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The Queen Of Spades

Director – Thorold Dickinson – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

****1/2

A Russian army officer seeks the occult secret of playing cards that will earn him a vast fortune, but has not bargained for the dark, supernatural forces involved – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 23rd and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on January 23rd

1806, St. Petersburg. Unlike his well-connected aristocrat contemporaries in the army, Captain Goeman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) sees no opportunity for advancement. In a bookstore, he chances upon an arcane volume which the store owner suggests will offer various opportunities for personal betterment fraught with danger. Reading up on “people who have sold their soul”, he learns that the Countess (Pauline Tennant) made her fortune in a gambling den with the secret of three unbeatable playing cards for which she agreed to sell her soul after one of her lovers stole her considerable personal allowance, taking advantage of her needing him to leave quickly in order to prevent her husband’s discovering his presence in her bedchamber, which stolen monies she then needed to find a means of replacing.

As the Countess is now an old woman (Dame Edith Evans), Goeman resolves to get close to her by romancing her ward Lizavyeta Ivanovna (Yvonne Mitchell) using words for love letters suggested by contemporary aristocratic officer Andrei Andreyonov (Ronald Howard) with neither of them aware that they are actually interested in the affections of the same girl.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Fugitive From The Past (Kiga Kaikyo, 飢餓海峡)

Director – Tomu Uchida – 1965 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 183m

*****

Voted third in Kinema Junpo magazine’s 1999 list of the greatest Japanese film of all time, Tomu Uchida’s A Fugitive From The Past (1965) is the pinnacle of a directorial career that also includes Bloody Spear At Mount Fuji (1955) and The Mad Fox (1962). In the poll, it was beaten by Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) at number one and Mikio Naruse’s Floating Clouds (1955) at number two, For the record, the fourth title was Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) while the fifth was Yuzo Kawashima’s Bakumatsu Taiyoden / The Legend Of The Sun-Tribe From The Bakumatsu Era (1957). While four of those titles were made in the mid-fifties, often considered the golden age of classical Japanese cinema, Fugitive dates from the mid-sixties, allowing it to look at Japan’s post-war period from a greater distance.

Uchida’s film, which spans the decade 1947-57, covers a colossal amount of subjects in its first 50 minutes…

[Read the full review at All The Anime.]

A Fugitive From The Past is released on Arrow Blu-ray.

Trailer:

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Avatar: The Way Of Water

Director – James Cameron – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 192m

Immersive Cinema *****

Screenplay *

Now raising their own family on the planet Pandora, a couple flee the attacking Sky People to live among a tribe of sea people – first Avatar sequel is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 16th

Having gone native on the planet Pandora following the events in Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), in which paraplegic human soldier Jake Sully (performance capture including voice or Pcap: Sam Worthington) was transformed into an avatar of a non-disabled, native Pandoran, in the first third of the film, Jake is raising a family with Na’vi partner Neytiri (Pcap: Zoe Saldaña): two boys, two girls. They play in the jungle forest with their friend Spider (Jack Champion), a human child who was too young to be evacuated when the other Sky People left. Spider has been raised by human scientists who remained behind, and he must constantly wear a breathing mask to survive in Pandora’s atmosphere; he is to all intents and purposes feral.

When the Sky People return to Pandora with a new remit – to prep the planet for human habitation since the Earth is becoming uninhabitable – Jake’s old commander Quaritch (Pcap: Stephen Lang), who died in the first film but is now reconstituted as an an avatar embedded with the character’s DNA and memories, is determined to hunt down and kill the Sully who, as he sees it, betrayed him.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nocebo

Director – Lorcan Finnegan – 2022 – UK, Ireland – Cert. 15 – 96m

***

A mother and fashion designer’s stress levels increase when she hires a too good to be true Filipino au pair – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 9th

A nocebo is a negative placebo – a belief that some factor will cause a medical or psychological condition to get worse, which it then does.

Christine (Eva Green), a high-flying fashion designer, and her husband Felix (Mark Strong), who works in advertising, lead pressured lives, and they have a daughter Roberta, known to her friends as Bobs (Billie Gadsdon), at primary school. Deciding which of them is going to drop Bobs off at / pick her up from school is always a challenge.

Christine is in the middle of a shoot involving child models when she receives a phone call with bad news about “they’re pulling out the bodies” and has a nervous breakdown, suddenly experiencing bizarre and horrifying hallucinations, with everyone she sees on the set spouting boils, a fate also visited on a mysterious, blind dog covered in sores. A tiny beetle burrows into her neck, later resulting in an itchy sore.

She takes time off work and sleeps with special breathing apparatus at night.… Read the rest