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The Batman

Director – Matt Reeves – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 175m

****

A reinvention of the popular superhero alongside his iconic villain adversaries in a Gotham City run by corrupt elites and gangsters – out in cinemas on Friday, March 4th; home premiere available to rent from Tuesday, April 19th

The posters for Warner Bros.’ second Batman movie Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992) announced it with the names of three iconic characters: The Bat, The Cat, The Penguin. They could have done similar here, although The Bat, The Cat, The Penguin, The Riddler doesn’t quite work as an animal-themed slogan. However, The Batman is a very different movie – and not just because of the addition of the Riddler.

Of all the superheroes, Batman is arguably the richest in terms of raw material and its potential for reinvention. This new film is quite unlike the Nolan films which preceded it which in turn is quite unlike the Burton films which preceded them which are quite unlike the art deco animated Batman TV series which in turn is quite unlike the sixties TV series which preceded that.

In movies as in comics, Batman, Gotham City and its accompanying cast of characters appear ripe for reinvention in a way that no other superhero and their world quite does.… Read the rest

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The Duke

Director – Roger Michell – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 96m

**1/2

A man steals Goya’s painting of The Duke Of Wellingon from the National Gallery in 1961… Based on a true story – out to rent on PVoD on Monday, April 11th

1960s Newcastle. Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) wages a one-man war against pensioners paying the licence fee. He removes the BBC coil so that the set will only play ITV. His wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren), a cleaner for the wife of a local councillor, just wants him to behave like every else and try and fit in. Seeing the nation pay £140 000 to stop Goya’s painting of The Duke Of Wellington being sold abroad, he can only think of how much better the money could be spent – how many pensioners’ TV licences it could cover, for example.

Thus, he takes a trip to London to deliver an unsolicited manuscript of a play to the BBC, then lobby both Parliament and the press (The Daily Express) about free licences. All of which endeavours meet with failure. However, a plan to steal The Duke from the National Gallery works and the painting is soon in his back bedroom, where son Jack (Fionn Whitehead from Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, 2017) bills a false wall in the wardrobe to help him hide it. … Read the rest

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Cyrano

Romantic self-doubt

Cyrano
Directed by Joe Wright
Certificate 12a, 124 minutes
Released 25 February

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac concerns a man who, because of his long nose, considers himself too ugly to tell the girl of his dreams and childhood friend Roxanne that he loves her. This new version ditches the nose to cast Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) as the hero whose dwarfism becomes his reason for thinking Roxanne (Haley Bennett) couldn’t possibly love him. Then she falls in love… with one of the men in the regiment he commands.

However… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Cyrano is nominated for Best Costume Design in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars.

Cyrano is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, February 25th.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Director – Joe Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

The short stature of Cyrano de Bergerac makes him believe that no woman could ever love him – not even his beloved friend Roxanne, who he can’t bring himself to tell – out in cinemas on Friday, February 25th

17th Century Italy. Witty and articulate Captain of the Guard Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is never at a loss for words. His rapier wit defeats any opponent, as does his rapier proper should any be foolish enough to challenge him to a duel. Being short in stature, he can’t imagine that any normal sized woman could love him for who he is.

He is therefore unable to confess his love for her to the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett), the woman and lifelong childhood friend for whom he would do anything. So when she falls in love at first sight with Christian (Bashir Salahuddin), a new recruit to Cyrano’s regiment, Cyrano finds himself torn between her rejection and his desire for her to be happy with the man she loves. Unfortunately, this intelligent and free-spirited young woman enjoys nothing more than the literary cut and thrust which Cyrano is able to provide but the inarticulate and out of his depth Christian is not.… Read the rest

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La Mif

Director – Fred Baillif – 2021 – Switzerland – Cert. 15 – 110m

*****

The lives of inmates in a girls’ care home, and the working lives of the staff who look after them – out in UK & Irish cinemas on Friday, February 25th

This ‘docudrama’ (for want of a better term) follows the residents of a Geneva care home for vulnerable young people.

Screaming blue murder, a young woman is escorted from the premises by a policewoman.

Lora (Claudia Grob), the manager of this care home, returns after time off to say “hi” to the girls. (The fact of her returning is thrown in to the narrative almost casually at this point; only later does its significance become apparent.) These girls are vulnerable children in the State’s care, and Lora feels like a mother to them. They, in turn, refer to the home – meaning themselves and the other girls, with their support workers on hand in the background as sort of substitute parents – as La Mif (French slang for “the family”; literally, “The Fam”).

Novinha (Kassia Da Costa) is a sassy, pushy teenager who talks frankly about sex, And everything else. Audrey (Anaïs Uldry) – the arrested girl from the opening – has been caught having sex with a boy three years younger than her; after this, the centre is turned into a home for girls only.… Read the rest

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KIBA: The Fangs Of Fiction (Damashie No Kiba, 騙し絵の牙)

Director – Daihachi Yoshida – 2020 – Japan – 112m

*****

Forward thinkers take on the conservative old guard within a Japanese publishing corporation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

Megumi Takano (Mayu Matsuoka from One Night, Kazuya Shirashi, 2019; Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018; A Silent Voice, Naoko Yamada, 2016; Lesson Of Evil, Takashi Miike, 2012; Love Exposure, Sion Sono, 2008), daughter of local bookstore owner Takano (Shinya Tsukamoto), is as dedicated an editor as you’ll find anywhere in publishing. Alas, she lacks the political savvy needed to survive in its ruthless, corporate, dog-eat-dog world. When the owner of the publishing company Kunpu which employs her dies unexpectedly, she finds herself caught up in the machinations of a large organisation where some employees resist change while others plan to completely reinvent the business model to ensure the company’s survival, possibly at the expense of some of its employees.

Thus it is that new CEO Tamatsu (Koichi Sato from Fukushima 50, Setsuro Wakamatsu, 2020; Sukiaki Western Django, Takashi Miike, 2007; Where The Last Sword Is Drawn, Yojiro Takita, 2002) comes in with plans to restructure the company.… Read the rest

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Spaghetti Code Love (Supagetikodo rabu, スパゲティコード・ラブ)

Director – Takeshi Maruyama – 2021 – Japan – 96m

***1/2

The intersecting lives of several young Tokyoites suggests they don’t know how to communicate with one another – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

A young woman hangs out in an amusement arcade. Suddenly she’s aware of a young boy. Running, shouting, “why me”. He needs something. She steps into the breach and – for a moment, at least – provides it by holding him tight, a surrogate mother, an understanding human connection.

How far this understanding goes, it’s impossible to say. We never find out the source of the boy’s malaise, we never learn anything more about the woman who holds him in the arcade. However they have connected on some level – physically and emotionally. And that’s what this film seems to be about.

It’s basically a series of character study vignettes in which the characters occasionally cross paths which could well have been written or conceived as a half dozen of so short films. They connect with or become alienated from one another. It’s set in Tokyo with a title suggestive of complex networks and computer language with the catch-all ‘love’ tacked on the end.… Read the rest

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Death On The Nile (2020)

Director – Kenneth Branagh – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 127m

**

Detective Hercule Poirot must investigate a rising body count on a wedding party Nile cruise – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

Attending a gig by blues musician Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) where her niece and savvy business manager Rosalie Otterbourne (Laetitia Wright) is also in attendance, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) runs into Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) who are passionately in love with each other and engage in some extremely suggestive dancing. She encourages her friend Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) to take the floor with Simon, whereupon they too engage in some extremely suggestive dancing.

Holidaying in Egypt, Poiret runs into old acquaintance Bouc (Tom Bateman) and his overbearing mother Euphemia (Annette Bening). Cut to a lavish hotel where Simon and Linnet announce to a party of attendant friends that they are to be married. Simon appears to have done very well for himself: he lacks money or prospects while Linnet is a fabulously rich heiress. The understandably alienated Jacqueline, however, keeps following them around on their travels. The couple asks Poirot if he could do something about this. He refuses on the grounds that no crime has been committed, but nevertheless speaks with Jacqueline and politely asks her to back off.… Read the rest

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The Battle At Lake Changjin II aka Water Gate Bridge (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖之水门桥)

Director – Tsui Hark – 2022 – China – Cert. 15 – 153m

**

Ill-considered sequel to box office barnstorming, Chinese war movie fails to match the emotional engagement and excitement of the original – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

After the exciting and energetic original, this sequel is a disappointment. It has the same expertise of CG special effects as its predecessor. However the cast is cut down, many of the memorable characters having died heroically in the first film, and there’s no attempt to replace them. Similarly, the spectacular locations are fewer in number because there’s no journey from home through different regions, so this has a smaller geographical palette to play with.

The cast of characters issue would be easy enough to fix within the war genre: members of a military unit die, others come to the fore to replace them in the vacuum created. But no, here all we get are People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) 7th Company commander Wu Qianli (Wu Jing) and his younger brother Wu Wanli (Jackson Lee) and no real attempt to further develop their relationship under fire. The two characters are just there, and the audience is expected to carry over their emotional investment from the first film without the second one providing any reason for doing so.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Flee (Flugt)

On being a refugee

Flee
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Certificate 15, 83 minutes
Released 11 February

Review for Reform magazine, February 2022.

There have been animated films about life under the Taliban in Afghanistan before, including The Breadwinner (reviewed in Reform, June 2018), but Flee is different. It covers not only the experience of fleeing your home country, but also the psychological aftermath once you successfully settle in another country. And although animated, it’s a documentary based on a real person. Amin (not his real name), a gay Danish citizen due shortly to marry his long-time partner Kasper, is persuaded by a radio journalist to give a series of interviews about his history as a refugee. His experiences have taken their toll and now threaten to undermine his relationship with Kasper.

Amin’s fond memories of childhood are very different from the way we now think of Afghanistan. As a young boy… [Read more…]

Full review in Reform magazine, February 2022.

Read my alternative review here.

Trailer: