murphy brings to life with spectacular panache.

They’re all here: Sherman’s father, Cletus, who’s having monumental sexual problems; Sherman’s mother, Mama, who’s praying for a miracle to hit the bedroom soon; his deadbeat brother, Ernie; and the scandalous, scene-stealing Granny, who’s surprisingly limber love life is explored here in drawer-dropping detail.

It can’t be easy for an actor to define so many characters under so many different layers of latex, so enough can’t be said for how well Murphy pulls it off. As a mimic, he’s always been a genius, but time and talent have also turned him into a formidable actor.

Never once in “The Klumps” does he rely on the latex and padding to do the work for him: each of his characters has been carefully considered and thought out beforehand. The way he moves as Granny, speaks as Cletus, and behaves as Mama are so clearly different, it’s a triumph of acting that can’t be ignored.

With Janet Jackson in a fine performance as Sherman’s girlfriend, a scientist who’s offered a full professorship at the University of Maine, the problem here isn’t the performances, but the unnecessarily raunchy script, which plunges deep into the toilet bowl and pulls out the real reason this film is called “The Klumps.”

Grade: C+

Christopher Smith is the Bangor Daily News film critic. His reviews appear Mondays in Style and Thursdays in the scene.

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