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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Next Goal Wins
(2014)

Directors – Mike Brett, Steve Jamison – 2014 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

DVD review for Third Way, 2014.

In 2001, American Samoa suffered the worst ever defeat for a soccer team in a World Cup qualifier when they lost to Australia by a staggering 31 goals to nil. Ten years later, FIFA still ranked the side at the bottom of its league table. Where most football teams dream of winning, American Samoa dreamed of not conceding a goal. Sensing herein the seed of a subject for a documentary film, Brit filmmakers Mike Brett & Steve Jamison headed for the tiny, English-speaking, Pacific island and spent months there hanging out with and filming the team in the training run up to the 2014 World Cup. What they captured on camera and edited into a feature film is both remarkable and compelling, whether or not you’re interested in football.

Rather than the expected group of losers, they find the team are steeped in the culture of American Samoa which is all about community, family and (Christian) religion, a very different cultural underpinning to Brett and Jamison’s. Western capitalism – and football within it – is all about competing, pushing yourself and your team as far as you / they can go and, ultimately, winning.… Read the rest

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Nobody Leaves Alive
(Ninguém Sai Vivo Daqui)

Director – André Ristum – 2023 – Brazil – Cert. none – 86m

****

After a woman is incarcerated in Brazil’s notorious Colonia psychiatric hospital simply because she is pregnant outside of marriage, her hold on reality starts to disintegrate – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Lovingly shot in a stylish black and white that both makes the whole thing feel like a dream and detracts from any sense of reality, this opens with a young woman being bundled by two men into what looks like a cattle truck. Inside the truck are other people, and the group is clearly being sent somewhere specific.

Once off the train they are frogmarched down a country track, through some wrought metal gates of late 19th / early 20th Century design and into a hallway where they are separated into men and women and the women (since it is one woman’s story we are following here) are taken to a large, tiled room and hosed down by two women, the younger of whom is Laura.

Then the woman we are following is taken for interview with a man who denies he’s a doctor. Her name is Elisa, and she explains there’s been some sort of mix-up.… Read the rest

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Silence

Director – Martin Scorsese – 2016 – US – Cert. 15 – 161m

*****

Scorsese questions and tests the unwavering faith of the hidden Christians of Japan, and our allegiance to the director remains just as steadfast – read our verdict on the director’s latest movie, out on New Year’s Day

Religion is a subject capable of arousing great emotion among both believers and non-believers. Martin Scorsese’s Silence is essentially concerned with adherents of one religion attempting to proselytise in a foreign land where the predominant religious system is so utterly alien as to be almost unassailable. To the point where even the incoming missionaries might have to abandon the faith which they seek to spread.

That land is 17th century Japan, where Christianity has been outlawed and believers practise their faith in secret as Kakure Kirishitan (“hidden” Christians). Two Jesuit priests, Father Garupe (Adam Driver) and Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) are smuggled into the country in order to find the older Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who is rumoured to have denounced his faith. After spending time with local believers, they are captured by the authorities who proceed to torture the Japanese Christians and make the priests watch, thereby encouraging them to renounce the Jesus they adore and serve.… Read the rest

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Typist Artist Pirate King

Director – Carol Morley – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 106m

****1/2

Road movie in which her psychiatric nurse drives an artist with mental health issues from London to an open entry exhibition in the North – in cinemas from Friday, October 27th following premieres in the 2023 Raindance Film Festival (UK premiere) and 2022 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (world premiere)

In these days of US-style promotion, branding and media, it’s easy to think of artists as high profile, rich and successful. While some are, that’s not what an artist is: an artist is, quite simply, someone who makes art. (If they’re a good artist, they make good art. Whatever that is.) The subject of Morley’s new road movie is the artist Audrey Amiss (1933-2013) who, although she exhibited her work a number of times during her lifetime, received scarcely any recognition in that period. She suffered from mental health issues and was in and out of mental hospitals throughout her life.

Audrey (Monica Dolan) is regularly visited in her London flat by psychiatric nurse Sandra (Kelly Macdonald). One day, she asks Sandra to drive her to an exhibition which has an open call for artists, as she’s never exhibited and feels the time has come.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Beyond Utopia

Director – Madeleine Gavin – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 115m

*****

North Koreans flee their repressive country over the Chinese border and through several communist countries, where repatriation would mean imprisonment, torture and possibly death – heartstopping documentary is out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 27th

Whether you’re coming to the subject of North Korea cold or whether you already know a little about the subject from the documentary Camp 14: Total Control Zone (Marc Weise, 2012), the animated feature True North (Eiji Han Shimizu, 2020) or Korean War movies like Operation Chromite (John H. Lee, 2016) or Nambugan: North Korean Partisan In South Korea (Chung Ji-Young, 1990), this contemporary take on the North Korean refugee experience throws much fresh light on the subject.

