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Features Live Action Movies

Dune
(2021)

Director – Denis Villeneuve – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 155m

*****

A powerful family is exiled to a desert planet populated with giant sandworms as part of an interplanetary conspiracy to end their dynasty – back out in cinemas from Friday, February 8th 2024

Frank Herbert’s sprawling novel Dune (1965) was read in the late 1960s and 1970s by any teenage boy with the slightest interest in science fiction and fantasy. It had (a little) space travel but more significantly it had alien worlds, notably the desert planet Arrakis on which 95% of the action takes place, and so ticked the SF box.

Then it had a whole ecology involving the planet’s occupants the Fremen, a drug known as ‘the Spice’, and giant sandworms, so it also ticked the fantasy box.

On top of this, it pitted dynasties – ‘Houses’ – against each other in a tale of interplanetary political intrigue.

The plot was unbelievably convoluted, spawning a lengthy series of sequels. I gave up around the fifth or sixth book. And yet, the first book possessed an almost mythic quality that my diminishing interest in the later volumes was unable to dispel.

The sheer quantity of plot was always going to be a challenge for a standalone movie.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Cairo Conspiracy,
(original title:
Boy From Heaven,
Walad Min Al Janna,
صبي من الجنة)

Director – Tarik Saleh – 2022 – Sweden, France, Finland – Cert. 12a – 126m

***

A naive, young, Egyptian student at a top Islamic university is recruited as a spy for the secret police – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 14th

Adam (Tawfeek Barhom), a bookworm born and raised in rural Egypt where he works as a fisherman like his father before him, visits the local mosque where his trusted Imam gives him a letter informing him he’s been accepted into Cairo’s prestigious Al-Azhar University, the top seat of Sunni Muslim learning and thought. He’s worried his widowed father won’t let him go, but his father fatally accepts it as the Will of Allah. In his university dorm, Adam finds his bed taken by fellow student Raed (Ahmed Laissaoui) and winds up in the bunk below. (The university is for men only: no women. At least, we see none here.)

Unexpectedly, the Grand Imam, the head of the university, dies and a successor must be chosen. At the security forces building, the General (Mohammad Bakri) listens to the analysis by Colonel Ibrahim (Fares Fares) of the possible candidates, throwing all files on the floor except one – the one with whom the President’s views align, the candidate who must win.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Winners (Barandeha)

Director – Hassan Nazer – 2022 – UK, Iran – Cert. PG – 85m

****

A missing Oscar statuette is found by two kids in the Iranian provinces who work scavenging rubbish dumps – the UK’s official entry for the 95th (2023) Academy Awards Best International Feature is out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 17th #winnersfilm

An Oscar statuette goes missing in Tehran when the woman charged with bring it to the production company office somewhat foolishly leaves it in the back of a taxi while she nips out at her home to collect something. While she is out of the vehicle, a policeman instructs the driver to move on as he isn’t allowed to stop there. She comes back and the taxi is gone – and the statuette with it.

It ends up in the taxi company’s lost parcel office, where an employee who has no idea what it is decides to borrow it for the evening as it will look good in his home, wrapping it in a towel before placing it in his bag. Travelling through the small town of Garmsar on his motorbike, he is forced by a broken down car blocking the road to take a detour across bumpy, poorly-maintained roads which, in turn, cause the poorly packed statuette to fall off his bike where it is found by a girl, Leila (Helia Mohammad Khani), who hands it to her nine-year old friend Yahya (Parsa Maghami).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Lunana:
A Yak In The Classroom
(ལུང་ནག་ན)

Director – Pawo Choyning Dorji – 2022 – Bhutan – Cert. PG – 109m

****

A young man trapped in and frustrated with a teaching career is sent to a remote village, which turns out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to him – 2022 Oscar-nominated film for Best International Feature is out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 10th

Bhutan operates a system of National Service, and for Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) this means five years working in education. His heart was never in it, and he finds it something of an ordeal. His grandmother (Tsheri Zom) constantly berates him for not getting up early enough, while the State education system is less than impressed with his record. If he had his own way, he’d give it all up, take his guitar and go to Australia to try and set himself up as a singer. He’s still required to finish his five years first, though.

That’s bad enough, but then this die-in-the-wool urbanite addicted to his mobile phone and music listening on headphones finds that the system is so fed up with him, it sends him to an unexpected Autumn term teaching placement he’s in no position to refuse, much as he might wish to do so.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Claydream

Director – Marq Evans – 2021 – US – 96m

****

The rise and fall of stop-frame Claymation pioneer Will Vinton and the Portland, Oregon animation studio that bore his name – out on digital from Monday, November 21st

Will Vinton, founder of Will Vinton Studios and the man who made Claymation a US household name, is in the middle of legal proceedings between himself and Phil Knight, founder of multimillion shoe company Nike. How could these two very different individuals have come into contact with one another? Well, they had a number of things in common. Both were residents of Portland, Oregon who had built up businesses there based on a successful brand name.

In the sixties, while studying architecture at Berkeley, Vinton discovered Gaudi’s organic sculptured shapes which were to influence his animation work. Borrowing his dad’s 16mm camera, he started shooting anything and everything going on around campus. At an experimental film community he set up tabletop clay animation sessions, which would often turn out pornographic footage. He became fascinated by the magical process which imbued this material with life.

