Categories
Features Live Action Movies

New Life

Director – John Rosman – 2023 – US – 85m

***1/2

Neither the widow nor the assassin pursuing her towards the Canadian border are quite what they seem – genre-bending thriller is out on digital in the UK

The sound of a distressed woman. Now we see her (Hayley Erin) – her head is bleeding as she walks. Away from – what? She makes it down the street in a very normal-looking, small town somewhere in Middle America, into her very ordinary, well-kept, no frills, suburban house. She washes the blood off her head, switches a hoodie for a sweater. Constantly checking around her, she sees the armed men in the hallway and exits through a window.

Another woman (Sonya Walger) puts down her handgun on the edge of a bathroom sink. She looks tired. The yellow post-it notes on her mirror read “I have unlimited opportunities to succeed” and “I am in the process of becoming the best version of myself”. She takes a pill from the ‘M’ compartment of a little circular dispenser marked in letters for days of the week. On her mobile, she hits Play on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, specifically the song Like a Rolling Stone.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Creator

Director – Gareth Edwards – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 133m

****

A widower finds himself protecting an AI in the form of a child as anti-AI North American forces wage a war on the Asian-Pacific countries where people have integrated with AI robots – out in UK cinemas on Thursday, September 28th

Over a decade ago, I was blown away by Gareth Edwards’ little indie British film marvel Monsters (2010) which broke all the accepted wisdom of film production. Based around a deceptively simple script concept, it was shot by a four-man crew and a two-man cast (plus anyone else who was around at the time) with lots of post-production VFX work added by the director himself.

That got him an agent and two big budget Hollywood franchise FX movies – the Godzilla reboot (2014) and the Star Wars movie Rogue One (2016). The former isn’t bad for a Hollywood movie, although I personally far prefer the Japanese-made Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno, 2016), while the latter is one of the better Star Wars films. However, neither quite possessed the quality that had got me so excited about Monsters.

I suspect Edwards feels the same way, because whilst he clearly relishes the chance to work with the palette of a huge Hollywood FX budget, on this his fourth film, as with Monsters, he has once again broken the rules – this time within a huge Hollywood FX budget film.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

A Moment
Of Romance
(Tin Joek
Yau Ching,
天若有情)

Director – Benny Chan – 1990 – Hong Kong – Cert.18 – 92m

***1/2

When a biker and gang member on the lam from a jewel heist takes a well-to-do girl hostage then falls for her, their romance is doomed – out on Radiance Blu-ray from Monday, August 21st 2023 following its screening in the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2021

Gang member Wah (Andy Lau) is the archetypal bad boy who, in the opening sequence, speeds through a narrow gap between two lorries and wilfully breaks a wing mirror on a stationary police vehicle as he rides past. Director Chan keeps up the mayhem with a sequence of two competing lorries on a makeshift racing circuit, each with a pretty girl standing on top – until one of them crashes into a stationery car sending the falling girl through its windscreen and scattering the onlookers as the police approach.

Ascendant gang member Trumpet seems to have it in for Wah and puts him on getaway car duty for a jewel heist. Wah must improvise when cops happen by chance to turn up outside the building while the crime is in progress and during the ensuing pursuit by car, in which he gets the robbers successfully away from the scene, and on foot, his only way of escaping the cops is to take an innocent bystander hostage.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Mission: Impossible
Dead Reckoning
Part One

Director – Christopher McQuarrie – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 163m

*****

Tom Cruise’s seventh and director Christopher McQuarrie’s third Mission: Impossible outing delivers globetrotting action and one of the most incredible stunts ever committed to film – out in UK cinemas on Monday, July 10th

It seems almost fatuous to attempt to synopsise this latest Mission: Impossible effort because it basically boils down to various parties including Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his allies chasing after a key which most of them don’t know what it opens. I tell a lie, actually two halves of a key (this sounds a lot like the ancient artefact in this year’s Indiana Jones movie, which I’m sure is pure coincidence) each one of which can be used to verify that the other is the genuine article and not a fake. This MacGuffin, the thing all the characters want and which propels them through the story, in turn provides producer and star Tom Cruise, director Christopher McQuarrie and their collaborators with the excuse for a series of exhilarating, bravura set-pieces.

There’s also the visual pleasure of this franchise’s usual amount of people wearing photorealistic masks to disguise themselves as other people, and later ripping off (or having others rip off) their fake faces to reveal their real ones.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

A Far Shore
(Tooi Tokoro,
遠いところ)

Director – Masaaki Kudo – 2022 – Japan – 128m

****

An underage Okinawa bar hostess attempts to raise her small son while worsening circumstances conspire against her – world premiere in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) 2022 which runs from Friday, July 1st to Saturday, July 9th

A man in Okinawa club Night Babylon asks her age of a hostess: “you don’t seem very old”. It turns out the girls in question are under 18 (the legal age limit for working there; in Japan, it’s also illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 20). In fact, these girls are 17 and proud of the fact that in “wild Okinawa”, the hostesses in bars are so young. The hostesses in question are Aoi (Kotono Hanase) and her friend Mio (Yumemi Ishida), and when not working, they like to party hard, for instance to celebrate a friend’s birthday, which involves much drinking and dancing in a club. There don’t appear to be any men in their immediate peer group: they’re all women.

Once she returns home from her club night shift, Aoi calls in on her grandmother to pick up her two-year-old son Kengo (Tsuki Hasegawa).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Jurassic World
Dominion

Director – Colin Trevorrow – 2022 – US – Cert.12a – 148m

***

Sixth Jurassic movie promises then dumps a plot where humans and dinosaurs co-exist in the modern world and instead heads for a secluded valley where numerous dinosaurs are kept by a dodgy corporation – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th

There’s a long tradition in cinema of putting dinosaurs alongside humans, as if the dinosaurs on their own wouldn’t be enough to bring in audiences. This is nonsense of course: look no further than the TV series Walking With Dinosaurs (1999), Walt Disney’s Fantasia (segment directors: Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, 1940) or The Animal World (effects: Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, 1956), and the high regard in which they’re held, for proof.

The genius of Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) was to reconstruct the dinosaurs from their DNA, providing a much better reason to put both species side by side than the lost plateau of The Lost World (effects: Willis O’Brien, 1925), the lost island of King Kong (effects: Willis O’Brien, 1933), the lost valley of The Valley Of Gwangi (effects: Ray Harryhausen, 1969) or the cavemen and dinosaurs of One Million Years B.C. (effects: Ray Harryhausen, 1966).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies Music

Burst City
(Bakuretsu Toshi
Burst City,
爆裂都市
BURST CITY)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1982 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

Film ****

Cultural significance *****

Arguably the lynchpin film that brought Japanese cinema back from the brink of extinction in the early 1980s and paved the way for much of what was to follow – on Blu-ray from Monday, November 20th 2020

Looked at today through Western eyes, the opening with its breakneck, speeded up race through (presumably) Tokyo cutting between nighttime and daytime POV shots, with motorbike noises, anticipates the more demented pixillated chase scenes of Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989), shots of bikers recall the anti-establishment feel of Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) and patterns caused by moving lights burning into film emulsion recall Norman McClaren and Len Lye’s early animation experiments drawing and painting direct onto film. Then it seems to turn into Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) by way of a gangster film elements (two men in a car wearing a suit and a leather jacket respectively) who avoid a near collision with two punks on a motorcycle and sidecar.

How many of these precedents Ishii had in mind (or even had seen) when he made this is impossible to say.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Lost City

Directors – Aaron Nee, Adam Nee – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 112m

***

A jaded woman’s romantic adventure novelist and her cover model find themselves in a real life jungle straight out of one of her books – out in cinemas on Wednesday, April 13th

Ever since her archaeologist husband died five years ago, novelist of trashy, erotic women’s adventure fiction Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has had writer’s block. Her publishers love her books because they sell in huge volume, but she’s really an archaeology nerd who hates the novels she’s written. A friendly nudge from her editor Beth (Da’vine Joy Randolph), however, helps her complete another one, so it’s on to the promotional tour, something else Loretta hates.

She’s told exactly what to do by Beth and new social media manager Allison (Patti Harrison) This time round Loretta is required to wear a one-piece, cleavage-revealing, purple sequinned outfit that she (understandably) really doesn’t like as she is interviewed once again before fan audiences by male model Alan (Channing Tatum), whose appearance alongside her on the front cover of her books has helped propel her (and him) to stardom, effectively casting them as her heroine Angela and sidekick Dash.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Barking Dogs
Never Bite
(Flandersui Gae,
플란다스의 개)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2000 – South Korea – 110m

****1/2

Available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th.

Lecturer Yun-ju (Lee Sun-jae) is looking out the window of his apartment in a block of flats and having been recently passed over for a professorship is on the phone to a colleague, but can’t concentrate because of a persistent dog barking. He resolves to do something about it. Chancing later upon a dog without an owner near his front door, he takes it up to the roof but then, unable to drop it off the balcony, takes it down to a basement corridor and traps it in an old wardrobe.

Maintenance office worker Park Hyun-nam (Doona Bae) is visited by a little girl in a yellow waterproof to get her missing dog posters officially stamped so that they won’t get taken down.

Hen-pecked by his working, pregnant wife Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung), Yun-ju learns from a colleague that the person who got the professorship has died so the position should now be his – for a $10 000 bribe. And the barking hasn’t stopped – he got the wrong dog because the little girl’s posters mention that the missing dog can’t bark following a throat op.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Castle
Of Cagliostro
(Rupan Sansei:
Kariosutoro
No Shiro,
ルパン三世
カリオストロの城)

DVD review originally published in Starlog, UK edition.

TO CATCH A THIEF

ANIME OF THE MONTH

THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO

(REG 2 DVD: ENGLISH / JAPANESE DUBBED, OPTIONAL ENGLISH SUBTITLES)

£19.99, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital 2.0 (Manga)

One of Manga Video’s best kept secrets arrives on UK DVD. Arsene Lupin III is manga artist Monkey Punch’s descendant to Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc’s noted thief Arsene Lupin and the subject of copyright controversy in the US where the character had to be renamed Wolf or Rupan. Strong though the character may be, the factor that raises this particular film above much anime is the pedigree of writer-director Hayao Miyazaki.

A superb piece of genre film-making, Cagliostro allows Miyazaki to try out lots of ideas he’d rework later. Monkey Punch’s quasi‑European trappings, evidenced both here and in other Lupin III movies, are perfectly in tune with Miyazaki’s sensibilities. Fairytale plot elements concern a princess (a dead ringer for one of Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’s characters) trapped in a tower by the evil Count Cagliostro and a castle with a 500-year-old secret (shades of Laputa‘s decaying castle in the sky). Then, for a film about a thief, there’s a surprising nod towards goodness; yet the film never becomes too lofty for its own good, being filled with such detours as banknote forgery, lethal security systems, unexpected trap doors and an impressive autogyro (Miyazaki has a reputation for strikingly designed aircraft and other flying objects).… Read the rest