Categories
Dance Features Live Action Movies

In The Heights

Director – Jon M. Chu – 2021 – US – Cert. – 143m

***

Boy meets girl even as they yearn to fulfil their dreams outside the confines of New York’s immigrant-populated, urban Washington Heights district – in cinemas from Friday, June 18th

Musicals in the movies present a potentially strange world where people sing rather than talk and dance rather than walk. Set the movie in an urban setting and you have the possibility of crowds of people singing and dancing in unison. All this is a cliché, though, and in order for a movie to profoundly move us, it have to find ways of transcending such material, otherwise it’ll just feel like, we’ve seen it all before.

In The Heights ticks these boxes but sadly, most of the time, fails to transcend the clichés. It has other problems too: elements in the script which aren’t fully thought out and come across as merely confusing. The basic Boy Meets Girl plots are fine as far as they go but they don’t really go very far. The parallel countdown to a blackout looks highly significant, as though it’s going to presage some incredible change in the local community – a successful fight against greedy property developers or uncaring town planning bureaucrats perhaps – but after an incredible build up… the power goes out, people have to manage without electricity and… that’s pretty much it.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Hello World (ハロー・ワールド)

Director – Tomohiko Ito – 2019 – Japan – 97m

****

A social misfit schoolboy must rescue a girl classmate from the rogue software underpinning a virtual, future version of Kyoto with the help of his time travelling, ten years older self who is in love with her – plays online in the Japan Foundation Touring Programme 2021 in the UK, 48 hour rental window from 6pm, Monday, March 1st

Kyoto, 2027. Bookwormish Naomi Katagaki (voice: Takumi Kitamura) doesn’t really fit in at his Kyoto school. When he walks there in the morning, the fact of his head being buried in a self-improvement book seems the perfect metaphor for his complete lack of social skills. Asked by a bright, pretty classmate if he’d like to join her and a bunch of others for karaoke after school, he doesn’t really know how to respond and before we know it, she and the group have gone.

He doesn’t really pay attention to those around him, so he gets ignored. While he’s working out what food to select in the canteen lunch queue, everyone has dived in and taken everything but the one option no-one wants. Only when the subject of who is to volunteer for the library duty comes up do his fellow students take any interest in him – by recommending him for the post to which he agrees more out of an inability to say no than from any real desire to take it on.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

No.7 Cherry Lane (Jiyuantai Qihao)

Director – Yonfan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12A – 125m

*****

The tutor of an 18 year old girl falls for her mother who hired him against the background of the 1967 protest marches in Hong Kong – sumptuous Closing Gala film from the recently wrapped London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)

Insofar as this is like anything else – which it really isn’t – it’s like a reworking of The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) filtered through In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000). Oh, and it’s 3D rendered then 2D animated. Broadly speaking, The Graduate is about a young man seduced by a much older, bored housewife before later becoming romantically involved with her daughter. In The Mood For Love is set in early 1960s Hong Kong and includes a sequence on a sloping pedestrian street where a man passes a women walking in the opposite direction, the whole thing charged with a sense of romantic longing. There;’s a similar scene in No.7 Cherry Lane, although it’s considerably less central to the plot than the one in In The Mood For Love.

Yonfan, here making his first film in ten years, would certainly agree that filmic and literary references abound in the film.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Better Days (Shaonian De Ni)

Director – Derek Tsang – 2019 – China – 12A – 135m

***1/2

A bullied exam student is protected from her tormentors by and seeks solace in the company of a small time street criminal – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now, and Hong Kong’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars

The combination of impending exams and bullying by her peers causes student Hu to throw herself off the rooftop of a school building. Feeling guilty because she never stood up for the girl, fellow student Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu) covers the dead girl’s face to protect it from prying eyes and smartphone cameras. The next thing Chen knows, the late girl’s three bullies, led by the well-heeled and vindictive Wei Lai (Zhou Ye) have it in for her.

Not that Chen is having an easy time of it anyway. In the short term she’s being questioned by police about Hu’s death and like everyone else there’s the huge pressure of impending Gaokao university entrance exams, doing well in which is packaged in school rally chants as not failing the country or your parents. Her single parent mum (Wu Yue), beset with parental inadequacy as she tries to scrape a living from selling illegal goods away from home, has successfully convinced Chen that studying hard and getting excellent exam results is a way out of the poverty trap in which the family find themselves.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Real

Director – Aki Omoshaybi – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 78m

***

Boy meets girl but both are embarrassed by their economic circumstances so pretend to be much better off than they arein cinemas and on BFI Player and Sky Store from Friday, September 11th

Kyle (director Aki Omoshaybi) and Jamie (Pippa Bennett-Warner) first meet in a newsagents in the city centre. Her credit card is stopped. He helps her out and pays the bill. She works in a local community centre, he in a solicitor’s. Actually, both of them are lying, desperate to make a good first impression and reluctant to reveal their true circumstances for fear of judgement.

They start dating. Jamie is the first to crack. She admits she has a child Felix (Taye Matthew). And works in a convenience store. However,  Kyle can’t bring himself to come clean. Unfortunately for him, Jamie’s best mate Tash (Amy Manson from Run, Scott Graham / 2019) has had dealings with him and knows he’s an ex-offender. So it’s only a matter of time before Jamie finds out.

Kyle has become homeless, so begs his alienated mum (Karen Bryson) to let him stay at hers for a while.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Melancholic

Melancholic

Director – Seiji Tanaka – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

Melancholic

Director – Seiji Tanaka – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 15m

*****

On Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD, rental on Apple TV and Amazon from Monday, September 7th

Quiet, unemployed Tokyo University graduate Kazuhiko (Yoji Minagawa, also the film’s producer) lives with his similarly introverted parents. When one night his mum prematurely empties the family hot tub, he pays his first visit to the local bathhouse where he runs into chirpy classmate Yuri (Mebuki Yoshida) who talks him into attending their upcoming high school reunion.

At that event, he’s a fish out of water while everyone else gathers around the nondescript student Tamura (Yuta Okubo) who has since made good as a businessman and investor. Then Yuri rescues Kazuhiko and the pair sit conversing deeply on the staircase ignored by everyone else. A series of dinner dates follows, romance blossoms and before you know it he’s staying overnight at her flat.

Encouraged by Yuri, Kazuhiko gets himself one of two attendants’ jobs at the bathhouse run by the genial Mr. Azuma (Makoto Hada). Kazuhiko never wanted to go to work for a top company like most graduates and the work suits his temperament.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Perfect Sense

Director – David Mackenzie – 2011 – UK – Cert. 15 – 92m

*****

Currently available to stream in the UK on Amazon Prime.

This love story from 2011 is set in a pandemic and captures something of the emotions we’re now feeling in the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

Glasgow, Scotland. Michael (Ewan McGregor) is a chef. He likes to sleep alone, so if he takes a woman to bed, he’ll turf her out afterwards so he can get his space. That changes when he meets Susan (Eva Green), who then does the same thing to him. And yet, there’s something between them. They’re drawn to one another. A relationship ensues.

Which might sound like just another boy meets girl movie, but Perfect Sense is different. Behind the foreground of walking along river banks and sleeping together lies a very different backdrop. Susan is an epidemiologist at a local hospital. A man has lost his sense of smell and is kept in isolation. There are other cases all over the country. Suddenly, people are being overwhelmed with grief and losing their sense of smell. Some time later, they eat ravenously then lose their sense of taste. Later still, they go berserk then lose their sense of sight.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Live Action Movies Shorts

La Jetée

Director – Chris Marker – 1962 – France – Cert. PG – 28m

*****

This movie has been resonating around my head these last weeks of the COVID-19 crisis as pertinent to where we are at present.

La Jetée / The Pier remains unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, black and white still images with voice over (which means that the English language dub, excerpted below, works just as well as the French language original). Little bits of it are really tough to watch in our current situation. For me, watching it again helps me deal with where we are right now. It’s about grief, about a world we’ve lost, to which we can never go back. It’s a film that regularly and rightly crops up on critics’ lists of the best films ever made. At the time of writing this, the film reads differently from the way it did three months previously. Not for everyone at the present time, but if you’re up for it, highly recommended.

Watch the opening minute below:

Categories
Animation Features Movies

I Lost My Body (J’ai Perdu Mon Corps)

Director – Jérémy Clapin – 2019 – France – Cert. 12a – 81m

****1/2
A severed hand searches for its body while a boy searches for the girl who he only knows from the sound of her voice in this French animated feature – from the BFI London Film Festival then in cinemas on Friday, November 22nd and on Netflix from Friday, November 29th

This unique 2D animation opens with a discussion about how to catch a fly before splitting into two parallel narratives. In one, a severed hand goes on a quest in search of the body from which it has become detached. In the other, boy meets girl. This is the boy who at a later point in the film will lose his hand in an accident. The opening fly discussion turns out to be a flashback of the boy.

The hand shows great ingenuity as it escapes rats in a subway, climbs medical skeletons in a storage room and duels with an aggressive pigeon in a roof gutter. It has a pretty hard time of it physically. And when it eventually finds its body, reuniting with it proves far from simple.

The boy, Naoufel (voiced by Hakim Faris in the seen French version and Dev Patel in the upcoming English dub), is working as a pizza delivery boy, a job to which he isn’t particularly suited.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Relative Worlds (Ashita Sekai Ga Owaru To Shitemo, あした世界が終わるとしても)

Director – Yuhei Sakuragi – 2019 – Japan – 93m

***

Teenage romance, parallel worlds and dysfunctional families are the main ingredients of The Relative Worlds, Yuhei Sakuragi’s uneasy cross between a mawkish boy meets girl tale and a sci-fi action picture in the James Cameron mould. The romantic, emotional parts are gentle and almost hesitant. The science fiction, fantasy and action parts are fast, full on and frantic – and indeed in places quite hard to keep up with. The dysfunctional families are more a background plot device than anything else. That said, if you’re prepared to get on its wavelength (or wavelengths, plural) it’s an enjoyable enough romp, with action that looks great on a big screen… [read more]

Full review at All The Anime.

Trailer:

Festivals

2019

Scotland Loves Anime

Annecy International Animation Festival