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Features Live Action Movies

The Shadows (殘影空間)

Director – Glenn Chan – 2020 – Hong Kong, China – 94m

*****

A forensic lady psychiatrist becomes convinced that a fellow psychiatrist’s treatment of his patients is encouraging them to commit murder – playing in the UK as part of the Chinese Visual Festival which runs until Sunday, July 25th

Award-winning social worker Chu kills his mother, wife and little girl before throwing himself out of a second floor window in a suicide attempt. Psychiatrist Dr. Tsui Ching (Stephy Tang from My Prince Edward, Norris Wong Yee-Lam, 2019; The Empty Hands, Chapman To, 2017) possesses the ability to see inside the subconscious mind of her patients, something she experiences like a vivid dream. She appears in a public talk before an audience alongside Dr.Yan. When he asks her view of humanity, she expresses her belief that people are inherently good. He thinks they are inherently bad, ascribing their motives to selfishness.

When Chu turns out to have been one of Dr.Yan’s patients, Tsui becomes convinced that by telling them to embrace their dark side rather than repress it, he is effectively encouraging them to commit murder. Advising Ho (Philip Keung – A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018; Shock Wave, Herman Yau, 2017), the cop who is investigating the case, she persuades him without any admissable evidence to investigate all of Yan’s patients.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Another Round (Druk)

Director – Thomas Vinterberg – 2020 – Denmark – Cert. 12a – 115m

****1/2

Four teachers decide to test the theory that human beings function better with a little alcohol permanently in their blood – in cinemas in the UK from Friday, July 2nd

Racing round the lake carrying a crate of beer. Drink a bottle at every stop. Penalty points if you puke, less points if you all puke together as a team. 

That’s a typical weekend activity for their students, but four teachers are an older generation, some of them married with kids and dealing with more mature relationship issues. 

One of them has been reading an academic theory that humans have an alcohol deficiency of about 0.5% and convinces the other three to help him conduct an experiment. They will all consume the amount of alcohol required to bring them up to the theory’s optimum level. 

The experiment is initially successful, but then wreaks havoc within each of their lives as they up the quantity of alcohol to the next level. 

Using intertitles to indicate the increasing percentage of alcohol in the blood as the four drink collectively or individually, this drama charts what happens to the four as they pursue their idea to its logical conclusion and beyond.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Cruella

Director – Craig Gillespie – 2020 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 134m

****

A 101 Dalmatians prequel. How a girl named Estella unleashed her darker personality of Cruella de Vil – in cinemas from Friday, May 28th

Disney’s project of mining their pantheon of animated classics for live action feature material continues. Here it’s the turn of Cruella de Vil, the villain from 101 Dalmatians (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman, 1961), and a very clever reimagination it is too. It commences with her birth and cleverly conceals certain significant details of her upbringing only to reveal them at the tale’s climax and give everything that went before a completely new spin.

Estella (Tipper Siefert-Cleveland) is the daughter of Catherine (Emily Beecham). Befriended at school by Anita Darling (Florisa Kamara) but picked on by bullies, Estella gives as good as she gets, fights back and gets expelled for figuratively blotting her copybook. 

So her mother pays a visit to former employer the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) seeking help. But thanks to Estella’s refusal to do as she’s told and stay in the car and her dog Buddy’s strikingly similar refusal to obey Estella this plan goes fatally wrong.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ilo Ilo (爸妈不在家)

Director – Anthony Chen – 2013 – Singapore – Cert. 12 – 99m

****

A Filipino maid must contend with the unruly son of a working Singaporean couple in a time of economic difficulty – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Debut Spotlight strand until Wednesday, May 12th

1997, the Asian financial crisis is looming (see Default, 2018, Choi Kook-Hee) and the Leng family is under pressure. Secretary Hwee (Yeo Yann Yann) works for a shipping company that has hit difficult times: one of her jobs is to type up redundancy letters for staff who are about to be called into the manager’s office. She believes she and her immediate admin colleagues are safe. Her husband Teck (Chen Tian Wen) is a sales executive, but on the evidence of his pitching ‘unbreakable’ glass to a buyer – it breaks – is not that good at it.

The couple are expecting a second child. They’ve been so focused on work, though, that they perhaps haven’t spent as much time as they should with their son Jiale (Koh Jia Ler) who has the worst behaviour record in his school and is frequently the recipient of corporal punishment by the discipline teacher.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Ali And Me (我和阿里的故事)

Director – Lam Ting-hin – 2015 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 25m

****

A cricket-obsessed Chinese-Indian, Muslim boy and a Chinese music student get to know each other after being put on neighbouring desks in class – 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

Here’s a Hong Kong movie with a difference. It’s about two very different families with one thing in common: both have a boy at school That’s not the difference. The difference is that one of the families – the one with which the film starts – is Indian Muslim, which isn’t something you see represented in that territory’s cinema very often. Sent out by his mum to get Soy Sauce from the shop, he can’t resist taking his beloved cricket bat with him and joining his mates for a game. (I can’t remember the last time I saw cricket in a Hong Kong movie, if ever.)

Instructed by his teacher to introduce himself to his new classmates, he calls himself a Muslim who loves to play cricket. The class wag promptly pipes up, “Wow!… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Hello World (ハロー・ワールド)

Director – Tomohiko Ito – 2019 – Japan – 97m

****

A social misfit schoolboy must rescue a girl classmate from the rogue software underpinning a virtual, future version of Kyoto with the help of his time travelling, ten years older self who is in love with her – plays online in the Japan Foundation Touring Programme 2021 in the UK, 48 hour rental window from 6pm, Monday, March 1st

Kyoto, 2027. Bookwormish Naomi Katagaki (voice: Takumi Kitamura) doesn’t really fit in at his Kyoto school. When he walks there in the morning, the fact of his head being buried in a self-improvement book seems the perfect metaphor for his complete lack of social skills. Asked by a bright, pretty classmate if he’d like to join her and a bunch of others for karaoke after school, he doesn’t really know how to respond and before we know it, she and the group have gone.

He doesn’t really pay attention to those around him, so he gets ignored. While he’s working out what food to select in the canteen lunch queue, everyone has dived in and taken everything but the one option no-one wants. Only when the subject of who is to volunteer for the library duty comes up do his fellow students take any interest in him – by recommending him for the post to which he agrees more out of an inability to say no than from any real desire to take it on.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Hello

Director – Chan Lok-yi – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 23m

*****

A schoolgirl looking for her first alcoholic drink falls in with a poor, unemployed man who likes to drink – online and Free To View in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

A schoolgirl (Chan Wing Sum) eyes up the canned alcoholic beverage section of the local 7-Eleven. She’s aware of the man (Ng Kam-chuen) at the counter asking, pleading, almost pathetically, “can I pay you next time, please?” Both are losers. After class, her teacher takes her aside and tells her, “unless you do something, you will fail.” 

The man, meanwhile, gets short shrift when he enters a local warehouse looking for work. The extremely busy and smartly dressed manager doesn’t seem to like the look of him but is quite happy to tell someone else, “you’ve come just in time.” 

Our man hangs around the streets near the school.  He’s grateful when a group of self-proclaimed Christians turn up to hand out food to the needy and enjoys a quiet meal out of fast food cartons on a bench in a deserted urban area as a result.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Better Days (Shaonian De Ni)

Director – Derek Tsang – 2019 – China – 12A – 135m

***1/2

A bullied exam student is protected from her tormentors by and seeks solace in the company of a small time street criminal – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now, and Hong Kong’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars

The combination of impending exams and bullying by her peers causes student Hu to throw herself off the rooftop of a school building. Feeling guilty because she never stood up for the girl, fellow student Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu) covers the dead girl’s face to protect it from prying eyes and smartphone cameras. The next thing Chen knows, the late girl’s three bullies, led by the well-heeled and vindictive Wei Lai (Zhou Ye) have it in for her.

Not that Chen is having an easy time of it anyway. In the short term she’s being questioned by police about Hu’s death and like everyone else there’s the huge pressure of impending Gaokao university entrance exams, doing well in which is packaged in school rally chants as not failing the country or your parents. Her single parent mum (Wu Yue), beset with parental inadequacy as she tries to scrape a living from selling illegal goods away from home, has successfully convinced Chen that studying hard and getting excellent exam results is a way out of the poverty trap in which the family find themselves.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Detention (Fanxiao)

Director – John Hsu – 2019 – Taiwan – 12A – 103m

****

Two Taiwanese students find themselves trapped in their school overnight under that country’s White Terror regime in 1962 – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

This is a real oddity: an adaptation of a video game set in a specific historic period of political turmoil. That period is Taiwan’s White Terror (1949-87) under which, among other things, numerous books were banned by the ruling Kuomintang party on the grounds of promoting left-wing or Communist ideas. Merely reading some of these books could provide grounds for execution.

Like the video game, the film is set in the Greenwood High School. It’s 1962 and boy and girl students Fang Ray-shin (Gingle Wang) and Wei Chong-ting (Tseng Jing-Hua) find themselves trapped overnight in the school building after flood waters destroy the access road to the school. What follows isn’t particularly linear in terms of its narrative as school corridors, walkways, rooms and halls are visited by various supernatural beings and become scenes of terror, torture and execution.

The elliptical and sometimes repetitive nature of the storytelling and its component images mean that the film isn’t always that easy to follow, at least not to Western audiences familiar with mainstream Hollywood narrative.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Babyteeth

Director – Shannon Murphy – 2019 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 118m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 14th and on BFI Player from Monday, December 7th

Uniformed schoolgirl Milla (Eliza Scanlen) stands on a platform ill at ease with her classmates. The train comes in. Before she can move to get on it, someone has knocked into her rushing past to stand close to the passing train. It’s Moses (Toby Wallace), unkempt in shorts and tee shirt. He asks her for money. He points out she has a nosebleed, cradles her on the ground, puts his tee over her mouth and jaw… to catch the blood.

Milla’s psychiatrist father Henry (Ben Mendelson) has a home session with a patient that turns into sex on a desk. This is his wife Anna (Essie Davis) who is on medication and has mental problems. They have another problem as a family: their daughter has cancer.

When Milla brings Moses into her parents’ comfortable suburban family home, they take an immediate dislike to him. This reaction is compounded by his habit of stealing medications from their home to sell later on the street. Nevertheless, he will be around the home more and more and by the end will be to all intents and purposes living there with Henry and Anna’s consent.… Read the rest