Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Riddle of Fire

Director – Weston Razooli – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

****

Two siblings and their friend get caught up in a quest through the great hills and woods of Wyoming on their bikes to find a speckled egg so they can bake the boys’ sick mother a blueberry pie – out on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, July 8th

Wyoming. Young siblings Hazel (Charlie Stover) and Jodie A’Dale (Skyler Peters) along with their slightly older friend Alice (Phoebe Ferro) break into the Otomo warehouse to steal a videogame console so they can play on the TV during the Summer holidays. Alas, they’ve reckoned without the two boys’ mother (Danielle Hoetmer) password protecting the TV. She currently has the worst cold she has ever had and isn’t going to relent on the password for the foreseeable future – it’s a beautiful day, and she wants them outside enjoying themselves, not cooped up in the house – unless the kids go to the store and get her a blueberry pie, the one thing that would make her feel better.

So the three kids set out for the local store on their pushbikes, but on arrival find the place has run out of blueberry pies and the cook is off sick (perhaps there’s a bug going around).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Small Back Room

Directors – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 106m

*****

In London during World War Two, a back room boffin and bomb disposal man struggles with alcoholism – 4K restoration played at BFI Southbank on Tuesday, May 28th prior to release on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on Monday, June 3rd

This black and white, post-war era drama isn’t the first film that comes to mind when people think about Powell and Pressburger – it was made immediately after what today are regarded as three of their best colour features – A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and their arguable masterpiece The Red Shoes (1948). And that was preceded by one of their finest black and white works, i know where i’m going!” (1945).

In many ways, The Small Back Room couldn’t be more different. There’s a marvellous sense of whimsy about those films, even if the later ones are intense and savage in places. Like Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes – and, for that matter, Powell’s late solo masterpiece Peeping Tom (1960), an intensity lies at the heart of The Small Back Room.

Gone are the light, airy spaces of the earlier films, their sense of the outdoors expanse (and, in The Red Shoes, the expanded landscapes of the eponymous ballet sequence within the film).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Hard Miles

Director – R.J. Daniel Hanna – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 108m

****1/2

A youth facility social worker takes a group of troubled young men on a transformative team bicycle ride – out in UK and Ireland cinemas on Friday, May 31st

Day-to-day life is one thing after another for Colorado medium-security correction school staff member Greg Townsend (Matthew Modine). He is in court defending, failing to get the court to see one of his charges as a human being rather than someone who committed an offence. Leaving, he finds someone has stolen his bicycle (it later gets found by the police, having sustained only minor damage). He is fielding calls from his prison-incarcerated brother about their father, who is in a care home and may not have much longer to live, and with whom Greg has not had contact for years. He is at the school, pulling boys apart as they attack each other for the most trivial remark.

However, not everything is about work and family responsibility. Greg is a cycling enthusiast, and is looking forward to taking his booked holiday of a week or more off cycling 1 000 (well, 762) miles to the Grand Canyon.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sting

Director – Kiah Roache-Turner – 2024 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 91m

***1/2

A girl traps a venomous spider and cares for it as a pet, but as she feeds it, it grows… and grows… and gets out… – into UK cinemas on Friday, May 31st

Helga (Noni Hazlehurst) is hearing strange noises in her Brooklyn apartment. She doesn’t remember so good, however, helpfully pinned to the wall by the phone is her name and address. So when she phones Frank the pest exterminator (Jermaine Fowler), she can read those details to him. It’s probably a rat, he tells her. Soon he is at the door of the block, asking her to buzz him in. But inside the apartment, he realises this particular bug may be more than he bargained for.

Flash back to four days earlier. A hand-sized meteor plunges to Earth to crash through a window into a doll’s house in the same apartment block. It is a tiny pod not unlike the ones in Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979). It opens, hatching a small spider, which looks huge until we realise it’s in a small scale doll’s house, not outside in the apartment proper. The spider is found by Charlotte (Alyla Brown from Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, George Miller, 2024) who empties out her money jar, the one with the screw lid, to make a home for it, feeding it with the roaches that infest the apartment.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Stopmotion

Director – Robert Morgan – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 93m

***1/2

The bereaved daughter of a stop-frame animator attempts to complete her late mother’s last film – out on Shudder UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand from Friday, May 31st

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: this is not what it says on the tin. Anyone expecting another Mad God (Phil Tippett, 1987-2021, and a long-standing Shudder favourite) or Junk Head (Takahide Hori, 2021) is going to be disappointed. This is not a stop-motion film; it’s a stop-motion / live action combination film, with the physical stop-motion component of the production forming maybe a tenth of the whole.

Unless, of course, you’re looking only at story or script. In which case, this film is all about stop-motion animation and obsession. But executed in live action. Because, after all, who would want to spend all their time moving a puppet a bit, then shooting a frame, then moving it a bit more, and taking another frame, and so on when you can shoot live action and capture a shot of whatever length on film? (The answer is, anyone who loves animation generally and stop-motion animation in particular.)… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Beast
(La Bête)
(2023)

A Fatal Belief

The Beast
Directed by Bertrand Bonello
Certificate 15, 146 minutes
Released 31 May

As satisfying as it is infuriating, this French genre-bender is part science fiction, part period costume drama and part literary adaptation. It’s based on Henry James’ 1903 novella The Beast in the Jungle, in which a man refuses to marry the woman he loves to spare her from the attack he believes will be perpetrated upon him at some point by a horrible beast.

