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Features Live Action Movies Music

Mogul Mowgli

Director – Bassam Tariq – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

****

A UK British Pakistani rap artist is stopped in his career tracks by an auto-immune system suppression illness – in cinemas from Friday, October 30th and on BFI Player from Monday, November 9th

This opens with British Pakistani rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed, who also co-wrote the film) waiting in the wings then going on stage to perform before a massively enthusiastic New York crowd. I had fairly high expectations and my heart sank. Ahmed’s performance as the singer was leaving me absolutely cold. (To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of rap music.) Happily I was much more impressed with almost everything that followed.

This opening performance turns out to be the final leg of a tour. Zed has a major European Tour planned imminently. Back in Britain, he gets into a street fight with a fan/stalker and in the course of the resultant fight starts to experience severe stomach pains. He wakes up in the local hospital to learn that he’s suffering from an auto-immune system suppression illness and consequently will be unable to tour. He’s horrified by the the suggestion from his trusted manager Vaseem (Anjana Vasam) that his admirer and rival performer RPG (Nabhaan Rizwan), whom Zed despises, can cover for him on the European Tour.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Totally Under Control

Directors – Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger – 2020 – US – Cert. 12 – 123m

***1/2

Documentary looks at the Trump administration’s handling of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US – in cinemas from Friday, October 23rd and on iTunes, Amazon, Google, BFI Player, Curzon, Sky, Rakuten, Virgin. On BBC iPlayer from Sunday, November 1st.

This is a documentary shot, as it were, on the hoof. It constitutes a record of near-contemporary events as they unfolded in the recent past, in two of three very specific geographic locations. Two or three because the subject is the early months of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic in the origin of which the third country, China, specifically the city of Wuhan, played the major part. But this film isn’t really about China beyond that country’s being the source of the infection.

Nor is it really about the second country, South Korea, here quite reasonably held up to the audience as a paragon of virtue in its handling of the crisis. The film is really about the first country, the US, during this period, which had a playbook ready and waiting should such a crisis come to pass.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Shirley

Director – Josephine Decker – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 107m

****

Notorious author Shirley Jackson and her professor husband are seen through the eyes of a young couple invited to stay in their house – in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, October 30th

The real life Shirley Jackson was an author who wrote fiction. She’s known to cinemagoers for the book The Haunting Of Hill House (1959) that was filmed twice for the movies as The Haunting, once brilliantly (Robert Wise, 1963) and once killed dead by an overabundance of gratuitous special effects (Jan de Bont, 1999) and more recently was turned into a Netflix TV series (Mike Flanagan, 2018). That book may not be mentioned here, but the piece of her writing that does get a mention is The Lottery, her notorious short story which appeared in 1948 in The New Yorker Magazine, where she published much of her fiction.

This new film adapts Susan Scarf Merrell’s comparatively recent, fictional book Shirley: A Novel (2016) in which she examines Shirley Jackson and her academic professor husband Stanley Edgar Hyman through the eyes of a young, pregnant woman who moves into their household along with her husband who is hoping to secure an assistant literature professor’s post at the local college in Bennington, Vermont under Stanley.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Relic

Director – Natalie Erica James – 2019 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 89m

****1/2

A daughter and her mother must look after their ageing grandmother in her house which seems to possess a dark character – in cinemas and platforms including BFI Player from Friday, October 30th

Driving from Melbourne to visit her grandmother Edna in her house in the country, grown-up daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) and her mother Kay (Emily Mortimer) get a phone call from the local policeman informing them the old lady has gone missing. When they get to the house and enter via the large cat flap, sure enough grandma is nowhere to be found. It feels lived in though, even though there are rooms filled with boxes of junk she’s never managed to sort out or get rid of. They try and tidy up, but it’s a huge task and they barely make a dent in what needs to be done.

They go out with police combing the local woods, to no avail. Sam runs into friendly next door neighbour with learning difficulties Jamie (Chris Bunton), 18, who lives at home with his father. James has no idea where Edna is either. There are strange knocking sounds in the walls, but then old houses will do such things.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Tsukamoto – Killing – Haze – The Adventures of Denchu Kozo

Killing (Sawamura)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 79m

***

The Adventure of Denchu Kozo (Denchu kozo no boken)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1987 – Japan – 45m

****

Haze

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2005 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 48m

*****

Shinya Tsukamoto’s latest feature, the samurai movie Killing comes to UK Blu-ray in a two-disc edition, along with two fascinating shorts: the Super-8 epic The Adventure of Denchu Kozo and the later masterpiece Haze. All three feature informative audio commentaries by Tom Mes, author of Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto (2005). The director is probably best known for cyberpunk epics Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and its sequel/reboot Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) which concern the fusion of flesh and metal into a new evolutionary human weapon form. His new film similarly explores the samurai and his metal blade becoming as one in a deadly human fighting machine. Read the rest…

Review published in All The Anime.

