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EO (EO)

Director – Jerzy Skolimowski – 2022 – Poland – Cert. 15 – 88m

*****

Forced to leave his home in the circus, a donkey undergoes a series of adventures – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 3rd

After an absence of some seven years from the cinema, Skolimowski has chosen to make a movie with an animal as its central character rather than a human being. EO is a donkey (played by some six donkeys over different parts of the film) who undergoes a series of adventures as things happen around him. He starts out as a performer in a circus with a girl called Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), who takes good care of him and treats him with genuine affection.

Life is good. But then he finds himself co-opted by (and Kasandra arguing with) another circus person Wasyl (Maciej Stepniak) who uses a whip on him to get him to drive a cart of rubbish to the local tip. These two episodes set the tone for what is to follow: while all the humans here use the animal for their own ends, some treat him with kindness while others don’t, rather using him as a means to an end without any sense of his being a conscious creature.… Read the rest

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Saint Omer (Saint-Omer)

Director – Alice Diop – 2022 – France – Cert. 12a – 122m

*****

Researching a proposed book, an academic visits Saint Omer to attend the trial of a woman who murdered her own 15-month old baby – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 3rd

Holding her baby, a woman walks into the sea.

University lecturer Rama (Kayije Kagame) plans to write a book based around a court case at the Saint Omer criminal court. Her head is full of memories of her mother, with whom her relationship could, at times, be tense. She takes the train to the town, which is in the Northernmost part of France, near the border with Belgium. The Senegalese defendant Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda) – the woman seen at the start of the film – is accused of the murder of her 15-month old child Elise.

In her defence, Coly, who has confessed to the murders, claims to have been cursed, that she herself therefore isn’t the party responsible for the killing. Her courtroom testimony unpacks her relationship with her separated parents: she lived with her mother but never really got on with her since they had little in common, while her father paid for her school tuition as he wanted her to study law.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Puss In Boots: The Last Wish

Directors – Joel Crawford, Januel Mercado – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 102m

***

As he and others search for the legendary Wishing Star, the eponymous fairy tale character fears for his own mortality after losing eight of his nine lives – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 5th

It’s been almost two decades since Dreamworks’ Shrek (Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jensen, 2001) turned the animated fairy tale on its head, upending convention to hilarious effect. However, this trick is near impossible to repeat and in animated Hollywood, the success of such a film inevitably engenders a demand for more. Shrek 2 (Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon, 2004) introduced Puss In Boots (voice: Antonio Banderas) and the character was given its own spin-off Puss In Boots (Chris Miller, 2011). Over a decade later, here’s the Puss In Boots sequel.

It starts off promisingly enough with Puss In Boots, voiced once again by Banderas, hosting a party for local townsfolk at his mansion. Only it isn’t his: in a nod to Robin Hood by way of Anti-Capitalism, he’s co-opted the lavish home of the local landowner for the people, and when the landowner turns up, he’s understandably annoyed – cue an hilarious dialogue exchange about “Su casa, mi casa”) – but no match for Puss’ skill with a rapier.… Read the rest

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The Fabelmans

Director – Steven Spielberg – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 151m

*****

The life and times of a young boy and amateur US movie maker whose extended family harbours an unexpected secret – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 27th

Throughout his career, Spielberg has continued to surprise. He’s made big blockbusters which seem, very often, to be about the intimacies of family relationships. Perhaps it was inevitable that, sooner or later, he would make something like The Fabelmans.

Orson Welles once said that Hollywood was the best train set a boy could have to play with. Presented with a train set, young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord) plays with it by staging train crashes, about which behaviour his brilliant, scientific nerd father Burt (Paul Dano) is less than pleased.

However, his mother Mitzy (Michelle Williams), after some thought, realises that her son need to see the trains crash over and over again, so secretly allows him to stage a crash and film it with the family’s Super 8 home movie camera to enable his required repeat viewing. This kindles within the boy a desire to make his own movies, and soon he’s enlisting his family, friends and neighbours in these enterprises.… Read the rest

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Plane

Director – Jean-François Richet – 2022 – UK, US – Cert. 15 – 107m

****

A commercial passenger aircraft flying through bad weather conditions gets into trouble and is forced to land on an island run by military insurgents – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 27th

While this is unlikely to win any Oscars, it’s a shrewdly put together action movie that gets everything right, tells its audience exactly what it’s going to do and then proceeds to do it, wrapping up everything very quickly in about thirty seconds once the narrative is over. That might not sound like much, but most action movies you see fail to meet such criteria. Moreover, a lot of action movies work perfectly well on a small screen, but this one works better if you see it on as big a screen as possible.

Singapore. Scotsman Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler from 300, Zak Snyder, 2007) is cutting it fine and may be about to be late for work again. Since he’s an airline pilot, that’s quite a big deal. Somehow, he gets to the cockpit of the plane with enough time to introduce himself to his co-pilot Samuel Dele (Yosun An from Mulan) ahead of the pre-takeoff, routine inspection by an aviation official.… Read the rest

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The Wandering Earth II (Liulang Diqiu 2, 流浪地球 2)

Director – Frant Gwo – 2023 – China – Cert. 12a – 173m

***

Sequel – or rather prequel – wants to explain how it was that the Earth became the Wandering Earth, but instead throws convoluted plot, big budget effects and action set-pieces at us while not really explaining anything – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 27th

Gwo’s mega-expensive, blockbuster franchise is back for a second instalment, this time at three rather than two hours in length. Surprisingly, II isn’t so much a sequel to The Wandering Earth as a prequel which attempts to explain its predecessor by exploring many of the events which take place leading up to it, including the attempt by the United Earth Government (UEG) to launch the Wandering Earth Project, the complex system of jet engines constructed around the Equator like a belt round a large man’s belly to enable the ecologically-damaged Planet Earth to be piloted through space in an attempt to find a new home for the human race.

As if aware that three hours of interpersonal drama and action sequences based around this might prove too much for even the franchise’s most ardent fans, Gwo and his screenwriters build in a second plot involving Tu Yuheng (Chinese megastar Andy Lau) whose wife and small daughter are killed in a road accident.… Read the rest

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The Wandering Earth (Liulang Diqiu, 流浪地球)

Director – Frant Gwo – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 125m

**

An ecological disaster of a deep-frozen, future Planet Earth is powered through space by jets on its surface in search of an alternate living space for the endangered human race – on Netflix UK, with sequel now in cinemas

The child Liu Qi (Guo Hexuan) looks through a telescope at Jupiter with his dad Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing from The Battle At Lake Changjin, Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark, 2021) while his grandpa Han Ziang (Ng Man-tat) sits on a nearby chair. After dad leaves for the International Space Station (ISS), grandpa will be his guardian because grandpa will get dad’s place in the Underground City.

The sun will engulf the Earth in a hundred years. But the United Earth Government (UEG) has a solution: human migration to another location in space thanks to the Wandering Earth Project. Originally, all humanity was to shelter in the underground cities following the ecological disaster that turned the Earth’s surface into an uninhabitable, frozen wasteland.

17 years later, Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao) has grown into a typically rebellious young man. Leaving a note for his grandpa guardian, he and his younger, school student sister Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmei) depart the Underground City via a dubious deal for fake ID passes and the thermal suits necessary to survive the intense surface cold.… Read the rest

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Getting Away With Murder(s)

Director – David Nicholas Wilkinson – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 175m

*****

Most of the perpetrators of the Holocaust were never prosecuted: this documentary attempts to understand why not – debuts on various streaming platforms UK, USA, Canada and Australia on Friday, January 27th 2023 (Holocaust Memorial Day)… Full details below review:

There’s something about the enormity of the issues involved here that makes this a very tough watch. (If it wasn’t, there would be something wrong. The Holocaust is not an easy issue to deal with. Films about it can consequently be tough to watch. And so they should be.) That combined with the near three-hour running time (this is not a complaint, honest) means it sat on my pending review pile for quite a while before I finally sat down and watched it.

I suspect Wilkinson is aware of this problem. As the film starts, he takes you (as it were) gently by the hand as he walks into Auschwitz and matter-of-factly discusses its horrors, helped by a man who works in the museum there and has probably helped numerous people before and since to come to terms with the implications of the place as they go round it.… Read the rest

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Animation Live Action Movies

Japan Foundation Tour 2023

This year’s Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Programme, which runs throughout February and March and is celebrating its 20th edition, contains three manga-related live-action films and one anime. With screening venues spread widely over the UK, it covers the following two dozen UK cities: Aberystwyth, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Chester, Colchester, Coventry, Derby, Dundee, Edinburgh, Exeter, Kendal, Leicester, Lewes, London, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Plymouth, Sheffield and York.

