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Animation Features Movies

Pompo The Cinéphile (Eiga Daisuki Pompo-san, 映画大好きポンポさん)

Director – Takayuki Hirao – 2021 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 94m

*****

A film buff working as a movie producer’s assistant is unexpectedly given the job of directing his first feature film– out in cinemas on Wednesday, June 29th

Much in Pompo The Cinéphile riffs off Roger Corman’s legendary working methods. It takes place in a fictional Tinseltown named Nyallywood (what’s with the name? are they worried about getting sued?) and has near its centre the eponymous Pompo (voice: Konomi Kohara from Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train, Haruo Sotozaki, 2020; Sword Art Online, series, 2012-) who looks like a sprightly young girl (and is exactly that in occasional flashbacks) but is, in fact, a seasoned, teenage (!) producer of exploitation movies (sample titles: Across The 8th Dimension, Guns Akimbo, Zombizarre) starring a busty blonde named Mystia (voice: Ai Kakuma) who is currently shooting a Summer movie titled Marine with lots of girls in revealing bikinis fleeing a giant tentacled beastie at the beach with which the gun-wielding Mystia will do battle: quite literally a ‘tits and tentacles’ show “with just the right amount of sex appeal.” Director Hirao is, after all, the man behind similarly exploitative anime Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack!Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Mad God

Director – Phil Tippett – 1987-2021 – US – 83m

*****

A man in a gas mask descends into a dark, dangerous world on a mysterious mission, encountering strange creatures, humanoids and societal constructs along the way – stop-frame epic 34 years in the making as of Tuesday, June 28th, has become the most watched premier of 2022 on Shudder, where it plays in both the UK and the US from Thursday, June 16th; also plays London’s Prince Charles Cinema Tuesday. July 5th to Friday, July 8th

My immediate reaction after watching this was two-fold. On the one hand, wow!!! On the other, how on earth do I put the experience of watching this into words? Mad God definitely has a structure, yet what’s amazing about it is the visuals, the animation, the effects. Even though I’m familiar with the work of its director Phil Tippett (as one of the heirs apparent to stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen in the world of visual effects – career highlights include RoboCop, 1987; Jurassic Park, 1993, Starship Troopers, 1997) this film is something altogether different (even if its roots can be seen in his VFX work).

Following the destruction of a tower resembling Babel in a black cloud, and a lengthy quotation purporting to be from Leviticus 26, a man in gas mask and protective clothing descends into the bowels of the world on a mission, the exact nature of which is never revealed.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Wings Of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)

Director – Wim Wenders – 1987 – Germany – Cert. PG – 128m

*****

Angels move around Berlin, watching over Berliners, until one of them sees a beautiful girl and decides he wants to become human and experience emotion for himself – out in cinemas on Friday, June 24th and playing on Film 4 from Wednesday, June 29th to Thursday, July 28th

This film is many things. It is, first and foremost, about angels, here captured in stunning black and white cinematography and represented as men moving invisibly among the population of Berlin, observing them, listening to their thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams, perhaps imparting some sort of spiritual comfort by a touch of the hand. And just as Henri Alekan’s camera photographs the actors playing angels, so too it photographs those Berliners they observe and comfort.

The iconic Hollywood actor Peter Falk – known to millions of TV viewers as the detective Columbo – plays himself playing a character on the set of a war film and hanging out between takes. The camera takes great pleasure in simply observing him doing what he does, for instance talking to an angel he can’t see (“I can’t see you, but I know you’re here”) which might be an attempt to communicate with invisible beings or might equally well be no more than an acting routine.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Mother Night

Director – Keith Gordon – 1996 – US – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

In this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, a former Nazi propagandist awaits trial in Israel for war crimes – retail VHS review from Home Entertainment, 1997

From his Israeli prison cell where he must compose his memoirs while awaiting trial for his war crimes in black and white, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. (Nick Nolte in a career-defining performance) recalls in colour flashback his rise to fame in wartime Berlin as a radio propaganda writer/broadcaster for the Third Reich, surviving that regime’s madness by devoting himself to actress wife Helga (Sheryl Lee) and their self-contained Nation Of Two.

Recruited from a park as an undercover American spy by raincoat‑wearing American top brass John Goodman (a small part, but likewise impressive), Campbell has to incorporate coded messages to the Allies in his broadcasts. In 1944, Helga dies. After the War, Campbell winds up alone in a seedy New York apartment where neighbours include fellow widower Alan Arkin and Auschwitz survivor‑turned‑doctor Ayre Gross.

When admiring right wing activists arrive at Campbell’s door, the tale (based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel) lurches even further into surrealism. Gordon’s direction is flawless throughout.

SOUND Ironically bookended by White Christmas, the sparse but subtle surround mix manages two highly effective moments (the very start, the very end) that work as emotional punctuation marks.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Uncategorized

Swimming With Sharks

Director – George Huang – 1994 – US – Cert. 15 – 93m

*****

A film school graduate’s job with a Hollywood producer turns out to be a nightmare

To the blissfully ignorant outsider, the Hollywood movie business is a glamorous place where dreams come true. In reality, it’s often closer to a personal hell where the aspirant’s dreams are trampled underfoot by passing megalomaniacs. At least, that’s what the nightmarish Swimming With Sharks would have us believe as it cheerfully plunges green film school graduate Guy (Frank Whaley) into an assistant’s job with major Hollywood producer Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey).

Buddy is the sort of boss who tells underlings, “your brain counts as nothing”, then insults them viciously in front of visiting clients. Reasons for insults heaped on Guy include bringing the coffee with the wrong kind of sweetener and leaving at the office the phone number of the starlet wannabe his boss is currently bedding. Further employer vitriol erupts when Buddy’s superior (a welcome if all too brief appearance from veteran Brit Roy Dotrice) notices spelling errors Buddy had earlier refused to allow Guy to correct – in script notes supplied Buddy by Guy but palmed off by Buddy as his own.… Read the rest

Categories
Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War

Director – Margy Kinmonth – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 87m

***1/2

The career of the British watercolour artist tragically killed while serving as an official war artist in World War Two – out in cinemas on Friday, July 1st

The first official war artist to be commissioned in World War Two, Eric Ravilious was on an aircraft which set out from Iceland in 1942 and never came back. There is no exact record of what took place, covered by the phrase “missing in action”, but in all likelihood the plane went down in the sea. Kinmonth finds simple images to convey the incident, which appears in both her opening introduction to Ravilious’ life and her closing reel representing his passing – a warplane descending, our viewpoint falling towards the surface of the sea, an indistinct body moving in water filled with bubbles. At the end, the cold blue of the water contrasts with the gentler, rural green of the family house and surroundings back home.

After his death, Ravilious’ art was largely ignored. Alan Bennett, an admirer of the artist’s work, puts this down to the work’s cheerful and unthreatening nature and a prevailing view that art should grapple with dark and foreboding subject matter.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Elvis

Director – Baz Luhrmann – 2022 – US, Australia – Cert. 12a – 159m

***

Elvis Presley’s career from the mid-1950s through to his death in 1977, and his complex business relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker – out in cinemas on Friday, June 24th

Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), having a heart attack, reminisces to himself about his career. Many considered him the abuser and exploiter of the singer Elvis Presley, but that wasn’t the way it was. In the early 1950s, when Parker was managing the touring show of country singer Hank Snow (David Wenham), he heard Presley’s first recording on Sun Records though Hank’s son Jimmie Rodgers Snow (Kodi Smit-Mcphee), a singer in his own right who Parker didn’t think was anything like as good as his father.

Parker, an old time carnival showman, is always on the lookout for that one act that’s a little bit different, affects audiences and might well clean up at the box office. When he first sees Elvis (Austin Butler) perform, and notices young girls and older women going wild at the singer’s dance moves, he is convinced there’s money to be made and determines to sign him before someone else does.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Lightyear

Director – Angus MacLane – 2021 – US – Cert. PG – 107m

**1/2

Stranded on a hostile planet, Buzz Lightyear sets out on a series of missions which eventually lead to his first confrontation with the evil Emperor Zurg – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now as a Screening Event on Friday, June 17th, and opens in UK cinemas the same day.

A caption at the start explains that this was the favourite film of child protagonist Andy (from Pixar’s Toy Story franchise) and the reason he got a Buzz Lightyear toy in the first place. Other than that, though, this is a completely separate and self-enclosed film.

As the literal meaning of its title implies, Lightyear delivers a narrative that races through vast periods of time at a stretch, so that we and ace space pilot Buzz Lightyear (voice: Chris Evans) and his colleague Alisha Hawthorne (voice: Uzo Aduba) land their spaceship on an unexplored planet which turns out to be populated with hostile life-forms, specifically (1) plant tendrils which burst out of the planet’s surface and try to drag anything they can back under the ground and (2) giant, flying bugs.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Everything Went Fine (Tout C’est Bien Passé)

Director – François Ozon – 2021 – France – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

An elderly man recovering from a stroke enlists his two daughters to help him achieve assisted suicide and die with dignity – out in cinemas on Friday, June 17th

Emmanuèle Bernheim (Sophie Marceau) gets a phone call to say that her dad André Bernheim (André Dussollier), 85, is in hospital recovering from a stroke. She rushes to the hospital to meet her sister Pascale Bernheim (Géraldine Pailhas) in ER where he’s having an MRI scan. When they see him on the ward, mouth elongated on on side of his face, he can’t remember what happened. He has lost many everyday functions of his body.

While a fellow stroke survivor on his hospital ward makes rapid enough progress to soon be discharged, the less fortunate and initially bedridden André is moved to another hospital for more specialist treatment. Nevertheless, he eventually improves and in due course graduates to being sat in a chair in his room. Later still, he learns to use a wheelchair. His dietary abilities improve from initial intravenous drip feed through being spoon-fed mashed veg through to eating accompanied in a restaurant.

On one occasion early on when Emmanuèle visits him in hospital, she’s horrified to discover him lying in bed in his own excrement and immediately summons the manageress, who not only makes excuses about the amount of work required to look after a patient like this and how the hospital is short-staffed but also gives a personal assurance that this won’t happen again (and, indeed, no such further incident recurs).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies Music

The Island

Director – Anca Damian – 2021 – Romania, France, Belgium – 84m

*****

A reimagining of the Robinson Crusoe story with Robinson as a doctor on an island where Friday is the only survivor of a refugee ship – from the Annecy 2022 Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

The story of Robinson Crusoe, the man shipwrecked on a desert island befriended by a native he calls Friday, is here turned on its head by director Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale, 2019) bringing to life a clever script using an inventive mixture of 2D and CG animation techniques. Robinson (voiced by musician Alexander Bălănescu, who composed the music and songs with Ada Milea) is a Westerner, a well-off doctor who spends most of his time lounging around on an island with an i-Pad. He might be a shipwreck survivor, at least metaphorically. He sings about dreaming of shopping when hungry and after a while we wonder if he’s simply disillusioned with the Western materialist way of life.

He finds himself in the company of Friday (Lucian Ionescu), sole survivor of a refugee boat who treats the doctor as his saviour. Robinson admonishes Friday to drink only bottled water, because the alternative is unsafe.… Read the rest