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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

The Sparks Brothers

Director – Edgar Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 140m

****

The rollercoaster career of musical duo Sparks with its successful hits and intermittent lapses into obscurity – out in cinemas on Thursday, July 29th

There’s a story about John Lennon phoning Ringo Starr to say, “you won’t believe what’s on television – Marc Bolan doing a song with Adolf Hitler.” This was Sparks’ auspicious debut on BBC music show Top Of The Pops in the early 1970s playing what is probably their best known track, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, a broadcast estimated to have reached some 15 million people. Everyone was talking about this the day after – that’s mentioned here, and it’s something I myself remember from my own school days: the lively energetic singer (Russell Mael) and the suited, almost motionless, keyboard player (Ron Mael) with the slicked back hair and the Hitler moustache. The Hitler appearance may not have been deliberate, but that image of the duo – the extrovert and the introvert – has become the band’s enduring media image over the years.

TOTP 1974

One gets the impression from passing moments in this film that Charlie Chaplin was an equally formative presence for Ron – and though it’s never mentioned, Chaplin made the film The Great Dictator (1940) in which he played a Hitler type despot as well as a Jewish barber unfortunate enough to look like him…but I digress.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Old

Director – M. Night Shyamalan – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 108m

*****

A family is trapped on an idyllic beach where people age rapidly – out in cinemas on Friday, July 21st

This was adapted from the graphic novel Sandcastle written by Pierre Oscar Lévy and illustrated by Frederik Peeters which clearly has caught the imagination of M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, 1999; Unbreakable, 2000; Glass, 2019).

Guy and Prisca Capa (Gael García Bernal from Rosewater, Jon Stewart, 2017; No, Pablo Larrain, 2012 and Vicky Krieps from Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017) and their kids Maddox, 11 (Alexa Swinton) and Trent, 6 (Nolan River) are driven to their tropical holiday resort which Prisca can’t believe she found on the internet. Not that they are so lucky in their personal lives: she has been diagnosed with cancer and the couple have yet to tell their children of their impending divorce.

As they ponder what to do on their first day, the hotel offers them a chance to spend it at an exclusive beach alongside other select guests. These turn out to include surgeon Charles (Rufus Sewell from The Father, Florian Zeller, 2020) and his family – mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant), trophy wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee) and Kara, 6 (Kylie Begley) – as well as married couple Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Shadows (殘影空間)

Director – Glenn Chan – 2020 – Hong Kong, China – 94m

*****

A forensic lady psychiatrist becomes convinced that a fellow psychiatrist’s treatment of his patients is encouraging them to commit murder – playing in the UK as part of the Chinese Visual Festival which runs until Sunday, July 25th

Award-winning social worker Chu kills his mother, wife and little girl before throwing himself out of a second floor window in a suicide attempt. Psychiatrist Dr. Tsui Ching (Stephy Tang from My Prince Edward, Norris Wong Yee-Lam, 2019; The Empty Hands, Chapman To, 2017) possesses the ability to see inside the subconscious mind of her patients, something she experiences like a vivid dream. She appears in a public talk before an audience alongside Dr.Yan. When he asks her view of humanity, she expresses her belief that people are inherently good. He thinks they are inherently bad, ascribing their motives to selfishness.

When Chu turns out to have been one of Dr.Yan’s patients, Tsui becomes convinced that by telling them to embrace their dark side rather than repress it, he is effectively encouraging them to commit murder. Advising Ho (Philip Keung – A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018; Shock Wave, Herman Yau, 2017), the cop who is investigating the case, she persuades him without any admissable evidence to investigate all of Yan’s patients.… Read the rest

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Get The Hell Out (Tao Chu Li Fa Yuan, 逃出立法院)

Director – Wang I-Fan – 2020 – Taiwan – 96m

**1/2

The Taiwanese Parliament must contain a zombie outbreak caused by a rabies outbreak at a chemical plant (!) – playing in the UK as part of the Chinese Visual Festival which runs until Sunday, July 25th

Hsiung Ying Ying (Megan Lai) got into the Taiwanese Parliament as an MP to fight gangster politician Li Kuo-Chung (Chung-Huang Wang) over an environmentally unfriendly chemical plant where she lives which she wants to shut down. And now it’s spawned a rabies outbreak which infected the President on an official visit. Things are already pretty heated in the Parliament building when the President goes full zombie and the infection spreads rapidly throughout the large meeting room which is promptly sealed with those people inside.