To augment its twin central narratives – two entirely separate stories of North Koreans attempting to escape their country – director Gavin helpfully breaks them up with an intermittent primer on North Korea. Much of this comes from Hyeonseo Lee, who fled the country over 20 years ago and has subsequently talked about it in TED and other public speaking forums. Lee was the producer’s original intended subject for the film, which changed considerably as director Gavin began researching the subject.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Wicker Man:
The Final Cut

Director – Robin Hardy – 1973 – UK – Cert. 15 – 94m

*****

A Christian police sergeant investigating a missing child on a remote Scottish island meets a terrible fateout as a Collector’s Edition UHD / Blu-ray /DVD from Monday, September 25th following its release in UK cinemas in a 4K restoration from Wednesday, June 21st, 2023

(Originally reviewed for cinema release in a 2K restoration on Friday, September 27th, 2013)

Originally released forty years ago in the UK in a cut down version its director disliked, The Wicker Man now reaches our cinema screens in a longer, restored version which he says fulfils his original vision. Its plot is deceptively simple. A Christian police sergeant flies to a remote Scottish island in response to a letter about a missing child. But when he arrives on Summerisle, no-one seems to have heard of that child. It gradually emerges that the policeman has stumbled into an intricate web of lies and deceit wherein a terrible fate awaits him….

Using material from a recently discovered, longer US release print – rechristened The Final Cut by Hardy who assembled this cut in 1979 – it’s a provocative work on a number of levels.… Read the rest

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Mob Land

Director – Nicholas Maggio – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 110m

****

Needing money to pay off debts, a family man, mechanic and racer gets sucked into a robbery by his uncle, then finds himself working alongside a mob killer hired to clean up the loose ends of the crime – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 25th

A small. rural town in the Southern States. Shelby Conners (Shiloh Fernandez) completely in love with wife Caroline (Ashley Benson) and devoted to young daughter Mia (Tina DeMartino), pops pills to get through the day and hasn’t yet told his wife about the mounting household bills. His uncle Trey (Kevin Dillon), the proud owner of an expensive, lurid lime green, Japanese car, offers him a way out in the form of a sure fire robbery about which Shelby is less than sure.

There’s this pills / meds store called the Happiness Pain Centre which, Trey explains, is turning over a huge amount of money a day and is only guarded by a couple of hicks, so it would be a pushover. And all Shelby needs to do is drive the car, something both men know he’s really good at, especially as Trey can provide the car to Shelby’s specification.… Read the rest

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Breaking The Waves

Director – Lars von Trier – 1996 – Denmark, Sweden, France, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany, US – Cert. 18 – 160m

*****

NSFW.

A mentally vulnerable, young woman in an austere Scots religious community marries an outsider only for her husband to be severely injured working on an oil rig – out in a 4K restoration in UK cinemas on Friday, Aug 4th

Divided into a series of chapter headings in which locked off camera shots are accompanied by popular 1970s rock songs which cut off or fade out before they reach their end, like much of von Trier’s work this is not a film for the faint-hearted.

Young woman Bess McNeill (Emily Watson) is questioned by the priest (Jonathan Hackett) of the local, austere Calvinist community before its elders as to her understanding of matrimony and warned against entering into that institution with an outsider. Nevertheless, she proceeds to marry non-religious oil rig worker Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgård). Their relationship is extremely carnal and she is deliriously happy until the time comes, as it must, for Jan to return to work on the rig. She finds his absence almost unbearable.

Then disaster strikes, with Jan seriously injured in a rig accident whilst trying to help an injured fellow worker.… Read the rest

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Joy Ride

Director – Adele Lim – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 95m

***1/2

A Chinese-American corporate lawyer visiting China to close a business deal for her boss finds herself on a road trip with three friends which turns into a search for her birth mother – raunchy, gross-out comedy is out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 4th

TL;DR: good fun and occasionally hilarious – provided you don’t watch the trailer first.

White Hills, Seattle. Little girl Audrey Sullivan (Lennon Yee), a Chinese adoptee with white parents, hits it off with new girl in town of the same age Lolo Chen (Chloe Pun) when at a local playground, the latter sees off a white racist boy bully on her behalf. Growing up, the pair become inseparable, yet they are very different characters, with Audrey being the school yearbook’s “most likely to succeed” while Lolo is “most likely to be arrested”. Five minutes into the film, Audrey (Ashley Park) is a highly regarded and highly paid corporate lawyer on the verge of being while Lolo (Sherry Cola) is a struggling artist making sex-positive art (i.e. it centres around representations of male and female genitalia). Audrey is letting the impoverished Lolo stay at her upmarket house.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Brand New
Testament
(Le Tout Nouveau
Testament)

Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

Review originally published in Reform, read the full review here.

Showing on BFI Player from Thursday, July 20th, 2023

At the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981), the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) bumbles around in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.” A similar sense of whimsy pervades the latest film from Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) who reworks God The Father as a slobbish despot. Many people in contemporary Western culture struggle with the idea of a loving, patriarchal God so if you’re going to have a crack at exploring Christian theology for the unchurched, this is not a bad place to start… [Read the rest]

Review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.

See also alternative review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

Showing on BFI Player from Thursday, July 20th, 2023.

Trailer: