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Features Live Action Movies

Minari

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

***1/2

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

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

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

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Features Live Action Movies

The Reckoning

Director – Neil Marshall – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 111m

***

A woman accused of witchcraft finds herself pitted in a battle of wills against her witchfinder torturer at the time of the Great Plague – on digital from Friday, April 16th and Shudder UK from Thursday, 13th May

On the one hand, this explores the historical time period of the Great Plague and links that directly with women being burned at the stake for witchcraft by way of a widespread, social scapegoating process. On the other, it depicts a horribly misogynistic society where, for the most part women are regarded as inferior and treated really badly. Two sides of the same coin.

The film itself is mixed. Parts feel hackneyed, parts will have you on the edge of your seat. The cliché-ridden opening, for instance, cross-cuts chocolate box-y photography of a cottage-dwelling couple’s idyllic, married existence in the constantly sunlit countryside with the wife digging a grave in torrential rain after finding her husband has hanged himself from a tree at night.

It transpires that farmer Joseph Haverstock (Joe Anderson) stopped off for a pint at the local tavern and accidentally drank the beer of a plague victim, contracting the disease.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Effie Gray

Director – Richard Laxton – 2014 – UK – Cert. 12A – 104m

****

The eponymous heroine marries art critic John Ruskin who then fails to consummate their relationship – in Virtual Cinemas and on VoD from Monday, April 19th and BD/DVD Special Collector’s Edition from Monday, May 31st

The real life story of Effie Gray provides a fascinating footnote to an episode of English art history. At age 19, she married ascendant critic John Ruskin but for reasons we shall probably never fully know, their sexual relationship was never consummated and she had the marriage annulled six years later. Meanwhile, she had got to know Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais through Ruskin, marrying him a year after the annulment. Effie’s second marriage was to prove a much happier affair and she bore John eight children.

The story has been dramatised numerous times, mostly either on radio or screen, as well as the odd stage play, short story or novel. Emma Thompson’s slow and deliberate screenplay may be the first time the story has been put on the big screen in a full length feature (one of the very first adaptations was the silent short The Love Of John Ruskin, Van Dyke Brooke, 1912).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Promising Young Woman

Director – Emerald Fennell – 2020 – US – Cert. US R – 113m

*****

A med school dropout seeks revenge on the students and others complicit in her best friend’s rape years before – on Sky Cinema and Now from Friday, April 16th

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) goes to bars, gets wasted and is picked up by men whose intentions are less than honourable. However, all is not what it seems – before you can shout spoiler alert (and we’re not going to because this is the start of the film, given away in the trailer and effectively part of the narrative set up) she’s not wasted at all, only pretending. Depending on exactly how dishonourable these men’s intentions are, she exacts her revenge accordingly.

These acts are premeditated in the sense that she goes out, entraps men and does what she does, but not in the sense that she knows any of the men beforehand. Indeed, they choose her, so you could argue their fate is self-inflicted. And were any of them to behave chivalrously – take her home, put her to bed, not try to take sexual advantage, perhaps phone the next day to check she was okay – she’d probably look favourably on them for doing the decent thing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

True Mothers (Asa ga Kuru, 朝が来る)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 140m

*****

An unmarried mum hands her child over to adoptive parents only to later decide that she wants the child back – Japan’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars is screening on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, April 16th

Naomi Kawase’s new film True Mothers deals with the interface between unwanted teen pregnancy and infertility among married couples and was Japan’s entry for this year’s Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. Sadly, it didn’t make the Academy’s shortlist. However, UK audiences up and down the land will now be able to see it on Curzon Home Cinema. It had a brief UK big screen outing late last year at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), which, after several months of touch-and-go somewhat incredibly went ahead days before the UK went back into total lockdown.

Former documentarian Kawase has been getting a lot of exposure in the UK in recent years with both Sweet Bean (2015) and The Mourning Forest (2007) released here on Eureka! Video and Still the Water (2014) currently available on MUBI and BFI Player. I like Kawase but I must admit True Mothers sounded like it might be terrible.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Tracey (翠絲)

Director – Li Jun – 2018 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 119m

*****

It’s complicated. Upon hearing of the death of his oldest and dearest friend, a fiftysomething questions the edifice of family life he has constructed around himself over the decades – screened online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Tung Tai-hung (Philip KeungA Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019) is wakened from a dream by a phone call. In the dream, he’s a teenager hanging out with his friends Ching (Wong Yat-ho) and Jun (Sham Ka-ki) by a local waterfall. The phone caller informs him of Ching’s death. For years Tai-hung has been using the loo at work to change into the ladies undergarments he never wears at home where it’s unlikely he’d be able to hide their wearing from his misophobic wife Anne (Kara Wai) who recently shocked their son Vincent (Ng Siu Hin – A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019, Mad World, Wong Chun, 2016) by badmouthing the maid Parti (Candy Knutzen Darwati) after going through the latter’s things and finding a packet of condoms.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Old Man And A Dog (老人與狗)

Director – Ryan Chan Hon-yan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

*****

A security guard nearing the end of his life is given an ageing, dying dog by his grandson – online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

When they’re in the hospital waiting for grandpa while he sees the doctor, Ka Chun (Karson Chan Ka Hei) asks his mum (Ivy PangTracey, Li Jun, 2018), “how come grandpa doesn’t have a dog?” There follows a huge row between Ms. Chan and the medical staff when she learns they’re not operating on her father because he’s signed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ papers. The boy, meanwhile, stands beside his grandpa’s bedside. His grandpa (Paul Carr) is on a ventilator.

The elder Mr. Chan visits the hospital on his own. The clock that’s fallen off the wall in the doctor’s office seems to presage his own demise. His boss (Toby Cheng) at the security firm tells him not to come in, he’s too ill. The firm will compensate him, so there are no financial issues.

Ka Chun visits grandpa at home – bringing with him a dog called (somewhat hilariously to English ears) Ah-fuk.… Read the rest

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Features Movies Shorts

Taste Of Tomato (蕃茄田)

Director – Li Ho – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

***1/2

A human finger fragment turns up inside a tomato in an out of town vegetable plot – FREE TO VIEW in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Four characters in a vegetable garden out of town, three men and one woman. No names are exchanged. Some pretty basic living conditions. It’s not exactly clear what they do for a living, but snatches of conversations give hints. One talks about removing two kidneys from a man who, when they opened him up, turned out to have four. So he took out two as a favour, because the guy would probably have died had he left them in. There’s a pre-title sequence in which a man drives through a long underpass, parks at a garden in the dark then starts digging. Intimations of cloak and dagger lifestyles.

Events start to leave a strange taste in the mouth when one of them bits into a tomato and summons the others to show them it contains about an inch’s worth of dead human finger (the bit with the fingernail).… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

GoGo Club (梁韻怡)

Director – Rei Leung Wan-yi – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ –25m

*****

The progress of a former nightclub employee following his fortuitous encounter with a girl in a panda suit – FREE TO VIEW online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

At age six, Yin (Matt Jiu Kai Laam) was brought by his mother (Gaga Tse Ka Wai) to the Golden Rose nightclub where she worked as a live-in cleaner and odd job person as the grown up Yin describes in voiceover narration. He doesn’t mention her suavely suited manager (Tony Ho Wah Chiu – Our Time Will Come, Ann Hui, 2017; Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002; Dead Or Alive: Final, Takashi Miike, 2002) is a permanent fixture propping up the enquiries desk window counter. At age 26, Yin (Shaopin Tsui) is told by the manager that today is his last day. In fact it’s also the manager’s last day because the Golden Rose is closing down. Enquiring about his missing back pay, Yin is given the company’s very expensive car to sell for profit which turns out to be an old van covered in dust. … Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Ali And Me (我和阿里的故事)

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

****

A cricket-obsessed Chinese-Indian, Muslim boy and a Chinese music student get to know each other after being put on neighbouring desks in class – FREE TO VIEW online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

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

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