The JPF has a programme that uses a selection of mainly recent releases along with one or two older classics to show present-day Japanese cinema in a wider context. Hence the title of this year’s theme: Always Evolving: Japanese Cinema Then, Now, and for the Future.

The four manga-related titles are: BL Metamorphosis, Sensei, Would You Sit Beside Me?, My Broken Mariko and Blue Thermal (pictured), the only animated feature in this year’s programme.

[Read the full article at All The Anime].

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Film Festivals

Click the links below for coverage of:

2023

Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Film Programme

2022

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF)

London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)

BFI London Film Festival (LFF)

Annecy

Focus Hong Kong Making Waves

BFI Anime 2022

Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Film Programme

Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF)

Focus Hong Kong Chinese New Year

2021

BFI Japan 2021

MUBI New South Korean Cinema season

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BFI London Film Festival (LFF)

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Annecy

Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Film Programme

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Features Live Action Movies

Babylon

Director – Damien Chazelle – 2022 – US – Cert. 18 – 188m

***1/2

The rise and fall of stars and other talents navigating the excessive lifestyle and work ethic of the silent era US movie business – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 20th

Having established himself as a top A-list Hollywood director with the likes of Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2016), Chazelle delivers a cast of thousands epic about Hollywood in the silent era and beyond, a project that’s apparently been gestating in his head for some 15 years. With its name referencing a city that grew to great heights and considerable excess before crumbling into dust, Babylon starts with Manny Torres (Mexican actor Diego Calva in his first US role) and compatriots attempting to deliver an elephant to a Hollywood party at a desert mansion in the middle of nowhere. The tone for the whole is set – or perhaps set free from audience preconception about what is to follow – when one of Calva’s compadres, walking behind the trailer containing the creature pushing it up a hill, is unexpectedly covered in elephant excrement.

Effervescent force of nature Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) considers herself a movie star before she actually is a movie star.… Read the rest

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Holy Spider (Ankabut-e Moqaddas, عنکبوت مقدس)

Director – Ali Abassi – 2022 – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

An Iranian lady crime journalist poses as a prostitute in an attempt to uncover the identity of a serial killer justifying his killing spree in the name of Islam – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th

2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Leaving her small daughter at home, a woman goes out into the night. She changes into high heels in a lavatory then goes onto the streets to ply her trade as a prostitute. She tells a streetcrawler to “fuck off”. In any encounter with male sexuality, violence is never far away; in a frenzied coupling in an apartment littered with the awards of a successful entrepreneur, a client tells her, “I’m going to tear your pussy apart.”

Another man refuses to pay more than half for a blow job when police are seen near the car in which she’s performing the service, preventing him from climaxing. A further man asks her onto his bike, but later in the stairwell to his apartment she thinks she may have made a mistake and tries to excuse herself.… Read the rest

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Holy Spider

In God’s name

Holy Spider
Directed by Ali Abassi
Certificate 18, 116 minutes
Released 20 January (UK cinemas), 10 March (MUBI)

The year 2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Prostitutes are being targeted by a killer who is justifying his crimes with Islamic rhetoric. With the notable exception of her editor Sahrifi (Arash Ashtiani), the journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) investigating the case encounters sexism wherever she goes, and it’s hard not to draw parallels between these everyday attitudes of men towards most women and the atrocities being inflicted on a small number of them on the social margins.

A number of the killings are shown, in unpleasant detail, and are difficult to watch. (This film is an 18 for a reason.) [Read the full review at Reform magazine…]

[Read my longer review on this site…]

Holy Spider is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th.

Trailer:

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Enys Men

Director – Mark Jenkin – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

A lady environmentalist working on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast becomes subject to powerful, localised forces from the area’s past – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 13th

NB The title is pronounced “Enys Main”, the eponymous “Men” being as in “menhir”.

A radio receiver. A bird. An island. A woman in a red coat (Mary Woodvine). A flower. Jenkin seems to love the process of putting little bits of film together to make a whole that’s altogether larger than the sum of its constructed parts. If that same process was evident in his earlier, equally Cornish if less fantastical and black and white Bait (2019), his new film is radically different and, moreover, it’s in colour.

Enys Men being touted as a horror film – presumably with Jenkin’s blessing if the trailer is any indication – but I’m not sure that’s exactly what this film is. Some horror fans may well come away wondering while they bothered, while viewers put off by the term ‘horror’ may well respond positively to Jenkin’s latest – provided they can be persuaded into the cinema to see it.… Read the rest

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Piggy (Cerdita)

Director – Carlota Pereda – 2022 – Spain – Cert. 18 – 99m

*****

Director – Carlota Pereda – 2018 – Spain – 13m

*****

Fat-shaming, bullying, overbearing mothers, growing up as the local butcher’s daughter, and more – feature based on short is out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 6th

Sara (Laura Galán) is attempting to navigate the difficult waters of adolescence. It isn’t much fun if you’re different and cliques of your contemporaries gang up on you. In Sara’s case, she isn’t just fat, she’s also introverted and shuns people, which compounds the amount she gets teased. She often works in her father’s butchers shop, so bullies can easily put together insults based on fat and flesh and pork and meat. A clique of three, thinner girls – Roci (Camille Aguilar) and Maca (Claudia Salas) and their unwilling hanger-on Claudia aka Clau (Irene Ferreiro) – call her Piggy.

It’s Summer, and everyone is going down to the Madrigal (Waterfall) festivities at the pool on the river, where a mysterious out-of-towner is lounging about, but Sara sneaks down there later for a swim when she hopes nobody is around. She’s just getting into the water when the stranger (Richard Holmes) surfaces innocently, startling her.… Read the rest

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Top Ten Movies (and more, excluding re-releases) 2022

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2022, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/22 and 31/12/22. Prior to 2020, I’d never included online releases (well, maybe the odd one or two as a special case) but that year saw the film distribution business turned upside down by COVID-19. The movie business is still changing, and the dust hasn’t yet settled.

This version excludes re-releases (Psycho, Paris, Texas and Pickpocket, not to mention the first six Bond movies, would top everything here). It has been an amazing year for re-releases including one or two incredible, old movies being released in the UK for the first time on Blu-ray. This is the year I get to rank all 25 Eon Bond movies, and why not? A link to that longer list will be added here in due course.

In addition to re-releases, this version also excludes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2022.… Read the rest

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Peter Von Kant (Peter Von Kant)

Director – François Ozon – 2022 – France – Cert. 15 – 85m

***1/2

A re-imagining of R.W. Fassbinder’s all-female-cast The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant, with the three central gay characters switched from female to male – plays in cinemas from Friday, 30th December

Köln, 1972. Peter von Kant (Denis Ménochet) is a successful film director who resides in his apartment with his personal assistant Karl (Stefan Crepon). He is visited by his old friend, the singer Sidonie (Isabelle Adjani), whose blown up picture adorns one of his walls. She introduces him to young man of Arab extraction and actor wannabe Amir Ben Salem (Khalil Gharbia) with who Peter becomes besotted and who subsequently moves in with him.

Their passionate relationship is, however, doomed, with Amir suddenly leaving some months later on the pretext of visiting his wife when she unexpectedly phones him from a nearby city. After Aamir has left him, Peter becomes an emotional wreck. On his birthday, he waits on the phone, hanging up in seconds when he realises the caller isn’t Amir. He vents his emotional distress on his three birthday visitors: his mother Rosemarie (Hanna Schygulla), his boarding school student daughter Gabrielle (Aminthe Audiard) and Sidonie.… Read the rest

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The Queen Of Spades

Director – Thorold Dickinson – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

****1/2

A Russian army officer seeks the occult secret of playing cards that will earn him a vast fortune, but has not bargained for the dark, supernatural forces involved – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 23rd and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on January 23rd

1806, St. Petersburg. Unlike his well-connected aristocrat contemporaries in the army, Captain Goeman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) sees no opportunity for advancement. In a bookstore, he chances upon an arcane volume which the store owner suggests will offer various opportunities for personal betterment fraught with danger. Reading up on “people who have sold their soul”, he learns that the Countess (Pauline Tennant) made her fortune in a gambling den with the secret of three unbeatable playing cards for which she agreed to sell her soul after one of her lovers stole her considerable personal allowance, taking advantage of her needing him to leave quickly in order to prevent her husband’s discovering his presence in her bedchamber, which stolen monies she then needed to find a means of replacing.

As the Countess is now an old woman (Dame Edith Evans), Goeman resolves to get close to her by romancing her ward Lizavyeta Ivanovna (Yvonne Mitchell) using words for love letters suggested by contemporary aristocratic officer Andrei Andreyonov (Ronald Howard) with neither of them aware that they are actually interested in the affections of the same girl.… Read the rest

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A Fugitive From The Past (Kiga Kaikyo, 飢餓海峡)

Director – Tomu Uchida – 1965 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 183m

*****

Voted third in Kinema Junpo magazine’s 1999 list of the greatest Japanese film of all time, Tomu Uchida’s A Fugitive From The Past (1965) is the pinnacle of a directorial career that also includes Bloody Spear At Mount Fuji (1955) and The Mad Fox (1962). In the poll, it was beaten by Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) at number one and Mikio Naruse’s Floating Clouds (1955) at number two, For the record, the fourth title was Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) while the fifth was Yuzo Kawashima’s Bakumatsu Taiyoden / The Legend Of The Sun-Tribe From The Bakumatsu Era (1957). While four of those titles were made in the mid-fifties, often considered the golden age of classical Japanese cinema, Fugitive dates from the mid-sixties, allowing it to look at Japan’s post-war period from a greater distance.

Uchida’s film, which spans the decade 1947-57, covers a colossal amount of subjects in its first 50 minutes…

[Read the full review at All The Anime.]

A Fugitive From The Past is released on Arrow Blu-ray.

Trailer:

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Avatar: The Way Of Water

Director – James Cameron – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 192m

Immersive Cinema *****

Screenplay *

Now raising their own family on the planet Pandora, a couple flee the attacking Sky People to live among a tribe of sea people – first Avatar sequel is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 16th

Having gone native on the planet Pandora following the events in Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), in which paraplegic human soldier Jake Sully (performance capture including voice or Pcap: Sam Worthington) was transformed into an avatar of a non-disabled, native Pandoran, in the first third of the film, Jake is raising a family with Na’vi partner Neytiri (Pcap: Zoe Saldaña): two boys, two girls. They play in the jungle forest with their friend Spider (Jack Champion), a human child who was too young to be evacuated when the other Sky People left. Spider has been raised by human scientists who remained behind, and he must constantly wear a breathing mask to survive in Pandora’s atmosphere; he is to all intents and purposes feral.

When the Sky People return to Pandora with a new remit – to prep the planet for human habitation since the Earth is becoming uninhabitable – Jake’s old commander Quaritch (Pcap: Stephen Lang), who died in the first film but is now reconstituted as an an avatar embedded with the character’s DNA and memories, is determined to hunt down and kill the Sully who, as he sees it, betrayed him.… Read the rest

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Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

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Rimini (Rimini)

Director – Ulrich Siedl – 2022 – Austria, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 114m

*****

A singer of romantic songs performs to elderly female fans (in more ways than one) in an off-season seaside town as his past catches up with him – in cinemas from Friday, December 9th following its screening in the BFI London Film Festival 2022

An old man (Hans-Michael Rehberg, who died in 2016 and whose last lensed appearance on film this performance, split between this film and Siedl’s Sparta, 2022, represents) is lost in a care home where he’s a patient. None of the doors will open. His son (Michael Thomas) arrives and takes him to the man’s wife’s funeral.

His son travels to the off-season, Italian seaside resort of Rimini for bookings as Richie Bravo (presumably his stage rather than his real name, although this is never clarified) at hotels to sing romantic songs to his admiring, elderly, female fan base. The dull, monolithic hotel buildings have exotic names like Soleil and 007 belying their inherent blandness.

In between those performances and traipsing around through heavy rain and snow, he engages in sexual congress in hotel rooms with a small number of his most devoted fans including the single Anna (Claudia Martini) and the married Emmi (Inge Maux).… Read the rest

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Nocebo

Director – Lorcan Finnegan – 2022 – UK, Ireland – Cert. 15 – 96m

***

A mother and fashion designer’s stress levels increase when she hires a too good to be true Filipino au pair – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 9th

A nocebo is a negative placebo – a belief that some factor will cause a medical or psychological condition to get worse, which it then does.

Christine (Eva Green), a high-flying fashion designer, and her husband Felix (Mark Strong), who works in advertising, lead pressured lives, and they have a daughter Roberta, known to her friends as Bobs (Billie Gadsdon), at primary school. Deciding which of them is going to drop Bobs off at / pick her up from school is always a challenge.

Christine is in the middle of a shoot involving child models when she receives a phone call with bad news about “they’re pulling out the bodies” and has a nervous breakdown, suddenly experiencing bizarre and horrifying hallucinations, with everyone she sees on the set spouting boils, a fate also visited on a mysterious, blind dog covered in sores. A tiny beetle burrows into her neck, later resulting in an itchy sore.

She takes time off work and sleeps with special breathing apparatus at night.… Read the rest

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Decision To Leave (Heojil Kyolshim, 헤어질 결심)

Director – Park Chan-wook – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 138m

*****

A married detective investigating the death of a climber becomes obsessed with the victim’s wife, who looks increasingly like the murderer – on MUBI from Friday, 9th December

Any sexual or romantic energy that once existed between city-based detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il from Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness, Im Sang-soo, 2021, The Fortress, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2017, The Host, 2006, Memories Of Murder, 2003, both Bong Joon ho) and seaside town-based wife (Jung Yi-seo, bit parts in Samjin Company English Class, Lee Jong-pil, 2020; Parasite, Bong Joon ho, 2019) has long since evaporated.

Investigating the fatal fall of skilled amateur climber Ki Do-soo (Yoo Seung-mok from The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, Lee Won-Tae, 2019, also The Host, Memories Of Murder) where the man’s Chinese-born wife Seo-rye (Tang Wei, from Lust, Caution, Ang Lee, 2007) is a murder suspect, he falls for her…
[Read the full review at Dmovies.org]

Trailer:

Decision To Leave is on MUBI from Friday, 9th December.

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Doctor Who Am I

Director – Matthew Jacobs, Vanessa Yuille – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 80m

****

Screenwriter Jacobs’ entry into US Dr. Who fan subculture follows his scripting of the 1996 Dr. Who TV movie that was supposed to launch the franchise Stateside but floppedout in UK cinemas on Thursday, October 27th and Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download Monday, November 28th

What the hilarious narrative feature Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999) did for Star Trek, this heartfelt yet hugely entertaining documentary does for Dr. Who. Matthew Jacobs, whose work includes the screenplay for Paperhouse (Bernard Rose, 1988) and the original story for offbeat Disney cartoon The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000), also wrote the script for the US network TV movie Doctor Who (1996) which was supposed to relaunch the BBC franchise in the US, a goal it spectacularly missed when no series proved forthcoming.

In retrospect, Jacobs considers that his script made two major errors in terms of the Doctor Who legacy. One, it recast the hitherto entirely alien Time Lord as half-human, and, two, it allowed him to kiss a member of the opposite sex, something no previous version of the doctor had ever been seen to do.… Read the rest

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Claydream

Director – Marq Evans – 2021 – US – 96m

****

The rise and fall of stop-frame Claymation pioneer Will Vinton and the Portland, Oregon animation studio that bore his name – out on digital from Monday, November 21st

Will Vinton, founder of Will Vinton Studios and the man who made Claymation a US household name, is in the middle of legal proceedings between himself and Phil Knight, founder of multimillion shoe company Nike. How could these two very different individuals have come into contact with one another? Well, they had a number of things in common. Both were residents of Portland, Oregon who had built up businesses there based on a successful brand name.

In the sixties, while studying architecture at Berkeley, Vinton discovered Gaudi’s organic sculptured shapes which were to influence his animation work. Borrowing his dad’s 16mm camera, he started shooting anything and everything going on around campus. At an experimental film community he set up tabletop clay animation sessions, which would often turn out pornographic footage. He became fascinated by the magical process which imbued this material with life.

Closed Mondays

He built a studio in his house where in collaboration with artist and sculptor Bob Gardiner he made the short film Closed Mondays (1974) as an excuse to show off the techniques developed by the pair.… Read the rest

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No Bears (Khers Nist)

Director – Jafar Panahi – 2022 – Iran – Cert. 12a – 106m

*****

An Iranian film director banned from leaving his country rents a house close to the border with Turkey, in which country he is remotely directing a film – out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 11th following its screening in the BFI London Film Festival 2022

In a busy, metropolitian street somewhere in Iran, woman restaurateur Zara (Mina Kavani) is greeted by her partner Bakhtiar (Bakhtiar Panjei), who has secured a fake passport for her. She has only three days to use it before the passport, stolen from a tourist, is stopped. But she doesn’t want to travel outside the country without him: he is the only thing that makes her life bearable.

Then we realise we are watching a movie shoot not in Iran but in neighbouring Turkey. The director is Jafar Panahi (playing himself) and he is not allowed out of Iran, so he is renting a room in an Iranian village not far from the Turkish border and watching the shoot remotely via his computer. He’s been assured that the local internet reception is good, but it isn’t and keeps cutting out, making his job all but impossible, although his first assistant director, cast and crew are doing a good job of getting the shots in the can even when they don’t hear from him.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

A Bunch Of Amateurs

Director – Kim Hopkins – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 95m

***

The Bradford Movie Makers amateur filmmaking club struggles to survive in the modern world – out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 11th

Founded in 1932, the Bradford Movie Makers is a club for lovers of movies to make their own films. Such amateur groups were once common in parts of Britain, but now they’re dying out. As one BMM member comments, Leeds and Wakefield are gone. The BMM may be next: its accounts are in a bad shape, with various utility bills unpaid and several years’ worth of rent owing to a seemingly sympathetic landlord. The decrepit garage space at the side of the building needs clearing. It’s currently used as a local dumping ground for rubbish. And many of the members themselves are getting on in years; in the course of the two or three years covered by this documentary, some of the members’ spouses will die.

But this is Yorkshire, and life goes on. Retired carpenter Colin climbs the steps of his uphill garden to perch precariously by his fence to plant daffodil bulbs. Eventually at the club, his herculean feat of climbing the narrow stairs to the screening room is augmented by the installation of a stairlift.… Read the rest

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The Road To The Race Track (Gyeongmajang Ganeun Kil, 경마장 가는 길)

Director – Jang Sun-woo – 1991 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 138m

*****

An academic returns to Korea expecting to hook up with the woman student with whom he lived in Paris, and they meet up, but she now repulses his physical advances part of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

As soon as R (Moon Sung-keun) arrives at the airport in Korea, he makes contact with J (Kang Soo-Yeon) and they get a room together, but she confounds his expectations by fending off his attempts at physical sex with her. This wasn’t what he was expecting, since she seemed willing enough when they lived together in Paris. He is desperate to have sex with her, but instead she offers to drive him first to the bus station and then to his home town, where he is reunited with his wife (Kim Bo-yeon), kids and extended family.

Whatever affection he once had for his wife has long since evaporated, and he callously repulses her attempts at intimacy in the bedroom. Brief scenes between the husband and wife punctuate the remaining narrative, the wife becoming increasingly hostile.… Read the rest

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Hot In Day, Cold At Night (Naj-eneun Ddeobgo Bam-eneun Chubgo, 낮에는 덥고 밤에는 춥고)

Director – Park Song-yeol – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 90m

**

A young, unemployed, married Seoul couple struggle to make ends meet from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

Married Seoul couple Young-tae and Jeong-hee (played by screenwriters Park Song-yeol and Won Hyung-ra) are in financial trouble. Neither of them has a secure job with a regular income. They aren’t the only ones: he lends his mate Myung-su the family camera for a week so the latter can do some professional wedding photography to earn some money. If this sounds a bit odd, it sounds odder still when Young-tae finds his calls blocked and can’t get the camera back.

Desperate for money, Young-tae goes for interviews and, after a row with an old friend who purports to be setting up a business but turns out trying to recruit him for a network marketing operation, which Young-tae dismisses as a pyramid scheme, he eventually picks up a job as a cabbie where one night he gets into a row with a customer over taking a quicker, toll road rather than a slower, free road and loses his deposit with the company.… Read the rest

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Come Come Come Upward (Aje Aje Bara Aje, 아제 아제 바라 아제)

Director – Im Kwon-taek – 1989 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 121m

***1/2

As a young woman attempts to live as a Buddhist monk, she embarks on a series of increasingly physical sexual relationshipspart of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

Soon Nyeo (Kang Soo-yeon) enters a monastery as a novice. She reflects on her earlier life. Alienated from her mother, who she accuses of living off the interest of money made exploiting poor people, she develops a habit of following men on their travels. First up is a monk who knew her father who suggests that the latter failed as a monk. After she’s walked with him a while, he deliberately puts her back on a train.

As a student, she becomes fascinated by her class’ teacher Hyeon Jong, 29, (Chon Yoo-in) who, she learns later, lost his wife when she was killed in the Gwangju uprising while eight months pregnant. Uninvited, Soon accompanies Hyeon in his train travels around the country investigating sites of historical interest relating to a peasant uprising having promised his late wife he would one day write about this for her.… Read the rest

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Alienoid (Oegye+in 1bu, 외계+인)

Director – Choi Dong-hoon – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 142m

*****

In Part One of a proposed double feature, aliens incarcerate prisoners in human brains and time travel between present day and fourteenth century Korea and mayhem ensures – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

The first film of a two part adventure, which would be more sensibly released as Alienoid – Part One (which may already be the case in some territories), this revolves around multiple protagonists in two separate timelines divided by six or seven centuries. In the fourteenth century, Guard, who morphs between true robot and fake human appearances not unlike the T-1000 of Terminator 2 Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991), and his even more confusing companion Thunder, who is sometimes a car, sometimes a flying pod and sometimes any number of human manifestations (both / all played by Kim Woo-bin), fail to save a woman from dying after an alien escapes incarceration within her brain, however Thunder rescues the woman’s baby.

The pair travel forward in time to raise Lee Ahn (Choi Yu-ri) in the twenty-first century where she sees what she’s not supposed to: the impregnation process whereby alien prisoners are incarcerated in human brains, a memory wiped immediately afterwards from the humans used for this purpose, meaning people wander around not knowing there are aliens trapped inside their heads.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Shorts

London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) 2022

LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

The London Korean Film Festival kicks off tonight with Alienoid (Choi Dong-hoon, 2022), the first instalment of a two-part SF epic which mashes up ideas from Hollywood SF and time travel fare Alien, The Terminator and Back To The Future with epic Korean period dramas. The plot apparently involves a robot guard, prisoners trapped in human brain cells, time travel back some 600 years and a MacGuffin known as the Divine Blade. Cast includes Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook, 2016).

Friday 4th sees one of the director’s earlier blockbusters, the heist movie The Thieves (Choi Dong-hoon, 2012) in which five Korean criminals head for Macao to steal another MacGuffin, a 318-carat diamond called ‘Tear of the Sun’ worth over $20 million. The latter film is presented in collaboration with the V&A’s current exhibition Hallyu! The Korean Wave. Both screenings will be followed by a Q&A with director Choi.

The Festival bows out in two weeks time with two naval warfare blockbusters, again epic historical productions, this time the first two parts of a proposed trilogy.… Read the rest

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Living

Director – Oliver Hermanus – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 102m

*****

Diagnosed with stomach cancer and given only months to live, a bureaucrat searches for something – anything – to give purpose to his hitherto meaningless life in this remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiruout in UK cinemas on Friday, November 4th following its screenings in the BFI London Film Festival 2022, while Ikiru is on BFI Player subscription

For anyone who has had the privilege of seeing Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952) it is a very strange thing to watch this remake of it. On the one hand, it is exactly the same film. It has the same plot. On the other, it is completely different. Both are set in the 1950s, the original in Japan and the new one in London.

At this point, I have to say that this remake sounded to me (until I’d seen it) like a very bad idea. Cinema is littered with great films that have been remade as shadows of their former selves. Generally speaking, most ideas like this are better left well alone. To make matters worse, this is a case of an established novelist writing a screenplay: producers love this because they see a bestselling author as having a reliable track record but, in fact, the skills required for writing a novel and a movie are very different indeed.… Read the rest

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Hunt (Heon-teu, 헌트)

Director – Lee Jung-jae – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. – 121m

****1/2

Two top KCIA operatives, each heading up his own department, both come to believe that the North Korean mole they are hunting is the other out in cinemas Friday, November 4th; opened the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) which ran in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

Two Korean intelligence men are sitting in a car. One asks the other riddles.

What’s a war in space? Star Wars.

What’s a war in winter? Cold War.

What’s a neverending war? Korean War.

A little background history will add to your enjoyment of this fictional thriller set against the backdrop of actual historical events.

In 1979, a South Korean coup d’état established the country’s fourth dictatorship since WW2. In 1980, with martial law declared, the Gwangju Uprising saw a battle between the military and ordinary citizens in the town of Gwangju in which at least 200 civilians were killed. In 1987, student protests lead to the overthrow of the Fifth Republic Of South Korea (1981-87) and free elections.… Read the rest

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Return To Dust (Yin Ru Chen Yan, 隐入尘烟)

Director – Li Ruijin – 2022 – China – Cert. PG – 133m

***1/2

When two misfits are put into an arranged marriage by their respective, concerned families, a kindly, gentle relationship blossomsout in UK cinemas Friday, November 4th following its screening in the 2022 Edinburgh Film Festival

His family are worried about Iron Ma (Wu Renlin), also known as fourth brother. He seems content to live off his little piece of land tilling it with his donkey to grow crops, and raising pigs and chickens. He is less ambitious than third brother, who runs the local market and sets the prices for which crops are bought off local farmers. Third brother has done well for himself, and drives around in a flashy car. By way of contrast, Ma gets around by walking, or donkey and cart if he has produce to transport.

Her family are likewise worried about Cao Guiying (Hai Qing), a shy woman who can’t control her bladder. Both Ma and Cao’s respective families view their offspring as a liability and want to get them married off as soon as possible, not least to get out of being responsible for them. So they arrange a marriage for the pair of them to get them off their hands.… Read the rest

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One Piece Film: Red (One Piece Film: Red)

Director – Goro Taniguchi – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 115m

***1/2

A girl who wants to sing to the world and usher in an era of happiness has been possessed by a dark power which has other plans – out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 4th (IMAX, subbed), Saturday, November 5th (dubbed)

A female voice promises “a great genesis of happiness for all”. There is great anticipation at the prospect of the beloved singer Uta performing live for the first time. Like her “genesis of happiness” sound bite, this teenager’s songs are full of phrases that sound superficially attractive but, for anyone pausing for a moment to think about them, are pure, contentless fluff. As she belts out phrases like, “you can’t stop magic” to adoring multitudes that revere all this like some utopian manifesto (which perhaps is already implied by the name Uta) and the rather more cynical pirate section of the audience (for this is a world in which pirates operate) plan to kidnap her and make a pile of money, a teenager throws an organic looking rope-like extension which attaches itself to a spot near her as if it were as grappling hook and allows it to pull within a few feet of her, to the annoyance of the pirates whose plan it disrupts.… Read the rest

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Hilma

Director – Lasse Hallström – 2022 – Sweden – Cert. 12a – 119m

****

Late in her life, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, today considered the world’s first abstract painter, remembers her life – out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 28th

As Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (Lena Olin) takes a tram journey, she remembers key events and moments within it: she is haunted by the memory of her little sister Hermina (Emmi Tjernström), who tragically died when Hilma (Tora Hallström) was 18 and with whom she often played hide and seek.

Interested in drawing and painting from nature as a form of scientific inquiry – at her art school interview panel she lists mathematics, geometry, biology and astronomy as interests other than flowers – she meets up with other women studying technical painting and drawing in Stockholm, among them the wealthy Anna Cassel (Catherine Chalk) who becomes her lover and finances her as an artist – and becomes part of their group of five women artists interested in spiritism. She also studies the Theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky and makes a particular connection to the Anthroposophist ideas of Rudolf Steiner.

Acknowledging these interests, the film infuriatingly refuses to explore them at any great depth, perhaps because it fears such ideas might prove controversial and perhaps because they might prove boring to a contemporary audience, it’s impossible to tell.… Read the rest

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Deliver Us From Evil (Daman Akeseo Guhasoseo, 다만 악에서 구하소서)

Director – Hong Won-chan – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 108m

*****

An assassin trying to rescue his ex-girlfriend’s child from organ thieves discovers a rival is after him for killing his brother – Wednesday, October 26th, 20.30 at The Cinema At Selfridges as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; also available to rent on Sky Go, Sky Store, iTunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play

In a darkened building somewhere in Japan, former South Korean government agent turned professional assassin In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) surprises and pacifies then kills his terrified, Japanese-Korean mob boss target. Meanwhile, his former girlfriend Young-joo (Choi Hee-Seo) is in Thailand in the process of putting down the deposit to buy a golf course when her small daughter Yoo-min (Park So-yi) is kidnapped. Desperate, Young-joo attempts to contact In-nam through his boss over the phone, but In-nam has long since told her she must decide between her child and him and as far as he is concerned, she made her decision. He instructs his boss to inform her he is dead.… Read the rest

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New World (Sinsegye, 신세계)

Director – Park Hoon-jung – 2013 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 135m

***

Following a gangster boss’ murder, an undercover cop is caught in the middle of the rival factions’ battle to take over the gang – screening Monday, October 24th, 19.00 at The Cinema Museum as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; the film is also available on Eureka! Video

Lee Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) is the number two for Shanghai-based gangster Jung Chung (Hwang Jun-min) when someone in the organisation has a lorry drive into the car of their boss Seok (Lee Kyung-young) as he’s returning from a visit to his mistress in the rain, killing him and opening the way for someone else to take over.

When at the hospital Seok is pronounced dead to the assembled gangsters by a surgeon, he’s assaulted by one of Jung Chung’s rival candidates for the succession, Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong). He makes a habit of such actions, tossing away the camera of a carload of journalists “disrespecting” Seok’s funeral only to learn that they are actually cops working for Section Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik), who has been recently promoted from Lieutenant.… Read the rest

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Emergency Declaration (Bisang Seoneon, 비상선언)

Director – Han Jae-rim – 2021 – South Korea – 147m

*****

A rogue biochemist smuggles a deadly virus onto a commerical flight and releases it, leaving those on board fighting for survival– from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

At the same time as his wife has had enough and decides to fly off to Hawaii on her own for a break, Police Sgt. Koo (Song Kang-ho from Parasite, 1019; Snowpiercer, 2013; Memories Of Murder, 2003; all Bong Joon ho) finds himself investigating an upload to the internet which is probably a hoax in which a man threatens a terrorist attack on a plane. He tracks this man to his apartment from which the open door emits the smell of putrefaction. A search of the premises reveals a corpse sealed in polythene who has died of burst blood vessels caused by a virus.

Meanwhile at Incheon Airport, the man, Ryu Jin-seok (Yim Si-wan, singer of huge K-pop band KZ-A) has a run in with a booking agent who won’t tell him what the busiest route is, insulting her. Next, he enters the toilets to open and insert a phal into his armpit but is spotted from a cubicle by young girl Soo-min (Kim Bo-min) using the wrong toilets.… Read the rest

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The Housemaid (Hanyo, 하녀) (2010)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2010 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

****

The husband of a well-heeled family has an affair with the new maid, arousing the ire of his loyal housekeeper and ruthless mother – screening on Saturday, October 22nd, 17.15 at Odeon Luxe West End 2 as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; the film is also showing on BFI Player subscription

It’s inevitable that a South Korean film with this title invites comparisons with Kim Ki-young’s 1960 film of the same name, a watershed in Korean cinema. Whatever its virtues, Im Sang-Soo’s film can’t similarly be a watershed. If it’s based on that film as its end credits claim, it abandons the original’s central thesis. The housemaid here is not a social climber intent on seducing the husband. Rather, the family are part of the pampered super-rich elite, a small girl Nami (Ahn Seo-hyun, star of Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017) who takes having a maid for granted, a heavily pregnant wife Hae-ra (Woo Seo) who thinks the difficulties of having to raise children yourself are “for common people” and a husband Hoon Go (Lee Jung-jae from TV mini-series Squid Game, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021) who, unable to get full sexual services from his pregnant wife, seeks his pleasures with the new maid Li Eun-yi (Jeon Do-youn) who appears, initially at least, somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but then goes with the flow.… Read the rest

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In The Court Of The Crimson King: King Crimson At 50

Director – Toby Amies – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 86m

****1/2

Life behind the scenes members of the latest iteration of the band King Crimson, the revolving door institution helmed for half a century by musician Robert Fripp, as they rehearse and perform a tour – out in UK cinemas for one day only on Wednesday, October 19th and livestreaming From Saturday, October 22nd

Rather like the band King Crimson, what you see here is at once what you get and something entirely different.

The phrase “Toby’s camera” (which I’ll use later) seems apt. One doesn’t usually speak so personally of a director, and it’s not the case that I personally know Toby Amies or anything like that. Yet there’s a beguiling intimacy about this documentary. From the evidence here, King Crimson founder, guitarist and keyboard player Robert Fripp is a perfectionist liable to be thrown if something isn’t quite right: he describes all previous iterations of the band, something of a revolving door in which he’s been the sole constant member over the years, as painful and tells us that the current version of the band (together since 2013) is the one with which his experience has been happiest.… Read the rest

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Hopper: An American Love Story

Director – Phil Grabsky – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 94m

*****

The story of American painter Edward Hopper, and how his artistic career was facilitated by his fellow artist wife Jo out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, October 18th

Latest entry in Grabsky’s generally excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art and artists covers the career of Edward Hopper to tie in with a major Hopper exhibition (Edward Hopper’s New York) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The big (and most welcome) surprise is that it charts not just Hopper’s life and work but also that of fellow artist Josephine Nivison, later his wife Josephine Nivison Hopper, whose career was largely eclipsed by his during his lifetime. To be fair, it doesn’t really go into her life before the point at which she became involved in his.

Hopper was born in 1882 and raised in the Nyack, New York house his parents had built (an enviable state, indicative of their and his time, which must surely influence one’s outlook on life). Religion and church were important to the Hoppers, but theirs was the brand of Christianity unafraid to engage with the outside world which at that time meant vast quantities of books and periodicals; the young Edward acquired a love of books from his avid reader father.… Read the rest

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No Bears (Khers Nist)

A repressive Islamist regime

No Bears
Directed by Jafar Panahi
Certificate 12a, 106 minutes
Released 11 November

The Iranian director Jafar Panahi (whose son Panar made the excellent road movie Hit the Road) has been in trouble with the country’s repressive Islamist regime for some time and earlier this year was given six years in prison. The campaign to #freejafarpanahi is worth our support, and this release is timely considering what is happening in Iran now.

In No Bears, Jafar plays a fictionalised version of himself, a film director not allowed to leave Iran… [read the full review at Reform magazine]

Read my alternative, longer review here.

No Bears is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, November 11th following its screening in the BFI London Film Festival 2022.

#freejafarpanahi

Trailer:

LFF 2022 Trailer:

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The Son

Director – Florian Zeller – 2022 – UK – Cert. tbc – 123m

****1/2

A man and his wife must deal with the mental illness of his son by a previous marriage when he moves in with them – from the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Peter (Hugh Jackman) is a successful New York lawyer with a wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and a small child Theo. One day, his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) turns up at his apartment door to inform him that, as she’s just found out, their teenage son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) has not been to school for one month. She has tried to talk to the boy but got no sense out of him. When Peter goes to visit them, the boy insists he’d like to come and live with his dad.

New mum Beth is understandably hesitant, but nevertheless the couple agree to have Nicholas stay. It quickly becomes apparent that he has grievances against his father and step-mother for leaving his mother and becoming involved with his married father respectively. While Nicholas has never got over his parents’ break-up, Peter has continued in a career which leaves him increasingly less time for family.… Read the rest

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Emily

Director – Frances O’Connor – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 130m

varies between ** and ****

An imagined account of how Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights – out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 14th

The three Brontë sisters Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling), Emily (Emma Mackey), and Anne (Amelia Gething) live with their brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead) and their chapel minister father Patrick (Adrian Dunbar) in the large parsonage in the West Riding of Yorkshire’s village of Haworth. The three girls have a lively, literary imagination, make up numerous stories for their own amusement, and spend much time outside in the landscape of the moors. A young curate Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) arrives in the village, piquing the girls’ interest, and Charlotte soon departs for a distant teaching post. Emily likes her own company and spends much time alone on the moors.

Branwell is accepted by the Royal Academy to study painting, but drops out and returns to the village, where he and Emily get into mischief together, chiefly by spying on one of the neighbours at night through their window and getting chased off the premises several times by dogs before Branwell eventually gets caught and has to endure punishment from father.… Read the rest

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All That Breathes

Director – Shaunak Sen – 2022 – India – Cert. – 97m

*

Set against the backdrop of heavily polluted Delhi, Muslim siblings devote their time to healing the local species of bird that seems to get injured more than most: the black kite – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player, out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 14th

Plunging the viewer right from the start into a rarely seen, night time netherworld, this contains incredible intermittent footage of life in a modern city, in this case Delhi. We are on a patch of waste ground, whether an officially designated rubbish tip or simply the place people check their waste is not clear, but the refuse is piling up and you can hear creatures scuffling around. The takes are long and soon you’re picking out rats in the darkness, and thinking that if only the rubbish was more securely contained, the rat infestation wouldn’t be a problem.

There are several similar lengthy shots that punctuate All That Breathes, and they’re absolutely mesmerising. This is in no small part due to the use of the unbroken take, coupled with complex camera moves which reminded me of last year’s pig documentary Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky, 2020).… Read the rest

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All Is Vanity

Director – Marcos Mereles – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 72m

*

A photographer, an intern, a model and a make-up artist unite for a photography shoot that goes horribly wrong – out in cinemas on Friday, October 14th

What went wrong, exactly,? asks the opening voice over. He’s referring to a day, a night and a day when a photographer (Sid Phoenix) with an unpaid intern (James Aroussi) in tow, a model (Isabelle Bonfrer) and a make-up artist (Rosie Steel) gather in a London studio to do a photographic fashion shoot for the All Is Vanity clothing brand. There’s a degree of tension and drama between the four. The photographer has the intern’s introductory letter on his phone and tells him he takes himself far too seriously: no-one wants to know his internal conflicts or motivation. He doesn’t have nice things to say about he model either, noting before she arrives that she can be a bit of a bitch.

It doesn’t bode well when she arrives late and holds up the shoot. The photographer likes the clothes and the décor in the studio that the brand has chosen, but doesn’t think the two work together. Something strange is going on because at one point the power goes off and the problem doesn’t appear to be blown fuses.… Read the rest

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Rodeo (Rodéo)

Director – Lola Quivoron – 2022 – France – Cert. 15 – 105m

***

Le Fast et la Furieuse. A young woman bike thief makes her mark on a group of bikers living in a bike repair shop run from a prison by its incarcerated owner – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Julia (Julie Ledru) loves motorbikes. She loves riding them. And she loves stealing them. At various points in the narrative, she follows up ‘bike for sale’ ads, goes to see the seller, impresses them with her considerable knowledge, persuades them to let her test drive the bike by riding it alone for a certain distance then rides off with it. She’s also poor and living on a rundown housing estate, an environment beloved of a certain strata of French cinema (e.g. Two Of Three Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995; District 13, Pierre Morel, 2004). Not that you see much of this environment after the opening reel. She represents a very French form of anti-hero, and if you don’t have any problem with her sense of entitlement and the fact that she sees nothing wrong with stealing, this is a rollicking good yarn.… Read the rest

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Godland (Vanskabte Land)

Director – Hlynur Pálmason – 2022 – Denmark, Iceland – Cert. 12a – 138m

***1/2

Winter is coming. In the late nineteenth century, a Danish priest who is also an amateur photographer travels to an Icelandic island to oversee the construction of a church before Winter comes – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player.

The late nineteenth century. Lutheran priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) meets with his Church of Denmark bishop regarding his forthcoming ministry to a remote village in Iceland where he is to oversee the construction of a church building before the harsh winter sets in. While that’s his official, designated task, the young man being something of an enthusiast for the newly emerging art of photography decides to take a camera and tripod with him to document his journey, and to this end, rather than take the simplest, safest and quickest route to his destination, he resolves to travel cross-country. (Although the film is a work of fiction, it was inspired by an actual series of photographs taken on a similar journey around this period.) He is allocated an Icelandic guide Ragnar (Ingvar Sigurðsson) to accompany him.… Read the rest

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The Woman King

Director – Gina Prince-Bythewood – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 135m

****

The warrior women of Dahomey defend their people against capture by neighbouring nations for the white foreigners’ slave trade – out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 7th

Outside of the Greek myth of the Amazons, we don’t really think of armies as being made up of women rather than men prior to the last few decades, yet historically this actually occurred in a West African country, the Kingdom of Dahomey (further info: National Geographic; wikipedia) between the middle of the seventeenth and the end of the nineteenth centuries. These warrior women are the subject of this film which takes place in 1823.

A prologue shows a small unit of the women in action under their General Nansica (an unforgettable Viola Davis) as they attack and slaughter a unit of (male) soldiers [Read more…]

Full review published at DMovies.org.

The Woman King is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, October 7th.

Trailer (please note that the irritating, ill-judged pop soundtrack is not representative of the film):

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Girls Girls Girls (Tytöt Tytöt Tytöt; US: Girl Picture)

Director – Alli Haapasalo – 2022 – Finland – Cert. 15 – 100m

****

Three teenage girls’ lives are turned upside down by sex, romance and fledgeling relationships – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 30th

Ice hockey class. In the spur of the moment, Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) attacks another girl with her hockey stick. She and her best friend Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) talk about it after. They are like two misfits, spurned by everyone else, but happy in each other’s company.

Elsewhere, under the watchful eye of her coach Tarja (Sonya Lindfors), Emma (Linnea Leino) is doing ice skating practice but it’s all going horribly wrong. She seems to have forgotten how to do the Triple Lutz – the build up is fine, the spin into the air is fine, but she keeps coming a cropper on the landing, falling flat on the ice. She tries to calm herself with her meditation app. She talks about it in French with her mum.