In a six months earlier flashback, the hot-tempered Ying Ying gets into a fight with a security guard Wang You-wei (Bruce Ho) on the premises while the media’s cameras are present. As a result, she is forced to resign and a by-election held. Wishing to retain the power of an MP, she persuades the basically honest but naive Wang who is secretly in love with her to stand as her ‘puppet’ to support her fight against the plant.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Witches Of The Orient (Les Sorcières De L’Orient)

Director – Julien Faraut – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. U – 100m

*****

A look through a prism of anime and archive footage at the Japanese women’s volleyball team that won the 1964 Olympics – out in cinemas and online in the UK and Ireland on Friday, July 16th

You don’t really expect a documentary about a women’s volleyball team to open with a scene from the anime short Danemon’s Monster Hunt At Shojiji (Yoshitaro Kataoka, 1935) in which the hero, trying to save the damsel in distress from the web of the evil spider witch, learns too late that the damsel is the evil spider witch and has lured him to his fate. Even if the team in question has become known as ‘the Witches of the Orient’. “To refer to people as witches is not very kind,” says Katsumi Matsumura, a surviving member of the team. “But then, witches have supernatural powers. So that suited us fine.”

The nickname originated in the Russian newspaper Pravda when the Japanese women’s team faced the Russians in the 1962 volleyball championships… [Read the rest]

Full review at All The Anime.

The Witches Of The Orient is out in cinemas and virtual cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Friday, July 16th 2021.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Movies

Samjin Company English Class (Samjin Group Yeong-aw TOEIC-ban, 삼진 그룹영어토익반)

Director – Lee Jong-pil – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 110m

*****

Three undervalued corporate women employees investigate an environmental cover up at their company – a teaser screening from the London Korean Film Festival

1995, Korea. Three twentysomething women working in the Samjin Company are consistently undervalued. They meet up after work and swap stories about their respective departments.

Lee Ja-young (Go Ah-sung from Snowpiercer, 2013; The Host, 2006, both Bong Joon Ho) is a Girl Friday smarter than most of the male employees in her office, including her immediate superior and corporate conformist Choi Dong-soo (Cho Hyun-chul), which would probably cease to function without her. Jeong Yu-nah (Esom from Microhabitat, Jeon Go-woon, 2017) is a marketing minion constantly held back by an immediate superior who does everything they can to take credit for her ideas. Sim Bo-ram (Park Hye-su) is a maths prodigy working in the accounts department where her forward-thinking, male boss Bong Hyeon-cheol (Kim Jong-soo), against the prevailing sexist norm, is possessed of the ability to recognise talent in employees regardless of gender and treat them decently as co-workers.

Sent to clear out the old offices of the boss’ son Oh Tae-young (Baek Hyeon-jin), Lee is told by a male colleague to flush a pet goldfish down the toilet “to set it free”.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Lupin III The First

Director – Takashi Yamazaki – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 93m

****

Master thief Lupin III sets out to steal a diary protected by a lock with a fiendishly complex mechanism and becomes embroiled in an occult, Nazi plot to take over the world – coming out in a Blu-ray/DVD combi from All The Anime

A character with a long history in Japan in anime, manga artist Monkey Punch’s celebrated gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III is a descendant of Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc‘s Arsène Lupin character. LeBlanc’s bona fide character recently featured in the French live action Netflix series Lupin (creator: George Kay, 2021). 

For this Japanese reboot, Lupin III and his fellow franchise characters are back on the big screen, now lovingly animated in state of the art 3D animation which has never looked quite like this. The nimble movements of Lupin as he typically evades the grasp of Interpol’s Inspector Zenigata by firing a climbing line at a ceiling, outwits an ingénue girl thief on Paris rooftops and finally has his stolen object taken off his hands by the shapely Fujiko Mine as she dangles from a helicopter rope ladder would look good in drawn animation – for similar antics look no further than earlier Lupin III outing The Castle Of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1980) – but they look considerably better rendered in full 3D CG here. … Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Deerskin (Le Daim)

Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2019 – France – Cert. 15 – 77m

****

A man buys a deerskin jacket then decides he should be the only person who can wear a jacket which leads to disastrous consequences – out in cinemas on Friday, July 16th

Georges (Jean Dujardin from The Wolf Of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese, 2013; The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, 2011; OSS 117: Cairo Nest Of Spies, Michel Hazanavicius, 2006) is driving. Some considerable distance across France. And very full of himself, too. After a couple of days, he arrives at the seller’s house. 100% deerskin! The Jacket is everything he dreamed, and he willingly pays the asking price in cash. The seller is stunned at his good fortune; he’s never seen so much money. He throws in a digital video camera.

Georges’ credit card is blocked, so on checking in to the local hotel he leaves his gold wedding ring with the receptionist as a deposit. Drinking at a local bar, he explains to the barmaid Denise (Adèle Haenel from Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019; 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute), Robin Campillo, 2017) that he’s a filmmaker and currently shooting.… Read the rest

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Black Medicine

Director – Colum Eastwood – 2021 – Ireland – Cert. 15 – 90m

*****

A black market Belfast anaesthetist finds herself crossing people it would be unwise to cross – this edge-of-the-seat thriller is out on digital platforms on Monday, July 12th

Jo (Antonia Campbell-Hughes from Bright Star, Jane Campion, 2009; Albert Nobbs, Roderigo Garcia, 2011; Kelly + Victor, Kieran Evans, 2012; Storage 24, Johannes Roberts, 2012; The Canal, Ivan Cavanagh, 2014;) drives her car up the levels of a Belfast multi-storey car park. At the top, she gets out and contemplates the drop to the street below. She smokes to calm her nerves. She drops the cigarette, watching it fall the several storeys. She contemplates climbing the railings. A woman and child come out of a door and walk along a wall. Jo backs off.

By this point, I’m completely hooked. Who is this woman? What is going on? The genius of this movie is that having gripped the viewer from the get-go, it never relaxes for the rest of its entire 90 minute running length. (Also, a minor carp: why is the car number plate PIA 1? That’s a wee bit too showy.)

Then Stevie (Lalor Roddy from Robot Overlords, Jon Wright, 2014) phones.… Read the rest

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Jumbo

Director – Zoé Wittock – 2020 – France – Cert. 15 – 93m

*****

A young woman working at a fairground falls in love with one of the rides, a machine named Move It, which she renames Jumbo – out in cinemas and virtually via Modern Films Virtual Player on Friday, July 9th

When her single parent mother Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot) drops Jeanne Tantois (Noémie Merlant) off for her first day of employment at the local amusement part Jeanne has known all her life, her mother makes a passing remark about Jeanne’s father: “if only he could have been my vibrator”. While that comment is never (ahem) touched on again, the idea is central to the film.

Whatever she says, it isn’t an idea that Margarette can live by. An outgoing bartender, shortly into the narrative she strikes up a relationship with Hubert (Sam Louwick), moving him pretty swiftly into the family home. Jeanne doesn’t seem to like or dislike him much either way as a step-dad… She’s not really interested.

Margarette would like her daughter to bed a nice boy. Someone like her young manager at the fairground Marc (Bastien Bouillon) who both encourages her to enter for the Employee Of The Year contest and is drawn to her physically.… Read the rest