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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2021

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2021, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/21 and 31/12/21. Prior to 2020, I’d never included online releases (well, maybe the odd one or two as a special case) but that year saw the film distribution business turned upside down by COVID-19. How 2022 and beyond will look is anyone’s guess.

This version excludes re-releases (Seven Samurai and It’s A Wonderful Life, in that order, would top everything here, while The Shop Around the Corner would also be in my Top Ten). A link to that longer list will be added here in due course.

In addition to re-releases, this version also excludes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2021. A link to that even longer list will be added here in due course.

Finally, last year’s list is here.

Top Ten (UK theatrical + online movie releases 2021)

Please click on titles to see reviews.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Matrix

Directors – Larry and Andy Wachowski – 1999 – US – Cert.15 – 136 mins

*****

The Matrix combines tropes of Japanese animation with live action Hong Kong stunt choreography and groundbreaking ‘bullet time’ special effects.

UK release: June 11th 1999;

Article originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999.

1999. The Matrix is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E.

Technically, a matrix is a multidimensional array of locations, with each cell uniquely addressable. Contents not specified. Back in late April, when Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix was first screened for UK press, Warners’ line beneath the film’s title on the publicity flier ran, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects. Perhaps it should have read, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action. Or even, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action reconceived in terms of anime. Okay, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s closer to the truth.

Ostensibly a megabudget Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon / Die Hard / Predator / Speed / Road House / Assassins) SF actioner well beyond the extremities of this magazine’s remit, directed by the Wachowski Brothers (writer‑directors of Bound, screenwriters for Assassins), The Matrix opens with an incredible sequence wherein Trinity (Carrie‑Anne Moss, who looks for all the world like a Westernised version of a Hong Kong starlet in cat burglar get up… Black Cat’s Jade Leung or Irma Vep’s Maggie Cheung, perhaps?)… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Film Festivals

Click the links below for coverage of:

2021

BFI Japan 2021 – on now

MUBI New South Korean Cinema season – on now

London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)

BFI London Film Festival (LFF)

Scotland Loves Anime

Or click any of these tags:

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Climbing (Keul-la-i-ming, 클라이밍)

Director – Kim Hye-mi – 2021 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 77m

*****

Discovering she is pregnant, a professional sports climber finds herself moving between alternate realitiesplaying tonight, Thursday, November 18th 9pm at Genesis Cinema, Mile End (book here) as part of LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

A baby in a womb. In her dream, Sy-hyeon (voice: Kim Min-ji) tells her partner Woo-in (Gu Ji-won) on waking, she was pregnant and had an injured foot and arm in casts. Worried about her weight, she skips breakfast and heads to the climbing wall at the gym. She is one of the coach’s (Bak Jugwang) two stars along with Ah-in (Park Song-yi), and he expects the two women between them to achieve first and second prize in this year’s climbing competition. Sy-hyeon has been first in the past, but she starts to worry whether Ah-in could take her crown.

After discovering in a drawer her old, mobile phone with the shattered screen from before she had the accident, Sy-hyeon starts to receive messages from her other self. One self is in good physical shape and training at the gym every day, the other is the pregnant one with the injured foot and arm sustained in a car accident, cloistered in an upstairs room in her partner’s mother’s house.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Collectors (도굴)

**1/2

Director – Park Jung Bae – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 114m

A disparate group of tomb raiders attempt to outwit each other to find and obtain a valuable archaeological artifact in this lightweight, comedy caper – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

A grave hunter probing the earth with a cane-like tool hits an object several feet down. Putting his ear to the Earth, he hears a muffled child’s voice: “help me”. Horrified, he starts to dig the earth with his bare hands.

A strikingly graphic 2D-animated title sequence, in two-tone light ochre and black, with hands reaching out to one another through shafts of light, a boy crawling up an underground tunnel, a boy and girl reunited with an adult, a man crawling between multi-storey buildings by rope, high heeled female legs walking through a museum display of cultural artifacts, lots of modern urban imagery including driving a fast sports car through a city, lots of underground digging / mining imagery and a couple of male characters, one looking suspiciously like Indiana Jones, complete with hat and whip.

Burial alive is just one of the many disparate elements thrown together in this lightweight, comedy caper which combines historical Korean archaeology with grave robbing, double-cross, a super rich, big business villain, ruthless gangsters, Seoul locations, and a happy-go-lucky wheeler-dealer thief hero.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Akira 4K (IMAX)

Director – Katsuhiro Otomo – 1988 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 124m

*****

Manga artist turned director Katsuhiro Otomo’s cyberpunk classic returns to the big screen in a brand new 4K IMAX print – – plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season in December at BFI Waterloo IMAX #AKIRA4K

When Akira first appeared in the UK at the start of the nineties, Disney was busy reinventing the animated cartoon as a platform for the Broadway musical (Beauty And The Beast, Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 1991; The Lion King, Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers, 1994) and there were debates about whether comics (or ‘graphic novels’) could be created for adults as well as kids.

As so often in technology and media, Japan was ahead of the game. Otomo had published his long-running comic book or manga Akira in 1982 and turned it into a feature six years later, challenging widely held Western notions of what animation was. You could make SF in movies (Voyage To The Moon, Georges Méliès, 1902) and you could make serious SF (2001, Stanley Kubrick, 1968), but animation was strictly for kids, at least in the English-speaking mainstream, and that as what Disney did.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tetsuo)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

Now on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Escher: Journey Into Infinity (Escher: Het Oneindige Zoeken)

Director – Robin Lutz – 2018 – The Netherlands – Cert. PG – 81m

*****

The life and work of graphic artist M.C. Escher is explored through his own images and words (read by Stephen Fry) – on UK/Ireland digital download platforms from Monday, October 18th – iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Curzon Home Cinema, Google and Microsoft

Maurits Cornelius Escher’s words at the start of this film suggest a production doomed to fail: “I am afraid there is only one person in the world who could make a good film about my prints: me.” Sadly, since Escher passed away in 1972, we will never see that film. Happily, Robin Lutz has proved Escher wrong by making this one. And so too has his collaborator Stephen Fry whose voice-over for the English language version, recorded in under three hours at a London dubbing studio, is nothing short of inspired (of which more later). He must have done some serious preparation beforehand.

For the uninitiated, Escher (1898-1972) is the Dutch graphic artist whose prints famously include Ascending and Descending (March 1960), the impossible staircase which keeps going up and up, or down and down for people travelling in the opposite direction – as it goes round and round in a square.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Flee

Director – Jonas Poher Rasmussen – 2021 – Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden – Cert. 12 tbc – 83m

****

In a series of interviews, a gay man now living in Denmark tries to explain his experience of fleeing Afghanistan – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Like The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey, 2017) and The Swallows Of Kabul (Zabou Breitman, Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, 2019) before it, this is an animated film about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban. At the same time, it’s very different from those films for three reasons.

One, it details not so much the experience of life under the Taliban but the refugee experience of getting out of the country and its psychological aftermath on those who manage to get out.

Two, its central character is not fictional but real, the film being to all intents and purposes a documentary.

Three, although the film incorporates live action archive footage at various points, it’s essentially structured around an interview, visually represented in animation, in which the refugee subject recounts his experiences which are brought to life in a highly effective 2D animation as he speaks.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The Crossing (La Traversée)

Director – Florence Miailhe – 2021 – France, Germany, Czechia – 84m

*****

Two children undergo a series of adventures as they flee an ethnic cleansing pogrom in this animated feature made with oil paint on glass – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Kyona and Adriel live with their mother, father and younger siblings in their village. One day, soldiers and dark, hooded shadow men arrive to massacre the locals Yelzid people. Somehow the family escape and board a train, but it’s stopped by soldiers for Control and their parents and younger siblings are detained on the platform. Kyona and Adriel must continue on alone and cross the border to safety.

This stakes its place in cinema history as the first feature to be realised using the time-worn animation technique of oil paint of glass. This technique makes the film analogous to watching a moving oil painting, but director Miailhe marshalls her serial images with a strong sense of narrative and additional filmic technique which hold the whole together.

Kyona loves to draw. Her sketchbook, which accompanies her everywhere, opens and closes the film, providing a perfect jumping off point to enter the oil on glass produced narrative.… Read the rest