Mimmi and Rönkkö are on their shift at the health food drink stand in the local shopping mall. Mimmi takes the mick (or the mimmi) out of customer Emma while Rönkkö plays it so cool with the boy that she fancies when he tries to chat her up at the counter it’s as if nothing happened.… Read the rest

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Smile

Director – Parker Finn – 2022 – US – Cert. 18 – 115m

***

After a psychiatrist witness a patient smile then commits suicide, she finds herself stalked by a malevolently smiling presence – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28th

A patient describes her condition to Psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) who then witnesses her apparently see something which drives her to suicide, smiling malevolently as she slices half of her own face off. The patient has previously described an entity which appears as people, sometimes people she knows, sometimes strangers. She can see it but no-one else can. And it’s always smiling at her. And now Rose can see this entity smiling at her, which suggests she’s next. Especially when it starts chanting, “you’re going to die” over and over again. (Spoiler alert: you’re going to die. We all are, sooner or later. So this really isn’t such surprising news.)

Just as she herself had done to her patient, those to whom Rose attempts to explain her plight come up with psychological explanations – childhood trauma, her genes, she’s been under a lot of stress lately and so on. There’s a certain daft pleasure to be had in such films that no-one ever takes the obvious explanation (here, that this woman is being stalked by a malevolent entity) seriously.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Inu-Oh (Inu-Oh, 犬王)

Director – Masaaki Yuasa – 2021 – Japan – Cert. – 98m

***1/2

In fourteenth century Japan, a blind musician and a deformed, masked dancer shake up the culturally staid world of Noh theatre by forming a hugely popular rock band – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28th

You never quite know what you’re going to get with an animated feature by Masaaki Yuasa (Ride Your Wave,2019; Lu Over the Wall, 2017; Mind Game, 2004) as he has a tendency to break with tradition. Here, he takes on periods of Japanese history but rather than go with power struggles as to who rules Japan, he focuses on two outcasts, an orphaned musician and a deformed dancer, who join together to form a rock band with an emphasis on theatrical showmanship to upend the artistic conventions of the day and become an overnight sensation until the ascendant ruler, determined to control the historical narrative, has the musician killed, and the dancer emasculated, forbidden to perform anything but state-approved material, and that only in the Imperial court.

It’s a triptych, one long story split into three sections. In the first section, after a prologue detailing the decisive Battle of Dan-No-Ura towards the end of the twelfth century, in which the Heiji clan were defeated by the Genji and the formers warriors threw themselves into the sea and perished, two centuries later in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, Northern would be Kyoto-based, shogunate emperor Ashitaka decides that the power to rule demands he acquire three sacred treasures, one of which is a sword buried in the lake at Dan-No-Ura.… Read the rest

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In Front Of Your Face (Dangsin-Eolgul-Apeseo, 당신얼굴 앞에서)

Director – Hong Sang Soo – 2021 – South Korea – Cert. 12a – 85m

*****

A Korean-born actress returns from the US to spend time with those close to her and attend a meeting with a director for a possible acting job – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 23rd

A woman on a sofa. She gets up but can’t wake the woman sleeping in the bedroom. Later Sangok (Lee Hyeyoung, the sofa one) and Jeongok (Cho Yunhee, the bedroom one) talk – Jeongok had been having a really vivid dream – and go out for coffee and breakfast to a pleasant lakeside café, followed by a visit to the local café run by Jeongok’s son and his girlfriend. Sangok has a meeting with a director later at a restaurant to discuss a possible film project. Going there in the taxi, she gets a message from director Jaewon (Kwon Haehyo) on her phone that the venue changed, so changes the destination. Her admiring host makes her feel at home enough to explain her situation – and why she feels unable to do the film, which leaves him in a state of shock.

In the latter part of his career, director Hong has honed his personal filmmaking style and vocabulary into a distinctive form uniquely his own.… Read the rest

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After Yang

Director – Kogonada – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 96m

****1/2

In the distant future, a couple must come to terms with the loss of the eldest child, actually an A.I. purchased as an ethnically programmed companion for their adopted South East Asian daughter – SF mystery drama is on Sky Cinema from Thursday, September 22nd

Memory is one of the great themes of cinema because when you point a moving image camera at someone, you capture and preserve their moving image for posterity. (Something similar happens when you record the sound of someone’s voice. Or even if you write down their words on paper, a simpler, more primitive form of recording.) Memory is also one of the elements which defines us as human beings.

Full marks, then, to director (actually writer, director, editor) Kogonada for taking the short story Saying Goodbye To Yang by Alexander Weinstein and expanding it into a feature. As described in the parlance of the distant future world in which this is set, Yang is a technosapien (i.e. a robot), a purchased elder sibling of a family comprising father Jake (Colin Farrell), mother Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja).

Mika is adopted, and her ever so Hollywood liberal parents – he a white man who has built a business around his passion for tea, she a black woman who is a hard-working, highly motivated high-flier in a demanding corporate business that’s never really defined – are concerned that she connect with her South East Asian heritage.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years In Afghanistan

Director – Phil Grabsky, Shoaib Sharifi – 2022 – UK – Cert. tbc – 90m

**1/2

The story of a boy from his harsh childhood in a mountain cave through to his life as a husband and father of three in present day Kabul under the Taliban – out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, September 20th

Mir Hussain has already been the subject of two previous Grabsky documentaries The Boy Who Played On The Buddhas Of Bamiyan (2004) and The Boy Mir (2011). The first covers his time as an eight-year-old living in the caves of Bamiyan, beside the remains of the famous monuments which had been destroyed by the Taliban. The second documents his life from eight- to eighteen-year-old. This third film takes a longer view, following Mir’s life from that early period through to the present day.

Afghanistan has undergone huge changes in the last twenty years, from Taliban rule through occupation post 9/11 by NATO forces led by the US to the withdrawal of Western forces, the collapse of the Afghan government and the return to power of the Taliban. That story is related here via clips of various news reports from TV channels all around the globe.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Moonage Daydream

Director – Brett Morgen – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 135m

*****

David Bowie explored through his own words, accompanied by images of his life and art, many of his songs and extracts from numerous live performances – out in IMAX in the UK on Friday, September 16th and wide in cinemas on Friday, September 23rd.

In 2018, seasoned writer-director-editor Brett Morgen (Jane, 2017; Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, 2015; The Kid Stays In The Picture, 2002) was granted unprecedented access to David Bowie’s personal archives and four years later we have the first film to be supported by the Bowie estate. Knowing all this, you enter the cinema wondering exactly what you’re going to get.

You’re immediately confronted by a quote about Nietzsche and God which is then revealed as a quote from Bowie 2002, the film immediately putting Bowie on a par with one of the nineteenth century’s greatest philosophers and arguably even God. The subject of Nietsche doesn’t come back up, but God does, quite a bit, with Bowie’s religious-leaning song “Word On A Wing” putting in an appearance and David’s voice-over talking about “something…a force directing the universe”. Like many of us today, he struggles with the word ‘God’ – is it the right word?… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Strawberry Mansion

Directors – Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney – 2020 – US – Cert. 12a – 91m

*****

A strange and compelling tale, at once whimsical and terrifying, of a tax inspector sent to audit an artist’s dreams – out in UK cinemas and on demand Friday, September 16th

Nothing can prepare you for the experience of watching this extraordinary film. A man sits in his strawberry-coloured kitchen. In his strawberry-coloured fridge are strawberry-coloured boxes of food and strawberry-coloured cartons of drink. A knock at his door opens to reveal billowing clouds floating into the room like fog. It’s his friend who has arrived with a golden bucket container of fried chicken pieces and a bottle of cola. They eat and enjoy.

If you think this is weird, the scene turns up on the man’s video alarm clock. And the film has barely got started. Our hero’s work today involves a long drive to a lone house in the middle of a field. At the door, James Preble (Kentucker Audley) announces to the elderly occupant Arabella “Bella” Isadora (Penny Fuller) that he’s here to audit her dreams. As government legislation of seven year requires. She has over 2 000 VHS tapes, but it seems she hasn’t yet got around to fulfilling the legal requirement of the latest software.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song

Directors – Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12 – 118m

***

The career of writer-turned-singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, with particular emphasis on his best known song Hallelujah – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 16th

There have been films about Leonard Cohen before, hardly surprising given his status as one of the major singer / songwriters of the twentieth century. This one falls between two stools.

Leonard Cohen

On the one hand, it’s an attempt to document his career, and as such comes across as another Leonard Cohen movie which is fine as an introduction if you don’t know his career and music and I suspect fine for Leonard completists. As someone in the middle, this aspect seemed to be all talking heads treading mostly predictable ground.

On the other, it explores Cohen’s best known song Hallelujah, his struggles in writing it and how the piece ultimately took on a life of its own. This second aspect hasn’t been explored that widely to the best of my knowledge and proves a far richer seam into the mind, workings, practices and artistry of Cohen, making you wish the filmmakers had dumped much of the other material and explored this area at greater length.… Read the rest

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Funny Pages

Director – Owen Kline – 2022 – US – Cert. US-R – 86m

***

A young, New Jersey comic book artist wannabe’s life becomes increasingly surreal when he leaves school and home to realise his desired career – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 16th

Guided by his art teacher Mr. Katano (Stephen Adly Guirgis), New Jersey high school student Robert (Daniel Zolghadri) is developing his voice as a comic artist, constantly comparing notes with fellow student / aspiring comic artist Miles (Miles Emanuel). Following Mr. Katano’s tragic and untimely death, Robert finds himself in court following his breaking and entering Katano’s classroom in an attempt to rescue as much of the man’s artwork as he can salvage before its otherwise inevitable, imminent destruction.

He alienates his middle class father Lewis (Josh Pais) by rejecting the offer of a lawyer friend to be his counsel, instead getting a state defendant Cheryl (Marcia DeBonis) who successfully gets the case dismissed. He gets on well with Cheryl and after the case is over, goes to work for her as an assistant.

Responding to an accommodation advert, Robert rents half a bedroom from Barry (Michael Townsend Wright), who lives in the sleazy basement of a well-to-do house in Trenton, sharing the room with established occupant Steven (Cleveland Thomas Jr.).… Read the rest

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Contempt (Le Mépris)

Director – Jean-Luc Godard – 1963 – France – Cert. 15 – 103m

*****

Review originally published in What’s On In London when the film was reissued in 1996 – reprinted here to commemorate Godard’s passing on Tuesday, 13th September, 2022

Made back in 1963 in the latter days of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris) anticipates J.G. Ballard’s seminal novel Crash, David Cronenberg’s controversial film of which currently awaits a British distributor. Alongside a director in a film studio (Godard casts the great Fritz Lang, who famously made the silent classic Metropolis at UFA in 1926 before a subsequent career in Hollywood on westerns and crime thrillers), Contempt boasts a central protagonist obsessed by his wife’s sexual peccadilloes, not to mention bleak, domestic, modernist architecture and mythical car crash aftermaths.

The camera lingers lovingly over the latter to George Delerue’s unforgettable and heavily romantic score, but (as apparently in Cronenberg’s Crash) pays little attention to the actual moment of impact.

It’s one of Godard’s best films and possibly his most accessible. Director Lang struggles to film The Odyssey at CineCitta with unsympathetic producer Jeremiah Prokosh (a towering Jack Palance) who waxes lyrical about life and art while seducing Camille (a stunningly contemptuous Brigitte Bardot), wife of hired screenwriter Michel Piccoli.… Read the rest

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Cave Rescue

Director – Tom Waller – 2022 – Thailand – US Cert. PG-13 – 99m

****

A Thai-based dramatisation of the 2018 Thailand boys’ football team cave rescue, with some of the rescuers playing themselves – on Blu-ray (US only) Tuesday, September 13th

In 2018, the world held its breath when the 12 boys of a football team and their 24-year-old coach became trapped in a cave when rain fell unexpectedly and water levels within the cave system started to rise. Incredibly, the ensuing rescue attempt involving divers from the US, UK, Ireland and Canada got all 13 out alive. According to this film, sadly, there was one fatality among the Thai Navy SEAL divers involved in the rescue.

Quick off the mark, Thailand-based producer-director Waller made the story into a feature film The Cave (2019), aimed at the Thai market. With Netflix having already secured the rights to the boys’ stories – a miniseries Thai Cave Rescue (2022) is coming to Netflix US in September 2022 – Waller and his co-writers had to find an alternative route to telling the story. A meeting with Irish diver Jim Warny, who was involved in the rescue operation, resulted in the decision to base the narrative not around the thirteen people trapped underground but the men and women who attempted to get them out (mostly men, although there are one or two women featured among the paramedics not to mention an assistant to the local Governor).… Read the rest

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Crimes Of The Future (2022)

Director – David Cronenberg – 2022 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 107m

*****

Even as two performance artists enact bizarre public rituals exploring the unlikely boundaries between sex, surgery and mutation, a young boy who eats plastic is murdered by his mother – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Back in 1970, underground filmmaker Cronenberg made a film called Crimes Of The Future, inspired by the title of an unseen poem in an art film he’d seen several years earlier. That 1970 film, consisting of a cast on a campus of modernist architecture shot in colour without sync sound and deploying a monologue voice-over alternating with blocks of weird, improvised sound effects, bears little relation to this new one, except that it likewise briefly and peripherally features a dancer. More significantly, it also features a character whose body produces new organs. We don’t see them in that film, we merely hear a verbal description.

Fast-forward to the present and Cronenberg has had a career from the late 1970s through the 1990s making cinema features packed with icky special effects about something called The New Flesh followed by a series of (arguably) more mainstream, arthouse movies. To those who know the whole body of work, they’re all of a piece; however, to the newcomer they can be overwhelming or potentially offensive.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Tad The Lost Explorer And The Curse Of The Mummy (Tad The Lost Explorer And The Emerald Tablet; Tadeo Jones 3. La Tabla Esmeralda; Tadeo Jones 3. La Taula Maragda)

Director – Enrique Gato – 2022 – Spain – Cert. U – 90m

****

In Mexico, desperate for recognition as a bona fide archaeologist, our hero unearths an Egyptian sarcophagus and unleashes a mysterious power from an Inca temple – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Gato’s third instalment of the Tad The Lost Explorer franchise is a lot better than it sounds, chiefly because it delivers narrative coherence and picks up and runs with numerous opportunities afforded by character and script where the similarly inventive Minions: The Rise Of Gru (Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val, 2022) failed.

Having agreed with girlfriend Sara not to go public about his previous archaeological discoveries, Tad has with her help got on to the Chicago Museum’s dig in Mexico – as a lowly assistant, even though he seems more clued-up than the three qualified archaeologists in charge. Rashly opening a secret door by pushing a part of a wall frieze, he finds himself in a vast chamber containing an Egyptian sarcophagus, his report of which is pooh-poohed by his three superiors until, after firing him, they discover it for themselves and take the credit.

This rivalry between the ‘amateur’ Tad and qualified but comparatively clueless ‘professionals’ is kept up throughout the narrative, although the professionals remain secondary characters.… Read the rest

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See How They Run

Director – Tom George – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 98m

**

A barely competent Inspector and a trainee WPC investigate a backstage murder at The Mousetrap in 1950s London’s theatreland – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

London West End, 1953. Following his involvement in a fight at a party to celebrate the hundredth performance of The Mousetrap at The Ambassadors Theatre, blacklisted Hollywood film director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), hired by John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith) to make a film of the play, gets into fisticuffs with the play’s leading man Richard “Dickie” Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) over the latter’s wife and co-star Sheila Sim (Pearl Shanda).

Later, Kopernick is murdered backstage by a mystery assailant. Perhaps it’s pertinent that Kopernick has ruffled numerous feathers in and around the production, not least foppish, English literary figure Mervyn Cocker Norris (David Oyelowo) who has been hired to write the script and despises everything Kopernick stands for, a feeling which proves in flashback to be mutual.

Thus begins a whodunit based around the world’s longest running play. The police are called in, with Commissioner Harold Scott (Tim Key) assigning alcoholic Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and film buff and over-enthusiastic trainee WPC Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to the case.… Read the rest

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Bodies Bodies Bodies

Director – Halina Reijn – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 94m

*

A make-believe party game of murder turns into horrifying reality when pretend dead bodies turn out to be really dead and the genuine body count continues to mount – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Five women, three couples, two exes, one single. Seven people. Six twentysomethings. They gather in the house of one of their number David (Peter Davidson), whose absent parents are rich and the house and grounds reflect that. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) have been together maybe six weeks. David and Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) longer. Alice (Rachel Sennott) and fortysomething Greg (Lee Pace) a mere two weeks. Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) is not coupled.

This is a hurricane party – a party held following a hurricane warning where power outages are likely, so people gather together to pool their perishable resources e.g. food from switched off fridges and avoid the need to travel over several days. The script assumes the audience knows all this, but to people living outside the US this may be a completely new concept; the script here makes much use of power outages but completely fails to exploit the shared resources and lack of travel aspects of the phenomenon.… Read the rest