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Features Live Action Movies

Sheep Without A Shepherd (Wu Sha)

Director – Sam Quah – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 112m

*****

A family stands together when their daughter kills the local police chief’s son who is both a rapist and blackmailer – available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland.

This opens with a prison break in which the escapee ends up interred in a coffin next to the corpse of the man who was trying to get him out. That turns out to be a story told by Li Wiejie or Jie for short (Xiao Yang), an insatiable watcher of detective and crime thrillers. The film lays its cinematic cards on the table almost immediately by referencing Hitchcock, montage, sound effects, excitement and The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994). Sheep Without A Shepherd is in thrall to the West’s suspense movies and plays out like one while at the same time retaining its distinctive Chinese character with its emphasis on the importance of family ties and loyalty.

Jie and his wife (Tan Zhuo) run a small store in Thailand. Their daughter Ping known in the family as PingPing (Audrey Hui) persuades dad to fund her to go to summer camp where she is drugged and videoed being gang-raped by privileged brat Su Cha (Beety) and his pals.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Air Doll (Kuki ningyo)

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2009 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 111m

****

Fantasia Film Festival 2020 virtual edition from Thursday, August 20.

An unusual film for director Kore-eda, closer to After Life (1998) than almost anything else he’s done because of both fantasy element and whimsical tone. An inflatable sex doll is affectionately cared for by its owner Hideo (Itsujo Itao) who has sex with it at night. He has named the doll Nozomi after a former girlfriend. One morning when he’s at work, Nozomi wakes up as a flesh and blood woman played by Doona Bae, goes to the window and feels rainwater on her hands.

Nozomi tries on some of her (sexualised fetish) clothes, settling on a chambermaid costume. She heads out into the world, where everyone is busy getting to school or work. She follows an old widow (Sumiko Fuji) around, then a party of young schoolchildren. She passes an old man in a park. Eventually she stumbles into the video store where Junichi (Arata) works. The shop appears to her as a wonderland and she lands herself the counter assistant’s job. However she’s not very good at it, her experience of life being virtually nil and her knowledge of movies even less.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Undergods

Director – Chino Moya – 2020 – UK – 91m

**1/2

World premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival on Sunday, August 30th. Plays again Wednesday, September 2nd.

In a grey urban environment resembling an unspecified city somewhere in Eastern Europe or possibly Russia, two lorry drivers go about their daily routine of picking up corpses from the street. These two characters form the frame story of what is to follow, although exactly what that is isn’t clear from the narrative’s meandering nature. There are stories within stories wherein the character you think is the main character is suddenly usurped by a different character. Several times over.

That’s a pity because they are potentially very interesting stories, so it’s frustrating to see them consistently half-baked. The anthology film is, after all, a tried and tested format and this film attempts do something radical and new with it. The problem is though, to make that form work you really need to understand its rules before you play around with them, break them, or abandon them altogether. This film seemingly lacks that understanding, or thinks you can throw away the framework and everything will still somehow work. It won’t. Or, at least, it doesn’t work here.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Old Man – The Movie (Vanamehe film)

Directors – Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi – 2019 – Estonia – 88m

***

From Fantasia Film Festival 2020 virtual edition and Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival.

Estonia’s answer to Britain’s Shaun The Sheep, this feature spin off from long running, popular, puppet animation TV comedy series Vanamehe Multikas (Old Man Cartoon) shows Estonian sensibilities to be very different from those of the British. This is aimed at not as you might expect children but rather the young adult market – it’s stuffed full of sexual innuendo and toilet or other bodily function humour. Since I can imagine it being an uproarious experience with the right audience, it’s a shame to have seen this online rather than in a packed movie theatre owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bookended by black and white newsreel of Old Milker’s disastrous failure to stop a cow’s unmilked udders exploding into a lactopolypse complete with milk mushroom cloud, the plot has three kids sent to stay with their grandpa on his farm for the summer. Their family car back seat introduction shows us teenage boy Priidik and girl Aino constantly on their mobile phones while their pre-teen boy sibling Mart has built an incredible, fully functioning, miniature robot cow for grandpa.… Read the rest