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Features Live Action Movies

Eastern Promises

Director – David Cronenberg – 2007 – Canada, UK – Cert. 18 – 100m

****

After a London midwife delivers a dying woman’s baby she finds herself attracting the attention of the Russian mafia – reviewed in Third Way, 2007; on BBC iPlayer until Thursday, October 6th 2022

An immediately recognisable, ethnically diverse London unseen in previous movies about the capital. A Chechen unexpectedly gets his throat cut in a barber’s shop; a pregnant Russian teenager walks into a chemist’s, asks for help and collapses in a pool of her own blood. Given the director, you’d be forgiven for expecting such imagery to pervade the whole film, but Eastern Promises originated not with Cronenberg but screenwriter Steven Knight, whose acclaimed screenplay for Dirty Pretty Things (Stephen Frears, 2002) explored the hidden, ethnic workforce in the underbelly of contemporary, multicultural London. (He also wrote the recent Wilberforce biopic Amazing Grace, Michael Apted, 2006).

Eastern Promises takes us into related territory, again in the capital – this time Russian Vory V Zakone gangsters, sex trafficking and murder. Cronenberg puts this on the screen with all the precision and finesse one would expect, eliciting terrific performances and contributions from cast and crew.

Trafalgar hospital midwife Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), the daughter of a Russian father and an English mother, provides our point of entry into this unfamiliar world as the midwife who must deliver the baby from the dying teenager.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Mad God

Director – Phil Tippett – 1987-2021 – US – 83m

*****

A man in a gas mask descends into a dark, dangerous world on a mysterious mission, encountering strange creatures, humanoids and societal constructs along the way – stop-frame epic 34 years in the making as of Tuesday, June 28th, has become the most watched premier of 2022 on Shudder, where it plays in both the UK and the US from Thursday, June 16th; also plays London’s Prince Charles Cinema Tuesday. July 5th to Friday, July 8th

My immediate reaction after watching this was two-fold. On the one hand, wow!!! On the other, how on earth do I put the experience of watching this into words? Mad God definitely has a structure, yet what’s amazing about it is the visuals, the animation, the effects. Even though I’m familiar with the work of its director Phil Tippett (as one of the heirs apparent to stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen in the world of visual effects – career highlights include RoboCop, 1987; Jurassic Park, 1993, Starship Troopers, 1997) this film is something altogether different (even if its roots can be seen in his VFX work).

Following the destruction of a tower resembling Babel in a black cloud, and a lengthy quotation purporting to be from Leviticus 26, a man in gas mask and protective clothing descends into the bowels of the world on a mission, the exact nature of which is never revealed.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Luzzu

Director – Alex Camilleri – 2021 – Malta – Cert. 15 – 95m

****

As he repairs the small boat that’s been in his family for generations, a fisherman grapples with both his role as a new parent and the economic changes threatening his livelihood – on Curzon Home Cinema (CHC) from Monday, June 27th

While out on the sea in his small boat known as a ‘luzzu’, lone fisherman Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna) notices water in the bottom of his boat and realises the vessel is in urgent need of repair. His friend David (David Scicluna) both helps him beach the craft in an appropriate location for doing the work and gives him work as crew on David’s more modern boat.

When they catch a swordfish out of season which must be thrown back according to EU regulations, Jes protests that it’s dead and no-one throws these fish back. David, mindful of his liability, phones the authorities to ask if they can keep it, then throws it back. Just as well, because an inspector (Anthony Ellul) checks the vessel on their return to port.

