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Features Live Action Movies

Cruella

Director – Craig Gillespie – 2020 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 134m

****

A 101 Dalmatians prequel. How a girl named Estella unleashed her darker personality of Cruella de Vil – in cinemas from Friday, May 28th

Disney’s project of mining their pantheon of animated classics for live action feature material continues. Here it’s the turn of Cruella de Vil, the villain from 101 Dalmatians (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman, 1961), and a very clever reimagination it is too. It commences with her birth and cleverly conceals certain significant details of her upbringing only to reveal them at the tale’s climax and give everything that went before a completely new spin.

Estella (Tipper Siefert-Cleveland) is the daughter of Catherine (Emily Beecham). Befriended at school by Anita Darling (Florisa Kamara) but picked on by bullies, Estella gives as good as she gets, fights back and gets expelled for figuratively blotting her copybook. 

So her mother pays a visit to former employer the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) seeking help. But thanks to Estella’s refusal to do as she’s told and stay in the car and her dog Buddy’s strikingly similar refusal to obey Estella this plan goes fatally wrong.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Very Hungry Caterpillar And Other Stories

Director – Andrew Goff – 1994 – UK – Cert. U – 35m

*****

VHS tape review from What’s On In London sometime back in the mid-1990s, republished here to coincide with the sad news of writer / illustrator Eric Carle’s death at 91.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories is based on the stories of German writer / illustrator Eric Carle and genuinely manages to make infant learning a fun experience. The title story, for instance, traverses days of the week, basic numeracy and simple sentence structure at the same time (“On Monday, he ate one apple, but he was still hungry. On Tuesday, he ate two pears…”) aided by a Roger McGough voice over that would stand up pretty well as a pre-recorded audio cassette in its own right.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The film has further fun still with the animation medium. The caterpillar is cleverly reconceived as a series of joined-up flat shapes, while the cut-out animation techniques used prove not only the perfect vehicle for Carle’s material, but are imaginatively used which renders them watchable over and over again by adults and children alike.

Other Carle stories featured include The Very Quiet Cricket and I See A Song.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nomadland

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

****1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Sound Of Metal

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

****1/2

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

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

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

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Music

vs Amp

Colin Webster: baritone saxophone, Fender Twin Reverb and Bassman Amps.

All tracks recorded live. No overdubs, effects or edits.

Raw Tonk Records RT050 / 2021

LP + DL

*****

Remarkable. With no overdubs or other studio trickery, Webster manages to make his sax sound variously like a weird electronic effect, a duck, a didgeridoo, a fog horn, the engine of a prop aircraft, a lawn mower and, in the final moments of the last track, the sound of water disappearing down a plug hole. And that’s just side one!!!

The opening of side two sounds like a double bass (but it’s Colin’s sax). At another point, I could swear I was listening to the mating call of a walrus or the much lighter in tone song of some species of bird.

I realise what I’m writing here is probably open to misinterpretation, so just to clarify, this album is really, really impressive. To my ears, at least.

Buy on Bandcamp.

Note: This review started life as a review on my Bandcamp page after I bought the album. Their allowed word count was too small. I didn’t want to cut it as what I’d written would have lost something.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Apples (Mila, Μηλα)

Where are we now?

Apples
Directed by Christos Nikou
Certificate 12a, 91 minutes
Greece
Released 07 May on Curzon Home Cinema,
17th May in cinemas

A film whose time has unexpectedly come. People are suddenly losing their memories in a pandemic. A man (Aris Servetalis) nods off on a bus and, when he comes to, can’t remember where he was going, where he came from, or even his name and address. The amnesia is permanent and no one has been known to recover. As in our real life pandemic, the health service is set up to deal with the effects of all this.

The man’s pockets are checked for ID but none found. He is given a number: 18482. In hospital, he chats to the man in the next bed until one day the man has gone – having been identified and claimed by his family. Inevitably, some people remain unclaimed, as is the case for our man… [read more]

Full review in Reform magazine.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

The Invisible Man Vs The Human Fly (Tomei Ningen To Hae Otoko, 透明人間と蝿男)

Director – Mitsuo Murayama – 1957 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 96m

**1/2

The lesser of Daiei’s two Invisible Man movies. Mitsuo Murayama, working from a script by Hajime Takaiwa, delivers not so much a sequel but, much like the different entries in Universal’s Invisible Man series, a different story with a different set of characters built around the concept. Without Eiji Tsuburaya’s guiding hand, the invisibility effects are less memorable but do what they need to. A striking theramin score by Tokujiro Okubo adds an unearthly atmosphere.

This time, the Invisible Man is not a criminal but on the side of the law. It’s a murder mystery with a bizarre twist… [read more]

On a Blu-ray double bill with The Invisible Man Appears (1949). Full review at All The Anime.

Trailer (double bill):

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Features Live Action Movies

The Invisible Man Appears (Tomei Ningen Arawaru, 透明人間現る)

Director – Nobuo Adachi – 1949 – Japan – Cert. PG – 82m

****

With a title that seems to proclaim, “look at me, I’ve arrived”, Daiei’s The Invisible Man Appears (1949) is a Japanese manifesto, a statement that they can match American movies. Eiji Tsuburaya‘s effects are as good as anything in Universal’s The Invisible Man (1933) and were almost certainly produced at a fraction of the cost.

Although the concept originates with H.G.Wells’ 1897 novel, images from the Universal version starring Claude Rains are lodged in the popular consciousness. Thinking of The Invisible Man, I immediately recall a hat being removed then bandages being unwrapped from covering a man’s head to reveal… nothing… a shirt collar with no neck inside. The Invisible Man Appears recreates such effects convincingly… [read more]

On a Blu-ray double bill with The Invisible Man Vs The Human Fly (1957). Full review at All The Anime.

Trailer:

Trailer (double bill):

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Feeling From Mountain And Water (Shan Shui Qing, 山水情)

Directors – Te Wei, Ma Kexuan, Yan San Chun – 1988 – China – Cert. N/C U – 20m

*****

Against a backdrop of mountains, rivers and the sea, a boy learns to play zither from an old master – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

A bearded man carries a package through a mountainous, water-strewn landscape. A boy gives him a ride on his boat. When the man collapses after leaving the boat, the boy takes him to his house. The package turns out to be a zither. The man plays. The boy learns and is soon playing skilfully.

The plot here, such as it is, is really just an excuse to move the camera around incredible ink and watercolour landscapes and, in places, move objects such as the two main characters, the boy’s boat, fish in the river or water trickling down a mountainside in a style which fits with that. That’s an admirable aim and the film succeeds in spades. 

There are static marks on the screen which you know to be merely brush strokes, yet they convey, for example, an outcrop of rock visible in the snow or a small islet surrounded by water.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Story Of Mr. Nanguo (Nan Guo Xian Shen, 南郭先生)

Directors – Qian Jiaxin, Wang Borong – 1981 – China – Cert. N/C U – 18m

*****

A man pretends to be a musician in order to profit from the high wages paid to the king’s court pipe players in the Qi period – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

Two thousand years ago in the Qi period, the King of Qi is dissatisfied with the court entertainment and demands a grand ensemble of 300 pipe players. Invitations go out throughout the land and one finds its way to hustler Mr. Nanguo who dumps his current cockfighting venture to muscle in on the well paid musicians’ gig. 

At an audition, he impresses with impromptu juggling and claims he can play the pipe. Playing before the king, he is the one person unable to play the tune with the others. First he covers for himself by shooing away some cranes for making the wrong noise, then he stuff beans into his pipes so that no sound will come out when he plays. 

Alas, a bean dislodges and goes down the neck of the player in front.… Read the rest