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Features Live Action Movies

Every Time I Die

Director – Robi Michael – 2019 – US – 97m

***1/2

Reality disintegrates around a man tormented by the accidental, childhood death of his sister – on VoD from Monday, October 26th

People who’ve apparently died then come back to life have often reported the sensation of going down a dark tunnel towards the light, which they then haven’t reached because they’ve been brought back to life. That motif is realised a repeated, clumsy special effect at various points in Every Time I Die, along with more subtle and arguably more successful variants on the same theme, such as a child waking up in a hospital room where the door is slightly ajar revealing a light source beyond.

Other elements recur too: protagonist Sam (Drew Fonteiro) repeatedly feels a pain in his head and blacks out, only to repeatedly come to or wake up in another scenario. He wakes as a young lad of eight (Kenneth Moronta), a camera on the table in front of him, in the hospital room with the door ajar and the light beyond, Then he wakes up, in that device we’ve seen so many times in movies where it was all a dream. Here he wakes staring at the face of Mia (Melissa Macedo) who has spent the night with him and now must leave early to go back to her husband Tyler (Tyler Dash White), a soldier recently returned from several months away on active duty.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

WolfWalkers

Subdue the forest

Wolfwalkers
Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Certificate PG, 100 minutes
Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December

The tree cutters attempting to clear the forest around the walled town of Kilkenny, Ireland, live in fear of wolves. They also believe in WolfWalkers – human by day, wolf by night – who appear in daylight to call off wolf attacks on humans. Ireland is under English rule, administered by the God-fearing Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) through his northern English officer Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean), charged with clearing the forest of wolves. Bill’s young daughter Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) dreams of slaying wolves with her crossbow. However, children are barred from leaving the city.

This prohibition doesn’t prevent Robyn from sneaking out to the forest, however, where her wolf hunting goes disastrously wrong… Read the rest

Review for Reform magazine.

See also my BFI London Film Festival 2020 review.

Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December.

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Features Live Action Movies

Tucked

Director – Jamie Patterson – 2018 – UK – Cert.15 – 80m

*****

An ageing drag queen with weeks to live takes a younger performer under his wing – British film dealing with gender fluidity and death is now available on Netflix!

Are you straight? So is spaghetti – ‘til it gets hot and sticky.

Just one of the dirty jokes in the small club stage repertoire of ageing drag queen Jackie (Derren Nesbitt), 74. One night he collapses on his kitchen floor. He has an aggressive form of cancer and only six to seven weeks left to live.

Another night. He’s asked to show the ropes to a new performer Faith (Jordan Stephens), 21. Discovering Faith sleeping in his car, he offers the boy a home (with no untoward intentions).

Jackie dresses in women’s clothes but also likes women: outrageously gay Faith is shocked to find Jackie isn’t. Faith thinks Jackie should tell his estranged daughter that he’s dying… Read the rest

Tucked is out in the UK on Friday, May 17th. On DVD and VoD in September (2018). On Netflix in October 2020. Review for DMovies.org.

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Features Live Action Movies

The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi-toride no san-akunin)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1958 – Japan – Cert. PG – 138m

***

Currently streaming on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of the now extended Japan 2020 programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies

Captured by soldiers, two wandering bumpkin farmers (Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara) are put waist deep in a waterlogged pit with scores of other prisoners and ordered to dig for treasure. Before they can find it, however, they manage to escape. In the middle of nowhere, one of them slings away a useless, sodden branch from their attempted campfire. It goes chink. Inside the wood is concealed gold with a royal seal upon it.

So begins Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 foray into chambara (Japanese popular historical epic genre) which also features a beautiful princess in exile (Misa Uehara) and her heroic general (Toshiro Mifune) intent on restoring her with the clan’s gold. If the story sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s George Lucas’ main source for his Star Wars (1977) (and one or two elements in its sequels), which today lend Kurosawa’s film an added interest. The Hidden Fortress puts hero, heroine and their two unlikely companions through a series of set piece adventures including lance duels, a spectacularly choreographed folk fire festival, horseback pursuits and, indeed, the discovery fairly early on in the proceedings of the eponymous hidden fortress.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Over The Moon

Directors – Glen Keane, John Kahrs – 2020 – US, China – Cert. U – 95m

*****

A girl bereaved of her mother builds a rocket to the moon to prove the goddess Chang’e is real and convince her father not to re-marry – animated feature in cinemas from Friday, October 16th and on Netflix from Friday, October 23rd.

In Chinese mythology, archer Houyi’s wife Chang’e consumed an immortality potion then went to the moon where she mourned her lost love. The tale is also the basis of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrated in many countries in the Far East. Using the mythology as a backdrop, the late screenwriter Audrey Wells crafted an extraordinary story about a girl who fails to properly deal with bereavement when her mother dies.

The figure of Chang’e acts as a metaphor for Fei Fei (voiced by Cathy Ang) who wants her dad (voice: John Cho) to be faithful to his late wife. When dad introduces a new mum Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), with a new and irritating little brother Chin (Robert G. Chiu) in tow, she decides that to convince him to remain true to mum, she must go to the moon and prove Chang’e real, which will convince her dad to do the right thing.… Read the rest