Taking their catch to market, where they are bottom of the pile, they watch the seller fail to interest buyers in their catch and then frantically hawk it around local restaurants in the hope of shifting it while still fresh, to no avail.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Tokyo Godfathers (Tokyo Goddofazazu, 東京ゴッドファーザーズ)

Director – Satoshi Kon – 2003 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 91m

*****

Three homeless people – a drag queen, a hard drinker and a runaway teenage girl – find an abandoned baby at Christmas and resolve to return her to her parents – plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

This opens with a nativity play to an audience of what one initially presumes to be admiring parents, a perception rapidly revised with the realisation that what is on offer is a programme of ‘nativity play, sermon, dinner’ for Tokyo’s homeless, with the first two items something to endure in order to access the much wanted third one. Any thought that the film is going to deal with religion is however swiftly dismissed with the introduction of three homeless characters holed up in an empty house containing a piles of discarded and bagged up goods, one of which turns out to contain an abandoned baby.

Teenage runaway Miyuki (voice: Aya Okamoto) has fallen in with two men old enough to be her father (if not her grandfather) who look out for her: the cross-dressing Miss Hana (voice: Yoshiaki Umegaki) and the hard-drinking Gin (voice: Toru Emori).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Three Floors (Tre Piani)

Director – Nanni Moretti – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 18 – 117m

***1/2

Various personal crises beset three families occupying the separate floors of a three storeyapartment block – out in cinemas on Friday, March 18th

This drama is based around the lives of three families, the occupants of three floors of a three storey residential block in Rome. On the ground floor is a couple with a young daughter, on the first is a woman whose husband is frequently away on business, on the top are are married couple who are also judges.

In the course of its narrative it runs through in greater or lesser detail the subjects of birth, drink-driving, dementia, child sex abuse, seduction, jealousy, financial fraud, and flight from the law. It divides neatly into three sections, each five years apart, by means of two ‘Five Years Later’ titles. Most of the story’s surprises occur in the first section, with the two later sections providing time for the consequences of these events to be explored in the long run.

It adapts a novel that was originally set in Tel Aviv, here moving the action to Rome.

Frames from “Tre Piani” . Director Nanni Moretti DOP Michele D’Attanasio

It is (to say the least) a challenging film to review – or for that matter to sell – without ruining it in advance for audiences, containing, as it does, a number of major plot twists which completely redefine what happens afterwards, one of them occurring in the opening minutes.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Ninjababy

Director – Ingvild Sve Flikke – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 tbc – 103m

*****

An artist draws constantly, her life punctuated with animated inserts, as she finds she is pregnant with a ninjababy – out in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 10th. Also free to watch on All4 for 26 days from Friday, March 11th

Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is the messy one, Ingrid (Tora Christine Dietrichson) is the tidy one. They share a flat. All this is apparent from Rakel’s simple, sketched black lines on white background, animated plan of their flat. That opens this essentially live action film, which is thereafter punctuated by animation either in similar inserts or apparently drawn into the moving live action images e.g. on light areas of wall (this may be a special effect, but it’s an extremely low tech one).

Ingrid thinks something is up with Rakel – the larger breasts, the vast quantities of fruit drink consumed – could Rakel be pregnant? Do a test. Positive. To the abortion clinic. Sorry, 26 weeks and the legal limit is 12. That’s Mos-Aikido (Nader Khademi) off the hook, the sex with him (and it was good) was more recent.… Read the rest

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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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto Del Fauno)

Director – Guillermo del Toro – 2006 – Mexico – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, a young girl must complete three tasks for a mysterious faun in an underground kingdom – in UK cinemas from Friday, November 11th 2006.

Mexican director del Toro is best known as a director of big budget Hollywood horror-ish effects fests like Mimic (1998), Blade II (2004) and Hellboy (2004). More impressive however – and less easily generically defined – are the two movies he’s made in Spain set in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The Devil’s Backbone (2001) is a ghost story with an alien ambience reminiscent of visionary SF writer J.G.Ballard. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is arguably even more ambitious: at once a no holds barred fantasy / horror outing and a brutal and violent war drama. And much, much more besides.

Following a fairytale prologue concerning a subterranean princess’ departure from her underground kingdom for the surface world where her former identity is unknown, young girl Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) travels cross-country with her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to live with Carmen’s new husband Vidal (Sergi López), a ruthless Captain in Franco’s army obsessed with stamping out the remaining rebel forces.… Read the rest