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Features Live Action Movies

There’s Something
in the Barn

Director – Magnus Martens – 2023 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 100m

*

An American family immigrates to Norway where a relative has died and left them a farmhouse with a barn… and there’s something in the barn – badly misjudged horror comedy is out in UK cinemas and on digital download from Friday, December 1st

I have watched this film so that you don’t have to.

Incidentally, it has some of the best film stills I’ve ever seen. They are truly great. Don’t let that fool you: it’s a rotten movie.

One year after the unpleasant death of their Norwegian relative, the Californian nuclear family of dad, step-mum, son and daughter arrive at his farmhouse and barn in Norway which they’ve inherited. The unpleasant death is intriguing and workable if unoriginal horror fare; there is indeed something in the barn, and it’s not happy. So not happy, that it kills the relative.

But once the Californian family appear, the film undergoes a huge shift of tone from straight horror to pretty embarrassing comedy. Or, more accurately, alleged comedy because the laughs (or laugh – I think I may have laughed once) are (is) few and far between. Dad Bill (Martin Starr) is a happy-go-lucky, irritating, nerdy caricature; his new wife – and therefore step-mum to his kids – Carol (Amrita Acharia) is an equally annoying, former self-help guru.… Read the rest

Categories
Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Mary Cassatt:
Painting
The Modern Woman

Director – Ali Ray – 2023 – UK – Cert. U – 93m

*****

A look at an often overlooked member of the Impressionists, a US-born, female painter and printmaker who moved from Philadelphia to live in France – out in UK cinemas for one day only on Wednesday, March 8th (International Women’s Day)

I had never heard of Mary Cassatt when I came to this documentary. I’m not really sure why not (apart from the obvious reason, the widespread exclusion of numerous women artists from the annals of art history until recently) and feel indebted to this remarkable study for introducing me to her work. It comes as no surprise that the film was produced by Phil Grabsky for his excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art, although what IS a surprise here is that all the interviewees in this instance are women. Nothing at all wrong with that if they have something of value to say, which they clearly do.

One could argue that the piece has a very strong feminist leaning with its emphasis on women being free to live their lives as they choose. It’s tempting to say that one could forget the gender bias here and simply say that all the interviewees have important insights to share and do a good job.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Mother Night

Director – Keith Gordon – 1996 – US – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

In this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, a former Nazi propagandist awaits trial in Israel for war crimes – retail VHS review from Home Entertainment, 1997

From his Israeli prison cell where he must compose his memoirs while awaiting trial for his war crimes in black and white, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. (Nick Nolte in a career-defining performance) recalls in colour flashback his rise to fame in wartime Berlin as a radio propaganda writer / broadcaster for the Third Reich, surviving that regime’s madness by devoting himself to actress wife Helga (Sheryl Lee) and their self-contained Nation Of Two.

Recruited from a park as an undercover American spy by raincoat‑wearing American top brass John Goodman (a small part, but likewise impressive), Campbell has to incorporate coded messages to the Allies in his broadcasts. In 1944, Helga dies. After the War, Campbell winds up alone in a seedy New York apartment where neighbours include fellow widower Alan Arkin and Auschwitz survivor‑turned‑doctor Ayre Gross.

When admiring right wing activists arrive at Campbell’s door, the tale (based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel) lurches even further into surrealism. Gordon’s direction is flawless throughout.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

My Prince Edward
(Gam Dou,
金都)

Director – Norris Wong Yee-Lam – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 91m

****1/2

A Prince Edward resident starts to question whether marrying her boyfriend as the couple have long planned is really such a good idea – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

Whatever your nationality, one of the great thrills of world cinema is when a film informs you about all sorts of aspects of a culture other than your own. That’s the case here. To call this a romantic drama is misleading because what it’s actually about is a woman on a culturally approved trajectory starting to question whether it really is something for her or whether she’d be better off finding a different life journey entirely by another route. That approved trajectory is: girl meets boy, girl moves in with boy, girl marries boy.

Perhaps there’s a second trajectory here too, suggesting that Hong Kong is a sealed, navel-gazing world caught up with looking at itself and that perhaps Hong Kongers need to get out of their homeland more, be that to mainland China to which the heroine travels for reasons of her complicated personal situation and later visits of her own volition or be it to America, described by the film’s mainland Chinese lead as a place of freedom.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Battle
In Outer Space
(Uchu Daisenso,
宇宙大戦争,
lit. The Great Space War)

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1959 – Japan – Cert. U – 90m

Battle In Outer Space is one of those films that paints on a bigger canvas and sacrifices character development in favour of big-screen visual spectacle, brought to life with state-of-the-art special effects. According to Kalat, the film owes much to the bigger Hollywood 1950s SF feature film films made in colour. These include not only films by former Puppetoon animation creator George Pal such as The War Of The Worlds (1953) and Conquest Of Space (1955) but also This Island Earth (1955) and Forbidden Planet (1956).

Honda’s film wades straight in to alien war scenarios… [read more]

Over at All The Anime, I review Eureka!’s Ishiro Honda Blu-ray double bill of The H Man and Battle In Outer Space.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Ishiro Honda
Double Feature
The H Man
(Bijo
To Ekitai-ningen,
美女と液体人間)
and
Battle
In Outer Space
(Uchu Daisenso,
宇宙大戦争)

The H Man

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1958 – Japan – Cert. X – 86m

Battle in Outer Space

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1959 – Japan – Cert. U – 90m

Alongside the standalone release of Mothra (1961) comes a double bill of two more Toho science fiction movies directed by Ishiro Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya: , The H Man (1958) and Battle In Outer Space (1959). The Toho studio is associated more with monster movies than any other genre, notably Godzilla (1954) and Mothra. The superior entries in this cycle tend to be the ones they directed, including the initial 1954 film which ticked all the right boxes to prove a massive success.

When no-one at Toho was quite sure what had made Godzilla work, the pair collaborated on a number of different SF films before everything came together on Mothra. The H Man is a monster film dressed up in gangster trappings while Battle in Outer Space is an epic with space stations, flying saucers, rocket ships, an alien moon base and alien mind control… [read more]

Over at All The Anime, I review Eureka!’s Ishiro Honda double bill Blu-ray.