Categories
Animation Features Movies

WolfWalkers

Director – Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart – 2020 – Ireland, Luxembourg, France – Cert. PG – 100m

*****

An adventurous English girl from Kilkenny encounters a wild Irish girl in the woods who can change into a wolf in groundbreaking 2D animation – on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 on Saturday, October 10th, 18.30-19.00 start, in cinemas from Monday, October 26th, then on Apple TV from Sunday, 13 December

This is co-director Moore’s third production based on Irish mythology for Irish animation house Cartoon Saloon following The Secret of Kells (2009, about the making of the Book Of Kells) and Song of the Sea (2014, about selkies / mermaids).

Irish WolfWalkers mythology concerns humans who can transform into wolves and back again, while mankind’s relationship with the wolf down the ages has to do with destroying its natural habitat and a fear of the animal derived largely from its attacks on small animals such as pets and, very occasionally, children. These two ideas are combined in the film WolfWalkers along with Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland as Lord Protector, although historical accuracy clearly isn’t the intention as not only is his name left out abut also what happens to the Lord Protector here is very different from what happened to him in real life.… Read the rest

Categories
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.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

When Worlds Collide

Director – Rudolph Maté – 1951 – US – Cert. U – 79m

***

Review of 1997 UK PAL laserdisc

Originally published on London Calling Internet

Made the year before European-born producer George Pal’s The War Of The Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953), this science-fictional disaster outing stages the end of the world by a star and orbiting planet Zyra rushing headlong towards the Earth. A handful of scientists build a Space Ark to save a chosen few humans via a perilous voyage to Zyra. But who will go – and who will stay behind and face annihilation?

From its opening Bible with destruction quotations to match, right through to its New Start For Humanity In A New World finale, this is infused with Pal’s Christian sensibilities. The script never allows that to get in the way of the story, however: the result is a compelling yarn that remains almost unique in the annals of SF cinema.

Director Rudolph Maté was a former cameraman whose prior experience included shooting Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) which features one of the most spectacular plane crashes in the movies. Together with lensing Dante’s Inferno (Harry Lachman, 1935) , this stood him in good stead for pulling off the outstanding special effects work required for When Worlds Collide.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Director – Kirsten Johnson – 2020 – US – 89m

*****

The director imagines the death of her dad in a film which celebrates both the man himself and the art of cinema – on Netflix worldwide from Friday, October 2nd

I was alerted to this movie both because not only was Johnson’s prior Cameraperson (2016) excellent but also the subject matter of this new film looked promising. Johnson spent three decades as the cameraperson on numerous documentaries (among them Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore, 2004 and Citizenfour, Laura Poitras, 2014) before making her previous feature out of interesting bits and pieces of footage she had lying around. Her new film is highly personal and almost fits into the home movies or personal diary school of film making – lent an inevitable, additional gravitas given Johnson’s prior artistic and technical career.

C. Richard Johnson (b. 1932 – ) is Kirsten Johnson’s dad. One day, like all of us, he is going to die. So his daughter decided that while he was still alive she would make a film about his dying, filming his possible deaths and staging his funeral service ahead of time.

There’s a huge contradiction at the heart of this idea.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

23 Walks

Director – Paul Morrison – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 102m

****1/2

A man over sixty meets a woman of around the same age over 23 walks with their respective dogs – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

Walk 1. Dave (Dave Johns) is out walking his Alsatian Tilly (Sheila) in a narrow, muddy alleyway one day when he runs into Fern (Alison Steadman) walking her terrier Henry (Dennis). Not that either they or we know their names at this stage – he is the bloke with the big dog without a lead that she has to get past, and she’s not impressed. He should have a lead, she says. He’s deeply apologetic.

