Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1961 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. U – 85m

*****

Available on Blu-ray/DVD and now on BFI Player too.

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2017 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.

Using not only live action but also every form of animation you can imagine, the 1961 Czech fantasy The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (BD/DVD, cert U, 85 mins) puts the infamous teller of tall tales in the company of a rational astronaut he meets on the moon for a series of improbable adventures. It’s a charming and delightful piece of escapism and a visual marvel from start to finish.

Director Karel Zeman has probably come closer than anyone to filming the equivalent of a moving woodcut and the whole thing is highly inventive throughout, challenging the very idea of what a film might look and feel like. Children and adults alike will be entranced. For good measure, the disc includes a documentary in which students try to recreate some of the film’s spectacular special effects.

Trailer here:

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2017 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.

Categories
Animation Features Movies

SCOOB!

Director – Tony Cervone – 2020 – US – Cert. PG – 93m

****

Available on VoD from Friday, July 10th and BD/DVD Monday, September 28th

I grew up watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons which would play in, if I recall, the 5.20 slot on the BBC. Some were better than others. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70) was one of the better ones. It had five memorable characters who each week would investigate some mystery suggesting monsters or the paranormal for which there would always turn out to be a rational explanation as the perpetrator was unmasked at the end, usually with the words “and I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t have been for you kids.”

The original cartoon TV series (1969-70) has spawned numerous spin-offs over the years including a so-so live action / special effects theatrical feature Scooby-Doo (2002) and a sequel. Which brings us to SCOOB!, an animated theatrical movie once again bringing the franchise to the big screen.

It starts off with a couple of tried and tested big screen adaptation tropes. One, taking one of the characters and having them somehow meet up with the others for their first adventure. Two, an origin story.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Make Up

Director – Claire Oakley – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 85m

***1/2

In cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 31st.

Q&A with director Claire Oakley (recorded Monday, August 3rd).

I liked this a lot as it started off but less as it wore on. It has an enigmatic plot, a striking female cast and an intriguing location / setting. For me sadly the plot descended into cliché when it promised so much more. Other elements compensate however.

Ruth (Molly Windsor) heads down from Derby to join boyfriend Tom (Joseph Quinn) in the coastal Cornwall caravan park where he works on site in maintenance during the off-season, (cara)van provided. He’s delighted she can make it. Cue bedroom scenes. Ruth learns from facility manager Shirley (Lisa Palfrey) that Tom’s job is ideal for couples who live on site, which suits Ruth fine.

She’s less happy though when she tidies up the van and finds a red hair on an item of Tom’s clothing. Does he know someone with red hair? He never answers the question. But Ruth becomes obsessed with it. She imagines a red head disappearing round the side of a van. She goes paddling with 11 year old Kippa (Elodie Wilton) – to a depth of about four feet which when you can’t swim is not a smart move in surfing seas where the waves are high.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Eunuch (Naesi)

Director – Shin Sang-ok – 1968 – South Korea – 95m

****

Free to view in the Korean Film Archive as part of

Korean Film Nights Online: Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement

(Friday, July 17th – Thursday, August 27th)

Viewing links at bottom of review.

Away from his main palace, a prince keeps numerous maids in a separate palace at Geumjung. These concubines are for the prince alone, to help him produce an heir, and to ensure that no-one else impregnates them before him the palace is staffed with eunuchs. Every night he chooses a maid to sleep with, usually by picking a token off a tray. He has a pretty low view of women – they’re all the same, he complains.

The women have nothing to do with themselves except wait around to be picked and gossip about who has been lucky enough to be chosen. They have no power whatsoever – there’s a story about a girl who refused to remove her skirt in the prince’s bedchamber and was executed for disobedience. With no sexually functioning men around other than the prince, some of the women turn to each other for fulfilment.

Thus, one night Min sneaks into the room of the sleeping Kim Ja-ok (Yun Jeong-hie) only to be repulsed when the latter wakes up, understandably startled.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

301/302

Director – Park Chul-soo – 1995 – South Korea – 98m

*****

Free to view in the Korean Film Archive as part of

Korean Film Nights Online: Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement

(Friday, July 17th – Thursday, August 27th)

Apartment New Hope Bio. A residential block of flats for the well off. Nice if you can afford it. Two rooms on each floor. The two rooms on the third floor are numbers 301 and 302.

301 has a designer-built kitchen. Perfect for newly moved-in Songhui (Pang Eun-jin) who lives for food preparation and cooking. She spends a lot of time in food markets sourcing the best ingredients. She has a collection of attractive and distinctive coloured plates because, after all, the way you serve food is important and can make all the difference.

Songhui is curious about her neighbour in 302, but Yunhui (Hwang Sin-hye) wants to keep herself to herself. Songhui will watch through her door’s spyhole and when Yunhui appears will dash out to say “hi”. If Yunhui possibly can, she will get in to 302 and close the door before Songhui can catch her.

Actually, Yunhui is curious too. At least enough so to spy through her own front door on prospective residents being shown around 301 by the estate agent in a flashback.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara)

Director – Hideo Nakata – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

*****

Currently available to view on Amazon Prime, BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) and Shudder.

Review originally published in Funimation UK to coincide with the UK Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release date 14/10/2016.

Jeremy Clarke on Hideo Nakata’s urban ghost story.

At the centre of Hideo Nakata’s film Dark Water (2002) is the powerful bond that exists between a mother and her child. Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of divorce proceedings and while all the financial arrangements have been agreed, the question of who gets custody of the couple’s daughter has yet to be settled. Yoshimi is assured that in cases where the child is less than six years old, the mother tends to get custody. However, her former husband is attempting to discredit her to prevent this happening.

This is all very stressful to Yoshimi. For the time being however she and her almost six year old daughter Iku (Rio Kanno) need to find a place to live. So Yoshimi views an apartment in a run-down block of flats and mother and daughter move in. That’s when their troubles really start.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Last And First Men

Director – Jóhann Jóhannsson – 2020 – Iceland – 71m

****

Available on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) from Thursday, July 30th

This is the only feature directed by the late and renowned composer Jóhann Jóhannsson who has been releasing albums since Englabörn (2002) and has provided the soundtracks for such films as The Miners’ Hymns (2010), The Theory Of Everything (2014), Sicario (2015) and Arrival (2016). Last And First Men was originally a multimedia project performed in Manchester International Festival in 2017 with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra. While its appearance on BFI Player is most welcome, there are plans to tour the film with a live orchestra in the future.

To describe the film as based on or an adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s cult SF novel Last And First Men: A Story Of The Near And Far Future (1930) is both accurate and misleading. Accurate because the scripted monologue spoken by Tilda Swinton (a terrific voice performance that would be a pleasure to listen to on its own, no other sounds or images) which runs throughout the film is adapted from that source. Misleading because the film largely comprises live action cinematography of architecture beneath skies in rural landscape against a soundtrack of Jóhannsson‘s specially composed music and Swinton’s narration.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition)

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 (2002) – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 225m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, July 27th 2020, 235m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 225m version released on DVD 2004. Original theatrical cut: 199m)

This always had the problem that it’s the second film in a trilogy. If you think you might want to watch all three, you’ll watch the first movie. If you want to see how the story ends up, you might possibly jump straight in at the last movie (although to be honest, you’d be better watching the first movie The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and then if you like it the other two as well.)

That said, both this second movie The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and the third film The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King deal with the problem of opening the film admirably, in both cases doing so in creative ways. This one leaps back to Gandalf being dragged down a chasm by a Balrog in FOTR and then, once we think we’re getting closer to finding out what happened, has Frodo waken from a dream.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Edition)

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Edition)

Director – Peter Jackson – 2002 (2001) – New Zealand – Cert. PG – 229m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, July 24th 2020, 227m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 218m version released on DVD 2004. Original theatrical cut: 178m)

It’s a very different thing writing about a new movie which you’re watching for the first time and an old movie with which you’re familiar. Even stranger when the movie concerned is an adaptation of a book with which you’re equally familiar. Odder still when the property exists in its original form (which was actually a side project of something else, Professor J.R.R.Tolkien’s Middle-earth project) but also in a highly regarded 13 x 1 hour BBC radio adaptation skilfully adapted by Brian Sibley.

Although it’s Tolkien’s material, for me it’s as if The Lord Of The Rings existed somewhere out there and Tolkien wrote it down in book form (Where does artistic creativity come from? Discuss) after which Sibley successfully wrote it down in radio drama form and Jackson and his two screenwriting collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens turned it into a movie trilogy.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Alice

Director – Josephine Mackerras – 2019 – UK, France, Australia – Cert. 15 – 103m

****

Available in the UK on Amazon Prime, Barbican On Demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 24th

Working mum Alice Ferrand (Emilie Piponnier) has everything she wants in life – a devoted husband François (Martin Swabey), a young son – until one day her credit card is stopped. No money for shopping. No money from the cashpoint.

A visit to the bank reveals that François has been systematically withdrawing money from the joint account for the last year or so. Not only that, but he hasn’t been making the payments on the couple’s flat for the same period. The money from her parents is gone and she is weeks away from losing her home.

When she phones him, she gets his voicemail. Desperate to know what’s going on, she goes through his desktop computer and finds phone numbers. Some of these lead her to a high end escort agency who, as it happens, are holding job interviews. She goes along in the hope of finding out more information and is offered a job. Confronted with a daunting repayment schedule to save her home, after much soul searching she signs up in her new career.… Read the rest