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Animation Features Movies

Belle (Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime, 竜とそばかすの姫)

Director – Mamoru Hosoda – 2021 – Japan – Cert. PG tbc – 121m

*****

A bereaved, teenage girl starts to emerge from her shell when she signs up for a virtual world on her smartphone – out in cinemas on Friday, February 4th; Digital IMAX version plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

‘U’ is an internet, virtual world of high tech, futuristic architecture. When you sign up, you receive your own personalised avatar built from your biometrics. You have the chance to start over in a new world.

Teenager Suzu (voice: Kaho Nakamura) could do with that chance. She lives with her dad (voice: Koji Yakusho from Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda, 2018; The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017; Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001; Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, 1996; Tampopo, Juzo Itami, 1985) in a small town somewhere in the East of Japan. She doesn’t really communicate with people at her school – not Luka (Tina Tamashiro), the sax player in the school band, not Kamishin (Shota Sometani from To The Ends Of The Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019; First Love, Takashi Miike, 2019; Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017; The Boy And The Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, 2015; Himizu, Sion Sono, 2011) who set up the canoe club but hasn’t been able to attract any members, not Shinobu (Ryo Narita) who proposed to her – well, told her he wanted to protect her – when she was six.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Card Counter

Director – Paul Schrader – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 112m

**1/2

Tormented by internal demons relating to his activities in Abu Ghraib, for which he’s served a prison sentence, a card player bides his time on the professional gambling circuit – out in cinemas on Friday, November 5th

I’m an enormous admirer of Paul Schrader as critic, screenwriter and director. I could go through the component parts of this film and extol the virtues of most of them. And yet, somehow, adding all these elements together the end result here is less than satisfying. I left the preview theatre in shock trying to understand what had gone wrong. Was it the film or was it me?

You could have guessed it was Schrader directing one of his own screenplays from the opening shots. In American Gigolo (1980), it’s various angles on the gigolo’s car. In First Reformed (2017) , it’s various angles on the pastor’s church building. Here, it’s various angles on the card counter’s cards spread out on the green beige surface of a playing table.

Self-styled William Tell (Oscar Isaac) is travelling round the US making money from card games having taught himself to read cards whilst in military prison (the USDB in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – it’s namechecked but not explained in the film and I had to look it up).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Support The Girls

Director – Andrew Bujalski – 2018 – US – Cert. 15 – 93m

*****

The general manager of the Double Whammies sports bar must contend with all human life in the course of a particularly trying day – now on BFI Player

General manager Lisa (Regina Hall) unlocks the premises for another day’s work at the Double Whammies sports bar. Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) tells Lisa there’s a strange banging sound coming from the room with the safe. Maybe a trapped possum? Lisa will investigate. Meanwhile, though, she’s got to interview some young women for waitress posts. And she needs to get Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) to sweet talk Jay (John Elvis) from Sounds Town into lending them a sound system for tonight’s big fight on cable. On top of that, she’s running a car wash fundraiser under the moniker “Support The Girls” to help out Shaina (Jana Kramer) who’s in trouble.

Welcome to the world of Double Whammies. It’s an essay on boundaries. Lisa continually refers to Double Whammies as a “family place” and the institution walks a fine line between bare-midriffed young women in skimpy tops sporting curves and cleavage bearing the words “Double Whammies” and something altogether far dirtier.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Mauritanian

Director – Kevin Macdonald – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 129m

****

A pro bono lawyer defends a post-9/11 terrorist suspect in Guantánamo Bay against his US Army prosecutor – plays Curzon Home Cinema rental from Monday, October 4th

Based on a true story, this kicks off in Mauritania, North West Africa in November 2001 – as a title tells us, two months after 9/11. Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) walks on a beach then attends a Muslim wedding in Mauritania, to which he’s returned after living in abroad in Germany. During the celebrations, two local cops turn up and want him to come for questioning about his brother, whose current whereabouts he reminds them he doesn’t know. “The Americans are going crazy since the attacks two months ago,” they tell him. Momentarily alone, changing out of celebratory robes into something more casual, he erases his mobile phone contacts before agreeing to go with them.

Three years later, New Mexico law firm partner Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) learns of his disappearance and that the story has just broken in Der Spiegel that Slahi is currently allegedly being detained in Guantánamo Bay as “one of the organisers of 9/11”. The US government has recently stated that inmates have the right of ‘habeas corpus’ – if the evidence against them isn’t deemed sufficient to hold them in detention, they should be released.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Herself

Director – Phyllida Lloyd – 2020 – UK/Ireland – Cert. 15 – 97m

****

A woman leaves her abusive and violent husband and builds a new home for herself and her two young daughters – in UK cinemas from Friday, September 10th

Things come to a head in the marriage of Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and Sandra (Clare Dunne, also co-screenwriter) when he violently assaults her and stamps on her hand, an incident witnessed by their younger daughter Molly (Molly McCann). Sandra has trained her kids well for such a situation and the eldest Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara) knows what to do, rushing to the local shopkeeper with a lunch box inside the lid of which is the family address to give to the Garda.

Like her mother before her, Sandra works as a cleaner to retired and physically disabled local doctor Peggy O’Toole (Harriet Walter). To make ends meet, Sandra also works in a local pub as a barmaid alongside Amy (Ericka Roe) who lives in a nearby squat. After separating from Gary, she and he have joint custody of the kids while the council put her and her kids up in temporary accommodation in a hotel room.

As it’s four years on the housing list to get a home, Sandra investigates other alternatives and, surreptitiously using Peggy’s internet, discovers that she could build a house for only slightly more than a year’s rent to the council.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Herself

A house of her own

Herself
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Certificate 15, 97 minutes
Released 10 September

Herself has a brutal opening in which Sandra (Clare Dunne), a mother of two girls in Dublin, is physically assaulted by her husband Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson), an incident witnessed by her youngest daughter, Molly (Molly McCann), while her eldest, Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara), races across the estate to the local shop to deliver a pre-written emergency message.

From here, it becomes a tale about a single mum’s struggle to find a decent home for her and her kids in the face of a social welfare system that can’t cope with either the level of need or any innovation through which people try to legitimately help themselves… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform.

See my alternative review of the film here.

Trailer:

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Drive (Pulsión)

Director – Pedro Casavecchia – 2019 – Argentina – 7m

*****

A series of disturbing vignettes brings to mind work by Lars von Trier, the Brothers Quay, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch – available to watch on YouTube (see below) from Wednesday, September 1st 2021

This Argentinan short, although computer generated, has the feel of stop-motion. It brings to mind work by Lars von Trier, the Brothers Quay, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. A narrative conveyed by a series of disturbing vignettes (think: the opening minutes of Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) is put together with the same kind of fastidious technical attention to detail you find in the Quay Brothers’ films. A couple of scenes borrow directly from one of the murders in Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), but in a clever way that shocks you much as those scenes in Psycho originally did. There’s a Lynchian feel about the whole thing – not just in the strange, quasi-industrial sounds recalling Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977) or the weird lighting and heavily controlled mise-en-scène, but also in the overall feel of strange and terrible things happening within families and local communities, people adrift within the darkness of human existence.

One single viewing is not enough for this film which really only reveals itself on repeated viewings.… Read the rest