About a third is, as you might expect, a period costume drama, sumptuously shot on film. However, the co-writer and director Bonello introduces two more separate timelines set in 2014 and 2044 and shot on harsher digital technology for a more modern feel.

He also switches the gender roles round, so that… [Read the full review in Reform]

[Read my longer review on this site]

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Furiosa
A Mad Max Saga

Director – George Miller – 2024 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 148m

*****

Kidnapped by a biker gang she attacks, young Furiosa must make her way in the desert wasteland populated by despots, bikers, and gas truck drivers – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 124h

In the forest where fruit is plentiful near her home, young Furiosa (Alyla Browne, the lead in the upcoming Sting, LINK, Kiah Roache-Turner, 2023) spots a group of bikers who capture her as she tries to cut their bikes’ fuel lines. Her mother Mary Jabasa (Charlee Fraser) sets off across the desert in pursuit, stealing a bike from one of their number, only to be captured and crucified. Furiosa is taken to the biker’s despotic and nomadic leader Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), later escaping and falling in with gas truck driver Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke). Furiosa becomes a young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) who as Jack’s protégé learns everything he knows.

The desert economy, where gasoline is the most precious commodity, consists of a wasteland in which are situated three strongholds: Gas Town, The Citadel and The Bullet Farm.

This prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) was essentially written at the same time as that film as part of the process of understanding the backstory of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Twilight of the Warriors
Walled in
(Jiu Long Cheng
Zhai·Wei Cheng,
九龙城寨之围城)

Director – Soi Cheang – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 126m

*****

A refugee steals money from a Hong Kong triad then hides out in Kowloon Walled City, a place as dangerous as the triads pursuing him – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 24th

Never entered by those outside, an uneasy peace has reigned in Kowloon Walled City a.k.a. the City of Darkness since Cyclone defeated ‘Dragon Head’ Liu and his warlord partner Jim. It’s Hong Kong in the 1980s, when refugees were flooding into the territory. In a nightclub where women dance to Cantopop, one such refugee (Raymond Lam) wins a fist fight competition then is conned by gang boss (Sammo Hung) into paying for a shoddily made fake ID card, which he refuses to accept when he calls to collect it two weeks later. Leaving the ensuing argument, he snatches a bag from the villain’s drug warehouse and runs hell for leather into the Walled City, where the gangsters won’t follow.

Inside, he discovers to his horror that he’s snatched not a bag of banknotes as he supposed but a bag of drugs. Trying to sell it, he finds himself fighting local gangsters, who don’t want him selling drugs on their turf.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Luminous Woman
(Hikaru Onna,
光る女)

Director – Shinji Somai – 1987 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 118m

*****

A Hokkaido farmer comes to Tokyo in search of his vanished fiancée but finds a world he has not expected – on Blu-ray from Monday, Monday, May 20th

At a rubbish tip on the outskirts of Tokyo, a barefoot man (Takeiji Muto) in cheap trousers and top encounters a suave-looking sophisticate (Kei Suma) and a woman opera singer (Michiru Akiyoshi), the latter performing gracefully atop the rubbish heap. The woman is dependent on the sophisticate. The barefoot man has travelled from Hokkaido to find his fiancée Kuriko Sakura, who was supposed to return after studying accounting to help him run a farm.

The sophisticate knows someone of that name, and drives the barefoot man into the city. In his nightclub, he offers the outsider a deal – if he’ll fight the club’s pro-wrestler for ¥100 000, the other will tell him where to find Kuriko. However, she may not be the person he seeks. Out of her boss’ earshot, the woman warns the outsider that the wrestling may be to the death.

In the club she plays the piano while another woman sings opera and, on the circular dias bordered by a water pool, a challenger fights the incumbent wrestler and loses.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Big Banana Feet

Director – Murray Grigor – 1976 – UK – Cert. 12 – 77m

****1/2

The camera follows comedian Billy Connolly to Dublin and Belfast for the final dates of his 1975 tour – 2K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10th, and on BFI Blu-ray/DVD (Dual Format Edition) and digital from Monday, May 20th

This played the Scala Cinema a few times back in the day. I always thought there must be a reason why, and now, with its release in a restored form by the BFI, I get to find out. I must admit to mixed feelings prior to viewing – I’m not someone who particularly enjoys stand-up comedy; indeed, watching videos of comedians doing their material onstage has been known to bore me to tears, even as it enthralls fans.

Although this has clips of Billy Connolly performing on stage – comic routines, songs with banjo and guitar – it’s essentially a fly-on-the-wall piece that captures his personality as he, with the help of his seemingly tireless road manager Billy Johnson, plays dates in Dublin and Belfast on the final leg of his 1975 tour. Watching it, you feel you get to know Connolly well, at least at the period of his career being filmed.… Read the rest