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Animation Documentary Live Action Movies Music Shorts

Blondie: Vivir En La Habana

Director – Rob Roth – 2021 – US – 18m

*****

Watch an incredible collision of cultures as new wave band Blondie tours Havana – from Sheffield DocFest 2021

Shot in several aspect ratios by multimedia artist and Blondie collaborator Roth (Doom Or Destiny music video, cert. 18, 2017; creative director on lead singer Debbie Harry’s memoir Face It, 2019), this is a vibrant, visual account of the band’s March 2019 tour of Havana. There are clips from songs recorded at several gigs here (with Harry sporting a variety of striking outfits) that make you wish you’d been there. For some songs, the band’s sound is augmented by Cuban musicians giving the likes of The Tide Is High a completely new lease of life.

Rather than going the obvious route and simply producing a film of the concerts – which I’m sure would be well-received by the band’s admirers, among whom I number myself – Roth has mashed the digitally produced concert footage up with Super 8 and 16mm footage of both Havana itself and members of the band.

He’s also had a lot of fun augmenting numerous live action shots with 2D animation drawn directly onto the moving images adding another layer to the already complex imagery.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Movies

Gunda

Director – Victor Kossakovsky – 2020 – US, Norway – Cert. PG – 93m

*****

Strangely compelling naturalistic, black and white documentary Gunda, follows the lives of a sow and her litter on a farm – in cinemas from Friday, June 4th

Break it down to its fundamental elements and cinema is sound and image. You can impose narrative on it. You can make a script and construct a story bolstered up by production design and soundtrack music. All that is an add on. You can throw most or all of that out, pick a subject you believe to be worthwhile and go out and shoot a documentary of it. In the current case, seasoned documentary film maker Kossakovsky has spent 30 years trying to find a producer who believed in this film enough to help him get it made.

Its subject is the lives of farm animals, and while these include one sequence featuring cows and another involving chickens, its main character is a pig. There are no spoken or written words in the film outside the written credits and the name Gunda visible at the start. The images are in black and white – they were shot in colour, which was then removed to cull the cuteness of the pink pigs.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Killing Of Two Lovers

Director – Robert Machoain – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 84m

****1/2

A family man separated from his wife who has agreed they can each see other people is consumed with hate for the other man she is now seeing – in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, June 4th

Morning. She sleeps soundly, a man beside her in bed. A second man stands at the the foot of the bed pointing a revolver at her. The first two are unaware of this. Someone can be heard using the bathroom. The second man leaves through the bedroom window.

Small town America. Welcome to David’s world. He (Clayne Crawford) and wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) are experiencing marital problems. They have four kids, a teenage girl and three younger boys. As agreed, David has moved out to live with his infirm, widower dad a hundred yards down the road. The couple have agreed that, while they try and work things out between them, it’s okay for either of them to see other people.

However while David assents to this on an intellectual level, he doesn’t accept it at all on an emotional one. He has discovered his wife is seeing a man named Derek (Chris Coy) and is furious about it.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Quiet Place

Director – John Krasinski – 2018 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

*****

A family live on an isolated farm on an Earth where alien predators hunt by sound – out on DVD, Blu-ray and selected online services

NB This is the original film, not A Quiet Place Part II currently in cinemas.

The world is a changed place. Civilization as we know it has broken down. Earth’s population has been decimated by alien predators. Evelyn Abbot (Emily Blunt) goes through the meds on a shelf in a deserted store in town where her youngest son Beau (Cade Woodward) becomes attracted to a model spaceship because “that’s how we’ll get away from here”. When his dad Lee (John Krasinski, the film’s co-writer and director as well as Blunt’s real life husband) sees this, he removes batteries from the toy and forbids his son to take it. However, his daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) takes pity on Beau and slips it to him when her dad isn’t looking. And in similar fashion, when she isn’t looking the boy also takes the batteries. An act which will have fatal consequences for him and, going forward, a huge impact on the relationship dynamics within this family.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Quiet Place Part II

Director – John Krasinski – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

****

A family move out from their isolated farm on an Earth where alien predators hunt by sound – in cinemas from Thursday, June 3rd 2021

There are obvious differences between this film and its predecessor, the near flawless A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018) about a family surviving alien predators who hunt by sound, put together pretty much by the same director, writers, cast and crew. The first film was – well, a first film with nothing to live up to. When it became a colossal success and Hollywood clamoured for the inevitable sequel, the second film had to somehow be as potent and effective as the first but inevitably doesn’t have the opportunity to introduce the world and the characters because that’s been done.

That much is obvious without seeing the new film. There are other differences though. Firstly, the sequel leaves the safety of the farm where AQP mostly took place as Evelyn Abbot (Emily Blunt) and her two kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) venture out to find out what’s happening beyond their farm. They don’t really have any other option since their farm was overrun by aliens at the end of AQP.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

First Cow

Director – Kelly Reichardt – 2019 – US – Cert. N/C 15+ – 122m

***1/2

Western (set in Oregon!) in which a drifter and an immigrant join forces to surreptitiously milk a rich man’s first cow and better their lot – in UK cinemas from Friday, May 28th

A woman with a dog (Alia Shawcat) discovers two human corpses in the present day Oregon woods. Flashback to the nineteenth century. Cookie (John Magaro), a drifter, is the cook attached to a party of trappers travelling through the woodlands. He’s a poor scavenger for food and as a result, they are starving – with much acrimony directed towards him. As soon as they find a small settlement, he departs company and lets the trappers go on their way without him. He watches a rich local take delivery of his first cow with plans for buying a mate and breeding a herd later on.

Cookie falls in with Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee) who has a hut nearby. They bond over a bottle of wine at King-Lu’s shack in the woods and become friends. Finding the cow wandering near their dwelling, they hatch a plan to milk it secretly at night (cookie milks while King-Lu keeps watch from a nearby tree) and use the milk as an ingredient in oily cakes, which they start selling at the settlement and which become a huge success overnight.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nomadland

Director – Chloé Zhao – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 107m

****1/2

A poor widow drives around the US in her van picking up casual work where she can get it, meeting and making friends with other vandwellers – on VoD, in cinemas from Monday, May 17th

There’s a restlessness about Nomadland. In most films, the characters live in fixed abodes – houses or flats. Perhaps parts of villages, towns or cities. Not so here.

“I’m not homeless”, explains Fern (Frances McDormand) at one point to a daughter of a friend she’s not seen for years and runs into in a hardware store, ” I’m houseless. There’s a difference.” Indeed there is. 

Following the rapid economic collapse of Empire, the town where she lived, explained in a throwaway introductory title at the start, and the death of her husband, Fern has taken off in an RV and now moves from place to place, getting paid work where she can find it, meeting people and, frankly, enjoying the freedom this mobile and rootless lifestyle affords her. 

The property was originally a non-fiction book by journalist Jessica Bruder who documented the lives of so-called vandwellers living on the road following the US economic depression of 2007-2009.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Sound Of Metal

Director – Darius Marder – 2019 – US – Cert. 15 – 120m

****1/2

A drummer must come to terms with a sudden loss of hearing which threatens everything he has worked to achieve – already out on Amazon Prime, in cinemas from Monday, May 17th

This is a triptych about the onset of hearing loss in the context of rock and roll, a redemptive rehabilitation to the world of deafness in an isolated rural community run by and for deaf people and an attempt after recovering one’s hearing to some extent via surgical implants to come to terms with the fact that life following hearing loss can never be quite the same again. The two hour film splits roughly into three very different sections along these three lines.

Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) are touring the States in their RV as a two person metal band, she on guitar and vocals, he on drums. Performances on stage are loud and energetic to enthusiastic crowds. In complete contrast to those moments of adrenaline rush, Ruben’s days are comparatively quiet. His morning routine consists of getting up early while Lou is asleep, doing some push-ups, putting on the coffee, dusting the mixing console while listening to 1930s jazz, making two smoothies.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Minari

Director – Lee Isaac Chung – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 120m

***1/2

The Korean immigrant experience in the US as a nuclear family set up a farm in Arkansas – on VoD from Friday, April 2nd, in drive-in cinemas from Monday, April 12th and cinemas from Monday, May 17th

Jacob (Steven YeunBurning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018; Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two kids Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David, 7 (Alan S. Kim), drive out to their new home in Arkansas. She is a little horrified that the home is a trailer on wheels supported by a basic frame, but he is thrilled that they have land with the best dirt (i.e. for growing things) America has to offer. They are surrounded by a vast area of countryside and woodlands. They speak mostly Korean, but are fluent in English and occasionally use it.

Eschewing the advice of a local water diviner, Jacob builds a well in some low ground where trees are nearby, reasoning that there must be water there. “Never pay for anything you can get for free,” he tells the attentive David, reminding him that in California, where they’ve moved from, they had nothing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The New Girlfriend (Une Nouvelle Amie)

Director – François Ozon – 2014 – France – Cert. 15 – 108m

*****

On BFI Player subscription from Monday, May 17th 2021

UK release date 22/05/2015

Spring

Spring

Directors – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead – 2014 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

UK release date 22/05/2015

Both these films can easily be ruined by spoilers, so be wary of reading reviews or cinema blurb or even watching trailers before you see them. That said, the following is spoiler free. Now read on.

Spring

The married, female protagonist of French maverick Ozon’s The New Girlfriend – based on a book by Ruth Rendell who passed away last month – suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a man who is not all that he seems. The single, male protagonist of US indie Spring suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a woman who is not all that she seems. In both films, the question is: can their relationship survive?

The New Girlfriend‘s Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) is distraught when friend since childhood Laura (Isild Le Besco) dies leaving behind a husband David (Romain Duris) and child. Having promised to look after David should Laura die, she sets about doing so…and makes an unexpected discovery.… Read the rest