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Features Live Action Movies

Wendy

Director – Benh Zeitlin – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 111m

*****

A bold re-imagining of Peter Pan told through the eyes of Wendy which is unlike any other version of the story you’re likely to see – out in cinemas on Friday, August 13th

Her mother runs a fast and furious restaurant. Wendy (Tommie Lynn Milazzo) crawls along the long tables.

Boys play on trains on the nearby tracks outside.

Her brothers James (Gavin Naquin) and Douglas (Gage Naquin) come out to play on the jukebox, but quickly get thrown out for causing disruption. Through the night the goods trains pass. There’s a spark. Wendy, slightly older now (Devin France) sees something atop a train. A boy. She runs outside to chase the train. Her mother’s voice calls her back in.

The fast trains pass. One day she is on one, riding the rails. The boy (Dwight Henry) is in the freight car. He tells them to stand close to the open boxcar door. The train crosses a bridge over water. He pushes them out. They’re in the water.

Then they’re all in the boat, crossing the ocean to the island, Mother. They land. Beach. Forest. Geysers erupt.… 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 and now Shudder UK from Tuesday, 11th May 2021

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.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

True Mothers (Asa ga Kuru, 朝が来る)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 140m

*****

An unmarried mum hands her child over to adoptive parents only to later decide that she wants the child back – Japan’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars is screening on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, April 16th

Naomi Kawase’s new film True Mothers deals with the interface between unwanted teen pregnancy and infertility among married couples and was Japan’s entry for this year’s Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. Sadly, it didn’t make the Academy’s shortlist. However, UK audiences up and down the land will now be able to see it on Curzon Home Cinema. It had a brief UK big screen outing late last year at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), which, after several months of touch-and-go somewhat incredibly went ahead days before the UK went back into total lockdown.

Former documentarian Kawase has been getting a lot of exposure in the UK in recent years with both Sweet Bean (2015) and The Mourning Forest (2007) released here on Eureka! Video and Still the Water (2014) currently available on MUBI and BFI Player. I like Kawase but I must admit True Mothers sounded like it might be terrible.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

GoGo Club (梁韻怡)

Director – Rei Leung Wan-yi – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ –25m

*****

The progress of a former nightclub employee following his fortuitous encounter with a girl in a panda suit – FREE TO VIEW online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

At age six, Yin (Matt Jiu Kai Laam) was brought by his mother (Gaga Tse Ka Wai) to the Golden Rose nightclub where she worked as a live-in cleaner and odd job person as the grown up Yin describes in voiceover narration. He doesn’t mention her suavely suited manager (Tony Ho Wah Chiu – Our Time Will Come, Ann Hui, 2017; Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002; Dead Or Alive: Final, Takashi Miike, 2002) is a permanent fixture propping up the enquiries desk window counter. At age 26, Yin (Shaopin Tsui) is told by the manager that today is his last day. In fact it’s also the manager’s last day because the Golden Rose is closing down. Enquiring about his missing back pay, Yin is given the company’s very expensive car to sell for profit which turns out to be an old van covered in dust. … Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

My Prince Edward (Gam Dou, 金都)

Director – Norris Wong Yee-Lam – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 91m

****1/2

A Prince Edward resident starts to question whether marrying her boyfriend as the couple have long planned is really such a good idea – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Whatever your nationality, one of the great thrills of world cinema is when a film informs you about all sorts of aspects of a culture other than your own. That’s the case here. To call this a romantic drama is misleading because what it’s actually about is a woman on a culturally approved trajectory starting to question whether it really is something for her or whether she’d be better off finding a different life journey entirely by another route. That approved trajectory is: girl meets boy, girl moves in with boy, girl marries boy.

Perhaps there’s a second trajectory here too, suggesting that Hong Kong is a sealed, navel-gazing world caught up with looking at itself and that perhaps Hong Kongers need to get out of their homeland more, be that to mainland China to which the heroine travels for reasons of her complicated personal situation and later visits of her own volition or be it to America, described by the film’s mainland Chinese lead as a place of freedom.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

76 Days

Directors – Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous – 2020 – China, US – Cert. 12– 93m

***1/2

A US documentary edited out of footage shot on the Wuhan Covid-19 hospital frontline by two Chinese reporters allowed access – on VoD from Friday, January 22nd

Documentary film making is a curious medium – one might even say genre – and this is a curious piece of work. On the level subject matter, it hits paydirt. The city of Wuhan, China has a population of 11 million. When it went into lockdown on January 23rd, 2020 as the authorities attempted to curtail the spread of Covid-19, who knew a global pandemic was coming? Few if any in the West and perhaps no-one in China either.

Be that as it may, two journalists, Chen and one who has kept his / her name off from the film, started shooting what was happening in four hospitals in that city, a lockdown which continued for the eponymous 76 days until the local outbreak was considered safely under control. Given what happened later, interest in the footage they shot and the film subsequently made is now far greater than they may have initially imagined.

Documentary film maker Wu was appalled by China’s initial cover-up of what was happening in Wuhan and sought out journalists who’d had access to events and documented them on camera with a view to exchanging information and making a film himself about the pandemic situation in the US, a project eventually cancelled.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Till We Meet Again (Sheng Qian Yue Si Hou, 生前约死后)

Director – Steven Ma – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 97m

****1/2

A young man succumbs to a debilitating psychosis in the decade following his mother’s death – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

When Wai Wong Oli, Moritz) was three, his mother Mui (Josephine Ku) told him she’d always be there. Ten years ago, she died of cancer and Wai (Steven Ma) blames himself. He’s never been able to get past this, making himself dangerously ill. He gave up a job for a restaurant job near his parents’ home just so he’d be able to look after her. He’s a conscientious and efficient worker, so his boss gives him time off to see his mother whatever he wants, and when that doesn’t work out his grateful colleagues cover for him.

Sometimes, though, he doesn’t take the meds prescribed for him by Dr. Fung (Jennifer Yu) and goes completely to pieces. Fortunately, his schoolfriend Chi (Himmy Wong) is there for him. Thoughts of guilt and suicide are never far away.

The narrative proceeds on its course, flashing back and forth in time through Wai’s memories from when he was younger, including himself (Fong Chit Lun) at age 10 and himself in the decade leading up to his mum’s passing, in the company of both his mum and his bus driver dad Chung (Ling Hiu Wah).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Dead Ringers

Director – David Cronenberg – 1988 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

Originally published in Samhain.

When David Cronenberg was in the UK to promote The Fly late in 1986, he talked about a project called Twins which concerned two identical twins who fall in love with the same woman. At the time, no-one thought he was serious.

Two years later, the film has appeared (under the appalling title Dead Ringers, since there was another Twins in production elsewhere). Cronenberg denies that the new film is science fiction or horror, or even fantasy. Yet (if one wants to play the auteur game) parallels can be drawn with certain of his earlier films.

Dead Ringers bears a great resemblance not so much to the commercial Cronenberg schlock oeuvre as to the art films of the late sixties from which he has in recent years dissociated himself on the grounds that they were not real movie movies; however, both Stereo (1969) and Crimes Of The Future (1970) were shot on University Campuses with bleak, modernist architecture – and the same setting forms the backdrop to several Cronenberg features, most notably Scanners. Such architecture is more prominent in Dead Ringers than in any previous Cronenberg commercial feature.… Read the rest