Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Beasts Clawing At Straws (Jipuragirado Japgo Sipeun Jimseungdeul, 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들)

Director – Kim Yong-hoon– 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

A number of individuals in dire financial straits do whatever they can to get hold of a bag of money – on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 6th and Digital from Monday, August 23rd

Seemingly disparate plot strands suggest a group of separate stories about to be narrated in parallel, but in fact they’re all part of the same story and eventually converge in this compelling thriller involving an ensemble of characters and a bag of money. A number of the characters are in dire and indeed impossible financial circumstances with no obvious way out. The bag of money, when it turns up in each of their lives, represents a possible escape route for each of them.

Lowly bathhouse attendant Jung-man (Bae Seong-woo) finds the abandoned carryall stuffed full with wads of banknotes in a locker on the premises. Of course, the right thing to do would be to hand it in to his boss, but his boss is a nasty piece of work who fires any employee who’s late twice. Besides, Jung-man’s incontinent mother (Youn Yuh-jung) who lives in his home has dementia, refuses to wear incontinence pads and makes life hell for his wife who works a menial cleaner’s job at the airport.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Muscle

Director – Gerard Johnson – 2019 – UK – Cert. 18 – 110m

****

Pump it up! A man dissatisfied with his life comes under the influence of a manipulative bodybuilding trainer – on Sky and NOW from Tuesday, June 1st

Newcastle, UK. Simon (Cavan Clerkin) is at a dead end working days in a dodgy telesales job he hates and coming home at night to his partner Sarah (Polly Maberly) who no longer loves him. Whatever attracted her to him has gone. Looking for a way to move forward, Simon sees a man walk confidently out of a doorway and on realising it’s a local gym, decides to join. It’s not long before he’s under the influence of fellow member Terry (Craig Fairbrass), an ex-forces type who takes him under his wing as a personal trainer to help him transform his body. Under Terry’s influence, Simon changes his diet, reduces his drinking with colleagues to virtually nil and is suddenly achieving top sales at work. None of that is enough to stop Sarah leaving him.

Terry is however not what he initially seems. He suggests first he then his friend Crystal (Lorraine Burroughs) move into Simon’s house to help pay the bills then instigates increasingly orgiastic parties with his friends as if the place was his own.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Woman Who Ran (Domangchin Yeoja, 도망친 여자)

Director – Hong Sang Soo – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12A – 77m

*****

Three women – plus one. An urban woman’s visits to three out-of-town friends gently calls into question both their and her everyday lives – at Curzon Bloomsbury and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, December 11th, then on MUBI from Sunday, December 20th

Seoul resident Gam-hee (Kim Min-hee) is away from her husband for a few days and while he’s on a rare business trip is taking the opportunity to visit old friends. As she explains to each of them, her husband says that people in love should stick to each other. She feels loved.

Yet this mantra is called into question by the presence and lives of the three women she visits. Divorcee Young-soon (Seo Young-hwa) has a nice little apartment which she shares with a flatmate Young-ji (Lee Eun-mi) who is an incredible cook. Su-young (Song Seon-mi), who puts together dance performances, has discovered a nice little local bar full of artists, architects and other creative types. Woo-jin (Kim Sae-byuk) is tiring of her famous author husband Mr. Jung (Kwon Hae-hyo) who she thinks talks too much.

Jung is only seen briefly towards the end and is representative of the men in the film in that he is a peripheral character in the drama.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

No.7 Cherry Lane (Jiyuantai Qihao)

Director – Yonfan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12A – 125m

*****

The tutor of an 18 year old girl falls for her mother who hired him against the background of the 1967 protest marches in Hong Kong – sumptuous Closing Gala film from the recently wrapped London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)

Insofar as this is like anything else – which it really isn’t – it’s like a reworking of The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) filtered through In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000). Oh, and it’s 3D rendered then 2D animated. Broadly speaking, The Graduate is about a young man seduced by a much older, bored housewife before later becoming romantically involved with her daughter. In The Mood For Love is set in early 1960s Hong Kong and includes a sequence on a sloping pedestrian street where a man passes a women walking in the opposite direction, the whole thing charged with a sense of romantic longing. There;’s a similar scene in No.7 Cherry Lane, although it’s considerably less central to the plot than the one in In The Mood For Love.

Yonfan, here making his first film in ten years, would certainly agree that filmic and literary references abound in the film.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Bone Tomahawk

Director – S.Craig Zahler – 2015 – US – 18 – 132m

*****

Western with cannibals substituted for Red Indians proves hugely entertaining – on BFI Player from Monday, December 14th

Watching Bone Tomahawk is to watch a series of Wild West vignettes with a small number of characters in different locations – a primitive burial ground, a living room, a sheriff’s office, a crime scene in a stable, camp fires on a cross-country trail, a cave occupied by cannibals. It is also to follow a series of characters – a sheriff (Kurt Russell) given to shooting suspicious people in the legs, a foreman (Patrick Wilson) with an injured leg, his wife (Lili Simmons) a medical practitioner, a ladies man (Matthew Fox) with a reputation for killing Indians and an enthusiastic, second deputy sheriff (Richard Jenkins) eager to do the job. With a masterful understanding of characterisation, the script outwits its audience at every turn while the cast do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life on the screen. Made on a shoestring budget, it’s a real pleasure to watch, a reminder of just how great the best movies can be.

Original UK theatrical release date 19/02/2016.

Reviewed for Third Way, which ceased publication in April 2016.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Better Days (Shaonian De Ni, 少年的你)

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

***1/2

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

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

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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Detention (Fanxiao, 返校)

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

****

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

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

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

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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Adoration

Director – Fabrice du Welz – 2019 – Belgium – 107m

*****

Boy meets girl. Alas, girl is in a psychiatric hospital convinced that the world is out to get her… in this filthy genius Belgian movie – from the BFI London Film Festival and available on BFI Player from Friday, December 11th

Twelve-year-old Paul (Thomas Gioria, familiar here as the child in Custody (Xavier Legrand, 2017) likes caring for animals. Such as, for example, the fallen chaffinch he discovers at the bottom of the tree in which he’s building a treehouse. He’s used to foraging outside for food. He spends much time in the woods surrounding the mental institution where his single parent mum works and has their accommodation. One of her conditions of employment, stressed by her female boss Dr. Loisel (Gwendolyn Gourvenec), is that Paul not have any contact with any of the institution’s patients.

One day, his playing is interrupted by the arrival of a girl about his own age in a red dress. The staff are looking for Gloria (Fantine Harduin). Before they find her and take her back into their care, she and Paul have made friends. Aware of the rules, he has admonished her that the institution must not even so much as see them together.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

County Lines

Gang life

County Lines
Directed by Henry Blake
Certificate 15, 90 minutes
Released 4 December

*****

‘Do you know what an acceptable loss is?’, a voice asks a teenage boy. ‘In your business, you’re the acceptable loss.’ County Lines may be this year’s hardest hitting movie, a British drama about a vulnerable boy groomed into working for county lines drug networks. A tough film to watch that deserves to be widely seen, not least by teenagers, it’s an uncompromising look at a pressing social issue… [Read more]

Read the full review in Reform.

In cinemas and on VoD platforms including BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and IFI Online.

Trailer: