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Live Action Movies Shorts

Beautiful New Bay Area Project

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2013 – Japan – 29m

****

A company director steals a woman worker’s name tag and she fights and kickboxes him and his people to get it back – currently on MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa

A young man (Emoto Tasuku) is president of the company he has inherited from his father. His right hand man encourages him to pitch on a development project on the side of the river. He hangs out on a construction site and watches the workers go about their jobs. He is particularly taken with woman worker Takako (Mita Moa).

So much so that he tries to strike up a conversation with her, but she ignores him. Indeed, she goes out of her way to vanish from his sight to where he can’t find her. So he later in her full view steals her name tag from a board and hides it in his office. He instructs his security that if the woman appears in his building, she is to be thrown out.

That sets up the final ten plus minutes of the short in which to access his office and her purloined name tag she must physically kickbox her way past several guards to fight him for the tag.… Read the rest

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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.

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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

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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

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Features Live Action Movies

Mr. Vampire

Director – Ricky Lau – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

If your knowledge of vampire lore comes from Western movies about Dracula you’re in for some real surprises with the 1985 Hong Kong movie Mr. Vampire. This is the movie that put the Chinese hopping vampire on the map.

It’s evening, as mortuary assistant Man-choi (Ricky Hui) checks a number of upright standing corpses with talismans affixed to their foreheads. All present and correct. Behind him a corpse without a talisman advances towards him. By the time he’s realised this is fellow mortuary assistant Chau-sang (Chin Siu-ho) playing a prank, the resultant air flow has blown the talismans off the other foreheads and eight vampires are hopping towards them, Man Choi runs to fetch his employer, Master Gau (Lam Ching-ying)…

I review Mr. Vampire for All The Anime to coincide with the film’s UK Blu-ray release from Eureka! See also my Manga Mania review published back in the nineties to coincide with the film’s UK VHS release from Made In Hong Kong.

Clip from Eureka! version:

Trailer (Cantonese, no subs) here:

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Invention For Destruction (Vynález Zkázy)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1958 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. U – 82m

*****

Blu-ray/DVD on sale for a bargain £10/£5 until 21.07.2020 at Arrow Video’s Second Run Sale.

Review originally written as an entry for

the Aurum Film Encyclopedia: War (series editor: Phil Hardy).

Sadly, the book was never published.

Vynález Zkázy

aka

Invention For Destruction,

The Invention Of Destruction,

The Deadly Invention,

The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961, US version)

KRATKY FILM PRAHA | STUDIO LOUTKOVYCH FILMU GOTTWALDOV

Feature length trickfilm adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel Une Invention Diabolique is less about war itself than its causes – specifically scientists who work without regard for how their experimental research will be used by others. Professor Roche (Navrátil) is kidnapped from a sanitarium and taken by clipper (towed by a prototype submarine invisible from the surface) to the island of Back-Cup where mysterious captor Count Artigas (Holub) invites him to continue his research – a task the childlike scientist is happy to undertake. The professor’s travelling companion, research assistant and the film’s narrator Simon Hart (Tokos) wants by contrast to escape and warn the world of Artigan’s plans to attack using a giant gun.

Zeman shoots his film with an all-encompassing diversity of live action and animated techniques, mixing actors, natural history photography and studio sets (augmented by drawings of set sections matted into his locked-off frame) on the one hand with live action and stop-frame puppetry, animated models, drawings and any other method you care to name.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Journey To The Beginning Of Time (Cesta Do Pravěku)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1955 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. PG – 86m

*****

Blu-ray/DVD on sale for a bargain £10/£5 until 21.07.2020 at Arrow Video’s Second Run Sale.

I’ve written about the pioneering Czech director Karel Zeman in these pages before regarding his 1961 film The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (BD/DVD, cert U, 85 mins). The latest of his works to see a release in a beautifully restored version is 1955’s Journey To The Beginning Of Time (BD/DVD, cert PG, 86 mins) in which four young boys go back in time to find a trilobite and see numerous other prehistoric beasts on the way, realised by an astonishing array of animation and special effects techniques.

The film flows very naturally and has a commendable awe of the created world. The subtitled Czech version is the one to watch first. The disc also includes the surprisingly effective US dubbed version with its different opening sequence at the American Museum Of Natural History and a different closing sequence with stock footage of volcanoes and a gratuitous voice-over about the Genesis creation myth.

Trailer here:

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2019 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The End

Director – Wiebe Bonnema – 2019 – Netherlands – 4m 36s

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

I had to blink while I was watching this. Its opening two minutes play out like the animated title sequence of a spaghetti Western, and if you’ve seen a few of those you’ll know that a number sport superb 2D animation titles which this little short so brilliantly pastiches. This goes further in a way, simultaneously playing with genre clichés while depicting a gunfighter saving a town from despots. As he passes through, white squares standing for people’s windows wipe onto the screen.

This opening cleverly gets around one of the inherent problems with the short animated (or for that matter non-animated) film, the necessity for credits. Usually, these are boringly placed at the end as white titles creeping up the screen over a black background. But having got all that out of the way in his opening, which incidentally functions as the perfect calling card for selling himself as a maker of amazing titles sequences, Wiebe has space to explore what happens after the generic story is over. What happens after the hero rides off into the sunset?

The graphic genius already exhibited continues in what follows: a long, slow, single shot horse ride away from camera into the distance.… Read the rest

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Throne Of Blood

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1957 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 110m

*****

Currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the five month long Japan 2020 programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies including some as yet unannounced anime.

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays. In 1957, Kurosawa reworked it against the backdrop of feudal, 16th Century Japan. Ascendant samurai Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) hear from an old crone at a spinning wheel in the forest that Washizu will become Lord of Cobweb Castle, later to be succeeded by Miki’s son. Washizu’s wife Asaji (Isuzu Yamada, her face rigidly fixed in Noh mask poses) preys on his insecurities to convince Washizu to murder his way to the top. Slayings, ghost sightings, hand washing and his demise duly ensue.

Not only does Kurosawa jettison all Shakespeare’s dialogue, he also makes the material thoroughly his own even while remaining true to its essence. For instance, when Washizu, eating in public, sees Miki’s ghost, Mifune with the camera following him starts running around like a man possessed, slashing wildly at an unseen apparition. Watching this, it’s hard to imagine it ever being shot on film (let alone performed on a stage) any other way.… Read the rest

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Ran

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 162m

*****

This spectacular samurai period epic is one of 22 Kurosawa movies currently showing on BFI Player as part of the comprehensive, five month long Japan 2020 season.

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK. It was published to coincide with the film’s 2016 restoration. Stray Dog, Rashomon, Yojimbo, I Live In Fear, The Hidden Fortress, Throne Of Blood, The Lower Depths and High And Low, all of which are in the current season’s 22, also get a mention. As does Kagemusha which, curiously, isn’t.

Jeremy Clarke on Akira Kurosawa’s live action epic.

Ran is Akira Kurosawa’s remarkable 1985 free adaptation of King Lear, rereleased in cinemas worldwide in 2016 on the back of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

More than any other Japanese film director, Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) is responsible for bringing that country’s movies to the attention of international audiences. His first big exposure abroad came with the jidaigeki or period drama Rashomon (1950) which dramatised the story of a rape victim from different, successive character viewpoints. Entered in the 1951 Venice Film Festival without his knowledge, Rashomon unexpectedly picked up the prestigious Golden Lion award.… Read the rest