Rating:

Dream Horse (PG)?

Verdict: No thoroughbred, sadly?

Rating:

More than 14 months after it was scheduled for release, A Quiet Place Part II finally tiptoes into cinemas.

The good news is that it is well worth the pandemic-enforced wait, and not only because it depicts a world more imperilled than our own. It is terrific, and really should be seen on the biggest screen possible.

A little like the second instalment of The Godfather trilogy, which is a flattering point of comparison for any cinematic follow-up, it acts as a sequel and a prequel. An exhilarating pre-credits sequence shows us how Planet Earth (well, the U.S., which in the movies counts as the same thing) landed in the almighty maelstrom that, at the start of the first film, was already well under way.

More than 14 months after it was scheduled for release, A Quiet Place Part II finally tiptoes into cinemas

The 2018 original began on Day 89 of the apocalypse, but Part II whisks us back to Day One. Lee and Evelyn Abbott (John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) are at a Little League baseball game featuring their son Marcus (Noah Jupe). Near them in the stand is another dad, Emmett (Cillian Murphy, transferring his Peaky Blinders charisma to the big screen). The scene is pure, wholesome Americana, until something strange starts happening in the sky.

Yes, it’s the beginning of an extraterrestrial invasion. Soon, the terror has begun, at the savage claws and deadly teeth of monstrous ravagers that are blind but possess what one of the literary heroes of my childhood, the schoolboy Jennings, would have called supersonic ear-sight.

It’s such a simple premise for a horror-thriller, turning The Day Of The Triffids on its head by making the predator blind, not the prey, that it’s a wonder nobody has done it this well before. Make a sound and they will find you, and eat you.

A little like the second instalment of The Godfather trilogy, which is a flattering point of comparison for any cinematic follow-up, it acts as a sequel and a prequel. An exhilarating pre-credits sequence shows us how Planet Earth (well, the U.S., which in the movies counts as the same thing) landed in the almighty maelstrom that, at the start of the first film, was already well under way

Krasinski, also the writer-director, handles the prequel masterfully. But then he must write himself out of proceedings because, as those who saw the first film (possibly between their fingers) will recall, poor, brave Lee ended up as an alien’s breakfast.

We skip to Day 474. Evelyn, though very resourceful, is now widowed with two surviving children and a baby to fend for. At an abandoned foundry, they run into Emmett, who is mourning his own family and in no mood to play proxy.

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It is now that Evelyn’s profoundly deaf teenage daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) moves centre stage. The first film ended on a hopeful note, with the realisation that these apparently invulnerable creatures could be disabled by amplifying high-frequency feedback from Regan’s hearing aid.

When this splendid girl then realises that the song Beyond The Sea is being played repeatedly on a radio by way of a signal, to alert people that there is a safe haven on a distant island, she sets off armed only with a rifle and her hearing aid. Evelyn begs Emmett to go after her. The tension duly mounts to the same knuckle-chewing pitch as last time, as Krasinski cuts repeatedly between Regan, Emmett and the others.

Dream Horse doesn¨t call for quite the same wide-eyed attention but it¨s a pleasant enough picture that belongs in the same camp as all those British charmers in which the underdogs prevail Dream Horse doesn¨t call for quite the same wide-eyed attention but it¨s a pleasant enough picture that belongs in the same camp as all those British charmers in which the underdogs prevail

Dream Horse doesn’t call for quite the same wide-eyed attention but it’s a pleasant enough picture that belongs in the same camp as all those British charmers in which the underdogs prevail

Murphy, Blunt and Jupe are all wonderful but the stand-out star of this sequel is Simmonds, deaf in real life, who gives another transfixing performance.

As for the film as a whole, it doesn’t suffer one iota from Krasinski’s deployment of the same devices as last time, notably the impossible compromise between sudden, excruciating pain and the life-or-death need to stay silent. And once again, this mindset settles inexorably on the audience. At the Cineworld Leicester Square, I didn’t hear the rustling of even one bag of Revels.

Dream Horse doesn’t call for quite the same wide-eyed attention but it’s a pleasant enough picture that belongs in the same camp as all those British charmers in which the underdogs prevail. That said, it’s no Billy Elliot or Pride, and is saddled with a few caricatures at which even Richard Curtis might have balked.