Closed Mondays

He built a studio in his house where in collaboration with artist and sculptor Bob Gardiner he made the short film Closed Mondays (1974) as an excuse to show off the techniques developed by the pair.… Read the rest

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Never Look Away
(Werk Ohne Autor)

Director – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – 2018 – Germany – Cert. 15 – 189m

*****

A German boy wishes to become an artist, but his desire is affected by the events of WW2 and its aftermath, in possibly the best narrative piece you will see this year – twice Oscar-nominated film is now available on VoD

What is art? Why do artists make art? These questions lie behind Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s latest film, like his earlier The Lives Of Others (2006) a German story exploring that country’s history and identity. It clocks in at over three hours, but don’t let that put you off because it needs that time to cover the considerable ground it does. Never Look Away spans the bombing of Dresden by the Allies in WW2, the liquidation of people considered by the Nazis inferior and therefore unfit to live and the very different worlds of post-war art schools in first East and later West Germany. This means it also spans two generations: those who were adults during the war, and those who were children at that time and became adults in post-war Germany… [Read the rest at DMovies.org…]

Never Look Away is out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 5th 2019.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Worst Person
In The World
(Verdens Verste
Menneske)

Director – Joachim Trier – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 128m

*****

A young woman learns about both herself and life through two personal relationships – twice Oscar-nominated film is on MUBI from Friday, May 13th

Trying to reinvent herself, Julie (Renate Reinsve) spends her student days moving from medicine into psychology (believing she’s more interested in what’s inside than skin and bones) then photography as she decides she’s a visual person. Suddenly the world opens up to her, she’s meeting new people and before long she’s moved in with popular comic book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie from 22 July, Paul Greengrass, 2018; Personal Shopper, Oliver Assayas, 2016). He is 15 years older than her and wants to have kids (he’s the only one in his family who hasn’t yet done so). She isn’t currently ready for that.

One night, after being pictured standing on an Oslo balcony in a repeat of the shot that opens the film, she leaves early from Aksel’s latest book launch and walking home gatecrashes a wedding party where she meets Elvind (Herbert Nodrum), their conversation gets very deep very quickly and they agree that neither of them will cheat on their respective partners, but then, as Julie says, where do you draw the line?… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Spirited Away
(Sen
To Chihiro
No Kamikakushi,
千と千尋の神隠し)

Director – Hayao Miyazaki – 2001 – Japan – Cert. PG – 125m

****1/2

A shorter version of this review was originally published in Third Way for UK release date 12/09/2002. At which point, hardly anyone in the UK outside of anime fandom knew who Miyazaki was.

In director Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, a ten-year-old girl must survive a bathhouse run by demons after her parents are turned into pigs – now showing on Netflix (subtitled / dubbed) and can also be seen in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank (subtitled / dubbed for family screenings)

To discover the films of Hayao Miyazaki – and those of his company Studio Ghibli (pronounced “Jib-Lee”) – is like suddenly being exposed to those of Disney without prior knowledge of their sheer number or quality. In Miyazaki’s native Japan, Spirited Away shattered box office records to succeed Titanic as the most lucrative movie of all time. In the US, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature while making only modest inroads into the marketplace. Britain, however, is not the US and it may well fare better here than it did there.

Previous Miyazaki outings have covered children’s experience of the countryside (My Neighbour Totoro, 1988; one of this writer’s favourite films of all time), a young girl’s learning to find her way in the world (Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1989) and conflicting loyalties among pilots in interwar Europe (Porco Rosso, 1992).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Romantic self-doubt

Cyrano
Directed by Joe Wright
Certificate 12a, 124 minutes
Released 25 February

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac concerns a man who, because of his long nose, considers himself too ugly to tell the girl of his dreams and childhood friend Roxanne that he loves her. This new version ditches the nose to cast Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) as the hero whose dwarfism becomes his reason for thinking Roxanne (Haley Bennett) couldn’t possibly love him. Then she falls in love… with one of the men in the regiment he commands.

However… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Cyrano is nominated for Best Costume Design in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars.

Cyrano is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, February 25th.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Director – Joe Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

The short stature of Cyrano de Bergerac makes him believe that no woman could ever love him – not even his beloved friend Roxanne, who he can’t bring himself to tell – out in cinemas on Friday, February 25th

17th Century Italy. Witty and articulate Captain of the Guard Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is never at a loss for words. His rapier wit defeats any opponent, as does his rapier proper should any be foolish enough to challenge him to a duel. Being short in stature, he can’t imagine that any normal sized woman could love him for who he is.

He is therefore unable to confess his love for her to the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett), the woman and lifelong childhood friend for whom he would do anything. So when she falls in love at first sight with Christian (Bashir Salahuddin), a new recruit to Cyrano’s regiment, Cyrano finds himself torn between her rejection and his desire for her to be happy with the man she loves. Unfortunately, this intelligent and free-spirited young woman enjoys nothing more than the literary cut and thrust which Cyrano is able to provide but the inarticulate and out of his depth Christian is not.… Read the rest