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The Goldfinger
(Jin Shouzhi,
金手指)

Director – Felix Chong – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 126m

*****

Director Felix Chong reunites his two Infernal Affairs stars for a lavish, if frequently incomprehensible, 1980s tale of cops and robbers, corruption and fraud – out on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital in the UK on Monday, May 20th

The experience of watching The Goldfinger is a lot like watching the classic Hollywood private eye movie The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946). There, you know that the hero is investigating a string of murders, and the narrative is completely engrossing, even for the viewer watching the film for the umpteenth time, yet it’s also impenetrable and incomprehensible. And so it is with The Goldfinger, which is based not on a novel but on a real life financial scandal.

Real life Hong Kong conglomerate The Carrian Group, founded in 1977 by one George Tan, expanded rapidly and made huge profits until it was declared bankrupt in 1983. The whole operation turned out to be mired in fraud. In the film, set in the late 1970s / early 1980s, the central character Ching (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is modelled on Tan, starting off penniless but wearing suits that look like a million dollars and blessed with an understanding of what’s required to gain people’s confidence, secure deals and make money.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Big Banana Feet

Director – Murray Grigor – 1976 – UK – Cert. 12 – 77m

****1/2

The camera follows comedian Billy Connolly to Dublin and Belfast for the final dates of his 1975 tour – 2K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10th, and on BFI Blu-ray/DVD (Dual Format Edition) and digital from Monday, May 20th

This played the Scala Cinema a few times back in the day. I always thought there must be a reason why, and now, with its release in a restored form by the BFI, I get to find out. I must admit to mixed feelings prior to viewing – I’m not someone who particularly enjoys stand-up comedy; indeed, watching videos of comedians doing their material onstage has been known to bore me to tears, even as it enthralls fans.

Although this has clips of Billy Connolly performing on stage – comic routines, songs with banjo and guitar – it’s essentially a fly-on-the-wall piece that captures his personality as he, with the help of his seemingly tireless road manager Billy Johnson, plays dates in Dublin and Belfast on the final leg of his 1975 tour. Watching it, you feel you get to know Connolly well, at least at the period of his career being filmed.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

IF

Director – John Krasinski – 2024 – US – Cert. U – 104m

****

A 12-year-old staying with her grandma in New York meets many imaginary friends forgotten by the adults who befriended them as children – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 17th

This follows the time-worn children’s story template of a child whose father in hospital and is worried that they might not ever come home. In this instance, the child’s fear is grounded in her previous experience of this happening to her mother, who went into hospital and never came out.

Thus, 12-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming) is sent to stay with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) in New York while her single-parent dad (John Krasinski) goes to the hospital for what he assures Bea will be a routine operation. Dad is an inveterate practical joker of a gentle sort, performing impromptu song and dance routines with his treatment drip on a stand or staging a tableau of his escape out of the window via a rope made of knotted bedsheets. As you can probably tell, director Krasinski is clearly having a lot of fun playing this role, and fortunately for us that fun translates onto the screen. As a bonus, likeable child actor Alan Kim (Minari, Lee Isaac Chung, 2020) plays the patient in a nearby ward.… Read the rest

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Hoard

Director – Luna Carmoon – 2023 – UK – Cert. – 126m

****

A young girl’s strange relationship with her rubbish-hoarding mother, cut short in childhood, leads to an equally bizarre bond in adult life – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 17th, with previews from Friday, May 3rd

When I first stumbled across the title of this film, and the image used to promote it of a young couple staring into what I took to be a circular hole, which, I realised after seeing the film, was in fact the outline of a communal bin of the type commonly found on an English housing estate, I guessed it was a thriller – two people stumble upon a hoard: a bag of money or otherwise valuable contents. A noun. However, after viewing, I now realise the title could equally well suggest an activity, a verb. To hoard. The act of hoarding. The state of being which is hoarding. The film isn’t really a thriller. To describe it as a drama might be closer to the mark, but that doesn’t prepare the viewer for how utterly strange and alien the experience of watching this is.

Because the narrative starts off with the relationship between Cynthia (Hayley Squires) and her pre-teenage daughter Maria (Lily-Beau Leach).… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Catching Fire:
The Story of
Anita Pallenberg

Directors – Alexis Bloom, Svetlana Zill – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 113m

***1/2

The chaotic life of the archetypal rock chick, told through her own words and those of her children – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 17th

After her death in 2017, Anita Pallenberg’s two surviving children Marlon and Angela discovered a manuscript; she had written an autobiography. Marlon worked his way through it as part of his bereavement process and was so taken with the articulate text that he sought out producers to turn it into a film. (He is one of the film’s executive producers himself, while both directors are credited as among the producers). Numerous clips from an interview with him are used in this resultant documentary, along with excerpts from Anita’s manuscript voiced by an actress, along with interview footage with Angela and verbal audio from Rolling Stones band member Keith Richards, Anita’s partner for a decade and the father of her children.

Like many of the young generation who rose meteorically to cultural prominence in the swinging sixties, Anita Pallenberg was a war baby. Her first years were accompanied by the sound of falling bombs; as she puts it, she didn’t learn to walk, but to run.… Read the rest

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Nightwatch
(Nattevagten)

Director – Ole Bornedal – 1994 – Denmark – Cert. 18 – 107m

*****

Strange goings-on take place in a morgue after a law student takes on the nightwatchman’s job – out on Shudder UK from Friday, May 17th

Two male students Jens (Kim Bodnia) and Martin (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) make a pact: they are to challenge one another to a series of outrageous acts, and the first one who fails to follow though must marry his girlfriend. One evening, they and respective girlfriends Kalinka (Sofie Gråbøl) and Lotte (Lotte Andersen) are in a bar when two louts appear and hassle the two women as they return from the ladies room. Martin challenges Jens to stand up to them, which he does and gets assaulted for his pains. Jens later challenges Martin to go with 17-year-old prostitute Joyce (Rikke Louise Andersson), an encounter Jens facilitates in a restaurant, pinning his own name on Martin as a cover. Their swapping of names will later prove highly significant.

To save some money for his and Kalinka’s future, Martin takes on a job as a nightwatchman in a morgue, an easy enough job provided you don’t mind being the only living person on the premises along with a batch of corpses, which often includes murder victims since a murderer is currently at large in the area.… Read the rest

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Nightwatch:
Demons Are Forever
(Nattevagten –
Dæmoner Går i Arv)

Director – Ole Bornedal – 2023 – Denmark – 110m

****1/2

A law student’s daughter takes on his old morgue nightwatchman’s job to find out about the killer who traumatised her parents – out on Shudder UK from Friday, May 17th

WARNING: don’t watch this sequel until you’ve seen the original Nightwatch (1994). That’s easy enough to do, since both films are currently on Shudder.

SPOILER ALERT: if you’ve not (yet) seen the original, watch that before reading this review.

Almost thirty years on, Bornedal’s sequel is almost a retread of his original film. Almost, but not quite. Martin (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) has never totally got over his wife Kalinka’s suicide, caused by the fear of arrested killer Peter Wörmer. Several times a week, in scenes described but never shown, Martin visits the summerhouse where she hanged herself and talks to her. Martin’s friend Jens has long since disappeared to Thailand, while his girlfriend Lotte (played by a different actress, Vibeke Hastrup) still works as a vicar. Martin hasn’t heard from either of them in years.

Mental patient Bent (Casper Kjær Jensen) is a likewise incarcerated killer, a copycat. Later on, both he and Wörmer will escape their hospitals.

Martin lives with his med student daughter Emma (Fanny Leander Bornedal, the director’s daughter who is terrific here) who wants to find out exactly what happened to her parents.… Read the rest

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Kingdom of the
Planet of the Apes

Director – Wes Ball – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 145m

*****

The fourth entry in the current franchise reboot takes place several generations after the previous three films when apes live in scattered communities and humans have lost the power of speech – out in UK cinemas on Thursday, May 9th

Noa (Owen Teague) has deep-seated feelings of failure. His father is the head of the Eagle Clan, a tribe of chimps who live in symbiosis with trained eagles, and Noa thinks nothing of scaling the highest local rock face to steal his own eagle egg for later bird rearing. He goes on such quests with his two loyal friends, the male Anaya (Travis Jeffery) and the female Soona (Lydia Peckham). He also values the wisdom of Raka (Peter Macon), an orangutan with considerable knowledge of the generations-old teachings of Ceasar.

Noa spots a human girl (Freya Allan) sneaking around the village and environs. A short while later, all hell breaks loose as a cavalry of masked apes attack and burn the village. Noa resolves to leave the safety of the local valley and venture into the land beyond on horseback, accompanied by Raka. They soon realise the non-speaking girl is following on foot, and no sooner have they coax her into joining their quest than they run into first a herd of humans at a small forest pool, then the mounted masked gorillas from whom they must rescue the silent girl.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Made in England:
The Films of
Powell and Pressburger

Director – David Hinton – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 129m

*****

Martin Scorsese talks about the seminal British filmmaking duo, and how they inspired his own movies – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10th

As a child, Martin Scorsese suffered from asthma and would constantly find himself at home while other kids were outside playing. He often found himself sitting front of the black and white TV watching a show called Million Dollar Movie. This would show a movie a week, playing it several times, and it was at a time when US producers wouldn’t sell their movie rights to TV but British producers would. Consequently, he grew up watching black and white versions of old British movies.

The ones he particularly liked opened with an arrow hitting a target: “a production of the Archers. Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.” When this logo and these names appeared, Scorsese always knew he was in good hands. He watched these movies over and over again whenever they were shown, and learned much of his filmmaking craft from them. The first of these films to which he thrilled didn’t have this logo: it was the Alexander Korda production of The Thief of Baghdad (Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan, 1940) and parts of the film have the unmistakeable Powell visual stamp.… Read the rest

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La Chimera
(La Chimera)

Director – Alice Rohrwacher – 2023 – Italy – Cert. 15 – 133m

***

In an attempt to come to terms with his past, an ex-con returns to his home town, where he previously used to rob ancient artefacts from burial sites and graves – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10th

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to get in La Chimera, and after watching it, I was none the wiser. Arthur (Josh O’Connor) comes out of prison and gets the train back to Tuscany. He meets some girls on a train, and the profile of one of them reminds him of decorative Etruscan art. He has a run in with a sock salesman, who tells him he smells.

Getting off the train, he tries hard not to be picked up by an old mate, who wants to take him to see a bunch of friends. He’s been in prison for grave-robbing and doesn’t want to get back into that game. Instead, he returns to the house of his deceased (or at least presumed deceased|) girlfriend Beniamina, where her mother Flora (an unrecognisable Isabella Rossellini) refuses to believe that Beniamina has gone. While Flora welcomes him with open arms, and introduces him to her maid and singing pupil Italia (Carole Duarte), she’s happy to be there.… Read the rest

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Riddle of Fire

Director – Weston Razooli – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

****

Two siblings and their friend get caught up in a quest through the great hills and woods of Wyoming on their bikes to find a speckled egg so they can bake the boys’ sick mother a blueberry pie – premieres exclusively on the Icon Film Channel from Monday, May 6th for 30 days and is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 7th

Wyoming. Young siblings Hazel (Charlie Stover) and Jodie A’Dale (Skyler Peters) along with their slightly older friend Alice (Phoebe Ferro) break into the Otomo warehouse to steal a videogame console so they can play on the TV during the Summer holidays. Alas, they’ve reckoned without the two boys’ mother (Danielle Hoetmer) password protecting the TV. She currently has the worst cold she has ever had and isn’t going to relent on the password for the foreseeable future – it’s a beautiful day, and she wants them outside enjoying themselves, not cooped up in the house – unless the kids go to the store and get her a blueberry pie, the one thing that would make her feel better.

So the three kids set out for the local store on their pushbikes, but on arrival find the place has run out of blueberry pies and the cook is off sick (perhaps there’s a bug going around).… Read the rest

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Black Mask
(Hak Hap,
黑俠)

Director – Daniel Lee – 1996 – Hong Kong – Cert. 18 – 99m

*****

An experimentally created supersoldier without feelings revolts against his creators, even as they attempt to take control of Hong Kong’s drugs trade – on Blu-ray from Monday, April 22nd in the UK and Tuesday, April 23rd in the US and Canada

Removing the ability of human beings to feel produce an elite force of warriors known as the 701 Squad has gone horribly wrong, and the members of 701 are to be shut down. Their leader, adopting the name Tsui Chik (Jet Li), escapes to live undercover working in a library where he learns all he can by reading books. His unlucky in love co-worker Tracy (Karen Mok) is convinced by other staff members to date him.

However, Tsui is more interested in hanging out with his best friend, the policeman Inspector Shek (Lau Ching Wan) who is tracking the elimination of all the major Hong Kong drugs dealers. The reason, unbeknown to him, is that the other surviving members of the 701 Squad, under the leadership of the Commander (Patrick Lung), are trying to wipe out the gangs including the last surviving gang leader King Kau (Anthony Wong) and take control of the drugs trade themselves to gain financial security.… Read the rest

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The Fall Guy
(2024)

Director – David Leitch – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 126m

*1/2

A stuntman, who retired from the movies are sustaining an injury on set, is hired to trace the vanished star of the movie being directed by his former camera operator and girlfriend – out in UK cinemas on Thursday, May 2nd

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt double for big star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who allegedly does his own stunts. Retakes are common – for instance, if Colt is showing too much face, and it can be seen in the take that it’s him, not the star. Colt is fine with that – it’s just part of the business.

Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) is Tom’s regular producer and has managed his career so that his many bad habits never appear on the screen or where they can be seen by the public. He is currently the world’s most bankable action star.

Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt) is a camera assistant. Colt and Jody are a couple, although they try not to make it obvious on the set.

Colt’s work requires all sorts of safety protocols be followed. On one occasion, someone behind the scenes messes up, and Colt falls from a great height and breaks his back. … Read the rest

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Love Lies Bleeding
(2024)

Director – Rose Glass – 2024 – US – Cert. 15 – 104m

****

A small town member of staff at a gym falls hard for a bodybuilding drifter, both unaware that each has baggage which will cause the other considerable grief – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 3rd

The 1980s. New Mexico. Night. Rising up from a crack in the Earth. Towards the stars. And looking out over the small town, over the Crater Gym. We follow a woman inside. (Who is she? We never find out.) Bodybuilders work out. As Lou (Kristen Stewart) works to unclog a lavatory blocked with something resembling small human body parts (!), she is hassled by Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov) who appears to have been sexually close to her at some time, and possibly still is now only Lou doesn’t care.

Elsewhere in the night, a couple are having sex in a car. He (Dave Franco) is definitely enjoying it; she (Katy O’Brian), it’s hard to tell. She wants to know if she’ll get that job now. He says he’ll sort it. He warns her to be careful where she sleeps; this is a dangerous town. She finds a place at the side of a bridge; in the morning, it’s hot and sunny, she gets up and does her exercises using the edge of the bridge for pull-ups.… Read the rest

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Kidnapped
(Rapito)

Director – Marco Bellocchio – 2023 – Italy, France, Germany – Cert. 12a – 135m

*****

A boy is forcibly taken from his Jewish family by the Pope to be raised as a Catholic priest because he has been baptised into the Catholic faith – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 26th

Italy, the mid-nineteenth century. The Papal States will have disappeared by 1870 as Italy moves towards unification. In the meantime, they are still under the administrative control of the incumbent pope, Pius IX.

Bologna, 1852. A maid sees off a soldier in the night following a romantic tryst. The soldier is neither here nor there; the maid, Anna Morisi (Aurore Camatti) will play a significant part in what follows. The life of a nine-child Jewish family is about to be disrupted forever.

The home of the very ordinary Mortalo family, who are Jewish: father Momolo (Fausto Russo Alesi), mother Marianna (Barbara Ronchi) and their nine children. The parents are deeply religious and raise their offspring accordingly, teaching them, among other things, to recite the Shema prayer every night before they go to sleep. One night in 1858, they are visited by the authorities under Feletti (Fabrizio Gifuni) who have come to take away one of their children under Papist law.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Spy x Family
Code: White
(SPY x FAMILY
CODE: White)

Directors – Kazuhiro Fusuhashu, Takashi Karagiri – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12A – 111m

*****

A spy and an assassin are married to each other, each unaware of the other’s secret career, while neither of them are aware their adopted daughter is a telepath who therefore knows everything they don’t – bonkers anime deploying cookery to prevent Armageddon (!) is out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 26th

An opulent art deco ball. Couples dance. A man connives to be alone with a drunken woman so he can…photograph a file in an office desk. A woman driving a car rips off her face (in the manner of the characters in Mission: Impossible II, John Woo, 2000) to reveal… a man, the spy Loid (voice: Takuya Eguchi). Another woman, Yor (voice: Saori Hayama), is revealed as an assassin when she kills a man who sold industrial secrets. The spy and the assassin are married to one another in a pretend marriage which is a cover for their undercover operations, although neither knows the other is in the spy / assassination game. Their daughter Anya (voice: Atsumi Tanezaki) – adopted to make the bogus marriage look real – is a telepathic orphan who can read minds, so knows about the two secret identities of her ‘parents’.… Read the rest

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Boy Kills World

Director – Moritz Mohr – 2023 – Germany, US, South Africa – Cert. 18 – 111m

***1/2

Relentless, non-stop action via a deaf-mute, orphaned kid, schooled in martial arts, returning to the city as a grown man to wreak vengeance on those who killed his family – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 26th

Elite family the Van Der Koys have taken control of the city and instigated an annual ceremony known as The Culling, a physical contest staged for television in a vast arena in which anyone who opposes the Van Der Koys and the way they run the place is killed. This was of little concern to Boy, who as a child (twins Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti from TV series Big Little Lies, 2017-19) grew up in a carefree existence eating Frosty Pops cereal every morning with his sister Mina (Quinn Copeland) and, the pair naively making insulting hand gestures at publicly displayed Van Der Koy statues during the day which gets their family onto the list of candidates for The Culling. And so his parents and sister are despatched in the ceremony, leaving Boy a traumatised deaf-mute.

All of the above comes out early on in a mixture of flashback and over-the-top interior monologue (hilariously voiced by H.… Read the rest

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The Crazy Family
Gyakufunsha Kazoku,
逆噴射家族)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1984 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 105m

*****

After proudly moving into their first home as owner-occupiers, a family go berserk and destroy the building – out in selected New York cinemas from Friday, April 19th and selected UK cinemas from Friday, April 25th

This seemingly starts out as a conservative family drama. The family in question comprises father Katsukuni Kobayashi (Katsuya Kobayashi in his debut feature role), mother Saeko (Mitsuko Baisho who worked with directors Akira Kurosawa, Shohei Imamura and Kaneto Shindo), elder teenage son Masaki (Yoshiki Arizono from Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, both Takashi Miike; Electric Dragon, 80,000 V, Sogo Ishii, all 2001) and younger teenage daughter Erika (Youki Kudoh from Typhoon Club, Shinji Somai, 1985; Mystery Train, Jim Jarmusch, 1989; Heaven’s Burning, Craig Lahiff, 1997). The Kobayashis move in to their first home as owner-occupiers which, although it’s a little on the small side, promises an idyllic existence. Father is the breadwinner with a nondescript office job, mother waters the plants and does the cooking and housework, the daughter wants to be an idol singer and the son is spending all his time studying for school and university in his room upstairs.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Max Beyond

Director – Hasraf Dullul – 2024 – UK – Cert. 15 – 88m

****

Leon fails to rescue his adoptive brother Max from a corporate, experimental facility, so Max starts to move around the multiverse to find the world in which he succeeds – animated SF thriller is out on digital from Monday, April 22nd in the UK and Tuesday, April 23rd in the US

Facing very specific health challenges, eight-year-old Max (mo-cap/voice: Cade Tropeano) has been signed over to the Axion corporation and is living inside their high-tech, tower block complex where he is undergoing complicated, experimental, medical treatment under the supervision of Dr. Ava Johnson (mo-cap/voice: Jane Perry). Max’s elder brother Leon (mo-cap/voice: Dave Fennoy), a dishonourably discharged war veteran, is none too happy about this and, as protesters hold placards denouncing Axion outside the building, takes it upon himself to enter the premises, find his brother and rescue him from his oppressors, as he believes them to be.

Despite warnings from Dr. Ava over the intercom that there is no way out for Leon, he at first appears to be in control of the situation, a one-man army flooring all comers, but as his corporate security adversaries, culminating a sword-wielding man or robot (it’s never clear which) called The Sync, become increasingly impossible to defeat, it becomes clear that Ava’s predicted warning is accurate.… Read the rest

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Jeanne du Barry
(Jeanne du Barry)

Director – Maïwenn – 2023 – France – Cert. 15 – 117m

***1/2

A commoner works her way into the King of France’s affections and becomes a member of the aristocracy – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 19th

Born of the illicit union between a monk and a cook, the latter (Marianne Basler) taken in along with her daughter by the kindly M. Dumousseaux (Robin Renuchi) who ensures the child gets a decent education, Jeanne (Maïwenn) quickly realises her only viable career options are cooking, which she has no intention of pursuing, and harlotry. Before long, favoured client Compte Jean du Barry suggests to her that she should meet the King. To achieve this, she would need to become part of the King’s court for which a title is required, so she marries Jean in order to become the Countess du Barry and be presented to the King, Louis XV (Johnny Depp) .

Catching his majesty’s eye and favour, she is invited to his apartment, like many other women before or after her (although one suspects there were more before than after). Before meeting him alone, she is schooled in royal etiquette by the King’s trusted, right-hand man La Borde (Benjamin Lavernhe).… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Fantastic Machine
(original title:
And the King Said,
What a Fantastic Machine)

Directors – Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck – 2023 – Norway, Sweden, Denmark – Cert. 15 – 88m

****

An idiosyncratic history of moving image technology and its increasingly pervasive role in human society, from camera obscura to smartphones and social media – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 19th

To understand what this movie is about, which I’m not sure I did going in, you have to understand its title. The fantastic machine in question is, in part, the camera. That might lead you to anticipate a history of photography, but that’s not quite what this is about. You’d be forgiven for believing that, though, for the first few minutes when we see a contemporary, on the street, walk-in exhibit of the camera obscura or pinhole camera, a natural optical phenomenon whereby light passes through a simple pinhole onto a surface or screen beyond to recreate an inverted image of where the light came from. As a visitor marvels of the resultant, real time moving image of people outside the exhibit walking around, “it’s upside down”. As a human guide to the exhibition explains, that’s how the human eye works. Our brains correct the upside down image so that appears the right way up.… Read the rest

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If Only I Could Hibernate
(Baavgai Bolohson)

Director – Zoljargal Purevdash – 2023 – Mongolia, France, Switzerland, Qatar – Cert. 12a– 96m

****

A gifted Mongolian boy is torn between providing for his siblings and pursuing his studies – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 19th

Teenager Ulzii (Battsooj Uurtsaikh) lives with his mum and his three younger siblings in the yurt district of Ulaanbaataar, Mongolia’s capital city, their father having long since disappeared. Mum (Ganchimeg Sandagdorj) is illiterate and struggles to find work, and there is much antagonism between her and Ulzii, who is going through the school system his mother never experienced and took money from his summer job to buy sneakers before giving the remainder to his mum, who needs it to buy coal for their yurt’s stove to keep the family warm in severe, subzero wintry conditions. Sometimes it’s all too much for their mum, who often gets drunk at night.

In class, Ulzii is the star pupil at physics, often completing complex equations using solutions his teacher wouldn’t expect from anyone less than two years older. His teacher (Batzorig Sukhbaatar), finding a prodigy on his hands, starts to coach him to do well in the National exams in order to win a free university scholarship to study physics, which the boy wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
John Singer Sargent
Fashion & Swagger

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2024 – UK – Cert. U – 93m

****

Late nineteenth century society portrait painter John Singer Sargent was fascinated more by their clothing and the possibilities of paint than he was by the women he painted – documentary is out in UK cinemas for selected screenings from Tuesday, April 16th

Based on the exhibition first at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) and now at Tate Britain, this opens with incidental music that conjures a contemporary dance floor, a soundtrack which provokes a strange tension with paintings hanging on walls and costumes displayed in glass cases as the camera moves through the physical spaces in which they are displayed. But then, the title suggests this might be a little different from Exhibition on Screen’s usual fare.

John Singer Sargent’s A Portrait of Miss Elsie Palmer (A Lady In White), 1889-90, shows the energy and intensity of his portraiture. The brushstrokes are arresting and like nothing else being done at the time. The paintings might be perfect, but the people within them most definitely are not: Sargent captures their imperfections in a most compelling way. He looked deeply at people, and some of his sitters were afraid to sit for him because of what he might see.… Read the rest

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Civil War

Director – Alex Garland – 2024 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

Four journalists travel across the war-torn US to interview the President before he resigns or flees the country – out in both UK and US cinemas on Friday, April 12th

The US President (Nick Offerman) is rehearsing a speech, But he can’t seem to work out how to deliver the words.

Seasoned photojournalist Lee Miller (Kirsten Dunst) and journalist colleague Joel (Wagner Moura) are on the front line in the war-torn US. She is in the thick of it, taking photographs, when she spots a twentysomething woman Jessie Colin (CaIlee Spaeny from Priscilla, Sofia Coppola, 2023) doing the same thing, and gives the young woman her hi-vis jacket to help her chances of staying alive.

The girl is so preoccupied with taking pictures that she cradles the jacket in an arm while shooting images with her stills camera. Later, she runs into Lee in their hotel where all the journalists are staying, among them the grizzled veteran Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson from Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) who, despite mobility issues which require him to walk with a cane, insists on being in the thick of it as far as possible.… Read the rest

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The Teachers’ Lounge
(Das Lehrerzimmer)

Director – Ilker Çatak – 2023 – Germany – Cert. 12a – 98m

**** 1/2

A new teacher at a school where petty thefts have been taking place for some time makes some bad decisions which put her in a very difficult place – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 12th

Schoolboy Lukas (Okar Mats Zickur) is being questioned about recent thefts in the school. Does he have any suspicions as to which of the pupils might be doing this? A girl sits beside him, a class representative, to make sure everything is being done properly. “You don’t have to speak if you don’t want to”, teacher Carla Nowak (Leonie Bedesh) assures him. Nevertheless, her male colleague pressurises the boy. First, he gives him a printed list of names with checkboxes and asks the child to tick any relevant boxes. When that doesn’t work, he goes down the list with his finger and asks the boy simply to nod at any suspicious name. He gets a nod.

Teaching in class, with a number of the kids stumped by the current algebra problem, star pupil Oskar Kuhn (Leonard Stettnisch) works through a proof on the blackboard, way in advance of the capabilities his age would suggest.… Read the rest

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Opponent
(Motståndaren)

Director – Milad Alami – 2023 – Sweden, Norway – Cert. 15 – 119m

***1/2

Two asylum seekers – an Iranian pro-wrestler and his pianist wife – are confronted with inhospitable Scandiniavian hotel accommodation and state bureaucracy – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 12th.

An ominous pulsing, thumping soundtrack. Wearing training kit, an Iranian man runs until stopped in his tracks by the sight of men on the nearby road searching for someone. There is a man hiding from their sight behind a parked car. The first man goes down to the parked car and demands of him, why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut?

Hoping it will help him be seen as contributing positively to the cultural life of Sweden, thus enhancing his and the family’s chances as being accepted into citizenship, Imam joins a local wrestling team. He is clearly glad to be once again participating in the sport that was his life back in Iran, but his wife is less than happy to see him taking it up again, especially since he sometimes comes back to the hotel with a bloodied nose. Imam befriends Thomas (Björn Elgerd) at the club, who invites him out to parties where Imam spends the night rather than going home to his wife.… Read the rest

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Perfect Days

Director – Wim Wenders – 2023 – Germany, Japan – Cert. PG – 123m

*****

A cleaner for The Tokyo Toilet Company takes great pleasure in his everyday routine – on MUBI from Friday, April 12th

There is a pecking order in society. Right at the lowest level is anything to do with human waste. Nowhere is this more evident than towards the end of this film when his sister, who drives a large, impressive looking car and is making a rare visit to her sibling, asks, incredulously, “are you really cleaning toilets?”

In this remarkable film, Wenders turns this notion on its head. Welcome to the world of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), employee of The Tokyo Toilet Company, who has been doing the job for five or six years and takes great pride in it. He is part of a two-person detail, however his young co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto) doesn’t share his enthusiasm, often arriving late for his shift and looking at his mobile phone on the job.

Hirayama drives a small van and has invested in various tools to help him carry out the job; Takashi rides a motor scooter. Hirayama takes great pleasure in his audio cassette collection (The Animals, Lou Reed, Patti Smith) which he listens to on his van’s cassette player driving to and from work.… Read the rest

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Some recommendations
from
Ireland’s
Japanese Film Festival
2024

Runs from 11-27 April 2024.

Please click links to read reviews.

Blue Giant

Director – Yuzura Tachikawa – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 120m

*****

Three 18-year-olds form a jazz band with the aim of playing at Tokyo’s top jazz club

Evil Does Not Exist

Director – Ryosuke Hamaguchi – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

**

A small, unspoiled village community is visited by two representatives of a company planning to set up a glamping facility.

The First Slam Dunk

Director – Takehiko Inoue – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

A high school basketball team sets out to defeat the seemingly unstoppable league champions

Nominated for Technical Achievement in Sound Design at the London Critics Circle Film Awards 2024.

Lonely Castle In The Mirror

Director – Keiichi Hara – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 116m

*****

Seven children are sucked via mirrors in their homes into a mysterious castle perched high above a sea, presided over by a wolf queen, and prowled by a hungry wolf at night

Mondays: See You ‘This’ Week

Director – Ryo Takebayashi – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 82m

****

A comedy in which a group of office workers must find a way to escape the week-long time loop in which they find themselves trapped

Monster

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2023 – Japan – Cert.… Read the rest

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Io Capitano
(Io Capitano)

Director – Matteo Garrone – 2023 – Italy – Cert. 12a – 121m

*****

Two teenage Senegalese boys set out on a journey to Europe and a better life – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 5th

Garrone’s earlier features (Gomorrah, 2008; Tale of Tales, 2015; Dogman, 2018; Pinocchio, 2019) have a particular, muted look, making considerable use of browns and, to a lesser extent, greys or greyish colours. These were all films set in Garrone’s native Italy, featuring characters with an Italian perspective of one sort or another. This new film eschews all that and, while it’s recognisably the work of the same director, exhibits a completely different colour palette in accordance with its different location. It’s brighter and much less dingy.

The different look very much fits with the different intent. Garrone wanted to deal with migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe, but portray the journey from the migrants’ perspective rather than that of their destination countries. So this starts with two teenage, Senegalese boys who want to run away to Europe and is made in various African dialects, with the main one spoken by the two boys being recognisable as French.… Read the rest

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Yannick
(Yannick)

Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2023 – France – Cert. – 67m

*****

An audience member, unhappy with the play currently being performed, hijacks it with a gun to write something more entertaining himself – on Mubi UK from Friday, April 5th

NSFW. Absolutely worth seeing.

A play, The Cuckold, is being performed at a two-thirds empty Paris theatre. In the play, the husband (Marmaï Pio from Daaaaaali!, Quentin Dupieux, 2023) had learned from his wife (Blanche Gardin from Smoking Causes Coughing, Quentin Dupieux, 2022) that she is seeing another man. Couldn’t she wait until the weekend to tell him?

Worse, the man is ill, having picked up some sort of stomach bug from Kenya. Finally, the man – Bruno (Sébastien Chassagne from Mars Express, Jérémie Périn, 2023; The Truth, Hirokzu Kore’eda, 2019; Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014) – comes back from the lavatory. The wife wants to leave with Bruno. The husband tries to talk him into staying. Perhaps a bite from the fridge? The wife doesn’t want him to open the fridge.

At this point, audience member Yannick (Raphaël Quenard from Jeanne du Barry, Maïwenn, 2023; Smoking Causes Coughing) stands up.… Read the rest

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Evil Does Not Exist
(Aku wa Sonzai Shinai,
悪は存在しない)

Director – Ryosuke Hamaguchi – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

**

A small, unspoiled village community is visited by two representatives of a company planning to set up a glamping facility – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 5th

This starts and ends with a journey on foot through a forest with a viewpoint looking up at the branches of trees as quiet, meditative and arresting music by Eiko Ishibashi plays on the soundtrack.

A young girl of about eight (was it her viewpoint?) wanders through the woods.

A man chainsaws chopped tree trunks into small logs, then takes them near to his house to chop them for firewood. He puts several big, plastic cans in his car boot and drives out to a stream to fill them with water. Kazuo drops by to help the man load the filled bottles into his car. They hear gunshots, which the first man remarks he heard they were hunting in Kunihara.

At this point the first man Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) realises he’s forgotten to pick up his daughter from daycare, and drives over there to discover she’s given up waiting and walked home along. He finds her in the forest and gives Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), for that is her name, a piggyback home.… Read the rest

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Typhoon Club
(Taifu Kurabu,
台風クラブ)

Director – Shinji Somai – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

A group of teenagers is trapped inside their school by a typhoon – screenings around the UK and Ireland from Wednesday, April 3rd; also available on Blu-ray from Third Window Films

A film about teenagers which uses tropical weather conditions – in this instance, an approaching and then all-encompassing typhoon – as a catalyst for exploring character. Its bravura visual style engages from the get-go, with a shot looking across a swimming pool between two ropes of a lane with a child swimmer.

Thursday. A bunch of girls in bathing costumes including Yasuko (Tomoko Aizawa) lark about outside in what is obviously hot and humid weather – one runs through a shallow pool and turns on a water spray to catch the others as they follow, but soon their tomfoolery looks like it may have dire consequences as they all but drown the boy pool swimmer Akira (Toshiyuki Matsunaga). Fortunately, Kyoichi Mikami (Yuichi Mikami), who turns up with his friend Ken (Shigeru Benibayashi) in tow, is able to sort the situation out by administering artificial respiration.

Later, Akira and Mikami, with Ken smoking between the pair of them, hang out on a bamboo scaffolding structure discussing girls, including Yasuko’s lesbian activities with another girl.… Read the rest

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Hoarder on the Border
(Danshari Paradise,
断捨離パラダイス)

Director – Takayuki Kayano – 2022 – Japan – 101m

****

A failed pianist takes on a job at a cleaning company which specialises in decluttering houses filling up with rubbish – played UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

Promising young pianist Ritsuke Shirotaka (Ryo Shinoda), whose mantelpiece is adorned with prizes he won in school, can’t carry on due to hand tremors. His girlfriend pushes him towards eking out a living giving piano lessons, but that isn’t enough to stop her abandoning him.

In need of gainful employment, he interviews for and gets a job at cleaning company Danshari Paradise. (Note: Danshari is a Japanese philosophy of decluttering, based on principles that have been around in that culture a long time.)

This is a whole new world to him, and he must learn on the job. The houses or flats that the company deals with are typically places where you can’t see the floor for items of clothing and packaging that have been discarded there.

On his first assignment with such a team, Ritsuke attempts to physically pull blockages from a kitchen sink, only for a female colleague to pull him aside and pour liquid down the plughole to clear it.… Read the rest

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Restore Point
(Bod Obnovy)

Director – Robert Hloz – 2023 – Czech Republic – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

A detective investigates the murder of a couple, one of who helped create the technology for restoring people to life after they die – thought-provoking SF thriller is out UK on digital on Monday, April 1st

In essence this is a crime movie about corporate conspiracy and murder, but with a difference putting it into the real of science fiction – although given the speed at which current technological advances are taking place, it’s the sort of thing one can imagine being reality in a matter of years. It’s set in the not too distant future of Central Europe 2041, where technology has been developed to back up people to restore them to life should they die. This has been guaranteed by the State for anyone dying a violent, unnatural death following an increase in violent crime. This in turn is the result of growing social and economic inequality (an element not explored beyond an introductory intertitle on the screen).

This allows for fascinating plot variants to the crime genre. If someone is shot dead, they can be brought back to life within 48 hours – provided they have a backup and only so far as that backup is up-to-date.… Read the rest

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Concrete Utopia
(Konkeuriteu Yutopia,
콘크리트 유토피아)

Director – Eom Tae-hwa – 2023 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 130m

****1/2

A massive earthquake makes the residents of the sole Seoul apartment block still standing close their doors to survivors outside – out on UK digital platforms on Monday, April 1st

Concrete: a structural material made of aggregate, cement, and water. (Definition from Encyclopedia Britannica.) Harsh. Unyielding. Impenetrable. Opaque. Not alive. Commonly used in today’s world in the manufacture of buildings, and associated with Brutalist architecture.

Utopia: an ideal community whose inhabitants exist under seemingly perfect conditions. (Definition from Encyclopedia Britannica.) The English word derives from two Greek words, the compound meaning of which is nowhere. Hence, “seemingly”. Utopias tend to have some fatal flaw. If they didn’t, any story about them would lack dramatic conflict. Thus, the word carries within it a degree of irony.

The eponymous montage of these two words pits them against each other: an unyielding, dead physicality confronts the optimism of a better world. The title evokes JG Ballard’s novels Concrete Island (1974) and High-Rise (1975), the former about a stranded motorist struggling to survive on a spaghetti junction after a car accident, the latter about a newly built block of flats in which the residents descend through social breakdown towards a new order.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Disconnect Me

Director – Alex Lykos – 2023 – Australia – Cert. 12 – 87m

***1/2

A man attempts to live for 30 days without the use of his smartphone, tablet or computer – out on digital from Monday, April 1st

This documentary opens with an advisory to keep your phone handy during the screening, as you may be required to use it at some point. In the UK, it’s only available on digital platforms… but even so, that advisory marks it out as different from most films.

Lykos, who narrates his documentary, is old enough to have grown up without a smartphone or other digital devices, but kids today handle smartphones from a younger and younger age. What would happen, wonders Alex, if I disconnected myself for an entire month? His and his wife’s home contains their two smartphones, two tablets, and a TV. Learning that Alex wakes and checks his smartphone three or four times a night, Alex’s doctor wires him for a sleep test.

Like many of us, Alex finds himself spending an hour on social media and wondering, what just happened? He and others admit to feelings of envy when others post about good things in their lives. A near-tearful divorcee talks about it being hard seeing people having a good time with partner or family.… Read the rest

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Godzilla x Kong
The New Empire

Director – Adam Wingard – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

*****

Godzilla must leave the surface world to team up with Kong in the subterranean Hollow Earth below to defeat a powerful enemy – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

The latest movie in the Toho / Warner Bros. Godzilla / Kong Monsterverse is globetrotting in scope, with scenes of monsters wreaking havoc in Rome and Rio; its central conceit is that Godzilla roams the surface of the Earth fighting off other monsters which humanity would be unable to see off alone, while Kong, reconceived as a similar size to Godzilla, lives in the subterranean paradise of Hollow Earth.

With one beast on the outer rim of the planet and the other in a world beneath its surface, there is no possibility one will run into the other, which fight would be devastating for mankind. To make sure the two monsters remain isolated from one another, the huge Monarch organisation monitors both constantly.

Yet a terrible force is on the ascendant in Hollow Earth, one that neither Kong nor Godzilla would be able to contain let alone defeat on their own. And so, to save humanity, they must join forces and fight it.… Read the rest

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Silver Haze

Director – Sacha Polak – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 102m

*****

A young nurse – who seeks closure and revenge from being burned in a fire as a child – falls into a romantic attachment which may lead her towards a sense of community – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

This is the second collaboration between writer-director Polak and performer Vicky Knight, who in real life as a small child was burned in a fire and whose flesh is marked by the physical scars of that trauma. In Dirty God (2019), their first film together, Knight delivered a bravura performance as the victim of an acid attack.

In addition to her being compelling on the screen in that film, Knight apparently enjoyed the whole process of making and promoting it, and Polak wanted to do a further film with her, writing a twenty-page fictional treatment and then leaping into a shoot without fully knowing what she was doing. Her backers misunderstood her to be making a documentary about Knight, yet this is a work of fiction, using created characters to explore the effect of Knight’s real life trauma. If the scars are clearly visible on Knight’s body, what draws you in is something altogether beyond that, the trauma playing out in her interior life.… Read the rest

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Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus

Director – Neo Sora – 2023 – Japan – Cert. U – 103m

*****

Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto performs a final concert of his music in 2022, months before finally dying of cancer on March 28th, 2023 – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th, 2024

Released in the UK within a day of the anniversary of his passing, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s final concert is an intimate affair, shot in a sound studio by his son Neo Sora in crisp, iconic black and white, the sound of his piano recorded with state-of-the-art equipment. Within months of this performance, cancer would have taken him from us. This is very different from concert films where the performer(s) is / are still alive. Much of Sakamoto’s music tends towards the melancholy, and watching this remarkable, musical testament, one is constantly reminded of the fact that he is no longer with us.

Caught by the camera, he is clearly aware that he doesn’t have that much time left. One of the pieces, he struggles to get right. “This is too hard”, he says, “I need a break.” Nevertheless, the camera and sound recording equipment proceed to capture him playing his 20 chosen compositions with all the considerable skill of the great player that he is / was.… Read the rest

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The Lavender Hill Mob

Director – Charles Crichton – 1951 – UK – Cert. U – 78m

*****

A Bank of England employee stumbles upon the perfect means to rob his employer of the gold bullion he transports there on a daily basis– classic Ealing comedy is back out in a new 4k restoration in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

Holland (Alec Guinness) has a lowly job at the Bank of England supervising the transfer of recently minted bars of gold bullion to the bank’s secure vault by security van., He rides in the back and is forever asking the harried driver to check round the corner for suspected cars lying in wait to ambush the van. He is considered an honest nobody, an appearance he has cultivated for the best part of two decades. He has a mind to rob the van, if only he could work out how to smuggle the bullion out of the country.

Fate intervenes in the form of a newly arrived tenant at the downmarket Balmoral Guest House in Lavender Hill, where he lodges. Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) runs a business selling tourist tat, including lead models of the Eiffel Tour for selling at that Parisian monument. He melts the lead down on his London premises to cast it into the models.… Read the rest

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Drift

Director – Anthony Chen – 2023 – Singapore, UK, France, US – Cert. 15 – 93m

****

A Liberian woman and former London student from a privileged background has lost everything and lives on her wits in a Greek holiday resort until she makes a connection with a tour guide – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

A T-shirt-clad back sits on the beach, facing away from us, looking out to a calm, blue sky and sea. A figure of indeterminate gender at this point. In an isolated, unpopulated landscape. However, as this young black woman (Cynthia Erivo) starts to make her way around the place, elements of both are gradually revealed to us. She travels on a bus with white tourists to a small, sleepy town where Greek lettering on the shop signs gives us some idea of where we are. Later, she takes the return journey and is back on the beach. She washes her underwear (she appears to only have the one pair) and T-shirt in the sea, letting them dry in the sun while she shelters in a cave. She momentarily panics at the sight of a coastguard vessel before realising it’s merely a small fishing skiff.… Read the rest

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The Sweet East

Director – Sean Price Williams – 2023 – US – Cert. 18 – 104m

****

Dumping her boyfriend, a South Carolina high school student skips a class trip to Washington, DC and falls in with a series of outsiders living in their own isolated visions of America – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

Although this starts off with heroine Lilian (Talia Ryder from West Side Story, Stephen Spielberg, 2021) in bed with her boyfriend Troy (Jack Irv), and a lot of visible flesh, it’s not so much a sex scene as a scene in which two people talk about the ending of the movie they watched last night. Soon after, the pair and their classmates are piled into a coach, complete with tour guide, driving them to Washington, DC. When Troy and others lark around in hotel corridors, she doesn’t really feel part of what’s going on.

At a restaurant, she meets activist and body-piercing enthusiast Caleb (Earl Cave from True History of the Kelly Gang, Justin Kurzel, 2019, Days of the Bagnold Summer, Simon Bird, 2019), who without sexual intent shows her the piercings and metal studs encrusting his penis. Going with him and his fellow commune members to an activists’ event, she finds herself at an outdoor radicals’ fair where she meets Laurence (Simon Rex from Red Rocket, Sean Baker, 2021) to whom she gives her name as Annabelle and who kindly offers her a place to stay – his place in Delaware, no strings attached.… Read the rest

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The Shift

Director – Brock Heasley – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

***

A former hedge fund manager is separated from his wife when a mysterious stranger ‘shifts’ him into a parallel world devoid of hopeout on digital from Monday, March 25th and Blu-ray / DVD from Monday, April 1st following its release in cinemas in the UK on Friday, December 15th

A fully clothed, bloody-handed man unexpectedly finds himself in the middle of a lake, swims to shore and, in voice-over, introduces us to a flashback as to how he got there. Fearing for his job security in a stock market crash, Wall Street hedge fund manager Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha from Jurassic World Dominion, Colin Trevorrow, 2022; Mad Men TV series, 2007-9) hits a hotel bar where he is approached by Molly (Elizabeth Tabish from The Chosen TV series, 2019-2024) who was dared to get him to date her by her three drinking companions.

To both of their surprises the pair end up going on a date, and then, in a rapid fire montage, marrying and having a child, only to later lose the child and have their relationship slowly implode as a result. One day, everything falls finally apart: he (it’s about him, not her) has failed to pay some bills, misses an important early morning meeting at the office, and is hit by another car whilst driving home talking to her on the phone.… Read the rest

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Cape Fear
(1991)

Director – Martin Scorsese – 1991 – US – Cert. 18 – 128m

*****

A vicious ex-con seeks revenge on the family of the lawyer he sees responsible for his incarceration in prison – review from Strait – the Greenbelt Newspaper, March 1992.

Directed by Martin Scorsese with characteristic and frenetic energy, Cape Fear is his best movie in years. It ranks not so much alongside The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, file under embarrassing personal projects along with Until the End of the World, Wim Wenders, 1991) but rather as a companion piece to early collaborations with actor Robert De Niro like Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980).

Here, the actor is first glimpsed from behind as a muscled torso tattooed with the Scales of Justice and numerous biblical verses. It’s a foretaste of things to come.

While the original Cape Fear (J. Lee Thompson, 1962) had Robert Mitchum as ex-con Max Cady who terrorises the lawyer (and his wife and daughter) responsible for his prosecution, Scorsese’s remake borrows religious elements from another Mitchum-as-villain vehicle, Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955), in which his character justifies his actions in fundamentalist Christian terminology.

De Niro’s Cady is specifically a self-designated vessel of judgement upon the lawyer and his kin.… Read the rest

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Ghostbusters
Frozen Empire

Director – Gil Kenan – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

****

Back in New York, running the family Ghostbusters business out of the old fire station, the Spenglers must thwart an evil entity who possesses the power to freeze things – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 22nd

This sequel to Ghostbusters Afterlife (Jason Reitman, 2021), written by the same three-man writing team of father and son Ivan and Jason Reitman and Ghostbusters geek Gil Kenan, picks up and runs with some of the strengths of its predecessor even as it dispenses with others. One thing it dumps is the previous entry’s completely out-there originality; instead, it follows the time-honoured principle of Hollywood movie sequels: go out and make the first movie again.

It’s basically a rehash of the original Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) with the younger generation of Spenglers standing in for the old, and with Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd), Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) from the original helping the newer characters out. There is not, perhaps, as much of Bill Murray as one would like, and his heart doesn’t seem to be in it. Otherwise, though, fans of the franchise will probably be happy.… Read the rest

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Robot Dreams

Director – Pablo Berger – 2023 – Spain – Cert. PG – 102m

*****

In need of a companion, Dog builds Robot – but then, disaster strikes – charming, dialogue-free 2D animation is out in UK cinemas Friday, 22nd March following its screenings in the 2023 London Film Festival

The 1980s. Brooklyn. The East Village. Bored with endless, cook from frozen macaroni cheese meals from the fridge and channel hopping or playing both parts of computerised table tennis against himself, Dog longs for a companion. To this end, he buys a DIY self-assembly kit from which he builds Robot. For a short period, the pair are inseparable, walking and eating hot dogs together in Central Park, but then disaster strikes after Robot swims in the sea when the pair visit the beach. When it’s time to go home, his battery power is depleted, and he can’t move.

So Dog has to leave incapacitated Robot there. He buys books on robots from the local bookstore to work out how to repair his friend. Alas, on arrival at the beach, he discovers it’s closed since yesterday was the last day of the Summer season. A less than sympathetic cop won’t listen to his entreaties and sends him packing; Dog later returns with bolt cutters and removed the chain and padlock preventing entry, but is apprehended by the unsympathetic policeman before he can rescue Robot.… Read the rest

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Immaculate

Director – Michael Mohan – 2023 – US – Cert. – 89m

***

A virginal, American, novice nun cloistered in an Italian convent finds herself mysteriously pregnant – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 22nd

A young nun attempts to flee a convent in the middle of the night, but before she can gate the gate open with a key on a large bunch is caught by mysterious nuns with red coverings over their faces, and finds herself buried alive in a coffin. This opening sequence doesn’t bode well for any new nun entering the convent such as the novice Sister Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney, also the film’s producer, from Reality, Tina Satter, 2023), a young woman from a parish in the US that closed down, forcing her to seek a position elsewhere, and who believes God wants her to enter this particular convent, which doubles as a care home for ageing nuns run by Father Tedeschi (Álvaro Morte) and the incumbent Mother Superior (Dora Romano). The premises are built over a network of catacombs.

Before taking her vows on the day she arrives – of which she is told she could opt out beforehand if she doesn’t want to go through with them – Sister Cecilia is entrusted into the care of Sister Isabelle (Giulia Heathfield Di Renzi), an embittered type who doesn’t feel anything like a woman who has given herself to the service of God.… Read the rest

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Full Time
(À Plein Temps)

Director – Eric Gravel – 2021 – France – Cert. 12a – 87m

*****

A single mum with two young kids struggles to hold her working life together in a Paris where the transport network in and out of the city is paralysed by strikes – on BBC iPlayer until end 2024 following its release in UK cinemas on Friday, May 26th 2023

The brief moment of calm at the start gives little indication of the relentless nature of what is to follow. Julie Roy (Laure Calamy) sleeps deeply, a figure at rest, as we watch parts of her face in close-ups. Suddenly, this tranquillity is shattered by the aural violation of the quiet by an alarm clock. As she gets the kids up, the radio blares out something about an increase in working hours and something else about the welfare state. The impression is of the microcosm of her life and the macrocosm of the wider world (France) in a state of crisis. She bundles her kids off to the child-minder’s and boards a pre-dawn train to Paris. The train is terminated because of an unwell passenger, so she has to switch to a bus to get to St. Lazare, and as she is trying to get to The Churchill, the luxury hotel where she works as a head chambermaid, she must fend off a mobile phone call about her mortgage repayments.… Read the rest

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Monster
(Kaibutsu,
怪物)

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 126m

****

The mother of a school pupil believes her son is being abused by his teacher, who in turn protests his own innocence, yet the truth is more complex – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 15th

A movie at once spellbinding and infuriating, as a seemingly straightforward narrative is retold from different points of view and shifts subtly as further details emerge. It’s not a film to see if you’re tired, as it requires considerable attention on the part of the audience.

It starts off with a child’s feet walking along a patch of wasteland at night, sirens in the distance and then a blazing urban building which his single-parent mother Saori Mugino (Sakura Ando from Godzilla Minus One, 2023; Shoplifters, 2018 and Love Exposure, 2008) summons her son Minato (Soya Kurokawa) out onto their flat’s balcony to watch. Overheard conversation later suggests that not only was there a hostess bar on the third floor of the burning building, but that Minato’s teacher Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama from Toshiaki Toyoda’s 9 Souls, 2003 and Blue Spring, 2001) used to go there.… Read the rest

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The Lyricist Wannabe
(Tin4 Ci4 L,
填詞L,
lit. Lyrics Nerd / Dickhead)

Director – Norris Wong – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12a – 112m

****

A girl pursues her dream of becoming a Cantopop lyricist – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 15th

The movies are full of rags-to-riches stories in which someone dreams of becoming a star, works hard to achieve that, and it ultimately all comes true. While that can happen, because in real life there are clearly stars out there, in most cases it doesn’t. This film follows a similar path: a girl gives her all to achieve her chosen dream but ultimately doesn’t make it, which is probably a far more common occurrence than the one in which the aspirant succeeds.

Law Wing Sze (Chung Suet-Ying) is a student at a church school run by nuns. She doesn’t read music, but is obsessed by Cantopop and wants to write lyrics, spending much time rewriting lyrics of old Cantopop songs such as Infernal Affairs which she rewrites as Student Affairs. For this endeavour she is summoned to Sister Che’s office where the nun / teacher helpfully gives her a crit session and suggests she change certain words to more accurately express what she’s trying to say without unintended double entendres.… Read the rest

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All of Us Strangers

Director – Andrew Haigh – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 105m

*****

A gay Londoner travels by train to visit his parents in Sanderstead, following their deaths in a car crash when he was 12 years old – out on digital from Tuesday, March 12th

He (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a London tower block. Not only is he the single occupant of his flat, there’s almost no-one else in the building. When he goes outside for a breath of fresh air, he sees a guy in the window of one of the other apartments. Later, there’s a knock at his door. It’s the guy (Paul Mescal), who is slightly drunk, comes on strong and tries to get himself invited in. The visitor’s name is Harry. The occupant introduces himself as Adam, but doesn’t let Harry in.

By day, Adam writes screenplays. But he’s got stuck, so after perusing some personal effects, he takes the train to Sanderstead. There, he watches a boy in a window. He follows a man across an area of parkland. Coming out of a shop, the man spots him and asks him to come over. You think it might be a pickup – but no, it’s his dad (Jamie Bell).… Read the rest

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Padre Pio

Director – Abel Ferrara – 2022 – Germany, Italy – Cert. 15 – 104m

***1/2

Post-WW1, In San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, a Catholic mystic undergoes temptation while down in the village, armed landowners and military officers attempt to halt the rising tide of socialism – out on Blu-ray, DVD & DL from Monday, March 11th

Ferrara has long been something of an outsider, working with small budgets. This current offering is highly uneven, very strong and moving in places, betrayed by a lack of planning and resources in others. Perhaps its besetting sin (to use Christian religious parlance) is that it doesn’t deliver exactly what it sets out to: this is not exactly a portrait of early 20th Century, Catholic mystic Pio (Shia LaBeouf). The friar really only forms half of the film – arguably its weaker half – dealing only intermittently with his life from arrival in the impoverished Italian village of San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916 through to his visitation by Jesus and first manifestation of stigmata some years later.

The other half of the film, running in parallel to this, deals with the aftermath of World War One in that same village, as men return from the Front to be reunited with wives and mothers.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

Pachyderm
(Pachyderme)

Director – Stéphanie Clément – 2022 – France – 11m

*****

A nine-year-old struggles with the trauma that befalls her at her grandpa’s – nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2024 Academy Awards, VoD details below review

She’s nine (voice-over: Christa Theret), and in the Summer she goes to stay with granny and grandpa. She plays on a swing, missing mum and dad, she watches a cabbage white butterfly in the garden. The house is tidy, ordered, perhaps obsessively so. It smells of polish; the kitchen smells of bleach. Tomorrow, grandpa will take her to the lake, where he likes to fish. To get to her bedroom, she must pass the big, intimidating horn mounted at the top of the stairs, a hunting trophy from a pachyderm. In her room, she can see eyes watching her from the wood grain of the ceiling timbers. She doesn’t sleep by counting sheep; she kills monsters. As the floorboards creak outside her door, she hides in the wallpaper, in the flowers, in sleep. After all, as grandma says, what could happen?

Before the trip, she accidentally pricks a finger on one of grandpa’s fishing hooks – lures, as they call them – but grandpa kisses the cut better with the kiss that heals all things.… Read the rest

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Animation Live Action Movies Shorts

Letter to a Pig

Director – Tal Kantor – 2022 – France, Israel – 17m

*****

Under the watchful eye of an authoritarian teacher, as a class of bored teenagers listens to a visiting Holocaust survivor recount his experiences, one of their number daydreams about the pig with which the survivor shared a barn – nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2024 Academy Awards, VoD details below review

A figure (voice: Indra Maharik) with one shoe flees, running through a forest. “Nothing mattered”, says the old man sitting, his hands clasped together on the desk, in front of the schoolroom of bored Israeli teenagers. Haim (voice: Alexander Peleg) is recounting his experiences under the Nazi regime, but the teenagers would rather be somewhere else. Haim tells how he fled to a barn, where the pig there effectively saved his life. The severe teacher (voice: Ayelet Margalit) ejects one of them for remarking, “oink, oink”. Haim, recounting the past, talks about people capable of hate not deserving to live; he has clearly been unable to forgive those who acted on behalf of the Nazi regime.

Drifting off into a reverie, in her mind’s eye, one girl (voice: Moriyah Meerson) sees the SS send a pig to pursue the boy through the forest.… Read the rest

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Do Not Expect Too Much
from
the End of the World
(Nu Astepta Prea Mult
de la Sfârsitul Lumii)

Director – Radu Jude – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 163m

*****

The daily, working life of an overworked production assistant on a corporate film about victims of industrial accident – plays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th, and is out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 8th

Angela (Ilinka Manolache) wakes in her mess of an apartment. Another busy day of overwork. She drives to the homes of serial, prospective interviewees for the corporate film on which she is currently working as a production assistant to evaluate their suitability for the film and take mobile phone videos of them herself.

Whenever she gets a spare moment, she posts on TikTok using a filter that changes her head into that of a man, and under the name Bobita posts colourful and sweary, verbal rants about the British Royal family and other topics. Suffering from sleep deprivation, she dozes during the afternoon production meeting and keeps the radio on while driving to prevent sleeping at the wheel.

Towards the end of the day, she finds time for an in-car assignation with her lover, but that doesn’t last long as she has to go and pick up the production’s corporate commissioning marketing person Doris Goethe (Nina Hoss), direct descendant of the famous writer, from the airport.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Origin

Director – Ava DuVernay – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 135m

***

A US journalist researches a book reinterpreting US racist attitudes to black people through both the Nazi’s segregation of Jews and the Indian caste system’s treatment of Dalits – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 8th

This is based on both the 2020 nonfiction book Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents and its author US journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson’s journey in writing that book. Highly effective in putting the first of those elements on the screen, the screenplay, credited to both DuVernay and Wilkerson, proves much more uneven in its attempts to do so with the second.

Wilkerson’s thesis looks at the US’ historic racist treatment of black people through the lens of a caste system. The term caste system derives from the Western European analysis of Indian society, and to a lesser extent other South Asian societies, in which certain designated groups are elevated above others to produce and maintain a social hierarchy. As portrayed here in the film, the book looks firstly at the US in these terms – a caste system favouring white people over blacks – then Nazi Germany – a caste system favouring Germans over Jews, a radical use of caste as an historical analytical tool I have never come across before – and finally India – a caste system putting the Dalits, the untouchables who traditionally clean latrines, at the bottom of the pile below everyone else.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The Inventor

Directors – Jim Capobianco, Pierre-Luc Granjon – 2023 – US, France, Ireland – Cert. PG – 100m

****

Towards the end of his life, inventor Leonardo da Vinci goes to live in France under the patronage of the King – stop frame / drawn animation composite is out in the UK’s Vue cinemas on Friday, March 8th

Rome, Italy, 1516. Leonardo da Vinci (voice: Stephen Fry) happily shows off a giant optical system of magnifying glasses for observing the heavens to his assistant Francesco Melzi (voice: Angelino Sandri). Francesco retorts that Leonardo ought to be worried about the Pope who has spies everywhere (and sure enough, there are eyes watching from nearby peepholes). Leonardo’s other assistant, the hulking, mute Zoroastro sources corpses for him, on which the curious Leonardo performs dissections and studies what he finds through making drawings in his quest for find the animated spirit of man, a search which, in dreams and visions, often leads him into confrontation with a mysterious, gargantuan, dark-hooded figure.

The inventor is summoned to Pope Leo X (voice: Matt Berry) who wants to know, why can’t Leonardo just make pretty things? The arrival of a messenger whose helmet is half crushed by a cannonball leads Leo to suggest Leonardo fashion him machines of war.… Read the rest

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The Beast
(La Bête)
(2023)

Director – Bertrand Bonello – 2023 – France – Cert. 15 – 146m

*****

Required to expunge her emotions by the ruling AI of 2044, a woman with a sense of dread revisits her past lives in 1910 and 2014 and their incarnations of the love of her life – curious mix of art house movie and science fiction plays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th, and is out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 31st

An actress (Léa Seydoux) against green screen rehearses a scene in a house – the director’s voice tells her where the stairs and other features are in relation to her position and marks on the floor. With these minimal visuals but with the addition of music and full sound effects, she works through the scene up to the point where she sees the terrifying shadow of the Beast on a wall and screams. Consciously or unconsciously, this echoes the screen test on the boat of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) in King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933) as she is required to scream at an unseen, gargantuan monster for the camera.

As in Kong, this scene anticipates one that will play out later in the film.… Read the rest

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The Old Man
And The Land

Director – Nicholas Parish – 2023 – UK – Cert. none – 100m

*****

As he works on the land, an aging farmer hears his two adult children argue about the future of the family farmplays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th following its premiere in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where it was the best film out of a superb lot

Movies. You think everything’s been done, then along comes something you’ve never seen before. Or, in this case, seen or heard before.

The Old Man in question is an English farmer (Roger Marten) whose family have worked the land for generations. He’s getting on in years, so won’t be around forever. His wife died a while ago, so he’s now running the farm on his own. He has two children who have long since grown up and left home: a son (voice: Rory Kinnear) and a daughter (voice: Emily Beecham), and the big question is, when he dies, will they take over – or will they get rid of the farm?

In recent years, the UK has produced a number of rural movies that stand in stark contrast to the urban- (Often London-) based films produced.… Read the rest

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The End We Start From

Director – Mahalia Belo – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 102m

***1/2

As parts of the UK are flooded and submerged by an ecological disaster, a woman births a baby she must then bring up – on Digital from Monday, March 4th following its release in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

On the one hand, this starts off with a woman (Jodie Comer) giving birth and then experiencing the process of being a new mother, with all the joys and stresses that entails. On the other, this shows the UK being overtaken and flooded by an eco-disaster, and how people respond to that situation both individually and en masse. The second scenario is reminiscent of any number of disaster and / or science fiction movies about flooding, apocalypse or dystopia (When Worlds Collide, Rudolph Maté, 1951; Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, 2006; Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds, 1995): if you approach this movie expecting something like that, you’re going to be disappointed, because although that element is very much present in the film, it’s little more than the backdrop.

It plays more like a road movie, in which the heroine – the husband having dropped out of the narrative towards the end of the first reel – meets a series of people on her travels, each of whom offer their own individual insight into the state of things and how the new mother might move forward.… Read the rest