That said, it¨s no Billy Elliot or Pride, and is saddled with a few caricatures at which even Richard Curtis might have balked That said, it¨s no Billy Elliot or Pride, and is saddled with a few caricatures at which even Richard Curtis might have balked

That said, it’s no Billy Elliot or Pride, and is saddled with a few caricatures at which even Richard Curtis might have balked

It’s a true story. In a Monmouthshire village, Jan Vokes (Toni Collette), Co-op checkout woman by day, barmaid by night, ambitiously decides to apply her pigeon-breeding expertise to horse racing. With local accountant Howard Davies (Damian Lewis), she forms a syndicate of villagers to raise the fees so trainer Philip Hobbs (Nicholas Farrell) might guide Dream Alliance, the horse they have raised on an allotment, to winning ways.

Collette, who comes from New South Wales, makes a convincing native of the old version, and gets solid support from a pedigree cast which also includes Owen Teale, as her orthodontically challenged husband Brian, and the venerable Sian Phillips. She plays a potty-mouthed neighbour who would seem less of a rip-off of Doris in TV’s Gavin & Stacey without the presence of two G&S regulars (Joanna Page, Steffan Rhodri).

Director Euros Lyn keeps it cantering along pretty amiably, constructing a few slightly laboured setbacks and personal issues so it’s not all sugar-cube sweet. But given the strength of the source material, Dream Horse is a mild disappointment, not the thoroughbred feelgood film it might have been.

Both films are in cinemas from today.?

Britain’s international status might have diminished these past few decades, but we can still boast the two most famously hard-working 95-year-olds on earth ! namely the Queen and, less than three weeks apart from her in age, Sir David Attenborough.

The latter just can’t stop presenting documentaries, and the latest of them is Breaking Boundaries: The Science Of Our Planet (¥¥¥¥). In it, he introduces evidence that even climate-change sceptics might struggle to refute: that humanity is well on the way to wrecking its own habitat.

The melting of the Greenland ice cap, and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, is a double-whammy that life on earth, as we know it, will not ultimately survive.

Yet there is hope in this film, as well as a level of despair that reduces one biologist to tears on camera. According to the great man, it’s still not too late to make things, if not right, then better.

Nail Bomber: Manhunt (¥¥¥¥) focuses on a different kind of destruction, the deranged hatred that caused far-right activist David Copeland to detonate three nail bombs in London in 1999. It’s another very good documentary, which shows how Copeland was caught, but also unveils the depths of his depravity; packing his devices with nails wasn’t enough, he also soaked the nails in rat urine, to maximise infections among those he didn’t kill.

Both films are available now on Netflix?

Joanna Scanland is simply superb in After Love (¥¥? , 12A), the intense debut feature of writer director Aleem Khan. She plays Mary, a Muslim convert whose Pakistani-born husband, a ferry captain, dies abruptly at their home in Dover.

As if sudden widowhood were not painful enough, she then discovers he had been in a relationship for years with Genevieve (Nathalie Richard), a woman at the other end of his cross-Channel route, in Calais. More devastating still, they had a son, now in his teens ! which Mary doesn’t realise until she goes to confront Genevieve and is taken for the new cleaner. It’s piercing stuff which cleverly uses that standard device of farce, mistaken identity, as the dramatic engine of a film that somehow condenses themes of grief, jealousy, parenthood, cultural assimilation, race and even homosexuality into its compact running-time.

Land (¥¥? , 12A) follows another grieving woman (Robin Wright, also making her directorial debut) to Wyoming, where she holes up in a remote cabin, not caring whether she lives or dies. That it’s not the latter is thanks to a kindly hunter (Demian Bichir) with emotional baggage of his own. At times it feels like an endurance test for us, too, but it’s predictably well-acted.

I loved Adam Rehmeier’s Dinner In America (¥¥? ), which won’t be for everyone but it’s a funny, spirited, subversive romcom about the unlikely relationship between an angry punk singer (Kyle Gallner) and his nerdiest fan (Emily Skeggs).

At first it’s hard to spot their virtues but gradually you find yourself completely rooting for them. A cult classic in the making.

After Love and Land are in cinemas. Dinner In America is on digital platforms.

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