Walk 2. He now has a lead and apologises for the previous day. They walk, they talk. Thus begin the eponymous 23 walks, with interruptions after a while mostly on Dave’s side of the story but a few on hers too. Both are in difficult relationship situations – his wife is catatonic and residing in a care home, the cost of which is putting him behind on the rent of his long-standing council home, her husband has run off with a younger model, his secretary. When we finally, briefly meet her husband, he appears cruel and uncaring in his treatment of his ex.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Painted Bird (Nabarvené ptáče)

Director – Václav Marhoul – 2019 – Czech Republic – Cert. 18 – 169m

****1/2

An orphan boy meets a series of adults, a few kind but most cruel, travelling around Eastern Europe during World War Twoin cinemas and online at Amazon, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, IFI@HOME, Rio Cinema Online and Vimeo On Demand in the UK from Friday, September 11th

You’re really not quite sure where you are for the first hour of this mammoth Czech production stuffed with Hollywood stars speaking not a word in English. A boy (Petr Kotlár) whose name we won’t discover until the film’s final minutes flees through a wood before being caught by bullies who burn and kill his pet ferret.

That proves prophetic because soon afterwards at night, he discovers that his aunt, with whom he lives, has died upright in her chair. He is so startled that he knocks over an oil lamp and burns the house down. Now he’s an orphan at the mercy of the world, which is not a pleasant one being Eastern Europe at the time of the second world war. The rural people are primitive. Christianity is largely a matter of ritual and superstition; belief in vampires is so widespread that a local witch can claim the boy is a vampire and be believed.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Real

Director – Aki Omoshaybi – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 78m

***

Boy meets girl but both are embarrassed by their economic circumstances so pretend to be much better off than they arein cinemas and on BFI Player and Sky Store from Friday, September 11th

Kyle (director Aki Omoshaybi) and Jamie (Pippa Bennett-Warner) first meet in a newsagents in the city centre. Her credit card is stopped. He helps her out and pays the bill. She works in a local community centre, he in a solicitor’s. Actually, both of them are lying, desperate to make a good first impression and reluctant to reveal their true circumstances for fear of judgement.

They start dating. Jamie is the first to crack. She admits she has a child Felix (Taye Matthew). And works in a convenience store. However,  Kyle can’t bring himself to come clean. Unfortunately for him, Jamie’s best mate Tash (Amy Manson from Run, Scott Graham / 2019) has had dealings with him and knows he’s an ex-offender. So it’s only a matter of time before Jamie finds out.

Kyle has become homeless, so begs his alienated mum (Karen Bryson) to let him stay at hers for a while.… Read the rest

Categories
Movies Music

On Bach, Beethoven, Bill Nelson and spiritual outlook

Published to coincide with the Bandcamp download release of Bill Nelson’s album And We Fell Into A Dream.

A year or so back I was fortunate enough to attend a fascinating discussion group at Tottenham Quakers. The brief was ‘A piece of music, writing, art or other inspiration which reflects your spiritual outlook’ – please bring something along that you are happy to talk about or just bring yourself along! So we had a small stone used as an aid to bereavement – actually the only physical object anyone brought along, everything else was one way or another mediated through various pieces or recording, translation or delivery technology – three pieces of music and one set of extracts from the Gospels, chiefly the story of the woman caught in adultery.

The latter was, for its presenter, a way of showing how spot on some of Jesus’ comments and actions were in regard to the human condition, whether or not you bought into the wider package of Christianity.

Two of the three pieces of music were sourced from movies, at least that was how those who brought them had discovered them.

Bach chamber piece ‘Double Concerto D Minor for Violins Second movement – Largo Ma Non Tanto’ from Children Of A Lesser God (Randa Haines, 1986), incidentally an adaptation of a stage play, was for its teacher character the most beautiful thing he had ever heard which he wanted to share with a student.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Brand New Testament (Le Tout Nouveau Testament)

Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

Review originally published in Reform, read the full review here.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

At the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981), the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) bumbles around in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.” A similar sense of whimsy pervades the latest film from Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) who reworks God The Father as a slobbish despot. Many people in contemporary Western culture struggle with the idea of a loving, patriarchal God so if you’re going to have a crack at exploring Christian theology for the unchurched, this is not a bad place to start… [Read the rest]

Review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.

See also alternative review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Brand New Testament (Le Tout Nouveau Testament)

Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

Original UK release date 25/03/2016, cert.15, 113 mins

Review originally published in Third Way, read the full review here.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

The idea of God being an utter bastard sounds theologically none too edifying, yet in the hands of Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) that’s not the case. It’s whimsical in the same way as Ralph Richardson playing the Supreme Being bumbling around at the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981) in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.” [Read the rest]

Review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

See also alternative review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020.

Trailer: